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2. Styles, Memories, Social Life

 

Institutions of Learning
and Philanthropic and Cultural Institutions

by Shlomo Farfel

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

[Page 319]

TOZ

One of the most important institutions in the area of protecting the health of the Jewish population in Nesvizh was the TOZ [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej – Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population]. Thanks to its lively activity, there was the opportunity for the majority of the poor Jews and the children who needed systematic healing to receive free medical help.

The initiator and organizer of TOZ in Nesvizh was the unforgettable Leibl Eisenbud. With his strong will and tireless care he succeeded in organizing TOZ as an important institution. TOZ truly stood at a high standard for that time, carefully making use of the healing tools and instruments he succeeded in creating.

The composition of the TOZ managing committee in the 1930s was as follows: chairman – Leibl Eisenbud; secretary – Ayzyk Albensky; members – Yosef Lipovsky, Moshe Arka Skolnik, Heizenblozen, Itshkha Berkovitz, Mordekhai-Dovid Alperovitz, Ahron Yasinovsky, Moshe-Ruva Zatoransky (the mason), Shimeon Alperin, Shlomo Farfel and others.

Doctors: Dr. Yakov Ginzburg, Dr. Lola Segalovitz. Apothecary: Leibl Skolnik.

At first TOZ was located in the premises of the kehile [organized Jewish community] on Szkalna Street; it later moved to Leibl Eisenbud's building. [Patients] received a thorough examination from the doctors Ginzburg and Segalovitz twice a year. They [the doctors] would prescribe the appropriate treatments [to be given] under the supervision of the nurses.

Without a doubt, the most important TOZ activity was its beneficial work with the yearly summer colony in the Mieshchanski Forest. Thanks to the intervention of Leibl Eisenbud and Yosef Lipovsky, with the support of the Jewish councilmen in the city council – Reb Yoal Razovsky (vice mayor), Binyomin Grobart (alderman), Noyim [Binyomin] Yevelovsky and so on – city hall decided to give a place in the Mieshchanski Forest for the building of a children's colony with a suitable play area. The TOZ central office designated a certain sum of money. In addition, there was a major campaign to get contributions in Nesvizh itself.

The esteemed workers from the Jewish folks-shul [public school] also joined in the formation of TOZ by the activists.

After building the magnificent building with all of the additional buildings, such as a kitchen, bathhouse, warehouse, the colony was prepared to be used during the summer period over the course of two seasons, each month a season. The choice of the children [who would attend the camp] was designated by a special TOZ commission after an appropriate examination by the doctors.

The eating room for the colony was the large veranda.

The supervisors and educators changed almost every season. The usual supervisor was Leibl Eisenbud –

[Page 320]

the soul and heart of the enterprise. There almost was no day that he did not visit. He made sure that there would be enough food and structured activity. His “eye” was felt everywhere.

Whoever saw the torrents of hundreds of men, women and young people to the Mieshchanski Forest on the Shabbosim [Sabbaths] could appreciate the important work of the TOZ society and its concern for protecting the health of the Jewish child.

 

Gemiles-Khesed Kasa

Almost the same group of active workers in the city who were involved in the TOZ organization, Linas haTzedak [society for the homeless], Hakhnoses Orkhim [extending hospitality to poor travelers] also were involved with the gemiles-khesed kasa [interest-free loan fund].

The economic situation was difficult for the Jews at that time. The artisans did not have money to buy raw materials and tools for their work; the small merchants also lacked money to buy goods. Their only salvation was the People's Bank and the gemiles-khesed kasa.

There were many pessimists who did not believe in the possibility of the fund because in those difficult times opening such an institution was a daring step. But thanks to the stubbornness, energy and devotion of a number of communal workers, the fund gave interest-free loans to the needy for whom this was a great help. The

 

nes320a.jpg
Summer Colony in the Mieszczanski Forest

In the center: the educator Fonya Shpielberg.
First on the right – the manager of the colony and chairman of TOZ Leibl Eisenbud.
The last on the left: Velvel Shmarkovitz

 

loans would be given to those bringing in verbal requests and after the acknowledgment by the management of the loan fund.

Shaya Shmelkes was the first one to come when there was an announcement in the city about the opening of the fund. He was given a loan of 20 zlotes that he did not need, but if they were giving loans – why not take one? He committed himself to pay back the loan

 

nes320b.jpg
The play area of the TOZ Society in Nesvizh (1926)
(Photograph: N. Tyokhin)

 

[Page 321]

in 10 installments – two zlotes and every Tuesday he would bring in the sum. When Moshe Arka Skolnik asked him: “Why do you need a loan; you cannot live without it?” – Shaya gave him such a look that Moshe Arka immediately ran away.

 

Bikor Holim, Linas haTzedak

Before TOZ was founded in Nesvizh, the Bikor Holim [organization to visit the sick] and the Linas haTzedak [society for the homeless] carried out its functions. The activities of the institutions were expressed in helping the sick with needed medicines and tools, in lending tools for the poor and the rich (a hot water bottle, bonkes [cups used in cupping], ice), as well as providing a doctor – mostly without payment. The institutions would give medicines as well as take care of a sick person.

Such extensive work demanded much cooperation and help – and they found it. Mainly, they recruited [volunteers] from “amkho [your people – the Jews]. TOZ was actually the later continuation of the Bikor Holim and Linas haTzedak.

 

The Hegdesh and Hakhnoses Orkhim

These were essential community institutions that were involved in charitable matters. The Hakhnoses Orkhim [extending hospitality to poor travelers] consisted of two small rooms with several beds. When a poor man came to the city, he had a place to spend the night without payment. There also was a small taare room [room at the cemetery for ritual purification of a corpse] near the Hakhnoses Orkhim.

When a poor man became sick (and often with an infectious disease, such as typhus or cholera) he would receive a place in the hegdesh [hospital for the poor]. There he would also receive medications, examination by a doctor and other help without cost, thanks to these institutions. Although they did not have a large scope and the people worked voluntarily, it provided the possibility of helping out many poor Jews in their most difficult situation and often saved them from death.

 

Jewish Folks-shul

The start of the Jewish folks-shul [public school] was the Borochov school, founded in 1918. The school was located at Studentsky Street, opposite Leibl Eisenbud's brick building. The first teachers were Golda Alperin (Falk Alperin's sister), Baylka Damesec and Ravin (a left Poalei-Zionist [Marxist Zionist]).

Shlomo Damesec was the teacher at the Folks-shul and also at the Hebrew school named for Dr. Chlenov. (See Beis-Sefer Evri, Dr. Cilnov)

Whereas, the school was created by the Poalei-Zion party, it was called Poalei Tsibele (Poalei Zion). The school was active almost without interruption. There they taught the Yiddish language, mathematics, natural science, geography, Jewish and general history as well as Polish. The number of children was not very large. Therefore it was difficult to support the teaching personnel as well as fund the other debts. The devoted activists, thanks to tireless work, managed to cover

 

nes321.jpg
Jewish Folks-shul in Nesvizh in 1931

 

the budget each day and to pay the salaries of the teaching personnel.

Later, the Folks-shul moved to a large building at Shpitalna Street. The learning conditions improved. The teaching personnel changed and Binyomin Grobart was the director of the school, then Akiva Bakst. The only teachers who did not change [were] Elihu Radonsky, the female teachers, Suzana and Luyba from Vilna.

When the idea evolved of building a large building for the Folks-shul in order to accept all of the children who wanted to study in [the school], the managing committee began a campaign to raise money. The first thousand dollars came from America and a location on Tibalisher Street, opposite the synagogue was bought. They received wood from city hall. Then a campaign to buy sheet metal began. It must be said that almost the entire population of the city responded warmly to the campaign. The construction began and Leibl Eisenbud again was its leader. The committee of the Nesvizher landsleit [people from the same town] in America also warmly responded and sent money.

The active workers at the school managing committee were: Leibl Eisenbud, Ayzik Albensky, Binyomin Yevelevski, Eidl Alperovitz, Shlomo Farfel, Mosheka Katshanovsky, Dovid Riklin, Leyzer Gatzov, Yankl the blacksmith, Yankl Kaplan, Yaroshovitz the watchmaker, Elihu Radonsky [and] Avraham Elihu Liberman.

The school managing committee searched for ways to cover the deficit. They would arrange literary trials, flower days [on which flowers were sold], tea evenings [and] lively journals. The dramatic group performed regularly. They would travel to the provinces – Klyetsk, Stolbtsy, Haradzieja – with various evenings [of entertainment]. However, all of the income did not suffice to support the school and the situation was difficult.

The children's dramatic group also performed plays in Nesvizh as well as in Klyetsk, Haradzieja and Stoubcy. The children's evening had great success in the city.

[Page 322]

Dramatic Group

A youth organization, Tseiri-Zion Youth [Young Men of Zion] Youth Organization of Nesvizh, was founded in 1921. A dramatic group existed in this organization. The director was Grubman (Chaim-Tevl, a son-in-law of the watchmaker). He organized a group of young people with artistic capabilities. At first they organized Saturday night “soirees” at the Cilnov Library. Tseiri-Tzion also had their library there.

The following comrades belonged to the dramatic group then:

Shlomo Yosl Berezyn, Sura Grinfeld, Velvel Liebovitz, Zelik Riklin, Alta Abramovitz, Dovid Portnoy.

The first play that was performed in Yiddish was Der Khosen [The Bridegroom] by Der Tunkler [the Dark One, pseudonym of Yosef Tunkel]. The dramatic group expanded and developed in later years when the Jewish folks-shul [public school] had been founded. Capable actors joined then such as Ayzik Albensky, Moshe Kachanovsky, Sonya Shpielberg, Nina Sivirtcheve.

The dramatic group gathered in the folks-shul on Studentska Street. The rehearsals would be carried out at Leibl Eisenbud's house. The plays, which the dramatic group performed at various times, were:

Got fun Nekoma [God of Revenge], Motke Ganev [Motke the Thief], Der Dorfs Yung [The Village Youth], Far Undzer Gloybn [For Our Beliefs], Di Nevole [The Infamy], Dos Groyse Gevins [The Lottery], Grine Felder [Green Fields], Tsezeyt un Tseshpreyt [Spread Far and Wide], Tsvey Kuni-Lemls [Two Kuni-Lemls] and others.

The usual directors were Moshke Kachanovsky and the writer of these lines. We would perform the plays in the large hall of Ratcz. We would pre-sell the tickets for each performance. Each new play was a great cultural event for the city and they would talk about the acting of the artists for week after.

The dramatic group had its regular lovers who would not miss any performances. One of the most striking of among them was Shimeon the butcher. He would always buy the most expensive tickets for him and his family. They sat in the first row and during the performances we would hear their remarks during the scenes: “Oh, the bomb exploded!”

There was a stable group of comrades active in the dramatic group, who took care of the mechanical matters for the group. Avraham-Aba the shoemaker and

 

nes322.jpg
The performance of Dos Groyse Gevins
by Sholem Aleichem, presented by the Dramatic Society

Sitting (from right to left): Ayzik Albensky, Lena Shein. Second row (from right to left): Alta Abramovitz, Yosef Berezin, Mikhal Rabinovitz, Ramaz, Avraham Grubman, Binyomin Grobart, Chaim …
Standing: Dovid Portnoy, Shlomo Farfel, Moshe Lubecky, Velvel Leibovitz, Chaim Shnitzer, Meir Bashinkovitz (the make-up man)
(Photo: Moshe Fajans)

[Page 323]

Shlomoke Milstein took care of the props. They would also “draw” the curtain on the stage. Eliyahu Radonsky was the regular prompter and also the literary expert. Yereshevitz, the watch maker (the Yekke [German Jew]), was the cashier. Once, when we performed Shulamut, he took a nap – and when he awoke from sleep, he asked in German: “Die Katze ist schon durchgelaufen [Has the cat already run through]?” Liua Goldfarb (Liyove the Pole) was responsible for the buffet and designated which women had to bring something for the buffet – fish, wurst, tortes. Raytsa Menheit, Moshe Farbikant, Shirka Bashinkovitz, Yudl Alperovitz, Chaya-Itl Lemesh, Rakhmiel Paver and the like would help him with the buffet.

Ayzik Albensky, a poor intelligent man who lived from his meager salary as a secretary at TOZ [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej – Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population], had a special humor. He had extraordinary abilities on the stage and when we would perform with him it would be lively.

Hirshl Turtzin of the liberal performers would put on pince-nez when needed and when not and gesticulated like an intelligent man.

Once, when we performed the first act of Motke Ganev, Shlomovitz, who considered himself an expert about theater and could not hold in his enthusiasm for good acting, came behind the wings and said: “I have seen Motke Ganev in Warsaw in a real theater, but it was not as good as your Motke Ganev.”

 

Mekhires Yoysef

The winter of 1929 was a difficult one. The economic crisis in Europe did not by-pass Nesvizh. There was unemployment in the city. Wanting to help the unemployed, community workers looked for ways to raise money. It was proposed that Mekhires Yoysef [The Selling of Joseph] be performed, which would surely “draw” an audience. Erev [the eve of] Passover, I was proposed as the director and to assemble a suitable ensemble from those who had once performed Mekhires Yoysef and it was a hit with the audience. The roles were divided thus: young Yoysef – Riva Maza, adult Yoysef – the sausage maker, Yakov – Mordekhai Dovid Alperovitz, Pharaoh – Berl Manchus, Yoysef's brothers: Ruwin – Yeshaya Mazin; the other brothers – Yakov Kaplan, Oficiner Hirsh, Dovid Riklin and others.

Yeshaya Mazin (Mashulkes) went dressed in a long, white, loose robe with black trousers, Yakov Kaplan being devoted to the historical contents also wore a long, white, loose robe, but was barefoot. Berl Menchus, as Pharaoh, had his body wrapped in only a large sheet.

Jews who never went to the theater came to the premiere. The large hall in Ratcz was full. Jews from Kletsk, Stolbtsy, Snov, Haradzieja also came to the “evening.” Yeshayahu Spivak looked through the crack of the curtain and, seeing such a large audience, called out in admiration to Yakov Kaplan: “Yankl, damn you, look at how many people Mekhires Yoysef has brought here!”

The play, Mekhires Yoysef, brought in a nice sum of money, which was distributed among the needy unemployed.

The dramatic society also would invite artists-stars for guest roles. The Warsaw artist, Parczew, was particularly popular. The “stars” of the theater group during its last period were: Rywka Levkovitz, Roza Alperin and Sheyna Lemesh.

The dramatic society also engaged the pedagogues Svane and Luyba, the already mentioned teacher Rywka Levkovitz and the teacher Elihu Radonsky. The make-up always was gone by Krasnoselsky, the hairdresser and the artists themselves.

All of the undertakings of the dramatic society had reverberations in the city and without a doubt added color and beauty to Jewish life in Nesvizh.

 

Melamdim and Khedarim

The children in Nesvizh, as it was in those times, studied with melamdim [religious teachers] in khedarim [religious primary schools]. At various times there were melamdim in Nesvizh who were only known by their nicknames:

Pesakh Paperka (a teacher as well as an exorcist), the Lozovicer Rebbe, Shimeon Han, Rafael the Shvarcer [dark one] (Gemara [Talmud] teacher), Shmuel Gelfand (Shoron), Shmuel Damesec, Ezra the melamed [teacher], Gershon-Velvel Damesec, Izrael, Butzin (the Varshaver Rebbe), the old Razovsky, Borukh Lit, (the melamid), Moshe Lipovsky (the teacher), Berl Polak, Berl, Chatzkel's [son] (the mashgiach [supervisor of Kashrus – kosher status of foods and shops]), the Sverzner melamed, the Snover Rabbi.

Besides the melamdim there also were private Hebrew teachers: Chaim-Eliyahu Friedshtein, the watnik [maker of cotton padding], taught only girls, Bentshe the meshuginer [the crazy one] Yedelevitz (today in Chile), Melnik and Shlomo Damesec.


[Page 329]

My father used to tell…
(A little page of history)

by Moshe Aisenbud

Translated by Steven Gore

By the broad table, which stood in the middle of our house, Shaya Nachomes had his place. Virtually every evening he took that spot and started rolling a cigarette. Once he secured the edge and glued the cigarette, he started telling stories.

Everyone already knew how Shaya Nachomes crawled on his stomach with scissors in hand and cut barbed wire at the Front; how Shaya Nachomes went to “Shtiki” (Russian- bayonets) and how he found whiskey in a German trench.

Everyone knew how Shaya Nachomes came back from the Front, how he was a Czar's soldier, with a bundle of stories and a stomach ailment.

From all the stories, what stuck in the heads of us kids was: “what goes on in the battle” and “extricating oneself from the surrounding enemy (Russian: ‘Akruzhenie’)”. The difference between battalion offensive (Russian: “nastupayen”) and battalion retreat (Russian: “otstupayen”) was hard to keep straight.

And although we knew the ending, we children waited for his stories.

Suddenly he stopped coming.

“His stomach has killed him,” someone said.

Later, Father started telling the stories which had become foggy after a few years had passed.

In that year nineteen hundred and five, I was then a boy of eight or nine. Men with red flags marched through the town and shouted “(Russian:) Down with self-government!”. The constable actually hid himself- so what's that about? In any case, the Czar sat in Petersburg and he wasn't the target! Everyone waited for the outcome in Moscow. However, the Moscow workers had no arms.

The Nesvizher Bund Committee got the task of procuring arms.

In those days the Fortieth Artillery Brigade and a special “flying brigade” (Russian: Letutshe) were based in Nesvizh.

In that year, they struck at the Japanese Front, as it ought to be - all soldiers were there. In the town, only enough troops remained to protect the “Tschekavost” (Russian: цеховост [tsekhovost] meaning “workshop” or “guild”).

As Father noticed that we children weren't catching what he meant, he added:

Those were the storehouses where the army kept weapons, furs, boots…

How would one manage to get in there?

At one point, a soldier, a Jew from the Caucasus, came around to Nateh Boiziner the smithy, and his daughter. The secretly Leftist soldier worked out a plan with them: When he (the Jewish solider) stands watch, someone will cut the bolt to the gate along with the leaden seal, take out the rifles, and close it back up, so that no one would find out. When everything is finished, the weapons will be sent to Moscow and the Caucasian soldier – sent to America!

* * *

A frosty winter night. The “Tschekavost” was located in the old monastery, which stood on a high rampart. Around the wall was the river. On three sleds, with two pairs of horses, the Bundist forces (Russian: “Boiuvkeh”) came to a halt behind the wall and tackled their work. Through the night, they unloaded the heavy boxes of rifles and repacked them with straw. Someone took a few pelts and boots for home use. After the difficult “bit” of work, they reassembled the seal and the bolts of the gate - as if nothing had happened.

Three heavily overladen sleds took off towards Minsk. The “welders,” young guys, sped along with the truck. Not far from Minsk, special (Bundist) party-envoys took over the transport and took an obscure route.

A few hours later the “welders” got their sleds back together along with a pretty sum of tavern-money. They returned home in peace.

[Page 330]

A little while later, over some schnapps, the wagon-driving “welder”-boys gave away the whole story, and the particulars of the events were passed from mouth to mouth.

Everyone knew about the “Treasury” (קִאַזנאַ - Russian for ‘coffers’)

However, hairdressers are by nature very gossipy people. In their salons, one can learn the latest world-news, happenings in the town, and any old slanders.

One particular day, a few months after the transport of the rifles, the colonel from the “Letutsher” Brigade sat in the barber shop of Meir Bashinkevitsch (Meir Murze) getting a shave. Meir Murze served the ball:

--Mister Well-born, what have you heard about the rifles?

--What rifles?

--You don't know about it?

--Absolutely not.

--The whole town is talking about it.

--About what?

--That the Socialists stole the rifles from “Tschechovost”!

--“Hunh”?

Can you imagine how this hit the colonel? The military command ordered the opening of the “Tschechovost.” Rats scurried around the warehouse. No sign of the boxes of rifles, ammunition. Meir Murze, the hairdresser, hadn't been released yet, and from him one learned all the details.

To the “Bund” committee from that time, belonged: The brothers Noach and Berl Israel, Chava Lipshitz and Yidl Ravin (he was the carpenter, who cleverly finished the seal, so that no one would know.). Yidl Ravin was given five years imprisonment and was locked up in a variety of prisons. The “welders”: Chaim Shetschke (Berezin) and Avrahaml Kopelke (Volozshinski) received three years. The third welder in time took himself to America along with the harness-maker Prenski.

Also, the soldier, the Caucasian Jew, went off with Boiziner's daughter and settled down in Kasel.

But that wasn't the end of it.

A regiment of Circassians came down and threatened a pogrom. They circled the town and searched through every house. In our father's barn was hidden the arsenal of the Bundist “combat-platoon” - a sack of revolvers and a sack of leather whips.

It was lucky that they didn't find anything. There was no pogrom.

Because of the “Tschekovost” incident, many young men and women left for America, and along with them, my sisters.

In a small house by the “rampart,” lived the coachman Avrahaml Kopilkes. Chaim “Shetschke” was already called Brezin (Russian: Railcar) and was a notable Jew, with his own bakery.

By us lads, they always remain the witnesses of a legend.

 

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