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[Page 83]

Notes About My Town

by Ephraim Polonsky

I came to Kobrin in the year 1905. I was very proud of the Jewish dignitaries of the city who were well known throughout the state. There were 8,000 Jews there and Kobrin was surrounded by small towns such as Divin, Antopol, Horodets, Zibarnka and Tivoli. These small towns were inhabited by many Jews as well. Jews also lived throughout the surrounding villages. They used to come to Kobrin during the holidays.

For many generations the Jews lived according to their religion and traditions. They followed the Jewish tradition in detail. The teachers taught the children the religious laws and the Jewish way of life. The the religious teachers were highly moral and they taught the concepts of the Torah and the high Jewish moral values. The religious schools were filled with people. The “Shas” organization and other groups taught the Torah in group sessions.

When I came to Kobrin I found the Hovovi Tzion Agudah (The Lovers of Zion Society), whose members were the oldest Jews in the community. The head of the society was Rabbi Beryl Pintul, a very learned person from the older generation he was dedicated to the Odessa committee. I remember other very good friends of mine who belonged to that Society: the old Rabbi Feivel Kartzinel the elder, Lokin, Chomsky and others, may they rest in peace. There were no young members in this society because the older members could not stir up enthusiasm for Zionism among the young people. The concept of Zionism was the central idea of the society. The members of the society had poor organization skills. They lacked a place where they could meet often. Each one of them was a lover of Zion without imposing their philosophy on the general public.

Seven years had passed since the distinguished leader Dr. Herzl became known, may he rest in peace. His grand ideas enchanted many young people, but the young lacked promotional organization skills. It was then that we decided, I and a few young men, to start the Zionist work. Among them were: Shimon Tennenbaum, Noah Alkon the young teacher, Benjamin Israel, Mendel Shavinsky, my brother Paltiel Polonski. Almost all were murdered by the cruel Germans during the Second World War and only a few, may they live forever, survived and came here to Israel.

First of all we called a meeting and consequently almost all the young people in town came. I said “almost” since at that time some of them still belonged to the “Bund.” We found a meeting place and called our society by the name of the “Young Zionist”. We also established a library. Everyone donated a sum of money for the purpose of purchasing books and we bought quite a few books for the library. The library was located in my home. At the beginning it had only a few books, but we ended up having thousands.

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We established a progressive school. The classes were held in large rooms and they lasted only half a day. The students were educated according to the new national spirit and their text books were modern.

A young generation of good Zionist pioneers grew up and they established the youth organization of the Zionist movement, which coordinated the older Zionist members as well.

Once a week we held secret meetings since under the tsarist rule it was against the law to congregate without a permit.

The “:Society of Young Zion”: grew and prospered and developed great teachers and excellent orators. It was not too long before you heard the sound of the Hebrew language among them.

Kobrin was never known as a rich town. There were no factories or big merchants. The majority of citizens were small store owners or were involved in petty trade. There were also blacksmiths and tool makers who made their living with their hands. The Jews made their living from each other and also from the gentiles from the surrounding villages. They maintained good relations with the villagers. It seemed as if the villagers could not get by without them. However, it was soon proved that they could survive on their own.

When one asked a Jew, “:How is your business doing?”: his reply would usually be like this: “:As difficult as crossing the Red Sea, but one shouldn't complain. Thank God the sons and daughter are going to Israel and we are about to follow them there.”:

There were a few cases where the parents were against their children joining the Zionist groups, but most of the parents agreed with their children.

Kobrin could not send a lot of money to Israel, but on the other hand it sent many Zionist pioneers. There are about 500 people that live in Israel now who are from Kobrin. They are situated among the kibbutzim, cities, and small villages. Those people are vigorous and are part of the builders of the country of Israel. Due to the country of Israel, those who went there were spared from the Holocaust.

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The Sensational Trial in Kobrin:

The Zionists in Kobrin received their orders from the central Zionist organization. They dutifully fulfilled the orders. We received the “Shekalim” (the annual membership fee to the Zionist organization) from Vilna, from the central committee member Y.L. Goldberg, may he rest in peace. I was the one who was involved with the selling of the “Shekalim” in Kobrin. When the Tsar's secret police searched the house of Mr. Goldberg in Vilna, they found my address there. A few days after that, the head of the Brisk police authorized the local police to surround my home in the middle of the night. They thoroughly searched my home and they found some of the Shekalim and some Zionist propaganda material. They interrogated me through the night and they also asked me if I knew a person by the name of Borochov, the big criminal. When I asked them, “Is it a crime to raise money for building our country?” the police sergeant answered, “Hear me. They are cheating you. The money that you are raising they are using for revolutionary actions against the government.” In the end they decided to try me in a criminal court. This event took place from the end of 1913 to May, 1914. A few months before the beginning of the First World War, I was facing a Russian trial.

The central Zionist office sent a lawyer, Elinikov, from Petersburg, may he rest in peace. This is the same Elinikov who, after he arrived in Israel, became the head of the committee of Hadar Hacarmel (an area of Haifa).

In the end, the trial turned out to be a good source for Zionist propaganda. Many came from Brisk to hear the defense speech of Elinikov. Among those that came was the very enthusiastic Zionist and dedicated teacher Ben-Zion Nimerak. Many of the local Jews came and stood around the courthouse to hear the outcome of the trial. The judge's final decision was to put me in jail for a month for my big crime of fund raising to bring this regime down.

At the jail, I was visited by many of my friends from town. I remember the time Mendel Shevinsky, who is a warm and kind-hearted person, came to visit me and cried on my shoulder and said, “Oy to our luck! These mean people won't let us live in peace here and they won't let us leave to go back and build our holy land. Instead they just put us in jail.”

The Keren Hazahav in Kobrin [The Golden Horn in Kobrin]:

This happened right after the Balfour Declaration. On behalf of the central Zionist office, an announcement was made by the older and younger Zionist groups to designate Keren Hazahav Day.

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Many people gathered in the big congregation together with Rabbi Michael, may he rest in peace. Mr. Levitz, may he rest in peace, opened the meeting by calling upon everyone to donate money for the building of our country. Mr. Levitz said, “As it turned out, other nations throughout the world came to our assistance and the first one was the gallant England. And those nations are giving us our holy land as Koresh the King of Persia did in ancient time. God inspired Balfour to give us our country and all we have to do is to go and redeem it with our money and our sweat. The daughters of Israel took off their golden jewelry in the desert and donated it to build the Tabernacle. We who live at the present time in the Diaspora also have the strength in ourselves to donate part of our money in order to be able to leave the Diaspora and return to our deserted homeland. Dear friends, please follow in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters in the desert prior to their entering into the Land of Canaan. Give us your money for yourself, your children and your children's children, so we all can build a strong homeland.” The audience was speechless. Nobody uttered a word or moved from his place. Suddenly one of the audience, Mrs. Zisel, climbed up on the stage and proceeded to take off her jewelry, including her wedding ring, and put everything on the table on the stage. Immediately other men and women followed her, and so for an hour people donated gold watches, jewelry and monies. A great sum of money and jewelry was collected, practically a treasure. This was how the Golden Horn (Jewish National Fund) was established in Kobrin.

Following the Balfour Declaration and the Keren Hazahav project people began investing their money in Israel. They began buying property in Israel. Two of the richest men in Kobrin, Mr. Shlomo Ukrainitz and Mr. Volvil Zabar, travelled in those days to Israel in order to buy land. After he toured Israel, Mr. Ukrainitz bought about two hundred dunam in Hedera and in the course of the years he and his family moved there.

Rabbi Shlomo Ukrainitz has been long dead but his family still lives in Israel. Mr. Zabar did not buy property in Israel and his family was killed by Hitler. Their property was destroyed by Hitler as well, may he be cursed. The desire to purchase land in Israel among our people continued. Once we heard that the Mizrahi Society in Warsaw, whose leader was Mr. Levin-Epshtein, may he rest in peace, had bought a parcel of land of 3,000 dunam in Jalil near Hertzlia. We were told that the Mizrahi Society was selling 3 to 5 dunam to anybody interested. Lifa Tennenbaum, who now lives in Israel, and myself traveled to Warsaw and after some give and take we bought 100 dunam. It cost 6 Israeli lira per dunam. The money was paid in periodic payments. We came back to Kobrin with this precious deal, and in two weeks we had sold all the land to our friends, 2 to 3 dunam to each one.

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After one year we had already paid half the amount. At the end, the sale was canceled and we could barely get our money back. Until today we don't have any idea as to why the cancellation happened.

The Zionist Societies in Kobrin:

The newly-established Young Zionist Society pushed for the awakening of nationalism in Kobrin, establishing the General Federation of the Zionist Movement. Most of the groups called themselves Zionist Alef or “Al Hamishmar.” Although some comrades were influenced by the slogans of the Zionist Bet, which called itself, “Time to Build,” they all lived in harmony. The Society was led by the Zionist Alef and received its orders from the Central Zionist Organization. The meetings were held weekly in a nice wide hall at Palavski's home. They distributed the Shekalim (the annual membership fee for the Zionist organization). They also paid taxes to the Central Zionist Office. They arranged the “Keren Hayesod” campaign (the fund raising for the establishment of the state of Israel). The society was very busy. They also did the fund raising for the Jewish National Fund and generally worked for the propaganda circulation of the Zionist idea. The heads of the society were: A. Polonski, D. Peler, Levites, may he rest in peace.

“Poalei Zion Society” was affiliated and very active. Its members were among the older young people for Zionism. We tried to recruit the neutral youth and above all the “Bund” organization youth. The influence of “Poalei Zion” on the Kobrin youth was immense. The “Poalei Zion” branches were: the “Freiheit Society,” the “Haoved Society” which included the laborers and the professional people in the town, the “Hechalutz Branch” whose members were ready to go to Israel immediately.

The “Hashomer Hatzair” Federation included in it the upper classes from the high school students in Kobrin. This federation was very efficient. The Shomer Hatzair Society was very active with its work on the Jewish National Fund. Its members distributed to the homes in Kobrin the blue boxes and they emptied them each month. They visited weddings and celebrations where they collected money for the Jewish National Fund. It was a pleasure seeing how the youth of Kobrin adopted the idea of revival of the homeland and worked to spread this idea. The Mizrahi Society, whose ideology is rooted in the building of the country according to our religion and traditions, did not catch on and spread among the Zionist movements. There were also fewer members among them since most of the Kobrin inhabitants were Hassidim and did not belong to the “Mizrahi”. The opponents belonged to the General Zionist Society. Still, the Mizrahi Society did help with the Zionist work as much as it could. The head of that group was Rabbi Michael, may he rest in peace.

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Among the good friends were Mr. Kalmanson, who resides in Israel now, the old man Mr. Fuksman, Rabbi Aharon Chaim Swartz, who was a very nice man and who was a lover of Zion. He had five sons. They were outstanding human beings, teachers and also workers. Of the five sons, four were killed by the Germans and one survived.

We collected and raised quite a sizable amount of money. The Keren Hayesod committee was made up of twelve members. Since most of them were killed by the Germans, may they be cursed forever, I will mention here their names for remembrance sake: Moshe Bergman, Shimon Tennenbaum, Shlomo Koloditzki, Abraham Zaltzman, Moshe Vinograd, Seigel, Botkovski, Barobikonkin Moshe and the oldest among them, Paltiel Polonski, Ben-Zion Pantul, Ben Beryl Pantul, the old man Berman, and—may they be set apart for long life – Peler Dov, Polonski Efraim, Schwartz Betzalel. The last three survived and made it to Israel.

Among those who participated in the war of the defense and independence of Israel, Kobrin sacrificed two among its young ones. The very fine man Aryah Polonski who was 29 years old, may he rest in peace, was killed in Jerusalem. He was a corporal when he was killed. He served seven years with the police. He was 19 when he arrived in Israel. After he worked in all kinds of jobs he enlisted with the police. He thought that without Jews in the police we are not going to have an Israeli state. He worked under very difficult conditions in the police until he was killed.

Another policeman, a Kobrin son, was Eliezer Goldfarb, the son of Yitzchak Goldfarb, may he rest in peace. He was a nice fellow, a dedicated Zionist, who was killed by the Arabs during the 1936-37 riots in Israel.

A kibbutz by the name of “Shacharia” was situated in Kobrin. I helped them, together with “Poalei-Zion” members, to get established in Kobrin. Some of the very religious citizens in Kobrin were against the “Shacharia” Kibbutz since they claimed that the members of Shacharia were non-observers. We established a committee of the kibbutz. The members were: Dr. Kagan, Dr. Privalski and Dr. Leiberman. We found a place for those in the house of Mr. Gibgat, may he rest in peace. We saw to it that they had all the firewood which was supplied by the wood merchant, Mr. Bergman, may he rest in peace. Potatoes were supplied by Shlomke Mazamochevitz, who was a vegetable merchant. We also tried to find them jobs. My wife, Zisel Polonski, took care of them as if they were her children. With every matter that came up they went to the “Kibbutz mother” (That is the way she was called) and she worked very hard to please them. The kibbutz in Kobrin remained in Kobrin many years until they all moved to Israel.

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With the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem a big party was thrown in Kobrin. The organizers of the party were: Dov Peler, who succeeded in reaching Israel, and Shlomo Kolodi.tzki, who did not get to Israel but was killed by the Germans. The party took place in the big hall of the house of Hanna Zaritzki. Many came to the party, young and old, men and women, among them the old gentleman, Dov Pantul. The party lasted the whole night. There were tables set with a lot of food and drinks from Israel. The people were joyful and sang for hours. How nice it was to observe the old man Pantul dancing with the young ones. They danced Israeli folk dances and there were speeches. The festive mood was the same as on the occasion of the Balfour declaration day. Although the war was not over and the sadness was still instilled in us, a collective happiness was felt throughout the party.

How our hearts ache when we remember the big house, which had two floors on Tragota Street in which was located all the main offices of the cultural movements of the Jewish organizations. There were: “Tarbut”, “Tvunah”, “Poalei Zion”, “Hashomer Hatzair”, “Hechalutz” and on and on. The house was like a Jewish fortress and stood for the creative soul of the youth in Kobrin.

God, we will avenge the blood of your servant.

In the Years 1904 - 1913

(A Segment of Memories)

by Dr. M. Halperin

When I came to Kobrin in the end of 1904 I found two political parties: The Bund and the SS (socialist organization). In 1905 they proclaimed in Tsarist Russia the five liberties (the liberty of speech, of print, of gathering, of choosing your own religion and of doing your own works). The first steps of liberalism were taken in Russia. The SS party in Kobrin took over the political situation in Kobrin and many government offices were under its governing, orders and its influence. That year railroad workers throughout Russia went on strike. Kobrin was under the strike policy as well and the railroad station was closed for many days. There was no way one could export merchandise from Kobrin without the permission of the SS Party official, Motel Auerbach, who was employed as a worker at the General Store owned by Holtzman. The freedom of speech encouraged many to congregate around town and to listen to different speakers who represented the SS Party. These activities had an incredible impact on the quality of life in Kobrin and the Governor of Kobrin, or as he was called in Polish, the Easpravnick, asked Mr. Holtzman to conduct his meetings out of town or on the quiet side streets of Kobrin.

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kob090.jpg [35 KB] - Kibbutz "Shacharia" in Kobrin
Kibbutz “Shacharia” in Kobrin

The town passed hands to the Polish Government. With the help md the initiative of Rabbi Michael, Mrs. Halperin and Mrs.Epshtein (who were also members of the town refugee committee) a meeting was held and a decision was made to establish an orphanage to house the poor orphans and to take care of their needs and schooling.

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The representatives of the committee approached the Polish Authorities for a permit to run an orphanage. However, at the beginning they were turned down, the authorities claiming that there was already a Polish orphanage in Kobrin which was waiting to take in Jewish orphans as well. However, when the committee insisted that Jewish children could not be educated with Polish children, the authorities agreed and granted permission. Also a promise was made to support the orphans' schooling and training for a trade. Therefore 120 Jewish orphans found a home in Kobrin. They were hungry most of the time, naked and barefoot, but they survived somehow. The older children studied craftsmanship and later when they left the orphanage they could find work and support themselves. After the war the situation in Kobrin was grim and hard. Many middle class citizens needed loans without interest in order to maintain their shops and to buy tools. For that purpose a committee of women was established called, “The Reward of Good Deeds Society.” Their task was to help with loans, and by doing so, it gave an opportunity for the citizens to start all over again.

In the Years 1914 - 1926

by S. Halperin

On the day of the declaration of the First World War, when we heard on the streets the gloomy songs of the recruited soldiers mixed with the weeping of the parents, wives, children and relatives, we all gathered and a decision was made that we should not sit idly. When the terrible atrocities of the war were joined closer we made up our minds to do something about it. We elected Mrs. Panovka, the wife of the Rabbi of Kobrin, who was also the daughter of Rabbi Shafit, may he rest in peace, as our chairman. Our first worry was to take care of the poor families whose providers were inducted into the army. After a short time the war wounded were arriving in Kobrin by train.

Quite a few times we went to the train station to help the wounded. We lived in our homes with plenty and knew very little of the atrocities of the war, only what we read in the papers.

When the war refugees started arriving in Kobrin, I could sense the good heartedness of the Kobrin committee. Those days were days of pride for Kobrin. We collected for the refugees money, clothing and furniture and we helped them so much that, by their testimony, nowhere else were they helped likewise. After Kobrin was taken by the Germans, we used to say among ourselves, “We wish that we had now during Shabbat what we had then during the middle week.”

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The Barset Fort fell a few days before the Germans arrived. You could already hear the sound of the cannons in the city. We asked the officers who stayed in our home whether we should leave the town like many others did or to stay put. Their suggestion was to stay put and: “You do not have anything to fear from the Germans. They won't hurt you. You should fear the Cossacks but they are retreating so fast they won't have time to hurt you.”

As the German army neared Kobrin, the local police abandoned the town. The many Cossacks who were staying in Kobrin took advantage of this situation and attacked and killed many of the Jews. The worst rampage happened on their last night. We were hiding in the cellar of our apartment on Potchatova Street and could hear the voices of the victims, but nobody dared to leave to help them.

In the middle of the night we heard somebody knocking on our door. We thought our end was near. We thought that Cossacks had come to kill us all, but suddenly we heard a crying voice saying in Yiddish, “Jews who are hiding in the basement, why did the Cossacks attack us?” That was the voice of Wolfke Solovietshik and his family. The next day we heard that the Cossacks had left the town, but not before setting it on fire. We did not know what to do, whether to stay in the cellar where there was a danger of being buried alive because of the fire or to go out where we could be hit by the bombs. We decided to take a chance and go out. There was another reason why we wanted to get out. If we had been killed inside we could not have been buried in a Jewish grave where every Jew should be buried. The first to come out was Wolfke Solovietshik. As soon as he came out he saw three German soldiers and he said, “Jews, you are saved. Come out.”

For the first days before the municipal committee was established, the German army went looting from home to home and mainly they looted the stores. Food was in short supply as it was and now when the Germans took over they proceeded to loot and to take everything.

After the establishment of the municipal committee, the looting stopped. It was forbidden to go out of our homes after dark and even during the day sometimes. Permits were given only to doctors, nurses and those that the Germans preferred and liked.

Those who were sent to work in the forests during the winter especially suffered. They were sent without appropriate clothing and without enough food. After a while those same people returned sick and some remained handicapped for life. Once an announcement was made that whoever had arms at home was to hand them over in twenty-four hours. Only one young man who was out of town when the order was issued did not hand over his pistol.

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While he was trying to hide it in his home, the soldiers entered his home and arrested him. He was given the death sentence and on the day he was killed, a few hours before, he passed Pinsker Street and we heard him yelling, “Jews, save me from being killed.” Nobody reacted. We sat and cried. The man was an only son to his parents. Life was very difficult in Kobrin. The stores were empty. The only food left were potatoes which the farmers left in the field. Things became worse in the winter.

More than thirty years have passed since then, but I still remember the suffering of that winter. Even if somebody had some food there was no wood to cook it with. In the meantime, some Jewish girls met some German soldiers and they received some food. Sorry to say, some of these girls were less than humble with the Germans, but to our surprise their parents hardly opposed their behavior. There were two reasons for this. One was because they were hungry and the other reason was that since the German language reminded them of Yiddish they did not feel that bad about their daughters' behavior. However, the army did not have much food either and because of hunger and all sorts of epidemics the situation in Kobrin was catastrophic and the first ones to suffer were the poor people. Then we assembled and a decision was made to establish a women's committee in order to help the poor ones. In those days women were not accustomed to appear in public, therefore we had Engineer Levits open with a speech in our first meeting. Levits was an excellent speaker and his words made a very good impression. We were all set to begin our important mission. The next day we appeared in front of the townspeople and we held two notebooks in our hand. In one notebook we wrote the names of the people that were willing and capable to help us and in the other notebook we put the names of those people who needed help. Our motto was “Give or Take.” And so we went from house to house making our pitch. Some could give us food or money and others could not, but they understood the importance of the mission and accepted us very cordially.

For the poor we arranged a “national kitchen” where free food was given, and the sick received help in their homes. Working the kitchen was hardly easy. We did not have any help since all the household help was from the Christian population which was fleeing the country because of the war. All of us worked in the kitchen, but the hardest chore was to visit the poor and ill in their homes. There was a shortage of housing since many houses were burned down when the Russians were retreating. Great numbers of people lived in the women's section of our congregation. One can imagine the horror of a sick person lying down on benches bundled up in rags and not being able to receive any medical help. We made a connection with Jewish doctors and their help was given to us for free.

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Those who became sick with a communicable disease were taken to the hospital by the name of “Hakodesh” or to the government hospital, but each day the work was harder and harder. It was impossible to witness the suffering of the sick people. We decided to call some young women to help and act as nurses. We divided the room into regions and we appointed two nurses for each region and, believe me, the professional nurses in the general hospital did not work as hard as our own nurses. We had a picture of the Women's Committee together with the nurses.

When a year elapsed the situation became more bearable. The Germans repaired the bridges and the war front moved further on. Merchandise started arriving in Kobrin. Some business was being done with the Germans. Some of the Kobrin people started getting aid from their families in America through the delegates that came and the poor received aid from the “Joint” and from the Red Cross.

The Women's Committee women were very active in those activities. The first aid from the American government was the “Hoover Mission.” Kitchens were established for children up to the age of thirteen. The children were only allowed to eat on the premisses and could not take any food home. Here is what the Women's Committee did. They requested that wealthy parents not send their children to eat in the kitchen. We received white flour, rice, cocoa, sugar and in those days those items were considered luxuries. One could image how helpful this was for the poor. However, it was against regulation to use the surplus cooked food, “the wealthy children's portions.” The warehouse manager Lifa Palovski, was seen sending food not only to the kitchen but to another place. He was suspected of taking the food for himself. The wealthy leaders of the Jewish community made a decision to send two people from each congregation to keep an eye on Mr. Lifa Palovski. But Mr. Peller knew the truth, that the food was for the sick and poor. His wife was on our committee. An argument erupted between him and one of the wealthy leaders. That wealthy leader was an ignorant person and he always signed his name Tzvi with two Vavs. Mr. Peller said to him, “You're an ignorant person. You don't even know how to spell your name. You write your name 'Tzvi' with two Vavs, and you blame somebody of wrong-doing?” And since then he learned how to spell his name.

In the days of the Poles, during the brief period of the Petlura government, after the Germans were forced back, a Red Cross doctor came from America. His main task was to help the population in general and specifically to assist the orphans. At that time the Polish Committee was established and besides Russians and Poles there were three Kobrin Jews on the Committee as well.

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One of them was Rabbi Michael, the Judge (afterward he became the Kobrin Rabbi) and the others were Mrs. Apstein and myself. At one meeting we heard that an American doctor wanted to establish orphanages. We asked that Jewish orphanages be established as well, but the Poles, and especially the head of the municipality, were against it. Their claim was that the Poles had an orphanage before the war and Jews did not. We claimed that even before the war there were some Jewish orphans in the city but the economic situation being good and the Jews being big hearted they adopted some of the orphans for their own. Now the economic situation was bad and there were many orphans, not only local orphans but from the vicinity as well, orphans or . refugees. On our side were the head of the committee, Mrs. Zodaska, who was Polish and a righteous woman and also the Russian priest on the committee. With their help we won our argument. The American doctor gave us bed linen and clothing for the orphanage. The food we received partly from the Polish government and the rest we bought with money that we received from the “Lands Light” from America and partly from the local population and also partly from the “Joint” (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). The secretary of the “Joint” at that time was Dr. Wondekoss from America and afterwards Mr. Schneerson, now a teacher in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. We always received more from the “Joint” than other orphanages did since our orphanage was the first in the area and we housed more orphans, including ones from the Kobrin vicinity. The secretary from our region was Noah Holtzman who was from Kobrin and was always on our side.

When we put the children in the orphanage some of them were swollen from hunger. The Jewish doctors took care of them for free and generally all the Kobrin people helped with what they could. When a show was made for the benefit of the orphans, all the Kobrin people wore ribbons. The show for the benefit of the orphans was directed by Noah Markosi, an older gentlemen who used to joke and say: “Madam Halperin, we are already at the age when we have to think about the old age home. We have to get ready to work.” But this was only a joke and truthfully he was always happy when the show succeeded and the profits were high.

When there was a need to write an announcement for the benefit of the orphans I used to go to Mr. Rogoznitzki who is now a teacher at the University of Jerusalem. He was already known then as a young talented man. When I used to enter his father's store to ask for his son, his father used to say: “Everyone wants my son to write announcements. I wish he could think also about some income for his own good.”

Everybody in Kobrin was interested in the orphanage as if this was our family. I'm not exaggerating in saying that every father who made a living knew that he had to part with some it for the benefit of the orphans.

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Every woman while feeding her children knew that she had to feed the orphans as well. Every brother and sister in Kobrin knew that they had more brothers and sisters at the orphanage and one had to take care of them.

At the beginning we gathered about sixty orphans and then their number grew to one hundred and twenty. We took care of their physical needs but also we saw that their spiritual needs were fulfilled. For their excellent education one had to thank Mrs. Kosto, who was like a mother to the orphans. I remember that, when Mrs. Kosto left for America, a girl by the name of Chanale Valulski (she resides in Israel now) cried and said: “Some time ago I lost my mother and now I'm losing Mrs. Kosto who was also as my mother. What will be my fate?” Everyone joined her crying.

Afterward, Rabbi Michael spoke and said: “One should not minimize the hard work of the women's committee. They always tried to raise money for the orphans, but the excellent traditional education that the children received was thanks to Mrs. Kosto. When the days work was over, most of the women's committee were gone, but Mrs. Kosto stayed with the children all day to educate them.”

kob096.jpg [32 KB] - The Orphanage in Kobrin
The Orphanage in Kobrin

Another name I must bring up is the name of the nurse, Mrs. Chomsky. Recently I read articles by Moshe Smilanski about three nurses in Eretz Israel and I thought that if Mrs. Chomsky were in Israel, Smilanski would have written about four nurses not three. When something was needed in the orphanage, she used to ask her Uncle, Hershel Chomsky, who was also an outstanding and noble person who used to give the orphanage all that was needed.

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