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Are Jews Capable of Hard Work? (cont.)

Sara Weiss (Slep): This was my first visit to the Zeligsons, and I immediately felt at home. Ada (Berke's wife) insisted that I stay for lunch with them. I knew that Berke was not in the best of health, and when I got up to go I tried to dissuade him from accompanying me, but he insisted and accompanied me to the bus stop. We walked on the path that leads to the old road to Petah Tikvah, and I thought to myself: Berke and Ada lost their only son Meir, of blessed memory, who was killed in the battle of Nitzana, and they were left completely alone, and now both of them are unwell. Berke walked energetically, full of vigor, liveliness and humor. I dared to ask: “Berke, from where do you draw the strength to go on?” And he replied unhesitatingly: “Do you know what it is to love Eretz Yisrael? We brought this love for Eretz Yisrael from there, from home. And when you love Israel, you can suffer everything!”

The bus arrived, Berke and I kissed each other goodbye, like old friends, and I promised him I would come back to take down his stories. I asked him, for that reason at least, to try and stay healthy.

A while later Berke passed away. When I called Ada she said: “You promised him you would come back, and he waited for you so eagerly, and you didn't come.” On another occasion she said to me: “You know, Berke always asked why other shtetlech have published Yizkor (memorial) books, and only Dusiat doesn't have one.”

In August 1982 Ada sent me the following letter that was kept among other documents of Berke's.

After Ada passed away, Mashka Gershuni (Slep) sent me a package with photos of Berke's parents and their son Meir in an IDF uniform, as well as a certificate for the planting of trees in the name of Meir, of blessed memory, donated by Dusiaters. “Unfortunately, this is all that remains of the Zeligson family”- Mashka wrote.

That is why I was so excited when Alon, the grandson of Ozer (Berke's brother), who made aliya from South Africa, came to ask me about the family and if anyone still remained. He immediately recognized the photos of his relatives, and even recognized the “bald teacher” (Yehuda Slep – S.W.). “My grandmother Chaya (nee Gafonowitz) told me a lot about the shtetl”…

Parents Sara and Yitzchak Zeligson (son of Moshe and Shifra)
Yitzhak was called Yitzchak Moshe's,
whereas his brother Yosef was called Yosel Shifra's


Meir Zeligson, son of Dov-Berke and Ada (nee Gordon),
killed in the battle of Nitzana, Heshvan 5716


Tree planting certificate in the name of Meir Zeligson


Berke Zeligson was in a summer hachshara (training group), and when a place became available he invited his friend Avraham Slep to join them. Avraham replied to Berke in the following letter (translated from Yiddish):


“Work is our life”


Dusat – August 13, 1923

Dear Friend,
You wrote that your group needs a male and female member, and I thank you very much for asking me. You definitely hit the nail on the head. We would probably have gone without noticing that the holidays are approaching. So what? You yourself aren't certain whether we should go, because your group is only together until Succoth. Nu, so how do we go for just one month? ... First of all, it entails great expense, and secondly, there is nothing worse than the trip back and forth for just ” a moment”.

You should have acted differently, and you should have sent us a telegram immediately after talking to Abramson, or else not at all have mentioned in your letter that the group would only be together until Succoth. You shouldn't have given us this room for doubt. Now we will remain at home for the holidays, and after that we'll see. Perhaps we'll join the “Kibbush” (the name of the group) where Gordon is. Perhaps some people will go from home there or will be lucky enough to make aliya and their places will become vacant.

In the meantime I am in Dusiat. Nothing is new except that they are paving the streets.

On Friday, there will be a wedding in Abel [Obeliai] at Velvel Arken's [Slovo] and one in Salok [Salakas] at Yitzchak Friedman's. There is nothing to miss in Dusiat, as you know. Tell me why you need to come home for the holidays.

On Friday night there was a commotion in the shtetl. Policemen and officers went through all the streets in pairs, entered the houses and demanded proof of identity. Their efforts obviously bore fruit. In one house they found an unstamped passport, and in another a German passport, etc.

Everyone asks about you. Batya Levitt too… I showed your letter to your family. You write very little to them. Please give my regards to Sonia Charit. Tell her to write too.

Special regards to Yitzchak Toker, if you see him.

Keep happy, from me,


“With the blessing of the earth and the joy of creation”


Berke Zeligson apparently made aliya to Eretz Yisrael in 1924 and settled in Magdiel. In his diary[1] his friend Avraham Slep described their first encounter in Eretz Yisrael.


  1. [22] Slep, Avraham. Private collection [Diary, 14-16 November, 1925]

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