[Photo:] Tsippora Rovin
Tsippora Rovin, or Miriam Tsippa as she was known as a child, was born in Drohitchin. Her father was R. Shamai Hackman, and her mother was the daughter of R. Hershel Zelig from Brashevitch, who moved to Palestine in his old age.
In 1901 Tsippora and her husband left for the United States, where her father already lived for a long time, and settled in New York, where Tsippora began her writing career. Her first publication, a book of poetry called A World unto its own, appeared in 1944. Thereafter she published poems and correspondence in various publications. In 1951 Tsippora put out a small book called A Land of Their Own Independence Day, in which she depicted her life in Israel between 1947 and 1949.
Tsippora was a strong support of Labor Zionism, and visited Palestine three times. She now lives permanently in Israel.
My maternal grandfather R. Hershel Zelig, was always a village Jew in Brashevitch, near Drohitchin. When he became wealthy, about 95 years ago, he started distributing charity, supporting many poor people in Drohitchin. He would send wagons filled with potatoes, flour, cabbage, beets, cucumbers and vegetables for the needy of Drohitchin. Before Passover the poor Jews already knew that R. Hershel Zelig would, with G-d's help, provide them with what they needed for the holiday.
R. Hershel Zelig also helped build the old House of Study 95 years ago. I head that the old rabbi, R. Menachem used to say that if it weren't for the villager from Brashevitch, the old House of Study would never have been built. A few years later, R. Hershel Zelig traveled to Palestine. When the sad news arrived that he had died in Jerusalem, the congregants of the old House of Study studied Mishnah in his memory and said the Kaddish prayer on his behalf. In fact, the congregation observed his yahrzeit for many years.
I left Drohitchin a long time ago, but the pictures of the town are still fresh in my memory. I can still see the House of Study, where the Talmud Torah school was located, that was supported by the rebbe's wife, and where R. Mosher Isser's taught the children Talmud. At that time we lived in a store near Rivka Shepsel's that was next to the Street House of Study. I used to watch the children in kheder at the House of Study run over to the well in the courtyard and drink down fresh cold water.
I can still see the old wife of the Cantor, who lived across from the House of Study, bringing cucumbers, carrots and lettuce from her garden for the children in the Talmud Torah. The religious wife of the Cantor considered this to be a great mitzvah deed to delight the children with some vegetables, and thereby enable the children to make a blessing when they ate the vegetables.
I can remember that when I was a little girl my mother used to send me shopping for the house, especially to Motya Leib's store, where Motya Leib sold syrup for a kopek, and herring for a couple of pennies, etc. Incidentally, in 1934 I had the opportunity to visit Motya Leib (R. Mordechai Leib Kaminetsky) in Jerusalem, where he lived with his wife Feigel in a tiny house on Sha'arei Zedek Street. When I met him then, he was 90 years old, and was studying Talmud. His children were religious as well.
I can still see R. Mendel's father, R. Moshe Isser, who was known to be teaching a third generation of children. R. Moshe Isser was my grandfather's teacher, then my father Shamai's teacher, and finally, my brother's teacher.
I remember R. Moshe Velvel very well. He was a Talmud teacher who had a small house in the alley leading to Starasilia. I also remember Shmuel Artshis the Talmud teacher, who had his class at the synagogue courtyard near Binyamin Moshe Shochet. May these words of mine serve as a gravestone inscription for our destroyed hometown.
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Updated 13 Dec 2001 by LA