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[Page 210]

Reb Dov Ber Katznelson of blessed memory

by Shlomo Katznelson

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The community of the town appreciated Reb Dov Ber Katznelson, and he faithfully fulfilled any task that he took upon himself. He was not a native of Lyuban, for he was born in the village of Bapolsia. He studied in the nearby town of Kopatkevichi from the best teachers of Gemara. He married a Lyuban native when he was seventeen years old. He continued to live in the village even after his marriage. He would bring his merchandise for sale in nearby Lyuban or Slutsk. He did not wish to be supported by his father-in-law or charity, so he was forced to seek his livelihood from afar.

He served as a teacher at the home of one of the wealthy people of Kremenchug, and he spent a year in Poltava.

He returned to Lyuban after a few years. He searched for an appropriate livelihood, and when he ran out of money, he returned to teaching for want of other options. He was one of the superb teachers of Gemara. His students aspired towards the yeshivas of Slutsk and Mir.

He was appointed as the gabbai (trustee) of the Talmud Torah in Lyuban. He brought in a teacher who taught the students to write letters in Yiddish, as well as in the vernacular. Zecharia the son of Hershel the hat maker served as a teacher in the Talmud Torah at the same time. The students of the Talmud Torah were for the most part orphans or children of poor people, so he had to concern himself with providing clothing and shoes for them. The town was impoverished, and my father Reb Dov Ber Katznelson had to find a source of income.

The forestry traders near Lyuban and its environs donated money to the Talmud Torah. Donations came in from outside the bounds of Lyuban, from as far as Starye Dorogi. The officials of the “Poliak-Visbram” sawmill also donated.

When the Yeshiva of Slutsk was founded by the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov David, the son of Zev known by the acronym Ridbaz, he himself would visit the towns that were close to Slutsk to request donations for the Yeshiva. He came to Lyuban as well.

My father was once present at a conversation between the Ridbaz and Rabbi Yerushalmi, the rabbi of the town. The Ridbaz turned to him and said, “Reb Ber, your students of today will later be students of the Yeshiva of Slutsk, and therefore you have the duty to collect donations for the Yeshiva.”

Father's desire to establish a Yeshiva in Lyuban similar to Slutsk was not actualized.

The following incident should be remembered for good, in that the writer of these lines and his brothers assisted in the fulfilling of this mitzvah.

A fire broke out in town, a very common occurrence. Among the houses that were burnt down was the house of the Widow P. They only succeeded in salvaging her cow and a few of her moveable belongings.

Father of blessed memory and Reb Yisrael Leib took it upon themselves to rebuild her house. They began to collect donations from the residents of Lyuban and its environs. This diligent effort lasted for over a year, and despite this, they only barely succeeded in purchasing a ready-made house from a gentile from a nearby village. The gentile was obligated to transfer it to the town and set it up.

The house was erected as was agreed upon with the seller, but there was a need for sand to be put on the roof to stick it together. The seller was not obligated in this task, and there was no money to hire a worker. Father of blessed memory enlisted my brother and me for this task. Each morning, we would wake up early and go to help Father carry the sand to fill in the roof. We continued with this work until it was finished. Father of blessed memory himself participated in the plastering effort. When the widow returned from her sister's home and came to live in her new house, she complained that the plaster caused her nausea. Father was disturbed, and told her that the worker who plastered the house considered himself to be an expert, and that he invested a great deal of effort in it.

* * *

The widow ran out of sustenance, and she went to ask for bread from the neighbors. In the event that they could not give her anything, involved as they were with the care of their own children, she would come to us and turn to my father. Father immediately went to the pantry, took out the last loaf of bread, and gave it to her. Towards evening, when Mother went to prepare supper for her children, she saw that there was no bread. My brother told her what had happened. Mother informed Father that it is not fitting to give away the last loaf of bread from the house. Father's answer was characteristic, “There is an explicit verse 'Spread your bread to the hungry, and in particular to a widow who is caring for hungry orphans.'”

When Father took ill with his final illness, his Gemara did not leave his hands. When the family members urged him to take a break from his learning to rest a little, he answered with an adage from the Sages: “If someone has a headache, he should occupy himself with Torah.”

Father served as a prayer leader for approximately forty years, and he served as a successful and fitting Baal Mussaf[1] on the High Holy Days.

For over thirty years, he gave a regular class in the Beis Midrash on “Ein Yaakov[2] on weekdays, and on the weekly Torah portion on Sabbaths. He concerned himself with the needs of the Talmud Torah for about thirty years, and he was one of the leaders of the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society).

He died at the age of 64. May his memory be a blessing!


Binyamin (Benny) Katznelson of blessed memory

Binyamin Katznelson was born in 1888 in Lyuban to his father, the well-known teacher Reb Dov Ber.

He studied in well-known Yeshivas, and was one of the intelligentsia of the town. He and his wife Musia, nee Harkaby, were among the first chalutzim (pioneers) who made aliya to the Land in 1921. He worked in building and paving roads for his first years, and later was appointed as an official in the Tel Aviv city council.

He died in Tel Aviv on the 13th of Adar, 5721 (1961). May his memory be a blessing.

[Page 211]

R' Binyamin Wolfson

by Zivia Ostrovsky

Translated by Phyllis Schulberg and Michelle Schulberg


Reb Binyamin (in the center) among the staff of the Talmud Torah teachers in Kfar Ganim


In 1922 my father crossed the Russia-Poland border alone, and reached Baranovitz. He was accepted as a teacher in the Yeshiva and decided to settle there. The news that reached us illegally encouraged us, and he looked for ways to bring the whole family to him in Poland.

Our family then was made up of five people: Mother, three daughters and a son. The married daughter, Taibel (may her memory be a blessing), with her husband and their 2-year-old son, had previously succeeded in crossing the border, and settled temporarily in Baranovitz, with the hope of emigrating from there to the great world. Father's message, that he had succeeded in contacting a certain person in order to bring us across the border, was received gladly. But it was impossible to implement the departure of the whole family at once. Mother suggested that I travel first, but I did not agree to this, and on the pretext that it would be easier for her, I took the boy with me and she remained, temporarily, with the two girls. But, sadly, my brother and I were stopped by the Polish border police; we remained in prison for three weeks. Father succeeded in freeing the boy and I was returned to Russia.

One night I decided to try to flee from the police station. In one of the small towns on the border, I knew some people and I hoped they would help me. Indeed, the escape went well, and after two weeks I was brought to Baranovitz. The meeting with my father was fraught with danger, because he had sworn that he did not know where I was. With the help of good people, I received a certificate that I was a native of a small town near Baranovitz.

After three months, I received from America 'greetings' (perhaps an official invitation to come) and money.

At that time the Polish government announced the expulsion of foreign subjects, except for those who were planning to emigrate and they were permitted to remain a set time within the Polish borders. Even Father was ordered to leave Baranovitz, but the leaders of his school received permission for him to remain at his job.

My sister and brother-in-law and their child left Baranovitz, and after many moves over a period of a month, they arrived back in Luban. Their first letter made us very sad, because they found Mother ill, in critical condition, and after three weeks she died. I decided to forego my trip to America in order not to leave Father alone in his mourning. I suggested to him that we travel to the Land of Israel; he agreed in spite of his decision to return to Russia to reunite with his family. Father turned to Jerusalem, to Rav Yeruslumski (may his memory be a blessing) with a request for help for Aliya. After a short time we received an offer from Yeshiva Torat Haim, to be a teacher and to bring his son and his 'servant girl' (it was forbidden to mention his daughter).

At the end of the summer of 1924, we prepared to make Aliya to the Land of Israel. We knew the hardships that awaited us, as we were lacking resources. Good friends loaned us money, and on a Friday the boat reached the port of Yafo. We were brought to a hotel on Nachlat Binyamin Street and Father was happy to welcome the Sabbath in the Land of Israel.

During that Sabbath day, I found people from our town in Tel Aviv. They were surprised to see us and welcomed us warmly. They guided us, at the beginning, as good brothers. We settled in Petach Tikva and registered in the labor office. We received several days of work in 'tobacco' (fields? factory?). Even Father did physical work and he was happy. After Passover, Father was accepted as a teacher in the Hebrew school, Shearit Yisrael (Remnants of Israel); his salary was 4 lirot per month but he signed a confirmation saying that it was 12 lirot, so he would be able to prepare an application to bring the two girls from Luban.

Several months passed and he received entry permits for them. Ten months from the day of our arrival we went to the port to welcome the girls, who had traveled with another family. Father settled in K'far Ganim, bought a small piece of land, planted fruit trees, and built a small cabin in which to live.

In the Hebrew school he acquired a good name (reputation) and many friends, and was happy until his last day. In the village he devoted himself to community matters and was active in all religious matters, especially the building of the Synagogue.

He was privileged to see during his lifetime the establishment of the State, and he also sacrificed on the altar of this statehood his grandson, my son Avner (may his memory be a blessing), who died serving in a Palmach operation.

My father reached the age of 77. On Rosh Hashana he prayed in the Synagogue and (six days later) on the 6th of Tishrei[3], he died. The residents of K'far Ganim appreciated him, and in his memory, the Synagogue was named Tiferet Binyamin (the Glory of Binyamin).

[Page 212]

Rabbis Who Came From Lyuban

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rabbi Yerucham Halevi Leibovitz
(5633 / 1873 – 18th of Sivan 5696 / 1936)




He was one of the greats of Torah ethics in our day.

He was born in Lyuban to his parents Avraham and Chasha Leibovitz and was educated in the Yeshivas of Slobodka and Kelm. He served as the spiritual guide[4] of the Yeshivas of Radun (The Yeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim), Slobodka, Panevezys, and primarily in the Mir Yeshiva until the day of his death.

After the First World War, his influence in the Mir Yeshiva increased. The Mir Yeshiva was a center of Torah, and had about 500 students, including about 100 students from the United States, England, and Germany. Most of the leaders of the Yeshivas of Poland were the students of Rabbi Yerucham Halevi. They would come on occasion to visit him, and take counsel with him on various matters.

He died at the age of 63.

The Rabbi and Gaon Shimon Starlitz died in Jerusalem. He was a member of the editorial board of the Talmudic Encyclopedia, and one of the primary students of Rabbi Kook of holy blessed memory.

He was known as one of the Torah leaders of Jerusalem, and the prime movers of the efforts behind the Talmudic Encyclopedia.

He was born in the town of Lyuban and studied in the Yeshivas of Klyetsk and Slutsk. He studied at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Israel, where he found favor in the eyes of Rabbi Kook[5] of holy blessed memory. He remained his faithful student. He published articles on the writings of the Rav. Over and above his greatness in Torah, he was also very articulate. He wrote in a very deep fashion about the philosophy of the Rav of holy blessed memory.

He was a member of the editorial board of the Talmudic Encyclopedia from its initiation. He was very diligent, and occupied himself with Torah day and night. He had a fine character, and loved Zion with his entire soul. He was a Gaon, and produced innovative ideas like an overflowing well.

He left behind many innovative Torah thoughts in writing. His Torah novellae were published by Machon Harry Fishel[6]. He published the commentary of the Meiri on the tractates of Avot and Moed Katan. He was beloved by all of his acquaintances and friends. He died of a heart ailment at age 49.


Rabbi Chaim Kabalkin Of Blessed Memory

Uncaptioned. Rabbi Kabalkin or Rabbi Starlitz[7]


He was born on Rosh Chodesh Adar 5658 – 1898 to his father Rabbi Yehuda Leib and his mother Nechama Lea the daughter of Reb Binyamin Epstein.

He was educated in Lyuban and transferred to the Eitz Chaim Yeshiva of Slutsk. He excelled in his Torah study, his talents, and his fine character.

At the beginning of 5681 (1921), the Yeshiva Knesset Yisrael returned to Slobodka[8] from its exile in Kremenchuk, Ukraine. Reb Chaim Kabalkin was among the 300 Yeshiva members who returned. He succeeded in escaping from Slutsk, which was under Communist rule, and arriving in Slobodka.

He became active in the life of the Yeshiva within a short period of time, and he became well-known despite his modesty. The situation of the Yeshiva was very bright at the time, thanks to help from America.

In the middle of the summer of the year 5681, Kabalkin attempted to collaborate with several Yeshiva students to found a charitable organization.

Many books had been torn and destroyed due to the wanderings. The books were purchased again; however there was no source of loans for the Yeshiva students during their times of difficulty.

One Friday, a discreet notice was posted indicating that anyone who wishes a loan for a short period should turn to either … or Mr. Chaim Kabalkin, every Friday in the house of … next to the Yeshiva.

The Yeshiva passed through a crisis during the year 5682.Then it became obvious that Chaim Kabalkin prepared the balm prior to the wound, since there were more than 1,000 lira in the charitable fund

His activities were not restricted to within the walls of the Yeshiva. In the year 5683 (1923), the year of the famine in Russia, he organized a group of Yeshiva students to collect donations and send food packages to save Jews.


Rabbi Yehuda Leib Kabalkin of blessed memory


Chaim Kabalkin was among those who made aliya in the year 5685 (1925), when the Slobodka Yeshiva transferred to the holy city of Hebron with the support of the Jews of America.

Chaim Kabalkin implanted the idea of founding the T.T. foundation (Tomchei Torah Lanitzrachim – Supporters of Torah for the Needy) among the Yeshiva students. The directors of the Yeshiva set aside a monthly allocation for the T.T. fund.

In the month of Adar of the year 5689 (1929), after he married Chaya the daughter of Reb Yitzchak Zelig Slibkin of blessed memory from Riga, he moved to live in Tel Aviv. His brother-in-law Noach, may G-d avenge his blood, was killed during the unrest of 5689. He then returned to Jerusalem so that he could take care of the education of his nephews.

Reb Chaim Kabalkin made efforts to establish a Torah-oriented village in the mountains of Jerusalem (in the place that Kfar Etzion was later built). He also established a foundation called “Neta Emunim” (“The Shoots of the Faithful”) in the name of the Elder (Saba) of Slobodka—The shoots of the faithful for G-d and His Torah.

That year, he established a Beis Midrash for Torah called Ohel Torah for young men who do not require support. This organization was to ensure that the strengthening of the Torah and Mussar (religious ethics) from the Slobodka Yeshiva. This Torah institution turned into a high level Torah academy. The mantle of leadership of Ohel Torah passed to Rabbi Sh. Y. Hilman of holy blessed memory, the son-in-law of Rabbi Y. A. Herzog[9] of holy blessed memory. During its years of existence, it graduated Torah and Mussar giants, who today serve as religious judges, rabbis, and heads of Yeshivas in the Land.

In the year 5702 (1942), at the height of the Second World War, when the danger of famine afflicted the inhabitants of the Land, Reb Chaim established a charitable fund for Yeshiva students called Keren Palman (Peilat Lemaan Mishpachot Nitzracho—Action on Behalf of Needy Families), as well as a fund to support the needy.

In the year 5704 (1944), he served as the right hand of Rabbi Y. A. Herzog of holy blessed memory, according to the recommendation of Rabbi Moshe Epstein and Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer of holy blessed memory in actualizing his idea of anthologizing the literature of practical halachah. Thus was founded the splendid institution of Otzar Haposkim (Treasury of Halachic Decisors), which published five volumes on Even Haezer [10] up to this time.

He died after a serious heart ailment on the 20th of Adar I, 5711 (1951). May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

[Page 214]

Lyuban As I Remember It

by Tzvi Asaf

Translated by Jerrold Landau


The Cheder Hametukan in Lyuban.
Among the teachers were Yosef Feiges and Tamara Katznelson.


Lyuban was a typical Jewish town. It was turned in to itself, and earned its livelihood in the neighboring villages and forests. The lumber was exported in barges on the Orossa River[11]. Lyuban was built up along its banks.

Lyuban was far from a train station. The only regular mode of transportation between it and other civic centers such as Slutsk and Bobruysk was by the wagon drivers.

Despite its distance from modern transportation, merchants would come to the town from afar to purchase the produce of the villages, such as butter, honey, dried mushrooms, lard, wax, various seeds, grain, wheat and cattle.

There were no wealthy people in Lyuban, and for the most part, the people earned their livelihood with great difficulty. Nevertheless, it seems to me that nobody was starving in the town.

The main sources of livelihood in town were as follows: merchants, shopkeepers, carpenters, shoemakers, and tailors. Most of them spread out to the neighboring villages on Sundays and returned on Friday. There were also teachers, scribes, Yeshiva students, a rabbi, a shochet, and shamashim in town. The town was not lacking of a “fool.” His name was Shlomoke, a spoiled lad, whose “craziness” was that he did not wish to work. The community supported him. One of his antics was that he would suddenly approach the members of the “more beautiful sex” and give a kiss. The women did not complain about this because, after all, he was a fool.

Approximately 200 Jewish families lived in Lyuban. Communal activities were centered around various charitable organizations such as: Linat Tzedek (providing of lodging for the indigent), Matan Beseter (Discrete giving of charity to the poor), Chevra Kadisha (the Burial Society), Makabei Eish (the firefighters), and groups for the study of Mishna, Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), and Ein Yaakov. The sounds of Torah echoed from the many cheders and from the synagogues, where not only did the Yeshiva students study, but also the Perushim, older men who separated from their families and dedicated their lives to the study of Torah. Aside from these, there was a Cheder Metukan, which was innovative in its time, and where the finest of the intelligentsia of the town gathered.

There were also secular groups in Lyuban. Particularly notable were Tzeirei Zion and the Bund. It is worthwhile to mention that Itza the son of the rabbi of the town was forced to flee to the United States because of the fear of the Czarist government on account of his Socialist activities.

The synagogue served as the center of communal life. Every travesty in communal life found its answer in the synagogue, where the main “weapon” was a delay in the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath until matters were settled.

I remember only once occasion where a ban of excommunication was issued on someone who was suspecting of informing. The black candles that were lit on the weekday evening, the sound of the shofar, and the entire ceremony of excommunication made a deep impression on me. Not too many days passed before the guilty party repented, and the ban of excommunication was lifted.

There was not one household of Lyuban where at least one of the sons did not dedicate himself to the study of Torah in the Yeshivas of Slutsk, Hlusk, Mir, or Shklov. They even reached Telz and other Torah centers, in order to study to the point of being ordained as a rabbi. There were also young people who studied in the gymnasia of Slutsk. On vacation days, they adorned themselves with the uniform of the gymnasia, replete with shiny buttons.

The Yeshiva students ate their daily and Sabbath meals on a rotation system with the householders of Slutsk, who for the most part treated them with respect. Aside from this, they received packages of food and clothing from their homes, sent to them by their families via the wagon drivers. The wagon drivers received no benefit from this, for they saw it as their donation to help the Yeshiva students. However, they did not bother to remember who sent to whom. It was a characteristic scene to see how the Yeshiva students would search through the thick layer of hay in the large wagon in order to find their package, and how great was their disappointment when they did not find it. For despite the short distance, a trip home would only take place around the High Holy Days and Passover, in order not to neglect the study of Torah.

Lyuban excelled over all of the other towns of the area in its level of knowledge and Jewish learning. It was a very interesting scene when Avraham Noach the shoemaker delivered his lesson on Shulchan Aruch or Ein Yaakov between Mincha and Maariv, for most of the workers of the town were Torah scholars or at least lovers of Torah.


Itza the doctor


Berl Feitel, his wife Nechama, and family

* * *

There were no times of joy in Lyuban more so than on Simchat Torah at the time of the Hakafot (Torah processions). Chaim Yosef the teacher gathered together all of the children of the town after services, and joined with them in song and dance in the streets. He would dance before the most prominent householders.

The joy was also very great on Purim. There was the reading of the Megilla (the Scroll of Esther) accompanied by graggers (Purim noisemakers), and the sending of food portions (Mishloach Manot). There was the coronation of a “Purim Rabbi.” They selected a Yeshiva student, brought him to the rabbi's house, and dressed him in fine silk, a belt. A white beard flowed down over his cloak. They sat him on a large chair and presented him with questions and problems. Despite the scoffing, this indicated their sharpness in learning, and served as an escape from day to day life.

* * *

There were three synagogues in Lyuban. The Great Synagogue was where the communal leaders and influential householders worshipped. The rabbi of the town also worshipped there. The Tailors' Synagogue was for members of that trade. (Of course, you could also find various artisans in the Great Synagogue and important householders in the latter synagogue, but for the most part, there were divisions in membership between them.) The third synagogue was “The Cold Synagogue”, which was built by the landowner (poretz), and did not belong to the civic property. It stood out for its unique architecture. It was only used during the summer. Many legends were passed along about this synagogue, since it did not have Torah scrolls and mezuzahs. Everyone told about the corpses who would gather to worship there, etc. The hearts of the children pounded out of fear as they passed by it during the nights.

The synagogues burnt down in the great fire that overtook Lyuban at the eve of the First World War. One modest Beis Midrash was built in their place.

Lyuban was known from afar on account of its physician Dr. Spiridonov. He was a good-hearted Christian doctor who loved Jews. He was expert at curing trachoma, and all those who were preparing to immigrate to the United States and were afraid that their entrance would be impeded by eye diseases would turn to him to be examined and cured.

There was also a Jewish doctor, known as Itza the doctor. He was one of those who were “snatched” for army service during the time of Czar Nikolai I. He completed his medical degree while he was serving in the army for 25 years. Later he returned to town. He continued serving as a doctor until his old age, when he was already completely deaf.

His son-in-law Berl Feitel was the local pharmacist, and one of the heads of the intelligentsia.

* * *

The last shochet of Lyuban, Reb Yaakov Moshe Kostanovitz, who perished on the 10th of Av, 5701 / 1941


Reb Itcha Yaakov Malin (on the right) and his family


Reb Yaakov the shochet was a unique personality. He also served as the mohel (ritual circumcisor) in the town. He had a bright countenance, and a smile never left his lips. When a butcher stormed angrily that his fingernails were guilty in the removal of a “sircha[12] and therefore rendered the meat non-kosher, he would retort “You are a fool (shoteh), you are a fool,” pronouncing the 'sh' as an 's'[13]. In truth, he was concerned with the money of the Jewish people, and he was anguished by any animal that was rendered non-kosher. He wore a long kapote covered with fat stains, and his livelihood was earned in particular from the stomachs and intestines that he received in return for the slaughter. His children also studied shechita. One of them Reb Nechemya, is a rabbi in Toledo, United States. His two daughters were married, the first to Reb Reuven Leibovitz, and the second to Reb Moshe Feinstein[14]], the final rabbi of Lyuban. Both of them are in New York.

My pen is too poor to portray a complete picture of life in the town and its events. However, I wish to present one episode that caused a ruckus in the town.

Itcha Yaakov the butcher was considered to be a well-to-do person in Lyuban. He was one of the large-scale cattle dealers, and he would travel to fairs in far off places for that purpose. He took great pride in his beard, and took great care of it.

At every opportunity, his friends urged him to sell his beard, and of course, he refused. However on one occasion, when his heart was merry with wine after a good business deal at a fair, he agreed to sell his beard for the sum of 100 rubles, a large sum at the time. He was required to give over his beard when he returned home.

When he regained his sobriety he realized that he would be the laughing stock in town if he fulfilled his promise, so he attempted to get out of it. However his friends did not forego, and he was required to do so. They went to Rabbi Yerushalmi for a judgment. The rabbi adjucated that the sale was not a valid sale, since a Jew is not permitted to sell his beard, which is his “Divine Image”. He imposed a fine of several fast days upon Itche Yaakov, and he required him to donate ten pounds of candles to the synagogue.

His neighbor was my uncle, Mordechai Kikayon, who toiled in Torah, while his wife Batya Malka supported the family and took care of the needs of the household. She was widowed at a young age, while she was caring for many children. She earned her livelihood from her store. She purchased fruit from the villagers prior to the harvest, while they were still unripe. She made excellent preserves from them. She also took care of the baking of matzos, both shmura and regular[15].

She was a woman of valor, full of energy. Her heart was open to charity and good deeds. She merited making aliya to the Land, and she lived until an old age. May her memory be blessed.

Sitting from right to left: Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik Small, Rabbi Yechiel Michael Feinstein (in the center a young member of the family), and Rabbi Reuven Lebovitz
Standing from right to left: Rabbi Nechemya Katz, Rabbi Zelig Furman, Rabbi Nisan Wachsman, the Gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, his son-in-law Rabbi Eli Moshe Shizgal, and the latter's father Rabbi A. Yitzchak Shizgal
(Photograph from New York, 5703 – 1943)


  The arrow on the right points north. The initials at the bottom right are M. B. The key is as follows:
  1. The Route to Urecca
  2. Tzigeinershe Street (Gypsy Street)
  3. Zelonia Street (with a question mark beside)
  4. Breite Street (The Wide Street)
  5. To the village of Kostyuki
  6. The Christian Church
  7. The Rabbi's house
  8. Itche the doctor
  9. The Tailor's Synagogue
  10. The Rabbi's Lane
  11. The Great Synagogue (Hebrew caption)
  12. The Cold Synagogue
  13. The Great Synagogue (Yiddish caption)
  14. Kostyukover Street
  15. The Market
  16. Teich Street (River Street)
  17. Orussa River
  18. The post
  19. The Christian Cemetery
  20. To the Jewish Cemetery
  21. The route to Luchi
  22. Mill Street
  23. The Mill
  24. Public School
  25. Town Hall
  26. The house of Dr. Spiridonov
  27. Padovska Street
  28. The Marsh
  29. Blotte Street (Muddy Street or Marsh Street)
  30. Berl Feitel the pharmacist
  31. a lane
  32. Bod Street (Bath Street)
  33. Yaakov the shochet
  34. The Bath
  35. The village of Sarachi
A map of Lyuban

* * *

Reb Yehuda Zeev Osovski

My father Reb Yehuda Zeev Osovski

* * *

Finally, I wish to write about my father Reb Leib Wolf[16] of blessed memory. He was one of the important householders of Lyuban. He was G-d fearing, and he honored scholars. He did not leave the synagogue on Sabbath eves without inviting a guest or two to eat at his table. The Sabbath hymns during the meal, shouted out by my brother Chaim David, attracted an audience, particularly from among the youth. Yeshiva students ate at our house on a rotational system, as was customary in those days. Our house was full of guests, including emissaries and preachers who came from the land of Israel, and spoke at length of its rebuilding and renewed settlement.

My father of blessed memory was particularly fond of leading the synagogue services. Since he was an excellent prayer leader, who did not drag out the service with extraneous melodies, the young people would often urge him to lead the service.

Our home was spacious, one of the largest houses in town. In the cowshed, there was a barn that was filled with grain, barley and wheat during the time of harvest. This was a place of enjoyment for my friends and me on Sabbaths and festivals.

My father's field of business was very broad, including forestry dealing, the leasing of ponds for fishing, lands for planting potatoes, etc. He would provide these fields at half price for the residents of the town, and it would be a mitzvah to bring a sack or two of potatoes or a wagon of wood to a destitute widow. Everything was done with a generous hand.

He had good relations with the regional government. He served as an intercessor and advocate for all types of difficulties. He knew how to approach the Russian regional representatives, who were not among those who were fond of Jews.

My mother Feiga of blessed memory, who oversaw the house of the pious RebYaakov, died before her time, leaving behind young children. My father then married Slova, the daughter of the shochet Chaim Zelig Kaplan.

His dream was to make aliya to the Land of Israel and to join his children. But to all of our great dismay, he did not attain this.

My brother, Professor Simcha Asaf of blessed memory, in his letter to the meeting of Lyuban natives here in the year 5708 (1948) in the home of Yosef and Bluma Kikayon, proposed the proposition that “It is worthy to think about making a memorial for that wonderful town called Lyuban, which excelled in its love of Torah and charitable deeds.” He expressed his desire to donate his share towards the establishment of a literary monument, memorializing the names of those who were sublime in Torah and wisdom all of whom were raised in that town. His work far and wide in other areas did not permit him to fulfill his duty, He comforted himself that he would do this when he retired, but death caught up with him. A large piece of Lyuban was buried away with him.

[Page 218]

The Library of Lyuban

by Yosef Kikayon

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When I was still a child, the library captured my heart, at first as an avid reader and later as a librarian, dedicated with a full heart and soul to expanding the library.

To my good fortune, my advisor and guide was my dear teacher Reb Heshel Trushkin of blessed memory, one of the best of the progressive teachers in the town, who himself “gazed and was injured”[17]. He instilled a love for Hebrew poetry in his students. When Bialik's poem “Al Hatzipor” (About the Bird) reached our town, he read in before his students with a special enunciation, and commanded them to learn it by heart.

The library in Lyuban filled an important need among the students of the cheders and the Yeshiva. It made it possible for them to complete their knowledge in general and to read more Hebrew literature.

The works of Mapu, “Ahavat Zion” (Love of Zion), “Ashmat Shomron” (The Guilt of Samaria), etc., had particular influence on them. These books portrayed imagery from the Chumash and the Bible. The first book that made a deep influence upon myself was “Between the Hammer and Anvil,” about the pogroms of Uman.

The library developed under the directorship of my relative Chaim Asaf, and reached the size of 2,000 books, a significant number of a small town such as Lyuban.

After he went to the United States, I took the directorship of the library upon myself. I attempted to collect donations for the library, and I approached the artisans and horse dealers.

Once, I found myself in the home of Shalom Baruchke, a well-known horse dealer. I requested that he donate to the library. He looked at me, and then said his statement, “A gift to the library, from me? I am very far from these matters!” I noted to him, “Indeed this is known, but I had hoped that it would be your will that your sons not be boors as you are.” I awaited his retort, but to my surprise, my answer hit the mark, and he gave me a large donation.

Many of the Yeshiva students participated in Tzeirei Zion. I was also active in that organization and I still have my membership certificate with me today.


Chalutzim (Zionist Pioneers) from Lyuban on their way to the Land of Israel

From left to right, seated: Yosef Kikayon, Yisrael Yaakovi, Yemima Katznelson Bar-Natan, Beilka Kikayon, Sara Kustanovitz-Shenkman, and Eliezer Shenkman
Standing: Reuven Kustanovitz, Eliezer Tepper, Chaim Ostrovski, Naomi Vaskovoyinik-Rabinovitz, Shlomo Kaplan


Batya Malka Kikayon


Membership card of the Zionist group “Tzeirei Zion” in Lyuban

Editor's note: the text of the card is as follows:
Zionism aims to acquire a safe haven
For the Jewish people in the Land of Israel
The Tzeirei Zion Zionist Organization
Card Number: 15
Member's name: Yosef
Family name: Kikayon
Chairman of the committee (name not given)
Secretary: Yosef (cannot make out last name of signature)
Note: At the time of entry, the member is required to present his card

Editor's note: the circular stamp reads as follows: The Tzeirei Zion Committee of the city of Lyuban, Minsk region.

* * *

Even the Orthodox in our town had a supportive attitude towards Zionism. Rabbi Nechemya Yerushalmi particularly supported us. He himself later made aliya to the Land of Israel.

Just prior to my aliya to the Land of Israel, my mother of blessed memory took ill and went to complain before Reb Nechemya of blessed memory that I was about to leave her in this situation. His answer was: “Oy Batya Malka, you are an intelligent person, if he does not go, and I do not go – who will go?”

People began to make aliya from our town even during the time of the Second Aliya. Those who made aliya included the brothers Zalman and Yitzchak Epstein, as well as Efraim Epstein from Kuzmichi, who was among the conquerors and guards of Sharona and Merchavya, and one of the founders of Kfar Yechezkel. Chanan Yaakov Feiges went to study in the Herzliya Gymnasia. When he returned due to an serious illness, he told wonderful stories about the Land and its blessed fruit. As an example, he brought a coconut (a fruit that does not grow in the land). The inside was eaten by the family, but the shell was passed around from hand to hand by us children, with longing for the Land and the time when we would also merit to eat this fruit.

Many natives of Lyuban reached the Land during the Third Aliya. During this time, the parents of several of them also arrived, such as my mother, my father-in-law Reb Chaim Katznelson and his wife, David Itzes and others.


  1. The Mussaf service is added on to the regular morning service (Shacharit) on Sabbaths and festivals. On the High Holy Days, the Mussaf service is particularly lengthy and elaborate. Baal Mussaf is a term used for the prayer leader of the Mussaf service. Return
  2. Ein Yaakov is an anthology of the aggadaic (lore) sections of the Talmud. Return
  3. Rosh Hashanah is on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei. Return
  4. The position of spiritual guide (Mashgiach) is a very important official role at a Yeshiva. The Mashgiach is responsible for the spiritual development and wellbeing of the students. Return
  5. Rabbi Kook (1875-1935) was the leading spiritual force behind religious Zionism. The Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem was founded by him. Rabbi Kook is often affectionately known as The Rav. Return
  6. A publisher of Torah works in Israel. Return
  7. This photo is under the section dealing with Rabbi Kabalkin. However, on the next page, there is a captioned photo of Rabbi Kabalkin, which looks quite different. Therefore, I suspect that this earlier photo is not of Rabbi Kabalkin, but rather of Rabbi Starlitz. (This makes sense as well, as the photo is that of a younger man, and Rabbi Starlitz died at 49.) Return
  8. lobodka, the location of one of the most famous Yeshivas of the era, is a suburb of Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, and would have been under independent Lithuanian rule at the time. Return
  9. A former chief rabbi of Israel. Return
  10. Even Haezer is one of the four main volumes of the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch). It deals with marital and family law. Return
  11. There is a footnote in the text here: The river was also known as Rusa – and since the name was ambiguous, Lyuban was not fitting for organizing Gittin (religious divorces). End of footnote, Translator's comments begin: On a Get (Jewish bill of divorce), the locale of the issuing of the Get is identified by the city name, and the rivers which are adjacent to the city. There are various technical halachic details why this is so. Thus, in a city that is adjacent to a river with an ambiguous name, a Get cannot be written. The divorcing couple can go to a different city to have the Get written, as the locale does not depend on the place of residence, but rather on the place of the divorce proceedings. Return
  12. A sircha is a blemish on a lung that is not severe enough to render an animal non-kosher (an animal's lungs are examined after ritual slaughter to ensure that there are no blemishes, and certain blemisher do render an animal non-kosher). A sircha is a removable blemish, and if it can be successfully removed, it does not render the animal non-kosher. Return
  13. Lithuanian Jews often pronounce the 'sh' sound as 's'. Return
  14. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was recognized as one of the leading rabbinical authorities of the United States, and some might even say of the entire world. He died in New York in 1986 at the age of 91. His voluminous writings are used as precedents for current rabbinical decisions. His two sons Rabbi David Feinstein and Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, and his son-in-law Rabbi Moshe Tendler, are leading rabbis today. His son-in-law Rabbi Shizgal, pictured in the photo below, predeceased him by many years. Return
  15. Matzo shmura is specially prepared matzos that are used on the seder night. The wheat used for matzo shmura is guarded from water from the time of harvest, whereas for regular matzos, it is guarded from the time of grinding into flour. Return
  16. Leib Wolf is the Yiddish form of Yehuda Zeev. Return
  17. This is a Talmudic reference to people who “investigate into mysticism”, and if they look too hard, they might become spiritually damaged. The Talmud related the story of four people who became involves in deep mystical thoughts: one came through intact, the second became a non-believer, the third went crazy and the forth died. Here the reference is to someone who became involved in modern culture and became enthralled with it. Return

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