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[Page 115]

Daily Life


Of days gone by

by Y. Chazan

Translated by Sara Mages

Sometimes, a spirit will bring a person back and he shakes himself, remembers his past, and sees himself in a distant period that has past. And when a person remembers the days of his youth – he feels himself young, as if he had thrown a burden of decades and returned to the good old days. When such a spirit lands on me, the days of my youth, in my small town Stolin, where I spent more than fifteen consecutive years and later visited as a gust, rise and stand before my eyes. When I remember my birthplace, I taste the pleasant yearning of those days and a lot of emotions float and rise on their own and awaken thoughts and longings for times that were filled with joy and lack of concern, of days full of desire.


It's a summer Friday in my town. Sabbath eve is felt in every corner. The smell of pastry and cooked fish for the Holy Sabbath is rising from the kitchen. A quick lunch and immediately after – with a shirt under the arm to the Kopanitz, the river at the edge of town, which drew every boy to bath and play in its waters. I don't know why it was called Kopanitz, but it seems that this river was once dug and deepened and its name suits it, the water flows in it with great force and noise, a real river. The bathing area of the town is where the river expands and its waters are deep and pure. Most of the people used to come to this place on Friday to dip and wash in honor of the Sabbath while we, the little ones, came all days of the summer and there are quite a few experiences from these baths and the sailing in the farmers' small boats. When I swam a lot, I felt the need to wallow in the sand on the riverbank and back into the water. Here I met the boys who had just arrived – and again, swimming and frolicking. I used to go back home with the last bathers, almost at sunset, and before going to the synagogue I managed to get a Shabbat cake at home and eat it with appetite …


The Shabbat's Divine spirit descends on the town and here I am in the Great Synagogue filled with worshipers. Jews that their sidelocks had not yet dried out from the bath, or from the washing in the river, gathered dressed in their Sabbath clothes, their faces radiant like the faces of kings who have come to greet the Sabbath Queen. The worry of the secular days was removed from them.

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As you passed through the streets and alleys your ear caught the saying, “Shalom Aleichem,” in voice and melody, and here I sit by the table, next to my father, and Shabbat dishes are served and eaten while singing and thanking the Creator of Universe, and so is in every house in town – rest and joy, Oneg Shabbat.


And now I remember the “Cheder” with the rabbi – from the age of about three until after Bar Mitzvah and also above that. We spent time in the “Cheder” in studies and also in some children's games. For various reasons, not justified, we changed the teachers and the “Cheder” at the end of every 2–3 periods. Each teacher was called by a special name and most of them used to beat their students. For sure we deserved the punishment, but did the beatings made us geniuses? God forbids! We received our beatings for our misdeeds and also for not listening and not knowing the long oral interpretations of the weekly Torah portion that the rabbi taught us all week long. And when a teacher, who was caught in “Haskala Bat Hashamaim” [Jewish Enlightenment], came to town


A view of market square


he opened a “Cheder” according to his taste – this “Cheder” was called “Class.” I remember well the “Class” of the brothers Yitzhak–Yisrael and Asher Kashtan in which I also studied in a special melody from a Hebrew book. We also sang Zion songs in Hebrew. It was an unusual phenomenon in Stolin, and it is easy to imagine that this was to the dismay of the well–known circles in town. Even my father, who was a wise and advanced Jew, didn't like the idea that his youngest son would study in this “Class.” However, I was helped by the influence of my older brother and sister and the activists of the local Zionist Association who entered me to study there.

As I relate to the past in my town I remember the first Zionist ball in Stolin. It took place on Hanukkah 5663 at the home of Neta Schmeril's (the carter) at the end of Laptchi Street. The little ones weren't allowed to enter the house during the party but my sister, who was one of the organizers of the ball, told the guard at the entrance not to deny me the pleasure of standing on the side. In addition, the guard saw me as a candidate for the group “Yeldei Zion” [“Children of Zion”] which was about to be established there, and so

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I was not banished from where I stood by the exit door. A few dozen young men and women entered, I heard speeches and songs that I did not understand properly, but the impression that was left was strong. Among the experiences and the history of those days pass before me the picture of the quarrel between Yakov Levin the “Starosta” and Beni Elia Turkenich, who were known by the name, “Hirshes,” (I didn't know the reason for that nickname and I wasn't interested. It is natural that every Jew has some kind of a nickname).

One day. at dusk. shouts were suddenly heard from the home of Michael Koznitz where Yaakov Lewin lived at that time. Everyone ran to this place and I was also among the curious. We, a large crowd, stood outside. Shouts and screams, the echo of a scuffle and the breaking of windows, burst out of the house. People broke into the house and there was a great noise. After a long time, when it started to get dark, the “Hirshes” left with curses in their mouths and marched like “victors” toward marketplace. No one knew who had the upper hand. The next day the children in the “Cheder” were divided into rival camps, those who were on Levin's side and those on the “Hirshes” side. The friends of yesterday, Levin and the “Hirshes,” became sworn enemies and informed each other before the authorities. Stolin was in turmoil, whether it was a dispute for a purely spiritual purpose or material matters, but enough shame and fury.


In the middle of market square stood the town's shops from about a hundred years ago, they were old, low, and windowless. Their thresholds were high and the sun could not penetrate them. If anyone wanted to repair the building of his shop, or make any change in it, he encountered the opposition of his close neighbors because all the shops were connected, under one roof and only a gravel wall separated one from the other. There was no shortage of disputes and rabbinical jurisdiction in this area. And the poor shopkeepers? They stood for many hours waiting for a buyer, a gentile who would come to buy his needs: oil, grease for the wheels, herring, kerchief, etc. in exchange for his agricultural produce.

At the edge of town, on the way to the garden of the owner of Stolin's estate – Stachovsky, stood, for many generations, a boulevard of ancient trees called “Lipkas” because of the “lipa” trees that grew there. Who in town did not know this boulevard well? Who, among the local children, had not pick chestnuts there? Many secrets were whispered in this beautiful a boulevard whose trees attracted to seek shelter under their branches, climb them and look for bird nests or swing and just play there. On the Sabbath and holidays, many walked up to the entrance of the garden while we, the little ones – the pranksters – were frequent guests there all days of the week.

The memories are pleasant, but when you remember that all of this has been destroyed and uprooted, the heart aches so much and cries bitterly…

Market Day in Town

by A. A. Ben–Menachem

Translated by Sara Mages

It is possible that this was the picture in every town in Polesia or Wolyn on market day, at the fair, because, after all, the same Jews and the same gentiles, with their customs and habits which were customary for generations. But, it seems that in Stolin every fair had a special character. First, it was clear that this day was the day of the "gentiles" from the outside, because the locals were able to arrange their shopping

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all days of the week except for goods or cattle that could only be bought on market day. If anyone wanted to cheat others, it was easy for him to do so at a time of noise and hustle in the density of this day, and when no one saw or knew the other. In general it was customary to postpone matters and arrangements for the fairs. Every fair in Stolin lasted only one day. There were big fairs before “Troitsa,” “Precista,” “Maslyanitsa” and others.

The day before the fair they began to flock to the town from near and far. In the afternoon, wagons laden with goods and agricultural produce began to appear in Stolin's markets. At some corners temporary wooden huts were set up for tomorrow's market day. The traffic began at dusk and throughout the night wagons, which were like warehouses, arrived. This was brought to the market for sale: horses, pigs, cows, icons, their religious articles, various utensils, barrels and wooden buckets, canned food, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, poultry and eggs, honey, dried fish, sausages, pork, plowing tools, pig's hair, fabrics made in the village, handmade yarn, hats, shoes, toys, colored water for drinking and a lot more.


Market day in Stolin – 1925


Those who came – they, their horses and their bundles, occupied every sidewalk and passageway in town. The neighing of horses, the mooing of cows and the moaning of pigs merged and irritated the ear. The traffic began in the stores early in the morning. For this day, every grocer recruited his family and relatives to help sell and watch over the thieves and the noise was extremely loud. The buyers and sellers argued over the prices, cursed and pushed wildly, and in addition to that, the sound of music boxes and the singing of the handicapped and the old beggars, the chimes of church bells, drunken curses, shrieks and cries of the "gentile women" who, supposedly, lost their bundle of money or it was stolen from them, etc. All these merged and turned into an uproar that did not stop all day in the town.

A sea of heads was visible in the two markets which were divided with a row of shops. All of them belonged to Jews. They faced each side of the market and also to the nearby streets. On such a day it was impossible to cross a street, everything was occupied. If someone wanted to cross to a certain place, he had to look for a passage among the many carts. Jews refrained from going to Beit HaMidrash on market day because it was difficult to walk through the market. They preferred to go to a side Beit Midrash or pray alone. The children were happy to peek into the market, to see what was going on there on that special day. After all, not every day there was fair with “gentiles” from remote villages and the surrounding towns, with gypsies from the forests who came with their families to trade horses and steal whatever comes to hand.

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On this distinguished day of the fair Jewish men and women, and other residents, left to buy something new even if it could be bought on any day of the week. People were eager to go to the fair, to see and hear, bargain and spend an hour shopping.

The shopkeepers' hands were busy and tired and their mouth was dry from a lot of talking and scolding. In those days they drank and ate a little and forgot themselves because there was no time: grab and do, buy and sell, cheat and continue, these were the slogans of the day.

A Plague of Fires and a Boycott

by A. Avatichi

Translated by Sara Mages

Fires often fell in Stolin, usually during the summer months, and consumed houses, farm buildings, shops, merchandise, household goods, and more. Were the fires accidental? Many suspected that a human hand had caused them, the hand of an ally, or not of an ally, out of malicious intent to do harm to someone, to cause damage or just take revenge on an opponent or a competitor. Usually, there was no basis for the assumption that the fires had broken out in Stolin in order to gain insurance premiums because, in those days, most of the houses, especially those owned by gentiles, were not insured at all, and if so - for a very small amount. Nevertheless, fires almost always broke out in the outskirts of the town, mostly in the areas of the poor. The inhabitants of Stolin saw in the fires a blow and a disaster as one. After each case of fire they tried to guess who ignited it to whom the arsonists intended to do harm, and what was the reason. But, whatever the reasons, there were many fires in the town that caused a lot of damage. The years 1902-1905 were especially “rich” in fires.

The Jews of Stolin didn't know a cure for this plague which caused a lot of damage, turned the wealthy into poor, and the poor to beggars. There were cases when fires broke out night after night or in a break of a few days. Noteworthy is the great fire of the summer of 1904 which became a historic date in the town, and according to which they began to count the events - before the great fire, or after the fire. The impression of this fire has not been erased from the life of the town for years. And the story was as follows:

One summer night, in the month of Tamuz, on the night before Friday, about an hour after midnight, when the whole town was in a deep sleep, the locals were called in shouts and frightened cries - “fire!” Immediately, the ringing of the great bell of the Christian Church was also heard - the clear sign of fire. All the townspeople, from big to small, woke up from their sleep, ran from their homes half, or third, dressed, and joined those who shouted and called for help. The panic was great, people rushed to the scene of the fire and back, calling and screaming, moaning and cursing, carrying bundles of belongings and stumbling, stumbling and rising - and again, shouting and breathing with the last strength. The image - terrible: here is someone pulling a crate on wheels, a child holding his mother's dress and weeping with fear, many run toward the burning houses with empty buckets, or buckets full with water, in their hands. Others carry the red water barrels which had been taken out of the fire department warehouse and filled the horses' place… and here's the fire-fighting machine with its cloth hose and, on its side, long poles with special hooks at their ends for
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the demolition of the burning buildings and prevention of the spread of fire. Unfortunately, the wind intensified at the same moment and helped to spread the fire. The fire, which first took over one building and ate whatever it found inside, broke through cavities and the roof which began to burn - and left to the wide open space. Ate a roof and jumped to the next roof, and in a moment - also turned to the roofs of other buildings. The roofs flared up quickly because they were quite dry from the heat of the summer sun and especially after the fire warmed them for a while. Smoke billowed up and up and the fire licked cruelly house after house, cowshed after cowshed. In some cowsheds the cows were burned alive. The sky was red and fire sparks danced around. The first to be seen on the burning roof was, as usual, Michael Kozhnitz. He climbed up cautiously with his little ax and began the operation, and after him - Manshuk. Immediately, jest of water, which came from the fire-fighting machine through the fabric hose that had been handed to them on the ladder, were seen beside them. The two, who were on the roof, directed the flow of the hose to the place of danger - to buildings that were heated by the fire and could immediately go up in flames. Those, who stood below, saw how the men endangered themselves in the fire-fighting work on the roof on the ladders around the burning building, and continued to stand helpless. And the fire is spreading. When they managed to stop the fire on one side, it jumped and moved to the other side. The whole town was in danger and there were no experienced rescuers. Those, who acted, were only volunteers, craftsmen and courageous people, who saw it their duty to do what they could in a time of trouble or out of concern for their property.


After a fire in Stolin


Those, who were engaged in the firefighting work, must have grown tired, but they did not stop their work. Meanwhile, all the water in the barrels ran out, there was a break in the fire-fighting operation - and the fire grew until they brought more water. The inhabitants of the nearby villages, who saw the fire from afar, saw it their duty to help and arrived to the town, but they were not allowed to approach the site of the fire because no one knew the purpose of their arrival… However, they mostly helped their fellow farmers, whose property burnt before their eyes because there was no savior and they could not put out the fire on their own. About a quarter of the gentiles' homes, and a whole street of Jewish homes, went up in flames that night in Stolin. In the morning, after the wind had weakened, the fire began to sink and pillars of smoke rose for several days.

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The fire became known very quickly in the surrounding area, and on the following day, on Sabbath eve, merciful Jews, who had relatives and friends in Stolin, arrived from D¹browice. Sarni, Vysotsk, Davyd-Haradok and the villages, and brought with them, in their wagons, food, bread, potatoes, fish for the Sabbath, and clothes for the victims of the fire. The help came on time and the verse, “a brother for adversity is born,” was carried out.

On the Sabbath they discussed the disaster at the houses of prayer and demanded immediate assistance to rebuild the ruins and rehabilitate the “burned.” In Beit- HaMidrash the prayer shawls were taken from the worshipers so that they would come to the rabbi's house on Saturday evening and donate money to the needy, the victims of the fire. The meeting was also announced in all places of prayer and, indeed, the meeting took place and a number of proprietors and activists were elected for urgent action. Many promised their contributions on the spot and on the day, after the Sabbath, they walked between the shops and the houses of the wealthy who weren't affected and collected close to one thousand ruble.

Some victims of the fire moved to live with relatives, some at the “women's section” of Beit-HaMidrash, and many were hungry for bread. The activists immediately took care of them. They turned to the estate owners and forest merchants. They obtained lumber for construction at a reduce price, or as a donation, and distributed the materials and the donations to the victims of the fire so that they can rebuild their homes.

Since, there were many fires in the town that year and the help was not enough, they began to work out how to put an end to the fires. It was clear to everyone that the accused were among the townspeople and that evil must be eradicated. The suspicion fell on several people, some of whom were interested in construction work and some out of anger at the rich. However, no one dared to name the suspects because, in some ways, it was very dangerous. They talked and whispered and in the end the important proprietors gathered at the rabbi's house to consult and decide what to do to deter the arsonists. The wise men of Stolin sat, weighed and discussed, and unanimously agreed that a boycott should be imposed on the arsonists and that God will avenge the revenge of the victims of the fire…

They said and did: Notes were immediately posted in all the synagogues that on a Thursday - the day of “Vehu Rachum” - the entire Jewish community will gather at ten in the morning at the Great Synagogue to impose a boycott on the arsonists and their collaborators according to faith and the law and as was customary in Jewish communities. The shopkeepers were asked to close their shops, the craftsmen - to stop their work and the teacher- to release their students so that everyone would come to the synagogue at the appointed time.

The inhabitants of Stolin, the sufferers and the believers, were horrified and followed the call faithfully. At the appointed time there was no one in the market. All the shops were closed and locked, all work stopped, the children left their “Cheders” and those, who were about to leave town postponed their journey and everyone - small and big, young and old, men and women - filled the Great Synagogue and even the “women's section” and the vestibule. The whole town came to boycott the villains. Some of the suspects in the arson were among the crowd and there were those who whispered about it.

A shudder passed through the souls of those who understood and felt when the many candles were lit in the synagogue, and when the rabbi and the elders stepped up onto the bimah with the Torah scrolls and began to recite segments of prayers. The crowd followed them with voices and excitement. The air in the synagogue was suffocating because of the large number of people and the smoke of the many candles. Sighs and the sound of crying came from the “women section.” The situation was similar to that of Tisha B'Av and in some moments - to Yom Kippur. In the end they blew the Shofar.

The great crowd began to disperse around noon and the word”boycott,” “boycott,” was heard from all sides.

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After that there was relief in the hearts, as if the distress had passed and a cure had been found for the plague. The sinners- the terrorist will receive the punishment and will not continue to ignite fires. Many spoke of the boycott in the days that followed, especially women and children, and they trusted in the results that would soon come.

Since the fires ceased for a while the masses saw a blessing in the boycott, though, not for long.


by C. Globerman

Translated by Sara Mages

It was customary in Stolin to go and listen to the sermons of preachers, who appeared in the town frequently, and spoke, especially on the Sabbath before Mincha prayer, in Beit-HaMidrash. If the preacher stayed in town for a few days after the Sabbath - he also spoke on Sunday between Mincha and Maariv. The preachers came from the cities Lita and its towns and their mouths were full of sayings, proverbs, legends and words of demand, morality and reproach. The sermons were based on ancient sources in the form of demand and preaching, or new revelations from the writings of Chazal [“Our Sages, may their memory be blessed”]. The preachers spiced their words with quotations from Chazal, mostly uniform or similar, had the power to shock the hearts and provoke thoughts of repentance, and bring people, especially women, to tears. It was known that the preachers had great influence in Stolin.

Hand written notices, which were posted in the synagogues (in the vestibule), announced the arrival of a preacher and the time of his sermon. The preacher stood on the bimah, at the center of Beit-HaMidrash, poured fire and brimstone on the blasphemers and preached that they should return from their evil ways. As he spoke, he jumped from one matter to the other, emphasized and repeated verses that had the power to conquer the hearts, proved with signs and decisiveness that it was necessary to follow the path of God, observe his Torah and its commandments, and promised a reward in this world and, especially, in the life of the World to Come. Jews of all kinds, simple and Torah scholars, surrounded the stage or sat on benches, and absorbed the preacher's words of rebuke and blessings. When they returned to their home they told what they had heard and, indeed, more than once changed the preacher's words, but the impression was usually great and many were excited and thrilled by the preacher's words. The Jews of Stolin, with the exception of the Hasidim, were attracted to the preachers and influenced by them, especially the famous preachers who did not skip the town. The preachers that are remembered: Simcha Kahane, the preacher Moshe Yedaber, the preacher from Kelme, the preacher from Minsk, R' Chaim Sarna and many others. Among them were those who disguised themselves, appeared as beggars and on the Sabbath came on the bimah to speak without first posting notes in the synagogues about their sermon. Once (it was in the winter of 5670), a student from Volozhin Yeshiva stood and charmed the audience with words of reproach and morality which came, with good taste, out of his heart. He was asked to stay for another sermon, but he refused. He left town on the next day and his name was not known.

The impression of the sermons of the preacher, Schifrael, cannot be erased. He was an elderly Jew, polished and dignified, who spoke, three to four times, in the evenings in Beit-HaMidrash after the pogroms in Kishinev, Gomel [Homiel] and others, and preached, in the Mizrachi spirit, to Zionism and life of Torah as one. He was also seen in Stolin as a

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preacher. Once, they waited for the arrival of Yehalel (Yehudah Leib Levin), the well-known Zionist preacher from Vilna, but, for some reasons, he passed the Horyn Station and did not get off to speak in Stolin.

The visit of the preacher, “Hamevaser,” in Stolin should be noted. He appeared in the winter of 1905 and stayed at the home of Avigdor the shoemaker in the market place near the home of Yehusua-Avraham Neiditz. This preacher was not satisfied with moral preaching and reproach and spoke at length about the promises of the days of the Messiah. To calculate the time of redemption he proved, with signs, that the day of redemption is imminent. He based his prophecy on numerology and acronyms, and excited the audience with his interpretation of the second verse from chapter two of the Book of Psalms: “Kings of a land stand up, and nobles take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed,” and his treatment of the acronyms: “A king called Nicolai will rise, fight with Japan and the Messiah will come.” Since the days were immediately after the Russo–Japanese War and people were depressed, the words evoked longing for redemption among the Jews of Stolin. Many were not satisfied with hearing the sermon of “Hamevaser” once, and went to hear it for the second and third time, and it was the subject of conversation in the town for a long time.

After the First World War the preachers' visit to our town declined.

A Family of Religious Personnel

by A. Levin

Translated by Sara Mages

My grandfather, Akivah Shohat z”l, had a dignified appearance like the image of one of the famous Geonim. He originated from D¹browice in Wolyn, and when his first wife died he came with his two sons, Moses and Yosef, to Stolin and there he married the daughter of R' Yakov Belohousky, the widow Chaya Sara called “Polka.”

This nickname was given to her in her youth because of her grace and beauty, she was blond and her appearance was like that of a gentle aristocrat. The nickname stuck to her for the rest of her life, and in this name she was known in the family circle and the local public.

As was the custom of the first Hasidim, my grandfather did not call her by her name, or by her nickname, but in the third-person “she.” And she - the good, clever, and hard working diligent woman, was happy that she was given the duty to help a religious Hasid and support him in this world and in the next.

In his youth, he slaughterer large cattle in the town and the immediate vicinity, and from near and far they came to invite him to religious celebrations. When he grew old and his sons grew up, he trained them to be slaughterers and he himself became a cantor and a mohel in order to fulfill a mitzvah and not in order to receive a reward. In his free time, between a circumcision and prayer, he read in the sacred books and the family's limited livelihood came from the slaughtering work of the sons, who also had to take care of their families, and from the grandmother's wine cellar - raisin wine for Kiddush, Havdalah and the four cups [for Passover].

My grandmother, the housewife, who bore the burden of the family's livelihood: four daughters, two son-in-law, grandsons and granddaughters - did not prevent herself from the needs of the public: Bikur Cholim, Hachnasat Kala and Smichat Noflim. She took from that and gave to that. In the afternoons, when grandfather read religious and moral books, she wore a silk kerchief on her head, took a white handkerchief in her left hand,

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and left the house with her right foot to collect donations for the benefit of many, both the giver and the recipient.

A good smile always hovered on her lips and she never uttered words of accusation, mockery or provocation. She was not angry and did not scold anyone - her way was pleasant and justified.

When the month of Elul entered the feeling of the Days of Awe descended upon our home. Grandfather, father and uncle Moshe tested the shofar and prepared themselves for the tekiot.


R' Akivah Levin (the slaughterer)


The prayer of grandfather, uncle Moshe and father z”l, on the Days of Awe, had a reputation throughout the area. Grandfather's voice was like a lion's roar and his melody tore the hearts. Uncle Moshe prayed and pleaded before God with a torn and angered heart, and father z”l with a trilling melody that shook the heart and provoked repentance.

The rabbi z”l set the order of the prayer leaders, to whom verses of singing, to whom Shacharit and to whom Musaf, and each of them fulfilled his mission with faith, prayed and pleated before God and asked for forgiveness, forgiveness and atonement for the Jewish community.

In 1925, when I happened to be in Jerusalem, I was invited to the synagogue of Stolin Hassidim in the Old City and my elderly uncle, R' Yisrael Binyamin Gloiberman, who immigrated at that time to Eretz-Yisrael, introduced me before the Hassidim as the grandson of R' Akivah Shohat z”l. I was received cordially and one of the elderly Hassidim told me a story that happened.

In 5660, at the beginning of the century, he made a pilgrimage from Jerusalem to Stolin for the High Holidays. As a countryman, who came to the city, he was filled with admiration for everything his eyes saw and his ears heard. He sat down on the windowsill in the Great Synagogue, tired and excited, closed his eyes and dozed for a while. Suddenly, the windows shuddered and from the intensity of the shock he rolled over and fell down. When he opened his eyes he heard the cantor's voice “Baruch ShAmar V'Haya HaOlam” [Blessed is He Who creates the universe].

So was their pious way.

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A Matzo Bakery for the Needy

by Yankel Rabinowitz

Translated by Aaron Housman

The baking of Matzo for Pesach/Passover in Stolin started immediately after Purim. Balebattim [lit. homeowners], especially the “wealthier” ones, were the first to bake matzos in the bakery, while the poorer folk, the paupers and the needy, had to wait until the final week before Pesach; for they did not have the necessary funds to purchase flour and to pay the bakery dues. Some waited for financial help from the annual “Ma'os Chittim” charity fund, or from other charities, perhaps family support or even supplemental income from others who needed extra help in advance of YomTov. Still, on the faces of all Jews of Stolin bore the expression that no-one will be left without Matzo for Pesach.

The Rav, however, and the activists in town, saw to it that no poor person would be left without Matzo, and many also received potatoes. Still, the worry was constant; for if you give a poor man flour, how will he pay the bakery dues? Worst of all fared those who only recently lost their fortune, who went from being benefactors to recipients. These people were just too embarrassed to ask for aid.

Then, in 1904, the Zionists of Stolin decided to deal with this vital issue, in a way that would help the multitudes. They went and rented a separate Matzo bakery, solely for the purpose of providing free Matzo for the needy. They called it “The Zionist Matzo Bakery”.

To fund this project they held a fundraiser between their friends and people of the town, the tens of Rubels that came in were enough to pay for the rent, the tools and the baker's salary. Wood for the oven was collected from the townsfolk and the daughters of the town volunteered to kneed and roll out the dough. Other men volunteered to bring water and run the bakery etc.

The men behind this bakery idea and who ran it included: Shlomo Roseman, Alter Muchnick, Yehuda Leib Hoberman, Yitzchak Blahousky, Leibel the Chazzan and others. They convinced their sons to and youth: Isaac Shapiro, Leibel Rosenberg, Yossel Gayer, Yaakov Rabinowitz. Even some children helped out: Leibel Garbus, Asher Rabinowitz and Yossel Muchnick. The youngsters were jealous of the older boys and therefore were happy to help out. The girls were punctilious and all the work was done in a very orderly fashion. This served as a blessing for the needy of the town.

The Rav, Rabbi Asher Filakov, was invited to check the bakery to determine if it is “Kosher for Passover”, and to observe the system in place. He found it very satisfactory. He began sending the needy to the Zionist organizers to receive funding and Matzo from them, and he expressed his wish to bake his own Matzos there. At the end of the Matzo-baking season the Zionists gave the profits to Rabbi Fialkov to distribute to the needy.

The story goes that Vitiya Frankel did not allow her daughter to go bake Matzo in this bakery at first, but after the Rav threw his support behind it, she expressed he dismay that she did not have the chance and the merit to donate firewood for the bakery. At that point they handed her the blue “pushka” (charity box) and she donated handsomely.

The bakery was a big success and gained respect for the Zionists in all other camps.


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