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[Page 49]

Sarny – Its Creation, Existence and Destruction (cont.)

Culture & Education

Page 49: (Top) : The Public School of the Teacher, Abraham Furman in the Year 1929
From R to L, First Row: Abraham Furman
At the Left: The Teacher, Yehoshua Nissman.
Second Row, Center: The Teacher, Wasserman
(Middle): A Class of Students in Klesów (1930) with their Teacher, Meir Walkin
(Bottom): A Soccer Team Beside the ‘TOZ’ Membership

Page 50 (Top): A ‘TOZ’Summer Camp for School Children in Sarny (1929)
In the middle of the picture : The Tarbut School Principal – Goldberg, and the ‘TOZ’ Chair – Falakhowsky
(Bottom): Students of the ORT Carpentry School, the first one standing on the right is the Instructor, Mr. Zwei from Vilna

In the field of culture and education, matters changed from one end to the other. As if in one blow, the ‘Heders’ of all the Melamdim disappeared. The children stopped playing ‘Waga’ and ‘Pickholz.’ Public schools were built, trade schools, a gymnasium, libraries, youth groups were formed, sports clubs, and dram circles. Apart from the Polish gymnasium on the Polesia side, the following schools also were in Sarny:

  1. The Tarbut School
  2. The ORT Trade School
  3. The large Polish Elementary School, ‘Szkola Powszecna’ most of whose pupils were Christian, and only a small number were Jewish.
  4. A Polish Trade School ‘Szkola Zmyszelnica,’ which a few Jewish student also attended.
  5. A Talmud Torah and Yeshiva which will be discussed in the coming chapters, who dominated spiritual matters.

And so, an ordinary school came into being, consisting of the three first grades, which belonged to Abraham Furman. Mr. Furman was much loved by all of the Sarny citizenry. All of his pupils, who after graduating from his school, transferred to the Tarbut School (Mr. Furman died in Vienna in 1937).

The ‘Heder’ of Joseph Njavozhny was renewed, and was aligned to become a preparatory school, with the help of his son Yitzhak and daughter Tzvitl (Tzeitl ?) Njavozhny, who at that time, were already accomplished pedagogues.

Details of the Polish Trade School are not known to me, but it is incumbent upon me to recollect the Polish gymnasium, from which many boys and girls from Sarny received graduation diplomas, and afterwards, continued their education in universities. As a result of this, here in Israel today, we have a number of professionals with Sarny diplomas, in addition to those that attained their higher education, in Hebrew seminaries, as a result of their studies in the elementary and intermediate Tarbut schools.

 

The Tarbut School

The Tarbut School was founded in 1920/21 by the Tarbut Histadrut in Poland, with the assistance of the Zionist activists of the city, at the head of which stood the Messrs. Shmuel Zingerman, Yehoshua Glauberman, the brothers, Nehemiah and Yehoshua Nissman, David Birg, David Wallach, Yaakov Bryk and others. A teachers group was formed by the Hebrew Teachers Histadrut in Poland. All studies were conducted in accordance with the curriculum of the Tarbut Histadrut, under its supervision. The inspectors Messrs. Shmuel Rosenhack, Einstein, and others, would come to visit the school from Warsaw. There were also inspections conducted by the Curatorium (The Audit Committee). The school educated its students to become Halutzim, and with a love of the Moledet. It is because of this education, that Sarny was privileged to have a aliyah that emanated from it that was distinguished and larger than ordinary.

There were seven grades in the school (apart from a few parallel classes). Over the course of the twenty years of its existence, thousands of students were educated and received their enlightenment there, who afterward became loyal sons of the Jewish people, good Zionists, and themselves educators of the younger generation. Many of the students who graduated from the Tarbut School, continued their studies in other cities, in seminaries and gymnasiums.

In addition to their regular courses of study, the students engaged in manual arts, song and sport. The plays put on by the students focused the attention of the citizenry, especially the national celebrations on Lag B'Omer, Hanukkah and Purim. The student demonstrated an exceptional sense of dedication, in the emptying of the boxes for Keren HaKayemet L'Israel. The school consistently excelled in its endeavors regarding athletics and esthetic exercises. These beautiful accomplishments were the fruit of the labor of the dedicated leadership, and of every member of the Teachers Group, as well as of all the activists of the Tarbut group, and the parents' committees. From among these leaders, I will recall the Messrs. Shohar, Rabinovich, Goldberg (Tur–Zahav, now in Kibbutz Yagur), and Abraham Dikhtiar. The teachers: Zilbersztajn, two Edelsteins – the father and son, Abraham Tendler, Tuvia Levin (the singer Tal), who translated the novel, ‘Anna Karenina’ into Hebrew along with poems from the Polish literature, Wlodenywicz, Kovnor, Shlomo Gurfinkel (today in Rehovot), Muszyn, Eisland, and Gurskop. The last one also represented the school to the government, as its official principal, ‘Kirownik Szkoly’ and was therefore fluent in Polish, and practical matters, and would appear as an ombudsman on behalf of the Jewish community. The following served as secretaries, apart from Edelstein: Leib Bieber from Austria, and Joseph Sodgelter, The Chairs of the Tarbut Branch, during this period, were: Messrs. Shmuel Zingerman, Mrs. Tarass, Mrs. Hinde Goldstein, Tulia Berzowicz, Tartakowsky, and Shlomo Zandweiss. Among the active Tarbut workers were: Abraham Turkenitz, Israel Korowoczka (Korvi – in Israel), Yitzhak Friman, Moshe Yuz and Yitzhak Sandberg. Among the Chairs and members of the parents committees, the parents that I recall from this period were the Messrs. Yitzhak Wolk, Eliezer Farwoznik, Herschel Zuliar, Alter Frimak, Alter Langer, Yaakov Kleiss, Reuben Drakh, Yitzhak Kamen, Yitzhak Friman, Israel Korowoczka, and Shmuel Yerusalimsky.

Etched into my memory, is a gathering of students, with their teachers and Tarbut activists at their head, to meet Ch. N. Bialik who passed through Sarny on his way to Vilna. The students presented him with a bouquet of flowers at the crossroads meetinghouse in Sarny, and the teacher Tuvia Levin invited Bialik to take a few hours off in Sarny, and visit the school. Bialik responded with a phrase: ‘We have not abandoned your commandments [28].’

 

Libraries

There were a number of libraries: there was the library of the railroad officials, ‘Biblioteka Kolyuba,’ it was beside the police station; [the library of] the Russian intelligentsia; of the Ukrainian populace; and two Jewish libraries. At first there was one that stood alone, but afterwards, the Bundists and communists separated themselves, and what remained was a self–standing Tarbut library.

 

A Building for the Tarbut Gymnasium

In the final years before The Second World War, the Tarbut activists, along with the parent's committee approached the task of erecting a large building for the Hebrew gymnasium, on the school property. For this purpose, a ‘Committee for the Construction of a Hebrew Gymnasium’ was created, at the head of which were the Messrs. Baruch Ostrowsky, Jonah Margolis, and Shmarya Gerszunok, the President of the Jewish community. As a result of considerable effort, and with much work, the Tarbut group succeeded in obtaining the required permit to begin construction. Many times, the municipal government arbitrarily rejected the plans that were submitted to them. It was not only on one occasion that it was necessary to travel to the district office, and the Curatorium in Lutsk for purposes of adjudication and negotiations. With great joy, and with a festive celebration, the cornerstone was laid, and the large foundation stones were laid rapidly. The stones were the gift of Mr. Jonah Margolis, who was the director of one of the large firms in the vicinity – the Klesów quarry ‘Klosowski Granit Polski.’ Also the brick walls began to rise more and more, and but the difficult economic situation, the asphyxiating anti–Semitic atmosphere, and the levying of anti–Jewish taxes on the part of the Polish régime, which made the burden of the obligation harder, there was a compulsion to stop the work on the building of the home for the gymnasium.

 

The ORT Trade School

The school was founded in 1923/24, by the central ORT group in Warsaw, and with the help pg activists from the Tze'irei Tzion chapter in Sarny. Of these, I only recall these few: Dr. Zhitinsky (today, the Editor of the ‘Yiddishe Presse’ in Argentina), Gedalia Lifschitz, who faithfully served ORT to his last day, and was also the school secretary, Mulya Berlinsky, the teacher Abraham Tendler, and above all – the effort of the permanent Chair of the ORT group in Sarny, Dr. Boris Steinberg. There was no bound to his devotion to the concerns of ORT. He dedicated a great deal of his time, energy, and even his own money, for the good of the school. And the second after him, in terms of loyalty and commitment, the Vice Chair, Dr. Zweiman, The school had two classes: 1. Sewing & Cutting – for girls; 2. Carpentry [sic: for boys].

The results were that many girls became skilled at sewing, and afterwards directed sewing shops on behalf of the wealthier women. The carpentry is well recollected by all walks of life in Sarny. The school was distinguished in the styling of its furniture, which manifested advanced artistic merit. It was not only once that medals of distinction were awarded to the school, by the government, the office of the Starosta, and the central ORT administration.

Many of the students of the school, found today in Israel, and in other countries, obtained their training in their trade at the ORT school. This school had a beautiful two–storey building in which there was a large auditorium, and a stage, for assemblies and plays. All of us remember well the plays put on by the Sarny Drama Club, and other groups, that were staged there, and also the parties of the Keren HaKayemet L'Israel, and the Orphanage Committee, which would go on until the morning hours. The Sarny school was known as one of the better ORT school sin Poland. Of the teachers, to my regret, I only remember the engineer Zukerman, who served as the principal in the final years, and Manya Schneider (today in Israel) and Garbazh, who worked as directors. In the years before the war, the practical inspectors were Wolf Goldman, and, separated for long life, Moshe Borko.

 

Kindergartens

The first, general, kindergarten conducted in Hebrew, was established, and successfully led to an extensive degree, by the governess, Zina Frimer (today in Israel). After the governess made aliyah to the Land of Israel, a number of the daughters of Sarny continued her work, who were graduates of the local Tarbut school, and the Kindergarten Teachers Seminary in Vilna. I am not aware of the existence of kindergartens conducted in other languages.

 

A Drama Club

The Drama Club began its activity in the years 1918–1919. Its first presentation was in the play, ‘The Intellectual,' with the participation of Aharon Zandweiss, Moshe Borko, Yekhiel Salutsky, Moshe Gamerman, and others.

Because of the unrest, and the pogroms that were rife at that time, the activity of this club ceased until the year 1920. From then, until 1939 the club functioned continuously, eve if the membership changed over the years. The successful and beloved performers during that first period were Bayl'keh Goldberg–Gamerman, Moshe Gamerman, and Yekhiel Salutsky, in the role of the ‘Prokop.’ After the aliyah of the first group of Halutzim, in the year 1921, new resources trod the stage: Herschel Plotnik, and his brother–in–law Schwartztukh, Zelig Shapiro (in Israel – Ben–Ephraim), who served as a stage performer until his aliyah to the Land of Israel, and in a like manner, the part of the witch (Baba Jaga) was played by Tulia Beckerman, Abraham Aharon Dworetzky, Chana and Shlomo Zandweiss, Sarah Pickman, Dina Weinblatt–Korowoczka, her brother Shlomo Weinblatt, and the second brother Sholom – in the capacity of a prompter, Tulia Berzowicz, Zina and Buzya Frimer, Falakhowsky, Malya Goldman–Stralowsky, Lyuba Czernik–Pearlstein, Chaya and Yitzhak Gorenstein. Rachel'eh Bernstein, Pess'l Zhultak, Yitzhak Plotnik, and others. Among others, in the initial years, the following were performers: the actor Sziczogol and from the year 1924 and onward – Tulia Borowicz, Falakhowsky, and Yitzhak Plotnik. An exceptionally devoted member was Edelstein. He and his violin were a beloved pair. His concern was o organize the choral groups, and to train them in all of the songs in the play. If occasionally lines were missing from some of the songs, Edelstein would adapt something suitable in its place. Among the other plays put on were: Bar–Kochia, Shulamis, Koldunya, The Dybbuk, Yoshe–Kalb, plays from the fables of Sholom Aleichem and Sholom Asch. Chaim Pearlstein the prompter, and Schorr, the permanent member of the cast, devoted considerably to the success of the productions.

 

Sports Clubs

There were two: one Polish one, named ‘Zagunczyk,’ that was made up of the teachers of the Polish gymnasium, headed by the well–known anti–Semite, the teacher Khirowski; the second – a Jewish club ‘Skafutor’ (a soccer team – ‘Tarbut’). Afterwards, the name was changed to ‘HaKoakh.’ In the ranks of the Jewish team, the following participated: Potuka, David Torok, Lejzor Bryk, Fastman, Shmuel Dov Bik, Hona–David Kulakowsky, and ‘Jolpa.’

The last one was a strong lad, an outstanding player, but short in height. By contrast, the Polish teacher Khirowski was tall and broad–shouldered, a strong and well–endowed gentile. It always happened that ‘ Jolpa’ would have to play opposite Khirowski, literally a case of David vs. Goliath. Accordingly, he caused that well–endowed gentile no end of grief.

The two Rosenbergs, Ahar'l and Yoss'l participated on the ‘Koakh’ team, as did the Zolotow brothers, Abraham'l and Shmulik, the two Gifsteins, Ber'l Itcheh and Yehoshua Tendler, Zelig Stein, Sonaya Shapiro and Shmulik Friszkulnik. Abraham'l Zolotow was one of the the proudest and most well–endowed of the boys on the team. During his compulsory military service, it happened that a corporal insultingly referred to him with the epithet ‘Zyd.’ Abraham'l smacked him across the cheek, and was punished for it by 21 days of imprisonment. This was OK with him, because – according to him – it was worth it.

Apart from the competition with ‘Zagunczyk,’ sports clubs from nearby villages would come to visit Sarny, as was the case with the ‘Hasmonean’ team from Rovno. Many observers came to watch the competitions.

I recall the following Chairs of the various sports clubs, which remain in my memory: Tulia Berzowicz and Sioma Millstein.

 

Medical Assistance

When the Polish Army first entered Sarny in 1919, a large stream of refugees began to stream into it, from the direction of Kiev, and especially from Olevs'k. Apart from the fact that they came naked, and without anything, and that also the local populace did not lack for impoverished people, desperate for help, and the sick, a group of friends got in contact – headed by Moshe'l Gamerman, and Moshe Borko – with Rovno, in which an official of the Joint from Wolhyn was already active. Immediately, a central committee of the Joint was established, consisting of: Moshe'l Gamerman – chai; Moshe Borko – Vice Chair; Abraham Binder (today, Ben–David in Israel)– Secretary; and as members – Anshel Szakhniuk (Shacknai), Zvi (Grisha) Shapiro, Yekhiel Reich from Olevs'k, and Menachem Zalman Briskman from Sokhov. This central committee launched a plethora of activity in the entire Sarny district, opening charity food centers for children, the sick, and those impaired in their ability to work, it looked after their education, and the provision of domicile for the indigent, especially the refugees, and also extended financial help. It also set up a special fund of ‘anonymous giving’ for refugees who had standing.

The Joint founded a Jewish hospital in Sarny, that was located in the home of Wlodzinsky on the Wide Boulevard. The management of the hospital was entrusted to the hands of Dr. Steinberg, who came to Sarny as a refugee. Mrs/ Edelstein served as the manager of inventory, (the wife of the well–known Jewish doctor from Olevs'k). She, too, arrived as a refugee. This hospital remained in service for about two years.

After a bit of time, a government–run hospital opened in the city, in which Jews could receive medical assistance, but it had no Jewish doctors. A large sanatorium was established, belonging to the health organization, ‘Kassa Khurikh’ in which the Jewish workers and officials received help, if they were members of the health organization. Dr. Steinberg worked there as well. Apart from Dr. Steinberg, there were two other Jewish doctors in the city: his wife, Dr. Yelena Steinberg, and Dr. Zigmund Cohen.

Among the five Christian doctors, Dr. Kozhokhov was popular, a gentile who frequently was into woodcarving. He was even somewhat positively disposed towards Jews, albeit slightly so. After that, the reputation of Dr. Khutian (a surgeon) grew on the Jewish street. There were two medics, both Christian. One of them, Koretsky was a drunkard, and a Jew–hater.

There were three dentists, of which two were Jewish: Yelena Sarvin–Panitz (afterwards – in Rozovitz), and similarly, Dr. Zweiman, the Vice Chair of ORT, TOZ, and other institutions.

The TOZ institution opened up its activity in the years 1919–1920, when a huge stream of children began to arrive, left orphaned by the pogroms of the arms of the Petlura army, and other murderers in the Ukraine. The institution opened a well–provisioned health center, and began to construct a large building for a summer vacation place in the forest on the Polesia side. When the building was already close to completion, it fell victim one summer night to a large fire, and was reduced to ashes.

During its first years of existence, the TOZ institution carried out its work properly, and even attracted many motivated activists. By contrast to this, in the final years, the interest of the Jewish populace waned, and the institution almost ceased to exist. The head of the organization was the dentist, Falakhowsky.

 

Linat Tzedek

This organization did not have a central office in Warsaw, and it was led by independent efforts on the part of the city activists, with highly circumscribed financial resources, which came in from the dues paid by members and donations, fund–raising events and support on the part of the community and the leadership of the town.

Despite this, the group directed a widely–branched activity, well organized, which offered assistance to many of the indigent sick. In reality, it would have been more appropriate to call the organization ‘Bikur Kholim,’ because the members of the committee would, indeed, visit the sick, send doctors and medicines to the sick, at the expense of the committee, bringing fine fruits, medicines, chocolates and other edibles, when they visited, to imbue the sick with life. But the name ‘Linat Tzedek’ derived from the fact that the primary objective of the group was that its members would spend the night beside the sick person, and speed help to them and their families right on the spot.

Among the loyal leadership and members of this group were Yaakov Sandberg, and Yaakov Zandweiss, and as Treasurer – the Elder R' Abraham Kliess.

Among the active members in this group were the Messrs. Yitzhak Gildengoren [29], Israel Njavozhny, Pesach Borko, Pinchas Zandweiss, Yehoshua Baruch Plotnik, Noah Pearlstein, Lejzor Rosenstein, David Pearlstein (who was called ‘Black David’ – today in Israel) and Chaim Fehlhandler.

 

Social Assistance

The ‘Lekhem Aniyim’ group actually began to function for the very first day of Sarny's existence, although at that time, it was not organized properly, and was directed by the pristine hand and facilitation of R' Ziskind Gamerman, the first Shokhet of Sarny. After he passed away, the sacred work of ritual slaughter, and this eleemosynary initiative, devolved onto his son Shlomo, who further enlarged the charitable dimension of the undertaking, and broadened its charitable scope.

The Polish régime gave the group legal status. In the meantime, the Jewish population of the city grew, and with it, also the number of the needy.

The group supported many of the poor and needy. It would dispense monthly support yo many poor families, and a number of families even received support in the form of large one–time donations, given anonymously, in order that they have the ability to establish themselves in an independent manner, and earn a living from their own income. Every winter, the organization distributed hundreds of meters of firewood, and it would similarly facilitate the act of ‘Maot Khittin’ during Passover season, the distribution of matzos, potatoes, and money for food, in order that those suffering families could properly prepare for the Seder and the holiday. Similarly, the group would distribute clothing, That it would receive from America, and from former Sarny residents who had relocated to Warsaw.

The income of the group was derived from membership dues, pledges made in the synagogue, and from the collection of funds at all festive occasions. Circumcisions, weddings, and allocations from the municipal community, and lastly, from our brethren in America.

A Jewish Sarny scion by the name of R' Simcha Shapiro lived in Detroit, or as he was called in Sarny, Simcha Pekarnik. He concerned himself with the collection of dollars, and the transfer of those funds to Sarny at the suitable season. To this end, a committee was established in America, of Sarny immigrants. The allocation of those funds in Sarny was accomplished with the participation of the parents of those Sarny immigrants in America.

During one winter, Mr. Simcha Shapiro asked the Sarny Committee to send him a suit of clothing for a farmer, a jacket, a linen shirt, trousers, and wooden sandals, an overcoat, etc, so that during the Purim season, he could disguise himself as a poor farmer, and enable him to collect even more money. This request was fulfilled, and R' Simcha discharged his obligation in a most favorable way.

When the hour arrived for the implementation of ‘Maot Khittim,’ all of the activists, with the two Rabbis at their head, would apply themselves to the work. In a like fashion, they devoted their effort in the wintertime to the collection of clothing, potatoes, and preparing firewood.

At the head of this group stood R' Shlomo Gamerman. The members were the Messrs. Asher Gamerman, Yaakov Sandberg, Noah Pearlstein, Pinia Wolk, Pinchas Zandweiss, Yitzhak Gildengoren, Itz'l Zinger, Chaim Fehlhandler, and others.

 

The Orphanage

The Sarny Orphanage was established in the years 1919–1920, immediately after the Ukrainian pogroms. When groups of Jews began to arrive in Poland, Sarny became a center, a ‘Statzia Kontrola’ (an inspection station) at the Polish–Russian border.

The orphanage was established at the hands of the central committee of the Joint, with the participation of the Sarny activists, and was subsequently turned over to the central committee for the management of the orphans in Poland. During the first years, Mr. Abraham Furman was very active in it, who also served as the central director, and Chana Geyer from Stolin – as the Head Governess. with the passage of a few years, when conditions returned to normal, and orphans from Russia no longer came, the orphanage needed to sustain itself on its own capabilities. It was strengthened at that time, almost entirely by the Sarny community, and with the help of the small groups from the central committee in Warsaw, from the municipality, and the community in Sarny. The most important sources of income were from membership dues and contributions. The orphanage was located in the building of the ‘Tarbut’ School, and the orphans studied at that school on a tuition free basis. This lightened the burden on the orphanage management committee considerably.

At the head of the committee stood the Messrs. Joseph Barzom, Dr. Steinberg, Chaim Glick and others, but in reality, the work was carried out by a Ladies Auxiliary, who were intensely dedicated to this issue. On top of their work in collecting money, clothing, and putting on parties, bazaars, and children's plays, they would take off all their finery, and do all the dirty work in the kitchens and in the rooms.

These dedicated and committed ladies were: Mrs. Barzom – the Chair, Chava Korowoczka, Lifschitz, Batya Goldman, Glick, Szur, Edelstein, and others.

Hundreds of children were educated at the orphanage during the twenty years of its existence, to become proud citizens and loyal sons of the Jewish people. When they grew up, and left the institution, the committee would extend even further assistance, as they took their first steps on their own.

 

The Zionist Parties

General Zionists

In Sarny too, the development of Zionist parties was not prevented from forming into two streams. ‘Al HaMishmar,’ and ‘Eyt Livnot.’ Both streams did not have youth branches in Sarny. The party was comprised of many good and loyal members, a part of which, in the fulness of time, made aliyah with their families to the Land of Israel. The parties had officers that were active in all the committees of Keren HaKayemet L'Israel, Keren HaYesod, cultural endeavor and similarly in the community and municipality.

Beside the Zionist Histadrut, in the years 1925–1926, a group was set up to buy land parcels in the Land of Israel. To accomplish this, Messrs. Shmuel Zingerman, and Pesach Klyde were dispatched to the Land of Israel, who purchased parcels in several locations, beside B'nai Brak and in the Haifa bay area. The exact details pertaining to these purchases are not known, it is only known that a few of the members in the group, like the Zingerman family, Levi Gruber, Yitzhak Levin, Yaakov Bryk, Gurwicz, Barzom – acquired land parcels that were bought at that time.

The active members of the Zionist Histadrut were: Messrs. Shmaryahu Gerszunok, Shmuel Zingerman, Moshe Tartakowsky, Mendl Laufer, Yitzhak Levin, Yaakov Bryk, Baruch Tarass, Isaac Zalman, Mendl Gurewicz, Abraham Chaim Schneider and others.

 

Tze'irei Tzion

The Tze'irei Tzion party began its activity in Sarny in the year 1917, however, as a result of the pogroms, changes in government, and the civil war, this activity was suspended several times, but was renewed only in 1920 with the entry of the Polish Army. From 1920 to 1924, the Tze'irei Tzion carried out a widely–branched set of activities on all fronts: national, Zionist, general issues regarding Jewish–Polish matters, assistance in the professional organization of workers, banks, etc.

From the central office in Warsaw, members would periodically come to visit Sarny, including: Ritov, Marminsky, Rozensztejn, Dov Ber Malkin and others.

At the head of the Sarny division stood: Dr. Zhitinsky, Johan Glick, Meir Stain, Gedalia Lifschitz, Abraham Turkenitz, and Shlomo Zandweiss.

After the schism withing its ranks, part of the members joined ‘Poalei Tzion’ (Tz. S.) And another part went to ‘Hitakhdut.’

 

Poalei Tzion (Tz. S.)

The ‘Poalei Tzion’ party conducted a comprehensive program in all areas of national endeavor and Zionist education. Indeed, it was represented in every committee, Keren HaKayemet L'Israel, Keren HaYesod, the municipal council, the community, and in the mercantile institutions. The number of members reached 200, at the head of which stood Abraham Aharon Dworetzky, and to be separated for long life, Yerakhmiel Berlinsky, and the teacher, Shlomo Gurfinkel. ‘Poalei Tzion’ had a large youth labor organization, ‘Freiheit’ (Dror [30]).

Beside ‘Poalei Tzion’ and HeHalutz, the organization of ‘HaOved’ was established, whose members were young working–class people from Sarny, whose objective was to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. They had their own office in the home of the Berlinsky family. A number of them were privileged to make aliyah to The Land, before the outbreak of the war.

It is worth recalling Mr. Meir Stein, from among the veteran members of the Tze'irei Tzion, and afterwards from, the ‘Poalei Tzion (Tz. S ).’ In Sarny, he earned the sobriquet of ‘Meir Praczkarnik,’ because he owned a laundry. Despite his consistent focus on his work – working both hard and honestly to support his family – he would find time for Zionist endeavor. The gathering place of the party was at his house for many years, the library, and other institutions of this sort. He personally fulfilled the commandment to make aliyah, taking his entire family along, but he subsequently died of a long, and lingering illness.

 

Hitakhdut

The Hitakhdut organization consisted of 70–80 members, and carried out a Zionist agenda that emulated ‘Poalei Tzion.’ In the Hitakhdut committee were: Messrs. Abraham Turkenitz, Abraham Dikhtiar, Yitzhak Freeman, Shmuel Yerusalimsky, Sh. Zandweiss, Israel Korowoczka, and others. The youth group, ‘Gordonia’ worked side–by–side with Hitakhdut, at whose head stood the members, Raks, Hertzman, and the son of Itz'l Zinger, and others.

 

HaShomer HaTza'ir

HaShomer HaTza'ir had its start in the years 1921–1922 as an organization of visionary Zionists. In the later years, HaShomer HaTza'ir conducted a left–wing Zionist nationalist initiative. The Polish régime became suspicious of it. In the final years, HaShomer HaTza'ir closed down its formal presence, and carried on its endeavors under the ‘Tarbut’ sign, through a youth educational organ called ‘Shomriya.’ HaShomer HaTza'ir ran a multi–faceted educational program, mostly among the ‘Tarbut’ School students. The members of HaShomer HaTza'ir were very active on behalf of the endeavors of Keren HaKayemet.

It's headquarters hummed every evening with the sound of young people. The voices raised in song, and the dancing, carried over the large stretch of the city, well into the late hours of the night. Among those in the ranks of HaShomer HaTza'ir one could count Ber'l Frimer, Hanina Zev, Son'ka Geifman, the Gamerman sisters, Ronya Tarass, Munya Schneider, Yaakov Rosenfeld – all presently in Israel. In the year 1957, Son'ka Geifman passed away after a long illness. May her memory be for a blessing.

 

Mizrahi, HaPoel HaMizrahi, & HaShomer HaDati

They too, conducted a multi–branched Zionist program. They had many members and a large headquarters, in which they also worshiped. They were represented in the community, the municipality, the committees of Keren HaKayemet L'Israel and Keren HaYesod, and in sale of raffles. At the head of the United Mizrahi Group was R' David Birg. Members of the Committee were the Messrs. Shlomo Gamerman, Mendl Zindl, Sigan, Yaakov Zandweiss, Asher Geifman, and others. At the head of HaShomer HaDati stood – Baruch Rabinovich, and Hechtman, the Rabbi's son.

 

Tzahar and Betar[31]

As is known, in the final years, they conducted separate initiatives – Keren Tel–Chai and Brit HaKhayal. Their one joint initiative was the one they undertook in the ‘Tarbut’ School. The place where they would meet. Emissaries from their central offices would come to Sarny, and once, Menachem Begin came to visit them. At the head of Tzahar stood the Messrs. Baruch Ostrowsky and Yaakov Bryk. At the head of Betar – Asher Miasnik, Gunik, Garbaty, Perlmutter, and Yehoshua Borko.

 

WIZO[32]

The Ladies Organization WIZO also conducted activities. At its head was Mrs. Zweiman.

 

HeHalutz & HeHalutz HaTza'ir

They engaged in the activities associated with preparing for and promulgating aliyah. The youth of Sarny was spread all over the training camps throughout Poland, The Halutzim from Sarny were the founders of the renown Polish training camp ‘Klesów,’ and of the smaller points of training at Tomaszgorod, Rokitno, Dąbrowica, Kostopil' and others.

In Sarny itself, for a time, there was a club called ‘El–Al.’ Halutzim from Sarny are today to be found in many Kibbutzim in all parts of Israel, from Dan to Yad Mordechai. A number of the young people who were scions of Sarny, in Israel, fell in the War of Independence (David Attstein, Gruber–Aharoni, and others).

 

The League for Israeli Labor

In Sarny, there was also an active arm of The League for Israeli Labor. and it was represented in all the active Zionist institutions.

 

The Beginning of the Third Aliyah from Sarny

The first one to make aliyah to the Land of Israel at the beginning of the Third Aliyah, without any organization, and only as a result of his personal effort, was Eliyahu Kharpak. After his arrival in 1917 from Odessa, where he had studied over the course of a number of years, he was among the first of the founders of Tze'irei Tzion in Sarny. From that time on, he began to plan for his own aliyah to the Land of Israel, but as a result of the chaos, and changes in government, he could not implement his plans. It was only after the road to Warsaw was opened, in the year 1920, and his father, Joseph Kharpak sent him there in connection with business transactions of his, that Eliyahu Kharpak first took care of all the business transactions in Warsaw for his father, and in line with his father's request, without saying good–bye, he set out for the Land of Israel. His journey took six months. After exhaustion and wandering, he reached Jaffa in September 1920.

After his departure, the first band of organized Halutzim in Sarny began making plans for aliyah, and trained themselves to do agricultural work in the gardens of Mr. David Birg, and the gardens of the school. This group was composed of several tens of members, but of these, only the following made aliyah: Moshe Gamerman, his wife, Bayl'keh, Leah Pickman, Yekhiel Salutsky, Chai'kl Kosher, Leib'l Girstein, David Levin, Stein, and the field teacher.

Their departure date (before Purim) remains etched in our memories. It was not only members from Sarny, but also Zionists from the entire area, who came in order to be present at the festivities during this departure. Almost all of the Jewish residents of Sarny came to the railroad station, in order to take leave of their first Halutzim. The specially procured train was decorated with a blue–white flag, covered in Zionist symbols. The railroad orchestra, especially trained by the Zionist Histadrut in Sarny, played the ‘Hatikvah,’ accompanied by the assembly who sang along.

The group arrived in Jaffa on the Eve of Passover 1921. After being inspected in quarantine, they were sent to a home for incoming immigrants. After a few days, on May 1, an Arab assault on the home for the immigrants took place. Among those wounded was our own David Levin. May his memory be for a blessing!

 

Funds

Keren HaKayemet L'Israel

As I have already recollected, the Keren HaKayemet L'Israel initiated its activity on Sarny even before The First World War. During the First World War, and the civil war, its activity ceased, but was renewed at every possible opportunity, during the Kerensky régime, during the German occupation, and during the calm periods of the establishment of Polish hegemony in the Sarny district. From 1920 until 1939, with the arrival of the Soviet régime, Keren HaKayemet L'Israel conducted a multi–faceted agenda of activities.

Revenues came in from a variety of sources:
A) Membership Dues. B) A collection box in the home, which were emptied on a monthly basis. The cit was divided up into areas. Every Zionist organization strove to be first in the list of generating funds for Keren HaKayemet in its area. Every Eve of Rosh Hashanah, the committee would review the lists of the amounts collected in each of the houses of worship, during the course of the year, and how much each member had contributed. C) Special collections were taken up on Lag B'Omer, Yom Kippur Eve, Hanukkah, Tu B'Shvat, and Purim. D) On all festive occasions (weddings, a circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, birthday), funds were collected. There was not a festive occasion without a pair of fund gatherers from the committee of the Keren HaKayemet L'Israel – in honor of the festive event. For many years, there was a special orchestra that stood beside Keren HaKayemet L'Israel, at the head of which was the lady violinist Kh. Edelstein, who would play at all festive occasions, and whose income was dedicated to Keren HaKayemet L'Israel. E) Parties and celebrations were organized for Hanukkah and Purim. These events were very well received by everyone, and the guests would be drawn to them from the entire city and its vicinity. The preparations for these celebrations stretched out over several weeks. You could sense this in each and every home: one person was preparing masks and costumes, another – lovely handicrafts suitable for sale, and yet another person – was participating in a choir or dancing. F) A significant income derived from the Zionist ‘minyan,’ that was held at the Tarbut School. Income derived from all of the holidays, and the High Holy Days, from being called to the Torah, and those who made those donations – were recognized, although most of this income came in on Simchat Torah. For the Hakafot, people would come in from all the houses of worship, and all of the Zionist youth would be called up to the Torah and make a pledge for the benefit of Keren HaKayemet L'Israel. A surfeit of revenue would come from the sale of the verses of ‘Ata Horeyta.’ This particular duty, for years, had already been the franchise of R' Abraham Grossman. He set the price for the reading of each verse, to which each of the buyers would add their own special ‘Mi SheBerakh.’ They were not reluctant in repeating the verses of ‘Ata Horeyta,’ several times, for the express purpose of increasing the take for Keren HaKayemet L'Israel. The singing and dancing would extend for two whole days. Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, and it attracted a large crowd of participants and onlookers. Among the organizers of the ‘minyan,’ and the active participants. who did not stint on their effort, it is appropriate to recall to the good, the work of the Gabbaim Messrs. Chaim Lehrman ( for the initial period after his arrival in Sarny, he used to be called the ‘Watch from Pinsk’), Yaakov Bryk, and R' Isaac Zalman, as well as the talented Baal Tefilah of the minyan, R' Israel Gamerman, whose prayers, melodies and dances were conducted with great fervor, and in very good taste, and drew large crowds of onlookers. In all these celebrations of the minyan, there was substantial participation by the school principal Mr. Abraham Dikhtiar, Shlomo Zandweiss, and other members.

Apart from these revenues, other events were held, as directed by the national office: the liberation of land in the Jezereel Valley, the Khefer Valley, etc. In order to help out with the fund–raising at these special times, representatives of the national office in Warsaw, would come, as well as emissaries from the Central office in Jerusalem. Among others, we were visited by Nathan Bistritzky, and Hertzfeld, from the Land of Israel, the Rabbis Hurwicz and Hagar (who was, at the time the Rabbi of Nowy–Sącz and afterwards in Sosnowiec, and in the final years before he passed away – the Rabbi and head of the Hevra Kadisha in Tel–Aviv), and Yaakov Melamed from Slowoszina, and after that, from Israel.

Who can count up all of the activists who worked for the Keren HaKayemet L'Israel in Sarny? There were a lot of them. Among the founders, let us recall the Messrs. Shmuel Zingerman, V. Szur, Yehoshua Nissman, Mendl Hurwicz, and hi wife Alta, and last, but not least – Mr. Moshe Tartakowsky. As treasurers, and secretaries, the following were active: Chay'keh Danenberg, the two daughters of Rabbi Hechtman (Chay'keh and Mir'l) and Meir Gamerman.

 

Keren HaYesod

As is known, the work of Keren HaYesod was based on assuming personal obligation for large sums of money, that were paid out with ready capital, or with promissory notes, the result of which meant that this activity did not include the broad spectrum of the Jewish settlement. Despite this, there were hundreds of instances of such individual contributors, and the sum total of the annual revenue derived was quite respectable, being 10–12 thousand gulden. The work of the activists was not easy. It was necessary to visit each of the donors, and return to visit them time and again, and convince them to participate. After these commitments were given, there were instances where notes were not honored, and it then became necessary to go back to the donors and persuade them to honor their commitments. It was in this way, that very strong connection was maintained with the donors, as well as with the national office of Keren HaYesod in Warsaw. The gift–giving was carried out during the two weeks at the beginning of each year. At the opening of the fund–raising campaign, a representative of the national office always came. Much preparation was done before his arrival. Notices were published in the newspapers, and notices were tacked up in the streets and synagogues. Meeting halls were selected for gatherings and meetings. And, it is understood, that it was necessary to receive official municipal permission, in a timely fashion from the Starosta.

The committee would, in advance, prepare the required lists, and thereby sent explanatory materials to the potential donors (pamphlets, calendars), that the head office provided us with for this purpose.

The speeches given by the Keren HaYesod emissaries in the synagogues and hoses of study, during prayer services and on the Sabbaths, would attract a large audience, and gave the first indication of the beginning of the Keren HaYesod campaign.

Of those who were members of the committee during that entire period, the ones I remember are the Messrs. Shmuel Zingerman, Yehoshua Glauberman, the brothers, Yehoshua & Nehemiah Nissman, Mendl Laufer, Alter Frimak, Yitzhak Levin, Velvel Szur, Shmaryahu Gerszunok, Mendl Gurewicz, David Birg, Joseph Barzom, Yaakov Yuz, Abraham Turkenitz, Abraham Dikhtiar, Shlomo Gurfinkel, Mulya Berlinsky, Israel Korowoczka, Yitzhak Freeman, Yitzhak Wolk (Itzik Pinia's), Moshe Weinblatt, Yitzhak Sandberg, Meir Stein, Reuben Drakh, Shlomo Zandweiss, and others.

The Chair of the Keren HaYesod Committee until he made aliyah to The Land, was Mr. Shmuel Zingerman. After him came Mr. Shmaryahu Gerszunok. During the years that Mr. Gerszunok filled this post, Shlomo Zandweiss served as the secretary of the committee.

The Sarny committee for Keren HaYesod, also extended this campaign into Klesów. In Klesów, the work proceeded quickly and easily, n only several hours time, because it had already been set up by the local activists. After the members of the Sarny committee arrived, pairs of fund–raisers would go out into the streets, and facilitate getting the commitments. The activists in Klesów were the brothers Abraham & Mordechai Turkenitz, the Scheintukh brothers, the Mardar brothers, Aharon Gendelman, Burstein, Manos Susnik and Schulner.

 

Keren HaGeulah & Keren HaAvodah

After the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in San Remo, a week–long fund–raising campaign on behalf of Keren HaGeulah , was announced throughout Wolhyn – including in it Sarny. The campaign was carried out with great success and much enthusiasm. Many men and women alike, personally brought donations to the committee not only of money, but of jewelry as well, including such things as golden wedding rings, cameos, ans gold coins. There were instances, in the synagogues, when during the speeches being given by the activists, women would take off their jewelry, on the spot, and turn them over as contributions.

During those same years of 1921–1922, funds were raised also for ‘Keren HaAvodah.’ All manner of [sic: precious] metals and tools were gathered. The entire Jewish community responded warmly to the request for funds. A number of the members of the committee visited the Klesów property, that belonged to the generous Feinstein family, and the leader of the campaign, Mt. Leibusz Frimer, donated many useful tools, All the tools and implements gathered this way, were sent to Warsaw.

 

Religious Institutions & Their Spiritual Leaders

After the passing of the local Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Matityahu Kawenczuk (1918), there was no sitting Rabbi in Sarny for a long time, until the year 1920. Those were stormy times, and the city changed hands several times, from one régime to another. As was the usual case, many qualified Rabbis came, and the community and its Gabbaim received them, and engaged them. In those days, there was no Rabbi in the city, and people with [sic: religious] questions would turn to the Headmaster of the , Rabbi Chaim Mendl Kostromecky, who, in addition to being an outstanding Torah scholar, a God–fearing man, that was in harmony with his environment, a wise man with no blemish on his garment. He was a pillar and bulwark of the Stolin Hasidim, and the Rebbe R' Israel'keh (The Yenuka) k”mz said of him: ‘It is truly our good fortune to have, in our hands, a walking version of a Torah scroll like this.’ The balebatim of the city turned to him and asked him to accept the position of Rabbi, but he refused.

At about this same time, many refugees, who had fled the Ukrainian pogroms, began to reach Sarny, coming from the direction of Kiev. Along with these refugees, came the Rabbi of Olevs'k, Rabbi Aharon Kunda. Rabbi Kunda was well–known in Olevs'k and in the entire vicinity as a formidable scholar, God–fearing, who in the course of many years, honorably and splendidly occupied the Rabbinical Chair as a successor to his father Rabbi Zalman Kunda.

It is understood that the Stolin Hasidim wanted Rabbi Kunda to assume the Rabbinical Chair in place of the deceased Rabbi Kawenczuk. However, the Gabbaim of the other houses of worship did not concur, in permitting a Stolin Hasid to serve as the Rabbi of the City, and to be placed in authority over all the houses of worship and the other Hasidic groups.

Among the other candidates there also was Rabbi Moshe Hechtman, who previously had been the Rabbi of Rubel (beside Stolin). Rabbi Hechtman captured the hearts in Sarny with his splendid patriarchal countenance, and his sermons that were so rich in content, which he gave in the Great Synagogue. He had only one shortcoming – he was a Mitnaged, and understandably, the Stolin Hasidim did not want, under any circumstances, to agree to his nomination. And so it happened that from the year 1920 and onward, there were two rabbis in Sarny: Rabbi Aharon Kunda and Rabbi Moshe Hechtman. Both conducted their offices of the rabbinate with honor and glory, up to the last day before the destruction of Sarny.

Rabbi Hechtman was appointed by the Polish authorities as the de jure Rabbi. He began by instituting the recording of births, which up to that time had been conducted in Dąbrowica. He would, in a like manner, swear in Jewish recruits into the army in Sarny, at the time that they actually were inducted for military service.

Both Rabbis served their respective constituencies, and devoted a great deal of their time to matters of general interest. Their homes were open to anyone who was suffering, or felt oppressed. A person who became enmeshed in difficult family situations, or other difficult situations, would turn to them with a plea for advice and help. And it was not only on one stormy winter's day that both of these Rabbis could be seen returning on the streets, in snow and mud, gathering donations for a needy family, for the wedding of the poor, or some other helpful supporting purpose.

They played a very substantial role in the Maot Khittim fund raising initiative. They worked together with the loyal activists: The ritual slaughterers, Messrs. Shlomo Gamerman and Pesach–Ely'eh Katz with his two sons–in–law, Noah & Neta, R' Pinchas Zandweiss, R' Asher Aharon Gimpel, R' Asher Geifman, R' Noah Pearlstein, R' Meir Frankel, R' Aharon Miasnik, R' Aharon Karlinsky and others, who would concern themselves, to assure that not a single family would, God forbid, be left without matzos, meat and potatoes, for Passover.

The Rabbis did not oppose Zionism. Their sons were among the activists in the youth movements. In the year 1928, one of the sons of Rabbi Kunda made aliyah to the Land of Israel. After this, one of the daughters of Rabbi Hechtman made aliyah. The family of Rabbi Hechtman, especially, excelled in its Zionist undertakings.

There were, for practical purposes, two ritual slaughterers: R' Shlomo Gamerman, and R' Pesach–Ely'eh Katz, who came to Sarny from Horodok even before The First World War. They had their assistants: R' Shlomo Gamerman was assisted by his son, Ziskind, and R' Pesach–Ely'eh by his two sons–in–law, Noah & Netta, who gathered donations, the prime concern of theirs being the Yeshiva and the Talmud–Torah. In addition to the fact that Noah & Netta were themselves teachers of a lesson in Pentateuch, with Rashi commentaries, Gemara with Tosafot, together with other balebatim (like R' Pinchas Zandweiss, R' Meir Levin, R' Asher Aharon Gimpel, R' Aharon Miasnik, R' Simcha Khaver, R' Pesach Borko and others), they would worry about the entire budget of the two institutions that provided religious education. One of the more important of the teachers at the Talmud–torah was R' Herschel Turkenitz (Herschel of Plotnicki), a scholarly Jew who was a God–fearing man.

 

The Scribes

And who in Sarny did not know Shlomo'keh the Scribe, one of the best known of the scribes in the area? He was an ardent Hasid, and God–fearing, being constantly occupied with Torah, and he was always deeply impoverished. The worshipers in the Stolin synagogue appointed him to be a Hazzan, even though he had no voice, neither for prayer, nor for melody. Their intent was to provide him with a way to make a living. The Rabbi, R' Aharon Kunda supported him a lot, and would offer praises about him at all festive occasions, the circumcisions, weddings, divorces, and other opportunities for ritual. The worshipers paid him a monthly stipend, but despite this, he was deeply impoverished, burdened with children. His plight did not disturb his duty to his Maker. Accordingly, he was among the most ardent of the dancers on Simchat Torah and Purim, to the delight of all onlookers.

 

The Spiritual Leaders

After the passing of the AdMo”R, R' Yoss'leh Peczenik k”mz in the year 1918, AdMo”Rs no longer settled in Sarny. Because of this, the number of AdMo”Rs that came to visit Sarny to spend a Sabbath, increased. Until the years 1920–1921, the AdMo”Rs R' Israel Perlov k”mz, the Rebbe of Stolin, and the ADMO”R Shmulik'l Peczenik k”mz the Rebbe of Berezne would come to visit. After these ADMO”Rs departed the scene, replacements for them began to come to Sarny. Of the three from Stolin, R' Moshe'leh of Stolin, R' Melekh'keh of Karlin, and for one Sabbath a year, the eldest son of R' Israel Perlov, R' Asher'keh, who was not privileged to receive the chair as ADMO”R after the passing of his father. R' Asher'keh had no Hasidic followers. He would generally attract the Karlin Hasidim who were followers of the Stolin court.

Of the three from Berezne, the ones who came to Sarny were R' Itzik'l Pacznick, the oldest son of R' Shmulik'l. In a similar manner, R' Velvel'eh Twersky began to visit Sarny, the son of R' Yaakov Leib, the Rebbe of Trisk.

These four ADMO”Rs has many followers [sic: Hasidim] in Sarny and its vicinity, and Sabbaths were conducted with great joy and fervor.

In addition to these ADMO”Rs, Sarny received several visits from the Rebbe of Stepan' and the Rebbe of Sasow. Even though the Rebbe of Sasow lived in Galicia, and he had no followers in the Sarny environs, he was much loved, and well–known after his first visit on the occasion of the passing of R' Nahum'keh Pacznick, the second son of the AdMo”R, R' Shmulik'l of Berezne, the Rabbi of Dąbrowica, and from 1927 to 1939 – the Rabbi of the Sarny and its environs.

In a similar fashion, two of the second three AdMo”Rs from Berezne came to visit Sarny, the two sons of the AdMo”R Chaim'keh Taubman, R' Ahar'eleh and R' Gedalia'cheh, and similarly the Rebbe of Kurc, R' Lejzor'keh Yerusalimsky, the father of our Zionist comrade, R' Shmuel Yerusalimsky, the son–in–law of Rabbi Hechtman.

Among the well–known Yeshivas in the Sarny district, the Yeshiva of Zvihl [33] which, among others, the following learned: Messrs. Noah Pearlstein, Moshe Gamerman, Moshe Borko, Shlomo Zandweiss, Chaim Averbukh, Salutsky, as well as many young men from Sarny and its environs. One of the students, was Shlomo'keh the Shokhet (Shlomo Gamerman). Once a year, the Headmaster, the Gaon R' Joel Szurin would come to spend a Sabbath in his home, or as he was known among the people, ‘The Genius of Poltava.’

For a Sabbath like this, all of his students in the vicinity would come in, among them Rabbi Pinchas Nudelman, the Rabbi of Rafalovka, Tuvia the Shokhet from Dąbrowica, and many others. The sermons of The Genius would attract many listeners. After the end of the Sabbath, the community would generously bring its donations to Shlomo the Shokhet, or, a number of his former students from the past would go out, headed by Noah Pearlstein, and solicit contributions from the community for the benefit of ‘The Upper School Ohr Torah in Zvihl.’ After the passing of The Genius k”z, his sacred work at the Yeshiva was continued by his only son, Yoss'leh, and the eldest among his sons–in–law, R' Baruch Mordechai. In the year 1920, the Yeshiva was uprooted from Zvihl, that remained on the Soviet side of the border, and was transferred to Kurc.

The ‘Committee of Yeshivas’ for Poland, was active in Sarny as well, at whose head stood Rabbi R' Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky. The Yeshiva and the Talmud–Torah in Sarny were listed under the name of the ‘Committee of Yeshivas.’ The Headmaster of the Yeshiva was R' Chaim Mendl'eh Kostromecky, formerly the Headmaster in Ludomir. After he made aliyah to The Land of Israel, his place was taken by his student, R' Israel'ikl of Pinsk. In the Sarny committee, the following were active: R' Pinia Zandweiss, R' Asher Aharon Gimpel, R' Meir Levin, R'Simcha Khaver, R' Pesach–Ely'eh the Slaughterer and Meat Inspector, and his two sons–in–law, Noah & Netta Glauberman, R' Aharon Miasnik, R' Aharon Knizhnik, and others.

It is worth mentioning here the trip of the ‘Chafetz Chaim’ of Radun k”mz to the meeting of Rabbis and leading Torah scholars in Rovno. As he passed through Sarny, the railroad station was overflowing with people from one end to the other, who came from the city and it s environs, who wanted to see the ‘Chafetz Chaim,’ and bestow their blessings for peace on him. The train from Luniniec would normally stop at Sarny for about 15–20 minutes. A huge crowd got pushed into the car in which the ‘Chafetz Chaim’ was traveling, and the congestion was so great, it was not possible to get out. In the meantime, the train started to move, and many people were compelled to travel at least as far as Rovno.

The religious institutions, houses of study, Hevra Kadisha, all conducted their affairs without the oversight of a central administrative body, until an order came from the Polish government in connection with the establishment of a [formal] Jewish community.

 

Craftsmen & Working People

Hat Makers

There were several [hat makers] in Sarny, all craftsmen who were honest and straightforward: Herschel Plotnik, a member of the Drama Club, Dikhtiar (a nephew of the principal of the ‘Tarbut’ School), Shammai Langer and others.

The best known among them was R' Mendl Laufer, or has he was nicknamed ‘Mendl Dreyfus.’ Why he was called Dreyfus, nobody seemed to know. He came to Sarny from Dąbrowica, in which there was a tradition of appending nicknames derived from various sources: ‘The Tuesday,’ ‘the Wednesday,’ ‘Antik,’ ‘Halber Gott,’ ‘Shmaltzkeh.’ And as a result, Mr. Laufer also got a nickname in Sarny.

R' Mendl Laufer was a well–to–do Jewish man in the city, and well respected. He had his own house in the center of the city, on Ulica Kupecka, and was the owner of a hat store. At his store, one could buy fancy hats, and religious fur hats (shtrymels?), that he would have brought in finished from Warsaw. Alongside this, he had a work shop, in which he employed a few workers. R' Mendl was one of the Gabbaim of the Great Synagogue, a loyal general Zionist, a member of the municipal Zionist committee, a member of the Gemilut Hasadim Committee, and was active in all institutions, and was faithful in providing assistance. In a like manner, he gave generously for general purposes (his portrait was hung in the office of the Gemilut Hasadim after he passed away, as a memorial to him).

The entire population of Sarny, both Jewish and gentile loved and cherished R' Mendl. he was a very honest and straightforward man, dressed well, but not opulently, and loved to joke about himself and his craft. He was wont to say: a hat maker and a fox are two sly creatures. He participated in all meetings that had to do with general issues, from the work of the winter to take care of the needy, Maot Khittim, matters pertaining to the synagogue and the Bet HaMedrash, elections to the municipal council, and the community, the Zionist Congress, and the activities of Keren HaYesod.

In 1927, after a meeting of the community elections committee, in which he had participated, we escorted him up to the door of his house, and we took a hearty leave from him. He entered his house, and had just enough time to tell his wife that he felt very bad, immediately collapsing and giving up his noble soul on the spot.

 

Wagon Drivers

They were five partners: R' Yehuda Langer, R' Itcheh Glekl, R' Benya Glekl, R' Tuvia & R' Moshe Glutzman.

For decades, they handled their business in partnership, with complete trust in one another. They worked hard, and earned their living honestly. The loaded and unloaded hundreds of trainloads of merchandise of value, and never was a complaint heard about any of them. The faith people had in them was boundless. R' Yehuda Langer and R' Itcheh Glekl stood at the head of the partnership. After the death of R' Itcheh, came his brother Benya.

R' Yehuda Langer was a Gabbai of the Berezne Synagogue. He was a Gabbai of the Hevra Kadisha and several other groups. The ADMO”Rs of Berezne would lodge at his home, and he arranged for these Sabbath visits with a generous hand. If someone needed his help, R' Yehuda would put down his work, put on his black kapote, and go to fulfil a mitzvah. When he would unload either wood or stones from trains, the owners already knew that they would have to tithe to him from the cargo – the wood for the Berezne Synagogue, the stones for a foundation for the hut to purify the bodies of the deceased, for the purpose of Hakhnasat Orkhim, or other community buildings. The entire populace loved R' Yehuda. His manner was a pleasant and relaxed one. He also brought up his sons, Alter and Shammai, to be this way.

R' Itcheh Glekl was a quiet and tranquil Jewish man. He, and his wife, were known as hosts who received guests. When in their much later years, they constructed a bread bakery, and the first mechanical matzo bakery, they would be in the habit of distributing much of their baked goods to the needy, bread and matzos (Mrs. Glekl would distribute these baked goods in an anonymous fashion).

Until the time that the automated matzo bakery was constructed, matzos were hand–baked in the normal manual bakery of R' Hanina Drakh, and R' Joseph of Biliatica. After the passing of the parents, the Glekl bakery was inherited by their youngest son, Yankl, who followed in their footsteps in matters of charity, and also in the capacity of an important donor to Keren Kayemet L'Israel, and to Keren HaYesod. Yaakov Glekl was an active member in Poalei Tzion (Tz. S. ) and in Tarbut. By contrast, the eldest son, Mordechai, was not engaged in commerce. After he had obtained schooling from the better teachers in Sarny, he went off to a place of Torah study – to several cities. He studies at Rabbi Aharonson's Yeshiva in Kiev, at Rabbi Chaim Reiness' Yeshiva in Lida, and afterwards – in Odessa, and similarly at a Seminary in Vilna. While still a student in his years in Heder, Mordechai excelled in his dedication to study, and he continued to do this all of his days. After he graduated from the Teachers' Seminary, he served as a principal at two Tarbut Schools in a couple of cities in Poland. In the ten years before The Second World War, he directed the Tarbut School in Stolin, and there, he was active in all of the Zionist institutions and those of culture. His wife, Chay'keh Danenberg, was also known as an energetic member in the Sarny Zionist Histadrut, and in the committee of the Keren Kayemet L'Israel. In Stolin as well, she supported her husband's Zionist work, and his cultural endeavors. Together with their only daughter, they were murdered by the Nazi murderers in Stolin.

The younger brother of R' Itcheh Glekl, Benya, was not active in community affairs. Nevertheless, he helped out in the Hevra Kadisha from time to time, with the collection of donations for the needy, or in connection with the issues of the Berezne Synagogue. Benya was a straight, if taciturn man. His financial situation was a good one, and he was the owner of three houses, in which several renters lived.

R' Tuvia was a diligent activist in several institutions: Hevra Kadisha, Lekhem Aniyim, Khevra Tehillim, Gemilut Hasadim. He also had a good economic situation, and everyone valued him as an honest man.

 

Builders

There were ten such in Sarny, all Jewish, honest and competent at their trade. They came from three Jewish settlements in the area that were well–known: Osova, Zholuds'k, and Olizarko (beside Rafalovka), places where their fathers, and father's fathers engaged in working the land. Even under the registry of the Czars, and afterwards, in the registry of the Poles, they are registered as agricultural people who worked the land. In those days that was an unforgettable designation. Many Jews, who in those days worked the land, also engaged in the building trade.

The first to come to Sarny were the brothers, R' Mendl and R' Wolf Fabrikant. After a few years went by, R' Israel Rosenfeld came from Olizarko, R' Pinchas Linn and others. The Fabrikant brothers and the two sons of the older brother worked together for all their years, and earned the recognition of the populace. The Fabrikant brothers were expert at their craft, and undertook and executed larger scale projects. They built most of the houses in Sarny, the schools, the municipal buildings, and others. They were regular worshipers at the Berezne Synagogue.

 

Wood Workers & Carpenters

Page 64A (Top) : The Municipal Zionist Committee (General Zionists and Tze'irei Tzion) in the Year 1918.
From Right to Left: Sitting – Messrs. Bernstein, Yehoshua Glauberman, Dr. Zelikin, Shmuel Zingerman, David Wolk. Standing – Aharon Zandweiss, Yehoshua Nissman, Velfl Schorr, Moshe Gamerman, Abraham Furman, Bela Geifman, Moshe Golobszko.
(Middle): The Tze'irei Tzion Committee in Sarny in the Year 1921
From Right to Left – Gedalyahu Lifschitz, Meir Stein, Abraham Turkenitz, Dr. Zhitinsky, Shlomo Zandweiss, Jonah Glick.
(Bottom): The Poalei Tzion Committee (Tz. S.) In Sarny in the Year 1928. From Right to Left – Yaakov Trelinsky, Joseph Preiss, Prall, Lancner, Kamin, Yerakhmiel Berlinsky, Abraham Aharon Dworetzky, Nehemiah Gildenhorn, Meir Stein.

Page 64B (Top): The Mizrahi Zionist Committee in Sarny in 1920. From the Right to the Left, Standing: David Levin, Nachman Wiszczina, Anshel Shakhniuk (Shacknai).
Sitting: Jonah Glick, Zvi Shapiro, Shmuel Sadah, Abraham Binder, Moshe Gamerman.
(Middle): A Gathering of the Membership of the various branches of Poalei Tzion (Tz. S.) And The Hitakhdut (1928).
(Bottom): A Central Gathering of Mizrahi (1932). In the picture can be found the Messrs. David Birg, Chair of the Sarny Mizrahi, Schwartzblatt from Rokitno, The Rabbi, R' Aharon Peczenik from Dąbrowica, Yaakov Zandweiss, Mendl Zindl, Velfl Torok, Asher Geifman, Shlomo Guz, Moshe Kamin, Rotfan, and others.

The work of the wood workers was the most difficult. During those years, where there were no lumber mills in our area, the wood workers would cut down the trees by hand, and manually convert the heavy cut trees into boards, from which the houses were then built. Even more difficult was the work of those who cut down the heavy trees, that were used as foundations for houses. After all of the wood products had been prepared for use, the wood workers would then erect the house according to the documented plan.

This was both a complicated and difficult process of construction. Most of the houses in Sarny and its environs were made of wood. There were even two–storey houses built of wood, for example, as the Tarbut School and the ORT School.

There were several wood workers in Sarny, all of whom were scions of the extended Tendler family. Every one of them was known to be a skilled, capable and well–trained builder.

Among these builders were:

R' Nachman Tendler, who worked together with his son, Joseph, and lived beside The Great Synagogue;

R' Joseph Tendler and his two sons, who lived beside Rabbi Hechtman; the two Tendler brothers, who lived on Ulica Barmaczko, and Sukher (Issachar) Tendler, and his son Ber'l, who lived beside the Stolin Synagogue.

Issachar Tendler was a quiet Jewish man, that never raised his voice in anger. He raised his sons also, to be skillful and to search for enlightenment.

R' Issachar had five children – three sons and two daughters. Only the oldest born son, Ber'l continued in his father's trade. The other two sons, Abraham and Joseph, while yet in their youth, went off into the larger world, to search for other places of Torah study. They learned initially in Kiev, and afterwards in Odessa.

Joseph graduated from an advanced school (medicine or engineering), remained in Russia and took up residence in Kharkov. By contrast to this, Abraham returned to Sarny, and began to disseminate Torah to the masses, initially as a teacher of general studies, and afterwards as a teacher in the Tarbut School and, similarly, the ORT School. Even though his core service was in the Tarbut School (he taught at ORT for only a few hours) and all the studies were conducted in Hebrew, and education promoted Zionism and becoming a Halutz, Abraham Tendler, though thoroughly grounded in the Hebrew literature, was far from Zionism, and was dedicated to Yiddishism.

After the war, he returned aged and harried from Russia to Sarny. He met up with several other survivors, students of his from the past, who also had returned to Sarny to seek out a relative or news, only to find the three mass graves. All decided to depart from this Vale of Tears by indirect means, and to attempt entry into The Land of Israel. Only then, did he say: Yes, my sons have bested me, and my students were right. Quicken your pace, my children, and as for me – it is entirely too late already, much to my sorrow.

His only son fell in the World War. His daughter married, but remained in that place. She did not have any choice, but to pass up her opportunity to make aliyah to the Land of Israel.

The two daughters of R' Sukher married young men from Sarny. the older daughter married Joseph Spivak who afterwards settled in Rokitno, and the younger one married Abraham Aharon Dworetzky, the energetic activist of Poalei Tzion, and a member in the ranks of many Zionist and cultural institutions, and one of the most active members of the Sarny Drama Club.

There were several tens of carpenters in Sarny. I will describe only a few of them, who are still in my memory.

Not everyone remembers the very pleasant and ingratiating Jewish man, with the well–kempt and combed beard, R' Ben–Zion Walkin, whose residence was in the simple house beside the Berezne Synagogue. In the first years of the construction of Sarny, R' Ben–Zion was considered to be as one of the better craftsmen and balebatim, who assumed the yoke of constructing the study houses of Sarny, and buildings of other community institutions. R' Ben–Zion was privileged to earn the respect and affection of the entire populace, and especially from the Zionist youth, to which he made very generous contributions in a very affable manner. He did not affiliate with any specific Zionist political organization, but had a love for the Land of Israel, and all undertakings on its behalf. Having been privileged to survive to the end of The First World War, and a possibility was devised for him to receive permission from the Polish régime to make aliyah to The Land of Israel, R' Ben–Zion sold off all of his assets, and made aliyah along with his wife. He and his wife passed away at an advanced old age.

R' Koppel Prall has been mentioned in previous chapters in his role as being active in the Hevra Kadisha. The younger men of Sarny recalled R' Koppel when he would hold the charity box at funerals, in his right hand that had fingers cut off, and who would call out: ‘Justice goes before him, and will put hiss energies on the right path,’ and all the Jews – especially the women – would hasten to R' Koppel, in order to cast their donations into his box. Anyone who saw him dealing with the deceased would have thought that this was his sole preoccupation. However, this would have been erroneous. R' Koppel was a good carpenter, and despite the loss of a finger, his force remained – and he did not relinquish his carpentry tools from his hands. R' Koppel worked hard for decades, and earned an honest living to support his family. He built his own house personally, and reared his sons respectably, who supported him in his old age, and revered him very much.

R' Mendl, the Shammes of the Berezne Synagogue, served as the Beadle, and carried out funerary functions. He loved the Berezne Synagogue, and he lived adjacent to it with his family in attached rooms, that were especially built for the Shammes. But even more than this, he loved the prayer lectern: he served as an unofficial Hazzan of the synagogue. He took good care of his voice, and was in the habit of wrapping his throat with a warm scarf, to prevent himself from catching a cold. He was a God–fearing Jewish man, spending much of his time with books, and he loved to pepper his speech with specific quotes from the weekly portion, or the Psalms. He was especially fond of telling the tales of miracles performed by the Tzaddikim, R' Zisha of Aniapole, R' Leib Sarah's and others, and similarly of the wonder works of the Berezne ADMO”Rs.

His principal occupation was carpentry. I did not rate his craftsmanship, however, it is known that his carpentry went before R' Mendl, who built a beautiful house on the Ulica Topolowa, which he would rent out to neighbors, and receive rent from them.

His tranquil way of life were disrupted even a number of years before The Second World War. His son Gershon lost his mind, and caused him a great deal of trouble. There was no alternative, and with the assistance of the community, Gershon was admitted to a hospital for the mentally ill, a place in which he met his end with the outbreak of the war. Mendl and his wife nursed a severe pain in their hearts over this, until the last day of their lives.

 

“The Cure”

He was nicknamed “The Cure” because his wedding took place at the Sarny cemetery.

During the years of the Petlura pogroms, during which time the city was in the grip of a severe typhus epidemic, and a day did not go by in which there were not multiple deaths, his wedding canopy was erected in the cemetery as a good luck charm aimed at arresting the plague.

R' Koppel Kozlow and R' Asher Schneider were counted among the expert carpenters. R' Koppel Kozlow worked in building carpentry (doors, windows, etc.) and R' Asher was the owner of a large furniture–making business. The reputation of his furniture spread throughout the city and its environs, as praiseworthy furniture of the most pleasing kind, and they ended up gracing the homes of the wealthy Jews and Christians alike.

R' Asher was known as a diligent activist of the craftsmen. He worked in many organizations, and earned the recognition of the Sarny populace accordingly.

 

Tailors & Shoemakers

Tens of families were involved in tailoring and shoemaking. I will recollect only a few of them: Nachman Kaufman, who lived on the Polesia side on the other side of the railroad station, has already been mentioned in previous chapters, as a member of the Gemilut Hasadim, and the craftsmen's union. R' Nachman was a Jewish man of considerable sense, and of great tact. At meetings, he would assure that all participants had an opportunity to express their views, and only at the end, would he quietly make his own views known, modestly. His words and ideas were persuasive. On the day that the news arrived from Poleska, that R' Nachman had died, the entire Jewish populace went into mourning. Masses of people, headed by Rabbi Hechtman, streamed from all the streets, to attend the funeral procession.

R' Johan Beznos was a member of the Craftsmen's Union, in Gemilut Hasadim, Linat Tzedek, and other organizations. His demeanor was somewhat less serious than that of R' Nachman Kaufman. There was always the hint of a smile on his face, and in his mouth – a pleasant story, a nice parable, or a just plain well aimed word that was pertinent to the matter being discussed.

Despite the fact that he was not a bad craftsman – he had difficulty making a living from his shoemaking, and he was compelled to supplement his work by serving as the Shammes of the Setpan' Synagogue.

R' Aharon Cuprik of Poleska was a rather unique Jewish man of his kind. He was not well–known, and didn't participate in community affairs, and did not voice his views, and it was possible to encounter him in only two locations: in the small shop of his, and the Poleska Synagogue. A short, but energetic man, R' Aharon was the first to get up for prayers in the synagogue, and if the Shammes had not yet arrived, R' Aharon would light the stove in the wintertime, in order to be able to warm up the worshipers. He did the same when it came to the afternoon and evening prayers. On the Sabbath morning, it was his custom to run off to the mikva in the city, to immerse himself, and after that – to the Tehilim Group, and from their to prayer services. His worship had the character of ‘and all my bones will speak up,’ using a Stolin chant, accompanied by dance and the clapping of hands. After prayer, if a Kiddush or a Bar–Mitzvah collation had been set up in the synagogue – who would initiate the singing at the Sabbath repast? – R' Aharon! And who would sing the ‘Ya Ekhsof Noam Shabbat,’ sacred melody of R' Aharon of Karlin? – understood that it was R' Aharon! Always approachable, and content with his lot, he would sit at his workbench, humming a melody. His income was meager, and on occasion, even less than that, but how could one know this from what R' Aharon had to say? He was always content, and his one reaction was: ‘Baruch HaShem.’ And as the man was, so was his home. His firstborn son was a Hebrew teacher. His friends said of him that he was enlightened and certainly a candidate for rabbinic ordination. It was not possible to rescue a saying, or even a half–saying from his mouth. Like his father, he was a decent, honest and straightforward man. Two sons of the family were privileged to make aliyah even before the outbreak of the World War. R' Aharon and his wife were killed in the slaughter in Sarny. The firstborn died, as we were told, in Russia during the difficult war years.

R' Issachar Velvel the Tailor, lived in his small wooden house, not a great distance from the ‘Heders’ of R' Alter Peretz and R' Joseph Njavozhny. As I returned home, walking from Heder, I was fond of stopping off at R' Issachar Velvel's home to spend a little time in his foyer, the place where he, and he two nephews, Yankl and Chaim, worked. We youngsters would call them either ‘Yankl Chaim,’ or ‘Mekhalkel Chaim. [34]’ The room was hot and lacked good light, and Issachar Velvel, always with a skullcap on, and a long Tallit Katan, sewed or cut the woven goods on his work table, while humming a tune or melody of the Hazzan, and his two nephews following him in kind. I had the pleasure and privilege of being able to stand beside them for an hour or two. Issachar Velvel loved to lead services in front of The Ark, at the Berezne Synagogue, and in a like manner, he was affectionately committed to his work with the Hevra Kadisha, and the Pallbearers Group. In his old age, he was designated to be among those tailors who sewed burial shrouds. He had a good memory, and remembered all Yahrzeit dates, and saw it as an opportunity for himself to perform a mitzvah by reminding the relatives of the deceased of this anniversary date, so that, God forbid, they not forget, or err with regard to the precise date of decease.

 

Porters

There were several of these in Sarny. They were not like the porters in Rivne, Luck or Warsaw, owners of heavy ropes used for the heavy loads that they carried. The Sarny porters waited by the railroad station for the arrival of merchants, and wealthy balebatim, and would take their luggage and small bags off their hands, and this is how they made a living.

The first porter to come to Sarny from Bereznicanitz, even before The First World War, was R' Chaim Pilszczik, or as he was nicknamed – Chaim The Bringer of Dawn. He was called Pilszczik, because of his lifelong work in the sawing of wood, with his brothers, to be used for planks and supports. In those days there were not yet any sawmills in Sarny, Bereznica and vicinity. R' Chaim would saw the long lengths of the trees, using a long hand saw. In his old age, R' Chaim came to Sarny to make a living beside the railroad station. Why he was called ‘The Bringer of Dawn’ – is not known to me. It is possible that his presence lit up the travelers he met like the coming of the dawn.

R' Chaim continued to live in Bereznica, and during all of the weekdays, he lodged at the home of R' Itzik Zamorczansky (Itzik the Baker). On for the Sabbath, would he travel, or return on foot to Bereznica – a distance of 13–14 kilometers.

The second porter, R' Menashe Piwowuz came from Dąbrowica. He was called ‘Menashe the Gravedigger’ because he lodged in a community house, beside the cemetery on the Polesia side, and served as both a watchman and a gravedigger, or sometime called ‘Menashe, the Man of This’ (Menashe mittn dos), because to every phrase that he uttered, he would add the word, ‘this.’ If he was carrying the baggage of a ‘big shot’ to the train – he would say: ‘today, I loaded a big shot into the train.’

After Menashe, Itzik Bik came from Bereznica. He was young and strong, and yet it was he who carried the lightest of the loads from the train. Because of his youth and speed, it was possible for him to get ahead of his comrades, and be able to get the baggage of the wealthy merchants, mostly merchants who dealt in forest products.

I recollect one other porter, Meir'l from Bobrow. It was only in later life that he would go out to meet the trains to carry packages, R' Meir'l was a modest Jew, and had a long white beard.


[Page 68]

The Community

by Shlomo Zandweiss

There were two [sic: Jewish] communities that existed in the Sarny Powiat:

(1) The Sarny community was comprised of the city and the two administrative Gminas Nemovychi and Lubikowic; Dąbrowica – the provincial seat of the Dąbrowica Gmina, and with it, the town of Berezne; Rokitno and the Kisaric Gmina; The Klesów Gmina, encompassing Sikhuv, Jalna, and Tomaszgorod; The Horodysce Gmina, which took in the Antonovka railroad station, Horodysce, Tzaftzewic and other villages.

The Jewish population in these cities and towns, along with the adjacent villages numbered between 17–18 thousand people; Sarny – 7,000–8,000; Dąbrowica – 4,000–4,500; Rokitno 3,000–4,000; Bereznica 1,000–1,200; The others – 1,000–1,500.

According to the documentation, Sarny was a ‘major community’ (Wileika) at the head of which stood a council of 12 members with a leadership of 8 members.

(2) The community of Wolodzmierz was a ‘minor community’ (Gmina mala), at the head of which stood a council of only 8 members. When elections were announced, an elections committee of 14 people was created under the leadership of R' Moshe Tartakowsky. In addition to this, secondary committees were elected in all the previously mentioned cities, that were part of the Sarny community. The first elections took place in the Fall of 1927. The interest of the resident populace in these elections was minimal. It was not yet known what form all the various issues would take, and it appeared that the matter had been ordained from above. The Gabbaim of the various houses of study engaged in doing the work of the elections, and the leading speakers came from the ranks of the Hasidim. And after the first of the community was supposed to elect the first Rabbi of the community, whose term, according to law was permanent – this served to enhance and strengthen the interest of the various Hasidic sects.

The results of the election were as follows:

Mr. Mendl Karcer of Rokitno was elected as the Chair, with Mr. Noah Pearlstein of Sarny as his Deputy, and as Head of the Council – Mr. Moshe Pickman. The Rabbi of Dąbrowica, R' Nahum Pinczuk was selected to be the Rabbi of the community, and as the Secretary – Mr. Moshe Gottleib of Dąbrowica. Until the year 1932, practically no activity was carried out at the community level. The community Rabbi opened an office in Sarny for the purpose of registering births, marriages, and deaths. He received the recording ledgers of the Sarny populace, which until then had been kept in Dąbrowica and Wolodzmierz in the hands of R' Shlomo t”yhka, and in a similar manner, like ledgers were collected from those held by Rabbi Hechtman in Sarny, and in the hands of Rabbi Aharon Shamash in Rokitno. By any large, it was the two sons of the Rabbi, Rabbi Itzik'l Pinczuk and Rabbi Aharon Pinczuk (today in Israel), who worked in this office. They would come once, or twice, a week to Sarny.

The office of the community and the rabbinate were to be found in one room, in the house of the widow of the AdMo”R, R' Yossl'eh Pinczuk k”mz.

In 1930–1931, R' Ahar'eleh began to prepare for emigration to America. This eventuality took away from his will and focus on his job. In February 1932, the position of Secretary went over into the hands of the writer of these lines (Shlomo Zandweiss).

In this period, more extensive community activity took place. The régime emphatically demanded that the community assume the responsibility for oversight of matters pertaining to ritual slaughter, the houses of worship, ritual baths, and other buildings, that belonged to the public, but as a matter of fact were not registered to it for ownership. A few of the houses were listed under the names of individuals, who had been deceased for some time. At the same time, there were already permanent employees at work on behalf of the community. As the bookkeeper, and deputies to the secretary, were Mordechai Pinczuk and Pinchas Geifman, as an emissary – Mordechai Jabin. Afterwards, two additional appointees were installed: Asher Chaim Farbrodsky, and Ziskind Pickman. After four months had passed by, the four–year term of service of the first community leadership came to an end, and new elections were then called for.

In this election committee, all of the Zionist parties now were already participants. Mr. Shmaryahu Gerszunok was designated as the Head. The work of the committee was governed by a previously set agenda: A list of candidates from all of the cities was generated, who came from all walks of the people. This time around, the participation of the public in the elections was more than readily apparent.

In accordance with the statutes of municipal elections, that had been publicized through the local newspaper of the Polish government ‘Dziennik Ostow’ of the year 924, the privilege of voting was available to all men age 25 and above. Men, aged 30 or higher were eligible to be elected. Women did not have the right to vote. Voting was by secret ballot.

Thirty days after the election, it was necessary to submit the lists to audit for certification. In general, elections were certified without difficulty or alteration, except for those instances where complaints were filed, alleging tampering.

The following people were elected to the second community council: From Sarny – Messrs. Shmaryahu Gerszunok, Mendl Gurewicz, Abraham Turkenitz, David Birg, Levin, Pinchas Zandweiss, Asher Aharon Gampel, Benjamin Kantorowicz, Moshe Pickman, Noah Pearlstein, and the teacher Shlomo Gurfinkel. Messrs. Yitzhak Levin k”z, and Mendl Hurwicz, separated for long life, afterwards made aliyah to The Land of Israel. From Dąbrowica the following were selected: Messrs. Yaakov Lieberson, Itcheh Youngstein – Deputy to the Head of the Council, Shmeryl Frankel, who afterwards made aliyah, and Mott'l Winiar. From Rokitno – Messrs. Mendl Karcer, the teacher Gendelman, and Yehoshua Gittelman. From Bereznica – Messrs. Aharon Kanizhnik, Sh. Gampel, Gedaliah Geller, and Aharon Cohen, nicknamed Aharon the ???. From Klesów – Mr. Burstein,

Mr. Yaakov Lieberson was selected to be the Head of the Community leadership, and as his Deputy, Mr. Shmaryahu Gerszunok. As the Chair of the Council of the community – R' David Birg, with Mr. Benjamin Kantorowicz as his Deputy. In accordance with the community statues, the Rabbi of the community was also appointed along with the other members of the leadership.

The community was mostly Zionist. Even among the more extreme elements of the Hasidim, there was never any opposition to proposals regarding the national funds, aliyah or other Zionist objectives.

The new leadership approached its work with great zest. The offices of the community occupied four rooms in the home of Mr. Nagel. They inherited the furniture of the merchants bank that had become obsolete with age, and the external appearance of the community premises was that of a national institution. The community office was the second most popular in the city, after the office of the Magistrate. In addition to pictures of the national Polish leadership, the President Muszczyski, and Marshall Pilsudski, the walls were decorated with large pictures of Dr. Herzl, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolov, and Chaim Nachman Bialik.

A budget in the amount of thirty and some thousand zlotys was set (in the year 1938–1939, the community budget was close to eighty thousand zlotys). The budgets were lodged with the office of the Voievode. Revenues came from the following sources:

  1. Ritual slaughter, from which the community received 20 percent, and the slaughterers themselves – 80 percent. In order not to degrade the income of the slaughterers, the price of a slaughter was raised. All those who served as inspectors of the slaughter, received income based on a set percentage from the revenues obtained from the slaughter. The role of slaughterer was carried out by the Messrs. Shlomo Gamerman and Pesach Ely'eh Katz in Sarny; Yakir Fishman, Tuvia Triszynsky David Fialkov, and Meir Fishbein – Dąbrowica; Issachar Trigun and Joel Schwartzberg – Rokitno; Itzik'l Shuv, and Meir, afterwards his son–in–law – Bereznica; Moshe Hersch Wlodimirsky, Rabbi, Slaughterer, and Inspector – Klesów; Pesach Ely'eh Kessler – Horodysce; Anshel, the son of the Slaughterer and Inspector Yakir – Sichuv; Additionally, there were other unofficial ritual slaughterers, that the rabbis did not want to recognize because of complaints regarding violation of franchise.
  2. Incomes from the bureau of statistics: recording of birth, weddings, instances of death, and divorce.
  3. From the cemetery for burial plots for the deceased, and the erection of grave markers. The Hevra Kadisha continued to fulfil its obligation as it did before. Expenses regarding the retention of watchmen, and the like, were covered by the community.
  4. The cost of membership in the community, or as they were called ‘Kehillah Etat,’ the tax that in the ‘Dziennik Ostow’ was circumscribed to mean ‘Skladko Czlonkowska’ (membership dues) and was likened to all the other taxes imposed by the government. When a Jew received a notice of the remaining balance of his community dues that he owed, he was obligated to act within 14 days utilizing the community resources, in the face of an audit. The community attached its requests, and conveyed its request to the Starostwo. The taxpayer also had to make known the decision of the Starostwo in the offices of the Voievode. However, these matters never got that far.
On the expense side of the community budget, the following line items appeared, apart from the administrative expenses:
  1. All Rabbis (in addition to the Rabbi of the city, who received a monthly salary), support was made available to the extent of 600 zlotys per annum. The Rabbis already had set up revenue streams for themselves from the past. In addition to this, they received an emolument for the registry ledgers that had been taken from them. The Rabbis were: The Rabbis Kunda and Hechtman – Sarny; R' Nahum Pinczuk and R' Yaakov Zaltzman – Dąbrowica; R Aharon Shamash – Rokitno; R' Moshe Neiditz, and Bakun – Bereznica.
  2. All Schools, Talmud Torahs, Yeshivas, ‘ORT,’ and other educational institutions were supported in the winter, in addition to an annual financial stipend, with supplements of food and warm milk, for frail children – in accordance with medical direction – fish oil for the poor among them.
  3. All charitable institutions, such as Linat Tzedek, Lekhem Aniyim, the Orphanage, and ‘TOZ,’ all received allotments.
  4. The two funds, Keren HaKayemet, and Keren HaYesod, received annual allotments.
  5. At the outset, a sum was specified for the support of the men and women making aliyah, in those instances where they personally lacked the financial resources to cover their trip to the Land of Israel. This support was explicitly designated in the budget for those making aliyah.
  6. At the beginning of winter, the community purchased several hundred meters of firewood, and distributed it to the needy.
Twice a year, during the festivals in Tishri and Passover, the community would open up a charitable kitchen for the Jewish soldiers and the local contingent of the K.O.P. ‘Корпс Охранй Погранйца’ (The Border Patrol). In connection with the religious needs of Jewish soldiers, the community maintained contact with the Chief Rabbi of the provincial military (D.O.K. – Довдоство Окранго Корпусовко) of Lublin, the Captain Rabbi. The Captain Rabbi would visit Sarny once or twice a year, and would arrange for a worship service for the soldiers in the Great Synagogue, and in a like manner, he would send copies of all religious news, news having to do with the Sabbaths, and Festival holidays. One time, I was present at the service of the military Rabbi. when he reached t6he end of the prayer for bestowing a blessing on the ruler of the country, and he recited the lines, ‘…in his day, and our day, may Judah and Israel be saved, and live in safety, and so let it be thy will, and let us say, Amen…,’ I asked him why he omitted the phrase, ‘…and a Redeemer shall come to Zion…’ By way of an answer, he point me to the fact that in all of the Jewish prayer books used by the military, this was how it was printed, and it was not within his power to alter it.

The community had a separate fund for needy families, who did not want to turn in supplication, to ‘Lekhem Aniyim.’ Sick people who needed to be taken to the hospital in Warsaw, tubercular patients – to Otwotck, or convalescent homes in other locations, and similar instances to these.

All such expenditures were done under substantial oversight, and with the awareness of the audit committee. From time to time, an audit was conducted at the request of the Inspector.

All member of the leadership committee were well–known community activists, who engaged in doing public works without remuneration.

Twice yearly, long meetings were arranged of the Advisory Council, together with the leadership for purposes of hashing out a budget, or setting the agenda for Passover activities. These meetings ran on until late at night, and it was the practice to provide some tea and a light repast to the participants. At first, no one paid attention to the fact that R' Aharon Kuzhinik didn't touch the tea, or the baked goods. After a while, it became known to us, that he had turned to the Karlin Rabbi, R' Melekh'keh ADMo”R, with the question of whether it was permissible to eat or drink at the community's expense. As was told, the Rabbi ordered him, forcefully, to partake to some degree, at least for the sake of appearances, because if he doesn't, it is possible that he will inadvertently cast a suspicion on the Kashrut of all the edibles. The general sentiment was that it was appropriate for the sitting participants to obtain some satisfaction because of their public work. However, should he deny himself the desire to taste the tea – all manner of suspicions could be aroused in the community regarding Kashrut, that this would be a grievous sin.

For all practical purposes, Mr. Abraham Turkenitz was the Vice Chair of the community leadership during the entire period in which Mr. Yaakov Lieberson served as the Chair. Mr. Lieberson was in the habit of coming from Dąbrowica only once or twice a month, and all the work was shifted onto A. Turkenitz. At a very late period, during which the final elections for the community were held, Mr. Gerszunok was elected as Chair, and A. Turkenitz as the Vice Chair of the leadership.

In the years 1936–1937, a great economic Depression occurred. At that time, Mr. A. Turkenitz ran a business in Klesów in partnership with his brother Mordechai. Business had sunk to a low level, and Abraham, who was very faithful, did not take any money from the business. To the extent that we knew, he did not have enough money to provide for his own personal daily sustenance. On his journeys to Klesów, he would also deal with many community issues. Because of this, the leadership saw fit to give him some financial assistance in regard to his expenses. Once, during his absence, it was decided to pay him a one–time fee of 200 zlotys to cover expenses that he had incurred on behalf of the community, When he learned of this decision, he raised an objection, and demanded that the decision be rescinded, and that his objection be recorded in the minutes. During the six years of his tenure, this man did not take so much as a single hair from the community funds. May his memory be for a blessing.

As previously mentioned, the community ran a section on statistics. All official certificates were signed by the Rabbi of the community, R' Nahum'keh Pinczuk. And after the time when the Rabbi would come to Sarny only once a week, also on a Wednesday, he would be in the habit of leaving blank statistical forms with a relative of his, Mordechai Pinczuk, with his signature on them already. Sarny, at that time, was already known in Warsaw, as a community that was supportive of aliyah. In those years very few [exit] certificates were obtained, and out of a sense of taking the maximum advantage of this minimal amount – fictional weddings were arranged. The result of this, was that two people could make aliyah and not just one. In other Polish cities, combinations of this sort were encumbered with great difficulties, because the Rabbis would pose understandable questions: if the wedding ceremonies are to be legitimate, it is possible that in the future, one of the couple may desire to remain united permanently, and in this case, the couple will remain married without the benefit of a correct Jewish ceremony; and if one were to erect a real wedding canopy – what will happen in the future if one member of the couple will no longer find favor with the other? Complexity of this nature is bound to create serious difficulties! As a result of this, may Rabbis refused to participate in this sort of undertaking.

In Sarny, these issues were resolved without difficulty and without onerous payments. At frequent intervals, the central Halutz office in Warsaw would send a young man, carrying twenty certificates in hand, and within a matter of hours, our Mott'keh Pinczuk would record them in the register of weddings, on the basis of permissions granted by the local Rabbis.

On one occasion, hundreds of such certificates arrived for the Rabbis, that needed handling. From Warsaw, those involved with the matter turned to the Sarny community, with a request for authorization by the Rabbis. Since the community had oversight over the synagogues, and had in hand printed copies of their seals and signatures, we released such permissions from the synagogues and houses of study, indicating that so–and–so were Rabbis. It was in this fashion that many Jews reached the Land of Israel this way, as presumed Rabbis, among them the Messrs. Meir Levin, Zvi Greenberg (Herschel Haploni), Zilberman from Bereznica, and others.

 

Towns & Villages in the Sarny Vicinity

As was already mentioned in prior chapters, a large number of cities and villages were allocated to the [sic: greater] Sarny community. It is difficult to describe the large cities further, such as Dąbrowica, Bereznica, and Rokitno. Regarding these, it would be appropriate to publish separate books, and such an undertaking will certainly be initiated by the Émigrés of those cities. I will therefore limit my descriptions to the few smaller towns and those villages in the Sarny vicinity.

 

Sekhov

The oldest among these towns was Sekhov. I can recall, going back to the days of my childhood, hearing stories about Sekhov: The men of our acquaintance from Sekhov, went to celebrate a holiday in Stolin,' ‘The Rabbi of Sekhov and R' Baruch Feigelstein came to spend the Sabbath in Sarny.’

The count of the Jewish families, at the time, came to fifty families. They had a pleasing synagogue, and to keep separate – a bath, a cemetery, and other community institutions and clubs.

Among the prominent families of Sekhov, could be counted those of David Zonder, Nagel, Attstein, Baruch Feigelstein, and others. Mr. David Zonder earned the reputation of being the largest forest products merchant of the vicinity, a philanthropist, an enlightened man, and one who was God–fearing. He took on the responsibility of many Jewish offices, and many Jewish families were able to make a living from his initiatives. His home was open to all who were in need.

It was not only Mr. David Zonder who conducted his house in a generous manner with regard to matters of charity, and Hakhnasat Orkhim. R' David had no sons, only daughters, whom he married off to reputable husbands, such as the Messrs. Menachem Zalman Briskman, Szaylik Katznelson, Mordechai Kabitiny, Aharon Pearl, and Simcha Gendler. The senior among these sons–in–law was R' Menachem Zalman Briskman – a scholarly Jew, educated (with a Rabbinic ordination from Lithuania), always splendidly dressed, with pearls of wisdom dropping from his mouth, being cognizant of, and thoroughly grounded in many sorts of issues. He followed in the ways of his father–in–law, and even educated his own children in the ways of the Torah and Jewish tradition.

R' Baruch Feigelstein was also a scholar, God–fearing, and one of the pillars of the Stolin Hasidim, a man of good humor, and a friend to all. Everyone loved him, and respected him a great deal. His son, Israel Aharon, continued in his ways. and was a Torah scholar with Rabbinic ordination, and teaching, and afterwards served as the head of the community in the town of Kostopil'.

For many years, R' Eliezer Lemkowicz served as the Rabbi, Ritual Slaughterer, and Inspector in Sekhov, and who was beloved and respected by all the Sekhov residents. Rabbi Eliezer Lemkowicz was murdered by the Petlura murderers in Klesów, at the time he was engaged in slaughtering fowl and cattle. R' Moshe Zvi Wlodimirsky came to fill his place. He later took over the leadership in a new town, Klesów, which had grown at a rapid rate because of the places where one could make a living, such as quarries, brick works, and the forests with the saw mills within them.

After R' Moshe Zvi Wlodimirsky, R' Anshel Fishman served as the Ritual Slaughterer, the son of R' Yakir Fishman, the Ritual Slaughterer of Dąbrowica.

The family of R' Israel Attstein, and his three sons – Dudik, Yoss'l and Shlomo – were known throughout the area as both honest and charitable merchants, among whom, Mr. David Attstein was especially renown, who took up residence beside the train station in Tomaszgorod, and for a number of years, in Sarny proper. His home was always open to the poor, and in general to anyone who was needy. In this connection, his wife Zelda was a help to him, whose reputation went out before her as a hostess to guests. The Nagel family was also well known in this connection as well.

In the final years before The Second World War, the Jewish population in Sekhov prospered and grew. Several families pulled up stakes and moved to the railhead in nearby Tomaszgorod, while others went to Klesów and Sarny. The brightness of the town of Sekhov has been dimmed. Only a small number of families remain there.

 

Tomaszgorod

Because of this, the Jewish population in Tomaszgorod began to develop that was beside the railroad station. The Gendler, Attstein, Blizhowsky, Fleiszun, Nagel and other families settled there. The Gendler families were known throughout the area. A number of the sons from this family settled in Warsaw. R' Joseph Gendler, a formidable scholar, spent day and night in the study of the Torah, in his last years. His patriarchal appearance enchanted the eye of all those who saw him. The family of R' Asher Blizhowsky, and his sons, Abraham'l and Chaim, was also known throughout the vicinity, as a family of honest merchants, and expediters at the railroad station.

Mr. Shmuel Nagel, the son–in–law of R' Menachem Briskman (today in Israel), also settled beside the railroad station, and began to deal in large–scale forest products together with his partner, Mr. Rosenfeld. Mr. Rosenfeld was possessed of a highly unique trajectory of life. To his dying day, it was difficult to ascertain his status. He lived alone – and it was not known if he was a widower or divorced, being taciturn and miserly – he took up residence in a tiny room in the hut of a gentile. However, despite the fact that he spoke little, he was recognized as a wise man, a scholar, and was especially skilled at known to whom and when to extend his help. The two partners were among the first substantial donors to the Keren HaKayemet, and Keren HaYesod, as well as other eleemosynary causes.

We recall to the good, Mrs. Sarah Fleiszun, who was widowed while young. She did quite well in the forest products business, managed her household with great good, and educated her children in a beautiful manner.

The other residents as well, storekeepers and craftsmen – all led proper and pleasant lives. The railroad station in Tomaszgorod, was known throughout Poland as a place where there was an opportunity to make a good living, a place of forests and quarries, and above all – a place of honest people.

With the arrival of the Hitler forces, together with the Ukrainian murderers, all the Jewish families were sent to Sarny, and they were exterminated there along with the entire [Jewish] community of Sarny.

All the Jews, who live in the villages of the Sarny vicinity earned a reputation of respected families of balebatim, well–educated themselves, and having educated their children well. Today, we have no example of this type of village Jew, or the character of this past.

Of the villages in the Sarny area, the following were known to me:

 

Nemovychi

This village had a Jewish population, over the years, that resided there. For quite a number of years, before Sarny was established, there were scholarly Jews here, from which the Sarny Jews recruited their ritual slaughterers, melamdim, and other clerical functionaries. It was from this town, during the first period of Sarny's construction, in the years 1900–1901, that the beloved Ritual Slaughterer and Mohel, R' Ziskind Gamerman came, the son of the local ritual slaughterer, R' Meir. It was from there that the Gurfinkel brothers were brought as teachers, who taught a number of ‘semesters’' in the Heder of R' Alter Peretz Goluboszka. R' David Shimon Binder was known as an outstanding, and formidable teacher in Sarny, for a number of years. Also, R' Aharon Zuliar, or as he was nicknamed, R' Aharon of Nemovychi, inculcated Torah in the higher grade Heders in Sarny.

Shmuel Walkin1 became renown as an exceptional teacher in the years 1917–1941. He was the student of the best of the Nemovychi teachers, coming afterwards to Sarny in order to water the hands of the best of the teachers there; he revealed Torah to many places in the wide world. For several years he heard Torah [lessons] from the mouth of Dr. Joseph Klausner, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and other luminaries of that generation. From there, he went over to Kiev, and after that, he graduated from the Teachers Seminary in Vilna. Shmuel Walkin served for many years as the principal of the largest Tarbut schools in Poland. In the final years, he was the principal of the Tarbut School of Rokitno, up to the last day when his life was ended.

Many families from Nemovychi settled in Sarny: the families of Moshe Gurfinkel, Moshe Binder, Ziskind Gamerman, and his brother, Shlomo Gamerman, Greiber, and many others. These families helped to build up Jewish life in Sarny, and they stood at the head of many Jewish institutions. Part of them, like Mr. Moshe Gurfinkel, and Mr. Moshe Binder, were privileged to make aliyah to the Land of Israel, and live out their lives respectably. However, part of ??? the Jews of Nemovychi endured, along with the Jews of Sarny, all the levels of terrifying Hell, and died the death of martyrs, during those bitter and awesome days of the 14th and 15th of Elul 5702.

 

Czudlo

The Jews of Czudlo led a different way of life, a way of life of more aristocratic Jews, everything sone with a generous hand. This was true of their external appearance, and also in their deeds, where they were people of good initiative. Their generous homes were open to all guests – visiting Rabbis, ADMO”Rs, or just plain needy Jews. In my mind's eye, I see them arriving in Sarny, dresses in finery, big redolent fur coats, on their upholstered sleighs, or in their travels to the merchant fairs in Warsaw and Poznan. Their first stop was with R' Ziskind, the Ritual Slaughterer and Inspector, and afterwards, his son Shlomo, in order to donate all their donations and tithes, very generously, as understood.

In previous chapters, I have already recollected the donations of R' Ahar'chik Geifman in Sarny after the death of his first wife, Tzipa: the house for ‘Hakhnasat Orkhim,’ the Talmud Torah, Holy Arks in each of the synagogues, ark curtains. His brother also, R' Chaim Geifman, and his sons, went in his ways. Among the more respected Jews of Czudlo were, R' Moshe Hirsch Zunder, a God–fearing scholarly man, able to lead prayers and read from the Torah in a sweet voice, of a pleasant disposition and in harmony with his environment. In general, the entire Zunder family was well–known in the Sarny area, and in the middle of them was Mr. David Zunder of Sekhov, and Mr. Aharon Zunder of Kiev, the owner of the glass works in Rokitno. The Czudler family occupied an important place, headed by Mr. Yek'l Czudler. We need to remember to the good, also Mr. Pinchas Halperin and his wife, who ran their store in a very appropriate manner. Their name was respected, and their children (both sons are in Israel) were given the best education. Let us also recall for the good all of the Jews of Czudlo, who were cruelly exterminated in ghettoes and forests, and those buried in the mass graves of Sarny.

 

Strilsk

There were close to 30 Jewish families in the village, who engaged in commerce and craftsmanship. The village was located on the main road to Sarny, Berezne, and Dąbrowica. There were several other villages nearby: Hlushytsya, and Karpylivka, in which there were also several Jewish families. Many merchants from Poland and Russia would come to Strilsk. They were experienced merchants, and craftsmen. Among the important families were: Shmeryl Zandweiss, Yitzhak Bar Szur, and Yoss'l Teich.

R' Shmeryl ben R' Yaakov Zandweiss was a scholarly Jew, one of the prominent Stolin Hasidim, a generous philanthropist, and a host to guests. The Stolin shtibl resided in his home. Prayer services were conducted with passion, and the sounds of the singing during the Third Feast and the feast of Melaveh Malka, especially during holidays and on Simchat Torah, carried through the entire village. The scions of the AdMo”Rs of Stolin, beginning yet with the sons of R' Aharon, and R' Asher and R' Israel'keh Perlov, would lodge at the house of R' Shmeryl, and he would travel to them in Stolin for the High Holy Days. On his return from there, R' Shmeryl was in the habit of telling tales of miracles and wonders, and would rehearse tunes with the common people. His sons, Abraham–Lejzor, Aharon, Ziskind, Yaakov and Yitzhak, all followed in his footsteps. They were beloved throughout the entire area, and engaged in community work. Together with their father, R' Shmeryl, they would provide workers, farmers from the nearby villages, to do work in the forests, and on the rafts of the renowned forest product merchants. In the passage of time, the sons, Abraham–Lejzor and Yaakov pulled up stakes and went off to America. Aharon and Ziskind settled in Sarny, and Yitzhak – in Rovno. R' Shmeryl's wife, Rivka Reizl, was a Righteous Woman, whose reputation spread far and wide as a pleasant and refined woman, who was a hostess to guests.

R' Yitzhak Bar Szur was an Enlightened man. He filled all the positions associated with religious service: he led prayer, read from the Torah, he was a Melamed, and he would even rule on religious questions brought to him – in place of a Rabbi. He engaged in the study of Torah day and night.

R' Yoss'l Teich (or according to his nickname, Yoss'l the Lessor; he held a lease on the flour mill) was also a scholar and God–fearing man. At his home, he worshiped in a second minyan. He was known throughout the area as an honest and wise Jewish man. In the fullness of time, he became a Mekhutan of R' Shmeryl Zandweiss.

The younger generation, by the years 1915–1917 had begun to engage in Zionist activity, learning Hebrew, and collecting money for the benefit of the Keren HaKayemet L'Israel. Among the active workers of that time were Abraham Furman – afterwards a teacher in Sarny – and Schraga Feivusz Varona, who in the year 1925 made aliyah to the Land of Israel with a group of Halutzim. The two friends, Furman and Varona, left behind them in the village, Zionist pupils, who continued their work. A Keren HaKayemet commission was established and all the funds were sent to Sarny. Additionally, there were young people who first went to receive training, and from there, made aliyah to the Land of Israel.

 

On the Eve of the Second World War

Work in the community became progressively more difficult from say–to–say, and the plight of the Jews in Poland worsened, both from an economic standpoint, and also from the standpoint of tradition. The Jews saw the community as their bastion, and would turn to it in every case of a difficulty.

One could begin to sense war in the air in Poland in the years 1937–1938, when the Polish regime began to fortify the vicinity of Straszow beside Sarny (the Russian radio had broadcast at the time: Poland do not threaten us in Straszow!). At the same time, the regime began to evacuate a few of the Jews from the fortified roads. This harsh fate also affected Mr. Pinia Halperin of the village of Czudlo. He received an order to leave within 48 hours, together with his family, from the village, and the entire Wolhyn Valley altogether. This Jewish man was a storekeeper, and his meager assets were spread out among the farmers. In his possession, he also had a small amount of inventory. He could not liquidate this, and was forced to leave the village, bare, and without anything. He turned to the community. Already on that evening that he was to travel, the writer of these lines traveled to the office of the Voievode in Luck. With the help of the Stolin Rebbe, R' Yochanan Perlov km”z, who resided in Luck, and of Mr. Barzakh, a member of the Voievode council, they were able to defer the expulsion by a month, and the family itself was permitted to stay on longer. During that month, Mr. Halperin succeeded in liquidating his merchandise, to collect his money, and to get himself settled in a town near Warsaw.

Anti–Semitic incitement grew stronger from day–to–day. It was accompanied by acts of predation on the part of the Polish residents at the head of which stood the educated Polish youth. In those days, pogroms erupted in the town of Przytyk, and in the universities, the students began to beat the Jewish students and demanded that they be seated in separate benches. The anti–Semitic hooligans would set up guards beside the Jewish stores, and assault the customers. Attacks on Jews in the streets, and beating them murderously, became increasingly frequent.

During the summer months of 1939, it had already become clear that the war was not to be avoided, and was waiting to break out in the immediate future. When it became known to the public, that the negotiations between the Western powers and Russia had broken down, and that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Agreement had been signed, no doubt remained that the days – perhaps even the hours – to the onset of war, were numbered. In an intuitive way, that was almost instinctive, each person senses that a Holocaust was drawing near. The Jews of Sarny knew the Ukrainian population around them well, going back to the days of the Petlura pogroms. Russia had reached an agreement with Germany to make certain that not a single person will be permitted to cross its border and enter its interior. This, in turn, raised the fateful question: What is to happen to us?!

And this is how it began: In the final days of August 1939, Poland announced an army draft. The Sarny barracks were filled with soldiers, among them many Jews from Sarny and its vicinity. Army train cars were switched at Sarny, bearing on their sides the legends: Rokitno–Berlin, Luniniec–Berlin. The entire population seemed to have be struck by some spell, and eagerly awaited the outbreak of war. On an early hour of September 1, the Polish radio advised that before dawn, the German army had crossed the Polish border without a declaration of war, and because of this, it is the Polish government that is communicating on the state of war with Germany. This act, and those that followed, demanded the imposition of the rules of embargo.

The city of Sarny was thrown into a state of confusion. The municipal administration passed into the hands of the military. A call up was made of all the men who belonged to defense units used against air attack, at the head of which stood Captain Motolski, and his assistant, the miscreant and well–known Jew–hater, the secretary of the past municipal administration, Kozik Kostron.

A pall had pervaded the streets, and the spirits of the Jews fell even further. Using the radio, details of the first battles became known: the German army was making rapid progress in our direction, with whole brigades and divisions being surrounded by the German army, all trains and roads bursting with refugees, which were being mercilessly shot at by the enemy's planes, with the dead and wounded rolling about all over the roads.

Sarny also was bombed by the Nazis. The first casualty, the son of Weiner the Shoemaker, fell while standing in front of his store. A tragic fate of the family: the first victim in The First World War was the father of the family, and even he, was also killed by a bomb that fell beside his house. And here, in The Second World War, the oldest son of the family fell [in the same way].

A flood of refugees reached Sarny. All the houses of the Jews, their orchards and gardens, synagogues, and study houses became filled with exhausted people, who had fled Warsaw, Lodz, Kiev, and other Polish cities, on foot. There were terrifying things communicated from the mouths of the refugees. The lives of Jews and their possessions were declared worthless, thousands of Jews were murdered, for the sole reason that they were Jewish.

On September 3, the spirits became somewhat more calm. News had arrived that England and France had declared war on Germany. Everyone raised their eyes to the skies, searching for the planes of the Allies. Most of the hope was placed on France. However, all of these hopes, and expectations, quickly melted away. We were placed up against the aggravating reality.

The Nazi beast has already captured Lublin and Chelm. In Chelm, they seized 1,500 Jews and exterminated them. The refugees from there were warmly received by the Jews of Sarny.

On September 17, while sitting beside the radio, we heard the news that the Red Army had crossed the Polish border with the objective of trying to extend fraternal assistance to the Ukrainian and Byelorussian peoples. This news was quickly transmitted by word of mouth, because there was fear of communicating it out loud, and everyone was confused upon hearing this fact. Does this mean that Russia was seeking to aid Poland against Germany, or is it on its way to meet up with the German army in order to join forces and turn against England and France?

Even officials of the Polish government did not know how to explain what was going on. Part of them said, that the remnants of the Polish army arrayed in the Wolhyn district, should put up resistance to the advance of the Russians beside the line of fortifications of Straszow. The Polish government, at that point, was in the city of Krzmeniec. Opposite them, were those who saw the incursion of the Soviet Army as an outgrowth of the prior agreement with the Polish government. This news offered courage to we Jews. In it, we saw a ray of hope.

On September 18, a white flag [of surrender] was raised over the council building (the house of Sz. Gifsz), and a delegation representing the Polish government – headed by the deputy of the head of the district police – went off to the village of Nemovychi in order to receive the arriving guests, and to turn over the keys to the city to them. At that time, and at one time, the remnants of the army in the area were ordered to surrender to the Russian army.

When the delegation drew nigh to the forward guard of the Soviet army, the leader of the police group burst out with the exclamation, “Long Live the Red Army!” The head of the police was confused to the point that he unsheathed his pistol and shot the leader. When the report of this shot reached the forward guard, they immediately opened fire, and several victims fell on both sides, among them, a number of Jewish soldiers in the Polish army, who were then brought for burial in Sarny. This was the way the deputy to the chief of police was killed.

The communists in Sarny (Jews and Christians) began to erect a Gate of Honor beside the church in the direction of Gnomic, not far from Rankin's saw mill. Hordes of residents from Sarny began to congregate at this location. On that same day, various units of the Red Army began to enter the city.

And the city of Sarny was joyous and happy.

 

Soviet Rule (September 1939 to June 1941)

The flow of the ranks of the Soviet army continued for several days. Enormous units passed through Sarny, resting for a few hours, and then continuing westwards. In the course of several days, the Red Army reached Lublin, and after that, it retreated back to the Bug River.

During one of the hours of the morning of September 19, when several units were marching down the Wide Boulevard, a shot was heard from the direction of one of the nearby alleys. From what it appears, one of the residual Polish patriots wanted to use this means to express his pain and sorrow at the action of the Red Army. The unit came to an immediate halt, set up its cannons, and machine guns, and began to rain fire down on the houses along the Wide Boulevard. A terrifying chaos broke out in the city. The exchange of fire lasted only a few minutes. From what appeared, the matter became entirely clarified by the temporary local authorities, and by the head of the military. For the entire period of this march, the military was received with stormy cries of liberation. The Jews were the most happy of all. The soldiers conducted themselves with much friendship and amity. The officers would stop beside groups of the citizenry, and start up friendly conversations. They attempted to soothe the populace, and they promised that Soviet Russia was a Garden of Eden for all peoples. They advised everyone to keep the peace, and that everyone should return to their work. In Russia there is no lack of anything, and the Red Army, and the Constitution of Stalin will protect us forever. Words in this spirit were also heard in all gatherings that were arranged in all parts of the city.

A temporary working committee was immediately established, ‘Временный Районный Исполнйтелъный Комитет’ (Temporary Regional Executive Committee) in the building of the past Starosta. The working committee set about organizing all of its sections, as they had previously functioned under the administration of the Starosta: provisioning, education, commerce, manufacture, etc. A local communist citizen was placed at the head of each section, who had come with the entrance of the Red Army from Russia. They were called ‘Восточнйкй,’ meaning – the people of The East, and we were all ‘Западнйкй’ – the people of The West. Trust in the governance by the western people, even the communists among them, who had been imprisoned for many years in Polish prisons – was minimal. The opinion of the regime was that the Polish communists had not been properly indoctrinated by their past leaders, and were exposed as Trotskyites.

Despite this, the ruling authorities, in those initial days, were assisted by the local communists in the capacity of being advisors. The local communists adopted the metaphor of ‘The Communist Actives,' and they promised that if their behavior was deemed to be appropriate, they could be considered, in the fullness of time, to be fully–fledged party members. It is possible to say that our communists fulfilled their mission faithfully. They provided information to the required place, and in the manner required. The emissaries of the authorities carried out searches, confiscations and detainments precisely in the right places – according to the information provided by the local communists, and on occasions with their actual participation. In this manner, all the charitable institutions were closed down: Lekhem Aniyim, Linat HaTzedek, and the community itself. All the assets of these institutions were transferred to the temporary municipal administration, ‘Временныйя Городская Управлние.’' In the leadership here, our own Jewish local communists took a turn. The community leadership turned over one typewriter to Mordechai Pinczuk, to cover a debt owed to him and his family. The Sarny communist reacted immediately to this, and ordered the typewriter to be returned, ‘because we know everything.’

The Tarbut School was shut down for a few days, and was subsequently re–opened anew, when the teaching language was specified to be Yiddish.

After the authorities had made use of them, in accordance with their needs, the local communists were demoted from their positions and were given less responsible work to do. For the most part, they were allocated ‘each man to his area, and each man to his flag.’ That is today, a tailor was sent to the Artel of the tailors, a shoemaker – to the shoemakers, etc. The management of the Artels themselves was turned over not to the past communists, but rather to the balebatim of means, who in the past, had been counted among the ranks of the Zionist parties. Yaakov Bryk was appointed as Chair of the Tailors Artel, Pasman – Chair of the Artel of Dyers, Loyewsky – Pinkson heads of the ‘Barza Narkumtureg,’ Pinia Geifman–Pinkson heads of ‘Райпатрибсоюз,’ Barzin – Deputy Head of the Sarny ‘Lasprumachuz,’one of the largest operations engaged in wood manufacture, and derivative products, and other things of this nature.

In the Sarny Lasprumachuz, whose concern was with the exploitation of forests, and the distribution of high–end forest products, use was made of the products even for military purposes (bridges, airplanes, ships, and the like), skilled lumber merchants were engaged who were experts in this area, in the past, drawn from the body of the Sarny Jewish populace.

The most responsible positions, such as the management of large forest tracts in the Sarny environs (government forests, and the forests of noblemen such as Plater, Szycwyski and others), were placed with Jewish experts. In this manner, R' Abraham'l Gildenhorn (brother of Nehemiah Gildenhorn, to be separated for life, who is in Israel), was nominated to oversee the forests in the Dąbrowica district, R' Leib'l Khanes (the father of Sender and Nathan Khanit, separated for life, who are in Israel), –– to oversee the forests in the Malinsk vicinity, Israel Korowoczka (Israel Karni – who is in Israel) – over the Wolodzmierz district, Mr. Aharon Ritzman (currently in Israel) over the Bereznica district, and as his deputy, Mr. Moshe'l Pickman. To them, were attached a group of the Jewish forest overseers: Messrs. David Kornblum, Yitzhak Sandberg, Velvel Sukhar–Rozeman – the father of Levi Sukhar, who is in Israel, and many others.

Ii is important to underscore one positive fact: during this entire time not a single Zionist was imprisoned or exiled. Similarly, the families of the wealthy were not exiled, not even those whose stores had been confiscated. They remained living in Sarny this way, even remaining in their own homes. The families of Liova Klein (his brother Mendl Klein, and his family left Sarny, and their wealth was confiscated), Mendl Zindl, Gifsz, Goldenstein, Abraham Moshe Korowoczka and others. Not a single synagogue, or Bet HaMedrash was closed, or subject to confiscation. No one of those connected with ritual processes were in any way harmed, the Rabbis, ritual slaughterers, teachers, headmasters of the Yeshiva, and Talmud Torah. In contrast to this, many Polish Christians were exiled, officers of the past [military], and others, among them 4–5 Jewish families, with whom the communists had a score to settle.

There were instances of imprisonment, but not for political wrongdoings, but rather because of infractions having to do with commerce, speculation, and shorting in cash. If someone was given the responsibility for a government store, or some other activity, and the audit revealed a shortage in inventory – such infractions were punished by a five–year sentence in prison. If someone was summoned to the office of investigations – it was impossible to know if he would return from there. The wags of that generation used to joke that the initials N.K.V.D. stood for ‘Не знаиеш когда варенюша домой.’ (you won't know when you can return home).Long–standing friends stopped meeting each other for the suspected fear of being informed on ???

Regarding the economic conditions under communist rule, it is worth noting that the Jewish populace generally made out well in these events. In the course of time, a select group among them managed to get themselves situated in various government capacities, and the Artels, part continued to engage in commerce illegally, and others sold off cached merchandise that they had hidden in their previously–owned stores, bartering for butter, eggs and other necessities.

Life was not easy, but each person correctly assessed the situation, and did not turn a blind eye to the world war that was raging, and they had the sense to endure the suffering graciously. In that vein, no man forgot the dangers that lay in ambush for everyone. The hope continued to pulse, that when the war would come to an end, the situation would fundamentally change. The Zionists calculated their own considerations: If after The First World War, the Balfour Declaration was promulgated, well the after The Second World War, ‘Salvation’ would again return. The ultra–Orthodox believed that they were standing at the onset of the apocalyptic war between Gog and Magog. The communists anticipated the coming of a global revolution.

It is also worth noting that the ‘Восточнйкй’ communists the majority of whom came from the Ukraine, were anti–Semites, but they did not show this to the outside world. There was, as yet, no anti–Semitism on the part of the government, and if one hurled the insulting epithet ‘жид,’ punishment was meted out, including several years of imprisonment. Despite this, the following facts ???

At the beginning of the year 1940, the distribution of Soviet passports began. Anyone who received a passport without attachments – was a fortunate man. There were passports with different kinds of attachments: an attachment for a past merchant, an attachment pertaining to someone previously engaged in religious activity – attachments, attachments, and restrictions: on one person, a prohibition was put on preventing taking up residence in the capitol city, to another – in the provincial capitals of the various Voievodes, or in cities proximate to the national boundary. Those who had the legitimate passports, were citizens having full privileges, and who participated in elections that were set up in our district twice.

The first time, it was necessary to vote whether or not to unite Western Ukraine with Eastern Ukraine; on the other occasion, representatives were elected to the Senior Soviet of the Ukrainian Republic, and to the Senior Soviet of the Soviet Union. As usual, the results were positive in the range of 99–99.8%. The inspector of the Polish school, Sapunow, was elected to the Senior Soviet. He was not a particularly outstanding scholar, and also was not terribly distinguished as a public speaker. Instead of saying ‘Comrade Lenin,’ for some reason, he mispronounced it as ‘Comrade Levin.' For this reason, he was an exceptional tippler. It is not known whether in the entire Western Ukraine, even one Jew from among the known communists, who ran for office, was elected in the previously mentioned elections.

Even among the leadership of the government institutions, and even among the Восточнйкй,there were practically no Jews. The director of the ‘Barza Narkumtureg’ was Yevchenko – a Ukrainian, of the ‘Райпатрибсоюз,’ – a Ukrainian, of the ‘Laspromakhoz’ – a Ukrainian, and the ‘Райасполком’ was ‘Judenrein’ as a matter of policy. And the thing that stood out most glaringly – in a city where there was a decidedly Jewish majority (together with Jewish refugees), the head of the city was the Ukrainian Giniok.

And it was in this way, that the populace gradually accustomed itself to the situation that had been created, and it awaited the end of the war. News of what was going on in the world, at the fronts, would only reach us through the real, working, government radio. There were no other sources, because all of the public radio stations in the hands of the citizenry, were confiscated.

It was in this way that events played out until the summer of 1941. In the month of May, a distinct unease could be detected on the faces of the leadership in Sarny. Occasionally, radio news would get through, that the Germans were moving troops closer to the Russian border, a German army had reached Finland, etc. At all meetings in the various offices, the leaders would respond with ‘it is nothing,’ ‘In Soviet Russia, there is nothing the ordinary man need worry about, and he need not get mixed up in national–level matters: we have a party, and a government with our great Stalin at its head, and they will take care of everything.’

We Jews were worried a great deal about this news. Our sense was that the earth under us had started to burn under our feet, and all of the answers we had gotten from the communist leadership that was speaking to us, were being directed from above for the sole purpose of keeping the populace calm. Until the arrival of the morning of June 22. At approximately ten o'clock in the morning, Molotov, on behalf of the Soviet regime, let it be known that at 5 o'clock in the morning, German planes had bombed Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, and other Russian cities, and that during the prior night, the German army had crossed the border in a number of places. Accordingly, he ordered all armed Russian units to go over on the offensive and attack.

Chaos and panic then ensued. A pall fell on the streets, and people ran around without purpose. All able manpower was drafted, and were sent off to army units, and from there, they no longer returned to their families. The rest of the residents did not know where to turn, or what to do. Government officials tried to assuage the people, indicating that the bad situation would change rapidly, because now, the German attack was a surprise, and because of this, they would be victorious in the first days.

In the meantime, news arrived from the front that grew worse and worse. In a matter of days, the entire area of the previously liberated Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia were captured. On Saturday, June 27, it became known to us that Rovno had already been captured, and the German army is moving ahead on the line from Kurc – Zwiahel – Zhitomir. Residents ran to Giniok, the head of the city, and he, again, offered calming words, even though it appeared as if all of the government institutions had fled, or were fleeing in extreme panic. All the families of the восточнйкй had fled in special transports. By contrast, not a single person took heed of the plight of the local citizenry. The air attacks by the German planes stopped, but the skies were darkened by the mass of their planes heading in the direction of Kiev. The Jewish populace did not know to whom to turn for advice about their lives. Part were of the view that the right thing to do was to get out of the city, on the road to Russia. Others advised not to go that way, because there was no certainty that the Западнйкй (people from the west) would be given permission to cross over into Russia. It was known, that for all this time, Западнйкй were not permitted to travel freely to Russia. Even to go as far as Olevsk, required special permission, that had never been issued before. The entire population packed its belongings, and awaited further developments. When the news was spread that the N.K.V.D. was going to issue permits to cross the Russian border, a race began to Klein's house (the place where the city government was located), but in the end, not a single person revealed himself there. For the entire day of Saturday, people ran around, and that night, from Saturday to Sunday, one could see the last of the [government] institutions were departing the city, and the collection of the army was retreating in panic, blowing up the forts on the ‘Maginot Line’ of Straszow.

On Sunday, the 28th of the month, at between 5–6 o'clock in the morning, a part of the Jewish population began to move on foot through the village of Dorotyc in the direction of Klesów, with infants in their arms, and babies tied to their shoulders.

It is not possible to describe the crying and the staggering scenes during the parting with parents, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, who, for a variety of reasons, decided to remain behind. It was as if one's heart sensed, and foretold, that this parting was forever, and that they would never meet again.

In this way, they trod on foot to Klesów, with tears blurring their eyes and with aching hearts, a mass of humanity that left the city of Sarny behind them – forever, forever!

[From Image101/p. 82 – Image175/p.155 is the Yiddish equivalent of the prior chapter.]

 

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