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RABBI ASHER EISENSTEIN
[Photo:] Rabbi Asher Eisenstein
Rabbi Asher Eisenstein was born in Drohitchin; his parents were R. Berl and Toiva. In Drohitchin, R. Asher was known as Asher Toiva's even though he rarely visited Drohitchin.
I first met R. Asher in approximately 1923, when I went to study at the Grodno yeshiva. At that time Rabbi Eisenstein was the head of the elementary school division of the yeshiva, and it goes without saying that Rabbi Eisenstein was extremely kind to me, and I frequently visited him at his home.
R. Asher was educated in the large yeshivas of Slobodka, Volozhin and others, and was ordained into the rabbinate by the great scholars and heads of yeshiva, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rabbi Baruch Ber Leibovitz. In the yeshivas, R. Asher was known as R. Asher Drohitchiner, and was greatly respected. He was considered a great scholar and a man of great character. It is said that Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik greatly admired R. Asher, who became very close to Rabbi Soloveitchik. He was especially distinguished at the Grodno yeshiva, and held in high esteem by Rabbi Shimon Shkop.
R. Asher was very creative in his Talmudic studies, and had written many of his own Torah commentaries, though I don't know if he ever published any of his manuscripts. Rabbi Eisenstein's wife was an attractive and educated woman; she was the daughter of the rabbi of Yashinovka (near Byalistock). Although they had no children, their life together was idyllic and satisfying.
In approximately 1926 Rabbi Eisenstein was selected as the rabbi of Semiatitsch, near Byalistock. A yeshiva student (Chaimovich) and I were selected by the yeshiva administration to accompany R. Asher to Semiatitsch, where R. Asher was welcomed with great respect and affection. Over the years, I lost contact with Rabbi Eisenstein, and never heard from him again. I have heard that he and his wife shared the same fate as the other Jewish martyrs in Poland. Rabbi Eisenstein had a brother, Shimon, a full-time yeshiva student, and one sister. They were all killed, except for two sisters who were in Palestine.
RABBI ELIYAHU V. ALTWARG
[photo:] Rabbi Eliyahu Velvel Altwarg
Rabbi Eliyahu Velvel Altwarg was born in Drohitchin. His father, R. Chaim Ber the glassmaker, was a respected businessman from the Street House of Study, and served as the teacher of the Mishnah study group. Nothing is known about R. Velvel's youth; all that is known is that studied at the Slobodka yeshiva. He married the daughter of a rabbi in Lithuania, and for a few years before World War I, he was the rabbi of Vidz, a town in Lithuania.
When World War I broke out, R. Eliyahu Velvel and his family went to Drohitchin, where he remained thereafter, and served unofficially as the rabbi of the Street House of Study. He would give speeches on the holydays and on various other occasions.
Later, when the rabbi of the Polish side, rabbi Noach Kohn, left for the United States, some Jews from the Polish side started buying yeast from Rabbi Altwarg, which stirred opposition from the supporters of the official rabbi, Rabbi Kalenkovitch, who had previously purchased the rights to sell yeast from Rabbi Kohn. These supporters brought the rabbi of Pinsk, Rabbi Aharon Walkin, to Drohitchin to resolve the controversy. Unfortunately, no resolution was attainable, and R. Eliyahu continued selling yeast. His wife helped him in this business, and was a virtuous woman and community leader.
R. Eliyahu Velvel had three sons and one daughter.
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Updated 13 Dec 2001 by LA