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[Page 115]

Part I

City and People

[Page 116]

[Page 117]


Dov Sadan

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

I will give (or: deliver to you) such a patch (or: a blow, a strike, a whack, a flick) that you will fly off to Boiberik–that was a popular saying. That and its source (according to Harkavy [compiler of an early Yiddish dictionary] “Bibrock on the Rhine”) and its variants (Poiperik, Poperek) deserve a devoted study, and we will, with God's help, offer one now. The saying was commonly used in our region and I heard it often as a child, whether in my birthplace of Brod or later in my wide travels through Galicia. I heard it in all kinds of situations and from all kinds of people of every age. I must confess that today, after years, I regret that the saying has not come true, whether when the assistant teacher thundered it at me because I did something that seemed wrong to him or when a frivolous and overeager schoolboy attacked me because I did not cater to his whims, like for instance tearing off a button and giving it to him. Then if the saying would become true, it would furnish me a triple benefit. First, I could see that there was such a city with such a name that the strength of a slap would send people to it; second, I would see that town that I was not destined to see even if I traveled the length and breadth of Galicia; third, I would encounter friends and acquaintances from Boiberke in their homes, and I would begin to sniff out what the town had that made it seem to us such an active, vital, and moving place.

First of all, something about the older generation–I knew only three of them; two no longer remain; the third for many years I knew only through reports.

The first was Yoel Shpiegel, a happy man who loved to play pranks. I myself was the victim of one prank;--a young man who was striving for something, though he did not know what. I went to Lemberg in order to consult with the people at the “Tagblatt” [a newspaper], whom I then considered to be like “Ashlei Rabrabi” [a reference to a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch–in other words, he considered them to be authoritative guides]. Shpiegel, who was the secretary there, advised me earnestly that I should enroll in the Hebrew teachers school, which would make me an adult, and he advised me to come at such and such a time and present myself, in his name, to the secretary; so, you see, I did what he said, but it turned out that he was the secretary there as well, and so I–as he said with pleasure–flew from Boiberik to Boiberik. But his biggest prank came when he traveled with Dr. Meir Geyer as an envoy to America, and the New York Yiddish press made a big fuss over his companion and gave him all kinds of publicity, while he, Shpiegel, remained–as he should have said–in the shadow of someone's beautiful, wide, stately beard. The next day, the worldwide Yiddish press ran a terrible cable that Yoel Shpiegel, who had really come as an envoy, had died; and a day later, another cable brought him back to life, and he appeared again in the papers, which had at first ignored him and now had to speak of him a second time: they paid double for their sin [a reference to Isaiah 40]. Like every other clown, he was at heart a serious and not a little sad soul; and this mixture of clown and sadness was reflected in his writing that would have to be sifted through, and what remains would have to be in a book.

The second was R. Pesachiah Afuer, the father of my young friend Yosef Afuer–a tall man who used to bend over to listen to a person, not only when the other person was short but even if he was taller. He was always ready to listen and to help.

When I knew him, he lived in Lemberg on Bernstein Street, and he was often a guest in the institutions on that street. I once asked him why he did not change his apartment–his was dark and dingy–and he responded that if one wanted to be a modern Jew in Lemberg, it was appropriate to live on this street: if a person simply stepped outside, one had the cultural world, that is, the Jewish community, at hand–or, as one might say: the Yad Cherutzim Hall where all kinds of gatherings pondered and considered matters. Not far off was the “Prasa” press of the Poalei Tzion, and there was the Tikvat Tzion organization, where he was an important member; and opposite, likewise, in Federbush's building, were the offices of Keren Kayemes, of “He-Chalutz,” and of “Ezra” [All of these were community and charitable organizations]. In those last institutions, we would meet almost every week–

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the work of “Ezra” was financial, to support the training and Aliyah of pioneers, and since representatives of all the Zionist parties could make appearances there, it often happened that they wanted to use the institute in order to serve as our political guardians. At that time the so-called ordinary Zionists had little appetite for that, especially after the influence of Dr. Emil Shmorak weighed in against it. He was not one of our admirers. We were interested in maintaining our autonomy, since the ordinary Zionist representatives in the “Ezra” were from the old school, students of the Zionist Integral, Avraham Korkis and Adolph Shtand. And our two dear comrades, Dr. Henrik Sterner and Yosef Afuer, did us a great favor when they prevailed with their fathers, old Sigmund Sterner and middle-aged Petachia Afuer, that they should be the representatives of the ordinary Zionists. They were honest and disinterested, doing the job for its own sake. You must understand that both were influenced by love of their children, and R. Petachia not only loved his handsome son but understood him. He understood him when he went to the training camp in the village of Okna; he understood him when he went to Eretz Yisroel. What he did not understand was that such a handsome, sweet young man should so early have been ripped away by a murderous bullet, after which the broken R. Petachia buried his son. As I heard, since then, everything went downhill for him–he had a bitter old age, the sad lot of one who would be a servant to his former servant–he always had the feeling of uselessness, in which from time to time there was a gleam of consolation: there, in the land where Zionist hope had its dreams, his grandson, thank God, made his way; and grandchildren have a habit of bringing great-grandchildren, they should live and know nothing of sorrow.

The third, who to this day I have never met face to face and with whom I have only spoken on the telephone, was a constant guest with us in the land, a confirmed Zionist–R. Yoel Julius Haber. Anyone who has read his book of memoirs, and the author calls it specifically the memoirs of a Zionist, knows that he has much to tell; it is a long chain of accomplishments, and where has he not been and when did he not lend a shoulder or a hand? He was no brilliant general, but also not a plain soldier, surely a kind of officer. It pleased him to say: an ordinance officer on his way to deliver the command from the general to the soldiers, he allowed himself not only the duty to finish but also to initiate. He is the type that Herzl sought and rejoiced to find, as he said so concisely: “I need men, men, men”; and if one reads his book, one sees clearly that although he went away early to Columbus, to live in his house, his town, living on his inheritance, his principal attribute was Jewish mercuriality.

This Jewish mercuriality is felt in every contact with Boiberkes from the younger generation, whether in those I have heard of or those that I know personally. No one from Boiberke came to my home town, and when I would look at Romer's school map of Galicia, I never saw clearly under the large circle of Lemberg the small circle of Boiberke, so I would not believe it was real. The first name I heard of a Boiberken was–Ariel Alvail. I heard of him from my friends who at the end of the First World War returned from Vienna and set about establishing “Ha-Shomer ha-Tza'ir.” Each of them became sooner or later a group leader, a flight leader, and so on, and would tell of a group leader or a flight leader in Vienna–Duvid Kaharik would tell about Ephraim Freifogel (Dror), Yakov (Kuba) Shtlander about Yissachar Reiss, and Mendel (Menachem) Zwillinger about Ariel Alvail. Although the group leaders were often not older than their underlings, maybe only a year or two, they treated them with respect, whether they knew them or not, especially in the earlier times, just as a Chasid regards the gestures of his rebbe, especially in the first days after he leaves the rebbe's court. So it was for a little time with us in the confines of “Ha-Shomer ha-Tza'ir,” as if Ephraim Freifogel went around, when he spent a couple of days with us from Stanislav, where he had built a strong organization, or Ariel Alvail, who had returned to Boiberke and then–as his friends said–overturned the whole town. Evidence of their success or that of their students in other towns, mine among them, was the large wave of Aliyah that took place over two years or so in all the cities and towns. Today, as we look back on that distant time, we must admit that the whole affair was a wonder–the young people who came from Vienna brought with them no large baggage, and nevertheless the little

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that they brought filled the world. Or, to put it better, it was the kernel of an overflowing world.

And if that kernel developed, if the young men and women fulfilled the great, perhaps the greatest obligation: said and done, it was in a large, often crucial way done in the character and the mentality of the two young men who came from the city on the Danube to their half-ruined towns and led a quiet but profound revolution. Aryeh Akvail was one of them, and when I saw him for the first and only time outside of Israel–in Lemberg–and we exchanged a few sentences. I felt from his tone and his gestures like he was an old acquaintance: even so had Henrik Adler (Chanan Nesher) told of Aryeh Alvail's use of a Polish saying when they met a year earlier: “the clock of history has struck twelve.” At first glance it looks like empty words, something to brush off, but he who said it and those who heard it knew it as the truth–it was the final hour. To put it otherwise: The foreign soil burns under our feet. This was a year or two after the First World War, and he and his fellows acted as if they were in their final hour. What else is there to say–the young people knew and understood more than all the wise men did; a Nehemiah of our time would say, “May God remember them for good.”

And now back to Aryeh Alvail–barely two years after that informal meeting I heard a striking characteristic of him and his comrades in the group in Bitania Ilit [an early kibbutz]. It was given by David (Dolek) Horvitz, one of the comrades, before a small group in Lemberg. I will admit that I listened to his emotional speech with mixed feelings–everything that our comrades in Eretz Yisroel let us know was familiar, but I had no understanding or sympathy for such isolation as in Bitania Ilit; for me there was too much pretentiousness that I especially disliked. I had this thought: it seemed like a high-class castle at the top of a mountain, unlike the houses in our valley towns. And the group hailed from Brtod, Zlotchow, Ritin, Tarna. In a short time they themselves understood, and as their fallen “community” took shape, it was already far from their reality. Yes, to David Horvitz' account, an old Jew with a lively face listened, and I was his interpreter. That man–it was Alvail's father–listened and listened and made a skeptical gesture with his head. Possibly he understood something that I had, although perhaps in other terms. Anyway, he summed it up: “You're a Polyanna. Don't go crazy. What will come of it–at best a pedantic reputation.” I understood him in my own way: “You're from Brod, from Zlotchow, from Ritin, from the line of Bobierke. Don't go crazy for an aristocratic-individualistic step. And truly, they were all just people, as much as they thought of their pedigrees.

Years later I often met with Aryeh Alvail, especially when he painted me at the “Bezalel” [the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design] and we would discuss our towns. The upshot of our conversations, as each of us spoke of his town, was what Rabbi Akiva said to his students about his wife Rachel: “[The Torah] that is mine and yours belongs to her” [Babylonian Talmud Ketuvot 63]. But the towns were not alike. Boiberke was fully contained. We have already seen that the fine person that had stirred things up was a well-known painter and graphic artist: his friends came and took part, each under his own banner, which was substantial and colorful.

A young man named Michael Shein (later: Zabari] came. He had barely left when he developed a love of botany. He began his studies and completed his mastery of botany. He became a professor and a member of the Israel Academy of Learning, the author of authoritative studies in his field, and he produced a generation of students, who also brought him acclaim. A second young man came, Sama Zaid, the son of the rabbi of Boiberke, Mordechai Galler (later: Geller). He rose higher and higher and is today a big shot at “Tenuvah” Export. A third young man, Berl (Dov) Beher, came, a man of the people, and he brought with him a generous dedication to the living world, especially to livestock. For us in Israel he became the expert, with God's help, in knowledge of raising cattle and sheep. He wrote books on the subject, for example “Raising Sheep,” published “The Dot,” and when a shepherd or a cattleman needed advice, he would go to him in Ramat-Yochanan as if he were the rebbe of sheep. Then there came a young man, “Feivel Schledier, that is Shraga Kalay, a thorough Boiberker, immersed in folklore, whether anecdotal or musical. (If you want to hear his style, go listen to him lead the High Holiday prayers.). And soon he developed an aptitude for numbers. He studied mathematics, became a teacher, directed the Jewish school in Baghdad until he left with honors

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and he still teaches mathematics in Jerusalem, whether at the gymnasium or at the university. He is an educational inspector for middle schools. He taught a generation of students, many of them famous, and he is the author of many books. Then there was another young man, Moshe Vind, an expert in building houses, from those on Mt. Scopus to the rowhouses in many residential quarters. There was another young man, Gideon (Aharon) Krauthammer. He received the name Gideon from Gentiles on his way to Eretz Yisroel. He changed his family name to Keruvi because of something that happened. He had a weakness for weapons and for mountains. The former brought him to the Haganah, and when there was a problem or a calamity in Jerusalem in his area, he was there and helped people to escape. His other weakness brought him to be among the builders of Motza Illit [a settlement near Jerusalem]. He remains faithful to the pioneer spirit and he is helped by his eternal youth, like his youthful appearance, which is not offset by his white hair.

I now want to recall the beautiful Feigele (Tzipora) Redlech, a true Jewish beauty with blond hair who lives in Mishmar ha-Emek with her husband Mietek Gutgeld, that is, Mordechai Bentov, who was twice a government minister–but go have dealings with the government, and especially in light of the verse: “glorious is the king's daughter” [Psalm 45:14].

This is all I know about Boiberkers from the Third Aliyah, but I know a bit about a Boiberkers from the Fourth Aliyah, Uri Krauthammer (later Kruvi), Gideon's younger brother. He was very welcome to me–He was the first immigrant that I took up after his arrival, according to the teachings of “He-Chalutz.” I remember to this day the great joy that we shared in the Lemberg “Tz'irei Yehuda” when he and two friends, both from Pshemishl, Shener and Vithop (later Avitov), made Aliyah, and for us in Galicia, after the so-called Tobacco Aliyah opened the zel of the Fourth Aliyah. Later on, we were longtime neighbors–he used to tell me how his marriage came about: he was once walking by the seashore and suddenly he heard cries for help from someone whom the waves had overpowered and who was in danger, God forbid, of drowning. He jumped in and with great effort did the rescue. It was a young woman, who later became his wife, Miriam. She later presented him with twins–two sweet children whom it was a treat to watch grow up into successful young men. The older, Amnon, an aviator, who, to the great sorrow of those who knew him, fell from an airplane as he worked. The other–he should live long and happily–is an accomplished artist. I often look at that bright twin and think of Boiberke and its path to our sunny land.

To the Shomer ha-Tza'ir crowd also belonged Meir Shticker, although his path led to New York. Whoever listens properly to the fine Yiddish poems of this subtle poet, who takes care over his Boiberke Yiddish, can extract his idealism and hear the rhythm of youthful excitement that captured the youth of the town. How fitting is the heritage of our town in this refined, modern writer, clarified by the writer and critic A. Tabachnik in his book The Man in a Dream: The Works of Meir Shticker (New York: 1962). He says in the introductory chapter: “Shticker's Yiddishkeit is not a bookish Yiddishkeit but the lived Yiddishkeit of a Galician shtetl. If one seeks in his motifs, influences, allusions to the Chumash, to the prophets, to Chasidus, they are not from books. They are from the very air of a Jewish shtetl, from the Jewish reality, from the Jewish environment of the old home.”

Certainly Alvail's eye and Shticker's ear are indebted to their living shtetl, but now that it is ruined and destroyed, it lives thanks to the former's colors and the latter's sounds. To what can this be compared? A mother gives her life to her children, and they maintain her memory. They say Kaddish for her.

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The First Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society in New York
Later known as “Progressive Boiberker Young Men's Benevolent Society”

by Israel Gimpel (New York)

Translated by Claire Rosenson

It was after the horrible destruction of the Jewish community in Bobrka, after the Nazi murderers and their willing Ukrainian lackeys barbarically destroyed all the Jews in Bobrka and erased all traces of Yiddishkeit from the old historic town in the years 1939-1943, - that's when the New York Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society was the only Jewish help organization and started operating under the name “First Bobrka Assistance Union”, Progressive Bobrka Young Men's Benevolent Society and Ladies Auxiliary Relief.

The organizing of the Bobrka Union actually started a lot earlier when the Bobkra pioneers who immigrated to America organized themselves and founded the First Boiberker Sick and Benevolent Society.

The first young Bobrkans who went to America in the final years of the 19th century were children of poor parents who lived in Bobrka in more and more poverty. When they grew up they came to realize there was no future in this small backward town and started to search for a way out of this poverty and backwardness and to make a better life for themselves. At other times other Bobrkans heard the news of the “Goldena Medina”, the free land of America, a place that was thought of as a land that accepts with every person open arms and without question as to their religion or race. Also at that time they talked a lot about the opportunity where everyone can improve according to his ability and become rich and where you can conduct yourself according to your beliefs.

The first few years the Bobrka newcomers didn't fare well in New York. It was very natural that people who came from a small shtetl where one out of every two people knew one another would feel alone in the big tumultuous city of New York. Without knowing the language and without friends and relatives and stable income, but full of hope in their pioneering mission, they worked hard. Under the hardest conditions they worked at whatever they could from 12 to 14 hours a day.

Most of the time they slept at their workplaces for fear of losing their jobs to other persons. Under the worst conditions in the sweatshops, the Bobrkans dreamed about a better tomorrow for themselves and their families. That's how they worked day in and day out. They were thrifty with food and saved money to send to their families in Europe.

As the Bobrka immigrants became more assimilated in America, they thought of ways to bring their families from Europe. They planned how to find and help one another and how to live in the big city of New York.

That's how the first few Bobrka landsleit came together and founded the First Bobrka Health Assistance Union. Later in 1908 the Progressive Bobrka Young Men's Union was founded.

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Reb Sender Ehrlich from Strilke


The Village of Strilke near Boiberke

Motl Ehrlich (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

(Strelki, Ukraine)

49°38' 24°19'

Strilke was a village almost one and a half kilometers from the city. About twelve families lived in the village, but the village was always full of Jews from early in the morning until late at night. Jews had various businesses in the village, because there was a courtyard, a distillery, and people did business with Gentiles; people bought cattle, horses, grain, potatoes, and vegetables.

One of the most important citizens in Strilke was my grandfather, Sander Ehrlich, a”h. He lived to be 104. He lived until the impure hands of the Germans dragged him out–because he could not go on his own–and sent him to Belzec. Ever since I can remember, I thought of my grandfather as an old man. He was a tall, sturdy man, fastidious about his clothing. He knew Polish, both spoken and written. In his time, he had a warehouse that supplied arms to the Polish revolution in 1863. He was also a sworn judge. Like everyone else, he was an observant Jew. He welcomed the poor to his home. A night never passed without his having guests. He himself would carry the straw for their beds and lay it out with his own hands. I remember how he would awaken at midnight to recite tearful lamentations. Every Shabbos he went to shul in the city; this was a long trip, but he never missed it. He lived by a courtyard with his sons Berl and Leibush. There was an open room at the Ehrlich family home where one always knew he could get some potatoes, a little flour, some milk, a warm meal.

I remember in 1915 at the Russian invasion that the people in Boiberke had nothing to eat, and my

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grandfather said, “Jews, come to my field and dig potatoes and take them,” and so it happened. All of the Jews came and dug potatoes for their families. Reb Sender of Strilke's house was also a storehouse for the goods that the Jews bought in Strilke. My grandmother, a”h, was also very righteous. Not only did she welcome Jews to her home, but she was very generous and gave whatever she had to the poor.

My father, a”h, Berl Ehrlich–known as Black Berl–always took pleasure in life. He was always busy and weighed down with work. He did not understand how one could live and not work hard. He learned to welcome guests for Shabbos from his father–our grandfather, Reb Sender, a”h–and he acted like his father. He gave away whatever he had. The food that was prepared for his children he divided up for the poor, so many of whom came to the village. Our mother, a”h, died in 1915 and left my father with six small children so he had to be both father and mother. In the early days of the First World War, 1914-1918, there was widespread hunger. I remember how Srol'tche Fisher ate and slept with us. My father had great respect for Reb Yosef Fisher. He took food to him himself–not, God forbid, because Yosef Fisher could not buy it, but just because it was difficult.

When the pioneer trainees from Boiberke were in Strilke (in 1919), they came to us almost every day, and my father and my grandfather were delighted to carry out the commandment of hospitality.

The Spirit of All Life…

M.Z. (Jerusalem)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

(Stratin, Ukraine)

49°28' 24°42'

When Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik closed his eyes,
It was a sad Friday night.

A voice from Heaven cried out in anger and sorrow.
Heaven and earth
Did not hear,
That the Strettiner had died?–

The earth heard the news with a shudder,
And the heavens with quiet resentment.
The clouds tore open in mourning
And filled the seas with tears.

It seemed that the moon and stars wept
Bitter tears.

And the winds blew and storms raged–
And thus the world recited Kaddish.

On Shabbos morning
The sun stayed hidden–
It never shone,
But wept and wept.

In the heavens
Was an uproar.
The voices grew louder,
For the Strettiner was coming.

And there is the Strettiner,
The desired guest,
For angels had long awaited him,
As Chasidim on earth
Follow the recital of prayers–
And they wanted to hear his “Nishmas”.

They began to measure the time
Until morning prayers.
The Heavens were decorated as if for Shabbos,
And they led the rabbi to his prayers.

The chorus sang the “Yotzer Ohr”,
And the choir sang the opening prayers.
An angelic chazzan stood in front,
And they said Kedushah and Bor'chu as always.

And when they got to “Nishmas”,
They called the rabbi to the front,
And the rabbi in ecstasy approached “Nishmas”
As he had last week in his shul.

But this time his “Nishmas” moved souls,
Captured hearts,
Bent knees,
With sweet melody.

And that “Nishmas” rose
To the upper Heaven.
The Throne of Glory trembled,
And the sacred ones above were shocked.

And when the Shekhina heard that “Nishmas”,
It seemed to weep.

Note: According to the poem, Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik was the rabbi of Strettin and was known for his beautiful singing. “Nishmas” is a prayer in the morning service that begins, in English, “The spirit of all life…”


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