Memories from the way–of–life in the Community
by Yitzhak Gurfinkel
Translated by Sara Mages
A. The Moshokim
Almost every family in town was given a nickname, at times, a derogatory name or just a nickname, and each nickname has its own history.
One of the largest families in town was the Moszokim family. The origin of this family is from the distant history of the town. It was a big and extensive family that constituted a large part of the population of the town. The members of that family didn't always know and remember the relationship between them. They all had black hair and eyes. And here's the source of the nickname of this multisons family.
The father of the father of that family was in possession of land in the town of Aranda and paid taxes to the Polish landowner. The opinion is that the location of that town was on the banks of the Sluch River, which is blessed in its waters and fish. Pine forests closed the town from all directions. Once, the father of the family, whose name was Moshe, appeared before the Polish landowner. The Polish landowner asked him: Moszko, czy masz pieniadze? (meaning: Moszko, do you have money?) Moszko answered him: Masz (meaning you have, instead of Mam I have) and from then on he was called Moszko Masz and his offspring Moshokim.
B. Nothing disappears from the sun
It was at the end of the second decade of this century, the period of revolutions. From time to time the regime changed in the town, the Bolsheviks came, the Poles, the Patlorovim, the Hidmakim [Cossacks] and just all sorts of murderous groups with different names. But, life went on as usual in the town. Regime came and regime left. The town's notables bribed those, paid ransom to others, and continued their lives. Many Jews made their living trading in the villages.
Soandso, whose business was buying cattle from the farmers, left that morning with gold Rubles in his saddlebag for the trade. When he arrived to one of the villages, he negotiated with one of the gentiles for the purchase of a pair of oxen. The gentile, who coveted the man's money, told him that not far from the place he had more cattle for sale. The man was tempted and went with him. The time was sunset time, and on that summer day the sun looked like a burning ball of fire as it was setting between the tall pine trees. The gentile brought him to the forest, pulled out a large knife, and robbed the money from the man. The man begged before the gentile: leave me alone, take the property and give me my soul! The gentile claimed: If I let you go you will come with the police to arrest me, I must kill you and then no one will know.
The Jew answered: in any case they will redeem my blood from the hands of the murderer.
The gentile laughed and said: after all, no one knows, and there's no one to testify against me. The Jew looked at the setting sun while murmuring words of prayer and said: I administer an oath to the sun and it will reveal your crime. He said and fell silent. The killer's knife caught up with him and a stream of hot red blood poured out. The gentile dug a hole and buried the body of the Jew in it.
Of course, on that day the Jew failed to arrive. His daughter and his son waited for him in vain, questioned and investigated, but the man disappeared without a trace.
In time the gentile got married. One evening he returned tired from his work, sat down to rest from the toil of the day, looked at the sun setting in the west and roared with laughter. His wife wondered and came to him to know the meaning of his wild laughter, but he didn't say anything to her. In the manner of all women, she stood and pleaded until he finally opened with the story. See how strange these Jews are, and as he sat in front of the setting sun he told her the whole story. How the murdered a man who administered an oath to the sun that it will testify against the murderer.
Not many days have passed, and the gentile struck his wife. She was very angry and decided to get even with him. The woman traveled to the city and told the story. The police was called and everyone traveled to the place and found the victim's body. The victim's family fulfilled the mitzvah of a funeral for the dead and he was buried in the Jewish cemetery. The gentile got what he deserved and the sun didn't violate its oath.
C. R' Itzia the doctor
R' Itzia became famous as a doctor, a wonders doctor, a real idol. Local farmers flocked to R' Itzia to receive medicine and advice and their hands were full of gifts: butter, chickens and eggs. R' Itzia achieved great success among the local farmers and legends have been told about him.
R' Itzia was a poor man and barely supported his family. Most of its existence came from his wife, Feiga, who was a woman of valor. On market day Feiga bought eggs and butter, sold them for a profit and in this manner
supported the family with no complains and grievances. She was a righteous woman, may she rest in peace, but her wealth did not last because she was bless with the fruit of the womb and always walked in an advance state of pregnancy. She had many complaints to R' Itzia and called him schlemiel. R' Itzia traveled to the Trisk Rebbe, because he was a Hasid, poured before him his bitter disappointment and asked for advice. What to do? The Rebbe told him: Go among the gentiles and earn a living like most of your brothers, the residents of the town.
But, what should I do, Rebbe? R' Itzia pleaded with him.
God will show you, my son, you have to trust him! The Rebbe ruled.
R' Itzia left for the road. The man was observant, Godfearing and heedful of a light precept as of a weighty one. When he arrived to the village he inquired about a gentile, his old acquaintance, he learned that he was ill. R' Itzia found the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick, even if he was a gentile. R' Itzia entered and found the gentile lying on his deathbed and his family lost all hope. When they saw the bearded R' Itzia to enter, they immediately turned to him, maybe he, the wise Jew, will give advice. R' Itzia went out, grinded a clay brick to powder, put it in a bottle of warm water and gave the gentile drinking instructions three big tablespoons during the day and, God willing, this medicine will cure him. This is what R' Itzia thought because he was a man of faith.
A few days later the gentile recovered and got up. Witnesses told that a horsedrawn wagon, full with all the best, was the gentile's gift to R' Itzia. Since then, R' Itzia became a doctor. Masses flocked to him, from near and far, and he became well known as an expert doctor.
However, R' Itzia trusted God and this is what he said: It is not important to the blessed God from what the patient will be cured, the most important thing is, that he will be cured. Therefore, he made all sorts of medicines from basalt stone powder, white granite stones, just salty or sweet
by Dvora Gorin (Weissman
Translated by Sara Mages
Our little and lovely town, Ludwipol, or as it was called in Yiddish, Slisht Gadol, is standing alive before my eyes.
The town was small in size, but nothing can be compared to its natural beauty. The Sluch River curved on one side and behind it, the forest, which stretched into an area that could not be estimated. On the other side was the Smorodinka Stream, which passed between Slisht the town and Slisht the village. The new settlement, Slisht, (from the Polish word Siedlisko) was built in place of the village of Hubków which was destroyed. Above it, it looked as if Ludwipol was surrounded by a bouquet of thick forests, green fields and blooming gardens. The forests drew to them the residents of nearby towns, such as: Korets, Berene, and Mezhirichi in Wolyn, and in the summer they came to summer camps with their children. Thus, the Jews enjoyed the world of the Master of the Universe year after year
Ludwipol was built in the thirteenth century. As far as is known, the village of Hubków was destroyed in 1241 by the Tatars and Ludwipol was built in its place by Prince Ludwig Semashekov. Among the ruins of Hubków remained the remains of a fortress and a deep well next to them. Legends, of this kind, circulated on this well: if a goose was placed inside the well, it got out from under the well to the Sluch because the mountain, on which the fortress is located, is bordering the Sluch and the well was connected to the river.
The youth's trips to the fortress, and the boating on the Sluch River, on the Sabbath and on holidays, haven't forgotten from my heart. Rocks, covered with greenery, rose in all their glory on the river banks and the singing of cheerful youth echoed to a distance. This singing continued until we arrived to the area of the Jewish cemetery. The voices fell silent in awe as we passed by the cemetery which was enveloped by the sacred splendor of the souls of past generations, of pure and holy.
Each family had its own genealogy, as if it carried the family's memorial plaque for generations. They were born in this town, grew up, left home, got married and established a new generation, passed away and left a legacy for future generations, and so the chain continued.
In this manner life went on in Ludwipol for generations, one knew the other from his ancestors and everyone rejoiced in the joy of a neighbor and acquaintance. When there was a wedding in town, the whole town rejoiced and everyone went out to escort the bride and groom to the Chuppah. And if, God forbid, a disaster or death occurred, the whole town participated in the funeral and in the practice of comforting the mourners. If a family suffered a financial loss, all the members of the town came with financial support and charity. When a pioneer wanted to immigrate to Israel and had no money for travel expenses, they also supported his immigration. Therefore, there's no need to say that the entire town was Zionist. I remember that when I was still young, someone named, Rosenberg, came to our town from Sarmy and established a chapter of Hashomer Hatzair. Because of his Zionism I was attracted to Hashomer Hatzair with blind instinct, and together with my friends we devoted ourselves, with all the strength of our youth, to the holy work in our town.
If, in the entire area was the desire to assimilate with the Poles, here, in our town, was the desire to break free. Most of the children studied at Tarbut school. Unfortunately, we did not have a school building but, nevertheless, we learned Hebrew at school which was located in three private homes: Gitel Zuserman zl, Zeidel Gurfinkel zl, and also at the home of Michel Wolman zl, Our first teachers were: Shlomo Gurfinkel, Gurevich, Yosef Segal, and I think that also Shchory. We did well in our studies and learned Hebrew in a Sephardic accent. There were also Heders in our town, like those with the teachers - Zeidel Gurfinkel and Gershon Melamed zl. There was also a Talmud Torah at the Shoemakers' Synagogue. However, most of the youth improved their knowledge in Hebrew at the youth federations. They conducted cultural activities and various conversations in Hebrew, sing-along, sports exercises and excursions in the area. The awakening of the Hebrew youth also influenced the course of life among the youth who studied at the Polish schools, and there was also a significant impact on the older generation. They gradually educated them, brought them closer to the Zionist idea and included them in fundraisings for the national funds, Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod.
For a long time Hashomer Hatzair was the only youth movement in town. It developed nicely and for a time I was the leader of the Kafirim group. Around the year 1920, Gordonia was established in our town and about half of the members of Hashomer Hatzair moved to Gordonia. Among them Bluma Wolman, Beila Reber, Asher Albasky zl,
Moshe Albasky, I, and many other members whose names I no longer remember. Over time, Hakhshara [pioneer training] center of the Gordonia group was also established in our town.
Later, HeHalutz, HeHalutz Hatzair, Betar, and Haoved, were also established. There was a great competition in the Zionist work between the various federations - who will collect more contributions for Keren Kayemet.
The election work in the town was feverish and enthusiastic prior to the Zionist Congresses. The whole town was inherent in Zionist life as if it forgotten its life work and its personal concerns. Every day, and every Sabbath, the sound of the pioneers' songs sounded from the homes in the town and merged with the singing from pioneer youth's clubs. At the same time there was an expansion in the cultural life of the town. Libraries were established in almost all the youth organizations as well as circles of dramatic actors. Among them it is worth mentioning, Zindel Wassermann. Literary evenings, reading parties, and questions and answers were organized and most of the youth took an active part in them. Sometimes, we also organized dances and a market for the benefit of Keren Kayemet. Once, we organized a market for the benefit of the building of Tarbut school and Keren Kayemet which contributed a lot of money for the school and for the national fund. All the youth federations in town participated in the preparations for the market. A large part of the contributions for Keren Kayemet, and for the school building, came from the outside, from the clerks who worked on the utilization of the surrounding forests. It's possible to say, that the school building was the splendor of our town and the surroundings. The students, who have completed their studies at this school, and also their teachers, had a great influence on the cultural development of Ludwipol. Every Sabbath Bible classes were held at the school and most of the youth flocked to them. Representatives of all the youth organization participated in the school's cultural committee.
|A group of activists of The Jewish National Fund separate from the treasurer, Shmuel Barak, before his immigration to Israel|
Ludvipol also excelled in the philanthropic area. Kupat Gemilut Chasadim was established and members of the Craftsmen Association and Merchants Association received loans without interest. In Ludvipol there was also a people's bank on cooperative principles where they received loans with interest. The bank developed very nicely and had a lot of influence on the course of the economic life in town.
|The Orphans Committee in Ludvipol (in the center Dr. Kegen-Segal)|
There were five synagogues and the Jews of came to pray in the morning and in the evening on weekdays, on the Sabbath and on holidays.
In the evenings they also studied the Six Orders of Mishnah, the Talmud, or any other studies, and in this way every resident of Ludvipol gave and received what he had obtained from the spiritual life of Judaism, the old generation according to its concepts and the young generation according to its concepts.
As noted, Gordonia and HeHalutz had Hakhshara points in our town. They trained the pioneering youth towards his immigration to Israel. Most of the youth, from among the circles of Ludvipol's Jews, was without a profession. Most of them engaged in small trade or small crafts and the training was very necessary for them.
It goes without saying, that the gentiles viewed the Jews as an undesirable and unproductive element since most of them engaged in trade. However, the relations between the Jews and the gentiles were relatively good.
In recent years other winds began to blow, Hitler's theory was felt in the air and also arrived in Ludvipo. Gradually, the idea of eliminating the influence of the Jews on trade started to brew by the founding of non-Jewish cooperatives which constituted a competition with Jewish trade. Not in a courteous manner, but the opposite, with open hatred and threats against the gentiles who continued to buy from the Jews. There was heaviness in the air and it felt as if a storm might break out. The economic situation worsened considerably. Many of Ludvipol's residents immigrated to Israel and those, who weren't able to immigrate to Israel, immigrated to Argentina, Canada, etc. Those who remained fought hard for their economic existence between the pressures of the cooperatives and the anti-Semitic pressure, and also the heavy taxes that were imposed on them, but still, they did not give up. In 1939, when Ludvipol was occupied by the Russians, all the economic and cultural life seems to have been frozen. Many pioneers fled to Vilna and from there they hoped to immigrate to Israel. Those, who remained in town, hid their longings for Israel in their hearts, went to work in the institutions of the Soviet government and waited for the right time. Among the members who fled to Vilna was also the member, Bila Reber, who now lives in Israel.
That's how it went until 1941. A war broke out between the Soviets and Germany. Some of the youth fled to Russia at the outbreak of the war and most of them survived. However, most of Ludvipol's population remained in the place, with their wives, children and property, and immediately after the entrance of the Nazis they were placed in a ghetto. Their property was robbed and they lived in inhuman way for a full year. On 14 Elul, 1942, they were led like sheep to the forest, to the former houses of Polish officers, shot in pits or buried alive. All this was held in the light of the sun and in the eyes of the entire world, without mercy and without fear. The Gestapo was not the only one to take part in the execution, all the Jew-haters, especially the Ukrainians, came to their aid. They robbed and destroyed what was possible, and what was left and not destroyed, they destroyed, burned, or transferred the houses to the nearby villages. Among the houses that were transferred to the villages was also our house. Among the murdered were my sister Malka, her husband Muny (Chaim) Lizak and their only son Yitzchak Tzvi zl. I was the only survivor of my family because I fled to Russia.
This is how the community of Ludvipol was established and existed for generations, and this is how it was destroyed to the ground by savage rioters. However, the memory of the community of Ludvipol wouldn't be erased from our memory for ever and will be engraved in the history of our nation which was tortured in times of holocaust and horrors. And you will tell your son all the history of Ludvipol, and you shall remember, to the end of generations, what Amalek did to you!
by Chaia Zamir (Semmelmacher)
Translated by Sara Mages
Even though Ludvipol was a small town, far from the centers of culture in Wolyn, the spirit of the Haskalah and national revival also penetrated it. The Zionist movement also began to thrive in our town. Meetings were held, a library with a reading room was established, and over time the Hebrew language became the spoken language. The pioneering movement struck deep roots in Ludvipol and many prepared themselves for immigration to our oldnew homeland. From time to time speakers came from the outside to encourage the youth and increase its desire to immigrate to Israel, to settle and work there.
In this town I established the first Hebrew kindergarten (the photo shows a Purim party at the school). I educate the children in the spirit of national revival, taught them Hebrew songs with aspiration for the homeland and the yearning to renew the great historical past of our nation. The kindergarten children constituted a great surprise to guests who came to the town and heard little children sing Hebrew songs.
|Purim party at the kindergarten in 1938
The kindergarten teacher Chaia Zamir and her students
Only a few of these children, and their parents, were able to immigrate to Israel because a German demon came and destroyed all the town's Jews. My sister, her husband and their children, were also among those who perished. Only one son, who fled early from the town, survived. Today he lives in Israel.
May the memory of our martyrs be blessed!
|The hand of the murderer was raised on schoolchildren!|
by Shlomo Gurfinkel
Translated by Sara Mages
My father's home was wide open to poor passers-by. Father often returned from evening prayer accompanied by a poor man carrying a beggar's bag. Father opened the door for him and brought him home with dignity. Mother received the guest with kindness and gave him food and drink with her generous hands. In difficult winter nights we moved the table and put it against the stove's warm wall. The heat from the stove was pleasant and the diners enjoyed the hot food. When the hot samovar appeared on the table a casual conversation began and the guest had a big part in it. He told about his impressions of people and different places that he had visited, and also about vicissitudes of human life and its destiny on earth The conversation flowed and continued until fatigue took over the diners and the eyes closed. Then, they woke up, made a comfortable bed for the guest and went to sleep.
Among the poor guests, that frequented our home, stood out a tall bagger, solid and broad-shouldered, that his hat covered his forehead and hid his defective eyes. He wore boots and carried a cane in his hand. He came accompanied with his wife. In the morning they separated and went from door to door in the town. In the evening, they returned and met in our house. He told stories about his service in the Russian army, his adventures in the Turkish border when he was in the Guard Corps. He spoke in incomplete sentences as he was blinking his eyes. When he sat, his bulky body was upright and his head was slightly bowed probably because of the severe discipline in the Czar's army.
I remembered this image when a saw, many years later, the actor Meskin playing the role of the beggar-soldier in The Dyybuk.
The Meshulach from Jerusalem
In my childhood I already rummaged and flipped through pages of books. A big cupboard stood in our house. In one of its half, which was always locked, were clothes, tablecloths and undergarments. In the other half were drawers and shelves. The upper shelf was dedicated to books - Siddorim, Machzorim, Chumashim, all kinds of scrolls, books of ethics, and, of course, also my mother's Korban Minacha, Tseno Ureno, and Tehinot. I used to drag a chair, climb on it and take a book that its new binding caught my eye, opened it in the painted page, read and flipped through the pages Once, I came across a thin book that the name, Shaarei Zion, was engraved on it in gold letters. At dawn, father read this book carefully and deliberately. I started, as usual, to flip through this book and between its pages I found a piece of paper on which was painted a huge old building surrounded by trees. On the page, in big beautiful pages, was written: Yeshivat Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, the Holy City, may it be rebuilt speedly!
In the traditional and Zionist atmosphere of our home, my curiosity was aroused by the sight of the wonderful certificate from Jerusalem. Father explained to me that, at certain times, a Meshulach [rabbinical emissary] from Eretz-Yisrael visits Ludvipol and collects contributions for the benefit of one of the Yeshivot in Jerusalem, and this page is a certificate of our annual donation. I looked a lot at the paining of the building on the certificate. It was big and tall, with a dome and nice gates (one hundred gates). Is it according to the plan of the Temple?... After all, Jerusalem was destroyed Questions upon questions arose in my heart and I hoped to find the answers in the blurred painting of the document. I turned with questions to father and he promised to take me to Beit HaMidrash on the day the Meshulach arrives to hear his words. I looked forward with tension for this event A few weeks have passed and father told me that the Meshulach had arrived. We arrived to the big and spacious Beit Midrash. The place was brighter than in a normal evening. The congregation grew. In the eastern wall, by the Holy Ark, a foreign guest, that his delicate face was surrounded by a yellow beard, sat next to R' Mordechai Merkil zl. He wore a hat and was dressed in a rabbi's coat.
After the Ma'ariv prayer the guest stood up, wrapped himself in a prayer shawl, walked and kissed the parochet that covered the Ark. The large crowd fell silent and got ready to listen to the honorable guest. The voices silenced, and only one voice flowed slowly, quietly and comfortably, as if he was telling a fairy tale. A special sound, full of confidence and hope, accompanied the Meshulach's voice, as if his words were about the redemption and its prospects. His stature straightened and his voice chanted People held their breath and strained their ears to hear his words and not lose a word I didn't understand much, but my ears were opened, my mouth was agape, my eyes were fixed on the guest's face and I listened to the words of the distinguished preacher as if I heard from him the songs of the wonderful and distant land. When he finished, people gathered around him and enthusiastically donated large contributions. Father also approached him and I followed him. Father greeted him with, shalom, and again received confirmation in the form of a certificate from Yeshivat Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. I did not look away from the Meshulach. The SHaDaR [SHelichah DeRachmanah - Meshulach from God] noticed me and extended his hand to me with the blessing that I would be privileged to see Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the rebuilt. I saw him a few more times, and once he even came to our home. My excitement was great. I didn't move from him, I strained my ears to listen to his stories about the Holy Land and his words rained like a blessed rain on barren land, and he called for the awakening of the heart in anticipation of the desired vision of redemption. The voice of his pleasant conversation echoed in my ears for many days, and for many years stood before the charming figure of the preacher who was blessed by God, the emissary from Eretz-Yisrael.
by Efraim Kozyol
Translated by Sara Mages
R' Motel, the slaughterer, had four sons who were among the first Zionists in town. They were: Yosef, Menachem, Yehudah and Zosia (Shchori). They devoted themselves to Torah and work, studied carpentry with Chanina the carpenter and excelled in their craft. It made a huge impression on the town's Jews. Is that possible? The sons of Motel the slaughterer will be craftsmen? They organized a school under the management of Menachem Shchori zl, the students excelled in their studies and the teachers, Menachem. Yehudah, Zosia, Chaim Sheinman, Segel and Shlomo Gurfinkel, were pleased with them. The sons of R' Motel also established an Orphans Committee to enable them to study. Others, from the circles of the intelligentsia, also joined this activity. Among them were the sons of Yosef Fikovsky and Motel Michael Schulman, the eldest daughters of HaRav Yente
and Chaya Gitel Hazan, and also Ruchka Reznik, daughter of the second slaughterer who was related to the Shvartzman family. The children and the teachers were very active. They organized circles for singing and presented light plays about Yehudah Ha-Makabi and Hannah and Her Seven Sons. Suddenly, the good teachers left us. Menachem Shchori was the first to immigrate to Israel and Yehudah and Zosia followed him. The school was closed and, again, the children began to study with private tutors. It is worth noting that good teachers like, Chaim Sheinman and others, arrived. Chapters of the youth movements, HeHalutz and Hashomer Hatzair, were organized and new forces appeared. I will mostly mention: Yehudah Leible Gurfinkel, Aharon and Lebish Rever, Binyamin Shtadlan, and the family of Yitzchak Rever, which was an extensive and humble family. The father employed workers at home, they respected him very much and the relationships were excellent. The party activity was not sufficient for them so they established a public library that most of its activities were in pure Hebrew. The regime persecuted the intellectual movement and until the youth movement became legal they carried the books at night to all sorts of cellars and attics.
A new emissary appeared in town and organized the Gordonia movement. I also joined and was one of the first instructors. We didn't have a lot of power because the best youth was already in other movements. Nevertheless, we created a beautiful branch and received a lot of help from, Asher Alavsky, who came, during his vacation from Vilna, where he studied the teaching profession. Bluma Velman also helped us quite a lot after she finished her studies at the high-school in Równe [Rovno]. Dvora Gorin and Beila Rever also joined us. I was among the first to leave for Hakhshara [pioneer training], and a year later I received a permit to emigrate. The first to emigrate were the finest professionals. In 1933, I immigrated to Israel. The separation from home was difficult. I left a mother and three orphans who mostly existed on my work. I promised my mother a fast and constant help. I arrived in Haifa, and here, a phenomenon that no one dreamed of. Contractors went around looking for professionals. Someone told them: here's a builder. I started to work for that contractor. A day work, for type A ,was 350 Grush and he gave me 750. I compared the money to Polish money, and it was a lot of money. A week later I sent home the first 5 Lirot.
Time began to pass quickly, I met a young woman who had just arrived from Vilna and was a graduate of a Teachers' Seminar. A year later we got married. Her name was Beila Gordon. Thirteen months later our eldest son was born and his name in Israel is Zohar. I built a house in Kiryat Haim and life became difficult. Unemployment, the Italo-Ethiopian War, enlistment to the Noterot [Jewish Police Force] and Kofer HaYishuv [community ransom]. The Second World War broke out. It was quite in Israel but there was a war in the big world. Our second son, Yigal, was born. Rumors started to arrive that Hitler was killing the Jews. It was not clear and no one believed that destruction would come on the Polish Jewry and our beloved family. And here, the first messengers arrived. Aharon Binder came with the Anders' Army and he already knew who had survived. The ear heard and the heart did not want to believe that our loved ones had given themselves to the slaughter. In the meantime, survivors also arrived to me and they are, my brother's two children, Gutel-Chanoch and Avraham, and much later also my brother, Yosef, with his daughter, and the wife of one of my brothers. A third son, Avraham, was born to me. My children are good, modest, and study well.
My wife, Beila, and I work to give our sons the possibility to advance in life, and establish families in Israel that would continue the tradition of our families who were lost in the Diaspora.
by Shlomo Gurfinkel
Translated by Sara Mages
About three hundred families lived in our town. Only a small part lived comfortably. Most were very poor, lived out of poverty and distress and barely managed to feed and dress their family members. The situation of the craftsmen, who constituted the bulk of the population, was very difficult. Those were: shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, wood and stone builders, potters, blacksmiths, wagon builders, painters, tinsmiths, bookbinders and other laborers. Among them were expert professional that in other economic and political conditions could have made a decent living and be a blessing to their place of residence and the surroundings. However, in a regime of oppression and lack of rights, many craftsmen crowded in the towns against their will. They did not find enough use of their hands and talents, and there was shortage and disease in their homes.
The situation of the merchants and shopkeepers was not easy. Those were business owners without merchandise and capital All their calculations and prospect for proceeds, which would give bread to their children, were connected to market days before the Christian holidays and the big fairs. Then, many farmers came to town from the nearby villages to trade. The meager shopkeepers tried, with various tricks, to prepare a little merchandise and commodities for market day. They mostly received goods on credit from the wholesaler, or received charity for that day. At the end of the fair they calculated their profit, rushed to pay off their debt, and the profit left was barely enough to feed the family. In general, it was impossible to think of keeping a stock of goods in the store. Such was the so-called status of the businessmen.
Such unsettled economic status, which hung on a miracle and floated in the air, also had its effect on the education of children and youth. Tuition fees was a large expense for a family whose means were already limited. Yet, even one Jew did not evade this mitzvah and this fundamental obligation to his sons
In the years prior to the First World War there were two Heders in our town: the Heder of Yitzchak Fletshches, brother-in-law of Pikovsky zl, an educated, advanced Jew, who knew his profession; and the Heder of Galicky which was more religious. At the age of thirteen the boys stopped visiting the Heder and went to work.
The growing youth had no bright prospects for a better future. There was only one possibility: to somehow work with the parents, over time to avoid military service, get married and live on as usual, like everyone else, without asking questions, and, He who gives life gives food Most adolescents continued this traditional way, only a small part, who could not accept the existing situation, managed to leave town under various circumstances. They went far away and reach distant lands like America and Eretz-Yisrael.
The First World War and its turmoil, and the years of the revolution and its incarnations, made matters worse until famine spread in town. Life had become worthless in its literal meaning. Outside the gangs' sword had killed, and at home was a fear of slowly dying of hunger. But, even during a period of murder, abuse, regime change, and all sorts of dangers at every turn, the shortage forced us to risk our lives and search for food.
And so, a barter trade opened in those days between Korets and Berezne. They went to Korets and got sugar, carried it to Berezne and exchanged it for salt so that they could get some flour from the farmers.
Only at the end of 1920, with the end of the battles and the distancing of the revolution from the towns, the community began to shake itself and recover from the threatening nightmares which had been its share until then. The situation was still vague and unclear, but the first steps had already been taken to restore life to normal.
|The teachers and students of Tarbut school next to their new building|
In the winter of 5681, a committee for the opening of Tarbut school was established. At its head stood Leibel Atshtine, Yosef Goldman and Mordechai Schleien zl. Without means, and without a budget, they opened several classrooms, of which two classrooms at the home of R' Eliyahu Tzvi Gurfinkel zl. Inside the rooms they arranged planks that served as benches and tables, and to this place we brought the Jewish children. We also did not have suitable books and other instruments. We got some paper and notebooks and went to work. The teachers were Chaim Shinman zl, and, may they lives a long life, Yehudah Schwartzmann-Shchori, and Shlomo Gurfinkel. The institution was meager. The students, and also the teachers, wore shabby clothes,
which have worn out during the difficult years, and traces of hunger and deprivation were still visible in their pale faces. But there was great joy in our home. We were enchanted by the hope that the misfortunes of the past had gone on and would never return, and a new era, which would bring redemption and relief to us and to our children, is opening before us. An amateur show, for the benefit of the school, took place at the Goldman's home. Yehudah Shchori participated in that show and, for him it was probably a debut on stage.
A few weeks later, on Hanukkah 5681, the students presented a play called, Two melodies, from the lives of prisoners of war. Deborah Etshtine zl played the lead role. Her pale image, her thin, trembling voice in the role of the dying hostage, hovers, to this day, before my eyes... My brother, Asher, may he lives a long life, participated in that show as one as the school students.
Without outside help, without guidance and instructions from the center, which did not have enough time to organize, without knowledge and experience but imbued with faith and confidence our young people aroused and with great enthusiasm devoted their strength and energy for actions and deeds for the benefit of our town on the threshold of the new era, in the early 1920s.
|At the completion of Flower Day for the collection of funds for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael|
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