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During those days, Tzeirey
Zion, an organization of Zionist youths was established in town as well
as an organization by the name of Cherut and Tchia. Every night, boys
and girls from the school would meet and coordinate games and political
discussions. As time passed we started visiting the surrounding towns.
We would meet with the youths of Vileyka, which was nearby, and we even
exchanged letters with the center in Vilna. At the head of the youth
movement there were leaders, and amongst them there were teachers from
the Hebrew school in town, and they would make speeches about Hebrew
literature, the history of Zionism and the history of the Jewish nation.
We would have parties that aimed to collect funds for Keren Keyemt and
Keren HaYesod (founds for Eretz Israel). Regularly we would make the
rounds of all the homes in town, trying to get donations for the miscellaneous
Hebrew national foundations. We would sell pictures of the Zionist leaders,
and once in a while we would put on plays in which we participated as
amateur actors. In time we succeeded in getting most of the youths in
the area to partake in our activities.
In all such activities, Ephraim
Leib Kramer (son of David, Later changed his last name to Ben David)
was the central figure. He would organize and energize the activities
with his charismatic personality. He had a most splendid penmanship.
Each letter looked like a pearl. He would also write all the correspondence,
and during the meetings, he would many times debate much older people
with courage and introspection and acumen. He was chosen as the head
of the Zionist committee in with his energetic personality, the local
branch was brimming with activities.
In the year 1922, the branch
of Hachalutz was established in Kurenets. We communicate with
the center and follow their instructions from the very start. I remember
that year a few leaders from the center of the Hachalutz in Warsaw
came to Kurenets. Amongst them were Y. Bankover and A. Dobkin. They
gathered us and told us about our mission for the future. We all acknowledged
the missions that they suggested to us, which would be concluded by
immigration to the land of Israel. AT the very beginning there were
only a few members in Hachalutz, but at the end of the year, the
branch in Kurenets became a very respected branch and was renowned in
the entire region of Vilna.
We chose members to head
the organization, and at the top of the organization (the head of the
branch) we elected Ephraim Leib Kramer. Other promotions were given
to other members of the organization, I amongst them. Each evening we
would meet and discuss issues such as how to enlarge the organization,
how to teach and promote better understanding of the Zionist pioneer
movements among the youths. We started organizing the Hachalutz
not only in our town but also throughout the whole region. We would
go to all the neighboring towns and we were successful in time and managed
to get other youths that were committed to founding branches in other
Ephraim Leib gave a lot of
time and energy to these activities. Every Saturday, we would meet halfway
between Kurenets and Vileyka with the youths in the area. There we would
spend hours singing and strolling together. During that time we started
organizing HaChsharah ( training to live in an agricultural community
in Israel), founding farming communities in different places in Poland
as educational places/training places to study agriculture. We sent
some members of our branch to such communities. I was among the first
to live there. I went to agricultural community by the name of Trumpeldoria
near Vilna (in Lobodov?). There we lived and worked in an agricultural
community. We learned how to clear and plow fields, plant seed, and
I spent almost two years
in the agricultural community. Ephraim was not able to go to the ranch
since his father had died and he now became responsible for the support
of his family. Despite his many responsibilities, he spent much of his
time volunteering for the Hachalutz movement in Kurenets. In the
year 1925 he immigrated to Israel together with his mother and his siblings,
and after a few months, I joined him in Israel.
I came to Israel together
with a group called Hakovesh. We arrived during the very hot summer
days to Petach Tikva. These were very difficult times. There was much
unemployment, and most of the agricultural work was done at that time
by the Arabs, and owners of orange groves in the area traditionally
gave all the jobs to Arabs who were experienced and worked for modest
compensations. Since we wanted to get those jobs, we had to work very
hard to compete with the Arabs. We had to acclimate ourselves to jobs
that were not familiar to us in Poland, in very hot climate that we
were not used to, working many hours for very small rewards.
Every Saturday we would walk
to Tel Aviv. There was no public transportation yet. We walked through
the sand; there was not one road yet. Not only that, but we couldnt
even hire a horse and carriage to take us because we couldnt pay
for the trip. So, like this we walked in the sand, barefoot, with our
clothes tattered, and hungry.
Ephraim, who came with his
family, was able to purchase a home in the community of Trumpeldor,
which is now the main thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, Dizingoff Street. He
worked in the field of music. The house of Ephraim Kramer became like
an island of Kurenets in the midst of Tel Aviv. Every Kurenetser who
arrived in Tel Aviv would come to him, and he would receive us with
extreme warmth. Since we were all new to Israel and everything was so
foreign to us, Eprhaim Leibs house where everyone was invited
to sleep and to eat was a haven to us. The house was always filled with
guests. It seemed like every day there were new arrivals from Kurenets,
and everyone would gather at Ephraims house.
There were times when the
new immigrants were not able to find shelter when they first arrived,
and they would stay with him for many days. I will never forget our
regular visits, every time we would come during Purim to Tel Aviv and
we would feel like a big happy family when we walked together through
the streets of Tel Aviv.
Some weeks after Ephraim
Leib arrived to Israel he got a good job in Tel Aviv and was able to
support himself. Dizingoff, the mayor of Tel Aviv, liked Ephraim very
much, and wanted to give him a very respectable job in his cabinet.
Ephraim refused to accept the appointment, saying that all the respectable
appointments he wanted to leave behind him in the Diaspora of
Poland. Here he came to Israel to live the life of a hard-working pioneer.
Amongst the family members who came with him was his aunt Nechama Dina, who was like a mother to all of us. She seemed to have unlimited energy. She always prepared our favorite foods for us. She was a pious woman, and in all her actions was dedicated to the youths from Kurenets.
One day, I opened the
newspaper and I started shaking. I read an announcement for the memorial
of Ephraim Ben David Kramer in the cemetery in Hertzlia. I immediately
went to the funeral and stood in shock by his grave. My heart filled
with pain when I saw his mother Sarah Hinda. You could hardly recognize
her. It seemed like old age overtook her from all her pain. This small
Kurenets Island was overcome by waves of grief
The family of Avraham Aharon
as told by his son Reuven,
My father, Avraham Aharon
Alperovich was born in Kurenets, his father was Yehoshua, son of Noach
Zalman. His mother was Rivka. Rivka was related to the Gurevitz family.
My father was one of the first Kurenitzers to make "Aliah"
to Eretz Israel in 1925. In 1927 my father was sent from Eretz Israel
to a Zionist congress in Vilna.
The Soviet authorities erected
another memorial. It is for the Soviet citizen who were
killed on Simchat Torah of 1941 (it does not say that all 54 of them
were Jewish). My fathers brother; Asher as well as my grandparents;
Yehoshua ben Zalman Noach and my grandmother; Rivka perished on that
After spending hours looking
at the graves I needed to relieve myself and there was no public bathroom
in the area. I went to what I thought was just outside the cemetery,
where there were many wild tall bushes. I cleared the area a little
bit to relieve myself, and when I was standing there I felt something
soft underneath my feet. I looked down clearing more bushes and found
a gravestone with Hebrew lettering and it said the name, Reuven Alperovich,
who died at the young age of 25 from Typhus. I was sure it was my ancestor,
the one I was named after and I made a vow that day that I would organize
a committee that t to clear the cemetery and re-erect the gravestones.