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[Page 177]

Notes and Letters


English Translation by Sara Mages

[Page 179]

Letter from Kopel Dobrovitker

Kibbutz Vohlin Trumpeldor
Klosova-Rokitna Detachment
To the Vohlin United Kibbutz Detachment in Hadera
Ch. Y.
The subject of this letter is interesting, and it has some charm, even with its errors.—Editorial Board

You apparently predicted that the well-known proverb “Don't judge” would be appropriate for my reply. You brought up complicated matters that also exist in our lives, ones that we don't take lightly. Honestly, you sensed the facts, but you haven't looked for the problems they've caused and are causing right now. We don't blame you, although you should have known what was happening to us—so I want to offer some explanations to prove how wrong you are with your help. First, you need to know the movement's current state. This is one factor that has pushed us to find a way to fix the distortion in the direction our lifestyle is taking in Diaspora kibbutzim. The period of stability is over. The Pioneer movement took off its romantic coat a long time ago, and the rumors say that the sky in the Land isn't blue and that there are mountains and valleys there. There are also swamps to be drained, roads to be paved, and weeds to be pulled. All these matters need to be recognized and require our utmost effort. In reality, all this has become a point of emphasis and a main objective of pioneer education. On the other hand, indifference and psychological decline in the Zionist movement is weakening the enthusiasm of Pioneer members in our town, who have left its ranks. Only a few of us are left on the front lines; the few survivors don't demand satisfaction, and the small town or dry city won't satisfy them. They're leaving everything behind and heading for training kibbutzim, and here we have a problem. How can we absorb them, and how can we satisfy them? Maybe with the old song that the kibbutz is just a place for job training and that in a few months they'll leave home and immigrate. Or maybe we should mold them for a lifestyle known to require extensive care and training? The problem has solved itself with the many years of pioneer training and the difficulties of life in the Land of Israel. The never-ending demands there, which required a degree of preparation and education, meant that they underwent the same development in the kibbutz. And happily, we must mention that thanks only to that stabilization, our kibbutz has 100 members, 60 of whom are unemployed during the harsh winter, and there is a shortage of supplies in the kibbutz.

Now for the matters you mention: it isn't true that we've reached the invalid stage. It's true that because of the climate here (the air in Polesia can cause illness) and the difficult working conditions (exploitation is high since each Zionist is a factory owner), and without material aid from the Pioneer central office (the kibbutz paid to build the cow shed and auxiliary farm and to repair some buildings)—the percentage of sick members is high, sometimes as high as 40%. But we're not thinking of sending them to you in the Land, because we understand the demands of our land and our duty here. The issue of medical care has an important place in our kibbutz lifestyle. We heal them and hope they'll immigrate healthy. A hospital has been set up, and new members who have a hard time getting used to hard labor in the quarry recover from their illnesses there and return to work.

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We've also operated on a number of members, who have recovered. So you understand that we're not aiming for invalids but want to create “laborers,” which is quite difficult. The saying “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” is our motto, and we hold it tight.

As for the Ostrog members' departure: only three members left, intending to create a small group. The kibbutz isn't a force that drives people away. If they left, they had to leave. The kibbutz has a magnetic force. I must mention that a few members from Galicia and the far corners of Poland want to come, and what this shows is open to discussion.

We've read member Benari's letter “from the inside,” and we're sure you have, too. We're satisfied with the way he describes his longing to immigrate. We just want to add that the halt in pioneer immigration may have negative results. Many of us members have spent three years in the kibbutz and ought to immigrate with our families. The hope that we'll immigrate immediately helps us breathe and hold on.

Your letter arrived late. We haven't had enough time to send any material for your special newsletter, so we're sending a short, heartfelt blessing for the celebration of your second year. We celebrate it not with celebratory words, but with the hope and belief that we're ready to continue your work, which is also our work, and that we'll celebrate along with you a third year that is even stronger.

We still stand behind you.

For the kibbutz


[Page 180]

Letter from D. Balmelakhe to Yakov Chachkis

Kremenets, December 19, 1938

Shalom, my dear friend Yakov!

Many thanks to you, my dear friend, for not forgetting me. Your card lifted my spirits and strengthened my feelings. You've tied a courageous knot between our past and our future, and maybe also the future's future…

I thought that immigration, settlement, work, and cells would make you forget and that your friend . . . your most loyal friend . . . would fade from your heart. I thought that no notion of me would enter your head and no form or gratitude would find a place in your heart. I thought you'd stay in touch only with your immediate family and that you wouldn't make the smallest gesture toward your friend across the sea.

Since I see in you the blessing of human and social sensibility…

I want to be in touch with you and, through you, with the land of our patriarchs. Please take an interest in me the way I take an interest in you.

I remember our past friendship . . . we were close, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. Together we stood at the center of the association.

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Together we set up the association, asked for money, edited newspapers, and held lectures, parties, trips and meetings, and how lovely those days were. The longings and memories are lovely.

That's when I got to know you… I saw your great energy and your acute sense of responsibility and security. I liked seeing, talking to, and associating with you. I loved you and remained endlessly loyal to you. I hope that there in the Land you'll examine and expand our friendship, and your letters will broaden my heart and give me energy, the will to work . . . and to dream.

Write me a long letter. How was your journey to the Land of Israel? How did you find your place in Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha? How many members does the kibbutz have? What's the kibbutz like? How's morale? What are security and defense like? What's the settlement's economic situation?

What kind of influence do Federation members have on the Yishuv?

The Betar people's influence—revisionism? Send me the addresses of a few of our friends from Vishnevets who live not far from you. What is Yitschak Reyzels doing? They say he was wounded; where is he? What is Chayim Reyzels doing? Moshe Rabin, Yitschak Rabin? Maybe you know something about Idel Shapiro, Rozye Shapiro and Sosi Shapiro, Eliezer Shag, Nisan Servetnik, and so on. Write me what's happening in the Hebrew world. Please send me Hebrew newspapers, magazines, and periodicals, and if you can't, please ask your friends to help you.

I'll pay you for the postage from here so you don't have to worry about it. Please tell me how I can send you money so you can write to me often. If I send you Polish money, you won't be able to use it, and I can't mail Israeli currency. Don't delay answering, and send me the items I asked for.

Your friend who wants to see you face to face,

D. Balmelakhe


Regards to your girlfriend who immigrated with you, the friends I mentioned in my letter, and friends in Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. May your hands be strong when you build the land, and may your arm not pull back in defense!


My dear friend,

I send you best wishes for the new year, and I hope you settle in the Land of Israel and build it with strength and spirit. May the Lord let you see the Jewish kingdom on the mountains of Zion and Judea with your own eyes.

Shalom, shalom, shalom, and see you in the Land of Israel.

D. Bal-melakhe

N.B. Don't tear up the letters I send you. Hide them, and they'll serve as memories when we meet in person—the meeting mentioned above.

[Page 182]

Letter from Leybtsi Fefer

Munich, June 29, 1947

Shalom to Lintil and Meir, who are dear and close to my heart.

I received your letter. I feel blessed to be able to tell my childhood friends once more that my heart longs to see them face to face, and I hope that soon I'll be able to hug them close to my heart. I was happy to hear that you're in good health and that you're interested in my personal affairs and willing to help me out. I don't know why I was the only one of our friends to come out of the destroyer's lion jaws alive. My town, Vishnevets, stands in its place, its buildings destroyed and its residents killed. In remembrance of the great destruction, only the Great Synagogue's central pillars were left standing, and various names are carved on them in their writers' blood, such as “my life is over”. . . “Tomorrow we will die” . . . and the like.

On both sides of the road to the village of Kolodne, thousands of our town's residents were buried, among them our beloved families and friends: Gorenshteyn, Korin, Presman, and Erlikh—all of them died. Kopel and his family were killed in Rovne. When I was in Vishnevets in 1939, Nachum was no longer alive. According to what my friends told me, the Bolsheviks arrested him at the beginning of their occupation. I looked for him all over Russia, but I couldn't find him. He probably died of starvation and agony in a Russian prison. My family and I survived. We lived in Russia for two years and in Poland for four months, and later left for Germany.


Landsberg Camp with L. Fefer as President
Banner inside the photo: May the nation of Israel remember the
6,000 martyrs from the town of Vishnevets, Kremenets district


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We have two daughters: one is seven years old, and the other is two. Both are lovely and delicate. What a pity I can't marry them off to your family, since according to Yentil's message, your sons are already heroes, like those who stand and guard the nation and the homeland, and my daughters are still young and need my help…

I won't say much about life as a survivor. You probably know our situation. It's a pity when people have sunk to a life of charity and can't support themselves with the labor of their hands. Some have given up on life. Demoralization grows from day to day, and the Zionist movement faces a great danger if the question of immigration to the Land isn't solved in the near future. If only there were a Jewish nation… That would bring redemption… I'm glad to hear that the Yishuv is strong. I don't trust the philanthropists, and I'm willing to fight those who want to put stumbling blocks in the way of building the land and redeeming its people. Nor are we sitting with our arms folded. I've been active in the party since the day I returned from Russia, and today I'm a member of the Labor Zionist Central Office. I remain loyal to the Freedom movement's ideology and continue to follow the road of social Zionism. On behalf of the party, I joined the Committee of Liberated Jews in Germany, and I'm the director of the Cultural Department. All this is not worth a penny because my heart aches with longing for the Land. I'm 44 years old today, and as you know, my health isn't the best, so when will I be able to see the Land? Why have I worked so hard all my life . . . my financial situation isn't bad. We get enough food, and we sometimes receive some rags from the Joint, but all this is nothing, because I detest living among the murderers in their contaminated, cursed land. I want to immigrate in the summer, but the party won't allow it and has postponed it until the spring. I'll try to immigrate at the beginning of May or June. I need five certificates. If the party doesn't hold me back, I'll definitely immigrate. Why haven't you written about the details of your life? What's your apartment like? (They say that it's as difficult to get an apartment as it was to part the Red Sea.) How are your sons doing? What about your job? Why haven't you told me how Hentsi Zeyger and her husband are? What are the prospects for a man like me? Will I be able to settle there? My wife is an excellent seamstress. Is it possible to get an apartment in your town, and what's the price? What items are you short of, and what should we bring from Germany? We don't have any money, but we can ask the Americans to send you some. Please write again. Be well. Many greetings and warm kisses from my wife, my daughters, and me. Answer me right away because we're waiting impatiently for your answer.


L. Fefer

[Page 184]

Leybtsi (Arye Leyb) Fefer,
of Blessed Memory


Leybtsi (Arye Leyb) Fefer,
of Blessed Memory


We knew Leybtsi well as a child and as he was growing up. He was always moving, applying himself, and searching for one aim—more knowledge. He was knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects, and he therefore knew how to arouse the enthusiasm of listeners for his explanations by using glowing expressions and direct definitions, mostly on the theoretical side.

When he was young, he roamed through foreign countries and earned a living by teaching in order to increase his knowledge.

He was an outstanding civic worker from the time he was in the Freedom movement. When he later immigrated to the Land, he continued his political work. He was soon elected United Workers Party representative to the municipal organizations, and he was a member of the board of directors of Yazur's municipal council.

Teaching was his heart's desire and the substance of his personality. He worked as a teacher in the Land as long as his strength held out. He was an excellent educator and was steeped in a deep-rooted sense of Hebrew culture. As a youngster, he did much to promote Hebrew as a spoken language. He walked from home to home, asking people to start speaking in Hebrew.

When he was young, he willingly took on the pain of travel in order to increase his knowledge. Later, bad luck overtook him, and he was sentenced to roam during the emergencies and madnesses of the various regimes.

After the “flood,” when he was in a refugee camp, he kept in touch with his friend in the Land, and his letters were saturated with longing and yearning to immigrate (the letter published in this book is a witness to that).

His restless personality didn't let him relax. In the camp, he gathered a group of refugees together—people from Vishnevets and their friends—and organized a social group. The group separated when some of the members immigrated.

He had strong organizational skills and enjoyed his friends. When he arrived in the Land, he was an initiator and founder of the Organization of Vishnevets Emigrants.

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Anyone who hasn't seen Leybtsi shining with the flame of satisfaction during the first meeting of the Organization of Vishnevets Emigrants in the Land has never seen a happy man.

We are sad that Leybtsi is no longer with us as our organization extends its activities in general and particularly as it establishes a charitable fund.

Leybtsi certainly would have taken an active part in Sefer Vishnevets, but the dangerous state of his health prevented him from doing so.

May his memory be blessed!



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