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Note: The text in the following section appeared in and was translated by one of the following Herbert J. Maletz, Jose Serlin, Jay Lenefsky, Leonard Maletz and David Waldshan. As we were unable to determine who exactly translated this section, we are noting them all.

Additional translations and editing by Pamela Russ.

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(Sharashova, Belarus)

52°33' 24°13'

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Shershev [Szereszewo]

In the period of the Rzeczpospolita [former Polish Republic], Shershev belonged to the Voievodshaft (Province) of Brisk-Litovsk.

Jews are already mentioned as being in Shershev in 1583.

In agreement with the resolutions of the Lithuanian Council in 1623, Shershev belonged to the Area of Brisk (Glil).

In 1766, there were 973 Jews in Shershev.

In the revision (census) list of 1847 the Jewish community of Shershev numbered 3,773 souls.

In the census of 1897 Shershev had 5,079 inhabitants, of whom 2,553 were Jews.

The Russian-Jewish Yevreyskaya Entziklopedia of Brokhaus-Efron, vol.16, p.14 states that in 1910 there was a Talmud Torah school in the town of Shershev.

* * *

In the chapter entitled “The textile industry in Bialystok up to 1880”, which Mr. Avrum-Shmuel Hershberg published in the second volume of “Pinkes Bialystok” (New York, 1950), among other things (pages 19-20) the following facts about textile factories in Shershev (province of Pruzhany) are given:


In the Pruzhany Circle

In the town of Shershev there was a wooden building, rented from a local inhabitant. The factory of the merchant (of this first guild), Shaul Levin, was set up in 1818 as a weaver's shop with five looms. In 1828 it produced cloth in dark-green, blue and black colors, of quality higher than that used for soldiers' uniforms. Production included: 190 pieces, 4,750 arshin (a measurement of length, 1 arshin = 28 inches); beyke [a kind of cloth] and flannel 22 pieces, 730 arshin; woolen blankets, each of them three arshin in length: 850 pieces. These wares were sold in various Russian towns. The number of workers hired was 41, of both sexes, (freely bargained for). Among them were 21 Jewish men and 12 Jewish women.

In the same town, Yosl Tukhmakher set up in 1828, in a rented house, a weaver's shop with one loom. In 1828 it produced cloth in dark-green, blue and black of quality higher that that used for soldiers' uniforms: Production included 8 pieces, 184 arshin; beyke flannel: 15 pieces 525 arshin; blankets: 500. The merchandise was sold in various Russian towns. The number of workers was 16, including the lesee Yosl Tukhmakher himself, who was the master. All the workers were Jews, 8 men and 7 women.

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Our Hometown, Shershev

by Zundl Yablonovitch

I write the following lines at a time when Shershev has already been reduced to ruins, when my hometown has been destroyed. It is not the history of our Shershev. These are descriptions that live in my memory. Of course, I may have forgotten some things, or have left someone out, but this was unintentional. We are dealing here with events that took place decades ago.

* * *

Shershev, in the region of Polesie, belonged in the time of Czarist rule to the governate of Grodno, and to the Uyezd (district) of Pruzhany (before the Polish rule was called “powiat”). The town was located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Pruzhany. It was reached by the high road that led to the Bieloviez (Bialowieza) forests. From the high road a paved road 3 kilometers long led into the town. This road was called “the Brukovke” [paved road].

Shershev had approximately 2,000 inhabitants, most of them Jews.

Before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Shershev, as has been said above, belonged to Russia. In 1915, the town was occupied be the Germans. They stayed there until the end of the war. After 1918, the town was transferred from one authority to another: first the Bolsheviks, then the Poles, the Bolsheviks again, and/or other groups and bands. Not until peace between Poland and Russia did Shershev belong to Poland until September 1939.

In September 1939, the Red Army occupied Shershev (as well as the whole eastern part of Poland). During the German invasion of Poland, the town was under Soviet rule until June 1941 when it was occupied by the German army. After Hitler's defeat in 1944-45 the town was again returned to Russia.

Shershev considered itself an old town. It was said to be centuries old. Shershev was built in an old-fashioned European style: wooden houses, covered with wooden tiles. Some houses, especially the peasants' houses at the edge of the town, were thatched with straw.

The main streets were paved and had wooden sidewalks. Shershev had four main streets in the pattern of a cross. Their names were:

  1. Pruzhany Street water flowed through a roi (stream) over which Bridge Street crossed. Over the small river there was a wooden bridge.
  2. Kominietz Street
  3. Starivetzka Street
  4. Beis HaChaim (Cemetery) Street
There were also smaller streets, for example beyond or beneath the valley. This small street looked like a valley, in the middle of a pit, from which yellow sand was dug. Around this pit was a circle of houses. The older people used to say that the pit was made in the time of the povstanye [Polish uprising] when many people were killed. Indeed, when yellow sand was dug there, human bones were found.

There was also the hoif [courtyard Street that, with its lovely appearance and densely growing tree-lined avenues, beautified Shershev. This was the place for summer walks.

From the central streets, yet other small streets branched off, looking like the veins of a human body.

The “heart” of Shershev was the market, where there was also a cordoned off “circle of stores,” where Jewish storekeepers sat waiting for customers.

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The Famous Great Synagogue

The famous great old shul, built in stone, resembled a temple with its artistic architecture. Two wide and round columns, with wide, high steps at the entrance, strengthened the impression of the synagogue. Inside, one was captivated by the artistically carved Torah ark and by the wonderful paintings on the walls. These decorations were very old, from many years back. Even the grandfathers did not know exactly when the synagogue had been built.

The many fires that had, at various times, destroyed the town, had spared the shul.

One of the worst fires happened in about 1908. People wanted to smoke out the worms from the trees in the priest's orchard. A thatched roof caught fire and a terrible conflagration ensued. More than half the town burned down. This was one of the biggest fires. Houses near the synagogue burned as well, but the shul survived.

The shul also stayed intact during World War I.

But shortly after that war, a small fire broke out in Shul (synagogue) Street. Then the shul did burn. It was not rebuilt. American landsmen [compatriots] sent money to repair it, but the work was not carried out. With the money from America and with the help of local householders a large stone Beis Medrash (study hall) was built near the shul. It was the biggest in the town. This was where the town community meetings and gatherings were held.

Apart from this Beis Medrash, Shershev also possessed others: Reb Eyzhe's Beis Medrash, the rabbi's Beis Medrash, the New Beis Medrash and the chassidic Beis Medrash.

The Jewish community also owned a “Hekdesh” (a kind of lodging for poor travelers), a town bathhouse, and a rabbi's house.

Of religious officers, we had a dayan (judge), a shochet (ritual slaughterer), a mohel (circumciser), and a chazan (cantor).

Every shul had its “shamess” (beadle). There was also a “shul-rufer” (person to call the congregates to prayer). Every Sabbath eve and holiday eve he walked through the Jewish streets crying, “Jews, to the shul!”

At this point we should also mention the rebbes [religious teachers] and their schools: these belonged among the “Kahal” (religious institutions) of the town.

We also had a Chevra Kadisha (burial society) that was in charge of preparing the corpses for burial. But it was also involved in, and in fact played a leading role in, Jewish town-affairs.

In the “Beis Medrashim” (houses of study,) the authoritative word was from the “gabbais” (beadles). Their word was also a leading suggestion in matters outside of the Beis Medrash.


The Management of the Administration

In 1914, the town's administration was conducted by a pristav (police officer) and by several uriadniks (representatives of the town). One could buy them off or convince them with a glass of vodka and a ruble.

There was also a court. The court was located at Cheikel's house on Starivietzker Street.

As for the Jewish population, the registry was kept by a “czlon” (a member) of the “uprave” [farm]. As I remember, his first name was Mendel. Very few people knew his last name.

The elite of the town, who incidentally were intimate with our leadership, also included the “Felsher” (healer) and the pharmacist.

The court had a lot of work – quarrels between peasants about a piece of land, fights among the peasants, arguments, arson, and stealing. The stronger person always was the winner. The discords among the Jews were mostly resolved by the rabbi or the “dayan” (a judge charged with settling disputes in accordance with Jewish law).


Occupation of the Jews

There were Jewish merchants “perve gildenikes” (guild, association) who dealt with leather, fur, and grain. There were forest merchants who dealt with wood. A substantial number were the village merchants who would travel to the villages and buy different products and material from the peasants. The shopkeepers would purchase their fabrics in the larger cities such as: Warsaw, Brisk, Bialystok, and Slonim. The main business was conducted through Pruzhany.

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Every day, two horse-drawn large wagons would arrive from Pruzhany and go back and forth. They would bring wares and commodities as well as passengers. They used to also deal with people in Bialowieza.

Most of the craftsmen were shingle makers. The surrounding forests were full of fir trees that were suitable for making shingles, since these trees split easily in order to build shingles out of them. The Shershever shingle makers supplied the entire area with shingles. Among the Jews there were carpenters, chest makers, shoemakers, tailors, hatters, strap and thong makers, blacksmiths, butchers, horse and buggymen, horse traders, and one watchmaker.

During the Christian holidays, there were fairs in Shershev. The marketplace and the central streets would be packed with the wagons of peasants who brought their products to be sold with them, and then the peasants would in turn buy the town's material for themselves.


The First World War

One day, in 1914, the terrible news arrived – the war had started. Then there came an announcement of a mobilization of all men between the ages of 18 to 45 years. A few months thereafter, we already sensed the nearness of the front line. The town was full of Russian military, Cossacks, Cherkesens [Circassians], and ordinary soldiers. Those inhabitants, who had the possibility, prepared a horse and buggy ready to be harnessed in the event that they had to leave the town.

On a certain day, an order did come that the people had to leave the town because of an impending battle. The majority of the inhabitants left by horse and buggy or on foot carrying their packs and sacks. The well-to-do went to deep into distant Russia. Many others went into hiding in the forests. Some did not want to leave the town and went into hiding in the brick shul.

Several days later, the Germans arrived. The shootings subsided and the inhabitants began to move back into the town. Half of the town was destroyed and burned down. A large number of the inhabitants, mainly those who had escaped to Russia, did not return.

The situation was desperate. The previous occupations, business and craftsmanship, came to nothing. So the Jews started to occupy themselves with different kinds of work. They went to the abandoned fields where they dug up potatoes. They would pick corn from the husks and grind them up in a hand mill. In the summertime they would go into the woods to pick blueberries and mushrooms. Many Jewish people went to work for the Germans.

It was difficult to obtain the necessary products. The hardest thing, however, was to find sugar and salt as these items were not available at all. Instead of sugar, saccharine was used; salt was brought in from Pruzhany. Since there were no wagons going there, people would walk to Pruzhany. They could get salt there, however it was very expensive.

Young men would travel to Bialowieza where they worked in the forests.

It was forbidden to do business even though there was neither money to deal with nor any products to sell. Life was very primitive. People ate whatever was available. No new clothing was made; old clothing would be resewn.

Already then, the Germans had exhibited their cruelties. The Jews were subjected to all kinds of suffering, harassment, and insults. They would cut off the beards of the elderly Jews and the braids of the girls and women.

The German reign came to an end after the revolution in Russia and the peace agreement between Russia and Germany. On a beautiful morning, the Germans, in haste, began to leave the town. They dumped their weapons into the river. The Bolsheviks took over the town without any battle.

The Bolsheviks established a new order, with a newly created civilian committee and civilian police, who ran everything with order. The townspeople's income started to go up significantly as they did business with the military. They paid for everything with new money [in rubles], but later on the people found out that the money was worthless.


The Polish Regime

The Russian reign did not last long. Clashes began to erupt between the Bolsheviks and the Poles. The town passed from one regime to another.

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The following tragic incident happened at that time: On a certain day, when the Polish military had to retreat and they left the town, one soldier remained in town. He barged into several houses and robbed from the Jews. This provoked some Jews who ran behind the town and caught the soldier. They beat him up and took back the robbed items. The soldier ran away and joined his detachment. He told his commander what happened. Late at night, a band of Polish soldiers barged in, and with violent fury and shooting, they raged into the town. All the people were terrified. First of all, the soldiers called the rabbi and demanded that all the Jews should assemble in the shul. The younger men were led away from the street to the staff of the military unit so that the soldier could recognize those people who beat him up. The guilty ones, understandably, had hidden themselves beforehand. The commander of the unit said that if the guilty men would not surrender, then every tenth Jew would be shot and the town would be burned down. The Jews lived through the night with a real fear of death. They offered ransom money but to no avail. The Jews were beaten. The Poles searched in all the streets until they found one of the men who had beaten up the soldier. This was Aaron the butcher. The Polish gang tortured him viciously and shot him to death. With this act, their fury subsided and they left town.

Several times, Shershev was a place for a frontline, for strategic positions and battles, until the Polish reign was fortified.


Life Is Being Restored

When the war ended, life began to normalize little by little. The American landsleit (compatriots) began to send support, and a committee was established for the purpose of supervising the distribution of the material support that consisted of products and clothing. A kitchen was set up to prepare and distribute soup and food to the needy people. This made the difficult situation less severe and helped to mitigate the hunger.

The Polish reign strengthened and life began to normalize. Also, the town began to be more active with respect to social life. A social movement began. Modern speakers and delegates from different organizations arrived in town. Instead of the sermons of the old-time preachers and messengers, the people listened to lectures and propaganda speeches of the Zionist movement. Committees were established for “Keren Kayemeth Le'yisrael” (the Jewish National Fund) and for “Keren Hayesod” (Foundation for Israel Fund).

The youths were drawn into these activities. In the beginning they joined just any organization, later on the “Hashomer Hatzair” (Youth Movement [young guard]), which, from its start, would have all the youth involved in it.

Also at that time, the library was in the process of being established. Jewish and Hebrew books were gathered there. Later on, it became the “Tarbut” library that consisted of 800 books and a reading hall where Yiddish newspapers and brochures were available.

There were also young people who organized an amateur circle. They performed in the Jewish theater from time to time.

With the help of our American compatriots, the “Yavneh” school was built where there were, besides the classrooms, the library and the reading hall. (A special article about the “Yavneh” school is written in the subsequent pages.)

There was a bank in town that would lend money, without interest, to the needy people [Gemilas Chesed].

Also, we had a group of people who would take care of the sick and stay with them overnight [Linat Hatzedek], helped with medication, medical help, accommodation for the sick, and so on.

The town was rebuilt. There was a novelty in Shershev – instead of the old horse-drawn wagons, an omnibus started to cruise around the town. Every time the omnibus would arrive, it was a special event in town. The young and the old would go out to the market in the evening to welcome the omnibus that would arrive in town with lighted up lanterns.

At the same time, around the year 1930, Shershev was happy to see electric lighting installed. Another miracle of progressive times. Motorized mills replaced the ordinary windmills. This was a great development and progress for the community.

People also started to act differently with new manners and new mores.

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After the years of hardship and discomfort during the war, people began to dress up more and dress in style. They began to enjoy themselves. On Sabbath and on holidays they would stroll along the street of the courtyard.

The leased fields that belonged to the priests were taken care of by Jewish workers. The young people would also stroll along in those fields. They would sing and have a good time there.


The First Celebration of the Balfour Declaration

Jewish celebrations during the national holidays were a frequent occurrence, particularly during the existence of the “Yavneh” school. However, the most embedded one in our mind was the first celebration of the Balfour Declaration [the declaration in 1917 by the British Foreign Secretary which viewed with favor the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people]. It was a wonderful spectacle in Shershev. The Guardians in their uniforms, carrying the Jewish flags, organized a manifestation. In long, orderly lines and with the singing of Hebrew songs, the manifestation went through all the streets in Shershev.

When we now reminisce about those wonderful days, our grief becomes more painful. It was not meant for those Jews to see their dreams fulfilled – to have a Jewish state. Only a small number of them went to live in Israel. The largest majority of them were killed by the Nazi murderers.


The Magistrate and Municipality

At the beginning, the Poles had established a magistrate. Kopel Kantorovitch was chosen as mayor. The Jews were a majority in the town council. Among the councilmen there were merchants and craftsmen.

Later on, however, the Polish authorities, with the intention of creating a majority over the Jews, incorporated many surrounding villages and then established a gemina [municipality]. Now the Jews were already a minority.

The familiar politics of discrimination against the Jews started. Exorbitant taxes and all kinds of assessments particularly affected the Jewish population.

Also, our non-Jewish neighbors started to exhibit their anti-Semitic acts. On a certain day, the “mieshtshanes” (the town's inhabitants) stood with sticks and did not let the Jewish cows go to pasture. It brought on fights. Court trials began. The courts decided that the Jews had to pay for the legal right to take the cows to pasture in the communal meadows.

It was customary, for many years, that the Jews would gather the dried up branches in the forest and they would use them for heating. This wood was free, without anything to pay. However, the peasants and the town's inhabitants prevented the Jews from taking even these dry twigs.

Also, the Jews were not allowed to pick blueberries and mushrooms. There were some cases when the baskets with the picked blueberries and mushrooms were taken away from the Jews.

Oftentimes, different incidents occurred in the marketplace. Some hooligans would spread anti-Semitic propaganda there. Many times, the Jews would chase away those anti-Semitic inciters, but the mood of the people was gloomy and depressed.

Very often, a call could heard in the streets – “Zhidzhe do Palestyny” (Jews go to Palestine).

The same call was repeated in the “Szkola Powszechna” (Polish public school). There were many Jewish children who went to the same school together with Christian children. The Jewish children had to endure all kinds of insults and pain. The same thing happened during the evening courses.

There were different activities in the same school in the evenings. In the beginning, the Jewish young people would also participate. Later on, from 1927, it was impossible for Jewish youth to take part in those activities.

However, people continued with their normal life. They worked, created, traded, did business, and studied. Despite the surrounding hatred and incitement, life was normal. The older generations spent their time in the study groups, learning “Shas” (the six volumes of the Mishnah forming part of the Talmud), mishnayos [Oral Torah] and Chayei Adom [“Life of Man”]. They also discussed politics in the same place. The young people had their library in the reading hall. The meeting hall in this place was also utilized by those who belonged to “Hashomer Hatzair” [Young Guardians].

It was customary in town that at the conclusion of studying the tractates of the Talmud,

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… the townspeople would prepare a siyum [celebratory closing event]. The participants would organize a banquet, where the students, the Jews, and their rebbe – the Rav, would celebrate with joy.

* * *

Our town was not big, however it possessed its own charm. The houses, mostly made of wood, were clean and warm family nests.

Every day of every week had its orderly routine, as from many past years. There was a repetitious order in our town – of work, of enjoying life, and of preparing for Shabbath and the holidays.

It was not a life of wealth and luxury, but it was a beautiful and a traditionally established life, even though without the comfort and convenience that we have nowadays. Water was fetched from a community well or from a water pump in the marketplace.

Central heating was unheard of. People would prepare bundles of wood for winter.

The majority of the people had a cow that fed the family with milk, cheese, and butter. Also, they raised chickens.

Even in their plain and simple lifestyle, people would celebrate the Shabbaths and the holidays with own their established special customs and practices.

They celebrated weddings, circumcision ceremonies, and other Jewish joyous occasions. The entire Jewish community celebrated such joyful events.

Unfortunately, to make a distinction, the people would mourn in the event, God forbid, of a sorrowful happening, then the whole town would go to the funeral.

There were also quarrels among some people about private matters or about community affairs. However, they always took place among themselves in their own surroundings. The rabbi or the “mentshen” (the responsible people) would settle such disputes in order not to allow for any injustice.

All of that ended with the destruction of the Jewish lives and, along with all cities and towns, our dear town, Shershev, was decimated with the murderous hatchet of the Nazi bandits.

Regarding those dark years, survivors who were in that hell are witnesses of those hellish times. These few surviving witnesses of those times, tell about our Holocaust in another part of the “Pinkes”, the memorial book.


The Hebrew school “Tarbut” in Shershev with the “Hashomer Hatzair” during a Lag b'Omer outing


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Rabbis of Shershev

Shershev was famous for its great rabbis. One of the best known was Rabbi Pinchas Michoel, who later was known as a great “baal-moyfes” [a miracle worker]. The following text is a fragment of a paper by the well-known Jewish researcher E. Ben-Ezra. The title of the monograph is:

Rabbi Pinchas Michoel, may his holy memory be blessed
(Published in Brooklyn in the year 5713 [1953]

Reb Pinchas Mikhoel was born in about 1808. His father was Reb Yitzchak Isaac and his mother was Braine Henye. He was born in the town of Shershev, Grodno Gubernia. Reb Isaac was the grandson of Reb Yehoshua Pinsker, a descendant of Reb Eliezer of Amsterdam, the author of “Maaseh Rokeach” [“Work of the Ointment Maker”]. On his mother's side, he was a descendant of the “Baal Panim Meiros” [“Shining Face”] whose name was Rabbi Meir Ben Yitzchak Eizenstadt. (See lower down for our remarks – editor.)

Rabbi Pinchas Mikhoel was an only son to his parents. But he was not pampered like other only sons. From childhood on he devoted himself to the Torah and to the service of G-d. His parents freed him completely from material worries and from the yoke of having to earn a living. He sat constantly, day and night, studying the Torah and servicing G-d.

Of the teachers who left a distinct mark on him and who had a great influence on him, we know only of Rabbi Osher Hakohen, the author of “Birkat Rosh” [Blessings of the One at the Head]. Rabbi Pinchas Mikhoel excerpted himself to follow in the footsteps of his teacher and to follow his example of modesty. Until he was fifty years old he did not want to accept the post of rabbi, as was his teacher, Reb Osher.

In his writings also, he followed his teacher's path. Rabbi Osher had written a book on the tractate “Nazir” [asceticism]. Rabbi Pinchas Michoel wrote a composition on the same tractate. It is true that the work of Reb Pinchas is not so full of “pilpul” [subtle argumentation, debate] as is the work of Rabbi Osher Hakohen.

Like his teacher, he devoted himself to his studies with great diligence and slept very little. But his father, appealing to the honor that is due to a father, ordered him to sleep for an hour every afternoon. From his father Reb Yitzchak Isaac, he inherited his love of Jews and his devotion to matters of Tzedakah [charity].

As was customary at that time, his parents arranged a marriage for him when he was very young. He married Mushke, the daughter of the wealthy Reb Yekhiel Mikhel of Pasval (who was one of the grandchildren of the author of “Seder-Hadorot” (the order of generations). His wife kept a store. She supplied the entire income of both of them. She released him from the yoke of making a living so that he could devote himself to study.

Already in those days, when he was still a young man, Rabbi Pinchas Mikhel gained a reputation as one who swam freely in the sea of the Talmud and its commentaries. He began to correspond with great Torah scholars on matters of halacha [Jewish laws as part of the Talmud]. They all became aware of his acuteness, his analytical system of solving various problems. He began to write his own original observations on Shas (Talmud), Rashi, Tosefot, Rif, Rosh, and Ran (commentaries; the last three are acronyms of rabbis). Out of these observations grew a very weighty book, in both senses of the word. (His observations were published forty years after his death in the book Divrei Pinchas [Words of Pinchas]. It was published by his grandson Isaac Rabinovitz.)

* * *

Shershev, the birthplace of Rabbi Pinchas, was famous for its rabbis, its great figures of Torah and wisdom. The position of rabbi was filled by Rabbi Dovid, the author of the book Chomos Yerushalayim (on the Orekh Chaim). Of this rabbi it is said that following astronomical calculations he wanted to establish three days of Rosh Chodesh [the beginning of the Jewish month], and he used to read the Megillah also on Shushan Purim. [It is only read on Purim itself. Shushan Purim is the following day.]

Another rabbinic posiiton of the town was held by Reb Pinchas HaLevi ben Ezriel Amsterdam, author of the work Nakhlas Ezriel (on Yoreh-Deiah; text of the Talmud).

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The dayan (Jewish judge) in Shershev was Reb Isaac Hakohen, the author of the book Shaarei Yitzchok [“The Gates of Yitzchok”].

The leader of the Jewish community in Shershev was Reb Osher Hakohen, the disciple of Reb Chaim Volozhiner. He was the author of the work Birchas Rosh, on the tractate Brachos, and of the annotations on the works of Rashi and the Tosefos and also the Birchas Rosh on the Tractate Nozir and annotations and explanations of the commentaries of Rashi, the Tosefos, and the rulings of the Rambam.

At first, Rav Osher Hakohen did not want to use the Torah as a source of income. Until his fiftieth year he was a merchant in Shershev, where, in his spare time, he would sit and study Torah. At long last, the community financial leaders of the town persuaded him and he agreed to accept the position of rabbi of Shershev. But he was not rabbi there for long, because the leaders of the Jewish community of Tiktin, Grodno Province, had their eye on him, and in the year 5613 [1853] he became the rabbi of Tiktin.

When Rav Osher Hakohen left Shershev, the leaders of the Shershev community started looking for a rabbi who would fit the rabbinical tradition of the community. At last they appointed Rabbi Pinchas Mikhel to be Rav Osher Hakohen's successor. In him they say, was someone who resembled their great former moreh-de'asreh [master of the teachings], an expert on Talmud, on the Rishonim and Achronim [early and later scholars], and moreover a modest person with superb manners.

When Rabbi Pinchas assumed the rabbinical crown he did not change his previous way of life. He behaved modestly as in the time before he became rabbi. As before, he acted towards the ordinary people as a friend and a brother. He listened to their conversations; he joined them in their grief and helped them in their need. He was especially loved by the children. He treated them with great respect and addressed them as “ir” [the polite form of “you” in Yiddish].

Although he had the common touch, Rabbi Pinchas Mikhel became famous as a great Torah scholar. He was a center to which people came from all corners. On the one hand, famous rabbis sent him their shailos u'teshuvos [questions and answers] on halachah [Jewish law] and on practical matters. On the other hand, ordinary people began to come to him, wanting advice from him directly, on directions of life. His house was open to all, to the poor, and to those who were in trouble.

Thus, he was rabbi of Shershev for six years, until the year 5624 [1864]. Then a new chapter opened in the life of Rav Pinchas-Mikhel. In that year, he left his birthplace Shershev where he had grown up and become famous. He settled in the town of Antipole, in the regional district of Kobrin region, Grodno province.

He was rabbi there until the year 5650 [1890]. On the first day of the month of Adar in that year, he fell sick with typhus. He was sick for more than two weeks. On the 17th day of Adar he passed away.


Editorial Note:

The book Ma'ase Rokeach, by Reb Eliezer of Amsterdam was first printed in Amsterdam in the year 5500 [1740] and later appeared in another edition in Mohilev in the year 5564 [1804]. It is commentary on the Mishnah and also contains some Chiddushim (new observations, interpretations) and mysteries of Kabbalah.

* * *

We should say more about the mentioned Rabbi Meyer ben Yitzchak Aizenstadt, the author of Panim Meiros, from whom Rebi Pinchas Mikhel was descended on his mother's side

This Rabbi Meyer ben Yitzkhak was known in the scholarly and rabbinical world as the Maharam Ash. Maharam means (acrostically) “great teacher Rabbi Meyer,” and Ash means the town Aizenstadt in Hungary. The name of this town was customarily written with the initials aleph-shin [Hebrew letters].

Aizenstadt was the main city among seven communities in Burgenland, known in Jewish history as the Sheva Kehilos [Seven Jewish Communities]. To the Sheva Kehilos belonged the capital Aizenstadt as well as, also:

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Mattersdorf, Lackenbach, Deutschkreutz (called by the Jews “Tseylem” (cross), Frauenkirchen, Kittsee.

Rabbi Meyer was born in about the year 5430 [1670], a descendant of very famous ancestors, related to the renowned Shakh [noted 17th century scholar, Talmudist]. He was a son-in-law of the then well-known shtadlan (intercessor for the Jewish community) and leader of the Jewish community of Posen, Reb Moishe Sochatshever. He was supported by his father-in-law for ten years, and studied Torah. But something happened to the father-in-law that compelled the son-in-law to earn a living and accept a rabbinical post. In the introduction to his book Panim Meiros, he tells about this in the following words:




Briefly, this means: that after being supported for ten years by his father-in-law, the leader of the community of Posen, and after having studied in his great shul which was full of holy books, there occurred a libel on 24 Jews who were brought to trial in the tribunal of Lublin, bound in chains. They were threatened with death. His father-in-law, the leader and wealthy man Moishe Sochatshever, took their part. Thanks to the favor he enjoyed in the eyes of the Polish king and of the courtiers, he succeeded in getting the endangered Jews freed. The libelers were punished with enormous fines, in the thousands and the tens of thousands. But for his rich father-in-law, who had thrown both his soul and his fortune into the cause - as is well known both to the leaders of the Galil region of Posen and to the rich men of the holy community of Lublin - it was a disaster. He had lost both his own fortune and that of his sons.

It was then that he (the son-in-law) accepted the position as rabbi of Szydlowiec, in the region of Radom. Later, through the recommendation of the famous court purveyor, Shimshon Wertheimer (the founder of the financial company Wertheimer in Germany) he became rabbi in the famous German Jewish community of Worms in the year 5460 (1700). Later, he became rabbi of the celebrated community of Prosnitz [Przasnysz]. There, Reb Yonasan Eibeschutz (the porger; dealing with kosher meat issues) of later fame was, as a young man, educated in his house. In the year 5464 [1714] he became rabbi of the principal town among the “Seven Communities”, in Aizenstadt, where he continued to serve as rabbi for both town and countryside until his death on 27th of Sivan, 5504 [June 7, 1744]. On his tombstone are inscribed these words:


Is buried the Great Rabbi
Meyer, Honored Excellence and Our Teacher
Chief Justice of the Court of the Holy Community,
Of Righteous and Blessed Memory
The 27th Day of Sivan of the Year 5504
Our Time Counting
May His Soul Be Tied to the Continuity of Life



Rabbi Meyer had six sons and two daughters. They [presumably the sons] had very important leading positions in Jewish religious life. They were rabbis and authors of works, and they also published works, which their father had left in manuscript form. His sons were:
  1. Reb Yitzchak. A son-in-law of Reb Tzvi ben Yaakov Ashkenazi, known in the world of rabbinic scholarship as the “Chochem (wise) Tzvi”. Reb Yitzkhak was rabbi in Niasviz [Nieswiez], and later in Biala-Podlask, and Slowoticz [Slawatycze].
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  1. Reb Mikhel. Died young. His son was a rabbi in Kletzk.
  2. Reb Eliezer. Rabbi in Szydlowiec, in the town where his father initiated the rabbinate.
  3. Shabsi [Shabtai]. Earlier: rabbi of Biala-Podlask, later of Shershev. When in Shershev in 1765 he gave his approval to the book Meorei Aish [“Lights of Fire”] that had been written by his father and that was printed after his father's death (in the year 1766, in Furth). In the same book (page 86) are his two comments dated the sixth of Tammuz, 5615 [1745], and signed:
    Shabsi Hakatan” [the small, insignificant one] of the holy community of Shershev.”
    This son of Reb Meyer, Shabsi, lived to an old age and was rabbi of Shershev for a long time. On the seventh of Adar, 5537 [1777], he gave his approbation to the book Ateres Yosef, by the rabbi of Liskow Reb Yosef Ber Ruber, which was printed in Zhulkev in 1778.
  4. Moshe- Yehuda. Rabbi, as two of his brothers before him, in Biale. He had a tragic experience there on the day of the King of Poland's coronation. It took place on June 8, 1764, the first day of the month of Tammuz 5524. In the introduction to his father's book Or Ha-Ganuz [“The Hidden Light”], which he published, he related the following:
    (Translation of Hebrew text)
    Because of our great transgressions when our in community Biale-Podlask, two years ago at the time when the King of Poland was crowned someone drank wine that was poisoned. In that same year Rosh Chodesh [first day of the month] came out on the eve of Shabbath (Torah reading of Chukat). The words of the commentator, Unkelus, became real.
    On the first day [Rosh Chodesh] of Tammuz, the people who hate us came to our city in a loud and noisy manner that was frightening. It was proclaimed that they could do whatever they wish to the Jews for a period of three hours. It is called shloggen (in German) or plindren. Permission was given to create destruction for three hours. They stole and destroyed (may Hashem [God] have mercy). Who can estimate the extent of the immense damage? In particular, damage to the great shul and the Beis Midrash [House of Study], wife, my son and myself and took all our clothes. Despite all this I gave thanks to Hashem that we weren't harmed. God remembered me favorably. The Jewish leaders of Brisk issued a declaration making a boycott that anyone who bought stolen goods from the robbers must give them back [to the original owner] without making a penny of profit. This helped the community (Biale-Podlask) very much.
    * * *

    From this we learn not only of his personal losses, but also of a very interesting historical fact. There was a change of monarchs in Poland. A band of robbers attacked Biale-Podlask and they were given a “privilagye” (privilege- special license) to rob for not more than three hours; but the robbers were not well disciplined, and their work of looting carried on for a full 24 hours. The great shul and the Beis Midrash (House of Study) suffered terribly. The robbers stole the fine clothes of the rabbi and his family, leaving them stark naked. It is also known that the robbers left Biale and went to Brisk. There, they apparently began to sell their stolen property. The leaders of the Jewish community in Brisk decreed a cherem [boycott], that anyone who bought stolen goods from the robbers must give them back [to the original owner] without making a prute (penny) of profit. This, writes the rabbi of Biale, helped his community very much.
  5. Benyamin. Rabbi in Lakenbakh (one of the “Seven Communities”) and later in “Ungarish Brod” (Hungarian Brod).
The two daughters of Rabbi Meyer, Chave and Brayndl, were also wives of great scholars of that generation.

* * *

This is the lineage of Reb Pinchas-Mikhel on his mother's side. As we have seen, one of Reb Meyer's sons, Shabsi, was rabbi of Shershev for many, many decades.

Perhaps the name of Reb Pinchas-Mikhel's mother Brayne-Henye is connected with the name of Reb Meyer's daughter Brayndl.

* * *

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Cover of book by the Shershev Rav, Reb Asher Hakohen


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Ten Years of the “Yavneh” School in Shershev[a]
(affiliated with the “Tarbut” organization in Poland)


In the Beginning…

There was once a Jew in Shershev by the name of Markel (Markel the son of Volf Pomeranietz). Various causes drove him to cold Siberia, to the town of Irkutsk. Older people of “that” generation still tell how Markel's mother, poor thing, shed bitter tears over the tragedy which had befallen her because of Markel. He was exiled among non-Jews in cold, terrible Siberia, and became distanced and estranged from Jewishness. Great was the grief of his parents over their unhappy, lonely son, who was captive amongst the Gentiles. And, for a long, long time, the “banishment” of Markel was the main conversational topic among the inhabitants of Shershev until the matter was gradually forgotten, just as many other things were forgotten from those “good times” when the local Jewish settlement stretched from the end of Kamenietz Street to the end of Pruzheny Street. (Nowadays, these are “Gentile” streets.)


And the Sons' Hearts Return to Their Fathers[a]

But it is difficult to measure the worth of a Jewish soul. Even from Siberia, messages of greeting began to be received from the exiled Markel who had worked his way “up” there, become a “wealthy man,” a “piervi-gildi-kupietz” (first guild merchant). Even “there” in Irkutsk, Markel did not forget his Jewishness; his warm Jewish heart could not be chilled even by cold Siberia. True, Markel Velvel's (i.e., son of Velvel) name became Mark Vasilyevitch, but his native town of Shershev and its Jewishness remained deeply rooted in his heart. He carried in his heart the Jewish spark from his home, and when the “gracious Czar” forgave the “sins” of the Jewish people (that is, granted an amnesty) Markel was able to get out of Irkutsk for a while and come to Shershev to visit his family's graves. By then he was gray and old - such is the report of the ancient, hunched over, householders, natives of Shershev, who were still young at the time.


The Charitable Gift

Markel's father, Volf, when he died, left a piece of land and a house on Kamenietz Street. In the house lived Markel's sister-in-law, the widow of his elder deceased brother Zelig. Markel bought the “inheritance” from his sister-in-law, and bought a larger area of land and another house from Mr. Yitzchok Stolar adding up to an area of 15 by 80 klafter [klafter is a fathom – a unit of measure equal to 6 feet]. He gave this to the Jewish community of Shershev to build a hekdesh [poor house]. The income from the hekdesh he allocated to paying for the education of poor Jewish children in Shershev.


The Will

Markel returned to Irkutsk. More than one young man of Shershev probably owed his “poor house” school fees to him.) Unfortunately, we possess no documentation of this.) When Markel was in Shershev, he found out about the low educational level of the Jewish children in his native town. He, the “piervi-gildi-kupietz” (first guild merchant) of Irkutsk, could not understand how the Jews of Shershev, “ardent” Jews, full of yiddishkeit (Jewishness), could be content with the cheders (religious schools for the young) in which their children were preparing to be “healthy” invalids and “lively” ne-er do-wells or idlers for the rest of their lives. Mr. Markel took a risk and, in his will, which was drawn up by the notary of Irkutst, Vladimir Goryevitch Razumov, on November 12, 1910,

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he decided to help his brothers in Shershev to establish a modern school for Jewish children. Among the 14 points of the will, which contains various family instructions, number 2 is as follows (in the translation from the Russian original):

“In the name of the G-d of Israel, at my death I, the merchant Mark Vasilyevitch, Marcus, son of Volf Pomeranietz, leave the following directions:

“In the town of Shershev, in the County of Pruzhany, Grodno Gubernye (province), a school is to be founded to teach Jewish children Hebrew literature, religion, and Russian literature, on condition that the school shall give the students a well-rounded education and prepare them to be loyal citizens of the people and the state. To build the school, I have decided to use a plot of land in the above-mentioned town, Shershev, on Kamenietz Street, which I bought from the heirs of Zelig Pomeranietz, his widow Faige Pomeranietz, and her neighbor. The land is 80 Klafter long and 13½ Klafter wide. Besides this, I leave capital of 13,000 rubles of which 10,000 rubles are to be put into a state bank in perpetuity, in cash or paper bills, on condition that the profit shall go to pay the salary of the teacher and the annual expense of running the school. The 3,000 rubles are to be spent on building a brick house for the school, on furnishing it and buying teaching materials.

“I have already given the 3,000 rubles for the above-mentioned purpose, to the committee of the “Society for the spread of education among the Jews of Russia.” The practical accomplishment of this matter has been undertaken - with thanks - by the Society, whose headquarters is in the capital city of Peterburg, on Zamyatina Street #4. If the above-mentioned society is unable, for any reason, to carry out my instructions, then my heirs will take care of it. They will exert themselves to build the school, and receive from the above-mentioned Society the 3,000 rubles.

“Once more, I emphasize that the school is to be founded unconditionally in the town of Shershev and not in any other town. The future management of the school, its leadership and its practical educational activities are to be supported on the responsibility of the Jewish community in the town of Shershev, specifically in the persons of a committee elected by the Jewish community and consisting of four members under the chairmanship of the local rabbi and the supervision of the “Society for the spread of education among the Jews of Russia.” After my death the guardian of the school will be my son Moishe Pomeranietz and, after him, the eldest member of my family in order of birth.”

We can see from this will how far, and how deeply the exiled and yet close Markel Pomeranietz deeply understood the noble mission of educating the children of the Jewish community.


In the Year of Destruction and Ruin (in the First World War)

But it was not fated (and perhaps Shershev was not yet worthy) that the will should be carried out and that the Jewish children of Shershev should be rid of the old, narrow, moldy cheder houses and get their education in a modern school. The terrible, fatal year 1914 came quickly upon them. The younger, better energies of the local Jewish society were torn away from their home to the various positions and fronts of the war. Those who remained in the half-burned town, the old people and the juveniles, were occupied with their daily problems and worries that have etched themselves in all of our memories. The former rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Meyer Meyerovitz, who had the will in his charge, left the town at the time when the front approached Shershev (in 1915). When the rabbi left, the matter was entirely forgotten. During the war, the widows and victims of fires (belonging to the families) of various former local klei-kodesh (religious officers, rabbi, beadles, etc.) lived in the tzavoe-haizer [buildings erected under the terms of the will]. The town became impoverished. The German occupation completely ruined the town. The typhoid epidemic,

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which spread by coming in the train of the combating armies and snatched away many dozens of young lives prematurely. Because the occupying soldiers requisitioned the foodstuffs of the local population the famine increased, and the result was countless deaths. The edict concerning tzvangs-arbeit (forced labor) came from the German occupying force. A shameful hunt for the young people began. Some were sent to different places. Some miraculously escaped wherever their eyes led them, some ended up in the bigger towns where the persecutions were, to some degree, weaker. Others went to work conditionally for a Jewish farmer, and so on.

Study Halls were transformed into hospitals and theaters. The casualties of the war were treated there. Money was collected for the destitute before they even became sick. Elderly people were driven into the bathhouse where, with cold, cynical brutality their beards were shaved. Among those who lost their beards was Rav Avraham Aharon. He had stopped in Shershev to replace the Rav Reb Meyer Yitzchak Meyerovits. The brutality reached its climax when Reb Avraham Velvel, the melamed (teacher in a cheder), Reb Shalom Pinski, and other old, infirm Jews were put to work to plow the gardens. Various vegetables were needed for the occupying forces in Shershev. In those difficult times, no one was interested in such “frivolities” as schooling and education. Meanwhile, as a result of the war, there were great political and economic upheavals in the world. People were cut off from their friends in Russia, not to speak of Siberia.

The 3,000 rubles of the Society for Spreading Haskala [enlightenment, education] disappeared together with the Society itself. No more news arrived about Markel. Of his goodwill and noble plan there remained, as a remnant saved from destruction, the above-mentioned places. (The two houses were burned during the Bolshevik invasion.) This was a memorial of a “Jew who was once in Shershev.”


Your Heirs, Shershev!!

Between the houses of two Byelorussian farmers on Kamenietz Street #11, there was a big empty place that waited for its redeemer. Markel's relatives, nephews Boruch and Moishe-Shmuel Pomeranietz, lived in Pruzhany. On a dark, early morning they came to Shershev and sold “their” inherited piece of land to a certain farmer, Kaleneyko, who sowed a grain-crop on the land. The farmer, afraid of the Jews of Shershev, did his work in the morning hours on Saturdays, when the Jews were comfortably asleep, resting their weary bones after the days of earning a living during the week.


The Cries of Young and Old

However, the neighbor, Daniel Meister, accidentally noticed the farmer's work. He ran and raised an outcry; he awoke the leaders of the community, Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, Yosef Pomeranietz, Yosef Pantel, and others. With the speed of lightning the whole town was on its feet. It seemed that they felt the danger that threatened the future education of the young generation in Shershev. After much argument, they drove the farmer from the place by force. They appointed a powerful guard so that the farmer would not return and resume his invasive work.

On Sunday, May 12, 1924, at eight o'clock in the morning, in haste and at no charge, the podrubes [details] for a school building were laid down by the local carpenters (Chaikel Nirenblat, of blessed memory, Zalman Livkovitch, Chaim Tenenboim and Dovid Tenenboim). The podrubes were produced at no-cost by almost all the smiths of the town. This historic day will stay etched in our memories forever because it marked the beginning of a new era; an era of extraordinary hard work for the active parents in awakening the national spirit of the young people in the field of modern education. The building committee, which was founded on the same historic Sabbath, and which was headed by the indefatigable Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, an energetic and strong-willed man, full of initiative. (He has worked ceaselessly up to this day.)

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He understood that if the opportunity was not seized to wake up the energy of the petrified, backward elements in Shershev, then it would not happen in a hurry. The chairman, Mr. Yekhezkhel Krugman, brought all of his initiatory power to bear in organizing the members of the building committee and arousing in them the ambition to carry out the noble undertaking of building a schoolhouse for the children of Shershev. The active businessman, Mr. Shloime Averbuch, helped a lot. He is now in America.

It is worth emphasizing that not a single communal shilling was at the disposal of the chairman. Mr. Yechezkel Krugman was not the kind of person to be easily discouraged. With his iron determination to carry out his plan till the end, he was not put off by the lack of money. He paid for the necessary building materials with his own money, or took the required monies on his own account.


Sources of Income “From the Threshing-Floor and From the Wine Press”

Thanks to his initiative, the young people were organized. They formed a drama group which played from time to time in order to raise sums of money for the school which was then being built. Among the members of the drama group, the one who was most distinguished for altruism and devotion on behalf of the school, was Mr. Moshe Mordechai-Gelman. In spite of his poor health, he appeared on stage and performed in top-ranking roles. Also, he was, until his death, an active member of the building committee and, later, of the school committee. May his memory be honored. The drama group consisted of the following people:

Feldboim, Soreh Kogan, Hershel Rakhames, Bubel
Gelman, Moshe-Mordechai Kantorovitch, Chashke Rasichovski, Alter
Leinman, Shimon Kantorovitch, Reuven Shmulitsh, the barber
Lerer Rak, Shmuel Kirzner, Ester Leah Pomeranietz, Soreh

Mr. Krugman also had the task of creating for the production the appropriate mood in the population (by excitement) so that people would visit the theater in droves.

It is remarkable that his social and commercial sense never failed him when he looked for or developed other sources of income. A characteristic source of income was the esrog business that he founded. That shows how devoted, body and soul, Mr. Yekhezkhel Krugman was to the idea of a school. In 1924 esrogs, for various reasons, were a great rarity. He opportunely brought an esrog from Warsaw and the whole town used it. A comparatively large sum of money resulted from this and was devoted to the building.

An idea came to him of carrying out a “plet-aktzie” [raffle] and other one-shot sources of income. His impulsive spirit was not completely satisfied however, until he founded (with great effort and superhuman energy) stable, permanent sources of income, such as nedorim [commitments] for weddings, Yom Kippur collections, payments for ritual slaughter, tax from the burial society, grants from the magistrate (municipality), percentages from the sale of chametz and leavened foods [before Passover], weekly support from the population of Shershev, and payments for authorizing birth certificates. For this purpose, special “year witnesses” were appointed who, whenever a birth certificate had to be authorized, took a certain fee for the school. By such ways and means the idea of a school penetrated the broadest masses, until everyone formed the image of the school as the darling of Shershev's Jewish community. This was a very important educative proof for the conservative elements which are not absent in any town, especially a small town. The task was carried out excellently by the recognized and worthy activist and chairman, Mr. Yechezkel Krugman. All the permanent sources of income lasted, more or less, until the years of crisis, and until the community came to exist in Shershev. At that moment everything was erased from the surface, as if with a magic wand. It is true that many of the sources of income were dependent on the conditions of the time, but many were affected too, by the weariness and exhaustion of the chairman. The active members left and “one person at the front is no soldier” as the proverb says.

Unless the Whole Town Builds, the Work of the Individual Will be in Vain.” Such was the slogan proclaimed by the building committee that was founded on that historic Shabbath.

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The Enthusiasm

Thanks to the well-organized building committee, an atmosphere of extraordinary enthusiasm was created. Everyone helped with whatever he could: with a donation, or with labor - as the Jews of long ago when they built the Tabernacle.

I still see before my eyes an impressive picture which illustrates most clearly the assistance given by the town in building the school, and the enthusiasm there. It was Chol Hamoed Sukkos (the intermediate days between the first two and last days of Sukkos) in 1924, on a beautiful sunny day. The streets were alive with well-rested people in a carefree holiday mood, the Chol Hamoed'nikes [those celebrating Chol Hamoed]. I was walking with them. Suddenly, a dense crowd of people, old people, young people, and even the very young … and voices were crying up to the sky: “Rocks! Here 's a rock!” I stopped and saw a dozen wagons driven by our communal leaders with the chairman Mr. Klugman at their head, and around them, the real schoolchildren! They were collecting rocks for the foundation of the school building. Each rock called forth great jubilation on the part of the activists, as if they had found who knows what! Every rock was accompanied by the exultant shouting of the crowd of children. Then, they found the biggest rock of all! To lift it at least a dozen ‘strong hands of Esau” are needed. I don't know how nor with how much strength did they roll the rock into the wagon that could scarcely tolerate the load. It must have been done with hidden strength. In a state of this sort of enthusiasm, the potential energy in people is revealed. I thought, “A person would be able to achieve wonders if this kind of enthusiasm could be aroused in him”. For much of this enthusiasm, perhaps 99% of it, we can thank the chairman. A great psychologist said: “In order to bring forth enthusiasm in another person, or to bring forth his belief in anything, it is necessary first for the person to be himself full of the same enthusiasm or belief, right to the depths of his soul.” Whoever saw this scene, was easily convinced that the young man who was in charge of collecting rocks owed it, in great measure, to the enthusiasm.


Judge, Please, Between the Inheritors and Between Us

The heirs did not give up “their” inherited plot of land. After the farmer had been driven from the site, the heirs took the community leaders to court for taking possession of their property. When the court found that the inherited land belonged to the city, they took the matter to a higher court. Not wanting to waste energy on such matters, the building committee decided to make a peaceful settlement with the heirs. For this purpose, a delegation was chosen: Rav Avraham Aharon Waldshan, Mr. Shmuel Meister, and Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, who travelled to Pruzhany on October 27, 1924. They discussed the dispute for whole night with the Rav of Pruzhany, and then with Mr. Zalman Grinzburg, but they did not reach any agreement. It was not until the next morning, in the hotel owned by Mr. Galubovich, that the disagreement between the different parties was settled in a good manner. The heirs were given $125. The contract which the heirs gave to the Jewish community of Shershev sounds as follows, in literal translation from the Hebrew:

With the help of G-d, as a permanent proof of the fact before the Jewish community of Shershev, the statement signed hereunder by us, the brothers Boruch and Moishe-Shmuel Pomeranietz. stipulates:

The plot of land in the town of Shershev on Kamenietz Street, that we inherited from our parents, and that we sold to our Uncle Markl Pomeranietz, who gave the above-mentioned land as a permanent donation to the Jewish Community of Shershev for the purpose of building on it a Talmud Torah building. We have, with our good will arrived at a mutual agreement about the above-mentioned plot of land, receiving as compensation $125. From now, and for the future, the land belongs to the Jewish community of Shershev which can do what it wishes with it. Neither we nor our children have any hereditary right to the land. We, names above, sign in good will and we confirm that without being forced

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or pressured we have settled the dispute with the Jewish community of Shershev on Thursday, the second day of the month of MarCheshvan, in the year 5685 (1925) in the town of Pruzhany.”

Signed: Boruch and Moshe-Shmuel Pomeranietz.

The above-mentioned settlement took place according to Jewish law, in our presence and in front of our eyes: Herr Boreck and Herr Moishe-Shmuel Pomerantz signed with their own hands.

To confirm this, we sign below on the above-mentioned date.

Signatures: Shmuel Pinski, Feivel Galubovich.


The Organizational Preparations for the School Year

At the end of 1926, the building was nearly finished. In order to form a basis on which, immediately after the school had been built, a normal and appropriate program for children could be organized, the building committee invited Mr. Yankel Shreibman of Pruzhany, who is today the general secretary of the “Histadrut of Teachers” in Poland (and was then a graduate of a seminary) to visit the local teachers in order to establish which of them would be suitable as future teachers in the school. Those who were chosen were: the writer of these lines and Mr. Bokser who, following the same recommendation, was engaged from the Vilna Teachers Seminary. We were entrusted with the task of dividing the school-age children into classes and getting them ready for the new school year. We pioneer teachers worked in extraordinarily difficult conditions in a house rented from Mr. Asher, the barber. We sat in two cramped rooms, together with children of various ages and degrees of knowledge, and labored at the “sacred craft,” enduring trials on all sides. After much effort, we succeeded in dividing the children into three groups. We invited Fraulein Glotser from Pruzhany to join us.

After five months of hard work we were able, more or less, to bring all the children up to the same level of knowledge and to introduce them to the discipline of school life. In this way, we laid the foundations on which we later would have to build the whole inner workings of the school that would form the corresponding outward aspect of education in the years to come.


The Founding of the Snif (branch) of the Tarbut Educational and Cultural Organization in Shershev

On March 9, 1926, the building committee contacted the central “Tarbut” offices in Warsaw


The first teaching staff of the Yavneh school of the Tarbut in Shershev,
along with the first students of the school, in the years 1926-1927

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with the goal of creating a legitimate Snif-Tarbut, in the name of which the school would be opened in the new school year 1926-1927. The central committee, with Mr. Moishe Gordon at its head, then took an intensive, serious interest in giving us the appropriate information and interceding with the relevant administrative authorities and groups. On April 19th, 1926, the official general meeting took place at the house of Mr. Yechezkel Krugman where a Snif-Tarbut committee was elected and constituted. The apothecary Mr. Eliyahu Boimriter, of blessed memory, was unanimously elected as chairman. On April 23, 1926, the Snif-Tarbut was confirmed by the authorities and entered into the register of the societies and organizations of the county of Pruzhany under the number 243.


The First Inspection

The Snif-Tarbut committee, wanting to convince itself of the progress of the children, invited the well-known principal and pedagogue of the Tarbut school in Pruzhany, Mr. Okin. Okin visited our school on June 18, 1926. He acquainted himself with the pedagogic work of the school and the conditions in which it was being performed. As part of the presentations for the visitor in Shershev, a meeting of the people was arranged in the large Beis Midrash (study hall). The speakers were the writer of these lines and the visitor, Mr. Okin. The visitor impressed the Jewish population of Shershev favorably. He created a pleasant, friendly atmosphere around the school.


The Chanukas-Habayis (celebratory event for new building)

After hard work and extraordinary efforts on the part of the building committee, we at last were able to celebrate the Chanukas-Habayis event. Whoever did not see the pouring out of joy on the faces of the members of the building committee has never seen any really happy people in his life! This was especially noticeable in the case of chairman Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, who had devoted his life and soul to this effort. He had reason to rejoice, seeing the fruit of his hard work. (May those who sow in tears, reap the harvest in joy [Psalms 126:5].)

On the Sabbath of the Torah reading of Balak [generally in the summertime], 1926, the building committee, together with all the supporters, celebrated the Chanukas-Habayis. The teacher of the Tarbut school in Pruzhany, Mr. Tinski, was invited. There was an intention of hiring him as the official principal of the school. On the Sabbath, after prayers, came the guests who had been invited, with Rabbi Noach Liverant at the head. We celebrated in a very elevated mood, expressing our good wishes, and also our appreciation of the worthy members of the building committee. Special thanks were unanimously given to the tireless congregational worker for the good of the community, the chairman of the building committee, Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, and to the American aid-committee, which had helped to build the school. After eating sweet things and drinking a glass of shnapps, the celebrants departed in a happy mood.


The Parents Committee

With the Chanukas-Habayis, the noble, inestimable first task of the never to be forgotten worthy members of the building committee came to an end. Now a second task rose: to organize the school for the new school year, 1926-1927. The task consisted of organizing the teaching staff and bearing material responsibility for the school. On the same Sabbath in the evening, a general meeting of the parents' committee was held in the big Beis Midrash. The young people also participated. The guest, Mr. Tiniski, lectured on the topic, “The Hebrew school and its importance for the revival of the national spirit.” Following this informative lecture there was a secret ballot to elect members of the parents' committee The following were elected:

  1. Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, Chairman
  2. Mr. Averbuch Shloime
  3. Mr. Kantarovitch Koppel
  4. Mr. Kantarovitch Reuven
  5. Mr. Shainboim Boruch Zelig
  6. Mr. Kabizetski Yakov Meir, Secretary
  7. Mr. Schneider Zalman
  8. Mr. Rasikhovski Avraham
  9. Mr. Maletski Pesach
Also the following were unanimously elected as honorary members:
  1. The Chief Rabbi, and
  2. the apothecary, Mr. Eliyahu Boimriter, of blessed memory.
[Pages 540]

The Teaching Staff in 1926-1927 were:

  1. Shtein (principal)
  2. Diamant
  3. Yoel Waldshan
  4. Rabinovitch
  5. Gurevitch, B.
This year, according to its main pedagogic work, can be characterized as a year of unceasing struggle with the deeply rooted bad tendencies of the children, and of searching for means to alleviate the material situation. The question of discipline was never taken off the day's agenda. Psychological descriptions of the students' characters were carried out, and the methods appropriate to each kind of character were adopted, in order to improve the child. From the programmatic, didactic point of view, the work was not satisfactory. There were various reasons for this. Many of them had nothing to do with the teaching staff. The causes were, among others, that the Tarbut school network in Poland was not yet fully organized, and the, as yet, incomplete school inventory and the lack of necessary teaching materials.

The methodological aspect of the work went in the direction of and followed instructions of the modern pedagogic handbooks. The work of the teachers was very much disturbed by the mood of apathy which got the better of them on account of irregular pension payments and the economic dispute between the teachers and the school committee, especially about wages for the two months of vacation. The issue even led to a teacher's strike lasting two days. Because of the teachers, there were no cultural activities except those at the school.


The Year 1927-1928

The teachers:

  1. Broiman – acting chair of the teachers' council
  2. Goldberg Mushe
  3. Waldshan Yoel
  4. Gurevitch Boruch
  5. Modrikammen
During this year the teachers introduced no novelty or changes into their pedagogical work. It followed step by step the achievements in the direction of the previous year. There was even a perceptible decline in some respects. There was no mutual understanding among the teachers with regard to their methodological “and didactic practices. To a certain extent there was a loose spirit of “anything goes.”

There was no school principal to take responsibility for the pedagogical work of the school. Mr. Broiman was appointed acting chair of the teachers' council. Except for the work of the school, no cultural activities for young people were organized.


The principal Shtein of the Yavneh School with the 6th grade – 1935

[Pages 541]

The Year 1928-1929

The teachers:

  1. Schneider Yakov, principal
  2. Buzhinski Sh.
  3. Broimen Shimon
  4. Grober Dobel
  5. Waldshan Yoel
  6. Modrikammen
This year brought with it many positive changes in all particulars. It could therefore be called a year of achievements. From the programmatic, didactic point of view, a tremendous change occurred. There was a normal, stable program; the teachers worked on the material in advance, according to a plan. They divided it into the months of a whole year. There was system and a sense of responsibility in the work. The topic of the Land of Israel was used by the teachers at every opportunity, and the work of the KKL (Keren Kayemet Le'Yisrael – the Founding fund for the Land of Israel) among the children was very lively and interesting. Apart from this, cultural work was also carried on among the young people in the form of lectures on the following subjects: history, literature, and political economy.


The Year 1929-1930

The teachers:

  1. Schneider Yakov – principal
  2. Buzhinski Sh.
  3. Grober D.
  4. Waldshan Y.
The work of this year was a continuation of the previous year, together with improvements. A warm, friendly environment was created around the school. The authority of the teacher grew in the eyes of the townspeople. In this year the first graduation of the seventh class took place (not a normal graduation as the children had not attended the school from the first class onwards). This year also, an impressive exhibition of the children's work was arranged, reflecting all areas of study.


The Year 1930-1931

The teaching staff:

  1. Kuchinski M. – principal
  2. Kuchinska Devoira
  3. Trunska Teivel
  4. Waldshan Yoel
This year, the pedagogic work was like an imitation of what went before. There were no innovations brought into the work. There was no corresponding sense of responsibility and appropriate dedication on the part of the teachers. In general, this year can be designated as one of decline.

Cultural work, apart from the school, was expressed in the organization of the graduating students under the name “Irgun BogreiBeit Hasefer” [The Committee of the School Alumni].


The Year 1931-1932

The teaching staff:

  1. Peker Yakov Simcha – principal
  2. Waldshan Yoel
  3. Nitsberg Yisroel
  4. Hochberg Devoira
This year was correctly named “the year of organization.” Excellent, disciplined work was carried out by the teaching staff. The administrative work will serve as a particular example. The school archive was organized this year, which, until then, had been in a state of chaos.


The Year 1932-1933

The teaching staff:

  1. Peker – principal
  2. Waldshan Yoel
  3. Yudelevski Yakov
  4. Hochberg Devoira
The value of the pedagogic work of the teaching staff of this year was expressed in a written evaluation in the inspection book of the inspector of the central “Tarbut,” Mr. A. Einshtein. The literal translation of the Hebrew text reads:

“Three years have passed since my last visit to our ‘Yavneh' school of the Snif-Tarbut here in Shershev.

“I emphasize with pleasure the progress of this teaching establishment. This time I found good organization and pedagogic initiative, a sense of responsibility for the educational work of the school based on a completely Hebrew education. I emphasize in particular that in spite of the difficult material conditions of the institution, the teachers (especially the diligent principal, Mr. Peker Yakov Simcha) displayed great devotion to the cause of pedagogic completeness, and I say to them, “More strength be to you! May their devoted work be an example to all our activists in the field of Hebrew education.”

Shershev, December 1, 1932.

(Signed):The Inspector of the Hebrew Tarbut Schools in Poland
A. Einshtein

This year saw the second normal graduation of the seventh grade.

[Pages 542]

The Year 1933-1934

The teaching staff:

  1. Waldshan Yoel – principal
  2. Lifkind Osher
  3. Yudelevski Yakov
  4. Skubelska Shayna
During this year, the school changed over to a cooperative basis. The school committee bore no material responsibility for the teachers' salaries (except for an obligation to pay a few hundred zlotys). The new economic arrangement, to which the teachers were unaccustomed, provoked misunderstandings which resulted in a worsening of the work, although the organizational and also the pedagogic part of the work was on an appropriate level. Taking into account the abnormal conditions, the government inspector who visited the school on February 21, 1934, acknowledged the great progress made by the children.


The Year 1934-1935

The teaching staff:

  1. Waldshan Yoel – principal
  2. Yudelevski Yakov
  3. Skubelska Shayna
  4. Pomeranietz Leah
  5. Zundovitsh Yakov
This year brought a deeper pedagogic and methodological involvement and innovation in the work. The teaching staff fulfilled their task with full responsibility. The administrative and economic side of the work was worthy exemplary. There was unbroken contact between teachers and parents. There was harmonious cooperation with the school inspector; a constant correspondence with the government inspector, and with the central Tarbut on the subject of pedagogic problems in the work of the school. A colossal amount of repair was carried out in the school, thanks to which the school acquired the appropriate aesthetic appearance. For the higher classes a club for reading and entertainment was organized and also an orchestra of ten children. Cultural work (apart from the school) was carried out in the form of lectures on the subjects of literature and hygiene.

This year can rightly be called a year of reform in the school. The following letter, dated October 10, 1934, from headquarters will serve as an evaluation of the organization of the school during the year.

This is the letter:

“To the pedagogic leadership of the Yavneh school in Shershev.

A reply to your letter of October 25 number 218/34 from the account protocols of the pedagogic council. During the friendly reception, we have been able to look at your efforts in the direction of deepening


The members of the school committee of the Yavneh School in the Tarbut,
in Shervev in the year 1935

[Pages 543]

the basis of teaching in the department and bringing the system and order into the daily work.”

Signed: Grinvald, Moishe
Rabinov, Boruch


The Celebration of the School Graduation

While the school existed, two celebrations were held to mark the graduation of the children in the seventh class. The first graduation was in 1929-1930. The second was in 1932-1933. The latter was especially remarkable for its impressive celebration. More than a hundred people took part. Representatives of all the institutions and local organizations greeted and wished luck to the graduates in their future life endeavors. We were greeted warmly by our brothers and sisters in America. We cite here the worthy text of the greetings which shows the devotion of our American brethren to the town of their birth, Shershev, and their intelligent understanding of modern education for the young generation.

“Dear respected friends!

Fellow townspeople, energetic upholders of the educational institute Yavneh in Shershev, and thus great-great-grandchildren of Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai of blessed memory.

Worthy friends! I am very, very happy to have the honor and pleasure of greeting you heartily and joyously, in the name of Shershev compatriots in New York, from the Shershev support society, from the synagogue in Brownsville, and from the newly-founded society called the Ladies Auxiliary( he women's aid society). We take this opportunity to tell you that our soul is ruled by one thought and emotion which are now with you in our old hometown, Shershev.

On account of the great distance across the sea, and other circumstances, we cannot visit you now. But with an expression to you of our deep, heartfelt emotions, we take part in your great celebration. We all wish you a happy holiday which will, without doubt, fill everyone's heart with fresh energy, courage and spiritual resolve to continue the sacred work of educating a future generation that will bring honor to its people and beauty to mankind. We know quite well what you have gone through in the seven years of your existence. We can imagine your struggle, your optimism, your disappointment and all else, that is only to be expected, given unforeseen causes and the eternal conflict between theory and practice. They are always at odds, but that should never hold us back, because the main strength, which we owe our resistance to all attacks, is our tragic but noble history. In the most difficult conditions and terrible times, we never gave up. Persecutions have been unable to weaken our spirit or stain our honor. Grief and pain have not made our soul petty. This is our strength, with which we will overcome the present crisis and we will go forward with secure steps accompanied by courage and the perpetual optimism of the Jews.

On this path, you and we will continue the noble work of educating a generation which will bring honor and raise the cultural level of its hometown Sherehev, and of Jewry everywhere.”

Secretary: Dovid Gingold
New York, July 6, 1933


The Graduates and Children who Attended the School

32 Children – 21 boys and 11 girls, graduated from the school after having gone through a series of seven classes. According to their present level, the qualifications can be made as such:

Apart from this, the number of children who attended our school was 60-70. They are all in the organizations “Hashomer Hatzair” or “Beitar.” The most important part of them is involved in cultural organizational work. The majority have learned a trade. (See the Table on p. 544.)



Apart from visits to the nearby regions, two large excursions were planned by the teachers to Bialowieza, in the years 1928-1929 and 1933-1934. The participants were children in the higher classes and young people who visited the school. The teachers and the children spent whole days in the dense, primitive forest of Bialowieza, looking at the beautiful, splendid panoramas of nature and at the various plants. They also visited the museum which is in the former royal palace, and the living bisons.

[Pages 544]

Ten Years of the “Yavneh” School in Shershev

Statistics of the Graduates of the Yavne School

Without Occupation 9 Merchants 2
Craftsmen 3 Finished Teacher's Seminary 4
Private Teacher 2 Finished Hebrew Secondary School 3
Private Children's Teachers 4 Attended Secondary School 4
Finished Technical School 1 Total Number of Students 32


The School Budget During the 10 Year Period

Statistics of the Graduates of the Yavne School





City Hall
City Income

1926-27 11332 3560 400 1000 1460  
1927-28 8295 3649 410 1800 1525  
1928-29 12046 2832 320 1800 670  
1929-30 9910 1904 245 1800 938  
1930-31 8820 890 100 1500 2332  
1931-32 7004 711 80 400 1734  
1932-33 5107 936 117 600 1074  
1933-34 4206 520 100 280 - 328
1934-35 3557 783 150 - 260 414





US $
School Supplies
& Renovation

School Supplies
& Renovation

US $
US $
US $
1926-27 14880 1672 1950 219 240 27 281 38
1927-28 12998 1460 1572 177 300 34 400 45
1928-29 15726 1777 1011 114 300 34 312 35
1929-30 13535 1742 450 58 240 37 328 42
1930-31 11000 1236 800 90 240 27 1502 169
1931-32 8637 970 71 8 286 32 1017 114
1932-33 5526 691 -   60 8 1470 184
1933-34 4839 931 97 19 60 12 800 154
1934-35 4417 896 294 56 70 13 330 63

[Pages 545]

The Traditions of the School

Every Channukah, the schoolchildren organized an evening with a colorful program. The evening always made a good impression on the guests. On Lag B'Omer there was a grand children's march, with national banners, through the streets of the town and an excursion into the forest.



In the years 1926-1927, 1929-1930, 1932-1933 and 1933-1934, the school was visited by the inspector of the Hebrew “Tarbut Schools” in Poland, Mr. A. Einshtein and the principal of the “Yavneh” school in Pruzhany, Mr. Grinvald. In the years 1930-1931, 1931-1932 and 1933-1934, the school was visited by the government inspectors Mr. Zavadzki and Mr. Leshnikovski.


The Children's Library

When the school was opened, there were already books in a very limited quantity. Thanks to the teachers who organized various events, the library developed more and more. Today, the library numbers 513 books: 362 in Hebrew and 151 in Polish. In the year 1931-1932, principal Peker laid the foundation stone of a pedagogic library for the teachers. The library now numbers 153 books. 118 Hebrew and 35 Polish books.


Various Accidents in the School

As a result of carelessness there were three accidents in the course of the ten years. In the year 1927-1928 a child put a corked bottle into a hot stove. The student Leah Tenenboim, at the request of her younger schoolmate, wanted to take the bottle out but the bottle exploded with terrible force and ripped off the upper lip of Tenenboim and several other children were slightly wounded. In the year 1932-1933, at the end of the school year, the teachers organized an excursion with the children into a nearby forest. In the forest the student Soreh Basikhes (12 years old) strayed away from the teachers. She was attacked by a 16-year-old, a Christian bandit who wanted to hurt her to death, but this was prevented by the accidental appearance of some of her fellow students at the scene. On November 9, 1934, the Christian Paulina, servant of the school, heated the stove on Saturday morning and left. The floor of the stage that was next to the stove caught fire and it then spread to the walls. Children who happened to be in the courtyard of the school noticed the fire. They gave the alarm about the conflagration. Neighbors ran up and, with great effort, localized the fire.


The “Tarbut” Library of the Town's Snif (Branch)

The founding of the branch's Tarbut library resonates like a legend. In 1923, a group of children aged 14-15 got together and decided to found their own library. The leader of the group was Avrohom Averbuch (a son of Shloime Averbuch). They donated their last saved up groshen (a Polish small coin worth 1/100 zloty), bought children's books and called the library, “Hatichye” (Reborn). The bookcase was in the house of Avrohom Averbuch. There, the children gathered and read the books in their own library with confident joy! Gradually, the library came to the attention of other young people, who, with difficulty, became readers there as well. The demand for books increased. Then they decided to open the “locked door” for everybody. They gathered the courage to carry out, from time to time, fundraising campaigns among the inhabitants of the town – and the library grew as if yeast was in it. In 1928, the library had 250 books. Meanwhile, in 1925, a second group of young people, among them Chaim Shames, Avrohom Kvelman, Tenenboim Yitzchok, Rasikhovski Alter, and Beidatch Zeidel, of blessed memory, founded for themselves, a reading room in the house of Rochel Glotser and called it Agudas Tziyonim [Zionist Union]. But the reading-room was soon closed. A significant sum of money remained in the communal chest. What should be done with it? The comrades discussed the matter. They could not come to an agreement, but then they all decided to buy the works of Mendele Moicher Sforim. This awoke the “real appetite” of the friends. They became fervent, serious advocates of the plan to create a great library in the town. From time to time, they put on theatrical performances and various other events. The library developed more and more. The attendance of readers increased.

[Pages 546]

Their taste was incited by the books that were acquired. On March 3, 1927, the library was legalized under the name of the Snif-Tarbut. It then held 180 books. The founders decided to combine with the “Hatichya” library and thus form one large, general library for the town.

After much negotiation between the representatives of both libraries a contract was agreed upon, containing large discounts for the founders of the Hatichya library. Thus, a mutual agreement was concluded. The 250 books were given to the Snif-Tarbut library which now held almost 400 books all told. The library now contains 300 Hebrew books and 500 Yiddish books for a total of 800 books.

The board of the library consisted of the following people:

  1. Avrom Kvelman
  2. Feynbir Leibel
  3. Kirzner Yitzchok
  4. Yudelevski Yakov
  5. Yakubovitch Mosh


The committee of Keren Kayemet Le'Yisrael in Shershev, in the year 1928
In the picture: Itche Tenenboim, Zundel Jablonovitch, Avrohom Oprik, Yosef Shichman, Tzuker,
Velvel Shacherman, Sarah Sheinboim, Yakov Kleinerman, Shimon Izbitzki, Zalman Gelershtein

[Pages 547]

Statistics of the “Tarbut-Yavne School” in Shershev
The Children's Movement over a Nine-Year Period

School Yr Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Total
1926-27 10 8 7 3 7 11 12 7 10 5 10 9 0 0 99
1927-28 6 6 9 5 4 9 11 7 6 5 8 4 0 0 80
1928-29 11 14 3 12 11 5 3 6 6 4 6 1 7 7 96
1929-30 11 7 19 6 4 6 10 4 0 0 8 1 7 2 85
1930-31 9 24 15 8 13 7 10 3 4 9 0 0 0 0 102
1931-32 8 11 10 19 15 7 16 8 0 0 9 4 0 0 107
1932-33 14 17 13 16 14 10 13 8 11 4 0 0 7 2 129
1933-34 12 17 14 20 12 10 14 8 11 5 5 3 0 0 131
1934-35 11 15 14 18 7 14 13 11 12 9 10 7 0 0 141
1935-36 7 17 13 17 7 13 13 10 11 9 9 6 0 0 132

Original footnote

  1. This report was printed in the above-mentioned Pinkus of the general private public-school “Yavneh,” by the Tarbut in Shershev. The short report, as well as the community budgets, all work of Z. Jablonovitch, about Shershev, is public in the introduction of the section on “Shershev” of our Pinkus. Return

[Pages 548]

The Community in Shershev[a]

(In the years 1928-1935)

Every new social phenomenon in life evokes an opposition from the conservative elements. Even the community in Shershev presented a strong opposition. Even though their functions were still pretty weak, nonetheless, slowly and lately there was more life in the community. This idea became more settled that there must be a person who earns a living through city means, and should have an influence on the cultural-social religious life as reflects the conditions of the time.


Its Establishment

In the year 1928, the community leaders in Pruzhany received an order from the internal ministers to establish in their regions (Pruzhany, Shershev, Linevo, and Horonczyc [?]) elections for their communities. Two representatives of the Pruzhany community leaders come to Shershev, invited the prominent people in the community to come to a meeting, where an election committee would be established with sixteen people on it (half handymen and half merchants). The election committee set up a registration of the local and surrounding people. In July 1928, the elections were held. The ballot box and the ballots themselves were returned to Pruzhany. The results of the elections established two heads from Shershev, namely Mr. Koppel Kantorovitch and Mr. Meyer Gelman.

A detailed examination [of the process and results] were sent to the administrative authorities. Only after five years, did the community receive a confirmation from the ministry. August 1, 1933, the department of the community in Shershev, whose center is in Pruzhany, was created. The secretary, Mr. Yakov Kabizetsky, was voted in by the community heads. With time, through the chairman Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, the school Yavneh lost its income sources, such as from shechita [ritual slaughter] and the Chevra Kadisha [Jewish burial society]. With great difficulty, the chairman pleaded at the budget meeting, for a relatively large subsidy for the shul. But unfortunately, this remained on paper only. Taking into consideration that the expenses as a community that comprised a complete city, were large, and the incomes, because of the strong opposition – small, then understandably the community could in no way pay off its promised subsidies.

Lastly, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Yechezkel Krugman, he managed to enforce that the institutions and the school would receive 50% of the overall income every month as payment in ready cash.


The Improvements [Institutions] in Town

During the existence of the community, the community leaders enacted a great repairs and cleansing [?], which was their destruction. The community activities in their details were reflected in the following budget:

[Pages 549]

The Budget of the Shershev Community in the years 1933-1935[b]

Year 1933 Income:
Shechita [slaughter] 1,500
Chevra Kadisha [burial society] 500
Birthdays and weddings 200
Municipal taxes 2,600
Total: 4,800
School and Talmud Torah 1,500
Orphanage 700
Women's Society 400
Linat Hatzedek (social welfare) 200
Wood for the poor 210
Maos Chittim (food) 200
Library 50
Bath and cemetery 500
Secretary 300
Payments in Pruzhany 300
Taxes 120
Shamash 60
Paper 30
Unforeseen expenses 230
Total: 4,800
Year 1934 Income:
Shechita [slaughter] 3,800
Metrikes [birth certificates] 200
Municipal taxes 1,312
Chevra Kadisha 500
Total: 5,812
Shechita 1,800
Schools 1,200
Orphanages 200
Women's Society 100
Linat Hatzedek 200
Doctor 300
Secretary 400
Expenses in Pruzhany 360
Library 50
Maos Chitim 100
Bathhouse 500
Bank debts 100
Monies for the sick 125
Paper 30
Travel expenses 120
Unforeseen 227
Total: 5,812
Year 1935 Income:
Municipal taxes 1,000
Shechita 50% 1,500
Chevra Kadisha 400
Total: 2,900
Payments in Pruzhany 500
Secretary and Shamash 225
Paper and books 10
Yavneh school 610
Orphanage 300
Women's Society 300
Linat Tzedek 50
Wood for the poor 100
Bank debts 100
Library 20
Bathhouse 300
Cemeteries 40
Traveling expenses 100
Maos Chitim 100
Unforeseen expenses 145
Total: 2,900

Original footnotes

  1. This account is taken from the Pinkus [log book] that was published in honor of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Hebrew school “Yavneh” [run] by the “Tarbut organization” in Shershev. It was printed in Shedlets [Szydlowiec] in 1935. Return
  2. All of this took place in 1936. Return

[Pages 550]

The General “Gemilas Chasadim” Fund in Shershev[a]



At the start of its activities, the “Gemach [Gemilas Chasadim]” fund in Shershev developed its work very feebly. There was little money in the fund, and the number of loans distributed was insignificant.

Due to dissatisfaction with this state of affairs, a meeting was held on April 15,1935, at the headquarters of the “Tog-Heim” [day home], attended by 45 members. At this meeting the demands of those who were assembled were clearly expressed, vis-a-vis an institution of such first-class importance as the “Gemilas Chasadim” fund; and that the situation that had prevailed up to now could no longer be tolerated in the future.

After a long discussion, it was decided to vote for a temporary organizational committee, which would last for three months.

The following people, in alphabetical order, were elected to the temporary committee:

Family Name Given Name Family Name Given Name
Gichman Isser Lindin Yitzchok
Kantorovits Reuven Pomeraniets Yosef
Kiselev Yosef Rakhames Aaron
Kleinerman Yakov Sinai Binyomin
Koloditsky Avrohom Tenenboim Shabsi
Kozyol Mikhail Valdshan Notel
Krugman Yechzekel Visoker Yisroel

Total: Fourteen people, among them five from the previous committee and nine newly elected.

At the meeting to decide on the structure of the committee which was held right away on the same day, these people were elected:

As chairman – Yisroel Visoker
Secretary – Yosef Kiselev

Treasurer – Yechzekel Krugman
Members of the Presidium – Avrohom Koloditski and Yitzchok Lindin.

The loans committee was the following:
Mikhael Koziol, Shabsi Tenenboim, Iser Grichman.

The audit committee – Yakov Kligerman, Mikhael Kozyol, Reuven Kantorovits, Binyamin Sinai.

The newly elected committee developed an activity of feverish intensity. At the meeting which took place immediately on the following morning (June 16), the chairman Yisroel Visoker suggested that the wealthy members of the board should on their own initiative, lend the Gemilas Chasadim fund certain sums of money without interest.

Weighing the importance of the proposal, that is, that if the members of the board did themselves not want to help the institution with interest-free loans, then the Gemilas Chasadim fund could not exist – those present showed not only in fine words, but in deeds as well, that they themselves decided to give voluntary loans, without interest, to the institution they represented. The first to speak up was the author of the proposal, chairman Yisroel Visoker, with a loan of 100 gilden for a period of 6 months, without interest.

Then the following made their offers:

Yechzekel Krugman 100 gilden
Iser Grichman 100 gilden
Yosef Pomeraniets 100 gilden
Mikhael Kozyol 50 gilden
Binyomin Sinai 50 gilden
Reuven Kantorovits 50 gilden
Yitzchok Lindin 50 gilden
Shabsi Tenenboim 25 gilden
Avrohom Koloditski 25 gilden

[Pages 551]

The membership payment was fixed at 10 groshen a month. The chairman, Yisroel Visoker, having a full sense of the responsibility and seriousness for this matter, and wishing himself to serve as an example to other people, suggested that everyone present should pay his membership dues for a year in advance.

The suggestion was accepted unanimously and all the members of the committee paid their dues on the spot.

The amount of each member's contribution was calculated at 5 gilden, which was divided into 3 payments: immediately upon paying out the first loan, 2 gilden were subtracted, and the rest in 2 amounts of 1.50.

The loans themselves were to be a sum of up to 40 gilden, and to be paid back within 5 weeks. Loans are given out twice a week, on Tuesday and on Saturday evening.

At a meeting, which was for the purpose of giving a report, and which took place on July 30, it was established that in the 2 weeks since the Gemilas Chasadim fund came into existence, 30 members had joined. 105, 50 zlotys were paid in contributions. Deposits: 575 zlotys. Members' fees: 12,30 gilden.

11 loans were paid out at the average rate of 330 gilden.

On July 10 there was a meeting of the credit committee, consisting of Mikhel Kozyol, Iser Gichman and Shabsi Tenenboim. They agreed on credit for 42 members, according to their financial standing, at an average of 1,695 zlotys.

Likewise, the audit committee, consisting of Yakov Kleinerman, Mikhel Kozyol, Reuven Kantorovits and Binyamin Sinai, audited the books on July 15 in the presence of chairman Yisroel Visoker and the treasurer Yechezkel Krugman and established that everything was in the best order.


The Loans of Zorach Birenboim

After the Gemilas Chasadim fund had proven to be popular and beloved thanks to the tireless and exemplary work of the members of the committee, the news about the young much-needed institution also reached the landsleit [compatriots] of Shershev abroad.

Then in a letter, our fellow townsman, the respected activist and worker for the community, Zorech Birenboim of Petach Tikvah (Eretz Yisrael) offered to give the Gemilas Chasadim fund an interest-free loan of 500 dollars for a period of 3 years.

The board of directors, which met on August 2nd, considered Mr. Birenboim's proposal very seriously. After a lively discussion, it was decided for the time being to apply only for a loan of 300 dollars. As a guarantee for this amount, Birenboim was to be sent a promissory note for the general value of 1.600 zlotys.

Zorekh Birenboim, however, having full confidence in the committee, did not wait for an answer and for promissory notes, but on August 17, he sent to the address of cKrugman for the Gemilas Chasadim fund a check for 550 dollars.

$500 as a loan and $50 as a donation to the fund.

Then the committee accepted the loan, with the condition that Zorekh Birenboim was to change the 500 dollars into Polish zlotys according to the daily rate of exchange (5.25 zlotys); and decided to express their thanks to Zorekh Birenboim.

Of the 500 dollars, it was meanwhile decided to exchange only 50. The rest (450) remained, for the time being, in effective dollars. In accord with a later decision, a further 100 dollars were exchanged for zlotys.

At the beginning of September, Zorech Birenboim of Eretz Yisrael spent some time in Poland and visited his own town of Shershev. On this occasion a celebratory meeting of the whole committee headed by the respected guest was held.

The Chairman, Mr. Visoker, gave an exact report of the activities of the general Gemilas Chasadim fund in Shershev. The number of members had grown to 75, borrowers – 46, loans given out, in the general sum of 1,276 zlotys.

Every member could get a second loan three days after repaying the first.

[Pages 552]

The size of a loan was raised to 50 zlotys. The loan-office, which was formerly open only twice a week, was now active every day from 7 to 9 in the evening (in the house of Yechzekel Krugman).

The honored guest, Zorekh Birenboim, showed great interest in the work that had so far been accomplished. Following his suggestion, it was decided that in the future, sums larger than 50 gilden would be made also. He appealed to the members of the committee to take an interest and said that as many people as possible should benefit from the Gemilas Chasadim fund.

As for the loan of the 500 dollars: since the money in the Gemilas Chasadim fund was given out and banked in zotys only, Mr. Birenboim took cognizance of this and decided that the committee should change the whole sum according to the daily exchange rate of the dollar. The debt was changed to the value of 2.625 gilden, and the committee obligated itself to repay the loan within 3 years.

It was given as a warning that in the case of a change in the exchange rate, the management board must change the money in its loan-bank into dollars again.

The management board of the Gemilas Chasadim fund in Shershev hereby expresses its great gratitude to the respected activist and donor, Zorekh Birenboim of Eretz Yisrael; and we wish him in the name of all the members, happiness and success in his life, blessing and success on all the work of his hands!

At the same time, an appeal was made to all our landsleit from Shershev in America and other places that they should interest themselves in such an important institution as the Gemilas Chasadim fund, which helps with interest-free loans the ruined population of Shershev, giving them the possibility of supporting themselves by their impoverished sources of income.

May the blessings and wishes of the local Jewish inhabitants cheer their distant landsleit, and interest them in their home town Shershev and in its Gemilas Chasadim fund, which alleviates and fights the dreadful impoverishment of the Jewish settlement, and may they succeed in all the work of their hands, as we wish for them.

The administration of the General “Gemilas Chasadim” Fund in Shershev:

President – Yisroel Wysokier
Secretary – Yosef Kiselev
Treasurer – Yechezkel Krugman
Members of Presidium – Moshe Eliyahu Zilberstein, Yosef Pomeranietz, Feivel Granat
Credit Committee – Isser Gichman, Michal Koziol, Shabtai Tenenboim
Audit Committee – Sinai Binyomin, Reuven Kantorovitch, Michal Koziol, Yakov Kleinerman

The number of members of the Gemilas Chesed Fund in Shershev:

  1. Zerach Birnbaum, Petach Tikvah
  2. Yisroel Wysokier
  3. Yechezkel Krugman
  4. Yosef Kiselev
  5. Yosef Pomeranietz
  6. Isser Gichman
  7. Reuven Kantorovitch
  8. Binyomin Sinai
  9. Shabtai Tenenboim
  10. Mikhel Koziol
  11. Moshe Eliyahu Zilberstein
  12. Feivel Granat
  13. Yakov Meir Kobizetski
  14. Yakov Kleinerman
  15. Avraham Kvelman
  16. Bobel Kaminietsky
  17. Sarah Neubrif
  18. Berl Kalbkoif
  19. Moshe Kaminietsky
  20. Yisroel Winograd
  21. Avigdor Schneider
  22. Shimon Izbitski
  23. Boruch Pakter
  24. Bobel Ruchames
  25. Avraham Rusukhubsky
  26. Mordechai Krugman
  27. Moshe Nirenblat
  28. Kopel Kantorovitz
  29. Yosef Shemesh
  30. Meir Galperin
  31. Leizer-Levi Winograd
[Pages 553]
  1. Moshe Pomeranietz
  2. Moshe Yosef Noteh's
  3. Moshe Tuchmacher
  4. Yitzchak Kantorovitz
  5. Yitzchak Hersh Kaminietzky
  6. Bendit Lipshitz
  7. Faigel Winograd
  8. Hersh Kalbkoif (son of Avraham)
  9. Eliyahu Neubrif
  10. Shmuel Yoel Milner
  11. Hersh Yitzchok Osipovitch
  12. Yitzchok Schneider
  13. Yisroel Schneider
  14. Yakov Schneider
  15. Meir Gelman
  16. Chemel Izbitski
  17. Feivel Tenenboim
  18. Avrohom Gvirf
  19. Yakov Gichman
  20. Moshe Nidberg
  21. Yehoshua Pinski
  22. Dovid Fishel
  23. Yehuda Biltchik
  24. Teme Kvelman
  25. Sheina Mirel Beizer
  26. Sholom Ber Kadritzki
  27. Leibel Leberstein
  28. Genendel Domb
  29. Yisroel Winoker
  30. Alte Gustman
  31. Yakov Yudelevski
  32. Shloimo Feinbir
  33. Chaim Tenenboim
  34. Zelig Nebaszczyk
  35. Rivka Wolonietz
  36. Fania Baumritter
  37. Ovadia Schneider
  38. Moishe Weiner
  39. Moishe Kravtczyk
  40. Gedaliah Khadritzki
  41. Moishe Gelerstein (Brisk)
  42. Aharon Gelerstein
  43. Shmuel Leiberstein
  44. Zalman Friedman
  45. Elkana Lipshitz
  46. Yakov Yeshaya Krawczyk
  47. Yakov Zeidman (Pruzhany)
  48. Hertzke Fisheles
  49. Pinchas Krunshtat
  50. Gershon Feinbir
  51. Yitzchok Dovid Reitman
  52. Aharon Lernkind
  53. Simchah Neboszczyk
  54. Shlomo Fishman
  55. Hersh Kalbkoif (son of Eliezer)
  56. Alter Kleinshtib
  57. Leizer Reitman
  58. Shloime Feldman
  59. Yoine Katowski
  60. Yakov Katowski
  61. Moishe Sakhe (Brisk)
  62. Feivel Lehman
  63. Chaike Makhleder
  64. Nosson Krenitzer
  65. Firma Revson (Bialystok)
  66. Leah Pomeranietz
  67. Moishe Aharon Beidatch
  68. Chaim Selik (Brisk)
According to the submitted businesses, the members of the Gemilas Chasadim Fund comprise of the following:

10 merchants, 9 shopkeepers, 9 haberdashers, 6 butchers, 5 tailors, 5 shoemakers, 4 grain merchants, 4 locksmiths, 3 roofers [shingle makers], 3 wagon drivers, 3 cabinetmakers, 3 dressmakers, 3 village maintainers, 2 bakers, and teachers, harness makers, tar makers [for the roof], and maybe 1 miller, second-hand clothes dealer, horse dealer, office clerks, dyer, photographer, pharmacist, dentist.

We have before us a typical panorama of the societal makeup of Shershev in the 30s.

[Pages 554]

The group “Yehuda” from Hashomer Hatzair in Shershev, 1928, 5688


Committee of the Tarbut library in Shershev

In the picture: Motye Shacherman, Meir Yablonovitch, Rivka Pozniak, Fishel Feinberg, Breina the teachers, Yakov Valdshan, Alter Chune the milner's, Michel Kirzhner, Alter Rosochovski, Zundel Yablonovitch Baila Gichman


Original footnote

  1. This report on the Gemilas Chasadim fund in Shershev is also from the cited pinkus [town record] of “Yavneh”. We also have here in the history of this institution of mutual aid, the list of members of at least 100 names and the kind of social help they received. Incidentally, it can be seen from the list that some individuals belonging to the fund lived outside Shershev (Brisk, Pruzhany, Bialystok). Return


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