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Zelva 100 Years Ago


Writings from the Years 1891-1900

a Weekly, later a Daily, Published in Warsaw

Abstracted by Yitzhak Shalev

Volume 91, 30 Nissan 5651 in April 1891.

Zelva - Emigration to the Land of Israel! These two words are now on everyone's lips in our town. Everywhere that we go, we see that each person is talking one to another about this. Several skilled workers, who because of their abilities, plan to leave town this coming summer to go to the Holy Land upon receipt of letters from people who know them, because there they will be able to apply their skills in order to obtain an income for their little ones. This is in place of having these same workers being idle all day in our own locale, because there is no one to hire them even for minimal work.

We have heard the news that from nearby towns, that families with the financial means have travelled to buy tracts of land in Palestine, and the people who return from their trips to the Holy Land say that “the Land is very good, and the property obtained by the people there has tuned out well for them,” and because of these reports, the excitement in our town has increased considerably. Many houses are up for sale practically for nothing, but there are no buyers, no prospects, and no one looking to buy, because who wants to buy houses in the hour when his soul and spirit is focused entirely and only on the idea of going to live in the Land of Israel? And who has the desire to spend his money at a time when he has one foot here, and the other foot is planted in the Land of Israel! An endnote: Every man thinks thoughts and sees in his vision the gates of Jerusalem opening before him, and that he will lack nothing if he will just come to the Holy Land and be fortunate...

Ze'ev Kaplan


Volume 135, 25 Sivan 5661 in 19 June 1891

Zelva 14 June - Notwithstanding the daily warnings and news that reaches us, advising that our townsfolk should not go to the Holy Land without sufficient funds in hand - many people from our area are planning to leave the land of their origins and to cast their lot in the land of Palestine; in any event, those people, who travel there without money, cause a great deal of problems for themselves, and they add no value to the condition of the settlement there in general...

Ze'ev Kaplan


The Slonim Diary (Pinkas Slonim), Volume III, Page 130

Volume 101, 26 Iyar 5655 in 8 May 1895

Zelva - About two-thirds of our town went up completely in flames yesterday at dusk, leaving the affected property owners with nothing. The enveloping fire took hold suddenly in two or three places

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simultaneously. In the twinkling of an eye, the greater part of the town was engulfed in flames. Those who were burned out were among the poor and needy, and they were left naked and without anything at all, and at this moment do not even have their next meal. This is the tenth time that we record a day of a fire in our town this year, and if the previous nine times left a deep impression on the memory of the community, this conflagration made an even larger impression because of its ferocity.

Eliezer Libert Shereshevsky


Volume 109, 10 Sivan 5655 in 21 May 1895

Zelva - The arsonists who set fire to the town were apprehended on Friday. They were all taken to the jail. It is known with certainty that they are the ones who set fire to the town.



Volume 111, 13 Sivan 5655 in 24 May 1895

Zelva - A committee has been established to provide aid to the victims of the fire, and the head of the committee is the arbitrator (farrednik), the Kohen, Mankovsky, and of our own distinguished gentry, Avraham Sedletsky, and Moshe Oryansky.

Y.A. Aranovitz


Volume 129, 4 Tammuz 5655 in 14 June 1895

Zelva - Even amidst want and deprivation, everything depends on luck, even in the case of a town consumed by fire... If all of the towns that suffered a fire receive rains, let ours be the one to receive the least amount... Our Jewish brethren, far and near: do not turn a blind eye to our impoverished town, please send donations, and let us hear from you, lest, God forbid, a Jewish community be eradicated from the midst of Israel...

Ze'ev HaKohen Kaplan


Volume 132, 8 Tammuz 5655 in 18 June 1895

Zelva - The authorities have forbidden the townspeople to begin construction before the creation of an overall municipal plan. For housing, it has been communicated to us that it is necessary to leave a space of eighteen ammot as a space between houses, and many of the fire victims have been wiped out as a result of the re-allocation of space between dwellings. It is three times already, that the townspeople have gathered in the house of the rabbi, to arbitrate between the two factions of fire victims, the “eliminated ones,” and the “returning and re-building ones,” because the former want the latter to compensate them for the loss of their property - and the participants left about the way they came, without having decided either on major or minor issues...

Libert Shereshevsky

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Volumes 154 and 161 1895

(There were two correspondents who accused a Jewish merchant of the arson but afterward it was proven that the accusation had no substance. - The Editor)


a Weekly, then a Daily,
Published in Odessa and St. Petersburg

Abstracted by Yitzhak Shalev

Volume 43, 9 Tammuz 5645 in 10 June 1885

Zelva. Close to Slonim, 2 Tammuz - We were judged with thunder, not the thunder from the heavenly heights, but with the thundering that we had been on the receiving end in recent years - the thunder of the “barefoot bunch,” and workers drunk on wine...

On Sunday, June 2, five railroad workers who were then working on the track being laid between Baranovich and Bialystok came to town, and after having drunk their fill, they went over to the Jewish stores and began to steal anything that they could lay their hands on, and the storekeepers did not confront them, knowing that this was not the time for a Jew to confront every robber and thief; but the workers were not content with this, because they also began to beat on the heads of passing Jews with iron rods that they carried in their hands. The Jews showed concern for their safety and began to run from those who were beating them, and unwittingly, one of the drunkards got hit in the head and started to bleed from his wound. The hurt one reacted violently on the ground, and raised his voice, calling for help, saying that the Jews hit him and were trying to kill him. His friends rushed to their companions who were located at a field outside the city, and in about a half-hour, about fifty of them showed up, armed with iron rods and wooden staves, yelling in loud voices: “Beat the Jews!” - and they began to wreak havoc in the town. In one hour they smashed all the glass windows in the homes of our brethren to smithereens, even the windows in the synagogues were not spared. All the stores were padlocked, and two stores that the owners didn't manage to close up from the outside, were pillaged, and nothing was left behind. People who passed by out of doors were stoned with heavy rocks, and one man and a woman who didn't have the strength to flee for their lives were struck by large stones in the head, and they both are now hovering between life and death. Pillows, linen covers, and even books were torn up, household utensils were smashed, a wine cellar was emptied into the bellies of the vandals, and the rest was spilled onto the ground. The end of the thing was like the thunder whose name and memory causes a dread among all our kinsfolk in these recent times. The one policeman who could be found in the town made no effort to restrain these vandals. This morning, the Inspector of rural police (становой пристав [Stanovoi Pristav]) came, and after him, the county officer, and a doctor, to assess the extensive damage and injury done to our brethren. They also visited the injured Jews, and wrote all of this down in their book. Afterwards, they went to visit the injured railroad worker, who was hurt by the Jews, but they no longer were able to find him in the hospital, because after the drink had worn off, he fled the hospital in the night, and he was back at his job along with his companions. A guard was put over eight of the thieving railroad workers, that were recognized by the victims, and also over two Christian townspeople who were found in possession of stolen goods in their homes, and tomorrow they will be brought to the jail at the county seat.

We continue to fear what they might do to us in the days ahead, because the railroad workers will take their satisfaction with us, as indeed they have already started to do, and we fear that their hand

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will be at us yet again, to do with us what they please. We pray that the Almighty will see our desperate plight, and return to us peace of mind, because we have had our fill of trials and tribulations without number, and our misery has risen above our heads.

Shimon Duber Freidkin


Volume 49, 1 Menahem Ab 5645 in 1 July 1885

Zelva. Near Slonim. - The perpetrators of the vandalism in our city were sent to the county seat, as I reported in the HaMelitz Volume 43, but they were not sentenced to jail, because the assistant prosecutor did not feel that it was appropriate, and they are currently free to do as they please, and they are up to their old tricks again as before, until word came from the district attorney at the county seat, to bring their trial to the district court (окружной суд [Okruzhnoi Sood]),or before the Justice of the Peace...

On June 19th, a representative of the county came once again to our town, and he went out to gather up the Jews into the synagogue, and having gathered them together, he went up to the lectern and addressed them in the following manner:

” I am here at the behest of the district officer who sent me here to speak to you, because even though the railroad workers are guilty of the vandalism that they wrought, you yourselves are the cause of all the damage, because you afforded the perpetrators an opportunity to get together, and to wreak this havoc among you, when you defended yourselves; if you had gone to complain to the police officer at the time that a few of them started to act destructively, then you would not have suffered so badly, once it had become known to him. There is no connection between the workers actions to attack you other than they drank too much, and accordingly, they acted crazily and riotously. Therefore, when they saw everyone gathering in one place, they thought to themselves that you had come to pursue them, and that is why they banded together to defend themselves and to kill the Jews. I am warning you, that if one or a number of these workers touched any of you with malicious intent, then you are to immediately go and lodge a complaint with one of the three policemen that are stationed in this town or with the section police officer, who is now also located in this town, and you are not to take the law into your own hands, and don't go run with great commotion because of things you hear in one place or another. I am also advising you that your request for army soldiers to be stationed in town for your protection - has been granted, and tomorrow, a unit (pom [rot]) of troops will arrive in town, foot soldiers led by two officers, and guards (patrol), who will patrol the streets continuously, and when needed, you will be able to turn to them for assistance, and then you will have peace and tranquility.”

To the sound of: “We hear [and obey],” - which burst forth from the lips of all those present, the officer descended from the lectern, and went his way. And we, what are we to say afterwards? Amen, may it only be as the officer said, and let us, indeed, have peace and tranquility. We say, even now, that when the workers gathered in the middle of town, even if they embarrassed us, or cursed us - all day we were silent. If they came into a store, or a saloon, and didn't pay for anything that they bought, or for the whiskey that they drank, no one touched them, and they were sent away peaceably, and it was only after a few of them started to beat the people standing around them with iron rods,

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that a few of the storekeepers stood to defend themselves.

With the large number of guards circulating through the city, our peace of mind was a bit restored. But because of this, our brethren who reside in villages that are close to the rail line, melt every day with fear, because after the ability of the workers to attack the Jews in the city was limited, they will pour out all their wrath on the Jews who live in the villages...

On June 20th, the army unit came to the city, in accordance with the word of the county officer, with great fanfare and music, and we were made further at ease.

Shimon Duber Freidkin


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