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[Page 196]

Rayviets after the First World War

By Mordhay Furer

Translated by M. Porat

Not from deep enlightenment did we, the Rayviets youngsters, change our lifestyle, and not because the enlightenment had found grace in our eyes. We came to those external changes simply without needing the enlightenment. However, why and how did we begin? We started by throwing away the small cotton cap with the long gown, and we did it overnight. To tell the truth, our parents wondered at the new deportment from the beginning; why suddenly without any reason was there such behavior? Nevertheless, they became accustomed to it very fast, and did not look at it as at a sin worthy of quarreling with the children. “What a difference does it make which kind of hat the children wear, provided they are not going without cover on the head?” Moreover, many parents seriously thought that even a “naked head” was not a huge sin.

ten196.jpg - Reb Yosef Boym, his spouse, daughters and grandchildren
Reb Yosef Boym, his spouse, daughters and grandchildren
A family of strict Radzin Hassidim

In addition, the Tate-Mames (the parents) had almost the same ideological points of view as the children. The majority of Rayvitser youth, like the adults, even as the local Hassidim alike, possessed Zionist ideas. Therefore, they did not have to quarrel among them.

What the youth lacked was a good effective organization to form a power. With this, they were too late. Far from the center, they did not receive any help. Therefore, in the days after World War I, the Rayviets youth, with an outburst of energy, took its fate in its own hands. They named themselves “with Storm and Fire”. They made efforts to create new establishments. “You created a library – me too”. “You opened a school – not bad; we too will open a school”. Nevertheless, it was not so easy. Never mind – to collect money on weddings? Just add another bowl. You want to set up a cooperative? It is not hard; you add a shop. A library? You obtain a shelf with some old books and the library is ready. However, a school, this is a serious matter. It is not only a gathering of pupils and teachers; the parents too should be aware and content. They are measuring and weighing. They want to know in what hands they give their child. Moreover, they (the fathers) knew that there must be a school, because the children did not want to go any more to Cheyder; shouting would not help. They knew also that it was hard to get a pious teacher, not in the “Agoode” as not in the “Mizrakhi” schools. The lack of alternatives obliged them to compromise and to choose “the best from among the worst”. In addition, teachers came from the “center”; two of them, Roytman and Appel, left “Poaley Zion” (“Labor Zion”), and Gad Zaklikovski came from the “Young Zion” (“Zion Youngsters”). Gad Zaklikovski's school attracted most of the children. The other school did not last long. There were also other reasons; children from poor families went to work. The school of “Poaley Zion” from the start had few students. The parents preferred Zaklikovski's school to this school; at least, they would not grow up as Bolsheviks. As a result, the “Poaley Zion” School disappeared, while Zaklikovski's existed for a long time. He brought also his sister Ester, a capable young woman who taught the Polish language. Zaklikovski spared no effort for his school and its students. He established a children's library with no means. The children themselves, under the teacher's supervision, managed it. However, the school ceased to exist after Zaklikovski left Rayviets for Palestine. Not a teacher came to replace him. Not a man was ready to sacrifice work, time, or even money like Gad Zaklikovski. (He lives now in Israel, and writes in Letste Nyess and in other magazines).

The other school activists also left Rayviets. However, the library did remain at the “Tseyirey Zion”. The “Poaley Zion” activists could not accept this. They decided to take the library by force. The Poaley Zion leftists broke into the library after breaking its lock on a Friday evening, and took out the books. The books were not their intention; what they really wanted was to move the Rayvitser Youths from the “Tseyirei” right to the “Poaley” left organization. (This objective they had partially attained).

On the morning of the oncoming Sabbath, the shtetl awoke into a storm. Groups of people crowded the streets. They spoke about the event, which drew the police to the street. The police officers did demonstrate unusual ability in putting every suspect in jail.

It is important to praise the comportment of Reb Shimon Eisenshtein, the pious Hassid, the sole person in Rayvits in whose house was installed a telephone.

He rang the Police immediately after the havdole prayer (differentiation between the holiness of Sabbath and the oncoming common day), and asked them to free the prisoners from jail. To release them, Reb Shimon Leyb Eisenshtein went to the police office and signed a letter of responsibility for each one of them. The library stayed with “Poaley Zion”.

Some years later Mr. Rashish, who organized the “Hakhluts”, visited our town. We bought workhorses and carts. Our shetls' rich-man, Reb Shimon Leyb Eisenshtein, bestowed 12 acres on his farm and a house to live. We organized there a hakhshara, a preparation for an Aliya site, to learn and to practice agriculture work.

Our comrade Isroel Zilber was amongst the first Haluzim in Rayviets who accomplished Aliya. He sneaked across the frontier to Romania in 1925. He wandered there a whole year until he succeeded in entering the Land of Israel. He worked there on the road, was a member of the Hagana, and also took out from Rayviets his mother and brother, who passed away in Israel. With great honor, we mention his name.

ten197.jpg - Isroel Zilber
Isroel Zilber
The first Haluts from Rayviets,
born 1903, died 1952 in Tel Aviv

[Page 198]

The Moyre Hoyrohe

(Authoritative Religious Law Arbiter)

By Shimon Mitsfliker

Translated by M. Porat

It happened on a cold winter Friday afternoon during the war, on the week of Chapter “Shalach” from the Parashat Hshavua. We had already suffered enough from the snatchings to forced work, from where we would return beaten and dispirited. Even a wealthy Jew, when he hired a poor man to replace him on the work, suffered as all the others.

During a mass abduction, a Jew who had money used it to hire a poor one to replace him in the forced hard labor. However, even the so-called “lucky” ones had to live in underground hideouts, called bunkers. The women stood guard to warn of oncoming soldiers. The murderers used to “visit” us often, coming in taxis and motorcycles. Moreover, after such a visit, even after getting rid of the corpses, the shtetl was like a scene after a horrible pogrom. Local Polish youngsters and adults who accompanied the German bandits took part in the search for hidden Jews, and robbed them of their property.

So when on that atrocious cold Friday I stood at home, suddenly I noticed two military jeeps enter the street; they stopped near our house and six Germans, big as Goliath, got down from the vehicles. Their approach to our door mortally scared us. My wife ordered me to hide in the bunker. The murderers stopped me when I got out through the back entrance on my way to our neighbors, Leybish (Yosl's) Sherman and Eli Shtock. The snatchers asked where the town Rabbi lived. The Rabbi was in America, absent from the shtetl. Two of the Germans went in the Moyre Hoyroe's home. On the way, they caught another five Jews, and led the eight of us into the great Synagogue.

Our accompanyment was huge. The entire Yiddish shtetl, women and children, followed us crying. The Goyish part of the town stood along the sidewalks laughing, playing, and enjoying our tragic fate.

Inside the Synagogue the Germans stood us facing the wall, pressing guns to the backs of our heads. The murderers threatened us with death and with the shtetl's destruction, if the Moyre Hoyroe (Judge) would not arrive.

I do not know what my neighbors were thinking about – for me it was eternity. I spread my complaints before the Almighty, told the prayers which I knew by heart, and was ready at each instant to quit this world; but what I just desired with all my heart, was to at least to have a single, last sight of my wife and children.

The Moyre Hoyrohe, lying in his hideout, heard that eight Jews would be killed if he did not report to the Synagogue. He got out from his hideout and ran to the Synagogue, followed by his screaming spouse and crying children.

The Germans beat him with heavy blows, and undressed him, nude and barefoot. They ordered him to gather all the hidden gold in the Shtetl and to bring it to the Synagogue. Moreover, if the Jews would not deliver all their gold and valuable objects in one hour, the eight hostages should be shot to death. During this time additional victims were caught.

Outdoors was a strong frost and a dry snow fell. The Judge in Gatkes (underwear) and bare feet left from the synagogue (at the murderers order) crying and yelling “Gewald yidn, pidyoyn nefoshes!” – “Help us Jews, for the Redemption of souls!” (in Yiddish and Ashkenaz Hebrew).

The first one to bring jewelry and wealthy items was the Moyre Hoyrohe himself. In less then an hour, gold and silver was collected. We were told to pack it in a sack. Two heavy sacks were carried to the jeeps.

Only those who saw the Moyre Hoyrohe running in the streets dressed only in underwear, crying and begging to help rescue the captured Jews, can understand what devotion and Kiddush Hashem mean.

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