Pnina Rab (Goldberg)
I'm sitting here and I want to write about my little town Kartuz Bereza, but I don't know how to begin. I have no choice but to close my eyes and "go back", many, many years ago, and remember the way my town was.
I see with the eyes of my spirit the houses, orchards, streets and people who lived there. Everybody knew each other. It was a typical Jewish town, although Russians and Poles were living there as well. We certainly didn't perceive them because their houses were on side streets, not main ones.
In our town there weren't "search of employment" offices; instead there were social and mutual aid institutions. One of those was the "Room for needy to stay overnight" (Linat Ha'tzedek), something like our current "Yad Sarah" (Sarah's hand) for poor's aid. For instance, at the end of every winter was collected ice on a dark basement, in case somebody might need it. They also supplied medicines to ill persons. Another institution, "Savings bank for joint aid" (Kupat Gmilut Chasadim), lent money without interest costs.
Kartuz Bereza community looked after supporting those families that had no sources of incomes. There was an old slaughter man in our town, father of two widows with children. This old man passed away and the families needed support. The "Town Council" managed things so the slaughter man's grandson, a teenager, was able to learn slaughter profession, and then take care of this task in town, to support both families.
Another example: for the local rabbi to have a little extra- income, they decided that nobody would sell yeast in any store; only the rabbi's wife was allowed to sell it, in order to obtain a few pence.
There were four schools in our town: one state polish, and three Jewish. One was for Yiddish learning, the second was the "Talmud Torah" and the third called "Yavneh" (TN: also known as Tarbut School as it joined Tarbut net). Children also studied privately. Religious teachers of "Cheder" were called "Rabbi" and they taught Yiddish reading and writing. Jews didn't send their children to polish school, although it was free. Almost every Jew sent their children to Hebrew or Yiddish school, deciding each family according to their beliefs. Each school had a joint council in charge of teachers, secretaries, cleaning staff and general maintenance staff salaries. Parents had to pay for their children's education.
We had four synagogues, one public bath house and one ritual bath house (mikve) in town.
Now I think about all the activity displayed by my town's people, their concern and responsibility at the head of so many institutions, and all of this without getting money nor compensation, but "voluntarily" as we use to say now. Then I didn't understand nor appreciate the effort and personal devotion of everyone who worked at the head of all those institutions without asking compensation. Now I admit spiritual greatness of all these people. Right now I can't remember, or perhaps I never knew who they were, but I feel I must thank in the name of my fellow citizens still alive and myself: thanks, thanks a lot for all their work.