My Father, Avraham Golod
Isie Golod (Haifa)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
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
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
Aharon Lifshitzv (Givatayim)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
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
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
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
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.
My Father, Berel Shwartzblat
Baruch Shehori (Shwartzblat) (Haifa)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
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, zl,
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
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.
A Monument to the Soul of Gedalya Lifshitz
Yeshayahu Meiri (Meirson) (Tel Aviv)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
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
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.
Baruch (Buzia) Levin
Haim Shteinman(Tel Aviv)
Translated by Ala Gamulka
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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