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[Page 469]

Lazar Fogelman

by M.Sh.

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Born on the 27th of May 1888. Adopted the name of Eliezer Feygelman.

Born in Nesvizh, Minsk Gubernia [province], White Russia [Belarus]. His father, Simkha, himself the founder of the first Kheder Metuken [reformed school] in Nesvizh, gave him [Lazar] a Jewish and secular education. For years, Lazar Fogelman, as a non-matriculated student, took exams in the Slutsk gymnazie [secondary school]. He entered the seventh grade of the Warsaw Second Gymnazie in 1906 and graduated in 1912 and a year later he submitted his dissertation about “Author's Rights to Literary Works.” He then studied at the Petersburg Psychoneurological Institute. Debuted with a short story, Na Plyazhe (On the Beach) in a Petersburg Russian literary journal; at that time became lecturer of higher courses in Russian literature. At the beginning of the First World War, 1914, was a legal counsel at a submarine factory, Reks; later worked in the kerosene firm, Mazut.

During the years of the Bolshevik Revolution, he was a teacher and manager of the secular schools in Vitebsk, Horodok, Slutsk, finally in his birthplace, Nesvizh, he was a teacher of Russian literature and of Latin in an eighth-grade girl's gymnazie. He emigrated to America in 1921, settled in New York and after preparation entered Fordham University Law School; graduated in 1927 and had the intention of practicing law. Meanwhile, he was a teacher in the Arbeter Ring [Workman's Circle] schools and a co-worker at the Poalei-Zionist [Marxist-Zionist worker's organization] daily newspaper, Di Tseyt [The Times], edited by Dovid Pinski – until the newspaper closed. Also in Tog [Day], N.Y. Began to publish a series of descriptions of Jewish life in Bolshevik Russia in the Forverts, and the editor, Abe Cahan, invited him to write regularly. In 1927, he became the most central co-worker of the Forverts. Published biographical series about Russian personalities in literature and theater, as well as short stories and literary criticism under his own name and under the pseudonym, Dr. F. Lazar, Teveliev, F. Soloveichik and L. Eidelman.

After Abe Cahan's death in 1952, Hillel Rogof became the editor and Fogelman, managing editor, of the Forverts. When Rogof resigned in 1962, Fogelman became the editor. During the years of intensive journalistic activity, he also was a lecturer and the first director of the Arbeter Ring teacher's courses, a teacher at the Arbeter Ring middle school, a lecturer at the Yiddish Teacher's Seminar, a member of the educational division of the Arbeter Ring and treasurer of the Arbeter Ring. He took part as a journalist, reviewer and critic at a series of journals, mainly at the Veker, organ of the Jewish Socialist Union, and at Tsukunft [Future].

Edited Di Tsukunft with Hillel Rogof after the death of A[vraham] Liessin, during the years 1939-1940. Also took part in the collection, Vilna, 1935; in Russian collection, Yevreyskiy Mir [Jewish World] published by the Union of Russian Jews, New York, 1944, with longer content about the Jews in America; in Russian Novyy Zhurnal [New Magazine], no. 59, New York, 1960, with a longer study about Sholem Aleichem. Fogelman was president of the Y.L. Peretz Writers Union, professional organization of the Yiddish journalists in New York several times. He prepared for print collected treatises about Jewish and general writers, about personalities in political life, among them a number of American presidents. His weekly political article in the Forverts was dedicated to Jewish and general issues of the time. In 1936, published a series of travel articles in the Forverts after a tour through a number of European nations; in 1951, after visiting the Land of Israel, at the invitation of the Israeli government, and as a member of an American journalist group, took part in the first flight of the El Al Airline from Lod to New York; published in the newspaper an important series of articles about the

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Jewish state. Fogelman's first wife was Bayla Damesek, sister of the Hebrew-Yiddish writer, Shlomo Damesek. His second wife was the daughter of B. Botvinik. His first-born son, Simkha Meimon, fell during the Second World War against the German Nazis. In book form: Booker T. Washington, Arbeter Ring publisher, 1930; Pavel Akselrod, publisher Jewish Socialist Union, N.Y. 1928; Geshikhte fun dem Arbeter Ring [History of the Workman's Circle], publisher Arbeter Ring, N.Y., 1931. Lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Z. Reizen, Leksikon [Lexicon], vol. 3, Hillel Rogof, Der Geyst fun Forverts [The Spirit of the Forverts], N.Y. 1854, pp. 163-165 (first printed in the Forverts, N.Y. 15th May 1953). Y. Sh. Herc, Di Yidishe Sotsialistishe Bevegung in Amerika [The Jewish Socialist Movement in America], N.Y., 1954, Zuchtsetl; Shlomo Damesek, Mi-poh u-Misham [From Here and There], N.Y., 1956, EM. 102-107; Arbeter-Ring Boyer in Tuer [Workman's Circle Builder and Activist], SHP, 305-206; S. Regensberg, Forverts, N.Y., 16th June 1962; Y. Shmulewicz, Forverts, 28th of June 1962 and on the 2nd Dec. 1962: H. Long, Forverts, N.Y., 20th of Oct. 1952; Horot ha-Itonaim ha-Yehudiym [The History of Jewish Journalists], 9. Jerusalem, 1st of Kislev, 25th of Nov. 1965: Yefim Yshurin, 100 Yor Yidishe Literatur [100 Years of Yiddish Literature], N.Y. 1966.

(Lexicon of the New Yiddish Literature, vol. 7.)


Elihu-Yisroel Radunsky

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

[He] began his work experience as a Hebrew teacher at the TSISHO [Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsia – Central Jewish School Organization] school in Nesvizh. Later, he also became a hard-working school activist there and was the secretary of this TSISHO division for many years. He spent many evenings at managing committee meetings, theater rehearsals and exhibitions.

Elya [diminutive of Elihu] sat in the prompter's box in the municipal hall for many years. He often led an artist out of a difficult situation, as an experienced director. He had a life-long presence among the school seats, at meetings and in the prompter's box – there was no place left for personal fortune.

He perished during the shootings of Nesvizh Jews in October 1941.

(Lerer Yisker Bukh [Teachers Yizkor – Memorial – Book])


Akiva Baksht

by M. Eisenbud

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

A round face, blond hair, with glasses in thick American frames – Akiva Baksht, in his appearance, did not look very much like a Jew, even less like a Jewish teacher. His entire being sprouted with village healthiness and naivety.

He came from Ivia [Iwye, Belarus], a shtetl near Novogrudok, in eastern Poland. As a physically healthy man, he loved nature and also infected his students with the love. The school bell had barely rung, and Baksht was no longer the strict teacher, but the good, approachable friend. His weakness was – hiking. He did not miss any opportunity on a free day to leave Nesvizh, where he worked at the TSHISO School, to go to his home-city of Ivia. A distance of 90 kilometers [almost 56 miles] was a night stroll for him, in which his shoes did not even get dusty.

As is known, a Jewish teacher in a shtetl was more than a teacher: he had to be a “talent,” so he could be used as an activist, speaker or artist. Baksht was no exception. He acted in theater; he did all of the communal work – in Nesvizh, in Ivia, where he was the teacher and manager of the school.


Benyamin Graubart

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

A young intelligent [man] from Warsaw appeared in Nesvizh in about 1926. Short and thick, slightly lame in his foot, with two smart, smiling eyes behind the glasses with golden frames – B. Graubart became the manager of the Nesvizh TSISHO school. Later, as a resident of Nesvizh, he was elected as a councilman at city hall and was an alderman for several years. He helped the poor Jewish population; he was involved with the education of the Jewish child. In 1930, he staged The Prince and the Pauper. He cut and painted the scenery; he directed the children in the roles. The performance created great esteem for the school and its leader.

In 1932, he moved to Pinsk and there he became the manager of the [Ber] Borochov School. However, Graubart had to give up his teaching position under pressure from the Polish school regime and he became a bookkeeper at a trade institution. He further dedicated his entire energy to the education of children and to communal work on behalf of the poor, Jewish population.

He perished in Pinsk.

(Lerer Yisker Bukh [Teachers Yizkor – Memorial – Book]


Mikhal Czarni, of blessed memory

by Yitzhak Alperovich

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Multifaceted and colorful was the personality of Mikhal Czarni. Quiet by nature, a modest man, a born intellectual, in his early years he showed great interest in general worldly subjects, poetry, commentary, discourses about actual problems. But he had a special interest

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nes471.jpg
Mikhal Czarni

 

in learning mathematics. He could, for example, calculate in advance when the first days of Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos [Feast of Tabernacles] and other Jewish holidays fell over the course of tens of years. Itshe Czarni said that when he studied in the Russian gymnazie [secondary school] during the years 1918-192 [the last digit of the year was omitted], his father would always help him solve algebraic and trigonometry assignments, even though he [the father] had not studied at any gymnazie.

He studied for several years at the Mirer yeshiva [secondary religious school] during his young years, but he was not a religious man. He only went to the synagogue to pray on Shabbosim [Sabbaths] and holidays; sometimes he also would go to pray because of his wife, who was religiously inclined and [he would] go to a synagogue to pray Minkhah [afternoon prayers]. However, this would result from her reproofs: “Mikhal, you are father of children, why are you not praying? There is another world!”

Despite his occupation as a traveling salesman and being on the road most of the time, he was bound to his house and his family. He was blessed with many beautiful feelings and character traits. An ideal, honest man, permeated with an enlightened, progressive spirit, he would not miss the least opportunity to read the books that his children brought home from the Tarbut [secular Hebrew language school system] library. He would sit until the last hours of the night, reading with great zeal and also making various notations and observations. And, understand, he would talk to the children about the books he had read.

Having lost an eye as a child, he felt wronged by nature. [He was] bitter and unsatisfied and he was more a listener than a speaker in the company of close friends, although he always had something to say. He loved conciseness. What he said was weighed and measured, significant and to the point.

He showed his love for Eretz-Yisroel at every opportunity, despite the fact that he was not a member of any Zionist party. The Zionist spirit in his house had an effect on his children, who were active workers in the Zionist youth organization.

He evoked respect with his solid and tactful behavior; he raised his children to be tolerant. Itshe Czarni once remembered that when the youngest brother, Noakh, read the Megilah [Book of Esther] in the Hasidic shtibl [small, one-room synagogue] on the night of Purim, he searched for a stick with which to hit Haman across a box. He father said: we need better to beat the living Hamans who carry out pogroms against the Jews!

The last few years before his death, Mikhal Czarni suffered greatly from cancer, but he never complained so as not to cause any worries for his wife and children. He quieted his suffering with reading. A few months before his death, he had almost lost his ability to speak.

He died with full consciousness in middle age at 54 years. His death evoked deep sadness in the city.


Jews from My Home City

by Yakov Andrusier, London

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

My Friend Liberman

My friend Liberman was a son of Reb Nekhemia Melamed [the teacher], may he rest in peace, - a small Jew, but a great Hebrew. Jews would say of him that he read Melitz (Hamelitz [Morning Star – Hebrew daily newspaper]) and from him we learned Jewish and worldly news.

The rebbe [in this sense, teacher] had only eight students and he drew his income from them. He house was around the Toytn Gesl [dead alley][1]. Friday afternoon was occupied in arranging a place for Shabbos for all the arriving poor Jews. I remember, I was still a young boy, Reb Nekhemia would come to our Lubavitcher shtibl and ask my father, may he rest in peace, to take a guest for Shabbos. Understand that my father immediately accepted the request. I asked my father why Reb Nekhemia did not pray. My father answered: one who performs a mitzvah [commandment, often translated as good deed] is exempt from performing another mitzvah [at that same time].

The good teacher had a son who was my friend, although he was much older than me. A yeshiva bukher [student in a religious secondary school], he, however, read many books in addition to the Gemora [Talmud] and Muser-sforim [books of moral instruction]. Leaving the yeshiva in about 1904, he became a member of the Bund and an active comrade in the movement. He would appear publicly at meetings, give speeches against the order [system]. He learned a trade – as a soyfer [scribe] and wrote a Torah. A few years later, he married the daughter of Reb Yitzhak Soyfer [the scribe], may he rest in peace. In 1917, after the revolution, he became the leader of the Bund and was elected as a councilman at the city council. He helped to create the Jewish folks-shul [public school]; was beloved by the poor in the city. Yet, Comrade Liber-

[Page 472]

man prayed every day at the house of prayer and read commentaries every Shabbos [Sabbath].

During my visit to Nesvizh in 1934, I went to his house. I was horrified. I was in an empty house. There was nothing more than a table and a chair, on which Friend Liberman sat and was writing a Torah scroll. There was not a floor and the poverty was great. I tried to make it a little easier for him.

Thus, the great fighter for the poor Jews lived in poverty. In 1941, this beautiful soul was extinguished by Hitler's murderers.

 

Reb Aba Hasid

While still a boy, I became acquainted with this good Jew, Reb Aba. A person of stately appearance, [with] a beautiful, long beard and large dark eyes. He wore his long kapote [caftan] both in summer and in winter. He was busy with many things, but he was not a rich man, although he owned a large house on Michaliszok [a street in the old Jewish section]. Friday evening, he would come from the mikvah [ritual bath], washed, his beard finely combed, in his beautiful satin kapote with a Hasidic gartel [rope-like belt worn by pious Jewish men] and short boots. His face shone and waited to welcome the Shabbos [Sabbath]. He stood at the reading desk, prayed with a beautiful melody and danced a little. Sometimes, he prayed at the synagogue lectern, sang so touchingly and the Hasidim helped him. That is how it was every Shabbos.

We saw Reb Aba dancing with all of the Hasidim during the hakofus [ceremonial procession of the Torahs] on Simkhas Torah [holiday marking the conclusion of the yearly reading of the Torah]. This was not a simple dance; we saw how he apparently swam in the air, singing and holding the Torah, and his eyes were two diamonds.

Reb Aba helped poor Jews quietly, without publicity. At Minkhah-Maariv [afternoon and evening prayers], Reb Aba taught the Jewish laws to the simple Jews.

When I visited my shtetl, I saw Reb Aba for the last time with a Gemora [volume of the Talmud] on a pile of boards in Siminarinsky's orchard. This was during the month of Av and such was Reb Aba's dacha [country house]. Hitler's murderers shot this good Jew at the market with all of the Jews of the shtetl. May his soul be bound in the bond of life.

 

Yosele

A lively one, tall, but [he] could only speak a few words. When Yosele would enter the street, it was lively; he made everyone happy. Yosele tore off his clothes, he was often naked. People had pity. They gave him other clothes, but mainly he also tore those off.

Yosele was beloved by everyone, even by the Christians. Officers amused themselves with him; Yosele ate and drank with them. Therefore, he had the privilege of marching with the soldiers to be reviewed. He loved music. As soon as he heard it being played, he ran there, even when it was in another corner of the city.

Yosele willingly [helped] the firemen. He would always help them pump the water from the river. He never asked for food. He came to our house as one of our own, ate and, after eating, my father would ask him to sit. However, Yosele did not hear. He again ran into the street and shouted: “A death!”

Dr. Lickowski had sympathy for him because Yosele often was full of wounds, sometimes from the great cold. The doctor healed his wounds, gave him a garment and invited him to eat. Yosele felt as if he was at home at the doctor's house. When Dr. Lickowski would visit the sick, Yosele walked in front with the doctor's cane and shouted: “A death!”

No one understood Yosele's shouting “a death.” Perhaps, he foresaw the terrible death that awaited my home, Nesvizh, along with all of the Jews with whom the dear Yosele also perished.

When I came home from distant Africa in 1934 and exited the wagon, Yosele came to grab my valise and ran in front to tell my father about my arrival. He was then as close to me as my own brother.

 

Hillel

A tall one, over seven feet [about 2.1 meters]. He arrived in my city when I was a kheder-yingl [a religious primary school boy]. Hillel was from Sverzhna [Novyy Sverzhen], a small shtetl [town] not far from Nesvizh. He lived there until he was 25. Later, he felt his shtetl was too narrow for him and he searched for more life. There were many soldiers and officers in our shtetl; it was lively. The military gave him work, to lug and carry [things]. He was as healthy as a lion; he always had work – for a meal or for an old pair of pants. Boys and girls would take him into their groups and amuse themselves with him. They put an old top hat on his head, a pair of cuffs and an old shirt – and thus Hillel walked through the streets and became friendly with Jewish soldiers.

Hillel went among the young and he was asked to tell how he freed himself from the army conscription. He took a piece of paper and ostensibly read from it, although he could not read and write. He told how the marshal asked: “Hillel, what is your name?” And he answered: “Hillel Marshovitch.” And the marshal asked: “Will you be a drummer?” And Hillel answered: “And will you, Smarovoz, be the drummer?” And the group laughed heartily.

Or, when they proposed a pretty girl as a match for Hillel and they asked him what he would do with his wife, he answered that he would make her a new dress and he would carry her in his arms.

It was lively among the butchers when Hillel went to the slaughter house with them. He was up the entire night; therefore, they gave him good food to eat.

Coming for the last time to my house, I greeted Hillel, who was worn out from work, bent over, without teeth – but the same good Hillel.

Hillel went with all of the fine Jews, carrying his pack for the last time. He became a martyr equally with all of the martyrs.

 

Khatskele

Why Khatskele? I do not know myself, that is what they called him. Who gave him the name, I do not know

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either. It was known in the city that he had a mother somewhere in a faraway alley where he went to sleep every night.

Khatskele was then in his forties or perhaps in his fifties. No one knew his age. Khatskele was seen in the street every day; he was full of laughter and often singing. He walked in front of the klezmer [musicians] at every wedding and sang the same march or dance.

Khatskele was an esteemed guest in our house. We would call him in, seeing that he always ate in the street. After eating, he again was in the street with the same smile.

During a parade, Khatskele would walk with the military orchestra like a soldier, singing the march.

During the First World War, he lived among the soldiers and was lost somewhere. Later, he returned and again wandered around the street. We would often give him kopekes [Russian coins], but he did not know what to do with the kopekes.

On a winter day, I heard that Khatskele had died. How sad we were on that day.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Road leading to the main entrance to the ghetto, where hand-to-hand fighting occurred during the second Aktion. Many died there, thereby giving rise to this name. Return

 

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