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[Pages 13-14]

From the Publisher

Translated by Tina Lunson

It is a particular honor for the Y. L. Perets Publishing House in Israel to present to the Jewish reader, especially those who stem from Lite, the second volume of the monograph Lite.

Into this volume have gone dozens of compositions, descriptions, memoirs, treatises and treatments about Jewish life in Lite, about that settlement that for generations lived on the shores of the Nieman and the Vilye.

Jewish Lite was not just a geographic concept; Lite is a style of life; Lite is a way of being, that took root deep and wide, far over the borders of the Jewish community.

Some of the writers and activists who took part in this volume are well known in the Jewish world, but no less significant are the articles, memoirs and portrayals by ordinary people saved from Hitler's hell, who, under the stress of surviving that dark wandering in work camps and death camps, with their attachment to the former Jewish folk life in Lite, brought out both the years of murder and the Litvish life-ways of yesterday.

The publisher has spared no trouble or effort in financing, in order for the book to be more essential, exact and beautiful; that is also largely the reason that the book has come out a little late.

We believe that this volume of Lite – like the first that was produced in America – will be an extremely important contribution to regional Jewish historiography and to knowledge about the Holocaust era in Europe.

[Pages 15-18]

Lite Volume Two

by Khayim Leykovitsh [Ch. Leikowicz]

Translated by Tina Lunson

The idea of publishing memorial books, community record books and monographs that would immortalize the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe that were annihilated by Hitler's hordes, originated at the same time in all the shirey-ha'pleyte [survivors] and landsmanshaftn [societies of immigrants from the same town or region] all over the world.

The survivors from Lite around the world, and those who stemmed from Lite in the State of Israel, had already made efforts to publish compilations in Yiddish and Hebrew that tried to tell about the seven hundred-year history of Jewish-Lithuanian Jewry and to mourn its tragic murder.

It was with great devotion and faithfulness that this holy work was taken on, in his time, by the late Dr. Mendl Sudarsky z"l [of blessed memory]. He was the foundation layer and editor of the momentous compilation Lite (published in 1951 in New York) which was received by the general Jewish public with such appreciation.

By the time of the publication of the first volume of Lite, Dr. Sudarsky already collected and prepared materials for a further book, which he was, unfortunately, not destined to publish.

His collected manuscripts remained with his widow, Alte Sudarsky z"l, who had always taken pains to see the book published. So ten years raced by, until she was able to realize that here, in Israel, in the Y. L Perets Publishing House. Her single desire in life was to see a printed copy of Volume Two, and for that she literally bled and gave her last energies. To our deep sorrow she died while she was preparing to return to New York and as the second volume of Lite was being typeset. May the earth of Israel be light on her!

We intend to present the second volume in the same spirit as its forerunner, the first volume. In general we have consciously left the style and the form of each participant in the book, and the author alone bears the responsibility for its content and composition. The editors permitted themselves only, for the most part, to provide comments.

As far as it was within our domain to do so, we have included a few new articles and pictures. In this volume there are additional articles that introduce historical material for the research of Jewish life in Lite.

This publication is possible thanks to the financial help of Alte Arsh-Sudarsky, may she rest in peace, and her family, and thanks to the interest of the Y. L. Perets Publishing House in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately there were objective factors that disrupted the book's publication at the time originally planned.

Sincere congratulations are due the chairman of the Igud yotsey lita b'yisrael [Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel], the writer Ruven Rubenshteyn, for his moral support and active effort to publish the book.

We express our friendly thanks to all our coworkers and to the management of the Y. L. Perets Publishing House, for their help with this second volume of Lite.

To our deep sorrow a few respected writers who took part in the second volume of Lite died before their time and did not live to see their articles in print.

Honor their memory!

We were, unfortunately, not able to include in this book all the materials that we given to us by Mrs. A. Sudarsky, and we beg the pardon of those writers whose work does not appear, due to insufficient space.

We think that it is the duty of the landmanschaftn groups over the world to create a fund that will make it possible to continue and to publish further volumes of Lite.

Our sacred wish is to erect a literary monument to the decimated Jewish communities of our old home; to effectively immortalize our martyrs, the murdered Lithuanian Jews, and the brave fighters against the Nazi murderers and their helpers, a monument that will remain for the coming generations.

[Pages 19-22]

Nusakh Lite [The Litvak Manner]

by Ruben Rubenshteyn

Translated by Tina Lunson

The tribe of Lite, the Litvak manner – these were, in the many-branched realms of Jewish thought, always concepts of deep-rooted, hard-core Torah-tradition Judaism and of true Jewish national-cultural creativity.

There were two Lites: the historic Lite of over seven hundred years until the First World War, and the political and geographically shrunken, independent Lite between the world wars, but the traditions, life ways, peculiarities and attributes that were characteristic of the Litvak and of Jewish Lithuania in the first historical period, were carried over as a heritage to the Jewish-Litvish settlement of the second period.

Small in quantity but intense in quality was that Jewish community for the 22 years of its existence, until its tragic destruction. A dot on the larger Jewish world map, but that small community of 165 thousand souls welled up with so much energy, creativity and blessed persistence!

* * *

Initially an exemplary national-cultural autonomy with a Ministry of Jewish Affairs and a Jewish National Council, that tender shoot [independent Lithuania] was torn out by evil winds of the rising reaction. Democratically organized Jewish communities, parties of all colors, a dense network of schools of every direction, world-famous yeshivas, social institutions, educational courses, libraries, cooperatives, professional unions, newspapers, book publishers, Pioneer youth movements, sports organizations – what an opulent and multihued national and social cultural construction!

Assimilation, in language and in society – not as a habit, not as a movement and of course not as an ideology – that was all foreign and distasteful to Jewish Lite. Hebrew and Yiddish ruled freely and joyfully in Jewish homes, in private and social life, on the streets and domains of the Jewish village.

The most lively, fruitful contact with the larger Jewish world and especially with Erets Yisroel was restrained. Rabonim [rabbis] and community leaders, writers, artists, intellectuals, lecturers, businessmen, messengers, liked to visit Jewish Lite. They influenced their many listeners and followers and were themselves influenced by the gushing source of Jewishness that was hidden in this compact Jewish community.

* * *

The axe of the Nazi-German world villain and bloody foe was also let fall on the head of the Jewish tribe in Lite, as it was on all of European Jewry.

With the willingly offered help of murderous Lithuanians, this Jewish community was murdered in great torment.

And when the first lamentable news about the horrific ravages of the Lithuanian Jews reached America, Dr. Mendl Sudarsky z"l, one of the leaders of Lithuanian Jews, took upon himself the initiative to immortalize for the ages the brilliant memory of the exterminated tribe, in a monumental work. Many hardships and difficulties, technical and financial, stood in the path of his dream. But he surmounted them with extraordinary energy and endurance.

In 1951 the first volume of the great work Lite was published in New York, edited by Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, Uria Katsenelenbogn, Y. Kisin and Berl Kahn. That important historical-literary memorial stone made a strong impression on the Yiddish reading audience with its scope, with its rich content, with its historical-scientific character.

Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, the initiator and organizer of the work, had dreamed of a continuation – of a second volume into which the remaining material left out of the first volume would go.

Now his dream has been realized. Thanks to the self-sacrificing work of Mrs. Alte Sudarsky z"l who kept to her wish to fulfill the last will of her husband; thanks to the help from their relatives and friends and the collaboration of the Y. L. Perets Publishing House in Tel Aviv, the second volume of Lite has seen the light of day.

* * *

This monumental work Lite, which was planned decades ago by Dr. M. Sudarsky and his coworkers and the first volume of which came out in America, was finally finished in the State of Israel.

In it is an allegory and a blessing: an allegory on the strong cultural ties between the Jewish Diaspora and the Jewish State, and a blessing for the new life arising for those indefatigable cultural activists who take the care to immortalize in a historical work the proud history of the Jewish communities and settlements, annihilated by the appalling extermination machine.

[Pages 33-47]

Dr. Mendl Sudarsky

by Mendl Lodsky

Translated by Tina Lunson

Hard by the Russian border with Eastern Prussia lay the small town of Vishtinets. Although the town was on Russian territory, its chief relationship was with the neighboring German border point in Eastern Prussia. Vishtinets was marked off from the surrounding Russian villages as though by a "Great Wall of China" because no roads had been built; it was impossible to reach a village five miles away in Russian territory for almost the greatest part of the year due to the swamps and barriers of lumpy earth and valleys. But the area of the town of Vishtinets itself was, although small, naturally beautiful, circled by lakes, green fields in the summer, adorned with gardens between the houses, and the curving little streets of a typical shtetl where an idyllic quiet ruled.

It actually was a typical Jewish shtetl, and even in the existing primitive situation the Jews lived in want. Germany's economic boom after the Franco-Prussian War – from which her province Prussia had greatly profited – brought a benefit to the places of tsarist Russia that bordered with Prussia, and that was also the case with Vishtinets. For the residents of that shtetl, it had created a new perspective for business with Prussia and a so-called prosperity became something substantial.

The way of life, as such, for the shtetl, not considering the improving economic situation, changed little at first. The shtetl looked the same. Especially in the winter, it had a typical appearance. The streets and cottages stood enveloped in white, in mountains of snow after strong snowstorms that had driven the shtetl residents into their wooden houses, from which in these conditions on frosty winter nights glimmered the yellowish glow of kerosene lamps. But at Chanukah time the barely-twinkling light through the panes provided an illuminated look, also. The warm hearts of the Vishtinets Jews began to beat more strongly during the days of Chanukah. From the usually darkened panes shone the lights of freedom, miracles and the strength of the Maccabees, and happiness and joy dominated the four corners of every Jewish house.

And it was Chanukah when one of the houses felt a double holiday mood. A new family member arrived at one household, a group of seven. To Itsele and Hinde Sudarsky was born a fifth son. It was then, the 14th of December 1885, that Dr. Mendl Sudarsky first saw the bright light of the world.

Photograph with caption:
Meyshe Vishtinetser,
Father of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky

The Sudarsky Environment

Among the shtetl Jews of Vishtinets, the father of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky – who was admired for his fine character and traditional knowledge – occupied an honorable place and was one of the distinguished proprietors in the town. Already at that time he numbered among the well-to-do merchants. But his path to economic ascent was a very thorny one. Orphaned in his childhood when his mother died, he sampled the taste of drudgery in those childhood years, striving to find a career in life.

From his father, Rov [rabbi] Meyshe Sudarsky, a great scholar with an acute mind, he inherited sharp-mindedness and deep insight into matters. On top of all that, the father of Dr. Sudarsky – known in town as Itsele Sudarsky – was also industrious, energetic, had a flair for original ideas, and had a realistic approach to things.

His interest in commerce he dedicated to the boar-bristle line of business, or, as it was called, the brush line, working up from a laborer to an independent manufacturer. The boar's hair product, of which the best quality came from Russia, in particular Siberia, was a rarity in Germany's rising industry. For Dr. Sudarsky's father the manufacturer, this opened new prospects for successful production and together with his wife Hinde, an eyshes khayil [“woman of valor”], he built an industrial enterprise of brushes in the little shtetl of Vishtinets and in a short time reached a good economic level.

But this was not the only interest and satisfaction in the Sudarsky circle. Theirs was a house where emphasis was put on knowledge and respect for those who knew the holy books, for scholars, and the main focus of Itsele and Hinde Sudarsky was the Jewish education of their children. One of those children who from childhood on showed a great diligence, good perception and intelligence was the student Mendele, the later Dr. Mendl Sudarsky.

Youth and Studies

The beginning of the 1890s also began a new era in the life of the Sudarsky family. This came about after they left the shtetl Vishtinets and settled in the larger town near by, Verzhbolove [Virbaln].

The Russian town Verzhbolove – two miles from the train station Verzhbolove, and known as the gateway from Russia to the west – became the residence of the Sudarskys until the First World War in 1914. It was the so-called golden era of the Sudarsky family in respect to the economic boom and when the education of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky and his brothers and sister assumed a broader scope. In this period Dr. Sudarsky's father became known as one of the largest manufacturers of brush products in the entire region of Verzhbolove. It was not only a wealthy household where every indigent person found an open door, where charity was given with a generous hand and every guest was welcomed, it was also a house that breathed with national ideas; the children were active in the Hovevei ivrit [lovers of Hebrew] groups and the ideal of Zion occupied the seat of honor.

This was the environment Dr. Sudarsky found himself in as a child. Although he studied in a kheyder [religious school] like all other children, it was not the kheyder that dominated the development and reasoning ability of the young Mendele. An evident stamp was made on his education by his grandfather and mentor Rov Meyshe Sudarsky, who was known by the name Rov Meyshe Vishtinetser. From his grandfather, that great scholar – who was known also for his deep knowledge of philosophy, which he brought to bear in his manuscripts about the methods of RaMBaM [Maimonides], Avrabanel and others – Dr. Mendl Sudarsky inherited not only much of his knowledge, but also his grandfather's good traits, first of all courtesy and an ethical approach to human beings.

Although Talmud, Hebrew and other subjects were the beginning of Dr. Sudarsky's education in early youth, the young student's education was not limited to those. Jewish education was complemented with secular education, a phenomenon that was unusual in the life-style of Verzhbolove Jews of that time. But it was different in the Sudarsky environment where knowledge in general was respected; besides that, in a certain sense their being neighbors with Germany played a role, as the influence of Western European culture became substantial.

Yet the small town of Verzhbolove had not a single middle school or gimnazie [high school]. This was no impediment for the Sudarskys however, against the secular education of their children. Private tutors became the teachers of the Sudarsky children. An elder brother of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky – the very esteemed Nisn Sudarsky, also a medical doctor, who died a few years ago in Tel Aviv, in the vicinity of Montefiore where he was well known – was the first to take the exams for an extern, and then was followed by Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, who graduated as an extern from the gimnazie in Suvalk, the capital city of the Suvalk province in tsarist Russia.

Then began the university studies. Sudarsky's parents were concerned that their children benefit from medical studies in universities of a very high caliber. And just like his brother Nisn, Mendl Sudarsky studied medicine in German universities. At first, from 1907–1909, he studied in Leipzig University. He then continued his studies in Freiburg and from there, the last two years, from 1910–1912 in Berlin University, where he received the doctoral diploma.

While a student, Dr. Sudarsky received the sad news about his father's death. Not long afterwards his mother died too. With that two fine people passed into eternity, people with warm Jewish hearts, the builders of a famous Jewish family that had affected, created and raised shtetl life to a higher level. Their good deeds were then set [as examples] before their children, who enjoyed great esteem in the town.

Of all the towns around, Verzhbolove itself stood out for its sympathy to Zionism, and in that regard the Sudarskys had much merit. Their home at that time, shortly before the First World War, was the center of Zionist activity. And the young Dr. Mendl Sudarsky was an active Zionist too. He was already a practicing doctor in the Russian city of Kiev, but was not satisfied with that and traveled back to Berlin to specialize as an eye doctor.

Years of Military Service

Meanwhile the First World War broke out. As a Russian citizen the young Dr. Sudarsky interned in Germany, and after much effort he managed to have himself deported to Sweden, from where he traveled back to Russia. In the full fury of the German-Russian war, Dr. Sudarsky was mobilized in the tsar's army. This happened in Vilne. The author of this article well recalls the time when the modest, typically Russian-Jewish intellectual and cultured man with an academic manner suddenly became a military man, dressed in an officer's uniform as a military doctor in the tsar's army. Yes, I remember the time when I was walking with him, the officer, in the Vilne streets, and according to army regulations, even the Jew-hating Cossacks had to salute him as a Jew of officer's rank. As a Jew I felt in that salute a special satisfaction. Dr. Sudarsky himself however did not take this honor seriously. He, the very modest idealist, thinking that all people were equal, felt very uncomfortable with the honor and was more interested in a friendly greeting and chatting with soldiers he encountered as equal to equal.

One of the most important characteristics of Dr. Sudarsky was his idealization of the human being. No shocks, due to this or that phenomenon of the time that spoke to the opposite, could disappoint him in his assessment of people. He always spoke favorably about and continually believed that justice and equity in humankind must finally win, not considering that in the meantime it had taken on discriminatory forms.

The military man in him was not capable of changing Sudarsky, the strongly ethical human being. And in fact, that Sudarsky, the military doctor in officer's uniform, remained the same in his essential pacifistic thought process. It was hard for him to grasp why one person fought with another, especially for a government, and more so to seize new territories or to spill blood to open new markets for business – that was completely foreign to the purely humanistic approach that dominated his entire being. That feeling of responsibility, one of his traits, was always awake in him. He certainly perceived his duty as a military doctor, and being on the Rumanian front he excelled as a doctor and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Photograph with caption:
Dr. Mendl Sudarsky

He spent four years there working in a military hospital. Then in 1917 the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, and being in Nizhny Novgorod awaiting arrangements for repatriation to Lithuania, he was mobilized by the Bolsheviks and detailed as chief physician to the 11th heavy artillery division. As fate would have it, it was at that time that Dr. Sudarsky met his life's companion Alte Arsh from Dvinsk, a field nurse in the same division. They were married on October 15, 1918, in the Russian town of Vyazma. Along with his wife, Dr. Sudarsky served in the Red Army for almost three years, migrating from one battlefront to another.

Lithuanian Period

Without a doubt [their time in] Lithuania was, as regards their cultural and community activity, the richest in scope and in satisfaction for the Sudarsky couple. Their activity put a recognized stamp on the development and the revival of the proud Lithuanian Jewry. Both Dr. Sudarsky and his wife wrote a beautiful page in the history of intellectual Lithuanian Jewry, which was tragically cut down by the Nazis at the beginning of the thirtieth year of its renaissance period.

Physician to the Folk

The years of military service had deprived the Sudarskys of a private life, as it entailed a life of moving from town to town and from front to front. However, Dr. Sudarsky brought back that extensive medical experience of the military period, plus energy and effort, to a newly productive life with his wife in the newly-created independent Lithuania.

After a short time spent studying radiology and electro-medicine in Germany they opened the first modern medical facility in Kovne. With his trove of knowledge of general medicine, eye specialization, long years of practice and the most modern medical facility, Dr. Mendl Sudarsky could be the most successful doctor in the new Lithuania from a business standpoint, but how much money he could make from it did not interest him very much; and day after day he stayed in his medical office in jurisdiction over the many patients who had returned after the war with various infectious diseases, such as trachoma, who were not able to pay. His receiving rooms in Kovne were literally turned into a community ambulatory care clinic free of fees.

It became known in Lithuania that Dr. Mendl Sudarsky was the community doctor who was always ready to serve the forlorn and the suffering.

Cultural and Social Activity

Many were the organizations and societies that Dr. and Mrs. Sudarsky founded and inspired with their knowledge and dedication. One sees Dr. Sudarsky at the head of the folk masses in Lithuania that had grouped around folk ideas. The Jewish Educational Society, OZE [organization for children's health], ORT [vocational training], HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society], YIVO [Jewish Scientific Institute], Dubnow's Encyclopedia, the Jewish Commercial High School, the Historical–Ethnographic Society, the Theater Studio, the Folks-shule, the sports society and others. Dr. Sudarsky was active in them all and was the initiator of most of them. At the same time Dr. Sudarsky was also among the prominent members of the HIAS, OZE, ORT, and YIVO world centers. An area of great scope was his literary and journalistic activity, being the editor-in-chief of the Kovne Folksblat [Yiddish daily newspaper] and collaborator on several well-known medical and literary publications, among them Folksgezunt [popular health], Literarishe bleter [literary pages], the Yiddish encyclopedia and others.

Dr. Sudarsky and the Folksblat is a chapter of history with no parallel with any other area of Dr. Sudarsky's cultural and societal work in Lite. The small merchants and toiling masses who did not have the power to finance an undertaking like the Kovne Yiddish daily newspaper grouped around the Folksblat. Thus, Dr. Sudarsky's daily concern was that the paper be published, besides the editorial work for it, where Dr. Sudarsky's humanistic approach, struggle for Jewish life, survival and continuation were the leitmotif in spreading Jewish light through the Folksblat. And it should be emphasized that Dr. Mendl Sudarsky was always dedicated to Jewish interests. He led, within the realm of possibility, a fight against the rising anti-Semitism of the Lithuanian reactionary element and fought like a true democrat for justice and right.

I remember my meeting with him in Berlin in the late 1920s, in his sister Braine Gruengard's courtyard in the wealthy residential area of Schöneberg. By the way, his sister's house, the modernly appointed Grinbarg villa for their comfort and for all kinds of social opportunities, had quite a name in Jewish Berlin. It was often the meeting place for scientists, writers, painters, artists, musicians, and community activists and for Zionist rites. In my memory, unforgettable, is the banquet that was given there for Nakhum Sokolov. How imposing, colorful and festive were the spacious rooms where prominent representatives of the Zionist world, science, literature and press met one another. I must add to that a special remark about the extraordinary hosting abilities of Dr. Sudarsky's sister Braine, whose warm Jewish heart, sincerity, goodness and personal grace gave so much charm and color to the entire celebration.

At that time I met with Dr. Sudarsky and talked about Jewish affairs in Lithuania. He was very concerned about the growing anti-Jewish course in Lithuania, seeing how the newly-created Lithuanian merchant class, organized in a verslininkas [Lithuanian: businessman] movement, were continually pushing more Jews out of economic positions well-established over generations; how the remainder of Jewish autonomy was being destroyed by the rulers; and how general democracy was already a thing of the past.

For Dr. Sudarsky, Jewishness had always occupied the highest position. Work for the benefit of the Jewish community dominated his whole being. His entire self was reflected in that service, in his love for the Jewish folk and activity for the survival of the nation. Every achievement of the Jewish people aroused great enthusiasm in him. I remember when the State of Israel was created, when the renaissance of the Jewish people became a reality. I read about that event – the greatest in our two thousand-year history of Exile – in a letter from Dr. Sudarsky. What a spring of joy and national pride elevated the Jew in him; he had absorbed proper Yiddishkeit from his early youth in his parents' home, where they literally breathed with the glory of Israel [God] and the Zionist ideal.

Ožeškienės 3

This was the street and the number of the residence of Dr. and Mrs. Sudarsky in Kovne. That address with the Lithuanian street name was well known not only in Lite, but also in Europe and in many lands beyond the sea. It was literally a community inn for the various messengers from other countries and guests from the Lithuanian provinces.

All these visitors, activists, scientists, writers, artists and others were taken in with open arms by the Sudarskys. The guests found in their house a homey, light-filled corner and almost every day the house stirred with honored guests. And it was not a problem when another or another two guests came unexpectedly at a mealtime or to spend the night when the house was already full of visitors. The Sudarskys were always good hosts, welcoming their guests and serving all the visitors with word and deed.

A Folk Holiday

Who does not recall the unforgettable date at the end of 1935 when preparations were being made to celebrate Dr. Mendl Sudarsky's jubilee. It was then that he would become a man of 50 years. Dr. Sudarsky's modesty was known in Kovne society, and planning an event to honor him was not so simple. Everyone knew that if the honoree found out he would protest mightily and nothing would come of any of the plans. It was kept as the most secret of secrets from Dr. Sudarsky. The preparations were made on the quiet, without even the smallest mention in the press. Only on the day of the jubilee, after the entire press in the Lithuania of that time had published the event, did the honoree himself know about it and as he had no choice, so as not to disappoint the public, he accepted the fait accompli.

The celebration was very imposing and demonstrated how popular and beloved by everyone Dr. Sudarsky was. Because the jubilee celebration could not be publicized and because the preparations were made quietly it was expected that only the closest friends would come to the celebration. How pleasantly surprised they were to see a colossal crowd of friends gathered in the house of Alte's sister and brother-in-law (Blume and Meyshe Bobrov), prominent community activists, representatives of parties, groups, very different from what the honoree had heard, but each one came because he felt an urge to do so, and the celebration was thus transformed into a true folk holiday in honor of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, one of the beloved and famous leaders of Lithuanian Jewry.

In New York

After Hitler came to power in Germany, Nazism began to plague the neighboring countries as well, including Lithuania. The future became ever more threatening and the Sudarskys immigrated to New York, where they settled on October 15, 1937. Beginning in 1940 Dr. Sudarsky practiced as an eye specialist in Brooklyn and in New York City. He was a distinguished doctor at several hospitals. The new home became a continuation for Dr. Sudarsky the prominent cultural and social organizer. And as is usual in a new place, new problems presented themselves. In many cases, new circumstances change the basic approach to life, and after fifteen years in New York as a practicing physician Dr. Sudarsky might himself change to that sort of assimilated doctors who have joined the new lifestyle. But Dr. Sudarsky remained until his last drawn breath that same idealistic-thinking Litvak. In the Sudarsky's Brooklyn home one felt the same homey, comfortable, plain-people atmosphere as in Kovne. As always, Dr. Sudarsky was busy with community matters. He was active as director of HIAS; he founded the Federation of Lithuanian Jews in America and edited the journal Litvisher yid between 1943 and 1947. In addition to its rich content, the journal became an important organ for information for all whose origins were Lite. It became the tribune and the sought-out address for the survivors and their relatives – Lithuanian Jews in the Americas, Africa and other continents. And thanks to it masses of Jews succeeded in searching one another out. It was however not the only field of endeavor in Dr. Sudarsky's New York period. Like a torch that spreads light over a wide, darkened periphery, it was his pen, from which the reader gleaned knowledge. It is rare for a writer to be read by such a broad strata of people in all corners of America as was Dr. Sudarsky when he wrote for the Tog [Day]. His articles gave the reader a double interest with their learned medical treatments and garb of literary craftsmanship. From 1945 until the beginning of 1952, almost to the end of his life, Dr. Sudarsky was a collective member of the editorial board of the world-famous New York daily [Yiddish] newspaper Der tog [The day] and a correspondent for the Argentine press.

His interesting articles and notices as a literary critic are a chapter to themselves. They appeared in various newspapers and journals, and the name Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, the writer of those articles, also graced the columns of the Forverts, Tsukunft [future], Yevreiski Mir [Russian: Jewish world], the Jewish Encyclopedia and other publications.

And although Dr. Sudarsky's effect and style in New York had to be adjusted to some degree to the forms of expression in American Jewish life, Jewish Lithuania always remained the spinal cord of his Jewishness. He was and remained united with Lithuanian Jewry until the end of his life.

The Monumental Project Lite

Dr. Mendl Sudarsky's belonging to Lithuanian Jewry, his appreciation for intellectual Jewish Lite as an integral part of the Jewish people that belonged to the elite of world Jewry, aroused in Dr. Sudarsky the idea, even before the Nazi nightmare became a reality in Lite, that the golden epoch of Jewish Lithuania must find its redress in some memorial form or another. At the initiation of Dr. Sudarsky and his wife, a society with the name Idish-litvishe kultur-gezelshaft – Lite [Jewish-Lithuanian Cultural Society – Lite] was founded in 1943 in New York, which stood as an assignment to immortalize the life and creativity of Lithuanian Jewry for the last 700 years in a work named Lite.

Meanwhile the Nazi pestilence rampaged over Europe. Flowering Jewish settlements were wiped away by the Nazi murderers and Lithuanian Jewry shared that same fate, annihilated by the German-Lithuanian Nazi murderers. When that hideous news of the great Jewish tragedy became known, it shattered Dr. Sudarsky. He could not grasp it, his heart mourned for all the people Israel but especially for the proud Lithuanian Jews, whose building and prosperity he had presided over. That catastrophe gave Dr. Sudarsky and his wife another hard push to immortalize the memory of Jewish Lite in a monumental work. Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, the chairman of the Lite Society, then also became the editor of the monumental work Lite, his wife Alte, the secretary who was concerned with the finances.

In truth, other people took important positions, helping to organize, collect funds, and the author of this article, while living in Australia, helped organize and collect funds, but the main burden was carried by Dr. Sudarsky and his wife. Their own existence, medical office work and private affairs took second place and all their entire energies were devoted to the holy mission of immortalizing Lithuanian Jewry in the deserving task that was the monumental work Lite.

Since Dr. Sudarsky was accustomed to creating something original, he could not do otherwise in this case. From the beginning it was his intention to create a work of great compass, rich in content, as would be appropriate for Lithuanian Jewry.

After the end of World War Two a great amount of khurbn [holocaust] literature was produced. It appeared, however, that regarding scope and regarding form the book Lite was the largest, most monumental work that Jews had created to date.

Before me lies Volume One of the pinkas [community record book] Lite, Dr. Sudarsky's work for the last ten years of his life. Essentially it is a kind of encyclopedic pinkas of glorious Lithuanian Jewry from its origins to its death. The eye cannot comprehend enough of the superb beauty and enormity of the undertaking. Its first glimpses turn to the massive ash-grey-blue covers that serve as an adorned mantle for a spiritual treasure. On one of those covers are etched four shouting letters in gold color that spell out L-I-T-E. It cuts at the heart to look at the letters that symbolize four golden gravestone letters for proud, mowed-down, Lithuanian Jewry.

As you open the covers the significance becomes even greater. You recognize a map of hundreds of towns and villages in Lite, where generations of Jews lived. Jewish Lithuania reveals itself to you. You recognize before your eyes so many homey, familiar towns and villages. An abundance of likenesses, images and memories flash in your mind and a great heart-clenching overtakes you, reminding you, that you often happened to travel there on community errands, coming to deal with honest, fine, unassuming, good Jews. And what a horrible event. From all of that, not even a memory remains – the towns and villages have been turned into a huge grave and the formerly compact Jewish populations have been tragically annihilated by the German-Lithuanian Nazi murderers.

The book Lite is very interesting for its large scope, and even when everything goes according to plan, it demanded a colossal effort to edit and to collect funds, especially as they came up against large and unexpected financial and technical difficulties that became an extremely heavy burden for Dr. Sudarsky and his wife, the chief doers for the book. That was the situation after long years of preparation, toil and worry of various sorts.

Dr. Sudarsky, encountering all these difficulties, saw it as obvious that surmounting this thorny path alone was not only beyond his strength but dangerous to his health. Yet his feeling of responsibility to the task of immortalizing the glorious historical past of the Jewish settlement in Lite did not allow him to rest, and demanded the maximum effort. During this struggle Dr. Sudarsky felt his health weaken. If he had done something to counter it in time, his situation may have had a different outcome, as far as his health was concerned. But in order to make possible the publication of the book Lite his own health took second place; and in fact even when he was confined to bed he did not interrupt work on the monumental task of Lite. Just shortly before his death he lived to see the publishing of the first volume of Lite, which is today a monument as well to the unforgettable and dear Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, who passed into eternity on January 2, 1952 and was buried with great honor and love from masses of ordinary Jews in the Lebanon Cemetery in New York, in the Sudarsky-Sider family plot.

The Institution Alte Sudarsky

When Dr. Sudarsky's soul departed, a void was left in the surrounding Lithuanian Jewish community life. The golden crown that had adorned the organization was no more. But Dr. Sudarsky had left behind a precious heritage with the great initiative, unbound energy, enterprising spirit and resolve to finish the monumental work Lite. That is Alte Sudarsky, the wife of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky. Alte Sudarsky, nee Arsh, who came from Dvinsk. She is the daughter of Yerakhmiel Arsh, an important Talmud expert and community activist. Mrs. Sudarsky was socially active from her early youth. In Lite she was a leader in a list of institutions and societies, and her activity there as chairwoman of the women's ORT movement calls for special mention.

A continuing fine contribution, worthy of praise, was her post-war activity in New York helping the refugees saved from Hitler's camps. She literally transformed her house in Brooklyn into a kind of immigration office, and crowds of immigrants received appropriate help of many kinds.

Photograph with caption:
Golde Arsh, Grandmother of A. Arsh-Sudarsky

In addition, Mrs. Sudarsky was also active in other areas and of those a special mention is required for her active participation in the Pioneer Women movement.

Above all else, her tireless work for the first volume of the monumental work Lite [must be noted]. It is without a doubt of great importance. All the things that a committee should have to do, were carried out by one person, by the well-known community activist Mrs. Sudarsky, who can justly be called the institution Alte Sudarsky.

* * *

Annihilated with other Jewish settlements in Jewish Lithuania: yet the monumental work Lite, which expresses the hundreds of years of activity and creativity in the areas of Torah, Haskalah [Jewish enlightenment movement], Jewish economics, organized society and culture, will tell the coming generations how the glorious chapter Jewish Lite has enriched the history of the Jewish people.

Dr. Mendl Sudarsky's love of and interest in Jewish Lite is reflected in this monumental work, his feeling of great responsibility, idealism, and his fine, gentle pen that graced the columns of important works with a fine literary facet, is drawn through the chapters of the book Lite like a golden thread.

In the annals of the history of Lithuanian Jewry, the name of Dr. Mendl Sudarsky – who sacrificed his life to Jewish concerns – is an example of a devoted Jew, a national thinker, idealist and deeply ethical human being.

[Pages 49-52]

Alte Sudarsky z”l

by Ruven Rubenshteyn

Translated by Tina Lunson

Sunday the 4th of Elul 5722 – September the 3rd 1962 – in Tel Aviv the devoted, energetic community activist Alte Sudarsky z”l [zikhroyne livrokhe: of blessed memory] passed away.

She died in the midst of the full fervor of preparing the second volume of Lite for print – a task that she considered her life's assignment after the death of her husband Dr. Mendl Sudarsky of blessed memory. She came to Israel in 1960 because of that. She put her last strength into that work; she stimulated, aroused and called upon her friends in Israel to help her in her difficult mission. But she did not merit living to see the publication of that work.

Alte was born in Dvinsk in 1885, into a family known for its traditional Jewish ways, erudition and enlightenment. Her father Yerakhmiel Arsh was celebrated in his town for his public service to the community. Alte was from a very early age permeated with the modern ideas of progress, socialism and Jewish revival which dominated the Jewish street. She was taught by a woman barber-surgeon, and during the First World War she served in the Russian Red Cross. At the battlefront she met Dr. Mendl Sudarsky, who was a military doctor. After the war they married and settled in Kovne.

The Sudarsky house became a central point for Jewish social and cultural work. Dr. Sudarsky, one of the wittiest and service-minded personalities in Jewish Lithuania, found in his wife a fellow fighter who was devoted heart and soul to their joint ideals and efforts. It can be said without exaggeration that there was no branch of community service that the Sudarskys did not represent and where they did not lend a hand. ORT, OZE, the Jewish school network, press, literature, social aid, orphans' concerns, hundreds of organizations, courses for popular education, economic restoration – everything that had a connection to Jewish life, they inspired to blessed achievement.

If a guest came from outside Lithuania – a writer, an author, a lecturer, a community activist, a painter, an artist – what was their address? At the Sudarskys'! Their house was a warm, welcoming inn for these guests.

A folk person by nature, with a glowing love for the folk language [Yiddish] and for Yiddish culture, Alta was the faithful life companion to her husband and friend. It is no wonder, then, that they earned not only the deep respect of a broad range of folk-circles, but also the recognition and liking of their ideological opponents.

Alte Sudarsky

In 1937 the Sudarskys emigrated to America. There they also continued their lifestyle, their community work, their traditions. And when the Second World War broke out and the reports reached America of the horrible extermination actions in Lite as elsewhere in Europe, where the Nazi Ashmedai [aka Asmodeus, demon from the Book of Tobit] had enslaved and drowned [Jews] in rivers of blood – the Sudarskys dedicated themselves to a two-sided assignment: to help the victims with all their strength, and to try to immortalize the ruined Jewish Lite in a monumental work.

In America Alte also approached work for erets yisroel. She was active in the Zionist Beyt Am of the workers' center in Brighton Beach and in the Brighton Club of the Women Pioneers, in Keren Kayemet l'Yisroel, and also in the organization for those who suffered under the Nazis besides her many-branched activity in other Jewish organizations.

Mrs. Sudarsky had a very evident role in the work for the first volume of Lite, which was published in New York on the initiative and under the editorship of Dr. Mendl Sudaraky and his collaborators.

And when her husband passed away, she made a vow to publish the second volume of Lite. Here in Israel she literally devoted days and nights to that task, which involved financial and technical difficulties. She did not rest. At her initiative, a social committee was established to provide moral support for the publication of the work. But she collapsed under the burden of the strenuous work. She had great heartache because the work went so slowly due to certain technical problems.

She decided at the end of August 1962 to travel back to New York, to rest there from her hard labors. We, a group of her friends, decided to honor her with a departure party. On the evening before the planned party, she wrote to me that she suffered from a heart ailment and that the doctors wanted to put her in a hospital. But she hoped to meet with her friends at the café where the banquet was to take place, and as if foreseeing her tragic fate, she said: “I thank you and thank you for your interest and loyalty. My whole hope is in you.”

We her friends were not destined to meet her at the banquet table. She was taken to Eichelov Hospital and on Sunday 3 September quietly gave up her soul.

The funeral took place on Tuesday 5 September. A huge crowd of relatives, friends and acquaintances, particularly Lithuanian Jews, among them community businessmen and writers, laid her to her eternal rest. She was eulogized in the name of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel by Chairman Ruben Rubenshteyn, and in the name of ORT by Director Yankev Oleysky.

Dr. Mendl Sudarsky dedicated his energies to the first volume of Lite. Alte Sudarsky sacrificed her life for the second volume. Their glowing names will forever remain etched in the history of the tragically murdered Jewish Lite.

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