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Investigations into the Jewish History of Lyakhovichi:
Rubin Kaplan of Baranovichi


This is a page in our Biography section. Click on the "Biography" button in the left-hand column to read other articles in this section.

The Memoirs of Rubin Kaplan of Baranovichi
"Off to Palestine" - an excerpt from the Memoirs of Rubin Kaplan by his granddaughter Alison Greengard, all copyright retained.
Notes in brackets are by the editor Alison Greengard. The webmaster has posted an index to those named in the right-hand column. The list notes those thought by the webmaster to have a Lyakhovichi connection.

Ruben Kaplan in a photo applied to an emergency visa application to US from Palestine in 1923. Thanks to Alison Greengard and Nira Yakir!

Alison Greengard begins by noting "this takes place just after the first World War when Rubin Kaplan was 17:

“I joined the Tzeirei Zion movement, a right-wing Zionist Socialist movement. All the other members were older than me. My first grade teacher, Mr. Kusherovsky was one of them. A fellow named Yehoshua Wainger adopted me as his pupil. He is now [1978] in Kibbutz Yagur. Had influence in the party, and when I told him that I was ready to go to Palestine, he did a great deal to help me."

“First I had to get permission from my parents, which I did. I came home and found Mother alone in the house. When I told her that I wanted to go to Palestine as a chalutz her face turned sad. It was soon after the 1921 pogrom in Jaffa. But she told me to talk to Father about it first. Father knew my plight and feelings, and being a Zionist himself, gave his okay."

“Our Tzeirei Zion branch had to write to the main office in Warsaw. A group of eight boys was formed in Baranowich, ready to go. Most of them were older than me. Now preparations began. The older boys were made older, and the younger ones younger to avoid the draft. My papers showed that I was a mechanic and had a trade. My age was pushed up one or two years, not to make it suspicious. I began wearing a machinist's cap, to look the part, and we finally went to Warsaw to obtain visas. I spent my first trip to Warsaw on a night train. It was December and we shivered with the cold."

“Here I must add that by then Uncle Shlomo Chaim Targownik of Brooklyn had sent visas and tickets for Yankel [Rubin's brother] and myself to come to America. Yankel said that he didn't want to go to America and leave the parents alone. I had no idea of what America was, and my desire was to see a Jewish state. Here is where my dreams would be realized, with compensation for all we went through - all the abuses, insults, and suffering. I would be the first, and the rest of the family would follow, and we would be reunited after all. In Palestine we would build a new life. I would buy land, be a farmer...plant trees, have a raise one myself. Then he would be attached to me, and I to him. I planned to raise chickens and ducks, and have my own fresh eggs of course. It seems that the dreams and the love for the good earth never left me all my life. In retrospect, I think that if not for dreams, life would be unbearable for me. I was never practical, never a pragmatist."

“I found the following in a diary I kept from Baranowich in connection with my move to Palestine: 'the 10th of November 1921. I started to prepare the necessary papers. It's not easy. The 14th - I got the okay of the Tzeirei Zion Party. Applied to City Hall for okay. The 28th Nov got ok from police department. Dec 9 I got the British visa. The 15th Dec is my birthday. Notes: take pictures, take out shoes, pack up bicycle.'"

“On the train to Warsaw with the goal of obtaining a visa to Palestine, we travelled through the night. I was afraid to fall asleep, having been warned of thieves. We spent a few days in Warsaw where I looked up some of Yekutiel's [Rubin's brother] friends. He also advised me to go up to the second floor of a certain place where I should eat dinner and get goose meat. It was delicious. We finally lined up at the British Consulate for visas, received them and went back home to prepare for the big trip. It was on that trip back to Baranowich that my ears froze from cold on the way from the railroad station and the wife of the "shamash" saved them."

“The hectic preparations now began in earnest. A large trunk of woven reeds was bought and slowly filled with underwear, a pillow, a set of silver (which I still have), clothing including a suit which was by then too small for me. Also a razor with a belt for sharpening, but mostly food, since we were to be two weeks on a boat, without food provided. Mother baked challah and made it into toast, added jam, cheese, dried honey cake, a pot for tea, a glass, and a plate. After all, Palestine was considered a wilderness. We also took towels, soap, and other necessities. Yikutiel's brother-in-law [Peker of Lyakhovichi - webmaster] had a bicycle shop and knowing my passion for a bike, gave me a used one packed in a crate. Time flew by quickly."

“It was a cold, frosty January night in 1922 when we packed ourselves into two sleds, one for the baggage, and one for the family, and all of us headed for the railway station where we would be on our way to Warsaw and Palestine. We left at midnight. I had a ticket for third class on the train. It was impossible to get into, so I went into the second class and paid 14 szlotys fine. It was terribly cold and I had to stand on my feet all night. I stayed at Novolipye from the 14th to about the 31st. On January 31, I took out the baggage, attended to visas for Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, etc. It was very cold at night.”

“We reached Warsaw late in the evening, contacted Palestine AMT, and our baggage was taken to a warehouse. We were taken to a hotel to await our call. The day was taken up with arrangements, and towards evening we decided to take a walk and look at the big city. It had snowed during the day and the snow turned into slush. We didn’t get very far when we spotted a movie house and decided to go in. The movie was in progress, and we were marched in and seated in the first row, which was empty. We settled down in the soft chairs and the next thing we knew, we were being ushered out of an empty theater. We had been fast asleep during the movie, snoring away in the soft chairs.”

“A member of our group was Itzhak Muekasey, the son of my parents’ good friend Michael Muekasey. The girl he was in love with followed him to Warsaw. His parents objected to a marriage between them since she belonged to a refugee family, was alone in Baranowich, and no one knew her. In Warsaw they decided to get married, and then Itzhak would send for her as his wife once he reached Palestine. A rabbi married them, and I was witness, and also honored to be “unterfirer” [gives away the groom] which was usually the father’s role.”

“We left Warsaw on February 11. After a few days in the city we assembled at the railroad station, about fifty chalutzim on their way to Vienna. Hundreds came to see us off. We danced and sang, and a blue and white flag escorted us. “

“The trip was very uncomfortable since we stood all night. We arrived at Schebinka on February 12th at 10:00AM and changed trains. We would pay an additional 670 and transfer to second class, as far as Petrovitze, a Czech town on the border. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. As we drew closer to Petrovitze, we opened the windows on the train, and someone opened a bottle of schnapps. We all drank and hoped that the rest of the way would not be any worse. We began to sing, and the singing came from the heart.”

“One station beyond Schebinka, the Poles inspected passports and baggage. I opened one package, but “he” did not look into it. “He” wanted to know where we carried our gold and silver. I showed him the permit to take whatever money I had with me, but “he” said that I’d better show him the gold and silver, or he would find it and confiscate it. I explained in a naïve tone that if I had any I would certainly show it to him. “He” let me go, but searched others, examining their pockets and clothing to see if anything was sewn in. Then I had to open the crate containing the bicycle, which was a folding bike. Then came the ‘karzine’, the woven trunk, and I removed the pillow. Then everything went back into the train, inspection was over, and we finished with Poland. We drank “L’Chaim” again. The train was full of Czechs, Germans, Obersilesians, and Jews who showed a great interest in us. They said it was “legendary” to see us going to Palestine. I had time to write a postcard, and wanted to drop it in the mailbox, but the train started to move. I gave the card to a Polish soldier, asking him to mail it….I wonder if he did.”

“Approaching Petrovitze we saw many factory chimneys. The scenery was beautiful. I made a list of expenses, such as train tickets, visas, Czech kronen, Austrian kronen, Italian lira, moving of baggage to the boat, etc. Some people paid to keep their baggage from being searched. Someone said that Poland has its own government and its own graft system.”

“We were so happy. The Polish train we came on left for Vienna. We boarded a Czech train. The staff spoke German. They examined our passports, and allowed us to stand on the platform. The baggage was again examined. Some people managed to mix among the examined and got away with it. Again, I had to pay extra for my ticket. Overweight, I suppose. We drove for one hour and had to change trains. The train emptied out and we occupied a whole section. We were glued to the windows. It was so interesting - we saw no villages, only town after town, and many tall chimneys. We saw mountains and valleys, white mountains covered with snow, and black ones covered with forests. Every now and then we passed small villages – a small house, a very large barn, a windmill. The houses were nice, of brick, and set far apart from one another. We came to Lindenburg, the border of Austria, with a large station. A woman opened a cloth bag and started knitting. This was new to me. We were delayed there for hours, and I wrote while others dozed. Then came another inspection, at the Austrian border. I was appointed group head. I took all the passports and went to have them stamped, but they were taken away. We went on to Vienna and it was cold again. We arrived at 5AM, went to a coffee house and drank hot coffee. The streets were empty, except for large dogs pulling milk carts.”

“I went to the police station and was told to return at nine o’clock. I got there at nine and was told that the passports would be delivered to the Palestine Amt. We therefore went on to Palestine Amt, where we left our hand baggage, and from there to the train station to pick up our other luggage. My bicycle was missing, and was detained in Lindenburg…for inspection. I took my trunk to a chalutzim warehouse, where I paid 10 kronen a day for storage. Then back to the place where we would be sleeping. But in the evening we were taken to quarantine, a three-quarter hour’s ride by tramway. After a bath, we were issued underwear and a military coat, shown a cot, and ordered to go to sleep. It was a large hall filled with chalutzim, chalutzot, and just plain immigrants. Figs and carob were on the table. People were singing and we joined in. Finally people yelled, “We want the Baranowicher!”. It was 9:30PM. We sang until midnight, and I woke up with a sore throat. From the quarantine we were moved to “beit chalutzim”, where we would stay until we were ready to move on to Trieste and board a ship.”

“We were then referred to Palestine Amt on Cirkusgasse 33. They then recommended two girls who rented rooms to chalutzim. They charged 300 kronen per night. I tried to bargain, but they claimed it cost 300 kronen just to wash a bedsheet. While talking to me, the girls made telephone arrangements for the theater. In short, I paid 4200 kronen for 14 nights in advance. When I went back to Beit Chalutzim, I was told that I should have bargained like everyone else did, and pay only half. I went right back and asked to see the manager. I asked why I had been overcharged, and demanded some of my money back. He answered that his father had died thirty years before and did not come back…and so would I see the money. It seems I was somewhat stubborn, and I returned again the next day, yelling at them, and they returned some of my money. Eventually, I was only charged 100 kronen per night.”

“We ate lunch in a students’ restaurant, which was good and cheap. I picked up my trunk, but the bicycle was detained across the border, and I was required to go back personally to Lindendburg to release it. I went to Palestine Amt for my passport, and was required to leave my boat ticket as collateral for the passport. I did finally get my bike.”

“I bought an incubator, for my future farm in Eretz Yisrael. My dream was of being a farmer in Israel, working the land, raising live animals, drinking fresh milk, eating fresh eggs, maybe having a horse. The dream of a horse was of prime importance. All these things, all those dreams were not just a fad, a passing thing or a fleeting moment. It was in me. It was real love. Now of course it’s beyond my reach, just as it was for a number of years. But I loved it: the smell of a farm was perfume to my nostrils, the air a balm to my lungs, the sight a delight to my eyes. I always envied a farmer, I longed to live on a hill, a high place from which your eye sees distances and horizons. In the worst moments of my life, I could turn my thoughts to my dream and find relief. Now, of course, I can’t do it anymore. It’s hard for me to fool myself.”

“So I went hunting for an incubator, now that I had the bike and the trunk. This hunting to purchase gave me a chance to see Vienna and the suburbs. I also loved to walk on the banks of the river Danube. There was a giant Ferris wheel and other amusements on the bank of the Danube. The river was frozen over and I watched the skaters perform on the ice. The bridges fascinated me. Even the public toilets with a woman attendant who collected a coin at the entrance amazed me. The Jewish Quarter, with a two-level street and the synagogue didn’t escape me. The plush restaurants, soft seats, newspapers, magazine, all for a cup of tea, and you could sit there as long as you liked. Famous delicatessens and delicious pastries…come to think of it now, I wonder how I got to see all those things in the short time I was there, while keeping busy with other things. We went on a hike to Schwartzwalk (I’m not sure of the name). We climbed a hill, a steep hill, covered with snow, and then we couldn’t get down. We had to slide down sitting on our behinds. It wasn’t funny.”

“I went to the museum and to the Ring Summer Palace. But the apex was the visit to Franz Joseph’s palace, Schoenbrun. I walked the beautiful gardens, and for the first time in my life I saw long stretches of elm trees trimmed and shaped beautifully. There were arches in the garden from the Roman period, I was told. The ground was soft and slightly muddy. I finally came to the palace itself. I tried to get my boots clean of the mud, with little success…and so I walked into the palace, book and guide in hand. I knew German pretty well by then. I walked from room to room, each different from the one before, one blue, one red, etc. The furniture, the art pieces, the chandeliers, the parquet floors – I absorbed everything, and was very impressed. In fact, I can see everything before my eyes right now as I write these words. I can even see myself, the way I was dressed with cap, boots, etc. When I returned to Beit HaChalutzim, I wrote a letter home in these words” “Ruvke dem shoichets mit blutige shtibel is haint gegangen shpatziren in Kieserlichen gorten un in palace un gefilt zich we inderheim…” (Rubin, the son of the schochet, went strolling today in the king’s garden and in the palace with muddy shoes – and felt at home…..).”

“We finally set out by train for Trieste, on the 4th of March, 1922. We were soon in the mountains, climbing higher and higher. I have since been in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, and in Switzerland, but none can compare to that Semiring Gebit. It is indescribable beauty: snow-covered mountains, and green picturesque farms, low clouds on one side and very deep gorges on the other. After a few hours’ ride in this kind of scenery, suddenly to the right, way down below, appeared a clear blue sea, studded with dozens of fishing boats. Somehow this trip got photographed in my mind.”

“We soon stopped at a border post, Serbia, I believe. The soldiers spoke Russian and looked like Russians. After a short trip we arrived at the Italian border and were soon at sea level and in Trieste. There we were to board the boat “Carinthia”, a cargo boat. We slept overnight in Trieste.”

“March 5, 1922. We woke at 6AM and at 8AM I was inside the boat. There were NO BEDS. Just long wooden shelves with mattresses, one next to another. I found myself a place in the middle of the boat. Water was upstairs, one faucet. We stood in line in order to get a little water. Everyone ran around looking for his baggage, which we placed under the shelf on which we slept. I found my bike and the incubator. We had a ticket for each piece of baggage, but my trunk was not to be found, containing all my clothing and more important, my food. I was prepared to travel for fourteen days, but would I do without food? Next to me was a fellow Mordechai Rutenberg, eight years my senior…a man. He came from a farm in Poland on the River bug. He shared his food with me. He had canned meat and other goodies, but the main thing was that he encouraged me that the trunk would be found. He was like my older brother. He knew exactly what he would do in Palestine – he had it all figured out. After a few days in the “mahane” (camp) in Tel Aviv, he went to Kibbutz Kinneret. He urged me very strongly to join him, but I didn’t have the slightest idea what a kibbutz was, and I refused. I visited him in 1932. When I asked for him I was told he was in the fields. After awhile he showed up on horseback from the fields. He was in charge of “falcha” (grain). When Helen (Ayala) started to go to kindergarten in Schunat Borochov, Rutenberg’s sister was Helen’s teacher.”

“And now back to the boat. Many people came to see the chalutzim off. There must have been a few hundred leaving, and as many were singing Hatikvah and yelling “heidad” probably envying us upon sailing for Palestine. On board I made friends, which usually happens on such trips, and some remained life-long friends. One such friend was Dov Zilberstein. At 3:30 that same day we left Trieste we arrived in Venice. The sea was very calm. We stayed in Venice until 7 AM of March 7th and had a good chance to see the city.”

“Venice is a water city. There are sidewalks, and in the middle of the street is water. The whole city is like that. The city is full of old buildings and churches, and very beautiful women. In the afternoon we found ourselves in St. Marco Place, the pigeons drawing too much attention. We wanted to go back to the boat, which was nearby. I knew for sure that we had crossed a bridge to get to this place. We traced our steps back and crossed that bridge, but then the boat seemed to be on the other side. We went back and forth, but couldn’t fine the way to reach the boat and finally gave a man some money and were back on the boat in a moment’s time. The next morning brought a heavy fog, and we sailed at 10AM. We had no desire to leave this beautiful Venice. The city is very big, but we couldn’t talk to the people and had to resort to sign language. The women’s beauty was impressive, the men also. The soldiers were all short, but looked healthy. On the Adriatic Sea our boat battled a strong wind. It was stormy that evening and all that night. We passed two ships that looked as though they were burning.”

“March 8, we arrive at a Serbian port. No one was allowed to disembark initially. The soldiers were all former “denikintzes” and spoke Russian. To the right we saw a small town called Wranitz, and to the left a big town called Split. A few of our group went to town, escorted by a patrol of soldiers. It approached 3PM and they were not back yet, and we all worried. At 4PM they arrived with a few kilos of bread, sardines, and herring. The soldiers at the boat would not let them board with food and they were sent to see the officer. He was not in, and when he was found he demanded a “permit”. By 5PM the delegation was still standing outside. After paying a bribe, they finally boarded. The port in Haifa was then under construction, and from a nearby cement factory in Serbia, an overhead trolley was bringing in thousands of bags of cement intended for Haifa. The loading went on until 3AM.”

“March 9th, when I awoke in the morning, all I heard was moaning and groaning. People were vomiting all over the place. The boat rocked from side to side, though I had slept through the storm. I myself started to feel a headache, so I grabbed a blanket, and ran upstairs into the fresh air. I remained upstairs the whole day and felt relieved. In the afternoon, close to 6PM we arrived at the Italian port of Bari. We went into town and bought bread. That same evening at 8PM the boat sailed.”

“About thirty of us didn’t go to sleep that night. We expected something, I don’t know what. At 2AM we arrived in Brindisi. At 4AM we sailed. At 5AM I went to sleep, woke at 8:30. It was March 10. Again there was a terrible storm, vomiting all over the place. The water beat at the windows and seeped into the boat, but I was sleepy, turned over and slept until 1 PM.”

“A pack of dolphins was at the front of the boat, swimming at the same speed as the boat. They looked as though they were harnessed and were pulling our boat. They performed tricks, jumping over one another. What a sight! But they suddenly disappeared, just as they had appeared from nowhere. At 5PM that night we arrived at Calamata Port. We again went to see the town and bought food. A midget walked around. That night there was “control”, and everyone had to show his ticket. Passports were taken away. Six boys were without tickets and we helped hide them. Later we saw a large city, but no port. The boat was some distance away, and we were not allowed to go down. It was very warm, with a beautiful moon. Until 3AM I stood by the window and looked out. The moonlight left a silver streak on the water.”

“March 12…we stopped at Canea, Crete, a nice town. For one lira we got twelve oranges. It is a Greek town, and we gave them Austrian kronen for oranges and they took that, too. We saw many Negroes, for the first time; of course Asians , and Turkish women with covered faces. At 2PM we sailed. By 6PM we arrived at Candiania. Loading and unloading went on until 3AM. In the port we saw Medusas, looking like colorful Chinese lanterns. Someone caught one swimming around and pulled it up on a long stick onto the deck. There it collapsed like a rag and we were told it was poisonous.”

“We passed next between the Greek mainland and two long islands. I think this was the Corinth Canal. We were on our way to Alexandria in Egypt. We were warned that it would be stormy. We passed islands and high mountains.”

“March 14. Everything is shaking but we are used to it by now. And now…how did we spend our days on the boat? For me it was no problem. The sea, the horizon, the air, the sights – all these fascinated me. My place was on the deck, or by the window. Most of the people stayed in groups from their home towns. There was a large group from the town Chelm, among them the later-on-to-be-famous violin player Schnaubel. I later met the Chelmer in Tel Aviv in the twenties, and again in the thirties. Most of the Chelmer were with families, the women taking care of the children and the men playing cards. I once stopped to look at their table and they were playing “21”. I asked permission to join them, and they gladly consented.”

“They must have judged by my looks that I would leave some money with them. But I figured differently. I had a few lirettas in my pocket, and expected to play ‘til I lost them and then walk away. And that’s the way it was. I was soon rid of my last lira when I got an ace as my first card. The second card was also an ace, and I said to myself – I have no more money to pay, since I thought that two aces were 22. I decided to wait ‘til the next pass, and then get up. Meanwhile everybody chipped into the bank. When my turn came, I threw the two aces face up and wanted to ask them to do something to me – I had no more money. But before I had a chance to open my mouth, the whole kitty was shoved over to me. I put the money in my pocket, got up and walked away. I can just imagine what they thought of me. On the next day I treated all my friends to oranges. But I was still busy hunting for my baggage, among the hundreds of parcels. It was difficult to find since people slept on their belongings and buried things under the sleeping shelves. But I kept on looking.”

“We stayed in Alexandria for two days. The port was full of big fish, and now I know that they were dolphins. They would come up for a second, their large tails and fins glistening for a moment, and t hen they were gone. It was a very large and busy port. Near us the Egyptians were unloading a coal boat. There were two openings on the side of the boat, close to one another. They were about one meter above the pavement, and a large barge stood next to the openings. Two boards connected the boat and the barge. Workers dressed in sacks unloaded the coal. They ran up the planks with empty baskets, and came out on the other plank with full baskets, ran down and dumped the coal out, and ran up again, very fast. They were totally black from the coal dust, and looked like black devils on a revolving belt. At every port merchants came over on boats, trying to sell us their merchandise, but we were poor customers.”

“Out of Alexandria and we were on our way to Eretz Yisrael and the port of Jaffa. The going was rough, but by early morning the boat dropped anchor about a mile from shore. The sea was wavy, but the sun shone, and we saw the little hill of Jaffa, a minaret sticking out, and a row of large rocks protruding from the water. On both sides of Jaffa there were golden sand dunes. A man from the Va’ad Hatze’irin (Young People’s Committee) came up and called out names. We lined up to get off the boat, and suddenly I saw my trunk among a few others near a middle-aged man. I asked him what mine was doing with his. But I got no reply. It’s yours, take it, and it was put next to me. And now I had my trunk, my bicycle and small gear, and I was ready to step on the ladder which brought us to a small boat in the water, rocking up and down. There was no time to look down, and just before I reached the bottom rung, four powerful hands put me into the boat, together with the others. We sat around the small boat, the center being loaded with our baggage, and shoved off for shore, while another wooden boat pulled up to the ladder.”

“Our boat carried a big load, and every once in a while we could not see the shore as the boat dropped down between the waves. The next minute we were at the top of a wave and wondering why we hadn’t yet turned over. The next scare was when we saw ourselves heading for the rocks, and no opening in sight. But of course there was an entrance, and we headed for a stone wall which seemed to be very high. It was, due to the high tide, but we were at low tide, and in order to get ashore we had to stand up, and when a wave raised up the boat, two Arabs standing ashore grabbed us, and we found ourselves on hard land. We were shoved to one side and then loaded into a small bus and whisked away south of Jaffa.”

“On the way through the city we were pelted with stones by Arab boys, who shouted something. The date was March 19, 1922, soon after the massacre of 1921. After riding for a few kilometers, we reached a camp surrounded by barbed wire. Here we were disinfected, clothes and all. In the afternoon, our “landslite” (townsmen) came and brought us fresh oranges. In exchange they received regards from home – from parents, relatives and friends. On the next day, we were allowed to take a dip in the sea. This was an unheard of experience. The sun was shining, the air and the water seemed so warm. We couldn’t forget for a minute that it was only the middle of March. In Europe it was very cold. We bathed for the first time in salt water, and then sat on the clean golden sand. This was a heavenly experience. We were soon quarantined again, for two or three days. But all of us were healthy. And so we were taken to Tel Aviv, to a camp of hundreds of tents, located where Allenby Street now falls between Mugrabi corner and Ben Yehuda Street, to the sea. At that time it was considered “out of town”. No paved roads, no sidewalks. I don’t remember where we ate, but we were given “notes” which entitled us to meals. We slept on mattresses on the ground.”

“We soon got notice to go to Jaffa and collect our baggage. This I will never forget. A few of us went to Jaffa – on foot, of course. Butrus Street, then the main street, was very crowded. It must have been a Friday, to our good luck. As we approached the big mosque, masses of Arabs poured out. Near the mosque were long columns lining the street (now standing near the museum across the street) and Arabs sat on the columns – some delousing themselves, others getting haircuts, or cleaning and scrubbing their bare feet with chunks of glass from broken bottles.”

“Close to the port, a mob surrounded a magician who performed tricks. We finally got our baggage by identifying it, and took it into the street. There I hired an Arab with a camel who took me back to my tent in Tel Aviv. The Arab made the camel lie down on his belly while he tied my “karzine” to the camel’s back, and away we marched….Such was our reception. The Arab knew where to go, and I followed him.”

Continue reading about Rubin's life in Eretz Israel in the 1920s on Rubin Kaplan Biography, Page Two

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You Need to Read this First Person Report
If any of your family were Zionists, halutzim, emigrees to Eretz Israel, you need to read this memoir. Rubin Kaplan filled many diaries in the years discussed here and over his lifetime, and then turned to those sources to reconstruct for his grandchildren that young man's viewpoint. I was captivated by the profusion of detail, and the boundless optimism of this young Zionist - the webmaster Deborah Glassman

Alison Greengard sent us this vivid memoir written by her grandfather Rubin Kaplan of Baranovichi. Ruben's viewpoint would be worth us reading even if he had not lived close to Lyakhovichi and surrounded himself with young men also of the area. His father, Menahem Joel Kaplan was a prominent religious leader in Baranovichi: hazen (cantor), teacher, and mohel (ritual circumcisor). More, he and his wife supported their son's choices, even when it meant a beloved son would be headed overseas when just seventeen years old! Rubin never lived in Lyakhovichi but his reports, first from Baranovichi where many of his young comrades and teachers had Lyakhovichi roots; and then from his activities with Zionist organizations in Baranovichi and in Eretz Israel, where again many of his cadre had Lyakhovichi connections, is invaluable. Finally the insights, vivid portrayals, and experiences, of a young man from just down the road to Lyakhovichi, made this resource impossible for the webmaster to resist. There is an another part of this memoir published several years ago in Baranovichi Yiskor Book.

There are two pages of the Memoir printed on the Lyakhovichi website including this one The Memoirs of Rubin Kaplan of Baranovichi - His Departure from Russia after World War One, and his arrival in Eretz Israel and
The Memoirs of Rubin Kaplan, page 2 - His Life as a Pioneer in Eretz Israel in 1920s

Index to Rubin Kaplan Biography

Berman “Engineer” Landsleit of Rubin Kaplan; married to a Rubenstein of Baranovichi Berman and Rubenstein are surnames of both Lyakhovichi and Baranovichi


Mrs (Rubenstein)

she was from Baranovichi and had studied singing with Menahem Joel Kaplan, chazzan of Baranovichi

Berman and Rubenstein are surnames of both Lyakhovichi and Baranovichi



founder of the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education; from Lyakhovichi; famous for teaching his physical exercises to David Ben Gurion; friend of Rubin Kaplan

His biographies specifically state he was from Lyakovichi



Leader of  Rubin Kaplan’s group; in his 30s in 1921; landsleit

Surname of Lyakhovichi and Baranovichi











Son of Menahem Joel Kaplan; Brother to Rubin Kaplan



Yekutiel; Yekitiel

Son of Menahem Joel Kaplan; Brother to Rubin Kaplan

Married to Reisel Peker of Lyakhovichi


Ayala aka Helen

Daughter of Rubin Kaplan



Menahem Joel

Cantor, mohel, and shochet of Palonka and Baranovichi




A “landsleit” from Baranovichi in Rubin Kaplan’s group; on Tel Aviv pipe painting project

This is a Lyakhovichi family

Kibbutz Kinneret


Home of Mordechai Rutenberg


Kibbutz Yagur


Residence of Yehoshua Weinger in 1978




A leader of Histradut


Kupat Cholim


Settlement in Eretz Israel




A “landsleit” from Baranovichi in Rubin Kaplan’s group; tentmate with Rubin Kaplan

This is a Lyakhovichi family



Rubin Kaplan’s first grade teacher in Baranovichi; member of Tzerei Zion in Baranovichi


Kvutsa Baranovichi


A group from Baranovichi who settled in Eretz Israel and allowed an adjunct group to camp next to them located where the Carmel Shuk would be.



(probably Itzhak son of Michael)

A “landsleit” from Baranovichi in Rubin Kaplan’s group; on Tel Aviv pipe painting project

This is a Lyakhovichi family

Mukasey (spelled Muekasy)


Son of Michael; of Baranovichi; friend to Rubin Kaplan

This is a Lyakhovichi family

Mukasey (spelled Muekasy)


Originally of Lyakhovichi; friend to parents of Rubin Kaplan

This is a Lyakhovichi family



Of Lyakhovichi; owned a bicycle shop; Brother of Reisel (Peker) Kaplan and brother-in-law to Yekutiel Kaplan

He was from Lyakhovichi


Wife of  Mr. Berman, the engineer

she was from Baranovichi and had studied singing with Menahem Joel Kaplan, chazzan of Baranovichi

Berman and Rubenstein are surnames of both Lyakhovichi and Baranovichi



Pioneer from a farm on the Bug River in Poland to Eretz Israel 1921, friend 8 years older than Rubin Kaplan



Sister of Mordechai

Kindergarten teacher in Schunat Borochov




Famous violin player; was on boat from Trieste


Schunat Borochov now Eer Ganim)


Settlement in Eretz Israel




Had a store in Jaffa; A landsleit of Rubin Kaplan’s of Baranovichi

This is a Lyakhovichi family that had settled in Baranovichi


Shlomo Chaim of Brooklyn

Uncle to Rubin Kaplan


Tzerei Zion


Right wing Zionist Socialist organization in Poland, 1920s


Va’ad Hatze’irin


Young People’s Committee  - came out to the boat at Jaffa




Mentor to Rubin Kaplan; active in Tzerei Zion; émigré to Eretz Israel 10 years older than Rubin

This is a Lyakhovichi family that had settled in Baranovichi



Owner of a leather shop in the Market Square in Baranovichi; father of Yehoshua Weinger

This is a Lyakhovichi family that had settled in Baranovichi



Son of Yehoshua Weinger,  he became Consul in London

His grandfather was from Lyakhovichi, his father from Baranovichi



On boat from Trieste to Eretz Israel, friend of  Rubin Kaplan