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Religious Life in Our City under Soviet Rule

by Rabbi Ben-Tzion Fendler

Translated by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

The first World War and the Revolution that followed changed the lifestyle in Russia completely, as is well known. The changes in the country caused major shocks in the realm of Judaism.

In our area [Kamenets-Podolsk], as in all places where the Bolsheviks ruled, they prohibited study of Torah and all Hebrew study in general; they prohibited Shabbat observance, kashrut, and every matter connected remotely with tradition. In daily life there was not a sign of Yiddishkeit. Overtly this was apparent, but covertly the situation was totally different. Throngs of Jews were faithful to all the sacred practice of Judaism, and clandestinely they observed the mitzvot of the Torah with deep commitment. In Kamenets there were people of many different backgrounds, among whom were artisans and unskilled workers, who during many years

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under Soviet rule, never tasted meat, since they did not want to be defiled with forbidden foods, and were scrupulous about the observance of the other mitzvot in all their details.

Synagogues all remained open until 5696 (1936), and many of them made hummed with the sound of prayers. The “Yevsektzia” [the Jewish section of the Communist Party] in Kamenets was moderate in its actions, and did not pursue religious Jews with rage as it did in other locations. The head of the “Yevsektzia” in Kamenets was a passionate Communist, but with regard to the religious he was a bit subdued. His view was that living conditions in the area were sufficient to terminate all the outmoded customs, and there was no need for special activities to accomplish this. Thanks to this viewpoint synagogues in the city were not destroyed until the summer of 5696 (1936). In that year the great assault on religion occurred all over, and all at once all the synagogues in Kamenets were closed, except for the “Gedalyahu Heller” synagogue. On the last Shabbat before my trip to Eretz Yisrael in the month of Elul 1936 I prayed in that synagogue, and there was no way of moving further inside. The courtyard was filled, and many stood in the nearby streets, perhaps hoping that they might hear “Barkhu” and “Kedushah.”

There were no mikvaot in the whole area. In Kamenets there had been a mikveh for several years, in the bathhouse of Sara-Leah. After this bathhouse was destroyed a room was rented in the apartment of a gentile, on the ground floor of the “Brom” (city gate), and a pit was dug to serve as a mikveh, despite the real mortal risk involved. The owner of the apartment was accordingly punished for this act, and thus people were forced to steal their way into this pit to bathe, under the nose of the members of the militia who stood on the outside walls. Many people came from near and far to bathe in this mikveh in Kamenets.

Even in these especially difficult and troubled times, many people were occupied with Torah study. In the summer of 1936, several months before I left Kamenets, and before the destruction of the synagogues, I found in the “Gedaliah” synagogue, during twilight hours, large crowds of worshippers, not less than on holidays. Between the afternoon and evening services, scores of men sat and studied Mishnah, Ayn Yaakov, and Mishnah B'rurah. After the evening prayers as well there was a class in Talmud with huge attendance. There were also classes in Torah in several other synagogues. Once the synagogues were destroyed in the month of Av 1936, they began to worship in minyanim in private apartments, in secret of course.

The “Stolen” Torah Scrolls

by Rabbi Ben-Tzion Fendler

Translated by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

The following occurred many years ago in Kamenets-Podolsk, during the days when the Yevsektzia in Soviet Russia persecuted religion, when houses of worship were confiscated and transformed into clubs, and religious items, including Torah Scrolls, were sent abroad for sale.

The largest and most beautiful of the sixty houses of prayer in the city was the synagogue of the tailors, that excelled in its wide and tall Holy Ark, which was coated with silver and gold, and decorated with pictures of animals and birds, fruit and flowers, and all kinds of musical instruments––beautifully crafted by talented artists. In this beautiful Holy Ark, on all three levels, stood more than one hundred Torah Scrolls.

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When this synagogue was destroyed and turned into a club for the city's workers, and the Torah Scrolls were plundered to be sent abroad for sale, the Gabaim (synagogue managers)––of all people the artisans––performed a daring act and “stole” thirty of the Torah Scrolls and secretly, with supreme devotion, hid them for safekeeping in the basement of one of the private houses. No one knew about this hidden space, of course, and from time to time the “thieves” went down to the basement to assure their safety, and guarded them very secretly for a long time.

At the end of the war the Soviets left the city and the Nazis entered with their servants from Romania and Galicia, and with them all the horrible, well-known results: the city was plundered and totally destroyed. Most of the Jews were taken out to be murdered in the nearby forest, and a few were able to flee to the neighboring villages and reached the border of Siberia. At the end of the war several of them were able to return to their destroyed and ruined city.

The same fate fell to the villages near Kamenets: destruction and devastation everywhere. Most of the Jewish residents were murdered, and the few who wandered away remained alive. After a period of time some of them returned to their destroyed villages, broken and dejected, and tried to renewed their former lives, and most of all they were concerned to establish for themselves quorums for prayer. This, without their sacred vessels, and especially without their Torah Scrolls.

Lo and behold, among those who returned was one of the Gabaim of the tailors' synagogue, who was among those, years before, who “stole” the Torah Scrolls, and remembered them. This Jew entered with a quorum of Jews to the secret basement, and brought out from its hiding place the “holy treasure”––all thirty complete Torah Scrolls, as if he had placed them there only yesterday. They all viewed this event as a “miracle from heaven.”

These Torah Scrolls were sent as “gifts” to nearby villages––a Torah Scroll to each and every village.

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The Campaign of Orynyn

by Y .A. Bar-Levi

Translated by Monica Devens

The years 1917-1919 were years of severe calamities for Ukrainian Jewry. The political and military regimes, which changed with lightning speed from one season to another, did not last. Military occupation forces (Austrian, German, Polish, Czech), which acted according to the orders of the Western coalition against the forces of Bolshevik Russia, came one after the other. At the same time, the war and the struggle between Bolshevik Russia and the forces of the Ukrainian national movement (Hetman, Petliura) continued to increase.

And in all the turmoil of these days, the Jewish population was seen as the scapegoat, on whose head all the blows were poured, and the anger and rage of the masses of Ukrainian farmers found their outlet in wild riots in Israel. The pogroms in Ukraine, which cost us a hundred thousand victims, are still well remembered. Most of the disturbances took place in the southwestern part of Ukraine, bordering with

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Galicia, and more than other places, the Jewish settlements in this part of the Kamyanets Podilskyy region suffered both in property and in life (Proskorov= Khmelnytskyi, Felshtin=Skelevka, etc.).

But even in those days of rage, the Jews knew how to stand up for themselves, to show signs of bravery and to teach the besieging and destructive enemy a lesson. And I would like to single out one occurrence of heroism here.

* * *

On the border of Podolia and Galicia, at a distance of 17 versts (verst=about a kilometer) west of the city of Kamyanets Podilskyy (then often the capital city of the new alternating authorities), a small town stood on the Zbruch River (stood and is no more…) - Orynyn, which counted less than one hundred families. With the increasing pressure of the Red Army on the forces of Petliura in the spring of 1918, these last ones crossed the Zbruch River and moved to Galicia. Here they found a place of rest and help from the Entente and, with its financial and military help, reorganized and turned to Ukraine again. Of course, the small town of Orynyn was the first prey they encountered on their way. For three days and three nights, Petliura's gangs ran amok there, engaged in robbery and looting and even harming people, and in a little while the entire Jewish population would have been destroyed by them.

In this situation, some young people put their lives on the line and on Saturday night, May 24, 1919, they left the besieged town in the dark, and by side roads reached Kamyanets Podilskyy on foot in order to call for help. The garrison forces of the Red Army in Kamyanets were very few and this was well known to the Ukrainians. They also knew that if they “finished” with Orynyn, the road to Kamyanets Podilskyy, which had 60-70 thousand inhabitants at the time and whose conquest was then their immediate desire, was open to them because the value of this city was great, both strategically and politically as the future seat of the Petliura government.

The young people turned to the Jewish businessmen in the city and also to “Revkom” - the local Bolshevik government. They demanded quick and urgent help saying: “If you don't save us - you are also in danger.” There wasn't much time left for reflections and calculations and the call went out: “Go up to Orynyn.” In the blink of an eye, every good young man among the young people of Israel, for whom the honor of their people was a guiding principle, gathered and united. All partisan accounts were forgotten and everyone united, starting with the Zionists and ending with the Bolsheviks, and all those who felt in their hearts that one should not sit idly by and that the miserable town had to be saved, gathered on that Sabbath night, May 24, 1919, at Governor's Square. And these were not necessarily people who had served in the army and knew the art of fighting, but rather young people who had never known holding a gun in their hand.

After midnight, 50 to 60 soldiers left the city in a truck, with a small number of machine guns and one cannon in their hands, together with about 90 other young men under the command of an experienced commander. The company had not yet arrived at the desired district and had gone only 10 versts and then the command: “Get down from the vehicles and lie down on the ground!” At that moment, there was a loud sound of machine guns rattling from the enemy, who numbered 1200 men. Some of the Jewish youth who, as mentioned, had never held a rifle in their hand and even now were armed with primitive defensive tools, were, of course, afraid of the Ukrainians and they began to retreat crawling. However, there was one of the group, a brave and influential man, who turned to them

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and said: “Comrades, there is no room for retreat, if we return - then we have lost and, together with us, all those we left behind us in Kamyanets Podilskiyy; our way to victory is only in our advance towards the enemy” - and it was this call that influenced and breathed a new spirit, a spirit of heroism into hearts.

In the meantime, the one and only cannon, which was in the company's hands, managed to find out the whereabouts of the enemy forces and to hit those who fired from the machine guns and also managed to silence them. The nimble company commander took advantage of this new situation and addressed his comrades with the call: “Comrades, forward! Death to the murderers” - and the miracle happened: all the hatred towards the murderers, who had threatened Orynyn, and also the recognition that the fate of Orynyn and the rest of the towns could be foreseen for Kamyanets Podilskyy, too, all the indignation against the enemy, which had accumulated in their hearts for many months, became a driving and stimulating force, and with unprecedented enthusiasm, all of them burst forth to meet the enemy and moved from defense to attack.

The “Heidemaks” of Petliura did not stand in the battle. They retreated in panic, leaving behind them the many weapons they had in their hands: cannons, machine guns, field kitchens, and the like. Some of them knelt before the young people of Israel and asked them for mercy. The answer was - bullet or bayonet. 60 of the “Heidemaks” fell in battle and the remainder scattered in every direction. On the side of the Jews, one was killed (Avner Korman - a member of “Tse'irei Tsiyon”) and two were slightly injured.

When the company continued on its way to Orynyn and was close to the town, all of its inhabitants came out of their hiding places and, with happiness and tears of joy in their eyes, met their saviors. None of them could understand how it had happened that the few stood against the many and they had only these words: “There was a miracle here”…

Indeed this was the miracle of Jewish heroism, like those miracles that we here in Israel have witnessed.

Types and Characters

by Shabbetai Kaplan

Translated by Monica Devens



Kamyanets, a city whose Jewish community was a typical cross-section of Russian Jewry and in relation to it - a province. It had a thin layer of the rich and a thick layer of the middle class and the poor. The layers were by nature anonymous and silent, and their expression was intelligence. In Kamyanets, there was an “elite,” but not an exalted elite, like nowadays, but an elite bending down towards the masses; not of those who are lifted up from the people, but of those who lean towards them to lift them up. In contrast, there were people whose standard of measure was not that of intelligence, as possibly they were not intelligent at all, but they were characters, men of attributes whose intellectual talents were acquired in Beit Ulpana. These were inherent in them from birth.

A long gallery of characters are standing before you in remembrance of your townspeople, characters from 50 years ago, before and after the Revolution.

The new mail street, the Potschtovke, was the heart of the city and its “spiritual center.” Here were the bookstores. On one side was the store of the Baynvelman brothers and across from it, my parents' store. The first was used as a club

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for the “Bund” and the second - for lovers of the Hebrew language and the Zionists. The identical aspect of them - vigilance. On Christmas days, when the shops were closed for three days in a row and there was only frost outside, all those who were discussing politics and looking for “tomorrow” would hang out together over a steaming bowl of potatoes. Messiahs were in things that were at the top of the world, that were in the renewal of literature and that were hidden in the bosom of the future. Serious things were seasoned with “jokes” and, cheerful with the hot potatoes and the cup of stew, someone would pull out a pamphlet and read a story from Shalom Aleichem that dealt with the “Pale of Settlement” or hidden allusions to the Japanese war. The hilarity - “pony-thief” was a stinger, the cruel and stupid tyrannical rule, and the longing for redemption was aroused with the laughter and the mockery, some for redemption in this, in the land of the diaspora, and some for redemption in the future, in the renewed Land of Israel, in the “emerging world.”

So - before the revolution. After it - as if the city was flooded by a tremendous current that burst the prison of a dam. What was hidden went out into the open, what was secret went up to the top of a platform. No more conversation that was related between the walls - a loud and carried voice, a ringing and singing voice in open halls and under the dome of the sky, on the squares and when walking in the “narrow passage” called the “Dorozhka.”

With the current, new faces appeared. Some of those had been hidden in the city until now and some came from afar, from the small towns in the vicinity and the metropolitan cities. Kamyanets was buffeted by strong winds, a Jewish socialist spirit from here and a Zionist spirit from here, and between them intermediate spirits, taking both of their temperaments in a fusion.

And here are some characters I remember from our city.

Moshe Kitai - squat, skinny, skin and bones and furrowed forehead. He was an old bachelor and chronically unemployed. What did he get the “necessities” from? Apparently from private lessons he had or didn't have, “we will make a living from starvation.” He would wander from one “club” store to another “club” store or walk down a city street when “those looking for news” like him would join him and he would be stuck in the middle between them. His mouth was full of stories and his ears were devoted to “tales.” His voice was thin and he had a high pitched laugh. This squat body - was a treasure store of folklore. He would collect in his storehouse everything that came to the ear and distribute it widely. He was a “member of the household” in our store, coming in and going out, and he had other places like that. He was a warrior against the rule of the tsar, against the haters of Israel, against the haters of Zion. A fighter with mere words and drowning them in his spit that was bursting from his lips with his gargling. He would destroy them with his witty humor. With the coming of the revolution, Moshe Kitai's life was disrupted, his weapon - mere words - was replaced by a different weapon, by speeches from stages, in open public struggles. His weapon - passed its time and rusted.

Dr. Knoping - Dr. of philology, a well-known figure in the landscape of Kamyanets. Tall, broad-shouldered and with a belly. His stomach was dreamy, dreaming of good and satisfying foods, which were apparently rare in his bowl. After the revolution, he was a Zionist businessman, mounted on a platform, unusual speech with every word lingering in his mouth before it came out, as if for cooling and the voice was muffled, drum-like. Dr. Knoping! - His entire appearance said: Dr. Knoping!

Dr. Mendel Goldstein. Every speech of his - a work of art! His speeches, more than they heard in the ears - they saw with the eyes. He was a seer of visions in his speeches and the listeners would see visions after him. His Russian language was juicy and picturesque. Regarding immigration to the Land of Israel, he would sail to the charms of song: “And here are ships being carried across the Mediterranean Sea and reaching the shores of Palestine!” The audience sat captivated by his charms, caught

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in the richness of his poetic language, placed in the refined palm of rhythm of the smooth words. When he finished and other speakers followed him, it seemed to you that you had fallen from the blue sky to the gray earth.

Completely different was Nachman Yakir or, as they called him, “Comrade” Nachman. He was a member of “Po'alei Tsiyon,” a worker who didn't acquire an education in his youth, but later asked for it. He was an extreme Yiddishist. I don't know if he called himself “Treister” (a translation of Nachman) on his own initiative or if they stuck this name on him as a necessary nickname. One way or another, the name “Treister” was popular and displaced Nachman.

“Comrade Nachman” was devoted heart and soul to the “Po'alei Tsiyon” idea and this devotion commanded him to not pass up any opportunity to “beat” his dogma. There wasn't an assembly at which he was present where he didn't make himself heard. He was black, moustached, and a veil of sadness covered his face. He walked with a cane. He would hang his cane on his arm and give a speech. He spoke about socialism and Marxism. He had no power of expression. He spoke simply, but with self-confidence and he hung his words on “trees”: Marx, Borochov, and more… They liked “Comrade Nachman” because of his honesty. They knew that he was not an “intellect” and that the knowledge of the lowercase letters was beyond him. In the heat of the debate, his opponents would sometimes cling to this weak point of his. Once when he mentioned Marx, someone from the audience asked:

- Have you read Marx?

- I've already started reading it - he replied - I haven't finished…

The audience received this answer with a forgiving and kind smile. There was no doubt that “Comrade Nachman” was indeed working diligently on Marx and was certainly “moving spasmodically” with it with the rest of his strength. They knew that he was not one to adorn himself with borrowed feathers and the honesty of his answer made up for his innocent and insecure fumbling with issues and laws. But sometimes when they made him mad, “Comrade Nachman” also knew how to attack sharply.

- Nachman, do you, Po'alei Tsiyon, have a program? They once pressured him.

- We have many programs! Who will give you “blows” like the number of our programs!

“Comrade Nachman”'s birthday was May 1st. “Po'alei Tsiyon” was a small party and in the general procession - a handful. At the head of the handful “Comrade Nachman” was marching upright, serious, holding the flag high in his hand as if holding the two Tablets of the Covenant.

Kamyanets Podilskyy was a metropolis on a small scale, a magnet for young people from the towns who came to be educated in it and seek status in life. Many who gathered in it left their mark on it, even standing at the top. The source of flowing water for Kamyanets was the town of Zhvanets. The town who gave it Shikle Salzman, the popular leader (may he rest in peace) and Shalom Altman, the organization man (may he rest in peace).

Shalom Altman was a strict man. Strict with himself and strict with others. His firmness was seen from his eyebrows. He was uncomfortable, nevertheless the people accepted the satisfaction of his firmness with love. His power was in action and not in words, but in narrowing down his opponents, from the Jewish socialists to the Zionists and celebrating the suffering of the revolutionaries in the days of the Tsar, Altman did not spare his language and spoke. And the style of his speech: We were also interested in prisons in Siberia! We were also exiled to the taiga! According to him, this was a personal cover. Shalom Altman was exiled from his town of Zhvanets for the crime of his Zionist activities. Altman's pronunciation was rough, with the letter Resh grating sharply. His thick whiskers, the width of his bones gave him an appearance that was not “of the diaspora.” He looked like a farmer,

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A group of pioneers on their way to Israel


Taking leave of Shalom Altman for his immigration to Israel

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like a “Starosta,” who had solid ground under his feet and was a symbol of national pride, uprightness, and decisiveness. He served as secretary of the Zionist Federation and as an activist in the Jewish community, friends as well as enemies were respectfully careful.

Shikle, the popular leader - was the opposite of Altman. Small in stature and round. Oval in body, but his tongue - knife-point. There was a row with the lions in the rival parties and he could overcome them. And this to remember: in those days, the weapon in the public struggle was the debate. A meeting of any party was open to debates. Not the format of the meetings we have in Israel, which are “individual prayer” or “solo concert” in the sense of, hear and accept! The lecturer would start, debaters continued after him, and the audience judged by clapping, by shouting out or by decisions. A meeting without a “revolution” - that was no meeting! Sometimes the disputants would change the situation completely. A “Bund” meeting would become a Zionist meeting and vice versa. The scales of the listeners would rise and fall with the argument. Shikle would captivate the audience with his strumming of the fine strings of the Jewish tradition and the infantile versions, he would strike at his characters and overcome his great rivals, like David overcame Goliath.

The political meetings in the years of the revolution were magical in their dynamism, in the grace of popularity, and in the multitude of shades that were expressed in them.

Among the leaders of the parties in the city were those of the “Bund” and of “Fareynikte,” of Lithuanian origin, whose Yiddish language was eloquent and juicy, and their bag was full of parables and fables. The speeches were not “oral journalism” - they were interspersed with anecdotes whose sting spoke on their behalf. There was a rhetorical confrontation, a competition with spices. The opposing sides would come out defeated or victorious, but the audience would come out with “great assets.”

Shikle, who also charmed as a student of “Herzliya” High School in Tel-Aviv, who returned and got stuck in Kamyanets, had another stage in the city, unmediated, and that was - the “evening classes” on Dolgaya Street, which gathered hundreds of young people, most of them young women, and which served as a warm nest for cultivating a Zionist atmosphere. Two won on this stage: Avraham Rosenzweig (today: Rosen) and Shikle Salzman. The first - by studying the Tanakh, the second by studying Hebrew. Aharon Ashman was later added to the two. They studied on Dolgaya Street and continued on “Mish'ol” - it is the natural promenade in Kamyanets. They would speak Hebrew, sing songs of Zion, and dream of the Land of Israel, of agriculture, of “bringing out bread from the earth,” of being farmers or “colonists” in the language of the time.

The gallery of public activists in Kamyanets numbered many. There were those who stood out on stages, those who acted in the ranks. Among the first to be remembered is Munia Zak (he is M. Ezrahi z”l), whose Russian language was ringing, captivating with a polished gloss. Moshe Sister, then a member of “Fareynikte,” today a lecturer in Tanach at the Kibbutzim College, the cut of whose speech was bitter and always used against the Zionists who dreamt of Buntsi Schoig and would ask reproachfully: “Un a Bulke mit Putter iz nicht gut?” (And a bun with butter isn't good?) Meaning: what is this skyrocketing to you, seeing dreams in Spain?

There was one dynamic Jew in Kamyanets, a Caspian Jew, his name was Akiva Kahana. An original person, independent, a fighter and full of humor. He did not belong to any party or rather he was a party to himself. He

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was also a journalist with a sharp pen and a writer for “Podolskiyy Kray.” I remember a reply in the same newspaper about a “Letter to the Editor,” which was signed “Kamit” and whose style indicated Akiva Kahana.

- What does “kamit” mean? They asked him.

- It's the translation of a verse of the “Little Song of Songs” using acronyms, he answered.

Two newspapers appeared in Kamyanets: “Podolskiyy Izvestia” and “Podolskiyy Kray.” The editor of one of them was Fuchs. Short of stature and goose-like in his step.

“The activists in the ranks” were also manifested in special enterprises, in the organization of receptions, in election propaganda. And remember “The Palestinian week” (“Palestineskaya Nadlaya”) in which the entire city was occupied by them. Tables were displayed in the street corners for the distribution of Zionist literature, ribbons were stuck in every lapel. The “attraction” of the “campaign” was Aharon Ashman (today the writer and dramaturg), who wore an Arab keffiyeh for his head that equated his brown hair and mustache to a Bedouin figure, a symbol of the Land of Israel.

This is how Kamyanets looked in the first two years of the revolution, which were stormy and dynamic. The liveliness encompassed all circles of the youth and young people. The student youth organized themselves in associations, “Kadima” to the upper stratum, “Ha-Techiya” to the lower stratum. The Brandman Choir was established, which was a huge cultural instrument for the spread of Hebrew song and musical culture, “Ha-Zamir” Drama Society was established, which staged plays in Yiddish and in Hebrew. For a certain period, Kamyanets was ashamed of the slowly flowing and deeply penetrating lectures of Alexander Heshin, one of the leaders of Po'alei Tsiyon, who came to our city and stayed there for some time. He eventually rolled into the Yevsektsiya and met his death in prison.

Later, due to the honeymoon of the revolution, the rallies decreased and the activity was concentrated in actions. Two pioneer training farms were established. The pioneers sowed wheat, buckwheat, potatoes and used to wield scythes standing proudly. Young men would volunteer, in turn, and go up to the farm to cook meals, young men would volunteer to take out potatoes.

The atmosphere became more and more sour, regime replaced regime and fears and anxieties descended on the city. The focus shifted to self-defense. Word of disturbances in Proskorov (= Khmelnytskyi) and Palestine came. On the Shavuot holiday, the Heidemaks rioted in Kamyanets and about eighty Jews were murdered. But what was this pogrom compared to Proskorov (= Khmelnytskyi) and Palestine? A minor pogrom! Indeed, a week after that, the Jews returned to their routine. The shops opened, “the narrow Mish'ol” - the boardwalk - came back to life, and there were people walking, and on Saturday nights the Potschtovke was full with couples.

A few days after the pogrom, the Petliuras sent a Jewish “messenger” to the community to collect donations for the government. The community called for a meeting in the synagogue and the “messenger,” a large man with a moustached face, spoke in the audience's ears. From his words about the donation there arose a smell of contribution.

When the rumor came about the infiltration of the Heidemaks into Orynyn, a company of young men was mobilized who received weapons from the “Revkom” and went out to meet them. The Heidemaks were repulsed and the company returned except for one, Avner Korman, who was killed in battle.

When the possibilities of immigration opened - the first group of pioneers left Kamyanets for Israel, the founders of Kiryat Anavim. That morning was like a holiday in the city. Many accompanied the departing wagons

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The Hebrew musical organization “Kadima” in 1920

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up to “Podzamcze.” From then they started going out in different routes, whoever was going to Galicia and who to Bessarabia, illegally crossing the border at night. The reserves were used up little by little, after them the members of the younger generation who had grown up in the meantime held on, and the outflow was stopped.

Kamyanets was tossed from regime to regime, but the Petliuras extended their stay. The city served as their temporary capital and also housed the Ministry of Jewish Affairs within the framework of personal national autonomy in the Ukrainian Republic. The Minister Pinchas Krasny - from the Folkist Party, was not involved with the public in the city. He had no interest in it and the main occupation of his office was “to photograph the past,” to write reports on the pogroms, and to send memos.



Our yard was also across Dolgaya Street, which is the street of the market. In the morning, the children still in bed, and the cry of the first of the passers-by was heard, the bagel seller:

Frish un ayerdik
Frisch un tsafledik
Frisch un ayerdik
Frisch un tsafledik
Frisch un ayerdike baigel…

His figure stands before my eyes: his beard is light, elongated and pointed, his tone is continuous and curling and as if the taste of the bagels is in it, which stimulates the palate. He opened the “procession” of the passers-by.

Among the passers-by in the yard every morning, there were “Froike with the cymbals” and “Netta with the flute.” Froike had black hair and a peg beard. Happy and making others happy, singing softly and accompanying his song with cymbals. The children would follow him and he would entertain them. This was his “hobi” (hobby) and his occupation - service to humanity. He would take out the sewage buckets and the trash baskets from the houses and in return he would receive the gift of bread or a plate of stew. Apparently, these were relations between employee and employer, service for pay - and not it. There were other motives to the service of Froike. He simply loved to serve humanity, helping women carry their baskets, and felt a special taste for helping those who needed it the most, a poor family, an old or sick woman. My father used to say of him: this Froike - a philosophical soul nests in him, a kind of Diogenes.

The women on the upper floors would be waiting for him, for Froike impatiently: - “Has Froike already passed?” “Have you seen Froike?” They would ask and Froike would carry the sewage buckets from the floors with a sense of purpose. He was never irritated, never angry, he was always kind-hearted. Froike knew how to value himself and he would publicly announce his worth. Before whom? Before the crowd of children who followed him and cheered him on.

- Who is a human being? He would ask in a loud voice, and the children would answer in chorus: Froike!

- When there is a need for a porter, who do you call?

- Froike!

- When you need a decent person, who are you inviting?

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- Froike!

- Who is a human being?

- Froike!

It is possible, and in his question of “who is a human being” was the intention of a demonstration, a demonstration of the “inhumanity” of others, who pretend to be civilized but distance themselves from the simple human act. It also had an appreciation of labor, which coincides with the human. And indeed, Froike was a human being, not pretending in vain.

“Netta with the flute” was different from Froike. A round face like the moon, without a beard and his chest sticks out in front of him like a pot belly. The chest was a storage room for bread. Every piece of bread he got would be stuffed there. The flute was not a flute - a scarecrow of a flute, just a reed or a stick and he would “play” with his lips, which he would tighten by inflating his cheeks. As the fee for playing, he would receive a penny or the equivalent of a penny, which he would tuck into his “pot belly.”

A tragic “meshugge” was Isaac, crippled, toddling on his crutches and reaching out. He was a romantic, and princesses and countesses did not leave his mouth. He would set his eyes on beautiful girls and find evidence that they were meant for him by Providence. When they pressed him: “Why don't you finally marry one of the girls?” He would claim that it is the fault of the mothers, who fall in love with him and withhold his love from their daughters. If only they would imprison the mothers for one day, he would be saved.

Children would follow him, scratch his “wounds,” and annoy him. When his anger reached its peak, he would pick up one of his crutches and chase them away. Isaac met his death in the rampages of the Shavuot holiday. The Heidemaks pierced him with swords and since then he disappeared from Kamyanets.

And there was another “exception” and they called him “Stroini Tschelobyak” (a tall man). He was thin and very tall. But that wasn't enough for him and he would stretch even more. A flexible walking stick in his hand and a narrow-brimmed straw hat for his head. He used to walk proudly on the sidewalks in the public parks and dream of romance,


A play about life in Israel during the “Eretz Israel Week” in 1918

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which was far from him. His clothes were ironed, spotless, and as he passed by the storefront windows, he would linger, peek in the mirror, and fix his hair and his hat.

Completely different from the previous ones was Simeon. You could talk with them. They were involved with people. Simeon was a society hater, running away and causing others to flee. In a black kapoteh, with his hands clasped behind him, he would run through the streets and his mouth would curse: May She'ol swallow you! May darkness take you!

The children would tease him and repeat his curse and he would chase after them and hit them with his fist. The nail of his madness was money. Haunted by fear lest they plot against his money, he would shout: “Das Beytele?” - a “makka!” (“My purse - fever!”). To upset him, the children would actually shout: “Simeon, das Beytele!” (Simeon, the purse!) And so it repeats, God forbid. Simeon saw all the people of the city without distinction as his enemies and would curse them.

- Simeon, why do you curse me, I didn't curse you? - They would argue against him.

- If you didn't curse me today, you will curse me tomorrow!

There were other “unusual” types, but the ones mentioned above were the most prominent.

“Tse'irei Tsiyon” during the 1917 Revolution

by H. Sharig

Translated by Monica Devens

In the last years before the 1917 revolution, a Zionist youth movement called “Tse'irei Tsiyon,” which advocated the idea of work and a separate organization of working Zionists, continued to develop within the Zionist Federation. The movement preached the love of work and the working life as a foundational element in life, which they called “the work religion.” The fathers of this movement and its founders were A. D. Gordon, Yosef Vitkin and others, who served as its guides, a model and an example of a life of simplicity and perfection. The movement's aspiration was to establish a reformed society in the moral sense and its goal - the creation of a “working people” in the Land of Israel.


A regiment of Scouts

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In cities and towns throughout Russia, organizations of “Tse'irei Tsiyon” arose, which coalesced within the framework of a faction within the Zionist movement. By nature, the youth and the workers were attracted to the organization of this faction. It brought them closer because it saw in them the natural element for action and organization.

At the end of the First World War, with the outbreak of the revolution in 1917, the “Tse'irei Tsiyon” movement became an independent working Zionist party, which operated in various areas of public life.

Also in Kamyanets, a “Tse'irei Tsiyon” federation arose, made up of the working classes and the youth, whose number of members reached hundreds and which was the most active political collective body on the Jewish street.

The “Tse'irei Tsiyon” federation devoted itself mainly to informative, organizational action, participated in the work of the community committee, managed the work of “He-Halutz,” organized the immigration to Israel, and also worked in the organization “Ha-Haganah.” The pioneer youth who were planning to immigrate concentrated on agricultural or professional training, so that they would adapt to working life and to shared kibbutz life. The local branch was headed by: Y. Sharir (Schreier) as chairman and H. Sharig (Schreiberman) as secretary.

In 1920, a conference was held in Kamyanets of representatives of “Tse'irei Tsiyon” branches in the cities and towns of Podolia and a district committee was chosen headed by Z. Pretkin (Porat).

At the same time, the local organization was visited by Comrade Eliezer Kaplan, who headed the All-Russian Central Committee of “Tse'irei Tsiyon.”

Due to the revolution, transportation in Russia was disrupted and all the activity of the movement was handled by the local forces.

Children Fighting for Hebrew

by Shmuel, F. Barzin

Translated by Monica Devens

The hard-working “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” in Kamyanets Podilskyy engaged in Zionist work also among the school students. Over time, its influence among them grew and it managed to win many souls to the movement. The devotion of the boys and girls knew no bounds, and more than once they were tested and overcame.

In 1925, an incident happened that stirred up all the Jewish residents. One of the members was not admitted to the high school because of his affiliation with “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir.” This touched his heart so much that he fell ill with a fatal nervous disease, got encephalitis, and died. The Jews of the city were shocked to the core because they saw him as a victim of the arbitrariness of the authorities. His funeral was attended by crowds of Jews. From the members of the Zionist federations alone, about 2,000 people followed his coffin. We wanted to have the students of the school where the deceased attended participate in the funeral, but the school administration presented a condition, that the funeral would be “civil” with a red flag and that, instead of “El Male Rachamim,” the “International” would be sung. We did not agree, of course, to these conditions. The students were not allowed to attend the funeral. But in fact, they also joined. Almost all of them, members of “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir.”

This spontaneous protest against the behavior of the Soviet school management, encouraged and strengthened

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the movement into a bold political act. In those days, persecution worsened against the learners of the Hebrew language and its teachers, and it was necessary to make public the Jewish public's opposition and lack of acceptance of the banning of our national language. The institutions of the “Tse'irei Tsiyon” party, the “Tarbut” society, and the main leadership of “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” decided to submit a petition, signed by multitudes of children, to the government institutions to permit the study of the Hebrew language in schools.

“Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” took on the main burden for the realization of the project. It issued a proclamation to the youth and school students in which it emphasized the special status of the Hebrew language, prohibited from being used and studied, unlike the other languages of the minorities in the country, and called on all Jewish youth to demand from the government institutions to return to their national language - Hebrew - its natural right. The announcement was distributed


A group of members from “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” in 1923


in all parts of the city. When the students came to school in the morning, they found copies of the proclamation on the benches. The proclamation reached the youth in the nearby towns as well.

The signing of the petition began. The main points of the action were: to only have children up to the age of fourteen sign, school students; to have the petition written by a child; its content: a demand to open a Hebrew school and to allow the study of the Hebrew language in the existing schools. The action was met with great sympathy from the students. The power of “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” cells in the schools was evident throughout the operation. In Kamyanets alone, about 2,000 signatures were collected. First name, last name, and city name were specified. The signing was also arranged in the nearby towns.

This large action among the masses of children caused great Zionist agitation. Through the operation, “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” also managed to expand its ranks. The main leadership saw the need to give its branches in Kamyanets Podilskyy a blue and white flag as a sign of its excellence in the petition enterprise. It was a time of exhilarating elation when the messenger of the main leadership handed the Zionist flag to one of the local boys in an illegal assembly outside the city.

The petition, signed by thousands of boys and girls in the cities and towns of Podolia, was sent in two copies - one to the central authorities in Ukraine and the other - to the authorities in Podolia. The Yevsektsiya did not, of course, sit idly by and began an investigation. Several signers of the petition

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were called to the G.P.O. and were required to cancel their signatures. It used various means of pressure on the children - threatened them that it would expel them from school, that it would imprison them. When it failed to impose its will on the children, the G.P.O. turned to the parents and demanded of them to influence their children. But that didn't help either. Not only did the children not respond to the demand of the G.P.O. rather, on their own accord, they continued to collect new signatures of those demanding permission of the Hebrew language and its study. These signatures were nothing more than an additional demonstration of the matter since the petition had already been submitted to the authorities before this.

The general Soviet press did not respond to the petition at all. Only in “Stern” from Kharkiv did a cartoon appear, depicting a typical “teacher” and a small child by his side. And the same teacher dictates: “[Yiddish sentence].” From this we understood that the petition fell into the hands of the Yevsektsiya and this is where its fate was decided.

(“Naftoli Dor,” Volume 1.)

The Struggle for Hebrew among the Youth

by Pesach

Translated by Monica Devens

In 1926, the Yevsektsiya was at the pinnacle of its “national” work in Yiddish: it opened a network of Yiddish schools and invented all kinds of tricks to force the Jewish children to study in these schools. It even increased the imprisoning of teachers of Hebrew, a “clerical” counter-revolutionary language.

At the same time, a circular was received in Dunayivtsi from the district headquarters of “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” and the district committee of the Zionist Youth Federation with instructions to send a petition to the Soviet government, that it would allow the study of the Hebrew language. The petition had to be written in two copies, and the first and last name should be signed in clear writing.

The branch committee assigned one of its members to carry out this instruction. There were children who sacrificed themselves for this action. The “job” was difficult: on the one hand, they had to be careful about the G.P.O. And on the other hand, also of the parents, who, of course, did not have a negative attitude toward the Hebrew language, but were full of fear of the authorities.

On the day of remembrance for Taras Shevchenko, a reception of questions and answers was held at the general school. The member who was tasked with carrying out the signing was invited to the reception as a guest of one of the students. It was arranged in advance that the question of “What is Zionism” would fall to him and so it was. For his part, he rose to answer this question. The member briefly explained the essence of Zionism and its connection to the Hebrew language, and emphasized that Taras Shevchenko was recognized as a Ukrainian national poet and his language was permitted, while our national poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik, his language was forbidden because that's what the Yevsektsiya wanted. It was well known that the Hebrew language was allowed in Moscow. Possibly if they would send a petition to Moscow and ask to recognize Hebrew as a language of study, like the other languages in Russia, the government would respond positively to this request.

[Page 80]

Apparently these things had an effect on the students and one of them, Zhitomirsky, passed from student to student and got them to sign the petition. We collected over a hundred signatures that evening. (The boy did not last long at the school because after a while he was expelled from it.) On the other hand, we encountered strong opposition in the Yiddish school, which was entirely under the influence of the Yevsektsiya. Nevertheless, we collected many hundreds of signatures in a short period of time.

In 1926, there was the population census and among the other questions, there was also the question - in which languages is the citizen fluent. We organized a broad publicity campaign among the population so that they would also mention the Hebrew language. Many, many strongly demanded to register their knowledge of Hebrew, but clerks announced that they were ordered not to list this language.

In different ways, we tried to impart some knowledge of Hebrew to the youth. We organized evening lessons in groups of 2-3 children, we also established a traveling library. Under our influence, the number of parents who taught their children Hebrew increased, even though the risk of imprisonment was involved.

(“Naftolei Dor,” Volume 1.)

Zionist Youth in the Resistance

by Chaya Gelman Tissenbaum

Translated by Monica Devens

The “Scouts” battalion in our city was simply called the “Federation of Scouts,” deliberately as regards the authorities, but the boys and girls of the battalion knew very well what and who they were. It was Zionist youth in resistance.

On the 20th of Tammuz, they would go on a regular trek to the forest and older members would come there to lecture on Zionist issues, especially on the affairs of the day. Of course, the adults would come separately and at different times.


The “Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir” battalion

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A document from the Federation of Zionists for a member who was immigrating to Israel


On its way to the forest, the battalion would pass through the city streets to the beat of the drummer Yitzhak Beharav z”l and to the song of Y-h hai-li-li ama-li-li. At the head of the battalion marched its commander Yitzhak Gelman z”l. To many who stood on the sidelines watching the scouts, it was known that this was pioneering Zionist youth.

As the commander's friend in those days, I remember how difficult this position was. As far as the authorities were concerned, it was a kind of Gadna (youth battalion) for us. The sports instructor of the “Vase'ovoch” was also the instructor of our battalion. He knew the whole truth about us. He was a gentile who apparently did not like the authorities very much.

Many members of the battalion were captured by the authorities and exiled to Siberia. A few of them are in Israel today and many of them perished in exile. The commander and, along with him, several members were also arrested after a Zionist conference and sent to the prison in Vinnytsya after first serving out part of their crime in a “basement” in Kamyanets. The court acquitted them of any guilt and they all returned to Kamyanets.

The Kamyanets Podilskyy Ghetto

by Moshe Deutsch

Translated by Monica Devens

In the second half of July 1941, exactly one month after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, two Hungarian gendarmes appeared at my house in Teresva (Hungary) and ordered me and my wife to be ready within ten minutes to go with them. Yes, we were ordered to take provisions for the road for several days. We heard about transports of Jews from Budapest and other cities in Hungary, but

[Page 82]

we didn't know where they were being taken. In Budapest, there was a “KAUK” office to deal with foreign citizens and the authorization for these transports - lack of Hungarian citizenship.

From my apartment they led me, my wife, and my daughter to the courtyard of the town's secretariat and there we stayed until evening, when hundreds of women, children, and old people were brought there from the surrounding area. There were few young men because these had long been conscripted into forced labor camps. From this yard, we were transferred to sleep overnight at a school. The next day, my wife and daughter were released, and I and the rest of the detainees were taken to the train station, where we boarded train cars. After wandering about, we arrived in Yasinya and the gendarmes who accompanied us ordered us to sit down on our luggage. We waited for about an hour until an official from the Bureau for the Aid of the Jews arrived from Budapest, who addressed us with this language: “Everyone who has an original Hungarian citizenship card is requested to give it to me, I do not accept any other document.” There were two Jews among us, one born in Transnistria with a majestic appearance whose long white beard hung down and one born in Poland who gave the requested certificate to the clerk. These were taken out of the transport and sent back home.


A Concentration Camp

From the train station in Yasinya, a Hungarian soldier led us along a path next to the railroad tracks to the town of Huashalya and put us in a camp enclosed by wire fences in the middle of which was a factory for making planks. Thousands of men, women, and children were gathered there. Hunger tormented all those who were there for a long time. Although the Bureau for the Aid of the Jews and the Jewish community in Yasinya did their best and provided food to the detainees, the handful did not satisfy the lion. The general situation in this camp was horrible, especially at night, the cries of the babies and the groans of the old and sick were unbearable.


Departure to an Unknown Location

Every day, 15 to 20 military trucks appeared in the camp and the camp residents were loaded onto them and taken to an unknown location. Rumors spread that the Jews were being settled in the houses of farmers who, due to the outbreak of the war, had abandoned their homes and joined the Red Army. Other rumors said that the Jews were being murdered in Galicia and their bodies were being thrown into the Dniester. Our turn came. One Friday evening at the end of July, we were loaded onto trucks and driven to an unknown place. We crossed the border between Hungary and Poland that had been conquered by the Germans. In the evening, we arrived at Borszczów in Galicia. In the Jewish homes, the Shabbat candles were already lit and in our hearts we prayed to join these Jews who looked at us with fear and compassion, but the cars did not stop. In the late hours, we arrived at the fortress of Kamyanets Podilskyy. There we were taken off the cars and ordered to stay put, with Hungarian gendarmes guarding us all night. The morning dawned and the men were brought into the church nearby and the gendarmes closed the door on us. Then they took us out one by one and ordered us to raise our hands, while the sergeant checked our pockets and stole the little money we had with us as well as rings and watches. Then the command was heard: “Now go ahead, anyone who dares to come back - a bullet in his head!”


In Kamyanets Podilskyy

Our procession started to climb up the street in Podzamcze. I ran into a Jew and greeted him

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with “Gut Shabbes” and he replied “Gut Shabbes.” “Are you Jews from Hungary? - asked the Jew. “Yes, we are Jews from Hungary.” “Oh my” “What happened? How did you get here” - “We have no answer, dear Jew, war is war.” “Tell us R. Jew, maybe we can stay with you?” - “I am very sorry, I already have Jews from Hungary, but in the kindergarten not far from here you can find shelter.”

Under the guidance of this Jew, we reached the kindergarten where we found Jews who had been expelled from Hungary sitting at small tables with the remains of onions on them, singing sweetly, “Yom Zeh Mechubad Mi-Kol Ha-Yamim.”

I went to the center of the old city and there I encountered hundreds of deported Jews, among them many acquaintances. I heard from one source that there would be a meeting in one of the buildings there and that I should attend this meeting.


The Meeting and its Results

The hall where the meeting was held was full to the brim. At this meeting, three committees were chosen: one that was intended to negotiate with the German military headquarters; the second - with the Hungarian military headquarters; and the third was intended to coordinate actions in the area. The next day, the two committees returned empty-handed and only one of their members managed to contact the German commander, and he said to him: “The Jews wanted war - and here it is in all its cruelty, and they must bear all its consequences.”


The Ghetto Gate

[Page 84]

The Old City as a Ghetto

We wandered around free for about a week. There were few local people, Jews and Ukrainians, whom we encountered. Very slowly, they all came out of their hiding places and the Jewish people of the place saw a good sign in the presence of Jews from Hungary and helped us as much as they could. When we went to the nearby villages to buy food, the Ukrainians, too, the “Muzhiks” and the “Hazaikas,” showed understanding for our troubles and refused to accept compensation for the food items we received from them.

One day, the Germans ordered us to form a “Judenrat” within twenty-four hours and notices appeared on the streets of the city ordering all the Jews in Kamyanets Podilskyy and the surrounding area to concentrate in the old city, which was declared a ghetto. Yes, all Jews from the age of ten and older were ordered to wear a white ribbon with a blue “Star of David” on the left arm and not to leave the area of the ghetto; contact with the German headquarters should only be through the “Judenrat”; one who violates the orders mentioned above - any one, a death sentence.

The Germans promised to provide food to the ghetto residents at cheap prices. But apart from a few hundred kilograms of barley flour, we received nothing. Each head of a family put three rubles into the Judenrat coffers to finance the shopping. As a committee on behalf of the Judenrat, we were given a license to go to the market during certain hours to buy food, but we were unable to get more than one cart of cucumbers and one cart of cabbage. Once only, the three local members of the Judenrat managed to buy about two hundred kilograms of meat. The surrounding farmers occasionally entered the ghetto and took Jews from there to work, so that they could receive bread from the bakeries at their expense. Indeed, even the work we were assigned to do was not necessary at all.


The Ghetto Gate in Karvasar

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Forced Labor

Every day, the German army took people, especially women, to various jobs outside the ghetto areas and in exchange for their work they received food. They also brought some of the rations they received to their families in the ghetto. In the ghetto itself, hunger began to show its signs. Many people and children fell ill from hunger. Children reached out for alms, but the pennies they collected could not buy anything in the ghetto.

One day, a Hungarian officer contacted us and asked for ten craftsmen, carpenters and painters, to install road signs. Only carpenters were found and I alone took it upon myself to draw signs. And so we went to work. Before we finished the work, a Hungarian officer entered the workshop and asked who would volunteer to go to the front tomorrow on August 25th to install signs there, and if necessary, to paint more signs. No one opened their mouth. The officer added that every volunteer would stand under his protection and would receive the rations and services that a soldier deserves. I answered him that I was ready.

At dawn on August 25, 1941, I left in a truck with an officer and four soldiers in the direction of Vinnytsya and Haysyn. On the way, I made friends with the officer and one of the soldiers and we talked because they would take Hungarian Jews out of the ghetto for a suitable ransom and I took upon myself the responsibility of paying the ransom. According to the registration, ten thousand local Jews, six thousand deported from Hungary, and two thousand from Bessarabia were found in the ghetto. Many local Jews fled with the retreat of the Red Army. On our way, we passed Dunayivtsi, Proskorov (= Khmelnytskyi), Mohyliv-Podilskyy, Vinnytsya, Haysyn, and other towns. In all these places, I saw frightened and terrified Jews. In Haysyn, the Hungarian officer told the German commanding officer there that I was a sign painter and he wrote down his address on a piece of paper, so that he could send me to him in case of need. After a week, when we finished painting the signs, we returned to Kamyanets.


The Liquidation of the Ghetto

On August 29, on our way back to Kamyanets, a Hungarian soldier got on our car and told us that thirteen thousand Jews had been killed in Kamyanets. The officer didn't want to believe it, he saw it as a “horror-propaganda,” but the frightened soldier apologized because he had heard it from his officer who had returned from Kamyanets. At noon that day, we arrived in the city and stopped by the army base of the Hungarians. No one was seen outside and the soldiers said that the Jews had been killed. I was ordered to hide until the Gestapo left the place. I hid in a car for a week.

After some time, an engineer from the Hungarian engineering corps appeared, sent to me by my friend, the officer mentioned above, to assist in my escape and he told me about the events in the city since I left it: “Next to the tank excavation outside the city, they dug another two large pits, and informed the Hungarian Jews that they were being taken home, but in fact they brought them to these pits and ordered them to undress. Pillars were erected from these pits and a plank formed a bridge between the top of the pillar and the edge of the pit. The Jews were ordered to get on the board backwards and a machine gun was pointed at them from the front. This is how the Jews were exterminated. Two Podkarpatska Rus soldiers refused to shoot, saying that they would not raise their guns on women and children. What befell them for disobedience is unknown to me.”

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The Escape

The engineer left the car and went to organize my escape, but before he could return, the officer appeared in a panic: “Run for your life because the army base found out that a Jew is hiding here. Hightail it!” At my request, the officer gave me the address of that German officer from Haysyn who had invited me to work for him.

That evening, I spent the night in the attic of a peasant woman in Podzamcze. I didn't close an eye all night because of mental stress and fear and because of the barking of the dogs, which howled in a terrible voice. The smell of the blood of the victims reached their nostrils and they, the dogs of Kamyanets Podilskyy, were the only ones who eulogized the victims… The next day, I arrived in the town of Orynyn and there I learned from a Jewish boy that about 2,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered in this town, while the local Jews remained alive.


A remnant of a destroyed synagogue


On the back of the paper on which was the address of the German officer, I wrote in German in Gothic letters the following letter: “A. N. In accordance with my promise, I am sending you the man you asked for and he will do his work with complete faith to your satisfaction. With respect and admiration” and I concluded with my signature in an illegible hand and the date. On the way, I spoke only Ukrainian. Near the Russian-Polish border, near the Zbruch river, I fell into the hands of two Germans. I showed them the letter I had forged and they guided me in the direction of the border. Continuing my journey, I arrived in Galicia to the town of Skala-Podilska and from there to Borszczów. In these places I met with Jews and one of the Borszczów Jews advised me not to enter a Jewish home. This is how I passed through the towns of Tlost, Horodenka, Kolmyya, Delyatyn, Jaremcze, Mikuliczyn, and Tatarow. In all these towns I saw Jews carrying their personal belongings to ghettos. In Lubliniec, I was stopped by the Ukrainian militia, who were not satisfied with the letter in my hand, and they took me to the German headquarters on the Polish-Hungarian border. They said that there was no hindrance on their part and a German officer accompanied me to the Hungarian border guards and persuaded them to allow me to go to Hungary. However, the Hungarians ordered me to return in the same manner as I had come. I was forced to return to the village a second time and was caught by the militia. I was miraculously saved by a Jew until I arrived together with other Hungarian Jews in Hungary.

[Page 87]


by Moshe Deutsch

Translated by Monica Devens


David Schleifer

On Shmini Atzeret 1920, one of the veteran businessmen and Zionists was shot dead by Denikin's soldiers in Kyiv - the lawyer David Ben Shabbetai Schleifer from Kamyanets Podilskyy. He left us at such a time of unrest that even his closest friends and acquaintances were unable to pay him the last kindness and almost did not eulogize him satisfactorily. And in the meantime, our heart will forget the memory of one of the good and important Zionists who sacrificed his blood and the best part of himself for more than thirty years on the altar of our national work.




D. Schleifer was born in Kamyanets Podilskyy in 1863 to poor and somewhat educated parents. He graduated from the local gymnasium and was accepted to Kharkiv University in the law faculty. Being a student, he suffered much poverty and deprivation because he had to take care of his own existence. During almost all his days studying at the university he lived only on bread and salted fish, and despite his poor material situation he gave his heart to the Bilu movement and was one of the active members who were preparing to immigrate to Eretz Israel, despite the sad news received from there after the immigration of the first group back in 1882. In the meantime, he finished the university and became a lawyer, came to Kamyanets, married a wife, and began to practice his profession and, within a short time, became famous in the city and the surrounding area as an expert in Jewish civil law and from all over the region, the Jews flocked to him to ask for advice and protection in their various cases.

After the first congress, the deceased devoted himself to the Zionist idea. His work later occupied his entire life. He founded, in his city, the first Zionist association of the intelligentsia and immediately after that - associations of middle-class men, educated young men, middle-class women, educated young women, and more. An urban center was chosen from the representatives of all the associations and the deceased was at its head.

He did not excel as a speaker. In his speeches, there was logic, a healthy mind and moderation, and his words came from his heart with excessive enthusiasm and made the strongest impression on the audience. In particular, the deceased excelled in his wonderful organization. His soul could not find rest due to his constant fear that he might not yet fulfill his duty to the idea and therefore, he organized the Zionist work in the provincial towns and, with the consent of the Central Zionist Committee, a conference of Podolia Zionists was called in 1908. The conference chose a regional committee, whose role was to organize and manage the work in the entire region, and the deceased was the head of the committee and succeeded in a short time to organize and strengthen the work by more than 100 points.

The authorities in Kamyanets related to the deceased with great trust so that the Zionist work was conducted almost legally. Without special difficulties, he often managed to hold area-wide and district conferences. And in Kamyanets itself, assemblies, lectures, receptions, and the like were held every week.

Once at the urban Zionist center, the question about an anti-Semitic play “Contrabandists,” which the city theatre wanted to grant the city residents, was on the agenda. The Minister of Police knew what was happening in our camp in relation

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to this matter and he came to that yeshiva in his own right, participated in the debates, and finally took it upon himself to be the mediator between the Zionists and the theater - and the play was removed from the repertoire.

However, the extensive and visible work in Kamyanets and the surrounding area was not liked by another authority, and one day in 1910, the gendarmerie searched my house and took all the protocols, lists, letters, accounts, and correspondence, and the like, and after multiple investigations, turned the matter over to the area court and it was necessary already to make something out of this because they could not pass over the extensive material in silence, which showed in black and white the existence of a strong and organized illegal federation in every region with an area, national, and international center… and here even D. Schleifer could no longer cancel the matter. He mainly tried to weaken the legal material and to remove from the matter, first of all, the central institutions as well as the federations in the provincial cities. And in this regard, he was able to influence the course of affairs a lot. First of all, they bribed the legal investigator with a tip (200 rubles) and since he was a legal investigator for important matters - he accepted the gift warmly. And in 1911, D. S. gave an enthusiastic Zionist speech at the court, which was a demonstration to the outside and to the inside, and all the members of the committee were found innocent.

After the Zionist sensation at the court, D. S. wanted to raise Zionism in the eyes of the residents of his city, in spite of the opposition of his haters and opponents who thought that the end had already come to the Zionism of Kamyanets and the surrounding area as well as to Schleifer's greatness. For this purpose, he organized a large masquerade ball for the benefit of the Palestinian Committee in Odesa and at this ball an Eretz Israel market was arranged from the country's produce. The city's elite came to this ball, both Jews and Christians, and many from the nearby cities. The success of the ball was so great that they forced D. S. a few days later to an encore and the ball went by for the second time with great success.

Along with his Zionist work, D. S. participated in all public works in the city and everywhere he was one of the leading speakers. Through his efforts, a Talmud Torah with craft departments was founded in Kamyanets from the meat tax money. A “Hebrew Club” was also founded by him (the only club with such a name in the entire region) with a rich library of three thousand Hebrew and Russian volumes from the life of the Jews. In the above-mentioned institutions, D. S. was the chairman. He was also known throughout the province not only as a Zionist, but also as a general community activist.

His Zionist enthusiasm reached its peak only at the time of “Hedvah.” And whoever did not see the deceased with “Zionist joy” did not see a happy person in his days. There was no limit to his devotion, either. At times like these, he sometimes even forgot his duty to the government as a lawyer and how many times was he in a situation of danger for such sins.

I remember one case at Simchat Torah in a small town “Orynyn” near Kamyanets. We arranged

a “Minyan” in a private house there for the benefit of the congregation, during the reading of the Torah, a carriage drove up to the house, and in the carriage sat D. S. and a legal investigator who traveled according to the order of the area court to the nearby village for an investigation. D. S. left the investigator in the carriage and he himself entered the “Minyan.” We honored the guest with an “Aliyah” and we thought that he would hurry to go on his way. But the deceased waited until they had finished reading the Torah, gave a Zionist speech, and after

[Page 89]

“Musaf,” blessed the wine together with us with singing and dancing as usual. But he wasn't satisfied with that. The Torah still needed to be brought into the synagogue. And look, the Zionists of “Orynyn” surround the whole town with songs and dances. Schleifer walks in the lead and conducts the tunes, and after him - all the Zionists, and after them - the whole town, men, women, and children, and the “goy” sits in the carriage and waits…

A case of a different kind happened in the city of Dunayivtsi (30 km from Kamyanets). In this city, there was for a long time a conflict between the “old” and the “young” Zionists and the Zionist work suffered a lot from this. The regional committee that wanted to put an end to this quarrel came to Dunayivtsi for a special meeting to clarify the conflict. On that day, Schleifer, together with the investigator, had to visit the nearby village on behalf of the area court, and on their way to Dunayivtsi they were going to rest for a while. D. S. left the legal investigator at the hotel and went to the meeting of the local Zionists for a little while. The meetings lasted two days and two nights and D. S. had already forgotten the legal investigator and the government investigation…

D. S. was a delegate to various Zionist congresses and conferences. And after every congress, it was as if his youth was renewed. Several times he decided to visit the Land of Israel, but he could in no way come to Israel as a mere Zionist or a simple tourist and always dreamed of connecting his trip with a real Zionist enterprise, and even in 1908 he said to organize a group of fifty young men and women from Podolia and to found a cooperative settlement for them. One day I found him engrossed in a map of Eretz Israel and, while he was telling me about the details of the plan, he showed me on the map the place for the settlement (next to Motza). The deceased did not like to argue and went to work: he issued a call for proposal on this matter to all the Zionist associations in Podolia, came to talks with our central institutions (the reduced and the large Executive Committee, the Central Committee, the congregation, the Odesa committee, etc.). Also with wealthy private individuals and those who were familiar with the issues of settlement and cooperation. And he had already dreamed of the happy hour in his life that he would accompany the group immigrating to the Land of Israel. But our institutions found that the time had not yet come for such an enterprise.

It is worth mentioning that, in the same place that D. S. dreamed twenty years ago of founding the settlement there, the Kiryat Anavim collective farm is now located, ninety percent of whose members are from Podolia and most of them from Kamyanets itself.

The deceased expressed another idea also:

He came in contact with a photographer in Kamyanets for the purpose of traveling to the Land of Israel to photograph Jewish life in the cities and collective farms and later to tour Russian cities for the purpose of propaganda for the Zionist idea with the help of these photographs. This did not work out either.

When D. S. saw that all his dreams of traveling to Eretz Israel in connection with a real undertaking were not coming true, he decided to travel as a simple tourist and in 1912, when his only daughter finished her studies in Switzerland, he said to please himself and his family and to visit the Land of Israel. He said and he did: he arranged his affairs, got a passport, and everything was already ready to go. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, his trip to Israel was postponed this time, too.

With the beginning of the World War, when the Austrian armies entered Kamyanets and demanded a huge amount of contribution over twenty-four hours, D. S., along with the rest of the city's businessmen, was forced

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to go all night from house to house and collect money and valuables, and a few days later, when the Russian armies expelled the Austrians and began to take revenge on the Jews for the contribution (even though, according to the order of Emperor Franz Joseph, the money and belongings were returned in their entirety to their owners), the deceased decided to leave Kamyanets.

At that time Tsar Nikolai visited Kamyanets as one of the places of the war front and the local municipality gave him a festive reception with delegations of Christians, Catholics, and Jews. The Hebrew community requested that D. S. walk at the head of the Jewish delegation. It was decided not to make any speeches before the Tsar. In those days, rumors were already spreading about the Jews, that they were spies for Germany, etc., etc. These rumors had already caused the expulsion of Jews from towns near the border and there was a similar incident in the town of “Kutni.” D. S. could not suppress his pain and go through these events in complete silence, and when he presented the Tsar with bread and salt, he addressed him with these words: “If you, Your Highness the Emperor, do not believe in the incident of “Kutni” - accept from the Jewish residents bread and salt”… The Emperor extended his hand to him and said: “I accept” …

A few days later, Schleifer left Kamyanets and from then on began his wanderings with his family members from Kamyanets to Vinnytsya, from there to Ekaterinoslav (=Dnipro), to Kyiv and again to Kamyanets, Ekaterinoslav (=Dnipro) until the end of the war… At the beginning of the revolution, he returned to Kamyanets and, although he found there a strong Zionist federation, especially of young men and women, he could no longer live in the city that had become the nest of the Petliura supporters and decided to settle in Kyiv where, according to the efforts of the Zionists, he was appointed a peace judge and also found an extensive field for public and Zionist work. At that time, Kyiv became an important Zionist and public center, and the local Zionists cherished the deeds of the deceased. He was elected vice-chairman of the first democratic Hebrew congregation, a member of the municipal Zionist committee, a member of the “Jewish National Assembly,” a member of various committees of the Zionist Center in Ukraine, and published articles in the Jewish newspaper “Telegraph,” which was then published in Kyiv and around “the world,” in “Al Ha-Mishmar” and more.

With the change of regimes, D. S. remained without work and, together with other businessmen and Zionists, refugees and those affected by the war and the revolution - suffered poverty and deprivation.

His mood became depressed from day to day and the man always full of life and enthusiasm, hopes and dreams, fell into an abyss of despair.

When Denikin's men entered Kyiv and began to abuse the Jews and their property, the deceased was not able to hide in the attic or in the basement. And went out into the courtyard to influence the wild soldiers. But upon his appearance in the courtyard, they shot him and he fell to the ground covered in his blood.

Israel Goldman

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Israel Goldman

Born on Tuesday, October 20, 1879, in the town of Orynyn, Kamyanets Podilskyy district, to his father, the ritual slaughterer, R. Yeshayahu Goldman. He received a traditional Torah education in the “Cheder” and the “Yeshiva,” as was customary in those days.




After becoming an orphan at a young age, he moved to his grandfather's house in Kamyanets Podilskyy and continued his Torah studies. Together with these, he glanced at the Hebrew and Yiddish Enlightenment literature, fell in love, and was caught up in the stirrings of new times and the Zionist idea. When he grew up, he learned Russian and received a teacher's certificate.

Gifted with the talent for writing, he began to write poems and stories in Yiddish and even published a collection of poems called “Ideal and Life,” which was printed in Vilnius. Over time, he devoted himself mainly to Zionist-public work in Kamyanets Podilskyy and the cities of the region.

I. Goldman was a friendly man and soon stood out in the Zionist movement, and the leader of the Zionists in Kamyanets Podilskyy, the lawyer D. Schleifer, brought him closer to him and chose him as secretary of the Zionist federation in Podolia.

He also knew how to wage war with opponents and to stand his ground in a war of opinions out of a fair attitude towards his opponents.

Despite being entirely immersed in teaching and in public-Zionist engagement, he began to publish articles in newspapers and over time became a significant journalist who knew how to faithfully describe the life of the Jews and their problems in Podolia. For many years, he was a regular correspondent of the Odesa newspaper “Gut Margen” and also participated in the local press in Kamyanets Podilskyy in the Russian language.

When Jewish immigration from Russia to North and South America increased and the ICA (Jewish Colonization Association) opened an information bureau in Kamyanets Podilskyy, I. Goldman was appointed the bureau's secretary and over time also to the administration. Thanks to his humane attitude towards immigrants, he was liked by them, who saw him as a friend ready to help them with heart and soul.

From his intimate knowledge of the wishes and troubles of the immigrants, he gave them faithful expression in his “Gut Margen” articles.

On the eve of the outbreak of the First World War, I. Goldman moved to Kyiv and was appointed secretary of the area committee of the Jewish National Fund.

In 1917, after the February coup, he was counted among the members of the “Jewish National Assembly” and served as vice chairman of the Jewish community in Kyiv.

When power passed to the Bolsheviks and the Zionist movement in Ukraine went underground, he continued his illegal Zionist work and was imprisoned in 1922, along with a number of other activists in the illegal Zionist conference in Kyiv, for two years.

[Page 92]

In 1925, when the authorities made certain concessions to the prisoners of Zion by expelling them from Russia, I. Goldman chose “expulsion” to Israel.

Upon his arrival in Israel, he devoted himself again to public work and together with A. Mazza initiated the establishment of the organization, “Brit Rishonim,” and served as its secretary and the living spirit in all its activities. Thus, G. saw his main role in Israel as creating a constant connection between himself and the Jews of Ukraine through an exchange of letters with his acquaintances and friends about the resurrection of the homeland and its building and the life of the Jews behind the Iron Curtain. His letters served as a great encouragement in the diaspora to the Zionists suffering there, and their letters were published in Israel in most of the newspapers.

At the end of World War II, when the bad news arrived about the Holocaust that befell the Jews of Europe, including the Jews of Kamyanets Podilskyy, I. Goldman initiated the establishment of “The Organization of Expatriates of Kamyanets Podilskyy and its Surroundings” and devoted much of his energy and time to it.

Y. A. Bar-Levi (Weisman)


Zalman Porat (Pretkin)

A native of Pryluky in Ukraine. He arrived in our city at an advanced age on the eve of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and immediately entered into public-Zionist action as a member of “Tse'irei Tsiyon.” His talents and his ways with people immediately placed him in the front ranks of the movement. With the outbreak of the revolution and the change of regimes, he was included with the other members in a big fight, both with the authorities and with our opponents in the Jewish street.

Gifted with a talent for acquiring languages and for building relationships with people, he was nominated by our friends and those close to us from the other parties in the city at the head of the Jewish community during the time of the Ukrainian government and the Jewish Ministry led by Minister Pinchas Krasny; he excelled in his ability to organize and in his accuracy in managing affairs. He was among the initiators of the creation of the first consumer cooperative in our place and was the head of its management.




When the Bolsheviks entered Kamyanets Podilskyy for the second time in 1920, he was forced, like the rest of our friends, to leave the city and cross the border into Romania. There, too, he quickly found his place in the Zionist work in Kishinev (=Chisinau) and for many years was active on behalf of the national committee of Keren Ha-Yesod throughout Bessarabia and Romania. He soon acquired the Romanian language, which allowed him to work for Keren Ha-Yesod among the Jews of Romania. In Kishinev (=Chisinau), he wrote in the Jewish press and was one of the participants in the “Unser Zeit” newspaper.

Twenty-five years ago, he immigrated to Israel and started working at the supervisory union for the agricultural cooperative next to the agricultural center and he continued in this job until the day he died.

Y. A. W–n


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