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[Cols. 465-466]

[Photo on right]

[Caption to the side of photo]

Sara Katsizne (Renna)

Cultural Activists
Culture Creators

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

        Sventsyan was not a big city and according to the nationality classification of the population and according to its economy; it was barely equal to the other neighboring cities.
        Sventsyan was noted only for one [sic] thing throughout the whole area: its excellent, branched-out, social institutions and the pulsating cultural life of its Jewish population.
        It had two Jewish elementary schools—in Yiddish and Hebrew, a Jewish gymnasium, a branch of the Culture League, which later became a genuine Sventsyan institution named The Sventsyan Jewish Education Society” and a dramatic circle among others.
        All of these institutions and societies were able to exist only thanks to the devotion and selfless work of the teachers, school activists, students and just friends of Jewish culture and honest Jewish life.
        It is difficult in the space of just one article to show adequately appreciation to all those who were active in its social and cultural life. We will, therefore, only mention some of them—those who shouldered the difficulties of building and supporting all these institutions.

[Col. 465: middle of page]

Dr. Kavarski

        Dr. Kavarski was a real folk-intellectual and a true example of his folk. He was connected to all the Jewish institutions with all of his heart and soul but especially with those that were progressive in character.
        He was one of the founders and builders of the Jewish school, the Principal of and a teacher in the Jewish Gymnazium, a board member of the Educational Society, and, in general, an active member of many other boards—an activist of a wide range [of institutions].
        Dr. Kavarski was not a party member, but when the Red Army captured Sventsyan, he spoke out at a large meeting on May 1st and welcomed the soldiers of Sventsyan on behalf of the Jewish population

[Col. 466]

        Because of that “sin,” the Germans later took their savage revenge. They beat him


[Caption under photo]: Dr. Kavasrsky and his son, Loveh

[Cols. 467-468]


[Caption on placard in photo] Drama Division of the Culture League, Sventsyan

[Caption under photo]
Kneeling: Moyshe Shutan, Moyshe Beygl, Motl Murmes, Yisroel Moyshe Rudnitski, Shmuel Vidutsinski.
Sitting: Hirsh Gilinski, Miron Taraseyski, Yoysef Brumberg, Tserne Beygl, Hirsh Fridman, _______Kohn, Leah Grinfeld, Katsherginski.
Standing: Ruven Fliner, Khaye Beygl, Shmuel Murashkin, Moshe Rayn, Bentse Lishanski, Nemzer, Sora Levin, Shaye Liberman, Meyer Grin.

[Col. 467: middle of page]

and tortured him barbarically. They led him through the streets barefoot, and when he tried to commit suicide, they saved him in order to continue to sadistically persecute him until he died.

Motl Ginzburg

        Motl Ginzburg was a very quiet and reticent person. He was, in addition, physically frail and used to put his life in jeopardy doing his community work.
        Although Motl was an ardent, official Bundist, the police actually considered him a Communist, and for that they exiled him to Kartuz-Bereze. After many interventions, his father succeeded in getting him out of there barely alive.
        He later married Matle Murmis and lived in Sventsyan until the liquidation.
        Motl died together with his wife and all the Jews of Sventsyan in the Poligon Camp.

[Col. 468: middle of the page]

Betsalel (Tsalel) Tsinman

        Tsalel Tsinman studied medicine in France and received his MD from there. When he returned to Sventsyan, however, he was not given an opportunity to utilize his diploma, and he could not practice medicine.


[Caption under photo]: R[eb] Ahron Tsinman

        Tsalel came from an affluent family. His father was R' Ahron Tsinman, a good, prosperous member of the Jewish community. Nevertheless, Tsalel was always drawn to working for his people, especially the poor.
        He was active in all the social institutions and dedicated more time to them than to his private interests.
        When the Soviets took Sventsyan, Tsalel finally got the opportunity to practice as a doctor. Before the German occupation, he managed to escape to Russia, where he died.

[Col. 469]

Michal Natish (Shutan)

        He was a graduate of the Sventsyan Jewish Gymnazium. Since he himself was the son of a Jewish laborer (his father was a bricklayer), he devoted his whole life to the Jewish poor, to the Jewish working person.
        After graduating the Sventsyan Gymnazium, he went to Vilna, where he studied at the Vilna Teacher's Seminar. It was there that he became involved in the progressive, young writers' group, “Young Vilna.” He quickly acquired a reputation as a talented poet. He became especially well known for his long poem, “Hirsh the Mason,” which was dedicated to his father, Lipeh, the mason.
        For a while he worked as a teacher in the Svanstyan Jewish Elementary School. He was, of course, active in all the Jewish cultural institutions. He devoted particular attention to the Jewish Folk Library.
        Mikhal Shutan (his literary pseudonym was M. Natish) died young after a difficult operation.
        His death caused all of his acquaintances and friends great sorrow and pain. In the literary circles of Poland, their great loss was marked with weeping.
        The Jewish population in Sventsyan, however, was particularly heart broken.

Leyb Germanski

        Leyb Germanski finished the Sventsyan Jewish School and later studied at the University of Vilna from which he graduated with a law degree.

[Col. 469 cont'd]

        As a student, he became close to the progressive student's circle and became active in the academic field.
        After graduating university, he could not find his place in Vilna and returned to Sventsyan, where he lived with his mother and stepfather.
        Germanski was a wonderful, intelligent speaker. His profound, serious readings at the Education Society always drew a large audience.
        Especially popular were his readings on literary and socio-political themes.

[Col. 470]

        The Polish Administrative Authority took a dislike to him and sent him, as they did many political activists, to the Kartuz-Bereze Concentration Camp.
        He had a strong character and was not flexible. It was, therefore, difficult for him to follow the stern discipline of the camp.
        The Polish sadist noticed this and purposely asked him to do inhumanly difficult work. Once they had him pull a plow in the place of a horse.
        He could not withstand such chicanery. The camp bandits did not, however, ease up and persecuted him until he died.
        A short time later, they sent his mother his laundry and the clothes he left behind.
        His death was a shameful blot on the Sanacja Polish administration. The progressive Jewish Society never forgave them for it.

Motl Gilinsky (Batko)

        Motl Gilinski was born in Sventsyan and graduated from the Vilna Yiddish Teachers' Seminar. He was a teacher in a Ts. Y. Sh. A. in the provinces for a short time. Later he moved to Warsaw, where he first worked in a school and then in the Medem Sanatorium.

[Col. 470 cont'd]

        While still at the Vilna Teachers' Seminar he exhibited organizational abilities and was, therefore, crowned by the seminarists “Batko” (father).
        Batko was loved by everyone and distinguished himself as a brilliant teacher and as a devoted comrade, friend and person [in general].
        When Hitler attacked Poland, Botko and his wife escaped from Warsaw to Sventsyan. There, under the Soviet regime, he worked as a teacher, and when the Germans occupied the area, he became a house painter and was also elected to the Jewish Council.
        After the liquidation of the Sventsyan Ghetto, he was sent, along with some other Jews, to the Vilna Ghetto. There too he was active and for a time led a children's club.
        When the Vilna Ghetto was liquidated, he was sent to Austria, where he died.

[Col. 471 top]

Marile (Miriam) Brumberg-Gavendo

        She was born in Lodzh, but in 1914 the whole family moved to Sventsyan, the home town of her father, Avram Zev Brumberg. On the 2nd of May 1919, Brumberg, his two sons and several other Sventsyan Jews were killed by the Bolsheviks.
        Marile's first school was the Sventsyan Yiddish Elementary School. Afterwards she went to the Yiddish Gymnazium in Vilna, and she graduated from the University of Vilna with a degree in Humanities.
        Her teaching career began in Sventsyan. She later taught in the Sofia Gurevitsh Yiddish Gymnazium in Vilna and also for a short time in the Mede Sanatorium near Warsaw. When the Germans entered Warsaw, she and her husband escaped to Sventsyan. From there they went deep into Russia, where they died in one of the state collective farms in Tashkent.

[Col. 472 top]

The Teacher, Musin

        The teacher, Musin, came from Postav. All her life she taught in the Yiddish School in Sventsyan and was active in all organizations that were in any way involved with culture and education.
        She lived alone and led a lonely life. Her one consolation was the Yiddish School, which was her true home. Her best friends were the Jewish children with whom she liked to spend time both at the school and in the evenings either discussing various topics with them or preparing them for the children's performances.

[Col. 472 top cont'd]

        She devoted a lot of time to the Jewish Library, especially the children's division.
        The teacher, Musin, died with all the Jews of Sventsyan in Poligan.

[Cols. 471 & 472 middle]

The Parents of a Leading Personality

Fati Kremer

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

[Col. 471 middle]

        Arkadi's father, R' Yoysef was an adherent of the Jewish Enlightenment Movement, a religious person with a profound belief [in G-d], but he never publicized his belief, never spoke about it and never preached to strangers and not even to his children. He felt that religious belief, like every belief, was a matter of feeling and speaking about one's feelings meant carrying the holiest things out into the street, and this he found repugnant.
        From his considering and understanding of the most important questions of spiritual life he extrapolated his original relationship to both strangers and to his own children, and he used these ideas in raising them [his children].
        But it wasn't only his spiritual life that was interesting; his outward appearance was also interesting. He was short of stature, thin and had a very nice head of blond hair. [He had] a bright face, a nice mouth with a childlike smile that warmed one's soul.
        He was a great idealist and was friendly

[Col. 472 middle]

with those less fortunate and less privileged than himself. He would always bring home a poor unfortunate soul and [spend time] talking with him, teaching, explaining encouraging him and sharing with him whatever food he had.
        He was never idle. He was a teacher in the local Sventsyan two-year college, and taught little children at home. After his lessons, he began to repair things. He had a weakness for all kinds of old tools, broken machines, pieces of iron, nails. By tinkering, he invented a machine

[Col. 473 top]

to thread a needle, a machine to sharpen pencils and other such things. He himself used to invent educational toys for his children so that in the process of playing they would learn to read and count.
        Arcady's father liked nature very much, so he used to walk for many kilometers in the woods and in fields with his children and discuss the grasses, trees and animals with them.
        He kept his material needs to a minimum. It was enough for him to have bread and a decent borscht, because [he felt that there] were millions who did not even have that.

[Col. 474 top]

        He died in Vilna in 1902 surrounded by his loving children.
        His mother, Sheyna, came from a very prestigious family, a branch connected to the Vilna Gaon. She was raised in a prosperous home and could never make her peace with poverty and was often embittered, but she was endowed with a strong character and good common sense. She was sharp tongued, ironic and spirited and her words could burn or cut like a knife. When they came to arrest her son, Arkady, she became paralyzed. She was paralyzed for six years and died in 1898.

[Cols. 473 & 474 middle]

The Tragic Figure of Julian Bak

Shaul Ginzberg

([excerpt] from the book: “Jews of Petersburg”)

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

[Col. 473 middle]

        Julian Bak was born in the village of Sventsyan, in the County of Vilna, in the year 1860. His father's name was Bere Itse Bak.
        There are several cities that attained a special reputation in times gone by; for example, people spoke of the fools of Chelm, the reckoning of Shklavers, the haughtiness of Slutzkers, the nibblers of Vilna, the bear herders of Smargon and so on. Sventsyan had the honor of being on this list because of its honored characteristic: The refined people of Sventsyan.
        I have had the opportunity in my life to meet many people born in Sventsyan and for the most part, they really did possess a special kind of refinement, a sort of spiritual gentility.
        Julian Bak did not let his town's reputation down; quite the contrary, his activities and character added to it and elevated the reputation of the town where he was born.
        He came from a reputable and intelligent family. After finishing the college preparatory school, he studied in Peterburg in the Institute for Railroad Engineers.
        While still a student, Julian Bak exhibited an

[Col. 474 middle]

interest in social matters. For example, he was one of the founders of the Lithuanian-Jewish Landsman Society that existed in Peterburg at that time. He was an excellent speaker and was very popular and respected among students.
        After graduating from the Institute, Julian Bak began to work as an engineer on the railroad. Since as a Jew he did not have any prospects of getting a job in government, he was forced to turn to private business, and he began to work as a contractor building railroads. In a short time, he attained the reputation as being one of the best contractors in this field, and he became very wealthy.
        Julain Bak, however, was not caught up in the passion for money and riches. It appeared, that being prosperous did not satisfy him morally. From childhood on he was drawn to community work. There was not one Jewish institution in Peterburg that Julian Bak did not support very generously. But he did not stop with merely giving money, he also devoted much time and effort to his community work. Julian Bak was especially active in the Petersburg [sic] Committee of JCS (Jewish

[Col. 475 top]

Colonization Society). When the idea was raised that in Petersburg there should be founded “The Society for Jewish Scientific Research [?],” Bak was the first to support the plan.
        Julian Bak did a lot for his hometown of Sventsyan. There he created many charitable institutions and generously supported them.
        When the newspaper “Novosti,” which took a liberal stance and defended Jews, was about to go under, Bak did a lot to keep it alive. He was raised on liberal Russian literature with its ideas of freedom and equality. According to his political ideas, he was a radical Republican and an adherent of the Kadetn Party (Constitutional Democrats).
        Bak, however, never forgot about Jewish problems and Jewish matters. Right after the failure of the Russian Revolution in 1905, when the Czarist government wanted to drown in Jewish blood the constitution that was forced on it, pogroms broke out and

[Col. 476 top]

persecution [of Jews]. Wailing and screaming was heard coming from all cities. Material help was needed. Baron Ginzberg, Shlyosberg and Julian Bak placed themselves at the head of this relief effort.
        In the year 1905 a great Russian opposition newspaper was founded: Retsh. This was the organ of the Cadet Party. The editor was Pavel Nikolaievitsh Milyukov and the publisher was Julian Bak and it cost him over 30,000 rubles.
        This wonderful person and social activist had a very tragic demise.

[Col. 476 top cont']

        The economic situation in Russia changed suddenly. Bak experienced great financial reversals and could not get out of [financial difficulty]. He was also affected by the general depression in the country.
        Not seeing any prospects, he fell into a deep depression and decided to commit suicide.
        He was not even 48 years old at the time.

[Cols. 475-476 middle]

The Artist Aba Garsheyn

Heshl Gurvitsh

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

[Col 475 middle]

        Aba Garsheyn was born in Kaltinyan, circa 1863 or 1864. As a child he learned in a kheyder and later in a yeshiva. After he got married, he settled in Sventyan and soon became one of the most respected members of the Jewish community in town.
        From birth, he was blessed with extraordinary artistic and technical abilities. But he, unfortunately, lived in a community that at that time did not recognize any kind of artistic work as a fitting Jewish trade. Because of this, he did not have the slightest possibility to use his abilities and to develop his talents.
        Aba Garsheyn also lacked the necessary education but nevertheless managed quite successfully to produce various artistic and technical works in cut stone,

[Col. 467 middle]

carved wood, sign painting and, in addition, he was able to repair quite complicated machines.
        He could not, however, support his family with his artistic endeavors and that is why he took a job in a bank, in the well-known firm of Asher Kavarski.
        After the liquidation of the bank, he got involved in mediation and became a kind of liaison between small shopkeepers of Sventsyan and the large merchants of Vilna. He would take orders from Sventsyan shopkeepers and buy various merchandise in Vilna. This is the reason that he soon acquired the nickname 'the transporter,' by which he was lately called.
        In his new profession, he distinguished himself both in his honesty and his accuracy.

[Col. 477 top]

        All the merchants depended on him, because they knew that his word was sacred and his integrity was dearer to him than his life.
        From being an intermediary, he could make a good living, but the work did not satisfy him and he had no real inclination to business. Aba Garsheyn was drawn to the world of creativity and building. He was, therefore, delighted when during some free time he had the opportunity to work on some creative project.
        With great joy and dedication he would, with his little hammer, carve a stone for a memorial monument. With a chisel he would carve out the letters for Taraseyski's Publishing House. He had a wonderful handwriting, attractive and clear, and he would always be asked to write marriage contracts or other important documents.
        Aba Garsheyn was always happy when he had the chance to repair a machine that a trained mechanic was unable to fix.

[Col. 478 top]

        In addition to his artistic work, he had various, wonderful ideas and according to his talents, he would have been able to become a great inventor and scientist.
        In truth, he should not have been called Aba the Transporter but Aba theArtist. In those times, however, this was not understood.
        In our generation Aba Garsheyn with his talent and abilities could have a great career and his name would surely be known far and wide throughout greater Sventsyan. It is even possible that he could have been a world renowned inventor and artist.

[Col. 478 top cont'd]

        Unfortunately, life in a small town made it impossible for him to fully utilize his innate talent and his artistic abilities were wasted.
The biography of his daughter, Sara, will show that his artistic spirit was wonderfully realized in her as a famous sculptress and fulfilled the promise of his talented soul.

[Cols. 477 & 478]

Sara Garshteyn the Sculptress

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub


[Presumably of Sara Garshteyn]

[Col. 477 bottom]

        Sara Nekhe Garshteyn was born in Sventsyan and graduated from the pre-gymnazium. As an unmarried girl she went to Ponyevezh and worked there as a nurse in the Jewish hospital.
        As she was caring for her patients, she dreamed about a more creative life, a life dedicated to higher ideals. From her father, Aba, she inherited a great, creative soul, and while still quite young she took up sculpting. In clay, she used to form and copy various

[Col. 478 bottom]

figures. It did not take a long time for the Jewish world to notice that a Jewish girl was exhibiting extraordinary talent as a sculptress.

[Col. 478 bottom cont'd]

        A Lithuanian sculptor learned of this and came to look at her work. Right from the very first moment, he was surprised by her talent, and thanks to his assistance she was able to organize a special exhibit in Kovno of all her works.
        She immediately became famous in the Jewish and

[Col. 479]

Lithuanian public. All the critics were amazed at her talent and predicted that a great future awaited her as a sculptress.
        At that time, the art critic, Yankev Plafon [sp?] wrote: “The sculptress, Sara Garshteyn was born in the small town of Sventsyan near Vilna. Her father was an observant Jew, who possessed a pleasant, artistic soul. When he carved a headstone, the modest forehead of his wife hovered before him. That is why he carved little deer with foreheads of devoted, religious, Jewish women. His lions jumped in religious fervor toward G-d. His little daughter, Sara, certainly stood behind her father's back and absorbed into her blood the rhythmic tapping of his little hammer and the pleasant scratching of his chisel.
        Perhaps it sounds paradoxical that a girl who studied nursing should throw away her profession and take up sculpting.
        The blood of Aba, the tombstone etcher, burst into song in her soul. In the hospital she saw a sculpture of Mephistopheles and her father's blood boiled in her and her hands began to knead and form [the clay] and she soon produced marvelous figures.
        Jewish society took an interest in her talent and decided to send her to Berlin to study in an art high school.
        There, however, she suffered difficult living conditions due to her meager economic circumstances. She could not tolerate this and returned to Lithuania where she once again became a nurse.

[Col. 480]

        In her free hours, she never forgot her artistic future. After work, she molded, with her G-dly blessed hands, the head of a child, an important figure, a form that meant a lot. Her father's blood did not let her rest. She once again left the hospital and [this time] went to Paris in order to devote herself to the artistic world.
        The young sculptress rapidly achieved fame in France's capitol city. Sara Gorshteyn lived to fulfill her dream and she wa s accepted into the artistic family of cultural Europe.
        However it was not destined for her to work quietly on her sculpted figures. The Second World War breaks out. The famous, Jewish sculptress is driven from camp to camp, from country to country. Sara must experience the whole, gruesome Hitler nightmare.
        After the war, she is liberated on Polish soil and settles in Lodzh. She once again takes up her artistic life. Her sculpting work elicits great interest in all circles of society. Many [artistic] critics write important articles about her work.
        Her religious father could not permit himself to make a sculpture, because before his eyes there always stood this scriptural passage: Do not make for yourself an idol.
        Sara Nekha did permit herself to do this.
        In the year 1957, this famous sculptress left Poland and emigrated to the land of Israel. She lives in Tel-Aviv and there continues her [to form] her pleasant, artistic creations. More power to her!

[Col. 489 top]

about her? Someone told me that she was in Sventsyan. My sister, Rokhl, is even more unfortunate than I am, [because] in such terrible circumstances, she has a child. How much I would like to help her! Once I had more energy and was more agile than she. But today, I cannot even be compared to a [living] person. Whenever there is a commotion, I become very weak and my feet do not work—exactly like in a dream: I want to run but am not able. . . . And I am always thinking about death, which will certainly come very soon to the last hundred [people] in Braslav.

[Col. 490 top]

        Sheyna, Sheyna, Itke and Khonke—all were young [and strong] as trees. How bad I feel for you! You sat until the last minute and waited for death.
        In March of 1943, the woods were already full of partisans. And the woods were so close to Breslov [sic]: so dense and dark.
        It was your fate to die with the last 100 men of Braslav, [on] the Fast of Esther. The anniversary of your death falls when everyone is rejoicing. Then I am sad and I miss you.
        I will never forget you.

Khadera, Bialik Neighborhood

[Col. 489 bottom]

Kopl Sirotka and His Dream Come True

Yosef Bromberg (Chicago)

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

[Caption under photo]
Kopl Sirotka

        Tuesday night, the 9th of September 1952, Kopl Sirotka died in New York of a heart attack. He was born in Sventsyan in 1906. He attended kheyder during his early childhood years and later went to the Yiddish Elementary School and in 1926 he ended the Yiddish gymnasium of Sventsyan.
        The small city of Sventsyan was one of the most important centers of the Yiddish Culture Renaissance that took place then. At that time, it had a large Yiddish Elementary School, a gymnazium of eight years, an evening school, a division of the “Culture League,” A large Jewish library, a Drama Club etc.
        Kopl Sirotka was one of the most active, most devoted and loyal workers in all of the abovementioned institutions. When a group of social activists in Sventsyan decided to erect a building of its own, that

[Col. 490 bottom]

would match the elementary school, Kopl Sirotka was the soul of the building committee. This did not please the Polish authorities, and in 1939 he was sent to the infamous concentration camp, Kartuz-Bereze.

[Col. 490 bottom cont'd]

        He returned from there sick and maimed. He, nevertheless, went right back to work. He became a teacher in the Jewish school, and several years before the Second World War he traveled to France, where he studied history.
        It was his fate to return to Sventsyan before the war. Along with the Soviets, he went deep into Russia and there worked for the return of Polish citizens to Poland. From there he went to Germany. He arrived in New York in 1949 and there became involved with the Workmen's Circle. His dream was to become a teacher in a Jewish school. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be. He only lived in New York for 3 years. He suffered two heart attacks one right after the other, and he expired during the night between the 9th and the 10th of September.

[Cols. 491-492 top]

Pini Minkin

Rabbi Dr. Yankev Shmuel son of Leyb Minkin, of Blessed Memory

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

[Photo on top of col. 492]
[Caption under photo]
Rabbi Dr. Yankev Shmuel son of Leyb Minkin, of Blessed Memory

[Col. 491]

Rabbi Dr. Yankev Shmuel was born to his parents, R[abbi] Leyb and Rokhl-Leye, in Sventsyan in the year 1882. After leaving his home, he continued his studies in the yeshiva of his Uncel Borukh-Velvl, the Rabbi of “Griveh” [sic][1] and Dvinsk. Among those studying Torah in his uncle's yeshiva, he meets and becomes good friends with the person who would later become known as the great Torah scholar, R[abbi] Yitskhok Kook of Jerusalem.
        In those times, Germany was the center of the searching and striving Jewish youth of Russia, Poland and Lithuania. Yankev-Shmuel also left Russian and began studying in Berlin and Prague at institutions of higher learning as well as in Hildesheymer Rabbinical Seminary. He later immigrated to America, where he continued his studies in Columbia University and at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1911, after completing his studies

[Col. 491 cont'd]

in the institutes of higher learning and receiving the necessary titles, he married Miss Penny, the daughter of Rabbi Moyshe Khaim Rabinovitsh (the Lubtsher Rav).
        Rabbi Dr. Yankev Shmuel got is first rabbinical position in Canada. He later traveled to New York and worked as a rabbi in a local hospital. Thanks to his devotion to the patients, offering them the necessary words of comfort at the right time, he was much loved not only by the patients but also by the staff.
        In addition to his daily work as a rabbi, he was also drawn to writing. While he still lived with his parents in Sventsyan, he wrote letters to the then daily Hebrew newspaper “HaMelits” (in 1895). In America, he wrote prose, poetry and articles about Jewish life for various newspapers. He wrote a monograph about Benjamin Disreali, wrote weekly articles about Jewish life in the world, which were published in all the large daily

[Col. 492]

newspapers. In 1935, he received the title Doctor of Correspondence. [sic]
        After he left his job as rabbi, he devoted himself completely to literary activities. His first book was a novel written in English about Khassidism, which was and important work for English speakers. After that he wrote a large historical book, also in English, about Herod. This book was translated into French, Swedish and Spanish. His book, “Abarbanel and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain,” makes him very popular throughout the world. His last work, which he yet merited to see was, “The World of Rambam.”
        Before he traveled to Israel, he wrote a book entitled, “Jewish Heroes Who Made History.”
        Rabbi Dr. Yankev Shmuel Minkin was not satisfied with [all] of his achievements. His rebellious nature did not quiet down until he was quite elderly. With his works and subjects [sic], he enriched Jewish culture for the American Jewish generation that spoke and lived in English. Even though he lived in America, far from Sventsyan, he did not forget Sventsyan and together with that devoted man, Betsalel Levinson, of blessed memory, he was one of the first founders of the Sventsyan Society in New York. In 1962, he and his devoted wife, Penny, arrived in the land [Israel] where he is amazed at all the Jews have accomplished.
        The cruel fate of [his] people does not let him have pleasure for long. In Tel-Aviv on March 13th 1962, he strove

[Across both cols. 493 & 494]

[Photo on right-hand side]
[Caption to the left of photo]

Fayvl the Mailman

Rafoyl Los (Paris)

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub


My town Sventsyan. . . Where are you Sventsyan, the city [sic] where I first saw the light of day 80 years ago?
How beautiful my town was! How much I love it to this day!
And I wasn't the only one. Everyone who, along with me, lived in its serenity, simplicity and honesty—everyone, who breathed the fresh air of its surrounding woods, its broad fields and meadows, loved it and was proud of the town.
The town took care of everyone like a mother takes care of her children. There was a Visiting the Sick Society, a guesthouse, a tuition-free Hebrew School, an Interest-Free Loan Society, a society to make weddings for indigent brides and so on.
No one had any difficulty recognizing the town's Jews. When, for example, a fire broke out and a family was left without a roof over its head, there immediately appeared in the marketplace a table laden with the best of everything: bread, triangles of fresh or dried white cheese, herring, pickles, cheese, butter and eggs. More than one person would go over to the family whose house had burned and encourage the children to eat: “Take something children. Eat in good health. Don't be embarrassed. Among Jews you will have everything you need. Don't worry, soon you will re-build [your house].”

[Across both cols. 493 & 494 cont'd]

Overnight, wooden barracks appeared, and in the morning, this family already had a roof over its head.
Business went on as usual in the marketplace on Wednesday, and in a few days quite a nice sum was collected and the unfortunate family was able to begin rebuilding.
That's what kind of town Sventsyan was!
It was also just like that when someone's horse fell or when someone became ill or when some other misfortune occurred.
Jews always helped one another.


        I was very young, practically still a child, when I left the town in which I was born. From that day on, for the rest of my life, I carried inside myself an unforgettable [sic] love and strong longing for Sventsyan. Everything that I experienced during my childhood years, every event, every episode, every type [of person], every friend…everything remained etched in my memory and rooted in my heart.
        Until this day I remember clearly and exactly everything that happened then and I see everything before my eyes as if it had just happened yesterday.
        If you want to take out of my large “pack” of memories only one type [of person] and paint him for future generations

[Col. 495]

it would have to be the simple Jew who was in town called Fayvl the Lettercarrier.
        He was a man of very short stature. He was not even one meter fifty [centimeters] tall and he was very lean.
        When I got to know him, he was 45 years old. He had a narrow face, a small nose, a sparse little beard and he was, by all opinions, not attractive.
        To compensate for that, however, he had other good qualities; his hair was always combed, his clothes—clean, his shoes—polished. In short, Fayvl's cleanliness shone.
        Fayvl was a good person[2], the kind of person to whom the saying—for G-d and for people—applies.
        He was also a sincerely religious Jew. He went to synagogue three times a day to pray and knew how to learn Torah as well. He was considered to be a great Torah scholar.
        He would always appear in public with a neat, short beard, his hair nicely combed and his earlocks out of sight: his frockcoat—clean and pressed; the front of his shirt—clean and white; his tie—elegant; his shoes—always polished to a high shine. He was a nobleman in the fullest sense of the word. Everyone respected him. He was not an ordinary mailman who distributes letters.
        First of all, he was a kind of civil servant like many other minor officials. In the post office he would stand behind the counter like the other employees. He would

[Col. 495 cont'd]

answer various questions for those who came in and sort letters and packages: those for gentiles on one side and those for Jews on the other.
        Everyone knew that he was to be obeyed. If he told you to go home and not wait, one should leave without any complaints; if he gave advice, he was heeded and the advice followed exactly as he had advised.
        Everyone did precisely as Fayvl said. It was known that he was honest to a fault. Fayvl simply did not understand falsity. He was honest to the point of being naïve and believed that it was the only way to behave.


        The great immigration at the end of the nineteenth century scattered thousands of Jewish children across the wide

[Col. 496]

world. In America and in Canada, in Africa and in France, Jewish immigrants were to be found everywhere, but they never forgot where they came from and whom they had left behind in Europe. They sent money home for their parents and for their brothers and sisters, but collecting the money from the post office was very complicated.
        When one received the notice from the post office, one had to go to the notary to have one's signature confirmed. Since not everyone could write Russian, they had to go to a “writer,” and that could cost money. It was a difficult and lengthy process.
        Jews looked for ways around such problems, and it was decided that it would be best if relatives sent the money directly to Reb Fayvl's address. As a civil servant working in the post office, he was indeed given the money with no problem.
        The people from Sventsyan all across the world slowly learned that they should send money only to Fayvl Shapiro.
        Fayvl soon became the town's banker. Every evening one could see mothers and fathers, young wives, grown children going to Fayvl to collect their money.
        One would get 5 dollars, another—10, 15 or sometimes even 25. Everyone would thank Fayvl and leave him a gift for his efforts.
        Everyone also knew that Fayvl had an extra ruble lying in his drawer. Merchants took advantage of this and would come to him for an interest-free loan.
        I remember, for example, when Henye Folkes, a shopkeeper of a hardware store, came to him for an interest-free loan.

[Col. 496 cont'd]

R' Fayvl listened to what she had to say and told her that he did have 10 rubles, but that it was Yeshayahu the paver's money. He had left town and would come for it the day after tomorrow, so he could lend the money only for two days.
        Henye responded to this by saying, “Day after tomorrow? You'll have the money back by tomorrow evening after the market closes.”
        And that is exactly how it was. The next day after the market closed, Henye returned the 10 rubles to him. Fayvl was happy,

[Col. 497 top]

that he was able to do her a favor and the paver did not suffer any loss.
        In this way he was able to do favors every week for the market.
        Not always, did doing such a good deed, work out for the best. It often happened that the money was not returned to Fayvl at the right time. Then he, unfortunately, suffered great heartache, and he himself had to run to take out an interest-free loan in order to be able to return the money that had been left with him.
        Fayvl's children saw that this would bring

[Col. 498 top]

their father great misfortune, so they put an end to it. Fayvele[3] [sic] stopped making interest-free loans with money that wasn't his.
        In the meantime, the First World War started. People stopped sending money and Fayvele was not longer a banker. At that time, I too left Sventsyan and never saw Fayvl again. Whenever I think of him, it is always with affection and respect.

[Col. 501]

M. Shutan

The Teacher, Dvoyre Fisher

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

        Dvoyre Fisher was born in Grodne in the year 1869. There she graduated the gymnasium and took pedagogic course.
        When she was young she was active in the Bund organization. At that time she thought she would make her living as a simple worker and toward that end she learned to sew and became a seamstress.
        This work, however, did not satisfy her dynamic nature and she traveled to Petersburg, where she attended the local university.
        Right before the First World War started, she arrived in Sventsyan and became a teacher. She was a teacher, a director and a cultural activist for close to 30 years. She devoted all of her creative energy and experience to her work. She was never satisfied with the study plan. Just the opposite, she would very often push it aside and bring a book or a newspaper and read an article or a story from there and lead a discussion with her students. By doing this, she wanted to develop in them a sense of responsibility and spirit [sic] for the time.
        Whoever found himself close to her, especially during a [school] play, felt that she was actually performing along with the child, that she wanted to make the role easier for him. And more than once her smile during the scene encouraged the small actor and helped him from being a failure.
        As much as the children's parents, she would share in the joy of their children. She would understand their happiness as well as their pain.

[Col. 501 cont'd]

        Her approach to the students of the older classes was different. “Children, soon you will have to say farewell to this school. You should know that the difference between a child and an adult is that memory works better in a child and understanding in an adult.
        I know that most of you to not have

[Col. 502]

the wherewithal to continue your studies You will certainly have to work. That is why, we, your teachers, want you to leave school as independent and self-aware people.”
        At the end of the school year, the school would arrange a special leaving party. The teacher, [Ms.] Fisher, would be sincerely sorry to see the children leave and would say to them as she pressed everyone's hand in a friendly manner:

Unforgettable Weeping

        “Do not forget your school.”
        Her pupils will never forget that spring morning in 1937. Teacher Fisher entered the classroom, as usual, with her friendly “Good morning.” All the students spontaneously stood up and responded to their teacher's greeting. Their teacher put down her grade book, took the chair and sat sadly down.
        The pupils at first waited patiently for her to begin the lesson. Their teacher, however, remained sitting silently. With a doleful glance she looked at the walls of the classroom, the closet with its glass doors. She peered through the open window that looked out over the courtyard, where the old chestnut tree stood, [and recalled] the many happy hours she had spent in its shade with her dear pupils. There she saw her Moysheles, Shloymeles, Feygles and Soreles as they used to hold hands and sing and dance around in a circle with her. Suddenly, she wrung her hands, dropped her head and broke out into loud weeping.
        All of us, the students in her class, stood as if we were made of stone. No one dared to ask, no one understood what had happened to her.

[Col. 502 cont'd]

        After several minutes, she drew a handkerchief out of her cuff and wiped the tears away from her face, then said to us; “Children, the Magistrate of Sventsyan has decided

[Col. 503]

to throw us out of this building and turn it into a Polish elementary school.”
        “Why don't they build their own building?” one student asked.
        “Because it is much easier for them to throw us out,” she answered. “We will have to vacate this building by the end of the school year.”
        Of course, we did not learn anything in that class, and a heated discussion took place around this problem.

The Great Miracle

        Several days later there was a meeting of all the teachers and the members of the parents' committee, in which were: Valodye Taraseyski, Dr. Binyomin Kavarski, Leyser Kavarski, Sora Katsizne and others. It was decided to call a meeting of the parents at the community center.
        There were many speakers at that meeting, but all agreed that a new building should be built and a nicer one.
        One person on the committee expressed the following opinion, as did others:
        “Comrades and friends, what does a pauper do, when he has no bread? He eats khale[4] and butter. This is what we must do. Just to spite our enemies, we will now build a new school of our own, a nicer one and a better one than the one we had up to now.”
        His words caused all to give him a rousing ovation.
        Everyone immediately got down to work.

[Col. 503 cont'd]

Ts. Y. Sh. A.[5] created a special fund. All members contributed. They received help from various sources. A short time later a suitable place was found. Nakhum Gordon, the engineer, presented a plan and the building was finally begun.
        At a joyous ceremony, Lippe Shutan (the father of M. Natish, the poet who died young) placed the first foundation stone.
        All the Jews had a hand in this work: wagon drivers, masons, carpenters, tinsmiths and artists. Everyone worked: old and young, students and teachers…and the great miracle happened.
        Right at the beginning of the new school year, the building stood in all its beauty.

[Col. 504]

        True, around it there was still sand, lime, stones and boards.
         At the dedication ceremony there were delegates from all the surrounding towns as well as from Vilne and Warsaw.
        The mood was festive, happy. The delegates greeted the builders and creators of the new school. Everyone wished the teachers success and joy in their path of raising children and prayed that they merit health, happiness and an aware Jewish generation.

In the New Building

        During the whole ceremony, the teacher, Ms. Fishman, stood with the children and tears of happiness and joy ran down her aged, wrinkled face.
        Delighted, she looked at the new building with its bright windows and truly beamed with happiness.
        All of a sudden the heard the singing of the Yiddish school hymn. The teacher, Ms. Fishman, caught herself and said to us: “Come, children, we are going to learn in our own building.”
        With bright faces we ran to the new building. Behind us our elderly teacher walked quite briskly. Proudly and energetically, she entered the new building.
        In wide, nicely decorated corridor we joined the other people and all together we sang the hymn of the Jewish schools.
        In Sventsyan, a new era started for the Yiddish school system. Unfortunately, it did not last long, because the Second World War was standing on the threshold.

[Col. 504 cont'd]

“I will share the fate of all Jews.”

        The tragic fall of 1941 came. The murderous Germans raged and shook the deepest foundations of our deeply-rooted Jewish lives.
        In those days one could see, a shadow slithering over the streets of Sventsyan. This was a shadow of a small, old woman, in tattered clothes with a hoary hear of gray hair and a deeply lined face.
        This was our dear, teacher, Ms. Fisher, who was paying a call to comfort a mourner, to ease

[Col. 505 top]

someone's sadness, to help someone with a warm word, with a happy glance.
        “It is impossible. This will not last long. The Red Army will come and soundly defeat them.” This is how she would talk to the despairing people.
        And days passed, weeks until…until they too were taken away, along with the other Jews of Sventsyan, to Poligon.
        Right from the very first days, people there sensed that they were dealing with wild sadists, with barbarians.
        People went out of their minds. In the confined quarters, hands and feet twisted together.
        And suddenly, one heard a human voice in hell, “Oh, Esterl, you are also here?”

[Col. 506 top]

        “Oh, good morning teacher,” a young girl responded.
        People wanted to take the teacher, Ms. Fisher, out of the camp.
        “Let them take out those who are younger than I am,” she insistently and determinedly answered. “I will share the fate of all Jews.”


        Now in Poligon there is a large hill overgrown with grass and surrounded by sparse pine trees. That is the mass grave of the martyrs of Sventsyan.
        There too lie the bones of our devoted teacher, Devoyre Fisher.

[Col. 515 top]

Dov son of Shloyme (Brooklyn)

R'Asher son of Akiva Kavarski

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

        R' Asher Kavarski was in his time the wealthiest man in Sventsyan. He was devoted to all the institutions and societies in the city and very generously supported everyone. That is why he was much honored and very popular both with the Jewish and non-Jewish population.
        There was a favored saying in Sventsyan that Asher Kavarski's word was law to everyone.
        An incident that occurred in Sventsyan's large synagogue caused his untimely death.
        This was in the year 1905, when the Russian Revolution broke out. The youth of Sventsyan also took part in the revolutionary activities, and they thought that the synagogue was the right place to incite the Jewish population.
        One Sabbath, these young people entered the synagogue, interrupted the service and one of them stood on the stage to make a speech.
        R' Asher Kavarski got very upset and

[Col. 516 top]

told the congregants to pound on their prayer stands and not permit this desecration of G-d's name.
        A great commotion ensued; no one could hear anyone else talking. Asher Kavarski took this very much to heart and became quite ill.
        He traveled to other countries and visited the greatest doctors, but no one was able to save him.
        At this time, it is an obligation also to mention his father R' Akiva Kavarski, who was a scholar. When he was young, Akiva studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva, and the Netsiv[6] himself was one of his teachers and his spiritual guide.
        R' Asher inherited his love of Torah and wisdom from his father. He helped many yeshivas and the yeshiva boys a lot.
        R' Akiva Kavarski, however, merited a long life living to be over 100 year old. He died in Sventsyan.

[Col. 515 bottom]

Sh. Bushkanyets

Dr. Herts Kavarski – Doctor and Social Activist

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

        Dr. Herts Kavarksi was born in Sventsyan in the year 1869. His father, Asher, and his mother, Basye, gave their children both a Jewish and a secular education. At the age of five, Herts went away to kheyder, and at the age of ten he traveled to Riga to attend gymnasium. Upon graduating he received a gold medal along with some of his city friends: Y. Bitsunski and Yoysef Kavarski.
        He continued his studies in Dorpat and received his

[Col. 516 bottom]

doctorate in 1894. He practiced as a pediatrician in Petersburg and Vilna (in Yakub Hospital).
        Until 1905, Herts was an ardent proponent of Zionism. He was one of the most active cultural leaders, giving speeches on nationalist and socialist themes.
        Herts served in the army during the Russo-Japanese War working in the military hospitals

[Col. 517]

of Kharbin and Tshita. In Tshita he helped to organize a rebellion among the ranks of the soldiers serving at the front in agreement [with the principles] of the revolution of the time. He was exiled to Irkutsk, Siberia.
        He was released a year later and returned home. In 1907, Dr. Herts traveled abroad to gain more practical experience. When he returned he moved to Vilna and became one of the most involved social activists, especially in the field of child care; he started the first children's library, creating places for children to be physically raised [sic]. He created clubs for studying and reading aloud of psychological and pedagogic material concerning children and their on-going development.
        He himself made public important work concerning children's diseases and other matters, in popular medical journals in Petersburg, Russia.
        His wife, Helena, of the Contsel-Mohilyav family taught piano in the Vilna Conservatory.
        During the First World War, Horatsi Osipovitsh, as he was then called, was once again mobilized and worked in the hospitals of Vilna, Kharkov and Moscow. He was presented with many military awards and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
        After the October Revolution he returned to

[Caption under photo]
Both brothers: Nosn and Hersh

[Col. 518]

Vilna and was appointed by the government as the head of the Red Cross.

[Col. 518]

Vilna and was appointed by the government as the head of the Red Cross. Then he founded the Children's Hospital in the Jewish community, where he worked until the last day of his life.
        In the year 1919, after Sh. Niger (the literary critic) left for America, his place as the Chairman of the Ts. B. K.[7] –the Central Education Committee—was taken by Dr. Kovarski. There he worked together with Dr. Shabad. He put his heart and soul into the building of the Jewish School. He devoted a lot of time, energy, money and health to this project.

[Photo on right side of column]
[Caption under photo]
Hersh Kavarski
In the Russian Army

        In 1935, Dr. Kavarski visited the land of Israel as the guest of his children and people from his hometown. He was very enthusiastic about his visit. As his daughter, Kavarsky-Berenshteyn [sic], says, when her father visited, he brought with him as gifts stocks in the Jewish Colonial Bank that he had inherited from his father, R' Asher and his grandfather, R' Akiva, who were among the first to answer the call to found the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael.[8] They received those stock in 1901.

[Col. 518 cont'd]

        (His daughter, Bertha, lives in Tel-Aviv, where she is a teacher of sports and gymnastics. Her husband, Shloyme Berenshteyn, an architect is the grandson of Yoysef Gilinski, a Sventsyan attorney).
        Dr. Kavarski died in June, 1941 just as the Nazi's were occupying the city of Vilne.
        Although abnormal conditions existed in the Vilna Ghetto, the anniversary of Hersh Kavaski's death was memorialized annually. He was an unforgettable person as well as a beloved doctor and social activist.

[Col. 519]

Dr. Moyshe Koritski

Mendl Treger's Fight with the Soviet Authorities for Judaism

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

        After the Soviet Army marched into [Sventsyan] in September 1939, a large portion of the Jewish youth felt as if they had been released from a great diaspora and given the same rights as the neighboring population, the Poles and the Lithuanians. There were also those who remained levelheaded and looked with suspicion on the whole tumult and sensed the new dangers that awaited the Jews.
        Life changed. Millshteyn, the tailor of Lintuper St., all of a sudden came into his own. Impoverished Millshteyn, who seldom worked, now received orders without limit. Everyone wanted a garment made from the remnants that remained in the fabric stores of Sventsyan. Peysakh Gldberg and Khesya Shapiro sold everything they still had, even things that were very badly made. Millshteyn even put his assistant, Aba Leyzer, the teacher's son, to work.
        In the morning a soldier in the Red Army came in, a young man of about 25, who haled from a White Russian town. Out of curiosity they asked him how Jews lived under the Soviets. It turned out that this young man was a religious [Jew], prayed three times a day and did not eat the trafe[9] food produced by the military mess. The Sventsyan Jews there were astonished: How was this possible? How could it be? A Soviet young man could be religious? Where did the party come in? Where was Stalin? The Jewish young man described years of hunger, rabbis who were exiled and anti-Semitism. The Sventsyan Jews listened with their heads bowed. I myself was present during this conversation and was also upset at this Jewish soldier who was so openly telling. . . the truth.
        The Sventsyan Jews looked soberly at the “liberaters”, listened to their words, caught their gestures, saw drunk Red Army soldiers who spoke about zhides[10] and Jewish young people smiled, chagrinned, as they spoke about closing the synagogues big and small and turning them into military warehouses without having touched the Polish [Catholic] church

[Col. 520]

or, G-d forbid, the Greek Orthodox church. Nevertheless, the majority of Jewish youth actively worked along with the Soviet authorities.
        All Sventsyaners remember the Lurye brothers, Mendl and Shimon, of Lintuper St. They were hard working porters but still very poor. Mendl's solace in life was his family: an overworked wife and thin Jewish children. His brother, the broad-shouldered Shimon didn't even have that. When the Soviets occupied Sventsyan, people remembered that from time to time Mendl delivered the mail to the Jews. Later this was taken away from him, because the Polish letter carrier became envious of his earning the few cents that every Jew gave Mendl when he received a letter from America. The Soviets considered this a favor and Mendl became an official letter carrier like many other Polish officials.
        One worked for the Soviet authorities only five days a week and rested on the sixth. These days off fell on various days: Sunday, Tuesday and also Saturday. Mendl, a pious Jew, would not work on Saturday even if his life depended on it. The Polish, despite the fact that they were anti-Semitic, knew that Mendl was a religious person and his religion was very dear to him, quietly made it possible for him not to work on his Sabbath by exchanging days with a Polish letter carrier. If this had reached the Soviet authorities, Mendl would have lost his job. Hard-working Mendl was an example of how to remain a pious Jew in the new diaspora.

[Col. 520 cont'd]

Mashe Berl's and Her Daughter, the Teacher in the Culture School

Motl Kil was a fine Jew. [He was] tall and was always stroking his long, yellow beard. He had an impoverished sister, a widow, Mashe Berl's. Her daughter was

[Col. 521 top]

a teacher, who had graduated from the Hebrew Teachers' Culture Seminary. As soon as the Soviets arrived, her mother immediately began worrying about how to extricate her daughter from this new Soviet “Paradise.” She did not rest but worked on her daughter to sneak across the border to Lithuania with the hope that from there she could travel to Israel.
        I do not know what happened to her daughter—whether or not she succeeded in getting past the heavily armed guard on those very cold days. Even if she did make it, she did not achieve her goal. Instead of getting to Israel, she died along with all the other Lithuanian Jews. I am basically interested in mentioning her mother, who in those days of excitement over the Soviet “Paradise” foresaw that it would not be a home for a teacher, who wanted to raise her children in the spirit of connection with and love for the Jewish people.

The Old Teacher, Ms. Fisher

        The devoted Socialist, who used to live with her memories of 1905 and her hope for world freedom, was very passive in the face of the great tumult that surrounded the new Soviet authorities. To her former students in the Jewish school, who spoke to her, she said: “Do not believe that the Soviet authorities lead to Social Justice.”
        She pointed out to her students the great difference between the low life style of the

[Col. 522 top]

workers and the luxury of the Party functionaries. She asked, “Where are the Jewish elementary schools in Russia, White Russia and the Ukraine? The Soviet government closed them a long time ago. If we still have Jewish schools her, one must ask for how long?”

[Col. 522 top]

Moyshe-Binyomin Ester

        When Sventsyan was separated from Lithuania, Jewish young people from Vilna came to Sventsyan with high aspirations of living and working under the Sventsyan regime. The N. K. V. D., the security authorities, looked upon them differently. They had no confidence in them and sent them deep into Russia. One such girl, who did not want to be exiled to a distant Russian area, of which only bad reports were heard, married a young man from Sventsyan. The wedding had to be dated before the Soviet invasion. The sexton of the synagogue, Moyshe-Binyomin Ester, wanting to save a Jewish girl from being exiled to Siberia, back dated the wedding on the certificate putting himself in great danger.
        At that time, Sventsyan was full of Jewish refugees including yeshiva boys and pioneers, who were looking for a way to get into Lithuania. The Jews of Sventsyan were self-sacrificing and went out of their way as much as possible to send them to Vilna, even using gentiles of their acquaintance as intermediaries—anything to keep them from being exiled to Siberia by the N. K. V. D.

Jews of the Synagogue Courtyard

Translated by Khane-Faygl (Anita)Turtletaub

[Col. 521 bottom]

        The synagogue courtyard of Svantsyan was a town unto itself with its own streets and lanes. The Kuna River flowed near the courtyard. In the spring the river sometimes overflowed its banks, until a fence of interlaced [?] twigs was erected that prevented the flooding. It was a bit cleaner in the synagogue courtyard; there was less mud.
        In the 30s, they began to pave

[Col. 522 bottom]

the streets of the synagogue courtyard. First the central street was paved.
        The lanes of the synagogue courtyard crossed the main street and led from the marketplace to the river. The area between the river and Pashmener St. was a separate entity. That is where the wagon drivers lived and it was always crowded with horses, wagons, straw and. . . dung.

[Col. 523]

        On the narrow street near the church stood two small houses in which one Jewish and one Christian family lived. The Jewish family was the Yankls and they dealt in horse, calves and chickens. On Wednesdays, the peasants he knew drove their horses and wagons into his yard in order to participate in the market that day.
        In the first house on the corner of the synagogue courtyard lived a teacher, who came from a small town in central Poland. On the same street, closer to the river, lived Freydl, the widow, with her two daughters. A Jew rag man also lived close to the river.
        The next street over was inhabited by all kinds of plain, ordinary Jews. Close to the marketplace was Biksan's large apartment. He was the road-paving contractor and was always active in the fire brigade. Across the street from him lived a Jew, who had worked in the mill his whole life. Right next door to him lived the elderly Kovner, who had a factory on Yatkover St. in which seltzer was produced. He was also the gabay of the Tailor's Synagogue.
        There were two wells in the synagogue courtyard. The water from these wells was used only to do laundry. For drinking water or water for cooking, people used to go to Church St. Right near this well lived the Bilkovitsh brothers. One was a harness maker and the other a quilter. Opposite them lived Perets, the furrier. Peasants were mostly the ones who bought his hats. For the most part, fedoras were bought from Reuven Shnayderovitsh. Yankl, the dyer, and his mother, Reyne, also lived in Freyde's apartment. At the end of the summer, peasants came to dye their woven linen and wool various colors in Yankl's boiling vats: black, brown and navy blue.
        Fayve Yose, the mason, lived nearby. He

[Col. 524]

made ovens[11] that had a good reputation. There was always a large mound of clay near his house. In winter when the mound disappeared, we used to go sledding there. It was enough for us that our sleds would slide down to Peysakh, the shoemaker's house. If one got a good push, the little sled bumped right into Peysakh's house, and his wife Beyla would yell at us. Further down the street lived Shaya, the porter, a very strong Jew with a nice beard. A bit further on lived Motl Zar. He had a factory in which wool bootliners were made.
        The street dead-ended at the Kune, the Sventsyan river. We boys did not have to run far in order to jump across the river. There were flat stones in the river, on which the laundry was beaten with a wooden paddle. The same paddle was used to make the mognes for the Sabbath tsholent.[12] It was a tasty dish: flour mixed with raw, peppered fat that was fried in the oven for twenty-four hours, from the middle of the day on Friday until midday on Saturday.[13]
        In this small area that was known as the Synagogue Courtyard, Jews toiled bitterly in order to be able to welcome the holy Sabbath into their homes. It was not sufficient just to satisfy the body with gefilte fish, chicken soup, kreplekh,[14] tsimes[15] tsholent and kugl.[16]

[Col. 524 cont'd]

The Jews in the synagogue courtyard, were, each in his own way, concerned about their souls. They strictly observed the laws of Judaism and attended synagogue. In the synagogue courtyard of Sventsyan the eternal flame was never extinguished. It warmed the souls of the Jewish folk.
        This is what it looked like both during peaceful days and those difficult times, when the sky over Jewish Sventysan became cloudy and frightening, leading up to the horrible holocaust.

1. I do not know why Griveh is in quotation marks in the original [Trans.] Return
2. The Yiddish word, mentsh, is used here, which means so much more than merely a good person. [Trans.] Return
3. This diminution indicates affection. [Trans.] Return
4. Sabbath bread. [Trans.] Return
5. I am not sure what this abbreviation stands for. [Trans.] Return
6. The Netziv was Rosh Yeshiva of the famed Volozhin Yeshiva for almost 40 Years until it was closed by the Russian government in 1892. [Trans.] Return
7. Tsentraler Bildungs Komitet. [Trans.] Return
8. The Jewish National Fund. It was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine (later Israel) for Jewish settlement. [Trans.] Return
9. Non-kosher. [Trans.] Return
10. A perjorative word for Jew. [Trans.] Return
11. These ovens were like large pizza ovens today made of brick. [Trans.] Return
12. The traditional Sabbath stew that cooked for 24 hours and was eaten as part of the second Sabbath meal on Saturday afternoon Return
13. It sounds like a kind of kishke. [Trans.] Return
14. Triangular pieces of dough usually stuffed with meat and put into the soup. [Trans.] Return
15. Vegetable stew consisting predominantly of carrots, sweet potatoes and prunes. The ingedients of tsimes, like those of tsholent, vary with geography. [Trans.] Return
16. A casserole, usually made of a mixture of ground potatoes and onions, in the U.S. called potato pudding. [Trans.] Return

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