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[Page 1189]

Kaltinian

(Kaltanenai, Lithuania)

5516' 2600'

 

My Shtetl on the River Zhemiane

Yosef Tabakhowitz (Argentina)

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Rhoda Miller

 

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Kaltinian, the home of my birth, it is so difficult for me to talk about you! To cry for you! How can I make peace with the memory, that you, the once beautiful garden, became a trampled ugly place at the hands of the German and Lithuanian murderers, your flowers together with its Jews were torn from its roots!

My dear shtetelah, I gather my strength to write about you and I can still remember you, that is the way you will remain etched in my memory.

Kaltinian was ten kilometers from the train station, which tied Warsaw to Peterburg (Leningrad) at New–Sventzian. The shtetl also had an indirect line with New Sventzian, through its small train, which ran from Ponevesh (Panevezys) to Gluboke. The shtetl was surrounded by thick forests, a lake and a river.

The lake started about two kilometers from the shtetl, passed by Kaltinian and joined other lakes that stretched throughout Lithuania. One of the lakes ran into a river which was called Zhemiane, the same name as the lake. It meandered around the shtetl in the direction of New Sventzian.

The history of the shtetl is not well known to me. Just what the older Jews of the shtetl passed down.

[Col. 1190]

“Is the start of the shtetl a result of the 1863 Polish revolt [emancipation of slaves] against Czarist Russia?” The land, where the shtetl is now located and some nearby terrain, belonged to Polish noblemen and after the Polish defeat it was given to the Russian General, [Pan–Eckx]* (or the Greater Russia annexation], who subdued the rebellion.

This resulted in Jews receiving parcels of land in order to build houses. After the general's death, the stately home and land was given to his daughter, who married a Russian Coronel (Poltvnyk, Russian colonel or governor), Mordvinov, who became the governor/ boss of the shtetl.

The small pieces of land went from father to children who married and started families. This is how the shtetl grew, until it became a Jewish one, consisting of about 30 families.

As you entered the shtetl stood the house of my uncle

[Col. 1191]

Natan Tabakhovitch. He had about four Desiaten of land and was a partner in the Barovker Mill. On the left side of him lived the pristav (police commissioner in Czarist Russia). Going to the lake was a garden of vegetables belonging to Hene–Munia Katz, the widow. Further along the small little street, which we called “kol” (sound), lived Itche the teacher. He was also in charge of the bathhouse. After the bathhouse stretched several fields. In this corner only the Christians lived.

Across the market square was the stately–Shul, on one side of the school lived Ben–Zion Volavitch, who had a butcher shop and some interests in the forestry trade. After him lived several Christian families and then Leib Miluntchik with his father– in– law Shmuel Gavenda.

Leib Miluntchik was involved with Voskes, transporting wood to the river. His father in– law fabricated tar and was also in the carpentry business. Next to Chloine Gavenda, or as we called him, Chloine the deaf one, was a fisherman. After these two homes were the Monopole, next to which was the firefighter's Pozarne (firehouse), where Yacov the blacksmith lived.

After the Pozarne was the house of Yitzhak Rudnitzki, who was a wood merchant and across the street towards the river was the wealthy home of Chana Rudnitzki. Closer to the river, Abraham–Yitzhak Guterman lived, who also worked in forestry with his in– law Elia Karapatkin.

Close to the synagogue lived: Abraham Yitzhak Katz, the Potchter[name of his trade], Faive–Yitzhak Popiski, Shloime–Yosef Katz, Hirsh Kremer, and his in– law Gerhon Rudnitzki. They all were wood merchants.

The son of Hirsh Kremer, Elihu (Eloishe)Kremer, later became an important wood merchant in Vilna. He died in Israel. The son of Gershon Rudnitzki, Elihu (Eloishe) Rudnitzki, was a renowned attorney and community leader in Vilna (also died in Israel).

With Gershon Rudnitzki's house the town came to an end; which stretched to the river and the bridge. Across the road from Gershon Rudnitzki and Hirsh Kremer was the church and the house of the priest. After this house was our house. My father made a living in forestry

[Col. 1192]

until the First World War, and before with the trade in pelts (fur).

Under one roof with us lived our uncle Mordechai Garshein. He was a glazier and also owned a factory. After us lived: our uncle Yitzhak–Faive Volavitch, who was a butcher and a merchant, Yitzhak–Yacov Rudnitzki, a fisherman, who also baked beigel and was also the Shamash at the synagogue, Dovid Portnoy, a tailor, Yehoushe Rufeitz, who was also in the forestry trade, and Mordechai Mavish, or as he was called, Motel the Rav, also in the forest trade.

 

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Motel Mavish, called Motel the Rav

 

The mother in– law lived with Mordechai Rudnitzki, or Motel the Elder. He was also in the forest trade. After Motel the Rav lived the Rabbi of the shtetl, Rabbi Yehoushe Barg, who held the position until the German invasion, and Yacov Henech the blacksmith who later left for America.

This is where the Jewish shtetl ended. We should also mention the Jews that left the shtetl, like Mordechai Kovalski, who left for Sventzian, and the brother Zolia and Berl Guterman, who later lived in New–Sventzian.

Life for the Jews in Kaltinian until the First World War was very prosperous. There were barely any poor people. There were those who were in wood export, others bought mushrooms and berries for Eloishe Kremer, who exported them to Germany and a part remained for the local trade.

Kaltinian in those years was also affected by the beginning of social and national changes in the world. Young people began to organize themselves with their involvement in cultural activities and began to connect with the other Jewish youth from the neighbouring shtetls,

[Col. 1193]

and banded together to build a unified center for its Jewish people (life).

A Yiddish library was founded in those days, there were no Hebrew books in this library.

Gershon Rudnitzki bought them and created a Hebrew library. When Gershon Rudnitzki left the shtetl he gave the books to the shtetl and both libraries merged.

A Yiddish Shul was founded. When the Soviets occupied Kaltinian, it was closed and there no longer existed a Yiddish school in the shtetl.

The shtetl didn't have a doctor. The feldsher [barber doctor] from Lingmian came, Noger, or the doctors Heifetz and Arlov from Sventzian.

The shtetl didn't have a pharmacy. There was a small pharmacy with the bare essentials for first aid, or a so–called temporary clinic.

The Zionist clubs were very interwoven in the shtetl. After the First World War, the Halutz was founded and most of the young people started to prepare themselves for Aliyah to Eretz Israel.

I was fortunate to be amongst the first group who made Aliyah from Kaltinian,

[Col. 1194]

later I had to go back to Kaltinian. I returned in 1926 and found Kaltinian in a situation of “prosperity”.

In England the great coal strike broke out and Poland began to export large amounts of wood to them. This revived the wood trade in Kaltinian and Jews made a very good living.

My father bought land in partnership with Velvel Popiski (of New–Sventzian) from the Governor Mardvinov. Others Jews bought land from him and this was a period of a great economic opportunity.

The good times did not last long. Barely two years past and hardships began. All of Poland suffered through an economic crisis in the years 1928/1929, which impacted the Jewish people particularly. The Jewish youth looked for ways to leave Poland, wherever they might be allowed entry.

The shtetl Kaltinian, understandably, had no other way. Shimon Mavish left for France and after my release from the military I also left for Argentina, Ischer Miluntchik left for Argentina.

 

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Halutzim from Kaltinian and other shtetelach of the Sventzian region

 

Kibbutz Hakhshara [preparation] in Gershon Rudnitzki's forest

[Col. 1195]

The Jewish youth who remained in the shtetl didn't have any way of knowing. Everyone felt the dark nightmare approaching, but no one could even comprehend such dark days would descend. A wild beast would arrive, murder and obliterate the shtetl of Kaltinian.

No one had the foresight that

[Col. 1196]

a total annihilation was arriving!

Kaltinian, our dear and beloved shtetl!

We will always remember you. You will forever be etched in our memory!

All our nearest and dearest, that were so brutally murdered, Kiddush Hashem [sanctify the Lord], we will never forget you. Their memories will forever remain in our hearts forever!


 

[Col. 1195]

The Home of My Dreams

Neche Tabakhowitz–Bakaltchuk z”l

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Rhoda Miller

My ravaged and abandoned shtetl, Kaltinian, how many fond memories and ties do I have with you? Is it true that our home no longer exists? Is it true that our nearest and dearest met their tragic deaths in such horrendous circumstances?!

Here, here, as if it were yesterday, I still can see them all, all sitting together in their homes or on their porches, sitting quietly during our beautiful summer evenings when the acacia trees were in bloom. My eyes, until today, are filled with tears when I remember the songs that drifted through the air, when we were young carefree people boating on the silvery Zemiane that emptied into the larger lake.

The joyful songs floated together with the rhythm of the waves, whispering through the stillness of a “blanket of lonely trees.” Branches were strewn across the edge of the stream and lake. The nature remains untouched with her beauty, sober but awesome! However my lovely dear shtetl is no longer, it lays now in ruins, not one Jew remains, not one trace of a Jewish soul!

My lost–destroyed home, where we grew up together with the trees and the flowers is now empty and meaningless. The faces of the Kaltinianer Jews are wandering in front of my eyes, I can hear singing from Yankel the blacksmith, passing our house on his way to the Synagogue. Now, I see

[Col. 1196]

our uncle Natan coming into our house, to drink a glass of tea and catch up on a little conversation.

My dear and outgoing friends are no longer, Chaia–Leia whose laughter and melodious voice filled the streets; the philosophical Shipra; my sister– in– law Beila–Gita the Rebbetzin; Rivka my aunt Meres(could be Rivka, that belonged to my aunt Meres), who was a singer and a dreamer.

 

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The river Zemiane

[Col. 1197]

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The drama club

Sitting: right to left; Beila Gita Mavish, Grisha Kovalski, Chaia Leia Tabakhovitch
Standing: right to left; Shloimekeh Rudnitzki, Raizel Rudnitzki(Katz), Meir Rudnitzki, Berl Tabakhovitch, Berl Tabakhovitch (Natan's)

 

How carefree were those days, when we went to the fields to pick berries and mushrooms! We roamed the fields through and through! Not distracted by anything! Then we left with full baskets to our homes.

We used to walk leisurely on the edge of the river and forge new paths. We looked at the boats floating quietly on the water. We watched the fishermen, with the deaf Chloine at the head, throwing their nets into the water and dragging them out, singing, and throwing their catch on the banks.

My heartache is so great and my pain is so deep when I remember each detail! Now I remind myself of my house,

[Col. 1198]

Which was near to the train that ran from Lingmian to New–Sventzian and Vilna. Alongside the tracks flowed the river Zemiane.

In our shtetl there was a brick Synagogue, which my father, Yacov–Moishe Tabakhovitch z”l built. Yitzik the Chazan was the public emissary of the shtetl for many years. Later Elchanan Yatzkevitch came to pray here, who served as the shochet and superintendent.

The Rabbi of the shtetl as Rabbi Yeschayu Barg. A club was founded by Ida Katz in Kaltinian: there was a large library with Yiddish and Hebrew books, a drama club directed by Mirta Katz.

Life in the shtetl was quiet and tranquil. But the Second World War arrives, the German animals invade our region, the Lithuanian neighbours become the masters of the shtetl.

The persecution towards the Jews begin. My father, Yacov–Moishe, with my brother Berl, die on the third day of the outbreak of the war. They are shot not far from our house. I grab my two young ones and run to New Sventzian. From there we begin again our long and difficult wanderings until we can reach a safer place.

All the Jews of Kaltinian were murdered–either in Gupa, the torture camps of Poligon, or on the roads during their flight.

Kaltinian was destroyed, now JUDENREIN! (free of Jews)

 

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The firefighters group in Kaltinian

 

[Col. 1199]

Between the Two Wars

Yitzhak Kavalski[1]

Translated by Rena Borow

 

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It's only 27 years that I've been away from my little shtetl Kaltinian and still I can see before my eyes as if it were today. I'm still inspired by the beautiful nature, the forest and fields and the beautiful surroundings. For hundreds of years a few dozen Jewish families lived there who were very friendly with their Lithuanian neighbors. It seemed as if just the trees were rooted in the ground, that's how rooted the Jewish population was and no storm would be able to uproot them. Unfortunately, we all were bitterly wrong. The Hitlerish animals erased them from the earth and there's no trace of them. That horrific Holocaust was aided by many of their Lithuanian neighbors with whom we had lived well so many generations.

In the history of the Jewish settlement of Kaltinian several important eras need to be signified.

The era before the First World War, when we lived there quietly and securely. Each had his own land, made his own living. Everyone lived his quiet life. Two families, Kramer and Rudnitzky, dealt with the exploitation of the forest (cut down trees) and traded in wood. The Jewish store owners and craftsmen made their living in a large part from the same forest trade and the work that was involved with it.

The First World War turned everything over in the whole region as it was occupied by the Germans. Part of the Jewish population escaped to Russia and the ones that were left suffered of hunger. The situation changed when the Germans took over, the forest around the shtetl in order to ship the wood to Germany. The work was done by the two Jewish wood traders Kramer and Rudnitzky. They were the ones who hired the Jews from the town and the surrounding Jewish shtetlach. They mostly got paid by barter from the Germans for their work and that kind of exchange saved much of the Jewish population from hunger.

At that time there was the Ponivetcher Rabbi, Rabbi Kahanaman, who did everything he could and was very helpful in helping the Jews from the surrounding shtetlach also.

After the war when the Russian army took control the situation again got very very difficult in the surrounding area, but in the little town in Kaltinian things were a little better. The reason was that the Jews here owned little bits of land and they were able to grow vegetables and potatoes and have bread.

When the Poles took over the region and it was taken away from Lithuania, the town was practically on the border. A few of the families, especially the more well to do ones left the town and went to Vilna and the larger surrounding town of Svencionys and New–Svencionys.

The situation in Kaltinian became hopeless. The youth had instinctively felt the oncoming storm and the pioneer organizations, the Zionist organizations, the Halutz organizations began to prepare the youth for Aliyah to Israel and now many are in Israel.

 

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A gathering of young people before the departure of Yitzhak Kavalski to Eretz Israel

Kneeling: Rivka Korapatkin, Beila Guterman
Sitting: Golda, Yitzhak, Eida Kavalski
Standing: Gita Kurapatkin, Moishe Friedman, Hinda Guterman


Translator's note:

  1. Izaak Kovalsky Return


[Col. 1201]

The Colorful Organizer Att. Eliyahu Rudnitzki
Taken from the Autobiographical Lexicon in the Pinchas of Vilna “Yekapo”, 1931

Related by Moshe Shalit

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Rhoda Miller

Eliyahu Rudnitzki was born in Kaltinian, Vilna province in 1892. He was the son of a wealthy family of wood merchants.

Like all the children in those days he started his studies in a traditional cheder, later to a Kibbutz of Porushim and later to the Vilna Russian Gymnasia of P. A. Kagan, which he completed in 1913.

After completing the Gymnasia he left for Germany to study medicine in the Heidelberg University.

A year later the First World War broke out and he had to return to Kaltinian.

In the first years of the war he was restless at home, so in 1915 he left for New Sventzian, where he began work in a branch of Yekapo (Jewish Community Relief of War Victims) and Aze. (another help organization) The main work in those days was the evacuation of the homeless by rail: those from Panevezys, Onikst, Utian and New–Sventzian to the Penza–Tamboz and Tzernigover provinces.

[Col. 1202]

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Eliyahu Rudnitzki

 

In 1916 he went to Gluboke because of the war situation, where he remained in contact with the semski– soyuz (union) and the soyuz–gorodov (union).

Eliyahu decided to continue his studies and left for Petersburg, where he came to the Psycho Neurological Institute.

He couldn't concentrate on his studies as he became committed to Zionist activities during his student years. In May 1917 he became general–secretary of Z. K. in Petersburg and in

[Col. 1203]

the same year left for Moscow where he became the secretary of the Zionist party. He also was active in Zeirei Zion, which was only a small branch of the larger Zionist organization.

At the same time he resumed his studies in the Moscow University. However now he began his studies in the Judicial faculty.

After the Brisk peace treaty, May 1918, he returned home to Kaltinian. However, he went to Vilna to take over as publisher of the newspaper “Last News.”

In Vilna he became one of the most devoted contributors to the city's cultural establishment. He was chosen by the Vilna Jewish community as their representative where he spent and devoted many of his years.

In 1919 he was the delegate chosen to represent Yekapo at a conference in which he held an executive position.

In the same year he was chosen as a city councilman for the Vilna city council, which he held with honor until 1928.

He also worked with much devotion in the Folks–Bank. In 1928 he became its director.

[Col. 1204]

In addition, he was also associated with the bank–branch in Warsaw.

In 1928 he was the director of the students' council in Vilna. In 1930 he ended his judicial studies in the Vilna University and became a practicing attorney in the city.

He remained president for more than seven years of the Zeirei Zion party in Vilna. In May 1930 he was chosen as the president of the Vilner “Shul–Kult.”

Advocat Eliyahu Rudnitzki was one of the most popular personalities of the Vilna province. When the Second World War broke out he escaped deep into Russia and in the time of Sigorski's regime he became involved in affairs in Teheran, the main city of Iran, as a representative of the refugees.

After the war he fulfilled his lifetime dream and made Aliyah to Eretz Israel.

Here he worked in the Histadrut and was a member of “former citizens of Vilna in Israel.”

He also published an important book about Russia. He died in 1951.

May his memory be blessed!


[Col. 1203]

The Figure of a Talented Educator

Heshel Gurewitiz

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

It is difficult to get used to the idea, the devoted and outstanding teacher, Neche, is no longer with us. It is simply difficult and unbelievable to write about the gruesome and unimaginable death that tore these brilliant and intelligent souls from our midst, who were carried on the black wings of death, in indescribable torture and inhumanity; these were our bright personalities, simple folk– teachers and folk– intelligentsia, like our teacher who spent many years devoted to passing on her intelligence to the children in the Yiddish Shul, to raise healthy Jewish minds for a future generation of young people. To plant the seeds of a Jewish people and Jewish culture,

[Col. 1204]

she received her qualifications as a teacher in the Sofia Gurewitch Gymnasia in Vilna, then completed her pedagogic course in Hebrew under the direction of Dr. Tcharne, and afterwards with great idealism, courage and holiness, she carried the work– load of the school on her shoulders.

She endured all the sufferings of hell during Hitler's occupation. In 1944, I believe she was in Vaivara as a slave labourer–in a German work camp–where they robbed her of her two children and her old mother, Raiza Tabacavitch: they all perished in the death camp of Aushwitz.

Her first husband was Berel Axelrod, a

[Col. 1205]

teacher and a devoted community leader. The Germans murdered him at the Ninth Fort in Kovno.

After this gruesome tragedy she survived alone together with her sick sister. They were both deported to the concentration camp Stutthof.

Shortly before liberation her sister died and she remained alone. Herself sick, she began to wander through Poland looking like skeleton, saved from this great catastrophe.

The injustice in the ghetto, the life in the camps, the gruesome deaths of her beloved nearest and dearest impacted her well– being. She remained steadfast and resolved to save herself. She immediately began her work with the Lodz Jewish committee where she implemented schools and kindergartens for the survived Jewish orphans.

One couldn't live in these areas of destruction any longer and the survivors decided to leave Poland and continue to wander in order to arrive in their Jewish homeland.

Neche joined the flight, first she arrived in Germany and from there to Austria. She couldn't live without her work and started a weekly paper, called Aufgang (Rise Up) which soon became the voice of the refugees who were then located in Austria.

[Col. 1206]

She didn't only edit the weekly newspaper, she wrote most of the articles and announcements herself and established her own literary style.

Besides this, she took upon herself the task to document the Polish and Lithuanian atrocities.

Besides her historical and literature achievements, she was active in the refugee–school named after Theodore Herzl. She helped organize children's performances and she put her efforts towards maintaining high pedagogical standards at the school. She gave her heart and soul for the improvement of the lives of those Jewish orphans.

In 1947 her second husband, Melech Bacaltchik was invited for a conference at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Neche and Melech went to Jerusalem. Later they didn't find any possibilities for work so they accepted the invitation of the Johannesburg Jewish Folk–shul and both left for South Africa.

With complete devotion and fire she began her work to educate. She loved her scholastic work in which she found some peace after the nightmare of the Holocaust.

Before her time, age 49, she was taken away from her dear and beloved work. She died June 1, 1953.

We shall never forget her. May her memory remain with us forever!


[Col. 1205]

As A Russian Prisoner of War in Kaltinian

Yerachmiel Korb

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

In 1916 the Germans brought me to Kaltinian to manage a turpentine factory. As a specialist I earned 30 phenig a day because I was a Russian prisoner of war. This was the payment for each prisoner of war.

[Col. 1206]

Besides food, every two weeks I received raw produce in New– Sventzian, enough to last for five days. I already had a wife and a child. On one hand I was very happy that I was living in my district together with my family. But,

[Col. 1207]

where can we get food? I already took precautions, thanks to my protectia that I bought knowing certain people, but I saw the hunger around me.

In the Vilna province people went around with their bellies swollen from hunger. Sventzian also suffered from hunger. Why did I come here to see the suffering of our Jewish people? Why did they bring me from Germany? The person that brought me here from Germany was the director, the boss of the forestry trade, had warehouses and turpentine factories in the whole region.

He was a man with a golden character and loved the Jews. He hired the wealthy wood merchant, Gershon Rudnitzki, to be in charge of transporting wood products on the river Zemiane.

I then made the acquaintance of Gershon Rudnitzki and with the other Jews of Kaltinian. The wood merchant and all the Jews from this shtetl sustained all the newly arrived hungry Jews of the region. In addition packages of food were sent to Sventzian. He employed not only Jews from Kaltinian, but other Jews from New– Sventzian.

Thanks to Rudnitzki I was made in charge of the turpentine factory. I made a very good wage. The boss knew about this. One time he said to me: “I am very pleased that you are earning a living, but don't get richer than me.”

The second richest wood merchant of Kaltinian was the in– law of Rudnitzki–Hirshe Kremer. He was a religious Jew and in his spare time read a page of Gemara. He didn't have business in forestry only in our region, but also throughout Russia. In the time of the First World War he didn't have any business. But his son Eliahu Kremer provided the Germans with all sorts of mushrooms and berries and with this gave many Jews the means to earn a living. We can say, thanks to these two Jews, many survived and didn't die from hunger. In my life I didn't see such a shtetl where Jews were so intelligent and charitable as in Kaltinian.

[Col. 1208]

I still have to mention a relative from the merchant Rudnitzki family by the name Mordechai Mavitch, or we used to call him Motel the Rav. He could have been a Rabbi, he was a bookkeeper for Rudnitzki and later for Kremer. He was from a poor family from Zarazai.

His father was a single maker, but their son studied Torah and culture. He was a good person with an honest face, a nice black beard and dark intelligent eyes.

There were more wood merchants, like Popiski and others. The others of the shtetl were employed as transporters by these merchants. The shtetl barely had any Jewish craftsmen besides one tailor and a glass maker. In later years the shtetl of Kaltinian had beautiful workshops, fields and bean stalks.

It is difficult to remember every Jew in Kaltinian, therefore I can only mention several of the families.

C. Katz held the post office position in the shtetl during the time before the First World War. He was an intelligent man and had several daughters and a son Eliahu who was a chisel– worker for the German supervisor. He was quite young and got along with everyone, not only Jews but also the Christians from the region. He was loved by the local people. In the years between the two world wars be became involved in wood industry and lived in New Sventzian. It didn't seem important that his whole life he had a friendly relationship between himself and his Christian neighbours, when his wife and child tried to save themselves and hide in the corn fields, the Lithuanian neighbours ran after them and murdered them.

He was also athletic and the director of the firemen in New– Sventzian.

The second family was Abraham Itzhak Guterman, he was a wood transporter and an intelligent man. He had a good sense of humor and often studied a page of Gemara in his spare time.

Today the shtetl is empty of Jews.

I bow my head for these Holy souls, for the pure, intelligent people of Kaltinian.


[Col. 1209]

Rabbi the Gaon Yosef Kahaneman

Heshl Gurwich

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Janie Respitz

Involved with his entire soul in Gemara–nigun, in rabbinical teachings and in everyday affairs with the communities of Vidz, Kaltinian and Ponevezh until Bnei Brak.

It is impossible in such a short article to describe the colorful life of the great scholar Gaon Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman who in every decision made for the well– being of his people and community conducted himself with great moral clarity. Here, in short, I will speak proudly about his greatest achievements by bringing help, moral and material, and about his deeds that he performed while serving as Rabbi.

Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman was born in Kuli (Kuliai), Lithuania, studied in the Telz Yeshiva and in 1911 he married the daughter (Feige Rubin) of the renowned Rabbi of Vidz, Rabbi Leibele. When Rabbi Leibele took over as leader of the Rabbinate in Vilkomir, his son in law, Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman became the Rabbi in Vidz. At that time the students in the Vidz Yeshiva came also from all the nearby towns. Many of those students who graduated from this Yeshiva became great Talmudic scholars.

In 1915, when the Germans arrived in our region, many families from Vidz left their homes just like others of the region. The Vidz Rabbi and many families left for Ignalina and lived there in great hardship. He didn't have his own house and lived with his family in a corner of the Synagogue (House of Prayer).

At that time the scholars in Kaltinian who had studied in the Yeshiva in Vidz, decided to bring the Rabbi and his family to Kaltinian. Rabbi Shloime Yosef Katz took him into his own large home and Rabbi Kahaneman took part in all the shtetl's affairs, even though he was not the official Rabbi.

The German military regime opened a Centrale warehouse (mill) to exploit the forestry industry of the surrounding forests. A German foreman was in charge of operations who developed a great friendship with Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman and thanks to his intervention

[Col. 1210]

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Rabbi H'Gaon Yosef Kahaneman

 

the well– known wood merchant Reb Gershon Rudnitzki received the entire administration of cutting and exporting wood to Germany.

This work had a positive effect on the lives of the people of Kaltinian and they would be spared from hunger that lingered everywhere in the region. The workers and managers who were employed in this wood industry were given extra food rations.

The rumors from this “abundance” spread to the other towns where a shortage of food was found, so the Jews from the other towns came to Kaltinian. The newly arrived

[Col. 1211]

Jews were well received by the Kaltinianers.

Not only the Jews from the surrounding towns, but from all over Lithuania, which suffered from hunger, came to come to Kaltinian in search of food. In the military barracks of Podbrodz and Poligon, the regime confined these masses that were driven from the war zone. There were many Jews amongst the refugees. The Jews of New–Sventzian were the first to organize a help committee for the Jews in Poligon. The first that came to their aid were the Jews of Kaltinian. At that time Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman showed great ability and talent to organize a humane help committee for the Jews of Poligon. He went to the head German of the wood Centrale to allow the Jews to take the small train from Kaltinian to Ponevezh, which was an area that produced more and it would be easier to obtain food. In Ponevezh, because the Russians left in haste, many Jewish homes were empty. Thanks to Rabbi Kahaneman, those homeless and hungry Jews found a new life.

This news reached the many hundreds of hungry Jews all over, and Kaltinian became the help and welcome center, where every passerby received shelter and a good meal. Every home in Kaltinian received these refugee families.

In 1919 Rabbi Kahaneman left Kaltinian and became the Rabbi in Ponevezh, where he developed a new branch of his work. He built other religious institutions.

There were 25 synagogues in this shtetl, and besides the reading of the day, they also read three portions of the Talmud.

A fruitful Jewish life pulsated here. He was also a deputy in the Lithuanian Sejm (parliament), also a member of the presidium of the council of Rabbis of all Lithuania and active in the Agudas Yisroel party

The Jews of the Lithuanian shtelach were murdered,

[Col. 1212]

tortured and shot. It was one of the largest miracles that the Rabbi was protected from the hands of the murders and was brought to the shores of Eretz Israel.

In 1944 for the first time the Rabbi looked at the naked mountain in Bnei Brak and homesick he said: “it would be beautiful to build a Yeshiva here.” A Jew was standing nearby, a simple Jew, with firey seriousness, as in a prayer answered: “Rabbi, I will give away all my plots on this mountain in order to build your Yeshiva here.”

The Rabbi didn't expect it for nothing, and the Jew accepted a low price, on condition that they build this Yeshiva within the year.

A lot of hard work and energy went into this Torah work, which today has about 1000 students, besides the 400 young women in a separate Gymnasia.

The large Yeshiva was not the end of fulfilling his life's work: Rabbi Kahaneman founded a home for rescued and orphaned children of the Holocaust, children from abused families,and with his fruitful instruction renewed, “Yarchei Kallah”[Yarchei means month, Kallah means assembly], a Talmudic age– old tradition of studying Torah for two months (Elul and Adar when agricultural activity was at a low) when large masses of worshippers, as in ancient times of the Amorites, in the large Yeshivas of Sura and Pumdita. The students returned to their communities to refresh and bolster their Torah knowledge, thus strengthening their ties to Yiddishkeit. Today in Bnei Brak religious pupils from all streams and from all corners of the world come here to study.

Rabbi Kahaneman gave a lot of energy and initiative for the memorial monument and its site of construction to commemorate the destruction of the people of Lithuania: etched are the towns of Kaltinian, Ponevezh and many others of Lithuania. Over 700 headstones will stand on the site according to his plans. On each stone the name of the Kehilah (community)will be engraved, the date of her founding and the date of her destruction. The survivors will have a place to come to gather to remember those that perished and say Kaddish for them. In the Arun Kodesh, that will be built mountain, the saved Torah scrolls and Religious books that were rescued from Lithuanian schools and Synagogues stairs will lead to a shrine (cave)– the memorial of the words of all the lost Jewish communities in Lithuania. Special record books (Pinchas) from all the Lithuanian towns

[Col. 1213]

which were lost will be found here. A special archive committee was set up to restore this.

It will also contain all testimonies of the holocaust written in many languages about the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry. In this depository will be gathered the books and manuscripts of scholars of more than 650 years of life in Lithuania.

When I write these few words, the Rabbi is close to eighty, and he is still studying without glasses. His gaze and voice are still youthful. The Rabbis's illustrious appeal stretches far and wide. In the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak he created a great learning center. Students from all countries came to study here. In the days of “Yachei Kallah” many Rabbis and simple Jews come together, merchants and professionals, regular worker and military workers, teachers and officials, old people, young men from other Yeshivas and students from high schools. They set aside their work and worries of the entire year and take their seats,

[Col. 1214]

each with their group, in the halls or under the free skies, and at a specific hour one of the heads of the Yeshiva welcomes the newcomers and looks for new meanings of simple and complicated words of the Tractaite that will be learned and discussed in the new year, just like in old times, 2000 years ago, in the same Bnei Brak where there once stood the historic Torah–fortress, which was defended by Rabbi Akiva.

In those times Bnei Brak was still a small village and Jews from faraway, from the Jezriel Valley, the Galilee and Judean Hills, from across Jordan (south). Peasant–stock and scholars who from early morning till late at night were immersed in Torah study. Rabbi Kahaneman created a center here in Bnei Brak for eternal continuity, with an absolute connection with its past Jewish history and traditions. This he did with his great warmth which he brought with him from his old home of Kaltinian.


[Col. 1213]

A Heroic Family

Beile Garshin

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

 

Sve1213.jpg

 

The family Guterman lived in Kaltinian, the family was Reb Abraham Yitzhak, whose trade was a fisherman.

He was of medium height, broad shouldered with strong and healthy hands, which day and night worked with the fisherman's boats and dragged nets full of fish.

Life in the open nature, on the rivers, that meandered through fields and forests, developed his personality, strong as steel. He wasn't afraid of storms or strong winds or bad weather.

[Col. 1214]

He was a picture of health due the clean air and pure life he led. In his free time he sat and read a page of Gemara, or a book that he loaned from the library. He was happiest when he could read his Gemara or a chapter from the Mishna, and even when he sat in the fisherman's boat he reviewed what he had learned and thought over the tracts and questions. He belonged to that group of Jews, their hearts fluttered with each devotion and there was a thirst for more learning. He was drawn to faraway places, unknown lands,

[Col. 1215]

which he couldn't reach and had to satisfy himself with just reading about them.

He loved to read late into the night. He was stingy to allow himself the use of the kerosene–lamp, so as not to burn for very long he prepared long, thin kinelech (match–like candles), from dried out wood and when they burnt out, he lit another.

Another of his characteristics was to take the side of the weak and to find ways to alleviate the suffering of the poor, showing how the Torah can enhance your life and ease the pain of your suffering.

He noticed how the Christians, on happy market days, would look for ways to agitate or make trouble for the Jews, so Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak would suddenly appear with his strong hands: the crowds dispersed and this avoided any grievances or attacks.

When the Polish regime was in Kaltinian after the First World War and they celebrated their freedom by robbing and beating Jews, Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak and his younger son Berl went out and kicked them out of the shtetl.

The elder Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak escaped from Kaltinian during the shooting by the Lithuanian bandits and swam across the Zemiane river, arrived in New–Sventzian and was later deported with all the Jews to Poligon. He was murdered in the massacre of Poligon and buried in the mass grave together with the thousands of Holy people from the region.

Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak's son Berl, was exactly like his father, he couldn't remain silent when he witnessed injustice. Wherever there was a conflict, when a poor man was in trouble,

[Col. 1216]

Sve1216.jpg
Berl Guterman, his children Afroim and Tzirka, wife Chaia with her sisters: Hena and Sura Katz

 

he made sure the truth be upheld.

The horrible intervention for Jewish respect and standing up for the poor and abused, was handed down from Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak not only to his sons but also to his grandchildren. Zalman's son, Dovid (Dudke) through his ideals became a Communist and fought against the Polish regime. He often found himself in Polish prisons.

When the Second World War broke out, he ran to Soviet–Russia. He fought in the Soviet army and then on his own free will decided to help the partisans of the regions where they fighting the enemy.

He was parachuted into a forest and attached himself to a partisan brigade where he fought a blood battle against the Hitlerite army. He was captured, tortured and shot to death.

Berel's son Efroim, (Efroimke), fought a Holy battle in the ranks of the Soviet Army.

 

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