With the approach of the High Holy Days, the adults knew they had to devise a plan to form a minyan despite the menacing danger. Aside from the importance of having a proper prayer service for us children to experience, it was necessary to have a minyan for the boys whoThe adults knew they had to devise a plan were over bar mitzvah, like my brother Berel, Dovid Mishulovin, his brother Eliyahu, and Moshe Nisilevitch. Although Jewish law recognized them as adults, as long as they were under 18, they were still banned from attending the shul. It would also enable R. Berke Chein, who was hiding in our house and the Mishulovin house at the time, to pray with a minyan. Other adults would also have to participate, as it was very hard to have a minyan consisting solely of the youth.

With great difficulty and effort, they organized a secret minyan for the Holidays. At times we had to start very early and finish before the services began at the main shul; other times we began only after the minyan in the main shul was over. Overall our goal was to maintain a low profile and protect the minyan and its participants from being noticed.

Our greatest challenge was obtaining a Torah scroll. We did not possess one of our own, and had no way of getting hold of one. Asking the warden of the shul would no doubt prove our undoing, as the authorities would thereby instantly discover our activities. Taking one without authorization was also risky, as sooner or later the “burglary” would be discovered and a commotion would ensue, quickly leading to the discovery of our activities by the government. Very often, we had to suffice with reading the weekly Torah portion from a regular printed book, if only to preserve the structure of the service and not deviate too far from the custom of reading from a Torah scroll. That was the best we could do. Even R. Berke Chein, who under regular circumstances was painstakingly meticulous in his religious observance, was forced to settle with this arrangement.

OnOn very rare occasions, we had our chance very rare occasions, when one of the trustworthy Jews who attended the shul fell ill, we had our chance. The wardens were told about this fellow who was too unwell to walk and that he had requested that we organize a minyan in his home. Naturally we were very cautious to keep this information from leaking to the any of the known informants at the shul.

You can imagine our trepidation and dread the day we heard that one of the informants had uncovered our secret and reacted by saying, "That's an old trick of theirs. This is just an excuse for the purpose of borrowing a Torah scroll and arranging a minyan for the young boys!"