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Shared Memories of Aaron Israel
I have just spent more than an enjoyable, albeit
sad, morning viewing the "ruins" of Detroit. Then I discover
more gold - your "lost synagogues" of Detroit page.
I'm in my early 40s and live in Windsor. My mother was born and grew up
in Detroit in the Linwood/Gladstone Jewish neighbourhood in the 30s and
My late father Michael was one of less than a handful of survivors of
the massacre of more than 7,000 Jews of the Stolin, Belarus ghetto on
Rosh Hashana, 1942. He was the only survivor, that I know of, who lived
by actually hiding within the ghetto itself. The other ghetto Jews - mostly
women, children and elderly, were from Stolin and the neighbouring villages
of David Horodok and Rubel. The Jewish men of these villages and towns
mostly were massacred in 1941.
My father, when he was dating my mother, just loved the Linwood area and
felt totally at home there. He said it reminded him of pre-war Jewish
Poland, with so many shules and Yiddish in all the shop windows.
I've tried, in vain, to take my mother over the river to scout out her
old neighbourhood. She's 78 now and nervous.
I've also spent considerable time researching Stolin (now in Belarus),
the home of my family for at least 300 years until the Holocaust. I was
very pleased to see the Stoliner shule of Detroit and your link to Avram
Shacham's wonderful web site of his trip to Stolin.
Since Mr. Schacham's visit to Stolin a few years ago, there have been
many great changes occurring in Stolin. For the first time since the massacre
of the Stolin ghetto Jews in the forest of Stasino, a Yizkor - or Memory
Day - service was held in 2000 and will again take place this year on
A person by the name of Michael Chernyavski - not a Stoliner - but a Russian
Jew who now lives in Stolin, has taken it upon himself to clean up the
White Shule. His efforts attracted attention as no one had done this in
58 years - as 400 years of Stoliner Jewry was totally wiped out in 1942.
Little by little, local people came forward, telling Mr. Chernyavski of
their Jewish roots - something no one would offer previously, based on
the murder of the Jews and the persecution of any others during the Soviet
They formed a small Jewish Community two years ago - a miracle to say
the least. They went into the forest and cleaned up the grave, reburied
bones and cleaned up broken liquor bottles. Apparently the mass grave
was a popular site for youths over the years who would dig up bones and
drink there - they know nothing of what happened - if you can believe
that. They have their myths that the Jews were buried with gold and diamonds.
In reality they were human skeletons and broken souls when they were shot
at the brink of the pits they dug themselves.
There is now a proper Hebrew/Belarussian grave marker there as well.
Although Stolin had a great Jewish history and sparked the Karliner-Stolin
hassidim sect, the little Jewish community of Stolin today has absolutely
no archives, pictures or anything else. Your picture of the Detroit shule,
with your permission, would be welcome to them.
I am going to Stolin for this year's Rosh Hashana Memorial Service. My
grandparents, aunts, cousins and countless other relatives are all buried
in the forest. My father, who passed away in 1984, forbid me to ever go
there as much of the killing and misery was conducted by the local people.
I hope he forgives me, but I just have to see it for myself and say the
Kaddish prayer in the forest.
It was a beautiful Jewish world there - just as once was the Linwood area.
It's ironic, but the Jewish worlds of both my parents - Detroit and Stolin
- are gone.
Thank you for your wonderful website.
I have just spent more than an enjoyable, albeit sad, morning viewing
the "ruins" of Detroit.
- Murray N.
There is some very interesting history with Stolin and
Detroit. A Stoliner group of Chassidim lived here and established that
old 'shul' on Elmhurst in Detroit. The Chassidim were led by a "Rebbe"
who immigrated from Europe and settled in New York City. He came to Detroit
periodically to visit his 'Chassidim'. On one visit (in the '50's?) he
passed away. The Chassidim wanted to move his remains back to New York
for the funeral and burial. However, when they went through his belongings
they discovered that the Stoliner Rebbe had taken along shrouds on this
trip and left a note that he wanted to be buried in Detroit. Since that
time, a large group of Stoliner Chassidim come every year on the Rebbe's
Yahrzheit (date of passing) to visit his grave, pray, sing and learn to
honor his memory.
Speaking as a Stoliner chossid myself, I wish to let you
know that our shuls have often been called Bais Aaron v'Yisroel. I doubt
it was called "Aaron Israel." We have had a few Rebbes named
Reb Aharon, and one named Reb Yisroel, and that is why we often use that
combination of names. "Aaron v'Yisroel" means "Aaron and
Yisroel," which in English is "Aaron and Israel." I could
find out the name of the Detroit shul for sure, by asking around here
where I daaven (pray), in the Brooklyn Stoliner Shul, which happens to
be called Bais Aaron v'Yisroel. Where did
you get those amazing pictures of our shul in Stolin? Thanks much!
This structure looks like the "Stoliner
Shteibel" that I remember as a child growing up near the corner of
Elmhurst and Davison(?). What about the Young Israel Synagogue, and the
Mogen Avrohom on Dexter near Cortland? This is a fascinating study...good
luck! Have you seen Irwin Cohen's history of Jewish Detroit for background
on some of these structures?
Miriam is correct, this was the
Stoliner Shul or the Elmhurst Street Shul.
The formal name of the synagogue
was Aaron Israel but it was called the Stoliner Shul because the people
who founded the synagogue came from the town of Stolin and were followers
of the Stoliner Rebbe.
The building on the other corner
(NW) did indeed house the 2 congregations and the Yeshiva Chachmey Lublin.