by Jacob Solomon Berger
The task of translating the Zelva Memorial Book into English is another milestone in a continuing commitment that I have to the preservation of the history of my family. This commitment has its roots in the unique circumstances of my upbringing. I had the privilege of being raised in a four-generation household, which afforded me a very special opportunity to see a genealogical pyramid from a fairly elevated perspective. My grandparents were immigrants to the United States who came from Zelva. Because of their commitment to faith and culture, I acquired a facility with Yiddish and Hebrew commensurate with that of my native English. It was only many years later that I understood this to be an increasing rarity among native-born Americans, and as such, it jeopardized the preservation of our family folklore. The immeasurable loss caused by the Holocaust served to underscore this issue in my mind.
I was first moved to action in 1976, after making my first trip to Israel. As a result of meeting my Freidin family relatives, I discovered that our family relationships were not well understood. Indeed, the limited knowledge that existed among the older members of the family showed signs of dissipating. With encouragement from my cousin Moshe Freidin, I undertook the task of developing a chronicle of the Freidin family genealogy. An abstract of that genealogy is included in this volume.
I have continued in my capacity as Chronicler for the Freidins of Zelva, and their many descendants around the world. I became very interested in the Zelva Memorial Book project for very obvious reasons, and read the original 1984 publication with great interest. I concluded that I shared a fundamental obligation with the original editor, as expressed in his following note on the subject of the Yiddish language. Yerachmiel Moorstein recognizes that for a testament to have value and impact, it must be rendered accessible to its intended audience. Recognizing that Yiddish has seriously diminished in its role as the lingua franca of world Jewry, he translated all of the contributions to this volume into Hebrew, so that future generations of Israelis could read about the life and times of their forbears in Eastern Europe. This step was necessary, but not sufficient.
There are several hundred of our kinfolk in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia, whose future generations may not have the facility in Hebrew that would make the original work accessible to them. They too will have a need to remember, and to know from whence they came. It is for them that I decided to translate this work into English. I am somewhat amused to know that some of the passages have made the voyage from English to Hebrew, and now back to English again!
I share Yerachmiel Moorstein's outlook in approaching the task of translation. I have tried to stick to as literal a translation as I could, to convey the flavor of the authors' writings. This is a very interesting challenge. For those of you who are interested in some of the considerations, I warmly recommend the Introduction to A Treasury of Yiddish Stories, edited by Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg, Penguin Press, (see especially pp. 46-50).
Hebrew is, of course, a Semitic language, while English is Anglo-Saxon. Hebrew is very spare in its inventory of words and roots, while English ranks as one of the most malleable and rich languages, insofar as the range of choice a writer has, to express different nuances of meaning. By contrast, Hebrew often relies on Biblical metaphor and allegory, where the proper choice of a single word or phrase can telegraph a page of meaning. It is not always possible to carry this resonance of meaning across the language barrier. That is why you will see the italic print being used in more than one way. I use italic to set off words in Hebrew and Yiddish that are probably best left untranslated. Words such as Heder, Mincha, Maariv, and Tarbut can be related to quickly enough, and their untranslated flavor in the English text is welcome.
In addition, however, you will see italics used where its need is less obvious. For example, in his introduction, Yerachmiel Moorstein uses an allegorical reference to the Nazis, when he invokes the image of an Abrogator. In part, this is a literary device used to refer to a despised and hated entity only by the most indirect of means. Also, in his use of the Hebrew koret, he conjures the image of the biblical punishment of a shortened life span, coloring his description with the specter of retribution.
Sometimes the task of conveying the original text is too formidable for simple italics. Eliezer Futritzky wrote in his diary, that on his last night in Zelva, he was in the back yard of his home. In an impulse of
desire to keep the night from running out, he looks up at the moon and asks it to stop in the sky so that the night will last longer. Only a reader of the original text will see that he borrowed the exact usage from the Bible, where Joshua commanded the sun to stand still in Gibeon during his battle with the Canaanites. The resonance that comes with such usage simply will not cross the language barrier.
Here and there, the reader will also see that I have left a smattering of Hebrew text, and even some Russian, where I felt it might be appropriate. For the facility to do this, I am indebted to my computer, and the very comprehensive facilities available in the WordPerfect word processing software package. As good as it is, I must say that it lacks the warmth, grace, charm, and wit of my cousin Chaya Freidin, who typed the original tri-lingual manuscript in Israel.
I am indebted to my cousin, Chaim Jonah Gilony, and his uncle, Dr. Nahum Gelman, both of Jerusalem, who gave of their time to review this manuscript and assure the integrity of the English translation. Equally, I am grateful to Ephraim (Foyka) Gelman, whose ebullient conversation and input, helped me to put some of the content into its proper perspective.
I hope that readers of this English text will appreciate what they find within, and that they will come away with an enhanced appreciation for the life and times of the people who lived in Zelva. Most importantly, this must be a testament to the terrifying fate that overtook those who were left behind, and that this memory will be preserved for as long as our generations continue to follow in the path of our tradition.
Mahwah, New Jersey, Spring 1992
by Yerachmiel Moorstein
With the destruction of European Jewry, the Yiddish language has practically disappeared, the very language that served as their mother tongue for all of their lives in the Diaspora, until the stirrings of Zionism began, and along with it the re-birth of the Hebrew language.
Zelva youth began the study of Hebrew, but somewhat late and less than necessary. It was only after the First World War that the Tarbut and Tachkemoni schools were established, and only few students achieved enough mastery of Hebrew to be able to express themselves in it.
The day-to-day language was, as stated, Yiddish, and they spoke it at home, and among fellow Jews, in addition to the national language - Polish. It is natural therefore, that after the years of inhuman suffering, the survivors who reached the Holy Land expressed themselves in Yiddish.
In order that the heartrending stories of the survivors be accessible to coming generations, to readers that were raised at the knees of the Hebrew language, I found it proper to translate them. The translation is not literal, but the content is faithful to the essence of the original source.
But in order to preserve the original language, the reader will find the full story of our friend, Samuel Yarnivsky, of blessed memory, in Yiddish, as it appeared in the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, in New York, and other stories from [Ephraim] Foyka Gelman, and Samuel Kaninovitz [These items have also been translated into English. The interested reader is referred to the original text for the Yiddish versions. - JSB].
After several years of investing energy, thought and work, we have before us a Memorial Book about - ZELVA - in which we integrate the sacred memory of our beloved ones who were wiped out in such an awesome and terrifying manner.
No book can hope to focus on all aspects of the variegated life of our loved ones, but it can provide a foundation that will not be disappointing to our memories about what was, and is no more.
For the effort in bringing this book to reality, we are obligated to thank our friends: Emanuel Vishniatzky, Isser Zelikovitz, Mordechai Loshovitz, Menahem Levine, Ze'ev Nosatsky, and Sala Koyat.
A vote of thanks and blessings to our friends in Australia: The Slutsky brothers, Moshe and Joseph, Sandor Spector, and Herzel Borodetzky. In Israel: Joseph Wallstein, and in the United States, Ephraim Gelman - all for their contributions.
Included in our good wishes are all our friends who wrote to us and provided pictures.
A special vote of thanks goes to Chaya Freidin, for her dedicated work in preparing the manuscript for this book in the three languages that it contains.
We extend our best wishes to all the natives of our town, wherever they are, with our best wishes for a Happy New Year !
Tel-Aviv, New Year's Eve, 5745
by Pinchas Levine
We have achieved the publication of a Memorial Book about our town, Zelva, that was obliterated from the map at the hands of the Nazi aggressors and their accomplices.
Our beloved townsfolk, who to our great consternation, did not manage to escape the Vale of Tears, were herded to the gas chambers of Treblinka, and were destroyed in a frightening and earth-shattering manner, and no trace of this community that existed for hundreds of years, was left behind.
We were left no choice but to perpetuate their sacred memory by publishing this Memorial Book, thereby documenting the circumstances of the Holocaust that overtook our townsfolk. The natives of the town who reside here in Israel, number about fifty, and not all of them, myself included, are gifted with good writing skills, and they were not able to contribute a great deal to the production of this Memorial Book. As a result, our friend, Yerachmiel Moorstein took upon himself this sacred duty, to reduce to writing the history of the city, the life led there, he translated and edited the writings of our townsfolk, and brought the production of the book to a successful conclusion. I am convinced that without him, this sacred undertaking would not have been properly realized.
With this, I convey my honest assessment, and offer my deepest thanks to our esteemed colleague, Yerachmiel Moorstein for this work of his, to which he dedicated himself for nearly two years, and he completed this task of memorialization - for those who will come after us, an I hereby offer him the traditional blessing:
I find it appropriate to convey congratulations and thanks to Yerachmiel Moorstein for the effort he invested in the production of this book, a monument to the memory of the city Zelva, that was obliterated, and its Jewish population destroyed - and this, for future generations.
by Yerachmiel Moorstein
This volume cannot pretend to focus on all aspects of the variegated lives of the Jews in Zelva. What is written here, is a little bit about the central essence.
Undoubtedly, there are errors in the text, and it is incomplete in its attempt to portray to coming generations, the nature of the town up to the time of its destruction.
To those who were born in the town, this book will not disappoint them, as source of unforgettable experiences, about memories and stories of what once was and is no more.
From the day they arrived in this Land, the people of our town worked hard, each one in his own field, without consideration of how many hours they would work in a day. They felt that they were turning a vision into a reality. We will not forget their place because of their dedication to the glory of Israel.
The sons of Zelva were among the founders of Kibbutzim: Efek, Giveat-HaShelosha, Giveat-Chaim, Noan and Ramat HaShofet.
In the ranks of the Haganah:
The watchman, Mordechai Zlotnitzky - killed on the way to the Dead Sea.
The soldier, Zvi Merill, the son of Aharon, from Giveat-HaShelosha - killed in the line of duty.
The watchman, Pesach Rafilovitz - wounded in the Haifa riots of 1936-39.
The Palmach soldier - Zvi Ben-Zvi, son of Rachel Barkleid, wounded in the service and disabled in both legs. He overcame this and returned to function; participates a great deal in sport events and represents the Israeli handicapped in International Olympic events.
Eliezer Vishnitzky - son of Emanuel, an officer in the Yom Kippur War at a critical outpost. He was at a lookout post at the edge of the Suez Canal together with four of his comrades, and they held the post for four consecutive days, and it was only after Eliezer was wounded and lost his memory, that they gave up and were captured by the Egyptians. He received medical care in an Egyptian hospital.
Yitzhak Shalev- A defense department officer, and head of the technical section, who invented and perfected devices that became standards within the Israeli Defense Force, and received commendations from the defense department. This item is taken from the newspaper, BaMahaneh of 24 March 1977.
My daughter, Dr. Nitza Gurtz-Moorstein, an eye doctor, and her husband, Dr. Ernst Raphael a surgeon, who were among the first volunteers who came to Israel during the Six Day War, and did a great deal for the country.
Shlomo Mintz, the son of a townsman of ours, Abraham, of blessed memory, he is the acclaimed world class violinist, who began his career in Israel as a child prodigy, and today, at age 29, has obtained rave reviews. He appears as a soloist with the most famous philharmonic orchestras of the world, including the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.
After the Second World War, when the refugees of the conflict from our town reached the Holy Land, the first Committee of Zelva Immigrants in Israel was set up, and its purpose was to provide aid and support to the people of the town. The founders of the Committee and its members were: Moshe Geiger (of blessed
memory), Yitzhak Freidin (of blessed memory), Yitzhak Shalev, Menahem Levine, and your loyal servant, Yerachmiel Moorstein.
In the effort to produce this book, the following took and active part: Dora Geiger, continuing in her [late] husband's (Moshe Geiger) position, even though he himself was not from Zelva, Yehoshua Freidin, continuing in the tradition of his father, Yitzhak Freidin, Yitzhak Shalev, and myself.
Our Australian townsfolk:[Inputs from] Sandor Spector, Herzel Borodetzky, Moshe and Joseph Slutsky, and their sister Beracha, were provided by Sala Koyat.
Most of the townsfolk responded to our request, and participated in the publication of this book, some in substance, and others in spirit.
I permit myself in the name of the Organization of Zelva Immigrants in Israel to acknowledge the work, and thank the following of our friends: Sala Koyat, Mordechai Loshovitz, Menahem Levine, Ze'ev Nosatsky, Isser Zelikovitz and Emanuel Vishnitzky.
Despite delays, and notwithstanding the extended period of time that it took to prepare, here we have in front of us, The Zelva Memorial Book, a product of dedicated effort, produced amid doubts and worry, and [even] deficiencies in research and material. There were those who believed that this Memorial Book would never see the light of day. We have no material, they argued, at most, we may be able to put some sort of a notebook together. The publication of this book was done out of a desire to create a monument to our martyrs, who were annihilated - not because of any wrongdoing wrought by their own hands - but just because they were Jews.
I permit myself, in the name of all the members of the organization, to thank the members who helped with the assembly of the material and the finances, and especially to Yitzhak Shalev and Dora Geiger, and to the rest of the Committee: Mordechai Loshovitz, Sala Koyat, Menahem Levine and Ze'ev Nosatsky.
Frontispiece of Even Yehoshua a book of Sermons and lectures given by Rabbi Yehoshua Freidin of Ozernitsa
(Uncle of Jack Berger's Grandfather)
Frontispiece of 'Beyt Yehoshua' also compiled by Rabbi Yehoshua Freidin of Ozernitsa
(Uncle of Jack Berger's Grandfather)
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