by Kalman Orzechovsky
Translated by Sara Mages
The Jews of Lida began to arrive in the American Continent with the third wave of Jewish immigration to this continent. (The Jews of Spain and Portugal, who fled from the Inquisition to the New World, constituted the first wave. The second wave of immigration of German and Central European Jews began in 1819 and lasted until the 1880s. This was the period after the Napoleonic Wars and the revolutions in Europe that demolished the ghetto's walls).
In the years 1881-1914 the third wave of immigration, which consisted mostly of Eastern European Jews, broke out.
The first Jews of Lida arrived in the United States in 1881. This period, in which the government and the Russian Orthodox Church organized pogroms against the Jews, was marked by the persecution of the Jews in Tsarist Russia. This anti-Jewish policy was also reflected in the anti-Jewish legislation published in May 1882 and referred to as the May Laws. The Russian Orthodox Church expedited the adoption of these laws which were issued by Tsar Alexander III. The Tsar's chief adviser, who was also in charge of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared that as a result of the laws against the Jews one third of the Jews of Russia would convert to Christianity, one third would starve to death and the remaining third would emigrate from the country.
And indeed, the flow of immigration from Eastern Europe, which began in 1881, increased year by year until the outbreak of the First World War and among them also came hundreds of Lida's Jews. In my conversations with the elders of the generation, I have been told that among the first were Yakov Shapira, Kalman Orzechovsky and his son Meir, and Yakov Żyzemski.
They were already in the United States at the end of the 1880s. Those who arrived later came in great poverty. They turned to the help of the former residents of their city who managed to find them, or to former residents of towns in the vicinity of Lida. The resident, being poor himself, received his new townsman to his home, fed him, gave him from his clothes and helped him to find a job. With the increase in the number of immigrants from Lida - their help to their relatives and townspeople began to be more noticeable and real.
Like other townspeople, the Lidaim also established an organization of former residents of Lida (Lider Landsmanshaft). They gathered every Saturday at the apartment of one of them, met with the new who had recently arrived to find out what was happening there at home. Later, the Landsmanshaft developed into the organization of brothers and sisters from Lida. Both organizations exist to this day and are called: A. Lider Brider and B. Lider Shvester.
When they were founded their duty was to provide assistance to the new townspeople who arrived with the flow of immigration, to provide help and financial support in case of illness, lack of work, grant loans and also to purchase places in cemeteries for their members. And indeed, today the two organizations: Brothers from Lida and Sisters from Lida have burial plots in cemeteries in New York.
Apart from these two organizations, the Lidaim also infiltrated other general organizations, mainly the national workers organizations. Most of the Lidaim belonged to Arbeter Ring. The late Mr. Iviansky and Mr. Feinston (son of Yoshe der Sayfer), greatly helped these organizations.
After the First World War, when the flow of immigration from Eastern Europe ceased, the Lidaim in the United States received rumors and information about the suffering and the poverty caused by the war to their townspeople in renewed Poland. They decided to establish a general organization of all the former residents of the city in which all the Lida organizations would be represented. This umbrella organization, which includes all the organizations, is called: United Lider Relief - the united Lida organization for mutual aid. This organization operates to this day and is the living spirit of the Lidaim in American. During its years of existence, this organization has provided assistance to all the Lidaim scattered around the world. In the 1920s and 1930s, many of the needy in Lida were supported by its money. During the Second World War it assisted a number of Lidaim who reached Shanghai, to Lidaim in Italy, and to many survivors of the concentration camps.
From among its presidents, who have worked extensively within the framework of this organization, we should mention: Mr. Jacob (Gikovsky), Lider and Dr. Dvoretzky. For the past 14 years the writer of these columns serves as president of the United Lider Relief, and his deputy is Mr. Eliyahu Levitt.
by Abba Lando
Translated by Sara Mages
Among the first immigrants from Lida we find not only Jews who could not earn a living in Lida and therefore left to seek hope in a foreign land, but also representatives from the intelligentsia on whom the atmosphere of Russia weighed and they set out - to the free space. We will mention some of them that are known to us.
Dr. David Blushtein was born in Lida in 5626 (1866) to his father, R' Yeshaya, who was one of the city's dignitaries. At the age of five he was orphaned from his father. He was educated in the melamdim's [teachers] chederim until the age of sixteen and excelled in his immense diligence. He later moved to the yeshiva in nearby Szczucin and there he was allowed by the yeshiva leaders, due to his academic excellence and serious character, to also attend the local general school for beginners, a rarity in the yeshivot of the time. At the age of eighteen he moved to the city of Memel where was a faithful student of HaGaon R' Yisrael Salanter who lived in this city in those days. From there he moved to Libava (Libau) where he served as a teacher to Jewish children. At the age of twenty, he left for America and settled in the city of Boston where he established a school for the language of the past [Hebrew] and its literature (the language of instruction was - German). In 1889, he began to study ancient languages at Harvard University in Cambridge near Boston, and graduated in 1892. In 1896 he was appointed rabbi and preacher. At the same time he was appointed a lecturer at the Aramaic Jewish Educational Alliance University in New York, which he turned into Arabic, Assyrian and Syriac. Since 1898 he was the director of the institute which later became a center for Jewish immigrants. Dr. Blushtein was active in the education of people, in charitable institutions and also - in spreading the Zionist idea. All his life he was fond of the language of the past and its literature and supported the advocates of the language and its authors. He also founded reading halls for the people and associations for the study of Jewish history and Hebrew literature.
(Jewish Sages in America), by Benzion
Eisenstadt, NewYork, 5663/ 1903
HaRav Chaim Moshe Kamenetsky was born in Lida in 5600 (1840) to his father R' Shlomo Kamenetsky, of the rich and honorable of the city, who was an outstanding Torah scholar and the grandson of HaGaon R' Chaim of Volozhin. His mother - from the Pines family. Until the age of fifteen he studied in chederim in the city, and from then on he studied with the city's rabbi, R' Eliyahu Schik (R' Alinkah - see an article about him in the section, Center of Learning, Rabbis and Religious Teachers). When he was nineteen years old, he was ordained to teach by his rabbi and his name was known in the surroundings as the genius from Lida. However, he did not turn to the rabbinate and engaged in trade. But, even as a merchant he did not stop his studies and set times for the Torah. For the purpose of his business he came to the capital city of Petersburg where he lived for about sixteen years. In 1889 he immigrated to the United States. He left the trade and turned again - to the Torah. He was appointed director of Etz Chaim Yeshiva, and from 5653 (1893) served as a rabbi and preacher at Nachlat Zvi Synagogue. The writer of his biography (in 5663/1903) testifies that he excelled in his sermons that made a great impression on his congregation (his sermons take the heart of all his listeners because they excel in their style etc.)
(According to the aforementioned)
Yitzchak Goido, who was later known by his pen name Bernard Gorin, is probably the most famous amongst the immigrants from Lida at that time. He was born in Lida in 1868 and here he was educated at the city's chederim. He moved to a place of study - to Mir Yeshiva, and acquired general education in a government school and private tutors. At the age of 16 he moved to Vilna where he became acquainted with the city's maskilim, among others - Isaac Mayer Dick. At the beginning of the 1890s he started to publish his writings and his first steps were in Hebrew literature (his first two stories: The Enlightened Carpenter and The Agunah, were printed in sequels in Ben-Avigdor Sifre Agorah). He moved to Yiddish and published short stories in Spector's Der Hoyz Fraynd and in Di Yudishe Bibliotek of Y.L. Peretz. In 1893, he initiated in Vilna the publication of short stories in Yiddish following the example of Ben-Avigdor popular library, and in short time published in this library a series of short stories by Pinski, Peretz and also - his own. In his stories, apart from memories from his childhood and the description of the town (Once there was, Images from the cheder, and more) also stories with social content (From the factory to the bath, The Soviet lost, The new percentage).
In 1894 he immigrated to the United States and there he reached his full development in the field of literature. In addition to his short stories that he republished in 1897, he published many articles on Jewish literature, especially on the Jewish theater. His writings were published in the Der Morgen Zhurnal, Arbeiter Zeitung, Forverts, in the journals Kunst and Tsukunft, and also in the by-weekly The Theater Journal that he established in 1901. In 1918, his monumental work, Di geshikhṭe fun Idishin ṭheaṭer - tsvòey ṭoyzend yohr ṭheaṭer bay Iden, which was published in a second enlarged edition (in two volumes) in 1923 and a third in 1929 (after his death). He passed away in the United States in 1925. He was considered one of the creators of the realistic story in the Yiddish literature. On the landscape of Lida in his works - see J. Genozovitch's article in this book, in the section Folklore, Way of Life.
Michael Iviansky belongs to a later wave of the flow to the Land of Liberty.
After the failure of the 1905 revolution he found refuge in America from the rage of the Russian regime and its police. He was an original personality who wrote a special chapter in the history of the Jewish Labor Movement in the United States. His characteristic lines were: extreme honesty, love of mankind, love of his people, his country and its languages, Hebrew and Yiddish alike.
(His life story and the evaluation of his personality are given in the following article)
To that period of immigration from Lida to the United States also belongs Mr. Sol (Shlomo) Feinston, may he live a long life, son of Yosef Beilogrodsky (Yoshe der Sayfer). He arrived in New York in 1902 at the age of 14 and in his meager bundle was nothing but - the desire for freedom and knowledge. During the day he worked in the shop and devoted the nights to studies. He was among the first graduates of the Collage of Forestry of Syracuse University. In 1916 he earned a master's degree in
chemistry in Syracuse (by the way, he published a chemistry book in Yiddish), and graduated in economics at the University of Pennsylvania. In the First World War he served as a chemist in the U.S. Navy. He sees himself as an American born in Lida, who thinks and acts like an American. In 1925 he visited Lida with his family and founded in Lida, in his family home, Gemilut Hesed to the needy. In the United States, he donated much of his strength, and wealth to cultural institutions, especially in the field of his hobby - collecting original manuscripts from the American Revolution. His memories of Lida and its people, written with a warm feeling for his hometown, are presented in this book in the language of the writer, English [My Lida Heritage, Page 5].
Mr. Feinston's son, Ezra, became famous in the world of theater art in America (under the name Ezra Stone) in the radio and television, as an actor, playwright and author, and also as a lecturer at several universities (see: Who is Who in World Jewry, 1956).
Mrs. Yochevd (Atta) Bayer (of the Schepetnizky family, daughter of R' Yisrael Yosef zl), who arrived to the shores of the United States at the beginning of this century, enriched the bookcase (especially among the Lidaim) with a book written in English and its name: Transplanted People, and its content - memories of life in Lida at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century, especially in the surroundings of the author's family. In addition, the book describes the difficulties of the new immigrants in the United States during this period, mainly the experiences of the writer herself, who worked, in a hard and harmful work to the health, until she reached an established status in life. The descriptions of the town are written in simplicity and innocence, and there is no room here for arguments about accuracy of general or local historical facts, but we must thank the author for the overall picture. By the way, we learned about the existence of the Lider Organization in Chicago whose members helped in the publication of the book in 1955.
A place called Lida in the United States?
Finally, many of Lida's people in the United States will surely be interested to know that in one of the remote corners of the State of Nevada, in the vicinity of the Appalachian Mountains, at the northern latitude 37.29, and the western longitude117.29, at a distance of about 35 kilometer from the main road, near the Magruder Mountain within the Silver Peak Mounts, lies at the top of a high mountain a tiny settlement called Lida (the exact spelling: L-i-d-a). We found this name in the Times Atlas, 1957[a].
Unfortunately, we were not able to find out, through our brothers overseas, the origin of this name, who determined it when he first settled there: Jewish or Christian immigrants from Lida? Or, there is no connection between this point and the city of Lida. We bring this detail here to arouse the scientific curiosity of the townspeople in the United States. Maybe one of them will be able to find an answer to this question?
Collected by Abba Lando
by Ze'ev Iviansky
Translated by Sara Mages
Michael Iviansky was a man with a broad knowledge and culture, a scholar, a writer, a warrior, a talented and sharp journalist, and an economist. He was steeped in Jewish and Hebrew education from his parents' home and from yeshivot in Lita [Lithuania], and secular education, Russian, German and English. With that, a man versed in world affairs whose public and journalistic path has led him across many countries and continents - Russia, Germany and the United States. At the end of the First World War he also served as a journalist in China and Japan. He was an active member of the Bund in Russia and one of the founders and leaders of Arbeter Ring in the United States, and with that - lover of Israel and ardent lover of Zion.
Michael Iviansky was born in Lida in 1881 to his father Moshe Gronem and his mother Kende. In his childhood he was known as a prodigy and in his youth he studied at the famous Ramailes Yeshiva (Ramailes Kloyz) in Vilna. In those days the spirit of the Haskalah also penetrated the fortresses of the yeshivot, and among those who peeked and got hurt was also Michael. From here his activity in the Bund circles began. Michal invested himself in the revolutionary movement and in the Haskalah. With his brilliant talents he took the matriculation exams at the Minsk gymnasium and passed them successfully. In 1902 he left for Germany, was accepted to the University of Berlin and graduated with honors from the Faculty of Literature. He returned to Russia and invested himself in the movement and the revolution. After the failure of the 1905 revolution, he was forced to immigrate to the United States because of the regime's persecutions. His thirst for studies did not end. He devoted himself to studies again and graduated from the Department of Economics at New York University. Here, too, he remained faithful to his path in the labor movement and devoted his talents, education and organizational ability to the masses of Jewish workers in the United States.
As stated, Michael Iviansky was among the founders and leaders of the Arbeter Ring, and for many years he also served as its general secretary. He was among the regular participants of the Forverts newspaper in New-York and its representative in the Far East. However, when the United Jewish Appeal campaign began in America he volunteered and extended loyal help to alman Rubashov (Shazar), Golda Meyerson (Meir) and Yisrael Marminski (Marom), who served in this mission within the Jewish Labor Movement in America. Jerusalem was, and will always be more precious to me than Moscow, he wrote on the pages of Forverts. His viewpoint led to a serious conflict with the sharp opponents of Zion within the Bund, as well as with Abe (Abraham) Cahan the editor of Forverts. Following this conflict he was forced to leave the newspaper and as a result was badly hurt financially. You are the fighter and tormentor in the matter of Zion among the Jewish Labor Movement in the United States wrote him the poet A, Liessin, who joined the straggle and opened before him the gates of Tsukunft.
Michael Iviansky remained true to the promise he once wrote on the picture of his ordination ceremony at the university that he sent to his parents in Lida: Do not see me wearing gentile clothes: my heart, a warm faithful Jewish heart, is yours and for you.
The Holocaust, that befell the European Jewry and his extensive family, broke his heart. In his old age he gathered several of his letters in Hebrew in a collection published in New York in 1952 under the name Roadside. In 1953, one hundred years to the immigration of his grandfather, R' Zalman, to Eretz Israel, he also immigrated to the country. The aforementioned collection included, among others, his articles on his experiences during his visit to his hometown on the eve of the Second World War, 1938) on his way from the Congress of Jewish Writers in Europe. book, which contained his essays on socialism in English, was published in the United States. In the last years of his life he engaged in collecting material on Lida. In 1954, he left to liquidate his affairs in the United States in order to settle in Israel near the survivors of his family, but he passed away when he was on the New York subway, on June 3, 1954.
A proud man with principles, and as one of the righteous passed away.
Kibbutz Ein Harod
by A. L.
Translated by Sara Mages
Yakov Dvoretzky was born in Lida in 1898 to his father Paltiel and his mother Freidel. He studied at the cheder, and then at the progymnasium in Plauen which he graduated on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War. Due to the German occupation he was forced to temporarily stop his studies and devoted himself to helping his family. At the same time, he sought a way out for the inner forces that were fermenting in him, and he found it - in an artistic activity, in a dramatic circle that he founded in Lida and stood as its leader for several years. Without prior training in this field, he was suddenly revealed to have a distinctly dramatic talent and as a talented amateur director. He knew how to discover talented people from among the working classes, to unite and organize them. And soon, the performances of this amateur club became popular, and it was a serious competitor to the amateur club of the homeowners circles, led by Tziderovich, which was previously popular in the city. And the jealousy among scholars added another artistic tier to the cultural life of Lida, thanks to Yakov Dvoretzky.
After the end of the war between Poland and Russia, Yakov immigrated together with his wife, Malka née Dvoretzky, may she live long, to the United States. Here he continued his studies and completed them with a degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine. His profession helped him establish his financial situation. He did not aspire to wealth. He aspired to do good and devoted himself with all his might to public activity.
For decades he chaired the United Lida Organization for Mutual Aid (United Lider Relief) in New York, and did not tire of seeking means and lending a hand wherever it was needed. Since the establishment of the State of Israel he devoted all his energy to activity for the state, and has taken on every difficult task assigned to him. Since he was busy during the day with his professional work, he devoted the nights to his public work. And when he collected donations from others, he himself donated more than he demanded from others.
His strenuous activity damaged his state of health. On 19 March 1957, he suffered a heart attack that ended his life. Many accompanied him to the cemetery. Among them were representatives of various Jewish institutions who cherished his personality and his activities.
|General meeting of Former Residents of Lida in the United States, New York,
in regard to the publication of the book with Mr. Damesek from Israel (1967)
|Seated right to left: K. Orzechovski, T, Bieleski, Konopko, Dr. Kivelevich
Speaking: E. Damesek
From right to left - standing: Abba Lando, Moshe Chaim Boyarski, Yakov Gelfer, Eliyahu Damesek, Yaffa Gintzburg (Boyersky), Yosef Darshan, Shimshon Vinkovski
Seated: Chaim Yosef Argov (Grabovski), HaRav Shlomo Podolski, Yakov Dvoretzky zl (the guest), Yakov Ilutovich
by Abba Lando
Translated by Sara Mages
With the outbreak of the war, on 1 September 1939, contact with the State of Poland ceased immediately. Days of worry and anticipation came to the people of Lida in Israel. Worry for the many extensive families who remained there and anticipation - for news from the front. With the development of the battles, and the deepening of the penetration of Hitler's soldiers into the heart of Poland, the anticipation turned into anxiety, there was no room for illusion - the fate of Poland had been decided. It was also clear that the conquest of its eastern regions is but a matter of a few weeks, if not less than that. And what does a German mean to our Jewish brothers it was possible to speculate even then (though not many could have imagined the lowest step to which the Nazi beast had reached). And suddenly - a surprise, like a thunder on a clear day the Soviet army entered the Polish border and captured its eastern regions, including the regions of Baranowicze, Lida and others, to which they affixed the name Western Belorussia.
Indeed, there was not much sympathy on the part of the Jews of Lida for the anti- Semitic Polish government, which instilled the spirit of hatred of the Jews also in Lida and damaged the relatively peaceful neighborly relations between the city's Jews and their Christian neighbors. Nevertheless, at that time, the hearts of the Jews, and the Jews of Lida in particular, belonged to plundered Poland, which after two decades of renewed independence - was divided for the fourth time. With all this, the news of the conquest of Lida by the Russians was received with a sigh of relief, as a rescue, even temporarily, from the predatory claws of the Nazis.
In the meantime, letters began to arrive from Lida. It was impossible to know a lot from them about what was going on there, the wording was mostly laconic and routine: living and healthy, working and making a living - don't worry about us. Sometimes they added: don't ask too many questions. People, who used to write their letters in Hebrew, started to write in Yiddish, Russian or Polish. Those, who experienced the Soviet rule twenty years ago, understood well the reason of this shortening, the clues hidden between the lines, the non-mention of names and the like. Fear evaporated from these short postcards. The consolation was the old Russian proverb about the lesser of two evils, as opposed to the assumed nightmares of the German occupation.
But this temporary rescue did not last long. On June 21, 1941, the radio transmitted the horrific news of the German invasion of the east in violation of the Stalin-Ribbentrop Pact. Within days, the former residents of Lida heard, with trembling in the heart, the name of the city of Lida in the list of cities that had been occupied by the Germans. A heavy cover descended on the occupied territories and it was impossible to obtain any further clear knowledge of what was going on there. The heart refused to believe the obscure information given about the Nazis' murders wherever they ruled. It was too awful to believe!
More than two years of anxiety and tense anticipation have passed. The year 1944 came and with it the decisive turning point on the eastern front. Every day the names of liberated cities were announced over the radio waves. With the news of the liberation of Lida in mid-July, two telegrams were sent in the name of former residents of Lida.
One under the name The Municipal Soviet in Lida (for the lack of any other exact address) and one to the Council of Commissars in Minsk,; with a request for information on the fate of the Jews of Lida. A long time passed without an answer. In the meantime, letters began to arrive from the Jews of Lida in remote corners of Russia, from Krasnoyarsk in the east to Vilna in the west, and in them the first reports about the extensive killings and the few survivors. On 15 January, an official letter finally arrived from the Belorussian government in Mink (no answer has been received from the local government in Lida) and here is the exact translation:
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Council of People's Commissars. 26 October, 1944. No. 490. The city of Minsk
To Eretz Israel, Tel Aviv.
To Mr. Yisrael Shelubski
Concerning your telegraphic request, the Council of People's Commissars of the Byelorussian Republic informs that, as clarified by the local organizations, the Germans occupiers annihilated in Lida, during the years of occupation of the city, about ten thousand Jews.
The mass killing of the Jewish population was carried out by the German occupiers on 8 May1942. On this day 5,650 Jews were killed.
On 17 September 1943, the Germans took out 3,000 Jews from the city of Lida in an unknown direction. The German occupiers looted all the property of the Jewish residents. Currently there are about 500 Jews Lida.
( - ) acting Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Byelorussian Republic S. S.
There was no room left for illusions.
Letters from dozens of survivors began to arrive but - did not reach hundreds. The great destruction was revealed in all its oppressive gloom.
On the night of 21 Iyar 5705 (4 May 1945), the first memorial service for the martyrs of Lida was held in Tel Aviv. An audience of bereaved orphans said Kaddish. The tear that had been held in the heart for years broke out at once, with force and howling, and there was no belief in the heart - the biting pain remains and does not give rest to this day:
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