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[Page 211]

the Yaveh School and others as well. Later he gave up teaching and decided to study in the House of Study. For many years, until he died, he taught Mishnah to the congregants at the Old House of Study, and was also a cantor during the High Holy Days.

        R. Meir was a G-d-fearing person, and was known for his hospitality to visitors. Almost every visiting Torah preacher [magid], charity collector and other visitor stayed with R. Meir whenever they came to Drohitchin. He also frequently helped people with charity.

        In 1939, when German airplanes bombed Drohitchin, and everyone fled to hide in the fields and forests, R. Meir just remained at home, studying as usual. Bombs fell all around, windows broke and houses shook, but not a single window broke in R. Meir's house.

        R. Meir died October 19, 1940, and was buried in the Drohitchin Jewish cemetery. The entire Jewish community attended his funeral. (See photo on p. 52)
He had five children: Sarah Eisenstein (perished with her husband Eliyahu in Drohitchin), Tzadok, Yosef (both died), Perl and Yeshayahu ([living] in New York).

Meshel Averbuch

[photo:] R. Meshel Averbuch

        Moshe, or Meshel, Averbuch was born in 1860 in Pruzhany. He studied in kheder and yeshiva, and also studied general subjects and knew Russian well. When he was still a youngster, R. Meshel became the son-in-law of R. Chatzkel Valevelsky of Drohitchin. With the assistance of his wealthy father-in-law and valiant wife Chava, R. Meshel went into business and became very successful. He had the largest and wealthiest grocery business in Drohitchin. All the noblemen and officials in the region were his customers, and they considered him to be an honest businessman.

        R. Meshel was renown as a scholar, and was considered the wealthiest man in Drohitchin, but was always extremely modest. He was never active in community affairs and never went anywhere. His only path was from his home to the House of Study, and then to his business. On the Sabbath and during the week between the afternoon and evening prayers when he had time, he studied Talmud in the Old House of Study.

        In 1941 R. Meshel and his son Avraham were deported with other Jews by the Russians to Siberia, where he died on Dec. 19, 1943. He was buried in a Christian cemetery.

        Chava Averbuch, the wife of Meshel, was born in Drohitchin in 1864. Her father, R. Chatzkel Valevelsky was from a wealthy family that was related to the Katzenelbogens and to R. Shaul Wahl. Chava Chatzkel's, as she was called, was a valiant woman with three advantages: she was educated, gifted and clever, and an outstanding businesswoman. Both Jews and gentiles had great respect for her. Chava had a fine sensitive personality, and quietly helped to comfort the poor Jews in Drohitchin. Chava used to say, “A wagon driver in Drohitchin is greater than a rich person in Kobrin.”

        Chava, who suffered from ill health in her later years, died in Drohitchin in 1931. The Averbuchs had three sons and one daughter: Zavel, Avraham, Menachem and Menucha. Avraham [lives] in Israel, and Menucha in Russia. (See pp. 78, 187, 188)

[Page 212]


[photo:] Eliyahu Eisenstein

        Eliyahu Eisenstein was born in approximately 1875 in Drohitchin to his parents, R. David and Chaya Gittel Eisenstein. Gittel was a descendant of the famous kabbalist, R. David Yaffe, and hoped to make Eliyahu into a rabbi. Young Eliyahu showed good abilities in Talmud study, and quickly learned a page of Talmud.

        Eliyahu, however, couldn't continue in his studies for very long because there were already five younger children in the house. The financial situation of the family wasn't very good, so Eliyahu decided to travel to the United States to his father, R. David, who was already in Chicago. After an arduous journey, Eliyahu finally arrived in Chicago in 1891.

        Like any other immigrant, Eliyahu had to start toiling away to earn a living during his first years in Chicago. For a while he had a clothing store (1895), and then went into the real estate business, in which he flourished.

        At first Eisenstein was involved in buying and selling. Later on he became a building contractor, building houses and offices. Between 1904 and 1916 he built dozens of large and fine buildings. From 1916 on, Eisenstein was involved in the coal industry, and briefly (1923) a vice-president of the Community Bank on Rooseevelt Road.

        At the same time, R. Eliyahu Eisenstein became involved in community affairs. He was the founding president of the first Drohitchin synagogue (1906) on Racine [sp?] Avenue and Clark Street. In 1915, he started construction of the large Drohitchin synagogue on Douglas-Hemlin, which is now the Kehillat Yaakov Synagogue, and where he was its first president for three years. In 1924 he built the large Kehillat Yaakov Talmud Torah school, where hundreds of children went to school. Until the end of his life, Eisenstein was the president of the school.

        In 1920 he traveled to Drohitchin as a representative of American émigrés from Drohitchin. Due to the war between Russia and Poland, the trip entailed great danger, and made his way with great self-sacrifice to the war weary residents of Drohitchin, bringing along thousands of dollars sent by their relatives. He also contributed a sum of money to build a synagogue in Drohitchin.

        In 1921 Eisenstein made a second trip to Poland. This time, however, he traveled not only on behalf of people from Drohitchin, but of people from the entire region. He distributed approximately $300,000 to the Jews of Pinsk, Brisk, Drohitchin, Yanova, Motele, Antopolia, Bereza and others. So many people came to see Eisenstein every day that they stood in line to get greetings he brought from relatives in the United States.

        Eisenstein also worked to arrange visas for dozens of Jewish families whom he took along back to the United States. Today these families are indebted to Eisenstein for having saved them from hell.

        In 1922, Eliyahu was entrusted with the task of building a yeshiva in Chicago.

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