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[Page 165]

In Those Days

by Noach Borovitz




I parted from our city in the year 1920, two weeks after Pesach. I had been drafted into the Polish army seven weeks before that. Before I had time to become a soldier in the fullest sense of the word, I deserted to Lithuania because I did not agree to be sent to Kiev to fight against the Bolsheviks. We felt good in the army because we excelled in the training. In my platoon, there was someone from Augustów – Reuvka Beker (a shoemaker's son), who produced a profusion of joke stories, and knew how to play the harmonica and dance Polish dances. Among other things, he did amazing dancing on his hands to the rhythm of a tune on the harmonica. The Poles very much loved him. Thanks to Reuvka, who was short but solid, healthy and cheerful, not one soldier dared to offend a Jewish soldier. When the officers informed us that they were about to send us to an attack on Kiev, they added that the Jews will certainly flee from the front. From that moment, the anti-Semitism began to raise its head. Our gentile friends began to besmirch Jews. In a moment, we became stepchildren. I went out from the area of the military camp, therefore, at night, by way of the torn wire fence, and I reached home. I exchanged the army clothes for civilian clothes and travelled to Suwalk. On the next day, at night, I crossed the border and arrived at Mariampol, which is in Lithuania.

At that time, “HeChalutz” was founded, whose center was in Kovno. I joined the “HeChalutz” organization. We worked on an agricultural farm. All those who excelled in the work advanced their aliyah to the land. At Chanukah in the year 1920, I left Kovno. I arrived in Tel-Aviv by way of Egypt on a train from Qantara, together with a group from Lithuania, in January 1921. Since then I have not again seen Poland.

After three years of my being in the land, I brought my sister Miriam up to the land. After a short time I also brought my sister's groom from Warsaw. In the year 1924, I also brought my parents up to the land, may their memories be for a blessing. I also brought a young woman from Augustów. My sister Miriam didn't succeed in getting along in the land, and immigrated to America with all the members of her family.

I will return to the days of my youth in Augustów. We lived across from the Great Study House. We visited there three times a day for prayers. We were very tied with all the fiber of our being to Judaism, to Yiddishkeit.[1] In its time it made an indelible impression on me. One Yom Kippur night in the period of the Beilis trial, Yom Kippur, when after Kol Nidre[2]

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Rabbi Katriel spoke in the Great Synagogue in front of the magnificent Holy Ark. I have never seen another like it in beauty and majestic holiness. He opened the Holy Ark while weeping for the libels of which accused us, and all of the tremendous congregation wept with him. Everyone's prayer was that it would come out in the light of justice, and, blessed is God, our prayer was accepted, because that afternoon, our judgement and our righteousness appeared.

Who in Augustów didn't know the name Borovitz? A glorious family. The eldest of the Borovitz's was the grandfather, Reb Chanoch Henech, may his memory be for a blessing. He was an honest and God-fearing man, as careful with the light commandments as he was with the serious ones. His brother was Reb Tzvi Borovitz, an energetic man,[3] a big merchant and God-fearing, cheerful and happy. His sons Reb Shmuel Borovitz, Reb Yaakov Borovitz, and Reb Nisan Borovitz, died here in the land; all of them were energetic men.[4] Nisan and Yaakov had wandered to Siberia during the Holocaust, but were privileged to finish their lives in the land. Reb Shmuel had greater privilege, for he arrived in the land before the Holocaust and died there at a good old age, with most of the members of his family around him.

The years of my youth in Augustów were bound with two close friends. Together we studied, together we hiked and spent our free time. One of them was the son of the Dayan[5] Rabbi Reb Yekutiel Azrieli, and the second, Tzvi Stolnitzki, the son of Avraham Yitzchak, the teacher in the talmud torah. The father was the “ba'al tefillah[6] in the Great Study House throughout the year, and also the “ba'al kriah.”[7] He was a wonderful man. His son Tzvi currently officiates as a rabbi in Miami Beach, which is in the United States. The Dayan, may his memory be for a blessing, Reb Azriel Zelig, frequently taught us lessons in Gemara and Tosafot in the Great Study House. In the days of summer, towards evening, we strolled through the forests of Augustów. How pleasant it was. I will not forget the chirping of all kinds of birds, and the deep soft grass. The three of us together somewhat resembled “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”[8] In about the year 1924, my friends also came to the land. Mr. Yekutiel studied in the Hebron Yeshiva, and Tzvi in the Mizrachi seminar in Jerusalem. My friend Tzvi went down to America, and joined his parents, who were there. My father, Reb Dovid Yitzchak, may his memory be for a blessing, was God-fearing, proficient in the Tanakh, and a “baal koreh.” He fulfilled the verse: “This book of the Torah shall not depart out of your mouth.”[9] His brother, Reb Moshe the baker, was devoted to observing the mitzvot, and was as careful with the light commandments as he was with the serious ones. There remains engraved in my memory an event that happened at the time of the First World War, when the Germans controlled Augustów. At that time, there was a tremendous shortage of food. By chance, the Germans brought a large basket of bottles of rum (schnapps) to Reb Moshe, and other kinds of food, just before the Pesach festival. Reb Moshe bought from them, but didn't have time to sell them before the festival. He went to the rabbi to ask if it would be permitted to use the chametz after the festival. The rabbi, of course, prohibited him from using food over which Pesach had passed.[10] Then Reb Moshe, may his memory be for a blessing, on the intermediate days of the festival took the bottles of rum out and smashed them all on a big rock, and the rest of the food he burned. Reb Moshe the baker was killed in the Holocaust, together with all of the rest of the members of his family. May God avenge their blood.

I remember the festivals from the days of my youth that the Russians held on the birthday of the King, or the Queen, or the Prince, in the large square facing the church. The Cossacks and the Russian soldiers, the men of the band and the officers all dressed in their ceremonial clothing, held fine parades, accompanied by the band and the priests all dressed in their priestly robes. These festivals left a strong impression on the school children who had been freed from their studies. The Jews would also hold a celebration, in this instance, in the Beit Midrash. There were

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two Russian flags hung at the entrance, and Chazzan Ratner with the choir sang “God Will Protect the King” and “The One Who Gives Salvation to Kings,”[11] and at the end the Russian anthem.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Jewishness. Return
  2. “All Vows.” The prayer for which the Yom Kippur evening service is named, which asks that all vows made in the coming year be nullified. Return
  3. It is highly likely that there is a typographical error here, resulting in exactly the opposite of what seems to have been intended. What is written, בל מרץ “bal meretz,” means “lacking energy,” while the writer seems to have intended בעל מרץ “ba'al meretz,” having energy, or energetic. It is an omission of a single letter ayin. Return
  4. Here the phrase discussed in the previous note is spelled correctly. Return
  5. A rabbinical judge. Return
  6. The prayer leader. Return
  7. A Torah reader in liturgical contexts. Return
  8. Ecclesiastes 4:12 Return
  9. Joshua 1:8 Return
  10. Which had been in a Jew's possession over Pesach. Mishnah Pesachim 2:2 “Chametz which belongs to a gentile over which Pesach has passed is permitted for benefit; But that of an Israelite is forbidden for benefit, as it is said, “No leavened bread shall be found with you.”” Return
  11. Psalm 144:10 “to You who give victory to kings, who rescue His servant David from the deadly sword…” Return

There Was…

by Leah Sherman

A small town surrounded by forests and lakes was Augustów. Because of its natural beauty, many tourists and summer vacationers came in the summer, to rest in the shade of its thick forests, or to enjoy boating on its lakes. More than half its population was Jewish. Some of them were wealthy. The youth were talented and enthusiastic. In the city there was, however, no high school, but many nevertheless continued their education by various means. In the city, there were courses for Hebrew in which a large part of the young people studied. Others studied with teachers in private lessons, and there were those who travelled to larger cities in order to study in high schools and professional schools. Only a few continued their studies in schools of higher learning. The youth were mostly Zionist, and did wonderful things for the Keren Kayemet,[1] Keren HaYesod, and the Kapai: Kupah L'Poalei Eretz Yisrael,[2] etc. The pioneering youth movements (HeChalutz, HeChalutz HaDati,[3] HeChalutz HaTzair,[4] and HaShomer HaTza'ir),[5] were well-organized with many members. In their clubs, diverse cultural activity was conducted. At the initiative of Sheima Zak (the husband of Rachel Yevreiski, may God avenge her blood), the Maccabi sports association was created, “In a healthy body, a healthy soul” was its motto. Sheima Zak devoted himself to this activity heart and soul, and succeeded in gathering around himself many of the young people who trained in the evenings on gymnastic equipment and in other sports areas. Over the course of time, the members of the association demonstrated their achievements to the public at sports evenings. The success was tremendous. A drama group and a chorus were also organized, and they too gathered many young people. They appeared in presentations and reaped much applause. The activities in the various associations filled the youths' free time, and gave flavor to their lives. The evenings, the Shabbatot and the festivals were full of interest. In the clubs, it was warm and good, but outside an entirely different atmosphere prevailed. Anti-Semitism was increasing; the lack of any chance for Jewish youth to integrate into the economic life of the exile grew from year to year. Most of the youth saw their future in the Land of Israel. Indeed, each year tens of pioneers went up to the land. They were absorbed into the country in various areas of life, and brought forth children and children's children. The great sadness that many, a great many, were unable to realize their soul's desire.

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The Party of the Founding of the Maccabi Branch


The Members of the Maccabi Branch with Their Guide Sh. Zak

[Page 169]

The Soccer Group

Standing from right to left:R. Tsherman, Sh. Plotzinski, D. Linda (Aloni), A. Leizerovitz
Second row: A. Chalupitzki, Ch. Kestin, Moshe Goldshmidt, Channah Goldstein, B. Sherman


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Short for Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, the Jewish National Fund. Return
  2. The Fund for the Workers of the Land of Israel Return
  3. The Religious Pioneer. Return
  4. The Young Pioneer. Return
  5. The Young Guard. Return

[Page 170]

Fathers and Sons

by Daniel Kaplan, Kfar Saba




Augustów. A Jewish community that, in spite of all the difficulties, continued its existence and traditional customs. A lively Jewish town with kloizim, study houses, schools and institutions of benevolence and tzedakah in it. The non-Jewish residents of the surrounding villages also accorded it respect.

The most difficult day of the week was Friday. It was as if Satan himself had ordained it to be the market day in order to test the Jews. On that day the work was much greater than on a regular day; preparations for Shabbat and attention to customers out of precision about the closing the doors of the shops before the entrance of Shabbat. For me, who was still a youth, this was the most interesting day of all the days of the week. Father hurried the village shoppers while I peered outside. When I saw the city's Dayan striding past with his head held high, his yellowish beard, parted and well-kept for years, descending on his shining, long black silk caftan, all of him bespeaking respect, I knew that the time had arrived to greet Shabbat, the Queen.[1]

Inside the house, a white tablecloth was spread on the long table. My sister Sarah was setting the table tastefully and quickly. Mother was waving her hands three times over the lighted candlesticks and blessing in a whisper. Only her lips were moving. The number of candles - as the number of children. This was her custom, that she inherited from her mother. Two large challot[2] were ready for the father and grandfather, and a small one for each child. This was mother's handiwork, to be proud of. After the prayers that welcomed Shabbat, when we returned from the kloiz that was on Bridge Street, sometimes with a guest, Father and Grandfather would open with “Eshet Chayil Mi Yimtzah[3] and we would all repeat[4] loudly after them, singing in a chorus of appreciation to Mother. Grandmother would add her low hoarse voice, casting glances of joy and happiness at us. The set table and the home testified that Mother was an “Eshet Chayil,” and everything in it said “Shabbat.” She began the preparations for Shabbat early on Thursday morning, when she lit the baking oven. Afterwards she would knead the dough and shape it for baking. She put in it the spirit of her soul. The next day she would be busy preparing the cooked dishes for Shabbat. This was not easy work, but Mother found satisfaction in it, because the sanctification of the Shabbat was embedded in her. The Shabbat day was a day of complete rest – “even the Sambatyon rests on Shabbat[5] Mother used to say.

* * *

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Lange Strass” was its name[6] – the long street. On its two sides, old houses, in which dwelt Jews toiling away to make their living that they received as their inheritance. The generation that was going also transmitted a spiritual heritage to the generation that was coming after it. The tradition of ancestors and the hope for redemption. Our house stood at the beginning of the street. Not far from it on a broad lot stood the Christian church, which was prominent with its pointed spire and cross. At the times when the bells rang and the melodies of the choir were accompanied by the organ, it would spill outside. Then the music of Israel and Hebrew songs would burst out from Father's house. It was not in Satan's power to confuse us. All the members of the household would join in the songs of the grandfather and the father, from the youngest to the oldest, in order to overcome the sounds from outside. Sometimes the sounds would mix together. It seemed as if they were blending together with the ringing of the bells. Together they seemed to be levelling a path to the heavens. Occasionally the songs of Israel grew stronger and won. The bells ceased their monotonous ringing and the organ music faded and grew quiet. In the house, we sat around the long set table, and continued to sing chants, praising and glorifying the Creator of the universe.

When our uncle asked to sell the half of the house that belonged to him, my mother did not want to reconcile herself to it. She begged that her brother would not do injustice to those who sleep in the dust.[7] “One does not sell the inheritance of ancestors, unless one needs the money to go up to the lands of the ancestors” Mother said. Father was active in the Zionist organization. The blue box of Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael was fixed to the wall, next to the mezuzah[8] at the main entrance, to the house so that the gentiles would see it and know that our eyes were set on our homeland.

* * *

Grandfather Naftali-Hertz and Grandmother Rivka were old when they merited to receive the demand from their household to go up to the land. All the worshippers of the kloiz accompanied them to the railroad station. At home the joy was mixed with a little sorrow that we were unable to join them. We consoled ourselves with the thought that they were clearing the path for us. With the emigration of the elders, the singing became quieter at home. The void was filled with stormy debate among the children, who met at the table with their different outlooks and opinions.

Dovid Hillel, the oldest in the company, was an industrious man. He had a carpentry shop. One of his duties was to teach the trade to those were preparing to go up to the land. He was one of the sustainers of the house, in spite of the fact that he was disqualified from going up by the Mandatory government, because of his disabled hand from a shrapnel injury during the First World War, when he was still a youth. Despite this he continued to train himself to be ready to go up. I was already in a training kibbutz, and when I would come home for a break, I would heatedly defend the path I had chosen for myself. And Shabtai, who worked energetically in the branch of Hashomer HaTzair, was resolute in his opinion that that was the way to educate and train the young generation.

Thus, we sat at the table and argued. Each one trying to defend the 150 different reasons for the path of the framework to which he belonged. At the head of the table sat Father. It is doubtful if he derived pleasure. With his common sense, he did not understand why we were so divided by arguments when all of our goals were one and the same.

After the gates of the land had been closed for a long period, I at last received a certificate, together with

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my friends in my training group “Shachariah A.” To be among the first in the Fifth Aliyah[9] was no easy thing. Many waited for a certificate and the number who merited one was small. I passed the physical examination at the sawmills in Nurzec and Dombrova. The cultural examination certainly did not bother me.

On Shabbat night, I hurried to leave the table at Father's house. Unusually, I passed up the arguments in the family group. I could not find peace in my soul. I went to the HeChalutz club. The large room that was on the top floor on Krakowska Street was full of youth and young adults. Here, they received their education and training from a spiritual perspective – the attention and encouragement for the continuation of the journey. Shabbat evenings were dedicated to singing and dancing. In the room girls and boys stood with their arms interlocked. Circles, circles. They reached as far as the stairs. Fania, slim of body and fair-haired, and dark-skinned Breintsa – the two of them demonstrated a new dance that they had learned at a HeChalutz seminar. G. Zaklikovski – with a round face, and his broad smile, examining and checking the movement of the feet, to make sure they were in time with the pioneer song. The song conquers the hearts and takes over them all. “On the rock! Strike! Strike![10] The arms intermingle and the couples are entwined, arms interlocked on shoulders, all in one movement, as if they were one body. Slowly, voices became hoarse and fell silent. Midnight. In the empty street the song still reverberated: “Free, a Free Palestine!”[11]

It was like a farewell party from my friends. The day following Shabbat, I was to go out on the journey.

The course was difficult, full of suffering and tribulations until we reached the land. But greater was the longing for redemption that our ancestors had bequeathed us. Therefore, borders did not frighten us, and prisons did not deter us.

* * *

The house remained standing on its foundation – so we were told by rescued embers.[12] Not one shell struck it during the First World War also, when the Germans' shells fell in the center of the city and cut short the lives of two family members. Even the flames that occasionally visited the city passed over us. Was it because of the merit of the songs for Shabbat and festivals that its walls had absorbed? Even after the great destruction, the house remained standing, bereaved and abandoned. Its rooms were bereaved; its walls wept. The church bells continued to ring, the organ continued to accompany the ringing, but from the Jewish house the song no longer emerged. The voice of Yaakov was silenced. The community of Augustów was destroyed, with the rest of the communities of Israel in Poland.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 32b “Come and go out to greet the bride, the queen. And some say: To greet the Sabbath, the bride, the queen. R. Yannai would cover himself and say Come, bride; come, bride.” Return
  2. The special braided loaves traditionally used on Shabbat. Return
  3. Proverbs 31:10-29. “A capable woman, who can find?…” Return
  4. There seems to be a typographical error here. The word printed is מחרים macharim, which means “ban.” The apparently intended word is מחזרים, which in this context means “repeat.” This is a difference of one letter. Return
  5. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 65b:12 “Rabbi Akiva said to him: The Sabbatyon River can prove that today is Shabbat, as it is calm only on Shabbat.” Return
  6. 1 Samuel 25:25 “Please, my lord, pay no attention to that worthless fellow Nabal. For he is as his name: His name is fool and he is a fool…” Return
  7. Isaiah 26:19 “…Awake and shout for joy, You who dwell in the dust!…” Return
  8. A parchment affixed to the doorpost of a Jewish home in fulfillment of the commandment to affix the words contained on it to the doorpost of one's house, as instructed in Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21. Return
  9. The Fifth Aliyah was the fifth wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine from Europe and Asia in 1929-1939. Return
  10. “On the rock, strike, strike!” An early Zionist song based on the Jewish prayer for rain. Return
  11. “Frei,” Yiddish for “free.” Return
  12. Survivors. Return

[Page 173]

From the Days of My Childhood

by Chaim ben Abba Orimland




My cradle did not truly stand in Augustow, but I was connected to it from the age of two years, a time that my father settled in it and registered all of the family in the books of the municipality.

In the year 1917, when I was six, I began to learn in a school for boys called “Compulsory School.” *[1] The teachers and the students were all Jews, but the supervision was in the hands of the German “Inspector.” **[2]

It is not in my ability to judge whether the nature of the school and its educational method were good or bad. What is engraved in my memory and left a deep cut in my soul, are the blows that we absorbed from the hands of the educators. The blows were an inseparable part of the method of learning. They were given arbitrarily, without a thorough examination, or because of inconsequential matters. If you switched, God forbid, a “kamatz” for a “patach,”[3] or you made a mistake on the multiplication table, you deserved to be punished. What is written is not talking about just blows, but heavy punches that rained down on you without pause. The teacher's rod did not know mercy. More than once the child would be punished by absorbing 25 lashes. That was enough to prevent the child from his sitting in the regular way for a few days… We consulted how to get over the punishment of the rod, and discovered that spreading garlic on it hastened its end. So we did. How great was our joy when at the first blow, the rod broke. We breathed a sigh of relief, but the respite was brief.

Fine writing – “calligraphy” – was considered an important subject. The student that excelled in fine handwriting would move from his bench to the one behind it. And when he reached perfection he would sit on the last bench. Then the teacher would tear out the page from his notebook and hang it up to be seen in the classroom window, in order that “they will see it and take pleasure.”

I must point out that in addition to secular mandatory learning in the German school, our fathers were concerned that we learn Torah and general Jewish studies in the afternoon. There arise before my eyes the spirits of Fridays, the time when I reviewed the weekly Torah portion. Frequently my father, may his memory be for a blessing, would also be present, and drew pleasure from my reading. When I would turn the last page in the Chumash, I would find a mark.[4]*** “This is a gift of the angel for your diligence” the teacher would explain.

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The year 1918. The period between the times. Chaos.[5] One authority is leaving and a second authority is coming. An army comes and an army goes. We benefit from the abandonment. We are wandering around without Torah and without work. Left to ourselves, without supervision. When order was reinstated, I found myself in the “cheder” of the teacher M. Meizler. A long table and benches on its two sides on which the students are gathered around. It is possible to point out that the easing nightmare indeed has passed by, but in its place appears a bitter enemy of a new kind, which is not inferior to the first. In place of the rod of tyrants, the fist of the Rebbe.

The year 1919. I am in the improved school that is on “Shul Street” (the street of the synagogue). In this school[6] they also learned, in addition to sacred studies, Russian and German. This educational institution excelled in its improved arrangements in discipline and in the high level of studies. The organization was in the hands of the administration of the congregation.

I remember the day of the completion of the year of studies, when I received a certificate of completion, a source of pride. At its top was displayed the year “crown,” which was 5679.[7] It was signed by the teachers of the institution and at their head the Rabbi of the community, Azriel Zelig Koshelevski, may his memory be for a blessing.

The year 1920. The days of Polish rule. A school opened under the administration of the teacher D. Boyarski, and I am a student in this institution. It is possible to point out that this school was already modern, but the punishment of blows had not yet passed from the world. The “sinner” himself was obligated to bring the rod from the Director's room. After he had absorbed a blow by hand as required, he had to say “thank you” and return the rod to its place. The insult was bigger than the pain of the blow. I continued my learning over the course of two “times,” in the talmud torah, and I finished them in a Polish elementary school, which had seven classes. This was a school of “compulsory learning.” Jews and Poles learned in it together. Here we suffered – from the hatred of Israel.[8] Our friends the “shkotzim[9] harassed us because of our being Jews, and because we surpassed them in our knowledge and ability.

There is certainly in this short survey a kind of mirror to the ways of learning and the methods of education in days gone by.

These memories from that time are precious to me.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. In Yiddish, צוואנגס שולע Tzvengas Shule. Original note: * A compulsory school. That is to say, a free compulsory school. Return
  2. ** Supervisor. Return
  3. Two Hebrew vowels. Return
  4. Original note: *** German paper currency. Return
  5. The Hebrew phrase “tohu va'vohu,” the untranslatable phrase used at the beginning of the Torah. Genesis 1:2 “the earth being unformed and void…” Return
  6. Aramaic: בית אולפנא “Beit Ulpana.” Return
  7. The letters that indicate the Hebrew year, תרע”ט, are an anagram for the Hebrew word עטרת “crown.” Return
  8. The Jews. Return
  9. Non-Jews. The Hebrew word “sheketz” means “abomination,” and is found in Leviticus 11:13: “The following you shall abominate among the birds–they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination…” It comes into Yiddish as the word “shaygetz,” used to refer to a non-Jewish man. The female equivalent is “shiksa.” These words are highly offensive epithets for non-Jews. Return

[Page 175]

Between War and War

by Yishayahu Livni (Bialovitzki)




I remember, the thing was in 1915. I was then a boy of about 5. There was war between the Germans and the Russians at that time. The Germans surrounded our city and attempted to conquer it. Our house was in “Long Street,” near the Christian church, which at that time also served as the place of the seat of the Russian command. I remember well the bombs that the Germans dropped on the city. We lay in the basement of our house, and we were subject to great danger. In order to create bedlam and sow panic amongst the residents, the Germans lit the forests surrounding the city on fire. And indeed, they accomplished their goal, making it easier for themselves in conquering the city. The residents began to flee in every possible direction in their attempt to save their lives, some by foot and some on wagons. The bridge over the canal in the direction of Grodno was destroyed, and those fleeing had to make their way by foot. In that same hour the Germans entered the city from the direction of Grayevo. They put up a power station to provide electric current to the city, and opened schools. In 1918 the Germans were expelled by the Poles, who liberated it from the foreign yoke. The maturing youth that was abandoned over the course of a long period now began to plan its life anew. The Jewish community placed its concern for the youth at the head of its activity, and established a Hebrew school, and a “talmud torah.” The Polish government also established a primary school, in which the children of the Jews and the children of the gentiles learned together. Antisemitism was felt in the school in full force. We suffered greatly. With great difficulty, the community council obtained the arrangement that we would not learn on Shabbat. The children who learned in the mixed school visited the talmud torah in the afternoon hours, or went to teachers for private lessons, in order to acquire Jewish studies. Antisemitism planted in us the recognition and the thought that our place was in the land of Israel. The youth began to organize in Zionist organizations. “HeChalutz HaTzair” had crucial influence in the cultural life of the city. “HeChalutz Hatzair” also trained its members in agricultural work, in the vegetable garden that we rented from the Sheintzeit family on the “Long Street.” Members of “HeChalutz HaTzair” also excelled in the area of sports, and organized a football[1] group. The tremendous activity of the members of our city in all areas highlighted them for good in the life of the Jews of Poland until the last days of their existence.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. Soccer. Return

[Page 176]

Talmud Torah (1920-1940)

by Elchanan Sarvianski

The “talmud torah” building stood on Koprinika Street. This was a religious school, in which almost all of the youth of the city acquired their primary education.

Reb Efraim Volf officiated in the role of administrator and teacher of Torah and Gemara. The teacher of Hebrew and history was the teacher Reb Yehoshua Bergstein. The Hebrew teachers in the first grades were Yisrael Yismachovitz and A. Levinson. The teacher for Polish, arithmetic, history and Polish geography was Zilber. In the last years, Wasserman also served as a teacher. In the general Polish school, Dina Soloveitchik and Kupler taught. Of all of these teachers not even one remains. May their memory be blessed!


One Day in the “Talmud Torah

The bell rings. The hour is exactly 8:00 in the morning. The children enter the classroom and seat themselves on the benches, each one in his place. The teacher Yehoshua Bergstein enters the classroom, and immediately silence prevails. With quick hands he opens the journal, and calls the names of the students in Class D alphabetically: Borovitz, Zelig; Brenner, Barukh; Vilovski, Yekutiel; Zlotnizki, Tzvi; Lazdeiski, Chaim; Morzinksi, Ezra; Sarvianski, Elchanan; Pozniak, Tzvi; Kolfenitzki, Pesach; Rozenfeld, Shlomo; and more. When the teacher was convinced that they were all present, he directed that we take out from our satchels the book “Korot HaIvrim[1] part 2 by S. Dubnow. Among the students there were always those who disturbed at the time of the lessons; they fooled around, told jokes, or drew various and sundry pictures. The sharp eye of the teacher fell on the student who was playing. He would command the student to rise, and to tell what was being spoken of in the classroom. Of course, he did not know. The teacher would eject him, in this instance, outside, pull his ear, or strike the student on the palm with a thick wooden yardstick.

With the ring of the bell the students would run outside like crazy people. After the break, they return to the classroom and the teacher Zilberg enters. He was a feeble and hunchbacked man, but an exceptional teacher. He taught Polish language and history, arithmetic and geography, all in the Polish language. And it happened that if the lessons were not interesting, the students would fool around, because they had no fear of the weak teacher. When the ringing of the bell was heard, redemption came for the students and the teacher.

The hours went by. The sixth and last lesson: Torah. The teacher Efraim Volf entered the classroom. A hush was cast in the room. At the time of the lesson it was possible to hear the buzzing of the flies

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in their flight. With the completion of this lesson, the students packed their rucksacks, put on their coats, and went to their homes, in order to return to the school after two or three hours to learn Gemara for two hours, from the teacher Reb Efraim Volf.


Tiferet Bachurim[2]

In Augustow there also existed a group “Tiferet Bachurim,” which included religious young men who were members of the religious Zionist party “HaMizrachi,” or inclined towards it in their views. They numbered a few minyanim,[3] and made a place for themselves at the house of the Rabbi the Dayan Reb Azriel Zelig Koshelevski, on Krakovska Street (Zoyb Street), and afterwards, in a more spacious apartment, as the rabbi's family had moved to live in the new building of the baker Brizman. Rabbi Azriel Zelig Noach Koshelevski founded the group, and his son, the deceased Rabbi Reb Yisrael, was the living spirit in it until his death.

The young men of “Tiferet Bachurim” routinely prayed in the rabbi's house. A few of them are remembered by me, and I mention them here: Ben-Tzion Filivinsky, Shepsele Bachur-Yeshiva[4] (refugee), Yaakov Blacharski, Aharon Cohen, Yashke Gizumski, Borovski, Moshe Yudke Grodzanz.


The Simchat Torah Hillula[5] in the Home of the Rabbi

Anyone who did not see Simchat Torah in the house of Rabbi Azriel Zelig Koshelevski did not see joy in his days. Already at the end of Yom HaKippurim, the members of “Tiferet Bachurim” began, with the help of a few of the residents of Augustow, the mitzvah of erecting the sukkah on the balcony of the rabbi's apartment. All of them worked energetically and diligently, some with a hammer, some with a saw, and some who stuck a nail in their finger.

On Simchat Torah there were hundreds of men[6] of the city in the rabbi's house, the householders, and simply poor people who came to gladden their hearts. The long tables, that had white tablecloths on them and simple benches alongside them, were set up one next to another. On the tables there were bowls of peas, fava beans, pickled fish, cucumbers, and all kinds of sweets. There was also brandy, beer, and lemonade; their place was not empty, to fulfill what is written: “wine that gladdens the hearts of men…”[7] Everyone waited for a sign. When the Rabbi took his seat, and next to him his son the mortally ill rabbi, all of the townspeople took their places facing them. The banquet began. The bottles were opened, the lemonade corks flew upward, the brandy was poured into little cups, and the beer, half of it went in cups and half of it onto the white tablecloths. After they enjoyed themselves, they broke into the singing of “purify our hearts,”[8]Adon Olam,”[9] etc. The hands of the clock were moving, and in a little while it was midnight. The old people and the weak ones get up, blessing each other with the blessing “a good year,” and a blessing for the happiness of the holiday, part, and go out into the dark night. The perseverers and the young people get up and take the empty dishes off the tables, move the tables to the corners, and lift the benches and the chairs onto their backs. Once they finished their work, they take each other by the hand, and open the mitzvah dances.[10] Mouths are opened wide, and the song “Blessed is our God who created us to honor him,”[11] and the like burst out. The feet are lifted up, and the congregation is dancing, dancing, until they tire themselves out. The hands of the clock show the last watch.[12] Quick as a flash they bless each other, each man parts from his friend, and disappear into the dark of night. Soon the dawn will shine.

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The Baking of Matzahs

Our Sages said: “From the time that Adar[13] enters we multiply joy.”[14] One of these joys was the baking of the matzahs. In our day the matter is simple; we enter the store and we buy packages of matzahs. It was not so in those days. Then there were not matzahs in the grocery store. Incidentally, their shape too was different: they were not square, but, precisely, round. Matzah flour and meal our parents also had to prepare with their own hands.

There lived in our city two householders who were not at all bakers, but in their houses they baked the matzahs each year. The one – Reb Shimon Eirhohn, a Bialobrega man; and the second, Reb Shimon, a Ratzk man.

And this was the order of the baking of the matzahs. About a week after the holiday of Purim, the houses of the Shimons filled with men, women, and children who came to roll the dough in order to make it round and thin. When the dough received its correct shape, they transferred it to the perforator who would perforate it with holes with a special wheel that he had in his hand. From him the dough would pass to the oven. After a few minutes they would take the matzah out of the oven. One time it would be nice, and one time it would be unimpressive, one time it would be a little burned and one time it would be burned a lot. Everything was dependent on the man who was in charge of the oven, his mood, and his attentiveness. They baked the matzahs by families, through mutual assistance between neighbors. When the baking of the matzahs was completed, the preparation of matzah flour and matzah meal would begin. This was difficult handwork. The vessel into which they would put the matzahs for the preparation of the flour, was a thick block of wood whose upper part was hollow, and its name was “stampa.” The second part – it too was a block of wood in a length of about 80 centimeters, and about 25 centimeters thick, round and smooth, and thinner in the middle, fitted to the fingers of the hands. With this block of wood they would forcefully strike the matzahs within the “stampa,” and after some time the matzahs would become flour and meal. At the time of the baking of the matzahs the joy permeated the house of Reb Shimon Eirhohn. They would sing and tell stories and jokes in order not to fall asleep from exhaustion.

The little children would fall asleep on the beds of the hosts, and would lay that way until the completion of the baking work. They would pack the matzahs carefully in special baskets whose height was one meter, awaken the children from their sleep, and with a blessing for happy holiday and a kosher Pesach, they would part from each other.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. “The History of the Hebrews,” published in Warsaw, 1920. Return
  2. “The splendor of young men,” a rabbinical academy. Return
  3. Tens. Return
  4. Literally, yeshiva boy. Return
  5. A Yom Hillula, day of festivity, is usually another word for yahrzeit, the anniversary of a death. It is different from a regular yahrzeit in that it refers specifically to the yahrzeit of a great Tzaddik who taught Kabbalah and/or Chassidism. Unlike a regular yahrzeit, a Yom Hillula is commemorated through joy and festive celebration. Here, it seems to refer simply to a celebration which is not connected to a yahrzeit. Return
  6. This was almost certainly an all-male gathering. Return
  7. Psalm 104:16 “wine that gladdens the hearts of men…” Return
  8. From Sefer Chassidim, The Book of the Chassidim 882:1: “Purify our hearts to serve you in truth…” Return
  9. Lord of the World.” Return
  10. The mitzvah dance is generally conducted at a wedding in certain Jewish communities, where the male relatives of the bride dance before her. It is likely that this is done on Simchat Torah because of the imagery of the Torah as a bride. Return
  11. From the weekday morning concluding prayers. Return
  12. Of the night. Exodus 14:24 “At the morning watch, the LORD looked down upon the Egyptian army from a pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.” Return
  13. The month of Adar is the month in which Purim falls, and precedes the month of Nisan, when Pesach occurs. Return
  14. Babylonian Talmud Ta'anit 29a:18 Return

[Page 179]

In the Mirror of the Press

Compiled by M. Tzinovitz


An Educational Institution for Torah and Derekh Eretz[1] in the Year 5624 [1864]

In the Hebrew weekly “HaCarmel,”[2] a Hebrew writer who visited in Augustow at that time transmitted to us these words about this interesting phenomenon: “Here too I saw that our brothers the Children of Israel are diligent about doing the will of the government, for while I was walking on the way I turned aside here too to the school which is for the young people of the Children of Israel. Here I saw more than 50 youth sitting and learning the language of Russia. And they turned their backs on the language of Poland, which they and their ancestors had clung to for many years.”

The guest mentioned above who visited Augustow and wrote down a gladdening matter like this knows to emphasize that “there is no coercion”[3] by order of the government that the children of the Jews should learn in the school mentioned above. “Only a man, a man according to his desire, sends his sons and his daughters, for their rescue and with all their desire, to follow the government that elevates and seeks good for the peoples that take refuge in its shadow.”[4]

The correspondent adds that “Levi Yitzchak Finkelstein, the enlightened teacher, does his work faithfully, and in a number of months the students learned to read well and also the beginnings of grammar in the language of Russia.”

He concludes with this language: “How wonderful are sights like these in the eyes of every man who loves his people Israel with eternal love. All the cities around will see, and will hear, teaching themselves to also do this, and their teachers will educate them to draw the hearts of the fathers and the children to hear his lesson.”

On the situation of education and the enlightenment in Augustow a number of years after this, the Hebrew local writer Y. Z. Sperling informs us in the Hebrew weekly “HaMelitz” from the year 1879 (No. 43) under the pseudonym “Wonderful:” “There are 35 teachers in the city. Of them, two teachers who teach the “translation” of the Torah established by Moses Mendelssohn, and these teachers also teach the principles of grammar and interpretation. But these two teachers only have a few students, and they do not earn enough wages to support their households, and the rest learn in the 33 “other cheders.”

Sperling complains in his article about the local Av Beit Din (the intention is to the Gaon Rabbi Katriel Natan) who in his homily on Shabbat Shuvah[5] 5640 [1880] aggressively rebuked some of the youth from among the children of the congregation, who read Hebrew books by the enlightened Hebrew writers, which are full of heresy, and preached against the study of Chumash with the translation mentioned above, and grammar, and also against learning in the gymnasia of Christians. And he attacked those who wear short attire and dance with young women.

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The Burial of a Donkey

The writer Sperling informs us about an interesting matter that happened in Augustow in those days: “An event of an 18-year-old young man, Z. Finkelstein, and he writes on behalf of the Secretary of the House of the Justice of the Peace, and he died. For the religious, this was a festival, and they drank and made merry and they buried him in the grave of a donkey.” And the reason for this: “He resided in Berlin for a few years, and knew German and Russian, and the work of the “tzigaren,”[6] and because of that he did not fulfill the mitzvot, and his brother visited in the Beit Midrash of the Scientists in Peterburg. The youth of the new generation stood on guard, so as not to humiliate him further.”

The correspondent adds: “And what is painful is that he, the Rabbi, reads many external[7] books, and even on Shabbat before the prayers, in order to be instructed by them, and nevertheless he conducts his rabbinate at this level, and pursues the enlightened ones.”

HaMelitz,” 1879


“Augustow – The First to Affix Boxes for the Purpose of Collecting Donations for the Settlement of the Land of Israel”

“It is about nine moons[8] since the members of our community here attempted to form an association by the name of “Dorshei Tzion,” to the regret of its administrators, who administered with difficulty, and the participants in it were not many. However, in those days after the death of Moshe the servant of God, may his soul be in Eden, (the intention here is to Sir Moses Montefiore, our righteous savior) the administrators saw that the death of this Shepherd of Israel, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing, was very dear in the eyes of the members of our community. They refused to be consoled after the crown of their heads had been removed. They attempted to create collection boxes from sheets of tin (tin boxes); the boxes were made in a cube shape, in order to distinguish them from the boxes of Reb Meir Ba'al HaNes.[9] Therefore they glued on labels with the seal of the association, and beneath the seal the inscription “As a memorial for Reb Moshe Montefiore, may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.” Not many days went by and the boxes were distributed in almost all the houses of our brothers the Children of Israel here, who received us extremely hospitably, until many came themselves to the house of the association's administrators with a request to give them boxes too. The writer of the article, who is signed “YZ”S” (is he not Yosef Ze'ev Sperling), concludes his words with these enthusiastic words: “From now there is hope that our respected association will establish itself with God's will (with the permission of the government) on a strong foundation and teach us to know that all the community of Israel will easily be able to do this, and redemption will grow from it.

HaMelitz” the year 1885, No. 68


Kosher Food for Jewish Soldiers Who Are in the Military Camp in Augustow

“Yosef Tzvi Kantrovitz from Aihumen (Minsk District, Military Police) gives his thanks and blessings in the name of the 44 men that worked in Augustow in the Reserve Forces, to the Righteous Dayan by the name of the Rabbi the Gaon Eliezer Shapira, Shlit'a [10] and to his son Zalman Tzvi and the rest of the youths in our city that attempted to feed us good kosher food over the course of two weeks. They made this effort on our behalf before the officers of the army, to gain permission for us to cook kosher dishes in our city in the place of military stations that were four parsangs[11] away from the city, and gained us permission to eat in the city, and each and every day they made the effort to come every single morning, and prepared for us good dishes with meat for the noon hour of the day, and they themselves served us the food,

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like guest house servants, and they restored our souls with this. A blessing from us to those who labored on our behalf in this, that they should be sated with every good.

HaYom[12] (the year 1886), a Hebrew newspaper that appeared in Peterburg, edited by Dr. L. Kantor.


The Beginnings of the Library

Yisrael Dov Varhaftig informs from Augustow that in recent days the desire has awakened among the enlightened of the city to learn the language of Ever and to make it beloved among all men of letters, and that recently a few enlightened ones from among the youth awakened to found a Hebrew book collection house and also their hands were stretched out to collect in this house every book that touches on questions of the Jews, and also in the German and Russian languages.

HaMelitz” the year 5650 (1890) No. 154

In “HaTzefirah” 1894 (No. 163) Mr. Yam writes in the name of the people of the community of Augustow on the matter of “the excellent doctor Dr. Goldberg who, over the course of 5 years that he dwelt in this city won for himself the love of all the hearts of the city, but who because of the reduction of the number of residents of the city due to the many who are going out to the new land, is said to seek for himself a wide range of activities, and a place more prepared for the work and activity in skilled healing.”

The correspondent mentioned above adds that “although our city is not a widow, she is now bereft of doctors. Nevertheless, the notables of the city will remember the name of Dr. Goldberg with longing.[13] Also the heart of the mass of the people followed after him, and his memory is in their mouths for a blessing, because in addition to his being generous and participating in the troubles of others, he was amazing at bringing relief[14] to the sick and the wounded, and infected; to these as well, that other doctors said “it is no use”[15] to their illness, and were unable to heal the sores.”[16]


A Teacher From Augustow Opens a School in Lomza

In “HaMelitz” 1895 (68), P. N. Katz from Lomza informs that the respected pedagogue Mr. Issachar Levinski from Augustow opened a school near them, “happy and hoping from the government for the youth of our brothers who dwell in the city to guide them in the pastures of the Torah, knowledge, understanding, and faith on a straight path. And in addition to the students hearing a lesson in God's Torah, according to the rules of its language and its grammar, they will also learn there the Russian and German languages, knowledge of accounting, the regions of the land, and the chronicles of the Children of Israel. This school in its founding caused great and awesome noise, and the zealous ones among the teachers and those who hold fast to their hands threw excessive fear on its founding, for they struck it with a tongue lashing, and also attempted to send lampoons to the officials of our city, but it was not at all effective, and now they will admit against their will that there is a blessing in it.

* * *

A list of the donations that were gathered in Augustow from the Yom Kippur eve collection bowl for the settlement of the land of Israel in the year 5659 (1898). In sum, 10.7 rubles; gathered from the worshippers in the synagogue, in the kloiz

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of the street of the butcher shop, in the kloiz of Bridge Street, and in the kloiz of the Long Street. On Simchat Torah the following donated for the good of the settlement of the land of Israel: Reb Arieh Glikstein, 2.70 rubles; Avraham Meir Zenevoski, 3 – (to plant a tree in “Gan Shmuel”);[17] Nachum Zechariah Levin, 3; A. Girfalovitz, 3.24; Eisenstadt, Noach, 1.50; Ze'ev Glikzohn, Akiva Glukstein, Yaakov Voisanski, , Avraham Treves, Yechezkel Koptziovski, 1 ruble each; Meir Grosberg, 95 kopek; Yosef Glikzohn, 50 kopek; Reb Barukh Leib Gotstein, 1 ruble; Chaikel Palman, 1.50; Meir Ezra Lerman, 2 rubles; Chaim Shlomo Lap, Avraham Yitzchak Slomon, 1 ruble each; Chaikel Omburg, Chaim Eilender, Beker, Yechezkel Rotenberg, Shmerl Rotenberg, Yehoshua Meltzer, Avraham Barukh Cohen, 50 kopeks each. Avraham Yitzchak Kaplan, 30 kopeks; Nachum Barglovski, Ziskind Preisman, Yaakov Friedkovski, 25 kopeks each.

At the wedding feast of Mr. Shaul Eliezer Lozman with his beshert,[18] there were collected among the invited guests 8.82 rubles. And these are the donors: The groom and the bride, Ze'ev, Chaim, Yisrael Yaakov Elchanan, Mendel – of the house of Lozman. Chaim Dov Borovski, the father of the bride, Levatinski Yehuda, Neta Borovski, Tenenboim, Novodvorski, Avraham Smolinski, the mother of the groom - Rayzel, Lozman, Avraham Meir Zanovski, Yeshayah Hershovitz, the maiden Henya Channah Lozman, the brother of the groom, Bidek Tzvi. In sum, 55 rubles. They transferred all the funds mentioned above to the Palestinian Council in Odessa, Moshe Yitzchak Revel, Aharon Platnovski, Chaim Lap, and Binyamin Markus.

HaMelitz,” the year 1898, Issue 253

In HaTzefirah 1899 (No. 228), information is brought about the death of the exalted master, the respected merchant, the doer of tzedakah, a man of lofty attributes and a compassionate soul, the religious and God-fearing and trembling at the word of God, Reb Dovid Bialystotzki. He was born in the city of Augustow in the year 5598 [1836] and was gathered to his people[19] on 11 Elul 5659 [1899], in the city of Bod-Zaltzvronin (Shalzien). Attached to this information is a long lament styled in rhyme that describe the magnitude of his importance and the blessed activities of the deceased.

* * *

The Zionists in Augustow, in the year 1900, collected more than 30 rubles for those affected by the famine in Bessarabia. The contributors: Slutzky, Z.L. Koptziovski, Y. Cohen, Y. Stalovski, Ch. Mintz, M. Erbstein, N.Z. Levin, Binyamin Lap, Moshe Glikstein, D.M. Markus, Arieh Lap, V. Grosberg, M. Feinstein, A. Friedberg, Dr. Zelkin, D. Folifovski, T. Burak, Tz. Denmark, Sima Levin, Sternfeld, L. Levita, M. Lozman, Arieh Demeratski, Alter Demeratski, Demeratski, A. Greenvald, G Shumski, Y.G. . Glikstein, L. Avraham Shiff, Rivka Visanski, Sh. Glazer, M. Ch. Glikzohn, Y. Glikzohn, A. V. Solomon, Z. Stein, Y. Meizler, D. Glikzohn, Yanus, A. Davidovitz, M. Meizler, A. Denmark, VV. Aleksandrovitz, Mordechai Bidek, N. Rechtman, A.V. Postvaleski, R. Rotenbeg, Tenenboim, Zanovski, Y. Borovitz, Shayna Borovitz, D. Volf, M. Freidman, Y. Shapira, Y. Frenkel, Margalit, A. Levinzohn, Kantorovitz, Povembrovski, Arech,

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Y. Gilda, Z.TZ. Glikzohn, A. Friedman, Ch. Glikzohn, A. Viedenboim, A. Finkelstein, Y. Starazinski, Sh. Z. Bramzon, Sh. Grinberg, Tz. Borovitz, P. Valovski, A. Levitzki, P. Lifshitz, Cheyne Friedman, D. Levit, Shachne Ampel, A.M. Sigalovitz, G. Blacharski, Liubel, Shustarski, Kalmanovitz, D. Vichenberg, L. Frenkel, A.Y. Kaplan, A. Kentzuk, Sh. Friedman, V. Broman, Y.M. Levitt, D. Dobovski, Tz. Meltzer, Ostrov, D.Y. Otstein, Z. Milkes, A. Leizerovitz, Ch. Liftzianski, Y. Glikstein, N. Vinitzki, Sh.Y. Vergman. “HaTzefirah” the year 1900, Issue 78

Members of the association “Bnei Tzion,”[20] boys age ten and eleven years, collected among them a total of 9.85 rubles for the hungry in Bessarabia, and these are the names of the donors: Eliezer Koptziovski, Yitzchak Varhaftig, Eliezer Grosberg, Yaakov Grosberg, Shimon Leib Varhaftig, Leib Glikzohn, Simcha Visanski, Eliezer Segal, Natan Mintz, Azriel Cohen, Avraham Kantorovitz, Refael Friedman, Ezra Strankovski, Aharon Eliezer Rotenberg, Yitzchak Rotblit, Raza Markus, Raza Frenkel. These youths, when they received an agora from their parents to buy sweets, foreswore sweets and dedicated it for the benefit of the hungry.

HaTzefirah” the year 1900, Issue 171

At the wedding party of Yehuda Bialystotzki with Shifra Katz,[21] Shmuel Katz and Avraham Kaplan solicited donations from the wedding guests for the benefit of the workers of the land of Israel. “HaMelitz” the year 1901, No. 218

In “HaTzefirah” 1900 (No. 121), Reb Yosef Chaim Ratner, the local shaliach tzibur[22] and shochet u'bodek of Augustow, informs about “a big fire that broke out on the evening of Shavuot, 5660 [1900]” in the town mentioned above. “More than two hundred families emerged from the fire lacking all of their possessions, and did not save anything of all that they had, for the fire took hold suddenly, until an entire section of the city was like a very terrible bonfire, and those that tried to save any of their belongings were burned by the fire and were brought to the hospital with mortal wounds.” He informs that “With the help of the officer of the city, honest among men, a council was established to collect donations for the unfortunate ones,” and gives a blessing of thanks to “the donors from the cities of Suwalk, Sapotzkin, and Ratzk, who were so kind in their goodness to send for those impacted by the fire a wagon full of food and provisions. The food was distributed to the Jews and Christians with no distinction. The name of heaven[23] will be sanctified (by this), by them.

* * *

On the 33rd day of the omer[24] 5680 (1920), the community council in our city held a wonderful celebration in honor of the San Remo[25] news. In a proclamation that brought out the call to all the institutions in our city and to all of the Hebrew community to come to the synagogue to participate in the celebration. At 11:00 before noon, all the shops were closed, the students of the schools and the Hebrew courses went as a group through the streets of the city to the synagogue, and all the community

[Page 184]

Title page of Augustower Leben


after them. There the students sang Hebrew songs and the following gave addresses: the Head of the Zionist Organization, D. Slutzky, Patek, B. Lieberman, B. Markus, D. Boyarski, and Reb Levin, on the value of the day.

After the assembly, the Community Council held a feast in the Zionist hall for the students of the schools and the courses who participated in the celebration. The Council of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael held a collection of funds that brought in about 5000 marks.[26] Towards evening the boys and girls among the students gathered again and passed in procession in the streets, singing Hebrew songs. When they arrived at the Zionist hall, they sang “The Oath”[27] and “Hatikvah,”[28] they read a proclamation of appreciation in honor of our great ones, and dispersed. Then began a festive Zionist assembly that continued until a late hour of the night. On Isru Chag Shavuot,[29] our organization held a public meeting in the synagogue for the benefit of “Keren HaGeulah,”[30] in which the Rabbi the Gaon and the local Moreh Tzedek also participated. With warm words from the bima they excited the congregation to donate for the benefit of “Keren HaGeulah.” On that same night about 4.000 marks were collected, in addition to various objects. Especially the women increased the amount; they took off their jewelry and dedicated it to the “Keren HaGeulah.” This correspondent, who signs with the name “Zionist,” concludes that “the collection of money for the benefit of “Keren HaGeulah” still continues.


[Page 185]

The Beginning of the Migration from Augustow to the United States

Even before the 80s of the previous century, from December 25 1869 until the end of June 1870, the following Jews from the city of Augustow traveled by way of Konigsberg, by means of the first council that was organized for the migration of Jews from Russia: H. Horovitz, M. Horovitz, A. Yarmulinski, M. Sinetzki, V.S. Reitman.


Simkhe Lev, Chapters from Jewish History, New York, 1941.

In Augustow, illegal Zionist gatherings were organized in 1903. One such gathering was raided and Sore Markus was sentenced to two weeks in jail. She served the full term of her sentence, according to a report sent by the governor of Suwalki to the ministry of interior affairs.


New Pogroms in Poland

Warsaw - Pogroms were carried out against the Jews of Augustow which is adjacent to Suwalk, and also in Shirbaz. The government claims that the Jewish leaders control the situation and that the pogroms were organized by haters of the government. Minister of the Interior came to Grodno to investigate the situation. The Jewish minister Rotenstreich protested the pogroms in the Sejm council.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Literally “the way of the world” this phrase refers to the desired manner of behavior. Pirke Avot 3:17 “Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said: Where there is no Torah, there is no right conduct; where there is no right conduct, there is no Torah. Return
  2. Published weekly 1860–1871, and monthly 1871–1880, in Hebrew and Russian, in Vilna, Tsarist Russia. Return
  3. Esther 1:8 “And the rule for the drinking was, “No compulsion!” For the king had given orders to every palace steward to comply with each man's wishes.” Return
  4. Isaiah 30:2 “To seek refuge with Pharaoh, to seek shelter under the shadow [protection] of Egypt.” Return
  5. The Shabbat of Repentance, which is the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Return
  6. Russian for cigarettes. Return
  7. Secular. Return
  8. Months. Return
  9. Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes (Rabbi Meir the miracle maker) was a Jewish sage who lived in the time of the Mishnah. Various charitable foundations have been named for him. Return
  10. An acronym for “May he live a good long life, amen.” Return
  11. A parasang is about four miles. Return
  12. “Today.” Return
  13. Isaiah 26:8 “…We long for the name by which You are called.” Return
  14. Jeremiah 33:6 “I am going to bring her relief and healing….” Return
  15. Jeremiah 18:12 “But they will say, “It is no use…” Return
  16. Hosea 5:13 “Yet when Efraim became aware of his sickness, Judah of his sores, Efraim repaired to Assyria– He sent envoys to a patron king! He will never be able to cure you, will not heal you of your sores.” Return
  17. The settlement of Hadera was founded in the land of Israel 1891. In 1895 the settlers there planted a small orchard, which was named “Gan Shmuel” - Shmuel's Garden, to commemorate the name of their leader, Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever (1824-1898). Return
  18. Daughter of destiny. Return
  19. Genesis 49:33 “When Jacob finished his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and, breathing his last, he was gathered to his people.” Return
  20. Children of Zion. Return
  21. The name Katz here is spelled כ”ץ, an abbreviation of “Cohain Tzaddik,” righteous priest. Return
  22. The “Public Emissary,” which is the term for the prayer leader. Return
  23. God. Return
  24. The 49-day period between the beginning of Pesach and the festival of Weeks, Shavuot. The omer is a period of semi-mourning, when no celebrations take place, but the restrictions are lifted for the 33rd day. Return
  25. The San Remo Conference was held in San Remo, Italy, in April 1920. It was an international meeting held at the end of World War I, and determined the boundaries for territories captured by the Allies. Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan participated in the conference, with the United States as a neutral observer. At San Remo, the Allies confirmed the pledge contained in the Balfour Declaration, which concerned the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Return
  26. The mark is a measure of weight mainly for gold and silver, used throughout Western Europe and is generally equivalent to about eight ounces Return
  27. By Yehoshua H. Pelovitz, 1912. “We swear by Zion's emblem, to rescue our homeless and oppressed people.” Return
  28. Composed by Naftali Herz Imber, 1877. “The Hope.” Now the Israeli National Anthem. Return
  29. The day immediately following each of the three pilgrimage holidays–Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot–is called Isru Chag?, which literally means “bind [the] festival” since the day is “bound” to the holiday. Psalm 118:27 “The LORD is God; He has given us light; bind the festal offering to the horns of the altar with cords.” Return
  30. The Redemption Fund. Return


By Khaye Kalinsk

For a long time now our town has been in need of its own tribune, a publication capable of giving expression to our lives and the creations of our town.

Our town, aside from its considerable historic significance, boasts a great deal of natural beauty. Its hills, forests, lakes, the famous Augustow Canal, and the newly refurbished yacht club, which serves as a recreation spot for government workers, as well as a meeting place for foreign dignitaries. In the summer, our town's health resorts are visited by thousands of tourists. Should our town, with its social institutions and facilities, cultural and material resources, heaving and bustling with life, not also have its own voice?

[Page 186]

Finally the fateful hour has arrived! With joy and enthusiasm I greeted the news about the publication of Life in Augustow. Thanks and acknowledgements are due to the initiators of this project, Messrs. Gizomski and Ben-Tsiyen Levinski. I hope that the seeds which have been planted shall grow and expand, from the initial four printed pages, may they develop in quantity and quality, and from page to page, issue to issue, grow into a life-giving force, nourishing and strengthening our much-needed charities and institutions with its breath and energy.


Rabbinate Elections

As our honored and respected rabbi, Reb Azriel Zelik Noyekh Kushelevski, long may he live, has made the timely decision to leave our town and make aliyah to the Land of Israel–at the behest of his son the rabbi, Reb Yekusiel, long may he live, the rabbi of Zikhron Yaakov–he has thereby renounced his rabbinical office.

Taking into account the departure of the rabbi, the authorities have instructed the congregation to open up a search with the purpose of finding a new rabbi. Of the twenty-odd applications, four were selected as viable candidates to stand in the rabbinical election.

The outcome of this election, which took place on Sunday the 8th of December last year, resulted in the election of Reb Tsvi Hirsh Leyter, long may he live, from Tarnopol, as the new rabbi of Augustow.


Books by Rabbi Kushelevski

Our esteemed rabbi Reb Kushelevski, long may he live, is preparing to release his third treatise, with the title, Levish Edenim on Tractate 77.

It is worth taking this opportunity to mention and summarize his two previously published treatises. His first book, Eyn Tsufim on various Torah portions, which the author published in the year 5682 was received with praise and interest in the world of religious oratory, containing as it did a wealth of materials for sermons. The author's second book Mimonos Aroyes contains a series of eulogies of various famous scholars, notables and martyrs from around the period of the Great War (1915-1920) in our town. In this book of sorrows he explores the tragedy of the Jewish people upon the loss of its best sons.

[Page 187]

For these two previous books the author received many letters of thanks from researchers at the “Dorshey Ha-universita Ha-Ivrit Birushalayim” among others.

The same volume will include interpretations by the late rabbi, Reb Yisroel Uri of blessed memory.

The author has also produced a manuscript on the topic of indecipherable legends of the Sages.

In order to enable the publication of this last volume there will need to be a sufficient number of pre-orders among the townsfolk. Incidentally, a certain number of people have already made their interest in pre-ordering known to the esteemed author.


The Reception

Reception for the rabbi Reb Tsvi Hirsh Leyter, long may he live.

Thursday January 26th this year saw the welcome reception for our esteemed rabbi, Reb Tsvi Hirsh Leyter, long may be live, and his wife the rebbetzin Mrs. Khaye, long may she live, upon their arrival in Augustow.

To greet the rabbi a group of some dozen townsfolk went to meet him at the station, representatives of the Jewish community accompanied by a delegation of women to greet the esteemed rebbetzin. Stepping off the train, the rabbi was greeted by Nosn Varhaftig, wishing him, on behalf of the town, a heartfelt mazel tov on taking over the position of town rabbi.

Next to the congregation hall the esteemed rabbi was awaited by a large crowd who greeted him with great enthusiasm. Particularly joyous and impressive was the second part of the reception in the meeting hall of the congregation marked by generously laden tables and an elevated intellectual atmosphere. The president of the congregation, Mr. Volmir, opened proceedings, before passing the floor to the honored guest who thanked the townsfolk for their hearty welcome.

The subjects of the day were discussed and the esteemed representatives introduced themselves: Reb Khayim Zalman Kaplanski, Reb Meyer Lazovski, Reb Gedalye Gizumski, Reb Ze'ev Lazman, and Messrs. Derevianski, Zavl; Yeruzolimski, Peysakh; Dr. Grodzienski; Hermanshtadt, Nakhmi;

[Page 188]

Mr. Shevakh, Uri of the congregation and Mr. Khlupitski, Avrom of the handworkers' union.

Finally–in splendid Hebrew, with spirited form, shot through with pearls of wisdom–the rabbi himself spoke, and the reception ended with the sentiment that the congregation and rabbi should work together harmoniously in all their communal endeavors.

At the same time, a welcome reception for the esteemed rebbetzin was taking place in the house of Mrs. Rubinshteyn where many important local women gathered around well-laden tables.

On behalf of all the ladies Miss Lenzinger greeted the rebbetzin, who thanked them for their heartfelt welcome and reception, promising them her full cooperation in all of the town's communal institutions.


A Girls' Class in the Elementary School

Standing: … Z. Blacharski, B. Gizumski, S. Kolfenitzki, D. Sherman, D. Borovitz
Second row sitting: P. Aronovski, S. Berliner, … Beknovitzki, A. Orimland
Third Row: … … …


Translator's Footnote:

  1. On the 24th of February,1939 a once-off publication appeared in Augustow with the title Life in Augustow edited by Yoysef Gizomski. Each entry marked with an asterisk comes from this publication. Return


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