Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The echoes of the Holocaust in Europe, as millions of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their helpers, were late in reaching the Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. Even when the tragic news was brought by authorized and trustworthy people it was hard to believe the extent of the horror. The possibilities to save the remnants and bring them to our land were limited, due to the policy of the British government, who would not issue Aliya certificates and in general constrained the freedom of action of the Jewish settlement. However, despite the German Reich and the British authorities, the Illegal Aliya Movement was established in those days, bringing thousands of immigrants to our country.
With the news coming from Europe, a feeling of mourning spread over the Jewish population. At the same time, however, an intense organized activity of help and rescue began. Former residents of the various towns and shtetlach began forming organized groups Landsmanshaften aiming to extend help to the survivors and erect memorials to the annihilated Jewish settlements. The residents of each town desired to honor their past, their origin and their beloved families that had been burned at the stake, and also to remember the suffering and the heroic efforts to survive. The Shebreshin Residents' organization was among the first to undertake this task.
The first meeting of the organization, under the initiative of Mendel Boim, took place at the home of Rivka DeilisBecher and her husband Binyamin Hersch, in Haifa. Among the first to engage in this important work were: Rivka Weinstock, Mendel Messinger and Shmuel Reichstein. A small sum of money was collected at the meeting, and it was decided to collect written material and to publish a memorial book about the Jewish community in town. Mendel Boim agreed to start collecting material and donations were received from friends all over the country. Very important help came from former Shebreshin residents living in the United States; among them the most active member was Pesach Borek.
The organization elected a committee, and it was decided to hold new elections every few years. Every year, on 27 Cheshvan, a memorial ceremony took place, to remember the perished martyrs, residents of our town. This was also an appropriate occasion to meet friends from all parts of the country and exchange stories and impressions, in an atmosphere of friendship and nostalgia.
Shebreshin was one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Poland. The Jews in town led a deeprooted and dynamic Jewish life. However, systematic collection of material on the life in town and the happenings during the Holocaust was not easy. Shebreshin did not have a newspaper, and writers have not devoted time to write about it. The town is mentioned occasionally and randomly in old documents: in the reports of the Council of the Four Lands, in government archives, in books. All this had to be researched, collected and prepared for publication. Articles about the way of life in our shtetl and the horrible events that put an end to that life we had to obtain directly from the people that are living with us today.
Our friend Mendel Boim devoted his time voluntarily to collecting material for the book, and invested great efforts in this endeavor. Material began to arrive from former residents of the town in Israel and abroad United States, Canada and Argentina. Mendel Boim published part of the material
reports from meetings of the committees and from assemblies in 5 booklets (in Yiddish and Hebrew). These booklets became the basis of the book about to appear.
The work gained momentum with the arrival of Devora Fleischer, who also compiled a list of Shebreshin martyrs and sent it to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
When Efraim Farber and Avraham Wolfson made Aliya, they too joined the effort to promote the publication of the memorial book. They undertook the task to acquire the means and to complete the collection of the material, and the enterprise moved a considerable step forward. An editorial board was elected, headed by a professional editor, who, unfortunately, found the material not organized at all. The authors had not been given guidelines and so every participant wrote on the subject that was close to his heart. The job of editing and completing the missing subjects was not easy, and it is worth mentioning that some of the important articles, quantitatively and qualitatively, were added when the book was in its last stages of preparation. Printing the material also took more time than expected, but we think that the result speaks for itself.
It is not by chance that the book appeared in the State of Israel: not only because here is the center of the Jewish people, but also because most of the former residents of the shtetl live here: they are the people who decided to complete the project, which demanded hard work, faith, perseverance and the ability to overcome obstacles.
|A memorial assembly in Haifa|
by Emanuel Chmielash
Translated by Moses Milstein
In 1949, Jews from the DP camps in Austria and Germany, the Sh'erit Ha'Pletah, among them Shebreshiner Jews, began arriving in Montreal, Canada. In 1951, there were about twenty of us. Others arrived from Israel having spent a short time there.
In the fifties, we settled in the Jewish neighborhood of the time, around the commercial center of St. Lawrence Street. We lived close to each other and saw each other practically every day. On Sundays, we all used to meet on Esplanade Street in front of the Jewish Public Library.
In 1949, the secretary of the New York Shebreshiner society, Pesach Borek, ah, came to visit us. The meeting took place at Ephraim and Balche Milstein's house. For newcomers, it was a great pleasure to meet with old residents in a new land.
At the Milstein's house, together with P. Borek, we decided that the Shebreshiners in Montreal should organize themselves. We should get together and discuss ongoing problems. The committee was then formed of David Fuks, Wolf Ingber, and Ephraim Milstein. At the end of 1949, we called a meeting of all the Shebreshiner at Laizer Borek's house. We then elected a committee consisting of David Fuks, Wolf Ingber, Laizer Borek, Emanuel Chmielash, Azriel Drayer, and Chaim Unger, ah. We decided that everyone should pay dues of fifty cents a month.
We then established ties with the new Shebreshiner olim in Israel. We began to send the few dollars from the dues collected to the needy landsleit, the olim chadashim, in Israel. When we discovered that there was a Shebreshiner committee organized in Israel, headed by our respected landsman, Mendl Boim, we began corresponding with him. We sent the aid money to the Shebereshiner committee care of Mendl Boim.
Our activities also consisted of honoring the yorzeit of our fallen brethren. We hired a room at the Jewish Public Library and engaged a chazzan. All the Shebreshiner in Montreal, without exception, attended. After the memorial, we dealt with various issues.
When M. Boim wrote that they were gathering material about the destruction of our people in S. in order to publish a journal describing Jewish life in S., we sent them some documents: Dr. Klukowski's book, works by the poet Sholem Stern, (a descendant of S. and Tiszewic, living now in Montreal.) Others sent along certain descriptions of organizations and living conditions in S.
Although the collections were first published in journal form, the goal of the Israeli society was to publish a yizkor book. We in Montreal began collecting funds and transferring them to the committee in Israel. However, with the arrival of new olim in Israel, the committee found itself having to use the money to help the needy.
The task of producing a yizkor book stalled. Much documentation was already in the hands of Mendel Boim. We in Montreal wrote to him often. His answers were always full of hope, but little action was forthcoming. After a while, we gave up hope, but not without disappointment. We frequently asked each other why so many other shtetlach, some smaller than S., had already produced yizkor books, but we could not seem to manage it. We went over it so often and for so long that we finally gave up on it. We all felt a certain disappointment and regret.
Then the survivors of Lublin approached us: They were going to erect a monument in the Jewish cemetery to the memory of the Jews of Lublin and surrounding area. They asked if we also wanted to commemorate the S. victims. We convened a general meeting of our landsleit. I, personally, was against a monument of stone. A tombstone, no matter how tall and wide, no matter how beautiful, is simply an idol. On the other hand, a yizkor book is a living, movable, monument that everyone of us can embrace like a holy book, and pass along to future generations, to our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren that tells them about their origins.
We learned from the Lubliner representatives that they had sent emissaries to Poland and had brought back a small box of ashes from Belzec. According to what we know, there were also Jews from S. in Belzec. The monument was erected over the grave where the ashes were buried. It was engraved also with the name of the Shebreshiner community. Every year, during the days of repentance, we convene a yizkor at the monument.
In time, Montreal grew larger, new suburbs were built. Shebreshiners also spread out. we no longer live in compact neighborhoods near each other. But we are still close. Telephone conversations are frequent and prolonged. To every simcha celebrated by one of us, every Shebreshiner is invited. And whenever we met, we always asked, Is there any news from Israel, meaning the yizkor book. Until…
Until several years ago, we received a letter from the Shebreshiner committee written by Ephraim Farber. Upon reading the letter resignation disappeared and hope shone on everyone's face. I myself did not remember Ephraim Farber. (He was youger than me, and before the war, he was in Warsaw). I just heard that he was Moishe Kliske's grandson and Mendele Kliske's son, and I was filled with hope that he would achieve the goal and bring out the book. Just as every Friday evening Ephraim's grandfather knocked on the doors of the stores with his hammer reminding Jews that the holy Shabbos was coming, so did his grandson with his letter hammer an awakening.
He awakened us from our lethargy. His letter called out to us: a new committee has been established among the Shebreshiner in Israel young people who will make the yizkor book a reality.
The Israelis remember the phrase, M'Zion tetzeh torah to which they added three words, M'America tetzeh mamon. We had faith in the new endeavors. They woke us up and asked of us, Send money! We have many feelings for our old Shebreshiner home, our spiritual home is there. We raised several thousand dollars from the barely twenty Shebreshiner families here. Some of us were vacationing in Miami, Florida for the winter and there, in the home of a Shebreshiner, Hersh Fruchter, and thanks to our dynamic president, David Fuks, we had a meeting and raised money receiving contributions as well from people who were not actually from S but from nearby shtetlach.
Thanks to David Fuks, we also managed to raise money in Toronto. There is a small, not organized, group of Shebreshiner there. David Fuks traveled to Toronto, knocked on doors, and raised funds.
We are also allied with the Shebreshiner immigrants in New York. We were visited by Freida and David Blatt of New York.
At the request of the committee in Israel regarding expenses, we organized a standing committee. along with the emissaries who had recently been in Israel, at Leibl and Gitl Akerfkug's home. Freidele Blatt was also present. We Montrealers, and Freidele Blatt speaking for the New Yorkers, undertook to raise the necessary funds.
We have to recognize our honored landsman Mendl Boim who had amassed a larger amount and speeded up the work.
We Montrealers continue our correspondence with landsleit in various cities in Canada and the U.S. Some families live in Detroit Yankel Miller; in Winnipeg Itschak and Lube Gal; in Vancouver Raizel Berger; in Nova Scotia Sapian.
We see it as our duty to hold onto our connection with every Shebreshiner. Rather than extolling the virtues of individuals or groups I will end by saying, Am Israel chai, b'chol tfutzot ha'olam.
In the name of the Shebreshiner committee:
by Freide Blatt
Translated by Moses Milstein
The immigrants who came to America at the beginning of the twentieth century were not rabbis, or doctors, or professors, but they brought with them their religiosity and humanism. Not wanting to break their ties with the past, they immediately set to creating a landsmanscaft that was a model of solidarity and selfhelp.
The Independent Shebreshiner Congregation was founded on October 1, 1911. These simple people, without diplomas or rabbinical certificates, composed a constitution of 19 articles and subparagraphs. I want to note the more important paragraphs in order to bring out the noble and humanitarian approach to the problems that preoccupied them at the time: to maintain the Shebreshiner identity, and to help the members with their economic and social problems, so they would not feel alone. In other words: to give them the courage not to be overcome by demoralization and disappointment.
As I found out from others, the society sent help not only to individual people, but also to the community, to be distributed on Pesach for the needy.
The constitution was written in GermanYiddish.
Article 18: Executives
David KaveProtocol secretary
Nachum BorensteinFinance secretary
Chaim Mordechai WaldmanCashier
Moshe Aharon Tolkopgabai rishon
Mendl Bakgabai sheiniv Zindl MessingerTrustee
Chaim BronfenbrenerSyangogue secretary
Moshe Aharon Tolkop
Yakov Shlomo Berger
Cahim Mordechai Waldman
Seeing the abovementioned names, we can say with pride: Ashrei, it is fortunate that the surviving Shebreshiners had such predecessors.
Unfortunately, the situation changed drastically. The few members passed away, and the direction passed to their children who were more Americanized, and the Shebreshin name held less nostalgia for them. Added to that, the great devastation tore away the tree and the roots of our origin. No more letters came from the other side to remind us who is who. Everything disappeared as smoke.
But it must be said that there remained certain individuals, such as the good and noble Pesach Borek, zl, who came to America shortly before the outbreak of the war. He organized a committee to help the survivors. It was difficult to convince the middleaged, and harder still, the younger generation, to walk in the footsteps of their parents. He gave a lot of his time, energy, and strength to the society. He never tired of it. He helped all the arrivals in any way he could. He was also president of the society for a short time.
Unfortunately, he became a martyr of the times, where human life is not valued. He was killed by a murderer's hand while coming back from a hospital visit to a sick Shebreshiner.
Pesach personified the most noble, the best, the most beautiful that our shtetl could produce. Whoever knew him, as I did, will never forget him. His death contributed greatly to the weakening of the landsmanschaft. One must also add that the new arrivals did not contribute as much to the wavering existence of the previous organization.
As the names of our parents, brothers and sisters were inscribed in our heart with fire and blood, so may the abovementioned names, who wrote a golden page in the history of Shebreshin, also be inscribed in this book which should serve as a monument of our martyrs.
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