Hasidism in Oshpitzin [Yiddish]
Hasidim still tell the tale about the three great Tzadikim of the generation,
the Three Shepherds, the Rebbe R Elimelech of Lizhensk
his brother R Zusha from Annopol, and R Shlome'le Chrzanower, who
Oshpitzin during their trek of Exile Redemption. They spent a whole
day in the city. Towards evening they wanted to leave, as is the custom of
those who make this type of journey not to spend the night where they had been
during the day. R Elimelech remarked that he wanted to spend the night in
Oshpitzin. He immersed himself in the little Mikveh and remained to spend the
night in town. To this very day the little Mikveh is known as Rebbe R
Elimelech's Mikveh. Oshpitzin later became a burgeoning center of Hasidism.
There were great Hasidic Admorim in Oshpitzin itself who were world-famous,
namely: The Rebbe R Berish, a disciple of the Seer of Lublin and of
Shloime'le Bochner of Chrzanow; the Av Besdin, R Moshe Yakov Scharf, the
leading disciple of the Saba Kadisha of Radoszyce, who authored Darkei
Yosher, whose graveside was always crowded with people who came to pray
there at their time of distress. For a lengthy period the Bobower Rebbe, R
Shloime'le Halberstam and R Elazar Rosenfeld, the son-in-law of the
Divrei Chaim of Sacz and the Dayan of the town, lived and made
their influence felt in Oshpitzin.
Although Oshpitzin was a town that had everything, Hasidim and
Misnagdim, the wealthy and the indigent, merchants and craftsmen, Zionists and
anti-Zionists, students and Yeshiva Bocherim, all had one purpose: To be proud
and true Jews nevertheless, Hasidic life in town was on an especially
high plane. Hasidic Shtiblach were full of scholars and worshippers, and most
of the town's youth belonged to the Hasidic camp. True, there were various
conflicts and quarrels between the Radomsker, Bobower, and Belzer Hasidim, but
these too were imbued with Jewish Hasidic flavor and it was all for the sake of
I can never forget the Kidnapping episodes, when the Bocherim of
the Radomsker snatched Bocherim of the Bobower Shtiber and vice versa, and each
tried to convince the other that his Rebbe was greater and holier. I am
recounting my own sins. I was, myself, one of the kidnappers. I
remember one summer, how I and a group of Bocherim from the Keser
Torah Yeshiva snatched several of the best Bocherim of the Bobower
Yeshiva, and some of them didn't even want to return as a result.
The sound of Torah issuing from the Botei Medrish and Yeshives never ceased,
day or night. I studied at the Keser Torah Yeshive. Every winters
end there was an exam in which the Gaon, The Radomskers son-in-law,
Moishe'le, took part. For months the students had crammed, day and night, gone
over all of the commentaries and the differing opinions of Rashi and Tosfos in
order not to be shamed in the eyes of the Gaon and Tzadik, R Moishe'le.
The day R Moishe'le came to Oshpitzin was a festive one for the town. He
after all, one of the greatest Talmidei Chachamim of the generation. There was
a popular saying, that the world was based on three Moishe'lech: R
Bojaner, R Moishe'le Rozwadower, and R Moishe'le Radomsker. The most
important people of the town went to welcome him. That same day and evening a
table was prepared with fruit and pastries. All of the young people and the
Bocherim stood around and regarded every movement he made with awe, and
listened with rapt attention to every D'var Torah he uttered. At the table sat
the town's scholars and Roshei Yeshiva. My father, R Yechezkel Shrage
Kinderman, HYD, was the Rosh Yeshiva of Keser Torah. He and
other Talmidei Chachamim, not specifically Radomsker Hasidim talked
Torah and Pilpul until dawn, and we, the young Bocherim, crowded around the
table and didn't want to go home to sleep.
Radomsker Hasidism was considered an aristocratic type of Hasidism in which
there was a harmony of Torah and Hasidism, nobility and modesty, but the main
emphasis was Torah. Each young Bocher strove with all his heart to achieve
entry into the Upper Level that was instructed by R Moishe'le.
I remember when my father used to go home after instructing his class in the
Yeshive, there was always a group of Bocherim that accompanied him and
continued to discuss the lessons. One would ask for additional elaboration of a
difficult Rashi, another didn't understand the answer of the Tosfos, and my
father would patiently respond to each and every one so that the Bochur could
go home untroubled, and with a clear understanding. Yes, it was an entire world
that existed and is now gone. Where can one find today such precious Jews,
Talmidei Chachamim, who are prepared to devote and sacrifice their whole lives
in order to disseminate Torah to the many?
In Oshpitzin, Hasidim would often travel to their Rebbes, and when they met
together would tell one another about the Rebbe's ways, his fiery prayers, his
way of presiding at table, his love of Jews, and his wonders. After such a trip
to the Rebbe, a Hasid would tell and retell his experiences endlessly.
I still remember my father telling of a tragic event that took place at the
Radomsker Rebbe's table in Sosnowice. At that time, his only grandson, R
Moishe'le's child, who had been born ten years after the marriage, suddenly
became seriously ill. The Rebbe was conducting a Melave Malke. In
the middle of the meal the Rebbe suddenly said: Is there any news? It is
necessary to travel to Radomsko, to the graveside. Immediately, an
emissary traveled to Radomsko and when he arrived at the cemetery the Ohel of
the Tiferes Shloime was on fire. That very same night the grandson
died. The Rebbe later imparted that the child had had the holy soul of the High
Priest Ahron. [The Radomsker Dynasty were all Kohanim].
Hasidism in Oshpitzin was as natural as breathing air. When a Rebbe came to
town, the entire Shtetl became one Hasid, and all went to honor the Rebbe. When
the Bobower Rebbe, Rabbi R Benzion Halberstam, HYD, came on a visit
Oshpitzin, everyone lit candles in their windows that night, and everyone,
young and old, went out to greet him.
There were some notable personages in Oshpitzin who could have tilted the
balance of the entire world by their great merit. Suffice it to mention the
intense devotion and ecstasy during prayer of a Jew such as Avrom'tche Gross,
HYD. He was suffused with Torah and Hasidism, and meek as a little child,
as if dust and ashes, such a R Boruch Meier Benet, HYD, the
of the Zuterrer Rebbe, about whom it could have been said: Torah and greatness
combined in one person. His house was a meeting-place for the wise and many
people benefited from his largesse. He was the Ba'al Mussaf on the High
Holidays at the Radomsker Shtibel.
Incidentally, talking about a Ba'al Mussaf, it is worth mentioning a bit of
humor concerning the last Ba'al Mussaf at the Radomsker Shtibel, R Eizik
Koszicki. He was a very wealthy man and many people gave their money to him for
safekeeping. When he began the Mussaf with Hineni He'oni [Here I
stand, the poor one....] the whole crowd shuddered for fear that he was about
to go bankrupt, but when he finally uttered the [following] word
Mima'as [in deeds] they began to breathe more easily.
Our own family itself represented all types of Hasidim, Belzer, Bobower, and
Radomsker. My uncle, R Shloime Rosen, now a Shochet in London was
always a Bobower Hasid and makes the trip to this very day to the Rebbe in
America every Hoshana Rabba and stays there until after Shabbes Bereishis. My
grandfather, R Moshe Ahron Ohringer [?] was a Belzer Hasid. My
Avrom'tche and R Feivish Rubin were Belzer Hasidim as well, while my
and all his sons would travel to Radomsko.
My grandfather was accustomed to send a pineapple from Beuten to Belz every
Rosh Hashana so the Rebbe could make the Shehecheyanu blessing. He,
himself, would make the trip to the Rebbe on Hanukkah every year. He would
leave home on the Sunday before Hanukkah and stay there until after Hanukkah.
The Saturday evening before he left home his house was full of Belzer Hasidim
who gave him Kvitlach for the Rebbe. He packed the Kvitlach in several
suitcases and this was the most important baggage he took along.
My father had a custom that the entire family would gather in his home every
Saturday night. The conversation ranged over all possible topics: Torah study,
prayers, the usual news of the world, but the topic of Hasidism was never
mentioned. This was an unwritten gentleman's agreement.
Now, thirty years after the Destruction it is difficult to concentrate and
provide more details. Generally speaking, Oshpitzin was a city suffused with
deep-rooted Hasidism and it flourished with Jewish life. At all times during
the year, beyond merely the penitential month preceding the High Holidays,
there was a pervading feeling of love of Torah and the Fear of Heaven. It is a
heartache that this idyll was wrecked for eternity.
May my words be a monument for the pure and holy martyrs who were annihilated
by the foul murderers for the Sanctification of God.
The Melamdim in Town, and other Memoirs
My very first Melamed who taught me Alef Beis, was R Eliezer Zlotorow, a
Jew with a patriarchal appearance, a long black beard interwoven with silver
hair, and good-natured, wise eyes. He was nicknamed Leizer Fonie in
town because he stemmed from Congressional Poland. His Cheder was all the way
inside Avrohom Fenigers house.
Because I walked to Cheder every day, the families and interesting characters
that lived in the same courtyard are deeply etched in my memory. I remember
Hirsh, R ElozoRs son, and his beautiful children with the blond
the saloonkeeper, R Yakov Kleinhendler, the Fischer family of the
confectionary, Hornung, Fleischer, and the well-known Yoshe who knew everybody
in town and their children by name, and everyone's Yichus going back to their
There, too, sat R Avrohom Reifer, an unassuming Tzadik who eked out his
from a little grocery. People said that each kilo of flour that he sold was
permeated by a few Chapters of the Psalms, some chapters of Shevet
Mussar, Kav Hayoshor, and other Mussar books. Too bad that I
don't remember the name of the teacher who prepared children for [public]
school. He had a red trimmed beard and prayed at the Bes Medrish of the
By the way, as long as we're talking about Davenen [praying], it is
worthwhile mentioning that of all the residents in FenigeRs house,
frequented a different Bes Medrish. R Avrohom Reifer davened at R
the Melamed, R Elozor Zlotorow in the Schneider Bes Medrish
with Leizer Schneider, Pesach Hollander, Moishe Wolf, and Leibele Steger; my
father and Fleischer davened in the Chevre Kove'a Itim with the
Dayan of Kety, R Eliezer Landau. R Yakov Kleinhendler davened in
Shtibel at Elchonon Seidenberg's, and of the entire Feniger family, the father,
Avrohom, davened in the Bes Medrish, his son in the Bobower Shtibel, and the
son-in-law, Rosenberg, was a member of the Great Synagogue where the davenen
was in the Ashkenaz Nusach and the Gabbai R Avrohom Jachtzel wore a
I remember as a child when I was sent to buy a coupon for the Shochet*
or to go around gathering Chametz for burning. I remember the [early morning]
calls of the Shammes to come to the synagogue, my Chumash festive meal, when I
made my first speech, and the candies they tossed at me in the primary Cheder.
I still have the mental picture of how I used to go every Shabbes for my quiz
to our neighbor or my uncle. When I knew my Torah well I was rewarded with
Shabbes fruit, and when I didn't, I would get a few slaps and have my ear
We were raised to love all people and everything Jewish. Everywhere one met Jews
doing Mitzvos and good deeds. I went daily with my father to daven with the
Minyan in the Chevre Mishnayes with the much-loved R Chaim Yehude
Opposite the Chevre Mishnayes was the Chrzanower Shtibel where the extended
family of Chaim Yakov Wulkan, Noson Bornfreind, Shloime Quadrat, Velvel
Wachskertz, and Hershel Shainovitz davened.
Every day, between Mincha and Ma'ariv, R Boruch Matye taught chapters of
Mishnayes at the Chevre Mishnayes to a crowd of about a hundred Jews. In my
eyes, he seemed to look like our Patriarch Avrohom: A tall, handsome Jew with a
long, white beard, and broad, unruly Payes. He had a deep, pleasant bass voice.
I remember other Melamdim: Ephraim Schwartz, Itche Schroit, Chaim Scherer.
Moishe Simche Teitelbaum taught boys for Bar Mitzvah and told them exaggerated
stories. R Yakov Unger taught older students, about whom it was said that
had big ears since their Rebbe was always oulling on them. R Avrohom
Wilchfurt taught in the anteroom of the Great Synagogue. There was another
Melamed, R Shmuel Zuterer. He stemmed from the nearby town Zator. Once his
students pasted his beard to the table with sealing-wax while he snoozed. Last,
but not least, is the Melamed of Gemore, R Shloime Posner, a sharp
Hasid who accepted only the exceptional students. He used to quiz them every
Friday. If a boy didn't know his Gemore, he would summon his father, and
plainly and simply declare that he refused to accept money for nothing.
Aside from Melamdim, Bocherim would study on their own in the Belzer, Bobower,
and Radomsker Shtiblach. Later on, the Radomsker Keser Torah
Yeshiva and the Bobower Toras Chaim Yeshiva were established.
Dovid Reifer was the Rosh Yeshiva of Toras Chaim.
Yes, pleasant and unforgettable memories.
[Tr. Note: Shochtim were not paid directly by the customer bringing the fowl.
The Kehilla paid their salary, and those who wanted to use his services would
pay a fee at the Kehilla office for the coupon which would be given to the
Shochet when one came with a live chicken or goose for Sh'chita].
Political Parties and Youth Movements
The Zionist Movement
Yakov Better and Shmuel Bochner
The first Zionist association, B'nai Tzion, was founded in 1901. The chairman
was the head of the
kehilla, Bernard Pilcher; the treasurer, the watchmaker, Nathan Scharf; the secretary,
the birth registrar, Lieberman; and the expediter [transfer and storage],
Haber. The meetings were irregular and far between, cyclically ceasing
altogether and then resuming again. It was not until 1911 that regular and
continued Zionist activity began under the leadership of Dr. Moshe Goldberg,
and a meeting-place was established in the house of Yochanan Tobias, called
The Jewish Reading Club; they also started the only library in town.
The leading members were: Dr. Goldberg, Dr. Pilcher, Yosef Koszicki [?], the
brothers Yehuda and Chaim Einhorn, and David Goldstein.
Regular members were: Yochanan Tobias, Shlomo Gruber, Yosef Fertig, Yakov
Kleinman, Melech Horowitz, Chaim Landau, and several others. Aside from the
activists, the rest of the Zionists tried to hide their affiliation so as not
to damage their reputation, inasmuch as Zionists and apostates were identical
as far as the town's zealous ultra-orthodox Jews were concerned.
In 1913, Dr. Feifer from Krakow came and founded the Machzikei Limud, which
conducted an all-out war against the Zionists. Even they were considered too
progressive by most of the town's ultra-orthodox, and they, too, were
considered improper. When the First World War began, all Zionist activity
ceased and the reading-room was closed down. In 1916, Zionist activity resumed
under the guise of cultural activity in the Yiddish Reading Club, since all
political activity was forbidden during the war. The club was opened in the
Hennenberg House, a library was established and new books were acquired.
The founders were: Yakov Better, Chaim Hornung, Yosef Koszicki, Boruch
Hennenberg, Shmuel Shalmon [?], Shmuel Bochner, Motel Steinfeld, David Helfman,
Arush [Uri] Hanis, Yisrael Reicher, and the religious studies teacher at the
public school, Shlomo Dudlis [?], who was the speaker at the first Zionist
general meeting in Oshpitzin, marking the publication of the Balfour
A clubroom for girls only, under the leadership of Leah Hornung and Tzila
Schoenberg, was established at the Steger House. They carried on an intensive
propaganda campaign among the youth, as well as varied cultural activities.
They were assisted by Dr. Berkowitz, who had been the Hebrew secretary of Dr.
Herzl; he was a Hebrew instructor at the Reali School in Bilice and would often
come to lecture in Oshpitzin. A group of
from Oshpitzin who studied in Bilice and were members of the Chashmonaim there
also assisted the club. These
had profound knowledge, a broad education, and wide horizons. They were: Zimek
Frischer, Hans Tramer, Karl Neiger [?] (Shachor), Mundek Weinheber. Leading this
activity were the
Dr. A. Rosenberg and Shmuel Shalmon.
Many young people joined the movement and the Zionist idea began to make
inroads even among the adults. The activities in support of the Jewish National
Fund were led by Yakov Better and Dudlis.
As the war ended, riots targeting Jews broke out in the whole region. A
self-defense group was organized with the help of demobilized soldiers and led
by Dr. Przeworski, Dr. Pilcher, Avraham Scharf, and Lieutenant Blatt from
A first-aid station was set up by Malka Goldstein, Mindel Gruber, and the
Sheinowitz sisters. In consequence of the expulsion of the rioters that saved
the city, the Zionist influence increased to unprecedented levels and the
Zionist candidate for the Polish Sejm received 80% of the Jewish vote.
Hechalutz was founded in 1919 and dozens of
were trained in preparation for
aliyah, and they became the pioneers of the Third and Fourth Aliyah.
The Hashomer youth movement was founded in 1917 by Malka Goldstein, Mindel
Gruber, Elfi [?] Chayes, Dov Weinheber, and Yosef Bochner. Many of its members
The Kadima Sport Association was founded in 1921 by Moshe Goldberg, Joachim
Lieberman, Dr. Julius Przeworski, Dr. Sindhaus [?], Hans Loew, Ferdek Wulkan,
David Leschner, Isidor Enoch, Dr. Emil Reich, and Asher Ribner. Kadima was most
influential with the city's youth. Thanks to the initiative and organizational
skills of the association chairman, Norbert Klingberger, various sport
divisions were organized, and a comprehensive sport program involving hundreds
of youths thrived.
The Zionist-Socialist party, Hitachdut, was founded in 1925 by the
Yosef Manheimer, David Kuperman, Asher Ribner, and Moshe Hoffman. With the
passage of time it became the most active and assumed the leadership position
among the Zionist organizations in the city. The youth division, Gordonia, was
later organized and educated its
aliyah. Many of them are in Israel. At about that time Menachem Schaalberg, the
Hebrew teacher moved to our town. He made a significant contribution to the
dissemination of the Hebrew language. During that period, Hans Loew, one of the
Zionist activists, founded Akiva, the General Zionist youth organization, many
of whom are in Israel.
The Revisionist movement was founded and led by Dr. Iro [Uri?] Druks.
The Mizrachi movement was founded by Zalman Frankel, Baruch David Brenner,
Avraham Hirsch Blumenfrucht, Mordechai Fortgang, and Sender Hornung.
The Poalei Tzion Yamin [right-wing] was led by Shaul Hoffman.
All of the Zionist movements were organized and affiliated under the umbrella
of a local committee, and they pursued their Zionist goals in mutual
cooperation with reference to external concerns, such as elections to the
Polish Sejm, the municipality, the Kehilla Council, the Zionist Congress,
Jewish National Fund activities, Keren Hayesod, and Ezra, the relief
organization. The chairman of the committee was Dr. Moshe Goldberg, Mrs. Adler
for Keren Hayesod, and Mrs. Lieberman for the Jewish National Fund and Ezra.
The Zionist Women's Movement, WIZO, was founded and led by Mmes. Lieberman,
Adler, and Loew.
There was also an Agudas Yisrael movement.
Shmuel Bochner and Natan Goldfinger
from Oshpitzin between the two World Wars was primarily of
chalutzim. Owing to economic distress, there was almost no
of entire families. The participation of our town's
was considerable: in the settlements,
and kibbutzim, in construction, in defense, in the cooperatives, and in all
branches of production in the land. They were the pioneers of Emek Yezre'el and
Emek Hefer, the first of its settlers and those who drained the swamps and
built the roads.
Hechalutz in Oshpitzin, founded in 1918, was General Zionist like all of the
Zionist movement at the time in our town, which had not yet experienced
factionalism, and was affiliated with the Central in Lwow. The very first
members were: Yakov Better, Yechezkel Bornfreund, Yakov Holischitzer [?],
Binyamin Bornfreund, Shmuel Bochner, Yechezkel Wachsberg (Herzog), and Shlomo
(Zalek) Better. They did their
at an estate owned by the Jew, Holtzer, in Stawy. He had a brick-works and
they worked there as well. They mixed the clay with their feet, packed it into
the frames, and put it into the kilns. Once, as they returned from the field,
in group formation and singing, their scythes and pitchforks on their
shoulders, they happened to pass a platoon of the militia. They suspected the
of being dangerous revolutionaries and arrested them. A panic overtook the
town, as well as gloating at their calamity – or this is exactly what these
sinners of Israel deserved. Through the intervention of Dr. Moshe
Goldberg, all of them were soon released. At the conclusion of the war in
November 1918, the entire group decided to make
immediately. Since they were unable to obtain passports, they crossed the
German border, then hardly patrolled, and traveled to Berlin in order to obtain
laissez-passer as refugees. Only Yechezkel Wachsberg (Herzog), who had an
Austrian passport, was able to travel via Czechia to Vienna. Karl Neiger [?]
(Nethanel Shachor) also reached Vienna after arrests and many adventures. These
were our town's first
who reached Eretz Yisrael in January 1920. Shlomo Wachsberg followed them
shortly afterwards by himself, having made his indirect journey alone and
without any organizational assistance. Shlomo (Zalek) Better, who also had an
Austrian passport but was taken off the train by the police at the request of
his father, reached Eretz Yisrael in May 1920. In 1919, a second group was
were the Hornung sisters, Leah and Shoshana, Yosef Nechushtai (Kupferman),
Avraham Chaviv (Lieblich), Baruch Hennenberg, Nathan Goldfinger, and Urish
Hanis, the group's leader. Their
was the same as for the first group. There were also negotiations with
vocational institutes that had been established in Krakow by the Joint
[Distribution Committee] in order to learn a trade, but after the fall of Tel
Chai the decision was made to make
at once. Due to difficulties in obtaining passports and obstacles put in their
way by the Eretz Yisrael Bureau, which generally opposed the
chalutzim, they left only in July and reached Eretz Yisrael in August 1920. Arriving
then were: Leah and Shoshana Hornung, Eliezer Glitzman, Avraham Chaviv, Yosef
Nechushtai, Nathan Goldfinger, and Mordechai Better. Coming after Sukkoth and
during the winter were: Yosef Stiel; Shmuel Bochner; Tzila Schoenberg; Yakov
Wiener; Menachem Thieberger, who was the only one who was joined shortly
after by his parents, brother, and sisters; Mordechai Scharf; Elfi (Shulamit)
Chajes; Yitzchak Frischer; Eliyahu Jakubowitz; Lukim (Mikol) Hornung; Leizer
Scharf; Munk; Feivel Blumenfrucht; Mendel Kolander [?]; Salka Gruber; Sarah
Goldberg; Shmuel Shalmon; and Urish Hanis.
Hechalutz was reorganized in 1924 into three sections. Kvutza 1 was led by
Shmuel Bochner, who for family reasons had returned the year before; Kvutza 2
was headed by David Kleinhendler (Kupferman), and Kvutza 3 by Wolf Bratz. They
studied Hebrew with the teacher, Shaul Berg, and did their
at the kibbutz
Czychokonczyk [?], near Krakow and in Czynstoniw near Czestochowa. Hechalutz
in Oshpitzin paid 40 zloty a month per
hachshara. Approved for
in Kvutza 1 were: Ahron Trom, who was killed in the Viennese
on his way to making
aliyah; Yakov Braun; Sarah Jakubowitz (Herdung [?]); and Yakov Wiener, who was
wounded while working in the quarry, lost an eye, and returned home to
recuperate, with his wife Esther Ringer; Gusta Gruber; Devora Silberstein with
her husband Dov Weinheber; Malka Lewkowitz with her husband Shmuel Bochner; and
Mondek Weinheber. They arrived in Eretz Yisrael in February 1925.
of Kvutza 2, who made
in 1926, were: Chaike Solnik, Wolf Bratz with his wife Franka Jachtzel,
Shoshana Schiff, Pesia Siegman, and Zalman Braver [?]. During the thirties,
from Kvutza 3, the following came on
aliyah: David Kupferman with his wife Mania, Sheindel Braun, Mandelbaum (Shakdi), and
Alter Farber (Tzivoni).
There were many other
by way of their youth movement whose names I don't remember.
My apologies to all the
whose names I haven't mentioned, whether through forgetfulness or lack of
The first Shomer
[branch] in Oshpitzin was founded in 1919. There was an active Jewish
community, and a segment was affiliated with the Zionist Federation. Hashomer
Hatza'ir was the first Jewish youth organization in town. The general reaction
was not sympathetic, especially that of the religious community. This, however,
did not interfere with the development and growth of the
of the movement were all students. The
numbered around 60 and was made up of two groups of girls and one of boys.
was quickly integrated into the general Shomer milieu. Contributing factors
were the close contacts with Krakow and the area and, of course, the combined
hikes and the movement's conventions. Many of the
participated in the conventions that were held in Tarnow and Krakow, the last
one with the participation of Meir Ya'ari as emissary from Eretz Yisrael.
There was a buzz of activity in the
ken, the groups were compatible, and the relations between the
were friendly. The
leader was Malka Goldstein-Chagiti, who had founded the
and was admired by all her pupils. When Milek Goldschein (Shmuel Golan)
to promote the raising of funds on behalf of the Shomer settlements, the
response was excellent. The girls removed their jewelry on the spot and
contributed it to the fund.
Oshpitzin, being a border town, was an important transit point for
searching for a way to do it illegally and to smuggle themselves across the
border. Here they gathered and from here they started on their journey.
Obviously, the Shomrim were quite active in helping and housing these
The following words were written by Y. Chorni [?], who had been in the town on
his way to Eretz Yisrael, in describing the
of the Shomer (The Third Book of Aliyah):
...The town of Oswiecim served as an important transit point for those in
the Third Aliyah, and especially so for our group, whose
had many friends in the Hashomer Hatza'ir
there. Several of the
ken, among them the late Chaya Stiel-Offner (one of the victims of the Krakow
Ghetto) and our
Shlomo Achiezer, helped us in financing the journey of our group....
We gathered in the Hashomer Hatza'ir house and with the help of our
we began to look for a new way to cross the border. The boys and girls of the
took good care of us, and whoever hasn't seen Rochtche Siegman (now in Bet
Alpha) carrying coals in her apron and daily lighting the stove in our lodging
or striding towards us with a steaming platter of potato soup in her hands has
never seen the kind of service given by a Shomeret to
chalutzim. A baker's daughter would bring us fresh bread every day, and to our amazement
she revealed that she was a member of the Bund, but who can understand the
feelings of a Jewish girl...
When the leadership made
aliyah, and when further
was prohibited, there was a general feeling of frustration in the
graduates who were prevented from making
scattered to find work or went off to study.
The Mizrachi Movement
The Mizrachi Weekly, Warsaw
Issue #18-19 Tishri 8, 5684 (18.9.1923)
Oswiecim: An association of the Mizrachi Youth has been established
in our town and already has a goodly number of Chaverim. A temporary committee
was chosen and it is making preparations for expanded activities.
Issue # 21 (221) Marcheshvan 1, 5684 (11.10.23)
Oswiecim: Our association, recently established in our town, is continues to
make inroads. Much has already been accomplished in the organizational sphere.
Recently, the Chaver, Mr. Yakov Bennet of Krakow, a member of the Supreme
Council of the Tze'irei Mizrachi Federation, visited our city for
organizational purposes. We had a special consultation with him in which he
expounded on the goals of Mizrachi and Mizrachi Youth and gave us specific
instructions suitable to carry out our work, and how to organize the various
committees and the specific tasks involved. His words were greatly appreciated
by the Chaverim and they expressed their consent to accomplish whatever
possible in establishing our association and the realization of our goals.
Issue # 27 (227) 21 Kislev 5684 (29.11.23)
Oswiecim: Our work proceeds and advances. Our committee does whatever it
possibly can to promote our association in town at the fitting and proper
level. The areas of activity have been divided among our members in this
fashion: Mr. Zalman Frankel Chairman; Yisrael Reicher
Vice-Chairman; Yitzchak Grubner Secretary; Avraham Zvi Blumenfrucht
Treasurer; Mr. Zische [?] in charge of cultural affairs;
Baruch David Brenner in charge of matters concerning the Jewish National
Fund and Keren Hayesod; Shachna Schnitzer in charge of the
Mizrachi Chalutz Fund concerns; Arye Wasserteil in charge of
Shkalim and dues.
The number of our Chaverim stands at around 50.
In recent weeks we had visitors in our town to promote publicity of Mizrachi.
These were Chaverim from Krakow: The Chairman of the Mizrachi there, Mr. Shlomo
Bester, the Rabbi R Michael Halevi Ish Horowitz and Mr. Rabinowitz, the
teacher of the Cheder Ivry School there. On the day of their
arrival we organized a large public meeting in the main hall of the Kehilla
building in our town. Rabbi Horowitz and Mr. Rabinowitz lectured on the topic
The Tasks of Religious Jewry. Town residents including youths
evinced much interest in the meeting and so many came that hall was not able to
accommodate them all. With warm words, and many references to quotes from the
Talmud, these excellent speakers aroused the interest of the audience
concerning the many great responsibilities that were ours, and especially the
questions on Eretz Yisrael that were urgently awaiting a speedy resolution.
These words, which came from the heart, left a hopeful impression in the hearts
of all who heard them. The hall resounded with prolonged tumultuous applause
when they concluded.
Our association sponsors evening classes in Hebrew, Gemore, and Tanach, which
are well attended by Chaverim and new students join every day.
We have a suitably large hall where nearly all our Chaverim spend their
evenings and regularly discuss the ongoing work of the Mizrachi Youth Movement.
Issue 1 [?] (232) 26 Teveth 5684 (3.1.1924)
Oswiecim: On 1 Teveth, the 7th
day of Chanukah, we ran a festive entertainment evening in our hall, featuring
a rich program in honor of the festival. All of our members, together with
another fifty guests participated. The hall was filled to overflowing. The
Chairman of our association, Mr. Frankel, and his deputy, Mr. Reicher, lectured
on holiday matters and the aspirations of Mizrachi, both on the religious as
well as the national aspects. The gathering enjoyed the sweets and drink that
At the end of the evening a goodly sum was collected towards the needs of the
library in our association.
The committee wants in this way to express its thanks to all the Chaverim who
assisted in the preparations of the evening, and most especially to Ch.
Frankel, Reicher, Grubner, Schnitzer, Wasserteil, Schere, Rabi, Brenner, and
Glitzer [?], who did outstanding work.
Issue # [?] 28 Nissan 5684 (2.5.1924)
Oswiecim: On Tuesday of the Weekly Portion Tzav, Mr. Y. Scheftman of Lublin
visited our city to publicize Mizrachi. That evening he spoke at the Great Bet
Midrash on the subject Our present status in the Diaspora and our role in
the Eretz Yisrael question. His words made a deep impression on the
audience. On Thursday, Purim, we held a Purim evening at which Mr. Scheftman
participated. He spoke to the Chaverim and guests on current events. This
evening produced appropriate collections for the Jewish National Fund and the
Chalutz Fund. After partaking of the Purim delicacies and singing
Hatikva we left the hall in high spirits.
Issue #18 (249) 4 Iyar 5684 (8.5.1924)
Oswiecim: On the first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, a general meeting of our
Chaverim took place in our hall to choose a new committee. Our president, Mr.
Z. Frankel opened the meeting and gave a detailed report of the work of the
out-going committee. The Chaverim approvingly accepted the report, expressing
their confidence in the committee and especially the president of the
The election results were: Mr. Y. Reicher Chairman, B. Brenner
Vice-Chairman, A. Blumenfrucht Secretary, S. Enger Treasurer, S.
Schnitzer delegate to Keren Hayesod, S. Hornung delegate to the
Jewish National Fund, S. Glitzer [?] delegate to Keren Hechalutz;
Z. Frankel Director of Educational Activities, H. Wulkan delegate
for Shkalim and Dues. M. Scharf Supervisor of the Library.
The fact that Mr. Frankel was chosen to head the Education Committee was most
satisfying, since he has worked long in this field which is the foundation of
our association. The new committee began its work immediately and we hope our
association will develop apace. We collected funds for the Chakutz Fund and for
The Jewish Voice, Warsaw
Issue #19 (121) 24 Sivan 5694: [June 7,1934]
Oswiecim: A combined committee of the Mizrachi and all associations of Torah
and Avodah was formed, consisting of the Chaverim: Z. Frankel, B. Brenner, Y.
Jerud, Y. Meier, V. Hutterer, S. Miller, A. Grubner, Z. Ziegman [?]. The
work proceeds apace. We sold 241 copies of the promotional issue. The campaign
for the Moshavah Fund was carried out with success. We arranged a
lecture by Mr. Simcha Landau of Antwerp on Shavuot.
The new local leadership of Hashomer Hadati (one of the best
branches in the entire district) is composed of: brothers Simcha Miller, Chaim
Silbiger, Yakov Jerud, and sisters Shulamit Schiff and Yehudit Wolf.
Oswiecim: Kislev 5695 [Nov. 1934]
Our Chaver, Yakov Jerud, participated as a delegate at the second national
committee of Mizrachi in West Galicia which took place in Krakow in Kislev 5695.
The Po'alei Agudas Yisrael Federation
The branch of the Histadrut Poalei Agudas Yisrael [PAY] in Oshpitzin was
founded in 5689 (1929) by a number of Bachurim and young Balebatim, that in
addition to being steady frequenters of the Bes Medrish also were in business
or professions, along with those who wanted to learn a trade and prepare for
Aliyah to Ertetz Yisrael.
At that time most of the Jewish youngsters in town were students at Yeshivos or
Kloizer, while only a small number had joined the various Zionist organizations
or the Mizrachi, had gone on Hachshara in order to acquire the privilege of
making Aliyah when the time came. The economic condition of the Jewish
population was not at all rosy. The majority of the residents made a living
from peddling in Upper Silesia, an occupation that was perhaps not too
dignified, to travel every morning to various villages and townships, to trudge
from house to house and coax the wives of coal-miners and factory hands to buy
textiles, notions, and other sundry merchandise on a monthly installment plan,
and then to deliver the merchandise, and finally to return to the very same
doors two or three times a month in order to collect the payments.
This peddling produced a livelihood for people, and for some a rather good one,
but, nevertheless, none of these good Jews considered this
profession as a future for his sons. Necessity could not be
faulted, especially during recent times when official anti-Semitism grew and
had reached serious and even dangerous proportions. There had been incidents of
attacks and serious injuries while riding the trains. Quite frequently the
peddlers were driven away from the homes of those who owed them
money when they came to collect and were chased away by setting their dogs on
them to drive them off, and the like. Then, as a result of these circumstances,
young people began to consider and reflect on their future and the first
harbingers of learning a trade or profession appeared.
Yet, it wasn't so simple as all that. To begin with, it was necessary to
overcome the almost natural opposition prevalent in the environment to learning
a trade, since at the time a tradesman or craftsman was a blot on the
family escutcheon...secondly, there was hardly any industry worthy of its
name in the area, only a few small workshops owned by observant Jews, while
most of the other employers were owned by gentiles, and to top it all off there
were no trade schools in our town. It was, therefore, a nearly impossible plan
for a young man to acquire a decent trade and to receive a certificate
permitting him to engage in that craft as either an employee or as
In order to overcome all of these obstacles, therefore, required heroic
measures, which any one individual could not conquer. A group of young men
gathered to organize in order to cope with all of these problems. It was
natural and understandable that their only venue was a religious worker's
organization such as PAY, which, by the way, was the only one in
town during that time that concerned itself with the professional predicaments
of its members and adherents as well as their social and cultural needs. The
organizing committee consisted of Menashe Blaugrund, Akiva Altman-Pfeffer,
Akiva Zwerling, Chaim Wolnerman, Moshe Ahron Schindel-Frei, Moshe
Engelstein-Carmi, Yitzchak Jerut, and Yechezkel Ben-Chaim Fleischer.
They parceled out the tasks among themselves, formed separate committees for
vocational training and for placement, for liaison with other organizations,
for Eretz Yisrael matters such as Keren Hayishuv, Hachshara, and Aliyah, for
culture, for youth, etc.
All of the work was done, naturally, on a voluntary basis, and the results were
soon forthcoming and better than expected.
In a short time the group consisted of excellent professionals such as the sole
expert electricians in town, our Chaverim Akiva Zwerling and Menashe Templer,
HYD; the bakers: Moshe Ahron Schindel and his brother, Shlomo David
Silbiger, and Moshe Engelstein-Carmi. The weavers were: Shaul Braff, Zvi Elazar
Silbiger. There were tens of others who became gainfully employed. This was,
however, not the end of the story, since in spite of the fact that our boys
were already hard at work at their vocations, and even highly skilled in them,
they lacked the official certifications which prevented them from legally
opening a workshop or to receive a permit to practice their profession as
self-employed. True, they did not want for work, but for the long haul it was
necessary to see to their entry into the market as recognized professionals
with the attendant rights involved.
After many efforts and various attempts, the PAY leadership was able to attain
a one-time arrangement with the Czech [?] (The General Trade
Union) to organize evening courses for general studies during the summer
months, and that the participants who would successfully pass the examinations
would attain the status of accredited professional recognition from the
Several dozen of the Bachurim took the course, passed the examinations
successfully, received the accreditation in their various fields, and were
inducted into the Czech as regular members. In this way they
achieved professional backing and the right for each of them to work at his
profession either as an employee or independently.
The activities of the branch continually increased as did its membership. The
branch offices were always humming with people and soon became too cramped to
accommodate them all. It became necessary to make plans for opening additional
branches in other parts of the city, especially in Zasola and the neighborhood
of the train-station. Each evening, the branch maintained courses of study in
Torah, regular classes in Hebrew, Tanach, English, accounting, etc. These
courses were always well attended. On Friday nights there were Torah studies
and discussions of the Weekly Torah Portion led by important Balebatim, and
outstanding Torah Scholars such as R Chaim Natowitz, R Kalman Lieber, etc.
Frequently, lectures on relevant topics and sciences were organized, which were
superbly presented by Ch. Yisrael Zeisel [?], Yisrael Mandelbrot,
Moshe-Shmuel Frish, and others, as well as guests from out of town, who drew
large audiences. Occasionally, public lectures were organized in the synagogues
or in halls, featuring famous speakers such as Rabbi Zvi Hirschhorn of
Jaworzno, R Chaim Leibush Berglass of Bilice, and others.
In 5693 (1933) a youth department was established.
Special efforts were expended in order to encourage youths to learn a trade or
professional skill while maintaining the ancestral traditions of Torah and
The department rapidly grew and expanded and entirely new problems arose:
Vocational education, youth leaders, library, special interest groups, etc. The
veteran members responded and accepted the challenge, worked ceaselessly and
succeeded. An appeal for funds for the library was made. The Jews of Oshpitzin,
who had come to appreciate the welcome activities of the PAY membership on
behalf of the youth and the general public, understood the need and generously
contributed towards the library. More than 400 books were made available at the
start, and the library was soon opened.
In Israel today are four of the founders and active supporters of the library,
the Ch. Akiva Zwerling, Moshe Engelstein-Carmi, Yechezkel Ben-Chaim Fleischer,
and the writer of these lines. Thanks to their great devotion and efforts the
library was established.
Many of the youth were also quite active at the branch in the various projects,
in the organization of presentations, and especially in raising funds for the
Keren Hayishuv. I remember well the enormous success of the dramatic troupe in
its impressive appearance in the largest cinema hall in town in their charming
presentation of The Sale of Joseph under the direction of Ch. Akiva
Zwerling. This was a success both in terms of publicity and returns at the
box-office. (See the photograph).
Summer camps were organized annually for the youngsters in the woods of
Elworna [?] or in the Baskid [?] Mountains. (See the photographs).
One of the greatest achievements of the PAY was the establishment of a
Hachshara post for Aliyah in Bilice-Biala, which, by the way, didn't survive
very long, but was a break-through and penetrated the gates of the textile
factories of Jewish industrialists which had heretofore been closed to Jewish
workers. Many dozens of jobs were obtained by our Chaverim and others as
weavers, spinners, etc., as well as employment for girls in spinning,
inspecting, etc. It should be noted to the credit of PAY that it prepared its
members for Aliyah a significant number of Chaverim went to Hachshara at
Gorlice, Lwow, Lodz, etc., but only a few were privileged to make Aliyah before
the war, and its fruitful efforts in raising money for direct transmission to
The members of the PAY branch also succeeded in making inroads to the public
and communal scene. They had representatives in all the important institutions
and were participants in all important events in town. The doubts and
opposition that were their earlier lot at the beginning of their appearance on
the public scene quickly changed to admiration and appreciation of their
accomplishments. Things came to such a pass, that the Admor, Rabbi Elazar
Halevi Rosenfeld, who with his family, supporters, and admirers, all of whom
had always been the most intrepid opponents of PAY, since like every new
movement in formation was considered Chodosh [new]
Forbidden by the Torah, when he settled in Jerusalem, after making
Aliyah in 1936, sent a letter of appreciation to the Oshpitzin branch of PAY in
which he requested the residents of the town to contribute to the Keren
Hayishuv of Eretz Yisrael.
The letter was published by the branch and distributed in town before the
holidays in 5698  and made the strongest impression and was the talk of
the town for many months.
This, then, was the success story of a few people whose strong wills and
serious deeds gained the recognition and esteem of all sectors of the public in
The municipal and governmental institutions knew about and recognized the
positive influence and the dynamic undertakings of the PAY in the Jewish
community at large and particularly with the youth, and for that reason they
consulted with the PAY representatives when a problem arose and sought their
cooperation in decision-making and in its implementation.
So it was also in the spring of 5699 (1939) when the political situation became
uncertain. The tension at the border with Germany rose and it was necessary to
make preparations. The representatives of the government and the army turned to
the PAY representatives, by way of the regional health department, with the
proposal to organize, among others, self defense groups and courses of the Red
Cross in first aid and care of the wounded.
This was quickly and efficiently arranged. Some 30 Chaverim heard lectures from
the best physicians and reserve army officers, and received appropriate
instruction towards organizing civil defense, the use of arms and
communications gear. After passing examinations they were given authorization
documents and stationed at various points, went through pre-military exercises,
and each of them received a specific assignment, manual, and password.
Unfortunately, not too much time elapsed and it was necessary to make use of
them. Shortly before the war, the Bachurim were partially mobilized and were
issued Red Cross uniforms. (See photograph). The city was subdivided into
various sectors and everyone was stationed in and responsible for a specific
When the war broke out, you could see in all parts of the city and environs,
bearded Bachurim with Payos in uniform with first aid back-packs and other
equipment instructing the citizens how to conduct themselves during an enemy
attack, and especially during air raids, of which we had never known before.
When the first bombs rained down at noontime on Friday, September 1, 1939,
those same Bachurim removed the dead and rendered first aid to the wounded.
They saw to the safety of the civilian population as far as possible, by
directing them to shelters and places that seemed secure. They disseminated
emergency instructions and information, in addition to providing first aid. Who
knows how much more tragic the situation might have been and how many more
casualties might have resulted from the aerial bombardment in the first days of
the war were it not for the helpful activities and efficient instructions
provided by the Bachurim of the PAY, who were everywhere at all times and
calmly and heroically assisted the bewildered and confused citizens of their
town as they were bombarded by the enemy from above and the mass exodus at
their sides scattering in all directions in advance of the enemy invasion. The
roadsides were crowded with men, women, and children who had been uprooted from
their homes and were fleeing in panic with only a few possessions and with fear
and helplessness reflected in their faces. Here, too, you found these brave
Bachurim, tirelessly searching for stray children and also adults who have lost
their dear ones in this haphazard confusion, and attempt with all their power
to provide aid and comfort. This was one of the last activities of the Chaverim
of PAY in the service of the Jews of Oshpitzin, their townsmen who are no more.
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