by Amnon Horowitz
Translated by Selwyn Rose
In his autobiography S. Dubonow gives a broad description of his family's origins and its history. The family had its beginnings in the middle of the 17th century in the time of the Polish Kingdom and in the town of Dubno in Vohlin. In the middle of the 18th century at the time of the partition of Poland (1772), the family moved to the town of Mścisław (Omtchislav) in White Russia which had been ceded to Greater Russia, (Mahilyow Province). When a law was promulgated in Russia requiring a family name to be registered, the patriarch of the family living in Mścisław chose the name Dubanow being the name of the town where the family had dwelt.
Our family ancestor was the Cabbalist Rabbi Yosef Yoski, the son of the well-known Gaon of the time- Yehuda Yud'l from Kovel. This Rabbi Yosef Yoski occupied the Chair of the Rabbanut in Dubno during the last decades of the 17th century and while there authored his book Yesod Yosef but in fact the patriarch of the family was considered to be Bentzion Chatzkelovich of Mścisław.
The name Bentzion Chatzkelovich sprang from the Jewish source name Bentzion son of Yehezkiel that appeared in Russian documents registered as Chatzkelovich and his name is found among on the registers of the community who were elected every year beginning in 1761; the honorary title of Head and Officer.
Bentzion Chatzkelovich was the owner of a large agricultural estate during the rule of Alexander the First and the Empress Katarina but when the law was enacted forbidding Jews to own agricultural estates he was forced to circumvent the law by transferring title of his property to Christians at disadvantageous terms and later his descendants were to accept rent from the new owners. This situation continued for many years until a declaration of release in 1861 freed the farmers from their serfdom.
At the beginning of the 19th century Bentzion Chatzkelovich the Officer died and his place in the community was filled by his son Ze'ev-Wolf whose name was found in the Community Registry for the first time in 1823 connected with the name Dubno or Dubonow and since then the family was known by that name.
Since his income and sustenance now derived as an inheritance from the estate, he devoted himself to spiritual works to which he gave all his soul and strength. He attended the Study-House lessons on the Talmud and Responsa and his son, Avigdor busied himself with commerce but he died young in the prime of life, circa.1840 and in his place stood the head of the Dubonow family, the eldest son, Bentzion junior (born about 1805), the grandfather and teacher of Shimon Dubonow and his brother.
Bentzion quickly realized that his living was not to be in commerce and trade since he, like his grandfather Ze'ev-Wolf leaned towards spirituality and was drawn to the Torah to which he indeed devoted himself and his sustenance came from the large building that he owned and rented to government offices and stores for traders, while he read and studied in the Study-House.
A story is told about him that during a fire in Dubno, he stood by calmly watching the distressing sight, the source of his income, going up in flames. His daughter stood beside him crying and wailing while he tried to calm her. She said: Father, how are you not crying? Look! Even our neighbor, the priest is crying in front of his burning home. The old man answered: My daughter, he has something to cry about his god (the wooden icon), is burning up inside his home, but our G-d isn't burnt and He will look after us!
Meir-Ya'acov Dubonow, the only son of Bentzion and the father of S. Dubonow was born in 1833. When he lost his assets at the time of the fire and the family was obliged to roam from apartment to apartment, the father was forced to sustain his large family (his wife had borne him five sons and five daughters) and eventually he obtained a post with his father-in-law, his wife's father, Michael Halickman from the village of Olbrachcice, near the town of Homyel (Homl).
The father, Meir Ya'acov, was responsible for the transportation of lumber by water on boats, rafts or barges and during the summer months dwelt in Ekaterinoslav and Kherson selling the lumber to wholesalers and builders or to holders of timber warehouses only returning to Mścisław for the High Holidays and Succoth after the completion and settling of accounts.
As payment for his toil he received a meager salary and his family rarely saw him with a happy face, a situation that caused bitterness towards the other grandfather (their mother's father) because of his meanness. The father's health was affected by his wandering far from his home and his life near the rivers with its constant high humidity caused him to suffer from chronic bronchitis as a result of which he passed away in 1887 at the age of 54, and that was after Mr. Michael closed his business and gave his son-in-law a distressingly small sum to build himself a house. But the father was not to enjoy even that and before the construction was completed he passed away.
One of S. Dubonow's brothers died in childhood. The senior son, Yitzhak, died in the prime of life (1890). Two brothers of Dubonow remained alive: Ze'ev, who was two and a half years his senior and Nachman the youngest. Both of them made their way by different paths to Palestine.
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Rabbi Yohanan the son of Rabbi Ya'acov from Wiecki (?), Silesia who was a proof-reader in the Krûgera printing-house in Nowy Dwór and later the company's Hebrew agent for Hebrew books in Warsaw, founded here, in Dubno in 1754 with the help of the master Artist Michał Piotrowski, the loyal working partner. The ruler of the town at the time was Prince Michał Lubormirski, and as a mark of esteem and gratitude for his permission to establish the printing-house they printed on the frontispiece of books that came off the press his monogram and his initials M.L. in large graphically decorated letters. The following books have appeared Zevah Shmuel, Hapedut ve-Hapurkan (Redemption and Release), Shibolei Ha-Leket, Shulhan Arba (1764), Kerem Ein Gedi (The Vineyard of Ein Gedi), Sivuv olam by Petachiah Morgensperg, (two separate editions). Seder S'lichot (Prayer service for forgiveness), Tsad Ha-Ma'a lot Ha-Roke'ach The Pharmacist(shorter edition) (1755), Laws governing the writing of Holy texts (1756), Tshu'ot-Chen (Shouts of Grace) (1757), Beit-Eini, Mevasser Tsedek (Carrier of Justice), Torah (1758), Shita Mekubetzet: Nazir, Tikunei Ha-Zohar (Additions to the Zohar) (1760), Machzor im Bi'ur (Machzor with commentary according to the Ashkenazi), (also in two editions) (1761). The typesetters in the printing-house were Natan Fajtl the son of Moshe Ya'acov - may he be remembered for a blessing the brother of the printer the typesetter of the new pleasant letters gives our Torah an appearance that can be handed on for generations Mr. Benjamin son of Tzvi Hirsch, may he be remembered for a blessing of the Holy Community of Vishnevets (Vishnivits) worked to honor his Creator in its production and Mr. Yosef Haim son of Yohanan, the printer, the faithful worker in setting the type correctly. The maintainer of the press was Mr. Yosef the son of Shlomo from the Holy Community of Ostroh the proof-reading was done by the printer Mr. Yohanan who followed faithfully the onus placed upon him and his love of the work the apple of his eye and he removed all the errors and thorns of the text and thus his words at the frontispiece of the book: May the Creator be eternally blessed and praised for his wonders. Since all beginnings are difficult especially with the printing of new letters, let me acknowledge at the outset, lest I be accused by all the readers of this book, and I bow down in the dust, and beg anyone who may find within it even some unproven error, that I shall not be judged badly. Many have apologized before me, but 'there is no wheat without chaff'. May the Lord judge us and grant us comfort and solace in Zion and Jerusalem and bring upon us endless good.
In 1764 a new printing-house was established here by the partners Mr. Aharon son of Yona, who was at the time the owner of a printing-house in Ostroh and his deputy, Mr. Yosef son of Yehuda Leib of Dubno who was named popularly there as printer and legislator.
At the present time only these few books have appeared that we know of: Letters, Dr. Yitzhak, Sayings of the Wise Men, The Reverence, The Gate of Heaven (1764) and Urim ve-Thummim (completed in 1766). This book was printed by Rabbi Nathan took upon himself the burden of the cost helped by the financial support of Rabbi Haim Yehoshua, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua Rokach, Father of the Rabbinical Court of Pinsk, the son of Rabbi M. Shalom, Father of the Rabbinical Court of Tiktin (Tykocin), the son of Rabbi Eliezer the Father of the Rabbinical Court and author of the book Ma'aseh Roke'ach. And in the year 1768 Sefer Ha-Gorlot (The Book of Fates) appeared. The partners then separated from each other. Rabbi Aharon settled in the town of Greater Międzyrzec (Mezeritz). In 1780 The Gates of Ephraim was published by the printing-house in Dubno, together with Shulchan Aruch, A Righteous Man, and the book of Selichot Prayers for 7th Adar.The Printer's name is not known.
by G. Bradiga
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Until 19191920 a Gymnasium existed in Dubno in which the language of instruction was Russian. After the conquest of Vohlin the Polish authorities ordered its liquidation and in its place a Polish Gymnasium was established that accepted Jewish pupils according to a strict percentage. After much effort the authorities gave a license to open a Jewish Gymnasium where instruction would be in Polish and that was on condition that the Polish authorities had no part in its upkeep and maintenance. The public activist, Mr. Avraham Karaulnik was installed as the owner of the license. Many were the pupils who graduated from the Gymnasium here and abroad and went on to complete their education in Poland and other countries.
The Jewish Gymnasium granted scholarships to families that had insufficient means to keep their children in the institution but even all those who paid the fees were unable collectively to maintain the Gymnasium without some support from the government and municipal establishments.
In 1934 the Gymnasium received grants from the government but the financial situation was not improved and the school stood on the brink of closure.
Graduating class of 1932
The entire financial burden fell upon the shoulders of Mr. Karaulnik who received no remuneration for his toil in the Gymnasium quite the contrary: his involvement affected adversely his own sustenance. Most of the managers came from Galicia. The first was Mr. Kammerman from Lvov. After him came Mr. Scharr(?), Mr. Pozner and lastly Mr. Margolis. From among the teachers we should mention Eliyahu Makhrok and Mr. Elimelech Blei, the veteran warrior for Hebrew in Dubno.
Graduating class of 1932
by A. Cohen
Translated by Selwyn Rose
From the beginning of the 1920's the number of youngsters learning and understanding Hebrew began to grow. The youth groups Hechalutz and Hashomer Hatza'ir gave impetus to the trend as did the Hebrew library of the Zionist Federation that was later known as the Tarbut Library where a select choice of reading matter was provided. A number of private teachers toiled assiduously, either with individuals or in extracurricular groups to pass on the language to the children; all that, and more with no promise of ultimate success.
In 1927 a branch of Tarbut was opened in town and the committee began to establish a school. The registration of pupils began for the year 1927/28 but the project failed to get off the ground. Only in the schoolyear 1928/29 was the school founded with three classes plus a preparatory class. That same year the school resided in the same building as the PolishJewish Gymnasium of Karaulnik and the lessons took place as an additional secondsitting period. The following year the school transferred to a building in Pilsudski Street and a few years later with its growth it took seat in Sirkis's building a building that had been occupied by Hashomer Hatza'ir and a branch of Hechalutz who vacated the building in favor of the school.
In 1933 the first class of students of the Tarbut school graduated from their course of studies and such was the case with succeeding years.
From the moment of its inception the school became an important element in the Jewish public life of Dubno in general and the activities of Zionist circles in particular.
The preschool experiment achieved exceptional success with the preparatory class. The gifted teacher Shlomo Balaban managed, within just a few months to impart his young pupils with the Hebrew language so that they began to speak it between themselves and even introduced it into their parents' home.
At first it was just the Zionists who sent their children to the school although the institute slowly began to acquire standing within the town and nonZionist parents even those far from being Zionists began sending their children to the school. The JewishHebrew environment, the high standard and level of the instruction, the desire that their children acquire some level of basic Jewish tradition, the folklaw of the festivals all these added impetus to the parents' sending their children to the Tarbut school.
The school's persona was clearly secular and its spirit strongly oriented towards the Land of Israel. All the subjects were taught in Hebrew except the Polish language class that began to be taught in the second year after the children had already acquired familiarity with Hebrew. The traditional festivals and the renewed ones of Palestine [as it was trans.] were celebrated majestically within the walls of the school but the echoes reached the homes of the parents and had some blessed influence on them. A special place of honor was reserved in the school for the Foundation Fund of Israel and its activities. There was also coordination of the activities of the youth groups and the school's program, each complementing the other.
In 1939 the number of pupils in the school reached fourhundred and fifty and the building became cramped for the number of pupils applying for entry. This was in spite of the fact that the school was private and received no support from the ruling authorities and the parents were forced to maintain it while the Ministry of Education paid in full for the government's school.
The school fees were not the same for everyone but were fixed individually according to the financial status of the parents but nevertheless the total revenues were not sufficient to cover the costs of paying the teachers' salary and from time to time it was necessary to run fancydress balls for both great and small in order to generate donations for the institute. Thus there were big parties for Hanukkah and Purim in the municipal theater hall where the school
prominently displayed its achievements. It is worth mentioning here that during the first years of the school's operation no other way was found of organizing the salaries of the teaching staff in an orderly fashion, other than paying something on account each Thursday in proportion to the amount collected for that week. And when it became clear towards the end of the schoolyear that there were not enough funds to cover the year's deficit, the teachers saw no alternative but to agree to writeoff the debt of the concluding year to allow the school to open for the succeeding one. Imbued as they were with the Zionist spirit they could not allow themselves to be the cause of the school closing down because of the inability of the institute to pay their salaries.
The precarious situation of the school's finances made it necessary to create an organized body that would concern itself with mobilizing funds from external and peripheral sources, whether by organizing balls, flagdays or by donations from people of means or word of mouth. Thus was a circle of dedicated women created alongside the hospital with Mrs. Hanna Kagan and Mrs. Rivka Reiss Krantzov at its head who both worked tirelessly for the sake of the school's maintenance.
The school's committee was headed by the staunchest Zionists in town, the honorable gentlemen: David Perle, A. Meizler, Mordecai Barchash, Moshe Cohen, David Horowitz, attorney Starr(?), representatives of youth movements, who changed from time to time, and women's representatives. Mrs. Esther Makhrok acted as secretary and contributed much to the prevailing good atmosphere of the institute.
The Tarbut school was without doubt the highlight of Zionist activity in town. The activists dreamed of moving to a new building, on the creation of a Gymnasium as a natural progression of the present one but then came the bitter reality that turned everything on its head and brought it all down…
In September 1939 the school was opened by order of the Soviet authorities as a school where the language of instruction was Yiddish and two years later, the rest of the Jews of the town, drank from the poisonous chalice…
by B. Bradiga
Translated by Selwyn Rose
The path of our youth between the two World Wars was by no means strewn with roses. Indeed after the 1917 Revolution broad horizons opened up before them and carried on the wings of freedom many fascinating and exciting ideas and not a few of Dubno's citizens were drawn by the strong current of the Revolution. But those who remained faithful to themselves began searching for and striving towards a new organized and free Jewish life. It began with the creation of JewishZionist modern, democratic social and education institutions. Thus in 1921 under the initiative the honorable and respected Z. Burshtein, Sh. Barchash, D Ganff(?), S. Dziura and S. Sodovitzky, the TOZ sporting club was opened and in time became the Maccabi club. The club developed and in 1924/25 was recognized officially by the authorities as the Jewish Sports club HaKoah. The club was affiliated to the international alliance Maccabi and took its place in the general football league and many were the young people that clustered around it.
There were many different sporting activities of HaKoah such as: football, handball, gymnastics, excursions, rambles and so on. In addition the members of the club took part in all the Zionist initiatives and funds like the Foundation Fund of Israel etc., and all the public Zionist performances in town even though the fact that their ranks numbered youths with different political opinions and outlooks.
For special mention is the brassband orchestra of the club. It acted as accompaniment at public performances and earned a good reputation from the entire Jewish population. Parades on Lag B'Omer in which pupils from the school and youth groups took part with the band of HaKoah at its head awakened pride among the onlookers of the parade and were welcomed with cheers and brought smiles to all faces. It was the appearance of the new Jew, proud, upright and with a courageous heart.
Among the various classes in HaKoah there was also a class in selfdefense; they knew how to reply to sudden attacks and to defend Jewish honor in the face of the antiSemitism that arose with the encouragement of the hostile Polish government. More than one antiSemitic bully felt the weight of HaKoah's arm when they tried to interfere or threaten them in games or other public activity.
Thus it was that in 1936 when the Polish scholar and Talmudic investigator Zuradky(?) arrived in Dubno to lecture at the HaKoah club Polish rowdies tried to interfere with his lecture. They couldn't tolerate the idea that a Polish scholar should lecture in a Jewish club! The Defense Platoon of HaKoah came vigorously to his aid and the lecture took place. There was a scandal and blows and the antiSemites made claims against them for dishonoring the Polish flag. But the matter never came to court and the incident served to reinforce the name of HaKoah.Volunteers from among the womenfolk presented the club with a present an artistically embroidered flag with the words: The ‘HaKoah' Sport and Gymnastic Society of Dubno.
The day of presentation of the flag became a great event not only in the life of the club but throughout the entire Jewish community of the town. A special festival service took place in the Great Synagogue in the presence of the town's notables from both the club and the authorities. The jeweler, Mr. Ganff proudly decorated the flagstaff.
The club was selfsustaining, without finance from external sources. The members paid membership fees and organized public sports meetings that drew large crowds and these revenues were used to maintain the club.
On the eve of the war and the Holocaust many refugees arrived in the town and HaKoah called upon all its members to offer them all possible assistance and indeed many of them gave much help and extended a hand to their unfortunate brethren.
When the Soviet authorities took over in 1939 the HaKoah club became known as Spartak and the entire inventory and resources were transferred to them. But one item was not found: the wonderful flag of HaKoah the faithful emblem of the people to its past and its future, folded but not given to the despoilers of the people and their spirit. The hiding place of the flag was known only to Mr. Ganff; and since most of the members of HaKoah perished in the Holocaust it is not impossible to think that the flag was taken by them to the mass grave…
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