Mina Ampel (Volmir)
The Volmir-Rotenberg family was one of the extended families in Augustow. My father, Mordechai Arieh, was known for his diverse communal activity.
With the outbreak of the First World War, a significant part of the Jewish residents of our city were drafted into the Russian army. Among them my father, Shmuel Meir Goldshmid, Omburg, Pelkov, Ratsitsky, Moshe Rotenberg and Mordechai Lev.
All of them served in the Augustovi regiment. Mother was left by herself with five small children.
When the Germans surrounded Yanova, we returned with Mother to Augustow. On the way we passed Shivtin. It was entirely destroyed and burned. When we reached our city we found that German horses were standing in our store.
We received information from Father that he was in German captivity, in a camp not far from Kassel. With outbreak of the revolution in Russia, many families that spent the years of the war in Russia began to return to the city. Father returned from captivity, and immediately began to take care of the refugees.
In 1925 Father and Manya Kantorovitz founded a union of craftsmen. Elected to the council were: Manya Gipstein, my father, and Dovid Arieh Aleksandrovitz. Vertzelinska was the first Secretary. After her Hinde Stein served in the position.
My Father was also a member of the City Council, and the Commission of Taxes that it was responsible for. In his role he tried to help all who were in need.
Who could have imagined that from an extended family like this one, from a flowering and rooted population, that only a very few would remain?
There are no consolations only the assemblage of the nation of Israel in its land would light up the darkness for its children.
Tz. Z. Weinberg
20 years old, talented and good-natured, Moshe Ber was beloved by people, and his acquaintances and friends appreciated him. But no one knew the suffering that this modest young man suffered in his house. His stepmother, a simple and respectable woman, who related to his brothers and sisters honestly and also with affection, kept concealed hatred for him, from the day she came to their house, and at every opportunity she brought her defamation of him to his father. It is possible that his gaze, which restrained inside him a spark of orphanhood that was not extinguished, was his undoing. With her intuition, this good woman kept silent about the rebellious foundation that was in his nature. She saw his existence solely as a kind of a continuation of the existence of the trouble that she had renounced for herself. Moshe Ber would casually dismiss his stepmother's frequent complaints and his father's numerous protestations, and did not see fit to justify himself before them. With an easy smile and a nod of the head he would pass by it all, as if the matter did not affect him. His stepmother and his father boiled from the abundance of complaining, while he conquered his spirit and maintained a rebellious silence. He forgave his father's wife for her warm care of his brothers and sisters, his mother's orphans, for also in her relationship to him she was more honest than his father, even if she did not relinquish her injustice towards him. There were many with him especially in matters of fear of heaven. His father, a pious and courageous chassid, pursued him with his exaggerated religious claims, and his stepmother, a believer in meaningless words, followed him with her foolishness with each and every step. And Moshe Ber, even though he trembled over the fundamentals of religion, could not put up with their insipid demands, and objected to them openly.
In order to put an end to the conflicts that had finally worn them out, Moshe Ber's parents tricked him and began to seek a proper match for him. Moshe Ber was educated on the knees of Torah, in cheders and Batei Midrash, in the way of all the sons of the religious in Poland, and private teachers completed his knowledge with a little bit of general studies. He was not satisfied with this, and worked diligently and with a great desire to deepen his knowledge, and since he had an open mind and a developed intellect, he acquired for himself a fair amount of wisdom and knowledge. He, the enlightened one, despised the young women that the matchmakers offered him, and always found in them a reason to view them as defective. His parents saw the hand of the enlightenment in this opposition of his, and his frequent deliberate obstinacy to deprive them of their good desire. However he, when he saw that there was no path before him, and all his acquaintances and those who came to their house annoyed him with their arguments, finally admitted that, contrary to his habit, there was more there, since he had already found one young woman who found favor in his eyes, and only her would he take for a wife, and no other.
The young woman was the daughter of one of the small grocers, a man of inferior rank; however, Moshe Ber found in her a woman like his own heart. The connection that was between them strengthened slowly, over a long period of time, and in secret.
The best of the excuses and reproaches of the members of their families and relatives were not helpful. Moshe Ber was as solid as a rock. From his pursed lips only one answer escaped:
This one, only this one.
This time his father also insisted, and fought with all his might against an indecent match like this. His wife helped him. The two of them pressured Moshe Ber and embittered his life, and demanded of him with entreaties to stop his relationship with a girl like this. The house became a hell for him. The arguing and the confrontations became stronger, and Moshe Ber left his parents and moved to live in his uncle's house, his mother's brother.
However by standing on his own, Moshe Ber felt the difficulties, which stood like an adversary on his path. The frequent altercations in his parents' house destroyed his health and exhausted his strength. His bride blossomed, charmed with her grace, her gentleness, and womanly tenderness, and like a young woman who reached marriageable age, demanded what was hers. And he, terrified by his fear of life, and by the burden of marriage, deferred her demands with various excuses, and yearned for a good future, in which his situation would be established, or then the voice of his heart would be answered and he would acquiesce to her.
A man directs his way gradually, with intelligence and consideration, and is not hurried in his deeds, and knows also to overcome the feelings of his heart, when the hour calls for it… he said to himself, and silenced the confusion of his soul, and ignored the quiet expectation that emerged from the eyes of his beloved.
It's nothing, she will at the end come to an understanding, and she will know that I did not do this from malice or lack of love.
The father and son were like two mortal enemies. One would not speak a word of peace to the other, and one would not concede his own even a bit.
- If he will not leave this one alone, he will never have a house or a father…
With many efforts, Moshe Ber aimed towards his future. He was convinced that, according to the situation of his health, he would not succeed at physical labor, and according to his nature, he was not able to carry a job in a store or in a factory. Therefore, he chose to learn a free profession, and became a diligent extern, studying day and night. His purpose was to reach one of the universities that was outside of the land, in order to learn the theory of law and economics, his desire from then on. And for the present time, he would support himself there by the teaching of Hebrew and Talmud, which he knew well. And when he succeeded in graduating, then he would marry his partner and settle in the land of Israel.
This path, which was so clear to Moshe Ber, seemed far from reality in the eyes of his betrothed Mila. She tried to oppose him, argued with him and said he was making a mistake, and that the matter was an illusion. Indeed, when she was convinced that all of her words were not entering his heart, she stopped bothering him and put herself in the hands of fate.
Moshe Ber went on his way unresigned. His father tried many times to return him to his house, but he was not accepted. Then his father set his face towards deception, and sent messengers to Mila's parents, and offered them a large sum of money to break their agreement with Moshe Ber. When this too did not succeed, he spread made up charges about the young woman Mila, in order to blaspheme her name in Moshe Ber's ears. After Moshe Ber also did not pay attention to this, his father stopped his weekly support that he had set for him upon his departure from his house, and cut off all ties with him.
At first Mila's parents consoled him, and stood with him in the hour of need. Mila herself made it pleasant for him
to accept their help. Because in this war against his parents, Moshe Ber strengthened his faith in her heart, that in its way knew how to overcome the obstacles and reach its goal. The days dragged out, and Moshe Ber was placed on her parents as a yoke and a burden, his strenuous studies depleted him, he became thin and a broken vessel, and the military council disqualified him as a soldier. Nevertheless, Moshe Ber did not budge from his opinion, and as before described his future to his betrothed in brilliant colors. Only then did the young woman shake off her dream, and in clear speech demanded from him to put an end to his hallucinations, and to consider his path like all men, who walk the face of the earth with open eyes and looking at life face to face.
Secret and stinging disagreements began between them. This was no longer the same gentle and soft Mila, who was devoted to spoiling him, subordinate to him and his authority. She matured, and slowly became freed from his influence. From now on she saw an obligation to herself to take the reins of their lives in her hands, in order to repair a little the years-old twisting and to sweeten the bitterness that had accumulated in her heart. She tried with all her might to bring her partner into the circle of reality, as the way of the world.
This change of Mila's in her relationship to Moshe Ber brought arguments and quarrels between them. Mila's parents, who were not able to see their daughter's distress, and increased the confusion in the house, also became involved. They were unable to bear Moshe Ber's difficult nature, which did not diminish at all even by means of Mila's yielding and the abundance of her love and her devotion to him, and their complaining about their daughter's torment and the disturber of her life increased.
She fell into a trap…. They banished her and her fate, and suffered their pain in secret, without finding a way out of the thicket.
And Mila went on her way by herself, opposed Moshe Ber's spirit with gentleness and with firmness, used all of the weapons to bend him to her will, and to make him capable of compromising, and for life in a group.
Moshe Ber saw himself as placed in chains, and his nature, which did not accept authority, now encountered the hardened manner of his betrothed.
Difficult days arrived for Moshe Ber. The suspicion of and the disgust for the members of Mila's household grew stronger in his heart from day to day. Every deed, every word from them, aroused his irritation, and once it erupted:
- From today on, your parents' house is forbidden. We must meet in my room, or in any place that you want.
- For what reason? Mila asked, and all her limbs were trembling, for she knew well that all speech of this kind, in which a decree comes out of his mouth, is the kind that there is no changing.
- For the reason that your parents are like my parents, only the good of their enjoyment is before their eyes, and they are completely strange to me…
- But I indeed am of one mind with my parents… Mila expressed openly, muttering each and every word angrily.
- Then, then… - Moshe trembled in his place, and he held his tongue.
- Then what? Mila shot up, as if ready for battle.
- Moshe Ber was silent, bit his lips, and looked at her with harsh bitterness, which made the veins of his cheeks and the pupils of his eyes bulge.
- Say where, didn't you start…Mila teased him deliberately.
- Moshe Ber did not answer. He turned his face, wrapped himself in his coat, and took hold of his walking stick.
- This is therefore your answer she shot at him with poison you are fleeing, in your usual way…as it were, from my parents' house, and since this is fleeing from my house, from me….
Moshe Ber turned at once. His sad gaze fell on her inflamed face, which expressed a woman's insult and irritation blended with pleas. He delayed for a moment, as if debating to remain. Afterwards he regained his composure and turned to go out.
- You are going out, doing your own… a cry of sadness burst out of Mila's mouth, her face was twisted, and her body swayed, as if falling.
Moshe Ber hurried to support her, peeked in silence into her tearing eyes, and softened. He smoothed her hair, and with a pleasant expression on his face let slip:
- You will go with me where I go. I will not leave you alone here.
This speech, new in Moshe Ber's mouth, was like balm for her heart. She did not demand more from him. Moshe Ber acceded to her and became bound to her instructions and her advice, and suffered with her in her parents' presence. Even if within himself he was making various plans, how to distance her from her parents' house and remove her from their destructive influence. Nevertheless, all his attempts to change his situation did not succeed. He was a dreamer by nature, not practical in general matters. He distanced himself in his learning for all intents and purposes, and his exams were always completed with total failure. Nevertheless, he did not give up, and still held on to his opinion and pleaded with Mila that she should not steal from him his faith in the best of his aspirations, and that she should not force the issue.
However, Mila's parents demanded deeds. Five years went by from the day that Moshe entered into the betrothal agreement with Mila, and the matter had still not come to anything. The war took place between them. They spoke with Moshe Ber clearly, that they should take their daughter to wife, and if not he should leave her alone.
- And what will I do after the wedding Moshe argued pleasantly, as was his way.
- Like all men. You will open a store, seek a position.
- I am unable.
- You will be able, when you take a wife…
- I will take a wife for my own sake and not for your sake. He cut with his voice.
- And we, we are not asking anything from you, only that you should not confuse Mila's head and that you not ruin her life.
Now Mila too was convinced that there was no place for Moshe Ber with her parents, distanced him from their abode, and became a regular guest in his house. Whereas her parents did not stop bothering her and insistently demanded that she break her agreement with her betrothed. She opposed them with all her might, and did not allow in any way to defame Moshe Ber, even though deep in her heart she agreed that their admonitions were right. And when the quarrels intolerably increased, Mila did not see another way before her, except to leave her parents' house. For this purpose she learned a trade, so that she could stand on her own and also help Moshe to some degree.
She suffered a long time, until she learned the trade well, and transferred her residence from her parents' domain and guardianship. She received Moshe Ber in her special room radiant with happiness.
- From now you will not worry about support she hurried in joy to greet him.
- The matter is still far off, Mila.
- What? Are you still hesitating?
- From what?
- Because you are earning and not I…
- Is that too a shortcoming?
- Shortcoming no, not at all, but also not an advantage.
- And therefore, we must again sit and wait…
- To wait, to wait patiently, my friend…
Mila cast confused eyes on him, and her spirit couldn't take it. Moshe Ber grasped the palm of her hand and passed it across his face as an affectionate apology.
- For you the marriage is essential, the wedding; and for me, not so… aren't we already like a married couple for a long time… devoted and faithful to each other…Let's get ourselves out from before the burden, and then certainly everything will change for the better…
As previously, Moshe Ber continued in his studies out of diligence, and did not pay attention to the many obstacles that stood in his way, and Mila, who followed him every day, was convinced that there was not in his work a real basis, tried from time to time to wound the essence of his faith and divert him to practicality, but did not succeed. His strange ways, which were like a riddle to her, with his zealous outbreaks of intense and strange love, which came frequently as an appeasement for the suffering that she suffered in his presence all these stood her in the passage of days in a grave suspicion that he was not right in spirit, and that there was in him a mental impairment.
With a woman's guile, and with various temptations, she took him from doctor to doctor, and investigated and demanded of the doctors that they tell her the truth about the nature of his illness. The doctors determined that his health was deficient, that a serious and difficult illness came to him as a result of his bad living conditions, from his constant anger, and from his maternal heredity, but they did not admit to a mental illness, or in any defect in his spiritual strengths. On the contrary, they specifically found him healthy in spirit, since with great effort he carried his severe illness and did not collapse beneath it.
From now on Mila strove with all her might to adjust to him, to his suffering, to his craziness, to his depression and misfortunes, and to protect the quiet in their troubled presence, for his fate her fate and his tortured life - her lot. She stood in open conflict with the members of her family, rejected with disgust every suggestion of a marriage match that they made, and every attempt to separate her from Moshe Ber. With the fitness of her work and with great toil she succeeded in standing on her own, and supported Moshe Ber as much as she could. At last she succeeded in taking him out of his uncle's house, and moved him to her own dwelling, to a special room that she added for him. She organized his room, his meals, managed his clothing, and was a faithful friend to him in all. Moshe Ber, too, changed a little, took upon himself the yoke of a livelihood, and earned a little money giving hourly lessons, and carried the work together with her, in the house and outside of it. In his free time he drew his strength and vitality by being within her 4 cubits, as if he had nothing in his world except this corner, and this single soul, Mila.
However, in intimate matters, there was still something like a barrier between him and her. Moshe Ber permitted himself hugging and caressing and kissing, but he never lost control of himself, and knew how to place a rhythm and a measure to his feelings and his passion. Mila, on the other hand, was entirely like a raging storm, a fire consuming her bones, and a woman's inner humiliation raged in her eyes and within her, and troubled her spirit, the health of her body, and her joy. All the years she suffered in silence, carried the depression of her temperament alone, for she hoped to find an outlet in marriage. However, in the last days,
when she was convinced that Moshe Ber was still far from this, and the flame of her desire consumed the remnant of her vitality, she began to harass him in her dealings, and demanded improvement with allusions
- Indeed, I am like your wife, whether permitted or forbidden. We became betrothed and also married in the crucible of life.
- Indeed so, indeed so… Moshe replied, and bit his fingernails in confusion… but the hour has not yet come.
- What hour? Why do we have an hour? Our parents in any case will not bless us, we have already suffered as a man and woman, enough!!
- Indeed so, indeed so, Moshe added, and his face was distorted from pain. The justice is with you, Mila, but I for one am not permitted…
- Because of what?
- Because I am not yet a husband, I am not yet able to be a husband…
- She did not understand his words, and again suspected him of a hidden deficiency, discussed it with the doctors that healed him, and they corrected her mistake. The stubbornness of her partner, who was knowingly torturing himself and her, for the sake of some distant and imagined purpose, infuriated her to the core. She continued in her suffering for some time more, finally she could not find strength and decided to put an end to her suffering and to speak with him openly.
- Moshe Ber she said to him I abhor my life. I am a woman. I was not born for greatness, and not for a man's insanities. I demand what is mine, and you are torturing me for nothing…
- But…but…Moshe Ber apologized and changed his tune, and his face paled.
- This time answer me clearly Mila held on to him you will not mislead me. I want to know, what will be herein after? No one is here, not my parents, not your parents. They have given up on me. But I too do not find satisfaction with you. I too see in you strangeness and extreme reversals, what would not be possible with any man in the world.
Moshe Ber turned around in the room this way and that, and did not find a place for himself. A cold sweat covered his whole body, and he did not know what to answer. Finally he controlled himself and responded:
- You are right, Mila, you are suffering on my account for no reason. I am your undoing. You need to free yourself from me…
- Like that…like that…Mila burst out in restrained sobs…for this I suffered days and years for this I got to this point…
- But there is no suggestion…
- What there is no suggestion?
- Why should you lose your mind and destroy our lives? I am not demanding from you impossibilities, rather, what is owed to me as a woman, as your wife…
- But I want this to come with our parents' agreement, with their blessings, with their good will…
- We will never achieve that…My hair will turn white and we will never achieve that… you have patience, my friend, extra patience…while the power of patience has failed me. I can't anymore, I can't anymore…
She spoke with pain and bitterness. And he heard with a lowered head and downcast eyes as if guilty.
This time he did not find the right words nor the courage to quiet or placate her. He felt himself entirely obligated to her.
They lived together for a few months pleasantly and peacefully, peeked with yearning gazes, as if each one was drinking their happiness from their overflowing cup, until on one of the days Mila expressed to him her hidden secret, a woman's secret. He was excited and quiet, trying to subdue his feelings and speak with her truthfully.
- Good, Mila, good. Here they will stone us, both my parents and yours. We will leave here, travel the world. There we will live our lives properly, without fear.
- Here too I am not afraid…Mila answered coldly, and in her eyes there shone a strange gleam.
- What does that mean?
- It is my business… she hinted.
- Ach, so…Moshe Ber wondered, and took her hint - and I will never agree to that, never.
- How's that?
- Because it is my child, the first of my vigor… since it is forbidden to destroy the seed…
- Nonsense! - Mila interrupted this is my business and not your business…
- It is our business… Moshe Ber corrected I ask you, Mila, that you will not do such a thing, you will not do it…
He bent over and kissed her, and the pleas of his gaze wrapped her whole being.
- Remember please, Mila, remember this…
However, she did her thing. Once when he came to her room, he found her friend, a midwife, tending her at her bedside. Mila was pale and melancholy, and in her eyes there burned a hidden fear.
- A simple accident, an accident…Mila apologized quietly.
Her friend also confirmed this, swore to him faithfully that it was just an accident, neither she nor Mila were not at fault for it. Moshe Ber sensed the deceit of their words, shot a look at Mila and at her friend, and got out of the way.
- Murder, murder, his heart pounded within him, an enmity mixed with compassion emerged from him for Mila and for himself, who did not properly appreciate their mutual lives and their strange situation in which they were placed. He primarily blamed himself, who caused this sin, and decided to immediately do something, that would have in it some appeasement for her and her abject maternal feelings. And very soon, as soon as she got up from her bed, he drew her to the office of the rabbinate and married her according to the law, and gave his marriage public validity, and invited their many friends to a celebration of their wedding, and even to their parents, on both sides, arranged letters of apology and appeasement and asked them to forget the past. His parents did not answer at all, while Mila's parents came and kissed them and blessed them with a parental sweetness, and with their staring everywhere, until Moshe retired to the corner and Mila breathed deeply when they left.
From then their lives began flowing in the standard path. The distant ones began to draw near. And their abode
that had been ostracized by those close to the family and the pure-minded among them became from now on a foothold for uncles and aunts and relatives, who saw an obligation to themselves to appease the wounded couple, who had suffered enough. Also, their inadequate livelihood improved greatly, following the involvement of the relatives, who now extended their protection over the proper couple, and from every side offered them work and wages, and also entered into the thicket of the matters to reconcile between Moshe Ber and his parents. Moshe Ber's parents agreed and made peace with him, renewed their full allowance of support for him, and accepted Mila pleasantly, as befits the wife of their son, and their daughter-in-law. Except that they avoided visiting them, due to habit and the keeping of their tradition and their protection of their traditional rights, which was stained with something. Moshe Ber went through it with his usual complete disrespect. Mila, however, even though she pretended that she wasn't concerned about them or their visits, boiled inside from suppressed insult, and saw in this, after the peace, serious damage to their honor and the honor of her father's house.
With the material comfort, Moshe Ber left work in teaching and again became engrossed in his studies and his beloved books. This time Mila approved of these actions, and herself increased the vigor of her work and brought abundance into the house. The burden of livelihood and the suffering grew lighter. Moshe Ber accepted the cessation of work in his quiet nest and cherished the seclusion of his four cubits. However, Mila was drawn now in her frantic way to the commotion of company, pursued gatherings of friends, and fun parties, and would frequently leave the house. When she parted from the passion of her blood, and warmth poured out from her, she would return to Moshe Ber as to her sheltering nest, and poured out her love and kindness on him, as if purified from her repulsive habits that clung to her, but she would immediately return to her old ways, like a drunk to his vomit, without the ability to restrain herself over her weaknesses.
Moshe Ber recognized this change that had taken place in Mila and was not angry. With an astuteness of feeling, he penetrated to the depths of her soul, and discerned what was taking place within her. The sorrow of the flesh was such that he had no remedy for, the suffering of years that disappeared without satisfaction; and it acquired a shriveled and sickly brokenness. How could he quench this flowering and thriving woman, how could he calm the stormy erupting waves of blood?! He gave her complete freedom in her actions, he dismissed, in his way, all the suspicions that crept into his heart, and uprooted them, for he depended on the sincerity of her heart, and the purity of their relationship, which were not cast in doubt at all.
- Let her enjoy herself a little and diminish the boredom in the company of her friends and acquaintances as she desires, and she will return to her home calm and satisfied; why should he aggravate her with his difficult state of mind, and why should he force on her his angry will, when she is free by herself and not imprisoned in her house?
And again Mila became pregnant, a second and a third time, and she destroyed it. Moshe Ber watched over her like every guard, cooed to her affectionately, like the moaning of a dove, and pleaded with her: please have pity on him, and on their lives, and do not destroy a gift of God… And she, with ridicule, protested all his pleas and warnings, and insisted and did her own thing. Only then was his faith weakened within him; even her great devotion could not cover up his doubts, which bit his flesh like the tongue of a python. Out of mental distress and torturous insomnia, Moshe Ber came at last to a certain conclusion. He did not hurry to do it, he prepared in his usual way, with restraint, and at the hour of the decision, he informed Mila briefly:
This matter is damaging our relationship, and requires repair. I will keep faith with our covenant, and I will never take another wife… Mila collapsed beneath her when she heard the words coming out of his mouth. She recognized the smile in his speech
and the cold that was in his eyes, that this was not just a warning and burst out into sobs. Now the situation as it was it became clear to her, and with all of a woman's strategies tried to straighten what was twisted.
- The righteousness is with you, Moshe Ber, the righteousness is with you… She apologized. You are allowed to demand more proper attitude to you… You are entitled to it, entitled…
She abstained from her previous way of life, and swore off enjoyment of any meetings or parties with friends, until Moshe Ber berated her and showed her error to her.
- It was not this that I intended. You do not need to be a nazirite in my presence, nor bound to a spiritual path. You are a free creature. Your free time is yours to use as you desire, and I only ask one thing of you not to repudiate your purpose as a woman, a mother, a housewife.
She nodded her head to him as a sign of agreement, and he was warmed by the light that was kindled in her eyes, as recompense for all the suffering with which she caused him. She planned her interests with intelligence and knowledge, tended the hearth flame that burned in the house, and about the matters of the friends that were outside of it. Until the tears were mended, and the rejuvenation between them was strengthened.
However, when she conceived a fourth time, and she felt clearly that she would not be influenced by Moshe Ber, if she would do something, she schemed and pretended she was sick. She sought guidance, as it were, of the doctors, she went wherever she went, for the sake of healing and recovery, and returned home when the weakness was still permeating her limbs and the pleasant expression on her face had faded a little; she returned, when her cheerful smile spread over her lips and her arms were spread to receive her partner. Moshe Ber was well-tested; he recognized immediately, in the innocent twinkle in her eyes, and the sweetness that was in her words, the traces of hidden malice and cold-blooded murder. This time he did not object or protest, pretended not to know, and went with her pleasantly and modestly, as usual. But within himself he made an accounting with his soul, and strove to understand the circumstances of these misdeeds of hers. On the one hand, she was bound to him with a strong love, and on the other hand she did not want to have a child with him. He found that the inadequate health of his body and his poor social situation were destroying him.
For about two years Moshe Ber dwelt outside of the country and saw a reward for his toil. His illness improved over time. He excelled in his studies. From season to season, on holidays, he visited his home, and he found in Mila a wife of his own heart. The plentiful support that his parents gave him, the abundance in the house and on holidays, came from afar as renewing and invigorating, shook off the anger and the bitterness from Mila that she carried within herself, and made her comfortable and mixed with her qualities and her demands, and he rejoiced with her as to the wife of his youth, who accompanied him in his life for good and for ill. And precisely this time, when she saw herself near the goal, and her spouse going in the right way, and she longed to conceive and give birth, Moshe Ber hurried and grasped the deed of men, and dissuaded her from her desire, and appeased her with consolation: now, in the middle of the way, certainly it is not worth it. Now this can undermine all our plans and get in our way.
And she acceded and didn't accede. She became immersed in her world, and diversions of hope, which emerged as lines of happiness and light within the plenty of his letters, that he rushed to her almost every day. And in the secret of her abode, devoted to her dream while awake, she forced the issue, and wanted to shorten the days and the nights and finally reach that purpose, which was desired by the two of them as one.
The World War that came suddenly caught Moshe Ber in Germany, when he was reading Mila's last letter, which did not have in it a shred of what was going on, and was entirely fraught with faith in their happy future. Full months Moshe Ber suffered internment camps, as a conscript of the Russian army, as a prisoner; and only after great effort, by the leaders of the Jews in Germany and friends of his father, he reached Berne in neutral Switzerland, and there he continued to complete his studies as a college student. In his long isolation, he immersed himself entirely in his studies, he was exemplary to his friends and his teachers, who supported him to the best of their ability. He was entirely cut off from his country and the city of his birth. He received no reply to the many letters that he sent to his house and to his father's house. One old letter, that rolled around in the cases of the mail of the Red Cross, that reached him indirectly, updated him a little on the situation. Mila's father died a quick death with the outbreak of the war. Mila went out after the death of her father to her sister's house in southern Russia to distract herself a little, and with the conquest of the borders by the German army she remained stuck in distant Russia, without the ability to return home. Moshe Ber, who saw before him his destroyed world for this third year, did not despair, and carried his suffering in silence. He completed his degree in law with excellence, and also obtained a permanent position in the area, and made an honorable living. All his efforts to discover Mila's residence in Russia and to connect with her in an exchange of letters were of no avail. The answer of the Red Cross was always negative: She went out to Russia, and her place is not known. Moshe Ber continued with his work, and became tirelessly immersed in public cultural activism. His many acquaintances who came into contact with him were amazed at his quickness and his punctiliousness and his peace of mind, which accompanied him on his diverse activities. His honesty, his hair style and his dress, which were neatly done, proudly covered his deep grief and his troubled soul, which slowly undermined the unstable foundations of his health. With the fourth year of the World War, sparks of hope for a rapid peace flickered, and Moshe Ber's hardships were decorated with the glow of the coming redemption. He fell to his bed on account of a light cold, to which he did not pay attention, and finally developed, as a consequence of his old defect, and his body's weakness, and the great neglect by him, into a fatal illness from which he did not recover. He lay alone on his bed and pondered the passing days with his difficult spirit, and the mistakes that he had made in his brief futile life, and the corrections that he was destined to make, if fate would favor him and return him to his home. He kept his many visitors distant from him, and even the small number of friends that he cherished, he did not allow to come to his house. He wanted to be alone, left to himself, dreaming his dream and distracting himself with his hope. He ignored his illness, in his usual way, overcame it, and even amazingly inclined the heart of his doctors, who recognized the seriousness of his condition, to believe in his rapid healing, on account of his spiritual powers that were hidden in him which provided him with an abundance of strong spiritual health. He recuperated little by little, and got up and walked about in the house on his cane, and with his banter and jokes and sayings, caused pleasure to all who were around him, and all who served in his house. He again instituted the previous order of his day, even though he still did not go outside, and read and reviewed and prepared his articles, and planned for the large amount of work that had been neglected during his illness. He also sat and attempted to write his regular letter to Mila, which he sent by way of the Red Cross, just because, to
Russia, in his transmitting each time another presumed address, lest, lest it reach its destination, and recorded the date, and also drafted and wrote something more, and suddenly he fell off his chair.
The members of the household found him dead, with his forgiving smile on his lips, while the name Mila was written on the paper, put in the wrong place, crooked, ripped up, and bringing to an end the suffering of remorse and longing engraved upon it.
And Mila the forced separation shocked her to the brink of despair, and she saw in it a punishment from heaven, which she justifiably deserved. When she cheered up a little, and found interest in her strenuous efforts to connect with Moshe Ber, a new disaster fell on her. Her father died very suddenly. In her bitter anguish, in which she was entirely in pain without letup: why did Moshe Ber distance himself from his house? Why? She fled from her four cubits and from her pleasures, and from her mother's widowhood, to her sister in Russia.
In her sister's house, in the wide-open space of Russia, she rested a little from the fury of her sorrow, however her world darkened for her. She entered into herself, and did not come into contact with anyone, and became engrossed only in work in the house, and taking care of her sister's children, and trips saturated with delusion and dream of a distant happiness that once was, and passed by… The war and its sufferings almost didn't touch her. The closing of the borders and the cutting of the connection with her mother and the members of her household did not agitate her at all. She remained indifferent to their fate, as if reconciling herself to her misfortune and the misfortunes of the time and the surroundings. Only one point of light still flickered before her: Moshe Ber, after all, exists, indeed he is alive somewhere and worried about her…and they will still meet, surely they will meet….
When the World War was concluded, there immediately took place, with the old hopes that were shaken up, the terrible pogroms against the Jews of Russia, that tore her from her roots and from her little steadfastness, and she and the members of her family hurried to find themselves a refuge wherever they could. In the tumultuous and confusing whirlwind, they forgot to take one child. They forgot and they fled, they forgot and they escaped. Whereas Mila retraced her steps, returned with superhuman, driving force, without paying attention to the expected danger, and the choking cries: Mila, Mila… And brutal people attacked her, next to the mutilated child, to quench their despicable need. From her tightly closed teeth, on living flesh that was torn in her mouth, flowed a stream of her blood, and her dimming consciousness was cut off in her final moments on a sweet, sweet, memory: Moshe Ber … However, providence ordained otherwise. She awoke from her long, long, sleep in her white bed, in a room soaked with drugs and medicines, with her hazy head struggling in vain to make a connection between her world from which she had emerged and the awakening reality, when her stupefied eyes with difficulty gripped a human image, who was walking around near her and taking care of her, with worry and great fear, as if all his life was dependent on her.
When her senses returned to her, she recognized immediately the person who was helping at her bedside. He was Alexei Pavlov, their neighbor's son, an orphan, who grew up in his grandmother's house, a Russian Pravoslavie, and they gossiped about him because he was of Jewish extract. A leftist among leftists, a fervent Bolshevik, friendly with his Jewish friends as one of their own, and who always lifted his eyes towards her, with the modesty of his gaze and his silent longing, really like Moshe Ber in his gaze, and impressed on her soul a deep, deep, hidden echo of days gone by. All that she now saw around her was like a miracle in her eyes, like a dream from an imaginary world, that she almost didn't believe
what her eyes were seeing. Nevertheless, Grandmother Masha, the mother of Alexei's father, her good acquaintance from before, who did not move from her bed the whole time, solved the riddle for her. Alexei fled with the rise of the Whites and hid in the nearby grove with his friend Lada, until he succeeded in being accompanied to the camp of the Bolsheviks. And when the rioters burst into the city and created destruction in it, Alexei suddenly attacked at the head of a battalion of Reds that drove out the Whites like chaff before the wind, and in an opportune moment, he also saved her, the single remnant of the Jews in the city, from the hands of her predators, her torturers.
And the members of her family? Mila asked with terrified restraint.
The old woman uttered something, crossed herself, and groaned quietly. The weakness again encompassed her, and she sank again into a deep abyss, whole days and months, hovering between life and death, anxious over her fate and observing every change for the better in silent expectation.
When she finally recuperated and stood on her feet, and came among people, they informed her of many details, what they had kept from her in Pavlov's house, and she saw before her a new world and a different regime and a new style of people that were different in their roles. Those who were upper were made lower, and the lower ones were elevated to the level of the authority and the government. Jews were not Jews, and gentiles were not gentiles. The old people were thrust into the corner, and the young people were arrogant with the power that was given to them, and with haughtiness rejected the teaching of their fathers and connection to the past, and permitted what they forbade, and broke off every yoke of family and the tradition of the generations.
Lonely and alone, banished from her family, from her acquaintances, and from those who knew her, Mila remained redeemed and rescued in Pavlov's house, and slowly adjusted to their world and their way of life. Alexei Pavlov got a high-level position in the Soviet regime, as a supervisor for the army. He went about with her as a brother from birth, and next to him, Grandmother Masha, who protected her with devotion, like a compassionate mother. The two of them made it pleasant for her to dwell in the shade of their roof, and integrated her into their house. The habit of years and ancestral heritage still troubled her and her conscience from time to time, and destroyed her spirit and poured bitter drops into the cup of her life, which was poured anew: What is there for her here, and who is there for her here? However, time did its own. The feeling that was in the streets and the engaging revolutionary ideas that penetrated the holes and the cracks into her consciousness slowly changed her world view, and with a concealed hand smoothed the many differences between race and nation, and stitched together the tears that were within it, and made it comfortable for the whispers of affection and the proximity that showed her benefactors to her.
But the thin webs of the conquest that were woven around her with delicate gentleness by Alexei Pavlov, the pleasant young man, who outside of the barracks did not know another pleasure except to spend time within the walls of her room, were made pleasant for her and very close, as if there had cracked open inside her a kind of emotion that she had not known and whose significance she did not know. Her heart became awakened to the erupting streams that carried away all the old and worn out, and distracted her from the past, and prepared her to greet the good and the beautiful that were in the new and the next.
Nevertheless, she was not entirely cut off from her roots. The old still fermented in her somewhere in their hiding places, in the depths. When Alexei Pavlov finally proposed that she be married to him, she still hesitated, fell into his arms with tears of joy and an outburst of emotion, as if sheltered under the shade of the only shelter, whereas this proposal of his, for various reasons and excuses, she rejected. The time was not yet right, her health was still not in order, and her spirit was not yet with her. From now on she began to strive with all her strength for contact with her mother and her relatives outside of the country. Russia was blockaded on all sides, subject to the elimination of the rebellion of its enemies from within and the continuation of
its war with Poland, its enemy on the outside. However, after Russia quieted down from its wars and the borders were opened, the first information was received from Mila's house a bundle of letters and notes from her brothers and sisters, each person with their own story, each person and the story of what happened to them. From the outset, with the first reading, the information was lukewarm touching on details from the lives of the members of her family that were already old news, and that did not touch her at all, as if the world still existed as before, and nothing had changed. However, she swallowed up whole pages in reading, and her heart was afraid for the essence, and she skipped over the lines with her eyes, and found on one of the sheets information, as if hinting, on the death of her mother, and restrained herself with paralysis, and searched on, and on, and suddenly she stumbled upon one vague piece of news: Moshe Ber had completed his world in his usual way. He was a tzaddik, and he died a tzaddik. Her eyes went black, and everything inside her turned upside down. With a blind sense that had still not been extinguished, she searched and found among the letters a section from his last letter, in which was written only the date and her single name Mila, and the crooked letters danced before her likes sparks of fire, and burned her heart, and her lips glued themselves to the writing, and her eyes rose… She fell down, and again sank into a deep extended faint, placed between life and death for a long, long, time, without exit, and almost without hope…
Only after she became completely healthy and rose from her bed, abundant with grace and refined by the furnace of her suffering, like a creature that had been born anew, at peace with her fate, did she become devoted to the house of those that had gathered her in with all the warmth of her love, like a devoted daughter to the elderly Masha and like a faithful wife to Alexei Pavlov. Now she did away with the barrier, and her world was purified before her. She carried the weight of the house and participated in the toil of Alexei, and shared with him equally. And in all that she did, in the ways of the house and the delights of her spouse, she made an effort to erase the traces of the past, to cause to forget the troublesome memories and overcome the hidden emotions, so that they would not bother her and so that they would not taint the few moments of her happiness.
When she became pregnant and first felt the living heartbeat inside of her, a terrible dread immediately attacked her in anticipation of what was happening and what was coming: indeed because of this…this…she lost Moshe Ber. But nevertheless, the uncertain vitality that was becoming integrated into her roots, gripped her and intoxicated her senses and gladdened all of her being: now you will give birth, you will surely give birth, you will hug a living soul to your bosom, for what else does she have in her world?
The child, who cried next to her, gave her a sad and hopeful image. He was healthy. A strong body, and a wonderfully beautiful face. Alexei stood next to her bed and caressed her with his good glances. Sparks of happiness and joy burst out from his eyes to hers, which gripped all who were near her: there is a reason for all the suffering, and it is worth it to continue…worth it… He bent over her and kissed her and surrounded her with questions, and stuck in his last, fundamental, question:
- And his name, Mila?
- His name, his name…
Mila was confused, peeked at his face, alternately blushed and blanched, and stammered weakly.
- His name is…Moshe Ber…
- What? W…what? Alexei listened closely to hear.
- How? Movshe Beer?
- Yes. Moshe Ber.
- Mila, what is with you?
- Indeed, I said: Moshe Ber.
- Alexei examined her with his warm gaze, recognized in her tortured face pleas for compassion, and spat out a plea:
- My dove, Milotchka, indeed this is not possible…
- Because of what?
- Because my friends will make fun of me Movshe Bir, Movshe Bir… Have mercy on me, Milotchka…
- But… but… Mila deliberated in sorrow, and her face became embarrassed with a grimace of confusion.
- Let it be like yours - Alexei was wounded by the look on her face- let it be as you say… But not Movshe Bir, not Movshe, let it be Bir alone, the name has the ring of an English name, Bir, Bir.
Mila nodded her head, straightened up, and calmed down a little. Alexei picked up the pillow on which the baby lay and waved it and shook it and laughed and sang repeatedly, Bir, Bir. And Mila accompanied him with her weak maternal glances, with recognition of thanks and deep affection. And when he left her by herself and parted from her to go to the clerical office to register the name of the child in the birth registry book, Mila brought the tender newborn's pillow close to herself, pressed him to her heart, and her lips clung to the mouth of the chirping child, and with the devotion of prayer and joy and thanks she embraced him: My Moshe Ber, my Moshe Ber, Moshe Ber, Moshe Ber…
Faygl Rabinovitch (Mayzler)
My mother, Khaye-Hodl, departed this world in her early forties. My brother, Yehoshua-Velvl, was already living in America by then.
Of the three girls in my father's homeEtie, Libe and FayglI, Faygl, was the youngest, at eight years old.
My mother's death was a devastating experience for me. I remember her to this day: shorter than average height; a tidy figure; blue eyes; pale, delicate skin; blonde hair combed up into a bun at the top of her head.
In my memory she has remained as the model of an exemplary human figure: courteous, patient, and highly capable. Not only was she an exceptional homemakerable to sew a garment, ready to knit an entire sock from scratch on a Friday afternoonbut she was also the one who taught me how to read and write. It was she, and not my father the scholar. So that even before I was old enough to think of attending Bulke's school I could already fluently read not only the khumesh (for which I received a reward of a ten-kopeck piece), but also German and Russian.
That my father, Avrom-Mayer Mayzler, became a more learned scholar, and one of the best Hebrew teachers in the area are well known facts. His pupils (firstly only boys, but in later years girls too) were mostly capable learners. But he did not want to teach me. He
hired another teacher, Sherman, who would fall asleep as I was practicing reading.
I used to listen attentively when my father taught his students and would derive great pleasure when everything went according to plan. But when a student gave an unsatisfactory response to a question, and my father began to dole out slaps, I would hide in a corner and cry in solidarity with the punished child.
One incident in particular left a lasting impression on my memory: a clever little boy, Moyshele Mints, answered back to the teacher after receiving a powerful smack.
People are no angels, he shouted through his tears, refusing to continue studying with my father.
Summer was the time when my father would go for a stroll with his friends, after his Sabbath nap, through the woods toward the Sajnoa large, beautiful lake. Naturally I would tag along. One of the men who would walk and talk with him (they liked to carry out discussions no matter the context: walking, sitting, standing) was, I recall, Leyzer Alpern, one of Eyzenshtam's grandsons.
The winter Sabbath days were mostly spent at home. My father's friends would come, and also some of my elder sister's friends. What did they all do? They discussed all manner of issues, from global matters to Jewish matters, books, writers, Haskalah, Zionismwhat didn't they discuss?
My father was not a healthy man. He suffered from a variety of ailments including asthma, high blood-pressure, stomach problems, insomnia, and poor eyesight.
To sooth his nerves my father liked to play a card game called Thousand. His companion in this pastime was the lawyer Shapiro. They would play one round after another. Shapiro would tap his glass and say: Khaye-Hodl, the tea is cold. My mother would take it, add coal to the samovar, and hand him a fresh glass of tea. Shapiro would dip the tip of his finger into the glass and say: Ah, that's better, and would proceed to leave his tea sitting until it got so cold he could swallow it in one gulp.
My father was considered to be a miser. His reputation for stinginess was perhaps a little exaggerated, but there was some truth to it. It was at its core a fear for the future, which every Jew living in similar circumstances suffered from.
They considered my father to be a wealthy man, but to the best of my recollection the children of those who owed my father money lived better than we did. His debtors would indeed pay the interest they owed, but my father never saw a penny of the principal.
My father married a second time. My stepmother, Sonia, was a picture-perfect widow. She had a daughter, Maytke, from her previous marriage, who was even more beautiful than her mother. In 1915 my stepsister Brokhe (Bertha) was born. Sonia and her daughter died in the early years of the 1930s. We never heard from Bertha again; one must assume she was one of the six million.
My father managed to thwart those whose names should be erased: he died a natural death, at 75 years of age, shortly before the murderers invaded.
Born in Augustow. His father, Ahren Sinai, was renowned as one of the town's great scholars. When he died (Ruven was 5 years old at the time) the family moved to Grodno. Ruven attended kheyder followed by yeshiva, and received from the Kovno Chief Rabbi Reb Yitskhok Elkhanon authorization to practice as a rabbi.
But he did not want to be a rabbi and became a private Hebrew teacher instead.
In 1894 he emigrated with his family as part of the first wave of Jewish colonists in Argentina at Baron Hirsch's colony, Moisés Ville. There he became a religious and cultural leader.
When a heated conflict arose between the Moisés Ville colonists and the directors of the Jewish Colonization Organization, Sinai traveled to Paris with a delegation to receive justice. The pleas of the delegation fell on deaf ears and consequently (at the end of 1897) Sinai and his family left Moisés Ville and settled in Buenos Aires where the Eastern European Jewish immigrants offered him a rabbinical post. He accepted the offer, but did not wish to take a salary for his work. He earned a living teaching private students from bourgeois families.
His first articles in Hebrew were published in HaMaggid, HaKol and HaMelitz. Under the pseudonym BRS (By Ruven Sinai) he published in Rodzinzon's Yiddish newspaper Kol La'am. From Argentina he wrote for the London Hebrew weekly HaYehudi. He also worked in his son's newspaper Vider-Kol, as well as the Folkstime, Yidishe Argentiner Vokhnblat and the first daily Yiddish newspaper in Argentina, Der Tog.
He left behind a manuscript in Hebrew with the title The History of the Jews in Argentina. His son Mikhl Sinai passed the manuscript on to Zalman Reisen (Zalman Reisen visited Argentina in 1932 with the intention of publishing a YIVO edition on the history of Jews in Argentina, but nothing came of it and the manuscript was lost during the war).
Ruven HaCohain Sinai died in Buenos Aires. His son was also a writer and journalist in Argentina. Lexicon of Modern Yiddish Literature, Volume Six, New York, 1965
Goldshteyn, Dovid (born April 15, 1868, died November 24, 1931). Born in Yagestav (Yagustova) [Augustow]. He studied in kheyder and in a yeshiva. In 1882 he emigrated to England, where he worked in a sweatshop and became an active leader in the local anarchist movement. In 1885 he settled in the United States. He was an active member of the New York anarchist organization Pioneers of Freedom. He then lived for a time in Philadelphia, where he was also active in an anarchist group, the Knights of Freedom.
In 1889 he was the Philadelphia delegate to a New York conference of anarchists and social democrats with the aim of founding a joint newspaper. He later lived for a time in Boston. He supported himself by working in various trades: he was a tailor, ran a newspaper stand, and later ran a coffee house in New York.
On February 18, 1887 he published his first poem entitled Der Ekspres (The Express) in the Nyu-Yorker Yidishe Folkstsaytung. He published social and lyrical poems in New York Jewish newspapers and magazines: Der Vegvayzer, Der Folks-Advokat, Fraye Arbeter Shtime, the Forverts, Tsaytgayst, Yidisher Kemfer, Di Tsukunft, and Der Veker, among others. He authored the book: Vinter Blumen, poems (New York, 1916), pp. 112, with a foreword by Leon S. Moissief. Yoel Entin wrote of his poetry: Goldshteyn's poems are remarkable for their powerful tone, in word choice and rhyme. N. B. Minkov characterized Goldshteyn as: By nature a fine lyricist, he was always full of images, lines, rhythms. This gave his work a certain disquiet, one which overpowered the poet entirely, a disquiet like that on the eve of creation.
For many years Goldshteyn was all but forgotten. In 1929 he fell gravely ill, and spent his final days in a hospice for the terminally ill in New York.
Lexicon of Modern Yiddish Literature, Vol. 2. New York, 1958.
Published by the World Jewish Culture Congress.
Born in Lithuania, lived in Augustow. He became a Maskil and a Socialist under the influence of the first socialist writers in Hebrew. With the group Am Olam, he came to America in 1882. He worked as a teacher in the New York Talmud Torah, though he was later forced to give up his position because of his apostasy.
He was active in the Jewish workers movement. In 1897 he helped found the Forverts. He wrote for the Forverts, and the Fraye Arbeter Shtime. Articles about Zionism, religion, Socialism etc. In 1901 Netter was active in re-establishing Di Tsukunft becoming the manager of the newspaper.
In his personal relationships he was the very picture of goodness and refinement.
From the New Yiddish Lexicon, New York, 1965.
Born in Lipsk on March 13. 1893. At 13 he began to work with his father in his tailoring workshop. In 1909 he came to New York, working in a sweatshop, and spending his free time educating himself. At 16 he was active in the Socialist Party. He began his literary career in Der Kundes and Di Varheyt, as well as in trade union newspapers. Together with A. Ayzen and H. Garvin, he published (1920) the monthly Der Humorist. From 1922 onward he was a regular contributor to Frayhayt, later Morgn-Frayhayt, in which he published humorous sketches, poems, and stories of the sweatshop. He wrote a column A Vort far a Vort. He also published in the journals Yidish Kultur and Zamlungen in New York; Naye Prese in Paris; Folks-Shtime in Warsaw. His books include: Af Laytish Gelekhter, Royte Feferlekh, Ikh Lakh Fun Der Velt, Lomir Zingen, Far Royte Ovntn, Gekemft Un Gelakht, Lebedik Un Lustik, Kamflustik, A Freylekhs, A Gut-Yontev, Krig Un Zig, Mit Gezang In Kamf, Tselokhes Di Trern, Kvekzilbers Penshtiferayen, Hert a Mayse, Shpil Tsum Tsil, Zingen Mir, Amol iz Geven, A Vort far a Vort, Af Vakatsye, Far Kleyn un Groys, Vi Zogt Der Feter.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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
Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 21 Aug 2022 by JH