Translated from Yiddish by Alex P. Korn. Some gaps in translations are due to unreadable sections.
In 1925, Dweira Mindla Kagan has not seen her husband, Abraham Levik, for nearly five years because he is in Kiev, Ukraine, in Soviet Russia and she is living in her parents' home in Pinsk, Poland, a capitalist country. She had fled Kiev when becoming pregnant with her daughter, Chana, out of fear that she would lose another child after having lost twin baby girls in around 1920 because of the terrible conditions in revolutionary Russia. In this postcard, Dweira writes about their attempt to arrange immigration to Palestine with the help of Dweira's father's brother, Gershon Joseph Lifshitz, who has been living in Jerusalem for decades:
Postcard to: A.L. Levik,
12/18 Koroienko (or Koroisenko or Korolenko) Street.
Sept. 7, 1925
Dear Abrashe (or Avrashe) [Abraham]!
I have received your letter of Aug. 24 together with Uncles [Gershon Lifshitz] letter. You should remember everything that Uncle writes to you. We have also received this week a letter from Uncle in which he informs us that the invitation (demand or claim) has already been sent out to you. And, he writes that if we have already received a letter from you saying that you have already received the invitation, then we must straightaway send him another 25 dollars, because he has placed that money with other people. He has arranged with that other man that if the invitation will get to you, then he will pay him back the rest of the money which is owed to him. For that reason, we are waiting for a letter from you so that we will know if we have to sent the money or not to Palestine and also the same to you . Considering further to your writing in the letter, you indicate that my letter with the newspaper clippings has not arrived. I have written to you in a letter that you should into
and take off 20 dollars off, which I have given to your parents. As of today it is already two weeks that I have given them the money. If they be willing, they can give you more; you should take it from them. Father and Sister with me, healthy, send you greetings. Chanasia [daughter Chana Levik] sends regards and kisses to you. Everyone is still sick; the coughing torments her. She has become helpless (literally "half a child"). May G-d permit that it should pass over all the more quickly, Vera [Dweira Mindla Kagan].
[on back, sideways on margin]
I send regards to all family and friends, special regards to the Illivtzke family.
In this follow-up postcard from Dweira, she tells Abraham that it is his decision to make on whether he should stay in Kiev or leave, and whether she should rejoin him in Kiev (They never did make it to Palestine. Their reunion came in 1928 in Havana, Cuba.):
Postcard to: A.L. Levik,
12/18 Koroienko (or Koroisenko or Korolenko) Street.
Sept. 30, 1925
Dear Abrashe (or Avrashe) [Abraham],
I receive two postcards from you this week: one dated Sept. 14 and the other Sept. 15. You again ask me about traveling: where you should go and should you simply stay in Kiev? Do as you understand best and in whatever direction your heart pulls you. I do not want to give you any opinion at this time. When you find out when you will receive the visa, I will then send you the rest of the money for the trip.
Everyone together sends you regards. I send regards to Father, Reveke [Rebecca, Abraham's sister] with all the rest of the family and friends. Stay healthy. Vera. [Dweira]
Chanusia [daughter Chana] sends regards and kisses to you. You will make a fuss that I should come to Kiev. Make an invitation (demand or claim) for me; then I will come straightaway. From my side there will be no obstacle.
Eliezar Kagan was for many years the respected gabbai (sexton) of the Vokszolner Yeshiva in Pinsk. Vokszol is a Russian word for railroad, indicating the institution was located near a train station. The yeshiva was both a house of religious learning and a synagogue. The following document is a contract under which Eliezar purchased two seats in the synagogue for himself and his wife, Sarah:
WRIT OF SALE
THE POWER OF THIS WRIT OF SALE, given by us, the undersigned---the administrators appointed for the VOKZOL BET MEDRASH [house of study] on Nikolayevski Street here in the city of Pinsk---to Reb Eli'ezer the son of Reb Avraham Moshe Kahn [Kagan] is to be as Testimony and Evidence in his hand that we, the undersigned, have sold to him, with the agreement of all the administrators of the aforementioned Bet Medrash, TWO SEATS in the aforementioned Bet Medrash:
One seat in the men's section, No. 26, and
One seat in the women's gallery, No. 102.
These two aforementioned seats WE HAVE SOLD TO THE AFOREMENTIONED Reb Eli'ezer the son of Avraham Moshe Kahn AS A COMPLETE TRANSACTION and with the compliance of all the administrators of the aforementioned Bet Medrash; and, in exchange, we have received from the aforementioned Reb Eli'ezer Kahn full payment; and from this day these two aforementioned seats are the property of the aforementioned Reb Eli'ezer son of Reb Avraham Moshe without any claims or counterclaims, excuses, or appeals whatsoever; and, it is within his right to sell the two seats or to bequeath them to whomsoever he shall desire, but only with the agreement of the administrators and his neighbors who sit on either side of him.
All of this was effected with a handshake [to seal the agreement] and with confirmation of agreement (literally "complete transaction by means of exchanging a kerchief" [as a symbol of the exchange]); and, as evidence we have placed our signatures this day, the twenty‑fifth of the month of Sivan of the year 5588 (as we count the years) [Saturday 7 June 1828, probably a translation error] here, in the city of Pinsk.
Signed: Isaac Bromberg
Signed: Eli'ezer son of Reb Yitzhak Leib Shteinberg
Signed: Yitzhak son of Reb Yisra'el Shteinman
Signed: Chaim Poleiker [or Poliaker?]
Pinsk 1/11 [Could this be the true date, January 1911?]
Stamp: "The Seal of the Great Bet HaMedrash of Vokszol, Pinsk"
In this undated letter from Eliezar Kagan, he sends his blessings to his children in America and thanks them for money he has received from them:
with G‑d's help
Sunday of the week of the Torah reading, Pinchas [mid-July]
To my dear and honoured son, Master [?] Avraham Moshe Kahan [son Morris Cohen],
also the dear Mrs. Beile Heni [Morris' wife, Belle], may you live long, and also my dear grandchildren, Feivelle Shimahlle/Simahlle [?] and __[r]kelle [possibly Sarah Feigelle (Shirley Cohen) and Layzerke (Leslie Cohen) or Philip and Seymour Cohen/Kagan], may they live long; and to [my?] dear daughter [Yache]t [?], Rivkah, Rachel [daughter Rachel "Ray" Kagan Friend], may you live long; as well as [?] to my dear son Master [?] Yerachmi'el[?] Shimil[?] [Samuel Ronald Cohen], may he live long:
We thank you for the money that you sent us. May G‑d, may He be blessed, repay you many times over. We took pleasure in what you, Shomil [Samuel Cohen], wrote that he [sic] can come to travel here this year to see each other. May G‑d, may He be blessed, see to it that you [singular] keep your word. Rivke [sic] [Uncertain who this is. His wife was Sarah.] has already written to you [plural] about us, which is the reason that I have nothing to write [now]. Firstly, I am ____ from a vein [??].
From me, your father, who wishes you all complete health and livelihood,
Moshe Kolodny, son-in-law of Eliezar Kagan, sends to Eliezar's son Samuel Cohen the text of a eulogy for Eliezar's tombstone. The eulogy is in the form of a poem, each line rhyming in Hebrew, with an acrostic spelling out his name, Rabbi Eliezer the Faithful, and tells something about his life and personality:
Enclosed [with this], I am sending you the wording of Father's tombstone, may peace be upon him, translated into jargon [i.e. Yiddish] in order that what is written upon it be understandable. The initial letters in the inscription is the name of dear Father, "Rabbi Eliezer Ne'eman" [Ne'eman means faithful].
---From me, your dear brother‑in‑law, Moshe Chaim Kolodni,
shochet of Minsk
A MARKER FOR A LIVING [OR DEAR] SOUL
A Remembrance for the pure soul of the person of R. Eliezer
son of Reb Avraham Moshe, may his memory be for a blessing,
‑ Kahan ‑
within this holy plot of earth.
Impoverished have we all become after you,
When the Crown on our head was wrenched from us.
Pray, may his merit guard over us!
Faith in G‑d was his Wellspring.
For thirty‑two years as sexton in his House of Study
He used to rise early in the morning to [do] his service,
Working faithfully for the public's needs
[Engaged in the needs of the congregation with his faithfulness].
Your abode now is amongst the holy ones;
[For], during your life you were a maker of peace between people.
A soul of purity was his.
A sincere [pure] and honest man has gone to his rest.
He never abandoned his diligence at his Mishna [Study] Society;
"Ne'eman" was his name until his death.
[By the name of "faithfulness" we called him until his passing.]
He departed from this life at one o'clock in the afternoon of Wednesday of the week of the Torah reading portion "Mattot/Massa'ai," coming to eternal rest on the same day,
the 23rd of Tammuz of the year 5688/ [Wednesday, July 11, 1928] .
May His Soul Be Bound Up In The Bonds Of Everlasting Life
After Eliezar Kagan's death, officers of the Vokszolner Yeshiva in Pinsk, where Eliezar had been the sexton, asks Eliezar's children in America for a memorial donation to the yeshiva:
I claim the right to call you "children" because of my connection with your father. I used to stay at the house ---all like one family---and moreover for 32 years, for which I am grateful to your father, peace be upon him. In health, with G‑d's help, he bound us together, from which I claim the right to call you "children." I ask you to send your donation in accordance with your ability, and you will be honored, and I shall see to it that the donation will remain an eternal remembrance for your parents. And, when it becomes possible you can send the money direct to my address:
74 Pilsudski Street,
It will be easier for us to send it to Chaim Polliack's address. I wish you health and strength, happy wishes, good wishes for all you desire.
Another Vokszolner Yeshiva trustee writes to Samuel Cohen and mentions a dispute between two different Jewish burial societies in Pinsk over costs for Eliezar Kagan's burial:
Mister Shomel Kahn:
I received your friendly letter. I am very thankful for your writing [to me]. I am always ready to answer you, provided that you have the time available for me to write you often. To me your letter was a gift from a good friend. Your sister [Malka Kagan Kolodny] certainly has transmitted to you some periods from [history of?] my life. And, I have been at all times friendly with people, particularly during these years in which I am not engaged in any business. You should not be surprised that in my previous letter I have indicated that your letter made an impression upon me, for I am very well familiar with American life in that each and every one is constantly "busy." While Sellek [?] is also "busy," and, when I discerned in your letter that friendliness of yours to people and to all [their] vital needs, I became very well impressed. With such as these, the Jewish people can take pride in their children who are found [scattered] in all parts of the world and who, as Jews, are bound at all times to their people.
Further concerning what your brother‑in‑law [Moshe Kolodny] has written to you regarding the burial society's breaking of the last will and testament of your father, peace be upon him. His meaning is [that it is] not true, but certainly not [an abrogation of his] honor. This is a municipal conflict [of] one [burial] society with the other; that is, we should have restrained the smaller burial society. In the middle of the city stands an old cemetery. This cost several hundreds of dollars. We searched for money, and, when we saw that the Pinsk cemetery did not [sic] have such an expensive gravestone, we made it known that the money from the will was not correctly transferred. It is certain that when you yourself come to Pinsk for the Yohrtzeit you will give much more.
When I came to ask why they wanted another 20 dollars, they asked me for what reason did I request a cemetery plot for which they would not give to someone else for [even] 100 dollars. The society took the 20 dollars, and then I came to ask your brother‑in‑law what he had written to you. Let Father, peace be upon him, cost you money one more time. To this the argument should be made that, as I know, your father, peace be upon him, was worth to you in the thousands. That is the latest on this matter.
Now I can give you an answer to your second letter with the 25 dollars which we have received from you. All of us trustees and all of the worshippers of the Bet Medrash of Vokzol thank you many times over for your reminiscences of your old home and shul where you spent your childhood years. When people sit themselves down around an oven to warm themselves up, I say to them that it is not the stove that is warming you but rather it is the children of our people, who remember where their fathers used to sit winters at daybreak to recite the Psalms and the Daily Readings next to that warm stove.
We all wish you health and fortune in your business so that you will always have something to send to your old home where the shul, which you always remember, has been so well helped by your donations. Let me write that you, as well as your family, should stay healthy, and then G‑d will help you one more time to send us money. You can send it to my address because Bromberg's house is very far, and he comes to shul only for Shabbos. I am there daily, and on a day that he needs something he comes to me. You can enquire if that is correct from your brother‑in‑law and sister.
Eleven months after Eliezar Kagan's death, leaders of the Vokszolner Yeshiva in Pinsk, citing his will, request of Eliezar Kagan's children a donation for a renovation project at the yeshiva:
With G‑d's help, Wednesday, July 3, 5689 
In honour of the deceased, Reb Eliezer, the son of Reb Avraham Moshe, peace be upon him.
It is already 30 days to the first Yohrtzeit [anniversary] of your [plural] deceased father. All of us, the congregation of the Vokzolner Bet Medrash [House of Study] in which your deceased father was the chief trustee [gabbai] for 32 years, have the honor of delivering to you a letter of consolation for the first Yohrtzeit of the death of your holy father whom we have never forgotten to this very day. And 10 months have already passed in which we have waited with anticipation for your arrival here. We heard from your sister [Malka Kagan Koldny] that you are not coming here. Therefore, we have found it necessary to send you, with respect, on behalf of all the congregation, a letter of consolation.
May the Lord, may He be blessed, comfort you and the holy ghost of your father, peace be upon him, who always had aspired to beautify our Bet Medrash both spiritually as well as materially. May you also feel at ease and, with this merit, may you be protected from all evil and may you have luck in all paths that you travel upon.
And, as your father, peace be upon him, had instructed in his will to prepare masonry work on two sides of the Bet Medrash as a memorial to his soul---which truly was the entire foundation of the Bet Medrash's upkeep---it is proper that it be fulfilled through [his] heirs. [It was] just then, in your father's last days, [that] we asked him if he was perhaps thinking of leaving behind something as a memorial to your deceased mother [Sarah Steinberg Kagan], who also visited the Bet Medrash her entire life and who, as a righteous woman, was certainly worthy to have something as a memorial in our holy Bet Medrash. He then said: "We shall yet see." It was only because of his sudden weakness that he did not arrange to take care of the matter. And so, we waited through the first year of mourning, and, now that we are making considerable renovations in the Bet Medrash, which will amount to 2000 zlotys---which is about 250 dollars---we have the honor of proposing to you that, for the Yohrtzeit of your holy father, we wish to make a respectable memorial "because his sons and his daughters contributed charity in memory of his soul" and [hope] that you also will wish to make it.
Therefore, we, the trustees of the Vokzolner Bet Medrash, request that this charity be contributed for the renovations of our Bet Medrash in which your deceased parent stood at the forefront as trustee for 32 years. This critical donation will also be a holy memorial to the name of your deceased mother who has certainly earned it. We are hereby placing before you this spiritual acquisition in your parents' city in our Bet Medrash for an everlasting memorial. Because we are now in great need, we are hoping that our request will be fulfilled with your donation and, if so, you will send the donation to your sister. We are requesting that you write us a few words to our address because, when a money order comes from America, it often happens that one does not know from where [it comes] and to whom one should give the greater portion.
Na[ftali] Meir son of Reb Itzhak Leib Shteinberg
Our address: Ch. Polak
A Vokszolner Yeshiva officer thanks Samuel Cohen's business partner for their $25 donation for firewood for the yeshiva in Pinsk:
Mister Lazzer Behun
Firstly, I have come to write to you that we have received your donation for wood which you have sent us, and we have indeed made the payment for the wood. Your name is inscribed deep in our hearts. We feel it as if it were a dark evening as the moon begins to shine bringing forth light and happiness. I believe that when you get together [socially] in family‑like company, you are reminded of the European lifestyle. The shul is the entire social life for the surrounding Jews. It stands asking itself whether our shul has already been abandoned. All of us trustees and worshippers most certainly thank you many times over, and we hope that G‑d will give you health and fortune in your business and that you should derive proud pleasure from your family life. I hope that G‑d will grant all of you a good season so that you will send us someone generous to allocate a wagonload of wood to warm up the poor children. You can ask about this from Kahn's sister [Samuel Cohen's sister Dweira Mindla Kagan] in Cuba; she knows correctly that I look around to see what is required. I shall not write further on this.
A trustee of the Vokszolner Yeshiva in Pinsk thanks Samuel Cohen for the $25 donation, which was used to purchase firewood, suggests another donation to pay for a new Torah ark curtain, and invites him to visit Pinsk, where he will be able to find a good wife:
Protector Sh. Kahn
With great pleasure I read your words in the letter which I just received on Simchat Torah. You can imagine then that it became a double joy for me to read your letter: The first was that all of you are in good health, for which we have G‑d to thank financially [? sic] for being so steadfast; and the second was that you have not forgotten our Bet Medrash, having fulfilled my request with your donation of 25 dollars, and, moreover, the day having been before Yom Kippur eve, with the hope that the Great Creator will see to it that you may see, for each single dollar, a thousand. May you and your [business] partner keep in mind how much your donation was needed by our Bet Medrash.
I received your letter [telling] that you are sending the 25 dollars before Yom Tov. So we bought wood for 35 dollars and gave 10 dollars for a deposit, and, after we receive your last 25 dollars after Yom Tov, we shall pay the [remaining] 25 dollars. In exchange for the wood, I send you and your partner my [own] heartfelt thanks and the best thanks from all our worshipers, who will remember and thank you each and every day that it is warm in the Bet Medrash because of your money. I hope, if G‑d permits, that you will come during the summer; you will have missed seeing for what purpose your money will have been put to use during the High Holidays. On Simchat Torah [?], the Yohrtzeit, we made a prayer in remembrance of the dead for your parents and for those of your partner. Every one commemorating the dead must do this.
Now, my dear children---I reserve the right to call you children because of my ties to your dearly departed parents, and to all of you, their children. I have not written so much [i.e. to you] this winter [uncertain] as to my own family. Your sister [Dweira Mindla Kagan Levik] who lives in Cuba can report this [fact] to you. Hence, I would wish that there remain a constant remembrance in the Bet Medrash of you, which we will always see with our eyes from the money which you have sent us, which is a way of remembering in one's heart. With that, one will not forget; it will remain a constant reminder of your family.
I wish to suggest to you an attractive---indeed, an exquisite---Torah ark curtain [parokhet] of three arshin [Russian measure of length, 1 arshin equals 28 inches] in length in addition to a kapporet [a short, overhanging curtain above and over the parokhet] and a mantle for the Torah scroll. Upon the Torah ark curtain will be inscribed in golden words the text which I am writing for you here. If you wish to make this together with your partner and if the both of you wish the same thing, we can inscribe the text upon the Torah ark curtain under a single name.
I will take care, among all my [other] important duties, to bring it into the Bet Medrash on all the holy days and to hang them up on the Holy Ark. If you want, you can make the same Torah ark curtain over there and send it to me. Then, custom duties will have to be paid, hopefully not a lot. And if you ask for it [to be done here], you can send me money and I will make the same thing. And, then, when you come to me, if G‑d wills it, in the summer and visit our Bet Medrash, then you will take much pleasure in it. That is my advice. And, indeed, you can [do it] as you understand [it best].
Dear Shomme, concerning your visit in Pinsk, your stay will be treated as one for a guest. Here, with us, a son lives with great hardship in Poland and there is no hope to be had for improving his fate; while, American Jews are lucky that they have left Poland. I wish to give you the advice, as a father would, that when you are in Pinsk you should get married here. I will find you the most attractive miss with good virtues, and from a nice family. I understand that you definitely do not insist on a dowry. You could ask for and get the best dowry; people know what kind of a family you are descended from. Therefore, when you take my guidance, send me your photograph and I will begin investigating. And this shall remain a secret between us until your arrival in Pinsk. And I hope that you will thank me for my advice.
There is no need to write more, my children. I send warm greetings to you and to your partner and everlasting good wishes.
Pinsk 30/10 [October 1930?]
The Vokszolner Yeshiva trustee sends Samuel Cohen two possible texts to choose from to be embroidered on the proposed Torah ark curtain:
The first version is from the middle brother [Samuel Cohen]. We shall have to write his name under it. And, the second version is from you with your [business] partner. I shall do it as you [best] understand it. Should you [plural] intend to make the first version you will certainly memorialize your father, and if you wish, you can make the second version. If you make the Torah ark curtain with you and your partner, I reckon that it is easier to make it here in Pinsk. Firstly, everything here costs less, and, secondly, the custom duties [for importing it from America] can cost a lot.
From me, your friend,
alef B__rg [illegible signature, but consistent with its being Isaac Bromberg]
This Curtain for the Torah Ark
Was donated by the sons of the beloved and respected deceased,
Reb Eli'ezer Kahn, may peace be upon him,
in remembrance of their father,
who served many years in the Bet Medrash as Gabbai
Shomi [sic] Kahn
This Curtain for the Torah Ark
was donated by:
the honourable Reb Shomil [Samuel Cohen] the son of Reb Eli'ezer Kahn
and the honourable Reb Avraham [Samuel's business partner] the son of Reb Yosef Bahun
as a remembrance that, in the days of their youth,
they prayed in this Bet Medrash.
This day ... of the year ...
Malka Kagan Kolodny sends a Rosh Hashanah letter from Pinsk to her brother Samuel Cohen and his family in America:
September 12, 1933
stamp: "May you be inscribed and be secured for a good year."
Dear brother Shomelle and his dear wife and their dear children:
You should all live long and stay healthy. My dears, I, with my family, transmit to you a hearty Mazel Tov from our sister's Srulle's [uncertain who this is]. May the Everlasting One help us all that we should total delight from her. May they be healthy and lucky and have long life, and may the Everlasting One give aid to us and to ours for a good beginning. Now, dear brother, write how you and your dear family are doing. It has already been a very long time that I have not received any letter from you. Dear Shomelle, I am not accusing you because I know that time is so very much limited that it does not occur to you to write.
From me, I can write you that I and my family are thankful to the Everlasting One that we are in good health. It is only from my Itzelle [her son Itzhak Kolodny] that I have very great anguish. His wife was very ill and they took her to Lwow [L'viv, Ukraine]. She was pregnant---the Everlasting One should help us only for life. In the meanwhile I hear nothing at all.
My son Avraham [Kolodny] with his wife and child are thankful to the Everlasting One for health. The Everlasting One should help everyone with health and livelihood. My daughter Henke [Henke Kolodny Rabinovich] is already 6 weeks without Mottelle [is this a nickname for her husband, Mordechai Rabinovich, or is it the town of Motele, now known as Motol?] in Gert/Gest [a place name? possibly Gertsa, Chernivtsi, Ukraine] while she is still left alone away from Mottelle. My son Meirke [Meyer Kolodny] is learning at the yeshivah in Kleck [Kletsk, Belarus]. May the Everlasting One continue to give us aid in the New Year with health and livelihood with which we can sustain ourselves.
Now, dear Shomelle, I can write to you that we have already, thank G‑d, rented out our father's house, may peace be upon him. We had a lot of grief for two years when it was empty. It was advertised without an oven, and inside we made alterations for an oven because making 4 [?] is a great expense these days in Pinsk. One room remains empty but we have already advertised and people are already coming and going. It should be rented out; because of today's taxes nobody can live at all. The Everlasting One should only help. It should be a good and a healthy tenant. I turn my hopes to the Everlasting One that He should not abandon us.
Dear brother, write to me what kind of a person Rachel's [Rachel "Ray" Kagan Friend] husband [Herman Friend] is, whether he is a professional, and where does he come from, whether from our region or from there. I want to know everything. I received greetings from Vitke Sheiman [?]. Her mother wrote that he is a very respectable young man, handsome and learned. In short, I had very great pleasure from the greetings. But the pleasure is not complete because I have great sorrow from my Itzelle's [Itzak's] wife.
As our mother, peace be upon her, used to say: "There is not one minute without hard‑heartedness." The Everlasting One should soon help us so that the New Year will arrive with health and with good livelihood, that one should hear other good tidings from afar. I end writing my letter. May you have the best of health, and we wish you all a good and a lively year with health and with good livelihood.
Your sister, Malka
My [husband] Moshe [Kolodny] as well as my children send regards and kisses to you, your dear children, Sarah Feigelle [Shirley Cohen] and Layzerke [Leslie Cohen], and wish that you have great joy. Write me, indeed answer the letter, and write everything. And how are Dinke [Dweira Mindla Kagan Levik] and her family doing?
Experienced amateur genealogist Martin Fischer is available to conduct freelance family history projects including searching online databases, creating family trees, editing memoirs and developing genealogical Web sites. For more information, go to http://www.the-efa.org/, click on find a freelancer, and type Martin Fischer in the search box, or go to http://www.apgen.org/, click on search by name, and type Fischer and Martin in the search boxes.