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The History of the City and Its Jewish Community {cont.}


Yiddish Folk-School Yish'a in the name of Shalom Aleichem
At center: the teacher Yaakov Barzofsky (at that time, the Director)


The Kindergarten Next to the Elementary School
of Y.Sh.A. [Yiddish School Organization] in the year 1928

From right to left, standing in the rear: 1. Yaakov Pupko 2. Engineer Melech Pupko 3. Unidentified 4. Chaim Stolitzki 5. Hirsh Dov Kovski

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Y.Sh.A. Kindergarten, the Year 1929


Levin, Rivka Pupko, Feivke Levin, Leahvka Poltzek. Moshe Levin, the photographer, a beloved veteran of the Jewish theatre, also joined the youth.

Groups of the Charedim[207] in the city saw with sorrow the proliferation of secular education, whether right-wing Yiddishist or traditional Zionist, and the decline of traditional Torah education and asked themselves: “What will happen to Torah?” Settlement in Lida stopped from the time of the departure of Rabbi Reines' Yeshiva from the city before the entry of the Germans to the city. The rabbi of the place, Rabbi Reb Aharon Rabinovitz, may his memory be for a blessing, with the help of a few of the “landlords” from “Shomrei HaChomot[208] went out to fence the breach and to return the crown to its former glory. In the year 5684 [1924] a yeshiva was established in Lida, under the spiritual leadership of the Yeshiva Council in Vilna (which stood under the auspices of the “Chofetz Chaim,”[209] the Rabbi Reb Yisrael Meir HaCohain, may his memory be for a blessing, from Radon, and the Rabbi Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, may his memory be for a blessing, from Vilna. This was not a continuation of the Reines Yeshiva, rather, it returned to the old type of Lithuanian yeshivas. Not because the heads of the Yeshiva opposed studies that were outside of Gemara, Law Codes and Tanakh and secular learning (the daughters of one of the heads of the yeshiva attended the kindergarten of “Tarbut” and spoke Hebrew in their home), but rather that this permitted the students themselves, from outside the yeshiva. The first head of the Metivta[210] was Rabbi Reb Yisrael Halpern, may his memory be for a blessing (he died a few years ago in Tel Aviv), and when he left Lida, the Rabbi Reb Neiman, may he be distinguished for long life, was sent in his place by order of the Council of Yeshivot. (Today he is the head of the “Light of Israel” yeshiva in Petach Tikvah.) He directed the yeshiva (until he departed the city on his way to the land of Israel) over the course of twelve years, together with his friend, Reb Mordechai Smukler, may God avenge his blood. He perished in Lida by decree of the Nazis with the rest of the holy men of the city. This group was enriched by the strength of a new youth, who was none other than the young son-in-law of the Rabbi Reb Aharon, Rabbi Avigdor Tziperstein, may his light shine (today he is a lecturer in Talmud at Yeshiva University in New York), who also came up with new ideas to strengthen traditional education in the city, by means of turning the local Talmud Torah into an elementary school of the “Yavneh[211] school type, the establishment of a Jewish school


Jewish Students on the City Gymnasia with the Teacher Henus

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The Government Elementary School for Jewish Children


The Governmental Elementary School – Grade 5 (the end of the 1920s)


for commerce in the traditional spirit, and the like. The head of the yeshiva, Reb Yaakov, tells us about the greats of Torah whose beginnings were in the yeshiva in Lida, and at their head, the Rabbi Reb Mordechai Savitzky, today a rabbi in Boston, one of the great Orthodox rabbis in the United States.[212] One of the students of this yeshiva was also the Rabbi Reb Shlomo Podolsky, may his memory be for a blessing, one of the founders of the Organization of Lida Emigres in Israel.[213]

And when we stand at the chapter of Jewish education in Lida, it is appropriate to also mention the governmental school for the children of Israel (according to the common nickname “Shabsovka,” which is to say that on Shabbat learning stopped in it. So to speak – this alone separates it from the other government schools…). In this school all the learning was conducted in Polish, except for a small allotment of Jewish studies. The Director of the institution, Habar, may his memory be for a blessing, who came from Galitzia, was a veteran teacher and educator with comprehensive general and Jewish knowledge, and a talented and smart organizer. He succeeded in assembling a group of teachers of an adequate level, most of them Galitzianers[214] (we will mention Lichtman, Hirshovski, Fruchtman, may God avenge his blood, and may he be distinguished for long life, Arna Bargvork (today, Steinberg, in Haifa). And, locally born, Zertzin and Tziglenitzki, may God avenge their blood. The Hebrew studies he turned over to a devoted Hebrew teacher with a national spirit, from Lida, Reb Moshe Genuzavitz, may his memory be for a blessing, who did the best of his ability to impart to his pupils in the limited framework that was allocated to him, the most Hebrew knowledge and national Jewish spirit. The teachers Chaikel Vishnevsky and Yerushalimski also appear in pictures of the school at a later time. If we add to this that the students of this school were exempt from payment of tuition fees,

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being that the budget was promised from government funds, we will understand how it succeeded in drawing a large number of the children of Israel from Lida, especially from among the underprivileged (according to what they say, even above the number in the “Tarbut” school).

We will not fulfill our obligation if we don't mention the oldest educational institution in Lida – the “Talmud Torah,” which, despite its age, still remained the center of education for a large number of the children of Israel, especially for the poor of the people, who remained devout in the ancestral tradition. Many of the Jews of Lida from previous generations (from the beginning of the present century and before), still remember the lessons of Reb Avraham Yehuda Tzigelnitzky (and also his strap…), and the lesson of Reb Moshe Bar Vismonski (later, a teacher of Gemara in preparatory class A in the Reines Yeshiva). The Lida community dedicated a large part of its budget (the greatest part of which came from the income of Chevrat HaMit'askim, which was governed by “rule without Egypt,” the treasurer of the “Chevrah,” Yehoshua the tinsmith, “Yeshia der Blecher”), for the maintenance of the institution. After the “burning” a nice building was put up, furnished according to the style of the modern schools of that time. The new era forced the gabbaim to also bring some secular studies into the “Talmud Torah,” Hebrew and general, in the modern spirit. We will mention the teachers Nizvodsky and Tzigelnitzky as representatives of the new era in the “Talmud Torah,” the former for Hebrew studies and the latter for general studies. In the last time, an attempt was made, with the participation of the initiative of Rabbi Tziperstein (the young son-in-law of the rabbi of the place), to elevate the institution of the Talmud Torah to the level of the religious “Yavne” schools in Poland, as we have mentioned.

Reb Moshe Kalmanovitz (Mottel der Mashgiach), a craftsman in his youth, a son of Torah, with an imposing appearance and good manners, who was appointed as “mashgiach,” which refers to supervision of the children and also taking care of matters of the institution, collecting donations, and the like, also belongs to the general picture of the “Talmud Torah.” He made aliyah to the land of Israel and fulfilled, in practice, the mitzvah of settling the land, as a farmer. He died in Herzliya.

Also in the new era, “cheders” of various types did not stop in Lida. The ears of one who passed through the synagogue courtyard caught the sound of schoolchildren emerging from the windows of the house of the teacher Melzeuka, and in his moving further forward in the direction of Sudova Street, a similar sound from the yard of the house of Reb Itche Berdovski. Farther on from there, the teaching of the language of Ever was taught at a higher level, Hebrew in Hebrew, by Reb Yosef Epstein (Der Trikeler Melamed, or for short, der Trikeler), may his memory be for a blessing, who established generations of Hebrew speakers in Lida.

In summary, an extensive network – of many faces and shades – of elementary educational institutions, in which thousands of Jewish children were educated.


Communal and Cultural Activity

Personages of Torah and culture of all types and groups, rabbis and preachers, writers, artists, party flag-bearers, all found fruitful ground in Lida and a community that recognized good.

Remembered by the religious groups are the visits of Reb Yisrael Meir [Kagan], may his memory be for a blessing, the “Chofetz Chaim,” genius of religious Judaism, who desired for his seat[215] the small town of Radin, adjacent to Lida, and from here “his springs gushed forth”[216] all throughout Israel, and who became famous not only for his teaching, but also, and perhaps mainly, for his great modesty and his endearing folksiness. Legends circulated in the area about the admiration that even the gentile farmers in the area had for him, who, when he occasionally went out to wander outside of the town, would try to fence the way so that he would be forced to pass by way of their fields.[217] Indeed, a great rabbi dwelt in Lida, the Rabbi Reb Yitzchak Yaakov Reines, to whose light the learned of the city and the educated ones were drawn. In any case, popular and learned groups of “the old version” streamed to Lida to be warmed by the warm embers of Reb Yisrael Meir.

We have already mentioned that at the end of the previous century, the “Maggid from Kelm,” Reb Moshe Yitzchak Darshan, whose renown went far outside of the area of Jewish settlement in Russia, settled in Lida, and by virtue of his sermons which excelled in their strength of unusual expression, and their supple descriptive strength, in their denunciation of the sins between a person and their friend (dishonest negotiations, the sin of a remnant[218] that a tailor kept for himself, shopkeepers' deceptive scales, abusing the poor in favor of the rich, and the like), and between a person and God, especially desecrating Shabbat, and more especially, addiction to education and abandonment of the Torah. An offense is an offense, and the punishment expected for the sinner in the future to come, was described in bold and frightening colors. The educated too, who were opposed to the spirit of his sermons,[219] (and in many cases they even tried before the authorities to prevent his appearances), were unable to find fault with the purity of his intentions or his qualities, in which he undoubtedly surpassed many of his opponents. In Lida, in which he settled in the evening of his days, he did not gain significant influence, maybe due to the presence of Rabbi Reines in the city, which “neutralized” other influences. He remained “the Maggid from Kelm” and not from Lida. His two sons, who established families in Lida, were Reb Ben Tzion and Reb Avraham Shammai Darshan, may their memories be for a blessing. His daughter was married to the son of Nachman from Leipnitze, Reb Moshe Spielkovski, may his memory be for a blessing.


Reception for Vladimir Jabotinsky, the year 1932


Generation, generation, and its demands.[220] Preachers of a new type began to visit in Lida. The “preacher” from Saloneski knew how to take the heart of the old generation and the heart of the young generation as one with the talent of his speech, Torah and enlightenment bound together. In 1902, a young Russian-speaking lecturer visited in Lida for the first time, and his name was Vladimir Jabotinsky, who had not yet acquired renown at that time[221]

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but immediately conquered the Lida community. From then he returned and visited Lida, before the First World War and after it. Alexander Goldstein was also one of the head speakers of the Zionist movement in Russia, and was one of the regular visitors in Lida.[222] The visit of Chaim Tzvi Greenberg was a festival for the members of the young generation, lovers of the Hebrew language in Lida, and especially for the students of the Reines Yeshiva, to whom he delivered a lecture, in the DZ”Tz synagogue, in pure Hebrew with Sephardic pronunciation.


The Writer Daniel Persky[223] in the Company
of the “Shomer HaTzair” Branch in Lida (5688) [1928]

At center: The guest, to his right: Chaim Kivelevitz, may his memory be for a blessing;
To his left: Shlomo Muller (Milayt)


In 1912 (or 1913?) Lida merited a visit from the first Hebrew Theatre! The Tzemach Troupe, with the participation of Yehoshua Bartonov, which presented “The Eternal Wanderer,” by Osip Dimov.[224] This was the festival of the “Association of Lovers of the Hebrew Stage” (established by Yisrael Aharon Shlovski and the teacher Chaikl Vishnevsky), and, apparently, by their invitation.

Of the Jewish writers, Lida merited the visits of Dovid Pinsky in his time in evenings of reading, and, a short time before the First World War, Sholom Aleichem and Sholom Asch.[225]

The increase of communal and cultural activity after the First World War brought Lida into closer contact with the cities of the metropolis. Emissaries of “HeChalutz” and the labor movement frequently visited here. The visits of the emissaries of the national funds were not only a matter of raising funds but also arousing and spirit-lifting social events. Remembered are the visits of Leib Yaffe,[226] Druyanov,[227] Mrs. L. Vidrovitz, Ezrachi, and especially Natan Bistritzki (Agmon),[228] who stirred up the audience, young and old as one, with his lectures and parties. Yosef Heftman[229] was principally the guest of HaNoar HaIvri.[230] Daniel Persky[231] brought peace from the Hebrew group in the United States, and lectured in the hall of the Hebrew gymnasia about the new Hebrew. At about the same time, the writer Yitzchak Katznelson[232] visited his relatives in Lida (the wood merchant Horovitz), and at this opportunity, he read his new writings in Yiddish before the audience in Lida, also in the hall of the Hebrew gymnasia,

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from his manuscript (a poem by the name of “A Wonderful World”). In the year 1932 Jabotinsky again visited Lida, this time mainly as a guest of the HaTzohar[233] movement. The Jews of Lida heard impressions from the land of Israel and about the situation in aliyah from the mouth of the Sejm delegate Shifar, and from the great Zionist leader Yitzchak Grinboim.

At this opportunity, we will mention visitors from another group: the writer Yoel Mestboim[234] and the actor Avraham Morevski,[235] not in the role of actor but as a lecturer, on the topic of “Anti-semitism.”

The well-known writer and researcher Sh. Niger visited Lida at the beginning of the 1930s as a guest of the Yiddishists' group in Lida on the occasion of the opening of the special library for Yiddish books. Of the Yiddish writers, there also visited in Lida Moshe Nadir,[236] Moshe Kulbak,[237] and others of the young Jewish poets of Vilna would visit here frequently and read from their compositions.


The Administration of the Yiddish Library with the guest,
the writer Sh. Niger


The Eve of the Second World War

The Jews of Lida defended themselves with courage and stubbornness against the defacing of their Jewish image and the trend towards Polonization. In a count from the year 1931, 4760 responded out of 6335 Jews who were asked (“members of the Jewish religion”), that their language was Yiddish and another 1540 – Hebrew. The remaining 35 did not specify. And even if we have statistical numbers in our hands regarding the votes of the Jews of Lida[238] for the Polish “Sejm,” (the House of Representatives), we can say with almost complete certainty that most of the numbers of the Jews of Lida voted for the Jewish lists. In the middle of the 1920s, at the time of Pilsudski's rule, the authorities attempted to influence the Jews of Lida to vote for the “Sanatzia”[239] party. The turning came by means of the merchants' group, amidst hope to make use of the influence of the Jewish delegate Vishlitzki, who belonged to the mentioned government group, but the Jews of Lida were not much influenced by these solicitations.[240]

By combining various territories, the authorities succeed in reducing the number of Jews in the city, and turning them into a relative minority, so that it would not enter their minds, God forbid, to demand for themselves the right to a Jewish head of city. Nevertheless, they kept the right to the position of deputy head of the city. The first one who was appointed to this role was Shmuel Vinitzki. He revealed himself to be a talented and energetic administrator. Yet, together with this, he acquired more than a few opponents. The dispute between his supporters and his rivals (and at their head the merchant and public activist Gedaliah Tchertok) made waves in the city at the time of the municipal elections at the end of the 1920s, and concluded with Vinitzki's resignation and the election of the engineer “Pupko,” (Meilech Leizerovitz), a person who was comfortable for the people and involved in the local Jewish public. The last Jew that served was Mark Kretchmer, may his memory be for a blessing,[241] who was swept out by the storm of the raging war of Lida, together with his family, to Soviet Russia, and with hundred of exiles to Soviet Russia, and from there to England.

To our sorrow, we do not have in hand reliable statistics on the number of Jews in Lida on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War, and the percentage of them in the population of the city. In any case, it may be permitted to us to analyze a few facts from the sources that we have.


The Lida City Council (at the beginning of the 1920s), among them the Jews

From right to left: Ze'ev Sokolovski, Baron, Moshe Berkovitz, Moshe Poltzek, Moshe Konopko, Elchanan Ilotovitz, Yehoshua Vismonski, Leib Margolis, Krupski, Dr. Kaplan, Mark Kretzmer, Shmuel Viniatzki, the Secretary (Ruchtza)


According to the official count that was conducted in the year 1931, which we already mentioned above, 6355 souls were registered in Lida as members of the Jewish faith, out of a general population of 19,326 souls (compared to 5419 Jews)



  1. Literally, “tremblers,” referring to the very religious. Return
  2. The Guardians of the Walls. Return
  3. Known popularly as the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1839-1933) was a Talmudist, rabbi and decisor of Jewish law based in the town of Radin (today Radun', Belarus). Return
  4. Rabbinical college. Return
  5. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai moved the Sanhedrin to Yavne, which became an important center of Jewish learning, Rabbinic scholarship, and the beginning of the development of modern Judaism. Return
  6. Original footnote 54: See Who's Who in World Jewry 1956. Return
  7. Original footnote 55: Died in the year 1960 in Tel Aviv, in which he established the synagogue “Torat Moshe” [the Torah of Moses], and next to it a religious school with a dormitory. Return
  8. A Jew with ancestry in the Galicia region of Eastern Europe. Return
  9. This is a quote from Psalm 132:13 “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His seat.” Return
  10. Playing on Proverbs 5:16 “Your springs will gush forth In streams in the public squares.” Return
  11. Original footnote 56: And habitually from their mouths: “In the place where Yisrael Meir passes, there the wheat flourishes.” In Polish: “Where Israel Meir passes, wheat is born.” Return
  12. Original footnote 57: “Surplus” – a remnant of fabric that belongs to the customer that ordered it, which a tailor keeps for himself, which is prohibited. There were tailors who tried to win a large remnant, on the account of the garment that was ordered, of course…. Return
  13. "Original footnote 58: The stinging comment of Yehudah Leib Gordon was remembered in his poem:
    “This Drop, What Will Happen To It”
    I will write about love making between a young woman and a young man,
    Or I will write the history of the Maggid from Kelm
    enlightening our eyes with intelligent sermons?
    [Drawn from the Babylonian Talmud Sotah 16b:12 “And that angel takes the drop of semen from which a person will be formed and presents it before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and says before Him: Master of the Universe, what will be of this drop? Will the person fashioned from it be mighty or weak? Will he be clever or stupid? Will he be wealthy or poor?”]" Return
  14. The name of a book by Isaac Hirsch Weiss, an Austrian Talmudist and historian of literature born at Groß Mezeritsh, Habsburg Moravia. 1815 – 1905. Return
  15. Original footnote 59: A daughter of our city, Mrs. Tzarna Ariav (Krupski), may her memory be for a blessing, told us from Jerusalem: at the opening of the “Tchiniah” (tea house) in Pfeffermeister yard, which served as a Zionist clubhouse, and she was then a young woman, she was sent to Vilna by order of the Zionist group to request from Y.L. Goldberg that he send a Zionist lecturer to Lida. The known speakers were not available that year. But Goldberg suggested: there is here a young student, who speaks Russian, very talented, even if it is the beginning of his path on the speaker's podium. With no choice, they agreed, and they did not regret it. According to her words he promised to the Lida-ites that, because of his debut lecture: I will come to you every time that you invite me. And he promised this too: the next time, I will speak Hebrew to you. This promise was not completely fulfilled: he spoke again in Lida, but Russian (in 1914, on the topic “the Jews in the Near East”), and in Yiddish in the year 1932. Return
  16. Original footnote 60: In his memories from that same period, Alexander Goldstein relates an amusing incident that happened to him at the time of his lecture in Lida, which almost concluded tragically: at the time that they stood on the stage, suddenly the rope that held the screen broke, and the screen suddenly fell down, and by a miracle, it did not touch the speaker (“Ever,” Book 14, Nisan 5767 [1967], p. 85) with its heavy wood, Return
  17. 1887–1962, Hebraist, journalist, and educator. Born in Minsk, Persky emigrated to the United States in 1906 and devoted all his efforts to the Hebraist movement in that country. Return
  18. The pseudonym of Yoysef Perelman, born in Bialystok, Poland. 1878 – 1959. Return
  19. Yiddish novelist and playwright, born in Kutno, Russian Poland. 1880–1957. Return
  20. Original footnote 62 [there is no original footnote 61]: He opened his first lecture with the words: This is my second visit to Lida. The first time they brought me (the intention was to the year 1919, when he was brought to Lida by the Polish army, together with Sh. Niger, as a prisoner), this time, I came here of my own free will. Return
  21. Alter Druyanov (Avrom Abe Osher) 1870-1938, was born in the town of Droye (Druja), Vilna region, son of the town rabbi, R. Peysekh-Elyokim (Getsl) Droyanov, a descendant of generations of rabbis; and his mother, Tile-Treyne, was the daughter of a major Chassidic figure, R. Khayim son of Shimen Vayler, rabbi of Pandélys. Return
  22. Natan Bistritzky, changed his name to Natan Agmon. Was born in the Ukraine in the Russian Empire 1896 d. Tel Aviv, 1980. He was an Israeli writer and translator. Return
  23. He was born in Brańsk, Grodno district, 1888-1955. He was a writer, columnist, publisher of the publications HaTzefira, Hayom, Doar Hayom, Moment (Warsaw) and editor-in-chief of Haboker (Tel Aviv). He was born on July 23, 1888. He died in Tel Aviv. Return
  24. The Hebrew Youth. Return
  25. Daniel Persky, 1887–1962, was a Hebraist, educator, and journalist. Born in Minsk, he settled in the United States in 1906 and devoted all his efforts to the Hebraist movement in that country. Return
  26. Yitzhak Katzenelson, 1886-1944, was a Hebrew and Yiddish poet and dramatist. Born in Korelichi, near Novogrudok, in Russia, he opened a Hebrew secular school in Lodz of which he was principal until the outbreak of World War II. He died in Auschwitz. Return
  27. HaTzohar: An acronym for HaTzionim HaRevizionistim, The Revisionist Zionists, officially Brit HaTzionim HaRevizionistim, Union of Revisionist Zionists. Return
  28. Yoel Mestboim, 1882-1957, was a Yiddish author born in Poland. He immigrated to Israel in 1933. Return
  29. Avrom Morevski, 1886-1964, was a Yiddish actor, director, translator, and essayist, born in Vilna. Return
  30. Moyshe Nadir, born Yitzchak Rayz, 1885, in the town of Narayiv, in eastern Galicia, then Austro-Hungary was an American Yiddish language writer and satirist. He died in 1943, in Woodstock, New York. Return
  31. Moyshe Kulbak was a Belarusian Yiddish writer. Born 1896, in Smorgon, Belarus, and died in 1937 in Minsk, Belarus. Return
  32. Original footnote 63: The numbers are taken from within the card index of the cities and towns in “Yad Vashem” in Jerusalem. Return
  33. The “Healthy Politics” Party. Return
  34. Original footnote 64: The brave answer by Reb Shaul Krasnosleski, may his memory be for a blessing, who was a devoted and passionate Zionist (he died in Israel), is known to the writer of these lines. Return
  35. Original footnote 65: He died in Lindon. Return


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