try and give you a brief summary concerning the "history" of our association of
survivors of our shtetls Kobylnik and Myadel in Israel.
came on Aliya to Israel in 1948, I found 16 survivors from my shtetl Kobylnik,
most of them "chalutzim" who had come on Aliya before the Holocaust. At that
time, more survivors from Kobylnik and from Myadel (including your grandmother
Henya and her children) started coming to Israel. Warm familial ties grew
between the "old timers" and the newcomers which greatly contributed to our
Gordon was the initiator and force behind the establishment of the association
for Kobylnik survivors in Israel. He was the living power who established the
yearly meetings that were held in Haifa on Chol Hamoed Sukkot, commemorating
that date in 1942 when the remaining 120 Jews in Kobylnik were murdered.
opinion, the idea to establish the association stemmed mostly in order to
remember those who perished and also for everyone to meet once a year. In
addition, we also saw that a similar association had already existed in the
States until the end of the second World War headed by Harry (Aharon) Narotzky.
Members of this association in the US helped their relatives who lived in the
shtetl at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as the needy of
the shtetl in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Approximately 375 Jews lived in Kobylnik before the Holocaust, in addition to a
number of refugees who arrived in 1940-1941. Of these, 320 Jews perished in the
Holocaust. Forty-seven (47) Jews were saved and another 6 remained in the USSR
during the Holocaust. Thirty-two (32) of these Jews immigrated to Israel between
1948-1960; the remainder immigrated to the United States and to Sweden and six
remained in the USSR.
with the "old timers", we were 48 from Kobylnik in Israel. The majority attended
our yearly meetings. Even in the first years of our gatherings, we would push
the idea of the publication of a remembrance book of Kobylnik, of the Jewish
community that had been destroyed during the Shoah. For several years, we were
busy collecting material and its preparing it for publication. Finally, the book
was completed and published in 1967. Part of the book is in Yiddish and I hope
that we will be able to reprint the book in an entirely Hebrew format (and
perhaps also English and Russian) and add another chapter entitled "The Return
shortly after the gates to the USSR were opened, I went to visit Kobylnik,
fulfilling my long-term desire to do so. It was not easy or simple to walk again
through the streets of my childhood in the shtetl that had physically changed
and which was empty of Jews…Only the Jewish cemetery was left orphaned and
abandoned with thick vegetation covering it for almost 50 years.
mass graves, one in the Jewish cemetery and one at the edge of the forest on the
Western side of the shtetl facing Vilna (near the Catholic cemetery)- the last
witness to the Jews in the shtetl, were left abandoned and were unmarked…At the
mass grave at the outskirts of the shtetl, we identified human bones. I saw arms
stretched out for help, redemption…I met past acquaintances from nursery and
grade school and even Christians who had saved Jews…We established ties that
have lasted to this day.
return, we decided to restore the Jewish sites in the shtetl as soon as
possible. Our association saw this as its most important mission. In the course
of the following two years (1991-1992), I visited the shtetl several times, got
the appropriate approvals, and signed agreements to carry out the work. Within
this framework, the cemetery was cleaned up, headstones that had fallen were
fixed and the graves were restored and a stone wall surrounding the cemetery
with a steel gate at the entrance was put up. Headstones with the names of the
murdered Jews in the mass graves were put up. A headstone was also placed on the
mass grave at the outskirts of the city.
September 1992, a memorial service was held at the restored mass grave in the
presence of representatives of survivors from Kobylnik and Myadel from the
United States and Israel and hundreds of the shtetl residents, led by
representatives of the government and churches. We also held another service at
the restored Jewish cemetery and the mass grave there. Myadel
was the first of other shtetls in the area which followed our example. The
survivors from Myadel joined our association in 1988 and for the past 13 years
has participated together in our yearly meetings.
number of survivors of the two shtetls is slowly diminishing. Those who attend
expend much effort and the last of their strength. Together, we are joined by
the second and third generations. It is reasonable to expect that we will
continue to keep meeting in the future.
well as in the past, we are concerned with caring for the Jewish sites in
Kobylnik and in Myadel through local parties with whom we have contact in these
meantime, we have also made contact with regional offices of the Department of
Education and Culture in Myadel and they are supposed to be responsible for the
maintenance of the Jewish sites and their restoration as historical sites under
the local establishment. We will have to establish a fund in Israel that will
financially support these activities.