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[Page 51]

Life and Youth

 

Bear a Melancholy Blessing

Yitzchak Lamdan

Translated by Shirelle Maya and Dina Feldman

Bear a melancholy blessing, sad childhood abode,
Open your door to this visitor, a remnant of your past!
I may have not removed my shoes before entering--
But my heart, in a barefooted tremble, will bow at your threshold.

A dozen years like a dozen heavy curtains
Will darken, dim, and deepen the gap between us,
Oh, how much bitterness has flowed since
And how much of life's dust was shed by the saw of time!

Would your bosom still provide warmth, could repose still be found
Within the shade of your roof, like once in the days of dawn?
Away from the street and the market, overlooking the river and meadow,
You stand wounded in ruin, proud like a fallen aristocrat.
Your cracks have not been mended since those evil days,
Barren is your destruction, exposed, without cover:
The fence uprooted, the garden trees cut to the roots.
Where is the cherry's shade, the redness of the strawberry bushes?

(Only the chestnuts still stand at your entrance
--Guarding with wounded trunks and tangled tops--
Of all the multitude of trees only these two survived,
Dutiful invalids, faithful guardians.)

It seems every one of your walls recounts its woes:
“Much evil I saw and scores of dreadful blows,
I will never be what I once was--
So why heal? For what? For whom? It isn't worth it!

[Page 52]

Here is where the Don's horsemen raged, Austrians, Germans battled,
Petliura's savages, ḥamil's great-grandchildren, scum of the earth, rampaged,[1]
The pentagram turned red,[2] and as of late
Poland's wealthy landlords, with their twisted pride, staked their claim here.

You have known my story. In your own flesh you know. Oh, these are
The chronicles of the houses of Israel at times of revolution and repulsion!
No longer am I a restful dwelling but a house of pain,
With my head down between my cracks I wallow in tears!”

Bear a tearful blessing, childhood's pained abode,
Receive the gift of heavy sorrow from a visiting descendent,
I may have not removed my shoes before entering--
Yet my heart, in a barefooted tremble, will sob at your threshold.

 

mly052.JPG
A Group of “The Pioneer” (HeHalutz), 1931[3]

 

Translator's footnotes:
  1. Refers to a series of pogroms committed in Ukraine between 1917-1920, during the leadership of Symon Petliura, and to pogroms carried out in 1648 under the leadership of Zynoviy Bohdan Khmelnytsky (called “ḥamil ha-rasha,” ḥamil the wicked, by Jews). Return
  2. This might refer to the pentagram shape formed by the streets coming out of the circle of the town market. See the essay in this volume by Moshe Tamari, “In the Presence of Yitzhak Lamdan,” p. 32. Return
  3. Aaron Harari stands in the back row, second from the right. HeHalutz was the Zionist Youth Group for the older youth who graduated from Hashomer Hatzair. See Aaron Harari's discussion in this volume in “The Youth Movement,” p. 69. --HS Return

[Page 53]

The Town of Mlynov

Yosef Litvak, Jerusalem[1]

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD with Hanina Epstein

©

After 3-4 years of wandering our family settled down in the small town of Mlynov near Dubno, the district of Volyn, in Western Ukraine, which during the period 1918-1939 was part of the Polish state. In this town lived my grandfather – my mother's father, Rabbi Judah Leb Lamdan, an exceptional Jewish person and human being, worthy of mention and special description. In this town I grew up, was educated and was personally molded. Here I passed the years of my childhood and youth and became a man. I left in August 1940 – two years and two months before they covered over the mass grave, which contained the entire Jewish congregation, including my parents, my cousins, all my friends, the day of slaughter, the 28th of Tishrei, 5703 (1942), August 7, 1942.[2] Not one of the few survivors of the destruction returned to dwell there and the small town was erased from the map of the Jewish communities forever.

I will dedicate the lines that follow to this small town – which was typical of many others in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Western Ukraine, and in which generations of Jews grew up rooted and full of life, faithful to the house of Israel, adhering with their entire souls and might[3] to their people and its tradition and with vision of its redemption.

 

The Small Town

The small town of Mlynov was situated a distance of 4 kilometers from the intersection of the Rovno-Berestechko and Dubno-Lutzk roads. The distance to the close towns: 20 km to Dubno, 35 km to Lutzk, 50 km to Rovno, 40 km to Berestechko. The district seat was Dubno, to which the towns were tied from an administrative perspective both in the period of the Russian Tzarist government until 1918 and also in the Polish government (1919-1939). Its commercial ties were with two “large” towns in the district: Dubno and Rovno. Dubno served as a center for trade of grain and convenience items, Rovno – [served as a] wholesale center for textiles and sewing. Occasionally, the merchants of Mlynov would go by train to the distant town of Levov (“Lemberg”, in Yiddish and German), 153 km distance from the town of Dubno. (The closest train station was in Dubno).

The small town was situated in the center of the estate of the Count Chodkiewicz, descended from the well known war hero Jan Karol Chodkiewicz.[4] It was by the Ikva River.

[Page 54]

The town [of Mlynov] was established in the beginning of the 19th century or at the end of the 18th century. The source of the name Mlynov was from the Polish word “Malin” which means mill. In the river there were still, in the period I am writing about between the two Wars, columns and posts – remnants of four flour mills, near where the town was established. These mills were consumed in a great fire in the second half of the 19th century.

On the other side of the river, in a large, fenced park, the palace[5] of the Count was situated, only very few honored individuals from the Jews of the town were entitled to see inside, because the entire family of the Count had an extreme hated of Jews. For various kinds of dealings, indeed, the Count needed Jewish merchants, but they came into contact only with managers of the estate [not the Count]. They would say that the Count himself would only rarely come out to speak to a Jew. In addition to the hatred from the Count's family, Jews were afraid to stroll near the park out of fear of Polish workers and servants, who worked on the estate of the Count and in his household economy, who would always sick their dogs against Jews, stone them with rocks and, more than once, lash them with whips. The palace served, therefore, for the Jews of the town, and especially for the kids, as an endless source of legends and tall tales about the Count's family, his father the old Count, their parents and their parents' parents, and about the precious and rare ornaments that were in the palace. With the Soviet conquest in September 1939, the palace was open for a few days to the general community, but it was empty, because everything inside was looted and destroyed overnight by the farmers in the surrounding area.

Not far from the park near the main road to the Count's fields was a man-made hill, which according to legends were set up by soldiers of Kosciuszko[6] who stayed in this place for a number of days. Jewish children who imagined scenes from the Five Books of Moses (Humash) in all places, call the hill, “Mount Sinai.”[7] On the hill and around it grew thick trees and its loose soil during spring sprouted dense and tall grass, and it had a strong pull on Jewish youth during Sabbaths and festivals. In contrast, no Jewish foot dared to draw near during Sundays and Christian holidays from fear of non-Jews (“sheygetzim”[8]).

The whole area was beautiful: the river valley, and the pasture meadows along it, fields extending to the horizons, orchards, extensive and thick woods and forests dozens of square kilometers, which in the past were filled with gangs of legendary robbers and in the future would serve as a hiding place for Soviet Partisans and national Ukrainians bandits and “White Poles.”[9] Many of the Jews who sought hiding in these forests from the Nazi invader, died at the hands of various murderers and only a few in number managed to find a place to hide in them until the day of liberation.

[Page 55]

The Town's Residents and Livelihood

The focal point of the small town was the market square, at one end of which stood the Russian Orthodox Church. Along the river, opposite the palace of the Count, stood a Polish Church. On a number of narrow lanes around the market square stood Jewish homes. Behind the lanes of Jews were streets of Ukrainian gentiles. These streets were called “The Village.” Next to the palace there was a neighborhood of Poles, employees of the Count. Clerks and Polish businessmen lived among the Jews and Ukrainians.

In the small town as a whole, there were two thousand souls, about 800 of them Jews, about the same number of Ukrainians and the rest were Poles. Most of the Jews were small grocery and pub owners, artisans and waggoneers, who engaged in transporting grain from the small towns to cities nearby and transporting back needed goods from the cities. Once a week, a large market day was held and was attended by thousands of farmers from the many villages in the area as well as hundreds of Jewish merchants also from the nearby towns. These Jewish families made a living by selling drinks [alcoholic], cakes and sweets from stalls in the market, and from this day alone they made their meager living for the entire week.

On the Sabbaths and during the Jewish festivals the entire town rested and the market square was empty of people. By contrast, the town bustled with life during the Christian holidays, during which many farmers came from the surrounding area. Even though commerce during these holidays was forbidden by the Polish government, it flourished behind closed doors and shuttered windows.

Most of the Jews of the town lived with difficulty and barely earned a living. Artisans worked hard from early in the morning until late evening hours. One segment of the artisans, namely the builders, carpenters, plasterers –would circulate during the week to the villages and return home on the Sabbaths. During the winter, they were without any work. Before the festivals, tailors and shoemakers would work until midnight. The shop owners would also extend their store hours up to the Sabbath with the expectation of sales. Two small groups[10] of merchants, namely those in grain and textile, were “wealthy“ relative to the generally low economic standards. Only one Jew was a “rich man” – owner of a large flour mill, which sold flour to distant places, and the return on his efforts, according to rumor, were a million gold Polish [currency] a year. The same man, Mr. Yosef Gelberg, repaired wooden wagon wheels in the past – he was, as usual, a miser. The Soviet government expropriated his wealth in September 1939. Three years afterwards, he was brought to slaughter with all his sons and all the Jews of the small town. (One grandson of his, who fled to Russia, survived and is now living in Israel).[11]

In the small town were three synagogues: The large one of the Trisk Hasidim, the “kloyz”[12] [house of study] of the Stolin Hasidim and the “kloyz” of the Olyker Hasidim.

[Page 56]

All the older people were strictly observant, but this observance was not extreme in comparison to that which was true of Congress Poland[13] and Galicia.[14] In the small town, there was not anyone who wore fur hats (streimels)[15] and they didn't have long, curly sidelocks (peyot).[16] Women did not shave their heads[17] upon entering the marriage canopy (hupah). The religious did not belong to religious parties and related in general with tolerance to younger generation, who in turn did not publicly injure the feelings of the religious persons.

In the Jewish cemetery, there was the grave of Rabbi Aaron, the grandson of Rabbi Aharon “the great,” from Karlin. This rabbi expired suddenly at the end of the 19th century while visiting his Hasidic followers in Mlynov and was buried there. One of the days in the month of Iyar became the anniversary of the Rebbe's death. On that day, hundreds of Stolin-Karliner Hasidim would “ascend” to the grave of the Rebbe and would finish the day with a great festive meal (kiddush).

When the communities (kehillot) were recognized, at the start of the 1930s, as autonomous religious organizations, in other words, as authorized legal entities, and among other things able to impose taxes on the members of the community, Mlynov was joined by 5 additional small communities in the towns nearby: Muravica (Mevits), Boremel, Demidovka, Targovista (Trovits) and Ostrozhets; Mlynov served as the center for this unified community (kehilla). The head of the Kehilla was generally chosen from the residents of Mlynov which is where the Kehilla office was located. During the period the Kehilla existed until its destruction, they appointed two heads of the Kehilla – R. Yosef Berger, z”l, sexton (gabbai) of the “large” synagogue, a wealthy man in the past, but whose fortunes diminished after WWI, and he sustained himself from a small store for kitchen wares. A smart man with an honorable appearance. He died in 1935. The second was Mr. Chaim Kipergluz,[18] sexton of the study/prayer house (kloyz) for the Stolin Hasidim, an owner of a clothing store, a Zionist who inclined towards [the religious Zionist organization] Mizrachi,[19] a supporter of The Pioneer (HeHalutz) youth movement. His daughter, Rachel, made aliyah to the Land [of Israel] as a Pioneer in 1935 and lives today in Hadera. The last Rabbi of the congregation was Rabbi Yehuda Gordan.[20] This rabbi was taken out to be killed by the Nazis shortly after they occupied Mlynov. As the last head of community, who served during the Nazi period, and a member of the Judenrat, he was taken out to be killed during the day of general massacre.

 

Zionist Movements

The whole town was penetrated by the Zionist spirit. The Zionist activities were concentrated almost entirely among the youth movements. The adults, the fathers of the children, were preoccupied in their minds almost entirely with worries over a living and were not organized into parties. A few mover and shakers were active in raising money for financial endowments, sold shekalim[21] before Zionist Congresses, and served as representatives towards the governments. But most of the “average persons on the street” related with great love towards everything connected to the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael) and looked favorably on the activities of the pioneer youth movements.

[Page 57]

It was not within the capability of the small and poor community (kehilla) to establish a Hebrew school, but all parents, even the poorest among them, including shoe makers and waggoners, sent their children, if they so desired, to a private teacher to study Hebrew. The (importance) of studying Hebrew was not questioned, just as it was self-evident that every child needed to learn how to pray. There was no house that refused for ideological reasons to have the blue [charity] box of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) for Israel.[22] In the Zionist rallys of the people before the election of the Zionist Congress, or in relationship to the important events in the Jewish world and in the Land of Israel- for example, the protest over the “White Paper”[23] and also for Zionist festivities – all the residents of the small town participated except for a few of the elderly and infirmed.

For Simhat Torah, most of the people younger than 40-45 joined the Zionist quorum (minyan) and many older folks as well. Basically, there was no group established that was anti-Zionist.

A small group of communists was only organized in the last years before the destruction who almost did not dare to appear in public. This group was established under the influence of two families of “strangers” who came to the town from the close town of Dubno. They were joined by a number of young men and women who were disaffected and who had left the youth group, The Pioneer (HeHalutz) (member of this group, who survived the destruction, returned [to Zionist commitments] and afterwards made aliya to the Land [of Israel]).

The Zionist activities of the town began in fact some time before WWI during the Tzarist reign. Already there was a group of young educated people, experts in Hebrew literature, who saw themselves as aligned with “Youth of Zion” (Tze'irei Zion).[24] In 1919, moreover, the first immigrant to make aliyah from Mlynov, when he was 19 – the well-known poet Yitzhak Lamdan (the brother of my mother, the person writing this essay), who became very famous in the later part of the 1920s in Israel because of his poem “Masada.”

Only when life returned to normal after War World I and the Polish-Russian War, in the years 1921/22, were the youth movements, “The Pioneer” (HeHalutz) and the “Young Guard” (Hashomer Hatzair), organized. In 1924/25 all the local youth, ages 18-30, were signed up in The Pioneer (HeHalutz) and in the local “Palestine Office”[25] – of which my father was the director and which set up our small apartment for no fee on its authority. These youth had serious intentions, and all were ready to make aliyah with no additional prompting. There were many younger people who “forged” their age and registered as age 18 with the hope they would be able to make aliyah. The most substantial activities were brought to light by “The Pioneer” (HeHalutz) branch, which had majority and best of the youth involved. During the decade from 1926-1936, the youth clubhouse bustled everyday from late afternoon until late in the evening, and alone served as the center of light and hope for Hebrew youth in a cruel and depressing reality, which already by then hinted of the coming destruction which was imminent.

[Page 58]

Besides “The Young Guard” (Hashomer Hatzair), The Pioneer and Betar[26] groups were active. In the years 1931–1932, a training kibbutz (hachsharah) of the Betar movement was established in the small town [of Mlynov].

The activities that were blessed were brought to life by the Tarbut[27] [“Culture”] branch, which was established by Samuel Mandelkern,[28] one of the first pioneers of all the local Zionist activities and one of the first to make aliya to the Land [of Israel] (1925), who lives today in Israel in Tel Aviv and continues his fruitful public activities. In fact, this branch failed to establish a local Hebrew school officially recognized [by the Polish government], but he managed, with the help of the youth movements, to spread knowledge of Hebrew with great success. Every young local Jewish person knew Hebrew. The activities of the youth movement were conducted almost entirely in Hebrew.

 

mly058.JPG
Fröbel-School[29] (kindergarten) and Public-School “Tarbut” in Mlynov
Original courtesy of Zeev Harari

 

After a few years, the branch established a Hebrew kindergarten. The entire time, until the destruction, a large library was established that had Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish books. This library served as the only source of knowledge for the local youth, because in the small town there was only a government-sponsored grade school and not even one Jewish family sent their children to high school outside the small town. Under the rubric of “Tarbut” (Culture) along with the youth movements, they put on question and answer evenings, literary judgments, and dramatic plays.

[Page 59]

The Zionist activities and influence on the Zionist youth movements diminished in the last three years before the outbreak of the War, principally because most of the activists with leadership ability made aliyah to the Land [of Israel].

* * *

The seniors set up groups for: Mishnah, Palms, and Ein Yacob.[30] During the winter months and Sabbath afternoons, there were always groups of Jews in the synagogue studying Torah. Likewise, charity (tzedakah) groups were active: “Supporters of the Poor” and “Visitors of the Sick” (Bikkur Holim). In addition to Supporters of the Poor, which established an organized monthly collection, and gave steady support to those in need, there were men and women movers and shakers who organized collections of “Anonymous Gifts” for the needy who were ashamed to receive open handouts. The feelings of solidarity and charity (tzedakah) were highly developed. It happened more than once that the head of a comfortable family got sick for a prolonged period and the family was left with no provider, or that one of the family members got sick and the recovery required paying a large sum, greater than the ability of the family, or that a Jew violated some law of the State and was expected to be punished with incarceration and was not able to pay a lawyer, or someone was going to make aliya to the Land [of Israel] and didn't have the means for the trip – in all of these and similar situations, they would organize collections from house to house and everyone donated according to his capacity. In addition, they would organize receptions, raffles, plays and the income would be “holy” [dedicated] to an actual goal.

There was also a “Committee on Orphans” that was supported by the American JOINT (Distribution Committee) and also by the “Charity Treasury” which was supported by the same organization. This treasury was well respected in helping small shops, who were always very hard-pressed by a shortage of cash. In addition to the treasury mentioned above, the practice of charity was very developed. Jews of the town always helped each other by giving small, short term loans, which were regarded as a life-line.

In the city of Baltimore in the United State, there was a committee of immigrants from Mlynov, which twice a year before Rosh Hashanah and before Passover would send a sum of money to be distributed among the needy.[31]

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. Joseph Litvak was son of Motl-Meir Litvak and Dvora (Lamdan). Dvora had been born in Mlynov (1884) but moved to Kiev in 1911 where she met and married Motl. Their photos appear in the Mlynov Yizkor book (p. 454). Their son Yosef, the writer of this essay, was born in Kiev in 1917 as was his sister, Pnina. After the Communist Revolution, the family fled Kiev and went to live in Mlynov where Devora had been born. Yosef's sister, Pnina, made aliyah in 1937. Yosef was away studying at a teacher's college in Rovno when the Nazis invaded. He fled east and survived in Russia and eventually made his way to Palestine. His parents were both killed in the liquidation of the Mlynov ghetto. – HS Return
  2. Survivors in Israel and US recall slightly different dates when the Mlynov ghetto liquidation took place. Here, Litvak recalls the date as the 28th of Tishrei 1942 which was October 9, 1942, though Litvak here gives the date apparently mistakenly as August 7, 1942. The Steinberg family survivors who went to Israel also recalled the date of liquidation as October 9, 1942. (See A Struggle to Survive, p. 29 footnote, by Shoshana (Upstein) Baruch, quoting from Wikipedia in Hebrew). The Steinberg family in the US commemorated the date as 29th of Tishrei, which was October 10, 1942. According to the translation Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book (English Translation), edited by David Sokolsky, Itzik Kozak identified the date of the liquidation as Thursday, Oct 1 (original page 356, translation page 92), and Shaulik Halperin (original page 352, translation page 90) identifies the date as October 10. In David Sokolsky's book, Monument: One Woman's Courageous Escape From The Holocaust, 3rd Edition (pp. 1-2) about Liba Tesler's survival story, he quotes Liba as identifying October 8 as the liquidation date, 3 days after her October 5 birthday. – HS Return
  3. A possible allusion to the Shema prayer in which one is commanded to love God with all one's heart, soul and might. – HS Return
  4. Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (c. 1561-1621) was a military commander of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army who was one of the most prominent noblemen and military commanders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of his era. His coat of arms was Chodkiewicz, as was his family name. – HS Return
  5. The Hebrew term is translated as “palace.” From paintings of the Count's abode, it appears more like a large mansion, though from the perspective of Mlynov residents it probably seemed like a palace. – HS Return
  6. Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kosciuszko (English: Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kosciuszko; 1746-1817) was a Polish-Lithuanian military engineer, statesman, and military leader who became a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the United States. He fought in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's struggles against Russia and Prussia, and on the US side in the American Revolutionary War. Wikipedia. – HS Return
  7. See also the essay in this volume called “My Hill,” by Moshe Tamari, describing his relationship to the same hill. Return
  8. A derogatory word for a non-Jew derived from the word “abomination.” – HS Return
  9. Perhaps a reference to the “White Army” that fought against the Red Army, but the meaning is not clear. – HS Return
  10. The Hebrew reads, two “minyanim” (two quoroms of 10) which is interpreted here as small groups. Return
  11. Yitzhak Gelberg survived, married and eventually made his way to Israel. The saga of the Gelberg family from Mlynov is told here: https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#threebrothers – HS Return
  12. Yiddish for house of study. – HS Return
  13. “Congress Poland” or Kingdom of Poland is a term that refers to an area of Russia that had formerly been Poland before the Partitions of Poland. Congress Poland was created in 1815 when the great powers reorganized Europe following the Napoleonic wars. Congress Poland was created on part of the Polish territory that had been partitioned between Russia, Austria and Prussia. During Russian rule it was generally a puppet state of the Tzarist regime. – HS Return
  14. Galicia was a historical and geographic region at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe. The nucleus of historic Galicia lies within the modern regions of western Ukraine: the Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts. Return
  15. A fur hat worn by some Jewish men, mainly members of Hasidic Judaism, on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and other festive occasions. – HS Return
  16. Growing the sidelocks was based on the biblical verse, Leviticus 19:9-10, in which God tells Israelites they should not cut the corners of their fields. The rule was symbolically extended to the four corners of the face. Return
  17. Some Hasidic women not only cover their hair out of modesty but shave their heads to ensure their hair is never seen. – HS Return
  18. The surname is rendered as Kipergluz in the Yad Vashem database in records filled out by the author of this essay. The name is also rendered there as Kiperglaz. – HS Return
  19. Mizrachi (an acronym for Merkaz Ruhani lit. Religious centre) is a religious Zionist organization founded in 1902. Mizrachi holds that the Torah should be at the centre of Zionism and also sees Jewish nationalism as a means of achieving religious objectives. – HS Return
  20. See page 433 of the Yizkor volume for a photo of Rabbi Gordon. – HS Return
  21. The Zionist shekel was the name of the certificate of membership in the Zionist Organization given to every Jew who paid annual membership dues. The name comes from the unit of weight and currency used in the First Temple period. Purchasing the Zionist shekel expressed identification with Zionism and its goals. The revenue from the sale of the shekalim (plural of shekel) was used for Zionist activities. The number of delegates that each country sent to the Congress was determined on the basis of the number of shekalim sold in that country. – HS Return
  22. The Jewish National Fund was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement. – HS Return
  23. Refers to the 1939 White Paper, a policy paper published by the British government responding to the Arab revolt in 1936-1939. In the eyes of Zionists, the paper reneged on the commitments of the Balfour Declaration and abandoned the idea of Partition. – HS Return
  24. Tze'irei Zion was a popular movement, founded in Russia in 1903, of young Zionist Jews who emphasized practical Zionism of aliyah, pioneering and Hebrew. Most members of the movement also carried socialist aspirations. After a split in which a considerable number of its members resigned in order to form the Zionist-Socialist Party (ZS) in 1920 , the movement joined the Hapoel Hatzair party. The movement was an active member of the HeHalutz movement. – HS Return
  25. After World War I the “Palestine Office” was the term for local Zionist offices charged with the organization and implementation of Jewish immigration to Palestine. They were subordinated to the Jewish Agency under the provisions of the Mandate and were run in every country by a commission composed of representatives of various Zionist parties. – HS Return
  26. Betar was the youth movement started by Ze'ev Jabotinsky and affiliated with the Revisionist movement. Jabotinsky advocated for the recreation of the ancient Jewish state of Israel, extending across the entirety of both Palestine and Jordan. Youth activities in addition to learning Hebrew included, military drilling. – HS Return
  27. Tarbut was a network of secular, Hebrew languages schools established in newly independent Poland during the period between the world wars. – HS Return
  28. Mandelkern was married to Malcah Lamdan, who was sister of author Yosef Litvak's wife. In some sources, the surname appears as Mandelkorn. – HS Return
  29. Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852) was a German pedagogue who recognized that children have unique educational needs and created the concept of and coined the word, “kindergarten.” Aaron Harari, back row, second from the right. – HSReturn
  30. The Mishnah is the first major work of rabbinic literature, comprised mainly of laws derived from Scripture. Ein Yacob is a 16th century compilation of non-legal sources (aggadot) from the Talmud with commentaries. – HS Return
  31. Records of this group which called itself the Mlynov Verein are available in the Jewish Museum of Maryland https://jewishmuseummd.org/ms-36-mlynover-verien-and-maryland-free-loan-society-records/ – HS Return

 

[Page 60]

Mlynov in the Past

(From the answers to a questionnaire of an elderly person from Mlynov)

Moshe Fishman, Balfouria[1]

Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD with Hanina Epstein ©

I was born in Mlynov, but I lived for 25 years in Sloboda.[2] Afterwards, I went to live in Mlynov until I made aliyah to the Land [of Israel] in 1921.

I studied with three teachers: Natan, Yosel, and Artzi. The latter was brother-in-law of Zechariah and his house was next to Aaron Putchter.[3] I studied until age 16, and afterward, I started to work in road construction; this continued until the First World War.

I remember all the heads of households in Mlynov for two generations. For example, Yosel's father and Chaim Berger, and the father of Moshe Ares' [son], of Itzikel Bulmas and Putcher and so on.

Abraham Slobodar [Goldseker][4] came from the town of Dubno, I estimate in the year 1870, and lived in Slobada with his family, which included 5 sons and one daughter, whom you, the younger generation, will also definitely recall. Until 1891, he would lease land from the Count and work it with his sons, and with a few hired laborers until 1891, as I said, – until that period when the Russian government expelled all the Jews from the villages.[5] At that point, he moved with his family to Mlynov and engaged in construction contract work for the Count. The family grew and branched out and this is the Goldseker family.

Aaron Putcher was easy going and popular with everyone. There were three sons and three daughters in his family. His brother, Benjamin, was the Rabbi in the town of Ostrozhets. The wife of the Rabbi Benjamin was my aunt, the sister of my father.

The year in which the Rebbe from Stolin died, I do not remember exactly. I only remember, because when I was ten, I asked my parents about the building that stood in the cemetery. And they told me that the Rabbi from Stolin came to Mlynov to visit and died in a sudden fashion. They set up a memorial monument and around it a building – [called a] “tent” (ohel).[6] In the tent was an eternal light and there was a man, Abraham Khollis,[7] who watched over the eternal light so that it would not go out; The son of this Abraham, Asher Khollis, you also undoubtedly remember. On the anniversary (yarzheit) of [the Rebbe's] death, many from cities and towns would gather in Mlynov; they could even come from the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael).

[Page 61]

The large synagogue was built first and next to it the small synagogue, which was named for the Rav from Stolin. The third synagogue was named for the Rabbi of Olik [Olyka, Ukraine today].

The flour mill belonged to the Count Chodkiewicz. In the early years, a Jew from Mlynov leased it and his name was Rabbi David – the father of Shintzi Maizlish. He held the mill for a number of years and then passed away. Afterwards, merchants from Dubno leased it but apparently were not successful with their enterprise. They insured the flour, the grain and even the sacks – and the mill burned down – “the owners” received the insurance sums and that ended the matter. This was in the year 1893.

With respect to the large fire in Mlynov there was the following incident. One Jew from the town of Lutsk came to Mlynov and rented a house from [or next to][8] a Goldseker and opened a pharmacy. He insured his wealth, including the medicines, with an insurance company. During a month of festivals, he traveled with his family to his parents in Lutsk, and he “entrusted” his holdings to a young man in Mlynov – and the house burned down. This fire burned two-thirds of the town. The wind was strong and the fire reached even to the village of Kerychuk[9] and overtook several houses there. With the sum of money that he received from the insurance company, he built a large building for himself next to the building of Dr. Vislotsky.

After the large fire, the Count Chodkiewicz refused to permit the building of new houses before renewing their contracts. Additionally, he also demanded large sums [of money] in addition to the prior sums [imposed]. There were lawsuits and judgments that were favorable for the town's residents. After [the fire], building began and continued for two years – 1892/93.

I didn't have disputes with gentiles during those days. During the War period (the First World War), they helped me a great deal. Before I made aliya to the Land [of Israel] one gentile came to me and offered me a [conditional] gift for the festival of Passover, 2 pods of wheat if I didn't go to the Land of Israel…

The large pandemic[10] broke out about the year 1894/1895 and 50 people died in Mlynov.

The period of the Revolution broke out about 20 years before the War and continued until the War. Many were killed and imprisoned and the suffering was great. After the War, all the force was organized and they toppled the government of [Tzar] Nicholas II. This began the Communist reign.

How did I make aliyah to the Land [of Israel]? I worked with a contractor. He was a major Zionist. It was he who influenced me and planned a program for me in the Land [of Israel]. When the War [WWI] began, he fled with his family to the Russian interior and I fled to Rovno. Frequently I got from him letters and invitations to visit. In 1921, I made aliyah to the Land [of Israel]; The contractor followed in 1934 with his family. He settled in Rehovot and died there.

In arriving in the Land [of Israel] I went to Petah-Tikvah. There I was given a good place of work. My son David and I, worked in an orchard. Shortly afterwards, the bloody clashes between Jews and Arabs occurred and somehow we were not harmed. In 1923, I moved to Balfouria.[11] In 1929 the unrest began again – thank God I survived this danger.

 

mly058.jpg
Moishe Fishman and his grandson Aaron [Slivka]. Moshav Balfouria
Original courtesy of Irene Siegel, dated April 1953

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. Moishe Fishman (1873-1968) was the son of Berel Dov (also Dov Aryieh) and Toba Fishman. In 1921, Moishe with his wife, Chaya (Gilden), and two of his children, David and Chuva, made aliyah to Palestine where they eventually settled in Balfouria. They were the first Mlynov family to make aliyah. Their other son, Benjamin Fishman, left Mlynov for Baltimore in 1920 and settled in Baltimore where he married Clara Shulman also from Mlynov. Return
  2. This town of Sloboda appears on old maps slightly northeast of Mlynov, and is now incorporated into today's town of Uhzynets'. Return
  3. It is not possible from the Hebrew to determine here whether the surname should be pronounced “Futchter” or “Putchter.” Return
  4. As noted by Sonia and Mendel Teitelman in this volume, 256-258, “Sloboda” became synonymous in Mlynov with the Goldsekers because the family came from Sloboda. In this essay, the Goldseker patriarch is known as “Abraham Slobodar” and in another essay in this volume, one of Abraham's sons, Hirsh, is referred to as “Hirsh the Slobodar” (see “The Goldsekers” by Baruch Meren, 245-246). According to Goldseker oral history, Abraham and his wife, Baila, had five sons: Hirsh, Moishe, Yankel, Yoel, and Shimon. This is the only story in which a daughter is mentioned. As recorded by Goldseker and Fishman descendant, Irene Siegel, the family surname “Goldseker” or “Holzhaker” was linked to the family's occupation as “woodchoppers.” Irene's grandfather, Moishe Fishman, is remembered as the one who brought the Goldseker family to Mlynov and who introduced his sister, Anna Fishman, to her future husband, Shimon Goldseker, one of the five Goldseker sons mentioned above, and the ancestor of the Goldseker family who settled in Baltimore. Return
  5. Alludes to the repressive restrictions that followed the assassination of Tzar Alexander II and began with the May Laws. Return
  6. Perhaps an allusion to the biblical “tents” in which God's presence followed the children of Israel. Return
  7. Perhaps related to the mother of Gitel Goldberg who is called “Pesye Khoyle's” daughter (p. 507 and p. 147 in the original Mlynov Yizkor Book). Return
  8. The Hebrew is ambiguous whether the house was a possession of Goldseker or next to Goldseker's house. Return
  9. The identity of the village is uncertain, perhaps Kozyrshchyna, Ukraine, 20 km from Mlyniv today. Return
  10. Referring to the pandemic of 1889-1890, sometimes called the Asiatic or Russian flu, which killed about 1 million people worldwide. Return
  11. Balfouria is a moshav in northern Israel, south of Nazareth, located near Afula. The moshav was founded in 1922, the third to be established in Palestine, and was named after The 1st Earl of Balfour, writer of the Balfour Declaration, which embraced Zionist plans for a Jewish “national home.” According to a census conducted in 1922 by the British Mandate authorities, Balfouria had a population of 18 Jews. Return

 

[Page 63]

Shtetele Mlynov

by Yisroel (Sol) Berger[1], Chicago

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

©

I thank you shtetele Mlynov, my dear shtetele in which I spent my childhood years, for giving me the opportunity to learn in your cheder, in your school, and in your study house. I left you on the eve of the first World War, when I fell into the huge melting pot of the United States of America. I have, however, sworn to never forget you.

I cannot forget: –

[Page 64]

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Bergers for the background on Sol and the Berger family that migrated to Chicago. Return
  2. It is an honor for Hasidim to take the rebbe's leftover remnants. – HBF Return
  3. A toast: “To your health!” – HBF Return
  4. It is customary to write qvitlkeh, petitionary notes, and place them at a rebbe's gravesite, so that he will intercede with heaven on the hasid's behalf. The Karliner-Stolin Rebbe has his ohel [resting place] in Mlynov. – HBF Return
  5. Israel after 7 May 1948 – HBF Return
  6. Chanted at funerals – HBF Return
  7. For a detailed description of a wedding, see the essay in this volume by Sylvia Barditch-Goldberg. Return
  8. The Russian bathhouse was like a sauna. The men would sweat and beat themselves with branches to improve circulation. Padovi was the name of the attendant who would pour heated water on the hot stones. – HBF Return
  9. Litvaks, Jews from Lithuania, confuse the “s” and “sh” sounds. They also say “oo” while Ukrainian Jews say “i.” This is a source of much humor. – HBF Return
  10. Some Hasidim would flagellate themselves 39 times on their backs the night before Yom Kippur for atonement; they would use a special whip. – HBF Return
  11. Reading of the haftorah in the synagogue (lessons from the prophets) – HBF Return
  12. Jews pray facing east, under the assumption that they are facing Jerusalem. The most prestigious seats in the shtetl synagogues were those at the eastern wall; they were reserved for important, highly learned, and wealthy men, who paid for the privilege. – HBF Return
  13. According to one Mlynov survivor memory, Passover dishes were made kosher for Passover by being buried between uses. They were dug up and cleaned for the holiday.– HS Return
  14. A britzka was an open carriage with a foldable top over half of it. – HBF Return

 

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