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[Page 477]

4. Landsmanshaftn

 

[Page 479]

Our Landsmanshaft[1] in Israel

Khaya Garbe

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

I want to tell you about our landslayt[2] in erets–yisroyl [Tr. Note: The Land of Israel], the first pioneers who left our shtetele [Tr. Note: Diminutive of shtetl (town), a very small town]. In 1925, a small group came to erets–yisroyl – Eliahu (Eylke) Itskovitsh, Nosn Kaplan (Leybe), Zilpa Blyakher, Moshe Mintz (from the store), David–Leyb Berkovitsh, Khaye Shifre Blyakher, Mirke Mazeh, Dov Zandman z”l [Tr. Note: zikhroyno livrokho – “of blessed memory”].

Dov was one of the finest people, the first pioneer of communication in Jerusalem, and a person of high education. He organized the library in the bus co–operative “Hamekasher” that exists to this day [Tr. Note: Created in 1931, absorbed by a larger cooperative – “Egged” – in 1967]. He died oyf kidesh hashem [Tr. Note: A martyr to God and Judaism] enroute to the university on Mount Scopus and the Hadassah hospital, before the creations of the State of Israel. He perished with tens of other educated individuals – professors and doctors, nurses, and others. There were five buses traveling – and all the passengers perished. To this day all of Jerusalem remembers “our Dov” (as they called him).

Several of the first pioneers returned home because those were difficult times in erets–yisroyl, as it says in the Toyre [Tr. Note: Bible]: “ve hoorets oykheles es yoyshveho” [“and the land devours its inhabitants”]. It was difficult, very difficult, and not everyone could surmount these hardships. However, our land was built upon these adversities until we attained our own country.

Our small group of landslayt was concentrated in one area and we always sought each other out to help one another with whatever each of us could. When Hitler conquered Europe and all our dearest loved ones in the old home perished horribly, calls for assistance reached us from the few surviving landslayt – broken both physically and spiritually, having endured the horrors of the second world war. Our landslayt in America helped them out with packages, with money, and with comforting words. These were the fine and noble deeds that originated in our old home, when those from Divenishok in New York always supported our shtetl, where poverty reigned – with an article of clothing, shoes, with help buying a horse for someone whose old nag had fallen, assistance for the shil [Tr. Note: Also called shul – The house of prayer and learning], for the gmiles khesed [Tr. Note: Charity fund] and for all of the cultural institutions.

Our tiny group in erets–yisroyl lived in friendship and harmony. We were, after all, left with no one else, and therefore supported one another both materially and morally.

After the war, landslayt, survivors of the shoah [Tr. Note: Hebrew for Holocaust], began arriving as olim khadashim [Tr. Note: Hebrew for new immigrants to the Holy Land], and they needed assistance. Therefore, the idea of creating a gmiles khesed fund was born, since the newcomers would need an apartment – and that required a large sum of money. Thus, we created a fund and each contributed what he could, and when a khaver [Tr. Note: Friend] would arrive, we would provide him with rent money for three months in advance and the bare essentials for the apartment, until the newcomer could start working and stand on his own two legs. Our fund has been in existence for quite a few years.

Since 1944 we have gathered yearly for the annual remembrance ceremony to honor the martyred.

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Landsmanshaft – Fraternal organization of people who were born or lived in the same town or geographic area. Often, the second and even third generation are included in the membership. See landslayt. Return
  2. Landslayt – People who were born or lived in the same town or geographic area. Return


[Page 481]

American Relief[1] Creates
the gmiles khesed
[2] Fund

Tsvi Ahuvi (Lib)

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

After the proclamation of the State of Israel, Divenishok landslayt [Tr. Note: People who were born or lived in the same town or geographic area] living in America began to visit Israel. The first was Harry Levine, who received his last regards from his father Yitshak–Leib through me. He had died of great anguish three days after the Soviets arrested me.

Harry Levine interested himself with the situation of the Divenishokers in Israel and asked what they required. I explained to him that the most urgent issue was a roof over one's head, and that a fund needed to be set up so that any needy Divenishoker could take a loan from it to pay for an apartment.

Very soon after, his son Leo Levine came from America and brought 1,500 dollars from Relief to create the gmiles khesed fund. After him, Meir Bolinski came to visit (twice), Solomon Levine (Raphael's son), Shmuel Kamenitski, Khayim–Yidl Horvits, and others that brought money for our loan fund.

Still later, Milton Kartshmer and Jack Kaplan came.

It is worthwhile to point out the Barnett family – four brothers that actively participate in Divenishok aide–giving. They are my close friends, and so I brought up the question of the gmiles khesed fund, and they helped us.

Thanks to the fund, many of our landslayt acquired their own apartment. In addition to that we also assisted needy Divenishokers.

As the head of the gmiles khesed fund, I am in a position to appropriately evaluate the importance of this institution that our brothers in America set up here in Israel.

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Relief – Refers to the relief fund that the Divenishokers in America set up to assist their brethren in need, both in Israel and elsewhere. Return
  2. Gmiles Khesed (kase) – Charity and self–help loan fund Return


[Page 483]

An Appeal From Former Divenishok Residents
in the Land of Israel to their Townspeople in America

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

Brothers, Sisters, Jews!

The Divenishok landslayt [Tr. Note: People who were born or lived in the same town or geographic area] in erets–yisroyl [Tr. Note: The Land of Israel], appeal to you:

The war is over. The European continent that was cut off during the war years is again open, but with the consequences of five years of the Hitler–regime in the occupied countries: Destruction and death, cities and hundreds of towns wiped out – along with densely populated Jewish settlements. Among them, our small shtetele [Tr. Note: Diminutive of shtetl, which is a small town] Divenishok, that had stood for hundreds of years cloaked in peace and tranquility, where Jews led a life of high quality from the social aspect as well as the cultural, with schools, libraries, savings–and–loans funds, and organizations. There, a body of youth grew up instilled with national and cultural values. Everything, however, was wiped out, crushed.

Our shtetl was annihilated in the Jewish month of Iyar of the year tof–shin–beys [Tr. Note: 5702 according to the Jewish calendar], the 11th of May, 1942. Our parents, brothers and sisters were murdered in a most brutal manner: Burnt and shot, and the small children suffocated. A black layer of ash covers the earth. The wheat flourishes and sprouts on the fields enriched by our brothers' flesh and blood.

From this gruesome catastrophe, just over forty persons managed to save themselves – some of them partisans – they are now dispersed over all of the military occupation zones in Germany, Austria, and Italy.

They stretch out their hands for help – their only goal is erets–yisroyl, the place where they will find a home, after their painful suffering. We have lived to see the moment when we can take in the first of these “swallows” from our shtetl: a former partisan who has reached us after a long journey of wandering from the White Russian forests, through Italy, to finally reach us. All the landslayt immediately helped him to settle in and helped him to get back on his feet. We await other survivors that we expect to reach us with the passage of time. We are in need of assistance for them.

Today, the 11th of May, 1946, the fourth yortsayt [Tr. Note: Annual memorial day in memory of the passing of an individual or group] for our kdoyshim [Tr. Note: Jewish martyrs], we – the landslayt of Divenishok – stand deeply broken at a solemn gathering with tears in our eyes and with words that are too meagre to describe the great calamity.

We have decided, in the holy memory of our kdoyshim, to assist the remaining survivors of our town, still wandering across Europe on their way to reaching us, with all our potential.

We have also decided to erect a monument to commemorate our shtetl. There are few of us here in Israel and we are therefore limited in the possibilities to carry all this out.

You, landslayt from Divenishok in America, who have with your efforts and compassion built a synagogue, a library, and all the cultural institutions in the last 20 years through your financial support – we appeal to you: Help us. Call together a mass meeting, carry out an act, to enable the sharis–hapleyte [Tr. Note: Survivors of a calamity – in this case, the Holocaust] to come to us.

Correspondence and money transfers can be sent according to the following address [Tr. Note: The actual address was presented in Hebrew, except for the word “PALESTINE”]: Eliahu Itskovitsh and Khaya Levine, Borokhov neighborhood, haMefane street, PALESTINE.

These two persons are authorized by all participants in the gathering to administer all opportunities and to maintain correspondence with you, brothers in America,

Every year, Yud Iyar [Tr. Note: The 10th of the Jewish month of Iyar] we will congregate in the place where the monument will be erected. We here in erets–yisroyl, and you in America will be consoled by the sharis–hapleyte that have survived.

Assist us in rehabilitating our unfortunate brethren.

In the name of the Divenishok landslayt in erets–yisroyl
Eliahu Itskovitsh


[Page 485]

Landsman[1] in Israel
Tells About the Landsmanshaft
[2] in America

Yakov Bloch / Tel Aviv

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

On the 31st of July, 1950, I arrived in New York from Tel Aviv, where I have lived since 1935 (that is, approximately 15 years). I lived through all of the events in that land, until the creation of the State of Israel.

A few years ago, I lost my right hand in an accident at work. In order to undergo an operation to attach an artificial hand, I came here, thanks to the noble assistance of my landslayt[3] and the so called “Ladies Auxiliary”. They have made, and are continuing to make, every effort for my sake, to assist me in the particular circumstances at the hospital where I now find myself.

Being aware of the activities that have been carried out by the “Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary” for various purposes in their 20 year existence; being aware of the aid that through them was provided the rescued Hitler–victims and pleytim [Tr. Note: Refugees] in the camps in Germany and Italy, and later – the new arrivals to America and Israel, and their ongoing aid to this day; being aware of their warm response to the “United Jewish Appeal” and other achievements – I cannot ignore my duty to present an assessment and express my high estimation for these “unknown soldiers” that have loyally served, for many years, our needy brother–landslayt and their people.

Who are these auxiliary ladies? Where do they come from? What has moved them to organize themselves and to carry out their bountiful activity?

The shtetl [Tr. Note: Small town] Divenishok is located far far off the beaten track, on the border between White Russia and Lithuania, a distance of 60 vyorst [Tr. Note: Old Russian measurement (verst) – Approximately 60 km, or 39.8 miles] from Vilna, that was once the yerushalayim d'lite [Tr. Note: “Jerusalem” of Lithuania]. According to certain historical research, Jews have lived there since the 17th century, creating a Jewish community that has been subject to various governments and regimes–– Lithuanian, Russian, German, Soviet, and during the period of 1921 until August 1939, Polish sovereignty.

During these several hundred years the Jewish community suffered greatly at the hands of their Christian neighbors. More than once the Jewish community suffered pogroms, incineration, and destruction. However, after each such calamity Jewish inhabitants returned to their foundations and made a united effort to rebuild the shtetl, reconstruct their Jewish life, build shiln, besey midroshim, khadorim [Tr. Note: Houses of prayer, places of learning, children's schools] – and in this manner, carried on from generation to generation.

In their tiny enclave, they lived out their Jewish lifestyle far from the wide world. The haskalah [Tr. Note: Bloch uses phrase “renaissance period”], however, reached even the smallest of communities, including this shtetl. The Jewish youth thirsted for a resurgence, for renewal, for enlightenment, and they opened their vistas to the world–at–large.

At the same time, there emerged a desire for emigration, and young Jewish men and women from Divenishok were swept into the stream going towards America during the latter part of the previous century (the1880s). They became pioneers and dreamers for a new and free life, ideas instilled in them by socialistic–democratic philosophies prevalent at the time.

In America many of them joined the labor movement and fought for worker's rights. Few in numbers but adamant in their will to stay connected to the old home, they did everything to stay in touch with the backward and impoverished birth–shtetl they had recently abandoned. They remembered the great privation of their brothers, sisters, parents, and friends across the sea.

In 1903, they founded the “Divenishok Society” in America, whose goals were: Mutual assistance for landslayt immigrants, and aid for needy individuals and institutions back in the shtetl. The old country was like a wailing wall for them, a source of comfort. They yearned for their days of youth and for the experiences of shtetl life.

They began by sending money to the needy. They brought in many relatives to America. Thanks to their assistance, libraries were established in the shtetl, as well as the construction of a modern school. At this school the youth received instruction, including a Jewish education and exhortations to settle in erets–yisroyl [Tr. Note: The Land of Israel] in order to revitalize our nation and its land. A large number of these youths did indeed realize their aspirations and immigrated to erets–yisroyl, and struggled in the building of our land.

I remember that in 1929 several of the officers of the Devinishok Relief fund came to visit us in our shtetl: Mr. Meir Bolinski, his wife Fene, and family, Mr. Joseph Levai and his wife, z”l [Tr. Note: zikhroyna livrokho – “of blessed memory”]. They were all very warmly received in the shtetl. The guests expressed their truly paternal love and enormous devotion.

There was not a single institution in our shtetl that was not been assisted by them. They all visited, and as a result, rejuvenated our activities. We have a very great deal of gratitude to express to them, because thanks to them progress was introduced to Jewish Divenishok in those years.

After returning to America, Meir Bolinksi and his wife, with the assistance of dear Nellie Brown, Penny Sbeyski and her husband, Mr. Davey, Lina Cohen, Rose Becker, and others – established the “Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary” with the goal of assisting the poorer class of Divenishok inhabitants in all matters: with food and heating, with medicines and various materials, getting the war victims back on their feet, etc.

In this manner they continued their holy work – until the outbreak of the Second World War that brought an end to Jewish life there. Among the various Jewish settlements in the vicinity of Vilne destroyed by the Hitlerian beasts and their henchmen, our old and dear home, our birth–shtetl Divenishok was also destroyed.

Our dearest ones, our dear parents, our brothers, our sisters, perished tragically at the hands of the bloody murderers, on the 11th of May, 1942, together with 2000 other Jews from the nearby shtetl of Voronova.

The despair is immense. Every contact with the shtetl has been cut off. The war continues and the messages received are very sad. We hear about the death and destruction and we are helpless.

However, the “Ladies Auxiliary” does not give up its work regardless of the apathy that has fallen over certain members. On the contrary! At this time, the young activists – Milton and Sara Kartshmer who had just arrived (re–immigrated) from Cuba – stand up to the task. They throw themselves into their work raising money and searching and inquiring everywhere: Maybe someone has survived the holocaust?

They succeed in uncovering traces of surviving landslayt from the shtetl and the surrounding area. Parcels of food are shipped to them, as well as clothing and money. Letters of comfort are sent as a balm on the wounded hearts of those who survived. More than 30 survivors have been tracked down, and the “Ladies Auxiliary” via Mr. Bolinski, Mr. Kartshmer, and Miss Sara K., carry on a correspondence with each and every one of them.

I had the opportunity to look at tens of letters from survivors that were sent to the “Ladies Auxiliary”. These letters are pages from the history of the holocaust tragedy, the suffering, the dismay, the victims–– and the miraculous rescue and comfort of the pleytim who were practically reborn, having to regain their trust in humanity and friendship. The activities of assistance for the pleytim continue for those who come to America, Canada, and erets–yisroyl.

The “Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary” is now entering its 21st year of existence. She carries on her shoulders the weight of many years of activity and positive deeds that greatly aided the sharis–hapleyte. In the name of the landslayt in the State of Israel, and in the name of the surviving pleytim that have found a home with us in erets–yisroyl, I laud you, dear friends, and wish upon you the strength to continue your holy efforts for many more years with renewed strength, a more steadfast belief, laying brick upon brick, and achieving through fruitful work the rebuilding, renewal and rebirth of our People in the State of Israel.

**

I present here the letter I published in the New York “Forverts”, the 18th of September 1950. I wrote the letter while in the Hasbrouck Heights Hospital and it was a great satisfaction for me that the aforementioned daily Yiddish newspaper in the US published these warm words concerning our landsmanshaft, who truly earned it.

This picture of the blessed work of the Divenishokers would not be complete without a recounting of their activities – particularly since there exists a rich source of documentation in the form of Anniversary booklets. I will therefore expand the letter in the “Forverts” with a more meticulous account of the Divenishok activities in the United States of America – as detailed in the archive material – and there is indeed much to recount !

**

Here is one of their invitations to the farewell evening in honor of my return to Israel:

“Worthy sisters, brothers and landslayt !

It is with great joy that we invite you to participate in a special gathering that will take place Sunday night, the 4th of February [1951], at our locale in the Central Plaza annex, 40 East 7th street, New York.

The get–together is given in honor of Yakov Bloch, on the occasion of his returning to the State of Israel.

The “Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary” expresses its pride and joy with an achievement that surpasses all its prior achievements.

At the same time, we send out our heartiest words of admiration and thanks to our praiseworthy sister and brother, Fene and Meir Bolinski, for the faithful accommodation and determination that have made Yakov feel at home and close. Therefore let us join together to make this farewell evening a joyous and unforgettable one. Fine refreshments will be served.”

And now – what the publications and documents recount.

 

10th Anniversary of the Divenishok landslayt in New York [Tr. Note: 1903–1913]

1.1 Message from the President Martha Zalkin

1. Today, the 7th of December, 1913, we are celebrating the 10th Anniversary of our Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary. [Ed. Note: The year given here is the year for the 10th anniversary of the Divenishok Society not that of the Ladies Auxiliary. According to references in this article and elsewhere in this book, the 10th anniversary of the Ladies Auxiliary is believed to have occurred in late 1939 or 1940.

Ten years have passed swiftly because we were immersed in good and important work. Is there anything more vital than assisting the needy and striving to still their hunger and warm their frozen limbs? The Auxiliary has not waited for those suffering to ask for assistance. The Auxiliary has continuously taken care to oversee that the disadvantaged should receive aid in time.

It is now my pleasure to inform you that the Auxiliary today honors the brother and sister, Meir and Fene Bolinski – with a testimonial dinner. If not for Meir Bolinski's great contribution to the Auxiliary, we would not have had this 10th Anniversary. These two wonderful people have not spared anything: Time, money, and hard work. We therefore celebrate our 10th Anniversary with a dinner for our beloved good friends Meir and Fene. They deserve it. We wish them health and prosperity for many, many years to come.

It is of the utmost importance to note that since the Auxiliary cannot physically reach Divenishok, we have united with the following Jewish institutions: HIAS, Jewish Congress, and the Joint. The HIAS has contacts with the entire Jewish community in Europe. If our landslayt require aid they are surely receiving care. The Auxiliary has contributed a nice sum to these institutions, and will continue to do so as long as will be necessary. We also help the Deborah Tuberculosis Sanitorium [Ed. Note: Today this institution is known as the Deborah Heart and Lung Center] and the Jewish Guild for the Blind. As you can see my friends, the Auxiliary does not sit with folded arms. It goes out and helps wherever it is needed.

Let us all together, both members and those gathered here – live to see the 25th Anniversary.

 

1.2 Greetings from the Organizing Committee of the 10th Anniversary of the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary

The Organizing Committee has taken upon itself a great responsibility. We are celebrating our 10th Anniversary of our auxiliary with a banquet and testimonial dinner. We see the figure of our beloved president, sister Martha Zalkin. We do not have enough words to praise the excellent and hard work you have carried out under your nine years of administration. Thanks to your energy and logic, the Auxiliary has continued to soar. Therefore, beloved and dear sister Martha, we express our deepest and most heartfelt wishes that you should always be with us. Be well and strong, and live to a ripe old age, together with you wonderful husband.

With sisterly regards: Mrs. Fene Sverski, chairman of the Organizing Committee; Mrs. Rose Land, Editor.

 

1.3 Heartfelt Regards for the 10th Anniversary

I want to express my festive feelings for today's celebration. My heart spills over with joy that the Auxiliary has endured to celebrate its 10th year. These years have not flowed by easily. The Auxiliary has gone through difficult moments. I recall how we needed to appeal to everyone's heart to convince them of the good work carried out by the Auxiliary. The work was indeed fruitful – and my heart is therefore filled with joy.

A special good word for the president Martha Zalkin. You have truly earned the credit for the success of the Auxiliary.

Your friend, Meir Lend.

 

1.4 Three Active Women across the Sea (In the Old Home)

With much joy and the greatest of honor do we present three photographs in our journal of the women's committee in Divenishok–across–the–sea. They make sure that everyone receives the necessary aid. These are: Mikla Krizovski, Eshter Ingel, and Tsipe Leah Kaplan. The three sisters are an embodiment of our Auxiliary. They are three branches of the same tree. We share with them our great celebration. We drink a toast to your health – that you should continue your good work for our unfortunate ones.

It is a divine act for us to seize this opportunity of expressing a thousand thanks to our dear friend Hirsh Krizovski, who has enabled us to show the pictures of Divenishok. Today at the banquet we will show all the pictures, and we believe that everyone will be roused.

With heartfelt wishes from all the Auxiliary officers and members,

Mrs. Rose Land, Editor.

 

1.5 Extra announcement

Dear friends and landslayt,

We have managed to acquire photographs of our old home, our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and good friends. All of the pictures have been very well photographed and you can get these pictures at the gathering and also at the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary meetings.

Come to the gathering and get a picture of your loved ones. Contact Jacob Zalkin.

Following are the photographs:

Patzlof, the Mill, Sore Ditse, Bere Hirsh, the hekdesh [Tr. Note: hospital for the poor], the harness–maker, Itsik Leib, Zalmen Kushes, the pharmacy, the church, Surles palace, Geranion Street, Peysekh the Shames [Tr. Note: Sexton managing and maintaining the synagogue], Daniel Shloymes, the Rabbi's house, Meir Zalmen Vayner, the Polish school, Sore Ditse's house, holiday dress, Leyb Dubin's house, the bathhouse and the well, the roof chimney, the library building, Meyshe the tinsmith, the market well, Abba the shoemaker, Meir the tailor, Meir Zalmen's house, Itsik Leib's house, Zalmen Kushe's house, Elke the Mute, Sore Feygl Mikels, Moishe Mamke's houses, the shtetl from a distance, the new beys hamedresh [Tr. Note: Synagogue or holy place of learning], Ite Avreml's house, Yankl Artshom's house,

The gate of the cemetery, the ‘kudre’ [Tr. Note: Literally a curved object; could refer to a curved portion of the street or some other unknown landmark] on Vilne street, Zelda daughter of Peysekh the beggar, Khana Leye is embroidering a sack, the old beys hamedresh. Shabes, going to shul [Tr. Note: Synagogue] on shabes, Elke Magaziner's house, Khana Leye Kaplan's house, Gedalia the wall builder's house, Vintse the water carrier, Velvl Khaykl's at the butcher's,

The forest and Oshmene Road, Shmuel the kettle maker's house, the tailor and his wife, Nosn the tailor and his wife, Shmuel Yankl the beggar's house, Libe Ite – left, Sheyne Ite, the coachmen are traveling to Vilne, Dubizishok street with the cemetery, Elke the warehouse keeper at her house, Peyshe the beggar with Berl Kalmen, Zalmen Aharon with some Jews.

The post and Motele Roshkes' wall [Tr. Note: The word “moyer” here may also be a ‘brick house’], the Hebrew school with the teachers, Hirsh the ‘red haired’ at work, Old Shloyme with a calf at the market, Shloyme the Butcher's house with his family, Bartnovski's house, Leybe the Coachman, Are Yankl Krizovski as he's planting tomatoes, Reyzl the daughter of Leybe Bartnovski on her porch, Leybl the Smith with Nokhemke at work. Eli the Tinsmith lets the cow out for the first time, Yankl the Aeroplane [Tr. Note: A nickname meaning ‘flighty’], Elinke the Tinsmith's and son–in–law, Kahas and his mother, and Dovid the Shoemaker and his wife.

 

1.6 A Greeting for the 10th Anniversary

A few words to our beloved brother and devoted friend Jack Zalkin.

We are all sure that this festive day is one of the deepest and most impressive celebrations for our brother, Zalkin. All of us who have worked with him over the years express our most heartfelt appreciation for the continued loyal and unswerving work that he carries out at every opportunity.

Much of that credit goes to our ‘mother’ – as we are wont to call her – Martha.

We are sure, however, that she would have been unable to accomplish much of what was so wonderfully and precisely carried out if it were not for our brother and devoted folks–person, Jack Zalkin. His entire being is immersed in his work. He does everything with heart and soul, and spares no effort or time. For him there is nothing too difficult nor any hour too late. There are nights he has not slept and days he has not eaten, running from one end of New York City to the other – and all for the benefit of the Ladies Auxiliary, to ensure assistance for the needy. He never asked for any honor. And so, we therefore wish brother Zalkin many long years of health.

With Sisterly Regards,
On Behalf of the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary, Ada Silverblank.

 

2. 30th Anniversary of the Divenishok Society of Greater New York [Tr. Note: 1903–1933]

2.1 Greetings by Yoysef L. Livay, first, and now current president

As the first president of the Divenishok Society, I greet you my brothers at this 30th anniversary and wish you a heartfelt welcome.

I feel that I will continue the difficult but satisfying work that I had taken upon myself with love and devotion – of course also with your assistance – for the progress and enhancement of our society.

The 30 years of existence of our Divenishok Society reminds me of the hard work, toil, and sacrifice that I, both as founder and as a member, have invested in realizing our aspirations to reach our goals. We see that our work has not been in vain–– to the contrary. We have managed to erect a building that makes the Divenishok landslayt proud.

We come to this 30th anniversary at a time when the Divenishok Society is flourising, with a membership of 150 persons, with a guaranteed financial success, with a good reputation, and full of enthusiasm and hope for the future.

 

2.2 Ben Shloyshim Lekoyekh – Meir Zusman Ex–President

I step up with great reverence to the task of describing briefly the history of this wonderful moment that we now witness proudly – the Divenishok Society of New York. Fully 30 years of work have gone into reaching this glorious monument.

When one looks at a firm in existence for 30 years no one asks questions about its achievements. Instead, the general public relies on the firm's activities with complete trust, justified by its 30 years of existence.

Certain of our brothers who were for some time passive as to the activities of the society – and I would even dare say they were unreceptive to the society and its activists – will now have to respect it, whether they want to or not, if they themselves expect to be respected. This is because we are now a ben shloyshim lekoyekh, and when faced with such prominence one must, as a rule, show respect.

 

2.3 In Memorium

The special publication in honor of the 30th Anniversary of the Divenishok Society of Greater New York contained a list in memory of the members who had passed away:
Morris Goldfine, Khaim Alter Horvitzs, Sam Trackel, Reuven Rabinovits, Yeshayahu Kartshmer, Ike Levine, Meir Pruzan, Benjamin Tublitski, Joseph Ross, Moyshe Yakov Daytsh, Nathan Smith, Morris Andelovitsh, Isaac Levine, Morris Goldberg, Philip Levine, Abbie Talel, Jacob Gershonovitsh, Louis Rothman, Binyamin Alter Dubin, Sarah Rudnik, Yete Levine, Ida Dubin, Libe Levine, Yete Bayevitsh, Roze Cohen, Bessie Forman, Rosie Parson, Line Blumgarden, Freyde Kartshmer, Ida Levine, Ene Kraus, Bela Levine, Fene Hurvits, Yete Balit Horvits, Khaye Dvoyre Smith, Feyfe Toybe Horvits, Rebecca Rabinovits, Mrs. Tushitski.

 

3. The 35th Anniversary of the Divenishok Society [Tr. Note: 1903–1938]

3.1 Greetings by Yoysef L. Livay, first and current president

It has again fallen upon me as president of the Divenishok Society to greet all friends and members to our 35th anniversary celebration. I am honored by the yoke [Ed. Note: the role of president] placed upon me by the Divenishok Society. The task has been pleasant. The harder the work has become, the more the need for it – and it must be done. Helping the needy has been both a joy and a pleasure.

During these 35 years, the Divenishok Society has undergone various periods. During these past 5 years there has been a difficult period of unemployment. In these same 5 years we have spent about 5,000 dollars for death benefit endowments and health benefits. We also contributed to general charities such as the Federation for Jewish Philanthropic Societies, American Jewish Congress, the Joint, and various other institutions.

I am very happy that we will be opening our “Old Age Fund”. Beginning with the year 1939 an elderly member in need will no longer have to approach anyone about not being able to pay his dues.

The Divenishok Society has also paid cemeteries to the tune of about 10 thousand dollars and remains in a healthy financial state. We have about 160 members. When we add their family members we can say that the membership is over 300.

I am pleased that there is now peace in our organizations. May there never again be flare–ups and may we all work in harmony. When peace reigns amongst us then we will continue to progress.

 

3.2 Greetings from Meir Lend

It is an outstanding moment for me to write this greeting, my dear brothers. We gather again to celebrate out 35th anniversary – with magnificence and elegance.

For us members it is a historic moment because during these 35 years worlds have turned upside down. Powerful leaders have been eliminated. Many nations have lost their civilization and were set back a full generation. Many societies have perished, but the Divenishok Society continues to move forward.

From year to year our society has grown.

It sounds fantastic: from Divenishok, a small shtetele, immigrants came to New York and found the society in 1903 with a handful of people. Who could foresee then, that from that small sprout a giant tree would grow with 160 new branches. Yes, the society is the pride of Divenishok. The society has made it possible that all Divenishokers would be able to gather together.

At age 13 [TR Note: 1916], the society gave birth to a child – that was the ‘Relief’. For the several and twenty years since its creation, the Relief has sent thousands of dollars over to Divenishok, rescuing hundreds of people from poverty. Without the Relief, tens of children would have been left without an education. To this very day the Relief assists our destitute. This is the fruit borne by our society.

Another great creation has emerged from our society, in the 27th year [TR Note: 1930] since its founding, the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary was born. The Auxiliary is like having a grandchild for the society and the Auxiliary also has many deed of which to be proud. It sends hundreds of dollars a year for bread and wood. In a word, all the branches do noble work.

It is important to point out, that the society also has a great–grandchild – the “Junior League”. These institutions are our children. They have united and committed themselves to the destitute in Divenishok.

 

3.3 Society Activity (In relation to the 35th anniversary)

By Rabbi Israel Movshovitsh, for over 20 years rabbi in Divenishok, and to this day, a rabbi in Bronx New York.

During a period of political twilight there arose an idea to create a Divenishok Society in order to unite all the brothers and sisters who saw their first light in a small shtetl in what was once Russia, and to join together all those whose cradles stood in those tiny, meager, and dark dwellings in Divenishok. The idea of the founders was that at brotherly gatherings members would recount their joys and their tribulations. Unfortunately, the causes of suffering were more than those of joy, particularly for the hard working immigrants.

It is not easy to present an overview – especially a short one – of everything that the Society has achieved. However, one thing does remain fresh in my memory: during the period when the population of Divenishok lived through the worst trials of the war [Tr. Note: First World War], the evacuation under the Russians, the hunger under the Germans, the terrible forced labor, pogroms and oppressions. During this lengthy period of isolation from the greater world around (and even from the closer surrounding area) there suddenly appeared a ray of light: The leaders of the society decided to establish a ‘Relief’, whose purpose would be to aid fallen home–owners, to provide a Jewish education for poor children, and to ease the situation of needy widows and orphans.

With this concise overview, I have perhaps managed to bring up certain memories, but these far from encompass the diverse activity of the society during its 35 years of existence.

 

4. Greeting to the 45th Anniversary of the Divenishok Society of Greater New York [Tr. Note: 1903–1948]

Celebrated the 18th of December 1948, at the Paramount Mansion, 183rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, New York.

From President Yoysef Livay:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet you all with pride and love, brothers and sisters, to the celebration of our beloved Divenishok Society. 45 years have passed since our society was founded – great, stormy years in the history of our people.

It was at the beginning of the 20th century. Our parents and brothers in the old home were oppressed, and in great streams they made their way as immigrants to the new, unfamiliar world – America. They wandered around, lonely, over the streets of New York, and sought the hand of friendship so as appease, together, the spiritual longing for the old home, for parents, for wife and child.

And then the Divenishok Society of New York was created. Our beginning was humble. Seven landslayt came together on the 7th of October, 1903, at the house of Simon Levine at 137 Market Street on the East side of New York, and laid the foundation of our Divenishok landsmanshaft.

The purpose of the society was to help with health benefits and burial plots and funerals. However, for the members, it meant more than just the material help. It meant brotherly, spiritual support, mutual aid, fellowship at times of joy, and God forbid, in times of sorrow. It meant help for the sick and the poor as well as money, counseling, and practical assistance.

Very quickly our society became loved and grew in membership. The society drew in landslayt and friends with their wives and children. As numbers increased so also did the charitable activities of the society for noble causes.

Tens of years have passed. The First World War came and the Divenishok Society threw itself into the Relief's work; it helped rebuild what was destroyed in the old homeland, and brought it back to life, set the suffering brothers back on their feet, aiding them with money, food and clothing.

Our women and sisters stepped up and established the Ladies Auxiliary, and together with the Relief, threw themselves with devotion into the task of performing good deeds. They helped bring over immigrants and took them in, and sought to support them and help them find work.

Again, a number of years passed, and the great tragedy of our European brothers came to pass – The Second World War. Our old home had been burnt and became desolate. Our ill–fated brethren were treacherously slain at the hands of the enemy. Again, it became urgent to offer aid and succor. Again, our Relief together with the assistance of the Ladies Auxiliary, displayed a commitment to offer help to the misfortunates.

The actions of our ‘Relief’ shall be engraved in golden letters in the annals of the Devinishok society. We may be proud for our children and future generations, and serve as an example of benevolence and heartfelt goodwill.

I express my wish that our currently large group consisting of 150 members will continue to increase. Our dear and beloved family should grow in scope and significance. May all of our brothers and sisters and their families live happily to see nakhes [Tr. Note: Pride and joy] from their children and grandchildren for the zkhus [Tr. Note: Privilege] of doing maasim toyvim [Tr. Note: Good deeds].

Greetings unto you my dear brothers and sisters of the Divenishok Society on this day of our great celebration – the 45th anniversary of our Divenishok Society of New York.

***

[Tr. Note: The following is by Y. Bloch (or possibly the editor of the Yizkor book)]:

Even though the older generation of activists of the Devinishok landslayt in New York is now in the oylem hoemes [Tr. Note: Place of truth – Heaven], their children continue the beautiful tradition and continue the blessed work, albeit not in the same scope or with the same enthusiasm as their fathers and grandfathers…

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. landsman – Person who was born or lived in the same town or geographic area as others (plural is: landslayt). See landslayt, landsmanshaft. Return
  2. landsmanshaft – Fraternal organization of people who were born or lived in the same town or geographic area. Often, the second and even third generation are included in the membership. See landsman, landslayt. Return
  3. landslayt – Plural of landsman. See also landsmanshaft. Return


[Page 503]

The 70th Anniversary
of the Divenishok Relief in America

Binyamin Dubinski

Translation by Emma Karabelnik

It is hard to determine when the first Divenishok immigrants come to America. The fact that the ‘Relief’ was established in 1903 clearly proves that emigration from Divenishok started long before. It began back in the 19th century. In the beginning of the current century[1] there was already a quite large amount of Divenishker in America–– enough to establish a ‘Relief’.

This fact proves that our compatriots back then were blessed with initiative, intelligence, temperament – and talent, and also with a strong commitment to social and philanthropic activity.

There were three factors that caused emigration flow to America. First, there was the severe poverty of the Jews living in the “Pale of Settlement” in Tsarist Russia. The poverty was hard, especially among laborers. It's not surprising that young laborers looked for a way to reach the free world.

The second factor was the revolutionary wind spreading like a storm in Tzarist Russia, reaching even to our little shtetl. A branch of the “Bund”[2] was established in Divenishok, and all the fine young boys and girls, and also the intelligentsia, devoted themselves passionately to revolutionary activity. Jewish youth demanded equality, freedom and justice –they didn't have any of these in Divenishok.

The third factor increasing the flow of immigrants to America was the repressive policy implemented by the Tsarist regimes towards the whole Jewish population. It was strictly forbidden to employ Jews in government or municipal positions; a Jew couldn't live in Moscow or [St.] Petersburg. The discrimination caused a lot of hatred towards the Tsarist regime; and Jews did everything to avoid military service. Whoever had the opportunity got out illegally, abroad, across the “green border”.

As a result of all the factors mentioned above there gathered a significant amount of Divenishker in America. Most of the immigrants were unprofessional workers and they experienced great difficulties. The conditions were bad, the system of “sweat–shops” was common everywhere, people worked long hours for low wages – and they felt bitter and desperate.

Some of Divenishok young fellows who had an interest in social activity took the initiative of establishing a Divenishok relief in America. It is hard for me to determine who were the first founders because the relief records are not in my possession – they are in America – but there is no doubt that initial credit belongs to Joseph Levi and Meir Bolinsky. Their productive activities lasted for almost their entire lives. The special edition in honor of the 50th anniversary of Divenishok relief in America (1903–1953) was largely dedicated to the activity of the first president of our relief, Joseph Levi, where he wrote about the goals and achievements that he succeeded to accomplish:

To give new immigrants financial aid;
To help them find work;
And most important – a social basis [a foundation] to help the surviving brothers from the Old Country to build a new life.

The Relief performed the duties that it took upon itself with great dedication, and did intense extensive work in different areas in order to organize and stabilize the lives of new immigrants. For this purpose they organized campaigns for the unfortunate ones: medical aid was given to those in need, and also visitation of the sick at homes or in hospitals [was arranged]. The relief also organized discussion nights, along with various activities, celebrations and cultural events.

This fruitful work by the relief brought good results. Till this day, all the ex–“rookies” are grateful for the vital aid that they received as soon as they stepped on American soil, and they are tightly connected to their Relief.

*

1914. The shot in Sarajevo fires the start of a bloody world war that lasts 5 long years. The regime in the shtetl constantly changes. The Russians retreat and the Germans come in their place. Famine in the shtetl is great. The Germans grab youngsters and send them to “labor–battalions” – forced labor. After 2 years the Germans retreat and their places are taken by Poles. The “halertchikes[3] cut the beards of Jews and imposed terror on Jewish populations. Suddenly the Poles desert our town, and the Bolsheviks come–– again famine and diseases. There is an epidemic of typhus in the shtetl, with a lot of victims.

The Bolsheviks run away and the Lithuanian cavalry comes to town. It doesn't take long before the Poles occupy the town again – and finally the regime gets stabilized.

The American Relief instantly reacted to the call for help from their Divenishok brothers and generously sent money to individuals and organizations. In New York the “Ladies Auxiliary” was established as part of the Relief, and with common effort, hundreds of dollars flew to Divenishok year after year. All of Divenishok's institutions, such as the Talmud Tora, the bank, the library, [several] Beth Midrash'es, the “Tarbut” school which was almost entirely funded by the Relief, contributions for poor, bikur cholim [aid to sick people], hachnasat–kala [Jewish weddings], hachnasat–orhim [hospitality] and others, remained operational thanks to these monetary contributions.

When the American aid didn't come on time, Rabbi Joseph Rudnik and other important shtetl leaders would go around worried and disturbed: What will be? Where will we take money to pay the teachers? Pesakh is coming – where will donations for the poor come from?

*

In 1930 two Relief board members, Joseph Levi, of blessed memory, and Meir Bolinsky, of blessed memory, came to visit the old town; they were shocked by the extent of poverty and misery in town.

Upon their return to America they enlarged the aid for their brothers in the old country even more enthusiastically. As a result of their visit there was established a “gmilut–hasadim” fund with the help of American money, which provided great help to Divenishok Jews. Every merchant, peddler, or wagon–owner who lost a horse, or any Jew who was in trouble, hurried to take a loan from the “gmilut–hasadim” fund.

In this manner the aid continued year after year. The American brothers with great [devotion] established funds for their hometown.

*

The year is 1939. On September 1, Hitler's Germany attacks Poland. The European Jews are persecuted and exterminated. Their desperate heartbreaking call “help us, save us” – didn't reach the free world.

It so happened that one of the most active members of the relief board, Milton Kartshmer, was mobilized in the American Army and took active part in the fighting in France, and came with the liberation army to the gates of Berlin. He saw with his own eyes the big tragedy that had befallen the European Jews. His Jewish heart trembled from the pain and suffering, and he decided to do everything to help Divenshok Jews who had survived [the Holocaust].

On his return to America he became the Head of our Relief and devoted himself to philanthropic work to help the last survivors of our shtetl, scattered on the roads and camps across Europe. As soon as a [new] living Divenishker was discovered, he would be contacted, and necessary aid would be sent to him. Every Divenishker found a warm heart, an open hand, and a brotherly aid.

Later, when most of the survivors had been concentrated in Israel, the relief established a “gmilut–hasadim” fund. Thanks to this, many of our compatriots were able to buy a flat, which was the greatest problem for the new Olim in Israel.

*

Seventy years is a long period of time not only in the life of an individual, but even in the life of an organization – that's why our American brothers can be proud of their Relief, which has stood out with its social and philanthropic work, with lots of energy, enthusiasm, love and fellowship.

We would like to hope, that the young generation of Americans will honor their parents and continue the important work of fellowship towards their Israeli brothers. Our prayer is that the young generation will not fall from their parents' [deeds].

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. This article was written in the 1970s so the writer refers to the 20th Century. Return
  2. A Social–Democratic movement of the time Return
  3. In the original text, the word ‘halertchikes’ is spelled: hey–aleph–lamed–ayen–reysh–tes–shin–yud–kuf–ayen–samekh. The exact meaning of the word is not yet known. Return


[Page 509]

Report from the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary

Nellie Brown

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

Divenishok, where I was born, is in the vicinity of Vilne. My father's name was Alter Saladikh. He taught both small children and adults. My mother's name was Ite, one of Berl Zelik's daughters. Our family was, as the saying goes “tsu got un tsu layt” [Tr. Note: Honest, decent, and god–fearing].

I have been in America for many years and lived through many periods, but I have always been drawn to my landslayt [Tr. Note: People who were born or lived in the same town or geographic area].

In 1930, our landslayt joined forces to create a women's organization – the Ladies Auxiliary. Our work consisted in sending money to Divenishok for heating, bread, maintaining the houses, and gmiles khsodim [Tr. Note: Charity and charitable efforts]. Our first chairperson was Lina Schwartz who excelled in her activism – to this day. The second was Libe Bolinski, always friendly and devoted, together with the wonderful Rose Aaronsohn (sister of Meir Bolinski), who played an important role in building up the Auxiliary. There was also Martha Zalkin and her finance secretary, my sister Molly Krits and myself as recording secretary. We held these positions for 10 years.

During the 10 years that Martha Zalkin was president, our undertakings grew from day to day. Of course, this was with the participation of all the members, and in particular the Bolinskis who were always the greatest communal volunteers in the organization.

Martha Zalkin greatly excelled in her work. When she was no longer president we honored her and gave her the title of honorary president of the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary. She absolutely earned it for her capable work. Also her husband Yakov Zalkin added immensely to the community activity.

In 1943, Sarah and Motl Kartsmar arrived from Cuba. It did not take long and they threw themselves with all their fervor into the activities of the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary because they became convinced that the Auxiliary carried out earnest and wonderful work.

In 1943, I was elected as chairperson of the Ladies Auxiliary together with the outstanding Penny Sbeyski as finance secretary, and the devoted Rose Becker as protocol secretary. This was during World War II. Our sons were mobilized in the army, as well as our brother Motl Kartshmer. Everyone walked about despondent and without energy. Of course this hampered the work and we had the impression that the Auxiliary would go under. It should be underscored here that the Bolinskis did not allow this to happen, because for Mrs. Bolinski, helping the needy was a part of her very existence. She, together with her husband, was adamant that the Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary should and must exist, even more than before.

As chairperson, I did everything I could to motivate and explain to the membership that we must now be united, come to the meetings, actively participate in the work, and live with the hope that the day of peace would arrive. It was successful. With new strength we again started to work and send packages. We would receive responses full of gratitude that positively affected our members.

Later we sent good packages of food and clothing to each landsman [Tr. Note: Singular form of landslayt], wherever he was to be found. These parcels, according to what we heard from the camps, kept our Divenishokers alive. We did this until our last landsman left the camps in Germany.

Correspondence with those who were in the camps was handled by Sarah Kartshmer and Meir Bolinski. They would send letters of consolation and hope. When the pleytim [Tr. Note: Survivors] succeeded in emmigrating to America we gave them presents, money, and other necessary things in order to help them set themselves up.

When we found out that our landsman in Israel, Yakov Bloch, lost a hand at work, our Ladies Auxiliary decided to bring him over to America to help him with anything we could in order to obtain a new prosthetic ‘hand’. Each and every member took to the task. The main roles were “performed” by Mrs. and Mr. Bolinski, as well as by Mrs. and Mr. Kartshmer. The Bolinskis watched over him as if he was their own child. After 8 months, Yakov received his new prosthetic ‘hand’, and we wish him – from a distance – that he should be able to manipulate it as best as possible.

Yakov has left us. Annie Levine, his aunt, still believes that she will meet up with him under better circumstances. The Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary – all the members – accompanied him to the ship, wishing joy and friendship to his land and family.

I complete my report with a heartfelt greeting to all the members for their diligent work during the 21 year existence of our “Divenishok Ladies Auxiliary”.


[Page 512

Organization of Former Divenishok Residents in Israel

Tsvi Ahuvi (Lib)

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

Until just after the shoah [Tr. Note: Hebrew term for “Holocaust”] there were few people from our town in Israel. They would get together from time to time and a strong rapport existed between them, but they were not organized as an association.

When I arrived in Israel with the Polish “General Anders army”, a strong flow of people from our town began to stream to Israel, and there was then a need to create an organization of the people from our town.

The first memorial days in commemoration of the martyrs of our town were held at the house of Shloyme Levine (Leshchinski) on Bar–Kokhba Street in Tel Aviv. Candles were lit on the table, all the townspeople sat around on the beds, and that is how the memorial ceremony was carried out. This made a very disheartening impression on me, and when more survivors of our town began to arrive [Tr. Note: in Israel] the place was too constricted to accommodate us all.

We initiated a working committee and decided to carry out the memorial day in “Bet HaKhalutsot” [Tr. Note: The NY Women's League set up “Women's Pioneer Houses” across Israel to support women immigrants].

On the 23rd of the Jewish month of Iyar in 1946 (May 24), we carried out the memorial ceremony in the Tel Aviv Bet HaKhalutsot. All our townspeople were present: Man and wife, elderly and toddler. It was a moving occasion since there were present people who had not seen one another for twenty–five years. The enthusiasm and emotion of unity was greater than expected. Since then the bond among the people of our town strengthened, remembering the good days of our town.

Since then, the memorial days of our town takes place each year on the 23rd of the Jewish month of Iyar [Tr. Note: The date that is marked is according to the Jewish calendar. In 1942, it was the 11th of May], that is the day the Nazis, yemakh shemam, [Tr. Note: May their name be wiped out] annihilated our community. We would unite with the memory of the martyrs of our town and exchange reminiscences from the past.

Later, our friends from abroad – Meir Bolinski, Khaim Yudl Horvits, Milton Kartshmer, Kamenitski, and others – visited us in Israel and contributed a lot of money to set up the g'makh [Tr. Note: abbreviation for gmilat khesed – a charitable fund or service for the needy]. The g'makh distributed loans to many of our town's people, and this further strengthened the fraternal bonds among our townspeople.

 

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