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[Page 10]

Introduction to the book


Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

Past and recent generations look upon us from the pages of Pinkas Novogrudok. We consisted of generations of different types of Jews: Great Torah scholars and ordinary Jews, Mitnagdim and Chasidim, workers, scholars from the Yeshiva “Beit-Yosef” and academic scientists, Zionists and revolutionaries. All of these Jews left their impression on the institutions that they had built up: on the Yeshivot, the Hebrew and Yiddish schools, and other establishments and institutions.

All schools were filled with kindergarten children and studious Jewish pupils. All cut down, exterminated, woe to our loss!

Novogrudok took a place of honour in the cultural life of the Jewish people for over 500 years. It was uprooted and exterminated, along with all of European Jewry, by the murderous Nazi Germans, may an eternal curse befall them and their descendants forever!

The Pinkas is a type of link in the chain of Pinkasim that were customary in Jewish communities. They consisted of reports and documents of all the happenings in the community. They were vessels of tears and blood, of the few celebrations and the many sorrows that people experienced, as well as comments about good deeds. Devoted hands wrote the Pinkas in a simple language and with pure intentions, a testimony and a memorial to the Jewish communities.

The present Pinkas, the Novogrudok Pinkas, is here to tell the orphaned generation and generations to come all that the community experienced from its very beginning hundreds of years ago until its terrible destruction. The Novogrudok community was over many generations a warm nest for Jewish life and culture. Only a few were saved from the monstrous fire, a few who showed great heroism, who lived in the forests or in concentration camps and later were scattered around the world: U.S.A, Latin America. Only a few reached the safe shores of the liberated and independent Israel.

Some survivors and their brethren, although they left the town many years ago, still carried in their hearts a love for their hometown. They all dreamed of establishing a memorial for their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, a memorial for the children and youths, who were cruelly murdered and buried in brotherly graves, to preserve for eternity the history of that splendid town in a memorial book, and for it to be a “Kadish” and a testimony for generations to come. It was a dream with many obstacles: they did not know if they would be able to find the material, the means and the dedicated people needed for the sacred task of publishing such a book. On annual memorial days in Israel and America, the day of the first slaughter, Yod Chet of the month of Kislev, the survivors expressed their wish to undertake that task, to publish the book. It took them twenty years to bring the project to fruition. Three years ago, at a memorial evening, the task was given to the members: David Cohen, Yaakov Kivelevich, Shlomo Kaminietzki (Kamin), Moshe Shteinberg-Sarig, who was the principal of “Tarbut”school in Novogrudok, Yehoshua Yaffe, Dr.Aaron Mirski, Menashe Rabina and Yaakov Rudnitzki, the representative of the committee of ex-Novogrudoker. Their task was to collect the material, and to be the editors of the “Yizkor”book. The Israeli committee of ex-Novogrudoker financed the initial stage of the project. A contact was made with the U.S.A committees and some people from the U.S.A joined the editorial staff: The famous personality Edna Kagan, who came, when young to the U.S.A, but kept a warm place in her heart for her home town Novogrudok had contributed greatly to this project. Our friend Chaim Leibovich, a holocaust survivor, joined the editorial staff. The two committees, in Israel and U.S.A, headed by the dear patriarch Mr Maslov, gave their blessings and their help to the editors.

Be blessed all you who wrote with bleeding hearts about all that they and the town went through. And be blessed all of you in Israel and overseas who contributed articles to this book.

After a year of collecting the precious material, following the request of our friends in the U.S.A, the editors turned to Dr. Eliezer Yerushalmi, an author and a teacher, a native of Novogrudok, to accept the post of technical editor. The editorial committee accepted his suggested title for the volume as “Pinkas Novogrudok” and the following chapters:

A. The history of the town and its Jewish community from its beginning to the W.W.2, including a chapter about great people, and one chapter from the old Pinkas.

B. The town and its Jewish life between two W.W.: businesses, culture, daily life, personalities and images.

C. The life of the town and its people mirrored in poetry, prose, legends and tales.

D. The holocaust and heroism during the days of the evil oppressors, may their name be erased.

To end with memorial candles to the holy and pure souls that went up in flames of the holocaust and the destruction. Many photos were included in the Pinkas.

The editorial committee presents with awe “Pinkas Novogrudok” to the natives of the town in Israel and the Diaspora, with a prayer in their hearts: let the words of this Pinkas be kept in our hearts and the hearts of our descendants'. “Ya'aleh Ve'itkadash” the memory of our beloved martyrs who were cut down by a cruel hand from the land of the living.

“Yitgadal Ve'itkadash”

We end the introduction of the Pinkas with sorrow. Two of our faithful and dedicated members of the editorial committee passed away.

The kindly Edna Kagan from the U.S.A, who dedicated her last years to the collection of the relevant material for the Pinkas, and inspired the editorial committee with her enthusiasm.

Dr. Eliezer Yerushalmi, for whom Novogrudok was a source of inspiration for his literary creativity. He helped faithfully in the editing of the Pinkas.

Both of them did not live to see the completion of the Pinkas. Their memory will be kept in the pages of the Pinkas.

The Editors.


Translated from Yiddish by Oskar Delatycki

Many generations look at us from the pages of Pikas Novogrudok, generations of various types and classes of people: famous religious scholars and simple toilers, mesnagedim and chasidim, Musar scholars from Reb Yoysl's Yeshiva, enlightened people and men of science, Zionists and those who opposed them. All of them left their imprint on the many learning institutions of the town. There were primary (cheders) and advanced (yeshivas) religious schools, trade schools for the poor (Shogdey Melocho), the Hebrew school Tarbut and Yiddish schools. All the schools and educational institutions were filled with very dear Jewish children. And then the time came when the community, which had existed for hundreds of years, together with thousands of other Jewish communities in the whole of Europe, was exterminated by the german vandals and their supporters.

Pinkas Novogrudok is a link in a long chain of similar books, which describe the lives of Jewish communities over hundreds of years. They are the chronicles of the few moments of happiness and the many years of anguish in the lives of the communities. It was a vessel filled with blood and tears but also with noble deeds and kidush hashem. The compilers of the Pinkas books have described many deeds over the generations. Our Pinkas gives an account of the end of our town. It is the last Pinkas of Novogrudok. The book was not written by many or by hired hands. It was the work of the few survivors, the last remaining members of our community.

A rich and multicoloured community, hundreds of years old, was wiped out. Thousands of Jews young and old, hundreds of children are buried in the four deserted mass graves. Only few survived by super human bravery and ingenuity. They dwelled in the forests and they took revenge for the spilled innocent blood. After the war, the survivors remained for years in refugee camps. Later they were dispersed to all corners of the earth. Some came to the welcoming shores of Israel.

The survivors together with others who had left their native town a long time ago, but had never forgotten their roots, have decided to initiate a project to perpetuate the memory of their dear fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and their innocent children who were exterminated in a most barbaric manner. Thus the idea of compiling of a Yizkor [memorial] book had arisen. Such a book would also serve to describe briefly the past of the famed, ancient town and the personalities who lived in there over the epochs.

We were dreaming and striving but we had doubts whether we would be ever able to fulfil our aims. We did not know if any of the documents accumulated over many centuries, which we would require for our work, had been saved. We had doubts regarding the availability of the necessary financial resources. We did not know if we could find people who would be willing and able to write the book. Each year we would meet to commemorate the fallen on the anniversary of the first slaughter (8/12/41) and each year we would restate our desire to publish but we took it no further. Three years ago [1960] we finally decided to commence working on the project. We selected an editorial committee consisting of Dovid Cohen, Jakob Kivelevich, Shlomo Kaminiecki (Kamin), the former director of the Tarbut school Moshe Steinberg-Sarig, Yehoshua Yaffe, Dr A. Mirski, Menashe Rabina, and a member of the Novogrudok committee Jakov Rudnicki and gave them the task of collecting manuscripts for publication. The committee of the Novogrudok Landsmanshaft [compatriots] in Israel got in touch with the Novogrudok Landsmanshaft in USA. It was decided to set up a parallel editorial committee in the States, which consisted of Edna Kagan, who left Novogrudok many years ago but had never forgotten her birthplace, our friend Chaim Leibovich, a survivor of the Holocaust, and our old and devoted friend Maslov. They all helped with their deeds and words in the work of the editorial staff. Many survivors and other fellow countrymen were of great help. They told and have written down their tragic stories. They also related the tales of the better times before the war. Thus we collected the rich material. We are grateful to all contributors.

The editorial committee had nominated as the technical editor, our fellow townsman, a teacher and writer Dr Eliezer Yerushalmi. He suggested the name of the book, Pinkas Novogudok.

The book contains four chapters:

Chapter 1: The story of Novogrudok and the Jewish community from its foundation till the first world war.
Chapter 2: The town and the Jewish community between the two world wars, the economic and cultural existence. A sub-chapter on Personalities and Images.
Chapter 3. Novogrudok as portrayed in the literature.
Chapter 4. Novogrudok during the slaughters under the rule of the evil beings and their helpers
In each Chapter there are literary works both poetry and prose. And there are many photos.

At the end is a section “Yohrzeit Candles”

With much hesitation and uncertainty we are putting this volume into the hands of the readers in Israel and in all lands were our townsmen are now living. Our prayer is that the Pinkas should exist in our and our children's hearts and it should remind us of our holy martyrs.

V'iscadal and hiscadash.

We finish the prologue to this volume with the names of two of our dear collaborators, who passed on: Edna Kagan, the dear and devoted lady who dedicated the last years of her life to collect material for the Pinkas and was a shining example to us all, Dr Eliezer Yerushalmi, who spent his youth in Novogrudok and who drew his inspiration from his memories of the town. He did his editorial work tirelessly. Both have not lived to see the Pinkas finished and in the hands of the readers. Let their names and our memories of them be ever parts of our existence.

The editorial committee.

[The task of translating of Pinkas Novogrudok turned out to be much more complex than could be imagined when the task has began. It would have been impossible to get anywhere without dedicated help from many quarters. Let me mention just a few:

A great deal of immaculate work was put in by Freda Salter. I could not thank her enough.
Aviva Kamil translated all Hebrew articles and did more besides. Many thanks, Aviva.
My wife Jeanette read and helped to correct every word in every article. She is best at finding the right word when all dictionaries failed. I will be forever grateful.
Minia Lipkes helped a lot, particularly with articles on religious themes.
My brother Jack was of much help. He remembers the past much clearer than most people I know.
Jack Charney, who remembers every man and every house of Novogrudok between the wars, was an inspiration.
I could go on and on…

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