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[Page 74]

The Social-Medical Institutions in Volkovysk

Khevra Lina[1]


Leadership of Linat Kholim after the First World War

Right to Left, First Row, Bottom: Shlomo'keh Frei the Tailor, Fuchsman, Abraham Kaganovich, Sioma Gallin, Ozer Kaplan, 'Nioma Solkovich
Second Row: Archik Markus, Mikhl Zohn-Mazya, Shakhna Dworetsky, Abraham Shalakhovich (the Tailor)

 


First anniversary of Linat Kholim in the Year 1920

Right to Left, First Row, Bottom: Bogomilsky, Noah Gordon (son of the Scribe), Sarah Khvalovsky, Chaim Weinstein
Second Row: Zhameh Schein, Manya Gandz, Mytchik Yelsky, Unknown, Archik Markus
Third Row: Kaplan, Chaya Klatshkin, Bobel Marotchnik, Lina Berg (daughter of the Podriachik), Sioma Gallin, Shevakhovich (Pelteh the Butcher's daughter), Unknown
Last Row: Unknown, Aizik Werner, Shakhna Dworetsky, Manya Savuolsky, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Feygl Galiatsky, Chana Bialsky, Ronya Fanar (?), Cohen, Miss Gurevich, Chana Shipiatsky

 

Khevra Lina was one of the oldest institutions, which had already existed in Volkovysk since the beginning of this [sic: 20th] century. The organization would send, as its name indicates, people to spend the night at the homes of the sick. Sometimes, they would send two people to spend the night – two men, if the sick person was a man, and two women if the sick person was a woman – in order to service and also relieve the sick, and to provide an opportunity for the other household members to get some rest and catch a little sleep.

One of the foremost activities of the Khevra Lina was to create an ice cellar ( in Russian), that is, a place where ice could be stored year-round (also in the hot summer months), and to allocate that ice among those sick who had a need for it. At the beginning, a location for such an ice cellar was rented from the lawyer, Mr. Israel Efrat, and later, a proprietary ice cellar was constructed on the Mitzrayim Gessel, not far from the Wide Boulevard. The Khevra Lina also had a few items it lent to the sick: an ice bag, thermometers, enemas, bonkes[2] and bottles for holding hot water. As Rabbi Zalman Kurtz related, this equipment was kept by Hona the Melamed, who was the assistant Shammes of the Mauer Bet HaMedrash. He lived on the Schulhof, and he was a very good man, literally ‘having no bile in him.’ Hona has a list of the members of the Khevra Lina, and Hona would inform everyone whose turn it was to go spend a night with a sick person. If there was a circumstance where someone for some reason could not or did not want to spend a night, Hona himself would hasten to fill their place, and sit with the sick, to the extent, that occasionally, weeks would go by in which

[Page 75]

Hona would not spend so much as a single night in his own home, but rather would be with the sick. There were a number of balebatim who were dedicated to this institution, but Hona was the leading active member. Nakhum Halpern the Teacher was also very active in the group.

The equipment was given out and security was taken – a silver spoon, a cup, or money – and Hona would record it all.

Zvi Leibowitz (today resides in Rishon LeZion in Israel), who was active in the Volkovysk Khevra Lina, and for a time was the secretary of the group, sent us interesting memories about the personality of Benjamin Tal-U'Mottor[3] and his dedication to the Khevra Lina:

'Nioma the Agent (Benjamin Tal-U'Mottor) was active in the Kholodoisker Bet HaMedrash, and he also, just like Hona the Shammes, donated his free time to the Khevra Lina. He would schedule the people (usually two at a time) to spend the night with someone who was ill. At about 11-12 at night, he would come to see if the people were at their appointed locations. If one of them didn't show up, he would go to wake him up in the middle of the night, and if that individual either could not, or would not go, he would have to pay for the night, in order to hire another person to take his place. If it happened that he could obtain the services of another person without charge, he would use the monies received to procure additional equipment for the sick. He would fill up an entire cellar with ice for the summer – for the benefit of the sick. But the need for the ice increased, and the large cellar where he would store the ice proved to be inadequate to hold the amount of ice really needed, so he accumulated the money, and bought a place on the Mitzrayim-Gessel (near the Wide Boulevard). He then went out into the city streets with a wagon, and gathered up stones from wherever he found them, and [used them] to build a large, and deep cellar in that place, which he filled up with over five hundred wagon loads of ice.

The winter after the outbreak of the First World War, when the Germans occupied Volkovysk, was a very mild one. The river did not freeze, the weather was very nice, the trees literally bloomed, and people worked in the fields. 'Nioma Tal-U'MOTTOR was greatly concerned at that time about procuring ice for the coming summer. He practically expired from worry. He was thinking about buying an ice machine, but he did not have the financial resources for this purpose. Suddenly several cold days ensued, in which the standing water in the forests froze over, and he energetically threw himself into his work. He rode around in a wagon, and in a short time, he filled the cellar with ice for use by the sick during the summer.

During the time when 'Nioma was active in the Khevra Lina, he elevated that institution to high level. Apart from the fact that the sick would receive their medicaments free of charge, they would also receive at cost, necessary products such as milk, butter, sugar, etc.

He did this prodigious work purely for the mitzvah of doing a good deed, and never took any remuneration for it. In old age, he went to the Land of Israel, where he took up residence in Jerusalem. There as well, he occupied himself with charitable work, looking after the indigent sick with the greatest needs. He is today ninety years old, and continues to work for the benefit of the community with all his might.


Translator's footnotes:

  1. From the Hebrew, literally, ‘the Organization that Spends the Night.’ Sometimes called Linat Kholim, or Spending the Night with the Sick. Return
  2. Glass cups, affixed to the body by igniting some rub alcohol inside to create a vacuum. Thought to have healing properties by ‘drawing out evil humors’ from the body. Return
  3. A Hebrew Name formed from the words for Dew and Rain. Return


[Page 76]

Linat Kholim

With the outbreak of the First World War, the Khevra Lina was disbanded along with all the other institutions in Volkovysk. If it was possible to get along for a time – temporarily, it is understood – without the other necessary institutions, it was the lack of medical services that was felt most keenly, because of the many epidemics and diseases which reigned throughout the area without surcease, as a result of the persistent fear of death, impoverishment, and deterioration in standard of living.

The activists, Rabbi Zalman Kurtz, Joseph Rudy & Shepsel Gordon, decided to revive the Khevra Lina. Other young sympathizers rallied to them: Aaron Markus, Sioma Gallin, Shakhna Dworetsky, Mytchik Zuckerman, Jedediah Margalit, Berel Zilberman, Lifschitz (the brother of Ben-Zion Lifschitz), Shimshon Lev (Yehuda Hirsch the Butcher's son) – and in the year 1918, the group began once again to function as an organization, with the name Linat Kholim.

The new committee, which attracted a large number of young people, instituted a policy that the sick would be visited by the membership in pairs – a young man and a young woman. Many of the balebatim were disconcerted by this policy at first, but as time went by, and it became evident that these services brought great benefit to the sick, they made their peace with the new arrangement.

The activities of the group expanded, and first of all they created a dispensary, where patients without financial means could obtain medical advice from local physicians at a nominal cost. Shortly thereafter, a pharmacy was established adjacent to the dispensary, where the needy sick could obtain a required prescription for a nominal cost, or entirely free of charge. The allocation of assistance along with the appearance of the previously mentioned services immediately attracted mass patronage.

Thanks to the “Joint” and other charities from America, the Linat Kholim membership was able to procure the necessary resources to expand its activities in a meaningful way. One division was created after another, and the organization rapidly grew to become multi-branched.

The dispensary was open every day from 10AM to 1PM. The maximum charge to a patient was 1 zloty, as opposed to 5 zlotys for a visit to a private doctor, and many of the sick were treated entirely free of charge. In the year 1927, the dispensary handled 6,441 patients.

The pharmacy was open for eight hours a day, and conducted an intense level of activity through a manager and one assistant. In the course of that same year, the pharmacy filled 24,183 prescriptions.

Visitation – Apart from the great support activity in the dispensary, visits to the indigent sick, who were unable to leave their beds, was also specially provided. Doctors, nurses and Feldscher[1] were sent to their homes. For those, who because of doctor's orders, found it necessary to travel to a larger city to be cured, one-time subsidies were dispensed for travel and food.

Dentist Office – The dispensary was open for three hours a day under the direction of a well-experienced tooth specialist. Much assistance was rendered in this area to those sufferers who had no means [to pay].

[Page 77]

The Laboratory was open for four to five hours daily, and serviced the hospital and also the entire city population without exception, thereby saving much time and cost tied up in making an analysis, because in those days, it was [otherwise] necessary to send the sample to Bialystok or Warsaw. The laboratory carried out all manner of medical analyses.

Distribution of Instruments and Ice – This division was very popular with the entire population for its prompt service, where everyone without exception received the necessary instruments or equipment, as well as ice for the sick. This division was always on duty without a break, whether day or night, and also on the Sabbath and Holidays.

Child Consultation &Drops for Milk” – The area of child care received special, and considerable attention. A child's health was looked after from birth until the attainment of school age. To this end, a child consultation service was established, where a newborn child was under the oversight of a consulting physician and practical nurse. The need was great in the case of children, for “Drops for Milk,” where various supplements to be mixed with milk were distributed to be used with bottle feeding, because of the weakened state of the feeding mother. Among these many cases, there were often children who became ill with dyspepsia, and it was only through this “Drops for Milk Supplement” that they were rescued from a certain death.

School Medical Care – Medical care for school age children was provided for separately. To this end, a special school medicine office was set up, and all the schools and Heders found themselves under the direction of a school physician, who looked after the sanitary condition of the school premises, and for the health of the students. Children who had a need for fresher air and better nutrition were sent to special children's colonies during the summer months in Otvotsk, Chekhotchinek[2] and Druzgenik.

The Linat Kholim demonstrated special vigor during the outbreak of the measles epidemic. The needed medical help was dispensed with a full and generous hand, and the stricken were carefully monitored for signs of complications known to accompany this disease. Necessary precautions were also taken against scarlet fever, which had begun to spread throughout the city. To this end, timely vaccinations were given to the children to immunized them against scarlet fever – partly for free, and partly at reduced charges – and this contributed to a rapid isolation of the disease, thereby preventing it from taking on the character of an epidemic.

Dr. M. Weiner (who also was the Kozioner Rabbiner) came to the dispensary daily. The pharmacist of Linat Kholim , who sold medicines at low prices, was the son-in-law of Sholom Lev. The dentist of the “Dental Division” was Miss Rosa Feinzilber. Later Mrs. Sarah Novogrudsky-Peisik worked there as well.

Linat Kholim was one of the most important institutions in Volkovysk, and was very popular because of its wide ambit and grandiose work of assistance – not only in Volkovysk, but in the larger Jewish centers in Poland.

Linat Kholim served the entire Jewish population of Volkovysk without exception: young and old, rich and poor [alike]. There was practically no person in Volkovysk that had not received some help from this institution at one time or another.


Translator's footnotes:

  1. Paramedical personnel; analogous to a medic in the military. Return
  2. Taken from the Russian word for Tuberculosis, implying a fresh air sanatorium for that disease. Return


[Page 78]

The Jewish Hospital in Volkovysk

 


The Jewish Hospital in the Year 1925

 


The Leadership of the Jewish Hospital in the Year 1924

Right to Left, First Row from Bottom: Shlomo'keh Frei (the Tailor), Fuchsman, Abraham Kaganovich, Dr. P. Bebchuk, Sioma Gallin, Dr. M. Weiner, Dr. Yaakov Sedletsky, Ozer Kaplan, Sholom Lev's son-in-law (the Pharmacist)
Second Row: Unknown lady, Yud'l Goshchinsky, Reuven Lifschitz, Archik Markus, Shakhna Dworetsky, Sarah Novogrudsky, Mikhl Zohn-Mazya, Miss Schwartz, Mrs. Press, 'Nioma Solkovich, Abraham Shalakhovich, a Grandson of the Pot maker

 


Right to Left: Dr. Yaakov Sedletsky, Unknown, Mrs. Sedletsky, Milia Khirurg, Sioma Gallin, Unknown, Unknown, Gruna Halpern (the Midwife)

 


A Children's Playground Organized by TOZ and WIZO in the Year 1928

Right to Left, the members of the leadership sitting: Dr. Yaakov Sedletsky, Rachel Zayantz,
Standing in the last row: Unknown, Mrs. Zohn-Mazya, Miss Mostkov, Sioma Gallin, Zlateh Schein, Mrs. Kovensky-Bliakher

 

A Group of Doctors and Nurses in the Jewish Hospital in the Year 1934

Vol181a.jpg
 
Vol181b.jpg
Right to Left: Dr. Yitzhak Goldberg, Khien'keh Galansky, Dr. Moshe Niemchik, Dr. Yitzhak Resnick, Nechama Lipiak, Dr. David Kaufman   Right to Left: Dr. Yitzhak Resnick, Khien'keh Galansky, Dr. Joseph Ravitz, Manya Lev, Nechama Lipiak

 

Until the last years of the nineteenth century, there was no Jewish hospital in Volkovysk. There was only a military hospital (e.g. lazaret). If a Jew became ill, Dr. Mintz (who was very popular in Volkovysk) would be called for him, and nobody went to the hospital.

Towards the end of the 19th century, in the year 1898, the renown Volkovysk donor, Nachman (Nakheh) Heller who was a great merchant and also a great philanthropist (his life story is recounted in the chapter, “Dreamers & Builders”), allocated a large sum of money – 20 to 25 thousand rubles – and erected the Volkovysk Jewish Hospital with all required equipment, and also helped out the hospital with annual substantial donations. Also, his mekhutan[1], the renown Moscow tea-merchant and philanthropist, Mr. Gatz supported the hospital and would send it supplies of tea and sugar.

[Page 79]

Oversight of the hospital was given to Reb Nachman's brothers, Schraga Feivel & Leib Heller, his son-in-law Reb Shmuel Shapiro, and Shmuel David Yunovich. Shmuel Feinzilber (Shmuel Glassner) – the sole Jewish deputy in the municipal government – and Israel Efrat the well known lawyer, were appointed as curators.

The women of Volkovysk then decided to participate in the good work of helping sick people and they founded the Bikur Kholim. Their work consisted of offering assistance to the indigent poor, helping the sick person to get to the hospital, visiting him there, and providing him with good things, which they brought to his sick bed. Mrs. Chana Khmelnitsky, Fradl Novogrudsky, Mikhlah Einhorn and Chana Heller were engaged in this work. Also, Mrs. Chaya Sarah Yudzhik assisted with the important work of the Bikur Kholim organization.

The work was divided among the ladies in the following way: During the course of the week, one part of the ladies would gather up all the good stuffs in the city – wine, chocolate, baked goods, pears, apples, oranges, etc. Tzip'keh die Ziss'eh and Esther die Podriachikheh (Weinstein)[2] stood at the head of the collection committee. Both would gather a variety of goods for the sick in the hospital, which the sick would receive on the Sabbath. It is interesting to relate an incident that occurred once in connection with the previously mentioned two [women] collectors, at the time when Rabbi Jonathan Eliasberg was the Rabbi of the city. A complaint was registered with him that the two lady collectors were taking all the better items they collected for their own use, before giving the rest to the sick. The Rabbi immediately ordered his sexton to bring the two women collectors to him. He didn't spend so much as an hour with them – Tzip'keh die Zisseh and Esther die Podriachikheh – presented themselves before the Rabbi, trembling with fear. The Rabbi asked them in a stern voice, if [it is true that] they go through all the collected goods for themselves prior to distributing the remainder to the sick. The women answered: “Rabbi,.dear, what are you talking about? May our mouths be forever silenced if we so much as go near the better gathered items. This is for the afflicted, indigent sick, who cannot indulge themselves to even take a taste of good wine, oranges, etc.” The Rabbi then stood up and announced: “I decree upon you that from this day forth, you shall indeed take a taste of each of the good stuffs you gather on behalf of the sick, and if there be found [other] women whom this does not please, let them go themselves and gather good stuffs and also distribute them among the indigent sick. This is a great mitzvah, and you shall conduct yourselves as I have prescribed.”

The second group in the ladies organization consisted of those women, who would take the collected goods, every Friday night after the Sabbath prayers, not giving heed to the weather, rain or snow, and go to the hospital and by themselves, distribute the good stuffs among the indigent sick. This last group consisted of: Fradl Itcheh Shmuel-Jonah's, Einhorn the [lady] pharmacist, Aydeleh Yud'l the Ironmonger's, Sarah'keh Yudzhik, Esther Yudzhik, and others. Each time, they would gather at the house of one or the other of the ladies. In really bad weather, the women were accompanied by the menfolk.

At that time, the hospital served only the Jewish poor. No part of the balebatim made use of the hospital. Up to the First World War, balebatim would be treated in their homes – and the hospital was solely for the use of the indigent.

As the only hospital in the Volkovysk area, it served not only the sick of Volkovysk, but also those of the surrounding towns, who came for therapy to the center-city, where they could always count on receiving the needed help.

[Page 80]

With the outbreak of the First World War, the hospital, along with the city, began to undergo requisitioning, going from hand-to-hand with the changes in sovereignty, and was taken over by a variety of civilian and military organs, who made use of it, as usual, only during times of battle. But there was no one to provide maintenance, as is required periodically for a building of this kind. The Jewish populace looked on bitterly, seeing how their community institution was being ruined, and could do nothing about it. The worst of this was when city residents as well as those who came from the surrounding towns, were compelled to be shuttled between cramped private dwellings, often consisting of no more than one room, in which there were often found six or more souls. It is easy to imagine the sanitary conditions of such a domicile, and what kind of circumstances existed in which it was necessary to heal the sick.

The Linat Kholim organization, feeling the disruption visited on the Jewish population most strongly, resulting from the confiscation of this important health institution, applied every conceivable measure and pressure in order to re-take control of the hospital. However this was no easy matter. It actually came to carrying out a campaign one year, until finally, in the year 1924 the hospital was released.

But it is not easy to portray the condition in which the hospital was found at that time, after it had passed through so many different hands, who thought of the hospital as an alien institution, and didn't maintain it, even though the structure was destroyed once, along with its inventory during the various battles. The foundation of the building needed to be re-built anew, and a new inventory provided. A colossal amount of money was needed for this. Thanks to the substantial help of Volkovysk landsleit in America and contributions collected locally, the hospital was re-built and equipped again, with sections for internal medical and surgical conditions, and a Maternity Division, with all the necessary equipment. It is necessary here to recall Gruna Halpern, whose ardor for the Maternity Division was unusually great.

The management process of the hospital, that is to say, the means by which the large annual deficits were covered, was accomplished by a regular monthly membership fee from the local Jewish population, subsidies provided by local community organizations (magistrate and representatives to the Polish Sejm), and from Volkovysk landsleit in America, who assumed the burden of supporting beds in the hospital in their own names, or in the names of their relatives.

On the basis of the support from the revenue sources previously noted, the hospital began its multi-branched activities in July 1925 for the benefit of the Jewish populace of Volkovysk and its surroundings. Hundreds of sick people were cured thanks to the hospital. A large number of poor expectant mothers had the opportunity to go through their childbirth under the most stringent hygienic conditions, getting medical attention, under good conditions and with attentive care, until they were restored physically after their confinement. These services were rendered to the poor expectant mothers either at a very low cost, or entirely for free. Thanks to this, the hospital attracted both the popularity and sympathy from the entire Jewish population. The expenses of the hospital in 1927 reached 45,000 zlotys.

It it's fitting once again to underscore the important role played in the development of the hospital by the two unforgettable dedicated public servants, Sioma Gallin and Archik Markus. These two individuals literally gave away their entire time and energy for the sake of the health and well-being of the Jewish populace of Volkovysk. These two incomparable public servants used every conceivable opportunity to advance the development of the hospital. The fact that Avigdor Perlmutter brought a substantial sum of money from America in 1922, and promised further assistance from America, served to galvanize these previously mentioned activists, and they literally did not rest, raising funds in good times and bad, until – from the wreckage – a more beautiful hospital was erected, which by that time served not only the less affluent patients, but also the ranks of the balebatim as well. The public was already better informed, and began to understand

[Page 81]

that one could not receive the same care at home that was available in a modern, well-equipped hospital, and those patients with means were anxious to use the hospital – understandably – for a set fee.

When Archik (Aharon Markus) made aliyah to the Land of Israel, Sioma Gallin remained as the director of the Jewish hospital and of the Linat Kholim Organization until the destruction of the Volkovysk community by the Nazi murderers.

Up to the First World War, the head physician was Dr. Galai. The Feldscher, Lyubich (from Grodno) who also served as the pharmacist, also worked there. After the First World War, Dr. M. Weiner, who had previously been the Kozioner Rabbiner, was the head physician of the Jewish hospital. After him, the direction of the hospital was taken over by Dr. Yaakov Sedletsky, who held the position until 1932, when Dr. Menashe Niemchik was appointed to the position. The activity of this energetic and skilled physician, and activist, is worth expounding upon at greater length


Translator's footnotes:

  1. Curiously, no good English equivalent for a simple relationship: the father-in-law of one's married child. Return
  2. These appellations were probably related to the way they made a living. Tzipkeh die Zisseh (Sweet) may have been engaged in the sale of sugar and/or confectioneries. Esther die Podriachikheh in undergarments. Return

 

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