My message to "GOMBIN" Email Exchange Forum 3/6/98.

What is Gombin for me?


I take a moment to reflect - what is Gombin to me? This was the shtetl of both my parents - but it is gone and lost - so what does it mean to me NOW? It is a complicated question - many of you face from time to time. Gombiners recently donated a lot of money to restore their ancestor's cemetery and build a memorial in Chelmno. Why? Why people (including myself) contributed so much to stones?

What is there, in the shtetl, which attracts me so much? For me it is also the SPIRIT of the shtetl, which I search, and research and wish to commemorate. It is a mirror to the entire lost world which so tragically been destroyed.

I am not a poet, and I don't understand Yiddish, so why when I just read one line from Rajzel Zychlinsky poem, in Yiddish, I start to cry? It moves me so strongly that I decided to translate and publish her selected poems into Hebrew. I shall devote as much time and money which this will require.

Why do I devote so much time of the research of rabbis and dayanim, maggidim and khassidim, prayers and holy tombstones, while I am a lost secular socialist from a kibbutz? What is there in Rabbi Gombiner, "Baal Abraham" from Gombin, which makes me so proud of being a descendant from Gombin?

Why the transliteration of the old registry book of Gombin is so special, unlike any of the other works of data processing which I have done. Even the young girl, Dina Gershtein, who transliterates it from Russian gets involved and told me yesterday: "I am honored to do this work for you and Gombin Society"!

What is there in my fathers' tens of old pictures in his 70 years old black wooden handmade box from Gombin, which gives my the thrill I don't experience in the nicest galleries? And although I know nearly all the pictures, I keep going through them again and again, longing to the little children, to the ardent Zionist youth in the woods, to my beautiful mother near the lake of Gombin...

And the film of Sam Rafel, unique and rare piece of history, now will be studied by foreign researchers and visitors in Institutions in Israel as a visual remnant of a shtetl in Poland where once we walked...

And now comes may be the most important project, which enfolds all aspects of the SPIRIT of Gombin. It is the Yizkor book of Gombin - the Yiddish part, now being translated by my father. He finally returned to the old, best method for him: paper and a simple pen... Mouse is left for the garden and tape recorder for music...

He has already translated 100 pages - And when the "muse" attacks - it cannot be stopped. He translates and translates and works about it day and night. He finished translating the two most brilliant pieces of Yiddish literature, the articles of Jacob M. Rothbart, whose eloquence and force of expression is breathtaking... And the content itself of these two articles is so interesting, even to those who have no roots in Gombin -Rothbart photographed the shtetl - captured its spirit, commemorated its images and colorful characters, a fantastic homage to his home town. He mentions and writes about my own ancestors. A whole section is dedicated to my great grandmother - Chaja Stolcman - a "bundist" female activist, female revolutionist, whom, except her name, I knew nothing about before. And Rasza Holcman nee Zlotnik from Plock, my grandmother, whom he describes in another chapter. My father phoned me up when he reached Rothbart's description of her vivid commerce:
"Ada, this is quite incredible - Rothbart writes about my mother. I never knew many of the things he describes - I am shaking... it is my reward of translating the entire book for you".
Rothbart describes the "action" which was going on in her yard, the tens of suppliers and buyers, which she manipulated, and the way she made living and managed the commerce of fruit and eggs. Once a relative described her to me: "Rasza was like the queen of Gombin, respected by the Poles also". Now after reading what Rothbart wrote about her, I understand more - and this all brings her back to life.

But there are more and more fascinating articles in the Yiddish part of Gombin. It is the history itself of the town. What a pity it was never translated to English. Next step is typing all the pages now in Hebrew, into the Word Processor, which I shall do, and next comes the translation to English.

I ask Leon, Steven Tadelis and Jeremy Freedman to help in this. Noam Lupo already volunteered to the venture and will translate some to English. I need the other three of you to agree, so I can start to fax you some of the materials. If there are others who know Hebrew - you are most welcome in joining this initiative.

Remember, there are about 214 of typed pages in Yiddish and the task is not easy, but can be accomplished with your help so we shall all benefit, us and our children after us...



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