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Potraits

 

Recollections on Brezover Rabbi Shalom Gabel
Blessed Be His Memory

by Chaim Bank

 

Rabbi Gabel was an expert in “Shas” and “Poskim” and a “Talmid Khaham” as well as being versed in worldly affairs. One recognized that he was a great authority and possessed both the qualities of studying the Torah and had “Khohma” all bound together in one soul. Rabbi Gabel received everyone who came to his house with great kindness. At the end of Sabbath or on weekday evenings a large group of people and friends would meet together in the Rabbi's “Beyt Din” (rabbinical court) room. Among those who met there were “Bailey Batim” and good friends. They would sit there sipping a glass of tea and have conversations late into the night, talking about everyday problems as well as other interesting activities concerning life in the shtetl.

The Rabbi was also an experienced psychologist. He understood all aspects of today's civilization; he

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was flexible towards humanity, but did not hesitate to pronounce a verdict. The Gentiles who quarreled with the Jews preferred to go to the Rabbi for consultation in a “Din Torah” instead of the civil court. Even the rich Gentile, Staszek Bielawski willingly went with his Jewish opponent to the Rabbi. He would say in Polish, “Chodzmy do Szulima” (Let's go to Shalom) meaning the Rabbi. The Rabbi was familiar with a variety of judicial twists and sometimes would use them as examples.

Once there was an incident with a Jewish clothing merchant who “forget” to give back to a Christian customer the change from one hundred zlotys for a suit which cost sixty Polish zlotys. The Gentile customer returned to the merchant and asked him for the overpayment. The Jewish merchant refused, saying that he had given him the money back earlier. The Gentile became very angry and decided to call the police, but a friend advised him to go to the Rabbi instead and not bother with police, courts and their endless procedures. The Jewish merchant had not alternative but go to with the Gentile customer to the Rabbi for a “Din-Torah”. As the Rabbi listened to the accusations from both parties he quietly told the merchant, “Don't give anything back.” The merchant's reply was, “I can give him back a Kadachath”. From this answer the rabbi came to the conclusion that the Jewish merchant was a swindler and a thief. In a strong voice the Rabbi said, “Put the money which belongs to the gentile on the table immediately.” The Jewish merchant was in a very difficult situation because he was trying to avoid the disgrace resulting from his unfairness toward the Gentile customer. Nothing helped and he was forced to pay the money back to the customer.

In another case where a Gentile craftsman had a dispute with a Jewish merchant, the Gentile called the merchant to the Rabbi. The verdict was given in favor of the Gentile. The Jewish merchant would not accept the Rabbi's verdict, so the Gentile was forced to bring the case to court. When the judge found out that the case had been brought before the Rabbi, he immediately sent his secretary to Rabbi Gabel demanding details about the case. After his investigation the judge repeated the verdict passed down by Rabbi Gabel.

Reb Itshe Gabel, the Rabbi's grandson who presently resides in Cholon, remembers, as a child, his grandfather's unusual way of conducting the everyday prayers. Before going to the “Klojz” the Rabbi would start the prayers in his house and he would finish the silent prayer of “Shmona-Esreh” before all the other worshippers. The grandson asked his grandfather the reason for conducting the prayers in such a hurry, since the “Chazzan” was waiting until the Rabbi finished prayers. His reply was, “My dear child, the Jewish people need “Parnasah” and we should not hold them back even for one unnecessary minute.”

Rabbi Gabel of blessed memory replaced his father Reb Yser Gabel who came to the shtetl from Lubaczow.

Rabbi Gabel kept his position as Rabbi in Brzozow for fifty-four years. After his passing his grandson, Simon Gabel, today in Sefat, took over and was the Rabbi in Brzozow until the extermination of the Jewish population by the German murderers.

(Translated by Fela Ravett)


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My Grandfather
Reb. Berish Grinbaum

by Chaim Bank

 

I still remember the time, when, while attending the “cheder”, we boys would boast about our “zejdes” (grandfathers), and every child had something special to tell about his Grandfather. One boasted about the beautiful gifts he received from his Grandfather, the other about his Grandfather's wisdom, and another about his “zejdes” might, etc. Actually all the grandfathers were the same with regard to clothing; they all wore the traditional Hassidic clothing, had white or gray beards with “paoth” (earlocks) and the main thing was that all had the same weaknesses “meychish”. For instance, coughing, sneezing and blowing their noses with a big “fatsheyle” (handkerchief).

In this particular respect my Grandfather was not an exception. An additional quality which my Grandfather possessed was the “art” of sniffing tobacco, sometimes up to three boxes daily. He sniffed the

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tobacco with great satisfaction as if this was his greatest pleasure.

My Grandfather liked to be efficient in his achievements. One of his accomplishments was bringing a “kesale” (kettle), in which he heated water, to the “Mikvah”. That kettle was in existence until the Holocaust. Therefore my Grandfather received the nickname, “Reb Berish'mitn kasale'” (with the kesale). He also had a second nickname “Reb Berish 'mitn gefiel'” (with his feelings) as his motto was: “all affairs conducted between man and man and man and god should be made with great feeling.”

His habit was telling stories about his past. This particular story goes as follows: When my grandfather used to travel to Hungary bringing merchandise, wolves would come out from the forest and try to attack him. Immediately he would make a fire and the animals would disappear. He also told stories concerning both the spiritual Hassidic rabbis and the town-chosen municipal rabbis.

My Grandfather was related to Rabbi Reb Hersh Meilech whose Hebrew name was “Reb Tswi Elimelech” and he was also called by the name of his book, Bney Yososchor. That book was in our house until the Holocaust.

Among other stories my Grandfather used to tell was the one about the “Baal Shem Tov”, the Rabbi who established the Hassidic movement. He used to tell how the Rabbi got acquainted with the bandit Dobosz and was influential in persuading the bandit Dobosz not to assault or plunder the Jews. Several years after being first told this story, I had the opportunity while at a summer camp to make an excursion to the hill “Doboszowka” which was named after the bandit Dobosz. This hill is located in the eastern part of Galicia near the Rumanian border.

My Grandfather, Reb Berish, was a man of great potential; an authority and great scholar “Talmid Chacham”. Besides the whole “Shas” and “Poskim”, he was also an expert on the “Zohar” and other “Kaballa” books, which he always studied. In addition, my Grandfather liked to have on hand the book by his beloved Rabbi Reb Chaim Halberstam of Sandtz, the Divreh Chaim, and the book Bney Yesoschor by the Rabbi of Dynow.

As an expert on the Zohar, my Grandfather had a proclivity for all kinds of mathematical puzzles and calculations based on Talmudic interpretations out of which came quibbles. My Grandfather had a chance to be elected Rabbi of the town of Dynow as a young man, but he rejected the “Kiseh Harabanuth” (the position of rabbi) since he had no desire to be dependent on the “Kahal” and on communal charity.

In the twenties, during an election for the Polish Parliament, infighting occurred between the Jews regarding some Jewish candidates from the Zionist block. My Grandfather went to the late Dr. Selenfreund, a leading personality from the Brzozow community, and explained to him that from the word “Seiim” (parliament) comes the affirmation that Jews must remain members of the Polish Parliament. Otherwise, if you took out one of the two “ii's” (yuds) from the world “seiim” (yuds in Yiddish mean Jews) then you had only “s---m” left which means poison.

Dr. Selenfreund was so inspired by this quibble that he used this expression on several occasions during his speeches in favor of the Zionist candidates. Also the Jewish newspaper “Der Haint” from Warsaw used the phrase in one of his articles.

Another thing I remember clearly is Succoth preparations with my Grandfather. When “Motzey Yom Kippur” (the end of Yom Kippur) came, immediately after the traditional “Kidush Levanah” and the “Havdalah” and we had eaten something after the Yom Kippur fast, my Grandfather began the “Avodath Hakodesh” (sacred work) to fulfill the “Mitzvah” by knocking in a stake to symbolize the beginning of “putting up” the “Sukah” and simultaneously performing the prayer “Leshem Mitzvath Sukath Shalom” (for the sake of our commandments of the Succoth holiday). It brings to my mind the spirit of the Passover Holiday when we used to bake the Matzoth called “Leshem Matzoth Mitzvath”.

The following day the real “putting up” of the Succah began with all the tools in my “Zajdes” possession which he treated like precious talismans. He stood around like a building contractor or an architect and started to give us, his grandchildren, orders on an individual basis. Each one of us had to fulfill a different mission. Earlier, real wooden walls had been prepared from wooden boards. My Grandfather used to call them “Lasses”; the reason for which is still a mystery to me.

I was the oldest of the boys and therefore received the first order. “Chaim bring the “Lasses” and after that bring me the saw, the hammer and the “Polish meter” (why the “Polish” meter I don't know). And then turning to my brother Moshe, “give me the

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nails and also the water-scale and together with Mayer Leib (my next brother) put together the “Sechach” (thatch covering). And don't forget to beautify the “Sukkah” with Etke Reisel's (my oldest sister) help. Also the children of our neighbor Reb. Yankale Reich used to help decorate the “sukah”.

To the reader of these lines it will be hard to believe that in spite of the fact that my Grandfather was a devoted Hassidic Jew of the Rabbi from Sandtz and a true believer of the Rabbi of Munkacs, he was also a Zionist in his way of thinking. He believed that the Zionist delegates would better serve the Jewish interests in the Polish parliament. He believed that the Orthodox Jews on the other hand should be occupied with studying the Torah and spreading Yiddishkeit. And in terms of the “Hechalutz” movement (Jewish pioneer movement to Eretz Israel) to work and build up the land, my Grandfather had a very positive attitude and a very warm feeling and understanding for the building of Eretz Israel.

Around the twenties when the first radio came to our “shtetl”, my Grandfather called me over and declared that the word “radio” appeared in the “Gemarah”; leafing through the pages he come to the right place and showed me where the scholars were discussing various instruments, one of which was called the “radio”. Unfortunately, I don't remember which Gemarah it was in.

In the beginning of this memoir I described the “Gvurah” (might) of the Grandfathers. In this respect my “Zajde” was no exception. In the steam bath my Grandfather would climb to the highest step in the bath and from there call to the bath keeper, Shmuel Zajnvel, “please pour one more pail of hot water on the stones because it is cold here.” Shmuel Zajnvel gave my “Zajde” the answer, “it looks as if there is a frost in hell…”

In conclusion I would like to devote a few lines to a Polish man who drove my Grandfather's horse and carriage. He delivered all kinds of products and was named Wojciech Maniawski. This Gentile began to work for my Grandfather when he was just a young man and my Grandfather was still in his middle years. This Polish man travelled with my Grandfather all over (as my Grandfather called it: “the whole world”). He travelled with my “Zajde” through all parts of Galicia and to the nearest countries of the Austrian empire such as Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. With them they brought wines, groceries and even vegetables. According to my Grandfather's story, this Polish man, Maniawski, also supplied the house with wood for the winter. He would also bring live chickens and geese as well as other products. He was the main supplier of branches “schach” to cover the “Sukah” and even of the “Hoshanoth”.

My sister, Etka Reisel, named him “the man from that Royal Imperial Mansion House, the 'supplier'.”

A few months before my Grandfather's death, he was ill and asked if it would be possible to bring a physician from Berlin. I reminded him to his that he used to tell me stories about the Germans, always calling them “the Nation of robbers and murderers”; why was he now asking only for a German physician? To my question my Grandfather replied, “what I told you about the Germans is the real truth and their hatred for the Jews is even greater than that of the Poles for the Jews, but it is also true that they possess the greatest scholars, doctors, engineers, mechanics, etc., and everything is more or less “perfect”.

About the German “perfection: we were convinced during the years 1939-1945. My Grandfather died in February 1929 at the age of 83 years. This phenomenal type of “Zajde” from the past is now a rarity.

(Translated by Fela Ravett)


Max Wilner

 

He was born to Hassidic parents in Brzozow of Gallicia in 1895. His father was a prayer-reader. In the Heder he studied Gemarra and Tosaphot and helped his father as well as other cantors as a singer. He had a private tutor who taught him Yiddish, Polish and German.

In 1908 Max went to his father in America, there to study for 6 months in public school and then to work in a tailor's workshop. His cousin, who made a living raising the curtain in the “Vaudeville” theatre, used to take him behind the scenes and in this way he got the chance to act as a policeman

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in a play in 1910. After that Wilner also acted in the provinces.

In 1917 he was recommended to Bessy Tomashevsky by Zigmund Weintraub and given parts in which he played “the lover”. In 1918 he took up comic parts and acted in the “Second Avenue Theatre” from 1922 to 1927. In 1927-8 he was on at the National Theatre and from 1928 til 1930 he returned to the “Second Avenue Theatre”.

Wilner is a member of the Actors' Union Executive.

(The Yiddish Theatre Lexicon)

*

Max Wilner, God rest his soul, was a well-known actor in America, appearing in musical comedies and light theatre plays.

He came to America as a child with his late father, Yehoshua Yust. The Yust family were all musical, with a special gift for acting, and Max's brother, Yosske Yust, may God avenge him, excelled in dramatic parts in the shtetl's amateur productions. I well remember his excellent performance as Daniel in the play “On The Rivers of Babylon”.

His father, Yehoshua Yust, couldn't stand America, so full of “treifot” (ritual uncleanliness) and returned to Brzozow, leaving the young Max with an uncle surnamed Wilner. Max relinquished the name of Yust and adopted that of Wilner.

From time to time Max would appear at the meetings held by immigrants from the shtetl, rendering popular songs, giving imitations and dramatizing shtetl types for their amusement.

Max died on April 15,1956, and was buried in “Har Hevron” Cemetery in New York.

All his relatives were murdered by German assassins in the liquidation of the Jews of Brhezov.

Chaim Bank

*

Max Wilner's visit to the shtetl at the end of the 20's is probably well-remembered by the survivors as a moving experience from their childhood days.

Max brought for his father a sophisticated gramophone with records – a sensational innovation in the shtetl which till then had only known the screeching contraption at Aharon Lerner's pub or the gypsy's hurly-burly with its future-telling cards.

Some of the records contained songs and rhymes in very poor taste, composed by Max himself and deriding the Hassidim. These were played by his father to a very limited group.

Most of the records included excepts from famous cantors whose name had reached the shtetl but whose voices had never been heard, such as Yosseleh Rosenblatt, Kvartin, Kussevitzky and others. When Yehoshua Yust turned on his gramophone and the voice of the legendary Yosseleh Rosenblatt echoed down the alleys, a crowd would gather – women and children from the whole vicinity, to stand as if frozen in immobility beside the house, extraordinarily moved and astonished by the sounds.

We, the children, worthless and undeserving of attention as we were, would stand outside the window, absorbing the mellow music coming from the singing box, transported into a world of wonder and enchantment.

Respectable and worthy Jews were invited inside, offered chairs which had been borrowed from all the neighbours, and seated in accordance with their importance and social status. Each was called to his seat by name, as if he were going up to the Torah, the only difference being that, instead of “Ya-amod” (let him stand up!) he was ceremoniously called to be so good as to sit down.

Yehoshua Yust felt as if he were the groom's father, leading his only son to the Huppa. Even though he had already heard the records tens of times he would always stand, fascinated, beside the gramophone, eyes half closed, slightly bent sideways and head thrown back, so that his nose and beard made a straight horizontal line. In unison with Yosseleh he would devoutly sing: “Oi!, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord of the universe!” as tears of emotion and divine joy poured from his eyes.

At one with him the whole company melted with pleasure at this unusual musical experience. The record turned, the duet of Yosseleh and Yehoshua trilled: “Give dew, gi-i-i-ve dew…” The audience was transported, floating around in the world of music, till the record stopped and the scraping needle aroused them from their dream. Suddenly realizing that this was no feast day or Holyday, they went unwillingly to the door, each to his own suffering.

The audience changed and those leaving were replaced by others. Yehoshua Yust's festival of Cantor music went on for many a day.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


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Yekaleh

by Avraham Levite

 

We all knew Yekaleh as a beadle of the Sadigurer Clois. On Friday nights, the eve of Holydays, and Yortzeiten of Tzadikim he would go to the homes of members of the congregation, collecting candles to be lit beside the readers' stands and in the “hengilleichters” (hanging candelabras) lighting up the Clois.

A short, shriveled-up figure with a sparse grey beard stained with black by the snuff he used, he was always angry and complaining. Barely had he managed to calm down from a joke played on him by one of his “roguish” parishioners than he was up in arms against some new prank. He always wore a long, tattered “ibertzier” with a girdle on his waist, witness that he was on duty, carrying out some important task with which he had been charged.

He had just one eye, as did his wife. And, to complete the picture, it was said that they owned a one-eyed cat, though this was never verified, as no one was willing, perhaps, to spoil the story. Once it went the rounds, however, everyone accepted it as true.

Years after Yekaleh had been a women's “melamed” (instructor), and was considered a specialist at “Ivri” (in Yiddish: reading the prayer book).

He taught the young women of that time, already mothers when we were young children, to read in “Tzena Urenna” and “Kav Yashar” (books in old Yiddish comprising tales of the torah and homiletics, which were read by the women on the Sabbath, paralleling the “Weekly Portion” read by the men folk).

As women pray in solitary, each on her own, and in the “Women's' Gallery” they do not pass before the Ark, they were satisfied with the lessons he gave them.

Yekaleh also gave courses in Yiddish writing, teaching his girl students “grissle” writing (gruss -- grissle – regards) which women would append to letters sent by their husbands. The more learned the husband in the Torah, the more words and expressions did his letters contain in “Loshen Koydesh” (Hebrew), and very little space was left for the woman's modest addition in Yiddish.

In our time Yekaleh was just a beadle whose job included various functions with which he was identified, such as going to invite people to weddings. It was not customary then to send printed invitations by post, except to far-away places, and the beadle, armed with a written list, would go from house to house, requesting their presence at the Huppa and the following repast which would take place at the bride's home and was organized by the neighbours and relatives. Very important people would be personally invited by the celebrators themselves or by family members. In order to use the list the messenger, obviously, had to be able to read, and the task was given to Yekaleh.

Yekaleh was also the “Havra Kadisha” beadle and would bring their “tools”, “the orren” (coffin) and the purifying utensils to the house of the deceased.

At funerals he would walk along in his tattered coat, tails folded and trust into his girdle, the upper part of his body bent forward like an inverted “L”. Carrying a round iron box in his hand he would shout hoarsely: “Charity will save from death!” Upon his approaching a group of women participants they would all huddle together like a flight of birds threatened by a vulture.

Yekaleh also acted as a kind of personal servant to the Rabbi, accompanying him on his way to perform “wedding ceremonies”, when he participated in religious celebrations, or at other functions.

He was also the “Law-court messenger”, sent by the Rabbi to bring the contending parties together at a “Din Torah”. If a litigant was obdurate, resorting to all kinds of tactics in order to avoid appearing before the Rabbi, Yekaleh would be sent to him with his stick, a policeman “bringing” the evader to trial. When the dodger finally showed up for a “Din Torah”, the Rabbi attributed his appearance to the man's awe and respect of himself, of course, for had he not dared refuse the “Mara d'Atra?” (the Village Rabbi) -- but this wasn't so! It was not the rabbinical authority, upon which Yekaleh depended, or the stick, which cowed the litigant. It was the fact that Yekaleh had come to fetch him that finally brought him to the Rabbi! Yekaleh derived his authority from the powers of Death which he represented and symbolized, appearing, in case of refusal, ready to bring his “instruments”, the “klei tohorra” (purifying vessels) and give the evader suitable treatment…

He was simultaneously responsible both for the canopy and poles for the “Huppa”, used for weddings, and the appurtenances of the “Hevra Kadisha”, used for burials. It is interesting to note that in the spirit

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of the times, the two were somehow connected and did not contradict each other.

Similarly, for example, as the bride was sitting before the Huppa on her beflowered and decorated chair, dressed in her wedding finery, the clown would cavort before her for her amusement, describing the day of her death in “Technicolor”: “who knows if death is not on her threshold at that very moment”. He also reminded her that when her time came to go she would also be wearing white “clothing”, nor would he leave her be until the poor creature burst into tears – something considered to be a significant success of the clown's art.

Be it as it may, these two polarities – being the major figure at both weddings and funerals, were particularly fitting to Yekaleh's physiognomy of one eye asquint and the other blinded, looking like some covered pit or yawning grave.

The wags had it that his would be an easy death, for was it not just the one eye he would have to close? This would be difficult to confirm, but as he passed away while the shtetl was still flourishing, it would be safe to assume that the manner of his death was far easier than that of most of the people who joked thus at his expense and whom he had loyally served all his life in their joys and sorrows.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


Reb Zalman Scheinbach (Zalmeleh)

by Avraham Levite

 

The word “batlan” according to modern Hebrew usage, denotes a man who fritters away his time heedlessly, wasting his days with nothing to show for them. This was not so in the past. When people called a man “batlan” they meant that he had no traffic with the vanities of the “real” world but devoted his days and nights to what was truly important – God-worship. Zalmaleh Scheinbach, or Salmaleh, as he was called, was one of the shtetl's outstanding “batlans” (within the second connotation of that word) and most of his time was spent in the “Beis Hamidrash”. He and his wife eked out their living from a wretched stall which she would put up every morning near their room, beneath the roofed pavement, the “potchine”.

Once a week, on market day, Zalmaleh was appointed “peeper”, his task being to protect the stall from thieves. Not that the fact of his being there put anyone off from stealing. Say, rather, that the miserable, empty booth posed no attraction to those on the lookout for a more lucrative object of their activities.

Unlike his peers, Zalmaleh was loyal to the Kaiser and did nothing to avoid being drafted to the army. Disregard of the law was a serious offence, to his way of thinking, for was it not written “Dinna de malchuta dinna” (the law of the land is the law). Many years later, during the period of Polish independence, he fell out with his own son over this subject. The latter, after receiving a notification of his conscription, joined a group of friends from the Beis Hamidrash for “Plaggen”, i.e., self-inflicted starvation and sleeplessness which would make him underweight and result in his being disqualified for military service.

Zalmaleh – denouncing this unworthy procedure stoutly, did all he could to dissuade his son. He himself had completed his military service as required by law and had done nothing to avoid it.

Zalmaleh was familiar with one path, and one path only in the shtetl, and his legs led him there of their own volition – the path leading to the Beis Hamidrash. There was a story told about him, from the days when the Austrian regime was disintegrating and the Polish inhabitants of the shtetl set to looting the property of the Jews. The street was dark with the masses of inflamed looters who had flowed in from all the neighbouring districts and hamlets to fall upon the shops of the Jews like packs of wolves with the smell of the spoils in their nostrils. The whole shtetl rang to the sound of axes and iron bars, broken doors and smashed windows, sounds which were echoed in the fearful hearts of the unprotected Jews hiding from the maddened rioters behind their locked gates.

Zalmaleh was unaware of what was going on. From the peepholes in their hiding places his terrified compatriots saw him walking along nonchalantly, as was his wont, his girdle on his hips, the tefillin bag under his arm and his yarmulke (skull cap) jutting out behind his carelessly worn hat. He was deep in thought, shaking his head from side to side,

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as if debating a problem in all its aspects. The argument was valid from one point of view, as it was from another. Suddenly a broad smile spread over his face, as if he had succeeded in settling his argument with himself and compromised between the sides battling in his mind. His walk slowed down; gently he fingered his side-curls and went on his way along the pavement, seeing nothing of what was taking place. Wonderingly the looters gazed at the small-statured Jew going so casually along his routine path as if indifferent to their actions. Then, seeing that he had no intention of interfering with them they, in turn, ignored him, leaving him unharmed. Though they did not know him, they realized the Jew had nothing of value for them. Zalmaleh's investments were in a different kind of property.

Coins were unfamiliar to him, both the Austrian and the Polish kind. T he fact that they had been changed had passed him by; he did not need them. His pockets contained only what was really necessary: some toilet paper for the outhouse (called “asher-yutzerlakh” after the prayer “asher-yatzar” said while washing the hands on leaving the toilet) and sometimes half a cube of sugar incase, God forbid, he should be overcome by weakness and have to ask someone in the vicinity of the Beis Hamidrash for a cup of boiling water, in which case there would be no need to deprive the donor of his sugar, for there was his own supply.

Many were the tales told about Zalmaleh in the shtetl. Here is one I heard from his own mouth:

One Sabbath the worshippers at the Beit Hamidrash, among them Zalmaleh, were invited to “Kiddush” at Avrumeleh Kornfeld's. Avrumeleh's apartment was furnished with great splendor: the sofas and armchairs were covered with velvet; there were pictures and gobelins on the walls; lace curtains and carpets. Zalmaleh had never seen anything like it. “What can I say,” said Zalmaleh, “It isn't an apartment –it's a king's mansion! Suddenly, as I walked into the big room, you'll never guess whom I saw coming towards me – my father, God rest his soul, he and no other! I was a bit surprised to see that the Day of Resurrection had arrived but I didn't lose my presence of mind and held out my hand to him. “Shuleim Aleichem, Tate!” It was only when he reciprocated by holding out his hand towards me that I realized I was standing before a large mirror…”

It was said of him that every week he would visit one of the merchants at his shop to borrow some money with which to purchase goods for sale on market day. He never counted the bills he received but gave them to his wife just as they had been given to him. One day, coming for his weekly loan, he stood in the corner so as not to get in the way of some customers, all bemused and waiting to be asked what he wanted. “Welcome, Reb Zalman,” he was greeted by the shop keeper. “You've probably come about your loan. How much do you need? 60 Zloti as usual?”

“Bless you,” answered Zalmaleh with an embarrassed smile, “It's true I've come about a loan, but 20 Zloti will do.” “Why? What has happened?” Aren't you mistaken? Will 20 Zl.oti be enough?”

“It's a fact that 20 won't be enough, but where is it written that only one Jew should have the benefit of giving charity? I can go to two other Jews, borrow 20 Zloti from each of them and thus give them the benefit of a great mitzvah.”\

Zalmaleh was a man of learning but his specialty was the intoning of the Psalms, and in this he indulged himself only for the pleasure it gave him. He made but few demands on the Almighty and was always pleased with his lot. He would walk around the Beis Hamidrash, holding the Book of Psalms before him, murmuring with his lips.

Anyone watching him would be hard put to it to say whether he was reading from the book or talking into it as into some communication device by means of which he was conversing with some invisible listener, conducting an intimate, heart-to-heart dialogue. He had composed a special melody for the more inspiring verses, humming it with intense feeling, his face glowing with a sense of partnership in King David's creation. His free hand would be slightly raised as he turned his fingers back and forth. According to him there was an angel on each of his fingers and he, Zalmaleh, was conducting them as they sang with him.

Who can tell if Zalmaleh actually saw the angels or just felt them on the tips of his fingers. Be it as it may, the “realistic” explanation he gave his surprised hearers was as follows: as every mitzvah by a Jew produced an angel and the angels created out of his Psalm singing were anchored in the Psalms, what was more natural than that they should join him in his singing and enjoy the beauty of the verses just as he did.

Zalmaleh was not affiliated to any one Hassidic sect and was identified with none. His approach

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was individualistic and he was a total non-conformist. He was a devoted Zionist, a rarity among the Orthodox, and often participated in Zionist meetings, always coming to Herzl's commemoration ceremony on the 20th of Tammuz – which took a lot of courage on the part of one such as himself. It's true he took no part in the cultural and organizational activities of the Zionist Federation, nor did he participate in their dances, but during the elections to the Polish “Seim” (Parliament) or the Jewish Community Representatives, Zalmaleh always figured on the list of Zionist supporters and would be fetched to the polls by the election activists to vote.

Unlike the fanatics who regarded the Zionists as reprobates abandoning the duties of the torah and the mitzvot – impatient rebels refusing to wait for the coming of the Messiah, this is how Zalmaleh saw it: “Our Blessed Messiah is not your Yekaleh the verger; it is not for him to come and knock on every door, saying: “Reb Moishe, please be so good as to come with me to Erez Yisrael!” The Messiah can be relieved of this labor and would certainly be happy to find the Jews gathered and waiting for him in their land so he can come and bring the complete redemption”.

This problem was the cause of many an argument among the frequenters of the Beis Hamidrash. Tempers were liable to rise in the course of the arguments and the relevant verses would be quoted according to the views of the contestants: “If God will not build the House – the builders' labor is in vain” – claimed the radical opponents of Zionism, quoting famous Rabbis and Tzadikim who were violently opposed to Zionism and prophesied its downfall. “Can a few heretics from the shtetl who have gone to Erez Yisrael resurrect a ruined wasteland?” they asked.

Zalmaleh took no part in the argument but paced back and forth with the Book of Psalms in his hand, humming the verses to himself as was his way. Then, during a lull in the dispute, he approached the debaters and began intoning from the book:

“He turneth the wilderness into a standing water.
And dry ground into water springs.
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell,
That they may prepare a city for habitation.
And sow the fields, and plant vineyards.
Which may yield fruits of increase.
He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly,
And suffereth not their cattle to decrease…
The righteous shall see it and rejoice…
Who so is wise and will observe these things,
Even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.”
(Psalms 107, 35, 42-3)
(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


Reb. Josef Glickman

by Chaim Bank

 

Reb Josef Glickman, better known as Reb. Joshe “Shochet” was a great “Talmid Chacham” and was regarded in the shtetl as second only to the Rabbi in his knowledge of the torah. Reb. Joshe was a peculiar and original personality. Always modest, calm, and composed, his attitude toward every human being was one of respect, according to the rule “Tov Torah Im Derech Eretz”. It is interesting that he never preached to people about morals or ethics and did not look for transgression or sinful behavior in others, as many people in his circle did. His way of life was to serve as an example for others by his own behavior. His main concern was that his own “vineyard” produces good and healthy fruit, both physically and spiritually. This he really achieved because his house was an example of Jewish modesty, way of life, and education.

As I remember, he always walked quickly so as to not waste time which was very valuable to him, because Reb. Joshe knew how to use his time for important matters.

As a “Shochet” Reb. Joshe was equipped with butcher's knives of all sizes. As a child, I used to follow with great curiosity his sharpening of the knives, especially the last stage when Reb. Joshe would go over the edge of the knife with his fingernail to make sure that the knife is “kosher” according to ritual law.

Reb. Joshe belonged to the dignified Chassidim of Czortkow and he was also the “Baal Tefilah” and “Baal Koreh” (Cantor) in the “Klojz” (Synagogue). He put his heart and soul into his supplicatory prayers, to the delight of the worshippers; each of

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them felt secure to have Reb. Joshe as a “Shaliach Tzibur” (Cantor).

Freidale, the wife of Reb. Joshe, was a personality with her own “Zechuth” (privilege). Her qualities, values and good deeds were well-known by all. Besides being the housewife and making sure that her household ran according to principles of Judaism, she devoted her free time to helping people in need, giving material help as well as advice. She had a comprehensive knowledge of all kinds of medical cures for every illness and would thus achieve the appropriate result. When a child in the shtetl got sick inexperienced young mothers came to her for advice and embraced the opportunity of receiving her rich experience. When their child got sick, the anxious called Friedale immediately for consultation; her advice was always profitable and responsible. She knew exactly how to distinguish between an ordinary childhood sickness and a serious illness in which the doctor's advice or immediate attention was necessary.

My family was bound to the Glickman family by a close friendship. My father, of blessed memory, used to say of Reb. Joshe, “that this is a Jewish person noted for supreme charity.” He considered him to be a genuine religious and honest Jew.

When the joyful holiday Purim approached, our two families exchanged the traditional “Mishloach Manoth” (gift-sending). The main “gift” which my family received from the Glickman family was a stuffed spleen. The taste of that delicious dish I remember until today…

I will never forget when my father, of blessed memory, was sick for a long time, and Reb. Yoshe Glickman's youngest son, Reb Itshak residing presently in Cholon, sat at my father's bedside day and night trying to comfort him in every possible way.

In the mid-thirties Reb. Joshe passed away and his widow, Freidale, remained with her daughter Ethel and her husband Ben Zion who succeeded Reb. Joshe as “Shochet”. I also remember the wedding of Reb. Joshe's daughter Rivtshe, the oldest, at which I was present. Such joy is impossible to forget, especially the “Mitzvah dance”. His proficiency and excitement. He took out a kerchief and handed it to his daughter, the bride. The father held onto one edge and the bride onto the other. And so they started the traditional “wedding dance”. Who would have imagined that Reb. Joshe was such a good “dancer?”

Unfortunately, nemesis also reached the precious Glickman family. In Brzozow the daughter Ethel and her husband Ben-Zion Bleiberg perished together with their son Henoch and his wife Tziporah, daughter of Kalman Wolf Reich. Henoch finished the teacher's seminar in Vilna and later continued his studies in Warsaw where he lived until the outbreak of the war. He published philosophic articles in the Mizrachi newspaper “Folks-Stimme” which appeared in Warsaw. When the war broke out Henoch and his wife Tziporah escaped to the Soviet occupied territory of Poland. When the Germans took over these territories he returned with his wife to Brzozow. Where they shared the tragic fate of all the Jews from Brzozow. The other family members perished in their homes in Brzozow. The only survivor of the Glickman family is rabbi Itzchak of Cholon and we wish him a long life and many blessings.

During my visit to Brzozow in 1979, I was informed by a Polish woman acquaintance, that Freidale died of natural causes and in this way she escaped brutal extermination by the German murderers. Unfortunately the rest of the family, together with the children, perished in the Holocaust, sharing the tragic fate of the six million “Kdoshim”.

(Translated by Fela Ravett)


My Grandmother
Chanah

by Fela Einziger (Penner)

 

My Grandmother, an anxious expression on her face, was always at work, taking care of everyone and everything. Indefatigable, she was always on her feet in her long worn-out skirt and apron, with a kerchief on her head (the typical outfit of our grandmothers). All her life she mourned the death of her son (my Father) and she took this grief with her to her final resting place.

You never heard from her a real sound of laughter. On special family occasions her face put on a petrified, thoughtful expression. I'm sure that at this particular moment she was thinking of her beloved

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son and secretly regretting that he was not there. Very seldom did she talk about my Father. I remember everything she told us about him. I will try to complete what I wrote in the beginning about my Grandmother, if it is at all possible to describe her real personality. I will do my best. A quiet, inscrutable woman, she would gaze tenderly at my brother Benio, her face full of grief and infinite devotion. My brother Benio was born after my Father's death and bore his name. A kind person, she did not ask for anything for herself. She got up before daybreak and no one knew how many sick people she attended – making fires in houses, washing dishes, changing bedding, and preparing meals for the sick and the needy. When she came back home it was daylight. She changed her clothing and in the meantime the domestic helper lit a fire in the stove and put on the “samovar”. The aroma of fresh coffee spread through the whole house. Gradually a great many needy people gathered in my Grandmother's house to receive some nourishment. Among them you could find: a water carrier, a “Shamash” (caretaker of a synagogue), or a poor man hurrying to go for prayers. All these people were given hot coffee and cake. According to Jewish law, eating bread before the prayers was forbidden by the Orthodox Jews. As we children got up for school the last guest left the house.

When I was growing up I wondered why my Grandmother spoke so little about my Father. She seemed to have vowed, to live with that painful secret in her heart until the end of her life. She took her sorrow and grief, with her to her grave. One time she told us that our Father had not been particular about food, that he was a gentle person, never despised anything and expressed satisfaction with every service rendered to him. He was a good honest man, a brilliant Talmudic scholar and a sincere believer. When my Father died the whole town came to his funeral. Frequently I listened to all kinds of versions concerning my Father, namely: that the Almighty prematurely took away his pure soul to prevent its becoming depraved. My Father was praised by ordinary people – peasants, coachmen, and common gentiles.

When my Grandmother's health began to fail due to an incurable illness, I cried, for it was very hard for me to face the fact that her body was daily wasting away. The thought that soon she would leave us forever was frightening. At that time I was 13 years old. The misfortune was approaching and under the circumstances no one paid attention to us. It was impossible for my brother Benio and me, full of fear and huddled in a corner, to imagine the forthcoming disaster.

My Grandmother's funeral was attended by the poor, sick and all those whom she had provided with food and shelter. After her passing we found out about her achievements, devotion and simplicity. Now we had the real feeling of being orphans, unfortunate and full of fear.

The outcome of these events was two graves in the cemetery. The passing of time shows how vulnerable we humans are…


Aryeh (Loshek) Seelenfreund, M.A.

by H. Berger

 

He was one of the gifted sons of the shtetl, fated to die before the terrifying Holocaust which overshadowed those personal tragedies that preceded it. Always outstanding great things were predicted for him as a future Zionist leader. As a student of the Warsaw University he was active in academic Zionist circles there, continuing the tradition of his grandfather, Reb Shlomo Seelenfreund of Rimanov, God rest his soul, who was a representative at the 3rd Zionist Congress, and his father, Dr. Shmu'el Seelenfreund, a leader in the shtetl's Zionist movement.

Aryeh Seelenfreund was born into a well-to-do family and never lacked anything all his life. He never preached Zionism but committed himself to it, body and soul.

When he graduated from his studies as a lawyer he emigrated to Palestine where he worked as a common laborer in the “Shemen” factory. Ten months after his arrived, in July 1935, he was killed in an accident at work at the age of 24.

No one who was in the shtetl when the sad tidings arrived can ever forget the terrible shock. The whole Jewish population grieved for him and even people from other, distant circles who did not know him personally, wept at the disaster, seeing him a martyr to his love of Eretz Israel.

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Below is a eulogy written by the journalist Herzl Berger, God rest his soul, who, in his late years, was editor of “Davar”, together with an excerpt from a Zionist paper in Yiddish, announcing the inauguration of a library commemorating Lushek in Lodz (the material was given to us by his wife, long may she live, Bella Lipshitz, nee Greenboym, of Haifa).

A.L.


Aryeh Seelenfreund
(A Eulogy on the Seventh Day of Mourning)

by Herzl Berger

 

His life was still before him and everything augured his success, for the foundations underlying it were solid and perfect in their purity. Till the fell day when his life was cut short by a fatal electric current he had walked the path of honesty and faith which can only lead a man upwards.

He had come to us from circles which had become culturally assimilated long ago, a second or third generation to penetrate the Gallician type of Polish culture, a penetration deep- enough to enrich many generations to come. He seems to have saturated

 

himself in this culture when he became aware of another message – that of the labor movement and the work of revival in Eretz Israel. He was overwhelmed. He could have acted as many before and after him had done; accepted Zionism as something great and encouraging, demanding and receiving assistance and serving as a psychological support in the battle to achieve equal citizenship rights within the foreign culture. He rejected the possibility. When he committed himself to Zionism he relinquished the culture which had given his life meaning, and strove to create a new content for himself – Jewish and socialist.

Once decided, he might have chosen the easy way, both mentally and spiritually. Like many others who came before and after him, for whom renewed Judaism represented a break with the old and the beginning of the new life, he could have taken the decisive step of emigrating, of abandoning an unreal existence within a foreign culture for the more fundamental one evolving in Eretz Israel. Though he realized that this meant increasing the difficulty of the transition, he chose the harder way willingly, just as he had always accepted unquestioningly his self-imposed duties in the service of his ideals. Eagerly he immersed himself in the life of the Jewish masses of Warsaw, sharing their hopes and hardships – a hard life whichever way you look at it. Willingly he adapted himself to this environment, with all its burdens. With what pride, tempered with modesty, did he acknowledge that these people, so unfamiliar to him just a few months ago in their culture, thinking, feeling and reacting, now considered him a friend and a brother. With what modesty he once said to me in Warsaw: “I've already tried lecturing in Yiddish and I think I've got the language”. And just two months ago in Haifa heard him say with the same self-depreciation: “I believe that in a few weeks more I'll be able to lecture in Hebrew”.

He could have made the act of joining the workers' movement in the Diaspora easier for himself. After all, the day-to-day activity of the movement did not demand a too profound and painful ideological analysis, and the exigent need for pivotal personalities could have been a short and easy way to achieve leader status. The way he chose, however, was that of profound, unremitting study, never compromising the principal tenets of the movement. He never neglected a single problem that needed investigation nor did he accept any conventional atti-

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tude without subjecting it to a careful, responsible scrutiny.

He regarded his work for the labor movement as sacred and his attitude was that of a complete, self-abnegating self-sacrifice. There was no limit to the demands he made upon himself, always believing that he had not done enough.

Even on that 1st of May when he was delegated by the party to what was, in the then conditions of the party in Poland, a task of major importance, just half an hour after he was engulfed by the sincere and direct applause of ten thousand working men, Poles and Jews, when he appeared at a joint demonstration with Nidzialovsky and Barlitzky and was crowned the young, attractive leader of a young attractive movement – even then he prayed that he would not be given even a second or third-rate task, for: “I am not yet worthy of representing the party…”

He could have easily made a career for himself in Poland and there would have been no obstacles to overcome. His inherent ability, solid learning, his looks and antecedents – judges and scholars, men of public standing – all these opened up doors for him that were locked to others. Yet he left for Eretz Israel. Here, too, he could have established himself in comfort, taken his bar examinations and become a lawyer. Or he might have waited until a “clean” and easy job was found for him. But when he was turned down after applying for a job as a driver in a co-operative plant he went to work as a common laborer in the “Shemen” factory. It gave him deep satisfaction to be living in Haifa, the workers' city, working in a large factory which was a branch of the great industrial workers' corporation. For he had uncompromisingly chosen the way of honest, modest pioneering without avoiding any difficulties that could be overcome. Just as he always analyzed everything intellectually yet remained sensitive to his very core, so did he act and live to the full. He was demanding of everybody, not least himself.

His life was cut tragically short and I have no words of comfort for Bella, his faithful companion in life and in the party. What can I say to his friends, far and near, or to the middle-aged laborer from Gallicia who called at the newspaper office for information “about a friend who was killed”, for h, too, could not believe that Aryeh Seelenfreund, that fount of creative energy, was the one that had died? Later he stood in the corner, face to the wall, murmuring repeatedly: “Unser Seelenfreund…”

I cannot comfort myself. The evening, when the Job's tidings arrived from Haifa, was a moment of total despair. Not only had a beloved, fine man been lost, pitilessly and without reason; there was also a deep conviction that this man was made of the same stuff that the great leaders of our movement were made of, those leaders who had died before their time.

*

A Monument is Erected to the Memory
of Comrade Seelenfreund,
of Blessed Memory, in Lodz

Some two and a half years ago the terrible tidings of comrade Loshek Seelenfreund's tragic death arrived from Israel where he had been electrocuted while at work in the “Shemen” factory in Haifa.

A group of Seelenfreund's friends in Lodz decided to commemorate his name by opening a library dedicated to him.

The opening ceremony took place in the “WIZO” Hall and was attended by several hundreds of guests among whom was Loshek's father, Dr. Shmu'el Seelenfreund and his daughter who had come especially for the purpose from Brzozow Gallicia. Mr. Greenbaum and his wife, the parents of Loshek's faithful companion, were also present.

Dr. Seelenfreund's eulogy was heard in deep silence, punctuated only by the sounds of restrained weeping: “As Loshek's father it would have been far better for me had I not been here…as Loshek's friend who has not had the privilege of accompanying him to his final resting place I have come here to express my respect.”

Sensing the profound distress of those present, Dr. Seelenfreund ended by saying: “Friends, do not despair! Be strong and of good courage! I have certainly been hurt by my son's death but I am still strong in spirit. Loshek's death has not discouraged me and I have sent my second son to take his place!...”

The mourners, deeply moved, rose in their places, honoring their never-to-be forgotten friend with their unrestrained tears…

(From a Yiddish Newspaper in Poland)
Translated by Herzlia Dobkin

 

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