by Zalman Shazar
Translated by Sulamith Schwartz Nardi
Ever since the bitter tidings reached me that the little town of my youth had been erased from the earth, vivid memories of it, long hidden away, have risen to fill my mind, and I who had almost ceased to think of my town, found myself preoccupied with it in every moment of comparative quiet or enforced rest.
Whenever, in the midst of the mighty and hopeful process of the ingathering of my people's survivors, winds of contention or misunderstanding began to blow, the people of my town would come to my mind as I had glimpsed them in my youth with all their loveable qualities and all their disturbing capriciousness. And the memories served as warning and consolation and guidance.
There was a parallel here to the way, in my childhood, I had imagined our Father Abraham as the legend tells us leaning over the side of a narrow bridge that spanned the River of Egypt. Astonishment and joy overwhelmed him as, for the very first time, he saw, mirrored in the water, the unveiled face of Sarah his wife, with whom he had lived and for whom he had labored so long, and whose beauty he saw only now as he led her across the waves to the dangers of the royal court.
And I as a little boy used to slip into the synagogue courtyard at twilight to look into the deep, narrow well in its center, and find all the way down in the water the brilliant stars that floated so exquisitely in the skies above.
Let us remember those stars as they were in the morning of life, for they are growing pale and the well itself is no more.
Words of Zalman Shazar in Morning Stars
|The (old) Great Study Hall|
|Steibtz Town Map|
by The Book Committee
Translated by Esther Libby Raichman and Ann Belinsky
With the publication of this Memorial Book we are fulfilling a current need in creating a memorial to the communities of Stoibtz and Swerznie. We have added another volume to the National Archives with stories about the life of Jewish communities dating back hundreds of years until the recent Holocaust.
Whole communities in the Diaspora, important cultural institutions and spiritual treasures of hidden archives were destroyed and maliciously wiped off the face of the earth leaving no memory behind.
Therefore we are commanded to publish this book while there are still memories of the near and distant past, hidden and stored in the hearts and minds of survivors.
All that is written and printed in this book will be retained as a monument for us and the future generations, as an eternal memory.
The task of collecting and compiling the material of the book of Stoiptz, stretched over a period of 10 consecutive years. Had it not been for the few who, with love and devotion dedicated themselves to the project, who knows if this book would ever have been published?
This book highlights folklore materials, recollections, and descriptions of life in Steibtz at different periods, that are dear to this generation and to future generations. The writings of our renowned President Zalman Shazar (Rubashov) are very informative and important. In Steibtz, My Town he reflects the public life in Steibtz like a mirror image in clear water, and as an artistic writer who grew up in Steibtz, he describes in a sincere and touching manner, the vibrant and stormy life of the small town. Before our eyes, we see in all its greatness, the noble and glorious image of Chazon Ish.
The Jews of the town have indeed done a good deed in establishing a memorial to the history of our small town, its development, its businessmen and leaders, the common folk, charities and cultural institutions.
The important and historical material about the Holocaust was written by partisans with their last strength, in tears and pain, as I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. There is nothing like an eyewitness, as opposed to a hearsay witness. These people wrote important chapters and paragraphs about life in the ghettos, the work camps and their wanderings in the forests.
And you, fellow members of our community, when you read or leaf through this book, you should know that these are historical pages, and seclude yourself with those who were butchered and slaughtered. This book is an eternal monument and memorial from beginning to end. It is finished yet not completed.
We are indebted to those who skillfully dealt with collecting the material.
Our special thanks to our townsman, President of the State of Israel, Mr. Zalman Shazar, who was kind enough to go over part of the material in the book.
We thank everyone who helped us with material and with good spirit. May all be congratulated.
by David Zakay
Translated by Ann Belinsky
|Zalman Shazar (Rubashov)|
In the past, when the Great Ones of Israel were named after their town of origin, Zalman Rubashov would certainly have been called Zalman Shteibtzer, for he grew up in Steibtz and from there he left on his long journey to the Seat of the Presidency in the State of Israel. On the other hand, Mir, the praised sister of Steibtz, would claim for itself the right to call him R' Zalman Mirer, for he was born there, and his family is from that place. There is no longer any Mir, no longer any Steibtz, only the Memorial Books remain, a handful of pages gathered from those who remained, keeping their memory, and lamenting their destruction.
Our small town is preserved in our hearts there we spent our childhood, and our youth, and the desire to leave matured in our hearts. The light of the morning stars that shone upon Zalman Rubashov in Steibtz, the town of my youth, and the pride of my youth he calls it, in an emotion of yearning. There he gave his first speeches, there he held his author's pen for the first time he was an editor (he possesses copies of the newspaper that he published in his childhood), there he first came face to face with a Hebrew poet (Yashak Yaacov-Shalom Katzenellenbogen) who first implanted in my heart the love of Hebrew and Hebrew literature, poetry and poets; there he first appeared on public platforms, from there his first mission (to the surrounding small towns for the Hagana self-defense organization) and from there as a delegate to his first conference.
On this tree, before spring, when it stands before us in its all-expectant strength and vigor: here very soon, the buds will burst forth and flower. In this way and in full bloom, the youth Zalman will emerge from the territory of his orchard, from the town of his birth, with his intellect, with his versatility, his talents, and his charm.
How did these burst forth? How did they bud and blossom and what were the fruits all these are surely written and signed in the history of two great generations in Israel. In the course of their meandering history, blessed with vision and fervent desire, they created the path that led to, and brought about the independence of Israel in its own land.
Blessed be the memory of Steibtz, for among the morning stars that lit the way before these generations, there was also the star that rose towards the heavens, and he is Zalman Shazar, the third president of the State of Israel.
May his light continue to shine.
by Zalman Shazar
Translated by Sulamith Schwartz Nardi
|Young sprouts, spring flowers
Who can banish them from our hearts?
What we love in our young days
Will forever remain alive.
From My Shtetl Stoibtz Zalman Shazar
Was my town Steibtz one of the most notable or outstanding, that its memory has not faded in my heart, despite all the changes that have happened since then? Were the years that I spent there so important that their echo has not diminished?
I spent eleven years of my lifeno morein Steibtz. I was three when my parents took me there, after a great fire swept through Mir, the nearby town that was my birthplace. And only a year after my bar mitzvah, Steibtz had become too limited for me and I began my wanderings to distant centers of learning. But those eleven years were the dawn of my youth, and the time of my heder studies. What I absorbed then was sealed in my spirit by the fire of love, and the inspiration of those first days has been with me ever since.
I have gone far from Steibtz and known many a town and city more important, wealthier, graced with more learning, more knowledge, and more of the wonders of the world. Yet this town of Steibtz is uniquely mine: nothing can take its place.
It was a simple little town, quite ordinary, not set apart by its learning, or charity, or educational institutions. On the contrary, it was Mir, not Steibtz, that boasted a famous yeshiva; it was in neighboring Koidenhove, and not in Steibtz, that a hasidic rabbi lived. I doubt very much whether at the time a single resident of Steibtz was famous outside the town limits. Its rich men were only of middling wealth, and it had very few truly erudite Jews.
I remember clearly that there were only four men in Steibtz who were called Reb both to their faces and when they were not present.
One of these was the saintly Reb Elinka, a wizened little man who looked like the dried fig of talmudic legend. I saw him every morning walking slowly from his low house up on Yurzdike to the Old Synagogue. As he passed by wrapped in his bald, old fur coat, with a woolen scarf around his neck, I knew that I was looking at holiness itself in all its gracious modesty.
There was Reb Yehoshua, the Gemorra teacher and dayan, religious judge, of the town. A bony, blackbearded, angryeyed man, he ruled his pupils, grown boys though they were, with strap and cane. Their reward, it was said, was that all of them knew how to solve every problem in Tosphot. And there was Reb Ahre, pious beyond reproach, who taught artisans Hayei Adam in the synagogue; desperately poor himself, he was always collecting money to give to the needy. As for Reb Abraham, the husband of Dabrulia the pitchmaker, he had been blind from his youth and studied the Torah fervently all his life. The synagogue was his home, the town his source of support.
These were the four who were called Reb by everyone and always. They lived in different parts of the town. All of them wore plush hats even on weekdays, and even though they were poverty stricken and completely undemanding, they were the pride of the town and in the eyes of its simple workers rare and wonderful beings, virtually supermen.
No, Steibtz in those days was not a center of learning, but it was without doubt a center of worka town of laborers, strongarmed and muscular men. Though Koidenhove had its hasidic rabbi, it had no river. Though Mir had its renowned yeshiva, it had no railroad. Steibtz had both. It lay on the banks of the River Nieman, which rose at nearby Pesuchna and was covered with rafts floating all the way to mighty Koenigsberg. And a railway line passed through Steibtz on the way from Brisk in Lithuania to Moscow. The noisy, bustling riverbank in Steibtz was one of its unique features, too. The entire stretch, from the iron bridge to the ferry over the river, was shaded by trees and covered with parts of boats under construction, rafts ready to be launched, piles of lumber of all sizes and types, heaps of withes used like ropes to bind the rafts. From dawn till the stars came out workers toiled and sweated here. Often after reading conventional discussions of Jewish parasitism in the Diaspora, I have found myself wanting to beg the pardon of these longgone workers of Steibtz whom I knew in my youth. I remember them patching holes in the sides of boats with rope and fiber; lying on their backs on the ground under larger boats, with huge wooden hammers and long iron files in their hands, closing up cracks from the morning to late hours of the night; hammering away and singing while the breezes blew from the turbulent river. Not all of them were young. There also were whitebearded ones, too, with large families, fathers with children and sometimes grandchildren.
How horrified the whole town was that ghastly night when the scaffolding snapped and a boat fell on the workers,
and Berel ChasheBreinas was pulled out from underneath crushed to death, still holding a hammer in his hand! And that accusation of parasitismfruit of the earnest desire to reform the Jewish economic structurehow totally undeserved it was in your case, carpenters and boat builders of Steibtz; planers of boards and fasteners of rafts; carters that worked along with your horses to drag logs from the woods and throw them into the Nieman; transporters of barrels of tar to the boats; loaders and unloaders, tossed by rain and storm and wind during the long, long hours of your working day!
Our neighbors in their towns without river or forest ridiculed your earthy quality, your sturdiness and health. They themselves were pale and skinny, with shrunken stomachs: yeshiva students, housebound, almost never exposed to light and air. Amazed at your appetite when you sat down to table at the end of a backbreaking day in sun and rain and wind, they called you Steibtzer Kishkes (Guts). It was the custom to give each town a nickname, and this one accurately expressed the attitude toward Steibtz. But it was the carters and butchers of Steibtz, feared as they were by the peasants in the vicinity, who saved our town from attack and rushed to the defense of the Jews in towns close by.
Yet these simple, unlearned people of Steibtz had the most profound reverence for learning and respect for the learned.
Though the yeshiva was in Mir, crumbs from its table nourished all the towns of the area. So the Batei Midrash, the houses of learning of Steibtz received many a young man on his way to or out of the yeshivasome who had come from such a distance that they were too late for the opening of the term; others who had turned skeptic and been forced to leave the yeshiva; students soon to be ordained who wished to study by themselves for a year without interruption; youthful kabbalists in search of uncensored solitude. The artisans of the town took it upon themselves to find lodgings for the young men and days for them to eat regularly in various houses. There was no Bet Midrash in the town without students in it, and no synagogue where the sound of learning was not heard all day and even till the small hours of the night.
The Old and New Synagogues were the special province of the younger students, but the prushim, who had left their families in some faroff town, found their place in the hasidic shtiebel. Needing to send money home for the support of their wives, the prushim could not simply make do with the meals given them in private homes; they did some teaching besidesinstruction in Gemorra to some respectable householder or some brilliant youngster who had no more to learn in the heder and had not yet reached the yeshiva but was studying by himself in a synagogue. The parush would stand behind him and guide him along the uncharted paths of the Talmud. Between afternoon and evening prayers you found a parush teaching a whole group of townsmen at the wooden table behind the stove in the Bet Midrashone taught Hayei Adam in the Talmud Torah building, another Ein Yaakov in the shtiebel.
There was much studying in Steibtz. In the Old Synagogue a Gemorra lesson was led by the rabbi's young soninlaw, in the New Synagogue by Shlomo the shochet. In the artisans' Bet Midrash on Yurzdike, Iche Tanhums delighted his hearers by expounding chapters of the Bible in a sweetly sung melody and with the aid of sage and charming parablesto be sure, only on nights when Iche Tanhums was not engaged in reading from the Book of Job in the homes of mourners.
Aside from the yeshiva students and the prushim, for whom every hour of the day and night was a time for learning, not a few simple householders and artisans also set aside hours for study in the Bet Midrash. They would remain there after morning or evening prayers, entrenched in their stenders, each totally immersed in his book despite the bustling street outside and the worries of the marketplace and the riverbank.
In the middle of the day Reb Shmuel Yehoshua, the shopkeeper, would come into the larger Bet Midrash. Though his shop was always full of customers, he could rely on his wife to manage the business. Opening a large Gemorra on the table behind the stove, he would try to recollect what he had learnt in Volozhin before his marriage.
And here was the blind Reb Abraham putting his soiled handkerchief on the open Gemorra he was studying from memory; he would beg one or another of the young men in the room to do him the kindness of looking up the commentary in Ktzot haHoshen dealing with the page he had reached.
Then the tall Yoshe Frades would walk in. Shopkeeper though he was, he opened his volume of the Mishna and studied for a good full hour, reading in a loud voice. He simply disregarded the unkind comments to the effect that he was working towards a eulogy. Let the critics railhe would go on studying like a bell, as they said in the town.
I was a child of the shtiebel, and though the shtiebel was very near the Great Synagogue, my relationship to the latter was quite distant. I occasionally went there with Father on Saturday afternoons before dark to hear some famous preacher who had come from far away. Even more rarely I went with Father to listen to the close of a service sung by some famous cantor whose coming had been announced in notices on the walls of the shtiebel. On such occasions, before the repetition of the Amidah, a little group of lovers of cantorial music would leave the shtiebel with their prayer shawls still on and make their way into the packed synagogue to hear the visiting cantor sing the Sanctification. There was still another reason for going to the synagogue: to hear a heartbreaking address in memory of a great man who had just died. As I look back now, I see that those memorial meetings served to link the otherwise isolated town with the rest of the grieving Jewish people.
The distance between us and the Great Synagogue was thus sometimes bridged by a festive prayer, at other times by an impressive sermon, a crucial dispute, or a public assembly on the choice of a rabbi or other communal matters. The large and perpetually unfinished New Synagogue seemed even more distant. It was no less Mitnaged in nature than the older synagogue,
but there was far less learning in it: the town rabbi did not pray in it, and the respected householders entered it most infrequently. There was an air of controversy about it as there always is about a new institution. The town's established citizens were to be found among the leadership of the Old Synagogue or in the shtiebel, while the recipients of funds sent by relatives in America or South Africa gathered in the New Synagogue. If we of the shtiebel entered the New Synagogue, it was to enjoy the trills of its new cantor at the end of the Sabbath service or to listen to a Zionist speaker ardently holding forth before a listening crowd on Sabbath eve.
The shtiebel was a completely different matter. It was my second home and all the worshippers in it seemed members of the family, whether they were Hasidim by birth and founders of the shtiebel or townsmen who had joined it later. Even as a small child I knew each one's gestures and foibles, troubles, and ailments, and I wondered why my fellowpupils in the heder did not sense the enormous distinction between worshippers in the shtiebel and outsiders. The members of the shtiebel were in fact constant visitors to our house. They came to Father for help when they were hardpressed; Mother worried about them when they were ill. They drank tea with Father on Saturday nights; they danced with him till dawn on the night of Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of Succot they danced in the house and the shtiebel, the marketplace and the street. How different from each other and how close to each other they were, how torn by factionalismand how dear all of them were to me!
Old Reb Elinka and Reb Yehoshua, the teacher, sat as dayanim with the town rabbi in complicated cases and particularly when a divorce was under consideration. It was to Steibtz that the neighboring communities, too, brought divorce cases. On a day when a divorce was to be taken up Reb Elinka was invariably depressed. Bitter sighs punctuated his slow walk from his little house at the edge of Yurzdike to the rabbi's house where the court sat.
Sitting from Right: Yehuda Leib Rubashov (head of the family), Dr Avraham (at present in Israel), Mother Sarah (née Ginzburg) and the daughter Raizel
Standing from Right: Miriam (Manya) Eiskolski, Vitka, Zalman Shazar, Dr Kraina (Katya)
And the Gemorra students of Reb Yehoshua were free of their teacher's highhanded domination that day and could do their studying by themselves in whatever synagogue they wished. The blind Reb Abraham profited by it allthere were so many bright, unoccupied children about, who could look up references in commentaries for him and help him solve problems that came to his mind as he studied Talmud from memory.
The shochtim, ritual slaughterers, followed the dayanim in religious significance. There were two: Reb Eliahu and Reb Shloime. Though for decades, both in the slaughterhouse outside the town and in their own courtyards, they had slaughtered cattle for the butchers and fowl for the housewives and heard the cows groaning and seen the chickens writhing at their feet and flashed their rigorously sharpened knives and stained their long coats with blood for all that, strangely enough, the two of them were the kindest of men and so gentle that they seemed incapable of hurting a fly. There was a vague sense of hostility between the two households, but the underlying kindliness of both shochtim seemed to smooth over the difficulties, and an outsider would never have suspected that there was any tension. Reb Eliahu's sphere of influence was the Old Synagogue, Reb Shloime's the New, and there was no open break between them.
Reb Eliahu was the veteran shochet of the two, but he was much more than a shochet. The town wits used to say that he had so many occupations you could people a whole community with him. Besides being a slaughterer, he was the reader in the Old Synagogue, he blew the shofar on the High Holy Days, he was the chief mohel performing circumcisions in the town, and he was renowned as a matchmaker, having good connections with the best matchmakers in the country and serving all the wealthy families of the vicinity. He took the place of a governmentappointed rabbi, keeping a register of births and arranging certificates. In addition to all this, he spent hours every day cutting gravestones and carving ornamental designs on them: hands lifted in blessing in the case of a member of the priestly class; pitchers of water for libation in the case of a Levite; chopped down trees to indicate young lives that had been prematurely ended. And he carved rhymed eulogies in verse of his own composition on the stones: the Hebrew was most elegant and the letters at the beginning of the lines gave you the names of the dead.
He had still another truly unique occupation nowadays we would say he operated an employment agency for rabbis. His net was flung far; he knew when a rabbinical post in some distant town became vacant either because the rabbi departed this life or because the laymen could no longer abide him. In each case he knew exactly whom to recommend, whether it was some rabbi who felt that he could not remain in the post he had, or a strange and wonderful parush about to enter the rabbinate. They all came knocking at his dooryoung rabbis, fathersinlaw with learned young sonsinlaw, communalminded householders, both intriguers and lovers of peace. Reb Eliahu found time for them despite his dozen diverse occupations. The match between rabbi and town was predetermined in the heavens, he insisted, exactly like the match between young man and girl. Tradition tells us that forty days before the birth of a child its future mate is announced on high: the assignment of rabbi to town is also announced, but out of reverence for learning, Reb Eliahu explained, the statement is made discreetly and the actual mating of the two is therefore harder to effect than the splitting of the Red Sea.
Clearly, Reb Eliahu's sources of income were many; some hard, some easy, some conventional, some unconventional. But the end result of them all was that he had the greatest difficulty in providing for his wife, his sons and daughters and sonsinlaw and their children. All his long life he was a poor man. But he was a very dignified and serene poor man, a wise and gentle one. I spent much time in his home during my childhood, for his youngest son, Mottel, was my friend and my fellowstudent from the time we entered heder till he left to study in the yeshiva at Maletz. Never once did I see Reb Eliahu imposing his will on his family. He was always mild and full of smileswhen he slaughtered chickens, when he circumcised infants, when he put the town register into order, when he sang liturgical tunes, when he hammered at stones. Reb Eliahu straddling the monuments in his yard was no different from Reb Eliahu tranquilly drinking tea at our table after evening prayers, listening to the conversation around him and thoughtfully discussing matches between young couples and problems of faroff and nearby communities in whose affairs he mixed with the same quiet deliberation that he mixed the tea Mother served him.
His voice was sweet and controlled when he read the Torah in the synagogue and prayed before the congregation on holidays. He was no cantor, to be sure, and he had no musical training, but he was master of the traditional melodies and the chant seemed to sing tenderly in his throatMother used to say, There's a violin there, in his throat. Though he was particularly devoted to the Great Synagogue, he felt as the shochet for the whole community that he must occasionally appear before the worshippers in the other synagogues.
In the shtiebel every Yom Kippur we looked forward to his coming and chanting the Musaf Service. When the reading from the Bible was finished in the Great Synagogue, he would put on his heavy coat over his robe and tallit (this was a precaution against catching a cold) and would slowly make his way in rubbers through the synagogue courtyard from the Old Synagogue to our shtiebel. Since we read fewer of the additional poetic pieces in the service, we were already waiting expectantly. A fresh new spirit entered with him. The tired congregants wrapped their prayer shawls more securely around themselves, sighed deeply, and prepared to listen to Reb Eliahu. And he in his white robe and light socks, his tallit drawn over his head, walked very slowly to the reader's lectern. Carefully he pulled a special shelf out of it to judge the distance at which he should stand, so that he would later be able to kneel without having to move from his place. His graying beard rose slightly out of the concealing folds of the tallit, and in imploring, anguished tones he sang the beginning of the Reader's Prayer: O behold me, destitute of good works.... Then he grew still, and while all of us held our breaths, he chanted on in a low voice until suddenly he burst forth into a powerful outcry: And rebuke Satan that he may not accuse me!
Entreaty began again in measured tonesand then low trilling, as if he were diving far down, sobbing as he struggled to rise,
till at last he emerged triumphantly out of the depths and his voice was loud and clear as he trod the beaten path of the Reader's Repetition of the Amidah.
How stirred one small boy was by this heartfelt praying!
Then we reached the sequence of the sins that we have sinned, and the whole congregation moved, each within his tallit, as the trees in a forest move when a storm passes over them. Reb Eliahu stirred, too, and then suddenly came to rest. During that momentary spell of calm between the storms, his warm voice sang out the entreaty, And for all these, G-d of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.
I could practically feel the taut, quivering strings of the violin in his throat, trembling with a spiritual vibration that plucked at our hearts…
During those moments it seemed to me impossible that this was the same Reb Eliahu whom we saw sitting at our table in deep discussion with my uncle while he drank tea with Mother; the same Reb Eliahu who stood in our hallway the day before Yom Kippur, covering the blood stains on his arms after he slaughtered the chickens to serve as symbolic atonement; andeven more incrediblethe same Reb Eliahu who scolded my friend Mottel for not wanting to go to heder. I would have said that the Reb Eliahu standing before us in the shtiebel was the biblical man clothed in linen, pleading before our Father in Heaven, participating in the Heavenly Choir.
Actually, under his direction the whole congregation became a choir, singing together And the Cohanim, ay, ay, ay… When they did this and when Father left his seat to stand at Reb Eliahu's right, with the rebbe at his left, both of them hurrying to rise from their kneeling posture to help Reb Eliahu get up in perfect perpendicular stance like that of the ministering angels abovethen I knew that the comparison in my mind was neither forced nor inappropriate…
Very few in the town knew of the strained relationship between Reb Eliahu and the somewhat younger shochet, Reb Shloime; in fact, there were almost no visible signs of tension. It had something to do, it seemed, with vested rights, and the percentage of the meat tax assigned to the slaughterersubtle points which could hardly arouse public concern. That the wives of the two slaughterers were not on cordial terms, though they lived near each other, was perceptible, but the men themselves could be seen every weekday morning walking side by side like a pair of twins, each with his prayer shawl and phylacteries in a bag under his arm. They parted only when they reached the synagogue courtyard. Here the tall, lean, absentminded Reb Shloime turned off to the New Synagogue, while Reb Eliahu, the shorter, older and more practical of the two, went on in his deliberate fashion to the Old Synagogue where the prayers never began till he arrived.
Curiously, when the Zionist movement came to Steibtz it supplied a legitimate, public reason for the old, almost impalpable conflict. Though Reb Eliahu did not actually become a Zionist, he never fought against the new ideology. He knew and never objected to the fact that his oldest son, Ahre, not only bought the shekel of membership in the Zionist Organization but sold many a shekel to others. Reb Eliahu's relations with matchmakers and rabbinical circles in the outside world had taught him that Zionism was now to be accepted as a fact of life. Reb Shloime, however, was one of the fanatical opponents, and with Shaul of the bathhouse and other faithful disciples of the town rabbi, seized every opportunity to weaken and destroy the movement.
In Reb Eliahu's family Zionist activity was not confined to Ahre, the eldest son who later succeeded his father as shochet, stone cutter and registrar. Reb Eliahu's youngest son, my friend Mottel Machtei, was to become a leader of the Labor Zionist group in the town. On the other hand, Reb Shloime's eldest son, Yehoshua, went to study in the Slabodka Yeshiva where he became famous for his scholarship. When during World War I the rabbi of Steibtz left the town, Reb Yehoshua came to serve in his place. The result was that after the old rabbi returned from Saratov, the town was torn between supporters of the old rabbi and supporters of Reb Yehoshua. The controversy went on bitterly for years, one party being led by Reb Shloime and his family, and the other by Reb Eliahu and his.
Till the Holocaust came and made peace between them.
Actually, Reb Eliahu and Reb Shloime had each died at a ripe old age before the great cataclysm, but the conflict between their children continued until the evil times. Both their eldest sons found their eternal rest in the common grave the Jews of Steibtz were forced to dig for themselves the day after Yom Kippur in 1942.
Ahre, son of Reb Eliahu, had a son who settled in the Land of Israel and became a member of the Jewish Police Force: a son of this son was later to fall in the struggle for the Land. Ahre himself visited the Land only half a year before World War II began. He accepted a post as shochet in one of the quarters of Tel Aviv and returned to Steibtzbriefly, he thoughtto wind up his affairs and make sure that the community would accept his soninlaw as shochet in his stead. But he was never to see Tel Aviv again.
As for Reb Yehoshua, the son of Reb Shloime, his position as rabbi of the community was no longer contested after the old rabbi passed away; he even established a sort of yeshiva. And from the very few survivors of Steibtz I heard how when the end came, he wrapped himself in his prayer shawl, put on his phylacteries, and solemnly recited Viduithe death bed confessionwith all the people of the town. Reciting the Psalms, he walked before them all to meet death.
Translated by Harvey Spitzer zl
I, Shneur Zalman, son of Sara and Yehudah-Leib Shazar, am committed to remain faithful to the State of Israel and its laws and to faithfully fulfill my role as President of the State of Israel. ---
Dear Chairman, exalted Knesset,
Thirty days of mourning have not yet gone by for the second President of the State of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, of blessed memory, beloved of the nation, glory of pioneering spirit, one of my distinguished and beloved friends. We still breathe the air of nobility in the simplicity he has bestowed on his tenure as president all the days he sat on this chair. We still remember, with thanksgiving and blessing, the main miracle, when the first President of the State of Israel, Dr. Chaim Weizman of blessed memory, sat on this chair, he who restored the country to its former glory and was, for several decades, President of the World Zionist Organization. And behold, you, the representatives of the nation, arose and came to the conclusion, that today I must ascend and sit on this chair, on which their spirit was established. How will I show my concern to you for the trust and honor? How will I know that I will live in a manner worthy of them? How can I repay Ha-Shem for all His kindness to me?
With humility and great anxiety I accept your decision. Our country is a State of redemption. Not only is its re-establishment connected with the visions of revival and yearnings of the redemption of all the generations of our country, generations of mourners of Zion, and generations of immigrants to Zion from all the Diasporas and in all periods, but rather the suffering of our people in the Diaspora has not been so revealed with such cruelty in any other period of the life or our afflictions, as precisely in the period which preceded the rebirth of our State.
Only 20 years ago we were shown to know what our people could expect when, G-d forbid, it lacked political sovereignty.
And the lesson of those days was engraved in our hearts forever. And therefore, there is no sacrifice too costly for our nation to ensure its safety, its freedom and the future of the State of Israel. If many and different were the dangers lurking for us from within and without, the first condition for the ability to overcome them is the closeness of the hearts from within. One cannot be saved from the pains of redemption of Israel, except by aggrandizing the love of the Jewish People: by removing brotherly hatred and suppressing impulses of fanaticism, by fostering mutual respect and true tolerance in spite of the differences, the real and the imaginary, by the continuous and strenuous striving for the existence of the primary commandment that was declared in the ears of our people at the dawn of their youth: Love thy neighbor as thyself!
Our country, like other enlightened democratic countries, promises equality and freedom to all its citizens, without distinction to religion, nationality, race and country of origin. It is a country for all its residents and it cares for all its residents, and whenever the skies of the world become overcast with clouds of blood, racial hatred, and hostility of peoples - our lot is to join with peace seekers, sowers of brotherhood, respecters of the freedom of man. In the mouth of the prophets of justice and truth, this was proclaimed the Genius of Israel in our first years, and in order to approach man's destiny our sons fought in all the battlefields of the world together with the best of mankind.
And never has this striving for peace and for mutual understanding been so essential for the whole world, and so longed for our renewed nation as at this hour. Our hand is extended in peace, and our hope has not been lost or will not be lost because the day
on his left, Speaker of the Knesset Kadish Luz
of peace is not a long way off peace with our neighbors and peace in our entire region, and the day will come when peace will be established in the whole world, between peoples and between world powers. And we, according to the extent of our strength and our influence, will be among those who prepare for peace and those who establish it.
Our country is open to all the Jews of the world, the immigrants and all those who are planning to emigrate in the future from all the countries of the Diaspora. We will always remember that we still have part of our people all over the world, people who are part of us, our flesh and bones, people given to vicious attacks in one part of the world and to spiritual disparagement in another part, and sentenced to adaptation in all corners of the world and to assimilation from the powerless or the impatient, consciously or unconsciously. And nevertheless- this people remains faithful to the heritage of Israel and in the hope of its revival struggle to guard its identity, and religion and fosters national educational projects and a sort of unique way of life from within its bonds of body and soul, bonds of matter and spirit for building the Land of Israel. We are with them in their troubles and in its twists and turns, within it we must foster the ability to see the future and the longed-for immigration to the Land of Israel, and we are prepared to undertake, with heart and soul, the participation of its sons in our creation and struggle.
And what concerns us the most is the strengthening of the spiritual creativity of our people. We will work diligently on every flowering of talent and knowledge, of Torah and wisdom and literature, and art and science. And we will gather around the nation in our country the sparks of
Jewish genius that are dispersed all over the world. And let us not hold our peace until the entire generations of young Jews faithful partner with us bearing the yoke of the responsibility for the revival of our people. For on the generation that was born there, and on the generation that grew up there, and on the generation growing up here, it is incumbent upon us together to carry out that which we began eighty years ago. We are still standing in the middle of the road and still have a long way to go, we have made many attempts and the light of the Divine Presence of our redemption is shining upon us.
I know that not all of you chose me for this position. I am proud of each of you who expressed confidence in me, and I don't bear any grudge in my heart towards those who didn't select me. I admit that I doubt very much whether I would have chosen myself precisely for this task. But, if I am also pleasing to most of my brothers, I shall seek the good of all my people, and I pray for my wife and myself, that I have the physical and spiritual strength to fulfill this lofty mission, and not embarrass those who sent me here. With the help of the entire nation, and with the help of G-D, we will be privileged to see the children return to their own border, and Israel shall dwell safely and forever will it be built with kindness.
Translated by Harvey Spitzer zl
Who am I and what am I, that I have been privileged to be crowned with the honor of Jerusalem? The honor of Jerusalem, the Holy City and the Temple, the city in which David encamped at the dawn of the life of our people, city of beauty in all the generations of our dispersion, and capital of our renewed nation in the generation of our revival?
It has already been possible for me to explain in public, the Who am I The what am I, my honorable predecessors have made noticeably clear to me. It turns out, that it is a custom, which the patriarchs of Jerusalem established, from the time the crown of our sovereignty was restored to its former glory, to join one crown to the other so that they may serve each other. The law regarding the President of Israel states that he will also be an honorary citizen in the capital city of Israel. Indeed, to the extent that this lofty matter concerns me, indeed I receive it with modesty, with thankfulness and with great joy. But, to the extent that it concerns the matter of the responsible and exalted role, indeed it seems to me that here the patriarchs of this city, declared it to be the joy of the entire earth that it contains an additional spice, giving an essential and exulted flavor to all the supremacy of the crown.
For many are the praises by which Jerusalem is lauded, and one praise mentioned in Midrash (Makiri, Psalm 147) Jerusalem is called Mother of Israel, is very precious to me today. And it is good that all of us, the veterans and the newcomers who arrived recently, all the children who were exiled from their home and then were privileged to return by immigrating to the Land of Israel. Those who immigrated with their parents or their forefathers, those who immigrated with joy, and those who immigrated with tears because of their afflictions in exile, and the precious souls who were lost in faraway places, all of them together will feel the flavors with which the Mother, which is Jerusalem, was blessed. The eternal pledge, promised us by the comforting prophet : Like a man whose mother comforts him, so will I comfort you, and in Jerusalem, you shall be comforted. (Isaiah, 66:13) So today, every Jew who has had the privilege of immigrating, or still expects to receive the right to immigrate, will focus on the capital of Israel, which is being built, and he will return and be healed.
It is the nature of a mother not to judge her children severely or discriminate between them, loving all of them, and having compassion for all of them equally. She worries about them and looks forward to seeing all and welcoming all warmly. She raises them all, like a mother hen sitting on her brood, takes responsibility for their destiny, and gathers them together to be a united and blessed family.
Jerusalem, the Mother, city that was built on a mound,. will be blessed. She will gather her children with compassion and kindness.
An acknowledgement to the municipality of Jerusalem for its motherly gift that she awarded me with much kindness on the day that she appointed me.
This is the booklet, Sha'alu Shalom Yerushalayim by Rabbi Gedaliah from Semyatitche,that aroused my spirit on winter days, when I first began to study the sources of the history of Israel, and the history of immigrations to Eretz Yisrael. It was a rare booklet and difficult to find, and which was known to the greatest historians only by hearsay, or through bibliographical listings. It is a primary source for the history of Jerusalem during the years 460 to 466 and a faithful witness to Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid [1660-1700] immigration [to the Land of Israel]. This is the Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid who is remembered for his connection to the Churvah [Synagogue] in the Old City, which was destroyed and is no longer, but is alive and exists in the hearts of all the veterans of Jerusalem, and each one of us, who was once privileged to linger within it, will carry its spirit and atmosphere in his heart all his life.
Rabbi Gedaliah of Semyatitche was from Lithuania, resident of a small town very close to the small town where I was born, and in the great and very glorious emigration he immigrated to the Land of Israel, in the emigration filled with the lofty hope for the coming of the Messiah. And this emigration was nearly en masse, the first of the waves of emigration of the Ashkenazi Jews from Europe at whose head was Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid, a holy man, a man of great faith and enthusiasm who aroused the masses and embraced immigrants [to the Land of Israel] from Eastern and Western Europe. Many and difficult were the pains of emigrations, and the pains of absorption were sevenfold more difficult.. Satiated with serious tests, after the death of the leader, three days after his immigration [to the Land of Israel], and after several quarrels and torments among the new immigrants, Rabbi Gedaliah was forced to evolve from being an immigrant to an emissary for institutions of charity and Jewish learning [collecting donations] and to turn his efforts, both exalted and bitter, into a miracle of good tidings for the Jews in exile. He left to tell the people in the cities of Eastern Europe, in a simple and popular language, and with great moderation, about all the blessings that are laid up in settling in the Land of Israel. He informed of the support for the inhabitants there, all the details of the way of life and the arrangements of the community, the relations between the neighbors and the exaltation of prayer at the Western Wall, and the holiness of the Land and its hardships. This rare booklet is not a disappointing source. And at that time when I was taking care of it, there was not one library in the world in which this booklet was found in its completeness. I found an incomplete copy in a library in Amsterdam, and another incomplete copy in a library in Oxford. I was overjoyed when I joined them and they became one complete little book in my hand, and I intended to gladden the heart of my teachers with it, whom from that time on, I was no longer privileged to serve.
And indeed, I got my reward twice, a true canopy of honor for the fathers of the city of Jerusalem, who consented to bring it up from the archives and to bring it again into the hands of the public when it went out from under my hand, at the beginning of my immigration. This was an additional garland around the crown of honor.
Kindly allow me to raise up before you the memory of two great Jewish men who were my associates for this first publication. They would have been invited as dear guests who would glorify the festive party of the Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem.
The first was the historian of the Jewish people, the holy man, my master and teacher, whose blood was shed in the great massacre in Riga by the evil destructive mobilization forces, Dr. Shimon Dubnov, may G-d avenge his blood. It was he who told us in his history lectures at the Academy of Jewish Studies founded by my teacher Baron David Ginzburg, of blessed memory, about this precious source,
and he complained that he was not privileged to see it, for it was not available and everything he knew about it was taken from the bibliographical lists of M. Shteinshneider, and even before him, there was only one defective copy.
And the second one our unforgettable poet, greatest of the Hebrew poets of our time, whose light accompanies our generation all the days, Reb Chaim Nachman Bialik, of blessed memory, he who received the booklet from me with much joy, and published it in his Reshumot Volume 2, in Odessa, and since the war immediately began and confused the world, he reprinted it in a second edition of Reshumot Volume 2 in Tel Aviv, right after his immigration, and from there it made its way to the reader.
May the memory of both men live on as a blessing, and may they merit universal recognition.
And may the leaders of the Jerusalem municipality receive manifold blessings and thanks. May Jerusalem be rebuilt speedily in our days, an eternal building. May it be His will!!
And these are the President's words:
With great esteem and in the full sense of the significance of this event, which is unparalleled in the history of our generations, I have come in the name of the State of Israel, and in my own name, to welcome his Excellency, the Roman Pope and the Father of the Catholic Church throughout the world, with the ancient greeting: Blessed be he who comes!
We have come down to meet him from the capital city of Jerusalem, City of David, to Megiddo built by King Solomon, to hasten to bring our greetings to him immediately upon his arrival in our country, the Holy Land.
We listened to his speech attentively, for he has come to us to pray and ask for mercy for all humanity, for it is painful, hungry, strife-torn, and thirsty for peace, relief, freedom, and justice.
Surely, the devastation of my people during the last generation is a bitter warning of the depths of bestiality and loss of the divine image to which ancient prejudices can drag man down if a purifying spirit does not come into being while there is yet time to dam up these dangers forever.
Also, the progress in science, which has given man control over many of the forces of nature and in which our generations take pride, places humanity in danger of ruin and destruction which no previous generation ever imagined. From the depths of the world's conscience, an expectation has arisen today for a great moral re-awakening which is desirous and capable of stopping this evil and of eradicating harm, hatred and domination in order to restore peace and to strive towards the realization of our prophet's vision: And I shall remove the heart of stone from within you and I shall give you a heart of flesh… and nation shall no longer raise a sword against nation, neither will they no longer learn war.
This country, that he is now entering, is a living witness to the fact that the vision of our prophets concerning the ingathering of our dispersed exiles from all corners of the earth, and the renewal of our restoration within it as in former times, is arising and taking place.
From here, the Jezreel Valley stretches before us with its fertilized fields, and many dozens of settlements of new immigrants, built on the foundations of freedom, equality, and justice, illuminate its landscape. The signs of revival are spread over all the cities and villages of our independent country, and just as we have been privileged to see this happen, so is our faith strong in the hope that the vision of universal peace and social justice, which all people strive for and which our prophets have envisioned - will one day to happen. Humanity is destined to be redeemed from its hardships and may our eyes behold a world built on kindness.
May his coming to us be a blessing and for peace!
Parting words to the Pope
This morning I had the honor and pleasure of greeting our exalted guest as soon as he entered our gates for the first time. And today, with his passing throughout the regions of our country, and with his communion with the congregation of his flock, we certainly realize that the sublime words which he spoke: the aspiration for justice and its advancement should not be just a temporary pause in hostility between nations and social classes, but rather that it should finally enable the blossoming and cooperation of people and nations in an atmosphere of mutual trust. ---- these words are the heritage of the aspiration and hope of all the people living in Zion. Our hand is extended in peace to countries around us and our eyes are raised towards true peace in the world based on mutual trust and honorable relations between nation and nation.
Today he recalled the ancient prophecy, which has been bequeathed to us here, and to the world, the belief in the establishment of world peace, which is more essential now, than ever before. It also showed us the way to reach this desired goal. The same prophet, Micha HaMorashti, who foresaw the day in which and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning forks, and who also prophesized that for all the peoples shall go, each one in the name of his G-d, but we will go in the name of the Lord, our G-d forever and ever.
Let us bless him with the blessing Go to peace, and from Jerusalem, City of David, City of Peace, may he receive a heart-felt blessing and peace.
The Journalists Association - Jerusalem, repaid a debt of honor to a veteran member in the profession, such a veteran who entered the gates of The Seventh Power [the press] already at the age of 13 - the President of Israel, Mr. Zalman Shazar.
For the ceremony, at which the association awarded him honorary membership, the President didn't forget to carry with him a bundle of pages which had turned yellow after many years. These were issues of the newspaper which he distributed with his own hands in the small town where he was born in Russia. Zalman Rubashov, the youth, gathered news items from what was going on and what was heard in his small town in general, and in the circles of the Jewish community in particular. He would stylize the news items, write short and long articles, and didn't wash his hands from advertising to finance his expenses. He gathered advertisements for his newspaper and stylized them for the advertisers. He published the newspaper once a month and called it Yarchon [monthly magazine]. He published six issues in the course of half a year. He distributed sixty copies of each edition. The young Rubashov would write every edition by hand from the title to the smallest notice. The price was indicated in the margins of the four-page newspaper: 60 kopeks in the country and 2 marks outside the country. When they asked him the meaning of outside the country, the young journalist answered: In the adjacent small town, and indeed, he had subscribers in that small town.
The President, who presented the four issues of his newspaper to those present, said that they fell into his hands only a year ago. This was during his visit to the Soviet Union when he met his brother who lived there. His brother surprised him by giving him the newspapers which had turned yellow after he saved them for many years.
On the long and short articles in his newspapers, he signed his seven pen names which he took from the Bible. He dedicated the last page to advertisements. In one of the issues he posted, on a half of the page, was the advertisement of a butcher shop.
The Zionist Organization of Stolpce Natives
by the Editor and Publisher Z. Rubashov
Translated by Ann Belinsky and Esther Libby Raichman
|Sunday, Parashat Vayikra
Rosh Hodesh Nissan,
1st Nissan, 5663
[29th March 1903].
Articles that are not accepted for print [illegible] will be returned to their owners [illegible].
People wishing to have their articles inserted in The Monthly are requested to send 2 copies of each article.
The Zionist Organization of Stolpce Natives
The Editor and Publisher
| Price in Russia
One year: 60 Kopeks
Half a year: 35 K
One year with post: 80K
Half year: 45K
Single issue: 7K
People wishing to have their articles inserted in The Monthly are requested to send 2 copies of each article.
Adlo yada - The editor
We are commanded on Purim to become drunk until we cannot distinguish between Haman is cursed and blessed is Mordechai as appears in the tractate of the Gemara, Megillah (page 7b).
Our Rabbis, when wishing to describe us that we should get drunk until we do not know even the most essential matters which will never leave the memory and heart of every man, explained it as until we don't know the difference between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai.
|For our Rabbis could not imagine in their souls how people forget such a thing but [illegible] we were [illegible] for not only will we forget this on the day of Purim, but also on all days of the year, and not only would they forget, but also there are those who confuse the Mordechai in the Haman and the Haman in Mordechai. The People of Israel do not know at every moment in time who are the Haman's and who are the Mordechai's. Who to bless and who to curse. And on this it may happen that a mistake will be made, G-d forbid, and the person will fall into a trap or in the better case, he will skip over these two sections.
At present, the nation of Israel stands in this situation, it sees before it.
|Two ways, two groups – the Haman group and the Mordechai group. Each group will show him a different way and a different position. How different are the ways, they are distant from each other as is the distance between Mordechai and Haman. And the nation of Israel unknowingly stands like an innocent lamb and looks at the [illegible] with doubt and does not know what to do and where to turn. He knows not which is Haman and which is Mordechai. But let us [check] our doubts …It requires that we weigh up and decide what to do. Initially we need to clarify what is meant by this idea. Last two lines are illegible.|
And a gentle sound arises in my ear, and the sound increases from minute to minute, and it surges and becomes exalted, magnified and extolled until it becomes a majestic sound.
This sound which arises in my ears is not the sound of the tune of triumph, nor the sound of the tune of defeat, but it is the sound of the Song of Nature that I hear. And the sound continues from the end of the world until it finishes, and the entire universe is filled with it. And the sound rings in my ears like [illegible] the Creator [illegible].
|We wish to congratulate from our hearts The young lady Tamar Aviansky
With the young man of her age Eliyahu Epshtein.
Their wedding day will be on
We send our congratulations
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