Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Essay by Getzel Kressel, author and distinquished scholar, a member of the family, who worked with grandfather on the book עיר ומתים (City and the Dead) about Zablotow, wrote these words in the introduction to the book.
It is the privilege of our destroyed city to have this one and only special man, who is a tremendous source of personal knowledge of our city’s history and its residents over the past 150 years – he is R’ Avraham Keusch, the author of our book.
He is the oldest survivor of our town, not only in a physical sense, but also, most importantly, is his wisdom. What is most important to the rescue of the history of our town is his phenomenal ability to recall the names of many families and their descendants, now scattered all over the world. He did his best to revive the hundreds of characters of the town as though you were strolling down the streets of Zablotow, entering every home, recalling the previous owners who have changed through the generations, mixed in with various minor and major events, which left a deep impression.
You will probably notice how wide and encompassing the memory of our source is. All citizens are loved and cherished by him, as he casts deep love over them while describing what was destroyed, and the lively Jewish folklore which was cut off by the wicked.
It goes without saying that not every thing is remembered here. We, including the author R’ Avraham Keusch, did not imagine that Zablotow would be erased off the face of the earth, and we did not provide details of the past to future generations. Only while working on this publication, was the author able to describe some of the characters of the city. Even though this happened by chance, and after many years away from Zablotow, did he succeed in reviving the memory of previous generations, till the turn of the twentieth century. Should a mistake be found, it must be remembered that what we have here are the ashes saved from a burning fire. Our generation should be able to create and weave the continuation of these memories for him or for future generations.
The foundations were laid down by R’ Avraham Keusch in these beautiful memoirs. Just as he did not leave out anything in his memory that had happened in Zablotow, he did not bother noting biographical details about himself.
The first account of R’ Avraham Keusch as seen by a Zablotow youth is fascinating. During the first years after World War II, we are at the end of the old era, entering the yet unknown new world and into the Revival movement and Nationality. Streets are still rumbling after the Balfour Declaration and its ratification in San Remo, when a young boy stumbles into the Town’s Beit Midrash, which is full to capacity, while the entire crowd is listening to a speaker on the podium. Standing there was an old Jewish figure, long beard down his chest, preaching vigorously for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, quoting fluently by heart from our sages, and astonishingly enough also from our poet Chaim Nachman Bialik. Moreover, the speaker is not a ”Zionist” preacher, but rather an influential Jewish merchant, a religious Chasid, known in this area. That was how R’ Avraham Keusch was seen by the author of this Preface.
That time he was no longer a resident of Zablotow, but Zablotow fondly remembered its son, still a young boy, excelling both in Torah and in Zionist involvement, at a time when it was still considered heresy, and was forbidden.
Born on Monday, second of Eyar 5626 (1866), he studied with the best teachers of Zablotow, among them R’ Efrayim Fond and later R’ Moshe Karsel and R’ Menachem Mher. The latter were involved in a very high level of studies after becoming impoverished, and had a great impact on him. While R’ Moshe Karsel directed him towards Torah studies, R’ Menachem Mher knew how to open an aperture towards General Education. He did not restrain his students from studying writing and grammar and “foreign” knowledge (his own son, Zev Mher, published a “Story and Picture” book in Vienna in 5686 (1922). Following his General Education he secretly studied bookkeeping by correspondence, and supported himself after his marriage doing bookkeeping for wood-mills from around Galicia and Bukovina. Later he became rich and was one of the influential wood merchants of Galicia with businesses out of the country.
Thus, R’ Avraham Keish the merchant, during the nineties of the last century was one of the first who dedicated himself full heartily to the Zionist National Idea. He was active in “Ahavat Zion” in Tarnow, one of the main assistants of R’ Feivel Shreir and Dr. Abraham Salts – leaders of the community, from the first who joined Hertzl’s movement and persuaded merchants and Chasidim, “Mizrachi” activist. For a while he was President of the “Mizrachi” in Stanislavov, planning all his life to settle in Eretz-Yisrael till he did so in 5684 (1924) when he immigrated to Eretz-Yisrael and settled there.
Here he deals in lumber, pioneering the development of this industry in Tel-Aviv into a large-scale operation with connections abroad. At the same time, not neglecting his public activities especially for the “Mizrachi”, while Torah and studies (including Modern Hebrew literature and especially poetry) remain his favorites, and he always carried a book with him.
During later years, while his family was destroyed abroad, he left the lumber business and concentrated diligently on projects related to the ruined city of Zablotow and the remaining immigrants from there. Like a youngster full of vigor he concentrated on uniting the former residents of our town, and also bestowed his glow on us at each meeting and every gathering. In his calm and collected manner he entered our hearts and even among our brothers in the United State he became influential and well accepted and respected. This compilation would not have become a reality if not for his constant urging, his willingness to go and give a helping hand at any time and anywhere required. Whenever he was seen walking down the streets of Tel-Aviv, he represented the symbolic and collective image of our town with the goodness and superiority of its previous generations - our community, now destroyed.
Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 08:10 PM Mountain Standard Time