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Personalities {Cont.}

[Page 215]

My Father, Avraham Golod

Isie Golod (Haifa)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

         Avraham Golod

rok215.jpg [7 KB] My father Avraham, son of Nissan Golod, was one of the first settlers in Ochotnikov (the former name of Rokitno). He dealt in transport for the lumber dealers to Russia and other European countries. He was referred to as an expediter. He arrived while still a bachelor and when his economical situation was settled, he married Chaya, from the family of Baruch Kleifeld from Koritz, and he started a family.

Due to his business dealings, his house was always full with merchants who worked in his field. He was a popular man who got along with people. He was proud of his Jewish heritage and was always ready to help the needy. He was active in almost all the charitable organizations in town. He was a dedicated Zionist and collected money for Eretz Yisrael from the beginning of the Zionist movement. He was very proud of the pile of letters (which he guarded), handwritten by Ussishkin regarding the purchase of lands in Eretz Yisrael even before the founding of the Jewish National Fund. My father was extremely active in the election of Zeev Jabotinsky to the Russian Duma (parliament).

Since he was in contact with different merchants, including Germans, at the start of World War I my father was accused by the Russian government of spying for Germany. He spent a year in prison in Zhitomir without being tried. He was then exiled to Siberia where he suffered till the end of the war. He wrote letters to the Zionists in Rokitno from his place of exile. In these letters he encouraged them to continue with their activities.

When he returned to Rokitno, the entire population of Rokitno – including the Christians – led by Rabbi Damata, came out to greet him.

Father stood out in his devotion and his love for his family and made a great effort to educate his children in a Hebrew and Zionist spirit. His hopes were that his children would make Aliyah and that he and mother would follow them. Sadly, he did not achieve his goal.

Father loved working the soil and much of his time was spent in his garden. He grew fruit and vegetables and he greatly enjoyed the produce. His leisure time was spent in the study of Torah. He was a modern man and he understood the times. He followed the progress in all fields.

Since he was a public personality, he was a member of the executive board of the Tarbut School building committee as well as the “Gmilut Hassadim” (Charity). He felt that assistance was very important and he made speeches in the synagogue on Saturdays- after Torah reading- about mutual help.

At one time he managed the popular bank in Rokitno and he helped many public institutions.

During World War II, he was one of the organizers of self-defense in Rokitno. He fell while on duty. One night, he was hit by a stone thrown by a Christian hooligan as he was running to defend a Jewish family. He died a day later. My father was the first victim of the Holocaust in Rokitno, even before the Nazis arrived.

[Page 216]

Herschel Shteinman

Aharon Lifshitzv (Givatayim)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

       Herschel Shteinman

rok216.jpg [7 KB] R' Herschel was a progressive Jew, but he was quite traditional, from the point of view of “Be a Jew at home and a human being outside." He attended synagogue regularly, but he did not have a special seat. During the High Holidays, he sat in a place of honor with other important people. He did not have an official position on the executive of the community, but he was highly involved, especially in matters pertaining to the synagogue. These were the Burial Society and Kiddush committee. They organized a Kiddush every Saturday after services in different homes. R' Herschel also donated Havdalah candles to the synagogue.

Even though he was a Hasid, he did not belong to a specific sect. He received all the Rabbis who visited our town. He took part in all festivities and dinners held in their honor and gave them donations.

He had a business – a small department store. The Jews of the area would buy goods in his store and they also ordered merchandise that had to be brought in from big cities. In addition, R' Herschel also had a good heart: if any sick person needed medicine that was unavailable in the local pharmacy, he would make certain that it was brought in as quickly as possible. He was highly regarded by other merchants and they always approached him with arbitration matters. He was successful in this position by mediating without looking for rewards.

Even though he was involved in earning a living, he was always ready to listen to others. Many would come to him with their problems. He would circulate among those who had means in order to collect for the needy. The Jews knew that if R' Herschel came it meant that the need was urgent and they gave readily.

On Purim and on the eve of Yom Kippur he increased his efforts. He went from house to house with a handkerchief in his hand. When he finished collecting the money he hurried to the homes of the needy and distributed the money. On this occasion he would perform another Mitzvah. He wished everyone “Hag Sameach” on Purim and “Gmar Hatima Tova” on the eve of Yom Kippur.

R' Hershel was an enthusiastic Zionist although he did not identify himself with any Zionist party. He donated generously to Zionist funds. His end was bitter. His wife was killed with other Rokitno citizens on the day of slaughter. He managed to escape and hid with a Christian acquaintance. However, after a few days he was betrayed for a kilo of salt. His dream was to make Aliyah, but he did not succeed.

[Page 217]

My Father, Berel Shwartzblat

Baruch Shehori (Shwartzblat) (Haifa)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

          Berel Shwartzblat

rok217.jpg [6 KB] Although he was born in Rafalovka and came with his wife (my mother) Dvora to Rokitno in 1910, he was considered as one of the early settlers. In his youth he studied at a yeshiva. His studies greatly influenced his life. He had a good sense of humor and liked to tell jokes.

He was blessed with a deep intellect and a quick mind. The fact that he was involved in community affairs and yet he was one of the ordinary people made him quite popular in Rokitno. He earned his living from his store, which stood in the center of town. It was one of the first stores in Rokitno. Since most of his time was spent in working for the common good, it was my mother's responsibility to run the store, even though she had many young children.

Our family suffered greatly during World War I. Father and his neighbor Hertzel Binder did not wish to join the Russian army and were obliged to spend a few years “underground”. Even under these conditions, my father did not stop his communal activities and he continued to help Jewish refugees who streamed into our town from western districts as the Russians were retreating.

As an observant Jew, he was always among the first to attend synagogue services. He took part in the study of “Eyn Yaakov” or a page of Gmara, between Mincha and Maariv. He was involved in major communal decisions. He was a frequent visitor in the home of Rabbi Aharon Yosef Shames, z”l, and he was highly respected by him. Often he was invited to be an arbitrator in a Din Torah dispute between two opponents who came to the Rabbi.

Father was not a follower of Hasidism, but he still participated in receptions for all visiting Rabbis. He also studied with the Rabbi and celebrated with other Hasidim till the early morning hours.

Since he was a Zionist, he belonged to Mizrachi, but he supported financially all Zionist parties. He educated his children in a traditional and Zionist spirit.

He was involved in all types of charitable activities. He gave all his energy to these activities, not expecting any rewards. He was one of the founders of the Burial Society in Rokitno. Any dying person was “adopted” by my father. He organized bedside vigils to alleviate the burden on the family. When the person died, my father would conduct the funeral in a traditional and halachic manner. There were no funerals without his active participation.

During the Polish rule, my father served as a representative of the merchants and tradesmen to the committee organized by the income tax department in Sarny. He was well versed in tax regulations. His expertise proved useful in showing government clerks that they were exaggerating in their evaluations.

On the 13th of Elul 1942 he managed to escape from the slaughter grounds, but he was caught by farmers from Kisorich and he was murdered by the German killers in Rokitno.

[Page 218]

A Monument to the Soul of Gedalya Lifshitz

Yeshayahu Meiri (Meirson) (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

           Gedalya Lifshitz

rok218.jpg [7 KB] Gedalya was fascinated by Zionism from childhood. His studies in the cheder did not satisfy him. He belonged to a special group in Rokitno who studied with an important Rabbi from out of town. However, in any spare moment, Gedalya searched for books about “Hibat Zion” and Zionism. Even though he was quite young, he stood out as an instructor of the Zionist youths in Rokitno.

In 1917, when the Balfour Declaration was made, most of the young students were away from Rokitno, studying in Kiev and other Russian cities. Instead of studying, we listened to lectures about Zionism and we attended many conferences and meetings. All this was not enough. We wanted to do more for our country. When we returned to Rokitno for Succoth, we decided to have a mass rally in the synagogue in honor of the Balfour Declaration. Great Britain recognized the historical link between the Jewish people and the land. Gedalya Lifshitz was one of the main speakers at this rally. He stood out as a brave fighter for Zionism in times that were not so receptive to Zionism. In those days there were young people in Rokitno who were blinded by the October revolution and were known to oppose Zionism.

Gedalya Lifshitz electrified the audience with his great Zionist speech, which was full of love for and a strong belief in the Zionist dream. He saw that the Balfour Declaration was a great light that influenced the Jews in the Diaspora. He ended his speech by reading a telegram that he proposed to send to the headquarters of the Zionist movement in Russia. It read: “The youths of Rokitno enthusiastically embrace the Balfour Declaration which announces the founding of a national home in Eretz Yisrael and they are ready to serve, unconditionally, the Zionist cause. They are prepared to make Aliyah in order to work the land themselves because no mandate in the world could build our national home for us.”

The contents of the telegram excited the participants and Gedalya was warmly applauded. Rabbi Yosef Shames shook his hand and said to him: “May you be blessed!”

Gedalya was not only a talker, but also a doer. He obeyed the spirit of the telegram and in 1922, he made Aliyah. There he did hard physical labor. He lived frugally and suffered greatly, but his love for Eretz Yisrael fortified him. He continued his work with enthusiasm and participated with other pioneers in the building of our homeland.

Sadly, Gedalya did not live to see his dream come true. He died on Pessach 1936, a young man of 37, at the prime of his life.

Great sadness fills me when I remember Gedalya. To this day I cannot get used to saying the Late Gedalya Lifshitz. My ears cannot absorb it. I cannot accept it because he was my friend from childhood. Many wonderful memories are tied to him. These are memories of a new Zionist spirit in Rokitno. We were as close as brothers during our best years. Our work together in the Zionist movement in Rokitno created a very close relationship.

[Page 220]

Baruch (Buzia) Levin

Haim Shteinman(Tel Aviv)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

            Baruch Levin

rok220.jpg [7 KB] Buzia Levin stood out among the youths of Rokitno as an educated person and as a public servant. He came from a respected family. In his childhood he studied at the Tarbut School in Rokitno and he continued his studies at the Hebrew High School (Gymnasia) in Vilna. When he completed his studies, he entered the teaching profession and taught in several villages in the Rokitno area. He was imbued with the Zionist spirit and he spread the Zionist dream among his students. He continued his life's work in Eretz Yisrael.

Buzia believed in Zeev Jabotinsky's Zionism and he took upon himself the mission of disseminating it. In those days there was an ideological battle within the Zionist movement. Buzia knew how to explain and how to influence. He was one of the founders of Betar and Brit Hahayal in Rokitno and he was intimately involved in all aspects.

Buzia was active with his Betar youths in several national funds until the founding of the New Zionist Movement. However, from an ideological point of view, he strongly believed in a national home following Jabotinsky's ideas.

The movement assigned him many responsibilities. He visited many towns in Volyn in order to found new Betar chapters. He was an outstanding speaker with an excellent sense of humor. He was comfortable in any society and was always able to clearly express his ideas. He was well received by his listeners.

Buzia was also a writer. He was a correspondent for the weekly “Life in Volyn” which was published in Rovno. His articles about events in Rokitno or literary selections appeared in every edition.

He was also a talented actor and he performed in many plays presented by the amateur theater group in Rokitno and its vicinity. All income was donated for national and charitable purposes. He had a beautiful voice and liked to sing cantorial selections. He often joined choirs of visiting cantors, among them Moshe Kussovitzky. Buzia utilized his many talents in all aspects of life in Rokitno. He made Aliyah with his wife.

After some early absorption difficulties, Buzia again was drawn to public life. He settled in Jerusalem and was appointed manager of a local Kupat Holim. He continued his work on behalf of the national movement. At the beginning of 1939, he was sent to the United States as an emissary. On the way, he visited Rokitno, but he managed to return to Eretz Yisrael as World War II broke out. He now felt a change in the Zionist movement. After much soul-searching he left the Jabotinsky movement, as did many others, and he joined the General Zionists. Here again he held a key position and admirably performed his duties.

Although he was deeply involved in public life, he did not forget Rokitno. When the Association of Rokitno Members was founded in Israel, Buzia was very active and served as a member of the executive to his dying days. We well remember his electrifying appearances at the annual memorial assemblies. He would remember with trepidation and reverence our dearly departed who perished in the Holocaust. He regularly attended meetings of the executive and when it was decided to publish this Yizkor book, he was quite enthusiastic. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the dream come true.

He became deathly ill and could not overcome the disease. I visited him often in the hospital in Jerusalem and, in spite of his agonizing pains, he always asked about the affairs of the Association. Our friend, relative and comrade left us before his time.

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