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April 28, 1989 - Image 73

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-04-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A Genealogist Searches For Her Roots


laughed out loud. All the children
were laughing.
The parents sighed with relief.
The nurse with the ponytail
laughed. "It's as catching as the
measles," she said to a doctor who
had opened his door to see what
the commotion was about. "One
child bawls, they all begin bawling.
A child laughs . . . and look at
them! You'd think they were
watching a circus."
The grownups didn't know it,
but the children were watching a
circus, or rather a circus clown. He
was a tiny clown, no more than four
inches tall, and he didn't wear a
clown's suit. But he did handsprings
and somersaults and flip-flops like a
clown. He was so funny, the
children couldn't stop laughing.
They didn't mind waiting their turn
any more. The didn't even want
their turn to come.
The clown, of course, was
K'tonton. He had arrived at the
clinic and managed to get out of the
camera case just as the crying
began. He almost joined in the
crying. Then he remembered how
long ago, on a Purim day, he had
made a sad, sick-in-bed little boy
laugh. The first thing he knew, he
was turning cartwheels and
somersaults to make the children
All the rest of the day K'tonton
kept watch on the children from a
hiding-place under a bench. At the
first sight of a frown, he ran out and
K'tonton had learned a lesson
from the donkey. The donkey used
his leathery tongue to clear the land
of thistles, and K'tonton used his
littleness too cheer sick children.
From them on, K'tonton kept finding
new ways to serve with his
Reprinted from The Best of K'tonton
by Sadie Rose Weilerstein.

Quiz Answers
1. E
9. C
2. F
10. N
11. M
3. H
12. D
4. A
13. L
5. J
14. K
6. B
15. I
7. 0
8. G
This quiz was prepared
by Pat Milner, assistant
administrator, Jewish Federation
Continued from Page L-2

As part of my genealogical
research, I visited Poland recently
with my husband to see if any
records remained about my family
— my antecedents — and to see
what, if anything, was left of the
shtetl from which they came. When
we arrived in Poland, we hired an
interpreter and driver. We brought
maps of the shtetlach because
today's Polish citizens didn't know
where they were. But we knew
exactly where we wanted to go.
We were south of Warsaw,
south of Radom. A signpost
announced, Ilza — one kilometer. In
the distance we caught a glimpse of
the "zamek" — the castle ruins
upon the "barg" — the hill where
my father and ancestors played as
children. In the lovely valley below
lay my fabled shtetl, Ilza, with its
narrow winding streets and ancient
leaning houses.
In Polish, "ilza" means tears.
The Jewish inhabitants, who were
already here in the 14th Century,
had affectionately called it Driltch.
No one any longer recalls why. No
Jews live in Driltch anymore.
We wandered the cobbled
streets of my shtetl. Grandfather's
house still stands on the Rynek
the Market Square where the
Jewish people lived and had their
businesses. The only house on the
square with a brought iron balcony,
it is easy to identify. It is the house
where my grandmother bore six
children and died at age 34. It also
is the house to which my great-
grandparents Chaim and Etla
Provisor came in 1910 from
Mogielnica. They came to bid
farewell to their son and family as
they departed for Palestine. It is the
house from which the family fled in
1917, when Ilza became a
battleground for the warring armies
of Germany and Russia. It is the
place from which my father, Jack
Provizer (the spelling of the family
name was changed at Ellis Island)
departed in 1918 at age 15 to
become a halutz in pre-state Israel.
In this house, my grandfather
Mayer Provisor held early Zionist
meetings attended by Ze'ev
Jabotinsky and his childhood friend,
Sholem Asch. In this home,
grandfather planned the Jewish
school, which he built when his
children were plagued by anti-
Semitism. Two teachers grandfather
brought from Warsaw to teach the
Jewish children of Ilza lived in this
house. My grandfather ran from this

Betty Provizer Starkman is the past
president and founder of the
genealogical branch of the Jewish
Historical Society of Michigan.

Pictured is the former Ilza synagogue, now a

house dragging my terrified father,
the eldest son, to the church on a
Passover morning. They pleaded
with the priest to prevent a pogrom
by approaching peasants, armed
with pitchforks. From this house in
1920 came the decision which
saved much of our family. They
packed their bedding, their books,
their candlesticks, their belongings
and began the difficult journey to
We quickly became a curiosity
as we explored the town —
American Jews, complete with
translator, chauffeur-driven car,
cameras, tape recorder and tennis
shoes. Children surrounded us as
word spread. Old women in
babushkas spoke into our tape
recorder telling us that they had
known our relatives. They reacted
with amazement as their voices
echoed back to them via tape.
Quickly they scrawled post cards to
American family members for us to
mail in the U.S. Dr. Adam
Bednarchyk, a retired professor and
the local historian, was sent for
when we made inquiries.
Dr. Bednarchyk took us to his
small apartment, half of which is
devoted to a museum of Ilza.
With the help of Dr.
Bednarchyk, we located the former
synagogue, a small gem on the
edge of a quiet stream and a
picturesque wooden bridge. It is
now a cinema set far back on a
broad green lawn. My great-great-
great-grandparents and the
subsequent generations worshipped
The search for the home of my
great-grandparents, Azriel and

Rechel Samet, was another
disappointment. It had been
destroyed some months earlier.
Childhood stories told of an
extremely deep dark basement with
a foundation of ancient blackened
boulders. These huge stones were
presumably remnants of the Tartar
invasion of 1241, when Ilza was
destroyed by fire. Subsequent
generations had probably built and
rebuilt upon the former burned
No one in this small town
seemed to know the location of the
Jewish cemetery — the place of
rest for our people for at least 200
years. Dr. Bednarchyk led us there
without hesitation. Up a shallow hill,
to our horror, we discovered a
young forest had replaced the
cemetery. In tears, we recited the
Kaddish and laid flowers in the non-
existent cemetery. The Jewish
tombstones of Ilza were used as
paving material following World War
II, but some 42 years later we saw
no evidence of this.
On Oct. 22, 1942, the Germans
ordered the remaining 1,990 Jewish
residents of Ilza to the Town Square
in groups. There they were stripped
of any remaining valuables and
shipped off to Treblinka
extermination camp, where most
died. On that date the ancient
shtetl, Driltch, died too.
There is no memorial or Yizkor
book for Ilza, no Jewish cemetery,
no Jewish resident to mourn for the
lost little shtetl, the lost way of life,
the lost generations. Jewish Ilza
lives, today, only in the collective
memories of its few former residents
and their descendants.


L 7


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