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{Page 468}

Starie-Dorogoi

(Staryya Darohi, Belarus)

53°02' 28°16'

by Khen

Translated by Pamela Russ

In the really old forests, out in the wild, there was a remote village with the name Nowo-Dorogoi. When the train was introduced by Osifovitch, the Starie-Dorogoi station was built and a new settlement was created on the old, empty, abandoned roads.

The Minsker Jews Polyak-Weisbrem built a factory for veneer workings and sawing machines. A fresh, busy life took hold in this new settlement. On both sides of the train station there grew a lively settlement of 200 Jewish families. Jews came, built houses, opened stores, inns. This is how a small community of chassidim and misnagdim [opponents of chassidim] was set up, with two synagogues – a chassidic one and a misnagdic one. Reb Hertzel Horker used to recite the “Kol Nidrei” [central evening prayer for Yom Kippur] and recite maariv [the evening prayers] at the misnagdic synagogue, and mussaf [the late morning prayer] at the chassidic synagogue. There was a rabbi and a ritual slaughterer in the town. It's worth mentioning that the rabbi sold coal and wood. Even though the rabbi, Reb Khaim Faisakhowycz, was known as a fine lecturer, the jokers in town would say that he could not warm the crowd with his speeches but could do so with this coal and wood.

Later he came to Jerusalem, and then died there. (One of his lectures was printed in Segalowycz's “Maasif Drushei” [“A Collection of Lectures,” Section 1, page 98, Vilna 5672 (1912)].

A group of wagon drivers would ride along the highway of Starie-Dorogoi to Slutsk and back, driving loaded wagons with merchandise and all kinds of products. Their hard work drew everyone's attention to the highway, and later – the two leveled passenger car on the route of Starie-Dorogoi – Slutsk. The town buzzed and bristled with merchants, workers, shopkeepers, brokers. There were also Jewish students, intellectuals, such as Reb Yeshaye Khaim Khinitz, Reb Ber Moishe Wajnstajn, his son-in-law Yitzchok Kapilowycz, Freed, Reznik, and other Zionists and Hebraists. As forest merchants the well-known ones were Freed Rabkin, Hertzel Garacikow. Starie-Dorogoi had three hotels: Rabinowycz's, Berezina, and Rabkin's hotel. Of the stores, there were mainly distributors: Levin's wholesale store (Soroh Kazakewycz's husband), Lipa Wecerebin's store, and Nekrice's large wholesale store. In the town, a prominent place was given to: Sender Reznik, Kopel Simkhowyc, Itzele Reznik, very respected was Dubrowski, a prominent Jew, with a large income.

The city Jews subscribed to Hebrew-Yiddish-Russian newspapers that came by mail.

The Hebrew teacher M. Khazanowyc, first taught Hebrew to the children of the community activist Leyb Berger in Starie-Dorogoi, and from there he went over to Slutsk and became one of the founders of the “Cheder Metukan” [“Improved School,” or reformed school, still with Torah learning but incorporating progressive ideas]. Khurgin was one of the first Hebrew teachers in town and also a bookkeeper of the loan-and-save fund. Starie-Dorogoi merited running a Hebrew “Cheder Metukan” opened by Khaim Rabinowycz. The school became beloved in the town. Khaim Rabinowycz participated in the famous children's journal “Haprachim” [“The Flowers”] and in other publications. He came to Israel in 1925, worked in a primary school in Ramat Gan, and died in 1931. His blessed work was presented by the teacher Maron.

This city was different than all the surrounding cities with the intelligence of its residents, and with their relationships and reactions to all kinds of experiences in life. If a guest came to town, whether he wanted to or not, he had to express his enthusiasm for the small, blessed, lively island. Jews lived in the old ways – Starie-Dorogoi with a new content for a happy, joyous life. But new times and new melodies came, the happy tunes disappeared. The town remained orphaned. Zionism was forbidden, the Cheder Metukan crossed off, fear befell everyone.

The Nazi powers brought the end, everything fell apart and was destroyed by the vicious beast. The old roads became emptied – also Starie-Dorogoi was once again nothingness and void, with emptiness at each tread and step.

 

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