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Abraham Berkovich*

By Fruma Tzitreen (Rogovin)- Tel- Aviv

Translated: by Matz Dany and Matz Rivka - A. Berkovich's granddaughter


Abraham Berkovich was a notable and important person in Volozhyn.  For that

reason, I can still clearly recall his character traits. He was very

handsome, of average build, smart and always in a humorous mood.

He came from Minsk. His parents were orthodox Jews and they wished to send

him to study in the Volozhyn yeshivah. However, he preferred secular studies,

and with his father's permission, he attended a high school in Minsk. After

his father's sudden death, he was forced to leave his high school studies so

he could help his mother with the household income. He continued with night

lessons. He learned on his own and read many books. He was able to gain a

great deal of knowledge.

He settled in our town when he married Keile from Volozhyn. He opened a

pharmacy in the most central location, in the market place, in the house of

Mushka Persky (the baker). The pharmacy was decorated in very good taste. Two

of its walls were covered with fitted polished shelves and on them were

medicines in bright glass jars. The floor was polished with red varnish and

covered with carpets, which were made by local farmers.

For a few years the pharmacy was the family's only source of income. When the

children grew up and the parents decided to send them to a high school in

Vilna, Keile opened a fabric store to supplement their income. The business

succeeded and it enabled them to cover the large expenses they had acquired

for their children's education in the big city.

Abraham Berkovich had his hands everywhere. There was not a trade that he was

not proficient in.  He truly had golden hands. He was familiar with various

construction skills (although he never officially studied them). After the

big fire burned the town in the twenties, he remodeled his shop in the

Perelman's building, so he could still make a living. At a later time he

bought from Yehuda Abraham Persky, the ritual slaughter, his burnt bricks

building. He cleared the damage and the water and rebuilt it. His power of

invention was revealed when he invented a round heating   oven covered with

tin-a real invention in Volozhyn of those days. He knew carpentry, and the

furniture in his home, which had an original style, was all hand made.


Prior to every Passover, he would work diligently to beautify and to decorate

his house with many colors and ornamentation. The sight was heart warming and

cheerful. He also excelled in sign painting posters and announcements. He

likewise applied make-up for the theater actors. Those deeds revealed his

artistic talent and creative imagination. In addition, he would read the

Torah and would blow the Shofar in the synagogue. Although in all these

skills he was self-taught, all things he did turned to artwork.

"The Fire Brigade" was his main hobby. He founded it and chaired it until

1935. From that year on, the Polish government took away the management of

the association from the Jews and gave it to the district governor. Berkovich

remained as a consultant and an honorary member only.

Berkovich was always very active and restless (due to his good physical

health). His hands were always occupied with toil. His brain was always

engaged with ideas and plans. For instance he realized that the city needed

an optician. He gained quick knowledge in this area, he brought an optical

instrument and the problem was solved. A story was told about him: once

someone came to him to order glasses. Berkovich checked his vision and found

it quite normal, but the "patient" insisted he needed glasses. Berkovich gave

him clear glasses and asked him to come for a check up after some time. The

man came back and was very satisfied that the "glasses" saved his power of


Many who knew Berkovich mentioned in many occasions his stories and fables,

we'll present some of them.

1. Once a woman came to his pharmacy she was desperate and requested poison

to end her life. Berkovich tried to dissuade her and encourage her to

abandoned her plans but she persisted in her request. Finally he gave her a

large amount of castor oil. She took the medicine and immediately rushed

home, so she can end her life peacefully. When the medicine started working

and she felt pain, she became aware that her dying day isn't better that her

day of birth, and since there is such pain in dying, she decided to stay


2. Here is a tale of two who disagreed and each of them stuck to his opinion.

Once a drunk strolled in the street and made a lot of noise. A policeman

approached him and demanded the drunk to stop yelling. The drunk said: "it's

my business, policeman".

The policeman said: "if you don't obey me I'll arrest you". "That's your

business," replied the drunk.

3. A tale of a painter who painted the walls first and only than the

Ceiling. Berkovich remarked that it is logical to paint the ceiling first as

to not soil the walls. The painter answered angrily: "I work in this

profession over forty years the same way, I don't need any advice from a