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Social Workers,
Writers and Personalities

 

Ya'akov Kahan

by Yosef Zide, Los Angeles

Translated by Libby Raichman

About 6 years ago our fellow-townsman Ya'akov Kahan appeared at a meeting of the Biale Aid-Organisation in Los Angeles. His arrival invoked in me, a feeling of great satisfaction, because he came at a time, when our small group needed a person with understanding and intelligence, who would be able to assist in instilling more life into our fine group of ex-Biale residents.

We, as well as other former Biale residents, knew Ya'akov from our hometown and it occurred to us, that he, Ya'akov would be the ideal person to carry on the work of the Biale fellow-townsfolk in California.

As Ya'akov had not been in Los Angeles very long, he felt a little strange, and incidentally, he was not in the best of health. Yet, he agreed to become the chairman of the organization.

For many years now, his conscience troubled him. There was so much work to be done in Jewish life, so many needs to provide for, amongst the Jews who remained alive after the greatest destruction. His activities were not only centred on local Jewish life, but also on the Jewish land of Israel - the country that became the hope of all the homeless, persecuted, and unfortunate Jews, and the country that brought honour, courage and hope to all the Jews in the entire world.

If his life had flowed normally, without the disruptions and struggles that he had to endure, Ya'akov Kahan, with his broad understanding and earnest approach to people, problems, and situations, would have occupied an important position as a social worker in local Jewish life, much earlier.

But there were many setbacks in Ya'akov's path in life, starting from his childhood.

At 2½ years of age, he was an orphan. His father died and left a wife and 5 children of whom Ya'akov was the youngest. His extensive, aristocratic, wealthy Chassidic family - (his mother was descended from the distinguished Shachor family, a niece of the great scholar Reb Nachum Shachor) – the latter provided the widow with financial assistance and assumed the role of a father, in raising the orphans.

In his childhood, Ya'akov already felt the taste of oppression, the feeling of protest and rebellion against his guardians and advisors, and those who passed their opinion, enclosed his life, and led him to accept his fate. These feelings of protest and resignation that he gathered, influenced his life to a large extent.

Even in his later years, life did not bring him much luck or joy. Illness and family problems restrained him, weakened his energies, and prevented him from taking a more active part in the activities that were so dear to him. He believed however, that the time would come when circumstances would change, and he never gave up the idea that he would be able to fulfil his duty and his wishes for the important goals that he set for himself.

When Ya'akov settled in Los Angeles with his wife Ray, his health improved and his life normalized and it was, in the Biale Aid-Organisation that he began his first period of social activity. In the realm of aid-work, with the co-operation of assistants, he proved to be a true master. He served as a fine example for other larger fellow-townsfolk organisations here in the town.

At the same time, he quietly and modestly began his work in his beloved organisation “Jewish National Labour Union”, where he had been a member, many years earlier. He devoted a lot of time, health, and energy in carrying out the responsible work, that was entrusted to him.

It is therefore no wonder that Ya'akov earned much praise and recognition from his friends, his acquaintances and everyone who worked with him. And justifiably, the leader of the organisation, when introducing Ya'akov as the chairman of the organisation-enterprise, said: I present to you here the chairman of the evening, our member Ya'akov Kahan himself, of the “Jewish National Labour Union”.

This is our Ya'akov, the pride of all the people of Biale.

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Aharon Beckerman

by Y. Papiernikov

Translated by Libby Raichman

He was born in Biale-Podlaska in 1897. In the years 1914 – 1918 he was dragged into forced labour in Frankfurt-0n-Main (Germany). In 1918, he was drafted into the Polish army and taken into captivity to Petluria. In 1922, he returned from military service and lived in Warsaw until 1926. From 1926 he lived in Paris. He was an associate contributor to the Argentinian “Press”, “New Press” (Paris), “Paris Journal” and many other publications. He published books about Dostoyevsky, Anatol Frans, B. Glozman and P. Bimka. His manuscripts included monographs about Lenin, Anri Barbis, Zola, and other autobiographies, a diary of the time of the 2nd World War, and others. He was deported on 6th March 1943.

(“A Yizkor Book to the memory of the 14 Jewish Writers who were killed”, Paris, 1946)

Aharon Beckerman was a fellow-worker and regular contributor to “Podlassier Life” (M.Y. Feigenbaum).

There are people who win trust with the power of great simplicity and warm popularity, draw people close to them, and make them feel comfortable from the time they first meet.

This was the kind of person that the literary critic and essayist Aharon Beckerman, was.

I met him in Warsaw, in 1921/2 on Dzsikke Street, in the small bookshop of Goldfarb Publishing House. When he heard my name from Goldfarb, he turned to face me as if to an old acquaintance that he did not recognize – and with surprise asked: This is you, Papiernikov? Why are you quiet about it? Here is a 'sholem aleichem'! and – Beckerman stretched out a short, coarse hand, that suited his middle-sized frame and his full round face, and a pair of light, good-natured eyes.

When we left Goldfarb together, I could not keep up with Beckerman, not in his walk and not in his speech. He spoke about Weissberg, who was then the frequent hero of the day, among the Jewish writers' family in Poland. Beckerman believed, like me, that Weissberg's war against the incompetent, self-crowned in the world of literature – is correct, but clumsy, and to demonstrate his solidarity, he promised Weissberg that he would work with him on his literary publications.

I never met Beckerman in Weissberg's home. He also, almost never appeared at the literary society at 13 Tolmatzke Street. After a few chance meetings with him in Warsaw, I met him again at the first Jewish Cultural Congress in Paris, after a break of fifteen or sixteen years. I met with him at cultural- conferences, literary social events and at gatherings of the Paris left-writers' group. Just as the first time we met in Warsaw – I also saw him in Paris again, lively, creative, full of literary plans and – with concerns about providing for his wife and children, to whom he was very devoted.

It was in 1937, besides being a writer and a publisher, he was by trade a handbag-maker, in French a

“Marokanner”, a worker who ate, as one says: the bread of his sweat, who led an unassuming, quiet, pure family-life, that was cruelly cut short – with the Nazi invasion into France.

After Beckerman's death, besides the published monographs about Dostoyevsky, Anatol Frans and Boruch Glozman – there remained many unpublished writings, and amongst them – a handwritten extract from his diary, where he wrote about the first day of the Nazi occupation of France. He died in Auschwitz.

(Y. Papiernikov “Latest News”, Tel-Aviv of 5th April 1957).


1. Yossel Birshtein

by Ya'akov Kahan/Yosef Zide, Los Angeles

Translated by Libby Raichman

Born in 1920 in Biale-Podlaska, 1936 in Melbourne, since 1950 in the State of Israel on kibbutz Gevat.

Tallish and longish-faced is he – Yossel Birshtein. He looks at you a little strangely, he looks at you and observes you. Therefore, he can be silent for long periods and hear, not just hear, but listen. Despite all these intellectual characteristics of his nature – he has very strong hands. Not any hands – but hands, strong ones. Perhaps this is all because I know Birshtein as a kibbutznik – and many kibbutzniks are actually like that. That he is black-haired with deep brown eyes, is not necessary to add.

They were born in the same year, came to Australia in almost the same year – Yosel Birshtein and Yossel Bergner, the painter, my son.

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Both served in the Australian army during the war and settled in Israel at almost the same time. Our friendship, our acquaintance, and our attachment, came about not only for literary reasons, but also for personal and familial reasons.

Yossel Birshtein began writing songs, and good songs and even released a collection of songs. But for so long, he saw himself as inept – as a poet, until he decided, that he is in truth, more prosaic than poet. And he descended from the winged poetic Pegasus and settled himself firmly on a simple labouring work-horse. He writes prose, good prose, more under the influence of American-English than ordinary European modern prose, like Yiddish and Hebrew. And in that case, the Yiddish influences are those of Bergelson, rather than anyone else. He took up the challenge of writing a kibbutz novel. And the kibbutz-novel is – in the broad sense of the word – not merely an Israeli novel, but a universal search for the integration of man and machine, town and village, one and many, Jew and non-Jew. Here recently, we heard Birshtein reading a chapter of the novel for members of the kibbutz – one could see how the people on the kibbutz exchange glances and smile at each other: finally, someone is writing from the depths of our souls . . . . but before he undertook this theme, the methodical Birshtein first tested his strength with good prose, short stories with Israeli landscapes and ordinary characters.

He is a family man, he has two children and an attractive wife, Margaret, who comes from German speaking Jews and only learnt Yiddish from Yossel, and learnt to understand modern literature well.

On the kibbutz, it is like this: to get in is not easy, the kibbutz community has to accept you. You have to work hard. There are no exceptions. Therefore however, it is easy to leave. Overnight. Pack up the packages and away. And, as it is written in the Pentateuch: he came in by himself, he went out by himself. And no matter how much one yearns for more freedom to move around – one thinks it over three times. Yossel has been on the kibbutz for seven years already – when these words are being written. He is a shepherd of sheep. In prose, it sounds like a song, but in truth it is hard labour. The sun burns as if hell were not below, but above . . . . And the sheep want you, not only to be their friend, but that you should be a kind of, very clever sheep, that walks on two feet . . . . I saw Yossel at work, he actually looked like the pictures of Jacob serving Laban to be able to marry Rachel, but the sweat poured like beans from his longish face, and the weariness was manifest from every organ in his body. Later in the evening, I saw him on the slippery floor of the milking stable, three-quarter naked, moving himself around on a small stool from one sheep to another, and the sheep – as it is when milking these animals – with their bottoms towards the face of the talented young prose writer, one who is an expert and reflects on the complicated souls of men and women, with reserved expressions on their faces . . . . Certainly, it is foolish and trite to say: but this is the way, the path of suffering of highly valued writing. This is the way of the sacrifice. If Birshtein will read these words – he will smile, but this is the truth.

 

2. Yitzchak Perlov

He was born in 1911 in Biale-Podlaska, in Poland, spent his youth in Brisk, later Warsaw. During the 2nd World War in Russia, later in Poland, then Germany and since 1947 in the Land of Israel. He lives in Tel-Aviv.

One fine day, Yitzchak Perlov who came from a lovely town, not far from Warsaw, arrived at the premises of the Warsaw literary society at 13 Tolmatzke Street. He was very young, very tall, and very thin and had a lost smile. And although we were all, at that time, not old – we all said: well, we all have talent to write poems – some more than others and some less, but we are envious of you, Perlov, we envy your youth and youthful faith. Because we had by then already experienced the great literary storms, and the years after the storms always bring a little skepticism. But the whole world of faith existed in Yitzchak Perlov. If we were unable to open the gates of sustenance for him – as he did not think much about earning a living, he continued to suffer hunger. And when a possibility arose, he remained sitting in a corner of the literary society premises, overnight.

And here a relevant story, should be mentioned. The extent of overnight stays in the premises of the society, had begun to reach epidemic proportions. The police, who always kept an eye on the premises, began to suspect that there was a political motive behind it and issued a warning. And I, as secretary of the association, received sharp instructions that the overnight stays, had to stop. So, I quietly told all the potential night

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lodgers that: no more! And the same to Perlov, but just then it happened to be a cold night. I went home and I left the premises empty. But my conscience was tormented. At about 3am, I telephoned the premises. Perlov answered . . . . he heard my voice and became disturbed. He was . . . . caught out. But when I heard his voice – I was happy, a sign that on that cold night he did not sleep in the streets. That moment of joy has remained with me as a ray of light throughout my life.

Very soon Perlov, the lyric poet, became the writer of lyrics for the singer Lola Folman. It soon proved to be, that this was not only a literary-artistic match, beginning forty days before the commencement of her singing career and his, the writer of the words. This was a match proclaimed in heaven and also simply, a personal match; and they were “as one flesh” according to the verse in the book of Genesis (2:24). And they went on a concert tour throughout Poland, the slender poet, and the little singer. The lines of hunger disappeared from his face but not the dimples and the charming smile.

And years passed. The Perlovs wandered and endured the years of the third destruction in the remote regions of Russia. They bore a beautiful little boy whom they named Ben-Ami; they were in the camps in Germany and then wandered with the legendary ship “Exodus” to the Land of Israel and returned to Germany . . . . and now it is 1950 and I visit them at the sea-shore in Jaffa, in a small house in “Dzshebelya”. Lola sings and Perlov is now writing less songs and more novels, autobiographic descriptions and he is already popular in a few parts of the world. They are readily printing his works in America, in the “Forverts”, and his books are often published. His work is presented to the public at evenings, attended by large audiences.

And now it is 1954 – 1956 -- from Dzshebelya they moved to an apartment in the middle of Tel-Aviv – north. And we are both members of the committee of the Yiddish Writer's Association in Tel-Aviv. Lola sings and Yitzchak writes. He is a novelist, according to his profession. That dream of making a living has been realized, and they are not short of anything.

And he is, as always, most respectful. And here a story needs to be told. The writer's association receives Chaim Lieberman, the eternal opponent of Sholem Asch. But Perlov, after all, has admiration for both of them, and now he has a chance to speak. He holds a glass of Carmel wine in his hand and praises the grand guest and ends by saying: From you – our guest – I have learnt a lot, but I have also learnt from Sholem and therefore, to life (Chaim), and to peace (Sholem) – to Chaim Lieberman and Sholem Asch! A wonderful poetic pun. May it be ascribed to Perlov.

(My Lexicon”, Montreal 1958)

Published works by Yitzchak Perlov: “Prunza Verde” (songs and poems), Warsaw 1934: “Untergang” “Decline” (songs and poems), Warsaw 1934; “Estrade-Lieder” (three booklets) Warsaw; “Unzer Likoy Chamah” “Our Solar Eclipse” (songs and poems), Munich 1947; “Exodus 1947” (poems and songs), Munich 1948; “Our Rainbow” (ballads and songs) Munich 1948; “The People of the Exodus” (novel) Buenos Aires, 1949. Published also in English: “The people of the Exodus”, Tel-Aviv 1960; “Der Tsurik-gekummener”, “The returnee” (a novel in 2 volumes) Buenos Aires, 1952; “In Eigenem Land” “In Our Own Land” (short stories) Buenos Aires 1952; “Matilda Lebt” “Matilda is Alive”, (short stories), Buenos Aires 1954; “Ahava V'nedudim” “Love and Wandering” (stories) Tel-Aviv 1954; “Dzshebelya” (novel) Buenos Aires 1955; “Flora Ingber” (novel) Buenos Aires 1959; “Myne Zibn Gute Yor” “My Seven Good Years” (novel) Tel-Aviv 1960.

Translations: “Dr Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak (2nd edition) Tel-Aviv 1959.

Articles published in periodicals - in Brisk D'lita: “Yung Peozye” “Young Poetry”, “Yoni Polessye; In Warsaw:

“Shtivel Oifn Bruk” “Boots on The Pavement”; “Zalbe-acht” “Eight of us”; “Varshever Bletter”-”Warsaw News”.
Contributor and associate in: “Podlassier Leben”, Biale-Podlaska; In Warsaw – “Literarishe Bletter”,“Literary Papers”; “Unzer Hoffenung”, “Our Hope”; “Velt Shpiegel”, “World Mirror”; “Hynt”, “Today”; “Moment”; “Folks-Tseitung”, “Folk Newspaper”; “Radio” (all until the 2nd World War). In New York – “Forverts”; “Die Tzukumft”, “The Future”; “Oifkum”, “Rebirth”. In Tel-Aviv – “Letste Nyes” “Latest News”; “Illustrierte Velt”, “Illustrated World”.

Plays that were performed (in 3 acts) on the stage in Poland, in 1939: ”TSvishen Goldene Zangen”,”Between Golden Ears of Corn”; “Abi Men Zet Zich”, “As Long as One Sees Each Other”; “Men Fort Oif Gappe”, “One travels on Contraband”.

Hundreds of songs, monologues, and sketches – sung, recited, and performed by the most popular stage artists.


Ya'akov Cohen

Translated by Libby Raichman

Born in Biale in 1900 to his parents Aharon and Alte. He studied in the “chedorim” – the traditional religious classes, and in the small Chassidic house of prayer; secular studies – with private teachers. During the 1st World War, he became an active member of “Mizrachi” and was socially active. He continued his studies and excelled in universal knowledge. He was familiar with Hebrew, Yiddish and world literature. During the Polish-Bolshevik war, he was mobilized and served for three years.

He returned from military service in 1922, and returned to his national and social work. He left “Mizrachi” and joined the General Zionists.

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He established the Revisionist and Betar organisations in Biale, and was their chairman. He participated in the Revisionist assemblies and was elected to an all-Polish council, and later secretary of the council.

He was one of the co-founders of the Biale newspaper “Podlassier Life”. He published songs in “Time” and “Rebirth” (Volin) and theoretical articles in a series of Revisionist publications.

He married in 1929 and settled in Bialystok. There too, he was the chairperson of the Revisionist organization and the leader of the Galil (northern Israel) unit of Betar. With the split in the Revisionist organization he crossed to the “Jewish State”, becoming the chairperson of their Bialistok organization. He founded the “Covenant of the Soldier” in Bialistok and was their chairman.

He was active in the small-business union and was the chairman of the Colonial-Food-Branch. He established the loan facility in the union and initiated the creation of the Small- Business Co-operative. He was the secretary of the Jewish Combatant Organisation, was active in the Boycott committee against Hitler's Germany, and participated in cultural campaigns.

During the 2nd World War, he participated in campaigns to assist refugees who were arriving in Bialistok.

During Soviet rule, he worked as a manager in a warehouse, was arrested and sat in jail for 3 months. He was then exiled to Russia, to a camp in the remote north. After the amnesty for Polish citizens, he was liberated from the camp and settled in Dzshambul where he tried to organize Zionist activity.

In 1948, he returned to Bialystok. There he became the leader of the Culture and Propaganda Bureau of the provincial government, chairman of “Unity”, of “Co-ordinating Committee of all Zionist Parties” of the provincial committee, and representative of the Jewish National Fund. He administered the campaign to assist those who were fighting in the land of Israel and mobilized fighters for the Israeli army. He was involved with the school (being a teacher there for some time too), with the library and with the dramatic circle. He was a correspondent for the radio and for the Yiddish Press-Agency and wrote in “The New Life”.

In the same year, he travelled to Paris. There he was elected as a council member, of the Organisation of General Zionists, and member of the management committee of the Biale society in France. He visited the French provinces and Belgium and gave lectures there. At the same time, he contributed to the local Jewish Press.

In 1954, he emigrated to North America, where he was a contributor to the “The Lexicon for the New Yiddish Literature”.

He published the following books: “Three Years in the Polish Military”, Bialystok, 1930; “In and Around Zionism”, (essays and dissertations) Bialystok, 1932; “From One's Own Garden” (aphorisms and songs), Paris 1949; “On The Paths of Jewish Existence (essays), Paris, 1950; “Labyrinths of the Mind”, (aphorisms and proverbs), Paris, 1951; “Folk-spirit and Land” (essays), Paris, 1952; “To A New Life”, (short stories), Paris, 1953; “Living and Thinking”, (essays), New York 1959.

He continued to the following newspapers and Journals: “Rebirth”, “Time” (Volin); “Podlassier Life” (Biale); “Island” (from Bagish); In Bialystok: “The New Life”; Our Lives”; “Good Morning”; “The Voice”; In Warsaw: “Truth”; “Opinion”; “Mosti”; In Paris: “Our Word”; “Zionist Voice”; “The Way”; (Mizrachi); “The Way” (Progressive); “Our Voice”; “The Voice”, Bergen-Belsen; In America: “The Future”; “American”; “The Bialystok Voice”; “The New-York Weekly”; “Anew”; “Yom-tov-gazette” (South Africa); “The Zionist Voice” (Mexico) etc.


Ya'akov Falatitzky

Translated by Libby Raichman

Born in Lodz in 1912, and arrived in Biale aged 3. He studied in a cheder (religious elementary school) and later in the Yiddish Folk-school and the general Polish school, in preparation for the high school examinations. Already in his youth he displayed an inclination to write.

At the beginning of 1928, Falatitzky wandered over to his father (Gedalyahu Stollier) in Argentina. In Buenos Aires, he was active in the local Hashomer Ha'tzair and led a group in the town. During the day, he worked with his father as a carpenter, and he studied at night. He completed elementary school, went through the high school course with private tuition but did not complete it. He studied in a school of Journalism and became interested in the arts, like: theater and painting, and heard about lectures at the university on these subjects.

He began to contribute to the newspaper “Morning-Newspaper” with humorous childrens' stories and general reporting, until the newspaper ceased publication in 1940.

In 1938, Falatitzsky organized the youth organization “Dror”, and became the editor of

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the youth journal “Youth-Vanguard” (Yiddish and Spanish). At the same time, he contributed to “Yivo” and one of his works about the youth was published in the third volume of Yivo writings, (Zionist Youth Organisations in Buenos Aires).

In 1939, he was invited to Montevideo (Uruguay) as manager of the Jewish National Fund. There he established “Dror” and became its first chairman. There he published a monthly journal (16 issues) “Montevideo Voice” and contributed to the local “Folk-newspaper”.

After he returned from Argentina, he took over the position of editor of the Histadrut-Newspaper, “Our Time”. He later became the secretary of the office of the Jewish Agency in Latin America. He was also the secretary of the first Israeli Consulate in Buenos Aires. He wrote in various periodicals in South America – in Yiddish and Spanish.

In recent years, Falatitzky returned to active party-activity in the Poalei-Tzion Organisation, where he was a regular member of the central committee for many years. In 1951, he was elected as a delegate to the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem.

After returning from the congress, he again took over editing the party-newspaper, “New Times” (formerly “Our Time”). He was also invited to edit the periodical writings of the Latin-American Bureau of the Histadrut “Anales del Trabassa de Yisrael”, in Spanish.

Falatitzky was a member of the management of the literary-union and general secretary of the Yiddish Cultural Congress. He was a regular contributor to the journal “Wood Industrial”, where he published humourous stories under the pseudonym “Fala”, that had a wide readership. Now he is preparing to publish a collection of the humourous stories that were printed.


Yosef Zide

Translated by Libby Raichman

Yosef Zide was born in Biale in 1899. His father, Moshe Mordechai Petelnik (a nickname meaning “maker of button-holes”) was a beadle, an assistant to the Biale Rabbi. His mother, Esther Dzshadeliches (a nickname meaning “a beggar”) was a seamstress. Between the two of them, they barely made a living.

As a young boy, Yossele was a singer with the Biale cantor Yehoshuale. He was musically gifted, and his warm, sweet, alto-voice, enchanted the listeners. On the festivals, the synagogue was packed with people who came to hear the cantor and marvel at Yossele's singing.

After going through the religious elementary schools with various teachers, and studying in the Chassidic study-houses, Yosef left Biale in 1919. After a year of wandering in different countries, amongst them 6 months in a camp in Holland, he arrived in New York in 1920.

In the first years, as most of our fellow-countrymen in New York, he worked in a factory making women's hats. He worked very hard and hardly made a living. In 1922, he married a Biale girl, Rikl Valetzky (the daughter of Shmuel Moshe the butcher).

In 1928, he stopped working in the factory and settled on a farm not far from New York. He and his wife both worked very hard, but they loved their work. They lived on the farm until 1945. During that time, two children were born to them – a son and a daughter. The children received a modern Jewish education.

Yosef Zide was active in the Biale association for immigrants from his town, organized the farmers, and founded a branch of the Jewish-National-Workers'-Union.

In 1945, he became a resident of Los Angeles. Also here, he bought a farm and worked hard to make a living. In Los Angeles, he was one of the founders of the Biale Aid-Organisation, and was secretary for many years. He was active in the Yiddish Culture-Club, was a devoted worker in the only Yiddish Middle-School, and was always surrounded by a group of intelligent, cultured, folk-people.

Already in his childhood, Yosef Zide had absorbed an exceptional love for Yiddish music and for everything Yiddish for the common people. He loved the Yiddish language, Yiddish culture, was interested in Yiddish education and assisted in spreading these ideals. He was a serious reader of Yiddish literature. He was, in the true sense of the word, a Yiddish folk-intellectual.

Yosef was the type of Jew, who with his idealism and perseverance, wanted to transplant and maintain the spiritual treasures that we brought from the old country, a task that was very difficult and brought many disappointments.

He was a product of a period of our Jewish life in Poland, that built up movements, social and political, and brought forth personalities that

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nourished Jewish spiritual life in the whole world. These personalities emerged from the Jewish folk-masses, that struggled and fought for a better and brighter tomorrow.

By nature, Yosef Zide was a warm, sincere person with feelings for the Yiddish speaking, common people. His greatest pleasure was to be able to help a friend. He lived the life of an honest, idealistic, hard-working, cultured person.

In the last few years, his economic situation improved significantly, he gave up the farm and was preparing to visit the State of Israel that year. His cruel death on 28th June 1959, put an end to his plans.

Great was the loss and sorrow for his wife Regina, who worked together with him all the years. She was a staunch and devoted life-companion, and with exceptional loyalty, she eased his suffering in the last months of his life. Great is also, the loss and sadness for his children, family, and friends. The loss is also great for our Biale Aid-Society, that has lost one of its loyal and devoted workers, whose memory we will always carry in our hearts.


Advocate Avraham Yitzchak Gottlieb

by Zalman Gottlieb, Buenos Aires

Translated by Libby Raichman

He was born in Shedletz in 1843. At age 16, he married Pearl Rozenberg aged 15. It appears that after the wedding they settled in Biale, because all their children were born in Biale.

Avraham Yitzchak came from a fanatically religious home. His parents would not allow him to study at school but as he possessed exceptional talents, he studied privately and later passed his examinations. He mastered the following languages thoroughly: Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German, French, and English.

His passion for learning was so strong, that even though he was married, he went abroad to perfect the languages, leaving behind his wife and children, without even having the possibility of assuring them of some kind of maintenance. During his stay abroad, he visited Germany, France, England, and North America. After he returned from abroad, he became an advocate. He never took on a case, of a Jew against another Jew, and it was out of the question that he would consider a case of a Christian against a Jew.

Before a court hearing, Avraham Yitzchak would appear in special clothes, according to the ordinance of the czarist regime, at that time. On Friday at noon, he would remove his Gentile vestments (that is what he called them), put on his Jewish clothes, and began to prepare to welcome the Sabbath. It is understandable, that after noon on a Friday, he would no longer receive any clients.

As a religious Jew and a Gerrer Chassid, he was one of the first to arrive in the Gerrer small Chassidic house of prayer, on a Friday evening. On the Sabbath and festivals, he would sit engrossed in Jewish books.

In 1915, during the 1st World War, when the Germans occupied Biale, he was appointed as a civil judge. In 1916, he became ill and died.

(Reported by his grandson Zalman Gottlieb – Buenos Aires)


Fyvel Friedman

by F. Gold

Translated by Libby Raichman

He was one of the first Bundists in Biale (an older brother of Miriam, a noted Bundist in Biale). Because of the persecutions by the Tsarist government, he left Biale, with the idea of immigrating to America. However due to lack of money, he remained stuck in Denmark.

He became a painter in Copenhagen and an active member of the local Danish Social-Democratic party. In time, he became the largest painting contractor. When the Social-Democrats were managing the administration of the town in Copenhagen, he became the painter of all the town's houses, and later the government buildings, and the royal homes and castles.

He generously supported all the Bundist institutions in Poland, particularly the “Central Yiddish School Organisation” and the “Folk-Newspaper”.

Characteristically, the “Morning-Freedom” in North America, in one of its assaults on the “Bund” in Poland, mentioned Fyvel Friedman, the “Bundist-Capitalist and frequent visitor to the Danish royal court”.

After the 2nd World War, we did not manage to find any information about his fate.

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Bernard Lieberman

by Arthur Lederman

Translated by Libby Raichman

A son of Chavah Dinnes. Tall, slim, and charming. He studied at the Biale High School, interrupted his studies, and went to Warsaw, where he learnt the trade of a dental technician.

In the 1920's, Bernard Lieberman went to Paris, and it was told, that he suffered great distress there. Then suddenly, the news reached Biale that Lieberman became very wealthy in Paris. He took his whole family over to France and settled them there.

Former Biale residents living in France, used to write home about Lieberman's wealth. He bought the most beautiful palaces and parlours, and the most expensive furniture and carpets. In his palaces, his guests would be served by servants and valets, dressed in tailcoats, and wearing white gloves. He used the best textile-brands, had his own theatre box at the opera, bought tens of houses in the capitals of Europe and villas at the sea front. (in Warsaw, he bought the large house at 17, Foksal street).

Bernard was not satisfied just to be a millionaire as his bubbly temperament demanded creative activities. He became the president of many industrial and finance ventures. For his merit as a philanthropist, he was crowned by the French government with the title: “Officer of the Legion of Honour”.

Without considering his career as a millionaire, Bernard Lieberman remained an ordinary folk-person. In the circles of Parisian high society that he frequented, he did not conceal his Jewishness, and often emphasized his Jewish persona; a Yiddish folksong or a good Yiddish joke, always found a good listener. He gladly mentioned his childhood, when life was difficult for him. Bernard Lieberman responded positively to all who turned to him for help, and those who learned about him from his birth-town, Biale.

When the Germans occupied Paris, during the 2nd World War, they shot Bernard Lieberman.

(Adapted from an article by Arthur Lederman I “Podlassier Life”, number 50 of 22.12. 1933).


Dr. Yehuda Leib Davidson

by Yosef Babitsh Prozshani

Translated by Libby Raichman

We suffered a great loss in these days. From the town of Biale, in the region of Shedletz, the sad news was received, that on the Sabbath, the 24th day of Tishrei that passed, the noted Hebrew writer, Dr. Yehuda Leib Davidson, died suddenly of heart failure, aged 56. Here I would like to mark his presence, and relate a little of his obituary that appeared after his death in “HaZman”.

The deceased was one of those outstanding people, of the elite, of whom there are so few amongst us now. He excelled as a man who, to a great extent, embodied both, general enlightenment and the Hebrew language. He read and learned much of our Hebrew literature, the old and the new, and also wrote Hebrew in a beautiful style, polished and precise. The deceased was a very enthusiastic Jew, warm-hearted, with a strong emotional attachment to his people and his traditions; these attributes were revealed, not by his various theories, but from the depths of his heart and his soul. He was nationalistic and Zionistic, in the full sense of these words. Central to his ideals was the revival of our nation, in the land of his ancestors, and the development and building of spiritual and historical beliefs. These were his wishes in his short life, and to these ideals, he also dedicated, his literary talents.

Dr. Yehuda Leib Davidson was born in 5617 (corresponding to 1857), in the small town of Kapolya, in the province of Minsk, from which there emanated wise men and famous writers, born to honourable parents, from distinguished families amongst the people of Israel. His father Reb Aharon, was a great expert in Torah, as well as, an enlightened man and an interpreter of the Hebrew language. He was given the title of an enlightened teacher, one of a kind, at that time, who knew the grammar and the Bible with interpretations from “Ha'Biur” (“The Explanation” - Moses Mendelssohn's translation of the Pentateuch into German) – something that caused resentment amongst all the scholars in Kapolyah. Influenced by this enlightened teacher and master of the Bible, the boy became a teacher who was master of the Gemarah, and succeeded greatly in his studies and very soon became known in the town as a “genius”. When he turned 12 years of age, he left the town of his birth and travelled to the Yeshivah in Mir. He studied in this Yeshiva for 2 years and then his uncle, the Rabbi, the Gaon, Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel Davidson, may his memory be blessed, the head of the Rabbinical court in the town of Karelitz, brought him to study Torah with him. This Rabbi, who was an expert in the world as it exists, and removed from fanaticism, found personal fulfillment in the poetic phrases and the poems of the young man and encouraged him to continue to improve his knowledge of the Hebrew language.

After the death of his uncle, the young man came to the city of Minsk, where he had wealthy relatives, and he entered the Yeshivah Gedolah, there. At the age of 19, while living in this city, the desire arose in him to learn the Russian language, that was foreign to him. There he found a Hebrew teacher, who began to teach him the Russian language for one hour a day, free of charge. He also acquired a little knowledge in accounting and the German language, but he did not abandon his study of the Talmud, and the Hebrew language and its literature. But when this learning became known to his relatives, they were angry with him and drove him out of their house, in a manner that left him without food and a place to live, in that big city. But, with the help of the teacher that is mentioned here, in this bad time, he succeeded in obtaining a few lessons teaching Hebrew language and Talmud and in this way, he managed to exist on a meagre diet.

At that time, Davidson wrote an important article called, “Taking Preventative Steps Against

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Adversity”, that was printed in a series of 4 parts in the newspaper “The Voice”, of Rakdinson. This article stated the necessity to establish a high school for Jewish knowledge in Russia, according to the example of the study houses in Berlin and Breslau. It attracted the attention of the readers and writers, and amongst them also, the deceased M.L. Lillinblum, who extolled his virtues. After this article, he wrote a few others about working the land and the development of industry amongst the Jews of Russia.

In 1882, the young Davidson came to Warsaw; there he applied to the editor of “HaTsfirah”, (Chaim Zelig Slonimsky) to see if he could help him a little. Slonimsky received him warmly but could not assure him of anything. With great effort, he managed to secure a few lessons, that earned him 10 rubles a month. Then he rented a small room in an attic below the roof, and began to prepare himself with great diligence to the high school curriculum. Over a period of two and a half years, he managed to acquire all the information and knowledge that was required for the high school, to enable him to receive a matriculation certificate. This matter was, at that time, miraculous, in the eyes of the teachers in the high school. His achievement was announced in the Polish newspapers, “Koriyor Varshavsky” and “Koriyor Porangi”. That year he entered the faculty of medicine at the university.

During his time at the university, he earned a living from different sources: a little from teaching, a little from an allowance from the university, and a little from various literary works. Regarding the latter, it would not be superfluous to relate this fact now: he placed an advertisement in the weekly Hebrew-Polish newspaper, “Izrailitta”, that a student of the university who knows Hebrew literature, seeks work as a teacher. The noted Polish writer Klimins Yonusha, answered the advertisement and suggested that Davidson teach him to read books in the Jewish language, so that he would be able to read for himself, what was written in these books, and for these lessons, he would pay him one ruble per hour. Davidson accepted his offer and began to teach him to read Jewish literature. After two weeks passed, Klimins realised that the exercise was futile, that he was wasting his time and his money, because it was too difficult for him and that he would never achieve his goals. Klimins ceased to learn, and instead suggested that Davidson should translate for him, a few of the works of the exceptional writers in Jewish literature into a free translation of the Russian language, and that he personally, would translate the Russian translation into Polish. For this purpose, Davidson chose the works of Abramovicz “The mare” and “The Travels of Benjamin the Third” and translated them into Russian, and Klimins Yonusha, translated them into Polish. The translations of these books, sold in the thousands, which did not please the anti-semites in Warsaw, and they abused and cursed Yonusha because he did this.

In 1890, he graduated from the university and was awarded a degree as a doctor in the field of medicine. After he completed his university studies, he secured a position as a doctor in the small town of Kletsk in the region of Minsk. In 1898 after living there for 7 years, he moved to the town of Prozshani in the Grodno region. Then he married the daughter of the noted Zionist, Mr. Eliezer HaCohen Kaplan from Skapin. After 2 years, they moved again to the town of Biale, where his life was cut short, while he was still in the prime of life.

Dr. Yehuda Leib Davidson wrote articles of great value regarding world Jewry, in “HaMelitz”, “HaTsefirah”, “Pardes”, “HaEshkol”, “HaShaluach” and others. Besides these, he left hand-written documents, among them were books deserving of being published. The deceased left behind him, a young wife, and an only son aged 13.

The people of the town of Biale, recognized the worth of the deceased and gave him a proper final honour. They eulogized him in accordance with Jewish law, and gave him a special burial place. May he rest in peace.

(“HaZman”, Vilna 1912, number 225. The article mentioned above also appeared in 1912, in “HaTsefirah” number 221, with minor changes).


Fritz Kornberg

by Moshe Ravon

Translated by Libby Raichman

Sunday 15th Av 1916, was an ordinary summer's day, that incidentally, did not have any special significance for the Jewish population. For the “Yavneh” school however, it was one of those age-old celebrations, that was renewed, not of a specifically religious character, but almost as a school holiday. This holiday was celebrated for a whole day, with a school excursion to the forests around the town. The children marched happily in rows, starting with the little 6 to 7-year-old children from the preparatory classes, up to the older 14 to 15-year-old students. A joy spread over all the little faces, and from their mouths, flowed the songs that they managed to learn in the few months of the school's existence. This school holiday could also be felt in the town, because a large part of the adolescent youth, joined the walk with the students of “Yavneh”.

After spending a summer day like this one, in the forest, playing various games and engaged in other activities, they returned from the forest, via the Volye, into the town. On the return march of the school, a German soldier was walking from the town to his residence on the Volye. He came across the procession of children, led by their teachers, singing songs in a foreign language. Despite all his efforts, he could not understand a single word – so this soldier approached a teacher, who was leading his class and asked: “who are these children and in what language are they singing? The answer: “Jewish children and Hebrew songs”. This answer was a startling revelation for the soldier. It was as if he was wrenched from existing reality

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and entered into a dream-world. He turned around, and instead of going home on the Volye, he walked in his dream into the town.

The children arrived back at school and were sent home. This German soldier could not rest. Questions and more questions. Some of them were very naïve, and unintentionally, made us smile. It felt though, that here stands someone close, in whom a spark had become ignited.

After talking for an hour, it transpired that the soldier was a Jew from Berlin, named Fritz Kornberg, an architect and painter. He knew so little about being Jewish that a Biale Gentile could serve him as a Rabbi . . . All his Jewish baggage consisted of perusing articles by Martin Buber.

Kornberg served as a driver in the German army and stood alone on the Volye. He fulfilled his military duties during the week and was free on a Sunday.

On the first Sunday, after the first meeting, Kornberg appeared at the school. He began to take more of an interest in the details of the learning program, the teachers, organization etc. And soon he suggested working together, understandably in secret, because the military authorities must not know that he maintained close contact with the civilian population. In the school's learning program, two hours were set aside each week for every class to have drawing lessons. The teacher was Yeshayahu Idl Lemberger. According to Kornberg's suggestion, he would take over a part of this education on a Sunday. In his lectures Lemberger would be present, to provide the necessary pedagogic theory, that he did not have. The rest of the days, Lemberger would continue the lectures on his own.

In this way Kornberg entered our circle and worked together with everyone. In “Yavneh” school, he participated in all pedagogic and other consultations and meetings, and in the same way, also in all other areas of Zionist activity in the town.

However, he did not only contribute, he also gathered all the information that was necessary for him to become more Jewish. Firstly, he started learning Hebrew. His teacher was Ya'akov Shteinman. One must confess, that this was very, very difficult for him. There were many Hebrew sounds that he could not memorize, under any circumstances. Until the end, he used to pronounce a “yud” as a “zsh”. For example, he would say “zsheled” instead of “yeled”. A typical indication that he was a foreigner. In the beginning, before he began to learn Hebrew, he tested every written letter separately to see how many hand movements were needed for each letter, compared to the same letter in Latin script. This demonstrated to him, the practicality of writing the script from “right” to “left” . . .

Kornberg began to visit Zionist homes and in this way, he penetrated a Jewish environment, and saw Jewish daily life from both a national and religious perspective. He became a family friend in these houses, at family celebrations, and other occasions. He sat down amongst everyone, and with his eyes, mouth, and ears, he absorbed every phenomenon and every custom. He asked about everything and requested explanations; so much so that – how was it not possible to recognise Kornberg, as one of us?

He took an interest in the economic life of the Jews. Unfortunately, during the First World War, the economic situation was in ruins and unstable, so that it was difficult for him to learn about it. The existence of Jewish tradesman was a great revelation for him. In the beginning, when he was told about it, he simply did not want to believe it. In his free time, he would be accompanied and shown live people in the workshops, Jews with beards, with various work-tools in their hands. He was beside himself, and could not believe what he saw. His sketch pad, from which he was never parted, was filled with drawings of different types of people in workshops with work-tools in their hands.

As mentioned, Kornberg used to participate in all Zionist activities. It is superfluous to work out how, and when, just as it is improper for us to speak about ourselves.

It would not be unreasonable to tell a little episode, that reflects a character trait, of Kornberg.

It was a Channukah evening at the end of 1916, in the “Yavneh” school. This evening was not only a celebration for the students but also for the parents, friends, and mainly for all the Zionists in the town. As a special guest, Dr. Shvabbe, a German military man, a Zionist, also from Berlin, who served in the German police administration, was also invited. The acquaintance with Dr. Shvabbe came about when arranging a Zionist matter with the police. Since then contact with him was maintained, but in a more cautious way than with Kornberg.

Dr. Shvabbe and Kornberg were two different characters. The former: head, organizational talent, Zionist experience from his activities amongst the Zionist academic youth in Berlin. The latter:

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heart and soul, and in the realm of Zionist activity, he began to take his first steps with us.

At the Channukah evening, I found the opportunity to formerly introduce the two Berlin Jews, and left them to talk to each other. But the discussion did not last long. After a short time, Kornberg was standing next to me. I felt that a cordial relationship was not established. What happened? -- Dr. Shvabbe asked Kornberg: “are you an academic?” – “No, architect” -- was the answer.

If I am not mistaken, Kornberg was in Biale until around 1917. With the advance of the German army into Russia, Kornberg's automobile-division went to Kharkov. There Kornberg immediately found his way to the “Zionist Youth” and assisted them greatly in connecting with groups abroad.

When I came to Israel, at the end of 1925, I got to know that Kornberg was in Jerusalem. As an architect, he was supervisor of the construction of the university buildings on Mount Scopus. Understandably, I immediately visited him in his house, in the suburb of “Talpiyot” (Jerusalem). The house was built according to Kornberg's special, artistic, style. In the house, on the walls, amongst other drawings, I found a part of Biale, and also a few drawings of female students of “Yavneh” school (Mirtshe Blankleider with a violin, Itke Rubinshtein and others.

In the events of 1929, the house, that was the last in the suburb, was burnt down by Arab aggressors. With that, all the memoirs of Biale that Kornberg had, in the form of artistic drawings, were burnt too. It took a few years before Kornberg managed to renovate and bring his house to life again. Unfortunately, he was not destined to remain there for long. When he was working around the house, in the garden that he tended with so much love, he died of a heart attack.

 

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