by Dvoyre Leyzerovitch Kraytzer
Translated by Janie Respitz
I left my beloved town the 20th of March, 1935. That day is well etched in my memory. My sisters and friends accompanied me to the train. They were jealous that I was going out into the big world. My parents were worried about me. Everyone wished me well. The train arrived and I had to board quickly. Before I knew it the whistle blew…Adieu to my beautiful home. For a long while I looked out the window at my dear ones. Only as the last dots of Ignalina disappeared from view, I sat down. I arrived in Eretz Yisrael and quickly settled in. I slowly adapted to the new life and new surroundings. However, I could never forget Ignalina. Until today it is clear in my memory. I see the beautiful pine trees, the high mountains and the beautiful lakes. Above all I remember the green lake, where we would spend our Saturdays, until late at night.
Kheyders and Schools
I remember my childhood years in Kheyder. There were two in our town: One run by Shmuel the teacher, who taught the boys. His wife Mirl Leah was also sort of a teacher, and she would teach the girls. The second Kheyder was more modern. The teacher was Reb Shloimeh Yitzkhak. I had the privilege to go to the modern school. Reb Shloimeh Yitzkhak was a strict Jew. He had a black beard and always wore a long black coat. His house was on the outskirts of town, near the lake.
We had to be in Kheyder all day. We returned home late evening. Christian boys would throw rocks at us on our walk home. They would also call out in hatred: Zhid! (Dirty Jew).
Learning in Kheyder was a hardship. Our teacher would curse, shout at us and even beat us. He would argue with his wife and take his anger out on us.
A few years later two Folk Shules were founded in Ignalina: One where instruction was in Yiddish, and was affiliated with TSISHO, the Central Yiddish School Organization. The second had instruction in Hebrew and was affiliated with Tarbut.
The organizer and head of the Yiddish school was my brother, Shloimeh Kraytzer. The school was housed in the women's section of the Shul and had great financial difficulties.
In order to exist they organized a drama club. The proceeds from all the performances would go to the school. The first production was Sholem Aleichem's drama: Scattered and Dispersed. The lead actors were: Dovid Soloveichik, Vidutshinsky, Eleke Eynhorn, Gershon Kadishman, Herzl Gurvitz, and my brother Shloimeh Kraytzer.
Caption: The organizer and leader of the Yiddish school and drama club
Standing: Tzinman, ____, Hinda Dogim, Rivka Milkhiker, Pesia Oron, Shprintze Korb, ____,Ritvo, Khaya Shneyderovitch, Taybe Rappaport, Khaya Khatkelevich
When Yehuda Halperin, a passionate Zionist came to town he had a great influence and convinced the well off to start a Tarbut school.
The leader of the Tarbut School was Yerakhmiel Karb. The Zionist youth supported the school and held lotteries and events to help with financial support.
A stubborn battle persisted between the Yiddishists and the Zionists that continued up until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Respected Members of the Community and Communal Activists
One of the finest people in Ignalina was the wealthy man Reb Sholem Leyb Gordon. All of his children studied in Vilna and would only come home for holidays and summer vacation.
After the First World War Sholem Leyb's business failed and he endured difficult times. Besides this, his wife passed away, his children remained in Russia and he had a difficult old age.
Another very different upstanding man in Ignalina was my father Reb Eliezer Kraytzer, may he rest in peace.
He had a long beautiful beard. One day he was attacked by hooligans who cut off half his beard.
He was a proud Jew and a great scholar, honest and just. Everyone would borrow money from him. If someone did not pay he back in time, my mother would intervene and my father would extend the terms of payment. There were times when a Jew would receive a second loan before he paid back the first.
My father worked with stones. He would buy fields from the peasants and remove the stones. Therefore he had a lot of labourers working for him.
The stones were delivered by train and my father travelled often to St. Petersburg. He had many business contacts there that treated him with great respect and honour.
My Father's Passover Seder
I have very fond memories of how my father led the Passover Seder.
A few weeks before Passover things began to change in town. First of all, nature was changing all around. The sun was stronger melting the snow and the frozen lakes.
Cupboards and kitchen utensils were bring removed from the Jewish homes. People hung out their clothes. Everything was being shined, scrubbed and cleaned. There was a great hullabaloo from Khaya Taybe's Matzah bakery. My mother, may she rest in peace, would cook a feast for all the workers in the Matzah bakery.
First, they baked for the wealthy families and were well paid. During the last week they would bake, without pay, for the poor.
Moshe Korb, Feyge Elperin, Eliezer Shapiro, Khaya Soreh Rabinovitch, ____, Dobeh Katz
During those days, all the youth of the town would gather in the Matzah bakery. The boys would knead the dough, the girls would roll it out. During the last days they would bake egg cookies.
The day before Passover there was a joyous mood in town. All the shined dishes were back on the shelves. All the houses were sparkling clean.
They finished Koshering all the utensils in Khaya Taybe's ritual bath. Everyone returned home with their silver spoons, forks, knives and cups.
Early in the morning we ate dairy rolls and then quickly threw away the last things that were not Kosher for Passover (Hametz). Every corner was sparkling. My father would bring down a basket from the attic with all the Passover dishes. Everything had a special charm.
My mother would put on her flowered apron and begin to cook the special Seder meal.
At lunchtime, we had a tradition of eating a prune Tsimes (stew). We were not yet allowed to eat matzah.
In the evening the men went to the synagogue. My mother would put on a black silk suit with a gold chain around her neck. We thought she was a real queen.
All the children wore new clothes and shoes.
The Divine presence was felt in every corner of the house. The Seder table was set with a white tablecloth. Two candles flickered from the shiny candlesticks. The greens were placed on a decorated plate.
When the men returned from synagogue they happily wished everyone a good holiday and we quickly sat down to begin the Seder.
My father was overjoyed. He read the Haggadah with a special, excited melody. When others would go out for a walk late that night, they would hear how Reb Eliezer Krytzer was still leading his Seder. Only around midnight could one hear the melody of Khad Gadya (the last song), from our house.
Rabbi Reb Moshe Aron Khayt, may he rest in peace.
Rabbi Khayt, the Rabbi of Ignalina was a tall Jew with a long beard and a great scholar. He was an enlightened man, not a fanatic. The very religious said he was worldly.
Our Rabbi read a newspaper every day and the youth of the town liked him very much.
His wife was a beautiful woman who ran a business from home. She sold yeast. In those days, almost everyone baked their own Challah for the Sabbath. This was their main source of income.
Reb Yisroel Noyekh Aran, may he rest in peace.
Reb Yisroel Noyekh was a broad shouldered Jew, who was a butcher. He came from a small town called Rimshan near Duksht. He married Golda, the daughter of Reb Shimon Ikhiltsik. Not long after their marriage, the First World War broke out and he was mobilized into the Tsar's army. He was later taken prisoner and returned home after the revolution. He then began to deal in cattle and became a well known merchant in the region.
He had no education and would do all his accounting in his head. It was said he did calculations much better than a bookkeeper and never made a mistake. Saturday night after the Sabbath he would leave home and travel to all the markets and fairs in the area. He would return home Thursday evenings exhausted.
In his few free days he was involved in community affairs: It must be remembered he played an captive role in the founding of the Tarbut school.
He had five sons and one daughter. In the last years he bought land outside of town and built a house. Finally he reached a time in his life to rest on his land, but these good, quiet days did not last long.
The outbreak of the war changed the economic situation and restrained his energy.
When Hitler's beasts arrived, he fell into great despair. He did not have the patience, like the other Jews to experience the suffering of the Ghetto.
Reb Yisroel Noyekh decided he would not leave his estate alive. When he realized there was no way out and lost all hope in a miracle, he took his own life. He hung himself from a tree not far from his home. May his memory be a blessing!
Reb Abba Yitzkhak Gurvitch
Like many others in Ignalina who came from surrounding villages, Reb Abba Yitzkhak came from Labentzeh, where his parents, Reb Yisroel and Henia worked the land. At the end of the village, a house stood which stood out from the other homes in the village on the Sabbath. Candles glowed, the garden was decorated with yellow sand and the animals rested in the barn.
On Saturday, Reb Yisroel would walk with his children to a nearby community to pray. His older children were sent to study in larger towns. Reb Abba Yitzkhak was sent to study in Vidz and there married his wife Asnah. When Ignalina was built they decided to settle there. He dealt with lumber, mushrooms and berries. He was of middle size, with thick eyebrows, worried eyes, and a long, grey beard. He wore a black Hasidic hat and a long jacket and walked with quiet steps. He spoke quietly and chose his words carefully. He was a passionate Lubavitch Chasid and well learned. The room where he would learn was decorated with a picture of Baal Ha Tanai.
When the bell in his spice shop would ring, indicating there was a customer he did not want to leave his studies and would send his wife Asnah to deal with the customer.
He went to pray with his fellow Hasidim three times a day. He died in 1927. May his memory be a blessing.
Reb Mendl Soloveichik was a handsome Jew with a partly shaved small beard. He was a smart man, proud and very strict. At first he dealt in bark and wood and lived in a small house. Later, he lived in a nice house in the marketplace and opened a restaurant.
All the peasants from the region would come to him to eat and drink. His restaurant was always full.
He had 5 sons and 4 daughters. His wife Slaveh was always working and exhausted. She did everything alone. She baked bread, cooked fish, fried various foods and never left the kitchen.
His sons were real heroes. The youngest was called Noyekh Fandreh, after a main character in a book by Zalman Shneour.
The young beautiful Slaveh suddenly fell ill. She suffered for three years and in the prime of her life she died leaving Mendl with 9 small children.
The tragedy is hard to describe. The entire town was deeply saddened by her death. Everyone, old and young went to her funeral.
In her eulogy, her death was compared to a sinking ship carrying many people, suddenly hit by a storm and everyone drowned.
Reb Mordekhai Tsesler
He was a tall, thin Jew who wore glasses. He would always wear a brown suit. He came from Lida and married Soreh, the daughter of Shloimeh.
He was an enlightened man. People called him: The learned Jew. (in Russian).
They had a textile business. His wife would mainly stay in their shop while he worked at the bank and the free loan society. On market days and at fairs, he would come and help her.
On the High Holidays he would read from the Torah in synagogue. He knew everyone's name including their father's and grandfather's.
He had great problems from his work in the banks and the loan society. When someone did not pay back their loan on time, he had to go collect. This would often end in cursing and shouting. Those who owed money did not want to understand that he was just doing his job and it was not his fault they could not pay their debts.
He worked 12 hour days and was always tired.
Once a year he would receive furlough and he treasured this. Even when things in town were crazy, he never passed up his vacation. Don't bother me, I'm on leave he would always say.
Yosef Avigdor the Coachman
He was a short Jew with a thin blond beard. Winter and summer he wore big boots, and a hooded cape tied with a rope. He lived in a small house near the lake. His wife Feyge was well educated. She could pray by heart and would read psalms to the other women.
Yosef Avigdor would wait all day at the train station for the stagecoach. When it would arrive with a wagon filled with flour or corn, he was very happy.
Besides this work at the train, he was the regular wagon driver for Reb Nekhemia Brumberg.
Every evening he would go to the synagogue and recite psalms. He had his own melodies and would repeat them many times.
With tears and pain, we now remember our dear town, which no longer exists, where many honest, hardworking Jews lived. The German executioners and the Lithuanian bandits destroyed our Ignalina, and murdered our entire Jewish community.
May God take revenge on their blood!!!
by Heshl Gurewitz
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
The shtetl of Ignalina was built on the left side of the terminal and the railroad station, which ran from Dukst to Dvinsk. Over time, most of the Jewish folk came to live in this area. Here all the stores were opened and the market day took place every Thursday. On the right hand side of the railroad, several Jewish families also lived until the first world war: Moishe-Yose the butcher with his extended family, Nechme Brumberg and Bere Gilinski.
From the family of Moishe Yose Soleveitchik , through his writing, gave us accounts of the those good and proud Jews whose lives were filled with hardships and who endured such adversities to befall these unfortunate Jews.
Being still a child, I always loved to visit Ignalina, because many relatives on my fathers side lived there. Often I would visit my uncle, R' Abba Yitzhak Gurewitz, who was a and Hassidic Jew. Also I was a very good guest, I behaved myself when I visited the families of Moishe Yose and Mendl Solevechik. I was very honest and when confrontations occurred, I would be called upon to the shtetl of Ignalina by the young Jewish friends.
One Thursday during market day, I saw the son of Moishe Yose and some of his Jewish friends, confronted by some crazy hooligans. From this time forward, it was known not to antagonize the Jewish youth of Ignalina. All the peasants of Ignalina now knew that we were no push overs.
Onetime a policeman wanted to arrest one of these friends, and it was stopped. The policeman was shamed by this: a Jewish youth beat him up.
One time a policeman came to my uncle Abba Yitzhak Gurewitz, in the marketplace, to control that he didn't sell any liquor. Instead, he found a few packages of tobacco, which we were not allowed to have at home, only in the shop. He didn't know what do, so he sat at the table prepared to make a report. Zelman, my uncle's son, protested and didn't allow him to file his report. So the policeman immediately called for some help and to remove Zelman from the house(arrest). When I saw this I immediately ran out and yelled for help, and from these loud calls for help, immediately my group of young Jewish friends arrived in order to help free Yose Moishe's son. The policeman was told that if he didn't leave here at once, that all his bones would be broken. It didn't take long for him to decide, and he left my uncle's place immediately. The others also left.
Another time when I was visiting, my uncle Moishe Yose bought a cow from a peasant and paid for it, when the peasant suddenly changed his mind. A great quarrel enfolded.
Schlomo, the son of Moishe Yose, suddenly appeared (like out of the earth) and gave the peasant a few whacks, and the peasant, bloody, fell to the ground.
This indicates that the Jewish youth of Ignalina were never intimidated (walked with their heads bent over). No deed was left unattended, all the Jews looked after one another in this town. We were always ready and able, just and eager. All the hooligans (Christians) in Ignalina knew that they would be dealt with.
All these antics were already known during the Czarist regime, that Jewish blood and Jewish belongings could not be taken and that they would defend themselves from hooligans and bandits.
This was a warning from our Jewish brethren and Jewish town!
by Dr. Yosef Even Odem (Rubinstein)
Translated by Janie Respitz
The Rabbi of Ignalina, Rabbi Moshe Aharon Khayt was a person of stately appearance, with a snowy white patriarchal beard. Hi speech was well thought out, like our sages. He was a true scholar. Sometimes, after a late night visit to a patient, I would see the Rabbi swaying over his Gemorah through the window. I would go in to discuss Torah or secular subjects…incidentally, the Rabbi knew the Rabbi's I had studied with in my father's house (privately, not in a Yeshiva) all three were heads of Yeshivas in Vilna. They would come to our home every evening to teach me and my brother for two hours.
The Rabbi from Ignalina knew Rabbi Reb Menakhem Mendl Kozlovsky from his youth, my first head of Yeshiva ( from Rebbe Mayle's Yeshiva in Vilna). I remember the joke he would often tell: Children, Chew cheese! This was a play on words from tractates of the Talmud. I would have chewed cheese for a long time with Rabbi Kozlovsky had he not suddenly launched an Agudah political sermon in the synagogue, without my father's knowledge, against the San Remo tragedy of 1920, where the Zionist Balfour Declaration was confirmed…(This was the same week the Rebbetzin Esther Rubinstein held her impressive San Remo Speech in front of 5,000 people in Vilna's Circus Amphitheatre)
…In conclusion, after such an Agudah Putch our studying with the unlucky Rabbi, Reb Menakhem Mendl, could no longer continue.
All evening I told the Rabbi of Ignalina piquant details about the head of our Yeshiva, the Shnipisher Rabbi, who was known in Vilna as the genius, Rabbi Meir Shnipisher (Rabbi Meir Basin), who was quite a pious wonder. He was a clever philosopher who read Emmanuel Kant in German and even understood! And what would permit him to leave Kol Nidre, the fumes from the memorial candle, which he could not tolerate…my father responded to him, Kol Nidre is really nothing, only a custom, not law, but here the Shnipisher Rabbi did not want to separate himself from the community, that could not comprehend his violation of Kol Nidre…Reb Meir Shnipisher would explain simply in Hebrew: You children (already grown students…) should speak correctly, with proper grammar, with correct vowels. I will however say it as I always have until my death…and in science (medicine or chemistry or mathematics), he would add: what do you say? Not so correct? Did our sages not know, but you now know better!
After the death of Rabbi Meir Basin, his successor, Rabbi Moshe Karelitch attacked his students very aggressively and without compromise: How do you know all this? From your secular books? From your university? Now listen to what I have to say to you! But there was nothing to hear. After all his complicated calculations, for example, in the Talmud Bava Batra, the seller of the house
would always be lacking a piece of land which my brother would always find (having already graduated in mathematics and chemistry before he graduated from medicine…). Until one day, also Rabbi Moshe Karelitch received an immediate eviction from my father's house. He exploded when he learned of the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he spit with great bitterness and said: Luckily the Zionists steal money from the Jewish Agency, if not, they would destroy the entire Land of Israel!. Understandably, such a declaration did not fit the political stand of Rabbi Rubinstein who was chairman of the Jewish Agency in Poland and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hebrew Univeristy. Rabbi Karelitch had to resign as Talmud teacher of his two students…
How could I have never imagined that the Prime Minister from my State of Israel would go to the brother of my fanatic Rabbi, the leader of Agudah, the great visionary?!
I found a document from one of my long answers from the Rabbi of Ignalina, (typed), written in a pseudo biblical affected style, with half quotations. Here is an excerpt, with all its mistakes:
Peace and blessings upon you, dear and supreme Rabbi and respected wife, peace from Zion to all her lovers, who rejoice in her happiness, and to all her mourners. I have seen TelAviv (being) built, built magnificently, may there be peace within its walls and security over her, and I saw ‘the Glory of the Carmel’ in its splendor, its multitudes and its tumult, and I saw Jerusalem again and I mourned her, as she is still in shame and disgrace. Her walls are breached but shall a nation be born all at once, for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Our sages, in another generation, prophesized truly that the salvation of Israel commences slowly and in small steps, and the more it progresses the bigger and faster it becomes.
by Esther Rabinovitch
Translated by Janie Respitz
In three separate language domains I continued with my Hebrew writings with great enthusiasm. After a day of work in my medical practice, I devoted my evenings to Hebrew.
Firstly, I work on philology and etymology, comparing Hebrew to other Semitic languages (above all Arabic). Right from the start I was delighted to find hundreds of words of pearl and language diamonds the famous Orientalists had not noticed or recognized. I realized my discoveries would be useful in furthering and widening our very long neglected Hebrew language.
Secondly, I worked, in Ignalina on new plan to reform Hebrew writing, which I spent much time thinking about on long winter nights.
Thirdly, I began to write Hebrew poetry…
From the time I began writing poetry, I wrote quickly, with a good grasp of the language. The first person to recognize my work was the well know Hebrew teacher and poet from Vilna, Dovid Levin, may he rest in peace. He published a few of my children's poems. Another supporter of poetic talent was Herman Shtruk, the world renowned artist.
From 1917 until 1932, over a period of 15 years, I slowly collected a volume of poems, which doubled in size in 1933 in Ignalina, until 1935 in Menakhemiah. By 1936, in Tel Aviv, I already had two volumes together with a third volume from and unfamiliar poet colleague from Ignalina, Esther Rabinovitch, may she rest in peace.
Before I left Poland, and before she left this world, she gave me her volume of
Hebrew poems with the hope I would publish them in Eretz Yisrael. I felt freed from this burden (or her last will) the moment I burned my own poems.
Everything depends on luck, especially a book of songs from a Hebrew poet. Who now even remembers the well known Russian poet Gretta Yelisaveta Zhirkova Eli Sheva who was forgotten in her lifetime and died lonely near our Kinneret in Tiberius…Who does not know the luck of Rachel, whose name rings out due to the heartfelt melody of her poem My Kinneret…the unknown poet Esther, from my small town of Ignalina, did not have luck. Had she not met the good doctor (who could not help her) but a good composer instead, she may be remembered as the famous Esther from the Lakes of Ignalina (a sort of Kinneret). Esther Rabinovitch was remarkable, similar to Rachel Blaushteyn. They both died of Tuberculosis, they both began as translators, Rachel from Hebrew to Russian, and Esther from Russian and German to Hebrew. (I can attest to the fact that her translations were truly masterful, like from the German poet Ludwig Uhland), and both tubercular poets struggled with their original poetry and despair.
The end of my poetic career is due to Herman Shtruk:
He once invited me to visit him in Haifa. Arriving at his beautiful villa, I thought it over and decide not to appear before this great artist and old friend…until today I don't know the reason why, not just because of my Zionist Congress German…because my German was not so good, even though in Vilna I spoke a perfectly correct German with Herman Shtruk, the language in which the religious, traditional leader of Mizrachi, after 15 years in Israel, still spoke and wrote.
Returning to Tel Aviv from Haifa by train, in a creative, poetic mood, I un comprehensively,
and quickly, wrote a very comprehensive long and poetic poem…in a true biblical style, in an enthusiastic language, allegorically playful and philologically blooming. (Filled with wonders of the language)…my attempt at improvisation pleased me. Upon returning to my hotel, I sat by the open window, near the noisy sea, rewrote the poem, declamatory, like an orator. This was my stormy Open Letter.
During my first two years in Israel. I became accustomed to the editor they always sent me to, the well known Yehuda Karni, may he rest in peace, and I know why…(I met him at his best friend's house, Alter Droyanov, may he rest in peace) when I paid him a Contra visit in Tel Aviv, after his visit to my father in Vilna, a year earlier, when I arranged for him a grandiose reception with 200 invited guests from the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
Poem by Esther Rabinovitch in Hebrew
by Shulamit BeitHalachmit, at the women prison
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
Zion, why won't you ask to the farewell of your prisoners
The prisoners who let you shine
The victims who are prisoners behind your gates
Zion. Won't you redeem your writers and teachers
The mother's soul is right, many of my sons have empty hearts
What can I do with my sons as I can't fulfil them?
Is it therefore you observe and judge them and their mothers?
And if you are silent and tearless, will you still call her mother
Mother of Zion, if you won't rise high and let your voice be heard
Then they will fear, and you won't be seen from your place
The voice of the bereaved who lost their sons will hide in their homes
There will be orphans and we will call you and rip upon you
Dr. Yosef Even Odem
Translated by Janie Respitz
Today I will tell you about the large goodbye evening, organized in my honour by the Christian intelligentsia in Ignalina.
When the Christians learned I was planning to leave for Palestine, they decide to organize a goodbye ball for me. I learned this from the priest Grizhas, as I travelled home with him after a visit to his sick sister. On the long journey, the priest told me all the praise said about me among the Poles, who were upset I was leaving Ignalina. My Christian friends had already decided to mark my departure with a large dinner, but there were many doubts…the priest coughed lightly and stammered: our food is not Kosher, and we know who you are…you are the son of an important Rabbi, the chief Rabbi of Vilna. Perhaps it is not appropriate…even if you are a smart doctor…
In order to keep the peace (as we are instructed by Reb Yehuda Hanasi in the Mishna) I immediately told the priest that the question of Kosher and non Kosher has nothing to do with being smart, and it is not, God forbid and anti Aryan question, which I would explain to him…and then, in order to gain time to think of my answer for his Christian supper, I told the priest about my father's friendship with the priest Palkovsky, the rector of Vilna University, who would visit my father at home, and sometimes visit the Hebrew girls' school, which was named for my mother. This is how I introduced the priest to the Esther Rubinstein Hebrew School in Vilna, the light of our culture, past and future.
I would like to take the opportunity of the rector priest Polkovsky's visit to the school to tell how my father built the school across from the big church Holy Jan, and a few meters
from the main university building, and Napoleon's Palace, the residence of the Governor of Vilna: the interesting thing about the address of the girl's Hebrew School was that it was on the intersection of the Holy Yan Street and the Gaon (Genius) of Vilna Street.
In the centre of town, at the Catholic Church and University Street, hundreds of Sorelakh and Rivkelakh (little Jewish girls) would meet, as they streamed out of the Hebrew school together with hundreds of Polish students from the university, at the same time in the afternoon, in front of open and hidden anti Semites among the Polish students, professors and priests.
I told Father Grizhas (a friend of the Jews) how my father would meet with rector Palkovsky when he would leave the university. My father would often take him for a longer visit in the school, showing him how the girls, big and small, speak, write, play and sing, free and lively, in the dead language, Hebrew…Unbelievable! Impossible! The priest professor Palkovsky was astounded. Hebrew that is the most difficult of all the three holy languages from antiquity ( more difficult than Latin and Greek), of which he hardly remembers anything from what Catholic priests had to learn. He only remembered the conjugation of the verb to slaughter. Father Grizhas laughed as remembered also having to conjugate the same word. Here I added another example of a verb…a priest is called a Galakh in Hebrew because the root of the word comes from the verb to shave. Listen Father Grizhas, my friend: and I conjugated to shave for him in Hebrew.
We both laughed heartily, and he whipped the horse
Then the priest remembered my going away party. At first I decided not to accept this honour from my Christian friends. Who knows how they will behave and this would leave me with bad memories of my Jewish town Ignalina? But suddenly I changed my mind. Yes, good, Father Grizhas, I accept the invitation from my Christian friends. They don't have to worry about me. Let them eat all sorts of pork. Let them prepare for me a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The ball was really very beautiful, prepared from the heart, sponsored by the nobleman Marian Poniatovsky. We ate a lot, and drank a fair bit too. There was singing and dancing and understandably there were speeches, long and short, humorous and serious. Father Grizhas spoke as did the police commander Krasovsky, the director of the school Kamarovitch, and Captain Zavadsky, the military doctor. Also Major Rudmansky and others. The main thing, at the end me too understandably! I had prepared a speech for the banquet ball.
I began with Ignalina, then right to Palestine, to our promised land, recently promised by Lord Balfour, and the age old promise from God to Abraham…then I jokingly jumped from the land of milk and honey to tasty pork, to the Torah and the laws of Kashrut. All of my Christians friend looked bewildered and surprised…But yes! God alone made the Jews abandon the tasty pork in the Garden of Eden. Why is this animal called Khazir? (Hebrew word for pig, which has the same root as the verb to return), so they will return to Eretz Yisrael and eat pure pork! Now every Jew can eat pork. But unfortunately, the Jew must ask, what can I do if God forbids it! The command of Moses, our great law giver was an historic necessity, to differentiate the People of Israel from all the idol worshipping nations.
And then, the horrible Roman Empire that persecuted us (as you Christian later did), was later referred to by Jews as Pigs, which meant: blood thirsty, unfeeling, dirty, crass animal!
And here I told the tragiccomic nonKosher episode about Rabbi Meir, who I presented as a wellknown Rabbi and a Jewish Revolutionary patriot, who the Romans recognized in the street and wanted to arrest him! Rabbi Meir calmly walked into a nonKosher restaurant where he licked his fingers from Roman foods…No, that is not Rabbi Meir said the Roman gendarmes, Rabbi Meir would have sooner gone to the claws of the Roman Pigs than eat pork!...But it really was Rabbi Meir, who tricked the Roman police: He put one finger in the pork and licked another…All my listeners burst out laughing. The priest and the police commander laughed harder than everyone.
This is how I ended my speech. Jews cannot make peace with a hateful ugly pig, under any circumstances, in this world, even if his meat is very tasty, if God promises, in the next world, in heaven, together with the Leviathan and the wild boar…so my Christian friends, for you, the pig does not disturb your religion or national feelings, I wish you a good appetite at my beautiful goodbye evening, where you honoured me!
My half serious, half joking speech was received with long applause. They continued to tell my pork speech in Ignalina for many years. It particularly stirred the sensitive Christian pharmacist who was very proud of the pig's afterlife, as I had explained was God's promise….This is what I was told, years later by the head of the Ignalina Jewish community Yerakhmiel Korb, when he visited me in Herzliyah, when he arrived in Israel after surviving the Nazi hell.
in an Open Letter to J. Macdonald
Translated by Janie Respitz
After Yerakhmiel Korb arrived in Eretz Yisrael, his entire correspondence with his son Eliyahu was brought to my attention. Through my mediation, the S.A.D had to mention my name, and I recounted the big miracle that I experienced. I remained free for the long two years (1945 1947). I could have easily sat (in jail) for nothing just like Eliyahu Korb sat and sat without any chronological system and without any court judgement.
With bloody tears, already in his anticipated and expected Eretz Yisrael…Yerakhmiel Korb wrote to me: Dear Dr. Rubinstein, you shared with me there was a letter from Eliyahu I spoke to your people, and they draw from me …blood. I don't know if I will live to see my Eliyahu, I don't know…Yerakhmiel Korb did live to see Eliyahu, but unfortunately his joy was short and tragic. He died embittered after a long and difficult heart disease.
The year was 1946, the time of the English American commission that was sent to Eretz Yisrael, to decide her fate, and the future of the hundred thousand survivors of Hitler's victims from all of Europe. I found it absolutely necessary to direct this open letter to the influential Zionist English newspaper The Palestine Post, to the important member of the commission, James Macdonald. I had the official stenogram published on an official United Nations page, a strong warning against Hitler's Swastika moves against the Jewish people that James Macdonald heard at a special meeting of the High Commission for refugees, when
he himself was High Commissioner, for refugees at the United Nations.
The impressive speech was given by my father, Senator Rabbi Rubinstein November 2, 1935, in London, coincidentally on the day and in the same city the English Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour delivered his famous Balfour Declaration concerning the Jewish national homeland in Eretz Yisrael. At the time, my father wrote me a long letter, and sent me the official stenograph of his speech.
James Macdonald expressed his recognition of my father's activities for the German Jewish refugee problem, at a press conference in Warsaw, which I enclosed in my letter to Gershon Agronsky in order to persuade him that the mention of my Father's speech in London could really make a big impression on James Macdonald (who would later become the first American Ambassador to the State of Israel). I asked in my open letter to the former High Commissioner of Refugees if he does not admit, that the High Commissioner of the United Nations, at that big meeting chaired by Lord Cecil ten years earlier (1935) had made a terrible mistake, when he did not call upon Senator Rubinstein's rescue appeal, to open the doors of our national land at least for German Jewry, who were totally destroyed.
At this opportunity, in my open letter I included some impressive, shocking lines about Yerakhmiel Korb (not only demonstrative, but really wanting to help the former head of our Jewish community of Ignalina), with the request to allow the old, unfortunate invalid to enter the Land, a victim of Hitler, whose son, who is interned in Sudan, asked me to help save…
by Eliyahu Korev
Translated by Meir Razy
Dr. Yoseph Rubinstein arrived from Vilna to serve the community as a physician. The Revisionist Party was created in our town under his influence. The list of the party activists included Aharon and Hersch Gilinski, Gershon Katz, Yoseph and Yerachmiel Leibstein, Shmuel Shapira, Yoseph Isaac, Israel and Eliyahu Korev Reuven Muller and his sister Mina.
In 1938 I received a message from the Beitar (=Brith Yosef Trumpeldor youth movement) Governing body that I was allowed to immigrate illegally to Eretz Israel. I, of course, agreed immediately. Our transport group included about nine hundred people and our road took us through Romania.
Our ship wandered over the Black Sea for three weeks before it had hit an underwater boulder and started to take in water. It took four hours for the help to arrive. I was one of the last people to leave the ship that sunk shortly after.
The ship that picked us up had already wandered on the sea for two months. Several people died of hunger due to lack of food and the little stock was quickly diminishing. The conditions were catastrophic! We arrived at the shore of Netanya where we let the people who had spent the longest time on board to get off first.
When the ship returned the next morning to Netanya it was welcomed by British bullets. Later we were disembarked on the beach of Kfar Vitkin.
I joined the Beitar troops in Netanya, Hadera, RoshPina and Yesod HaMaala. I worked planting tobacco at Yesod HaMaala, but the hard work made me sick and the doctor forbad me from more work. I was released from the Beitar troop.
I went to Petach Tikva to see Abraham Krill, who received me very graciously. Afterwards, I met Shneur Korev who was a manager in the orchards of NesZiona and I started working in the orchards there.
When the war started I dedicated myself to LEHI (=Lohamei Herut Israel, The Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) and after some activities they nominated me to be responsible for the weapon storage depots we had in many places in the country.
I was arrested in Netanya on October 31, 1943. I was charged at the court in Petach Tikva and was found innocent. The invading British Stormtroopers were not satisfied and brought me to the court in Yaffo. After some investigation they moved me to the jail in Jerusalem.
Manifesto: How they tortured him
This is a detailed story of Eliyahu Korev, since he was arrested until his release when the State of Israel was declared in 1948, in the following concentration camps: Latrun, Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya (according to the book The Fighters for Liberty of Israel's volume 1).
For the Public
How the young Hebrew Eliyahu Korev was tortured by the invading British Stormtroopers and their Law Keepers.
Young Eliyahu Korev had already been held by the British police for four months and twenty days when, on March twentyfirst of this year, he was taken from jail in Jerusalem at 10:30AM. The troopers first took him to a house next to the jail and from there out of the city (we assume: to Beit Lechem or to the Police Academy on the road to Beit Lechem). The torturers had waited for him there and around 11:30 they started. These are the details:
They started with strong slaps to his cheeks. Each slap was followed by banging his head against the wall. They then stripped him naked and poured water all over his naked body. They started beating him with a leathercovered steel stick. They beat him all over his body until he fainted.
He regained consciousness after they poured water on him and then they continued beating his head with that stick until he fainted again. They revived him with water and immediately continued with a new type of torture: they placed a wooden board on his lower left back and started hitting it with large pliers, intending to damage his kidneys.
The board broke after a few dozen hits. The troopers replaced board with a thick plank of wood and continued hitting it until the tortured man fainted again. They revived him and started a new type of torture: they hit his genitals with the steel stick. He fainted several times, and each time they revived him and continued the torture. They lifted his body several times by pulling him by his genitals, and this sadistic behavior was not enough for them. The criminals found a new method to abuse their victim.
Hitting a person's larynx with a flat hand will immediately cause him to faint. Each time they poured water on him and eventually he laid in a puddle of water. They rested for fifteen minutes and started a new type of torture: two troopers stood on his hands, two on his legs and the fifth one pulled him by his testicles until he fainted. This time they revived him by pulling his ears. They continued torturing him until sunset. The tortured man was close to insanity. His body was bloated, covered with black marks, he vomited blood and blood came even out of his anus. He felt pain in all his internal and external organs and had problems breathing.
The following day, March 22, they came back. This time they tortured him only for two hours, but now they added a new torture: whipping his buttocks and the bottom of his feet with the steel stick. The body of the young man showed no resistance. On the third day of torture, March 23, the troopers came again but they tortured him somewhat less. They waterboarded him by forcing his head into a bucket of water until he started choking and getting water into his lungs. They then pulled him out of the water and let him cough the water out. When they decided he coughed enough they repeated the treatment of drowning him and reviving him by pouring water and pulling his ears. By the time they left him he looked like a lifeless heap of bones. He fell down where he was and laid on the floor unconscious until the night.
At night they took him somewhere for recovery and continue torturing him in the car.
In the new location (we assume Ramle) they hit him a few times and left him to recover half naked on a mattress. He had to relieve himself where he was because he was not able to go to a bathroom. He could not eat because of the internal injuries and pain. A medical doctor checked him and gave him an injection. He did not eat anything for seven days. He was kept under guard, without seeing the light of day, suffering pain, hungry and half naked for four weeks until, on April 22, he was brought back to the Jerusalem jail. On May 2 the young man was transferred to the detention camp in Latrun.
Let the public see and judge if there is any difference between the Teutonic Nazi animal and the democratic British animal!
Lohamei Herut Yisrael,
The Fighters for the Freedom of Israel
The statement of the First Minister of the Government of Palestine (Eretz Israel) during his meeting with the chief editors of the newspapers, that the British police do not use torture to extort confessions from prisoners is a lie. The facts of the torture of the young man Eliyahu Korev that we had published in our manifesto to the public are true in all their details.
Let it be clear to the rulers who use lies to cover the bloody frenzy of the animals working for the secret police (CID) that cruel torture will not break the spirit of the Hebrew fighters. Those who are responsible for the methods of torture and their executioners will pay for their deeds.
The Underground in Zion, Tamuz (=May) 1944
The Fighters for the Freedom of Israel
by Pesach Yifar
Translated by Meir Razy
The city council of Herztliya in its meeting on January 28, 1962 decided unanimously to bestow Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem the first and the largest Literature and Science prize, in the sum of 1,000 Israeli Pounds. A public reception will take place at the Acadia Hotel, with hundreds of attendees from the city of Herztliya and leading Israeli writers and linguists, members of the medical establishment and professors from the medical school of the Hebrew university in Jerusalem.
The prize is given to mark 25 years of dedicated, excellent work of Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem as the City Medical Officer and the manager of city's clinic since Herztliya became a city. This Literature and Science prize is given to mark his excellent linguistic skills and his great success as a researcher and innovator of the Hebrew language and the scientificmedical language in particular. Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem published about ten books over many years covering thousands of pages of Hebrew terms. He did this at his own expense of tens of thousands of Israeli Pounds, money he saved from his salary as an employee. The Mayor of Herztliya lists the reasons for granting him this big prize:
From Ingnalina to a Scientific Prize in Israel
Here are the summaries of two reviews published in the daily newspaper Davar in 1954 and 1955 by Dr. David Arie Friedman ZL, the veteran editor of the Medicine publication. Dr. Friedman was a famous writer, a literature and art critic and a member of the City of TelAviv selection committee for the Bialik Prize. These are his reviews of Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem's work:
Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem's lifework of collecting useful terms in his ten volumes of his book series shows knowledge, understanding, depth and momentum. Beyond his knowledge of the medical subject he showed broad understanding in Arabic, Syrian, Aramaic and Hebrew of different eras. This made him, a single person, the equivalent of a Language Committee. He is very knowledgeable and the reader should enjoy the sharp knowledge of the intellectual author.
A year later, regarding the continued publication of Doctor EvenOdem books, Dr. Friedman added the following:
The readers of his books are amazed that this monumental work of the physician from Herztliya did not create any echo in our printed media, neither in the general newspapers nor in the literary or linguistics publications, although these books are, and I am not exaggerating, a treasure trove of cultural and linguistic discoveries, coming from a scientist who is wellversed in the mental processes of the creation of the cultural treasures of our nation. His outstanding grasp of linguistics and his detective skills led Doctor EvenOdem in searching for the original terms in the historical books of the Jewish nation. Each term in these books promotes pondering, vitality and wisdom.
The publication of these books is, without a doubt, a significant event in our literature terminology. Not a single dictionary, as comprehensive and thorough, was published since the time of Ben Yehuda. A whole generation, maybe even generations, will study this encyclopedia and will be encouraged to create even more.
The city council of Herztliya decided to take all of these praises and blessings that Doctor EvenOdem had received and to convert them from nice statements of principles to something more materialistic and to grant him a prize of 1,000 Rocks (=a biblical coin, actually in the context Israeli Pounds) in order to support his research and to increase the prestige of our laureate. I used the two words, Rock and prestige, on purpose as they exemplify the scientific research and the innovations of our winner, two words out of the thousands that he investigated and even created. Dr. EvenOdem is a man of prestige and the man of the rock.
I want to emphasize the fact that the Hebrew Academy and the Government of Israel had already approved and accepted and signed the decision that our national currency would be called Sela. This is a historical and personal achievement of our laureate who, by the way, once told me that he had spent more than a thousand Selas on pushing the Sela into the heads and the hearts of the nation. (Translator's comment: The Pound was eventually replaced by the Shekel, another Biblical denomination. Sela has never been adopted). I want to add that the adoption of the newold coin Agora, in use for the last two years, is also the initiative of Dr. EvenOdem, and he fought long and hard to make it accepted.
And last and very dear is the word yokra (=prestige) that was missing from the Hebrew language and that Dr. EvenOdem introduce through the Hebrew Academy, last spring, I think.
About that time I saw a letter on the desk of Doctor EvenOdem, signed by the President of the Hebrew Academy, Professor TurSinai, announcing that the Academy adopted the word Yokra for prestige based on the proposal by Dr. EvenOdem.
The chairman of the ceremony, the poet Nachman Rapp, describes the laureate Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem: You gained glory, respect and admiration not only for your enthusiasm but also for innovation and your productive linguistic work. In each domain of your work and your social life you proved that you are a person of the highest quality. Your memory does not lose anything, you revive the past for the present and for the future, but more than anything else you have a pure heart and great dedication for which we love you.
From the eulogy the poet Nachman Rapp gave
at the grave of Doctor Yoseph EvenOdem ZL
Translated by Meir Razy
The city of Herztliya is shocked, mourning the departure of the dear dedicated physician, the fighter for the Hebrew language. The city lost one of its magnificent citizens whose life story was an example of selfsacrifice and endless dedication for the individual and for society.
The unique physician, who did not feel tired during the day or rested during the night, stood on guard, tending to his patients' needs. He served as a physician in the municipal clinic for over twenty five years and his medical wisdom saved many lives and recovered many souls. Who among the residents of Herztliya was not treated by the physician EvenOdem? He walked among us as a legend and the splendor of the legend will be kept in our hearts forever.
He was admired always and everywhere, but misunderstood at times. His road in life was not always paved with flowers. There were hands that planted thorns in front of him. Like a prophet in the desert, calling people to follow the light, his voice was raised against the various modern Greeks (Translator's note: reference to those who wanted for follow the Greek culture during the time of the Maccabean), those who denied the Jewish culture and its resurrection. He fought a bitter war against the deniers and their supporters, a holy war that only real scholars who were fighting for heaven's sake could sustain. This is why he quoted, in the introduction to his dictionary, the following phrase from his grandfather, the Rabbi of Shaki, Rabbi Chaim Yirmiyahu Flansberg: With bitterness archers attacked him; They shot at him with hostility. [Bible, Genesis, 49, 23]. The word bitterness means hatred that comes out of envy, and it is true that the envy of his opponents was not the zeal of Pinchas but they desired his reward [Bible, Numbers, 25, 1012].
His linguistic research and innovations placed EvenOdem like an eagle soaring above the smaller birds that were not capable of climbing high. In his prolific imagination he could see the magnificent Hebrew language ruling over the nation. There were those who did not have the skills to look up and follow the call of this unique eagle. They remained stubbornly conservative and did not follow his leadership. But the call to liberate the Hebrew language from the subjugation of foreign languages was heard, penetrated the souls and even reached the deniers.
The city of Herztliya was proud to show its respect and praise to the Knight of the Hebrew Thinking, Yoseph EvenOdem, while he was alive. The city council granted him a special large literature prize with the intention of encouraging the important linguist, this lover of the Hebrew language. The city committed itself to supporting him in his ongoing war for the Hebrew language.
The man was taken from us. EvenOdem crossed the skies of our city during his short life of plentiful deeds and disappeared in the dark horizon. He left us but his light will stay with us forever. He left his writings, research and innovations, and immortalized himself in the hearts of the nation and in our hearts. The city of Herztliya and its council will find ways to properly remember his lifetime contributions.
Immortal was EvenOdem and his memory will remain in our hearts until the end of time.
by Nachman Rapp
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
Edited by Rhoda Miller
Doctor Yosef EvenOden was born in the morning and died in the morning. He was born in a time when Jewish life was very fragile in Europe and there was yearning for a better future. Seven years later the great World War broke out and Jewish life would be ripped apart. His father, Rabbi Yitzhak, the wellknown Vilna Rabbi and Senator, an activist of Jewish rights in Poland, Russia and Lithuania, was caught in the center stage fighting against antiSemitism that hit Jews in the head without warning. How, otherwise, could a young man like Yosef be brought up if not in the spirit of national identity and with its struggle for existence.
But the young student, Yosef Rubinstein, was influenced from two opposite directions, from his grandfather, the Rabbi of Shoki, who instilled a deep and philosophical understanding that came from generations of what was and what lies ahead, and from his father, the Rabbi and Senator, the vital and dynamic energy which leaves us unsettled (torn), new ideas need to materialize and obstacles need to be overcome. Torn between these two ideals, the young student from the Vilna University was a generation before his time.
The unlucky people of Europe started to heal their wounds after the First World War. Jewish life began to flourish again, a new Jewish identity was born. The YiddishHebrew culture wars and language wars were renewed. In theory, it seemed healed! Enough angry blood was spilled and the time for renewal was practical. But it was still very far away to think of Zionism and Eretz Israel. The remnants of Jewish life was scattered in four corners of the world. This is when the young Yosef Rubinstein came out with his first speech in which the Hebrew language should be adopted as the practical language for all.
Thirty years later, that is, in today's calendar, the Hebrew Academia, problems aside, started making progress in the that direction and the young Rubinstein showed that his directives were ahead of its time!
The Hebrew language will be embraced forever.
He changed his generation with the Hebrew language through his persistence. He continued his struggles alone against the Rabbis and was punished for his antagonisms. After many years like this, the fruit of his labour produced a language that the people would be proud of. It seemed even the Gaon of the Jerusalem of Lita would be proud of his linguistic undertakings and would release him from the accusations made against him.
Now, before his death, the Academia of the Hebrew language would come to appreciate the wonderfulrich Hebrew language that became so important that Dr. Yosef Even Odem Rubinstein encouraged his encyclopedia and other books which he wrote, through his own initiative, even includes the medical and biological terminologies in the Hebrew language. In a period of twenty years, together with his other works, he produced a dictionary for world academia that was never done in our entire generation. And this he managed to do in his lifetime while still attending to his patients in the daytime in his clinic in Herzliah.
Beautiful letters expressing gratitude were sent by his students in honour of this excellent work and devoted doctor. The president of the Hebrew Academy, Professor TurSinai, expressed gratitude for his dedication and excellence for developing the Hebrew language in medical texts. The State of Israel thanked and approved the national currency called Sela to replace the old currency the Shekel which was a historical and personal achievement by our laureate. But it still was not easy. The man was still left struggling for his Hebrew language.
A great love for the Hebrew language began to flourish with hopes to rebuild a rich legacy out of ruins; this is the gift he brought to the masses. It must be the Holy Duty of the Regime!
Dr. EvenOdem died prematurely, but let us not forget the legacy he left us. It must become our inheritance from here on.
As transcribed by Moishe Shalit
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
There were barely 250 families in Ignalina, 150 Jewish ones. The main Jewish industry was shopkeeping, small trade merchants, and artisans. The shopkeepers and merchants made up 47 percent, the tailoring and artisans, 23 percent.
As there were too many shops, their economic situation was poor. The Christian cooperatives added another layer of competition. The cooperatives got large loans and cheap credit from the Polish Bank Rolni and in this manner undercut the profits of the Jewish shops. The bank was also a loan and savings banks which benefited the local population. The cooperatives brought wagons full of cheap and much desired goods and this was great competition. The peasants from the region call this :our store. Anti Semitism towards the Jews, added another layer to our poor economic situation, the Christians were encouraged to shop in non Jewish shops. Posters were pasted showing Jews sucking their blood (Christian) and eating their last piece of bread.
No wonder the Christians stopped shopping in our stores. After awhile, 2 more Christian stores opened, the Jewish shops could no longer compete. The Jews suffered, credit was difficult to get. The Folks Bank did not readily give loans to the Jews.
The market took place every Thursday. Merchants come from all the surrounding shtetls and the competition was great. They brought a lot of cheaper merchandise. Also the cooperatives brought wagons loaded with plentiful and cheap merchandise. No wonder there was poverty for the Jews of this region.
The landscape is full of fields and lakes. The best and most productive part belonged to Lithuania. The peasants were also poor. The last years were not easy, in the springtime many were forced to buy even their bread, a necessity to survive.
The result was catastrophic for the Jews in the region, as well as for others.
One small trade that existed here was fishing, raisings hens and geese, but this now was transferred into Christian hands.
The Jewish shoemakers were without work and couldn't provide a living for their families. Just the Jewish blacksmiths were in a better situation. Here in Ignalina, there were 5 Jewish families who began a fishing industry in the nearby lakes. This provided them with a very good income.
When their contracts ended, the Polish regime issued new orders. No Jew can lease these lakes exclusively, and because of this, the economy suffered again.
Also in the forests, the wood trade was now ordered by the Polish regime to be transferred to their own overseers, and they took control and shipped the wood by train.
New edits are issued daily and the economic situation for the Jews was in a steady decline. New taxes and bribes were now increasing. 4 bakeries closed and the other businesses were suffering. The butcher shops were next. Great poverty was created.
A hep committee was founded. More than 15 families needed help immediately. Many were ashamed to ask for help. The only thing left was for the young people to leave the shtetlach. Everyone's' eyes were focused to go to Eretz Israel and their wish to get there as soon as possible.
This was our economic situation in our shtetl (Ignalina).
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