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Beloved Person
By Avraham Aharon Alperovich son of Yehoshua (ben Zalman Noach) and Rivka
Page 104 translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan

Picture of the author
In the year 1918 to 1919, the youths in Kurenets embarked upon the organization of a Zionist movement in Kurenitz. At that point I was still in school, I vividly remember how the adults came to us and called for a meeting of all the students in school and made excited fiery speeches. Even before we truly understood what they were talking about, the phrase “the land of Israel” kept beating in our heads. Slowly the sermons became clearer and we could follow the speeches a little better, our interest increased. Our intrinsic curiosity was unleashed and our imagination engaged.

During those days, Tzeirey Zion, an organization of Zionist youths was established in town as well as an organization by the name of Cherut and Tchia. Every night, boys and girls from the school would meet and coordinate games and political discussions. As time passed we started visiting the surrounding towns. We would meet with the youths of Vileyka, which was nearby, and we even exchanged letters with the center in Vilna. At the head of the youth movement there were leaders, and amongst them there were teachers from the Hebrew school in town, and they would make speeches about Hebrew literature, the history of Zionism and the history of the Jewish nation. We would have parties that aimed to collect funds for Keren Keyemt and Keren HaYesod (founds for Eretz Israel). Regularly we would make the rounds of all the homes in town, trying to get donations for the miscellaneous Hebrew national foundations. We would sell pictures of the Zionist leaders, and once in a while we would put on plays in which we participated as amateur actors. In time we succeeded in getting most of the youths in the area to partake in our activities.
Picture of Ephraim Lieb Kramer

In all such activities, Ephraim Leib Kramer (son of David, Later changed his last name to Ben David) was the central figure. He would organize and energize the activities with his charismatic personality. He had a most splendid penmanship. Each letter looked like a pearl. He would also write all the correspondence, and during the meetings, he would many times debate much older people with courage and introspection and acumen. He was chosen as the head of the Zionist committee in with his energetic personality, the local branch was brimming with activities.

In the year 1922, the branch of Ha’chalutz was established in Kurenets. We communicate with the center and follow their instructions from the very start. I remember that year a few leaders from the center of the Ha’chalutz in Warsaw came to Kurenets. Amongst them were Y. Bankover and A. Dobkin. They gathered us and told us about our mission for the future. We all acknowledged the missions that they suggested to us, which would be concluded by immigration to the land of Israel. AT the very beginning there were only a few members in Ha’chalutz, but at the end of the year, the branch in Kurenets became a very respected branch and was renowned in the entire region of Vilna.

We chose members to head the organization, and at the top of the organization (the head of the branch) we elected Ephraim Leib Kramer. Other promotions were given to other members of the organization, I amongst them. Each evening we would meet and discuss issues such as how to enlarge the organization, how to teach and promote better understanding of the Zionist pioneer movements among the youths. We started organizing the Ha’chalutz not only in our town but also throughout the whole region. We would go to all the neighboring towns and we were successful in time and managed to get other youths that were committed to founding branches in other shtetls.

Ephraim Leib gave a lot of time and energy to these activities. Every Saturday, we would meet halfway between Kurenets and Vileyka with the youths in the area. There we would spend hours singing and strolling together. During that time we started organizing HaChsharah ( training to live in an agricultural community in Israel), founding farming communities in different places in Poland as educational places/training places to study agriculture. We sent some members of our branch to such communities. I was among the first to live there. I went to agricultural community by the name of Trumpeldoria near Vilna (in Lobodov?). There we lived and worked in an agricultural community. We learned how to clear and plow fields, plant seed, and milk cows
Picture of Hachalutz in Lebodove

I spent almost two years in the agricultural community. Ephraim was not able to go to the ranch since his father had died and he now became responsible for the support of his family. Despite his many responsibilities, he spent much of his time volunteering for the Ha’chalutz movement in Kurenets. In the year 1925 he immigrated to Israel together with his mother and his siblings, and after a few months, I joined him in Israel.

I came to Israel together with a group called Hakovesh. We arrived during the very hot summer days to Petach Tikva. These were very difficult times. There was much unemployment, and most of the agricultural work was done at that time by the Arabs, and owners of orange groves in the area traditionally gave all the jobs to Arabs who were experienced and worked for modest compensations. Since we wanted to get those jobs, we had to work very hard to compete with the Arabs. We had to acclimate ourselves to jobs that were not familiar to us in Poland, in very hot climate that we were not used to, working many hours for very small rewards.

Every Saturday we would walk to Tel Aviv. There was no public transportation yet. We walked through the sand; there was not one road yet. Not only that, but we couldn’t even hire a horse and carriage to take us because we couldn’t pay for the trip. So, like this we walked in the sand, barefoot, with our clothes tattered, and hungry.

Ephraim, who came with his family, was able to purchase a home in the community of Trumpeldor, which is now the main thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, Dizingoff Street. He worked in the field of music. The house of Ephraim Kramer became like an island of Kurenets in the midst of Tel Aviv. Every Kurenetser who arrived in Tel Aviv would come to him, and he would receive us with extreme warmth. Since we were all new to Israel and everything was so foreign to us, Eprhaim Leib’s house where everyone was invited to sleep and to eat was a haven to us. The house was always filled with guests. It seemed like every day there were new arrivals from Kurenets, and everyone would gather at Ephraim’s house.

There were times when the new immigrants were not able to find shelter when they first arrived, and they would stay with him for many days. I will never forget our regular visits, every time we would come during Purim to Tel Aviv and we would feel like a big happy family when we walked together through the streets of Tel Aviv.

Some weeks after Ephraim Leib arrived to Israel he got a good job in Tel Aviv and was able to support himself. Dizingoff, the mayor of Tel Aviv, liked Ephraim very much, and wanted to give him a very respectable job in his cabinet. Ephraim refused to accept the appointment, saying that all the “respectable appointments” he wanted to leave behind him in the Diaspora of Poland. Here he came to Israel to live the life of a hard-working pioneer.

Amongst the family members who came with him was his aunt Nechama Dina, who was like a mother to all of us. She seemed to have unlimited energy. She always prepared our favorite foods for us. She was a pious woman, and in all her actions was dedicated to the youths from Kurenets.

In 1934, I left the area and transferred to Afula, and my visits with the rest of the Kurenetsers became limited because the distance was too great. But still, once in a while I would visit the Kramers. At some point, Ephraim moved to Ramat Ha’Sharon, where he established a most impressive agricultural ranch. At that time, Ramat Ha’Sharon was truly an out of the way place. His house stood alone between Ramat Ha’Sharon and Hertzlia. His economical situation was very good and he seemed very happy….

…One day, I opened the newspaper and I started shaking. I read an announcement for the memorial of Ephraim Ben David Kramer in the cemetery in Hertzlia. I immediately went to the funeral and stood in shock by his grave. My heart filled with pain when I saw his mother Sarah Hinda. You could hardly recognize her. It seemed like old age overtook her from all her pain. This small Kurenets Island was overcome by waves of grief…
Picture of Efraim Ben David (kramer) in Eretz Israel.

The family of Avraham Aharon as told by his son Reuven,

My father, Avraham Aharon Alperovich was born in Kurenets, his father was Yehoshua, son of Noach Zalman. His mother was Rivka. Rivka was related to the Gurevitz family. My father was one of the first Kurenitzers to make "Aliah" to Eretz Israel in 1925. In 1927 my father was sent from Eretz Israel to a Zionist congress in Vilna.
Commonly when unmarried Zionist who had passports that allowed them to live in Eretz Israel visited Poland they volunteered to factiously marry local Zionist girls so they could bring them back to Eretz Israel (Visas were almost impossible to obtain otherwise). A girl from Moldechno from the Gutkovich family wanted to go to Israel, after they met for the factious marriage they fall in love and marriage became real .
Picture of Avraham Aharon and his wife
They came to Israel to farm the land. They first settled in Gan Chaim, a community that had others from Kurenets as members (translator’ note; My mother, Rachel nee Gurevitz, was born there in 1929). Kurenitzers in America financed the establishment Gan Chaim. The family of my mother (her mother with six of her half siblings) followed my mother to Israel a year later. My mothers’ father lived to the age of 105. He had three wives and with each one he had some children. After his first wife died he married a widow by the name Mrs. Axelrod. Mrs. Axelrod had a son from her previous marriage by the name of Max Axelrod who immigrated to America and became very well off. Max who was never married, was a Zionist and philanthropist and gave money for many causes. He was the one who financed the immigration of the third Mrs. Gutkovich with the six kids. Max sent the family many new gadgets from America, amongst them was an electric iron. Electric irons were not common at that time and the Third Mrs. Axelrod never used one before. She misused it (the cord was in water? ) and died on the spot. The kids were dispersed amongst family members and boarding schools. She was about 42 years old when she died. The entire family is still very attached to us. In the 1930s Max had a strong premonition of the tragedies that the Jews are about to face in Europe. He went back to Poland in 1938 to beg his half sister (also sister to my mother) to immigrate to Israel. The sister who was married with children and well off refused to go and the family perished in Molodechno three years later. After Max retired he came to live with us in the large farm he purchased for us in Afula. He diligently work the farm until he died at age ninety. He had a great influence on my life. My brother Amos and I followed in the footsteps of my parents and uncles and we both have farms. My farm is in Nir- Banim
My son Yehoshua (named after my grandfather) runs the big farm while I have traveled around the world as an adviser to farmers. Yehoshua has four children. My son Nir has an important job in the high tech industry in Israel. He is a father of three children.
My daughter works as a researcher in pharmaceuticals for the American company Pozer in their Israeli branch. She has two sons. A few years ago I visited Kurenets and Molodechno I was joined by relatives Pesach Gutkovich. In Kurenitz a local official guided us and showed us a few memorials that were erected for the Jews of Kurenets. One was for the more then 1000 Jews who perished in 9-9-1942. Shalom Yoran financed the memorial. Shalom with his family were refugees in 1939 fleeing the Nazis who took over their hometown in the western region of Poland in September of 1939. They arrived in Kurenitz were the lived until 9-9-1942. His parents perished on that day with the Jewish residents of Kurenets. Shalom and his brother escaped with other Kurenitzers and joined the Soviet partisans to fight the Germans.

The Soviet authorities erected another memorial. It is for the ‘Soviet citizen” who were killed on Simchat Torah of 1941 (it does not say that all 54 of them were Jewish). My fathers’ brother; Asher as well as my grandparents; Yehoshua ben Zalman Noach and my grandmother; Rivka perished on that day.
I also visited the old Jewish cemetery in Kurenets. The old cemetery was there for hundreds of years and you could see many names written in beautiful Hebrew lettering. Many of the graves are fallen and in disarray. I found many grave stones for Alperovicz family members (most common last name in Kurenets)
But many of the stones said only first names and first names of fathers and grandfathers as was more common way of identifying Jews in the area.

After spending hours looking at the graves I needed to relieve myself and there was no public bathroom in the area. I went to what I thought was just outside the cemetery, where there were many wild tall bushes. I cleared the area a little bit to relieve myself, and when I was standing there I felt something soft underneath my feet. I looked down clearing more bushes and found a gravestone with Hebrew lettering and it said the name, Reuven Alperovich, who died at the young age of 25 from Typhus. I was sure it was my ancestor, the one I was named after and I made a vow that day that I would organize a committee that t to clear the cemetery and re-erect the gravestones.
I am looking for the families of the siblings of my father. My father’s sister went to Argentina in the early 1920s. She might have lived in the community that the baron Hirsh established. She was married and had children but she died at a very young age (maybe of typhus) and we lost touch with the family and I don’t remember their last name. My father had a brother by the name of Shmuel in Kurenitz who was considered the black sheep of the family. I heard stories that he married the homely daughter of a well of hotel owner in the Kurenets area and had children with her. After a time he took a local non-Jewish woman as his lover. When the Soviets took control of the area in 1939 he worked for them running a cooperative. As the Germans attacked the Soviet Union in September of 1941 my uncle knew that he would be killed for cooperating with the communists but was naïve and believed that they would not harm his wife and children. He escaped with his lover and went all the way to Kazchstan. He stayed there until the war ended. His wife and children escaped to the forest on the day of the action in Kurenitz. They were found in the forest by the Germans and were killed.