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[Page 327]


(Subate, Latvia)

5601' N, 2554'

By Rev. M. B. Fisher

Translated by Yona Fisher

Subate was divided by a lake (ozere) as though there were two towns. There were two different rabbis, different shochtim, teachers, and Beit Midrashim. The eastern part of the town was the more significant in respect of the commercial center. The rich (gevrim) also resided in the eastern part close to the Market Square. The well-known wealthy of the town were the Factors, Abrahamson, Mariengeburg, Rubanenko, and others. It was a quiet Jewish town. With the exception of Monday, the market day, one rarely saw a strange person. The majority of the town was occupied with labor and transport. There were also "Luftmenschen" and retailers. There was no shortage of "Karabelnickers" who used to leave with a heavy pack on their shoulders from early Monday till Friday and traverse through the villages and farms.

The surroundings of Subate were extraordinarily beautiful and healthy. The lake, which was to be found in the middle of the town, added much to the beauty of the town. It used to attract many visitors who enjoyed the summer months.

From the year 1915, when Subate was occupied by the Germans, we were totally cut off from Courland. At that stage Rakishok was the nearest center with which we were connected commercially and which influenced us spiritually. Teachers, cantors, and orators were brought from there. Generally we were influenced by the Lithuanian Jewish Renaissance. We also made adjustments to the modernization of our education and established national culture organizations according to the Lithuanian style.

Our old rabbi, Hagaon Rabbi Moshe Zacher, was known as "Gadol Batorah." I once heard from the Rogevitscher Gaon, Joseph Rogen, that Moshe could "lernen." Our well-known Chazan was Avraham Yitzchak Katzevitz (the shochet from Abel in Lithuania), a type of "Berele Chagi." He also served Rakishok with his beautiful davening.

After the First World War a modern Hebrew School was organized via the brothers Cohen (currently residing in Johannesburg) and the son of the shochet, Israel, was the principal. Our school produced a large number of Hebrew speaking pupils. Israel (Katzevitz) was a fine "Maskil" with unique pedagogic abilities and was caught up somewhat excessively in the Haskalah movement. His initiative led to a well-organized Zionist organization and also a theatrical group.

In this theatrical group, Pearl the "rebbes" wife with her natural talent, proved to be outstanding. She was also the first female member of our democratic community. The chairman was our last Rabbi, Hagaon Yaacov Epstein (nephew of Gaon Rabbi Moshe Epstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Hebron).

As far as the existence of genuine Judaism in the Jewish street was concerned, it is worth remembering a certain incident. A well-known shopkeeper who conducted classes in Meshniot on Saturday and Sunday had a liking for the Omed (bimah) and was a very pleasant davener without payment. When it became known that his two sons, students at the Lithuanian Gymnasium, were writing on Shabbat, he was no longer permitted to approach the Omed.

May the above sentences remain as a memorial to our most beloved and dear holy ones (Kedoshim) who lived a true Jewish life and raised their holy souls (Al Kiddush Hashem). May their blood be avenged.


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