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[Col. 1601]

Kobylnik

(Narach, Belarus)

54°56'/26°41'

Translation by Anita Frishman Gabbay

The population of this town of about 800 folk was comprised of about 300 Jews. The livelihood for these people was made up largely by trade and stores. As not far from this shtetl was the large lake called Narach, many Jews made a living from fishing. In the shtetl there were 11 fishermen.

The stores were barely providing a living. First there was an abundance of stores. In addition, there existed a Christian cooperative, which competed aggressively with the Jewish stores, and then 2 Christian private stores opened. The cooperative was supported by the bank :“Casa Stepshtika” a loan and credit bank for the district. The two Christian storekeepers, however, still made a good living, had lots of merchandise, gave credit and favorable loans to be paid over a period of time.

Understandably, the situation for the cooperative and the two private stores was far better than for the Jewish shopkeepers and also they enticed the best clients even amongst the Jews.

The market takes place every Tuesday. Many unknown people from other towns come here in order to barter and purchase merchandise. These people brought to the market leather goods, fancy goods and trimmings, fabric, baked goods and ingredients for baking as well as groceries. Their products were of an inferior quality and were able to lower their prices. Their profits were in cash, so they don't lose anything.

Everyone thought, that in the market they were purchasing bargains and they didn't concern themselves with the quality of the goods.

[Col. 1602]

The honest shopkeepers, in addition to all their other problems, had to pay a heavy tax, thus eventually ruining the Jewish shopkeepers. Remember, the Postover administration, in hindsight, was responsible for levying those heavy taxes and made it very difficult for the Jewish shopkeepers to continue (this showed the anti– Jewish sentiment).

Also, the fishermen did not have it easy. They didn't possess winter nets, because this type of winter net would cost about 2000 dollars and no one could afford it. Even summer nets, which cost about 300 dollars, were owned by only 3 Jewish fishermen. Therefore, they used the peasants to go out with them and they paid them either with half the catch or a small daily wage. A lot of the fishermen bought their fish from the Christian fishermen and do not go to the lake themselves. Slowly, this work was taken over by the Christians and eventually they become the fishermen, who then brought the fish into town and become the middlemen, that was previously done by the Jewish fishermen. This is how the money–making was transferred from the Jewish folk.

The trade of furs, pig–hair, and other things now became the small money producing industry. It is sad for the Jewish tradespeople. Their lives were difficult and they barely made a living. Mainly the dressmakers and shoemakers maintained their way of life. In all the nearby villages, the same thing happened, the Christians monopolized all the trade and thereby the Jewish population was left without work.

Altogether, this produced a great crisis, along with those unthinkable events to come, and this was the end of our little town.

This is an excerpt from the Pinchas of Lita “YEKAPO”, 1931

*Kobylnik Yiskor Book is now under the name “Narach”


[Col. 1603-1604]

The Melody of Our Fathers and Grandfathers

Translation by Janie Respitz

No vestige has remained from these small rural Jewish settlements. But throughout the world, the children and grandchildren of those wonderful Jewish farmers carry the melody of their fathers and grandfathers in their blood, as they recount the words of the first century Rabbi, Rabbbi Shimon Ben Eliezer:

“Adam did not taste anything until he began to work. It is said about him: God placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and protect, and only after did he allow him to eat from all the trees in the garden. Man must make an effort to work, and only then will God send the blessing”.
The good village Jews worked hard all week. On the Sabbath they would go to pray in Heydutzishok and delight in the words of the passing preacher who with great enthusiasm for their hard work would sing: “Rabbi Tarfun said: The Almighty would not allow his Divine Presence to rest upon the Jews until they did their work, as it is said: “When they make me a Temple, I will rest among them”.

Rabbi Yehuda Ben Batira said: He that has no profession, what should he do? Let him search. If he has a ruined house or a devastated field and busies himself with that, it is said: For six days you shall work at whatever it is you have to do – just do it. To this end Rabbi Yishmael Bar Rabbi Nakhman said: Work is twenty – six generations older than Torah. There were twenty – six generations from Adam until the giving of the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the one who profits from his own efforts is on a higher level (closer to God) than a God fearing man”.

This is how these quiet, simple Jews soaked up pride from their work and blessed their children with the brightness of the preacher's enthusiasm and love.

In the village, they were farmers. In town – warm, heartfelt Jews who carried with them, wherever they went, their love of labour and toil.

 

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