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Miriam Marshak (Finkelstein)

Also Known As: "Mary", "Muska"
Birthplace: Slutsk, Minsk Province, Belarus
Death: circa 1961 (74-91)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Zechariah Eliezer HaLevi Finkelshtein and Kreina Finkelshtein
Wife of Shmuel Dov Marshak
Mother of Zippora Golan; Ruhama Morahg; Avram Marshak; Sylvia (Shulamith) Liberman; Florence (Feiga) Marshak and 4 others
Sister of Gertrude (Alteh) Chasye Cohen; Breina Rivka Finkelshtein; Feigil Lifshitz; Elkeh Finkelshtein; Ital Finkelshtein and 2 others

Managed by: Susan Gail Igdaloff
Last Updated:

About Miriam Marshak

Pohost Shmuel Mehrshak Miriam Mehrshak Translated by David Goldman Donated by Jeffrey Mark Lackner

Shmuel Dov Mehrshak, of blessed memory, was born in Pohost and study ritual slaughtering. At 16 years old his father passed away, leaving behind a widow with five children without any means of livelihood. Since he was a ritual slaughterer, Shmuel Dov was hired for that position and was thereby able to support the family. He was a Zionist, and immediately became an activist on behalf of Jewish settlements in Palestine; he was especially devoted to the Jewish National Fund – Keren Kayemet, and in synagogue promoted the idea of each person sending mail using a kopek stamp of the JNF. Not everyone agreed that a mailed letter should cost an additional kopek, so Shmuel went to the post office that sent mail from Pohost to Slutsk, and asked that the postal official return any mail that did not include a JNF stamp, with a note saying that it required that stamp. This was how he made sure that everyone would send mail using the JNF stamps. Later, he spoke with the synagogue’s Torah reader who was a Zionist, and they decided that anyone called up to the Torah would have to promise to make a contribution to the JNF. Anyone who didn’t want to promise to contribute was not given an aliyah during the Torah reading. This is how he gradually made all the Jews of Pohost Zionists.

In 1912, the community of Slutsk was looking for a new ritual slaughterer, and my husband got the position. He did very well on the examination, but the rabbi, R. Isser Zalman Meltzer was against him. “It is true,” he said, “that everyone likes you. However, we cannot take you as ritual slaughterer.” Shmuel asked the reason, and the rabbi responded, “It’s because people say you are a Zionist.” “Yes, rabbi, I won’t lie. I am a Zionist,” Shmuel said. The rabbi then told him that as soon as he gave up Zionism he would be hired.” Shmuel responded, “You’ll become a Zionist before I ever give up Zionism.” Nevertheless, he obtained the position, and we moved to Slutsk.

As soon as he arrived in Slutsk Shmuel again began working on behalf of Zionism, and encountered open territory for his activities. He visited the kheders and told them to teach Hebrew to the children. He and Leibush Gutzeit brought a kindergarten teacher from Vilna and opened a Hebrew-speaking kindergarten. They also established a community Zionist organization, and Shmuel planted the seeds of Zionism in the hearts of his own children. His work continued until World War I.

In 1914 food and clothing became scarce for some of the Jews. Together with Leibush Gutzeit and Dr. Shilderkraut, Shmuel became active in assisting them. Meat, white flour, rice, oil, canned products and old clothes were sent from the United States. The local committee met for four hours a day, distributing assistance to needy people. There was also a charity fund.

When the Bolsheviks arrived in Slutsk, our children were arrested – first a son, and then a daughter. When Jewish slaughtering was prohibited, we contacted my sister, who brought us to the United States. My husband found a position as a ritual slaughterer in Rochester, where he looked for a Zionist organization. He also found a Mizrachi women’s organization for me. However, he didn’t want to join the General Zionists or Poalei Zion, so he joined the Mizrachi association.

In addition to his activities for the JNF, he devoted a great deal of time to the Talmud Torah school, with the purpose of strengthening Jewish education through teaching children in Hebrew and through the spirit of Zionism.

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Miriam Marshak's Timeline

Slutsk, Minsk Province, Belarus
Pahost, Vileyka District, Minsk Province, Belarus
Pahost, Vileyka District, Minsk Province, Belarus
May 5, 1906
Slutsk, Minsk Province, Belarus
June 12, 1906
Slutsk, Slutsk District, Minsk Region, Belarus
January 11, 1911
Slutzk, Russia (Russian Federation)
April 1, 1912
June 21, 1914