Translated by Bella Golubchik.
Reb Meishe Chone Shamesh, of blessed memory, was one of the most significant Jews in Keidan. He was humble, modest and self-effacing. He was not very conspicuous outside of the cheder, where he taught the children, but his efforts to educate the younger Jewish generation of Keidan were enormous. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to guess that 90% of the town’s boys learned in his cheder. Whoever studied with Reb Meishe Chone certainly learned to read and write both Hebrew and Yiddish, as well as a chapter of chumash 1 with Rashi’s commentary, and many even learned the whole Bible. Reb Meishe Chone dedicated his whole life to the children in the cheder. He spared no effort. Especially with children who didn’t learn easily, he tried to teach them the most elementary things, such as reading and writing Yiddish and Hebrew, a little arithmetic, the special accents for prayers and the chumash with Rashi.
Hundreds of those born in Keidan owe him a debt of gratitude to this day for the elementary education they managed to acquire. For a long time, especially after the First World War, the cheder of Reb Meishe Khone of blessed memory, was the only institution in our town where Keidan’s children could receive such an education. Much later a Tarbut Hebrew school was established, also a “kultur lige” Yiddish school and a pro-gymnasium.
Although the cheder lessons lasted from morning until the late evening hours, Reb Meishe Chone also found time to participate in sports. These included bathing and swimming in the river in summertime (he was an excellent swimmer), and morning and evening hikes throughout the year.
Each day after morning prayers he would organize a hike from his house to the train station and back. And at night, after lessons in the cheder and the evening meal, a nighttime hike on the bridge over the Neviazhe river. He kept this up throughout the year.
There are those who say that bathing in the river was actually the cause of his death. In the last year of his life, on the eve of Yom Kippur, he went to bathe in the river. The weather was already autumnal and no longer warm. He caught a chill, came down with pneumonia and never recovered.
Reb Meishe Chone was also an enthusiastic Zionist. Together with Torah, love of god and the good moral behavior that he helped his pupils acquire, he implanted in them a love of Zion and of the land of our fathers. As we learned about Eretz Israel in the Torah lessons, we could feel his longing for our ancestral land. It is such a pity that he couldn’t make aliya to witness the establishment of an independent Israel in its own land.
Finally, it is impossible to end this chapter without mentioning his faithful, devoted wife, Rivka, of blessed memory. She was his dedicated helper. Reb Meishe Chone was a sickly person, and she looked after him with love, dedication and devotion. She was concerned about every aspect of his health and also helped maintain the household and manage the family budget. Thanks to her dedication he was able to fully devote himself to his life’s aim – teaching Torah to children.
May their memory be blessed.