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Friday, March 13, 1953
African Jewish Paper
By A. Sarid
It was once a home
VASHKI, A tiny modest shtetl. One
unassuming hamlet out of the 160 Jewish communities in Lithuania.
Their surroundings communities generally affected the external facade of these little villages. If, for example, in close proximity to the shtetl a sizeable city was located, the little town would experience certain development. There were sidewalks, the streets were paved and the avenues were illuminated with electric lamps. Opposite to that. If there was no large city in the adjoining areas, the small town would be sinking in mud most of the year. Vashki belonged to the second category. No pavement whatsoever was insight, what you would see is a fraction of a broken sidewalk running along a distance of one and a half streets passing near the synagogue and the gentile place of worship.
Time have passed, the little town Vashki grew in years, with out any means of communication to the rest of the world: without a train and even without a bus connection to faraway towns.
Despite all of these, the Jews of Vashki traveled out to distant location through all corners of the wide world. They used wagons and sleds. Every day the coachmen would bring some passengers to a near by shtetl named Posval.
From there they could take a mini trainto the shtetl Yanishkel. Once you have reached Yanishkel you were able to take trains that will eventually bring you to the heart of civilization, a wide world would open for you.
Young men from Vashki were usually amongst the best students in the Yeshivot (Talmudical Academies). They attended the famous Lithuanian Torah schools: the Slobodke yeshivas, Telz, and the yeshivas in Ponevez.
Some of Vashkis Jewish young men became doctors and engineers. The last administrator of the largest Yiddish newspaper in Lithuania "Yiddishe Shtime" (Jewish Voice) was a young man from Vashki by the name Chaim Trapire. Our Vashki - our small Yiddish island. We would receive the newspapers a day later. Letters would take days to reach us. However it was not a big deal and it was not a problem. The Jews of Vashki were never in a hurry- they can afford to wait
. What "good" news that the newspapers are usually bringing?
And in this little town we had everything we needed: we had a Rabbi, Jews who learned daily the Holy Books, we had a Shochet (Jewish, ritual slaughterer), a Hebrew school and a public bath and a Mikveh (pool for ritual immersion). There were some, but not too many gentiles in town. Gentiles are a must in the Jewish communities, so that the Jews would have people with whom to do business.
Gentiles and Jews lived in peace next to each other. They call each other by the first names and would also add the name of someones father. A deep friendship exists between doctor Ganandski and the entire gentile population in the region. The gentiles feared him. They were fearful of him very much like they feared God. They feared the doctor more than they feared their priest. (can you imagine?). Doctor Ganandski was very close with the government officials. His opinion and suggestion was as powerful as the law.
During an inspection day an appointed committee would walks around the community to inspect how proficient was the cleaning of each property, yard, etc. And if the doctor finds would find out that toilet (of course outside in the yard) was
not kept clean, the doctor would order to write a ticket and the poor Jew would have to pay a fine or go to prison. Doctor Ganandski would always walk at the head of the committee, immediately behind him walked the head of the police, members of the city government and a few policemen.
On the other hand, the doctor was very devoted to his profession. He was always ready to serve the sick. Day or night, rain or snow, he traveled by a wagon or sled for many miles in order to bring healing to the sick peasants. The peasants call the doctor mostly at night, because as a rule during the daytime the sick person would feel better. The Lithuanian peasants will not call the doctor unless the situation is desperate. He traveled from village to village to bring healing to the sick and poor peasants. And when he came to a sick man or woman, he was not only a doctor, he was everything: a nurse, he delivered the babies, a medic, a pharmacist, and many times he washed the patient. Doctor Ganandski used the opportunity to educate and to teach the ignorant peasants: "O Antonas, says the doctor, - you are not a Christian! You are without a God in your heart. You left your wife a week with such a high fever in such a desperate situation and did not call the doctor." Or something else: "You have a large fertile piece of land, you had a good year. What have you done? Instead of buying things for your home and family, instead of buying bedsheets, (you should not have to sleep on straw), you spent all the money on whiskey. This is not the way for a Christian man to be"
The doctor did not ask for money. The peasants knew that the doctor would accept any amount given to him. And if the farmer had no money to pay the doctor, he would give him a dozen eggs or some other products. The doctor was very devoted to his patients and the peasants liked him very much. When doctor Ganandski's name was mentioned the peasants moved their hands in a cross. The Jews of Vashki didn't like the doctor as much; they weree not comfortable with him. Why is he so close to the gentiles?
Why is he so assimulated? Why must he speak with his son only in the Lithuanian language? The Jews didn't respect him much.
Instead the Jews had their beloved person, it was Tsaytele, whom they call Shaytele. Shaytele was a young lady who came to Vashki from Anikst. She was the director of town's branch of the people's bank. The Jews of the town left her very much, because of her good and noble heart. If a note (just like a check from a bank) had expired and was not paid or redeemed on time, the good Shaytele did not let the poor Jew pay any penalty, she postponed the redemption of the note a week or two weeks with her own money she redeemed the note or she issued a new note only because she wanted to help her fellow Jews. Every Eve of the market day, a crowd of men, women, mostly Jews, would stand by the bank they would be waiting to get a loan. And the wonderful Shaytele would make everyone so happy. No interest would be deducted. She would write the given loans in a plain booklet. Is this a bank? Shaytele turned it into a "gemilut chesed" (charity place, where loans are given without any interest to the poor).
The main office of the people's bank, the center was in Koveno. The officials were not happy with what was going on in the bank in Vashki. The lady director of the bank in Kovno called Shaytele on the phone and warned her that this kind of situation will not last too long and she will have to go. And Shaytele answers very calmly: "So, I will go." Her answer helped. If Shaytele should leave Vashki, who would come in her place? Who would want to live in such a tiny town? Would the merchants of Vashki let her go? Never. They would organize a protest and march against the leaders of the main bank in Kovno. They would tart and fight for her.
Despite her deeds and good heart, the Jews were not always happy with her, just because of her conduct and behavior. Every night she had a fling, having a good time. Shaytele wass a very beautiful young lady. Her face was round, her eyes were huge and black. She was all around Jewish. Very often she seemed tired. Shaytele loved the night, she hated the need to sleep. In Sleep she found something morbid it sent a hint of death. And she hated death and she loved life. As soon as the dusk arrived, her room would become a center where young people gathered to have a good time. They sang, danced, amused each other, etc. etc. Her room was in the public school building at the very end of town. Her room is a gathering place for young residents of Vashki and for young Jewish strangers who from time to time came for a visit in this old town. The nightly parties lasted the entire night. The Jews of Vashki looked with resentment at the wild behavior of Shaytele. Such a fine goodhearted young lady should not behave this way. But The next morning would come and Shaytele would be in the bank, her face and eyes so beautiful and her smile so becoming.
Now Shaytele sleeps her quite sleep days and nights, winters and summers, together with Vashkien Jews, all in the same deep mass grave. I just want to know how did the Christians killed their beloved wonderful "Ponas Doktoran" (Honorable Doctor) with Christian love the way the doctor taught them. The dear doctor Ganandski taught them to love each other, to help the needy, poor, and unfortunate. And maybe they killed him with cold fury and ferocity as they did to the rest of the Jews of Vashki. The End Translated from Yiddish by Solomon Maniskewitz
P.S. The picture on the front page represents the society "Linat Hatsedek" "Mospiel (hostel) for the poor" in Vashki, Lithuania. They helped the poor and needy. Standing from right to left: Lea Boyer, Tsvi Yosef Chayos, Shalomo Zundeleritz and Rose Hayos. Sitting: Sara Hofenburg (now in USA), Meir Dorfman. The photo belongs to Mr. Yisrael Lurie. The four perished in the Holocaust.