November 19, 2015, Oral History Project, Alan Bernstein
The Felshtin Society began its Oral History Project in October, 2015 in order to better understand how the the events surrounding the pogrom of 1919 may have impacted successive generations. Each video is a first generation’s recollection of the development of their family and how they faced the challenges of acculturation in a new place. The Society’s plan is to study the histories and present significant findings at our centennial memorial to be held in New York, April, 2019.
Felshtin (pronounced fel-SHTEEN), was a small, rural Ukrainian town that contained a Jewish community, or shtetl. Felshtin was located 78 miles north-northeast of Chernovtsy and 186 miles west-southwest of Kiev, famous for its wooden synagogue.
During a brutal pogrom on February 18, 1919, an estimated 600 Jewish Felshtiners were massacred—about a third of the total Jewish population. On Yom Kippur, 1941, Nazis exterminated most of Felshtin’s surviving Jewish population. Today the town is known as “Hvardiyske.” A few Felshtiners absent from the town during the holocaust returned after the war.
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Felshtiners who came to the United States established the New York-based First Felshteener Podolier Benevolent Society, which was organized in 1905 and incorporated in January 1906. The society provided relief to survivors of the 1919 pogrom, helping them settle in the U.S., Israel, and Latin America. The society also created and published a Felshtin yizkor (memorial) book in 1937, sponsored social events, a memorial in Dimona, Israel, and maintained the Felshtin section of a Staten Island cemetery. By the late 1970s, many Felshtin-born Americans had passed away, and the Association grew increasingly inactive.
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