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[Page 151]

[Photos:] Rabbi Moshe Ze'ev Skolnick and Chava Leah Skolnick


        Rabbii Moshe Ze'ev Skolnick, known as “R. Velvel the Teacher,” was born in approximately 1860 in Kossovo, near Slonim. At the age of 10, he became an orphan upon the death of his parents, and was raised by friends and relatives. Until the age of 13 he studied in the House of Study in town, and later he studied on his own at the yeshivas of Maltsh and Seltz.

        At the age of 20, R. Moshe Velvel was ordained as a rabbi and certified as a ritual slaughterer. He didn't earn a living in either field, however. After his wedding, he settled in Drohitchin and taught Talmud. He was very good at teaching and never lacked students. In fact, he taught hundreds of students, many of whom later studied in yeshivas.

        R. Moshe Velvel was a rare individual. Besides his erudition in Talmud and the commentaries, he also had fine character traits, and was a talented person who was liked by everyone. He also had a Jewish sense of humor.

        Even though he had a seat at the eastern wall of the Old House of Study, he was always found sitting at the table next to the oven, studying a text or engaging in Torah study with someone. Although he was able to give erudite lectures in Talmud for welcome students, he preferred to teach the weekly Torah portion to the simple folk on Friday night, or psalms and abridged halachic texts such as Chayei Adam between the afternoon and evening prayer services during the week. He especially enjoyed speaking with people, and in turn, they enjoyed listening to his Torah anecdotes and humor. R. Moshe Velvel also studied regularly on his own between 2 am and the morning prayer service.

        R. Moshe Velvel was also a good cantor, Torah reader and shofar blower, and gave charity above his means. As a devoted Zionist, he was one of the first people to buy shares in the Colonial Bank.

[Page 152]

        In 1920 R. Moshe Velvel and his family moved to Chicago, where he continued his studies in the Drohitchin synagogue, Kehilat Yaakov. Later, he was hired as the rabbi of the Khomsk synagogue, and for a time he taught Talmud at the Tiferet Zion synagogue, where the great scholar from Lomza, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Gordon was the officiating rabbi. Rabbi Gordon admired R. Moshe Velvel greatly.

        Rabbi Moshe Velvel died on 20 Shvat [Feb. 17], 1941 in Chicago.

        Chava Leah Skolnick, wife of R. Moshe Velvel, was born in approximately 1864 on the Zasinov estate near Bereza. Her father, R. Aharon Kosovsky, was the estate broker. Besides her domestic tasks, he found the time to help others as well. She would frequently go door-to-door to collect money for charitable causes, help out widows and orphans, and take interest in the plight of the poor. In the United States she continued this work. Chava Leah passed away on 6 Nisan [March 24], 1931 in Chicago.

        The Skolnicks had five children: Asna, Sarah, Hershel Zelig Skolnick (a well-known insurance broker in Chicago) and Shlomo Skolnick, a famous lawyer in Chicago.

Rabbi Shmuel Y. Kaplan

Born in Drohitchin, Rabbi Shmuel Yisrael Kaplan was a brother of Rabbi Avraham Yehuda, and a son of Elyakim Getzel Kaplan. He spent many years in yeshivas, and was ordained by the great rabbis.

When he was at the Slobodka yeshiva, R. Shmuel Yisrael became the son-in-law of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Hovsha, the rabbi of Shkod, Lithuania. Shortly thereafter, he received an invitation to serve as the rabbi of the Jewish community of Kolno, near Lomza, and spent the rest of his life there – until the Holocaust.

Rabbi Kaplan had two sons and one daughter. One son, a yeshiva student, died young, and the second son, Rabbi Yechezkel Kaplan, was a son-in-law of the rabbinical judge and rabbi of Lomza, and became rabbi in the town of Podrozno, near Vilna. He was known as a great scholar and speaker. R. Shmuel Yisrael had yeshiva students and Talmudic scholars for sons-in-law.

Unfortunately, no one of this great rabbinical family survived. Everyone was killed. May G-d avenge their blood!

Rabbi Avraham I. Kaplan

[Photo:] Rabbi Avraham Yehuda Hakohen Kaplan

        Rabbi Avraham Yehuda Hakohen Kaplan, a rabbi in Yanovo, was born in Drohitchin to a respected family. His father, Elyakim Getzel, admired rabbis and was one of the respected men in town. R. Avraham Yehuda was educated and ordained at the Heishishok yeshiva near Vilna.

After his wedding, Rabbi Kaplan headed a yeshiva in Bobroisk for 13 years. Afterwards, he was appointed officiating rabbi in Yanovo (near Drohitchin), where he devoted the next 28 years until he passed away in the 1930s. He lived through a horrific tragedy: his two scholarly sons died in their youth. R. Avraham was unable to get over this tragedy, which cut his life short. After he passed away, his son, R. Yosef, a son-in-law of Rabbi Blauweiss of Brisk, replaced him, but was later killed with his family. May G-d avenge their blood!
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