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[Page 139]

D. Welfare Institutions

 

The Orphans Committee

by Tsvi Zagoroder

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

An Orphans Committee existed in our town long before the outbreak of World War I. Its objective was to support orphans and widows and give them a foundation and the ability to function on their own.

 

rad139.jpg
The Orphans Committee and the Orphans

 

[Page 140]

From the beginning, these women were in leadership roles: Rachel Vinshteyn, Sashe Boym, Sore Balaban, Gitel Veser, Batye Berndoyn, Ester Landis, Tsilye Bedeker, and Roze Lizek; and with them were the men A. Balaban, and Shmuel Inspektor.

On Sabbath afternoons, the committee members would gather and divide the next week's responsibilities among themselves. The many tasks were organizing the kitchen that distributed lunches to the orphans; strategizing for the summer dormitory where the orphans spent two to three months of the year, which freed their mothers from worrying about them; and making sure the orphans were settled in school and their fees were paid, particularly in the vocational and ORT schools.

Revenues came from membership fees collected monthly from individuals, couples, and so forth. In addition, they received basic goods from the town shopkeepers. Thus they managed the institution's meager budget, trying their best to do the best for the children, who had such a desperate fate.

The group of men and women who took care of this institution did their work with great devotion and are worthy of praise.


Mutual Aid

by Tsvi Zagoroder

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

According to its constitution, the purpose of the Mutual Aid Society was to assist and support the sick and destitute, to send members to their bedsides and watch over them. The society's leaders believed that they were doing holy work, as people ought to care for those who could not take care of themselves.

In actuality, the society didn't limit itself to caring for the sick: they also took on the burden of easing the suffering of anyone who needed help. Thus, they were concerned with aiding the disadvantaged without hesitation, distributing charitable donations to buy flour, matzo, and other Passover needs to those occupied with preparing the holiday, including lessening the daily burdens and hunger that resulted from their poverty and depressed situation. Also, the society's care for the residents of the old–age home involved sheltering the elderly who lacked their own homes.

The society's leaders weren't merely philanthropists whose role was simply to distribute funds to help and aid the needy. They were people with an intense sense of social responsibility, and no social or public issue repulsed them. They were the superheroes of the community–the ones who founded other institutions in our town.

[Page 141]

Heading the Mutual Aid Society were Yechezkel Zherker, Berel–Volf Yuger, Binyamin Sirota, Moshe Zukenmakher, Yitschak Kripes, Manish Shrayer, and Duvid Shnayder. The secretary was Esterke Groysman.

 

rad141.jpg
Flower Day for the Benefit of the Mutual Aid Society
Standing (right to left): Yashke Treyger, Sonye Balaban, Avraham Royzman, Chayim Kitayksher, Leyb Fik, Rachel Sirota, Yakov Shrayer, Eliezer Chait. Seated: Grine Bernshteyn, Moshe Zukenmakher, Yechezkel Zherker, Binyamin Sirota, Rive Kroyt
On the floor: Buntsye Vinshteyn, Munke Margoliot, Dvore Kagan, Avraham Groysman


[Page 145 Hebrew] [Page 303 Yiddish]

Town Characters

by Arye Ayzen

Translated by Yaacov David Shulman

Everyone in Radzivilov knew Boris Yafimovitch Koltun, who owned of a library of various theater scripts. It was not easy to get a script from him for a performance. First of all, you had to make a down payment, such as a watch and two zlotys.[*] And afterward, you had to count all of the pages of the script to make sure that not even one was missing after you'd used it. And you had to sign that you responsible for returning it.

Each booklet was stamped, and had the owner's [name and] address in Russian doggerel that read:

This book is mine, God is my witness together with me;
Whoever steals this book, may his hand dry up;
If you do not know me, read the following:
Boris Yefimovitsh Koltun, Ogrodova Street 22.

 

Yosele Pesi–Rudes

Not everyone remembers him. He was a political activist, and not everyone understood what he said. While he was living in the Lodging for the Poor charity's old–age home, Yosele asked the management of the old–age home to send him to a health resort. He received the reply that they only sent weak and crippled people there. Yosele thought and thought and came up with a wonderful idea: he ordered a pair of shoes, one of which had a tall heel. When he got the shoes, he practiced limping on one foot like a lame person, until he appeared to be a true cripple, and the management sent him to the health resort.

[Page 146]

Pinya the Tailor

He was a small craftsman but a big miser–a man with many children, one younger than the other, a man whose every thought was focused on eating. His wife Chane Keyle helped him earn a living. She worked hard to make a living. She brought a sad loaf of bread into their house, which was grabbed and swallowed like the first fruit before the summer.

Chane Keyle constantly visited her neighbor Rachel Milder, who supported her as much as she could afford. And Chane Keyle poured her bitter heart out to her.

In the midst of this grinding poverty that she lived in with her family, Chane Keyle brought a new child into the world every year. When Rachel Milder tried to persuade her that in their sad state of affairs she should stop having children, Chane Keyle replied naively, “But what other pleasure does my Pinya have with me?”

 

The Woman from Kazimierz

She had four sons and one daughter, each bigger than the next, clever and shrewd grain merchants, all of whom lisped. They were crazy about exotic romantic love, and matchmakers enjoyed proposing what they called solid matches. But the person in charge in the house was their mother, and when the matchmaker Yekele Shteynberg proposed a match for which she would have to pay a $1,000 dowry, the mother said, “For that amount of money, he can rot for another few years.”

No one could battle the income tax officer as this woman from Kazimierz could. Every time the officer came to carry out an inspection and the house was filled with grain, the woman from Kazimierz would seal the chimney and fill the house with so much smoke that it was impossible to breathe, and the officer had to stand outside and take down the details that she dictated to him.

 

Malkele Yuntsikhes

She was a maiden, no longer young, over 30. She always used to say, “Whoever wants to marry me should come to me.” If my memory doesn't deceive me, by the time of World War II, no one had come to marry her.

When the Russians entered in 1939, Malkele was selling all kinds of forbidden items such as liquor, soap, and so on. She would look out the window, and when she saw the police coming to search her property, she would quickly put the soap into her bed mattress and hang it outside as for an airing, and she would put the liquor bottles in a tub, cover them with dirty laundry and stand crouched over the tub covered with sweat and launder with all her might, while singing some song to herself.

[Page 147]

After an hour's search, the police left as they had come, without having discovered a thing.

 

Binyamin the Water Carrier

Not everyone knew him. He lived with his wife Dvorele in the Kitas's basement. They did not have children. Binyamin was blessed with a mother–in–law named Chakentekhe, who was a woman not to be underestimated, a dedicated mother … who always slept with her daughter. Binyamin was by nature quiet and shy. When Devorele went out on the Sabbath for a walk with her husband and met old friends on her way, she would present her husband and tell him: “Introduce yourself. Put your hand out and say: Binyamin.”

This saying was often repeated by the people of Radzivilov.

 

Motele Savory

He was an orphan, a messenger–boy. Goodhearted people took an interest in him and decided that it would be a good deed to marry him off to Rachele, after the two had fallen in love at first sight at Shintsiuk's wedding, when they were standing behind the window. The wedding was arranged, and the writer of these lines participated in the preparations for the wedding, and after a while for the circumcision as well, which many people attended.

At the circumcision, R' Yosef the ritual slaughterer noticed that they needed “circumciser's powder” and told Motele to bring it. Motele “did” before he “heard.” He raced like a deer and came back immediately–but instead of “circumciser's powder,” he brought fine flour.

 

R' Yeshaye Fishkas

He was always a happy person, rejoicing in his portion, loving to perform a commandment. When Motele Savory was preparing to get married, Yeshaye was in charge of supplying everything with a royal hand. He went in his horse–drawn wagon to gather all of the necessary items that goodhearted people had donated.

And when R' Yeshaye was ready to marry off his daughter to one Zanvele of Brody, there was no end to his joy. He lost all restraint for seven days and could not separate himself from the bottle. When people saw him two weeks later, his head was bandaged, and he had two black eyes. They asked him, “Yeshaye, what happened to you?” He replied: “I was the Sabbath guest of my son–in–law [to be].”

[Page 148]

R' Moshe Chadash

He served as sexton, at the Barani Study Hall. He also kept the Burial Society's charity box. Radzivilov householders also hired him to distribute invitations to weddings and circumcisions.

The same week that Leybish Porochovnik arranged his daughter's wedding, Leybish Kozultsik's mother passed away. As R' Moshe was going about with the charity box, he remembered the wedding invitations in his pocket. When he saw Fayvish Norban passing by in the street, he began jingling his box and told him to go to the funeral, and incidentally told him that Leybish Porokhovnik and his wife were inviting him and his entire family to the wedding that would take place on Friday.

 

Moshe Aharon the Gravedigger

He also served as sexton, at the Magid's Study Hall. He was an upright Jew in all ways. He suffered a great deal at the hands of his beadle, R' Binyamin, who always argued with him and could not speak with him peaceably. R' Moshe Aharon would stand on the pulpit, a pinch of snuff in his hand, and listen with a tranquil spirit to the insults without answering. When a group of clowns would provoke him and say, “Moshe Aharon, why do you stay quiet?” he would answer them, “Bring me a note from Beril Volf, and then I will speak with him.”

Beril Volf was the person who distributed the Burial Society notices.

 

Yankele the Sexton

He served as sexton in Zisye Kopf's Study Hall. He was always seen singing happily, with a smile on his lips, and his mouth spoke words of wisdom. He headed the food for the poor institution, on whose behalf he raised money to help the needy.

He was a regular visitor to Dubtshak's house. When Dubtshak told him of the difficulties that he was encountering in bringing his wife and son from Russia, Yankele the Sexton undertook to carry out this mission. He disappeared from Radzivilov for two weeks. He supposedly traveled to Truskawiec, but in fact he had a border smuggler take him across the border; and after many tries he succeeded in bringing Dubtshak's wife and son.

This was a great sensation in those days in our town of Radzivilov.

[Page 149]

Sore Beyle the Butcher Woman

Not everyone knew her. She was literally a saintly woman: she worked during the day in a butcher shop, and at night she repaired overshoes. She knew nothing of this world, and she considered performing kind deeds in secret a commandment of the first rank. Those who buy animals for the butchers who did not have a cent in their pockets knew that Sore Beyle would take care of them, so that they would have the money to travel to the fair to buy a few heads. And if it happened that she herself did not have the money to lend them, she would take her silver candlesticks and go to Gitel Vaser and give them as a deposit in order to engage in the great commandment of performing kind deeds. And every Friday one could see Sore Beyle carrying a large apron in which she gathered loaves of challah for the poor and for needy families.

 

Tzile Badaker

All possible praise and appreciation would not suffice for this refined woman, Tzile Badaker, who was totally dedicated to the impoverished class of people of our town. Not everyone knew this. The writer of these lines turned to her more than once when there was an urgent need to increase funds for a very needy person. Tzile did not even ask for whom, but would give generously and rush her help to the needy. And she treated everyone who turned to her pleasantly and generously.

Tzile Badaker participated with all of the philanthropic institutions of our town and helped with a generous heart.

 

Beyle–Rive Vaynshteyn

This woman was the mother to the Pioneer youth in our town. They would meet in her tiny home on Pochayev Street and talk about various problems, arrange lectures, and argue about different Zionist topics. The atmosphere there was warm. She was unreservedly dedicated to the youth, whom other mothers could not comprehend and understand. She was always happy, always with a smile on her face, until she herself immigrated with her family to the Land of Israel.


Footnote

    * Note in original: A Polish coin: two zehuvim (“gold coins”). return


[Page 150]

In Contrast

by Moshe Korin

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

Our town–one of many in Volhynia–was very much like all of them: in character, appearance, and also population, being situated on the typical Ukraine plains, surrounded by vast pine forests and green fields, and with a river flowing along its edge, streaming as if it were the border between it and all the encroaching villages. Apart from a relatively small area that encompassed the market and mercantile center, the town was completely shaded with trees and filled with vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. If you could view the town from an airplane, you would see it engulfed in green trees with roads winding their way between them. There were no mansions in town, but there were a few flourmills poking out from among the houses.

Even though the majority of the inhabitants in every city and town in Ukraine were gentiles, their numbers were insignificant because the economic energy in each town center and the neighboring streets was dominated by the Jewish population, and they, in turn, gave the town its own special character. On the Sabbath and holidays, you never saw anyone but Jews, and no one disturbed the days of rest and celebrations except to visit acquaintances. But the rest of the time, gentiles from the surrounding areas would come to shop in Jewish stores and then return to their villages. So there was an impression that the city was completely the Jews' domain.

So it was in Radzivilov. There were Jews of every type: rabbis and kosher butchers, enlightened people and simple folk, rich ones and poor ones, merchants and artisans, good–for–nothings and do–nothings, thieves and lunatics, and on top of it all, converts to Christianity and converts to Judaism. The last two types are important to note here.

Once, before World War I, a Jew by the name of Shvartsapel, son of a well–respected, devout family, converted to Christianity and changed his name to Pavlov–a distinguished Russian name. He married the daughter of a well–respected gentile in town and became a rich farmer. He tried to raise his stature among the gentiles, and he succeeded–he was a village elder and head of the local church. His children were farmers and merchants, and his daughter traveled to fairs in the area to sell fabrics. He himself related to Jews with complete indifference, but he didn't harass them as the other converts had done in the past. More than that, a longing for his roots probably took hold of him in the depths of his heart, but he would never, ever speak about this to a Jew. But the following incident occurred.

When he traveled to fairs with his daughter to sell fabrics, he took other travelers for a fee. The travelers were generally Jews. Once it happened that an inquisitive Jew was traveling with him, or perhaps this fellow was really provocative, and he asked him, “Tell me, sir, what caused you to change your religion?”

[Page 151]

Pavlov jumped up from his seat. “Because of damn Jews like you! Take your things and get off of my wagon right now.” The Jew started to backpedal: “I didn't mean to insult your honor, heaven forbid. You don't have need to answer me, sir, no, not at all.” But he spoke in vain. Pavlov would not be moved by his apologies. The Jew had to get off the wagon in the middle of nowhere, walk in in the mud and rain, and beg a ride to his destination.

But during the Nazi regime, Pavlov was also forced to find shelter in a well–known monastery near the village of Pochayev.

The second character was a Polish policeman in our town who was drawn to the Jewish people and then converted to Judaism. As is the case in every town, there was a Polish police force in which every policeman was a devout Catholic. It happened, however, that one of the policemen, a father of four children, Semeneyvich was his name, fell in love with a Jewish girl. And he was so in love that he divorced his wife and abandoned his children. No one could reason with him, not even his family or the Poles–so the policeman embraced the faith of Moses and Israel and married the Jewish girl. In spite of the Poles' animosity, the couple remained in town and lived among the Jewish residents, as if to demonstrate their contempt for gentiles and further provoke them. One Sunday, however, at a large gathering in the Catholic church, the priest preached and stirred up sentiments against the Jews, and especially against the convert, who passed by the church daily with his prayer shawl and phylacteries on his way to the study hall. The priest called for his excommunication, for revenge on him, and even for a pogrom as punishment for this shameful matter. The younger Poles were aroused by the opportunity to riot against the Jews, but the police chief, who used to receive an “anonymous donation” each month from our community, maintained peace and order and prevented a pogrom.

In 1939, when the Soviets came and upset our lives, knocking them off their very foundations, the convert did not change sides: he kept going to the study hall every day to pray as a devout Jew. And when the Nazis entered our town, Avraham son of Avraham did not run away; he suffered along with all of the Jews and stayed with them all until the end. During the first “action” he went on his last march to the killing pit and sacrificed himself with all of the people of our town as a martyr for the sanctification of God's name.

 

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