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Nowy Dwor portion of the Szczuczyn Yizkor Book

[Pages 380 - 434]

Jewish Community

Alta Brezhinski, Yosef Brezhinski, Bluma Gordon, Batya Ginzburg, Itzak Ginzburg, Rashel Mechkovski (Rut Trof), Boruch Strinsky, Ekhezkal Sapozhnik, Idela Srulovitz (Edina Goren), Merl Kaplanski, Sara Krinsky (Doar), Sara Radunsky (Krinovski)

 Shmuel Kobrovsky 

 Editor: A. Pinchas 

Organization of the Emigres from Novy Dvor in Israel 


[Page 381]

A . The Shtetl of Nowy Dvor

The Jewish community of Novy Dwor had a rich, historical past. Old annuls and documents mention much about this Yiddishe settlement. For many years, they were a large community, well known throughout the entire region.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Novy Dwor was a small town on the main route between Bialystok, Grodno, and Vilna. The nearest train stations were in Skribeve (35 km from the town) and Parech (33 km) away. The nearest larger towns were Lida (50 km) and Grodno (56 km). The neighboring towns with which Novy Dwor was associated were Ostrin, Radun, Vasilishok, and Skidel.

Under Tsarist rule, Novy Dwor belonged to Vilna guberniya in Lida uezd. The entire Tsarist authority consisted of a constable and a watchman. The government office and post office were located in the village of Glemboke, 5 km away. In the town, itself, was a Jewish leader (elder), Aizik Prusky, and later, Itchy Zamochansky. The leader conducted the registration of newborn children and delivered to the draft board the list of young men eligible for military conscription.

From time to time, the "authorities" from Lida uezd came to the Jewish leader. Under Polish rule, Novy Dwor belonged to Nowogrodek woj and Szczuczyn powiat. 

The entire population of the town numbered about 900 people: one hundred Jewish families (about 500 people) and about 80 Christian families (about 400 people.) The Christians in the town were Belorussian Catholics. Under Polish rule, a small number of Polish clerks, teachers, and police settled in Novy Dwor.

A small number of little streets extended from the circular Market Place located in the town center. Ostriner Street, Vasilishker Street, Grodner Street, Brickworks Street, and the Gentile Alley: The Jews lived on the Market Place and on the "main streets." The Gentiles lived on the outskirt's streets at the entrance to town. The Jews felt themselves to be the owners of the town.

Generally, relationships between Jews and Christians were good. For many years, Jews and Christians lived as neighbors and did business with one another. The Jews and Christians, who lived in the town, knew one another well. If a Christian found himself financial assistance in an emergency, there was always a well-to-do Jew to help his neighbor in need.

[Page 382]

The houses in town were wood mostly. The few stone buildings were the synagogue, the Shebakh's house, Aaron Kompinsky's house, and Alter Starinsky's house. The frame houses had  shingled roofs. The Gentile houses sometimes were thatch covered.

The firemen's "shed" and a water pump were located at the Market Place. The water pump was of little use. In the winter, it froze; and in the summer, it worked not at all.

The study house (Bet Midrash) was located in the center of town, a fine two-story brick building. Construction of the study house was completed around 1900. The Jews of Novy Dwor took pride in the beautiful Bet Midrash Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) that was carved by a famous Jewish artist from Vilna. In later years, the icehouse was located near the study house. In winter, the Jewish community's hospice for the poor (way-farers?) prepared the ice in the icehouse. The town's infirm, Jews and Christians, made use of the ice during various fever-related illnesses. At the end of the town stood the Roman Catholic church surrounded by trees. Near the church, the old Catholic cemetery stood, surrounded by a brick fence.

At the entrance to Novy Dwor from Ostrin stood a cross and two trees, a gathering place for the young people.

A little brook with no name flowed peacefully by the town. (As a result, no Jewish divorces could be granted in the town. Beside the brook stood the town's bathhouse. Behind the brook was the brick-works and opposite it the Jewish cemetery. At the other end of town was the pitch (tar) smelter and nearby was the slaughterhouse.

People obtained water from wells by various means--with a long stick, a rope, or a chain attached to a wheel. The best well, where people got water for Sabbath tea, was near the Christians {"Rozmisles".) In this section of Novy Dwor were the many landowner's manors. The nearest manors were those of Dubichan, Reviatisch, and Gluboke. The nearest villages outside the town were Malikeytse, Starinki, Kuletzi, and Reviatich. A few Jews lived in the surrounding villages for many years. These people were connected closely with the Jewish community in Novy Dwor. Some of their children studied Torah in the Hebrew schools (khedorim) of the town and were given meals by their acquaintances in the town or others. On Jewish holidays, and particularly the High Holy Days, the village Jews came to town with their families and prayed with the entire Jewish community.

The town was small and poor. Only a few people prospered. Most of the Jewish population worked very hard in order to provide for their families and to educate their children. .

Despite this material poverty, the spirited social and intellectual life pulsated. The Novy Dwor Jews observed the old traditions. Life proceeded in compliance with Jewish tradition. Young and old, men and women observed Jewish laws and commandments. The children greatly respected their elders and honored them.

With the Zionist liberation movement came a new flow of culture and enlightenment to Novy Dwor. The young Jews of the town were carried away with the thought of nation-building for the Jewish people. Parents wanted to maintain the old ways; but their children sought new ones. This created friction between parent and child. The young people struck off on their own, leading many to Palestine.

Small, poor Novy Dwor, Shabbats and holidays decorated your gray, ordinary weekdays. Every holiday had its attendant preparations and joy, special dishes, and melodies. In Spring, the fruit orchards blossomed, mostly near the Jewish houses. The white blooms of the fruit trees mingled with the pink lilac flowers and red ones on other trees. The welcome fragrance of these blooming trees and the surrounding fields and meadow, wafted over the town. 

On Spring evenings, the young Jews strolled outside of town. They climbed the high walls around the Catholic cemetery to pick white and pink lilacs. On summer days, particularly Shabbats, they enjoyed the nearby woods. There, they gathered, sang, and dreamed.

In the Spring today, the fruit trees still bloom in Novy Dwor. The Jewish homes are empty ruins. Nowy Dwor is "free of all Jews." The German-Nazi murderers savagely destroyed this long-lived Jewish community.


[Page 383]

B. The First World War

Around Rosh Hashanah, 1915. In the air of the town and its surroundings, they felt the end of Russian rule approach. From time to time, Russians would escape the vanguard and terrorize the town.

One evening, a group of cavalry soldiers appeared and established themselves in the Market Place. Some of them made a fire and began brewing tea in kettles. Some went through the town to loot. The first victimized home was that of Solomon Srulowitz. He, himself, was mobilized in the Russian army. In the house was only his wife and children. Hearing their screams, people run to the house to help. The soldiers, frightened off by the screams, grabbed whatever they could and fled.


[Page 391]

Z. Craftsmen

Shtetl craftsmen were known in the larger Jewish community for their crafts. Jewish shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, and other craftsmen gave diligent work and service to the shtetl's residents in the surrounding rustic neighborhood.

Feivel the carpenter (Zachepinsky), of Goyisher Street, had work mostly from the peasants from the surrounding villages. Feivel the carpenter was even one of the elected heads of the community.

 Nov Dvor Necrology 

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