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[Page 182]

Where? !

By Shmuel Drelichman

Translated by Moshe Porat

Where should I search for you
My beloved darlings,
In the house, on the garden,
Or near the well?
Not any sign of your bones!
However, I'm looking for a limb
For some part of you
There should be a tomb, a broken stone,
At least a memory, a sign
Of the annihilated
However, I discovered a trace,
Their blood that did flow,
From Tate father, Mame mother, Sister and brother,
Clotted blood,
From their veins
My hands are touching, flattering
Our burnt wall

Berish Shenker, his spouse Ester Sure
(Edooshe) Shenker (Gad Zaklikovski's sister),
Gad Zaklikovski, Hela Shenkner,
their daughter, Dan-Danik (their boy)

[Page 183]

Rabbi Avraham Shmuklerman

The head of Rayvits town

By Abish Shmuklerman the head of the Kehila

Translated by Moshe Porat

The town of Rayvits is situated in theLublin district between Chelm and Krasinistav (south of Rayvits, 50 KM from Chelm). The settlement of Jews began there about four centuries ago. Prior to the Second World War, approximately three thousand people lived there. There were ten prayer houses in the shtetl. The biggest and most beautiful was the Beite Hamidrash Synagogue, which could hold five hundred people. As big as it was, the synagogue was full day and night with those studying the Torah. Among the learners, we find people from all parts of society, from the poorest to the richest townspeople.

The Rabbi lived on the other side of the wall near the Beite Hamidrosh, so R' Ganz could very often enter to help in solving a complicated problem.

The story is told that the noble Mikolay Rey, who owned the shtetl, gave his permission to build the synagogue. It was an old building with heavy walls. The bricks were much larger and stronger than those used nowadays. In the center of the eastern wall, at the place of the sanctified cupboard, was a hole that was not fixed. The hole was left as a memory for a deed that was done. It is told that when the building was ready, the day of inauguration was set to the eve of Rosh Hashana. On that day, massive clouds suddenly covered the skies. Lightning, thunder, and heavy rain attacked the town. Old people said that they could not remember such a storm. Darkness enveloped the town at midday. Suddenly a powerful clap of thunder penetrated through the thick wall into the shul, shaking the building tremendously. A huge metallic cross fell on the Synagogue floor. The gentile artisans who had built the shul constructed the eastern wall in two layers between which they placed the heavy iron cross and built it in.

After this event, the Kehila silently adopted a standard that when building a Jewish house, the Kehila should constantly supervise the work from start to finish. Therefore, the hole in the shul wall remained and was not repaired until the Nazis destroyed both the shul and the shtetl.

We must tell this story to our children and children's children. They should hear and remember what it meant to live in the Diaspora. Although if they would be acquitted to live at the time of Messiah.

The Jews settled in Rayvits many years ago. The dates inscribed on the tombstones testify to the age of the Jewish settlement.

At the graveyard's entrance stood a house with few rooms. It served as a purification place for the dead, brought for burial from the surrounding area. The shtetl's inhabitants cleansed cadavers at this home, which was named “Purification House”. One of the rooms served as lodging for the cemetery guardian, a local gentile. Every Friday he would pass from house to house in the shtetl, and gather from the house owners some money for living. People used to ask him to do all kinds of work on Shabat at their homes or for the synagog as a “Shabat Goy”. On the edge of the shtetl was a place were the cadavers were kept until the “Chevrat Kadisha”(the burial society ) took over his duty to keep the cadavers. In addition, he received a large plot of land to cultivate a garden for his requirements.

Poor homeless people from other towns would also spend a night or two in this building.

ten183.jpg - The Jewish Gmina (Kehila) Committee
The Jewish Gmina (Kehila) Committee
From right to left: Moyshe Pechter, Mordechay Itzhe Thederboym,
Zalman Ziskalevitsh, Hirsh (Hershke) Appletsveyg, R' Avraham Aba
(Abish) Shmuklerman (now in Israel) – the Gmina Head,
Aron Kroytman, Yakov (Yankl) Shenker, R' Motl Zonsheyn,
Noah Orenboym, Mordekhay Perlmuter

Near the cemetery was an excavated yard, from where the Rayvitsers would take yellow sand to disperse it upon the clean washed floor for Sabbath.

Later on, the authorities built on this yard a primary Polish school, the “Povshekhna”. Seven hundred town children, most of them (75%) Jewish boys and girls, learned there, although among the ten teachers, only two were Jewish.

ten184a.jpg - R' Avraham Aba (Abyish) Shmuklerman's four children
R' Avraham Aba (Abyish)
Shmuklerman's four children:
Rivka, Sura, Peshe, and Moshe

The nobleman Mr. Bodner was the owner of the town. He was the richest person in this Lublin country; he owned forest and field, horses and cows, mills and factories. He had a small aircraft at his service; Polish ministers would come to visit him.

This poretz knew that the shtetl was full of poor people; he used to send them firewood in winter, and carts with potatoes and hundreds of zlotys before the Passover holidays. At the start of the semester in the new Povshekhna School, he ordered the Jewish milkman and the Jewish baker to provide a glass of milk with a bun for each Jewish child every day. There were gentile people who tried to convince him not to feed the Jewish children, but they did not succeed. Jewish artisans used to work in his estates, workshops and factories, and two Jewish agents, Yosef Shenkar and Moyshe Lusthoyz, had the licenses to sell his grains and his factory-products.

So did the righteous gentile poretz almost “snatch out” all of the Charity Mitsva from Rabbi Shimon Leyb Eisenstein, the sole Hassidic rich man in Rayvits. Nevertheless, there remained enough charity work for him, too, and he did it to the extent of his richness.

ten184b.jpg - The Rayviets Committee of  'Linat Tsedek' - 'Justice Lodhing'
The Rayviets Committee of “Linat Tsedek” – “Justice Lodhing”

Among the Rayvits “Balabatim” (distinguished people) who helped the poor of their town with favor was R' Yehoshua Reyz (the brother in law of the renowned Rabbi Michelson from Warsaw). He was a wealthy man but not a “gevir”[lordly]. The Millionaire R' Shimon Leyb Eyzenshteyn took his daughter to be a daughter-in-law. Moreover, this brought “Torah and greatness together”.

From his own money, R' Yehoshua Reyz established a “Gemilut Chasadim” for everyone in need. No one came out empty-handed when he asked for help, even if he did not have any guarantee for the loan. In many cases he would loan more than once to the same person until he could give it back.

As the Russians left the town after the First World War, they burned the synagogue and only the wall remained. A committee was chosen to build a new synagogue--the members were: Mordechai Perelmuter (also a member in Chevrat Kadisha), Yossef Libhaber, Noach Urenboim, and Moshe Shpigel. “The Kehila,” which included distinguished people and was recognized by the government, was also part of the synagogue community. The nobleman Mr. Bodner supplied the wood and iron needed for the building.

On the day of inauguration of the synagogue there was a very big celebration and every one in the town, including young non-religious people, attended.

Rabbi Abish told us the Azure string story. It happened sixty-seven years ago, at the end of the 19th century. Rabbi Moshe Lerner, who served as our town Rabbi, was one of the great Jewish scholars, a Radziner Hassid. He knew by heart complete pages from Zohar. During those times the Radziner Rebe, Reb Gershon Henekh, introduced the azure string. His Hassidim started to interweave a blue string into the Tsitsit- fringe, as it used to be before the Temple's destruction. Our Rayvitser Rabbi, following the Radziner Rebe's prescription, had gathered on Sabbath the town's Amecha [ordinary people] and ordered them to add the sky blue string. On the next Sunday morning when the Kotsk, Guerer, and Trisker Hassidic Rabbis heard the news, a flame of quarrel ignited. They assembled in Bait Hamidrash and decided on Shabbat that the Radziner Hussidm would not be allowed to pray until Reb Moyshe Lerner announced that he had made a big mistake and would ask forgiveness in public, knocking on his chest and saying, “I have sinned”. Therefore, if he disobeyed this decision, the Kehila should expel him. The Rabbi disobeyed this dictation. Then the top Jews from Rayvitz went to meet the Rabbi and told him in the name of the town's majority to abandon his position for another Rabbi. R' Moyshe Lerner did not agree and claimed to ask a din toyro and to act according to its sentence.

The town's representatives refused to have a din toyro and a severe dispute broke out. All Rayvits Hassidim, adults as well as children, took part in it. They smashed windowpanes, spilled water inside the Rabbi's house, and did ignominies unworthy of telling. The quarrel was not only with the Rabbi. It became a big dispute between the Radzin and the Kotsk and Guer Hassidim, and resulted in bloodshed; nevertheless the Rabbi kept his opinion. Then a miracle happened--the Mord Kehila from the Keltse region invited the Rabbi to serve as town Rabbi in their shtetl, and he left Rayvits. Nevertheless, the inter-Hassidim quarrel intensified. They ceased to speak with one another and the Radziner cut off marriage-making with the Kotsker, and vice versa. Moreover, when a Radzin Hassid passed away, the opponents did not inter him until the blue strings had been removed from his fringed garment. Those quarrelsome relations continued for a long time.

However, the Radzin Hassidim could not forgive, and brought Rabbi Yosef Dzhalovski, their own Judge-Religious Instruction Teacher (Moyre Hoyroeh). He was a great teacher for sure, but was a lazy man who could not manage the rabbinate authority in a quarrelling shtetl. In addition, the Radzin Hassidim were not wealthy enough to keep him, particularly when there was a functioning Moyre Hoyroe, Rabbi Betsalel Epstein, a Great God-fearing man who was born in Rayviets. So did they both live in need. R' Yosef decided to go away.

To replace him, the Balabatim invited to serve as town Rabbi a Hossid from Guer, the Rabbi Mordkhay Merkl Halperin. He was a great scholar, a persistent learner, and a particularly clever person. He served as Rabbi for twelve years. He was the first town Rabbi who passed away in Rayvits, and was buried in the Rayviets cemetery.

He was replaced by R' Isroel Bornstein an appointed Rabbi (Kazionner Rov). He succeeded to manage the rabbinate, because he was also a Moyre Hoyroe and a good leader.

With the outbreak of World War One he went to Odessa, then to Kiyev, and became a refugee. After the Bolshevik revolution, he retured to Rayvits naked, bare and having nothing. He received the rabbinate again, but for a short time. The Plobsk people invited him, and he left Rayviets.

He was replaced by Reb Tsvi Hersh Yayir, a Hossid from Belz. From the beginning, his relations with the Rayviets-born R' Betsalel Epstein, a quiet, peace-loving and God-fearing person, were bad. R' Yayir could not work with the Kehila leaders and with the Shoychet (religious cattle slaughterer), being greedy and a glory seeker (Hebrew words, sounds in Yiddish Oyheyv Betzenik and Roydeyf Koovednik). He frequently demanded additions to his salary; he also litigated before the “Starosta” and reached even the minister with his never-ending claims.

It was impossible to be released from him, until one day he immigrated to Brazil, leaving his wife, children, and his son law with family in the shtetl. From there, he went to Erets Isroel then to America, where he lives until now.

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