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[Page 133]

The B. Borochov Yiddish School

by Aizik Chimenes

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1918, with the establishment of the supreme council of workers and soldiers, the committee of “Poalei Zion” decided to establish a Yiddish School name after Ber Borochov. We had no means but, it turned out, that across from the monastery stood Bronstein's decapitated house. It had no windows and doors, and the broken part was bigger than the part that stood.

We had builders, members of the party, Binyamin Wasserman and Chaim, father of Hershel Hapkes, who helped us to renovate and rebuild the ruin. We sealed the windows with boards, found doors, and started to register the children of the working poor.

Bavel Shurin, who made a living by giving private lessons, was the first teacher. Even though she lived a life of poverty - she volunteered to teach the children of the poor free of charge. We received important help from the “Amateur club,” who presented a special show for the benefit of the school. It brought in several hundred Rubles.

About the same year Naphtali Katz returned from Russia. He worked vigorously to gather the necessary means for the existence of school. We rented an apartment at the home of Aharon-Ber Poliva, the bookbinder, in “Yatke Gas”. We occupied the entire second floor, which consisted of five rooms, and opened four classes.

We managed to gather an excellent faculty: Mordechai Finkelstein, Izzy Kaminer, the two brothers - Tovbin and Bavel Shurin. Nyomea Shtilerman also joined the faculty.

We established a restaurant for the students next to the school. At that time it was almost the primary school in the city, and we weren't able to absorb the large number of children who knocked on our doors.

Unfortunately, the school existed for only two years. In 1920, the Poles entered Korets. The new regime refused to recognize this school and it was forced to close its doors.


[Page 134]

The “Tarbut” library in Korets

by Judge Pinchas Avisar (Schwarzman)

Translated by Sara Mages

The library was the spiritual center of the city. The city's notables gathered around it and in it, from the outstanding academics to the intellectuals of Korets.

The library already existed when I was a boy of 15. If my memory is faithful to me, the library was founded in 1905. It was housed on the first floor of a two-storey house. The second floor was occupied by “Talmud Torah.”

The library was registered in the name of HaRav Hirshhorn who was given the honorary title, “Honorary Citizen,” by the Russian government. He was considered to be a loyal citizen who “prays for the well-being of the Kingdom,” and for that reason he received permission to establish a library in the city that among its founders was Shmuel Finkelstain.

There were thousands of volumes in this library, in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. When I became active in it, I tried, with the help of the Zetzer brothers, to enlarge the Hebrew section. We obtained subscriptions for “Hashiloach” “HaMelitz,” and “HaTsefirah.” In addition, we regularly received the monthly Russian magazine “Niva.”

The library was the meeting place for the young intelligentsia in Korets. It was the only place that we were allowed to hold a legal activity. Young men and women gathered there and debated about streams in literature, journalism and politics. Stormy debates about Hebrew and Yiddish also took place there.

We used the library for important Zionist activities. We organized meetings of the Zionist Association, Hanukah and Purim parties. We also conducted activities of information and education. In 1912, the organization “Histradrut le-Safah u-le-Tarbut Ivrit [“Association of Hebrew Language and Culture]” was founded in Kiev and was headed by Hillel Zlatopolsky (father of Shoshana Perzitz). His assistant was a Hebrew teacher from Kiev named Moshele Rosenblatt. This emissary lectured in the library about Zionism from a religious perspective.

When “Dorshei Leshon Ever Society” [“Friends of the Hebrew Language”], which was headed by the poet Meir Czudner, was established in Korets, it centered in the library. In 1914, when Ansky came to Korets to collect folklore material, he spent many hours at the library to collect the necessary material. From me he recorded into a phonograph a melody of the cantor, Chaim Yonas, who prayed at the Makarov Hassidim Kloiz. The melody describes the waving of the lulav on Sukkot.

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Yosef Setzer

 

The library was an important nursery. Considerable forces grew in it such as: Meir Czudner, Mordechai Zilberman and Yosef Setzer. The Setzer brothers served as librarians for a long time. Later, Asher Blovstein served in this capacity.


“Tarbut” library and the man Asher Blovstein

by Moshe Smolier

Translated by Sara Mages

The value of an enterprise isn't only measured by its scope and size, but, and mostly, by its content and role. If these words are being said about thousands of matters and cases, for a library, especially when we talk about libraries in small towns in the Diaspora, this is the one and only scale.

“Tarbut” library in Korets, and its role in educating the young generation, deserves a special evaluation. I doubt that I can give sufficient description and proper evaluation to this modest cultural enterprise, especially to its impact in the period between the first and the second world wars. Every expression, and it might be the most accurate, is pale against the lighthouse, which loomed over the sky of our city, and its name was “Tarbut” library.

The library wasn't like all libraries, but a spring from which the youth of Korets drank their fill for many years. They were educated on its knees and with its help they enriched their knowledge. It opened before them a window to the big wide world - the world's literature. Its best work and creators illuminated their way from the shelves of the library and

[Page 136]

Asher Blovstein

 

enriched it with knowledge, law and wisdom. The lively debates about authors and literature, that the youth of Korets was blessed with, originated within the four walls of the library. “Shul Gas” [Synagogue Street], the location of the library, served as a meeting place for the youth. Toward evening, when the library was open, you saw dozens of youths walking with books in their hands, beaming from happiness as if the Divine Presence resides in them and the general topic of conversation was the content of the book. I will not deviate from the degree of truth if I say that this library served as a special kind of a university. With its help the youth of Korets progressed, learned the law of life, saw the whole world and climbed the ladder of national and global culture. Mainly because of this reason the youth admired the library, took pride in it, took care of it and nurtured it with gentleness and admiration.

This important enterprise didn't grow overnight. The constant growth was the result of the collective efforts of all the youth in Korets who contributed to it to the best of their ability. However, we cannot clearly see the library, its role and activities, without recognizing the man who headed it. His main role was to collect means from the public for the sake of its growth and for its development and enrichment - and he's the librarian, Asher Blovstein. This man really saw it his life's work. When you entered the library you had the feeling that the man, who was bending over the table and reading the catalog, was completely merged with the shelves of these books and was an integral part of them. Only his special greeting broke this harmony and showed you the nature of this man who was immersed in the thousands of books from which he didn't separate until his delicate and pure soul rose in the cloud of fire that this beautiful library raised in the terrible fire that was set on fire by Hitler's henchmen in Europe.

Asher Blovstein knew what he had adopted to his heart. He realized that with the growth of the library a vast instrument is growing for the education of the young generation towards its destiny in life.

Blovstein was educated in the spirit of the previous generation. His knowledge of rich and broad Jewish sources, and his devotion to Jewish tradition, didn't curb his great desire to leave for the wide open space and plunge into the depths of the great sea of European culture. He was self educated like most of the intellectuals of his generation. He acquired his education on his own and studied day and night to expand his knowledge. When he stood at the head of the library he was equipped with enough knowledge, worldview, and a clear view of his role as an educator of the young generation.

[Page 137]

Blovstein was very tendentious. He wasn't in favor of education for the sake of education, but for a specific purpose. Blovstein knew how to match the book to the age and the level of knowledge of the reader. His classification, to the type and stages of his readers, wasn't mechanical. He saw in the young reader the Jewish man of tomorrow and in the older reader - the guide of the youth and the community. Especially noteworthy was his service to the Hebrew language and literature. For many he was the first to speak the Hebrew language. You were able to talk to him without fear and shame because you knew that any error would be corrected fairly and with the addition of a compliment. Usually, the approach to him was very friendly and almost all the readers admired his phenomenal memory. He remembered almost all the titles of the books found at the library and their number. He read most of them and their content was kept in the cells of his remarkable memory. When a reader needed material for the preparation of a lecture in the party or in the youth movement, when one of the teachers, or a student, needed reference material on a specific subject - Blovstein glances at the four corners of the room, closed his eyes for a moment, climbed, fumbled in the shelves and pulled out a book for that purpose. “Take,” he used to say, “and be satisfied.”

As a good educator he also knew how to reprimand those who were late to return their books. Many of the youth knew what awaited them when they came to the library. If someone didn't exchange a book for a very long time, he wasn't acquitted from a penetrating remark and clear intention. This good Jew knew that this precious treasure, which was sacred to the service of the public, was deposited in his hands so he watched it closely.

Blovstein loved the reader and the book. Not once, his attitude toward the reader determined the attitude of the reader to the book - he ache the pain of the book. Therefore, he appreciated the person who valued his enterprise and completely identified himself with him. Blovstein followed the reader and his dilemmas. He gently stroked the wounds of time of the young reader and helped him to solve his mental entanglement. His greatness was that he managed to create the triangle thread: him, the reader and the library. In this triangle he formed the basis. Blovstein knew where the secret of success is hidden: to serve the generation. He was a artist in this field. He used every ounce of goodwill and every spark of the ability and influence, to prepare' with the help of this library, a generation of Jewish pioneers that was loyal to this nation and its destiny. With that, he immortalized himself and his project for generations.


[Page 138]

The B. Borochov Library

by Arie Zabodnik

Translated by Sara Mages

The political party, “Poalei Zion Zionist-Socialist,” in Korets, adhered to the principle, “knowledge is power,” of one of the fathers of socialism and tried to spread education among the Jewish workers and the working youth. One of the ways to do so was the foundation of the library named after B. Borochov in 1928.

The library was founded in the party's hall and its founders were: Asher Shicher, Shlomo Shicher, Chaim Zuker, Yom-Tov Schneider, Avraham Gilgon and Arye (Leibel) Zabodnik.

Nauma Stilerman and Michel Litvak helped us a lot in organizing the library and their professional knowledge contributed to the success of the institution.

Under their guidance we started to purchase the classics - Sholem Aleichem, Mendele [Mocher Sforim] and I. L. Peretz. We also purchased every new book that was published in Yiddish. Over time, the library has grown and expanded to 500 volumes - all in the Yiddish language. The number of regular readers was around 160. The members of “HeHalutz” and “HeHalutz Hatzair,” who held their meetings at the party's hall, also used this library.

The first librarian was Arye Zabodnik and the members, Konofit and Frida Schamban, served in this position after him - of course, not for financial gain, because all the work was done voluntary.

The library also served as an educational institution for the masses of workers and the advanced youth. Various meetings, in which literary and political issues have been discussed, took place on Friday night. Questions and answers parties, in which important issues about our world and the world around us have been discussed, especially attracted a wide audience.

Every year we organized an academy in memory of B. Borochov. Apart from its educational value it also served as an important source for the library's expenses. Yisrael Greenfeld, who wasn't a Zionist and leaned to communism, gave a comprehensive and interesting lecture in one of the academies in memory of B. Borochov. The academy was held at the “Sokol” auditorium and left a great impression on the assembled. A tremor ran through the crowd when Greenfeld quoted Borochov's famous saying that the Jewish worker in the Diaspora is comparable to Prometheus. A terrible eagle is eating his heart and will only open his chains in the Land of Israel. It was a brilliant speech of a man who wasn't a Zionist. The lecture of Simcha Milstein from Mezhirichi about Borochov also left a great impression.

[Page 139]

To expand the activities, for benefit of the library, we organized the choir of “Poalei Zion” and “Freiheit.” Its organizer was Moshe Gildman z”l. The choir appeared before the public and earned a huge success. Each public lecture, which was organized by the party, was accompanied by the choir's program.

The library managed to organize around it a number of educated people who helped it materially and spiritually. The wife of the teacher Solomianik, a very educated woman, visited the library and lectured on literary and political subjects. Her lectures took place on Friday evening or on the Sabbath. She wasn't a member of “Poalei Zion” but, as an advanced woman with liberal viewpoints, she showed understanding and sympathy for the socialist movement.

A number of educated people, who tended to the völkisch movement, established a Yiddish School in Korets. Among them was the dentist Izia Kaminer, the lawyer Asher Tovbin and Mordechai Finkelstein. Their affinity to the Yiddish language was very strong and saw the library as one of the strongholds of this language. Therefore, they always attended the meetings arranged by library and also supported it with their own money.

Bavel Schorin, who taught at the Yiddish School, was an actress in the “armature club,” and in the summer served as a teacher in the “colonies” of “TAZ,” also gave us important help.


[Page 140]

The Art Life in Korets

by Yosef Wachbroit

Translated by Sara Mages

The Jews of Korets excelled in their love for singing and playing music, and it's possible to say that every other Jew was a “musician.” On the Sabbath they flocked to the Great Synagogue to hear a cantor, who was being tested to determine if he'll be accepted for the “High Holidays,” or not.

R' Yehusua the watchmaker, the chazanut expert, is standing in the middle of the synagogue surrounded by more “experts,” and they are impatiently waiting to see if their trouble was worthwhile.

And woe to that cantor that Reb Yehusua the watchmaker made a dismissive gesture and said: “Oh well, I've heard better cantors than him.” The next day, this cantor packed his belongings and set off because he finished his “career” in Korets.

I remember that a cantor named Alyoshka, whose behavior didn't fit his profession, prayed in Korets. Gossipers told tales about him that the hair literally stood on end. However, since he had a pleasant voice and a good appearance - all his sins were forgiven. Every Sabbath the city's Jews flocked to hear his prayer. And indeed, Alyoshka knew how to move the worshipers and stimulate a hidden tone in their heart, and it was sad to see how hardened men extremely enjoyed themselves and cried with emotion.

Two cantors prayed in Korets for a long time. Their names were Levitzki and Haffkin. The city's Jews were admired them because they sang well.

And who doesn't remember the “High Holidays” in Korets, when every Jew went to a synagogue where a “musician” cantor was praying. Despite his hoarse voice, R' Nachum the slaughterer attracted a large crowd who flocked to hear his prayers.

In Korets, there was a differentiation between a cantor and a “prayer leader.” On a cantor they said that he was proficient in musical notes and a prayer leader didn't.

And our Jews flocked to hear, Rabbi Baruch Huberman, with the pleasant voice, and the young cantor, Vigman, who prayed at the “Trisker Kloiz.” The Jews of Korets were very proud of their cantors and, by word of mouth, they whispered that the famous bass, Sibiryakov, originated from Korets and a certain famous violinist, who played first violin in the Czar's orchestra - is also from Korets.

Was there a Jew in Korets who didn't know how to sing, or, at least, to express an opinion in matters of singing? And when you passed by the blacksmiths' workshops and you heard their soft and sad singing about the suffering of the poor, about an orphan girl who was abused by her stepmother, and about

[Page 141]

unrequited love, when you listen to these songs with social content, you knew that the Jews of Korets had a reason to boast about their knowledge and love for singing and playing an instrument.

And who doesn't remember the klezmorim in Korets. Here is, “Reb Yoelik the kleizmer,” the first violinist in the group. When he was a little “drunk” he used to say - “the howling will begin soon.” Then, he laid his head on the violin, closed his eyes, began to sing goodnight, and then you heard how this woman, or another, burst out crying and tears flowed from the brides' eyes. And who doesn't remember “Peysi the kleizmer.” He didn't know how to play a violin or a bass, and yet, he was a “kleizmer” with all his might. He played the cello (in Korets they called this instrument “bass”) and accompanied the violin in a primitive way, but we saw in him an artist playing this instrument.

And so, they led dozens and hundreds of couples to the chuppah, and we cannot describe Korets without these klezmorim.

And there was another violinist, Zindel they called him. He played very seldom in weddings because he was a violinist not a “kleizmer.” And there was also one, Yankele' Bilansky, who was an excellent violinist.

And the Jews of Korets knew to tell about a famous violinist named Pedhatzur that, those with a weak heart, were afraid of dying with excitement when they heard his music. And they also told about the famous singer, Chaliapin, who came to give concerts in Zhitomyr. The Jews asked him to come to the bakers' synagogue to hear their cantor. Chaliapin agreed to their request, came to the synagogue, heard the cantor and admired him. However, he ordered his escorts to prevent the cantor from hearing his concert because he was afraid he would die with excitement. And Yehoshua Der Zigermacher concludes this tale in these words: and here, in the middle of an aria in Faust, the cantor fainted and “they hardly revived him.” And so, the Jews of Korets knew how to weave legends about singers and musicians.

And there's no wonder that the young generation followed them and Korets was blessed with a number of choirs. In addition to the schools' choirs, there was a choir next to the chapter of “Hashomer Hatzair” and the youth movement “Freiheit.” A number of interesting characters stood out in this field. Here's the elderly teacher, Pirkes z”l, a typical singing teacher who loved music and was ready to run over those who were off-key. And here's the teacher, Stern, the yellowish. A kind and friendly man he was, but, with it, he was firm in everything that was related to his profession. He knew how to unite young people around him. And here's Misha Gildnman, a friend and a companion, a vibrant man and a talented musician

[Page 142]

The orchestra in Korets in 1933
Standing right to left: 1) Yitzhak Chanin 2) Hlilel Rubin 3) Yitzhak Schneider 4) Shunya Shapira
Seated right to left: 1) Nachum Wasserman 2) Yosef Wachroit 3) Shmuel Kliefeld

 

who brought the joy of life everywhere he came. He invested his mental strength in our town, Korets, and loved its people, especially the young generation. His home and his heart were open to all in need. His energy, his time and talents were sacred to all.

There was an orchestra in Korets that was the pride of the city. Several interesting figures also stood out in this area. Here's Misha Gloshiver, the sickly and skinny with small fingers. When he played his violin he induced sadness and heartbreak on his listeners because his life was sad and death hovered between his strings. Yesha Spielberg, the noble and delicate, with his aristocratic melodies. Even though poverty and repression was his fate, his poverty didn't cloud his phenomenal talent. He played the guitar and the piano superbly. We regretted that such talent is going to waste. He was head and shoulders above us all, but in spite of it he was a gregarious person, wasn't arrogant and befriended everyone regardless of age and status.

Shmuel Kliefeld, the lively and witty, the conductor of the orchestra. He had a special gift to endear himself to all who knew him. He knew how to impose order and discipline in the orchestra. We greatly respected him because he knew how encourage us.

Yitzhak Chanin, the quiet and seemingly depressed, because a sacred fire blazed in his heart for music and

[Page 143]

for his violin. And when you saw him playing, you thought in your heart, how happy this young man is that he was given a gift from God.

Shunya Shapira, the beautiful and strong that we all loved. We liked him for his lovely mischief, kindness and innocent laughter. He loved music with all the warmth of his heart. He was the youngest in the group and we called him “Der Muzinik” (the youngest son). He was happy that he was able to be a member of the group, a matter that brought him satisfaction and pleasure.

And Erlich, that according to the concepts of Korets was an accomplished violinist, was considered to be an expert in musical notes. He was the intelligent of the orchestra and its main speaker. And there was also one, Rubin, but I only knew him for a short time. I liked him for his peace of mind and strong desire to live in the world of music.

And I also remember the amateur troupe that one of its founders was a yeshiva student named Yitzhak. The people of Korets liked the theatre, and for that reason a number of theatre troops visited the city. A Russian troop, Charska-Ivana, appeared for many months and also a Ukrainian troop, of high artistic level, who presented, among others, the “Dybbuk” by Shlonsky. And who cannot remember the Yiddish theater companies, that of Fishlevitz-Mendelovitz and that of Fishman, and their shows - “Hinke Finke,” Tsvey Kuni Lemel, “Got, mentsh un tayvl” [God, man and devil], “Mirele Efros,” “Shulamit,” etc. The Jews of Korets deprived food from the mouth to watch a theatrical performance. The amateur troupe was the pride of the city.

The images of these artists are rising and hovering before my eyes. I will never see them again, and I loved them so much. We will not hear their voice again, and no longer listen to their music and laughter. Forever, they were silenced forever. But again, in the very recent past, they were living people with youthful energy. And now they passed from the world, harvested at the height of his hunger for life. Nothing remains of that world…

 

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