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Sefer Vladimirets

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A Noble Tradition

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author: Sender Tscherniak

** Webmaster Note: The following is a translation from Hebrew by Laia Ben-Dov as sponsored by George Zilbergeld. Additional clarifications are provided in parenthesis ( ).

A NOBLE TRADITION

Vladimirets, our home town.  Many villages surrounded it, and it was the Jewish town among them.  Each village had its name such as Debuvka, Karchemka, Uzhiro Novacki, Andrukha, Polovlya, Zelenitsa, Dyabyla, Zhulkin, and many more; the page is too short to list all of them.  Each village had its Jewish families.  Our town was a center for these families.  So it was on ordinary weekdays and not even more so on holidays, especially on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.  There was a chain of contact between our town and these villages here, an honored position was filled mainly by "de gaierlach" [literally:  "those who go"], as we called them.  These men would go out to the villages for almost the entire week, and return home for the Sabbath.  They went out to bargain and sell, some every week, and some at special seasons, such as harvest time or the winter.  They would buy whatever came to hand, whatever held a chance of profit pig hairs, animal furs, various plants fruits of the tree and fruits of the earth, even animals calves and cows, roosters, chickens and other birds; horses, mules, and the like.  In addition to these peddlers, all kinds of craftsmen also went out to the villages such as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths and others.  This was a long chain, the links of which were many and varied.  Thus, the populations provided livelihoods for each other, and life flowed on in its ordinary paths.  One should not boast that this was a life of wealth and respect, bringing prosperity.  On the contrary, existence was one of limitation and poverty, but also our needs were not excessive.  What characterized our fathers and the people of our town was that they were content with a little.

In the town, there were some homeowners who were more well-established than those mentioned above.  Among these were the shop owners and merchants.  The population of the town was not homogeneous there were also Christians among them:  Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and even gypsies.  There also were several families that were regarded as "lords," in any case, in the eyes of the poor residents of the town.  How wealthy they actually were, I do not know to this day.  But some of them were apparently bankers.  A person would bring his meager savings, which he had kept for the purpose of marrying his daughter, or for some other purpose.  They also lent money for a certain amount of profit.  It should be pointed out that the whole town was like one large family.  All of the residents were intertwined and connected to each other, whether by actual family relationships or by marriage, and all this was so in spite of the divisions between them and their belonging to different streams of Chassidim, such as Chassidei Stolin, Trisk, or Stipan, with different shochtim [ritual slaughterers], separate cantors and synagogues, as well as the separation of position between the wealthy and the laborers.

I remember lads who learned in the cheder schools and afterwards in yeshivot.  They were learned, but the town was unable to provide them with a basis for making a living, and they went out to seek their bread elsewhere.  Most of the sons remained in the town.  A son would ordinarily follow in the footsteps of his father and learn his father's trade.  The daughters behaved like their mothers, and when they became old enough they wished to get married and not lose the hour of opportunity.  Most of the youth was not grabbed by far-away delusions and depended on the kindnesses of G-d.

That is how it was, especially in earlier times.  But during the 20th Century, this way of life endured shocks.  The larger world began to draw the youth away.  This world even troubled itself to actually arrive in our town.  New winds began to blow.  Many people began to understand that they should not be content with only the holy subjects learned in the cheder and yeshiva, and they began to learn foreign languages.  Many understood that they must obtain a general education and knowledge, which are the opening to progress and a change of values.  From now on, we are witnesses, not only of wandering to the nearby villages or towns, but also of wandering great distances to the big cities, there to seek happiness and the light of knowledge.  Young men went out to find jobs, and young girls also went out, whether it was to find household work or to learn a profession.  Such was the movement of immigration to the large cities of Russia.  The immigration to America was a problem in itself.  Every instance of leaving the town and going to strange cities involved a deep spiritual crisis, because the family ties were very strong, and cutting oneself off from the family was very difficult.  Even though the big world was attractive, it was strange and frightening.

If a daughter was married, it was accepted that her husband would eat at his father-in-law's table.  This matter was natural and obvious, even though it caused economic difficulties.  Life was austere, without luxuries, as mentioned above.  That is how it was until the people of the town began to be acquainted with the wide world and the new, high standard of living.  Now, when they looked at all these things, they were badly hurt and their confusion was great.  A member of the family who left Vladimirets and had organized himself in one of the cities, would take his family out of the town and bring them to the city.  Even in the town itself, the considerations conflicted there were new outlooks, a new way of life.  The matter began to be expressed in the organization of the home, in the dress, in the food and the manner of learning.  Teachers began to arrive in the town, and many of the natives became teachers.  This influence was felt mainly on holidays, when all of the dispersed youth would gather together and each one would tell his impressions of the wide world.  Thus matters continued until the outbreak of World War I, which constituted a type of earthquake to the old ideals.

In the beginning, emigration to America was only for financial gain to make some money and send dollars to the family, and eventually return home.  Among the emigrees were also those who left in pairs, in other words:  two wage-earners would leave together, with the calculation that as a team, their profits would be greater.  There were those who travelled to America and afterward requested the immigration of the members of their family for a temporary period.  The first ones who left for America suffered there a great deal.  The times were not so prosperous.  Many of those who left were without a profession, and they were forced to obtain one in the new country.  Many brought over their families after they established themselves materially.  The great majority of them settled in Detroit, from where they scattered all over the country, until there was almost no city where one could not find people from Vladimirets.  Extensions of our town also reached Canada and Argentina, even Brazil, Uruguay and more.  Indeed, that immigration was good for us; thus many remnants of our town remained, because without it they certainly would have been murdered with the rest of its Jewish residents.

From the time that World War I broke out, it was no longer possible to return to Vladimirets and those who had left remained in America.  This period was one of an economic boom, and many former residents of our town exploited the situation and became wealthy property owners. The young people became familiarized and settled down.  They established families of their own and became citizens of the country some of them attained higher levels of education and became doctors, engineers, lawyers.  When the War ended, they didn't want to go back to our town.  Instead, they brought their families to America.  The list of those who left Vladimirets and its surroundings who reached a high level is very long but there is also a desire to point out a few of them by way of example such as the son of David from Andrukha, who became a famous lawyer.  There is also the large family of Bubbe Charna, or Charna the midwife and many of her grandchildren, who became doctors, engineers and prosecutors, or owners of large businesses.  In American terms, they were building contractors and other contractors.  Counted among these is the family that was called "Angels," or Shalom-Leibke's family.  I certainly will not be able to point out and count all of those who left our town for America, and for the sake of example, I will suffice only with the names I have mentioned, which are a reflection of all the others.  And one more family will be mentioned the family of Chaim-Leib the shoemaker, from which very famous people came.  I am putting a strong emphasis on the people who left our town for America, because I see them today as an indivisible part of our town, both in America and in our old homeland.

The fact that those who left our town always continued to preserve a mutual connection, whether in the United States or in Israel, proves how great is this characteristic, which is an inheritance from the unique existence of our town from here we have the connection with the old home and the readiness to help whenever help is needed but mainly the readiness to extend help, which was outstandingly expressed after the War, when the committee was established in Detroit and immediately began its assistance activities and the search for all those who remained after the Holocaust.

They were the first ones to prepare a list of the survivors in every location, such as refugee camps and the like.  They immediately contacted people from Vladimirets in Israel, and began to extend assistance to every person from Vladimirets whose address was known; they also notified the families of every survivor that they found, and thus the committee filled a very important position.  All of the people from Vladimirets answered the call from the committee and joined its activities.  At the committee's address, shipments of money and valuables for rescuing the remnants began to arrive.  So as not to arouse resentment, I am not indicating here the especially superior assistance of some individuals.  The truth must be told, that everyone participated in the good deed of helping.  But I repeat, and point out that generally, there were a few wonderful people who extended help.  People from Vladimirets in Washington did great and wonderful things.  The people in Detroit were the initiators and the movers, and they forwarded instructions to all the other cities.  This characteristic distinguished the men of Detroit already before the War.  They also established the foundations of a charity fund with the help of our people in Israel.  I do not know in what amounts they expressed their assistance, but I believe it reached tens of thousands of dollars for individuals and institutions.

A special tradition is preserved by people from our town.  When someone from Israel arrives in America, this kind of guest arouses a general celebration.  Everyone gathers and celebrates with him; they draw him near as if he were a family guest.  And they do the same when a guest from America visits Israel.

I point out all of these things because the expressions "residents of Vladimirets" or "people from Vladimirets" extend beyond geographical boundaries and enter into the framework of a noble tradition, since the characteristics of our town became the property of all those who have roots there and are now scattered all over the world.  Everyone remembers the old home and is connected to it.  Our community in Israel today is an important center, in which all of the noble tradition of our town and all of its values can be seen and these things are expressed in times of joy and sadness alike.

It appears to me that the term "lodestone" is appropriate for our hometown.  The community values that it created and developed became a source of yearning and longing for those who left it.  The peddler among the villages of days gone by longed to return to his home for the Sabbath.  The sons of our town who left to acquire Torah in far-away places yearned for the holidays to come, so that they could return to their beloved town.  And for those who emigrated across the sea, who never stopped remembering the special life there also after the great Holocaust, when its very ground betrayed us and became a bereaver for us and the Vladimirets of the lower world no longer exists, it continues to live within us like a kind of Vladimirets of the upper world, in which everything good and positive that was there is concealed.  Vladimirets unites its diaspora into a single unit with strong and deep spiritual connections.


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