Avrum Chayat (Abraham)
Aharon Khoury (Aaron)
Compiled on the basis of articles and letters written by the above-mentioned friends
Translated by Mindle Crystel Gross
The history of the Svir landslayt in America has now spanned almost 60 years. At the end of the 19th century, young Svir people already came to America. One of them was Melekh Levin, Yerakhmiyel and Gitl Levin's son. He arrived in America in 1899. His wife, Slaveh, Mirl Ayzikovitch's sister, was one of the first from Svir. Slowly, Svir began to move and a significant number of landslayt from our small town were in the U.S. by 1905. After the failure of the well-known Russian revolution, many from Svir fled to America who had been revolutionaries, who feared their being arrested and chased to imprisonment in Siberia. Among them were the dental technician Yankev Droyn and his bride, the Svir midwife, Lenye.
The Svir landslayt have spread far and wide throughout America, and even reached to Los Angeles and San Francisco in California. A large number settled in New York, and they were actually the first initiators in founding a committee of the Svir landslayt.
In truth, the Svir landdslayt had already begun to organize right after WWI. As it is told, for instance, Melekh Levin, right after WWI, visited his landslayt in Boston and there collected $800 to give help to the suffering and poor Jewish population in Svir. In that year, the Svir landslayt sent via a special messenger, $3500 to Svir.
This was, however, only a small beginning. In truth, the help from America was much larger, because each Svirer in America helped his own family in Svir to a great extent, and with money and with packages. This was the best indication, that the Svir landslayt had not forgotten their old home.
And so tens of years passed until WWII broke out and decimated almost all of Europe.
This influenced the Svir landslayt in America to organize officially as a social and aid organization.
The founder and initiator of the organization was Abraham Chayet, himself a son of parents of modest means, who suffered greatly in his life, and who felt a need to help the Jews of the old home.
In his letter to the friends in the State of Israel, he describes how even as a young boy of eight, he helped his parents to earn a little money. Even as a young child, he was active in collecting for food and benevolent matters, and so it was no wonder that with the onset of Hitler's storm, he immediately knocked on doors and asked for help for the needy in the distant old home.
This was following the holidays in 1939, a Sunday, when Abraham Chayet went to Heves Sudarski and explained his plan, that it was necessary to found a Svir aid society.
Sudarski did not need much convincing and the two of them quickly went to Yerukhmiyel, Borukh Ruven's son. There they accidentally met Shepsl the butcher's son and two of Yerakhmiyel's sons and their wives. All were in agreement, and they immediately decided to call a meeting at Abraham Chayet's and there to lay the foundation of the Svir Society.
Aaron Khoury, President of the Svir Social
and Aid Society in America
More people than expected came to the meeting. Everybody was happy that finally there was the possibility of doing something for the old home.
On November 26th, 1939, at 73 Ludlow Street in New York, there was a large meeting, with the chairman Morris Fisher. Philip Raz gave a report about the situation of the Svir Jews. Following the meeting, an administration was elected to whom the various responsibilities were delegated, as follows:
President: Morris Fisher
V.P.: Eva Raz
Treasurer: Harry Levin
Fin. Sec.: Nathan Greenberg
Protocol Sec. Max Bogdanov
The Svir landslayt were enthusiastic and were not stingy with either money or effort, so that the action should succeed. As Abraham Chayet describes in his letter, he came to take a check from Yankev Hirsh, Yerakhmiyel's son, and Yankev Hirsh explained to him, that this was the greatest day of his life when he can participate in such a holy cause, to send help to Svir Jews.
During the years, the presidents of the Society changed, but the work was always continued with love and concern.
Melekh Levin and his wife
It is worthwhile mentioning that the first president was Morris Fisher, the second Louis Ayzikson, Shepsl the butcher's son-in-law, and the third Aaron Khoury, Borukh the teacher's son, who has held the position from 1943, for almost 15 years.
Blume Chayet, of blessed memory,
and Aaron Chayet
Abraham Chayet writes:
Aaron Khoury infused new life into the Society. He himself donated large amounts of money and influenced others to do the same.
As we said, Aaron Khoury took over the position in Decembr, 1943. When he received the terrible news about the barbaric deeds of the Hitlerists, he immediatelyu sent out a call, saying that the tragedy is huge and the aid work must begin immediately and on a grand scale. And his appeal really helped. In one evening there was collected $2000. He was the first one to give $100 and the others did not hold back. It is interesting that for a Khanuka evening, the charge was $200 for the honor of making blessings and to light the Khanuka candles. Aaron Khoury related in a letter about the colossal work of the administration:
We did not miss anyone from Svir, no matter where he was. We wrote, we called, we visited and traveled. A separate chore was to find who of the Svir remained, where they were and what we could do for them. We contacted the United Jewish Appeal and HIAS.
Yakov Drutz of blessed memory,
died in Los Angeles
In addition, we also had to help various aged and sick Svirer who are in America.
All of this colossal work was done by Libby Gold and me. It gave us great satisfaction to do this work.
In addition to the aid the American friends gave the needy from Svir in America and Europe, they joined the Svir Society in Israel, and sent aid and money and even packages. Thanks to this, the Svir Benevolent Society was founded in Israel, and this will also help in printing this book about Svir. Svirer in America are also active in various other institutions and organization and help out with collecting funds for undertakings of the Israeli government and the Zionist movement.
The Svirer in the entire world will read about this with great joy and pride, and will send their friends in America a hearty thank-you.
(Their function in the organization and years of activity)
(Member = member of the executive committee)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
In North America -- newly arrived
(The long-time residents are on a separate list)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
Seder Pesah [Passover meal] at the Fine family,
daughter of Feive Swirski, Berlin 1929
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Svir, Belarus Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 12 Oct 2011 by LA