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[Page 172]

Our sisters and brothers
in the USA

The Alexander Harkavy Novogrudok
Relief Committee in the USA

by Yakov Maslow

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

An organization to help the people of Novogrudok began when the First World War was declared.

In 1915 a committee to render help was created in New York. The first money was raised by imposing a levy of $100 on each Novogrudok association.

There were no contacts with Novogrudok during the war. In due course the Joint Distribution Committee started accepting financial donations to be forwarded to the needy of the district. The first contribution of $500 was speedily sent out to Novogrudok. Five months later the second contribution of $550 was sent.

Receipts were obtained for the contributions. There were no further contacts with Novogrudok until the year 1919. There were occasional meetings of some members of the Relief Organization, but little was accomplished.

When the war was over, distressing letters arrived from Novogrudok in September 1919. The situation in town was pitiful. Novogrudok was ruined.

The Relief Committee called a mass meeting. Money was collected. The problem was to know how to deliver, as soon as possible, the collected money. It was decided to send a delegate and the honoured townsman Alexander Harkavy OBM was elected to undertake the journey.

In early 1920 Alexander Harkavy departed for Novogrudok, representing the townspeople as well as the surrounding townships, who participated in the collection of the aid money: Lubch, Karelich, Wsielub, Horodishch and other nearby townships.

Harkavy's news from Novogrudok was appalling – there was hunger in the whole of the Novogrudok district. The Novogrudok townspeople in New York have started a vigorous campaign to raise help for Novogrudok.

In 1921 a second delegate was sent – Max Jelen OBM. Mr Jelen took with him a substantial sum of money for the Novogrudok institutions. In addition, individual donations were sent to relatives. Jelen's report on his return was also depressing. The situation in Novogrudok was catastrophic. Help was needed to rebuild Novogrudok.The Novogrudok Relief committee started again to collect money for the town. Shortly afterwards a third delegation was sent to Novogrudok. This time two delegates went: Yankov Finman OBM of the Novogrudok committee and Yankov Maslow of the branch of the Worker's Circle. They were asked to familiarise themselves with the needs of individual institutions within the community.

The delegation left on the 22 February 1922. They arrived in Novogrudok a week before Passover. The money sent for individual families was immediately distributed. The money for the institutions was distributed next, following the instructions of the Novogrudok Relief Committee of New York.

After a thorough investigation it was decided that the people's kitchen should be closed down. Few people used that facility, but the cost of operating the kitchen was substantial. The Novogrudok Kehile (Jewish self-governing body) agreed with the decision and the building, which was housing the kitchen, was given to the orphanage. All other institutions were serving a useful function in town.

Having familiarized themselves with the poor condition that the town was in, after lengthy meetings and consultations with the representatives of all Novogrudok organizations, it was decided that the main function of the American organization should be to create a loan facility for all needy in Novogrudok. A considerable sum, which was collected for that purpose, was sent to the loan facility. Several institutions were also supported.

In the years of the great depression in the US the Relief Committee ceased to function for a time. After a time the Joint invited the Novogrudok institutions to a meeting. All Novogrudok associations were represented. Joint announced that all organisations in Novogrudok were about to cease operations. They suggested that the institutions should renew their activities and the Joint undertook to help by financing the revived activities. As a result, the Relief Committee in New York also renewed its activities. The Committee met in the Novogrudok synagogue, but only a few attended the meetings. Something had to be done to infuse more life into the Relief Committee. It was decided to add to the title of the Committee the name of Alexander Harkavy, which would add substance to the identity of the Relief. This is when the name 'The Alexander Harkavy Novogrudok Relief Committee' came into existence.

Work was started with new vigour and a considerable amount of money was collected. But not long after the Second World War began. Knowing that help would be required again in Novogrudok, we began gradually to build up our activities. After the war, we learned about the great disaster committed by the Germans. We lost most of our dear and beloved, 10,000 human beings. Only a handful survived.

We commenced the work of helping the survivors, wherever they were dispersed. We sent money, food, clothing and medications to a number of camps. We established contacts between the survivors with their families in the States. The Relief obtained affidavits and helped the families of the survivers to obtain affidavits so as to bring them to the US as soon as possible. The countrymen of Novogrudok did all they could. And now, when a considerable number of refugees are in America and have settled in, we started to help our fellow countrymen in Israel. We found out yet again that the best form of help was not charity, but the creation of a loan fund in Israel. Some money was already sent, more is being collected. We are certain that our countrymen from Novogrudok will yet again do their duty.

It is also important to note that at the same time, our Relief Committee was also contributing to other American institutions, such as the United Jewish Appeal, the Joint, United Service for New Americans, HIAS, trade union activities and other institutions.

[Page 174]

Novogrudok Progressive Branch 146

by B. Seltzer

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

The Novogrudok Progressive Branch 146 working circle was founded in 1907, but for a number of years prior to that the Novogrudok Progressive Association existed. Every conscientious Novogrudok fellow countryman who came to America, or more precisely, to New York, had joined that youth organisation. The main purpose in those days was to support the activities of the Bund in Novogrudok and to conduct communal and literary activities. At most meetings a lecture followed by a discussion took place. The speakers were: Alexander Harkavy, S. Yanovski, Emma Goldman, Dr A. Liber, Dr I. Kling and others. After our Novogrudok Association had joined the working circle our work increased and broadened. We became a branch of the large working circle organisation. At that time the working circle had tens of thousands of members and hundreds of branches. Most of the branches bore the names of the towns from which the members stemmed, eg. Vilno branch, Minsk branch etc. We were installed as the Novogrudok Progressive Branch 146 working circle. The working circle with more than 70 thousand members was considered to be the equivalent of the Red Cross for the Jewish workers and people. It was the progressive force in the American Jewish community. The working circle took part in organising the Jewish unions. Each branch conducted its activities, however all activities had to be conducted in the spirit of the working circle. As an example, a strike breaker could not be a member of any branch of the working circle, a member of the working circle was not permitted to exploit any worker. The working circle had a sanatorium for members who suffered from tuberculose. The circle opened progressive schools for children of the members. The working circle was part of the American workers movement, which provided assistance to Jews of Eastern Europe, helped in cases of sickness etc. The Novogrudok branch took an active part in all the above activities. It is impossible to enumerate all the activities of the Novogrudok Progressive Branch 146 in the 55 years of its existence. One thing is certain – it had never been a passive branch It participated in all the activities of the Alexander Harkavy Novogrudok Help Committee.

To this day the secretary of our working branch, Jankef Korman is the treasurer of the Novogrudok Help Committee. L. Shnider, an important officer of the Branch, is an executive member of the Help Committee, as is the writer of this article, who is the chairman of the Branch 146 working circle and is the vice chairman of AHNHC. The high point of the activities of the working circle was in the 1930's. At that time the branch had almost 300 members. During the 55 years of our existence many of our members have passed away. At present not many new members are joining the branch. Very few of the post war newcomers have joined our working branch. Despite of that, the Novogrudok Progressive Branch 146 working circle is still one of the most active branches of the working circle.

[Page 176]

Yaakov Maslov

by L. Ch.

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

As we are issuing the Yizkor Book of Novogrudok, which is being printed at present, and which is to be a memorial to our beloved town of Novogrudok, and will illustrate its cultural communal Jewish life, its institutions and public activities, I was encouraged to write a few words about our beloved friend Maslov. Mr Yaakov Maslov is one of the most faithful and devoted members of the Alexander Harkavy Aid Fund Committee. He has participated in many activities that have been undertaken by the Novogrudok Aid Committee in the 45 years of its existence. The name Maslov will be always associated with the history of the communal life of Novogrudok and he will be considered a faithful and devoted friend to his fellow townsmen and the communal institutions.

Mr Maslov was born in Novogrudok. He obtained a Jewish education. When he was very young he went to Minsk, where he worked as a book binder. In Minsk he met and joined members of the workers party Bund. He began his revolutionary activities with great enthusiasm. He had a dream of a world of perpetual sunshine, of equality and brotherhood, a world which would bring joy and liberty. He threw himself enthusiastically into the activities of the Bund movement. He worked for the party enthusiastically in a number of towns. He was detained and arrested by the Tsarist police and put in jail. He managed to get away and to migrate to America. Having come to America in 1906 he followed a path similar to that of many members of the Bund who came to America. In time he left the Bund and joined the Aid Fund for the Novogrudok fellow townsmen. He became a member of the group of founders (together with Alexander Harkavy) of the Novogrudok Aid Fund Committee. He was always in the front row of every aid activity in support of fellow townspeople. He loved and treasured the memory of Novogrudok and the institutions in that town, such as Shogdey Melocho, the orphanage, the library etc. The name of Yaakov Maslov became well known in the interval between the wars. Maslov represented the Jews of Novogrudok in America. He was the person others turned to when help was needed. He devoted all efforts to help his fellow townsmen. For Maslov, Novogrudok was not only a geographic feature and a place of past experiences and of longings, a town where he spent his youth, for him Novogrudok was fixed in his soul and was an organic part of his being. This impelled him to be one of the most active members of the Relief. In 1922 Yaakov Maslov was sent by the Aid Fund Committee to Novogrudok to alleviate the needs of the poor population, who were impoverished during the First World War. Having come to Novogrudok Maslov realised that the form of help afford by the Relief Committee was not suitable any more. Maslov found a more appropriate way of helping the needy of Novogrudok. He created a loan facility which would lend money to shopkeepers and tradesmen at a low interest rate. He also helped to reorganise the orphanage. It was decided that children on reaching 13 years of age, would be automatically transferred from the orphanage to Shogdey Melocho to learn a trade and, in time, to become independent. He helped to reorganise Shogdey Melocho, which, together with YEKAPA of Vilno, formed furniture workshops, where the pupils learned the trade. In addition, evening courses were conducted, where specifically Jewish and world problems were discussed.

In 1940 [1939?] the Second World War broke out. The Jewish communities of Europe were cut off and destroyed, as was the Jewish community of Novogrudok. Only a small number of Jews was saved in the forests in partisan groups and in hiding. The survivors did not want to remain among the grave yards of their families, where every stone reminded them of the horrible past. Almost all of them left in search of a haven. Initially they went to Poland, Germany, Austria and Italy. They lived in camps and searched the sky to see where the salvation may come from. A group of Jews from Novogrudok who were in Italy, contacted the Novogrudok Relief through Mr Maslov. They received a reply from Maslov within 10 days and from then on a close contact was established with the Relief committee. Mr Maslov wrote to the refugees every second day.

At that time Maslov formed many friendships with the newcomers. He always had the time and patients to answer every letter he received. The displaced persons received assistance every month from the committee. It was not just money and food, it was the feeling that there are friends on the other side of the ocean. The committee helped to establish contacts between the refugees and their relatives, which resulted often in obtaining visas to immigrate to America. Help was also given to those who went to Israel. A loan fund was established in Israel, which serves to this day as a source of financial help for the Novogrudok Jews in Israel. Yaakov Maslov participated in all the above activities.

Though Mr Maslov has been living in America for the past 55 years he has still retained European manners and the European outlook and he has made easy contacts with the newcomers. Maslov has the command of the Yiddish language and has contacts with Jewish institutions. Last year Maslov travelled to Israel, where he met the Novogrudker who live there. He was very well received. He took a keen interest in the living conditions of people in Israel. He returned full of enthusiasm and love for Israel. It should be mentioned that though Maslov is not young, he still preserves a warm feeling to everything connected with Novogrudok. He is always ready help with advice and deeds anyone who turned to him.

Novogrudok lies in ruins. The beloved town had vanished with all its organisations and institutions which Yaakov Maslov helped to establish. The orphanage, Shogdey Melocho, the library, which were supported by Maslov, have vanished.

But we will always remember the organisers in the Relief fund, who have given so generously of their time to help the people of Novogrudok in their time of need.

[Page 178]

Committee of Emigrants
from Novogrudok in Israel

by Lyuba Rudnicki

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

The first of the pioneers of our town arrived in Erets-Israel at the end of the XIX century. They kept in close contact with each other, but did not always have the possibility to meet. Conditions at work did not allow frequent meetings. But the news about the holocaust and the worry about the fate of their hometown brought them together. On the 19.12.1942 a few people from our hometown gathered in the home of Mr. Horovitch ZL, to discuss the need to help our brothers who were far from our land. They decided to call a general meeting of all the emigrants from Novogrudok.

A committee was elected and consisted of: Mr Yitschak Horovitch Z”L, Mr. Aharon Rudnicki, Mr. Israelit Z”L, Mrs. Rachel Fantal-Kitaevitch, Gershon Aicher and Mr Shlomo Kaminski. The secretary was Mrs. Yehudit Mirski Z”L.

It was decided immediately to establish a fund to help the survivors of Novogrudok and surrounds. Among the resolutions was one suggested by Gershon Eicher, to impose a monthly tax on each member (donors to decide for themselves the amount to be donated). The committee members were made responsible for the collection of the tax in allotted areas. They contacted the Organisation of Polish Emigrants, the "Sochnut" and other institutions, which took care of refugees in Russia. Later, representatives from Lubtch and Karelitz, Mr Koznietski and Mr. Avraham Kaplan, joined the committee. .At that time the organisation was renamed "The Organisation of Emigrants from Novogrudok and Surrounds". The number of donors of personal tax grew, people wanted to extend their activity. The emphasis was on sending parcels to Russia.

In February 1943 the first consignment of parcels was sent to an address that was given to us. It was a commendable operation. Thanks to those parcels of food and clothing many families were saved from hunger and cold. The driving force behind the consignment of the parcels was Mr. Yitzchak Horovitch Z”L, who, despite his ill health, made an effort to provide a suitable parcel for every family and personally packed and mail them. Consignments were sent monthly. Mr. Horovitch's home became the centre of activity for the committee members. The overwhelming worry concerning the community in our hometown strengthened even more our emotional connection to Novogrudok. The first people who came during the war from our home town were those who arrived in 1943 with Anders's Army. We heard from them a little about the fate of our brethren, though they did not witness the horrific end that befell our dear relatives.

The first survivors from hell arrived in 1945; they witnessed the first big slaughter in our town, on the day of Yod 'Heit of Kislev 1941 [8 December 1941?].

On the 22.11.1945 the people of Novogrudok and surrounds assembled for the first time for a memorial day to our martyrs who perished in the first slaughter. A memorial day was observed ever since. At the opening of the Memorial Day, a eulogy was said to the memory of Mrs. Yehudit Mirski, who was the dedicated secretary of the organisation. (She had died of typhoid). On that Memorial Day we heard for the first time from our member Lyuba Rudnicki, who witnessed the beastly murder of our martyrs, about the slaughter of approx. 5000 Jews from Novogrudok and surrounds.

More members joined the committee which included: Yitzchak Berkovitch and Yitzchak Dzienciolski Daniel. The number of newcomers grew from year to year, as did the number of the needy. The committee started to lend money. The recipients took upon themselves to repay the loan. They paid by bill (cheque?) countersigned by guarantors.

The need for money grew and the committee turned to our brethren overseas. The first to reply were people from our hometown in the U.S.A. They sent a considerable amount of money to our committee, which was lent by the committee to the needy.

Following Mr. Yitzchak Horovitch's death the organisation decided to establish a loan fund in his name "The Welfare Fund of the Emigrants of Novogrudok, in memory of Yitzchak Horovitch Z”L

Since then the fund is considered a source of help to those who need it for a constructive or other vital purpose. First of all it helps the newcomers.

Apart from a few cases, the debits are repaid when due. But the committee is making an effort now to collect all the moneys owed to them.

On the memorial day of 1960 in the general assembly a decision was taken to publish a book to the memory of our hometown martyrs, who were murdered in WW2 between the years 1939-1945.

In 1962 a memorial stone was erected to the memory of our martyrs in the holocaust cellar in Jerusalem.

The editors and the committee are making an effort to publish "Pinkas Novogrudok" on time.

[Page 181]

About the Editorial Staff of the
“Pinkas Novogrudok”

by the editorial staff of the Pinkas

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

We don't know how various memorial books were written; we only can say that the editorial staff of the Pinkas excelled in its painstaking task of collecting articles, notes, poetry, and stories of the shattering descriptions of the Holocaust and the stories of heroism. We should stress that the editorial staff in Israel and the U.S.A worked in perfect harmony, with devotion and not for rewards. Of course we did not reach perfection. There are some flaws and we anticipate that we will receive complaints and criticism. But we believe that we did our utmost to make the Pinkas a worthy living testimony to our sanctified dead. It is with deep sorrow that we note the deaths of two members of the editorial staff: Dr. Yerushalmi, who edited the Pinkas and our faithful friend Edna Kagan. They passed away and did not have the joy to bless the end product.

Our prayer is that the Pinkas will be found in the dwellings of the people of our hometown, to read it and tell their children about the town, which was a home of Torah, of wisdom, and of Jewish life. All was exterminated at the hands of the most evil people - the cursed Nazis.

We will remember our cherished people with awe, and we will carry in our hearts an eternal curse of their destroyers.

Let the Pinkas be a document and a testimony to the life of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and little children, who were killed in the Holocaust.

Blessed be their memory.

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