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[Page 258]

Our Shete'le


[Pages 259-260]

I See You, My Little Town

by V. Shomroni of blessed memory

Translated by Tina Lunson

I see you, my little town, my little Voronove
where I was born and spent my youth.
With you a lovely blossom withered,
with you a blossoming life faded.
  In you, Jews were busy alas,
but happy and merry–laboring Jews –
shoemakers, leather–cutters, carpenters and tailors,
bakers and shopkeepers, tinsmiths and blacksmiths.
There were strong young wagon–drivers,
who rode a life of wandering and gusto;
without their merriment – need I mention –
all was sad, dismal, and empty..
  I see the beyt–medresh, I still see the shul
where Shmerl the Elder used to kindle the lights.
Here God's presence made its holy display,
illuminating each Jewish face with beams of light.
I see sites of youth and brew
eliciting merry song and noise,
from youth who build a land, a people and homes
and lighten their heavy sorrow with profound song.
  I see too workers in unions and parties
who fight for equality of Gentile and Jew
and when the holiday First of May arrives
they hang blood–red banners at Velvele the Smith's.
I weep when I recall the library and the kheyder
with their Rokhls, Shleymeles, Khaneles, and Niomeles.
Where are you now dear Yiddishe children
Voronove hearts, pure holy little souls.

[Page 260]

I remember you, Jews of spirit, soul, heart
from "new town" to the other side of the bridge.
Summer in jackets, and winter in fur coats
belting the warmth with a plain length of rope.
  I remember you from songs, from Vilne Street and the market,
from houses, from shops, sacks and with pestle,
in the shul–yard, Hermanishki, from valley and hill,
from stream, from forest and Eishishok Alley..
I remember your acuity, your driven polemics,
you would debate without stop, without end,
not about money or pleasure, not about losses or earnings,
but about the appearance of Ysroel and over a new rabbi.

I remember you walking on shabbes with long silent steps,
in the alleys, in the forest, by river and by train
after a heavy–yoked watch, with a bare–livelihood face,
you'd drive away troubles with walking and doing.
  I see and I long
I weep and I recall
For you Voronove my home
I weep for you in secret.

[Pages 261-263]

Tsimes, Psalms, and Medicine

by M. Kuznets

Translated by Tina Lunson

I do not need to tell you anything about tsholent. Everyone knows that on shabbes after returning home from morning prayers at the study house or shul, one quickly gets to the tsholent, but not everyone knows about eating tsimes every shabbes; and not everyone fulfills this mitsveh. Also, the Tsimes is cooked Friday during the day, and placed in the hot tiled oven and only taken out at night a few hours after eating the first feast, coming home from the study house or shul, after reciting “Come let us sing” in the evening.


The bath–house in Voronove


On shabbes it is a mitsveh to eat three large meals, one Friday night, the second as a shabbes lunch with tsholent, and the third one shabbes evening between minchah and maariv.[1] These are called shaleshudes, or the three feasts. When I was a small child I recall I would go to my mother shabbes evening and say that I wanted something to eat; she would say to me: “Wait my child, your father will soon be home from minchah at the study–house and we will all eat the third feast together.” I thought that shaleshudes was a certain dish. The tsimes had many flavors when we ate it Friday evening still hot, and then drank a hot glass of tea which was poured from the hot pot that stood on the tiled oven in what we used to call the oven niche.

Friday night after eating and singing the zmiros[2] some Jews went to the study–house to a group study of Mishnayos led by Avreml the Kotler; or a group for shulkhan Orekh or Khay–adom with the Vilner Rebbi, and there was a group for Tehilim and whoever did not go to the study–house found something to study at home. They might look through the parsha of the week or recite the entire Song of Songs.

So, then a wonder! Friday night before going to sleep it was a mitsveh to eat the tsimes. On shabbes morning we finished the tsimes when it was already cold. And the tea in the niche was also cold. No matter! When there was no tea we drank a cup of cold water. It was the same cold water from the pail that we drank after the tsholent, and thank God it never did anyone damage.

After eating the tsholent we laid down and slept for a couple of hours. And when we woke up in good health we went to the beys–medresh to pray.

But one Friday evening something very tragic happened with the tsimes. A good and quiet Jew in Voronove got a little sliver of metal from the cooking pot suddenly stuck in his throat. Many women baked their tsimes in round, cast–iron pots, and in trying to get the burned tsimes from around the pot someone broke off a little piece of iron from the pot, so that when eating the tsimes the shard got stuck in his throat. No one could get it out. They called for the unlicensed doctor from town but he could do nothing to help. He said that the patient should be taken to the hospital in Vilne–– there was nothing to be done here. It was late Friday night, there was no automobile or taxi in Voronove, so soon a wagon drawn by a horse was made ready to take him to Vilne, a trip of more than 60 viorst,[3] and who knew how long it would be until they dragged into Vilne. Meanwhile there was something that could be done here. In the end, one of our local Jews – who himself would not go to a doctor – said that tea and psalms never hurt anyone and that that could be done right here, they would not have to drive to Vilne, and they should do it soon before it was too late. Rebi Shmerl and Rebi Lipe assembled the regular psalm–reciters and they sat all night in the study house and then in the morning up until time for the morning prayers and they recited the entire “Psalms for Certain Situations” and “Bless, My Soul” and it turned out that their prayers were received in heaven.

When they took the patient to the Vilne Jewish Hospital they found a famous ear–and–throat doctor there and he was successful in extracting the piece of iron from the throat without an operation, and with great joy they brought this popular Voronove Jew home on Saturday night

After that incident everyone was quite careful in eating tsimes.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. The afternoon and evening prayer services Return
  2. Jewish hymns Return
  3. More than 39 miles Return

[Pages 264-266]

Little Memories

by Yehoshua Shomroni

Translated by Tina Lunson

Pliarke the Gentile made me a Zionist

It was the fifteenth of Shevet– a cold, sunny, beautiful winter day. I went out for a while to skate on the pond with several friends from the other shore; I was the only Jew among the gang. My skates were wooden, I had made them myself, and getting them fixed onto my shoes took quite a long time. I had just begun skating when I heard Pliarke Adashke the smithy's son call out to me,

“Shike, your father is calling you!”

In fact, I was waiting that day for my father to return from Vilne, the fifteenth of Shevet; I knew that he would be bringing us “khumeshuser greyts”, “payers” from “Erets–Israel”.

With my half–frozen hands I just managed to untie the snowy laces of the skates and ran as if shot from a gun to the snow–covered sleigh that my father was sitting in and waiting for me. My three curious shkotsim[1] ran after me too.

My father handed me a piece of dried fig and a big heap of carob pods, and told me quietly to treat the uncircumcised ones to the fruits. A crack of the whip over the horse and he was off to town to distribute the merchandise that he had brought from Vilne for the shopkeepers.

We all four went into our stable and I gave each of them some figs to try. I gave them the carob on the condition that they would give me back the seeds – the bones of the carob – I wanted to play even–or–odd.

They started gnawing on the hard fruit and I turned aside, concealing my making a blessing and a shehekhianu, and also began eating. Pliarke who was a lot older than Zianke Liamberg's and Viktor Heydul's, started questioning me, “Where does such sweet and delicious fruit grow?”

I explained to him, “They grow in our land, in Palestina, it takes them 70 years until there are blooms on the carob, but there are so many there that goats scramble up the trees and eat them without paying, for free.”

Pliarke fixed his two, big blue eyes on me, gave a quick thought and said half questioning and half in wonder, “If this is your land with such fruits then why are you sitting here? Why don't you go there?”

I did not have any answers for him. In order to turn away from that situation I gave them each two more figs and we went back out to the river to skate.

On shabbes of that same week, when I went to shul with my father I saw a bulletin on the door of the study–house: “Today (tomorrow), shabbes after tsholent, the messenger from Erets–Isroel, Avitkhay, will deliver a living greeting from Palestina. We invite all Voronove youth to come to Alter Trotski's house to hear the messenger.”

That same shabbes night Ester'ke Musi'e signed me up as a member in the “Freedom and Rebirth” Zionist youth group.

Otherwise[2] the smithy's son was not willing to take me to the Erets–Isroel messenger and from him to Zionism.


The Turk, the Well, and the Moon

When they dug a second well in the market square and had to install a winch with a long dunking pole in order to use the well, a sharp disagreement broke out between Itshe Terk and Tsalel the Harness–Maker:

If they installed the pole on the north side it would obstruct Itshe's house and his daughter Leah's shop, but Tsalel maintained that if they installed the pole on the eastern side it would obstruct his Bashele's shop.

It broke out as a war with three fronts: in the market square, in the study house and in the Rov's house. Neither side would give in, and they fought between themselves at every opportunity.

The town regarded the fight passively and felt that Voronove would not be affected: after a little tension–filled time all would come to an end with the well. For now it was an opportunity for various distractions. Each day presented a sensation with its reports from the “front”, and there was no authority that could put an end to the unclear situation so as to make a distinction one way or another.

Once on a shabbes night, the congregation came out of the study–house into the courtyard looking for a place where they could see the wonder of the new moon and begin to recite the blessing. From all sides came murmuring. Jews were hurrying to one another with commentary and quick recitals of the prayers and blurting out “sholem–aleykhem” and “aleykhem– sholem” at one another, stepping around to see the moon. Jews bumped into each other and called out ‘peace’ to one another, and then Itshe the Turk ran at Tsaltsl the Harness–Maker and gave him a slap in the face with a remnant he was holding in his hand and shouted,

“Tsalke you thief, get away from the moon, you scoundrel!”

In the morning the Rov gathered his courage and made his decision:

“Due to the honor of the moon and the trouble to the council they would put a wheel on the well, with chains and a crank, and peace on Isroel.”


A Horse with a Rabbinic Act

One rainy day after sukhes Chaim Aryeh was driving the Myadler Rov[3] and Berl Eliohu's to Eyshishok for a council conference.

The road stretched out before them. Every time a downpour hit their faces, their beards and peyes[4] held drops of water like on Friday after the sweat–bath and the mikveh. The wheels cut deeply into the softened earth with a monotonous slip–slosh, but as soon as the rain let up a little Chaim Aryeh continued with the story he had begun when they started out. He poured out his heart to the Rov about his neighbor Yudl Dovid–Lipa's, a terrible neighbor, an assassin: “So for example he never ties his horse up, so the horse wanders around all night, goes into my garden and destroys my clover, devastates my harvania[5] – what can you do with a neighbor like that? In the end Jews are merciful, how does one come out like this?”

He asked for advice from the Rov and waited for what he would say. A Rov is a son of Torah, where Torah is wisdom, so let us hear. And then his horse stopped and waited too: he stood still and did not move from the spot. He [the Rov] looked at the horse and it seemed that the horse was somewhat correct: there they [both] were in the Tuzginian muds. Who doesn't know about the Tuzginian muds?

Chaim Arye was enraged about Yudl Dovid–Lipe's, and now consumed with this anger, leapt down from the wagon and started to serve the horse with the wooden handle of the whip. But the horse made nothing of it. He stamped his feet, twirled his tail, and did not move.

Now Chaim Aryeh completely lost his mind and screamed, “You vile creature: now you are starting to perform rabbinic tricks too!”

The two respectable Jews could not bear it. The Rov clutched his breast. The mistreatment of the horse so, a kosher animal, poor thing, brought up in him the instinct for kindness to animals. He gave a wink to Berl Eliahu's and both got out of the wagon and went up the hill by foot.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. Plural of shegetz, a Gentile boy or man Return
  2. That is, ‘but for the figs’ Return
  3. The Rabbi from Myadl Return
  4. Side–locks Return
  5. Possibly Rumex thyrsiflorus (aka ‘haraviniets’), a type of sorrel producing usable leaves for soup, or also Sorbus aucuparia (aka ‘jarzebina’), a type of mountain–ash producing bitter but usable fruit if properly de–bittered. Return

[Pages 267-269]

To the First Minyan with the Cows

by M. Kuznets

Translated by Tina Lunson

We – his grandchildren – used to call our grandfather Aba, our Voronove grandfather; people in the town called him Aba the Midsvedzker.[1] The Gentiles from the villages around Voronove always used to say about him, “The beer at Aba's is just like sour cream,” because for all the years he lived in Voronove he operated a beer business.

I am reminded that as a child of ten, one fine bright early morning in summer I jumped out of bed because I heard someone trumpeting. I quickly got dressed and opened the door to the street. I went outside and I saw from far off on Vilne Street the town shepherd Dovid Leyb the “bezruk[2] coming with several cows and blowing his horn.



My grandfather Aba, who had gotten up long before and milked both of our white cows, opened the stall and let the cows out onto the street, and so did our neighbors who had cows, and then the market and the bridge were full of cows, a whole herd. They disappeared from my eyes through Lida Street, past the New Plan,[3] to the green fields of the new pasture, which the Voronove cow–owners had recently bought from the Voronove prince, Kekhle–Shvanbakh.

Standing there outside I had an opportunity to consider the Jews who always go to the beys–medresh to pray with the first minyan. I see Yankev–Meyshe the shoemaker from the end of Lida Street, with Ayzik the shingle–maker, Itshe–Meyshe the baker, and Neyekh–Eli the carpenter, and Avremele Mashe's the Vilna–Rider; then I see that Yerakhmiel the smith and Itshe the charcoal maker are walking from Hermanishker Lane and Yeshie (Yehoshue) the turner and Shmerlen the shingle–maker from Cantor's Lane. And of those who live on the market square, Avremele the doctor, Neyekh the bar, Groynem the shoemaker, Avremele the butcher, Itshe the Turk, Motl the harness–maker, Nota–Eli the butcher, Dovid Lipe the peddler and Motel Mine–Rive's, who lives near the priest. From Eyshishok Lane come Chaim Zerekh the glazier, and Simkhe the shoemaker. I also see two women as they walk to the first minyan: they are Sore–Mere, Nokhem–Hirsh's wife, and Zelde the harness–maker; each is carrying a thick Korban–mincha prayer–book in her hand.[4]

My grandfather Aba takes his talis and t'filin sack under his armpit and, joined by our neighbor Itshe the kvash–maker,[5] they both walk to the beys–medresh. I am curious to know who else prays with the first minyan. I go after them quietly and I position myself by the Rov's house so I can see who is arriving from the Bath–House Alley: Velvl the mishandznik,[6] Efroym the shoemaker, Shepsl the smith (the pancake–maker) and from down the hill come Arye the bath–keeper, Berl the shoemaker, Eliahu the tailor and Yosl Menukhe's. My grandfather tells me that these are the sworn attendees of the first minyan.

Then for the second minyan – or, as we call it in Voronova the Rov's minyan – others come to pray in the beys–medresh: Reuven the circumciser, Avreml the kettle–maker, Hirsh–Itshe the shul trustee, Ayzik the pharmacist, Yosl–Shtisil's, my father Nokhem–Aba's, Betsalel the harness–maker, Yeshaye Nokhem's, Leyzer–Hirsh the tailor, Feivel–Borukh–Aharon's the restaurateur, Nekhemye the shopkeeper and cantor, and other Jews who live near the Rov and of course Efroim the beadle prays in both minyonim… For my grandfather, when he returns from praying, his first task is to sweep up the dust and collect the manure. Afterwards he goes into the house, washes his hands and busies himself with organizing the milk. He carries the fresh milk down to the cellar and brings up yesterday's milk – the already–fermented jugs – and makes milk–products from it.

This was his daily work. My grandfather did all the housework in our house. He was a carpenter, a painter, a shoemaker and a tailor. He was healthy all his years and he was famous for never getting sick. Until one time he went to bed sick and never got up again.

May the memory of all these Jews remain dear to us.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. The meaning of this word is not yet known. Return
  2. The meaning of this word is not yet known. Return
  3. The ‘New Plan’ refers to a newer section of the town. Return
  4. This is a prayer book prepared specifically for women. Return
  5. Kvash is believed to be either a sour–dough bread or a sour beverage made of rye–bread and malt. Return
  6. This meaning of this word has not yet been found. Return

[Page 270]

Voronova, the Concept of Hospitality
(in memory of the dear Shelovskis)

by Avraham Ginsburg

Translated by Tina Lunson

I am not a Voronover. I first visited Voronove in 1929 and spent several years there and then grew up there.

This was a town of hard–working Jews with an unusual approach to work. In their free time after a hard pursuit of their livelihoods, they worked in their gardens near home, raising vegetables and potatoes to calm their minds.

The young people in Voronove were dynamic, intelligent, and full of the urge for renewal and creativity. They were also known for their hospitality to visitors. When someone came to visit Voronove the youth took him in with warmth and sincerity, and thus there were always visitors in Voronove, both summer and winter. There were always some who needed a warm home and they found it in Voronove, and amidst its youth. Each one lent a hand in whatever way they could.

I must mention a few families to whom I owe a moral debt and record a few words about the families: Meytshik and Yehoshue Shmerkovitsh, Khenekh and Libe Grodzenchik and especially the dear family of Velvl and Sarah Shelovski. Velvl the carpenter was a fine Jew – a hard worker who lived exclusively from his work. Sarah was a very lovely woman who worked and ran the business along with her daughter, a garden and fields, like many of the families in the town did. The four daughters – each more lovely than the next – were productive, creative, and social. Their home was open to all. There were always groups of friends, guests, relatives or acquaintances. The family was noted for the special flavor of their friendliness. And so people were always drawn there. Velvl Shelovski's home was unforgettable, because this was an operational concept.

May the warmth and friendship of that home go from generation to generation, and may we find consolation in everything and in all those who remain from the shtetl Voronove. I will never forget the family Shelovski.

[Page 271]

Let Us Recall

by Ahuva Konopke

Translated by Tina Lunson

On the roads between Lida and Vilne
there are fields and forests of green;
among them, as though sprung from the dew
are little towns of Jews full of sacred beauty.
  Little towns of Jews, alive with cheer,
with joys and sorrows as God has ordained.
There by the river, near to the wood,
our town stood for generations long.
Streets and lanes crossed and branched,
a shul, a beys–medresh, a cemetery on the side,
a one–story house, a porch on the ground,
and alongside, a path to the garden and stall.
  In the market square a church with ringing bells.
Down the lanes, the palace, the shabbes stroll,
a little train station by the forest, by the wood;
maybe it will bring news… we await its arrival…
A wedding in town is a wedding for all.
Everyone comes, making bride and groom happy.
No invitation needed, who asks the in–laws,
we are one here, no fools among us.
  Once the couple is paired there'll be children,
Jews who will share in our joy and pain.
So was Voronove a shtetl – one – family
here each shared a fate, for better or worse.
Suddenly winds blazed around her,
uprooting the shtetl, like leveling a field,
we were emptied, hearts rent
lonely ever after, driven from conscience.[1]
  But once a year we are together
with our dear people, martyrs of Jewish torment,
asking forgiveness from them, our hearts weep a little;
may we always remember each and every one together.


At the common grave of our dear ones


Editor's Footnote
  1. The word used is ‘gevisn’; in the original text the word is spelled: gimel–ayin–tsvey vovn–yud–samekh–langer nun. Return

[Pages 273-274]

The Zionist Veteran Nekhemye Shapira

by Yehoshua Shomroni, of blessed memory

Translated by Tina Lunson

Ed. Note: This article appears in both Hebrew and Yiddish in this book. The following is a translation of the Yiddish text. Photos appearing within the Hebrew version are included here.



I met him when the news about the Balfour Declaration reached our town.

I was a kheyder–yingl[1] and on a rainy day after sukkes, as I was walking through the muddy market place, I saw that near Mr. Nekhemye's house, by the porch, there was a “wheel” of people, old, young and children, a lot of children. On a banner up high on the steeple of the church, where Nekhemye's room was, there was an image that made an impression: Mr. Nekhemye stood at the top on the balcony – in one hand he held a Telegram newspaper that Benyamin Levine had brought to him straight from Vilne – and he read in a declamatory voice:

“The English government will support and help to build a national home for the Jewish people in Erets–Isroel.”

In his other hand he held Nakhum Sokolov's picture and gesticulated with it to underscore what should be emphasized as he read, “The English government”, etc., the greatest power in the world, the dominators of Asia, would support, would help. Nu!

With that he turned to us children and said, “Go home and say “shehecheyanu”.[2] It is your celebration, because this miracle has happened in your generation. The “dawn of Redemption” is beginning in your time.

At the time I was studying khumesh mit rashe[3] with the Eyshishok Rov[4] and I knew about the departure from Egypt. Looking at Reb Nekhemye as he spoke down from the heights of the balcony I imagined Meyshe Rabeynu.[5] The Meyshe Rabeynu of our time gave his people to comprehend the greatness of the moment. In my childish heart something that was not yet completely clear to me began to develop.

Later when Zionism began to grow wide and deep in our town, with all its currents and levels, Reb Nekhemye Shapira was the chief representative for the General Zionists Organization, he presided at the top of the Hebrew Torah as patriarch of the Pioneer organizations and chaired all the meetings which dealt with organizational and financial questions.

He himself belonged to the radical Zionists in Poland and had great sympathy for the working–wing in Isroel and for the ‘Zionizmus’, as he called it, with a special passion and magnificence. And that gave a progressive quality to his personality.

He was proud of the fact that Sokolov led a ‘tsvisnshrift’.[6] His home was set up to serve the Zioinist movement and with special satisfaction he reported the actions of the bank – which Dr. Hertzl had founded – and thus he knew where to invest his own money.

Despite his age he was always ready to step up with a speech in the beys–medresh or with a talk in a salon, and to go door–to–door collecting money for every Zionist cause, and on erev yom–kippur he used to dress in his holiday clothes and sit by the donation plate for Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemes l'Isroel.[7]

When Zionism suffered defeats in the 1920s and all the enemies of Isroel rejoiced about it, he was the only brave soul who consoled and encouraged everyone: “These are the sufferings before the redemption,” he used to say, “but good for us, we have the merit, that after the suffering will come the redemption.”

And we were consoled.

Reb Nekhemye was so certain of the idea of redemption that in the very worst times in the land, when Arab bands were rebelling against the support of “their” [the Jews'] England, he sent his youngest daughter to Erets Isroel.

His belief in Zionism comprised the long view also: the elements of prophecy and vision. Without such visionaries as Nekhemye Shapira, Zionism would never have survived its set–backs and perhaps not have come to fruition.

In any case, Zionism would not have existed in Voronove without Reb Nekhemye.

We have much to thank him for.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. A school boy. Return
  2. A prayer to commemorate special occasions. Return
  3. The Pentateuch with Rashi's commentaries. Return
  4. The Rabbi from Eyshishok. Return
  5. Moses, our Rabbi Return
  6. The precise meaning of this word is not yet known. It appears to be a compound word made up of the words ‘visn’ (knowledge) and shrift (writing), suggesting a type of informative text or briefing. Return
  7. United Israel Appeal and Jewish National Fund Return

[Pages 275-278]

Memories, Types, and Victims

by R. Gol of blessed memory

Translated by Tina Lunson


My father, a criminal expert

In 1918, when the Germans left Voronove, they created a situation without a regime in the town and we had to create a regime in the town ourselves. We organized a self–defense group of Jews and non–Jews.

The self–help group consisted of the Jews Aryeh Gurvits, Nokhem Kuznets, Avrom Elye Dvilianski, and Yekhezkel Puziriski; and of the Gentiles the priest Novakanski, also a kind of Jew. “Chaim Tcharny” conducted the militaristic part.

We set as a goal the protection of the shtetl from bands, thieves, and robbers, so members had to be armed and each had to present his arms. I for example had two pistols and thousands of bullets.

I remember one winter night a band of gentiles attacked Shmuel–Hirsh at the end of the town and took some possessions from him. There was a tumult early in the morning; soon experts were investigating and found the thieves. Among them [the investigators] was my father. He knew all the Gentiles in the area, so while the experts talked, he bent down and pondered. He studied the snow and said, “According to the footprints there was a lame Gentile among them; that must be Fiferke from Trikele Dayneve.[1] We should go to him.”

They quickly assembled 40 armed men and went off for Fiferke in Trikele Dayneve. The group encircled the village. Someone went in to the lame Fifirke's house and he was sleeping; when they woke him up he tried to run away but could not get out. Through Fifirke they found all the stolen goods and his collaborators.


Polish Nazism is Older than the German One

(In memory of Yitzach Olkenitski and Moshe Zhabinski)

The times that I remember he was known as Ayzik “der Staroste”. He was the Staroste of the town for Tsar Nikolay, a kind of nominal mayor. During the German occupation they also relied on him as the town manager. So he was the eternal candidate for post of mayor of the town.

He was a tall man, with broad shoulders, a beautiful big beard, always with a big smile on his face, and the impression of a clever Talmud expert shone out from his broad forehead. He was always wise and was also “stuffed” with education.


“Der staroste” – A. Olkenitski, may God avenge his blood


It was a rarity in those days to have such a smart Jew to defend the Jewish interests with wisdom both for private Jewish matters and for the Jewish council and the town.

He dealt with the local officer of the tsarist regime – whose habit was to find ways to torment the Jews – with his sharp mind and wisdom, so that he [the tsarist officer] was satisfied with him and had full respect for him and the Jews were never harmed. He rescued Jewish lads from priziv, from decades–long military service and he did not spare any effort or money when he had to deal with Jewish discrimination, and so on.

In 1914 under German occupation he was concerned that the town not suffer from hunger even during times when bread was scarce. Thanks to him the distribution was honest, without differentiation between rich and poor, Gentile and Jew.

When the World War ended and Poland was in rebellion, in 1919, the [Polish] general called him to the priest's house, started an investigation into crimes that he had not committed and sentenced him to death. Meyshe'ke the brazier was also sentenced to death along with him.

The Polish vandals and ordinary blood–suckers led them all over the town, not far from Vigodke,[2] and brutally murdered them. Polish horse–riders hacked at them with their swords and beheaded them while they were still alive.

Nazism in Poland is older than the German one.


The Jerusalemite

So they called him in our town, perhaps because Rov Mishkuvski also stemmed from Jerusalem.

I do not remember his proper name. He lived with Zisl, down the hill near Shimsl Borekh Aharon's. His wife was called Khenke the braider, because she had an illness and she was always braiding.

This was in 1917, when a new German Commandant name Fliger arrived in the town. Upon his arrival one could see that all the Jews would have to go out to the market square, and the Jerusalemite also had to go. He was very weak and so a very slow walker. When Fliger saw him walking so slowly, he went up behind him and killed him; that happened near the inn at the beginning of the market.

The death march of Jews to the market square began again in 1917.


Hirsh Itsye

The most popular figure in town was Tsvi Levine, which is what we called Hirsh Itsye the trustee. He was the eternal trustee and the town had him to thank for many achievements in the communal religious life for the Voronove Jews.

We young people loved him because of his sincerity and love for us children. He himself was childless, and was drawn to every child in town with love, patience and attention. He always greeted us with a smile and with a pinch on the cheek. But we especially loved him for his sweet, heart–felt singing while he was praying. On the Days of Awe when he prayed at the cantor's desk, his sweet, ringing voice penetrated our souls and permeated our hearts, and even non–religious Jews were touched by his heart–felt praying, his devotions and his shmone–esres[3] attracted people to come to the beys–medresh; his Lamentations on tishebov[4] broke your heart and bound the long days and years to the beys–medresh and to the land and the people. This was his craft. He was not an official, active Zionist, but he planted the bond to Zion with sound and voice and strengthened the sense of belonging to ancient Zion.

In his everyday conduct he could draw people and enchant old and young, observant and free; he was simply loved for his own simplicity, despite the fact that he was deeply educated in Torah, Talmud and knowledge, and because of his willingness to serve despite his belonging to a high class in our town hierarchy.

When he became trustee everything was renewed in the life of the town. He had a new shul built, he revived the beys–medresh so Jews could congregate and have an appropriate place with their Creator; he enlarged the poorhouse so that the poor would have a humane place to spend the night; in his term it was always warm and light in the schools. Where he got money from no one ever knew.

In giving out aliyes and honors he did not differentiate between poor and rich and it felt like a democracy with equal attention for every prayerful Voronover.

Who knows how much bad–blood and disputes about honors Reb Hirsh Itshe spared Voronove.

He was a great, attractive personality who drew and inspired people by his own example.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. The location of this place has not yet been found. Return
  2. The meaning of this proper noun is yet unknown. Return
  3. Synonym for the Amidah prayer. Return
  4. The 9th of Av: fast–day in memory of the destruction of the ancient temples. Return

[Pages 279-283]

Direct and Indirect Paths to Zionism

by Reuven Gol, of blessed memory

Translated by Tina Lunson

On the road between Vilne and Lida, by the line between the green meadow and the sky-high pine forests, lay my shtetl Voronove.

The entire town was stretched out along one long street, with the market square and the church in the middle, so, we called the length of street on the Vilne side, up to the market, the Vilner Street, and the opposite on the other end toward Lida – Lider Street.

Voronove was considered a cultural town more than any of the other towns around. Already before the First World War there was a drama club, a kind of voluntary troupe that presented plays, and a rich library, which in those days was a rare phenomenon.

In 1910 to 1914 there were already Zionists who had ties to the Russian General Zionists movement; in tsarist Russia, Zionism was covert, but that did not weaken the devoted Zionists like Nekhemye Shapira, Yosef Shmerkovitsh (Shtisl's) and Zev Shelovski (the Turk's). When they despaired of the older folks they sought inroads to press the youth, to revive a spark in them, an impulse for improvement. They were successful with small measures and limited opportunities in fanning a flame in us and a passion for all that is connected to Erets-Yisroel. They infiltrated the teacher Miller's kheyder, brought us Hebrew books, Hebrew songs, and we swallowed the songs like a sweet drink. Miller himself was a Zionist and we spent hours with him, singing songs like: ‘If I Forget You, Jerusalem’[1], 'To Zion Carry Flags and Banners'Hebrew songs, and we swallowed the songs like a sweet drink. Miller himself was a Zionist and we spent hours with him, singing songs like: ‘If I Forget You, Jerusalem’[2], ‘The Zionist Oath’Hebrew songs, and we swallowed the songs like a sweet drink. Miller himself was a Zionist and we spent hours with him, singing songs like: ‘If I Forget You, Jerusalem’[3], ‘We Raise our Hands to the East and Swear’Hebrew songs, and we swallowed the songs like a sweet drink. Miller himself was a Zionist and we spent hours with him, singing songs like: ‘If I Forget You, Jerusalem’[4], ‘In the Plow is Happiness and Blessing’Hebrew songs, and we swallowed the songs like a sweet drink. Miller himself was a Zionist and we spent hours with him, singing songs like: ‘If I Forget You, Jerusalem’[5], and other songs.

Everything was disrupted during the First World War. People fled from the town. With the rise of the Polish government all the Zionist leaders were soon seeking support in the periphery and vice versa. That was especially so for those who stood at the apex of Zionist activity. This was the beginning of political and material Zionism on the one side and financial activity on the other, in search of ways out to the larger world.

Then came the Balfour Declaration. We understood that the time had come to create a new Zionist organization.

We got in contact with Vilne, and speakers came. We organized ourselves, we revived the dramatic circle, we played theater, and the money furthered the Keren-kayemet and the library. We also created a youth organization “Kherut v'tkhiya”. We had gatherings and speeches, and created evening courses. Evenings became full of activity and study.


Kherut v'tkhiya – 1924


One hot summer day in 1920, there arrived from Vilne a young man in a white hat with a blue ribbon who was seeking ways to reach young people between 13 and 18 years of age. It appeared that he was himself from Eyshishok and knew half the town. He had studied in Vilne, and I think his name was Shaul Kalika, the later famous Hebrew researcher and lexicographer. He spoke with Esther'ke Olkenitski (Mushe's), with Khaneke Weiner, and Yenkele Trotski, and then they came to me. Everything was ready but there was one difficulty: Where could we meet where the parents would not disturb us? They thought it would not be easy because Zionism was something untouchable for the elders and we had to work illegally. The task was given to me, Ruvke, Alter the butcher's son.

I called for Chaim Meyshe'ke Kaplan (son of Yankl the Pipe Maker) and Leyb'ke Kaplan (of the Alekuts). We went off to the women's shul, broke open the door, and the news spread secretly by word of mouth. Some 30 people gathered there. The speaker explained our assignment, everything was clear, but off to the side a sharp discussion had broken out over the unfortunate question, Hebrew or Yiddish. The chief opponents of Hebrew totaled three members: Yosef Dvilianski, Frum'ke Bykhvit (Alte Rede's) and Lea'ke Rubinovitsh (Neyekh Eliye the carpenter's). It was a miracle that the majority won and we decided to speak Hebrew.

Taken onto the council were Gitl Mishkuvski (the Rov's daughter), Ester'ke Olkenitski, Khenke Weiner, Rueven Gol, Yankl Trotski, Yisroel Virshudski and Shuel Gurvits.

We took a room at Alter Trotski's for a site. In order to attract the youth in its majority we decided to create a recreational and sport place. We began with a swing and someone asked where to hang the swing – that is, where will the recreational place be? Suddenly I was at the center of the creation of the sport-direction and [finding] a location was placed on me. The point was where to get a place?

And then the point of our secrecy was raised, and [our] illegality. The search was on for roundabout ways to Zionism and for Zionism.

I went off to the Voronove court of the prince and let him know that I was the son of Alter the butcher, and the prince allowed me to choose a place. It was at the end of town, near the Christian cemetery. He even allowed me to use some trees for the sports equipment. In two days Chiam Meyshe'ki Kaplan and I had prepared everything. Then the council arrived and approved the work.

The youth began to stream to us. We gathered members from the movement for the dramas and that was effective. Youths signed up, the movement's members increased, and we woke Voronove up. Our sports place became the youth center in town and… in the town it caused a hue and cry:

“The youth are being mislead. God help us!” “They are dragging them to the devil knows where!” “What's this all of a sudden with erets-yisroel and other foolishness.”
The chief opponents were Ayzik Berman and Itshe the Turk, and things simmered and fermented. They were against an “ikhuv hakriah” in the beys-medresh. Two fronts developed on a day that we thought victory would belong to our followers. We had become large, strong, and were growing. We had collected money, played theater, bought books, but the fire of the opponents flamed up more and more. They had a strong complaint:
“It is shabes!”
And the second strong complaint:
“It is boys and girls together! And Jews a silent?”
My father was summoned to the Rov:
“Your son is the chief cause of all this to-do, God help us, and you must take him away, and the thing will fall apart.”
They pressed him so long he went to the place with an axe and chopped up and broke everything.

No one stood up against this, certainly not I. If it had been some other Jew who had dared he would not even have come close to the place, but this was my father.

It did not work, though: the structure was built. We could already exist without the sports place. We had 200 books, the newest, most modern, and we had time and youth to read with us and live with us.


The Library Committee – 1924


We were the foundation of the dramatic department and received a large percentage of the sales. The elders tried every time to trick us, but we were too strong. However much money we had coming to us, we got. It happened once that they did not want to honor our agreement. We taught them such a lesson that they promised never to do it again. It was during sukkot. We were playing in the town's inn. We ourselves had set up benches of plain board, and the second day of sukkot, at night, we were supposed to present the play. In the middle of the holiday we went in and smeared all the benches with pitch. They came in the afternoon to the last rehearsal and saw that, and they gave in completely.

By night we had made it right. We had brought in a Gentile wheelwright. It cost money, but he cleaned up all the benches.

In time we melded with the General Zionist movement and with the elder Zionists of our town. We joined our library with theirs and gave our money to the Keren-ha'kayemet, and Zionism generally became a factor in the town.

That is how we had to organize the youth by direct and indirect paths, to set them on the road to aliyah, freedom and life assurance.

Our dear, naïve parents: who knows how many more youth from Voronove, your children, might have been saved if not for your naïve belief in miracles.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. "Im ashkahech Yerushalaim" Return
  2. "Seu tziona nes vadegel" Return
  3. "Di tzionistishe shvueh" Return
  4. "Mir hoibn di hent to mizrah and shvern" Return
  5. "In der sokkeh iz mazl and broche" Return

[Pages 284-288]

The Society of Voronova in America
(From the Society's Bulletin)

Isidore Dikson

Translated by Tina Lunson

Sixty-seven years ago a group of Voronover landslayt gathered and decided to found a society.

Since the number of Voronover landslayt was few, the task was very difficult. They enjoyed meeting with their landslayt and did not want to lose that homey comradeship and friendship.

The first meeting was called on October 22, 1904, by Willie Rosenshteyn at 198 Henry Street, New York.

Those who participated in the first meeting and were considered organizers are as follows:

Avram Bernshteyn, Avram Trotski, Max Movelitski, Max Ostrinski, Harry Ostrinski, Harris Dayem, Louis Levine, Phillip Olken, Morris Levine, Sam Zhabinski, Meyer Levine, Avram Drozhets, Sam Volpianski, Ysroel Bhykvit, Jacob Gold, Eli Tsirinski, Hyman Kamenetski.

It is worthwhile to mention that our first chairman was Phillip Dlugin.

Some of them left the state and to our sorrow some of them are no longer among the living, honor their memories.

Years and years hurried by. People went different ways. It was impossible to exist, but we did not want to give up our struggle.

In 1498 [sic] when Israel declared its independence, and we realized that many Voronovers were arriving in Israel and that they waited for our help, we promptly established an “emergency relief” with the help of the Voronover Ladies' Auxiliary and Dikson, as always, served as financial secretary, and threw himself energetically into the work, and helped them with packages, money, clothing. We even managed to bring over a few landslayt from Israel and other parts of Europe, concerning ourselves with their clothing and various other things, and now they are established and making a good living.


Now a few words about Izzy Dikson:

Izzy Dikson first joined the Society on August 11, 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War. He was very active in helping landslayt on the other side of the ocean. He attempted to found a relief committee and was the Secretary of Relief for many years. He helped send a messenger to Voronove with 22,000 dollars, which went through his hands. A folks-school was organized there, as well as a loan bureau, medical help, and so on. He tried to collect clothing and foodstuffs to send them to Voronove. And here we must give credit to our brother Izzy Dikson for the good and noble work he did for years and years.

On April 28th, 1925, he was elected Protocol Secretary and held that office until 1927.

In 1927 he was elected as Finance Secretary. He held that office for 18 years. He wrote the constitution on February 15, 1930.

He participated in all the activities of the Society.

In the Second World War, when our boys were sent off, the Society decided to ship various packages to them, overseas and in the States. Dikson laid out a world of work to pack the packages and ship them off. Nothing was too hard.

We provide here the picture of our brother Izzy Dikson (Dukshtulski), who is tied heart and soul to everything that has a relationship to our Voronover brothers.


A party for the Diksons in Israel


In the span of his 56 years in America Dikson managed to remain connected with Voronovers and solicit help on [their behalf on] many occasions.

We express our appreciation to Izzy Dikson for his monetary support of this Yisker-Bukh and his collecting money for that goal.

My Life's Song
And About Izzy Dikson

by Isador Dikson

Translated by Tina Lunson



I long for a comfort that once I had.
In hunger and pain I was sated.
Solitary in the world I remain,
an orphan from the age of seven.

I recall like a dream my Mama's singing
the tune still sounds in my ears.
I cannot forget that dearest of tunes,
the lullaby she rocked me to.

“Sleep, my child, my dear little love,
may the Eternal give you long years,
may you rise in the morning in health,
your father and mother will care for you.”

Where is the vow you spoke to me,
you have broken your promise completely.
Why are you silent, why don't you answer me now!
You still owe me an answer, your only son!


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