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From One Generation
to Another and to Eternity

 

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[a blank page]

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Bar-Ilan University & it's President Professor Pinchas Churgin

by Eliezer Leoni

Translated by Meir Razy

The Bar-Ilan University grew forth from a tree, a tree from an orchard in Volozhin. It is named after a son of Volozhin, Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, a son of the NATZIV. Its founder and first Rector was Professor Pinchas Churgin,[1] a student of the Yeshiva Etz-Chaim in Volozhin. However, there is a difference between the university[2] on the hills of Volozhin and the one built on the plain surrounding Ramat-Gan.

The Yeshiva Etz-Chaim was forced to close because of its resistance to the Russian Government's demand to add non-religious classes to the curriculum, an idea that was also promoted by “the Movement of Enlightenment”. Its founder, Rabbi Chaim, believed that “there is nothing which is not alluded to in the Torah”. He referred to the Midrash Tehilim Chapter 19,5[3] “Shmuel Bar Abba said: I know the stars in the Heavens as well as I know the streets of Nehardea [his city in Babylon]. We know that he did not ascend to the Heavens, but he studied the Torah and thus developed his knowledge about the stars.” This teaches us that a person who knows the Torah also acquires knowledge of all the Sciences. For example, Rabbi Shmuel became an astronomer through studying the Torah.

Bar-Ilan University, on the other hand, was destined to merge Torah with Enlightenment, Judaism and non-Jewish knowledge. Professor Churgin identified the basis of this link in the writings of the GAON of Vilna (the HAGR”A - Hagaon Rabenu Eliyahu) who was the teacher of Rabbi Chaim. The HAGR”A wrote that “all the Sciences use the knowledge of the Torah, and the Torah includes all the Sciences”. Therefore, a person who wants to have a deep understanding of the Talmud must also have knowledge of the “external” Sciences such as Astronomy, Geography, Mathematics, or Medicine.

The HAGR”A said: “A person must be erudite a hundred times more in the Torah than in the Sciences because the Torah and the Sciences are linked.” He asked Baruch Shick to translate the Geometry book of Euclid from Greek to Hebrew. He himself wrote the book “A Triple Ram” where he explained mathematical problems which appear in the Talmud.[4]

Pinchas Churgin was born in Pahost (in the Minsk area) on November 25, 1894, son of Rabbi Reuven Yona and Devosha.

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His father was the Head of a famous Yeshiva in which he was educated. When he was eleven years old, the family moved to Eretz-Israel and settled in Jerusalem. He attended a Yeshiva in Jerusalem but wished to go back to Etz-Chaim. He believed that this was the best Yeshiva in the world. Consequently, he returned to Volozhin and spent four years under the tutelage of Rabbi Raphael Shapiro.

He then moved to the U.S.A and after studying there he became a professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University in New York.

Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, the founder of the American branch of the Mizrachi Movement, took note of him and nominated him as the head of the School of Jewish Teachers, a part of the Rabbi Yitzhak-Elchanan Yeshiva in New York. Churgin led the School for over thirty years. The thousands of graduates of the School are the leaders of today's Jewish education in the country.

Churgin steered the schools towards a blend of Biblical and modern Jewish culture that served as a cornerstone of national Jewish strength. He did not see any conflict between the Torah and Science. Moreover, he reminded us that there were Jewish scholars who were scientists, engineers, mathematicians and physicians among the writers of the Talmud in Babylon, during the Middle Ages in Spain and down through the ages in Europe.

Churgin was a Torah Scholar but he himself was humble and modest. He adored small trees. When his brother asked him why he preferred smaller trees he said that small trees reminded him of everyday honest people who do not look down on others. Tall trees are scary and reminded him of people who pursue power. Those trees keep the sunlight for themselves and cast big shadows around them, depriving the small ones of sunlight.[5]

Churgin adapted the learning method of the NATZIV, a method that emphasized researching the sources of Jewish Law and taught the students how to identify these sources. The students were educated both to understand the history of Jewish ideas and concepts and to be able to trace their development.

He followed Rabbi Chaim's pedagogical method which believed that the mind of the student is flexible and inventive and that a good teacher must not suppress the student's creativity. On the contrary, he should promote free thinking.

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Churgin was aware of the limited availability and capacity of higher education during the early years of the State of Israel and started devoting his time and connections into forming a new University. He defined the vision for it as “We hope to educate a generation of people who would be committed to our ancient Torah. Losing the Torah, G-D forbid, as a cornerstone of the Nation may bring about the demise of the Nation. On the other hand – science and research do not contradict the belief in G-D.”[6]

In 1949, Churgin was elected President of the American Branch of the Mizrachi. In 1950, he visited Israel and met Government officials to discuss the creation of the university. On July 26, 1953, the cornerstone of the University was laid. The “Foundation Scroll” (Megilat HaYesod) was placed in a cavity in the cornerstone. The text of the Scroll reads:

“With the grace of the One who gave mind to man and granted wisdom to humans, on this Sunday the fourteenth day of the month of Menachem-Av in the year of five thousand seven hundred and thirteen since the Creation, that is the sixth year of the independent State of Israel, in the presence of Torah Sages and Ministers of the State, people of wisdom and Science, leaders of Institutions and generous donors in the city of Ramat-Gan, let it blossom like a lily in the Valley of Sharon. Today we lay down the cornerstone to an Institution of Torah and Wisdom named after our leader, the President of the worldwide Mizrachi movement, our Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan Z”L, the son of Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin Z”L. Let this Bar-Ilan University be a Tree of Life (Etz Chaim) for the heritage of the Eternal Nation, for the everlasting values of the Torah, wisdom and morals, justice and world peace. Let it be an oasis for intelligent people where science and research, skills and arts, creation and resurrection of the people and of the State can flourish. The University will be a source for the Jewish spirit, a place of creation and preservation for the spirit of young people. Belief will be the foundation and Science will be the crown of its students. It will be a Lighthouse to the nation of Israel and a place of wisdom to all Nations of the world.”

The Inauguration Ceremony took place on August 7, 1955. In attendance were one hundred students who represented the “Ingathering of the Exiles”: people from South America, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, and other countries. Professor Churgin's opening remarks laid down the goals he set for the creation of the University:

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“There is a dichotomy among the people of Israel. One view believes in the study of the Torah and nothing else, ignoring scientific progress and the improvements made to human life and its condition. The other view opposes consecrated Jewish values and follows a spiritual nihilism when it comes to Jewish traditions. Our role is to develop the synthesis between our traditional life and the world's general culture. This blend existed during the times of the Talmud and the “Golden Era” in Spain and delivered manifolded benefits to Judaism.

He told the students “we pray that you will follow that great man who gave his name to this home, Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan Z”L, who dedicated his life to the resurrection of the Nation and its people and to their spiritual foundations: the love of G-D, the love of every Jew and the love of all humanity. We hope Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan will be a model to you and to future generations. His way of life is a worthwhile symbol for this Institution and for your life.”

It is appropriate to quote the Chief Rabbi of Israel, the GAON Rabbi Herzog, who said:

“Two great forces are struggling for control of the human spirit since time immemorial, the presence of G-D and Science. However, it is not surprising that in our era, when Science discovers so many secrets of nature, some of the greatest scientists voice their opinion that Science does not conflict with ‘;In the beginning G-D created’. They realize that the power of Nature is not random, but that there is a Supreme Creator who shaped the world in an intelligent and wise way.”

The first year offered courses in Judaism: Talmud, Biblical Studies, Jewish History, the Hebrew Language and Literature, Linguistics, English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Science courses included Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology.

Professor Churgin was elected President of the University. He dedicated much of his time to admitting candidates. He interviewed each registered candidate trying to understand their personalities and knowledge and admitted only those that satisfied his criteria: their commitment to Judaism, their morals and their level of knowledge. In so doing, Churgin followed the custom of Rabbi Chaim who personally screened each candidate to his Yeshiva. He admitted only those who were committed to his own views of the kind of education the Yeshiva should instill in its students.

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Professor Churgin had an important principle: the student's financial ability must not hinder his admission. He remembered the Talmudic story of Rabbi Hillel who was not able to enter the Beit Midrash where Shemaiah and Avtalion were teaching. Hillel climbed on the roof and listened to their voices through the chimney. Churgin did not want to see this happening under his watch and admitted all worthy students, whatever their financial means.

Sadly, Professor Churgin did not have long to oversee the University. He died in the U.S.A. on November 29, 1957. The day before his death his asked his brothers and daughters to cover him with his Tallit, to put his Tefillin on him and to sing HaTikva (“The Hope”, Israel's national anthem). These were the two great foundations of his life – Jewish hope and the belief in national redemption by studying the Torah.

Pinchas Churgin's determination and insistence that the Torah is the foundation of the Jewish Nation was a direct continuation of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, who wrote “a person who did not involve himself with the Torah could not perceive the utmost holiness and purify his soul.” (Nefesh Hachaim, Vol 4 Ch 22).

This note is not just about the story of Bar-Ilan University. It explains the motivation for establishing it and what its inner essence and goals are. It also tells a little about Professor Pinchas Churgin who was a modern Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin and about his motivation for creating the University. His drive to create Bar-Ilan University was based on his fear that the Nation might forget the Torah; the same fear that drove Rabbi Chaim to create the Yeshiva Etz-Chaim in Volozhyn.

We do not know if the University has a faculty of “Volozhin Studies”, nor do we know if the book “Nefesh Hachaim” is mandatory reading for its students. In any case, we consider the University to be a part of Volozhyn, a modern incarnation of the Yeshiva Etz-Chaim.

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“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.” (Deuteronomy, Ch 8, 1)

“that you may live” the soul is not complete until they arrive at Eretz-Israel

(“Look Deep”, the NATZIV)

Translator's footnotes:

  1. His picture is shown on page 167 Return
  2. Eliezer Bran described it as “the only and the special university that educates rabbis in Lithuania”. HAMELIZ, Issue 45, February 22, 1891 Return
  3. Nefesh Hachaim, Vol.4 Ch. 20 Return
  4. See “The History of Jewish Literature” Vol. 3 Ch. 5 P. 293 by Dr. Israel Zinberg Return
  5. Gershon A. Churgin Memoires, included in the Bar-Ilan University Yearbook 1963, page 11 Return
  6. Bar-Ilan News, No.17, October 1957 Return


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Kibbutz “Ein HaNatziv”

by Eli Avisar

Translated by Meir Razy

Our Kibbutz, Ein HaNatziv, is in the valley of Beit-She'an near the crossroads of Jericho – Beit-She'an – Tirat-Zvi. It was the third Kibbutz in the “religious block”. It was founded after Tirat-Zvi and Sde-Eliyahu. Later, a fourth Kibbutz, Shluchot, was founded during the War of Independence.

The Kibbutz founders came from three groups of young people who had assembled in different locations: one was in Kvutzat “Rogers” (Kvutza is a collective group in Israel, working a farmstead cooperatively on national land) that later became “Kvutzat Yavneh”, a second was in Moshav “Sde-Yaakov” in the Valley of Izrael, and the third was in the “Ein-Ganim” neighborhood in the Bay of Haifa. The members of the three groups met in an agricultural training camp on the dunes of Nachalat Yehuda near Rishon-LeZion. When they realized they would not be able to find jobs in that vicinity, they started dispatching “work details” to any place where they could secure employment. This was during the time of the “Arab Revolt” of 1938. One work detail worked near Gaza, another one - in the Bay of Haifa and the third one worked near Jericho. The lack of permanent work, however, was instrumental in forging the group together in order to face future challenges.

The Second World War brought the Holocaust and the loss of our families in Europe. It was a period of rapid economic growth which created many work opportunities. After years of working in separated, dispersed groups, we gathered all our members in one location and hoped to finally start building our new settlement. However, the leaders of the Jewish Community in Eretz-Israel supported enlistment in the newly created Jewish units (“The Brigade”) in the British Army. Many of our members wanted to join the military and to fight the Nazis (most of our members were of Austrian and central European origin) but we eventually agreed on a limit of 10% in order to keep the group unified and to fulfill our main objective of starting a Kibbutz. The leaders of the Jewish Community directed some of the volunteers to join the local “army” (the PALMACH) and the rest of them joined the British Army.

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While living in the work camp it was not easy to find additional members for our group. We did, however succeed in recruiting several graduates of “Aliyat HaNoar” from the Mizrachi House for Women, from the “Mikve-Israel” Agricultural School and from the Religious Youth Village.

Although by now we were high on the priority list for land allocation by the Jewish Agency, the rules of the “White Book” of the British Government did not allow the creation of new settlements. By the end of the War, most of the arriving survivors from Europe did not want to join a group that promoted a life of sharing, a cornerstone of the kibbutz movement. Moreover, the method of building a new kibbutz at the time “Homa u-Migdal” (Tower and Stockade) brought back nightmarish memories for them. They did not want to live inside a fenced settlement. We assisted these people by linking them up with others who had come from their hometowns and with the social services that were available.

Towards the end of 1945, we finally received an allocation of 500 dunams (123.5 Acres) of land that was held by several Kibbutzim around the city of Beit-She'an. This land area was surrounded by thousands of dunams of the British Mandate Government land that was cultivated by Arabs. On January 17, 1946, “Tu Bishvat Day”, a convoy of trucks loaded with small huts, tents and tools left Kibbutz Sde-Eliyahu and drove to the north. It stopped in the middle of a barley field and our settlement was ready a few hours later. “Hagana” soldiers and Jewish policemen stood on guard until we built the surrounding fence. Tents and huts were ready to house the people and a “security room” held our weapons. Tu Bishvat was commemorated by planting 12 trees – one for each settlement in the Valley of Beit-She'an. Dignitaries, including Moshe Shertok – the Head of the Diplomatic Branch of the Jewish Agency (later Sharett, the second Prime Minister of Israel), as well as Moshe Shapiro - the Head of the Immigration Branch of the Jewish Agency and many other representatives from the nearby settlements came to congratulate us and help us celebrate.

The Jewish population in Eretz-Israel was struggling with the British authorities for the right to bring survivors of the Holocaust from Europe into our independent State. No one knew how long this might take but it was clear that our situation, where our group was divided into two locations, was not sustainable. Moreover – we wanted to bring the women and children who had remained in Nachalat-Yehuda to live together with us.

The only land that the JNF owned in the area lay between Kfar-Ruppin and Sde-Eliyahu. However, we did not want to be “squeezed” between two already existing Kibbutzim. We had to wait for another year to pass until an appropriate area of land was transferred to us from Kibbutz Messilot. We immediately started building houses for the children and the Kibbutz members. We then built a cowshed and workshops and sowed the fields for animal fodder and vegetables.

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We had not yet named the Kibbutz before we moved to the location, but on the following day a news item in the DAVAR Daily newspaper announced that “The NATZIV has settled in the Valley of Beit-She'an”. Only a few people in the country knew who the NATZIV was and many people mistook him for the British Governor of Eretz-Israel. He was a hated person in the country at that time (the Hebrew word for governor is ‘;natziv’). The newspaper clarified that the NATZIV was Head of the Yeshiva of Volozhin, a teacher of the National Poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and the person that Bialik described in his famous poem ‘;HaMatmid’.

The settlement received the name “Ein-HaNatziv” (the Fountain of the NATZIV) on Lag BaOmer of that year, in May 1946. The name was proposed by Rabbi Meir Berlin (later: Bar-Ilan) who was the son of the NATZIV, the President of the Worldwide Mizrachi Movement and a Director of the JNF.

There are many water springs in the Valley of Beit-She'an. Three springs flow near the Kibbutz and their names are related to the NATZIV: The Naftali Spring, The Zvi Spring and The Yehuda Spring.

Our members, including the women and children, were waiting in other parts of the country. They joined us just two weeks before the historic vote of the United Nations in Lake Success on November 29, 1947. We hoped to dedicate all our efforts to building and developing the Kibbutz, but soon we found ourselves becoming soldiers with “part-time jobs” as farmers.

It was around that time we lost two of our members: Yoseph Kopler was killed with the 35 men who died on the road to Gush-Etzion and Yoseph Immerglick died on Mount Gilboa near the town of Jenin.

We committed ourselves to integrating and educating the refugee children found in churches and the homes of Christian citizens in Belgium and France by Alyat-HaNoar and the soldiers of the Brigada.

The time then came to focus on developing our own home. We prepared a plan for agricultural production; we bought equipment and formed different agriculture branches. Being a religious Kibbutz, we had to find ways to deal with such religious requirements as working on Shabbat, avoiding mixed crops or mandated donations. The most important question was educating the children. We allocated our best people to be teachers and along with the other three nearby religious Kibbutzim, we built a shared school. Each child receives 12 years of education in either one of two streams: Humanities or Science. The boys in grade 10 also spend some time at a Yeshiva.

In addition, we helped the State by sharing our facilities with “Youth Seed Societies” – people with no prior experience in farming who were preparing themselves to build new Kibbutzim. These Societies would spend two to three years with us (and provided manpower to our small-sized Kibbutz).

After 23 years of existence in the Valley of Beit-She'an, we can feel satisfied with our many achievements. These achievements did not arrive “on a silver platter”. We are a Kibbutz with 150 members, 12 of them belong to one “Youth Seed Society”, and 160 children. We cultivate 8,000 dunams of land (3,100 sq.miles), about one-quarter of which is irrigated. We also care for 1,060 dunams of fishponds.

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The Synagogue in Kibbutz Ein-HaNatziv

 

There are two special buildings in the Kibbutz. One is the Beit-HaMidrash, which was built in our fifth year through the initiative of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan and which was named after his mother, the wife of the NATZIV. The second is the synagogue that was inaugurated on February 5, 1966, the day that marked 20 years from the founding of our Kibbutz.

The people of our Kibbutz, who maintain our Jewish religious beliefs, symbolize the eternal future of the Jewish nation, the eternal existence of the Torah, and the eternal presence of the spirit of Volozhyn.


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Israel Rogozin

by Yitzhak Yaakobi

Translated by Meir Razy

 

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Israel Rogozin was born in Volozhyn. His father, Rabbi Shalom Eliezer Rogozin, was sent to America by the NATZIV to raise donations for the Yeshiva.

Before he left for the U.S.A., Rabbi Shalom bought his wife a knitting machine. This machine knitted socks and was able to make the family financially independent while he was away.

Six years later, his wife and children joined Rabbi Shalom Eliezer Rogozin in New York. His wife brought the machine with her and this gave the family a head-start in their new country. In 1895 Rabbi Shalom opened a small knitting factory. In this factory Israel learned all about production, marketing and sales. He was only 12 years old when he became a “traveling salesman” for the family business. His first business trips were to Brooklyn and were followed later on by more trips to many other cities. By the age of 14 he had mastered all the different jobs in the company. In fact, when necessary, he was even able to repair the machines.

By 1903, his father, who was not interested in manufacturing and sales, became a teacher in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Yaakov-Yoseph. Israel, who was 16 years old by then, became the General Manager of his family's company.

Israel Rogozin dedicated a lot of time and effort expanding the factory. During this process, he became a major industrialist in the U.S.A. He was interviewed by the “Jewish Press Weekly” and was asked about “the secret of his success”. He said “I worked hard and I am still working hard. I had always believed that hard work and doing business fairly would bring success. I built up and grew the “Bonit” Company through many years of effort and dedication.”

Rogozin started expanding his business in 1912 at a time when he employed about 200 workers. By 1920 the Company owned 5 plants and employed one thousand workers. In that year he purchased his sixth plant – a factory that manufactured synthetic silk. The demand for this product grew very quickly and Rogozin's companies became an empire of synthetic silk and nylon products which employed ten thousand workers. Israel Rogozin sold “Bonit” in 1963 when annual sales had reached 150 million dollars and its products enjoyed an excellent reputation.

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However, Mr. Rogozin's goal in life was not increasing his personal wealth. He always shared his prosperity with the public and donated many millions for scientific and educational causes both in the U.S.A. and in Israel.

His relationship with Eretz-Israel started over fifty years ago. He helped with the financing of a factory that manufactured roof tiles in Motza and, over the years, invested about 30 million dollars. Recently, he donated four million dollars for educational projects in Israel through the charity organization managed by Rebbetzin Sara Herzog, the wife of Israel's Chief Rabbi. As well, he donated to Bar-Ilan University and built a Cultural Center for his workers in the city of Ashdod. He then donated all of his shares from this Ashdod company to several charities. In 1966, he donated a million dollars to the Yeshiva University in New York in order to create a Faculty for Ethics. Presently, thirty young Rabbis - Orthodox, Conservative and Reform study in this Faculty.

His investments in Israel are very successful. Half of the production from his tire factory is exported while the production and export levels grow greater every year.

Mr. Israel Rogozin is 83 years old now. He is very energetic and still developing new business plans.

Once, someone asked the GAON of Vilna how he had become a GAON (genius). He answered, “If you want it, you too can become a GAON.” Mr. Rogozin is proof of the goals one can achieve if one is strong-willed and hard-working.

(based on an article by Yitzhak Ya'akobi: “Israel Rogozin at 80” in DAVAR daily, February 17, 1967, and an article in HaDoar).


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The Association of the Descendants
of Volozhyn in Israel

(Acts, events and words of Torah)

by Eliezer Leoni

Translated by Meir Razy

The early news about the Holocaust in Volozhin

The Association and this book are direct outcomes of the destruction of Volozhin. However, the difference between the book and the Association is that the book immortalizes the lives that were lost while the Association's goal is to maintain the living spirit of Volozhin.

The terrible news about the Holocaust took several years to reach the world. It was in 1947, five years after the destruction of the town of Valozhin, that we finally learned of the scope of the calamity that overtook the Jews of our town. This was when the first few survivors arrived in Eretz-Israel. They were Fruma Lipsitz, Pessia Potashnick, Yehuda-Yoseph Potashnick and Yaakov Kagan.

They were “the Bearers of Bad News” who told us about the destruction of our town and its Jewish population. The Nazis and local Christians had devastated the city and its Jewish residents, and we, its survivors, were left alone and desolate.

These terrible revelations scared our souls. Before the Holocaust we used to say these words in the prayer for the dead: “Let G-D remember the souls of my mother and father” but now we say “Let G-D remember the souls of my mother and father, aunts and uncles of both my father's and mother's side, the Rabbis and Torah Scholars, who were murdered, burned, killed and drowned”. It was terrible to realize that we had lost all our families. There is no one to send or receive a letter from, a photograph or even just a “hi, how are you” message.

The realization that nothing was left of Volozhin planted a burning yearning in our hearts for its past glory. We remembered lines from the Poem “Farewell” by Bialik, lines that expressed sorrow and loss. Bialik wrote:

” You are all very dear to my heart
The way you are, the twisted, falling fences
Piles of garbage everywhere and your presence so miserable
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And yet you are very dear to my heart, sevenfold more,
I see you purified from all your slag and I adore you
Beautiful, perfect and glorious. “
The first literary appearance of the Holocaust was in 1948. Mr. Yoseph Schwartzberg published a Lamentation in the June issue of the publication “Fun Letzten Churban” (The Latest Disaster). The poem “Der Umkum Fun Volozhin” (The Destruction of Volozhin) impressed many people. Mr. Schwartzberg published his memoir in which he mourned the annihilation of the many thousands of men, women and children.

 

Welcoming our Sisters and Brothers

As more and more survivors began to arrive in Eretz-Israel, a meeting was held at the home of Ms. Bella Slisternick (Kramnick) and the decision was taken to create “The Association of the Descendants of Volozhin in Israel”. The organizers were Rabbi Shimon Langbard, Binyamin Shishko (Shafir), Pesach Berman, Chaim Golobenchich, Dov Levitt, Bella Slisternick, Yitzhak Perski, Yaakov Kagan and Zipora Shepshenwol. Rabbi Shimon Langbard was elected Chairman and Dov Levitt – Secretary.

Bella Slisternick's home became a center for all the survivors who arrived in Eretz-Israel. Bella and other volunteers listened to the new immigrants and assisted them in their first steps in their new country. Bella's husband, Mr. Yaakov Sliternick, although not a native of Volozhin, also helped in this endeavor.

One of the first actions the Association took was to help find survivors who were in the camps of Displaced People (DP camps) in Germany. The survivors were asked to help document the destruction of their hometown. They were also asked to relate their personal experiences from the Holocaust. One reply to this request was a letter from Yoseph Schwartzberg dated April 5, 1948:

“I met Simcha Perski and we discussed your request for a description, dates and our personal experiences during the destruction of Volozhin. Our sorrow and pain are beyond description. We lost our beloved families and community; we are all orphans. Moreover, our situation now is desperate.
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The supporters of Hitler are still killing Jews and we are not sure about the future. We want to come to Eretz-Israel. This is the only place in the world for us.
Rabbi Shimon Langbard asked a group of survivors from Volozhin, who had gathered in Salzburg, to provide details about themselves and other survivors they knew of. To this outreach came a reply from Chaya Skaliot asking for the address of her relatives in Israel. This was the first established link between the survivors in Germany and Israel.

The survivors in both Europe and Israel were penniless. Our Association realized that we must provide financial aid but we ourselves did not have the financial means. The Association of the Descendants of Volozhin in Israel sent an appeal to the Volozhin Association of Etz-Chaim in New York asking for their help. It reads:

“The murderous hand of the Nazis eliminated our parents, brothers and sisters in Volozhin. Only a few were able to survive by escaping to the forest and returning to the town once the War had ended. Only 15 or 20 remained of the two thousand Jews who had once populated Volozhin. They could not stay in the town where each street and building reminded them of their slaughtered families. Exhausted and crushed, they migrated to Germany, to Italy, to Austria. Their desire was to come to Israel and once more rebuild their lives.

Many of the survivors who arrived in Eretz-Israel and those still in the European DP camps are not capable of working. Therefore we, members of The Association of the Descendants of Volozhin in Israel, are committed to helping both those who are planning and those who have finally arrived in Israel and have no family to help them.

However, we cannot do this on our own. We are asking you to join our efforts and “help us help them”.

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The goals of The Association of the Descendants of Volozhyn in Israel are:

In the meantime, the Association did all it could to help those who had already arrived in Israel. It assisted a family that was evacuated from the city of Jaffa. As soon as the road to Jerusalem was opened, the Association sent boxes of food to our comrades in that city, many of whom were in dire straits during the Arab siege.

While in besieged Jerusalem, the Rebbetzin Fridle Drachinsky (Ben Sasson), a descendant of a family with a long history in Valozhin, wrote a very moving letter to the American Volozhin community:

“Two months ago, The Association of the Descendants of Volozhin in Israel mailed you a detailed letter about our duty to help the survivors from Volozhin.

We are now in the middle of a cruel battle to secure our destiny in the Holy Land. We trust that with G-D's help, we shall succeed. Our condition, however, requires your help. We are sending food packages to our Volozhin brothers and sisters wherever they are, especially in the besieged and hungry city of Jerusalem, but our means are limited.

Dear brothers! A friend in need is a friend indeed! We are asking for your participation to help the survivors NOW! Any delay may cause this help to arrive too late. You must remember the Talmudic quotation: “Whoever saves one soul, Scripture accounts it as if he had saved the world”.


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Fallen Sons of Volozhyn
in Israel's War of Independence

by the Editorial team

Translated by Meir Razy

 

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Benyamin Perach

 

Benyamin was born in Karkur, son of Malka and Moshe-Yaakov, on August 22, 1927. He studied in the local elementary school, continued in the Agriculture High-School in Pardes-Channa and found employment as a clerk at the Yitzhar Oil factory in Nachalat-Yitzhak.

He was known as a friendly man, always smiling and happy to help everyone.

He was a member of the HAGANAH and received some military training. When the War of Independence broke out, he enlisted in a religious unit, was sent to a Squad Commanding Course and fought with the Alexandrony Brigade in all its battles in the Sharon, Shomron and Lod's regions. His battalion was then sent to the Negev Front. During leaves, in order not to alarm his parents, he did not tell them any 'heroic' stories. Another soldier in the same Company was Chaim Reches. He too was born in Karkur and he and Benyamin were childhood friends who grew up together, fought together and were killed together in the battle for the Irak el-Manshiya Fort in the “Faluja Pocket” on December 28, 1948. The people of Karkur said: “Two candles were extinguished together the night of the second candle of Chanukah”.

He was buried in the Faluja Temporary Cemetery and was moved to the Nachalat-Yitzchak Cemetery on December 8, 1949.

He was a fighter like his father. Moshe-Yaakov (let him live for many more years) was a fighter for the Torah since his youth in Volozhin. The son sacrificed his life for the Holy War that gave us our Independence. We shall carry his memory in our hearts forever.

[Page 665]

vol665.jpg
Chaim Persky

 

Chaim Persky was born in 1911 in Volozhin, son of Shmuel and Galia. He was educated in the Tarbut School and was a member of the Chalutz movement. He practiced sport and came to Eretz-Israel in 1932 as an athlete in a team for the Maccabia Games. He settled in Kiryat-Chaim and joined the “Hapoel Haifa” work teams as well as its music band. He was a member of the Haganah and worked as a “Noter” (an armed guard protecting busses and trucks on the roads) during the Arab Revolt of 1936-8.

He was drafted by the Army for the War of Independence and fought in the region of Acre. He was killed in the battle for the village of Miar. During that battle, the situation was dire and some of the soldiers retreated from their positions. Chaim stayed behind, refusing to leave his post without a direct order from his commanders. He was killed on September 4, 1948 and was laid to rest at the Kfar-Ata Cemetery on September 9, 1948.

[Page 666]

 

vol666.jpg
Eliezer Rogovin

 

Eliezer was born on May 6, 1922, son of Zvi and Toibe Rogovin. The family was poor, but his parents gave him a Zionist education and he excelled at school. During the Holocaust, the family was trapped in the Ghetto. When the Ghetto was liquidated, he managed to escape to the forest and, with his friend Bernstein, joined the partisans of Tzkalov near Nalobok-Stopltz. He was a brave fighter and earned several medals, including “a Hero of the Soviet Union” and the rank of lieutenant. In 1943 he became the commander of a team of explosives experts whose task was to lay mines and to sabotage railroads and bridges.

At one point his unit faced a large group of German soldiers. He ordered his soldiers to fight the Germans “till their last bullet”. The battle lasted for a whole hour and Eliezer's leg was hit. Nonetheless, he continued fighting and when the Germans approached him, he threw a grenade and killed them.

He spent two months in a hospital and then returned to the front.

After Volozhin was liberated by the Soviets, he was appointed as Commander of the Secret Police. He was responsible for shooting and killing a peasant while trying to repair a machine gun and was punished by being sent to the front. In Vilna, he found and killed the collaborator, the person responsible for helping the Germans kill his family.

After the war, he returned to Lodz where he joined the “Gordonia” Group and tried to reach Eretz-Israel. He was an activist in the DP camps of Salzburg, Vienna and in Italy. He was a Hebrew teacher and active in the “Aliya Bet” – the effort to smuggle Jewish survivors into British-ruled Eretz-Israel. In Italy, he joined the “Etzel” underground movement and sailed to Eretz-Israel. The British Navy stopped the ship and the survivors were detained in refugee camps in Cyprus. Twice he tried to escape but was arrested. After a year in Cyprus, he arrived in Israel in 1948 and served in ZAHAL as an Explosives Officer.

Towards the end of the War of Independence he was sent to defuse mines in the Negev. On December 26, 1948, he was killed while defusing a mine. He was buried the following day in Rehovot.


[Page 667]

To Leyzer Rogovin's Memory

Written by Yafa Abramovitsh (Sheyna Lidski from Horodok)

Translated by M. Porat z”l

I recall
Leyzer Rogovin
The rebellious hero
The Partisan from Volozhyn

Gun in hand
I've seen you in the woods
Your blond forelock flashing in the wind,
Young and alert,
To the brutal battle.

Your words: “Revenge! Vengeance!
For our holy martyrs,
For Volozhyn,
For my burnt Jewish home”

“Deep in my body and soul
Is an open ugly wound
But my injuries will heal
When on the battlefield
I will fight, win, and fall.”

Camp Krasno you fled,
With enemy weapons abounding,
At the darkness of night
Deep into the forest you ran.

Many times I have seen you
On guard,
You told me
With a smile on the face:
“Today, rails will blow up”

To the bandits it will be shown
They must die and see
Their own mortality
Through their blind eyes!

Yes, you have gone
On your fighting battle way
With the Horodok hero Partisans
Nazi trains to blow away.

Returned back into the woods
Happy and joyful
The command was fulfilled
Efficiently, clean, and fast.
I'll remember forever
Your winner's mood,
Your young and smiling face.

After the war we met again,
In the Austrian Alps
You had a sermon
Revealing a victory saga.

You joined the Betar rank
To lead to your land
To preserve there
The remnants left after Hitler's hell
Breathing, suffering souls,
You transformed your battle
Versus the closing gates

You, Leyser the Partisan
You could not
Let go of your gun

Our triumph you did not see
That victory you so sought to experience
You fell in battle
Hero among heroes
Your death in the combat
Was for the liberty,
Of our own land.


[Page 679]

Expressions of Gratitude

by Binyamin Shapir (Shishku)
(chairman of the Organization of Volozhin Natives in Israel)

Translated by Jerrrold Landau

I regard it as a pleasant duty to express my feelings of gratitude, and the feelings of gratitude of the Volozhin natives in the State of Israel and in every other place, to the editor of the Book of Volozhin, Mr. Eliezer Leoni, who did a great deal for the success of the book.

Mr. Leoni collected detail after detail from the few Holocaust survivors. He delved deeply into the entire rich literature of Volozhin. His compositions published in the book excel in their great expertise and broad, deep knowledge about Volozhin.

Those who should be blessed: Mrs. Shoshana Neshri (Berkowitz), the secretary of the book committee, who invested great toil into the organizational effort.

Mrs. Fruma Gurwitz (Kiwilowitz), treasurer of the committee.

Mr. Dov Lavit, who took the financial responsibility upon himself, even though he did not have the means.

Mr. Chaim Potashnik, who was active, and enlisted others in organizational matters.

Special thanks to Mr. Pesach Berman, who organized the financial means among the Volozhin natives living in the United States.

Also remembered for a blessing are all the friends from among the Volozhin natives, as well as those who are not Volozhin natives, who assisted and participated in the effort toward the book.

May the Book of Volozhin be a source of encouragement and comfort for all who research the city.

 

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