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[Page 234]

During Weekdays and Festivals

 

The Market Day in Sarny

by Abraham Murik

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

The market days were a source of not an insubstantial part of the earnings of the Sarny Jews. On those days, the residents of the city and its satellites, the surrounding villages, streamed into the Ulica Szeroka, starting from the very early hours of the morning. Tailors, shoemakers, sellers of paraphernalia, and brokers of fruits and vegetables, butchers, and the homeowners from the east, would hire on members of their own family as additional help for this day. During these limited hours, it was necessary to maintain a vigilance with ‘seven eyes’ to deny shoplifters their booty. If not – there was the risk of a profit turning into a loss.

And the marketplace looked like this: At the entrance, from Ulica Centrala, stood the platforms of vegetables. There was not many of them, because each Jew looked after providing himself with vegetables from his own garden that he tended in his off hours. The takers of most of these vegetables were largely officials of the area, and the independent workmen in the city. Beside these platforms, for the length of the path, wives of farmers sat who had brought their produce in baskets. And while, on the platforms weight was measured in scales, all along the path, measurement was done by glass, pail, cup or box. Here it was possible to obtain black seeds from below the field, mushrooms, peas,? and spelt.

A bit of a distance from there, stood the platforms of the sellers of paraphernalia. The persona of the cheap seller was common here, most of whom came from Congress Poland, [He would be recognizable by] the fluency he had in the local language, his merry laugh when the gold teeth in his mouth sparkled in the light of the sun, and the miraculous speed with which he would call out his variegated merchandise: ‘Everything for one gold piece – nothing for no money’ (zo darmo).

The merchants in the marketplace immersed their give–and–take with verses from the Haftarah and the Song of Songs. And the speech in the language of Chmielnicki and Petlura was mixed in with Hebrew and Yiddish, accompanied the symphony of the marketplace.

When it became evident to the merchant, that a buyer was merely browsing, he nicknamed him ‘you other thing you,’ or, ‘Listen you uncircumcised one, may Shir HaMaalot be on your back, you have lost the aegis of God's shadow,’ etc.

Behind all these platforms, stood wagons loaded with fruit. There, tied up chickens clucked, and there was a week–old calf with its mother's milk still between its teeth. On the second side of the path, the new Pasz[1] spread out, along with its many different stores. From here, you could hear the echo of scythes hit against the cobblestones of the road, this being the way buyers evaluated the quality of the merchandise from the sound. Here, grindstones were sold, knives and various utensils for the home. Beside the Pasz, barrels were sold, vats, and wooden pitchers, whose whiteness stood out from the darkness of the metal that surrounded them.

A short distance from there, you would run into wagons filled with corn grass and straw, the owners of which were men of lie, and who would stand on their produce inhaling the redolence.

And at the other end of the street – the cattle market. This was the purview of the butchers, shepherds and farmers, who dealt in domestic farm animals. Pigs would be tied to the wheels of the wagons, that the residents of the town gave a wide berth to, because of the prohibition in the Torah.

At the edge of the street, beside the smithies, a great deal of work was going on, because this was the province of the craftsmen.

In the meantime, the place filled with easterners who had come to visit. There were those who had succeeded in consummating either a purchase or a sale, or ordinary peasants who came to swallow the bitter drop.

As the day began to wane, the turn of the stores in the city arrived, which filled up with buyers. On that evening, the children did not eat their meal at the normal hour. On that evening, the retailers didn't care about the report of the policeman about stores remaining improperly unclosed, because that very same policeman was too occupied hoisting a cup in the saloons, of Mucznik, Cipurin and Stein.

Only in the later hours of the evening, did the now–empty wagons rumble along the streets of the town. The farmers, returned home each to his own, and the Jews of Sarny graciously uttered the blessing: ‘Bless the Lord, from day to day.’

And today? The area of the marketplace has been widened and the Jewish quarter has been torn down. Market days still take place, but Jew no longer are in the life.


Translator's Footnote

  1. A pasture field Return


[Page 235]

Czar Nicholas II in Sarny

by Shlomo Zandweiss

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

As is known, there was a central train station in Sarny that connected two major lines: one from Kiev to Kovel, and the second – the Polesia line. All trains, that went from [St.] Petersburg to Kiev, had to be transferred over to the second train line, meaning on the south–western one.

In the year 1906, or 1907, Czar Nicholas II along with his family, traveled to Kiev. Even though nothing official was said about it, the news spread through the entire area populace. One did not need to be politically savvy to see the very extensive and strenuous preparations that were being made.

The city, and its entire environs, became filled with military personnel and gendarmerie. At that time, the so–called ‘suspect books,’ were implemented – books to record the residents of houses, and to register every trip either in or out, by the residents. All of these arrangements were very strictly controlled by the police.

Along the length of the rail line on which the train carrying the Czar would pass, stood soldiers, for several kilometers. Two soldiers stood every 5 meters along the way, one facing east, and the second, west. All paths and byways were intensely controlled. Already, by a day or two before the train was to pass through, in which the Czar, in fact, was to be found, trains began to pass through that were identical one to another, with the intention of concealing the right train in which Czar Nicholas II would be traveling.

The interest that the populace took in these arrangements was great, and the religious Jews, especially, wanted to be able to glimpse the king. In order that for at least once in their life, they could utter the blessing in the name of a reigning monarch, ‘who gave of His honor in the form of flesh and blood.’

Regrettably, everyone's waiting was in vain. The Czar, being angry with the workers at the Sarny depot who supported the striking workers from Korosten', Malyn, and other, in the failed revolution of 1905, and having no loyalty to them, had decided to bypass the Sarny depot and train station.

For this purpose, a special layer of earth was put down around Sarny, a set of tracks was put in place, for a few days, in order to connect the two major rail lines. It was in this fashion that the royal train was able to bypass the Sarny train station.

A few years later, in the year 1912, the Czar, again, traveled to Kiev. At that time, once again, all of these arrangements were made, with the same strict control, but by that time, ‘the king's ire had been quiesced’, and this time, indeed, his train came into the Sarny train station.

At that time, our family already had taken up residence in the Polesia side of the city, and our home was located exactly across the way from the station, and not far from it, only a few tens of meters.

Our home, and its balcony, was occupied by those unrelenting, observant and completely punctilious Jews, who, paying no heed to the fact that Czar Nicholas, and the entire dynasty of the Romanovs from which he came, were Jew–haters, and harassed and oppressed the Jews, nevertheless, were intent upon bestowing the blessing. My brother Aharon k”z, asked them: How does this make any sense? They answered him, that our Sages, of Blessed Memory, had said: ‘Be one who prays for the welfare of the kingdom’


[Page 236]

Tragic Encounters

by Yaakov Tzuk (Kotelczuk)

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

In instances of murder, accident, and misfortune, the entire town was shaken, and the resulting mourning was general, as if it had affected a member of the family.

In my memory, there remains four instances of death:

A few days after the outbreak of The First World War, on a Friday, afternoon, the head of the Berlinsky family was sitting on the balcony of his house on the Wide Boulevard. At that same hour, a unit of cavalry approached, armed with spears, and waving swords. This loyal homeowner and dedicated father was so frightened by the sight of this, that his heart stopped beating. This sudden death shook up the entire city.

 

The Double Murder

The entire city was shaken on one of the days: all traces of the cattle merchant Bernstein, who had taken up residence in Sarny with his family after leaving the village of his birth, Nemovychi, had vanished. Search by his relatives and all efforts by the family were futile.

It was only after several weeks, that the riddle was solved. The farmers, in the village where he was raised and grew to maturity, had invited him to come and purchase a calf, or a cow. When he arrived, with the money in his saddlebag, they killed him with an axe, and they put his body in a sack full of stones, and they threw it into the water. It was only after the sack rotted, or that fish attacked it – that the murder was revealed.

On the surface, the lives of the Jews were tranquil and quiet in the city, but this was a tranquility that was in appearance only. Under the top surface, there pulsed a vicious enmity towards them, that did not refrain from a double murder in cold blood.

The entire community, from the small to the grown, came to pay their last respects to this victim who was innocent of any wrongdoing, and the incident etched a very, very deep scar in the hearts of the young, as a warning in regard to the scorpions among whom we live…

 

A Victim of the Forest

A belief circulated in the town, that every summer, the river demanded a young sacrifice. Sarny did not have a river within its boundaries, but was surrounded by forests all around. And it seems, that the forest too, demanded its victim. The well–known and extensive Geifman family lost one of its best scions. Healthy, and as strong as tree, he left one morning for his daily work in the forest, and a heavy branch fell on him and killed him on the spot.

The town was shaken from one end to the other and came to pay respects to the victim. Even we, the children, whose thoughts were far removed from matters of death, we too suffered the sorrow, and we escorted the deceased to the cemetery, and made our first acquaintance with the ‘House of Life to all Living.’

 

The Young Victim

In the year 1919, when the city – and the entire county – was subjected to a turmoil of régime changes, and the lives and possessions of Jews were treated as worthless, in one of the visits of the beginning of winter, news reached the synagogue: the hale and handsome young man, Michael Scheintukh, had been taken out of the home of his parents in the middle of the night by brigands, and was murdered – and there was a need to arrange a funeral!

A quorum of Jews gathered, among them my father v”g, and they went to retrieve the body. I was a boy of twelve, and I stuck to the adults. We crossed the street near Rosenberg's cinema. Across the railroad tracks, on a side street, there stood 3–4 train cars. One of those standing opened one of the cars, in which a number of killed people lay on stretchers, among them, the Jewish martyr. A ring remained on one of his fingers, that the murderers attempted to remove forcibly, and the signs of the blood that had congealed around it, testified to this. The quorum of the Jews took charge of the body, and brought it to its final rest in a Jewish burial. The theory was, that he was killed because of a transaction involving arms.

The town tasted the life of murder, as it is said. And these were the reverberations of ‘the days of peace and tranquility.’

 

Returning the Sentiment of Gentiles…

The Jews of our town were of the sort that could be characterized as ‘A people settled apart,’ among the gentiles, and did not mix with them. For purposed of providing sustenance for the family, they were compelled to come in contact with them and transact on an ongoing basis with their Christian neighbors, providing them with services and work. As to spiritual contact, friendliness or just plain camaraderie, or friendship, except for rare instances, practically didn't exist.

The way of life of these two camps was so different, that no bridge between them could be found. And the truth be told, what was there in common, between the spiritual life of a Stolin Hasid and a primitive Ukrainian peasant?

Even with the sparse presence of an intelligentsia among the gentiles, practically no connections of friendship developed and stuck, because of their malevolent attitude towards the Jews, in whom they saw a competitor and a dangerous alien presence, who they are commanded to oppress, and of whom they are to rid themselves.

I remember an isolated incident of an attempt to develop a relationship: it was on one Yom Kippur day, in the afternoon of the day, when the prayer in the Stolin shtibl was at its peak intensity. Memorial candles lit up all the corners of the abode, which was full of men, robed in white kittls. The outpouring of the soul of the one leading the service, and the prayers uttered out of fervor, was accompanied by the sounds of weeping that reached from the women's section, which characterized the atmosphere of this Day of Judgement.

Suddenly, a cry was heard: ‘They have come!’ One of the young people drew near to the Rabbi and the Hasidic elders, and whispered: ‘The Subbotniki have come, and they want to say something.’ The Elder of the Hasidim did not wait for the Rabbi's reply, but began to shout” ‘Nu? On this our Holy Day, Let them go to….!’

The delegation was driven out without having gotten any sort of consideration.

I found myself among the worshipers, and the incident aroused my curiosity. In a matter of days, I found out that there was a sect of Baptists, who perform their prayers in their own house of worship on Sundays during the morning hours. Once, I went to pay a visit to them. Their house of worship was located in a spacious building, built of wooden boards. In the prayer hall, I found no icons, or any other form of decoration. The congregation, composed of several tens of adult men and women, sang chapters of the Psalms with intensity and fervor. No one paid any attention to me, nor did they bother me with questions. After the prayers, out of a sense of friendship and mutual respect, they convened a meeting to deal with the issues of the congregation.

I recollect that the prayer itself made a great impression on me, but since I left the town, and did not continue to pursue them, the matter was forgotten by me. It was only after 30 years, that I found, much to my surprise, a continuation to this saga of the Baptist sect, in the ‘Book of the Jewish Partisans,’ Volume I, in the publication of ???, in a chapter that was dedicated to the fighters from Polesia. And here is what is written:

‘A remarkable and unique chapter is comprised of the encounters with the Baptists. This is a religious sect that adhered rigorously to Scripture, and the essential role of the Jewish people, among the nations of the earth, in Messianic aspirations. Every encounter with them engendered respect for them. They seemed to be entirely in a different world, not in this one, surrounded by the murdering enemy.’

‘Everywhere the partisans appeared, they would engender respect, but in most instances, this was respect for the force of arms, and in their personalities as combatants. But in this case, it was entirely different.’

‘Because of them, a daily good deed that was broadcast was: A guest in the home – [means] God is in the home! They especially acted with deference towards Jews. They saw it as a privilege to host them. This behavior, every time, brought forth an emotional reaction from the Jewish combatants. How could these people be so solicitous of all these formalities in a den of malefactors?! And how was this religious sect able to specifically be so careful in extending respect to all people, when so many had completely disregarded it, and abandoned doing so?’

The question natters away in my head: Was that visit to the synagogue an attempt to draw near [to us]? And what would have been to purpose of such an outcome, in those days of terror and fear, were such relationships with them actually have been consummated?


[Page 241]

Sarny Comedians

by Shlomo Zandweiss

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

Leib'l Kharpak

Who among us does not remember Leib'l Kharpak with his little sayings, jokes, and variety of barbs which he would often utilize and that would leave all of his neighbors rolling with laughter?

However, not everyone knows that the Ulicawesoly,’ (the merry street) got this name because of him, because it was on this street that his little manufacturing store was located among the other stores, and it was always merry around him. There was always a group of storekeepers, and just plain passers–by that would be surrounding him – Leib'l would indulge in witticisms and everyone would laugh. Leib'l used to say, that he strongly loved to laugh, but there was certain laughing that he did not like: fishe–lakh, oyfe–lakh, and the like[1].

It was very merry in the store of his brother, Joseph Kharpak. Peasants would enter to buy whetstones for sharpening their scythes, in order to cut their grain. Leib'l would provide all manner of advice in the selection of such stones, suggesting they be soft. One of his suggestions was that the peasant should spit on the side of the stone, and then blow vigorously on the other side of it. If air bubbles appear, then he can know that the stone is a soft one. The peasant would blow with all his might, and Leib'l would give him encouragement to blow even harder. The group would stand around them, and roll with laughter.

He would joke around with the Jews in a similar fashion – in the synagogue, and separately, in the bathhouse. If someone pulled off a prank, and the group laughed vigorously, one knew that Leib'l Kharpak was somehow in the middle of it.

His antics, however, did not properly reflect his circumstances, in making a living, and in personal health is situation was far from a happy one. His fate was akin to our saying that it went with the buttered side down.

His wife died in the youngest of her years, leaving behind several young orphans. When he married for the second time, with the sister of his first wife, it became evident that she too, was sickly, and on top of all this, Leib'l himself began to ail, and his situation deteriorated from day–to–day.

Leib'l himself knew that he was very seriously ill, and that there were practically no prospects for a cure. He, personally, suffered a great deal, but among people, he constantly was witty, and made witty remarks:

‘So, my friends, you think I am afraid of death? Don't believe it. It is only on the first night, that it is a bit scary to sleep among so many dead people, but later on, one gets used to it. It is also incorrect to believe, as they say, that you are whipped in the World to Come. If this were truly the case, then the deceased would be placed face down…’

It was in this fashion that R' Leib'l gave up his gentle soul, with a smile on his lips, at the age of only forty–some years.

 

So Long As We Don't Do Time…

Page 239: Ulica Wesoly – The Wellspring of Wit, Pranks and Clever Remarks

During the time of the Polish régime, the Sarny jail was located on Ulica Ksziwa. It was in this jail that Sarny ‘miscreants’ would be incarcerated as punishment, who would be accused of conducting business on Sunday, in their store, by way of a back door, or for other such infractions.

As it happened, Simcha Murik underwent an accusation of this sort, the Lord spare us, and was punished with a 14–day sentence under arrest. Simcha Murik was known in Sarny, as the type of man who did not rush to engage in such foolishness, and then to have to go do time in the hoosegow, especially that he had a very wide–ranging acquaintance among the officials of the administrative authorities, who would take out iron goods on time, and often not pay for it. In addition to this, they borrowed a sum of ‘good will’ which they never denied, and never returned…

Thanks to this, however, it fell to Simcha to be able to negotiate his way out of serving this sentence, and deferred to from summer to winter, and then from winter to summer. How can you serve such a sentence in the summertime, when the harvest is in full swing, and it is necessary to provide the peasants with scythes, sickles, and other required articles? And in the winter – work starts in the surrounding forests, and factories, for which, once again, one must provide saws, axes, as well as provisions for camps of workers. Apart from this, the wintertime is the time to serve such time, when outside is really fit only for sleighs, and everyone waits, in order to walk a bit through the nearby vicinity. And winter is also the season of the ‘balls,’ and how could a ‘ball’ take place without Simcha?

And this matter dragged on for so long, until – the administrative authorities said:

Stop! Simcha Murik, you must come into the hoosegow!

And, pitiably, Simcha had to submit to being incarcerated.

R' Yehoshua Edelstein, the dairyman (or as he was called Reb Yehoshua der Milkhiger), lived in the second house beside the jail. He was a Jewish man with a carefully tended beard, full of life and humor.

Early on Saturday, after drinking his hot sugared drink, when R' Yehoshua der Milkhiger went out in his yard, and looked through the fence into the window of the jail to get a glimpse of how our Jewish folk were able to observe the Sabbath while under arrest, to his great astonishment, he noticed that Simcha was also there. He drew near the window, and called out:

– Simcha, why are you here? What are you doing here?

– Do I have a choice? I am sitting! – Simcha shouts out to him.

– Sitting? Well, if it is really the case that you had no choice, then you should lie down, or stand – at least you won't be sitting.

 

Moshe Khaniss

sar240a.jpg
A Central Gathering of the KK”L Activists in Sarny, with the participation of the Directorate from the Land of Israel in the second row from the bottom, in the center – Mr. Bonfeld

 

sar240b.jpg
A Departure Party for Mr. Schreier, the KK”L Emissary from the Land of Israel, sponsored by WIZO (1935)

 

sar240c.jpg
The Members of HaPoel HaMizrachi at their Meeting (1930)

 

sar240d.jpg
The Members of the HeHalutz and Freiheit Movements in the Year 1931

 

sar240e.jpg
A Gathering of ‘HeHalutz HaTza'ir’ in Sarny

 

Moshe Khaniss, or as he was called, Moshe Tseptsevycher, was not known by many people in Sarny, because he lived in the village of Tseptsevychi.

In his younger years, he was engaged in his selling business, and as a result, he was not seen frequently in Sarny. By contrast, in his later years, not having anything to do, he would often come to visit his son Chaim and his relatives from the families of Khaniss, Borko, Glauberman, and Perelmutter. He would go about, cracking jokes.

His two brothers, the older, R' Abel, and the younger, R' Aharon, were the foils for his witticisms and jokes, and because of this, they would caution him. However, he didn't take their meaning into account, and he would go on making jokes at their expense. He would say that things were going well for him, and the Angel of Death would not come near him, because he surrounds himself with his brothers, from the front and back, and if the Angel of Death should nevertheless still want a victim, he would offer up one of them.

When his first wife died, and his children were all grown and married, and he was left all alone in his home, his sons in Rivne – Meir, Noah and Israel – invited him for Passover to them. To their invitation, he responded with the acronym for ‘Pesach,’ means: ‘Pilnoy Sabaca Khatu’ meaning ‘Let the dog stand guard over the house.’ He was communicating his sense that on Passover, each and every Jew must be the master in his own home.

His second wife came from the town of Berezne. Once, she asked him whether he liked her cooking and baking. He replied to her that he was very satisfied, and in the future, he would take wives only from Berezne.

R' Moshe continued with his humor until very late in life. Being healthy, and athletically built, he would have lived even longer and continued with his jokes, were it not for the murderous hands of the Nazi executioners who exterminated him along with all the other Sarny martyrs in the days of 14–14 Elul 5702 [August 27–28,1942].


Translator's Footnote

  1. This is a play on the Yiddish work ‘lakh,’ which means ‘to laugh.’ Return


[Page 242]

Sabbath in the Town

by Rachel Tarass–Zuckerman

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

The power of a melody is great in arousing memories of the past.

And how is it possible to forget those Sabbath nights in the town in the Diaspora?

Young Jewish people, of the time, would stream to the headquarters of their respective movements. Those low–slung houses, covered in snow, on those nights, would receive something of a greening cast. And on the morrow, the Sabbath itself, close to sundown, the snow would light up, and cast a blue glow on suits. This was truly the hour of youth, and dreams of the arousal of life in The Land in the future. The little houses in the field appeared to you as if they were crowded on top of each other, one on its neighbor, mixing on their ???… Perhaps, at that time, we were, as desired by Marc Chagall, leaping over their rooftops?

At that same hour, the synagogues were girded with the harmony of prayer. And what was stored in the heart – it was only there that it could come to fruition; just to hear the resonance of the congregation, that was responding to the Hazzan, only then being able to slough off the feeling, and filled your entire being – the feeling of the miracle of the Sabbath, on the alien and distant soil of the Diaspora. Is it possible for us not the be caught up, to the end of our days, in the unique resonance of the ‘congregation’ in the synagogue? That very resonating melody of the worshipers, that accompanied us in our youth, that explained to us in no small manner, what the spiritual nature of Judaism was, or even more simply – Jews, what are they?


The Night of the Seder in the Home of My Parents

by Yaffa Hechtman–Barbado

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

The night on which the holiday was sanctified, the spring breezes bring a pleasant fragrance to the night of the Seder.

My father and mother k”z, each in accordance with their own way, prepared for the holiday with much love. The house was whitewashed in honor of the holiday. On the table top, candlesticks sparkled, alongside the pretty arrangement of the utensils, the resplendent Cup of Elijah, cups of all colors, a platter of matzos, and at the head of the table, the white ‘reclining’ couch for my father.

My sisters, bathed, attired in new dresses, and my brothers in holiday suits.

‘Happy Holiday!’ my father would bless us with broad cognizance, with this greeting, upon his return from the synagogue, dressed in his holiday finery. The hearts of the children were touched: ‘Happy Holiday!’ ‘Happy Holiday!’…

My mother, wearing a new wig, attired in a bright new spring dress, wearing her glistening jewelry, blesses the candles in a holy, tranquil fashion, with full faith. The raisin wine, made personally by my father and mother, glistens in the cups. My father, attired in a white ‘kittl,’ rises from his reclining couch, and opens with the Kiddush. His large, dreamy eyes, are half–lidded, as he continues in his sweet, ringing voice: ‘Savri maranan v'rabanan v'rabbotai.’

All eyes are turned onto our father, who sits at the head of the table, and reads the Haggadah with flavor, and expands on the telling of the Exodus from Egypt. We, the children, read after him, and the melody of our voices blend together as if into a single voice: slowly, but surely, we are taken away from the real world, and raised up into the world of imagination. In our imagination, we are all leaving Egypt, together with Moses our Teacher, we split the sea, wander in the desert, and slowly, slowly, approach the Land of Choice, and rise from slavery into freedom, from bondage into liberation.

Everything passed, and flew off like a swift dream. All that remains is a deep searing pain in the heart. These memories and this pain are especially aroused when the holiday draws near, and especially on ‘Seder Night,’ which is deeply etched into the hearts of each and every one of us.

All that remains to us, are memories.


[Page 243]

The Day of Judgment

by Pua Golomba–Yanait

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

The summer is over, and the somber days of the autumn, besieged by wind and cold, are drawing near. The trees in the vicinity, sway in the wind, and whisper silently. The weeping steppes moan.

The entire city is clothed in darkness and sadness. It is the first night of Selichot.

The Shammes, Rebbe Shmulik of the Stolin shtibl, among whom my father k”z was numbered as one of the worshipers, came to wake him up for the Selichot prayers. He raps his cane against the window shutter, his voice so hoarse and sad: ‘R' Pesach, R' Pesach, shtayt uf tzu slikhes![1]’ In the house, all of us begin to stir. My father k”z, even though he was not rigorously observant, would rise to attend Selichot prayers.

Outside it is cold, and a rain is falling, it is muddy and slogging. My father and brothers light a lantern, and leave the house, and I straggle after them. The cold penetrates to the bones. Here and there, one sees a lantern light dancing, shedding a light through the early morning darkness. The street is full of the shadows of people, going to the synagogue to beg for the mercy of the Master of the Universe.

‘We plead, forgive us, we plead, [our] transgressions, and sins, lift off of us,’ – the sound of the praying is heard from the mouth of the leader of the services for the host, the voice of Rebbe Pinchas Moshe'keh's Zandweiss k”z. A shudder passes through the worshipers, and an aura of sanctity envelops all. They were as a single individual.

To this day, I cannot forget that Selichot service. Every time the month of Elul arrives, that first Selichot service stands before my eyes, which has left such powerful yearning within my heart.

And here is the Day of Judgment.

 

The Kol Nidre prayer.

The entire city is clothed in a somber mood and sadness. The skies are filled with clouds, as if they too are sorrowful, and they actually join into the chorus of weeping, the entreaty for forgiveness, and the pleading – in confronting the Day of Judgment. The trees rustle and whisper in the breezes of Elul. The mass streams to the various houses of study for the Kol Nidre service. The righteous women with their white snoods on their heads, and their dresses flashing in their whiteness, mutter prayers and entreaties, on their way to the synagogue, blessing each passer–by with ‘Ktiva vaKhatima Tova.’

How much this [scene] spoke to the heart. What feeling, love and commitment were imbedded in those blessings!

On that day, all aligned themselves as if they were one corpus.

And here is the Baal Tefilah, R' Pinchas Moshe'keh's k”z, who splits open the heavens with his dulcet voice. He was not a Hazzan by profession, but rather a heartwarming Baal Tefilah who was able to raise the emotional pitch of the worshipers and elicit their commitment with such force, that the content of the prayers penetrated to the very soul. At that moment, it seemed as if the heavens were truly opened to bestow compassion…

The prayer, ‘Unesaneh Tokef’ was recited. A silence fell on the synagogue. Rebbe Pinchas k”z, enveloped in his Tallit, and wearing his kittl, stood before the Holy Ark, his voice full of entreaties, and pleading for compassion: ‘Who shall live – and who shall die? Who is at his end – and who is not at his end?’ The trees outside whisper, and the weeping steppes moan, attaching themselves to the congregation of the children of Israel, to plead for compassion on this Day of Judgment: ‘Show mercy, we beg you, toward the congregation of the community of Jeshurun, forgive and pardon their sins, and help us O Lord of our salvation.’

Only this time this prayer was left without any reply. The God of Israel did not offer them salvation. All the martyrs of the city of Sarny, its elderly, its women, its youth, and babes, and among them my father k”z, Pesach son of Dov Golomba, my treasured brothers, the loves of my life, and all my relatives, my uncles and aunts, the others from all of the Golomba families, were cut off in the bloom of their lives, slaughtered, burned, asphyxiated, and put to death, in the Sanctification of the Name.

They dreamt of the return to Zion with joy; they dreamt it, but it was not fulfilled.


Translator's Footnote

  1. ‘Get up, get up for Selichot!’ Return


[Page 246]

Sarny Youth in France

by Nehemiah Gildenhoren[1]

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

 

sar244.jpg
An Invitation to a Soirée of the Sarny Youth Group in Nîmes (France) – 1931

 

During those days, when the Hitler régime consolidated its control over Germany and caused an increase in the existential fears, of all the countries on its borders, the government of Poland and its parliament, the Sejm, were engaged in ‘scheming,’ especially with regard to extirpating its Jewish citizens from their economic means and their rights as citizens.

Under the aegis of the government, institutions were established who assumed positions that over the course of generations had been the province of the Jews. This was the well–known ‘autotization’ that assaulted the large firms that were engaged in the exploitation of forests and the facilitation of the products that were manufactured from them. These firms employed hundreds of craftsmen, and Jewish managers, and provided a living for many smaller–scale merchants who, throughout all the days of the year, would provide sustenance to the substantial host of people who worked in the forests.[2]

Several prominent firms operated in the Sarny vicinity: Forester–Bernstein, Shalit, Horacy Heller[3], Laskrisowsky, Raskin, Citinsky, and others. At the outset, the firms reduced the scale of their endeavors, and afterwards, a number of them discontinued operations and discharged tens of craftsmen, among which was myself. Even in times when there was relief, it was not easy for a young Jewish person to integrate into the economic life, with the exception of trade, and even there, the situation became more difficult, after hundreds lost their positions in plying their trade, that before this time, nearly all of which was in the hands of Jews.

During those years, the aliyah to the Land of Israel was both constrained and circumscribed, with regard to the limited number of visa issues that could not satisfy the demand. In the face of these conditions, there remained only one alternative for those unable to obtain work: emigration to whatever place would accept immigrants.

A few of the scions of Sarny took advantage of the opportunity to emigrate to France. In this country, the gates of the universities were open to the victims of the ‘numerus clausus’ that existed in Poland. Without difficulties, a number of the graduates of the high school level in Sarny, received permits to emigrate to France on the basis of having been accepted to the University of Cannes, Toulouse, and others.

The majority of these young people concentrated themselves around the city of Nîmes, in the south of France. The cause of this was Mr. L. Cantor, the first of the Sarny émigrés, who settled in this city. On learning that there were Sarny scions in the area – he persuaded them to move to Nîmes, and he didn't spare either effort or time, and help, and anything that he could lay his hands on, in order to facilitate their putting down roots in that place. The economic circumstances of Mr. Cantor were, more or less, strong, and he had access to the regional authorities of the area, and because of this, the larger part of the work fell on him, to straighten out all formal issues in connection with the settlement of these immigrants in the city, and similarly, in the arrangement of their employment. His deputy was the second Sarny scion, who came to Nîmes, Moshe Juz (today in Israel).

Slowly, a little at a time, between 20–25 young people from Sarny came to gather here. This number sufficed to create a Jewish ambience of sort. A committee was elected, and an office was set up called ‘Cercle Amicale de les Gens Polonaise’ (A Friendship Circle of Polish Youth) that was permitted by the local authorities, and began communal activity that went on to expand, until we became a Sarny ‘Colony’ in miniature.

Under the rule of the central office, a Zionist initiative was conducted among the Jews of the area: distribution of raffle tickets, and the collection of donations for the various national institutions. From time–to–time, cultural and entertainment events were organized, periodicals were received from The Land, and we connected ourselves with the central office of HeHalutz in Paris, and we even were involved in the location of training facilities under the aegis of the farmers in the vicinity.

Nîmes is an ancient city, and there can be found many historical traces of the Romans (the French referred to the city as the ‘French Rome’). Not a few of these remnants, testify to the Jewish past in this location. The nearby town of Lunel, is known in Jewish history during the Middle Ages, for the Sages of Lunel[4]. At the medical faculty in nearby Montpelier, a tablet has been put in place to the memory of the Rambam. In Toulouse, to this day, there is a designation of the place where an ‘Auto–da–Fe’ was conducted during the days of the Inquisition.

During the time we were there, approximately 30 Jewish families lived there, who were French citizens, whose way of life did not differ much from that of their Christian neighbors, and here this cluster of immigrants from Sarny brought something of an arousal to this rather sleepy Jewish life. At first, only their young people came to visit our offices, but after a while, some of the older people came along as well, to draw on some of the Jewish flavor of the ‘Poles.’

In the fulness of time, a number of us required papers to legitimize our stay, from the police, for the purpose of being able to obtain employment, renewals of visas, or to receive a visa for travel outside of the country (visas for travel out of the country were given out by the ‘Mayor’ – head of the city). On these papers, the Commissar in charge of aliens would write only one word: ‘known.’ This was sufficient. However, in order to gain the good will of the authorities, it was necessary to earn their trust, and accordingly, our comrades, those who had benefitted from the good public education, while still in Sarny, never engaged in any dishonesty during all the years that the organization was in existence. Their public unison was a natural one, and they did not change this in a foreign land.

Perhaps, because of this public unison, it is possible that part of them were saved from the Holocaust, and a few of this group, in the end, managed to reach The Land, settling there and establishing their homes. Those whose residence in Nîmes was a temporary way station on their path to the Land of Israel were: Moshe Juz, Baruch Feigelstein, Fanya Katzman (the sister of Mr. L. Cantor in Nîmes), Bezalel Kharpak, and the author of this piece.

A number of the group, with the outbreak of the [Second] World War, managed to emigrate to the United States, and what happened to the rest, and how they were saved from the Holocaust – we have no specific details. Our comrade Leon Cantor, and his wife, Chana, maintain contact with us, and continues with their commitments. Their home continues to be a center for all visitors from The Land, and for all endeavors that are undertaken for Israel.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Because of the ambiguity associated with the use of the letters ‘g’ and ‘h’ in Slavic languages, this name is also rendered as Gildengoren, sometimes Gildenhorn. Return
  2. Between the two world wars anti–Jewish boycott agitation continued particularly in Poland where the situation deteriorated in the wake of economic difficulties, especially following the depression. In an endeavor to soft–pedal the rising social tension, rightist anti–Semitic circles, with the silent approval of the authorities, pointed at the Jews as the cause of the distress of millions of unemployed. Taking over trade from the Jews was made to serve as a panacea for rampant poverty and unemployment. After the Nazi rise to power in Germany the government publicly announced a general anti–Jewish boycott. Nazi agitators urged boycotting the Jews at mass meetings. On Sunday, April 1, 1933, uniformed Nazi pickets appeared in front of Jewish shops, attacked their clients, and wrote anti–Jewish slogans on their windows. The offices of Jewish doctors, lawyers, and engineers were also picketed. The official German policy roused anti–Semitic circles in neighboring countries to more extreme action. The anti–Jewish boycott in Poland gathered strength in imitation of the Nazi example, and Polish anti–Semitic groups began to adopt active boycott pressure. Pickets appeared in front of Jewish shops and stalls and terrorized the Jewish merchants as well as their non–Jewish clients. The rising number of incidents sometimes resulted in the destruction of shops and goods and also an occasional bloody pogrom, as at Przytyk and Wysokie Mazowiecki.
    Anti–Jewish boycott activities received the stamp of official approval in Poland in 1937, when Prime Minister Slawoj–Skaladkowski let drop in his notorious statement the slogan “economic boycott? – please!” The Polish government also attempted to step up Jewish emigration from Poland by means of economic strangulation. The boycott did not greatly affect Jewish industrialists and big businessmen, with whom the most rabid propagandists of the anti–Jewish boycott movement not infrequently had secret commercial ties. However, it weighed heavily on hundreds of thousands of small businessmen, artisans, and others. The anti–Jewish boycott – frequently referred to as the “cold pogrom” in the inter–war press – undermined the foundations of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0004_0_03408.html Return
  3. Horacy Heller was the greatest lumber industrialist in Poland, and was considered one of the richest men in the country. He concentrated in dealing with British firms. His lumber exports were so large that he was a force to be reckoned with in Polish government circles.
    Horacy Heller never broke off contact with his former home city of Volkovysk and participated by making large contributions to support Volkovysk institutions.
    As soon as the Volkovysk Rabbi received telegraphic notification from Warsaw about the death Horacy Heller [1929], a whole contingent of representatives from Volkovysk institutions immediately departed for the funeral in Warsaw, led by the Rabbi and the president of the community, Mr. Bykovsky.
    – The Volkovysk Memorial Book Return
  4. Chief town of the department of Hérault, France. The Jewish community here is an ancient one; important in the eleventh century, it became still more prominent in the twelfth. Benjamin of Tudela, who visited it in 1166, says (“Itinerary,” i. 3) that it consisted of 300 members, some of whom were very learned and wealthy and took pleasure in offering hospitality to poor students eager to attend its famous academy.
    At present there is not a single Jewish family in Lunel, and only a few vestiges of the synagogue remain in the former Hôtel de Bernis (now belonging to A. Ménard) in the Rue Alphonse Ménard. According to a document in the municipal archives (case 5, book i., No. 2319) the cemetery was situated on the Mas Desports road.
    The name “Lunel” is still a very common one among the Jews of southern France.
    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10187–lunel Return


From the Memories of
One of the First Who Made Aliyah

by Penina Glinansky–Barzilai

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

In the year 1914, my father traveled to the Land of Israel with my brother Aharon. In The Land, he purchased a parcel on which he thought to establish himself, but the [first World] war that broke out that year deprived him of the chance to do this, and with great difficulty, he returned to his family in Sarny.

During the days of The Way, my father provided a great deal of help to refugees that reached our city, and I too, assisted at his hand. In the year 1919, a typhus epidemic broke out, that took the lives of many victims, among them, my father k”z.

After the end of the war, the idea came to fruition in our minds, that it is our responsibility to live among Jews in our homeland, that is to say, we were to make aliyah to the Land of Israel.

Before I left the city, I entered to take leave of Mendl Zindl and his family. They were our neighbors who lived across from us. Mendl k”z said to me: ‘Pearl, where are you going to? What are you doing?’ In my heart, I thought that if I had known that this was how they would greet me, I would have declined to be separated from them.

Similarly, I came in to take leave of the Tulczin family k”z. There too, they asked me the very same questions. And since they were my friends, I answered them with the words of a song of that day: ‘I will wash clothes, as long as I can be in The Land of Israel.’

I left Sarny in 1921 and reached Warsaw. I could not continue, because I could not obtain transit visas. It was only after three months that we were able to continue on our way to The Land of Israel.

In Warsaw, I met up with Meir Levin k”z, who was staying in the city to take care of his affairs. He also tried to convince me otherwise, and he said: ‘Pearl, think carefully about what you are doing, it is better that you return home.’

In a similar manner, I met up with a merchant with whom we did business, and he too, advised me to return home, since he had heard that in The Land of Israel, they were dying from hunger. I answered him: Better to die of hunger in our own land, that to live among our enemies.

The only one that understood that it is an obligation for Jews to make aliyah to The Land of Israel, was the director of the Mizrahi authority. When I came to get his signature on my aliyah certificate, he said to me: ‘ Żydy do Palestiny.’ He was the only one who understood that the place of the Jews was in The Land of Israel.


‘The Concealed [Righteous] One’

by Mordechai Peczenik

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

Before I tell you about our ‘Hidden [Righteous] One’ – let me describe the street called ‘Sadowa,’ and part of those who resided there.

The street, whose beginning was opposite the Great Synagogue, spread out with offshoots as far as the ‘Barmaczka’ street. Despite the fact that it was situated right in the heart of the Jewish quarter, there were a number of Christian homeowners, who, by virtue of their gardens, the street obtained the name ‘Sadowa[1].’ This street was also known for its swampiness, that were underfoot especially with the approach of Passover. During this season, leaves from trees would be laid down to make it easier to walk through the street, however, even the leaves sank. It was only in the days of the Polish régime that the road was paved, but sidewalks were not laid even at that time.

The first house, on the left side of the street, belonged to R' Yaakov Juz. In this house, was the only market store on the street.

R' Yaakov – was a frail man, but one with a characteristically Jewish visage, who exerted himself to provide his sons with a suitable enlightenment, as it was practiced in our city – sending them off to acquire Torah scholarship in Vilna.

In the courtyard of this same house, the mother–in–law of R' Yaakov lived with her son Shlomo. He was a man with a genteel soul, perpetually longing for Zion. He would spend hours, sitting in front of a map of The Land of Israel, and in his own imagination, he would see himself drawing nigh to her shores. With the aliyah of the two Juz sons, to The Land, he hoped that perhaps they would be able to facilitate his aliyah. He especially placed his hope on his sister's son, Moshe Juz, hoping that he would not forget him, and he guarded his letters as if they were ‘talismans.’

On the other side of the street, the house of the tailor, R' Issachar Khakran leaned against that of his neighbor, the Christian locksmith. The impoverished appearance of the outside bore witness to its owner. This tailor sewed clothing for adults, and especially for observant people who were concerned about shaatnez[2]. He was an expert at tailoring a kapote. Whoever walked by his house during the summer, when the door was open, could hear a Hasidic melody, that R' Issachar Ze'ev would sing while he was working. On Friday, at 12 noon, the sewing room was already closed. R' Issachar Ze'ev received the Sabbath Queen early, going to the bath, changing his clothes, and sitting down to review the Torah portion of the week. He was not much of a scholar, but he was knowledgeable in the Pentateuch and Rashi Commentary, and from time–to–time could quote from the sayings of the Sages, and ‘Baal HaTurim[3]. He was especially diligent in committing to memory the ‘Yahrzeits’ of the people of the city. He was especially fond of numerology, and made strong attempts, by means of numerology, to find the ‘end [of the Diaspora].’ He would whisper in everyone's ear: ‘Just have a bit more patience, and all of our troubles will be over, we can already hear the footfall of The Redeemer…’

At the age of ten, I was orphaned with the loss of my father k”mz. R' Issachar–Ze'ev sensed my pain, and comforted me: ‘Look, Mott'leh, do not grieve, in only a short time, according to the Malbi”m[4] He is supposed to come, and as a consequence, the dead will arise, and your father too will return’…and I, in my childish naïveté, became suffused with hope that I would, once again, see that shining form of my father, k”mz, and with bated breath I waited for that enchanted day. When the appointed day passed, and my hope was not fulfilled – he found some other excuse, and he would say: ‘It appears Mott'leh, that the Malbi”m erred in his calculation, but it is possible to trust the Baal HaTurim, and surely the Redemption id close at hand.’

The house after this one, was the house of R' Joseph Njavozhnik, the teacher of the young children. A respected Jew who was enlightened, one of the Stolin Hasidim, who dedicated all of his time to the inculcation of Torah.

The third house, on the left, was that of R' Alter Peretz, the Gemara teacher. R' Kivia the Water Carrier, lived in an annex that had belonged to R' Alter–Peretz, and the word went out that he was one of the Lamed–Vov concealed righteous[5], who by day, was a simple water carrier, but by night was engaged in ‘arcania.’ His neighbors, R' Joseph the Melamed of the young children, and R' Issachar–Ze'ev the Tailor, would circle around in the evenings, beside the annex, in order to uncover something of the activities of this ‘Concealed One.’

R' Kivia was already sixty years of age when he divorced his wife, and set up residence in his annex. He plied his trade until noon, and in his free hours, he recited Psalms. In the years 1917–1920, which were difficult for the Jews, many of his ‘secret activities’ were revealed, from which people sought some support during those hard times. It was told, at that time, that in the shtetl of Drohiczyn[6], a blacksmith had been exposed as a ‘Concealed One,’ and Jews who were beset by troubles, went to Drohiczyn to solicit his counsel and help. In that period, word went out that in our town, we also had such an individual, and one man whispered into the ear of his comrade – that R' Kivia, the simple Water Carrier, was one of these, and whoever was fortunate enough to receive his blessing – was luck. It is carefully guarded in my memory, that the first one who had the temerity to ask the blessing of R' Kivia, was R' Meir Stein (it was said that there was a danger involved in disclosing R' Kivia's secret, but R' Meir was in a situation akin to having a knife at his throat, and was exposed to a severe legal judgment). He somehow girded himself, and found the strength, and entered R' Kivia's annex. This was during evening hours, R' Kivia was seated, as was his custom, reciting verses from the Psalms. R' Meir approached him, and began to explain his circumstance, and the purpose of his visit. This ‘explanation’ was not readily understood. In his simple naïveté, R' Kivia could not grasp what was wanted of him, and how he could be of assistance in connection with the judgment, until R' Meir's patience gave out, and he called out to him: ‘We know that you are one of the Lamed–Vov Concealed Righteous Men.' When he heard this, R' Kivia sunk into a deep thought, and after some contemplation, he replied: ‘Well, if the fellow in Drohiczyn can do this – I suppose I can too…’ and he gave R' Meir his blessing. On the following day, R' Meir received a favorable judgment in court, and the entire city was like a boiling pot: the first ‘miracle’ performed by our very own ‘Concealed One.’


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Polish, for an orchard. Return
  2. An admixture of ‘incompatible’ fabrics, such as flax and wool, proscribed by Jewish Law. Return
  3. Jacob ben Asher, also known as Baal haTurim as well as Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash (Rabbeinu Asher), was probably born in the Holy Roman Empire at Cologne about 1269 and probably died at Toledo, then in the Kingdom of Castile, about 1343.
    Jacob was an influential Medieval rabbinic authority. He is often referred to as the ‘Baal haTurim’ (“Master of the Rows”), after his main work in halakha (Jewish law), the Arba'ah Turim (“Four Rows”).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_ben_Asher Return
  4. Meïr Leibusz ben Jehiel Michel Wisser (March 7, 1809 – September 18, 1879), better known by the acronym Malbiā€m, was a rabbi, Hebrew grammar master, and Bible commentator.
    The name “Malbi”m” is derived from the Hebrew initials of his name, and became his nick–name by frequent usage.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malbim Return
  5. There is a legend among Jews that the existence of the world is dependent on the presence of thirty–six (lamed–vov in Hebrew) anonymous righteous people, whose good deeds act to prevail on The Creator to permit the existence of the world to continue. Return
  6. In Poland, about 175 miles from Sarny Return

 

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