Eli Fuchs and Fruma Skriloff

28 February 2011


     Uzlyany, like many shtetls in the Pale of Settlement, had a wooden synagogue. I first became aware of the synagogue through the book Wooden Synagogues by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka. This beautiful old volume was published in Warsaw by Arkady in 1959. In the Introduction, Dr. Stephen S. Kayser states that the book "commemorates martyred buildings." The book is a witness to another class of victims of the Holocaust--these examples of Jewish architecture that "deserve to be remembered like the six million human beings who perished with them...and who to a considerable extent were a part of them."
     The book was the first real inventory and study of these synagogues. Where photographs of the synagogues did not exist, the authors reconstructed them in drawings from descriptions and records. Such is the case of the Uzlyany structure. We only have drawings and reconstructions, but at least those sources help to provide a witness to its existence.
     Using the notes and drawings of the Piechotka's, a David Dawidowicz made models of many of the synagogues, including the one in Uzlyany, below. Link to Wooden Synagogues of Poland web site
   Years ago, I found a postcard with a rendering of a Holy Ark. I later learned that this postcard is of the Holy Ark from the Uzlyany synagogue.
     While the outside of the synagogue seems plain, the inside was glorious, as the intricate work on the Ark attests. From the research I have done, most of the wooden synagogues were full of beautiful woodwork, and often had vividly painted walls with symbols and colorful designs.
     David Fox told his son Marvin that the depiction of the shtetl in the movie Fiddler on the Roof was very close to the Uzlyany he remembered. The synagogue in Fiddler was a wooden one, much like Uzlyany's, simple on the outside but beautiful within. The movie is well worth watching for the sets alone, which can provide us with a visual grasp of our ancestors' lives.

12 February 2011


Stories my father David Fox told me.
     Elia and Fruma scraped out a living in a one room house with an earthen floor and a wood stove in the middle of the room. In winter my grandmother Fruma would get up earlier than the rest of the household and light the stove. Then one by one she would take the children from their bed, dress them on the warm stove and feed them breakfast. In the middle of winter in Uzlyany, men would come to the door and place my father on their shoulders to take him to Hebrew school through the heavy snow.
       Grandma Fruma was in charge of the cultivation of the leased fields, and saw over the planting and harvesting of the fields, while Grandpa Elia visited trappers with his horse drawn cart to collect furs for a marketplace in Minsk. Occasionally, in the winter, my father went with grandpa to collect furs. I asked my father if he rode in the wagon with grandpa. No, he answered, in the winter you never rode in the cart. You would run along side of the cart because if you sat still you would freeze to death. Grandpa Elia periodically went to Minsk, to represent Uzlyany, my father proudly told me. Every day my grandma would take my father to visit my maternal great-grandma. My father said she always made sure he knew she loved him.
     We took my father and mother to see "fiddler on the roof" and he said that the town shown in the movie was similar to Uzlyany.
      He once described his father Elia as kindly in that townsfolk would come to him if they needed to borrow money.

       My grandpa told my father that there was no work in this small town for him. Grandpa Elia gave my father $5 and a ticket to find a new life for himself in America in 1913.
   My father came to America through Ellis Island stayed with his relatives in New York City. He did not get a job for two weeks and was starving, He got a job as a house painter and reluctantly was given  $0.50 by his boss after his first half day at work He went out and got a pail of water a loaf of bread and a salami, He says that was the best meal he ever ate.
      Lonely in NYC he started spending his weekends in museums. He enjoyed doing that and that is a memory I always have and i also enjoy. Imagine that a peasant boy spending his weekends in museums. He learned to paint and I feel he was a very good unschooled artist. 

      My father David and mother Fannie (born in Poland) came to America in 1913, met at a house party where, they played spin the bottle.  I asked my father what was the first words he said to my mother. He said he was sitting next to her, and he reached over and touched her sleeve, and my speedy father said “nice material"

01 February 2011


     According to its self-description, Yad Vashem is the "Jewish people's living memorial to the Holocaust."  Yad Vashem's commitment to remembrance is manifested in four ways: commemoration, documentation, research, and education. Victims of the Holocaust, plus the Righteous who saved lives, are honored at the facility in Jerusalem and on its online memorials.
     The resources and documentations collected by Yad Vashem are of importance to Jewish genealogists. Our goal, like that of many other family history researchers, is to use genealogy as a way to remember and honor our ancestors, especially those who were lost to us in the Shoah. Yad Vashem has provided family history researchers with valuable materials for meeting that goal.
     We have found, through the Yad Vashem online database, that an unknown relative has submitted the names of Eli and Fruma Fuchs and their daughter Rakhil Fuchs Levin to the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. Finding this online memorial was our first step in determining the dates and cirmcumstances of their deaths. We are trying to find the person who submitted the Fuchs' memorials, in the hopes of reuniting with a cousin who may have survived the atrocities in Uzlyany.
     Yad Vashem also has a You Tube Channel. The videos of the survivors' telling their stories are especially compelling in their witnessing and remembering. Family history researchers should search the videos for their surnames, shtetls,  and  other identifying terms for their ancestors.
     Yad Vashem, in partnership with Google, has recently placed 130,000 photographs from the Shoah online. The photograph labels and descriptions are searchable.
     Families can submit Pages of Remembrance to the Names Database, as well as photographs to the Photo Archive. The forms and procedures are available online through the web site.
     Reminder to family history researchers: don't forget to search for alternate spellings of names and search terms.