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Selected Translations – Yiddish

Translated by Don Shifris

[Page 292]

.Russian school and the Polish gymnazia which were established during German rule, as were the two Jewish cultural schools, and were under government control. The parties continued to exist. The Bund and Poalei Zion, which supported the new situation, participated in the government institutions and mobilized their members into the militia. The Tze'irei Zion [Zion Youth] managed their organizational and cultural activities and were satisfied with administering the Folks Shul [Hebrew Cultural School] and library. However, in general, community life was basically paralyzed.

The Soviet authorities didn't have sufficient resources to finance their activities in town, and therefore imposed a kind of “contribution”, a special tax on the bourgeoisie. This was administered in an original way: one morning the Cheka (the secret police) arrested a few dozen merchants. They were asked to pay a special tax amounting to a few thousand zlotys.

The merchants didn't take the decree seriously, and sat down together, prayed together in a minyan, and even started laughing at the new administrators who they said couldn't even sign their names correctly and didn't know how to manage a city. The arrested merchants were guarded by the militia members of the Jewish parties and they were permitted to visit their relatives. After keeping them in custody for a week or so, the merchants paid the tax and the Jews were overjoyed.

In the meantime, the Polish army started chasing the Bolshevik forces back to Russia. The Poles in Nyesvich, who were quite numerous, heard that the Polish forces were approaching the town, and started organizing their own forces to assist the Polish army to liberate the town. A group of armed Poles took over the town council [Soviet], and in the struggle two militia members died: the communist Tatur and Catriel Greenblatt of Poalei Zion.   The rebels immediately took over all Soviet institutions in town. The Soviet authorities escaped from Nyesvich to the Horodzy [City] train station. From there they got in touch with Minsk. To their great disappointment they found out that the Polish army was actually far from the city. The next evening the Red Army recaptured Nyesvich. The Russians began to arrest Poles, five of whom were shot. The Jewish community was almost untouched by the events.

At the end of the summer, the battles intensified and in October 1919 the Polish army marched into town.


Under Polish Rule (1919-1920)

The Polish takeover of town took place peacefully. Along with the Soviet army, whoever worked under their administration departed together with them. The Polish authorities put themselves in place and were tolerant to the Jewish community. There were a few incidents where the police didn't control anti-Semitism. In their opinion, the Poles considered all Jews to be Bolsheviks. There were occasions when the Jewish community suffered from the hallertshikas and poznanchikas (military units headed by General Haller and Poles originating from the Posnan region). The hallertschikas would cut off beards of Jews.

After administrative order was restored, business started functioning again, which improved the economic situation, even though many members of the community were in need of assistance. Links with the United States were restored and many residents received assistance from there. International aid organizations also worked in town and set up a soup kitchen for needy children who would receive a glass of cocoa from conserved milk and cooked food. A number of Zionist activists came to Nyesvich: Yoel Rozovsky, Baruch Shmushkovich, Dov (Boris) Meisel, Aharon Goldin, Pinchas Bumstein and Binyamin Eisenbod. Religious volunteers were also active: R. Yerachmiel Bergman, Moshe Lachavitsky, Mordechai David Alperovich, Shmuel Kravets and others.

The left-wing parties, such as the Bund and Poalei Zion, cut back their activity because many of their active members left for Russia. Those who remained got involved in the activity of the Jewish Cultural School. Among the activists it's worth mentioning Leibel Eisenbod, Moshe Arke Shkolnik, Avraham Eliyahu Lieberman and Golda Halperin. The Tse'irei Zion continued their activity and continued running the library and the Tchlenov Hebrew school. Among their active members were: Binyamin Eisenbod, Moshe Melnick, Zalman Shifres, Moshe Rabinovich, Binyamin Yevelevsky (Yoely), Avraham Tsudik, Elisheva Kaplan-Eshkol, Moshe Steinhaus (Ben-Artzi), Lippa Brevda (Levi Ben-Amitai), Shmuel Eisenstadt, Yaakov Andrusyor, Aharon Heller and others.

The Jewish Community Council was established at that time, and was the central body that dealt with the community, cultural and social issues, and had a significant impact on the Jews in town. The Community Council also represented the Jewish community in dealings with the Polish authorities, and supervised the work of the Zionist activists whose activity in Nyesvich was greatly respected.

At the end of 1919, an election committee was created that included representatives from ideologies, and democratic elections were held at the beginning of 1920. The following groups participated in the elections: General Zionists, Ze'irei Zion, Poalei Zedek, Tiferet Bachurim, Mizrachi, and the congregants of various synagogues. Only the “Left," who were affiliated with the Folks Shul didn't participate in the elections.

Twenty-three members were elected to the Community Council: Yoel Rozovsky, Boris Meisel and Baruch Shmushkovich from from the General Zionists; Binyamin Eisenbod, Rabinovich, Shifres, Yevelevsky (Yoely) from Tse'irei Zion; Bumstein and Alperovich from Poalei Zedek; Rabbi Yerachmiel Burgman from the Old Synagogue; Rabbi Yitzchak Davidovich from Mizrachi; R. Yochanan Molovitsky, who later became rabbi in Lachavits, from the Chassidic synagogue; Aharon Goldin and Mendelevich from the merchants; Yehoshua Bashinevich from Tiferet Bachurim, and others.

[Page 293]

At the first meeting, Yoel Rozovsky was elected chairman, and a presidium [executive council] was established, as was a charity committee, a finance committee and an audit committee. The Jews showed interest in community meetings. The minutes of the meetings and bookkeeping were written in Hebrew.

The community supervised and maintained the social and educational institutions in town: the Talmud Torah, the public bath, the Guest House, funds for communal religious purposes, the charity fund, the burial society and community outhouses. The council imposed a special tax the Jewish residents had to pay. The community also remained in contact with immigrants in America and requested assistance from them. Nyesvich immigrants in New York sent two of their representatives, Dr. Mogalensky and Landau, to Nyesvich with financial assistance for the various institutions.

The events in Eretz Yisrael, the battle in Tel Hai and the pogrom in Jerusalem during Passover 1920, gave an impetus to the Tse'irei Zion movement to organize a group of pioneers to emigrate there. The aliyah committee was affiliated with the regional committee in Minsk. The Nyesvich members were: Hirsh Nota Eisenbod, an old Zionist who had visited Eretz Yisrael before the First World War, Yoel Rozovsky, Binyamin Eisenbod, Zalman Shifres, Binyamin Yevelevsky (Yoely) and Moshe Steinhaus (Ben-Arzi). The pioneers decided to emigrate before the city fell to the Soviets. The following pioneers actually emigrated: Sarah Leah Angelevich, Shraga Feivel Levin, Moshe Menker, Shaul Meckler, Yosef Sirotta, Mordechai Krepach, Yosef Kirszner, Meir Shabbat, Moshe Steinhaus (Ben-Arzi), Zalman Shifres, Elisheva Kaplan-Eshkol, Lippa Brevda (Levi Rabinovich.


Under the brief Soviet rule (1920)

When the Poles started to leave Nyesvich because of the oncoming Soviet army, the Jews began to face awful times. Their businesses were robbed and women had their jewelry stolen. In addition, other horrid acts were committed by the soldiers of the Polish army. Eliyahu Kirzner was killed when he was shot by Polish soldiers as he protested their robbery.

Thanks to the intervention of the chairman of the community, R. Yoel Rozovsky, who had put himself in danger when he appealed to the Polish gendarmerie for help at the most critical moment, some huge tragedies were prevented.

Therefore, the Jewish community was overjoyed when the Soviet army marched into town and treated everyone with respect. At that time a revolutionary committee was created in town and became involved in town affairs. Various individuals became involved as officials in social affairs, regardless of their party affiliation. Members of the left-wing parties such as the Bund
and Poalei Zion assumed responsible positions. At that time, the Communist Party was being organized, and attracted many Jewish members.

At the time a general mobilization was announced, many Jews were mobilized into the Red Army. A state of military preparedness was declared in town and a night curfew was imposed. The economic situation deteriorated and businesses were empty. Farmers didn't bring any produce into town.

All schools approving of the new regime were able to provide normal classroom studies. The Hebrew school was turned into a Yiddish one, and community and Zionist activity was discontinued. The communist youth organization, Komsomol, was established in town and opened an unsavory social club furnished with furniture from Radziwill's castle. That club attracted many Jewish youth who wanted to spend their time there and read newspapers.

Soviet rule in Nyesvich didn't last long. The Soviet retreat from the Vistula resulted in the surrender of Nyesvich by the Bolsheviks.

The chairman of the Jewish community,
R. Yoel Rozovsky


Independent Poland (1920-1939)

The Jewish community had mixed feelings about the independence of Poland.  On one hand, they hoped that the economic and social situation would improve, however, on the other hand, they feared anti-semitic outbreaks by the Poles, who were well-known for their hatred of Jews. Thanks to chairman of the community, Yoel Rozovsky, the situation of the Jews in Nyesvich was relatively good, because he knew how to develop relationships with the ruling regime and soften its dealings with the Jews.

The Community Council was connected to the.....

[Page 304]

In the Years 1905-1906 by Shimeon Damesek

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

During the summer we would gather at A. Navital. Winter, on Fridays and evenings, we would come together in the Kazimer Synagogue, above, in the women's section.

We also would come together at [the home of] the apothecary, Shimeon Urtz. He had a room behind his apothecary shop. We would arrive alone or in pairs and make sure that no one was following us.

We had revolvers, but not everyone knew where to find them. Only five members knew that the revolvers were hidden in the ground at the home of Shmerle Shmuel Josef, the bricklayer. We would oil them from time to time and shoot them. Once, on the eve of the Christian Easter, it was said that the gentiles would have a pogrom against the Jews. I think this was in the year 1906; all of the young Jews joined the firemen (paczarne komande). We took out the weapons and sat in the firemen's shed the entire night. The casks were filled with water so that everything would be ready. We placed patrols at the Polish and Russian churches. Some of the others stood back 100 feet in the shadows so in case something happened, we would go out with the containers of water. We also had a dagger, whips – but no harm came.

We used to print proclamations for the soldiers. In 1906, we demonstrated. Soldiers with sticks appeared against us and did not allow us to move. We all shouted: “Da zdravstvuyet soldatskaya armiya!” [Long live the soldier's army!] They all moved to the side and we walked through. Mashka, Faywl Ahrele's mother, came and wanted to take him home. He pushed her away and did not go.

In 1905 a group took all of the rifles and great coats from the military weapons warehouse. One of us would stand at our post for several hours. Four sleds would arrive and they were loaded with weapons. In this way, everything was taken to Minsk over several weeks. The soldier died in Israel. His name was Avrahaml Druker.

The end was when Murze the barber told an officer who was having his hair cut, “You know nothing; the arsenal has been stolen.” When the door was opened, it was seen as true. Everyone was caught because the Cossacks and the Chekas [Russsian secret police] had come running into the city. No one was permitted to leave. The entire city was surrounded. Those who were suspects were whipped. Blood flowed from them until they told where they had taken the ammunition. They came to the cellar where they had hidden the weapons; nothing remained there. It had been taken to Petersburg. The revolutionaries were sent to prison. Then there was some kind of manifesto and they were freed and the soldier escaped to Germany. He got married there and I attended the wedding…

A picture of the old city of Nesvizh


[Page 307]

Documents tell the story

Hebrew Kindergarten in Nyesvich named after Chaim Nachman Bialik.  A celebration was held in honor of the opening of the Chaim N. Bialik

Hebrew Kindergarten. The kindergarten was established thanks to the active involvement of WIZO, which during its entire existence has always been seen at the forefront. The example should be followed in other towns as well.

A. Mutter (Heint newspaper, 1934, no. 218, 17th Tishrei 1934).


The kindergarten in Nyesvich with the teacher, Yamima Angelovich (Left, below)
Above right: Chiuta Blatchinsky from the Land of Israel during her visit to Nyesvich


Regional Conference of the Tarbut teachers in Nyesvich

At the initiative of the central committee of Tarbut [Culture], there will be a regional conference of the Tarbut teachers held on Shabbat and Sunday, the 13th and 14th of this month in Nyesvich, with the participation of the Tarbut visitor, Mr. Avraham Einstein. At the conference participants will include the school and teachers of the schools in Baranovich, Horodzy, Lachovits, Malzads, Nyesvich, Stolptsy, and Kletsk. The conference mainly will deal with issues relating to Hebrew studies and organizational problems of the Tarbut movement. During the conference, there will also be practical lectures at the Nyesvich school that will provide the basis for the discussions of the participants.

(Moment, Warsaw, 2/14/1937)

[Handwritten letter]

Nyesvich Hebrew Community Council
February 23, 1926

To Mr. Eisenstadt

In Petach Tikvah

I very much wanted to write you, my dear friend, but I didn't have a chance. And if I am do not deserve to call you friend, then at least “my dear one"! I read your wonderful letter with great excitement. First of all, because it was written in the land of my hopes, and second of all, and this is the main thing, that it was written in clear, living Hebrew, and in detail, and also because it contains information about the “wild” children, who are called pioneers. What can I say, and what I tell? I am beginning to believe all the old wives' tales about the 36 righteous men, that an angel came each night to each of the righteous men and taught them 70 languages on one foot! You must have learned the language so beautifully and yet so simply at night! Maybe [letter ends here]

A letter from Rabbi Yoel Rozovsky, the chairman of the Nyesvich community,
to Shmuel Eisenstadt in the Land of Israel.

[Page 308]

Fundraising for the Refugees from Germany (42nd List) Nyesvich: At the initiative of the chairman of the Jewish community, Mr. Yoel Rozovsky, a large fundraising meeting of the representatives of local businessmen, political organizations, etc. was announced. An Aid Committee was selected and was made up of the following members: Chairman - Mr. Yoel Razovsky; Vice-Chairman, Rabbi Isaac Rabinovich.

Members: Mrs. Frumma, Benharav [Son of Rabbi or just a name] Segal,

Dr. Yaakov Ginsberg, Dr. Binyamin Eisenbod, Dr. Nachman Kagan, Dr. Eliyahu Zecharyavich, Dr. Yeshayahu Kessel, Yosef Vasilevsky and Meir Tennenbaum.  The following persons made contributions:

Dr. Yaakov Ginsberg, Dr. Nachman Cohen, Shlomo Greenwald, Shmuel Neifeld, Moshe Shereshevsky,
Yosef Cohen - 20 zlotys.

S. Itskovsky, M. Slonimsky,
T. Skokolsky - 18 zlotys. Tarbut Hebrew Culture School teachers - 16.5 zlotys.

Dr. B. Eisenbod, S. L. Danielovich, Dr. E. Zecharyavich, the Charlap brothers, Y. D. Levin, Attorney M. Messita, Dr. S. Kessel, A. Kaufman, L. Kaufman - 15 zlotys.

Y. Vasilevsky, R. Svidsky, the Farfel brothers - 12 zlotys.

Mrs. H. Baumstein, A. Glass, Mrs. Kreina Meisel, Avraham Yitzchak Malyer, Y. Nun, Leib Kaufman, A. B. Katzanovsky, Hirsh Rodstein, Wolf Schwartz - 10 zlotys.

David Altman (and son-in-law), S. Albensky, Baruch Ardzyansky, Wolf Gorion, Ber Gurwitz, Binyamin Gurwitz, M. Donyetz, Yisrael Weingrad, Yaakov Waxberg, N. Zaturensky, David Charlap, Shmuel (Ben-Aharon), David Lipovsky, Avraham Lipovsky, Mrs. Chana Lifshitz, Mordechai Mendelowitz, Leib Enstein, Aharon Zinman, Shmuel Kletzkin,
Pesach Schwed - 6 zlotys.

Aharon Leib Angelowitz, Mrs. Rachel Eisenstadt, anonymous, M. M. Bashinkewitz, Shlomo Goldberg, Chanan Goldin, Chanan Greenwald, Yaakov Yereshevitz, Moshe Lusky, Aharon Landau, Mrs. Sarah Molovska, Isser Meritsky, Yosef Svirschek, Yerachmiel Soltan, Yitzchak Sragovitz, Moshe Fayaness, Hirsh Kalmanovitz, Miss Rachel Shriftzetser - 5 zlotys.

[Bottom of handwritten letter:] Request for a loan from the Jewish
Cooperative National Bank dated 8/20/1925 signed by L. Werzel.

Menachem Polliak, Shmuel Perlman, Aharon Zitterman, Mrs. Hinda Kaufman, Hirsh Klitienick, Yisrael Kabrinsky, Yoel Rozovsky - 4.5 zlotys.

Mrs. Fruma Eisenbod, Reuven Bliatsinsky, Mrs. Golda Kilievitz - 4 zlotys.

David Aginsky, Yosef Isaacov, Yosef David Alperin, Meir Alpert, Yosef Bliacher, Avraham Bratkovsky, Mordechai Gurwitz, David Gabrelyov, Shlomo Gabrelyov, Yehoshua Meir Goldberg, Yaakov Dovavsky, Yitzchak Heisenblazen,
Yechiel Hungeriker, Yosef Witzig, Brother [sic], Leib Zmudchak, Naftali Chayutin, Abba Tennenbaum, Avraham Turtsin, Yeshayahu Tarn, Yaakov Levkovitz, Yosef Lipkovsky, Mordechai Lekech, Mrs. Bracha Rivka Landau, Michel Leit, Lippa Yerenberg, Yerachmiel Malyavsky, Yaakov Selibovsky, Mrs. Tsesha Svershtsik, Mrs. Tsira Pollack, Morris Pentsovsky, Yitzchak Farber, Yitzchak Baruch Tsechanovitz, David Koliesh, Kiel-Sorovitz [sic], Yehoshua Kravitz, Eliezer Katzanovitz,
E. Rozovsky, Zelig Remez, Moshe Aharon Shkolnick, Mrs. Ch. Spielberg, Hirsh Shklyar, M. Lyachovsky, Chaim Zvi
Rabinowitz - 8 zlotys.

Leib Hertz Davidovsky - 2.5 zlotys.

Mrs. Chana Alpert, Leib Eisenbod, Yosef Izraelite, Mrs. Itka Berkovitz, Mordechai Beneroff, Chaim Brock, S. Gabrelov, Leib Gelfand, Charny [sic], Mendel Tennenbaum, David Lemud, Notta Livshitz, Yaakov Leit, David Meir Lubetsky, Aharon Eliyahu Margolin, Yaakov Mendelowitz, Mordechai Menker, Beinish Mandel, Hertz Sragowitz, Yitzchak Sragowitz, Avraham Svirshtsik, Yisrael Sirkoy, Dvozsha Svirshtsik, Yitzchak Pialka, Moshe Frank, Avraham Pomerantz, Yitzchak Kreps, Sarah Kravetz Dunsky, Mrs. Bracha Steinhaus, Wolf [sic], Shmuel Kravitz, Chaim Remez, Mrs. Z. Roshuster, A. Puchovsky
and his son Yosef. - 2 zlotys.

Rabbi Isaac Rabinowitz, Yaakov Blyacher, Yaakov Blumess, Avraham Reitman, Shmuel Bergman, Yehoshua Bashenkevich, Koppel Berkowitz, Meir Ginsberg, Ozer Garfinkel, Moshe Gabrelyov, Yaakov Gass, Mrs. Zlata Deretsinsky, Moshe
Vinakur, Moshe Zuback, Shlomo Chalavsky, Koppel Turzin, Peitel Tsechenowitz, Mrs. R. Reinstein, Ber Shmerkowitz,
Chaim Shifres, Baruch Shapiro - 1 zloty.

[Printed Certificate:]

Jewish National Fund Committee in Nyesvich Celebrations Album Dept.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand wither

THE SUM OF 5 [currency covered by stamp] FOR OUR FUND.
[Stamp of the Keren Kayemet (JNF) and illegible signatures].

Registration certificate in the Celebrations Album in memory of Zvi
Potashnik's visit to his hometown dated Lag BaOmer, 1938 [May 19, 1938].


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