THE RITUAL SLAUGHTERERS
Although Malch was not a large town and one ritual slaughterer would have been enough, there were, never the less, two ritual slaughterers. An old statute dictated that Malch should have two ritual slaughterers. In almost every town the ritual slaughterer was also a cantor. In our town, Lipa was a cantor as well as a ritual slaughterer. He used to pray in the large synagogue during the high holy days. He had a very beautiful voice.
During Rabbi Zalman-Sander's time, Mr. Berel, the cantor from Bereze, used to chant during the high holy days. He was known for his exceptionally sweet voice. He passed away when he was a young man.
In my time, Feivel and Leizer Chaim were the ritual slaughterers. When Feivel passed away, Lipa replaced him. Subsequently there was a disagreement between the heirs of Feivel and Lipa regarding the "rightful possession". It took a long time for the religious court to decide what to do. They even called upon the Mileitshisher Rabbi Aaron Shmuel. At last, both sides reached an agreement. It was not meant for Lipa to continue with the ritual slaughtering, he passed away in the prime of his life. After his death, the question about ritual slaughtering came up again. Malch wanted a ritual slaughterer who was not only certified (this would not be enough for Malch) but he had to also be a learned man, according to the demand of our distinguished holy community. Beside that, the town wanted him to be a cantor as well.
Thus, the candidates arrived from other towns. After trying them out and after a series of meetings, the community hired Zalman Reichman from Niesvish as a cantor and a ritual slaughterer. He had also magnificently conducted a choir, which the people wanted. The town was not disappointed by the decision to hire him. Leizer Chaim and Zalman Reichman did the ritual slaughtering in Malch until the 1930's.
OLD TIME "HEALERS" AND DOCTORS
What city in those years (about 50-60 years ago) had the rare honor to have a certified doctor? By and large, there were old-time healers. In very serious cases, the sick person would be taken to a nearby or distant larger city where there were doctors.
Among the healers there were certain individuals who knew a great deal about medicine but the Medical Board of Examiners did not certify them. This "profession" was inherited. They were recognized by the government who tolerated them to a certain extend. Most of these healers were Jewish.
Among the doctors there were Jewish as well as non-Jewish professionals. They had to pass the medical exams after completing the medical courses.
Until the beginning of this (the 20th) century, Malch knew only those doctors (such as Nachman Alexandrovski and my grandfather, Simcha Apelboym) who practiced in other places. Later on, there were the following: Seletzki, Topolinski (a Pole) and another official "kazionner". There were also Shochna Apelboym, my uncle, and Moishe Alexandrovski. However, they practiced elsewhere starting at a young age.
In serious cases, Dr. Pacewicz from Pruzany would come to Malch. Dr. Pacewicz was well known at that time as one of the best doctors. It was very hard to make an appointment with him. They would also bring Dr. Davidson or "the Gruzin", Dr. Hundagshi, the doctor of the Pruzany's city hospital. From time to time they would also bring the old time doctors from Pruzany, Avraham and Joseph Seletzki, also, oftentimes, Dr. Szwartz from Kartuz-Bereze. If somebody had to have an operation, then Dr. Shultz from Brisk or even Dr. Soloveitchik from Warsaw would perform the surgery. People with eye disease would travel to Bialystok to see Dr. Pienes who was very famous.
For a long time there was a movement in Malch to bring over a doctor who would settle there. In the last years before the 1st World War they succeeded in obtaining a certain Doctor Lifshitz. Also a pharmacist named Goldstein, arrived in Malch. The pharmacist was the son-in-law of the well-known owner of the snuff tobacco factory in Bialystok. Dr. Lifshitz did not stay in Malch a long time. He was young and had little practical experience. After him, Dr. Kunin arrived in Malch. He was a very likable person and a good doctor. He would on all occasions proudly emphasize his Jewishness. It was not meant for him to stay in Malch for a long time. He left Malch at the outbreak of World War I.
The only midwife in Malch was "Bobe Reva" (grandmother Reva). She helped to deliver several generations of babies into the world. I used to always imagine how the Jewish midwifes, Shifra and Puah, probably looked in Egypt about whom it is written in the Pentateuch (in Exodus). When grandmother Reva was in her old age, a young midwife from Nieswiz came to Malch where she remained until the first German occupation in the year 1915.
THE PRINTED WORD
In the beginning of this, the 20th, century Malch had already obtained Hebrew newspapers and other publications. I remember the "Hatzofa" (Watchman), the "Hatzfira" (Chaplet) and publications for children such as "Hachaim Vehateva" (Life and Nature), "Haprachim" (Flowers), "Hachaver" (The Friend) and others. After reading these books they were saved and preserved. The people would reread the very interesting stories that supposedly were never unreal.
A Yiddish newspaper, "The Friend", appeared here in 1904 or 1905. It was at a time of the revolutionary upheaval in Russia and so was the character of the newspaper. After a short time new publications arrived in larger quantities and several types. The first priority was to read a newspaper. The following newspapers arrived in Malch: - "Hazman" (The Time), "Hed Hazman" (The Echo of Time"), "Haint" (Today) and "Moment" (The Moment). These were the newspapers that were read in every household. Not all of the people could afford to buy a newspaper, therefore some neighbors or friends would jointly subscribe to a newspaper.
The Jews in Malch read very little from the Russian newspapers. In general, they were full of anti-Semitic venom. The liberal newspaper "Birzhevie Viedomosti" from Petersburg, where Leonid Andriev worked, was known as a democratic newspaper. Some of the Jewish people would read it. There was also a weekly literary publication in Petersburg, "Nivo" (Plowed Earth). It was very popular and widely read by the different classes of the Russian citizens as well as among Jewish people. The editor would also give books as a bonus for a monthly subscription. There were quite a few Jews in Malch who used to read this publication.
In 1915 there were no longer any Jewish newspapers and, because of the war, the Russian newspapers would not arrive regularly. During the German occupation it was impossible to obtain any reading material from the outside world. For 5 years until 1920 Malch had no printed Yiddish word.
A long time had elapsed before Malch was able to have a Jewish library. Until the end of the 19th century the reading material was mainly religious literature. One would also read books about science and research in Hebrew. Naturally, only the intelligent people with know-how were able to use them.
Later on fictional Hebrew books began to arrive, the so called "outside books". The pious and observant Jews were displeased with those kinds of books. They were Avraham Maposs' "The Love of Zion" and "The Guilt of Samaria"; Peretz Smolenski's "The Confusion of Life Style" and others. In Malch later on there appeared Shomer's Jewish novels, Mendele's books and, at the end, Shalom Aleichem who attracted more and more readers. Thus, it became necessary to have a library that would satisfy the popular demand for this kind of literature.
During the turmoil in Russia at the time of the first revolution, it was the beginning of the establishment of the first Jewish library in Malch. Until that time, the inhabitants had to pay to borrow books. Such book lenders, I remember, were: - Yosel Feivel, the ritual slaughterer's son and Benyamin Warshwski, who gave lessons in Yiddish.
I don't remember on whose initiative the first library was established. I think it was both Yoshua Yaakov Sapir, Chave's son, and Moishe Sorotshik-Eliyahu, the hunchback's son. According to the conditions at that time, the library was well developed. It had already numerous books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian, a large inventory and, above all, was patronized by a great number of residents. Unfortunately, the library had the same fate as the whole town when, during World War I in 1915, it was destroyed by fire during the German attack and Russian retreat. Incidentally, one of the founders, Moishe Sorotshik, was nobilized in 1914 and perished on the Kavkazer front.
Jewish settlements could be found in every town. In villages there were those leased milk "contracts" and taverns from the landlords. There were also village shopkeepers, merchants, tradesmen (mainly blacksmiths). Some worked in the fields and forests.
The people who lived in the settlements did not show up in Malch during the most of the year. However, when the holidays were approaching, especially the high holy days, they would come to the town for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. They would stay at the homes of their relatives or friends.
In the previous century there were virtually no villages where a Jew could not be found. Later on, because of the anti-Semitic edicts of the czarist regime, the Jews were prohibited from living in the villages. Therefore, their numbers diminished from year to year. The remaining settlers began to move into the towns and became an element for emigration to the U.S.A. Gradually these settlers began to disappear.
In general, settlers were perceived to be plain and ignorant people. However, there were among them some people who were knowledgeable in Jewish studies and, with regard to good manners, they were as full of human goodness as a pomegranate has pits. First of all, was their custom of hospitality toward guests. It was like a holiday when a Jewish wanderer would come there and that person would never leave the house hungry. Some peddlers would, during their wanderings, avoid stopping at the towns and they would go to the villages to look for the cordial Jewish settlers.
I still remember one settler in the village of Likonir, 4 viorst (about 2 ½ miles) from Malch, through Chvoinitzker Way, crossing the railroad. His name was Meier Likomirer - Rav Meier, not merely Meier. He was the grandfather of Meier Rosenshein of Pruzany. He had daughters who were married to learned men. One of his sons-in-law, Leibe Hersh Levin, was a very erudite teacher, an educator who edited a series of Hebrew textbooks. We used to call him the philosopher and Malch was very proud of him. He gave his children a good education. One of his daughters studied in Petersburg. Leibe Hersh Levin emigrated to the U.S.A. where he studied to become a pedagogue. The second son-in-law was Moishe-Aaron Rosenshein from Pruzany, a personality in the city's society whoe name is mentioned in the Pruzaner part of the Pinkas.
In our cemetery in Malch there were many gravestones of the settlers who were historical witnesses of their period of existence. Unfortunately the remains of these last witnesses have been destroyed along with their living descendants.
Until the year of 1905 Malch had only one orchard where good apples and pears grew. It belonged to our neighbor, Yitzchak, Selik's son. There were also some scatteredtrees at Nachum's, the redhead, near Hershel Nishe's house there were several pear trees and at Esther Rivka's, the seamstress, there was a cherry orchard. In some places there were also a few trees with the so called "Ditchkes" or wild small pears.
There were orchards that belonged to the landowners and those were full of wonderful fruit. The priest had a big orchard that was leased to Feige-Leah Vinograd, the candle maker, or Sarah-Dvora, Esther, Bashe's daughter. It was not a custom for us Jews to have orchards.
In 1904 a delegate from the "Yika" society arrived in our town. He checked out the toography of the town and declared that it was a suitable place for fruit orchards. He suggested the kind of trees to plant. The "Yika" was supposed to arrange so that the lessees would pay for it in installments of a certain amount. The people liked this project and its plan which included putting a fence around the orchards. The favorable place for this undertaking was the eastern part of Kavkazer street where long gardens were located and extended behind the houses starting with Hershel Buchalter's house (Hershel Nishe's) in Slobodke up to Samorovke opposite the mills. A fruit agronomist whose name was Epshtein arrived from Minsk in 1904 in the month of Cheshvon ( the second month in the Jewish calendar coinciding with parts of October and November). The whole area was prepared for planting fruit trees. The holes that were dug remained intact until Passover 1905, when small saplings packed in straw bundles were brought from the railroad station. During springtime without any special ceremony the saplings were planted in the dug out holes. There were apple, pear and plum trees that yielded wonderful fruit, especially the rare kind of antonovkes apples. When thinking of them, one can still feel the taste. Among the trees they planted bushes of gooseberries and raspberries. The entire garden was not always utilized for fruit trees. Some people left enough space in order to plant various vegetables. My grandmother, Esther, planted 36 trees on the hilly part of the garden.
According to Jewish law, when a tree starts yielding fruit, one should not taste the fruit for the first 3 years. It is called "orla". As it is written in Leviticus, 3rd book of Moses, Chapter 19, Verse 23, "three years shall it be as forbidden onto you to eat the fruit". The Jews in Malch obeyed this law. The fruit that was yielded in the 'three forbidden to eat' years was given away to the "uriadnik" as a present. This "uriadnik" was a very interesting type of person. He lived in a house that later on belonged to Avraham Hersh Soloveichik, the tailor. At the time when money was collected from the Jewish inhabitants in Malch for different charitable purposes, the "uriadnik" was not solicited for contributions to a charity. He was displeased that he was not included. He said in anger, "What? Am I not a Malcher inhabitant?", and then the "uriadnik" made a very generous contribution.
The orchards yielded a lot of fruit and in a short timje thee owners earned a pretty nice income. The winter of 1929 was very cold. The temperature dropped to -40 degrees centigrade, when normally the lowest temperature had not been less that -33 degrees centigrade. Consequently, the trees could not withstand the severe frost and were completely frozen. A year later, the trees came back to life and started blossoming again. These trees of the Malcher orchards have outlived their owners who perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other extermination camps. They have remained silent witnesses of the Jewish past.
THE YEARS OF THE FIRST RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
DURING THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR OF 1904-1906
Just as in all of Russia, the Revolutionary outburst did not bypass our town. There were reverberations among the Jewish youth here too, about the fighting and labor strikes. Several emissaries from the clandestine Revolutionary Central Committee arrived here. They used to conduct lectures or deliver sermons on Jewish topics directly in the synagogues. They demanded help for their organizations, especially for obtaining weapons.
We, in Malch, also had the "tzitzilisten" as they were called, or the "sisters and brothers" as sthey called themselves. Also, in our place, a committee was organized which cooperated with that movement. The names of the leaders are embedded in my memory. They were: David, the boot stitcher, Ben Zion-Zeitel, Rom's son; Alter-Leizer, Chaim's son, the ritual slaughter; Kaplan, the elderly man who came here from Bialystok who worked in a weaving plant; Zunie-Abraham, the builder's son; Lipa from Hursk, the blacksmith. All of them already had weapons.
After the failure of the revolution, all of them left for America except for David, the boot stitcher, who married in Bereze. In the beginning of 1919, when the Bolsheviks were in Bereze, his name was known among the leaders. After the Poles retook Bereze, David was arrested and released later on.
The "sisters and brothers" would assemble in the Samorovker forest. They used to discuss all the problems regarding the movement. The young people were, in general, in high spirits, very emotional and used to go for long walks. Then, a very tragic event occurred. The direction of the leisurely walk was always towards the Vigoder woods. Just before turning towards the Vigoder Way, the people would pass the Russian school. A little further was the "Kancelaria", the administrative office of the county, and the "Volost", the local governmental assembly. Opposite the "Kancelaria" was the priest's orchard. On a certain beautiful Friday evening in summertime, when the street was full of people going for a stroll, the pleasant mood was cut short by a gunshot. The writer of the Volost fired the shot, in order to scare off the strollers who disturbed his sleep. The gun was a hunting rifle for buckshot. A young man, Moishe-Aaron, Sarah Devora's son, was hit by the shot. He was the watchman of the priest's orchard whose grandmother, Feige Leah, used to lease from the same person. Moishe-Aaron was treated for a whole year and afterwards died in a hospital in Warsaw. The writer of the Volost was transferred to another place. Nobody heard if he was brought to court for trial.
THE COURT AND THE BREWERY
Malch had a landowner's court with a brewery where whiskey was produced. There was also a distillery installation where the alcohol was purified. The landowners from the neighboring towns brought their spirits to Malch for purification - from Kabaki, Anenuline, from Levkovitches Court. There was an inspector in Malch who supervised the entire purification procedure.
The brewery was heated with wood. A large amount of burning material was needed for the brewery. Wintertime, on the coldest days, caravans of sleds would carry wood out of the surrounding forests. The peasants used to complain that, because of the brewery, it became very expensive to purchase wood. However, there was nobody to whom and in what manner they could protest. Then, in times of the Revolution, they found an appropriate occasion for a protest plan. There was a Gentile family, Shumovitch, who lived in Malch. They were called the "Heidukes" (snakes). These Shumovitches became the leaders of the wood rebellion. They would come with a multitude of peasants to the market place and when the caravan of sleds would pass by the market, they would pull them away to the "Gentile" street and ordered the sledders to unload the wood. They would tell the Jews that they should also take some of the confiscated wood but no Jew wanted to take advantage of such an action.
The leaders of that rebellion came to the leaders of the Jewish Revolutionaries and said the following: if you would help us in our struggle for the wood against the landowner, we would help you in any way we can in the time of your emergency. The Jews agreed and collectively went to the landowner with a demand that he should use coal for heating in the brewery and save the wood. As a matter of fact, the work in the brewery had already stopped because of a strike caused by the Shumovitches whose purpose was to force the owner of the brewery to use coal instead of wood for heating the brewery. The Shumovitches posted guards nearby to watch and make sure that nobody tried to break up the strike. As it is further described, the Shumovitches kept their promise and did help the Malcher Jews when they were in danger.
THE FIRST OF MAY
In that revolutionary stormy year there was a special celebration on the 1st of May. For the first time the revolutionaries made it known of the existence of a worker's holiday that was named the 1st of May. Work was stopped in all places. This holiday brought a lot of joy to the children in the Cheders (religious schools). On a beautiful day in spring, the schools were ordered to release the children. The order was completely fulfilled without any protest.
THE DESTROYED FAIRS
Along with the revolutionary uproar, a wave of pogroms was spreading in Russia. The people had already heard about the pogroms in Kisheniev, Zhitomir and Chomel. I think it wa already after the pogrom in Bialystok.
At different times of the year there were fairs in Malch. During Chanukah the fair took place on the "Gromnitza" (Christian holiday). Even before that fair, a tensed feeling prevailed in Malch. The people already expected something. The Malcher Jews went to the Shumovitches and reminded them of their obligation. Their answer was that we should not worry because the Malcher Gentiles will not tolerate any blood shedding. In fact, this is exactly what happened. On the day of the fair several caravans of carts (wagons pulled by horses) from different villages would arrive in Malch. In that year the number of carts headed towards the fair was larger than usual. At eight o'clock in the morning the fair was already crowded with the peasants' carts. It was obvious that not all of them came there with peaceful intentions.
About nine o'clock, as usual, the Jewish business people from the surrounding towns set up their stores in the market place. There were people who sold cheap or second-rate clothes, furriers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, tinners and others. The shopkeepers in the market place were busy preparing to open for business, displayed their merchandise and then waited for customers. Shortly after the start of the business at about 10 o'clock, a loud scream and a call for help was heard in the market place. The scream was from a Jewish shoemaker when a goy (gentile) beat him up for not letting him steal a pair of boots. A turmoil was started there. Our young men, some of whom carried revolvers, were near by. They started to react immediately and pointed their guns towards the mob. It should be said that thanks to our gentiles friends, the Shumovitches, everything in their power was done in order to prevent bloodshed. They ran from wagon to wagon and shouted, "radi boga (as god loves you), you should run away because the Jews have bombs, and they will destroy your villages". Those people who were begging to stay there longer were beaten up with sticks, with cart shafts and whatever they could grab. They brought about a turmoil and a fear. The people began to run away from the fair. At the same time there was a multitude of people in the church. The people from the fair ran to the church and shouted, " the Jews would throw bombs and explode the church, run away, save yourselves". Since their own people brought this news, the gentiles believed them and began leaving the church. In the meantime, Lipa, the Hursker (blacksmith), came into the church carrying a potato wrapped in a rag and shouted, "I am going to blow up this church soon".
The peasants became frightened and panicked. They loaded up their wagons and started to run away from the town. They pushed themselves through small streets so that they could run away from the danger. Some of them who tried to escape through the gardens fell into the holes that were dug out in preparation for the fruit trees. About one o'clock there were no traces of the fair since all shopkeepers closed up their shops. Later on, the Peshtshaniker Gentiles tried to come back to the town. Their village was known as a nest for murderers. Some Jews who stood on guard at the mills met them however, with revolver shots.
The "Heidukes", the Shumovitches, or the snakes, as they were called, kept their promise. with their direct help, the pogrom against the Jews was averted. It should be mentioned here about the good friendship between the Malcher priest and the Jews. He was held in high esteem and the people had high regard for him. In general, he was a good man. The Jews who needed money were able to obtain a loan from him. At the same time rumors were spread in Pruzany that Malch was "covered in blood up to their neck". Before the evening wagons with tens of armed you Jewish men arrived from Pruzany. They came to rescue the Malcher Jews. Luckily their intervention was not necessary.