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Translator's Notes:

The title is transcribed from the English title page. There are also Hebrew and Yiddish title pages.

“Stavisht.” is transcribed thus in the text although the preferred spelling is .“Stavishche.” Names of other towns will be transcribed according to usage in Where Once We Walked, by Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Sack with Alexander Sharon.

Hebrew and Yiddish words are transcribed in brackets [ ] on first occurrence.

Names are transliterated as printed in the original except where information exists of correct spelling. Some names are spelled differently in different articles and some even in the same article.

Some native speakers of Yiddish use the word taykh for either river or lake. Thus, in the book it is not always clear if they are referring to the river that runs through Stavisht or the various lakes and ponds formed by the river.

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The Committee

Arthur Schechter (Aharon Shohet)   Honorary President
Yisrael Rubin (Rubtshinski)   Secretary – Treasurer
Moshe Galant    
Moshe Kohen    
Isak Golub    
Louie Lipovski    
David Zaslavski    

sta000.jpg - [24 KB] - Tsadok (Charles) Mazer
The founder and first president of the Stavisht Society in New York
Tsadok (Charles) Mazer, of blessed memory


[Page 21/22]

Introduction to the book

by Arthur Schechter
Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Arthur Schechter

I left my home town in 1907. I have been in the United States for the past 53 years.

One may ask, why did I decide, 41 years after the destruction of the Ukrainian Jewish towns, to publish a book about Stavisht? It has been so many years since the First World War and the Russian Revolution – when the Ukrainian bands robbed, murdered and destroyed Jewish life. Why have I suddenly decided to do this now?

I know that one cannot compare the events in Ukraine after the First World War with the catastrophic events of the worst misfortune in Jewish history, the destruction of European Jewry.

But it is this mass destruction of the Jewish people by the Nazis, may their names be erased, that inspired me to immortalize our martyrs from our beloved little town of Stavisht, with a book written in Yiddish, the language of our fathers and mothers.

We are the last of that generation – we have the obligation to record for future historians and for our children, the stories of our childhood lives, which, we must admit, had many shadows, but also much light and joy.

We are the living witnesses, the heirs of this holy community which lovingly planted within us the qualities of love and faith of the previous generations. We have a debt to the future, to write a memorial book about the Jewish Stavisht of the past, and to raise a monument to the martyrs ground down by the wheels of the Revolution which was supposed to bring freedom to the world. And Ukrainian hooligans exploited it to uproot Jewish settlements.

My own life in America has been similar to that of most immigrants of that time. I struggled, worked, studied a bit, got married, continued struggling, and managed to achieve my goals – a family, friends, some success in communal activity, and even a solid material base. But I have never forgotten the place where I spent the first fourteen years of my life, the small town and all those dear Jews whom we will never see again, and these memories demanded to be written down, to be recorded, so that somewhere there would remain a memorial of that time and place.

And so the years went by, year after year. I was young and I thought that I would have plenty of time, later, tomorrow, next year, what's the rush? Meanwhile the Second World War broke out, the worst catastrophe for the Jewish people, the destruction of European Jewry, pain and shame, yes, the shame is as great as the pain. How could it happen in the twentieth century, that Jews were burned up in gas ovens and the world stood by in silence? It is true that nations warred against each other, but we were killed only because we were Jews. At that time I decided to give up the idea of memorializing out town, our martyrs, and began to believe that in such a world it was better to forget. To remain silent, mute, mute like the millions of dead Jews of both world catastrophes, to mourn in silence until death would unite us with them.

I felt this way for many years, until 1949, until [after] the establishment of the beloved State of Israel. In 1949 my wife and I went to Israel, not very eagerly. I say “not very eagerly,” because I pictured the State of Israel quite otherwise than what I found.

I thought it would be a small state full of Jews who were strangers to me – that is, to my generation, alien to what I had longed for, to what I had cherished in my heart for years. And here we arrived on a bright Friday into splendid sunny Jewish Tel Aviv.

As if in a dream, the magic curtain opened before my eyes, and there appeared the grand idyll of a wonderful Jewish life, beautiful houses, great institutions, with a constant tempo of building, creating. Above all the children, the sweet bright little Hayimlekh, Moshelekh, Rahelekh, Saralekh, dear, lovely, smiling children, so dear, that you want to hug and kiss them all over. It seemed to me that they were saying to me:

We are here, we are here. We are alive, we are building, to spite our enemies. We are continuing all that is dear to you. Write down the dreams of your childhood years, and of your parents and grandparents, and all the beloved Jews who live on only in your memory. We know that you and your helpers are not professional writers, but we feel that your goal is to recount the truth, to record the past generations which lived and hoped, contributed their work and yearnings and children. Yes, your small town also sent its children to help build the State of Israel… So write about your small town, the tragic end of your martyrs, and about the dreams which we have realized here, the joy of the great victory of the State of Israel, which cost us so much blood.

With this inspiration I was encouraged to take on the task in my old age of recording my memories and establishing a monument to our dear little town and to its dear community of Jews, and its few surviving heirs.

I could mention here the sorrow and pain I encountered among some landslayt [compatriots], in New York and especially in Boston, to whom our committee came for moral and financial support to realize our dream. But, writing these lines in Tel Aviv, I forgive them.

I would rather mention here the loyal comrades without whom this whole project could not have succeeded. First of all, the man for whom I have great respect and friendship, is Yisrael Rubin of New York, for his energetic work in collecting materials and funds for the book. Moshe Kohen of Philadelphia, the enthusiastic Stavisht patriot, who bombarded me with letters, and demanded responses, and against whom I often sinned by not answering all his letters. To the very sympathetic Golub brothers of New York, to Moshe Galant, David and Hava Zaslavski. To the honest, sincere, Mr. and Mrs. Lipovski, and others whom I cannot recall just now – to all of you my dear landslayt and all who participated in this book I send my blessings and wish that you merit that your children should carry on the traditions of our people and that they should keep their memories of you deep in their hearts as you do the memories of our dear Jews of Stavisht.

[Page 27/28]

The Initiators of the Book of Stavisht

by Moshe Kohen, Philadelphia

For about ten or twelve years I had been corresponding with Yisraelik Rubin (Yashke the butcher's son from Stavisht), now in New York, about how to memorialize the town of Stavisht and its Jews. We wrote back and forth on the subject, but nothing materialized.

One of our landslayt, Aharon Shohet, in America his name is Arthur Schechter, lives in [Grand] Rapids, Michigan. He is the son of Meir-Velvl Hava. This dear man, Arthur Schechter, used to come to New York a few times a year on business, and he met with Yisraelik Rubin from time to time. Yisrael Rubin revealed to him that he had been thinking of ways to perpetuate the memory of our Stavisht of long ago.

When Arthur Schechter heard this, he realized that he was not the only one with this idea. He was inspired to take action to bring the idea to fruition. In his correspondence with Yisraelik Rubin, he suggested that he call a meeting of landslayt and tell them about the plan.

The first meeting of landslayt to carry out the plan of publishing a memorial book for Stavisht took place on a hot Saturday night in June 1959. Fourteen people from New York participated, and a few came from outside New York, including the writer of these lines, my brother-in-law, Motl Markman of Philadelphia, and, of course, Arthur Schechter of Grand Rapids, Michigan. One cannot forget the impressive speech of our dear landsman [compatriot], Arthur Schechter, which he gave at this first meeting. How much heart and soul he put into his talk for the carrying out of this holy task. At this first meeting a committee was chosen to memorialize Stavisht and its Jews.

Arthur Schechter promised to cover 25% of the cost of publication of the memorial book. The landslayt of New York and the committee had to overcome many difficulties. Yisraelik Rubin, the secretary, deserves a special thanks for he is the life-line of the committee. We have to thank him for our success. And, of course, we must praise our dear honorary president, Arthur Schechter, for his active role in the work of publishing the book. He is a man of initiative, faith, and patience, who can achieve the most difficult goals.

Afterwards I met with Arthur Schechter and Yisraelik Rubin, the dear Stavisht activists, in Philadelphia in 1960. Although all three of us were busy with our personal affairs, the memorial book project occupied a very important and central place in our hearts and souls. For me this meeting was a spiritual experience. I felt such carefree joy, as if I were a young boy, forgetting the tens of years since we were uprooted from our home in Stavisht, and that we have been citizens of the United States for many years. Here is our dear landsman Arthur Schechter, who was but a fourteen year old boy when he came to America, and has been here for over fifty years, but he is still tied to his home town by spiritual bonds. And we landslayt, no matter where we find ourselves, are still tied heart and soul to our unforgettable old home of previous generations. Every landsman has the holy obligation of acquiring this book, which will immortalize the memory of Stavisht and its Jews, and of the dear parents and grandparents who raised us with devotion and dedication.

[Page 29/30]

Stavisht Society in New York

by Yisrael Rubin

In 1907 a group of 25 Stavisht landslayt got together and founded an organization with the name “Ershter Stavishtsher Untershtitsung-Fareyn” [First Stavisht Mutual Aid Society] with Tsadok Mazer as the first president. It received a charter from New York State and continued its work until 1916. During this period some members broke away and formed a Stavisht branch of Workmen's Circle. However, with the passage of time, most of them rejoined the Society which was reorganized in 1916.

During the First World War and the Russian Revolution there were persecutions and murders of Jews in Ukraine and mass emigration to America and other countries. The residents of the small towns left their homes and businesses and all their possessions and fled. Most of the emigrants went to Romania, some to Poland, and others to Germany, England, and Palestine and other countries. When they arrived in the foreign countries, poor, without clothing, and without any livelihood, their cries for help reached the landslayt in America.

What did the Society do?

Tsadok Mazer, the president of the Society, called a conference of all the landslayt and they decided to found a relief fund. He worked day and night without rest, he and a committee of some of the members: Yosef Rabinovits, Ayzik Silverman, Louis Kien, Sam Saks, Yosef Burshteyn, Philip Ratof, Yosef Silverman, Yosef Kanski, Louie Derzshanski and others used to visit landslayt they knew every night of the week and on weekends they were able to raise a few thousand dollars.

They chose delegates and sent them to Romania and to border towns to help the emigrants with money, papers, visas and whatever they needed so that they could come to America. This was one of the noblest deeds which people could do for the suffering Jews. This continued until suddenly the doors of the countries were shut with iron curtains and they could not help them emigrate, even with money.

Our rabbi, Rabbi Yitshak Avraham Gaysinski, went from Russia to England. He was there a few years and decided to come to America, and when he arrived the Society received him warmly. At first he was in Philadelphia. A delegation of our Society went there and brought him to New York. He was made an honorary member of our Society.

I wish to add a few words about our founder and first president, Tsadok Mazer, peace upon him. He was a genial person with a good heart and soul. He loved people in general and Stavisht landslayt in particular. He was always ready to help someone in need. He often neglected his family and business in order to go help, and if he could not go himself, he would send his son, Harry Mazer who was then still a young boy.

His house was open to all, as was his heart. He used to help everyone with advice and deeds. Unfortunately he was torn from us at a young age and we miss him very much. Stavisht landslayt will never forget him, honor to his memory.

In the course of the years our Society grew in membership and now has almost 200 families. We have carried out a number of entertainments, balls, dance evenings and banquets. I remember a banquet which we had in 1948 when the State of Israel was founded. We raised money to build a house in the State of Israel in the name of the Stavisht Society of New York.

Another happening, at our banquet in 1956. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of our Society, reorganized in 1916. The banquet was held in a grand hall in the Bronx, with good food and music. On this occasion we prepared a golden book with photographs in which most of the members wrote their greetings. Part of the book was devoted to memorial notices for our dear ones. We had 25 guests from various cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Buffalo, Chicago, Toronto, Canada and even Africa.

Our benefits include insurance policies for every member, sick benefits and other benefits for the members, and support for various organizations. We own three fully paid for cemeteries, a few thousand dollars in the bank, American and Israel Bonds. We hold regular meetings every month. We have very reliable directors and our business is carried out in the most democratic fashion. We have an office in Academy Hall, on Fourteenth Street in New York, where we hold our meetings.

For the past 25-30 years, our Society has been a model for other societies. All landslayt from Stavisht should be proud to belong to our Society.

[Page 33/34]

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