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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