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[Page 2]

Map of the City of Smorgon


Prepared by Elyezer Karpel, Mordechai Tabouriski & Israel Levinson

 


 

[Page 3]

Preface to the Book

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When the pillar of fire rose up from the beacons of the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, and other disturbances arose from one end to the other, pillars of smoke from the terrible inferno ignited by the cruel, bloodthirsty nation, who jumped out from their dark hiding places like beasts of the field – we, the orphans of the nation, ran out, one from a city and two from a country, among the waves of filth of the great inferno, to salvage the last relics and give of them to the People of Israel as a final light.[1]

As the voice of the cries of the members of our nation bursts forth, the voice of defeat of those taken to their deaths in the vale of murder, citizens of the other planet who were burned at the stake in all the camps of “enlightened” Europe, and the voice of bravery of the few fighters of the ghettoes and forests who gave their souls for the honor of Israel and the honor of humanity – we captured the voices from their to imbue them in our blood, to incorporate them in all our senses, so that they will not be silenced –– ––

Then our town of Smorgon, killed, slaughtered, and burnt, was also seen by us. You too drank from the cup of poison along with the Jewish communities of the Diaspora.

You, the merciful one, the city in which Torah and worldly life, where grace and kindness, scholarliness and secular wisdom, were gathered together.

You the mourning one, who gave a structure of truth with your toiling hand to go forth to all strata of the nation and humanity, to build “a world that is built on justice”…

You, the one that was wiped away, who gave a weight and measure to grace the soil of our Land here, as you sent forth your pioneers before the camp; as well as to heal the ruins of life in the Diaspora when you attached yourself to any spark of existence.

Oh, how have you been destroyed, our town Smorgon…

Oh, how were the pits of destruction opened to swallow you alive, with your masses of people.

Oh, how you once were and are no more.

See, how our hearts are full of tears, and our eyes are wellsprings of agony.

Now that the book is placed before us, we feel with greater strength the anguish of the lost life, for which there is no atonement. We feel with all strands of our soul the living spirit coming forth from the chapters of this book – this is the spirit of our town Smorgon that was wiped out.

We did not have the intention to place all this material, rescued from forgetting and oblivion, gathered up in these folios of agony – as something hidden away for the generations, without forming it and embalming it within the realm of history.

We attempted to forge it into a living path for the hearts of the natives of Smorgon, to level out a pathway into our own structures, to arouse the feelings of a changed reality, and to store away in our souls the good, sublime memories of the life that was cut off.

With all this, to move one stone, a sorrowful one, to the perpetual pantheon, as a monument to the splendor of life of the Diaspora of Israel in every place.

The community of Smorgon will also shed tears into the cup of agony of our nation.

This memorial book is the fruit of good intentions and toil of the masses. The signature of the community of Smorgon natives is upon it.

Its beginning – with the idea hatched by our native, Isser Ish–Ahuvi of blessed memory, with the initiative of Bertha Shein of blessed memory, and the wise advice of Mr. Gershon Weinstein and his son Raphael, may they live – these were the first of its producers.

Set up the portals of this book – all those who were included in the writing.

The editors of the Book of Smorgon

Translator's Footnote

  1. The reference “one from the city and two from a country” is most likely inspired from Jeremiah 3.14, https://www.mechon–mamre.org/p/pt/pt1103.htm. The phrase means that very few survived. Return


[Page 4]

Abba Gordin – editor (1887–1964)

 

Words in Memory of Abba Gordin

by Chanoch Lewin

Translated by Jerrold Landau

This man came from the roots of precious stones.

The rock that forged him consisted of prominent rabbis, but his environment of the downtrodden, toiling masses shaped him.

His roots were very strong with all the changes of the times. It is self–evident that these roots were grounded in the foundations of national and human existence.

The changes in the world during the latter three generations, which imprinted themselves to no small degree on the spiritual life of humanity, and broke down the preconceived notions of individuals and the masses – were unable to shake his great faith in rectifying the world with the rule of justice, peace, and brotherhood of man.

He was faithful to the house of Israel until his final day. He unearthed the good and sublime from within the hiding places of that nation, and emmeshed them, as they were, among the pages of his many books.

He had a role and contributed to all streams of Jewish and human thought. He was at home with all the schools of the spirit in the development of human thought.

He spent time in the depths of the ways of the generation and was alert to all human pathways.

At times, he was strange to his brethren, the members of his nation. The multitude of his ideas, just like the complicated, intertwined paths that signified his generation, were a wonder in their eyes. In the character of the ways of the world between the wars and great revolutions of the 20th century, he stood at the pathway with the giants of the world. He expressed his opinions in the ears of captains and leaders. He did neither cowered before them, nor trembled in fear. He followed his unique path with strength of heart and dedication of the soul.

Toward the end of his days, he found his path in the ways of his fathers, leaving behind an army of students with a doctrine and a path, so that they would continue to cleave to their “rabbi” from afar. His old age did not betray the charm of his youth. He was like an overflowing wellspring in his conversations, his achievements, and when he picked up the writers' pen, even in his old age – until his final day.

Many storms of his heart were calmed. Many twists of his soul were straightened. The sting was removed from his thorns and briars. He made peace with himself and with the god of his spirits. There are tens of pages of this book that he started but did not live to see its conclusion. Yet within these pages are the sparks of his spirit and the etched events of his life––all woven and bound into the story of the life of the spirit of his town and our town – Smorgon.

Let this book serve as a miniature sanctuary to mark the memory of Abba Gordin.


[Page 5]

Words in Memory of Abba Gordin

by Eliezer Steinman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Abba Gordin, the man of the world, has left the world. He was a man who was a complete world [himself], who worked all his days to repair the world. He went out in secret, as is the way of a good person who does good, without bothering people during his life or after his death.

Even now that he has reached the Heavenly court, the writers of articles from among us have not reached the stage of levelheadedness to be able to tell even a portion of his praise and honor in any sort of publication. This [inability] is no surprise.

Abba Gordin was at home in many streams of thought: in logic and in poetry, in his sense of understanding, as well as his command of social sciences. He was a linguist, pedagogue, raconteur and researcher, a master of memories, a seer for the House of Israel and the gentiles, a communal leader, and also a wise and attentive man. His delving into the fields of Judaism was particularly deep. He authored tens of books and hundreds of articles. He was able to write quickly in four languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, and English. There was nobody as daring and sharp as he in both written and oral debates. He stood on podiums with literal self–dedication and without fear. Abba Gordin's field of endeavor was very broad, and he imbued his soul into all his literary efforts. One would have to dedicate a great deal of time, energy, goodwill, and love of the truth in order to encompass all his arenas. He was not a man of the hour of a passing vision. His field of influence was broad as well as long. He was modest, with great patience. He had the time and patience to wait until the [community] came to appreciate him (as was appropriate).

I hereby give, for the sake of a memorial, only a few kernels from the chief of the stalks. Not a bundle, but rather a harvested sheath.


Words in Memory of Abba Gordin

by Chaim Dan

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In [the town of] Ramat Gan, he would sit separate and isolated in his dwelling with his weapons: a pen in his hand, deliberating over manuscripts, immersed in battle and creativity. And he was over 70.

He was a remnant of the active generation that established Russian and Polish Jewry at the beginning of the 20th century – a generation when the nation ruled over the individual. He was a personality of rich spirit, a scholar and the son of a scholar, expert and sharp. He bound together the ideas of the early ones and later ones in his articles and books. He swam in the sea of Talmud and Zohar, and his hands were in Marx and Kropotkin; he frequently brought ideas from one side to the other, without a division between them. His interests lay in many fields: science and philosophy, prose and poetry, proportions and numbers, articles and feuilletons. He possessed an insatiable intellectual curiosity that knew no bounds.

The man went through many incarnations. From Poland to Russia, from Russia to America, and, at an old age, from America to Israel. From Orthodoxy to apostasy, and from orthodoxy in apostacy to anarchism[1].

In Russia, during the revolution, he was one of the chief spokesmen of the anarchists who were competing with the Bolsheviks to take hold of the government. He came into contact with the giants of the revolution: Lenin, Kamenev, Dzerzhinsky, and others. He was an opponent to their ploys in the name of the consistency of the revolution. How did he, the son of a rabbi, a supporter of tradition and splendor, careful about the honor of every person, become involved in such an environment? [Ah], the irony of fate.

His beliefs stood for him. The fire of his youth was not quenched even with the changing times and climate in the surroundings and environment. In his latter days, he immersed his spirit in the worlds that were close to him from his early youth. In his final years, he was involved in writing a novel from the era of King Solomon, and a book on the Maharal[2].

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Orthodoxy in apostasy is intentional and infers that Gordin moved from a traditional version of apostacy to anarchism. Return
  2. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judah_Loew_ben_Bezalel Return


[Page 6]

Members of the Editorial Board

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Baruch Sutskover
 
Chanoch Levin – vice editor
Leah Bondor–Doves
 
Avigdor Jacobson

[Page 7]

Mordechai Taborisky
 
Shoshana Danishevsky – Flavski
Yisrael Levinson
 
Liza Kat–Levinson


[Page 8]

Yisgadal VeYiskadash[1]

by Chanoch Levin

Translated by Jerrold Landau

How can I sing to you with songs, and praise your name in the gate?
You are sealed in the hearts of your survivors in a chant of tears and light:
From your rebellion – for then they quarried the wheel of the storm,
Your tanners, harbingers of peace and freedom.

In you was Menashe of Ilya, the holy rabbi, alone like a juniper,
Aspiring to do good to his nation and rectifying the damage of the exile.
In you was Kabak, envisioning his rule, treading through the narrow path
And Kulbak wandered, escaped, from you to the lost path.

Oh Kulbak, even the smoke of his pyre flowed like a path
Dragged and attached to your memory that flailed in the fire;
Even though he did not gather most of your essence – deeds,
But “Montag” –– The Messiah the son of Joseph, passed over your face.[2]

As I recall the day, it caused my heart to pulsate,
Before we went out, without returning, to naught
In my pitiful town, to the mezuzah of my parental home
His soul fluttered about then – and perhaps still now.

As he went, he said as follows, as if slowly to himself:
“Who knows if he did not set up a lodging
The redeeming Messiah, who will redeem his nation
On Mount Zion with the pioneers of Smorgon…”

Regarding your pioneers, the poet D. Shimoni speaks a poem
“In the Forests of Hadera” they drilled and danced with “The Wagoners' Jubilee.”
With youthful enthusiasm, they broke through the iron fetters and poverty
They were the first to draw the vehicles of the fighters and the builders.

I will sign today with my heart, in memory of all your martyrs
Whomever still pulsates with you and still senses you within their blood,
We, the few survivors of your flock,
Stand enveloped in grief, with Yisgadal VeYiskadash.

 
Tel Aviv 5725 / 1965

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Magnified and sanctified – the opening words of the Kaddish prayer. Return
  2. The Messiah the son of Joseph is a Jewish Messianic figure who died in battle prior to the final victory of the Messiah the son of David. Return

 

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