Economic activity was in the hands of the Jews. Sarny rose more quickly than its neighbors, those ancient towns, which dominated the past, were left moribund behind her. Sarny had a permanent relationship with Rovno, the nearest large city, and the metropolis of Wolhyn, that was a center of commerce, culture and Zionism, and for the life of the community in the past generation.
Almost everything was brought to Sarny from Rovno, and it was by Rovno that it was suckled and from which it derived influence. Emissaries and lecturers, who visited Rovno, would also make a side trip to Sarny, and there was a symbiotic influence between the cities. The Jews who built Sarny, were largely progressive people from the ranks of the Jewish intelligentsia in the surrounding towns.
They knew how to organize community life in a new place, and establish a congregation in accordance with the better aspects of the tradition of Jewish congregations. Synagogues were built, as well as institutions of help, and provision of food, charity and good will; a Rabbi was recruited, ritual slaughterers and all manner of individuals involved in religious ritual, and a great deal of attention was paid to the education of children in Heders and schools.
Sarny, a life remembered
In the fullness of time, a young and proud generation arose in Sarny, that gave of its energy to the various streams of the national and cultural movements. Capable activists emerged among them, idealists, dreamers, and those who could turn things into reality. The association of the Hebrew teachers in the area, in concert with those teachers that were invited to come, or happened to find their way to Sarny in the years of the twentieth century, supported the flowering of Hebrew culture in that place. A national-Jewish ambience was created in that location.
Its Jewish character melded Zionism and Hasidism together. Accordingly, even the Hasidim the Hasidim of Stolin and Brzezno that were in Sarny, were Zionists, and there was no distance or clash felt between these two streams of thought. The youth of the shtetl, and among them were the children from Hasidic homes, got their education in Hebrew schools, filling the ranks of the national and pioneering youth.
They dreamt of making aliyah to the Land of Israel, and went off to training, and at their first opportunity they made aliyah, using all the means at their disposal. Fund raising for all the national funds, and the remaining initiatives for the Land of Israel, were always organized successfully in Sarny, and as a sign of heightened importance. It served as an example and role model to the many settlements in its vicinity.
It goes without saying, that life in Sarny took on a unique cast. It continued with the accepted way of life of the Jews of Russia and Poland, however, signs of zealotry took root there. While still in their youth, in the small surrounding towns, its builders had rebelled against the appearance of excessive ritual observance, but they did not break faith with tradition. From this, it is possible to understand the inroads of Hasidism in this community, that was considered progressive, yet also retaining the yoke of [religious observance] of Judaism.
Sarny was blessed with activists that had great spirit and dedication, who accomplished a great deal during their time in which they lived in this city. Using their own energy, they created, worked in, and strengthened the community institutions, education, and all public undertakings in that location. A number of them were privileged to make aliyah , but many did not.
The Holocaust, that descended on the Jewish people in the area of Europe , and uprooted a third of its populace, also was the bitter fate that overtook the thousands of honest, and decent, Sarny Jews. This beautiful Jewish settlement, forty years of age, came to an end.
Jewish Sarny was a blessing, and now no longer exists. I remember the city from its beginning, while there were still trenches on both sides of the street, and a small number of oil lamps that lit up the principal streets. Afterwards, with the regularization of the railroad tracks, Sarny became a central station, through which passed trains from Kiev to Petrograd, and from Vilna to Warsaw.
Our town was a focal point for lumber trade, new markets opened, and the city continued to grow. My father, who in the course of 15 years, served as a secretary in the government forestry division, was forced to resign his position because of his Jewishness. He left Brzeznica, and opened a manufacturing store in Sarny. My father was educated, and was one of the few, in those times, that read a Russian newspaper. He was active in the municipal bank, and was honored to be one of the dignitaries who escorted the minister of taxation during his visit our city, a matter that, at that time, was considered an honor.
The years of our childhood were spent in Heder , in which we studied from morning until the darkness of night fell. The students, of these teachers, were the ones who laid the foundations for Zionist endeavor in our city: Nehemiah Nissman, Torok, Gamerman. Zionist activity was conducted illegally. The Czarist police would constantly be snooping after whatever it was that was going on among young people, and in community activities.
There were young people who engaged in disseminating the Zionist ideal. On the Eve of Yom Kippur , there was a [collection] plate put out for the benefit of Keren Kayemet L'Israel , which stood out among the collection plates set out in the various synagogues. We would read, with great satisfaction, in the annual report of the head office in Odessa, about the participation of our city in the collection of funds.
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Sarny took a respected position among the donors. In the year , when I studied at the of Rabbi Aharonson in Kiev, I came into possession of several Hebrew books, with the thought that, when I returned home, I would organize a Hebrew library. Before the founding of the library, [there was] ' The Voice of the Reader,' that was printed in secret at night at the printer Szpilszer. When we learned that the wealthy man Aleksandrov got married, and his Zionist wife was from Bobruisk, I was given the mission of giving her 'The Voice of the Reader' in the hopes that we could interest her in our work, and that she would extend some help to us.
And so it happened, that once, while she passed by the Heder of Edelstein, on a stroll, I stood with a friend of mine and we conversed in Hebrew. When she heard our conversation, she stopped. We handed her 'The Voice of the Reader. When the revolution broke out, the news was received in our city with feelings of fervor, but also with reserve. Young people waxed enthusiastic in anticipation of this powerful change in life.
It was happy in anticipation of the repeal of all of the burdensome constraints placed on Jews. When the first parade was organized to celebrate the day of the revolution, there was a thought among the worshipers in the synagogue, that the Jews need to stand on the sidelines for a while.
But the young people did not heed the advice of the dignitaries, and gathered together in the street in order to participate in the march. When the parade passed our house, in which the pharmacy of Barzam was located, the important people and the elders of our city stood there.
One of them took a small red banner out of his pocket, and called out a blessing on the revolution in Russian. After that, he hid the small banner again, in his jacket. The Zionist movement began to get organized. A dramatic club was founded, and the presentations aroused considerable interest amidst the young people and the larger resident populace. The first group of HeHalutz was organized.
Young people began to travel to the central cities of Russia in order to obtain an education, and upon their return during vacations, brought back new ideas with them. In that same period, a municipal committee of the Zionist Histadrut was founded, in which the ' Tze'irei Tzion' and the Histadrut also participated. It led all of the Zionist and cultural work in the city.
The political events in Russia disrupted the tranquility and joy also in our city. The governments kept changing: Germans, Petlura, Bolsheviks and Poles. I recollect that each and every gathering required its own special permit. The submission of the request was turned over to a Jewish translator, A German officer participated in these gatherings, which were held in the movie hall of Rosenberg. The first ' Tze'irei Tzion' club was set up in the home of Steinworcel, Two flags, a national and a red, were drawn on the wall of the club.
The young people spent the opening night in revelry until midnight. When we returned home, we suddenly heard shots and explosions. It was only in the morning that the nature of the incident became clear. In our city, there were two trains sitting with soldiers of Petlura, and at the same time, the Germans were still in control of the city. The Petlura forces decided to assault the Germans, and drive them from the city. Early in the morning, we were called by Goldin and Aharon Zandweiss, that worked in the Refugee Relief Committee, in order to help them, since, during the battle, they had been on the train, and were wounded.
A hard period then ensued. The Germans stood ready to leave the city, and the Petlura forces stood ready to seize their place. Having been tried by fire as a member of the security force of the ' Tze'irei Tzion' in Kharkov, I immediately made the effort to organize an independent self-defense unit in the city. Together with Pinchas Zhuk, we assembled all of the young people on Saturday, in the synagogue of the merchants, and with the participation of the Ukrainian municipal leader, we announced the formation of such a security force.
The teacher, Nachman Wiszcina, and Rosenberg, that had served in the army in the past, were appointed as the first of the directors of the security force. We set up its headquarters in the house of Lieberman, and Zhuk and myself were its first officers. The officers of the Petlura army encountered difficulty with their plundering, which our young folk disrupted.
At their demand, a meeting of the citizenry of the city was arranged at the synagogue, and the officers of the Petlura army demanded a decision on the dissolution of the security forces. To our sorrow, the community did not understand the circumstances, and the assemble decided to disband the security forces. I, and my comrade Zhuk felt that we were being subverted, and because of this, we forsook the city of our birth the following day: I to Kharkov, and he to Odessa. When, in the end, the Bolsheviks captured the city, I returned to Sarny. The stores were shut down.
Zionist work ceased. After this, the control of the city was taken in capture by the Poles, and then the arrests began.
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It fell to my lot to be among the first who traveled to Warsaw. I connected there with the central offices of 'Tarbut' and ' Tze'irei Tzion. From those days, I remember the celebration in remembrance of San Remo. A huge organized parade was arranged, hat passed through all of the central streets, and even received the blessing of the Polish head of state. In the evening, the festive gathering went inside to the movie hall of Rosenberg.
In the year , I made aliyah to the Land of Israel. I visited Sarny again in Sign In. Download the Study Guide. Study Pack. Sarny Short Guide Overview. About the Author.
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