Aba Kaviner was born in 1921 in Derazhnya, where he was able to receive a Jewish education, first in a heder and then in a clandestine yeshiva. His father worked as a cooper and his mother was a homemaker. In 1939 he was drafted into a military school in Leningrad. He remained in the army until 1946, serving in the Baltics and in Moscow. After the war he returned to Derazhnya, but soon thereafter moved to Khmelnytskyy, where he eventually found work as the director of a carpentry workshop.
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In the immediate postwar period, many of the surviving Jews shared a sense that Jewish communal and religious life should be rebuilt. Following upon a liberalization of official attitudes toward religion, the reconstruction of synagogues seemed like a genuine possibility. In order to rouse the population during the war, the state had made concessions to most religious organizations, recognizing the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan and permitting Muslim pilgrimages to Mecca, for instance. Religious belief provided comfort to those facing loss during the war and gave incentives to fighters to continue the battle. Jews in the shtetls assumed that just as their Christian neighbors were being permitted to return to a semblance of religious life, so would they. In addition to providing spiritual sustenance, synagogues, like churches and mosques, also supplied some of the essential material needs of veterans and returning evacuees. With the state overwhelmed and unable to provide basic necessities for its citizens, faith-based organizations could help fill in the gap, providing welfare and commemorative functions. In this clip, Aba Kaviner explains the difficulties and sacrifices entailed in rebuilding community synagogues. Source: Jeffrey Veidlinger, In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine (Indiana University Press, 2013)