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The Lamentations of Rabbi Yehoshua

The martyred Rabbi Pinchas'l was both uncle and father–in–law to the Maonstrishter Rabbi Yehosua Heshil Rabinowitz; and four days before the massacre of the youth of Justingrad, Rabbi Yehoshua's own son, rabbi Gedalyahu Aharon (named for the first rabbi of Sokolievka) was martyred in a pogrom in the streets of Uman.

In 1926 in his Hebrew treatise on the Mishna tractate Ethics of the Fathers, Rabbi Yehoshua included several of his Hebrew poems. Two of these are the on the pogroms of Uman and Sokolievka, one of twelve quatrains, one of twenty quatrains, rhymed lyric dirges, whose painful beauty is beyond translation. These were preceded by Hazkarah, an In Memoriam: we shall try to convey some of its feeling in an English paraphrase. The poems and the Hazkarah are reproduced on pages 95 to 99.

In the original Hebrew, this In Memoriam is a work of rare artistry. This art can be somewhat described, but cannot be reproduced in the translation.

The indented opening and closing passages are adaptations from the El Malé Rachamim prayer in the Jewish burial service. Framed between two passages are twenty–two long lines, each one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in acrostic form which is the format of the Hebrew text of the first four chapters of the Bible book of Lamentations. In effect, Rabbi Yehosua had added a chapter to the book. Each line is really a verse, composed in two halves, and in each half, three words rhyming in the second half.

The language of this In Memoriam is highly exalted. It is rich in echoes from the Scriptures which permeate every line. For example, in verse 12 the desert owl (or pelican) is from Psalm 102:17, and the lost dove or homing pigeon is from Hosea 7:11.

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The reference to being sold and the rare Hebrew word for perpetuity derives from Leviticus 25:23. The offerings (verse 15) to go unheeded refer back to Cain in Genesis 4.

I have left out the letter o out of the word God because Rabbi Yehoshua indicated his reluctance to invoke the divine name in Hebrew by using only the symbol H' (the Hebrew letter Heh with apostrophe). Some word are not translatable. Shechinah refers to the immanence or presence of the Deity. Geniza is a treasure–storage for sacred things. Jeshurun (pronounced “Yeshurun”) is a poetic name for Israel. In the 6th verse “true–hearted” stands for chassid, which has too many other and narrower connotations to be used here. The word crown in the preamble is actually atarah, in Hebrew an anagram for the year 5679. In verse 16 there is an acrostic on Rabbi Pinchas's name. It would take many pages to point out all the elements of Biblical learning and art work in this threnody.

In Memoriam By Rabbi Yehoshua

An El Malé Rachamim for the souls of the holy martyrs who were killed in the towns of the Ukraine in the days of the pogroms and the regions of terror in the year when the crown of Israel fell, and in particular on the slaughter in Uman and Sokolievka on the third and seventh days in the month of Av, 5679.

G–d, full of compassion, dwelling on high, none like unto three, hearkening to our cry of supplication, grant lasting final peace on the wings of Shechinah.

In the highest of the heavens, in the gardens of Paradise, in the bosom of the most exalted, in the geniza of the just, in the ascensions of the holy martyrs and luminaries, like the glory of the firmament gleam the souls of these, holy, Beloved, pure.

Doing good with loving kindness, practicing charity, effecting good works, guardians of Torah, have their heads stricken off by hateful swords and enemy guns, They sought G–d in heart and soul, and their blood runs down like sewer water, mud Puddles, sentenced cruelly in blood and fire, even burial denied them.

Devoted delvers into Torah, guardians of its mitzvos, knowing its behests, observing its ordinances, their dignity trampled into the dust, preying rattlesnakes gulping down their glory.

O woe, groaning and lamentation and wailing is heard in the land, fallen is the true– hearted who stood in the breach; multiplied in Ukrainia is mourning and moan.

Barbarians have consumed our inheritance, riffraff have robbed us of our heritage, to fragments rubble they have razed our holy temples, turned their blessed ground into desolate devastation.

The learned of Israel, the pride of Jeshurun, their blood spilled like beasts of the barnyard, like the rams and bullocks, like water dripped to the soil.

The pure in heart murdered by the wanton impure, the meek at the hands of Swaggering. Over these, O G–d, wilt thou hold aloof and be silent? See our humiliation, look!

The just and the righteous in bitter outcry protest the profanation of thy holy name, in voices enfeebled murmur, where is the G–d who gave you the laws and the commandments?

My loins shudder, my heart fails within me, my flesh, my skin are dead, frozen in fright, yet my limbs are gashed by jagged flames, my very guts on fire.

Like a desert owl am I become, like a lost dove mindless I am become, yet before thee, O G–d, have I been sold for all time, like one who is dead and from the heart forgotten?

Hast thou given me to mine enemy to plunder and murder? In brazenness of impudence they affect revenge, they shout aloud their desecration of thy holy name; and thou, O G–d, forget me now forever.

From those who trample in blood, thy forgiveness withhold; to their offerings pay no heed, thou who dwellest on high, let retribution be turned back on these torturing barbarians, let these accursed criminals be repaid in kind.

For the crowning diadem of his fathers, the joy of Jeshurun, a prince among men, the holy Rabbi Gedalyahu Aharon untimely plucked on the third day of the fifth month, his life's blood spurting on the soil when they ripped open his body.

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From those who trample in blood, thy forgiveness withhold; to their offerings pay no heed, thou who dwellest on high, let retribution be turned back on these torturing barbarians, let these accursed criminals be repaid in kind.

For the crowing diadem of his fathers, the joy of Jeshurun, a prince among men, the holy Rabbi Gedalyahu Aharon untimely plucked on the third day of the fifth month, his life's blood spurting on the soil when they ripped open his body.

For the Pride of his flock, the Crown of his congregation, the Sage among the Prodigies, the Symbol of Reverence, the holy Ga'on Rabbi Pinchas murdered in his old age on the seventh of the fifth month, his life hewn down to the ground.

Righteousness is thine, humiliation is ours, we have offended, we have sinned, and twice as much have we been punished; we have lost those who were our shields, those who held our head up high, in the balance their dying is equal to the burning of our Temple, our Beis HaMikdash.

In darkness, in mourning we walk; from the enemy who crushes us, save our souls; from those who persecute us for no reason, hasten our deliverance to good, save us, in your mercy, soon.

Many there say ‘let us wipe them out as a people, yea, annihilate them’. Annual their courses, nullify their thoughts, let them be a symbol of shame and derision among the nations.

Guard us, remember us the sheep of thy flock, duly requite the tormentors of thy children, proclaim freedom to thy people, look upon them, for they are thy people and thy portion.

Restore the honor of thy Torah, for they have compelled those who study thy Torah to drink wormwood and poison; lead thy innocents to eternal life, and the cursed criminals to shame and eternal disgrace.

For those who yielded up their lives sanctifying His name, Lord of mercy, may they be sheltered within the shelter of His wings for eternity and may Their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life, G–d being their portion, and may they rest in peace where they lie, and let us say, Amen.


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The Sokolievka–Justingrad Diaspora

At this writing, any survivor born in Sokolievka/Justingrad still alive ranges in age from the seventies into the nineties, and may be found in far scattered places.

We have heard of some few residing in Moscow, in Tashkent, in Rostov, perhaps even in Uman, who may not see this booklet ever.

For a time there was a Sokolievker Relief Society active in Kishinev, Romania, the city which was a first goal for fugitives fleeing from the pogroms of the Ukraine.

There was a trickle that found its way to Eretz Yisroel in the years before World War I. Others came later.

Thanks to the devotion and untiring efforts of this magnificent octogenarian scholar and teacher, Baruch Bernstein (with financial help from the American societies) there have been erected continuing memorials to Sokolievka/Justingrad at Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh, in the Negev thirty miles south of Beersheba. Here now stands a commemorative grove of pine trees; an infirmary for patients in needs of hospital bed care, also available for other purposes; a clinic, equipped for out–patient care by physicians; and a growing research and reference library. Baruch Bernstein was also the guiding spirit of the Mashabei Sadeh booklet reproduced and translated here.

The largest number of emigrants found their way to the United States of America, a few in the Boston area, some to Cleveland, but most settling in Buffalo, and in New York City and nearby Newark.

Of the Buffalo settlement one may read in Dr. Selig Adler's From Ararat to Suburbia, History of the Jewish Community of Buffalo (Jewish Publication Society, 1961) that one of the pioneers was Abraham Criden, about 1903, and:

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Monument To the pogrom victims of 1919
In the Holy Order of the Living Cemetery,
Cheektowaga, near Buffalo, New York
Dedicated August 30, 1964

The Hebrew inscription reads:
Remember/For these we are crying/ And our eyes drop tears/ For our brothers and sisters/ the people of Sokolievk/ the town of our birth/ and for/ our Rabbi, our Master, our Teacher/ Reb Pinchas son of Rabbi Gedalyah Ahaaron/ Rabinowitz/ Martyred in the Sanctification of His Name.

 

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Then pogroms of the Russian–Japanese War period sent as many as 200 families to Buffalo from this place. After one massacre, Samuel Abba Cohen helped many to come to Buffalo, and at one time the Sokolievka group collected money to send Leo Lieberman over there to help a hundred families to emigrate. Many prominent Buffalo families stemmed from this small town: they include those of Victor Wagner, past president of the United Jewish Federation of Buffalo, Hyman Kahn, the Abloves, the Dozoretzes, the Carrels, the Chernoffs, the Rovners, the Rekoons and many others.

“About 1910, Hazan Elia Berkun (1870 – 1943), a picturesque, bearded functionary, arrived to serve the congregation (of Anshe Sokolovka, “People of Sokolovka”). When the synagogue was incorporated in 1915, Joseph Berleant was president, and Nathan Gelman, a well known real estate broker, also played an important part in the early history of the group.”

“Anshe Sokolovka purchased some land and a house on Spring Street south of Broadway. In 1917, the building was remodeled and the congregation worshipped at this spot until 1945, when the property was sold. Sam Dozoretz (b. 1884) seems to have been the person chiefly respsonsible for establishing this synagogue. Born in Sokolovka, Dozoretz came to Buffalo in 1908 and was interested both in synagogue matters and in the Farband, a Labor Zionist group. When the synagogue was sold after many years of use, the money was kept for a while intact, but was later increased to $4,000 and , on Dozoretz's insistence, was sent to Israel for some worthy purpose” (page 198).

The Buffalo community still maintains a common burial ground under the corporate name of The Holy Order of Living, at Pine Ridge Road and Delavan Avenue, north of Genesee Street, in Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo. On its tombstones are recorded many life stories; among these, Levi Wegodner, under his Americanized name of Louis Wagner. At the entrance gate stands the stele commemorating the martyrs of the 1919 pogroms.

Many families of that settlement still reside in the vicinity; some have “retired” to Floriday, and others have dispersed across the continent. In 1940, a branch of the Criden family joined in creating the Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the north of Israel, transforming

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the Huleh swamp into a jewel of the Upper Galilee. (See: Yosef Criden and Saadia Gelb, The Kibbutz Experience, published by Schocken Books, 1974, an extraordinarily honest and insightful dialogue.)

Related families, and yet of many different names, scattered to other parts of the United States, are described in The V'nai Khaim in America, A Study of Cultural Change in a Jewish Group, by Dr. Joseph M. Gillman (1888–198) and Etta C. Gillman, published by Dorrance & Co., 1969. This is a statistical and sociological analysis of changing mores among the American descendants of Khaim Kaprov, who is the same person as Chayyim Lichtzieher in Wegodner's narrative. The Gillman book includes two chapters portraying life in Sokolievka, with several photographs.

Immigrants arriving at different periods in the New York City area created two landsmannschaftern, the Justingrader society before World War I and the Sokolifker–Kenaler Fraternal Association in 1923, maintaining friendly but independent relations. The Justingrader society, in its flourishing days, was of cosmopolitan outlook and often took constructive stands on broad national and international issues. Both societies still exist, with a handful of members. (Typically, the American–born children of such immigrants do not continue the mutual aid societies set up by their parents.) The Justingrader maintain burial grounds in the Old Montefiore Cemetery, Springfield Gardens, and in the New Montefiore, Pinelawn. The Sokolifker–Kenaler plot is also on Long Island, in Beth David Cemetery, Elmont; on the pillars of its gate are the bronze memorial tablets described elsewhere herein.

Under the leadership of Samuel Kaprov (Samuel Kaplan), an organized group of Sokolievker in Philadelphia have also contributed to the memorials at Mashabei Sadeh.

This present volume is also our personal tribute to the memory of David and Adella (Logvin) Feldstein, and to the freedom–loving traditions that they cherished. Coming to America from Justingrad in 1912, they settled in Brooklyn, New York. They were both lifelong garment workers, active members of Local 22, International Ladies' Garment Workers Union. Becoming American citizens, they were unfailing in civic consciousness, never omitting to vote, and demonstrating intelligent interest in all matters of public concern. They saw to it that their daughters, Diana

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and Lucy (1923–1975) received the university schooling which they themselves had been denied; and proudly they displayed the blue stars for their two sons–in–law fighting for the four freedoms under the American flag in World War II, Leo Miller in front–line infantry and John Zimmerman on a navy destroyer.

From David and Adella we first heard the story that began with Justina an ended in the ashes of Justingrad. There, by the old riverside, stands no monument; but while books can be printed and children's children read, let the memory live.


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Appendix: Uman

The good people of Justingrad/Sokolievka knew of one “big city”, Uman. Kiev and Odessa were mere names, distant places through which kinfolk passed on the way to emigrate abroad. Uman might have barely twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants, but to them it was their metropolis. To Sokolivka folk Uman was the city of the incredibly beautiful Sofievka Park, the eighth wonder of the world. And at the painful end, Uman was the temporary, and totally insecure, refuge for many as they fled from their burning villages towards Romania, towards America, towards Israel.

From about 1800 on, Uman was also the center of the Bratslaver chassidim, but of this sect there were very few in Sokolievka; so few, that the Braslaver traditions are unknown in the Sokolievker diaspora. Neither, for whatever reasons, has there been transmitted the terrible tragic history of Uman itself. When, years ago, we, the editors of this volume, came across a passing mention of the sufferings of Uman in a story by Sholem Aleichem (“Greens for Shevuos”), we were startled. Something, we knew not what, had happened. Our surviving Sokolievker kin could not say why this history had not been recounted among them. So we looked into it, and resolved that it must be recalled to memory, even if, at the moment, only briefly.

After the expulsion from Spain 1492, the largest area of Jewish settlement was in the East European belt Lithuania–Poland–Byelorussia–Ukraine–Bessarabia. Numerous as they were, in some towns the majority, the Jews lived in the cracks of “official” society. Official society might be Ottoman, or Polish, or Russian, or Ukrainian, or Cossack, or Ruthenian. It might be Easter Orthodox Christian or Roman Catholic Christian or miscellaneous Moslem. Everywhere it was permeated by national hostilities and religious bigotries. Time and again open war raged among them, sometimes under banners of freedom and independence,

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because oppressors and oppressed there always were; and invariably the hapless Jews were trapped between the fires.

Russians and Ukrainians argue pro and con about the fighting in the time of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, 1648–1658, but it was a time when 100,000 Jews in Poland and the Ukraine suffered martyrdom for other people's sins. The pogrom principle once established, it was continued and repeated through the eighteenth century by the heartless Haidamacks, perpetrating atrocities many times at many places. In 1749 they burned part of Uman and killed many Jews there. Still the town recovered and was increased by refugees from other regions. In 1768 it was garrisoned by Cossacks, under Ivan Gonta, who promised security to its Jewish community, and then treacherously betrayed the city to the Haidamacks of Maxim Zhelesnyak, taking charge of the slaughter himself. The Jews gathered in their synagogues, led by Leib Shargorodski and Moses Manaker, where they were crushed by cannon fire, the fifth day of Tammuz. A three–day massacre followed, in which none were spared, children, women, the aged. The dead numbered in many thousands, there and in other towns, in June 1768.[75]

Still Uman came to life again. This time its revival was to a considerable degree linked with the name of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1770–1811), who settled there in 1810. The role of Rabbi Nachman Ben Simchah, like the careers of all founders of Chassidic sects, is very complex. His literary works, his doctrinal tenets, his factional conflicts and rabbinical rivalries are all open to diverse interpretation, but not the clear message he brought to Uman, “You must not despair”.

So, during the nineteenth century, Uman became a city known for its popular musicians, its ‘klezmer’, as a center of ‘Haskalah’, the new enlightenment, and by 1910 had over 28.000 resident, more than half of them Jewish.

All through these years, pogroms were endemic in Russia. Some, like Kishinev in 1903, attracted more attention than most. The pogroms of August 6 and November 3, 1905, in Uman, in which 14 were killed and ten times that number wounded, were just two incidents among many.

The next major wave of mass murder began in November 1917. The Tsarist despotism had notoriously relied on anti–

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Jewish pogroms to deflect peasant unrest, and so did the armies seeking to restore the Tsars. For anti–Russian Ukrainian nationalists of all shades (with some very rare exceptions), pogroms were official policy. And “liberators” opposed to the Soviet regime, such as the so–called “Left Social Revolutionaries”, were no different. So, after other episodes of atrocity, Uman was accorded its special pogrom by the Left S–R forces of Klimenko, whose subaltern Shtogrin explained “that it was true that he was urging the peasants to a pogrom, for, said he, it was impossible to rouse the peasants in any other way.”

This Uman pogrom of May 12–14, 1919, with over three hundred dead, had its own cycle of horrors, where Jewish families were slaughtered in one half of apartment houses while in the other half their neighbors remained undisturbed behind the crucifixes on their doors.[76]

(There were few instances that were different. In 1920, the Uman Council for Public Peace, mainly Christian but with a Jewish minority, did stop a pogrom begun by Denikin's Tsarist troops. In 1919–1920, some of the Sokolievka refugees found temporary safety in Konela, where, for a time the Gentile population abstained from the pogroms.)

The Nazis, in World War II, equaled all their predecessors in viciousness, but surpassed them in efficiency. There is said to be a monument in Uman, inscribed in Yiddish, to its 17,000 martyrs who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.

What may be there now is uncertain. When we applied for permission to visit as tourists, some years ago, access and transit were both denied.

 

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