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[Page 342]

The Last Descendent

The last descendent of the stock of R' Moshke Kobriner, of blessed memory, was the Rabbi and teacher R' Moshe Aharon Rabinovitch, of blessed memory, who fell together with the people of his town by the hand of the defiled.

Despite the fact that he was accepted only by his group of Hassidim in and around town, still he was a symbol for all the residents of our town and he spread his spirit on everybody in town. He had the spirit of simplicity and innocence and honesty of heart. Humility and humbleness without any shadow of haughtiness and arrogance the fear of God and spirituality was spread over his noble face. His eyes were turned up toward heaven as if saying, “Here I am to serve you.“ When he would walk on the street it seemed as if the road would just open itself before him.

He was strict without scaring people, without wishing for control. He did not institute any new ways of his own but continued with the traditions of his forefathers, which were his guidelines. He was not one of those who brought people closer, as were other great rabbis, without any favoritism to his own congregation. He was an extremist and called for serving God with all in truth and in love and he did not favor compromises. His house was wide open to every embittered soul and an aching heart. He did not show some wonderful performance and miracles, but anybody who came out after seeing him felt as if he had found a relief for his illness, filled with hope and looking forward to a better time.

Maybe because of that, he (and his forefathers) advised people to buy a lottery ticket so they would have some way of anchoring their hopes. He did not give any promises but would bless and pray for the betterment of the sick one or a woman who was having a difficult labor. In some bad times he would give the sick person the “book“ that he had received as an inheritance from his forefathers to put under his or her head. People believed in the “book.“ I remember a case in which the wife of a communist community worker was having a difficult labor. I showed him the way to the Rabbi's house to receive the book and his blessing.

The spiritual center of Hassidim in Kobrin was found in a side alley behind a carpet of mud where the Rabbi's house was. It was a humble two storey house and a synagogue. And it was a symbol that in the midst of the mud and filth surrounding it one could still create, establish and go on with a life of purity. Most of the days of the year were taken for him by travel. He would go to visit the crowd of his Hassidim in the towns that were scattered in the area and he even reached all the way to Warsaw.

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His coming back home would announce, that the days of the holiday were coming soon.

kob343.jpg [15 KB] - Rabbi Moshe Aharon z”l
Rabbi Moshe Aharon
of Blessed Memory

He was not a cantor, according to the tradition, but during the high holidays when he went in front of the ark he would split heavens, literally. Without any special melodies or any fancy stuff he would tear the hearts with his prayer. He didn't play an instrument but during Simchat Torah when he would dance and sing with the Torah and its crown there was no force that could stop him despite the fact that his legs were aching.

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He was totally mesmerized and excited. Every old person and young person and even the very young together with the scholarly youth would connect to one circle and everybody forgot his “I”. The children of the synagogue waited all the days of the year for this holiday in which they were privileged to dance with a rabbi, the holidays of Simchat Beit Hashoeva and Simchat Torah.

The Rabbi was the son of the righteous Rabbi Davidel, of blessed memory. He was born in the year 1880, approximately. In the year 1920 (approximately) after the death of his father, of blessed memory, he was invited by his Hassidim and was crowned as Rabbi. (He lived in Russia with the members of the family in Volchisk). The members of the family were involved with the rest of the people in town. His beautiful daughters visited the Jewish school for girls that was the only one in town and his young son studied in the school Tvuna. There was no partition or border between the household of the Rabbi and the other citizens of our town. When his daughters grew up they were honored by the famous Rabbi of Belz and the Rabbi from Shedletz-Lomz to be betrothed. His son Rabbi Zeidel was the son-in-law of the Rabbi of Kishinev and was appointed to be a Rabbi in Keidnov. He was wonderfully talented and was beloved by all who knew him. The youngest of his sons, R' Joseph, was dependent on his father and so the chain continued from generation to generation and it was thought that it would continue until the end of the generations.

The Hassidim lived the life of the Rabbi. They were happy when he was happy and they mourned when he mourned. They found comforting hours and they forgot their troubles seated at his table. They went to him for advice in every difficult hour (even in matters of commerce) and behold, everything disappeared. A defiled hand uprooted that tree with its trunk and its roots and demolished it forever. May his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

N. Alkon, of Blessed Memory

by I. Pinchuk

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the blessed pedagogic activity of N. Alkon, of blessed memory, his students published a special pamphlet to honor him. We are presenting here some sections of that pamphlet.

The One Who Is Always Youthful

To be young – this is the most beautiful epoch in the life of a person that does not take into account time and space, its bubbling, its demolishing and its creating. It fights for truth and justice against hypocrisy and lying.

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A deep faith in man, in his beauty and honesty – this is the lofty gift that liberates the soul, makes the heart sing and conquers young hearts and their souls. Their rebellious youth does not suffer any authority, but it has some feeling for honest goodheartedness and he knows how to connect with all the fire of the youth, to come close, to be a teacher and a friend.

Twenty years of pedagogic work is a good day, not only for the person who we are celebrating today but also as a general holiday. Twenty years of educational work by our standards is an important national work with deep meaning. Camps of hundreds of students concentrated around their teacher and their friend to express their feelings and to bring up their memories and their impressions on this day of his jubilee.

It was not so far back, unfaithful days, the earth did not yet absorb the rivers of blood that were spilled in the world. Gone is the former belief and the dedication to fight for truth and justice that repaired the world and strengthened the men.

Stormy years that in their weight pressured and suppressed the youth. The joy of youth turned into sorrow and old age, but youthful in his soul he remained our teacher and friend. He absorbed into himself the sounds of liberation and national freedom. The spirit of new life he put into youthful hearts, the love for the land and a new faith in the world. Every lesson was holy work, every conversation a discovery. What a distance from the narrow and dark room and the Rabbi who was causing fear. The Tanach was new and interesting. The prophets were close and beloved. A lesson in history or in literature, how the historical figures seemed to be standing there as if they were alive.

I remember a literature group. We were studying Peretz' “At Night In The Old Market” or “The Golden Chain.” You would want the discovery, the elevation to continue. He was always young, especially when he would appear before the youth. He felt in place and surrounded by familiarity. With what happiness and enthusiasm he would participate in the celebration of pioneers and in their party in some obscure place in town.

His vitality and his freshness, away with despair, with what excitement and the joy of life he accompanied a group of friends. He came back sad and humming a melancholy melody. With longing eyes he would look to the sides and how great was his happiness when he would receive greetings from the land of Israel. Every little thing interested him.

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He felt the sorrows and the happiness of others. When there were riots in the land of Israel, when the Jewish settlement was aflame, the defense unwatched, the messages that came depressed the groups of people that milled in the streets, and especially he suffered. He would walk from group to group comforting everybody because he felt that the earth was shaking under his feet when the land of Israel was in danger.

kob346.jpg [30 KB] - The "Tvuna" School in Kobrin
The “Tvuna” School in Kobrin

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Guarding Education

by S. Stavski

Every people pays special attention and much energy to the education of the youth and its development towards the future. This role is taken by dedicated and experienced educators who know and understand how to penetrate the soul of the child and influence the spiritual development of the youth. With us, the Jews, the role of education is serious and very important. In the Diaspora when we are scattered among the nations of the world, when there is no firm ground under our feet, in the cultural and economic way, there is always a danger of losing the youth, which could disconnect and lose itself and assimilate in the foreign and rich cultures amidst which we live.

We need educators that arouse in the heart of the child love for everything that his people created. As it is in a psalm, there has to be in his words the participation and the symbolism of the suffering of the people, its heroism and hope. The teacher has to pay attention so the children will penetrate the treasures of our people, and its culture.

Such is our friend Alkon, who has stood on this guard for twenty years, and this is why we celebrate his jubilee with happiness and admiration. For twenty years he has worked in the field of teaching and literature. How many students has he educated? How much life, health and soul invested! I recall a picture such as this: Alkon at the school, we are studying the “Matmid” of Bialik. He shows us a remote little town in the Diaspora. He brings us into the synagogue and we are envious of the one who sits there all night and studies and studies. So said our rabbis, so said our rabbis… And we are thankful to our teacher whose excitement and dedication took us to a different surrounding.

Alkon teaches us the prophets

There is a complete quiet among us. We sit and we swallow every word that comes out of his mouth. We see the prophets in the center of Jerusalem and around him the Jews, whom he is scolding, and every word rings with bitterness and anger and suddenly he encourages them, saying “comfort, comfort, my people.” His lessons in the history of Israel are unforgettable.

He brought alive the far past, he presented before us as if alive the Hashmonians and Bar-Kochba. He remarked on the suffering of the people, the destruction of the temple. He dwelt on the Diaspora, on the sanctification of the Name in its many stages, the hopes and longings of Israel, his constant longing for independence and liberation. In his love for his people he did not forget to condemn the mistakes and failures that were done.

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Many years passed. I was working together with Mr. Alkon in one school. In the afternoon, the teachers got together in the school and talked about the difficult situation in the land. Alkon was sad. He left us. Suddenly we heard a melody from another room. It was Alkon's melody, which was imbued with sorrow and longings for the homeland.

The east, the east is dark;
The west, the west is lighter.
When the east will be lighter
I will say to the north, “Give”
And to the south, “Don't withhold.”
The east, the east is dark;
The west, the west is lighter.

We all understood the song and sang together and on the following day it was sung already in the town hall.

From the Memories of a Student

by Yitzchak Tenenboim

It was in 1916 at the height of the bloody war, when the smell of human blood made the human spirit stupid and ugly. I was a child but I understood that the war was God's curse and brought destruction and loss. My childish imagination described it to me in various colors. All at once everything became cloudy around me and I started to look at everything with fear and hatred.

Because of war complications, after a year's intermission, I was shown a “teacher”, I emphasize and feel the word. In our town we knew very little of this. We were used to the Cheder, to the Rabbi and his whip, and I should be permitted to say that in the accepted way of teaching they clouded and practically erased the imagination of the child and muddied his soul.

When I became acquainted with my teacher (I mean my friend and teacher, Alkon) my previous conception disappeared. There was a special taste to the search for an excuse and an answer to all the questions in the mind of a child, a special urge to understand the truth and reach it as much as possible. For all that, together with the rest of the students, we have to thank our teacher Alkon. Forever I will remember how he described and presented before us the works of I. L. Peretz. I remember the tremendous impression that he left upon me and all those who were present later in a smaller group of admirers when he read “At Night In The Old Market” and “The Golden Chain” of Peretz.

Alkon's evaluation was never so clear and understandable to me as it was then. The ideas and new concepts started a struggle in my mind. A lovely teacher and a friend; I believe that your memory will never leave me.

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Dr. Joseph Privolski, of Blessed Memory

by P. Pantal

A folk doctor liked by the public, after his death his friends issued a pamphlet
in his memory from which were taken the following notes.

Dr. Joseph Privolski was born in Kobrin in 1890. Up to the age of thirteen he studied in the Cheder; after that his parents sent him to study in the only Russian school that existed then in Kobrin. When he finished the school that had four classes, he was accepted to the government school in Warsaw. At age nineteen he finished that school and studied medicine at the University of Basel. In Basel he stayed for two years and when he came back to Russia he was accepted to the University of Kazan.

He finished his studies the same year that the World War started. He was conscripted as a military physician. When the war ended Dr. Privolski returned to his native Kobrin to his mother who was impatiently waiting for him. She loved him greatly. His father died when he was still young.

Dr. Privolski began treating the sick with affection and dedication. Not a year passed and the young doctor became famous and many came to see him. At the beginning he was taken in by the Christian doctor Kindler, who was beloved and respected by the whole local population. Dr. Kindler met frequently with Dr. Privolski for consultations, and later when he became ill, and he could see but a few patients a day, sent all his patients to his young colleague, Dr. Privolski. Although Dr. Privolski was very busy, he did not keep himself from public service. Together with Jewish doctors and community workers he opened the Hebrew hospital, which was closed from the day the war started. When “ORT” established a vocational school for carpentry and sewing for girls, not only did Dr. Privolski head that institution, but he even took care of the daily work of the school. Dr. Privolski called on his friends and his acquaintances to order furniture only in that vocational school of his and orders that were given he would praise greatly. The workers in the vocational school had not only a chairman but also a faithful friend who saw to their affairs.

After a while when he, with the help of the Association of Artisans, established a local bank, Dr. Privolski was always chosen as its chairman. When there was created a regional committee for cooperative banks of the county of Polisia, Dr. Privolski was elected to be the chairman of the regional committee.

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The representatives of the center in Warsaw did not decide anything that had to do with the banks in Polisia without first consulting with the chairman of the regional committee, Dr. Privolski. When there was open in Kobrin a branch of TZISHA and the local school which previously belonged to “Tarbut” was transferred to the center of TZISHA, Dr. Privolski joined the board of directors and also was elected to be the chairman.

With all of his warm heart and his excitement he dedicated himself to the school and for several years he fought those who opposed the Yiddish school. To this work he dedicated days and nights and even neglected much of his medical work. TZISHA got into trouble and stopped its financial support of the school in Kobrin and there was a danger that the institution would have to close. But then Dr. Privolski signed notes in the sum of 2,000 Zlotys. He had to pay them later because the tuition for studying in the school did not suffice to cover the deficit. When this folk school closed he was very depressed but he did not stop dedicating himself to other public work.

At that time were held the first elections to the municipality in Kobrin and Dr. Privolski appeared at the head of the democratic list for the elections. That list had a terrific victory and Dr. Privolski was elected to be the deputy mayor. Despite the stubborn war that he conducted with the other lists, all the Jewish delegates chose him to be the deputy chairman. In this role he served for five consecutive years. There was not a Jewish question in the city council that Dr. Privolski would not appear there to fight for in a stubborn war to benefit the Jews. At times the Christian delegates cancelled their proposals that saddened and hurt the respected Dr. Privolski. In the end Dr. Privolski decided not to serve anymore as the deputy mayor because his medical work took all his free hours and he worked until after midnight. In the next election he appeared on a united list and in the meeting of the new city council he was elected to be the chairman of the overseeing committee.

Dr. Privolski traveled with his wife Hella to Palestine and there they were received with special happiness by the Kobrin natives. They visited the whole area, including villages and colonies and kibbutzim. When they came back, Dr. Privolski and his wife appeared in combined lectures that attracted great audiences. Dr. Privolski came back charmed by the building of the country and dedicated himself completely to helping that work. From then on there was no Zionist work that he did not take part in. Until his last moments he fulfilled his role as a physician and a public servant. Privolski died in January of 1939, of a heart attack.

He was a man of the people. There are Jewish intelligentsia who look at a crowd from above. As democrats they force themselves to be folksy but it comes from their minds. Not so the late one.

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Everything came out of his soul without special effort. Everything was natural. The masses of Kobrin felt that, which is why the late one was so beloved. During his social activity for a certain amount of time he felt the difficulty and the great responsibility in his role as the deputy chairman of the municipality of Kobrin. The economic situation of the Jewish institutions was bad. Dr. Privolski attempted to help in everything he could. During his service as the deputy chairman of the city council he did not appear as a vice chairman, as someone who gives out orders and rules. But he was very benevolent in his approach and he did not miss an opportunity to help.

Joseph Privolski and the deputy chairman were the same, and from the same town. Dr. Joseph Privolski, of blessed memory, received an education the same as many Jews of his generation who believed that the Jews were the conscience of the world, a limb of the greater universal body, and if the body were strong then the under-developed limb would become better too. The Jewish intelligentsia was to guard the vineyard. In accordance with that ideology, he fought and opposed Zionism. When Dr. Joseph Privolski traveled to Palestine he came in touch with the daily life, with a reality of developing and blooming life. And he came to the recognition that he was not only a limb but that we have all the qualities of a healthy, alive, creative body. When he came back to Kobrin he lectured with enthusiasm and with affection for Zionism and he participated in every Zionist activity.

It is no wonder that the land of Israel convinced him he was mistaken in his previous opinion about Zionism. All this proved that Dr. Joseph Privolski's public activity came from the depth of his soul. Kobrin lost one of its best sons. Everybody felt that with his death something important was torn. It was a great loss that could not be replaced.

The Great Loss

Our Kobrin has been emptied. Cold and sadness take over the heart. A dark bitter spirit of orphanhood is pressing. Gone is the social conscience of Kobrin. Dried up is the incessant spring of creative energy. The most beautiful and good smelling flower in our garden has been cut. The most precious, heartwarming, the good Dr. Privolski is gone.

It is hard to get used to this idea that we will have to exist without his help and his participation in our present work. With the name Dr. Privolski, everything that was created in Kobrin was connected – honesty, humility, idealism.

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All of these are the main and basic characteristics of the late one. He brought optimism to everything, charitable security and a warm heart. He carried inside him the hurt of our generation. He saw the Jewish wound filled with puss again. In front of him was always the Hebrew body dripping blood ceaselessly. Few other people were so tied and connected to the masses, to their language, to their culture and idealism as was Dr. Joseph Privolski. In Privolski the masses of the Jews saw a dedicated friend in heart and soul. He was like a burning bush that warmed the masses.

Who is the man who could come and see this wonderful sight and continue with the light so that it was not extinguished? He was uprooted from among us while still fresh, vital and filled with ideas and energy, filled with dedication and faith, which is why the sorrow and mourning is even greater. A labor for the land of Israel and Zionism was in his later years his yearning, and with the name the land of Israel on his lips his delicate soul left. His memory will forever serve as a symbol of idealism and dedication to our struggle and creativity. The work for the idealism in which Dr. Privolski lived will be an honorable memory to the departed.

An Unforgettable Friend

by Noach Markuza

Dear Joseph! On the occasion of thirty days after your death I would like to speak with you as a person to his friend and as an obituary. I would like to do it the way you behaved in your life: simple, without any tricks. I will not write about your virtues, which doubtless were many. I will not count your important activities. I only want to tell you this which you always understood and felt, but which I never told you openly. I would like to tell you my beloved friend that I loved you and how dear you were to me.

Others will think that it is because you did some favors for me that I love you, but both of us know that during our friendship in time of peril we did not leave one another. And if we now start thinking who was better for the other I don't know if either of us deserves anything, but honest friends do not keep count. There are those who loved you because you were a good person and others appreciated and admired you because you were a dedicated public servant and still others thought of you highly because you were an excellent doctor. If I were asked why I loved you I would answer, “I love Joseph Privolski without a why.”

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You used to be a Yiddishist, and then you became a Zionist, but still nobody was angry with you. You know why because when you were a Yiddishist you loved the land of Israel and later when you became a Zionist you did not betray the previous ideal of yours and you still always loved the masses of Israel and their language. You were so admired and loved because there are few people in the world who have deep inside them in a secret corner such a love of other human beings and you, my dear Joseph, belonged to those few. Now friend Joseph, despite your wish you left us and I cannot again look at your light and good face. Do visit me in the dream and I will see you at night.

We are your friends and colleagues who are saddened until the day of our death. We will not forget you. And we will miss you and we will always think of you, so we will always have Joseph Privolski in our images, a symbol of a public worker, physician, and a faithful friend.

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