Azriel Berenstein son of Yisrael Berensztejn and Golda Rabinovitch Berensztejn
Interview in his home in Hod Hasharon June, 2006

Azriel (Zunye) Berenstein was born in 1910 in Lanovits to Yisroel and Golda Berensztejin.

Azriel Berenstein's photo gallery of Lanovtsy from 1911-1938

Lanovtsy 1911-1928
Lanovtsy 1929-1930
Lanovtsy 1931-1932
Lanovtsy 1933
Lanovtsy 1934
Lanovtsy 1936-1938

His mother’s paternal grandfather was Chaim Mordechai Rabinovitch who was over 100 years of age when Azriel was born. Chaim Mordechai wanted his grandaughter Golda, to name her baby after him but she refused ( RK:since her grandfather was alive and it is not the custom among Ashkenazi Jews to name a baby after someone living) and the baby was named after the late Azriel RABINOVITCH which angered Chaim Mordechai. A year later Chaim Mordechai passed a way . When Dina Berenstein Rabin and Uziel Rabin had a son shortly afterwards he was given the name CHAIM MUNYE (MORDECHAI) RABIN . (RK This is the Chaim Rabin who edited the Yizkor Books of Shumsk, Lanovits, etc.)

The children of Yisrael and Golda Berensztejn are:

  1. RACHEL - She was ill a great deal; her nursemaid had dropped her when she was a baby. She never married and lived at home. She was killed in Lanovits in the massacre of 1942.

  2. YITZCHAK - He too was ill (RK from the description it sounds like cerebral palsy.) He lived to the age of 13. (RK:I can’t straighten the indentation.)

  3. ELIEZER - called by all LUZER. Born 1907. He was not a “good boy “ and didn’t want to go to the Cheder to study. He was very good looking. He ran away from home to the house of Azriel’s nursemaid. She had a nice house with a garden. Because Luzer didn’t want to study he was sent to Argentina , around 1926. He was a carpenter. There he married a Negro woman. Once he contacted Azriel after the War of Independence.

  4. Azriel - called ZUNYE. Born 1910. He was raised by a Ukrainian nursemaid called Luba.

  5. AVRAHAM - called BUMEK. He was just 11 months younger than Azriel. He was killed in 1942 in the Holocaust.

In 1914 when Azriel was four years old World War One broke out and the children of the family were taken from Lanovits to the home of their paternal grandparents, Kovka and Edis Berenztejn in Shumsk. Azriel remembers that before they left for Shumsk the dining room of his parent’s home was full of people and he remembers his nursemaid holding him and people saying that Ferdinand, the Crown Prince of the Austro- Hungarian Empire) had been killed and there would be a war.

The home of Yisrael and Golda Berensztejn in Lanovits:

The house had a large living room and a large dining room. The dining room table was 1.20 meters by 3.00 meters. From the living room there were entrances (doors) to three rooms and from the dining room there were entrances to three other rooms, one of which was a kitchen.

There were two wood burning ovens which heated all the rooms of the house. These ovens were in the living and dining rooms and there was also a cooking stove in the kitchen .The plan of their Grandfather Kovka’s house in Shumsk was similar to the plan of this house. Both their own house and Kovka’s house were always warm in winter.

The houses in Lanovits were built from wood, with a filling of straw and a kind of soil.

The Stay in Shumsk During World War 1 at the home of grandparents KOVKA and EDIS SACKS BERENSZTEJN:

In Kovka and Edis’s house Azriel and his brother Bumi lived in a room next to the kitchen and their cousin Chaim-Munye Rabin and his brother Shaike Rabin were in a room off the living room , 3 rooms away. Chaim Munye got a bad case of the measles. They had a little dog who would run back and forth between the childrens’ rooms and the dog carried the measles to Azriel and Bumi, but they had light cases.

Azriel remembers his grandmother Edis well. Two or three Jewish women worked in the house, helping her. They baked twice a week, which was the practice among rich people. On Friday his grandmother would make three enormous containers of challah dough and she kneeded one of them herself. She would distribute challahs to other people. Either these people or their children would come to get the challas. Azriel’s father,Yisrael, who was a very righteous person, was upset when he saw that people were coming to take the challahs his mother had prepared. (RK According to Jewish law charity must always be given in a way that protects the dignity of the person receiving it.) Yisrael spoke to his mother and said that it is not nice to have people come to take charity. In fact it is forbidden to do it that way. So they arranged that an orphan, USHER, who lived in KOVKA and EDIS’ home and whom they were raising would henceforth distribute the challas every week.

Azriel doesn’t remember how long they stayed in Shumsk at their grandparents, but by 1917 they were back home in Lanovits.

Memories of his home in Lanovits:

Azriel’s father was a “humanist.” He cared about people. He was called “The tzadik of the town.” He saw to it that all Jews in Lanovits would have matzos for Pesach and wood to heat their homes in the winter. People often came to their house to read the newspaper (which few people purchased, there being no trains in the area yet) or to study Torah.

Azriel’s parents’ home was the first house near the ancient Polish cemetery. This cemetery had been in use in the far past when this area had been a part of an
independent Poland. Opposite their house was a house of “Chapunim.” (RK Literally this means “people who were snatched.” It refers to Jews who had been forced into conscription into the army of the Czar and after the very long term of service of 25 years had been released.) The children in this family were well educated and one of their sons studied medicine in Berlin, which was considered most prestigious.


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