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[Page 287]

Zoludzk
(Bol'shoy Zhëlutsk, Ukraine)

51°19' 26°07'

 

You were pleasant to me Zoludzk

by Aharon Goz

Translated by Sara Mages

 

Zoludzk was next to Stanzia Rafalovka. This Rafalovka was younger and its lifestyle was “new” in comparison to Zoludzk.

Sons and daughters, from the two towns, married each other, and so the families branched and roots were sent here and there.

In fact, Zoludzk wasn't one town, but, so to speak, two towns, and the distance between them was about half a kilometer. The one, closer to Rafalovka, was called “Big Zoludzk.”

My father z”l, Moshe Goz, was among the residents of Zoludzk. He was called Moshe “Der Shvartzer” [“the black”]. About eighty Jewish families lived in the town. Its residents were merchants, livestock traders, and laborers with a saw and an ax.

There were two synagogues in Zoludzk. One was called “New” and the other “Old.” We prayed at the new synagogue.

Our family numbered twelve people. The parents, Moshe and Manya z”l, didn't come from a wealthy family. They worked hard all week to support their large family. However, with the arrival of the Sabbath, they had rescue and redemption. With the arrival of the Sabbath there was also rest for the body and the mind. The traditional Sabbath clothes brought a spirit of holiness. The tidiness, the lit Sabbath candles and the smell of special Shabbat dishes, brought with them a new splendor. They opened the hearts to a silent confession to God. With this feeling they arrived and came to the synagogue to welcome the Sabbath Queen.

Life in a small town wasn't the life in a big city. In a small town the residents knew each other and were tied to one another with bonds of friendship and marriage. Indeed, the people in a small town were like a big family. If there was an event in a family, the whole town talked about it. If there was a celebration, many came to participate in it, and vice versa, if someone was in trouble, all the community leaders rushed to offer help. In those days a typhus epidemic took over our town. The young volunteered to help the sick. They slept in their home and served them. Many participated in it even though there was mortal danger in this act. When someone had a son, the Shamash announced the birth in the synagogue and the entire community prayed for the safety of the boy. On the day that a circumcision was held in a small town, the Tachanun [“Supplication”] prayer wasn't said at the synagogue because, on that day, everyone saw themselves as partners to joy. Most of the people had two names.

Zoludzk's Jews made an effort to give their children a Jewish education.

Towards the “Days of Awe” Jews from the nearby villages gathered to pray in a “minyan” and absorb the holiness of these special days. The Jews from the surrounding area came to Zoludzk and stayed at the same hostels year to year.

A week before the holiday of Passover these villagers came to the rabbi to sell the “chametz.”

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What was their livelihood?

Zoludzk wasn't blessed with industry and not with large trading houses. There was a flour mill, grocery stores and grain merchants. The shopkeepers sat for hours at home and waited for a buyer. Several Jews earned their living from paddling. They left for the entire week to neighboring villages, wandered with their merchandise and bartered. For simple fabric, yarn and buttons they received eggs, chickens, pig hair and mushrooms. Each peddler had a right on “his” villages and no one invaded the other's boundaries.

Almost every family in town had a small auxiliary farm. Almost every Jew had a cow and one or two goats.

At the end of the winter they gave all the garbage to one of the farmers to fertilize his fields for the purpose of planting potatoes. Later, they shared the crop with him, half or one–third.

As in many towns in Vohlin, the rabbi's income came from the sale of kerosene, yeast and candles.

As usual, at dusk, when they had to light the lamp, they suddenly remember that there was no kerosene at home. The Rebbetzin handled all the matters of the sale and the rabbi wasn't interested in such matters.

As in other Jewish towns, Zoludzk's children studied in the “Hader” and in “Talmud Torah.” A few studied in Yeshivot out of town. At the age of three they already brought the boy to the “Hader,” to R' Yehosha. There, the boy started with the study of the “Aleph–Bet.” They also studied the Gemara with the rabbi, R' Avraham. I studied in a Yeshiva outside of Zoludzk.

Our family moved to live in Stanzia Rafalovka.

I started to get interested in everything connected to Eretz–Yisrael. To my great sorrow, I went twice to “Hakhshara” [pioneer training] but I wasn't able to immigrate to Eretz–Yisrael in this way.

It happened in 1935. One morning my father came and told us that we received a permit to immigrate. My wife, our two children and I immigrated to Eretz–Yisrael.

Here, in Eretz–Yisrael, it was difficult to manage with two children. But, we were free people. We no longer heard “Zyd” or “Zhydovka.” We got used to life there.

At the time that I separated from my beloved family members and immigrated to Eretz–Yisrael, I never imagined that it will be goodbye forever and I would never see them again. We were a big family and only a few of us remained. Everything was destroyed and disappeared. On the month of Elul, they were led, together with all the Jews, to the edge of the forest, to slaughter, and shot to death by the open pits.

You were pleasant to me, my Jewish town, Zoludzk, and your memory is very dear to me.

May the souls of our beloved be bound in the bond of life.


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My town Zoludzk

by Arye Galon

Translated by Sara Mages

In the first quarter of the 18th century, during the regime of the Czar, the tyrant Nikolay I, the persecution of the Russian Jews intensified. Their rights were limited and various decrees have been imposed on them. Especially difficult was the decree of kidnapping Jewish boys, from the age of eight to ten, giving them for education and work to “landowners” and Russian farmers until the age of conscription, and in due course – for military service of many years.

Overall, it was a separation of twenty five years from a Jewish home.

After the death of the tyrant Czar, when Alexander II came to the throne, this decree was eased. Each family, who moved to work the land in the forests and the swamps of Polesia–Vohlin, its sons were exempt from military service.

Then, the founding of Jewish agricultural settlements began in Polesia. The Jewish settlement, the Colony of Zoludzk, later, the town of Zoludzk, was founded at that time.

There were sixty houses and about seventy households in the town of Zoludzk. In addition, ten Jewish families lived in the villages bordering the town of Zoludzk. Together, there were eighty families who conducted a community life.

There were two synagogues in the town: one big, where they prayed on the Sabbath and on the holidays, and a small one – kind of Beit–Midrash. In the latter, they prayed every day and studied Mishnayot between Mincha and Maariv.

There was also a bathhouse in the town.

The town had a community rabbi, a slaughterer, two teachers for small children and R' Avraham melamed [teacher] who was called Avraham. All of Zoludzk's boys studied with him, from the Chumash and Rashi to the Bible. There was also a teacher for secular studies who was brought from the outside, and there was also a library.

How they made their living?

There were three grocery stores, there were paddlers who work all week in the neighboring villages and bought and sold everything within reach. There were craftsmen – tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths and builders.

The families were big and, on average, each family had seven to eight children. They weren't rich but somehow earned a living for all the needs of the time. There were no roads, pavements and electricity, but there was joy in the heart and a lot of confidence and faith. The Sabbath and the holidays in the town were in accordance with law and custom. Songs for the Shabbat and holiday emerged from every window.

Emissaries and preachers came to the town to collect donations for Yeshivot and charitable organizations. There wasn't a house without boxes for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and Keren Hayesod.

There were youth movements in town: “Hashomer Hatzir,” “HeHalutz,” and “Betar.” On the Sabbath the youth met in the club houses and there was joy in the town.

In 1925, some of the youth left for Hakhshara kibbutzim. Twenty members managed to get entry visas to Israel (certificates).

About twenty members, who were in Hakhshara kibbutzim and were approved for immigration by the movement, weren't able to

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get an entry visa to Israel from the Mandatory Government. They remained in the town. In 1935, four families immigrated to Israel within the framework of the Farmers Association. In the 1950s, thirty two families from Zoludzk were scattered throughout the country, in kibbutzim, settlements and cities.

The towns New Rafalovka, Old Rafalovka, Zoludzk, Olizarka and the surrounding area were connected to each other.

Only six kilometers separated the two towns. A number of respected homeowners in New Rafalovka came from Zoludzk. There wasn't a single family in Zoludzk that wasn't connected with a strong family tie to Rafalovka. I had four uncles, aunts and their family members in Rafalovka.

The seat of the chairman of the Jewish community and Polish government institutions were in Rafalovka. The men of Zoludzk maintained trade relations with Rafalovka.

Zoludzk was a small town in a remote corner. Our beloved parents, simple and innocent people, good and honest, happy with their lot and their confidence in salvation, lived there.

Their memory will be kept in our hearts forever.

At the beginning of the summer of 1942, the Jews of Zoludzk and the surrounding area, were rounded up and brought to the ghetto in New Rafalovka. At the end of the summer, on 16 Elul, on the Sabbath, all the ghetto's Jews from New and old Rafalovka, Zoludzk, Olizarka and the area, were brought to the pits. They were placed in rows and shot, just because they were Jews.

God will avenge their blood and may their memory be blessed.


Figures in Zoludzk

by Arye Galon

Translated by Sara Mages

 

HaRav R' Yitzchak Isboutsky

He was the son–in–law of HaRav Sultanski z”l. I only remember a little about him, but I especially remember the day of his death. According to his will he was taken for burial in the town of Stephen. It was at the beginning of the winter. A cold and rainy day, the whole town cried and accompanied him to the end of the town. From there, a minyan of Jews escorted him in a cart to cemetery in Stephen. They told, that when they came to the rabbi of Stephen and showed him the deceased's will, in which he asked to be buried next to a man that, according to what was said about him, was one of the Lamed Vav (he was known by the name “The socks maker”). The rabbi said: “great men wanted to be buried next to him but the space is insufficient.” They went with the shamash, checked and found, that there was enough space for burial. Then they understood that the deceased rabbi was one of the Tzadikim Nistarim [“hidden righteous ones”] and the place was waiting for him.

About two years later, the fiancé of the rabbi's daughter came to take his place. And indeed, he really deserved it. He was a handsome young man with a small black beard, a handsome appearance, a Lithuanian from Yeshivat Mir. This Yeshiva was famous with its students and also with their shiny appearance that was

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different from other Yeshiva students. A student in Yeshivat Mir didn't go out to the street with a stain on his garment and overgrown hair.

The young rabbi came to us during the intermediate days of Passover, a few days before his wedding. He stayed at the home of Yosef Finkelstein. At that time my father z”l sent me to the rabbi with a “question” about a slaughtered chicken. I was 13 then, a student at the Stolin Yeshiva. I envied the young rabbi for his good looks and distinguished status…

The rabbi kept me for a long hour as he was reading the Poskim [ruling of law]. It seemed that it was the first question that he had to pass judgment on after many years of studies.

Two years later, when I already studied at the Baranovich Yeshiva with R' Elchonon Wasserman z”l, I was a close friend of the young rabbi and saw his life of poverty. His income from the sale of yeast, Sabbath candles, kerosene and a share from the slaughtering fees wasn't enough to support him. I ceased to be jealous at him and gave up my desire to become a Jewish rabbi… I realized that it isn't good to depend on someone else.

In addition, he had conflicts with homeowners about various practices and formulas that he found to contradict Shulchan Aruch [legal code of Judaism]. He was a typical Lithuanian, “opponent,” not “Kegavana” and not “Veyatzmach Purkane”… and for that reason he was lonely, without friends.

He has aged prematurely after he had four children. At night, when we passed by his house, we saw him standing or leaning on the lectern and studying with a pleasant melody.

His house, that he inherited from his father–in–law, the former rabbi, was a big house across the synagogue, a little different, in its size and shape, from the rest of the houses as was appropriate for the town's rabbi.

Zoludzk belonged to the community of Volodymyrets that its rabbi, R' Shlomke z”l, was authorized by the government to issue birth certificates and be the chairman of the community. Sometime later, the position of the chairman of the community was transferred to a man from Stanzia Rafalovka with the support of a representative from Zoludzk. Then, our rabbi also got something from the community. However, with all the sources of income, he was still far from a comfortable life. Nevertheless, he never complained, received everything with love and fulfilled his duties loyally and faithfully.

He died, together with the members of his community and his family, a martyr death on the bitter and impetuous day. His soul is in heaven.

 

R' Avraham Melamed or – “The Rabbi”

His peers called him Avraham HaMelamed [the teacher], but the young people called him “The Rabbi” because everyone studied with him in their time and this nickname remained in their mouth also after they got married.

His house was next to the house of his father, R' Yitzchak Gibel. The house was like all the houses in Zoludzk, but on its front was a closed balcony with windows. From this balcony it was possible to see to the town's border.

He had five sons, four daughters and grandchildren. He taught Chumash and Rashi, Prophets and Gemara. When we were little, and still studied at the Heder of R' Yehosha,

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we envied the students of R' Avraham who, in the winter, walked in the evenings with lanterns The lantern was made of a bottle that a wax candle was inside it. We also got to do it and we were happy. The unforgettable experience is the experience of studying the Torah with a melody from R' Avraham, especially the weekly Torah portions of the patriarchs and the tribes, meaning – from “Lech–Lecha” to “Shemot.”

On Sunday he read the weekly Torah portion with Rashi and added all sorts of explanations, from the Midrash to legends, and we swallowed every word. It had a special taste in the evenings to the light of a kerosene lamp. With flushed cheeks, either from the heat of the stove or from excitement, we listened to the rabbi's voice and felt as if we were witness and partners to the evens that the rabbi was talking about – the Binding of Yitzchak, Yakov staying with Laban, Yosef and his brothers, and more than that – “Parashat Vaychi.” Gather around so I can tell you… and as for me, when I came from Padan…” in a special melody and with translation and explanation. Also the Bible and the Gemara had their own melodies and they pulled us to learn and listen.

”The Rabbi” also inserted words of moral behavior, honoring of father and mother etc. On Thursday we had to know everything, the entire Torah portion with all the interpretations. We also came to study with the rabbi on the Sabbath, in the summer – “Pirkei Avot,” and in the winter – “Borchi Nafshi.” In this way we were always connected to the rabbi. It was especially interesting before each holiday: before Hanukah – the story of the heroism of the Maccabim, before Purim – the Book of Esther, later, the Four Questions and the Haggadah, Song of Songs and its introduction, before Shavuot – the Book of Hakdamot and its introduction, before Tisha B'Av – the Book of Lamentations and stories of destruction – everything with its special melody and flavor.

The rabbi has done his holy work with love and great devotion. He taught the Torah for its own sake, the fees were low and there were also those who fell behind in their payments. Therefore, the rabbi lived the life of poverty. He raised his children and married them like all the Jews of Zoludzk. However, with our “liberation” by the Russians in 1939, his situation became more difficult because he wasn't allowed to teach and had no income. The family barely made enough money from the work of the older children who were at home.

His son, Yehudah, and his nephew, Eliyahu, who studied at that time in Yeshivat Mir, took a few dollars and gold and left for Vilna, which at that time belonged to Lita. From there many Jews left for the free countries. Many, who left from there at that time, arrived to China and after the war immigrated to Israel. However, we haven't heard anything about these young men since they've left home and their fate is unknown.

The fate of the revered rabbi and his family was the fate of the entire community of Zoludzk. God will avenge their blood.

 

R' Tzvi–Hersh Spivak, Sofer SeTaM [scribe]

A few lines to the image of R' Tzvi–Hersh Spivak,

  1. He was always happy with his lot.
  2. He had great confidence and believed with amazing innocence in the Divine Providence. I remember that he used to say in the synagogue that he had to travel to Sarny. The train passed at eight in the morning. They told him: “R' Hersh, you are going to be late for the train, remove the tefillin and the tallit after Shmona Esre and hurry to leave.” But, he didn't do so. “If
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    he wants me to travel, then, I'll travel, and if not – it's a sign that there's no need to travel.” He ended the prayer, said “Ani Ma'amin,” and left. They told him: “there's no need for you to go,” but he insisted – “I do my thing and the Almighty will do his.” Several times he went for nothing until finally reached his goal.
  1. He was smart and had a sense of humor, When he has been told, “R' Hersh, why don't you travel to the king to advice him how to run the country?” He answered: “right, if only I could reach him he would probably hear me and follow my advice, but the trouble is, two sentries with guns stand at the entrance to the king's palace and do not let anyone enter. Others deliver the information on what is happening in the country and the king doesn't know the real truth.”
People walk in depression when there's any kind of decree or trouble in town. However, R' Tzvi–Hersh doesn't lose his sense of humor.

”Tell me, beloved Jews – he says – what does a person do when he travels in a wagon full of bags of sugar from Rovno to Zoludzk and a heavy rain stars to fall when he reaches the Romeiky swamps. The wagon sinks in the mud and one of the axels brake. What should he do?”

Of course, each one says something else. One says: you have to take one of the horses and ride to a nearby settlement to seek help. The second gives another advice. But R' Hersh stands and laugh: “after all, by the time help arrives the sugar wouldn't be worth anything, if so – it is better that the man will get off and sit under the wagon until the rain stops. At least he will be protected from the rain and will have a sweet taste in the mouth.

In our town the women used to go to R' Avraham, or to R' Tzvi–Hersh, to write a letter to a relative in America, of course, to ask for help. Once, a woman came to R' Hersh and asked him to write a letter for her. “Good, he said, tell me the name of that person and how he's related to you.” When she gave him these details he told her: “now, go home, I will write and bring the letter to your home.” The woman wondered: “How?” After all, I didn't tell you what to write, and she started to dictate to him: “my beloved brother, winter is approaching, there's no firewood, food for the cow, the children are barefoot etc. etc. He listened patiently and when she had finished he told her: “I can only write: “my beloved brother, my situation is serious, tragic, you can help, help me.” And this is it – in short. Such were his sayings.

He was a clever and witty Jew and was always ready to help with advice and action. When his time came, and he passed away, all the townspeople accompanied him with great respect. His grandchildren live in Israel.

 

The slaughterer, R' Yosef Spivak

He was the son of R' Tzvi–Hersh. His house was next to our house and we were friends with his son, Binyamin, who lives in Israel. In addition, my sister, Rosa, was a friend of his daughter Chava.

Who doesn't remember the slaughterer when he went out to the street? Everything shone on him. He had a beautiful beard, his hair was always neat and combed and his clothes were clean and without a stain. He didn't have a good income. The slaughtering fees were his only source of income and he had to give a portion from the slaughtering of cattle to the rabbi.

His seasonal income was on Yom Kippur from the slaughtering of Kapparot [chickens] and also from cantillation fees

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that were paid to him ,at the synagogue, during Mincha on Yom Kippur eve. Also, during the Hanukkah season, when the Jews of Zoludzk brought the geese that they had fattened for sale, the slaughterer earned a little more than usual. Who, from the former residents of Zoludzk, don't remember the pleasant voice of the slaughterer, R' Yosef, during the “Days of Awe” and other holidays at the synagogue?

I remember the “Mavdil” prayer that he sang every Saturday night. Also, on Sabbath eve, when he helped at home for the Sabbath, preparing the candlesticks and the candles, and the knife, on which was engraved “Shabbat Kodesh,” and shone like a mirror, he always accompanied his work with singing. Also, when sharpened his knife and checked the spare parts, he always accompanied his work with singing

He went to the binding together with his family and all the townspeople. God will avenge their blood.

 

R' Yehosha, teacher for beginners and a Shamash

I remember him when he was already old and his beard was white. He taught young boys from age three to six. I remember, that when I was brought to the “Heder,” he sat me on a bench and told me, “boy, please say Aleph,” and I repeated after him, word after word, and so began our studies. When we were good boys the “angels” threw candies on us from above…

His income came partly from his teaching and partly from his work as a Shamash [beadle]. At the great synagogue he banged on the reading table and announced “Shalom Zachar” [”peace be upon the male”], “Sheva Brachot” [“the seven blessings”], circumcision and alike. On Sukkot he brought the four species to each home so the women will bless them. On Yom Kippur eve, after Mincha, he flogged the men with strips of parchment for the atonement of sins. Each was lying on the floor in front of the door and he counted forty minus one.

He found his death together with the entire community. God will avenge his blood.

 

R' Matat (Matityahu) Gejer

R' Matityahu was an upright and honest man. Even the gentiles in the area respected him and called him “a man of God.” They knew that his word was a word of honor and he never says a word of a lie. All days of the week he was on a train between Rafalovka to Sarny. His partner, Aharon Kruk, provided him with all sorts of goods such as: eggs, butter and cheese, and fattened geese in the winter. R' Matat sold them to the Jews of Sarny. He came home on Sabbath eve, walked from house to house, and collected donations for the needy. Everyone received him cordially and contributed generously. From the money that he collected he paid the tuition at Talmud Torah for poor children, helped poor brides and other needy. He himself was satisfied with little and lived in modesty. Loved peace and pursued peace, was easygoing and blessed every person, small and big, equally. During his travel he read the Book of Psalms or “Chafetz Chaim” [“Desirer of Life”].

Even the anti–Semitic gentiles honored him and didn't hurt him on the train.

On the Sabbath he walked around the synagogue, and when he saw people talking, he turned to them with a smile: “do me a favor, and then we'll talk…” and if R' Matat asked, who would refuse him? He was known as an honest and good man in the entire area.

The bitter fate of the members of his town also befell him, his memory be blessed and God will avenge his pure blood.


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Industrious and Kind

by Rachel Tzur

Translated by Sara Mages

 

Zoludzk, a small settlement, numbered one hundred and fifty Jewish families. I remember the days of my childhood and youth. Here they stand before me, the entire tribe of Jewish farmers who lived in the sea of Ukrainian gentiles. Healthy Jews, their behavior and cloths are simple, in the style of those days. Almost every Jew was a farmer worked his land with the sweat of his brow, raised domestic animals and lived his life in the nature. Because of the nature of the settlement, each one knew the other, “in his heart of hearts,” as if they were one big family.

Almost all the youth in Zoludzk was organized in organizations that were parallel to the organizations in Israel such as: HeHalutz Hatzair, Betar and others, and dreamt about Eretz–Yisrael. Their aspiration was immigration. I also want to mention the simple Jews that I see now and appear in my memory like: R' Avraham the teacher, who taught many boys and babies at the “Heder.” I see Benny, who was called “Benny mit de matkes,” he was a typical Jew who was negligent with his clothes. Mendel Burko z”l, a trader in the villages and the surrounding area, was a very rich man, an ardent Zionist and a beloved Jew. My grandfather z”l, Hershel the scribe, was a diligent man, a scribe who processed the scrolls skillfully and helped others.

How painful and aching is the heart that all of this is gone. A tribe of Jews was destroyed together with the Jews of Europe. Honest Jews, diligent and kindhearted. Among them were my father, mother, my sisters and brothers who were destroyed by the Nazis. I write all of this in their memory.

We cannot forget them.

 

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