« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 65]

A City In Its Life (cont.)

Chapter Twelve: The Tribulations of Chibbat Tzion and Zionism

National Yearning for Going Up to the Land of Israel and for the Revival of Hebrew – The Association of “Dorshei Tzion[1] – Rabbis of the City are Devoted to Zion – The influence of Haskalah on the City – Hebrew Learning and the Hebrew Library – The Zionist Movement in the City – Distribution of Shekels[2] in the City - Zionist Propaganda by Orators and Preachers – In the Test of the 1905 Revolution – The Relationship of the Authorities in Russia to Zionism – License for Legal Action in the City – “Poalei Tzion's” Fear of the Government – Prohibition of Zionism by the Authorities – Zionism in the Underground – Chanukah Receptions and the Expansion of the Library – The Collection of Funds for the Herzl Forest – The Organization of the Youth – Searches and Arrests in the City

The harsh decrees against the Jews awoke within them national yearnings, an aspiration for going up to the land of Israel, the revival of Hebrew as a living language, and also an aspiration for social improvements.

In 5645 (1885), an association by the name of “Dorshei Tzion[3], was founded in Augustów. As a result of the powerlessness of the council, the action was ruled with a heavy hand, and there were not many participants in it. After the death of Sir Moses Montefiore, an awakening occurred, and boxes were distributed to gather donations for Zion and in order for them to be able to distinguish between the boxes for Zion and the boxes in the name of Rabbi Meir Ba'al Ha-Ness,[4] they inscribed a special inscription on them “In the Memory of Moses Montefiore, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.” Within a few days, these boxes were distributed to nearly all the Jewish homes in Augustów. The writer expresses the hope that the association will be approved by the authorities after presenting a request, and then it will be able to operate freely to widen its efforts for the land of Israel.

Chovevei Tzion[5] were collecting donations for the Land of Israel at weddings, circumcisions, when people were called up to the Torah, by selling photographs of Moses Montefiore, Jubilee blessings and the like. In the Hebrew newspapers, especially “HaMelitz,” one could find lists of collections and volunteers for the land of Israel from various cities in the Suwalki region. And not from only one of them came the initiative from the side of the rabbis of the cities in this plan; for aside from all the virtues that sages counted among the rabbis, they were also nationalistic Jews and faithful “Lovers of Zion.”

Who is greater to us than Rabbi Yosef Zechariah Stern (5591-5664, 1831-1904), the Rabbi of Shavel who in the years of his youth lived in Augustów? While he was still a young man he surprised all by the difficulty of the talmudic questions that he asked, that the great ones of his generation struggled to explain. His first book “Zecher Yehosef[6] on the “Six Orders of the Mishnah” was the “first fruits of his world” (according to his words in the introduction), and all those who understand things understood that he was created for genius. He was a Renaissance man, a treasure, a living library. He left no word in the Torah, small or large, unread or unmemorized; he was proficient not only in both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds but clear to him were the paths of the first of the Rishonim,[7] the halakhot of the early and late geonim, the sages of Spain and Germany, the words of the legal decisors with their interpretations, and the instructions of the last of the Acharonim.[8] All of the overflowing and extensive rabbinic literature was laid out before him like a map, and he knew every single one of its folds.

This rabbi negated the Diaspora even before the pogroms and the “storms from the Negev.”[9] And when the idea of founding settlements in the “Land of Israel” suddenly appeared, he joined the front line of the builders enthusiastically, who understood that only in the land of Israel would the nation come to the revelation of its full strength, and he saw that the time had arrived for real action for

[Page 66]

that dream-like idea. He grasped the problem of settling in the country not only from the religious or economic-philanthropic standpoints, as even the best of his generation thought. He was counted among the first and few rabbis who saw the national aspect of it, and it was appropriate for him to be considered among the fathers of national Zionism or, according to the words of S.Y. Yatzkan (in his article on Rabbi Y.Z. Stern in “The Sokolov Annual,” Vol. 5): “This was the first political Zionist – in any case among the rabbis, who looked at the settlement from a political standpoint…” He was an enthusiastic Zionist, and the first to forbid the etrogs[10] of Corfu and commanded that they be replaced with the etrogs of the land of Israel. In the Zionist movement, he saw this as “the footsteps of the Messiah and the beginning of the redemption.”[11] He himself would walk for a long time and go from house to house to collect donations for the support of the settlements, and the Hebrew language was his “favorite child.”

Rabbi Y.L. Gordin, who officiated as town Rabbi in Augustów from 5646-5657 (1889-1896), was a lover of Zion, and more than once in his sermons expressed the idea that even those who desecrate the Shabbat have a place in the world to come, if they build houses and settlements in the Holy Land.

The Jews of Augustów, who had commercial ties with Prussia and with distant cities in Russia and even travelled outside of the country for matters of commerce and finance, were influenced by the Haskalah that had begun spreading amidst the Jews of the west. Interest in secular literature existed in a general way in Lithuania even amongst the rabbis who read German books, and among whom were daily readers of the Russian newspaper “Novosti,”[12] and the paths of the state and political tactics were clear to them.

Because of this, they found favor in the eyes of the Maskilim and the “face” of the city. In contrast to them, the Charedi[13] Jews and the religious were unsettled by them. Specifically, their advantage, their extensive knowledge of worldly experience, was considered a disadvantage.

The activities of the Maskilim in Berlin, with Moses Mendelssohn at their head, who they approached to publish a translation[14] of the Torah (in German), and anthologies in Hebrew, was accepted with popularity in the Lithuanian cities. Here there were many subscribers to the Five Books of Torah with its new translation.

And so, the hidden yearnings for Zion, the harsh decrees of the authorities against the Jews, and the inclination towards the Enlightenment – spoke together to advance the Chibbat Tzion movement.

In 5650 (1890), there arose among the enlightened Jews of Augustów the desire to learn the Hebrew language, and to endear it to all who were educated. A few of the enlightened among the youth were aroused to found the “Collection House for Hebrew Books.”[15] They began with Hebrew books, and then moved on to collect books in the German and Russian languages as well. The Hebrew language became the desired language of the young people, and the wealthy in the city invited private teachers for the instruction of Hebrew to their children. Among the teachers of Hebrew in Augustów was the writer and teacher SH.L. Citron, TZ. Z. Weinberg, and other respected teachers.


The Zionist Movement in Augustów.

The Zionist idea grew and developed from the Chibbat Tzion movement, which drew the Jewish masses after it.

At the Second Zionist Congress (Warsaw, summer 5658 [1898]), it was decided to require the Zionists to learn Hebrew, and especially that they should teach Hebrew to their children and that they should educate them in the spirit of nationalism. In the summer of 5659 [1899], a regional council was assembled in Vilna, under the authority of Rabbi Sh. Y. Rabinovitz of Sapotskin. 71 delegates from 51 cities and towns attended. Augustów did not send a delegate. According to the report that was transmitted from the regional operations, the number of associations and “holders” of the shekel significantly increased, and from 16 the previous year they reached

[Page 67]

135 in 5659. According to the report, 974 shekels were sold in the County of Suwalki in the year of the fifth Congress in July 1901. Fifty of them were from Augustów.

The tasks that were placed on the Society were: expansion of the movement by distribution of the shekel and shares of the “Treasury of Jewish Settlement” (“The Colonial Bank”), the collection of donations to the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael[16] and also for the Odessa committee of the Chovevei Tzion and the collecting of books for the National Library in Jerusalem.

The Zionist associations founded libraries and reading rooms, choirs and evening lessons, “minyanim[17] and groups for learning Hebrew Bible, history, the Mishnah, and other sacred books, and required every member to acquire and hold the Zionist shekel. At the end of every Shabbat the members would assemble and read the “circulars” of the regional authority and news of what was happening in Zionism and the Jewish world.

The Zionists in Augustów were interested even from the start of the Zionist movement to act in a legal way. Already in 5646 [1885], the local Zionists made attempts to obtain authorization; it is not known whether they succeeded but the activities continued.

Actually, the Russian authorities were aware of Zionist activities almost from their beginning, but they did not interfere. However, a change for the worse occurred. The authorities were convinced that the Zionists were discussing not only going up to the land of Israel and settlement there, but also problems of culture and national education in exile. It was not desirable for them to have a consolidation of the Jewish population in Russia into a unified nationalistic body. Also, the activities of the “Poalei Tzion” movement, which used revolutionary slogans, brought about a change in the attitude of the government.

In March 1906, the Government published laws according to which all associations that had a political platform and whose leadership was located abroad, were forbidden. For Zionists wishing to fuse into a unified organization, a brief opportunity was given to present a request to the ruler. On June 1, 1907, a notice was sent by the Ministry of Internal Affairs containing instructions to act against the Zionists who were actively conducting publicity for the shekel and the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael. From the year 1910, the authorities began to take a hard line on the law. They arrested the activists and delivered sentences against the editors of Jewish newspapers, until all the publicity activities were impossible. The police followed the Zionists' activities, and they were compelled to hide and camouflage them as much as possible. Council meetings were called “weddings,” shekels were called “sacks,” and the like.

The Central Zionist Council in Vilna influenced the Zionist associations in Lithuania to increase their activities. It sent speakers and leaders to the cities and towns. Leib Yaffa[18] moved from Vilna to Grodno and presented himself as the Head of the Regional Committee that developed a wide range of Zionist activities.

In the summer of 5673 [1913], before the 11th Congress, a “wedding” assembled in Suwalki. Representatives of the Central Council and the Regional Council took part. Associations from 14 cities were invited, and delegates came from ten of them: Suwalki, Augustów, Sapotskin, Sejny, Mariampol, Kalvaria, Pilvishok, Simne, Vladislovova, Vilkovitz and Yarblan.

In Leib Yaffa's archive, which was transferred to Jerusalem, letters are preserved from Zionist associations that belonged to the region in the years 1911-1914. In this archive, we found about thirty letters and postcards, vouchers and telegrams from the Augustów Zionist Association that had been sent to the Regional Council in Grodno. Apparently, the archives from earlier years had been lost due to confiscations and constant searches by the police, who, with their eyes peeled, supervised the Zionist activities that were forbidden in public. The letters of Augustów are from the years 1912-1913. It is good that there remains for us at least a little material in writing from the Zionists of

[Page 68]

Augustów, from which is reflected the serious situation in which the Zionist activists in the city were found in the time of the Russian regime.

We have very few letters from 1912. Apparently, because of the caution, more than a few letters remained without dates, and it is difficult to decide to which year to attribute them. Most of the letters refer to the year 1913.

Chaikl Meyatviar, who dwelt in Augustów, wrote to Grodno on March 28, 1912, in reply to a letter received from there, that he has nothing to answer, since “in the city there is no Zionist association and there is not even one Zionist.” He adds that in the past there were also no associations. Nevertheless, he sold a number of shekels among his acquaintances, without there being anything within his ability to correct the situation, first of all from lack of opportunity, and also because “our town is as far from the Zionist idea as east is from west.”

In a second letter from June 12, 1912, Chaikl Meyatviar writes to Mr. Margolin in Grodno and informs him that the preacher Avramson had been with them, and he spoke twice. The impression that he had left on the public was very good, and as a result of that several friends had gathered together and decided to turn to the Grodno center with a request to send vouchers for 200 shekels, 200 books from the “Kopika Biblioteca,” and 25 collection boxes for the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael to the address of Dovid Arieh Aleksandrovitz. He also mentions that they want to found a Zionist association in town but the regulations are not in their hands. They therefore ask for the regulations to be sent to them, and to let them know about the steps they must take in order to establish and authorize the society.

The third letter, (2 Tamuz, without knowing whether the year is 1912 or 1913), opens with the verse “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”[19] And the writer complains: “…And we did not sow in the hearts of our masses and our enlightened ones the idea of resurrection to all of their departments and branches. And if the latter has some Zionist literature, the masses here have nothing.” The writer suggests preaching the abstract idea constantly, early in the morning, and in the evening, and then they will find the love of Zion, and the movement will become national. According to his words, it is the responsibility of the center in Grodno to “create” speakers and to spend much money on it. “The community will not be weakened,” and it will introduce the various Zionist institutions. After he spends some time on the problems of the Congress[20] and the sending of delegates, he moves on to writing about the Zionist situation in Augustów, which does not resemble the other cities in which Zionism built branches for itself in the early days, and it continues there without interruption, and it is good to work there, because there are workers in sufficient measure, while in Augustów, everything is strange to them. About two years ago, when the writer came to settle there, he found a town abandoned and desolate in the Yiddish aspect. He didn't find there Hebrew or Jewish cultural institutions, and all spirit was strange to its people. Rabbi Yitzchak Nisenbaum, the famous preacher, came to the city once and preached in the Beit Midrash, and not even a minyan came to hear. And now here comes Avramson, and he excited the hearts, and began a movement that achieved something, but again got stuck because of lack of supporters. The three Zionist activists were busy all the days with their businesses, and that is the answer why last year was the greatest number of shekels sold in the city, because the effervescence had not yet subsided; and those who gave generously then are not giving today, even ungenerously. But about twenty men bought shares in the “Training for the Settlement of the Land of Israel” with payments for lessons, volunteering in the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, and the like. He concluded his words: a) to increase preaching Zionism orally and in writing; b) to assemble frequent gatherings of regional association leaders in every city.

The letter from Tishre 5673 [1913] informs about some changes for the better. Two months ago a council was elected, and after a few members sensed that it was falling asleep, they called for general meeting and demanded a full report on its activities.

[Page 69]

The old Council resigned and a new one was elected. These are the results of its work: a) It organized the collection boxes for the good of the settlement in the land of Israel, and instead of the 12 rubles that were collected last year for the settlement, this year 40 rubles were sent; b) It set up collection bowls for the benefit of the Yemenites in the land of Israel, and about 25 rubles were collected; c) It sold about 100 shekels, in addition to Avramson's shekels, and stands to sell two hundred; d) It organized a minyan on Simchat Torah, and from the men and women who donated 60 rubles were collected; e) A big meeting was assembled in which one person lectured about the great value of the Yemenites as Ottoman settlers in the Land of Israel, and as workers. The meeting decided to collect 380 rubles for housebuilding for the Yemenites in the Land of Israel. About 60 Rubles had already been deposited in the local “Saving and Loan Society”; f) At a meeting of speakers of Hebrew and those who cherish it, a few members lectured on the enormity of the importance of our language in the past, which needs to also become the language of the future, and that the historic thread should not be severed. Their words made an impression, and immediately they volunteered to donate about 30 rubles, in order to open a branch of the association of Lovers of the Language of Ever. A council was elected to engage in its operation. The council decided to organize a party for Chanukah in support of the “Fund for the Workers of the Land of Israel” and for the benefit of the Yemenites.

In the letter that came after it, it was said that their work did not come to a stop, and they hope that in the future, too, they will work energetically and with greater vigor. Indeed, various obstacles were laying in the path of a Chanukah party with light pictures; but they were not free to refrain from it.[21] They wanted to present on the stage a Jewish spectacle, and to show the pictures of it to the community, and to preach warm words about Chanukah. The last act of the performance was to be the most difficult to carry out; first of all, because of a lack of an excellent speaker, and secondly because of the difficulty of obtaining a license from the authority for a nationalist program. For all that, the council decided to try…Four times they wrote to the Council of Lovers of the Language in Peterburg on the founding of a branch of the Lovers of the Language of Ever here, and four times – no one answered.

In a letter from 5 Tevet 5673 [1913] it is told that on one of the Saturday nights after Shabbat a general meeting was held, in which about eighty members from all echelons of the city participated, and in it there appeared three speakers about the story of Chanukah, on the activities of the association, and on Hebrew as the language of the past and the future. The community was very satisfied, and so they announced that for a few weeks, Shabbat lessons had been taking place, and young and old had gathered to hear a chapter from the Tanakh[22] and history, and a lecture on our historical heroes. The lessons drew a large congregation, and the people that thronged multiplied. Fifty of the new collection-boxes of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael were already distributed in the community. The permit authorizing the association was not received.

In a letter of 25 Shevat 5673 it was said that the council decided to seek from Grodno a speaker for three lectures on the society for the strengthening of the settlement, its goals, activities and more. Avramson is an excellent speaker and also an activist. He was not satisfied with only lecturing, rather, he was active and founded our association.

In that same letter came information about the Hebrew library in Augustów, that has about two thousand books in Russian, about a thousand in Yiddish, and only 400 in Hebrew. That happened because in the management of the library there was not one of the Zionists who would act to increase the number of Hebrew books. At the moment, efforts are being made to change the management in a general meeting of the library, and then everything will fall into place peacefully.

In a letter dated from Rosh Chodesh[23] Nisan 5763, it informed on the results of the activities of the recent weeks. The Zionists achieved complete victory at the general meeting of the library, and its administration passed entirely to their hands. The new council first of all approached to strengthen the Hebrew section of the library, which had been neglected and inadequate, and new Hebrew books had already been received, even before they brought books in Russian and Yiddish. They also informed about the opening

[Page 70]

of the official branch of “Chovevei Tzion” in Odessa, in the hope that under the protection of Odessa they could increase the fruitfulness of the activity, and they had already entered into discussions with Odessa. Another four shares had been acquired in the “Training for the Settlement Society” in the names of: Dovid Boyarski, Rivka Czarnes, Yechezkel Rotenberg and Meir Meizler. It was also decided to send a delegate from Augustów to the 11th Congress. And since in Augustów such pretensions of honor were not appropriate, and it was not within their ability to send him on their own account, it was decided to turn with a request to the center in Grodno that they recommend a suitable and fitting delegate as its emissary, and then they would vote for him, on condition that he come afterwards to Augustów to deliver a report on the work of the Congress.

The lectures that were established on Shabbat days in the Beit Midrash were cancelled. The Charedim of the city sought a pretext to cancel them, and they found one when one of the teachers said, among other things, that the story of Samson the Hero was nothing but a legendary hero. Then they closed the Beit Midrash to the lecturers.

In an undated letter, information is given on the sending of funds for the good of “Herzl Forest” in order to plant 12 trees in the name of Augustów, and the remaining three in the names of a) Dovid son of Aharon Tzukerman to mark the day of entering into the covenant of our Father Abraham;[24] b) Reuven son of Avraham the Levite Levine, as a sign of thanks for his work; c) The town's prayer leader Yosef Chaim Ratner, as a sign of appreciation for his Zionist activities.

In another letter, it is reported that the youth of Augustów organized themselves into a special association without yet seeing among them actual deeds, and all their strength lay only in the mouth. But their numbers continued to increase. Mr. L. founded an association of 12 members, and as of now, their numbers have doubled.

For the sake of memorializing the names of the Zionist members who worked in the underground in Augustów despite the police investigations and supervision, there is transmitted herein one of the lists of members from Augustów people in the Zionist association. The list, according to the aleph bet: Aleksandrovitz, Dovid Leib; Oeron, Mordechai; Olichnovitz, Pinchas; Avramski, Eliezer; Ezerski, Simcha; Eisenstadt, Shmuel; Borovitz, Yaakov; Borovitz, Nisan ; Borovitz, Yosef; Bezant, Zalman Leib ; Bergstein, Dov; Bramzon, Zalman; Boyarski, Dov; Borovski, N.; Boyarski, Dovid; Blacharski, Nachum; Bass, Moshe ; Bidek, Arieh; Bidek, Yaakov ; Beker, Yaakov Yehuda; Borovski, Yisrael Yehuda; Brenman, Yerachmiel ; Glikson, Chaim; Grosberg, Yisrael; Grosberg, Meir; Goldshmidt, Shmuel Meir; Gotstein, B .; Gofenstein, Eliezer; Grinvald, Feigl; Glikson, Dov; Gritzen, S.D.; Grinberg, Shmuel; Denmark, Sarah; Demoratski, Alter; Halperin, Eliezer; Varhaftig, Shimon; Zufnitzki, Shalom; Zeligzon, Shabtai ; Yedvab, Eliezer; Yachnis, Shmaryahu; Lap, Binyamin; Levine, Reuven; Levatinski, Tzvi Boruch ; Leizerovitz, Avraham; Liubel, Shmuel Yitzchak; Lap, Tzvi Arieh; Lap, Chaim; Lozman, Ze'ev; Lozman, Liba; Lozman, Yisrael; Loite, Arieh Leib; Markus, Chaim Yosef; Minsker, L.; Michelson, Shlomo; Madianovski, Isaac; Meizler, Meir; Meiski, W.; Stoliar, Yitzchak; Staviskovski, Yaakov Yosef; Sarna, Sofia; Simner, Dovid; Soloveitchik, S.; Arbstein, Moshe; Frankel, Yisrael; Feinstein Tzvi; Pianka, Yitzchak; Feinstein, Hillel; Feinstein, Menachem Mendel; Tzukerman, Aharon; Czarnes, Tzvi; Mrs. Kantrovitz; Kalson, Shaul; Koptziovski, Zalman Leib; Kleinman, Zalman; Krinitzki, Yitzchak; Kentzuk, Eliyahu; Rotenberg, Chava; Rotenberg, Yitzchak; Rubinstein; Ratzitzki, Yisrael Mordechai; Rotenberg, Moshe; Rosenfeld, Avraham-Dovid ; Rechtman, Nechemiah; Skliar, Rivka; Shumski, Yaakov Tzvi; Rotblit, Yisrael; Rotenberg, Yechezkel; Shreibman, Moshe; Sperling, Shlomo; Shumski, Eliyahu Leib.

[Page 71]

In a letter dated 13 Nissan, 5673, it is told that it was decided to fix the intermediate days of the festival for the emptying of the donation boxes and for the collection of the appraisal tax that was imposed on them, while the days for distributing the shekel is delayed until the “Three Days of Limitation.”[25] They will make an effort to disseminate the idea of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, and will empty the boxes, without doubt collecting a specific amount to the benefit of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael. After that, they will make efforts to distribute the shekels. They did not engage in gathering donations at Purim for the proposed house building for the Yemenites, and in place of it they sent 53 rubles for “the Redemption of Jerusalem,” because we could not place the burden on the few public activists to act for the good of various institutions at once, since indeed all of them were necessary and productive, but the members remained confused, asking: “who is deferred for whom? It was better to announce an action each festival for a specific institution. But are our festivals enough for our institutions? Great agitation was felt among the youth in many cities, and that summer, with the visit to us of youth from other cities, much propaganda was spread among them, perhaps with some success.

From letters of the summer months it became clear that the distribution of the shekel encountered difficulty, due to the lack of volunteers. A need was felt for speakers, who were invited but did not respond. In the city, there were found a few who were devoted to the Zionist cause with all their hearts and souls, and only by their work was something done until now. However, they were very busy. They felt the need for a speaker and preacher for 20 Tammuz, the anniversary of Dr. Herzl's death, on which they would be able to collect for the “Herzl Forest.” They wanted to hold a memorial, and to arouse the public, and to do something significant, since the ground had already been prepared.

An election war took place for the Zionist Congress. There were three candidates: Dr. Bernstein, Olshatzki from Kalvaria, and the young people put up Mr. Kranatz in the name of B. Goldberg. The first was preferable. On the second, they lacked the knowledge to know if he was appropriate for the honor. Because there lacked 200 shekel-holders[26] the Zionists of the city were compelled to join with another city for the purpose of the election of a joint delegate.

A postcard from 20 Tammuz 5673 informs that a memorial service for the soul of the leader, Dr. Herzl, was held in the city, in the synagogue. The Chazzan with the choir sang “The One Who Dwells in the Hidden Place,”[27] and one of the speakers from the “Tzeirei Tziyon” from Vilna spoke about the deeds of Dr. Herzl. A second speaker spoke about the “Herzl Forest,” and after that a memorial was conducted. The impression was excellent and exalted. A significant sum of money was collected to benefit the “Herzl Forest.”

The secret Zionist activities in Augustów were apparently like “an arrow in Satan's eye,”[28] and perhaps there was the hand of informers in it. In any event, it was known that the hand of the police, which was spread out against the Zionists in other cities recently touched also Augustów and aroused fear. And indeed, the political activists in Augustów were very careful in their dealings with the Regional Council. The name of the writer of the letters is unknown. The essential terms come in the language of notarikon[29] and gematria.[30] Even the address for the receipt of mail was indirect. And with all this, something happened in the city. Here we read in a letter from September 1913: “…Do not send us any shekels or circulars, because here a big investigation is being conducted by the police, on account of the local Zionists, and we have to be very careful. I have also been called there. How the matter will conclude – it is impossible to see in advance. But caution will not hurt. Be careful in our letters.”

In a second letter from September 5, 1913 it says: “We received. But my voucher is missing and the matter is suspicious, since scrutiny has been increased. Please answer right away; perhaps the voucher was not included, and the fear is fear in vain. Please don't send the most modest items.”

[Page 72]

It seems that because of the “evil eye”[31] there was a pause in the exchange of letters between the Center and the association in Augustów.

This pause also brought a halt to the receiving of information, which brought, on December 20, 1913, the question in a letter: “Why have we stopped receiving letters? It is very difficult to get subscriptions for “HaTzefirah” and the rest of the newspapers, but it would be good if “HaTzefirah” came to the house. We await your letters.”

Such was the face of Zionism in Augustów at the end of the year 1913. No letters are found in the archives from the year 1914. That was the year that on 9 Av the First World War broke out between Russia and Germany, and the bloody dance began to rage. The period of the Zionist underground in Russia was concluded with the outbreak of the Great War, and with its conclusion there began a new period for Zionism, a period of the Beginning of Redemption.


Bibliography on Augustow

A. Books

- The Tents of Shem, by Shmuel Noach Gotlib, Pinsk, 1912, p. 364.
- World Encyclopedia,[32] Dovno-Fund, Paris 1934, Ershter Band z. 171
- “These I Will Remember,” An Anthology of the Martyrs of 5700 – 5705 [1940-1945], Volume 5, New York, 5723 [1963]: The Rabbi Reb Azriel Zelig Noach Koshelevski from Augustow, pp. 123-126
- Encyclopedia Judaica (German), published by “Eshkol,” Berlin, Volume 3, pp. 602-603
- General Encyclopedia “Yizra'el,” Published by Yizra'el Books Ltd., Tel Aviv, First Volume, p. 61
- Encyclopedia “Eshkol,” published by “Eshkol,” Berlin, First Volume, pp. 19-48
- In the Depths of the Sea, by Jules Verne, translated from French by Yisrael Ze'ev son of Naftali Sperling, Warsaw, 5637-1876
- Breinsk, “Book of Memory,” New York 1948: “Augustower Shul” in Harlem , p. 161
- Thirty Years in Lithuania and Poland[33] (Autobiography) by Abba Gordin, in Buenos Aires
- The General Hebrew Encyclopedia , published by “Masada,” 5719 [1959], Volume A, p. 644
- The Harvest, edited by N[achum] Sokolov, Second year, 5646 [1886], Warsaw, p. 129
- Zikhron Yaakov, by Rabbi Yaakov Lifshitz, part 3 pp. 76, 79

[Page 73]

- “Red Beads” by Fania Bergstein, published by the United Kibbutz, 5716 [1956], pp. 175-176
- The Wandering of a Man by Y.Sh. Weiss (Yehoshua Halivni), Tel Aviv, 5691 [1931], pp. 89, 90
- Lithuanian Jewry published by “Am HaSefer” Ltd., 5720-1959, Vol. 1, pp. 84, 117, 179, 511, 526
- Suwalk Yizkor Book, New York
- “First Days,” 5695 [1935], Memories of A.M. Altschuler
- “The Honor of the Torah and Those Who Study Her” , an Interpretation of the Song of Songs, by Avraham son of Shimon Shiff, Bilgoray, 5473 [1713]
- The Almanac of Achiasaph, Fifth year, 5658 [1898], Practical Chart p. 11
- The Almanac of Achiasaph, Sixth year, 5659 [1899], Practical Chart p. 11
- “Lita” Compilation,[34] Vilna, 1914, published by Uriah Katzenellenbogen and A.Y. Goldshmidt, p. 984
- “From Lions' Dens,” by Rabbi Azriel Ze'ev Koshelevski, Bilgoray, 5688 [1928]
- “Portion of the Ancestors” by Rabbi Levi Yonah Auvtzinsky, the Rabbis of Augustow pp. 36, 46, 51, 82
- The Memory Book of the Community of Ostrov-Mazowiecka , Tel Aviv, 5720 [1960], pp. 22-23
- The Memory Book of the Community of Lomza , 5713 [1953], pp. 17, 20, 25, 105, 115, 317
- “Ayin Tzofim[35] on the Five Books of the Torah, by Azriel Zelig Noach Koshelevski, Vilna, 5683 [1923]
- The Bialystok Ledger by A.S. Hershberg, First Volume, New York 5709 [1949], p. 379
- The Ledger of the Council of the Four Lands , edited by Yisrael Halpren, sign 342, 456, no. 83, (of paragraph 843)
- Fania – Thirty at Her Death Gevat 5711 [1951] (In stencil) pp. 5, 11
- Culture Carrier of the Yiddish Liturgy,[36] by Eliyahu Zelodkovski, 1930, p. 11
- “The History of One Town” The Scroll of the Flourishing and Destruction of the Community of Sapotzkin, by Aleksander Manor, 5720 [1960]
- Lists, by Fania Bergstein, publication of the United Kibbutz, 5712 [1952], p. 6
- “Questions and Answers” by Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Yehuda Leib Diskin , Jerusalem, 5671 [1911] paragraph 44
- The History of “The Love of Zion” by Citron, Sh.L., Odessa, Part 1, 5674 [1914], p. 84 edited by Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor, head of the Jewish Court of Augustow and Nesvizh
- The Answers of Yehuda, by Rabbi Yehuda Leib Gordin, Vilna, 5668 [1908] in the Introduction, pp. 144, 152

[Page 74]

B. Periodicals:

- HaKarmel edited by SH.Y. Fein, Vilna, Third year, 5623 [1863], p. 290.
- HaKarmel edited by SH.Y. Fein, Sixth year, 5626 [1866], pp. 116, 699.
- HaMaggid 5618-1858, Edition 10, 18.
- ” 5620-1859, ” 41.
- ” 5621-1861, ” 3, 45.
- ” 5623-1863, ” 44, 24 Tevet, 9 Shvat.[37]
- ” 5624-1864, ” 42.
- ” 5625-1865, ” 26.
- ” 5626-1865, ” 47, 50.
- ” 5626-1866, ” 5, 11.
- ” 5627-1867, ” 2, 23, 25, 28.
- ” 5628-1868, ” 14, 16, 19, 31.
- ” 5630-1870, ” 19, 34.
- ” 5631-1871, ” 13.
- ” 5641- [1881],” 50.
- ” 5643-1883, ” 25 Tevet, 1 Adar.
- ” 5649-1889, ” 21, 26.
- HaMelitz 1881, Edition 13, 21, 26
- ” 1885, ” 68.
- ” 1890,” 154.
- ” 1896,” 228.
- ” 1902,” 46.
- HaTzefirah, 5622 [1862], Edition 10, 10 Nisan.
- ” 5638 [1878], ” 19, 18 Iyar.
- ” 5641 [1881], ” 21, 22, 25, 32.
- ” 5642 [1882], ” 40, 20 Cheshvan.
- ” 5652-1892, ” 79.
- “The Jew,” edited by Yitzchak Sobleski, London, Year 3, Edition 35, 17 Section 660 – 1900.
- “A Polish Jew,”[38] New York, Number 19, December 1943, p. 3.


Subscribers to Authors' Books

This was formerly a wide-spread custom, that an author of a book who wanted to print it, would collect beforehand as a deposit for the acquisition of the book, an amount of money from “subscribers”, who were called by the foreign name “Prenumeranten.”[39] Lists of the prenumerators that came at the end of a book reflected the cultural aspect of the city and served as important material for the history of Jewish settlement. With this we transmit a number of books in which there were published lists of prenumerators of the Jews of Augustow:

[Page 75]

“Story of the Land,” Part 1, Yosef Sheinhak, Warsaw, 5601 [1841].
“The Book of Genealogy of Assyrian Writing ,” Yaakov Bachrach, Warsaw, 1954.[40]
“And the Priest Approaches,” by Hillel Dovid Troves, Vilna, 5642 [1882].
“The Desire of Solomon,” by Moshe Shlomo Levinson, Warsaw 1888.
“Produces Pearls,” by Duber son of Tzvi Horovitz, Vilna, 5650 [1890].
“The Splendor of a Deer,” by Tzvi Hirsh Boyarski,[41] Warsaw, 5653 [1893].
“The One Who Illuminates Forever,” by Meir Micha'el Rabinovitz, Vilna, 5663 [1903].
“The Orchard of Wisdom,” by Moshe son of Mr. Aharon Maslant, [Sadlikov, 1836].


The Market Square in the Period of the First World War, 1914-1918

[Page 76]

The Municipal Building


The Long Street

[Page 77][42]

The Market Square – The Corner of Mostava (Bridge Street)

[Page 80]

The Long Street


The Square Named for Pilsudski

[Page 81]


The Market Square


The Market Square

[Page 82]


The Market Square


Reception for the Minister of the Region
Dovid-Arieh Aleksandrovitz, (Head of the Community Council), Rabbi, Nisan Borovitz,
the Teacher Y. Bergstein, Domovitz (Secretary of the Community Council)

[Page 83]

The Editor:

In their great kindness, the Directors of “The Chief Archive of Old Documents” in Warsaw and the “National Institute in the Name of Osolinsky” in Breslau permitted us to use the microfilms found in the “General Archive for the History of Israel” in Jerusalem. We thank them for it.

It was only possible for us to print a small portion of the microfilms that are found in the archive in Jerusalem.

Two of the photographs, this one and the one that follows it, are a part of a large document that discusses the request of the Jew Leib Kalman (the years 1858-59) to cancel or reduce the fine that was levied on him.


The original is found in “The Chief Archive of Old Documents” in Warsaw
Signature: Sekret. Stanu Krol. Pol. 439/1858
Microfilm: HM 3736

[Page 84]

Signature: Sekret. Stanu Krol. Pol. 439/1858
Microfilm: HM 3736

[Page 85]

This photograph and the one that follows it are a part of a document that discusses the request of the Jew Yehuda Leib Srulovitz, that the administration of the city pay him for food supplies that he provided in the name of the city in the year 1807 for the French army. The discussion was conducted in the years 1817-1823.

In This Period Augustow was a Regional City
The original is found in “The Chief Archive of Old Documents” in Warsaw
Signature: Kom. Rf. Spr. Wewn. I Policyi 4816 Microfilm: 3590 HM

[Page 86]

In the matter of the Request of Leib Srulovitz
The original is found in “The Chief Archive of Old Documents” in Warsaw.
Signature: Kom. Rf. Spr. Wewn. I Policyi 4816
Microfilm: 3590 HM

[Page 87]

This photograph and the one that follows it are a part of a document from the year 1640 that includes a list of Jewish families that own lands in Augustow.

The original is found in the
“National Institute in the Name of Osolinsky - Library” in Breslau
Signature: 1640/ III 6650 HM
We received the microfilm from
the “General Archive of the History of Israel” – Jerusalem.

[Page 88]

The original is found in
the “National Institute in the Name of Osolinsky - Library” in Breslau
Signature: 1640/ III 6650 HM
Microfilm: 6650/HM



  1. Seekers of Zion. Return
  2. The ancient Hebrew coin, the shekel, was introduced at the time of the First Zionist Congress and became an iconic “Membership Badge” of the Zionist movement. Return
  3. Original footnote 39. In “HaMelitz” 12 Tishre 5646-1885, Edition 68, an article was published, signed by YZ”SH on the foundation of the Zionist association. This was before the Russian authorities knew what Zionism was, and did not pay attention. One of the devoted Zionists was Yosef Chaim Ratner, prayer-leader, butcher and meat inspector, who from the time that the voice of Zionism was heard in the camp of Israel protected it from slanderers and if there were found young people who came out against it in newspapers he was included among those who went out against them openly in the newspaper, (HaMelitz, 30 Adar I, 5662-1902). “Seekers of Zion.” Return
  4. “The Miracle-Worker.” Return
  5. Lovers of Zion. Return
  6. “In Memory of Yehosef” Return
  7. The Rishonim were the leading rabbis and decisors who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries, in the era before the writing of the Shulchan Aruch. Return
  8. The Acharonim are the leading rabbis and decisors living from about the 16th century to the present, and, more specifically, since the writing of the Shulchan Aruch. Return
  9. Isaiah 21:1 “The “Desert of the Sea” Pronouncement: Like the storms in the Negev, it comes from the desert, The terrible land.” Return
  10. Citron, waved on Sukkot together with the lulav. Return
  11. This is an Aramaic phrase from the Talmudic period. Return
  12. “News.” Return
  13. “Tremblers,” or Orthodox Jews. Return
  14. Although the Hebrew word used here generally means “interpretation, what Mendelssohn published was a German translation of the Torah. Return
  15. The term “Beit Eked,” Collection House, was replaced by the word “sifriyah,” library. Return
  16. The Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901. Return
  17. Traditionally a prayer quorum of ten men. Return
  18. 1876-1948. Return
  19. Psalm 126:5 Return
  20. The Zionist Congress. Return
  21. Mishnah Avot 2:16 “He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you free to refrain from it;” Return
  22. Hebrew Bible. Return
  23. The first day of the month. Return
  24. The covenant of circumcision. Return
  25. The “three days of limitation,” which are the three days immediately prior to the giving of the ten commandments, observed at the time of the writing of this book immediately preceding Shavuot. Exodus 19:11-12. “Let them be ready for the third day; for on the third day YHVH will come down, in the sight of all the people, on Mount Sinai. You shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, ‘Beware of going up the mountain or touching the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.” Return
  26. That is, voters. Return
  27. Psalm 91. Return
  28. Babylonian Talmud Menachot 62a. Return
  29. Using one word that is composed of the initial letters of an entire phrase. Return
  30. A code that uses the numerical value of a Hebrew word instead of its letters. Return
  31. In Aramaic. Return
  32. In Yiddish. Return
  33. In Yiddish. Return
  34. In Yiddish. Return
  35. The Eye of the Watchers. Return
  36. In Yiddish. Return
  37. Names of Hebrew months of publication. Return
  38. In Yiddish. Return
  39. Prenumerators. Return
  40. This book was actually published in 1854. Return
  41. The name is incorrectly written “Tzalvei.” The actual name of the author is “Tzvi.” Return
  42. Notes and References; Translator's Note: All endnotes (numbered 1-39) originally listed on pp. 77-79, have been moved to the bottom of each page of text as footnotes, to facilitate accessibility to them for the reader. They are listed as “original footnote # … Return


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Augustow, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 08 Dec 2021 by JH