Educational and Cultural Institutions
In the olden times, when our holy seforim (holy books) filled the Beis Midrashim (houses of study) and Yeshiva, they were the main source [and influence] from which the first generation drew its spiritual nourishment. Although individual Radomskers already were receiving a secular education, too, they received it in another town. Radomsk proper was then a relatively small community with great limitations. In the surrounding environment, the Polish population was a big majority with a lower level of cultural development.
Thus it was until the end of the 19th century. The Russian government, which then ruled in Poland, began to carry out various reforms in the existing Jewish khederim (traditional Jewish schools). The melamdim (traditional teachers) had to follow the sanitary regulations and had to teach in the Russian language. At that time, too, the so-called state public school was introduced.
The first Jewish school employed Mr. Golomb [as the teacher] (for the boys) and 'Mrs.' Funem Dentist Rozenblat [as the teacher] (for the girls). The school occupied one big room and [in it] was taught Russian, arithmetic, geography etc, all [taught] in Russian. Once a month (Friday) the cantor Shlomoh Zaks would come and teach singing (naturally, the Russian Imperial Hymn: Bozhe Tzarya Khrani came first). The school observed Yiddishkeit and was closed on Shabbos. During a Russian galawke the children went with the teacher into the school.
[At that time] in Radomsk there were also private (religious) teachers: the Lelewer teacher, the Warszawer teacher and others. At that time, there also existed a Polish school and a pre-gimnazye [headed by] Mr. Fachan, which had a dormitory. The school of the gimnazye had enrollees from the surrounding Polish property owners. (Apparently some Jewish children with wealthy parents studied there, too.) Some young Jewish girls also studied in the Polish middle school, which was called the Pension [headed by] Mrs. Marszantowicz (Later it was headed by Fraulein Khamitszuwne). Other Jewish children studied in neighboring towns such as Czenstochow, Piotrkow and elsewhere.
Photo caption #1-top: The Jewish Folks Shul in 1908. In center the teacher Bogdanski.
Photo caption #2-bottom: The teachers and female students from Miss Khamitszuwne's Girls Gimnazye in 1914. The first from the right: Polja Fajerman-Goldberg.
Photo caption 1918 Teacher and students of the Jewish State Folks-Shul, under the direction of Haim Krajndler (in center). On the right-Mrs. Krajndler-Wisotski.] [Translator's note: The translator's mother Tema Gliksman Berkenstat is in the second row from the top, fifth from the left.]
It is self-evident that the Enlightenment movement also had its adherents among the younger generations in the yeshivas and Beis Hamidrash and among the older generation, too. In addition the old Hebrew Press and the national [publishers] Pinsker, Lilienblum, Ached-hem and others, had readers among the Jewish intellectuals of other circles in Radomsk.
The distinguished Yiddish author and poet Hersh Dovid Nomberg (1876-1927) had at one time left the Gerer shtibel in Radomsk and settled in Warsaw (a short time later he published his first [writings]).
The Socialistic-Revolutionary movement of 1905-6 gave a big push to the flow of cultural accomplishments and to Yiddish [accomplishments], in particular. Unfortunately, this did not last long, because with the brutal oppression of the revolution all slogans and aspirations were suppressed. Their [proponents] were either assassinated, or sent to distant Siberia, or emigrated to the other, free[r] countries.
The state school with [its] Russian language [requirements] continued to exist. Instead of Mr. Golomb who had left Radomsk, the teacher Bogdanski became the head of the school, naturally, with a complete program change. The youths [of 18 and 19], that remained in the town after the revolutionary storm, looked for various ways to maintain a cultural life. In several towns in Poland, Jewish cultural institutions were created such as literary societies, Hazamir and so forth. In Radomsk Hazamir was also created [with] a wide cultural [mandate]. The famous conductor Mr. Benisman and the old artistic leader Mr. Gelbart were brought in to lead the choir. Under the artistic leadership of Mr. Benisman, the opera Di Yidn was given its first performance in Hebrew. At the same time [drawing on] the strength of local musicians a symphonic orchestra was created. Under the leadership of Mr. Klewanski, who was the conductor of the Russian military orchestra, which had been stationed in Radomsk, the State Orchestra developed very well and its opening concerts echoed far, far from Radomsk.
With the outbreak of the First World War (in 1914), when the Czarist power was expelled from Poland, the new political regime of the German-Austrian occupation diminished pressure on societal life, mainly in the cultural sphere. There was an opening of wider horizons for an educational and cultural revival among the Jewish population. The young organized a culture-circle (at first illegally) and created the organization Kultura which organized lectures and readings, creating a large library of Yiddish and Polish books (actually the first Jewish library in Radomsk) and a drama circle, too. Separate evening courses for adults [were given] under the direction of [a] student Gobrish Winer.
In 1916 Krajndler returned home to Radomsk [and] developed the Jewish Folks-Shul with instruction in Polish. Mr. Krajndler together with his wife (née Wisotski) developed the Folks-Shul with a nationalist spirit, naturally, in so far as the legal opportunities permitted.
At the same time, the Jewish [political] Parties came back to life, especially the workers' parties, such as the Poalei-Zion and Zeiri-Zion (Z. S.), later [called] the Fareinikte, and the Bund and the like. The bourgeois streets became lively again [with] the Mizrakhi, and, later Agudas Yisroel and Zeiri-Shumi Amunas Yisroel. Each party, especially the workers' parties, carried on broad [liberal] cultural work. In a short time, the workers' parties co-founded Kultura. At the [same] time the other party [opened] its own meeting hall with a library, a dramatic section and [a place] where readings and lectures would be organized, not only on political themes, but on general and cultural themes [as well]. The workers' parties founded the first [experimental] children's home (in the house of Shammai the tinsmith, Krakowski 7), which was later named after the worthy Dr. Mitelman (children from the poor homes were educated in the children's home).
During the [First] World War (1916) the Mizrakhi Party was founded (later a Mizrakhi School). The leaders were: Mr. Frenkel, Mr. Waksman, Mr. Najmerk, Reuven Liberman, Shlomoh Rabinowicz, Szitenberg and others. Together with a group from the general socialistic leadership, they were concerned that the Mizrakhi School stand on a high level of achievement, pedagogically and nationally. The leader of the school movement B. Karmazin assembled the best educational staff, locally and from other towns. A library of Hebrew seforim was opened in the school which were available
The Agudas Yisroel founded its own school under the name Yesod'd Hatorah (Basics of Torah) (in Shul Street in the house of Bezaleel Kalka). The school espoused traditional Masora education (system of critical notes to the scriptural text) and [taught] subjects with a great deal of Hebrew and had [in its employ]: a Hebrew teacher (Tenenbaum); teachers of Polish (Epsztajn and Koniecpolski). The first school head was Mr. Brumer from Zawiercie. In the later years, a religious middle school Beis Yakov was also established. Both religious schools of Agudas Israel offered a religious or a secular education.
The general Zionist organization created at its location (in Ferszter's school which was named the Beis Yakob school) a big library of Hebrew books, and lectures and readings by Zionist leaders were held there.
In the twentieth year of the century a private school was founded as the Erlikhman's school, [using the] Hebrew language [for instruction], in which ten juveniles received a nationalistic and Hebrew [-centered] upbringing,
D. Czaszczewatzki, who came to Radomsk with the Jewish refugees whom the German army had evacuated from Belarus in the First World War, opened a Hebrew private school with Hebrew educators and with Zionist concerns. This school was active (of course, in secret) even in the period of the Second World War.
In the past M. Z. Rosenblum had opened his modern [style] kheder where the subjects were taught in Modern Hebrew.
Right after the First World War, Miss L. Wajntrojb (of Piotrkow) opened the first Jewish gimnazye, using the Polish language for instruction. Modern Hebrew was also taught. The gimnazye, which [followed] an entirely new high pedagogy, attracted the strongest and best teachers.
The young [students] in the gymnazyes [studied] the [required] subjects and were not required to attend the Polish middle school. At one time, two gimnazyes existed in the city-[one run by] Fabian Zhelinski, and [one run by] Mr. Niamec (in Czenstohowa Street, near Mulik Felcer). In the first year, the Jewish students who studied there were influenced by the teaching staff, which held lectures and readings on different scholarly and cultural themes. In later years, the gimnazye of Mr. Niamac consisted of eight grades and was known as one of the best middle schools in the city.
Furthermore, libraries existed for virtually all of the Jewish parties. In 1924 the Artisan's Organization opened a large library with Yiddish and Polish books which was named after Y.L. Peretz. The rightist Poalei Zion Zion will prevail united with Z. S. [and] in 1926 opened a library under the name of Sholom Aleichim. Besides Yiddish and Polish books, the library also contained a large section with Hebrew seforim which were sent by friends in Eretz-Yisroel. The last librarian of this Library was subsequently a ghetto-fighter in Warsaw, Tuvia Borzykowski. In the first year of the war (1940) he had hidden a large part of the Hebrew religious books (seforim) in the attic of the Library and after the war the seforim served the remnant which [returned] from the lager, bunkers and forests.
Top: In the school year 1931/32. Teaching staff (from the right): Prof. Prager, Tenebaum-Yelin, Horowicz, Haim Krajndler (School head), Mrs. Krajndler, Wenzel, Kistman, Polak, Mrs. Prager.
Bottom: The first Hebrew School in 1918. Established by Dovid Erlikhman. Teaching staff (from the right): Matek Behm, __, Dovid Erlikhman, H. Winer
The leftist Poalei-Zion created its evening courses where Yiddish and Polish, etc. subjects were studied (They also created a library under the name of Ber Borochov).
At the conclusion of the clothing distribution to Talmud Torah children, (Winter 1922). The committee (from the right): A. Yosef Rozenblat, Shlomoh Gliksman, Yakob Rozenbaum, Ahron-Wolf Szwarc, Berish Genszerowicz, Dora Rozenbaum, Manya Markowicz, Abrahamche Minski. The Malemdim: Yosef-Ber Wlaszczowski, Mendel Krakowski, Aiche-Meir Fajerman.
In the 30th year of the century, the well-to-do Jews created a larger Talmud Torah for poor children, where they were given food and clothing in addition to an education. The management consisted of Berish Gonszerowicz, Yakov Rozenbaum, Shlomoh Gliksman, A. Yosef Rozenblum, and others, [under the leadership] of Rabbi Reb Izrael Pinkhas Hacohan Rabinowicz. They had no difficulty in [funding] the institution for the needy (the Radomsker landsleit in America supported the Talmud Torah, in particular the [generous] donor Mr. Sol Grinberg).
The wide spectrum of Zionist organizations and groupings [were important] in helping to support the cultural ascent of the city.
[Neighboring] villages were mentioned in the local newspaper Radomsker Life which was published [as a supplement] to the Yiddish newspaper of Piotrkow. The Radomsker of Radomsker Lebn , Mr. Wolkowicz, a well-known worker for the Zionist cause and distinguished friend of Confederation, edited the newspaper with a nationalist and Zionist spirit over the course of ten years. The newspaper was a driving force and guidebook not only for political and economic development but, [particularly with] cultural publications for the Jewish population.
Herr Zeligfeld (the son of Reb Borukh-Mordekhai, the scribe) was a constant contributor to the Yiddish newspapers of Warsaw and Czenstochow under the pen name Herr Zeligfeld. In Radomsk he published an occasional periodical Der Radomsker Shpigel with a special satiric style in which Jewish life was featured with all its difficulties and achievements.
In Der Zeit, the Czentochower weekly, [there was] at certain times a Radomsker supplement under the name Radomsker Zeit, which relected local Jewish life.
One of the most famous painters Herr Horowicz (a brother of the photographer) lived in Radomsk. He had long studied in Italy, France and Germany and his special interest was in [the study of the] paintings of famous artists like Leonardo di Vinci, Michaelangelo and Rafael.
Before the Second World War, the Jewish painter Nathan Szpigel lived and worked in Radomsk [where he] organized several exhibitions and took part in local Jewish communal work.
A[n important] chapter for me was the Jewish sports unions in which the Jewish youth straightened their backs and bravely competed with Polish youth. The slogan of the Zionist movement leader, Doctor Max Nordau, In a healthy way one can develop a healthy soul, had [just as great an] appeal for Jewish youth in Radomsk [as it did in the rest of the] world. And the Radomsker Zeitung hailed the occasion of a Lag b'Omer celebration of the Jewish sport unions in 1926:
...a feeling of internal and external freedom must have dominated every nationalist thinking Jew, who spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning going through streets, from Hokoakh Makabee and Hashomer Hatzair. One remembers the Lag b'Omer excursion of twenty years ago by our kheder [students], with their hunched little shoulders [and] how they were afraid of the smallest sheigetsl (gentile boy), or [of] a bark from a little dog. Now we see a marching, proud Jewish youth, full of cheer and fight, with shoulders [thrown back] and chests [thrust] forward, which was [good] for scaring a dog or a sheigetsl... Thus we were again bound
Doctor of Medicine Gustav Tenenbaum
Doctor A. Portubna, Eye Illnesses
The Pharmaceutical Warehouse of Y. Berkensztat
Radomsk, Brzeznica 2
(Corner of Reymonta, in Prits's House)
Choice of all foreign mineral waters
Which preserve [freshness during] transport direct from the source-
In addition [there is] a large selection of all medicines, foreign and
domestic, sold inexpensively.
A good selection of good health from pharmaceutical and surgical, elastic
manufacturers such as Fasin, Bruk-Bender, and the like.
A big section of cosmetics
IMPORTANT!!! The best of all colors for shipping.
In a second spot in the newspaper we read further:
On Shabbos on Strzalkowski Street, the sports-club, Hokoakh gathered near the Jewish gimnazye, with their cycling and football (soccer) sections, [together with] the Makabee [athletes]. [They were preceded by] a baton race to the accompaniment of an orchestra, which marched through the streets: Strzalkowski, Kaliska, Powiatowa and others...On Sunday morning [there was] an excursion of the above-mentioned union and of the Hashomer Hatzair. The gathering place was again at the Jewish gimnazye, from where the parade marched over the streets with an orchestra and later left on a march to Kaminsk... This was an emotional experience of the Jewish Sports Union, particularly the marchers from Hashomer Hatzair, and attracted hundreds of curious [people], not only Jews, but also Christians who accompanied the march of the proud Jewish youths.
The Jewish Sports Club Poalei Zion, alone among all of the sports sections, possessed its own orchestra, under the [leadership] of Nathan Ofman.
Step by step, rung by rung, Jewish Radomsk created its educational and cultural institutions with local character. They [joined] with and were absorbed by the general Jewish cultural world of pre-war Polish Jewry and left traces [of] footprints over [the] paths and roads of the larger Jewish world which was annihilated together with Polish Jewry [by the] Hitlerist gangs.
The Poalei Zion Orchestra in 1933.
Sitting (from the right): Manye Szpira, Truskolaski, ____, Malka Szpira, Director Natan Ofman, Manye Zaks, Henye Pacanowski, Yurbarski, ____, Feiwel Zoberman
Standing: Hilel Rozencwajg, Yurbaski, Haim Hartman, Dawidowicz, Dovid-Meir Kornberg.
In the years 1909-1910, singing societies such as Hazamir and Lira arose in all of the Jewish cities in Poland. The young gathered in these groups where the Czarist regime was derided, where there was singing and where fun was had. In our hometown, such a singing society was organized in 1909 in the home of Haim Zikin (he was called the 'Jewish advocate' and he possessed a strong baritone voice). The young people who could sing were Itzele Fajerman, Nakhum Pacanowski, Meir Birenbaum, Seidi Lewkowicz, Nisen Sobol, Pinche Rabinowicz and me. We would deafen the market with our singing.
On a certain evening, Klubajnski, a Jewish bandleader (director) from the Russian regiment that was then quartered in Radomsk, came to our group and we established Hazamir. The founding meeting took place in Haiyenneh Lewkowicz's hall and many joyful speeches were made. Most of all, I remember a speech made by a girl named Madzhia Firsztenfeld. This is how she expressed herself: We must have a singing society, because when we come to Polish concerts and entertainments, we are told, 'Jews go to Palestine.'' Her words had a greater effect than those of all of the others and those gathered, workers and intellectuals, zealously threw themselves into the work. Dr. Mitelman was elected as president, Dr. Glikman as vice-president, Adash Horowicz, secretary. All took pride in the chorus. Only the religious Jews and Hasidim opposed Hazamir and cursed it. My grandmother's curse was, Let grass grow on Hazamir's road.
Beautiful concerts were presented in the city-theater, which, at such times, were packed with visitors, Jews and Christians.
I will now relate an interesting fact. On a beautiful summer evening, Bensman sat at the piano and studied with us the musical implications of his Song of the Planter. Suddenly an alarm bell sounded, a sign that there was a fire somewhere in the city, and we, the singers, scattered. When we came back later, we were surprised to see Bensman still sitting at the piano playing. We then told him that a fire had broken out, and he shouted at us, What fire? Where a fire? If we are singing, the walls can burn around us, but we must not be interrupted. He left angry.
We then took as director, the well-known Jewish
A group of the members of Hazamir
From the right: Mendel Gliksman, Nakhum Pacanowski, (standing), Itche Fajerman, Nusim Sobol, Gershon Grosberg (standing, now in Israel), Meir Birenboum.
composer, who is now in America Mikhal Gelbart. He contentedly directed the chorus; he led beautiful concerts with us and literary evenings and we loved him.
Suddenly, out of the air, Bensman again appeared before us. What could we do? We were pleased with Mikhal Gelbart, but we did not want to remove Bensman. Therefore, we decided to appoint two directors. In order to support two directors, concerts were not enough for us. We then presented different operettas, dramas and one act plays, emulating Warsaw and Lodz. The members of the dramatic section were Mordekhai Zelig Rozenblat, Motele Szpiro, Pinche Rabinowicz, Abraham Epsztajn, Leibish Zandberg, Shlomoh Bugajski, Miss Szternfeld, Sale Slawik, Ite Aronowicz, Dovid Krojze, and Moishe Szwarc. Several members of our society made an impression with their playing, for example: Szymon Medwezec, Motel Szpiro and Pinche Rabinowicz.
When Mikhal Gelbart prepared to leave us, we arranged a beautiful farewell evening and presented him with a silk ribbon on which was written in gold letters our thanks and appreciation. We were left with Bensman, with whom we thoroughly mastered Lewandowski's 'Hallelujah,' the 'Farom' (Bensman), Song of the Planters the song of the Jewish workers in the fields in Eretz-Yisroel, Bialik's national song and other classical Yiddish and Polish songs. After this, Bensman again disappeared.
It was difficult to find an acceptable director after he left, but in order to keep Hazamir from falling apart, we organized literary evenings and lectures. Moishe Szwarc, who then had returned from Eretz-Yisroel, would take part, too. He would lecture, was our prompter and, in general, made Hazamir lively. Moishe Szwarc would also bring his friends from the Czenstochower Drama Society and they would present Gordin's The Jewish King Lear, and Peretz's The Crazy Bum. Years later in the times of the [First] World War it is thanks to Hazamir that the organization Kultura developed, which carried out a great number of cultural activities among the young people.
b. To G-d and to PeopleNowo-Radomsk belonged to the category of cities in Poland that never remained backwards in any field, and responded to the problems and needs of Jewish communal life.
When the Enlightenment and, later, socialism infiltrated Jewish life, Nowo-Radomsk was one of the first entry places, where these ideas were accepted and firmly established. (This is not the place, nor am I equal to the task to write the history.) What I will do here is note only a page of Nowo-Radomsk Hazamir, where I was given a certain time to be active as director.
I see before my eyes the gorgeous premises of Hazamir with its large beautiful concert hall, its own library and an apartment for the director an intellectual and social home for the young, who had so looked to escape, for a while, from the religious Jewish ghetto and found in Hazamir the proper spot where the young derived wonderful satisfaction.
Hazamir possessed not only a good chorus, which sang so beautifully, but also a drama section, which studied and presented dramas by Jewish writers, such as With the Tide by Sholom Asch and the like. Jewish literary works were read and discussed. Literary-Musical evenings were arranged from time to time helping to build the structure of Jewish Culture. And this was dangerous in Polish Jewish shtetlekh in those years.
Nowo-Radomsk's Hazamir was different in that it did not pass from one extreme to the other, which was the case in other cities (from Beis Midrash fanaticism to cultural fanaticism). Nowo-Radomsk understood that the young are the young! That man does not live only spiritually, that fine arts and culture would also fulfill the young people. So Hazamir arranged entertainments, where one danced, frolicked, made acquaintances, laughed and had fun. As a Jewish expression says, what is to G-d is to G-d and what is to people is to people. In Nowo-Radomsk Hazamir, everything was given and taken in buckets, singing, drama, literature for the soul, and dancing, playing, going to summer resorts and all kinds of entertainments for the body.
Ebullient and rich were the activities of Nowo-Radomsk Hazamir, which prepared cadres of devoted cultural workers during its short existence and produced a considerable amount of talent.
Simultaneously with the terror that the war brought was born a great hope for a new epoch, one that would be dominated by peace and social justice. The Radomsker youth were also carried away by this vision of a new and better world. The political and social activities, which had been so brutally suppressed by the Czarist regime after the stormy years of 1905-1906 and were completely paralyzed for years, were revived and took in wide circles of the Jewish population. At the same time, a striving to learn grew among the young, and a group of young people founded an organization that carried on extensive and colorful activities during the war years.
I established my first contact with these activities on the second day of Shavous 1915. I happened to stroll on the Neiem Weg with a group of young people, as was then the custom, deep in a heated
discussion. Suddenly Aba Winer (perished on the 20th of July 1943 in Czenstochowa) called me over to the side and confided in me
the secret that a youth group had been established. I was invited to a meeting
that same day at three o'clock in the afternoon, which would take place in a
meeting hall in an attic room over Ahron-Wolf Szwarc's little
soda-water factory. At the head of the group were then several old friends,
such as M. Z. Rozenblat, Hershel and Dovid Krojze and so forth. Not long after, the group rented a three room premises in Szpaltyn's house on
Strzalkower Street, taking advantage of the legal permission Rozenblat had to use it as a
library. The group began a wide range of activities and with each month gained new
members who distinguished themselves with their activities, among them Dovid
Gold, Pinye Kalka, Yakov Aronowicz, Shlomoh Gabrial Waksman, Meir Birenbaum,
Abraham Winter, Fishel Gliksman, L. Bajgielman, etc. Because it was necessary
for it to appear to the authorities, that an 'older' person was the chairman,
we chose the photographer Weinberg, who was officially designated as the
chairman. However, in fact, we young people carried out the rich cultural and
educational activities. Photo caption: The Steering Committee of 'Kultura' Standing (from the right): Y. Fajerman, Hershel Krojze, Dovid Koniecpoler,
Abraham Lipszic, Leizer Bajgielman, Meir Birenbaum, Aba Winer, Y. Bugajski. Sitting: Dr. Yakov Aronowicz, A. Rajchman, L. Weinberg (leader), Dovid Krojze,
Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat. We created a rich library, arranged readings, evening courses, musical and
artistic evenings. Not being rich in our own [performers] we brought them from
surrounding towns such as Czenstochow, Lodz, etc. The artistic appearances of
Professor Wilenberg and the theater presentations with Julius Adler
particularly deserve to be remembered. Thanks to our initiative, our city was
gratified with several appearances by the then well-known Vilner Troup. The esteem of the youth-group was so great that the Jewish artists, who were
members of the Austrian city administration, gladly accepted our invitations to
appear with readings, recitations and the like. Thus, for example, Dr.
Tindal-Tosing, the gifted actor from the Reinhardt Theater, appeared in our
meeting hall with a cycle of recitations from Heine, Schiller, Lessing, etc.
Although we did not carry on any philanthropic activity, we did from time to
time donate the receipts from artistic evenings to relieving the need that
reigned among the poor people. For a time we did not have any official authorization, but that did not prevent
us from being very active. After the organization, which we named Kultura, became legal, we used all of our energy and carried on our activity with
great zeal and fire.* *When the well-known Jewish historian Meir Balabon, who occupied the office of
head of Jewish matters in the Austrian General Government, visited our city, he
was greatly impressed by our activity. He jokingly declared that the name 'Kultura' came from 'Kol (voice) Torah,' [leading to] the hypothesis that Professor Balabon had assisted in legalizing
the organization. In the last years of the war, political party life flourished greatly in
Poland. In Radomsk, too, emissaries from the different parties began to appear;
groups of Po'alei-Zion, Fareinikte and later the Bund, too, were created. From the beginning, this did not have an influence on our
activities. We gave every party the opportunity to use the dais of Kultura, where our sincere desire was [to see] how much more we could learn and how
much more we could enrich our knowledge. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and the proclamation of the Balfour
Declaration, party life in the city began to get stormy and the inter-party
differences intensified. The idealistic times were over, when opposing parties
were able to have joint use of one meeting hall. Passions grew stronger and in
the end Fareinikte took over the meeting hall of Kultura and Po'alei-Zion took control of the Zaks family's wedding hall, which they
expropriated (But that is already another chapter). A group of young men carried out the rich and broad range of activities of Kultura and exhibited limitless self-sacrifice and energy. Thanks to their
organizational abilities, they created one of the best cultural institutes, in
which our city had the right to take pride. I hold it as my duty to remember
some of them here. Dovid emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel in his twentieth year, where he carried on an active and creative life
throughout the years. When I visited him later in his ghetto lair in Radomsk in 1942, he told me that
he did not have the time to bring any of his book collection with him except
for a letter of Leivick's, which he rescued under a hail of blows. Believed to
have perished in the Treblinka gas chamber. Among the older generation, we could not find many supporters and friends. We
were too Jewish for the bunch of intellectuals and too goyish (Christian) for the Hasidic and middle class Jews. We must remember the
individuals who came close to us and helped us with our work. At the close, it is worthwhile to remember the 'putsch,' which was carried out in our organization at the beginning of 1916. On a certain Sunday, Aba Winer came breathlessly to me and told me that the
bourgeois-Zionist group with Yakov Aronowicz at the head, had taken over the
library, taken out the books and locked the meeting hall. We immediately
alerted our 'democratic group' and it was decided to pry open the meeting hall
[door] and install a new lock. Simultaneously, we proceeded to create a new
library. Our friends Alebarde and Zakin Szrajber donated several dozen books
and we ourselves gathered together a few of our own books and filled the
shelves. Our general staff, which I had the honor to lead, [met] in
the cabinetry workshop of my parents. Wednesday, Yissakhar Bugajski, who had belonged to the 'putschists' came to us and declared that he stood again with our group. After short negotiations, the 'putschists' came back to us and brought back the library. For a time, peace again reigned
among us. We have to thank the enthusiasm and devotion of a small group of young people
who built one of the most beautiful cultural institutions, of which any town
would have been able to boast. However, that which was built with such youthful
ardor was later destroyed because of the unraveling party passions. All those
who actively worked with 'Kultura' in the era of its growth have carried warm memories their whole life. 'Kultura' was the school through which they were drawn to community work in their later
mature years. b. Ascent and Decline of 'Kultura'We, a group of young people, carried around the idea of establishing a cultural
society for a long time, but the realization of the idea first succeeded in
1915. The solemn opening of the society, which we named Kultura occurred on the 15 Photo caption: (Top) The souvenir of the Jewish organization Kultura, which was printed in this form and distributed the day of the opening of the
Nowo-Radomsker organization (the 15
Mordekhai-Zelig RozenblatWas the creator of the youth group and we accorded him great
respect, as the one who had shown us the way. He provided for
himself by giving Hebrew lectures and through a small book business. He
perished together with his family in 1942 in Treblinka.
Hershel KrojzeBelonged to the older comrades and was a devoted volunteer. We young people had
in him a sincere and warm friend. By trade a printer. Perished with his family
at Hitlerist hands.
Dovid Gold (Klej)Descended from a Hasidic house. Studied in the Beis Hamidrash, but at the same time was engrossed in the Jewish Enlightenment and Hebrew
literature. Was one of our first comrades and already there was apparent in him
the signs of the later earnest and profound writer. After, when he became a
member of the Socialist Zionists, he decided to become a worker and became an
apprentice in Gelbard's printing establishment. He never had time, always was
busy. Fingers blackened with printer's ink a true proletarian. We, his
closest friends, knew about his struggle with his Hasidic parents, but he never
complained about it to anyone.
p. 261An active volunteer in the workers' movement in Eretz-Yisroel. Died in Israel in 1948.
Yakov AronowiczDescended from an intelligent Zionist family. Was one of the most active
comrades in our group, which he endeavored to give a bourgeois-Zionist hue.
Later studied medicine in Vilna and practiced as a doctor in Radomsk. Perished
at the hands of the Germans in 1942.
Abraham KamelgarnWas a store employee. A dear and sincere friend, always ready to help someone
else. Very frum (pious) but with socialist tendencies. The last time I saw him was in the
summer of 1942 in the Radomsker ghetto, emaciated and depressed. Several weeks
later he exhaled his soul in Treblinka with the remaining Radomsker Jews.
Fishel GliksmanA sincere person, a folks-kind (a child of the people) without pretensions. Always ready to do something for
the organization and it was hard to find an action in which Fishel did not take
part with life and soul. He displayed the same readiness to help after the
Second World War in relation to his Radomsker landsleit. Died after a difficult illness in Los Angeles.
Moishe LewkowiczWas a musician and one of the first Zionists in the city. He greatly helped us,
particularly in taking care of various matters with the Austrian regime. [No
matter] how many times we turned to him with our request, he always
accommodated us. Was a constant visitor to our evenings from the start and they
A. AlebardeIn one year, 1905, was transformed into a revolutionary activist from a Beis Midrash boy and remained through all the years a devoted Bundist worker. Murdered in
the Warsaw Ghetto, to which he ran from Czenstochow.
Zakin SzrajberA glorious people's type. A tailor by trade, however, he worked as a hired
worker and constantly dreamed about the coming better world. In later years, he
moved closer to the Po'alei-Zion (Social-Zionist) party, which he represented on the Kehile managing committee. A lover of books, he created a rich book collection,
dedicated to the Jewish workers' movement.
Not long after, the group rented a three room premises in Szpaltyn's house on Strzalkower Street, taking advantage of the legal permission Rozenblat had to use it as a library.
The group began a wide range of activities and with each month gained new members who distinguished themselves with their activities, among them Dovid Gold, Pinye Kalka, Yakov Aronowicz, Shlomoh Gabrial Waksman, Meir Birenbaum, Abraham Winter, Fishel Gliksman, L. Bajgielman, etc. Because it was necessary for it to appear to the authorities, that an 'older' person was the chairman, we chose the photographer Weinberg, who was officially designated as the chairman. However, in fact, we young people carried out the rich cultural and educational activities.
The Steering Committee of 'Kultura'
Standing (from the right): Y. Fajerman, Hershel Krojze, Dovid Koniecpoler, Abraham Lipszic, Leizer Bajgielman, Meir Birenbaum, Aba Winer, Y. Bugajski.
Dr. Yakov Aronowicz, A. Rajchman, L. Weinberg (leader), Dovid Krojze, Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat.
We created a rich library, arranged readings, evening courses, musical and artistic evenings. Not being rich in our own [performers] we brought them from surrounding towns such as Czenstochow, Lodz, etc. The artistic appearances of Professor Wilenberg and the theater presentations with Julius Adler particularly deserve to be remembered. Thanks to our initiative, our city was gratified with several appearances by the then well-known Vilner Troup.
The esteem of the youth-group was so great that the Jewish artists, who were members of the Austrian city administration, gladly accepted our invitations to appear with readings, recitations and the like. Thus, for example, Dr. Tindal-Tosing, the gifted actor from the Reinhardt Theater, appeared in our meeting hall with a cycle of recitations from Heine, Schiller, Lessing, etc. Although we did not carry on any philanthropic activity, we did from time to time donate the receipts from artistic evenings to relieving the need that reigned among the poor people.
For a time we did not have any official authorization, but that did not prevent us from being very active. After the organization, which we named Kultura, became legal, we used all of our energy and carried on our activity with great zeal and fire.*
*When the well-known Jewish historian Meir Balabon, who occupied the office of head of Jewish matters in the Austrian General Government, visited our city, he was greatly impressed by our activity. He jokingly declared that the name 'Kultura' came from 'Kol (voice) Torah,' [leading to] the hypothesis that Professor Balabon had assisted in legalizing the organization.
In the last years of the war, political party life flourished greatly in Poland. In Radomsk, too, emissaries from the different parties began to appear; groups of Po'alei-Zion, Fareinikte and later the Bund, too, were created. From the beginning, this did not have an influence on our activities. We gave every party the opportunity to use the dais of Kultura, where our sincere desire was [to see] how much more we could learn and how much more we could enrich our knowledge.
With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and the proclamation of the Balfour Declaration, party life in the city began to get stormy and the inter-party differences intensified. The idealistic times were over, when opposing parties were able to have joint use of one meeting hall. Passions grew stronger and in the end Fareinikte took over the meeting hall of Kultura and Po'alei-Zion took control of the Zaks family's wedding hall, which they expropriated (But that is already another chapter).
A group of young men carried out the rich and broad range of activities of Kultura and exhibited limitless self-sacrifice and energy. Thanks to their organizational abilities, they created one of the best cultural institutes, in which our city had the right to take pride. I hold it as my duty to remember some of them here.
Dovid emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel in his twentieth year, where he carried on an active and creative life throughout the years.
When I visited him later in his ghetto lair in Radomsk in 1942, he told me that he did not have the time to bring any of his book collection with him except for a letter of Leivick's, which he rescued under a hail of blows. Believed to have perished in the Treblinka gas chamber.
Among the older generation, we could not find many supporters and friends. We were too Jewish for the bunch of intellectuals and too goyish (Christian) for the Hasidic and middle class Jews. We must remember the individuals who came close to us and helped us with our work.
At the close, it is worthwhile to remember the 'putsch,' which was carried out in our organization at the beginning of 1916.
On a certain Sunday, Aba Winer came breathlessly to me and told me that the bourgeois-Zionist group with Yakov Aronowicz at the head, had taken over the library, taken out the books and locked the meeting hall. We immediately alerted our 'democratic group' and it was decided to pry open the meeting hall [door] and install a new lock. Simultaneously, we proceeded to create a new library. Our friends Alebarde and Zakin Szrajber donated several dozen books and we ourselves gathered together a few of our own books and filled the shelves. Our general staff, which I had the honor to lead, [met] in the cabinetry workshop of my parents.
Wednesday, Yissakhar Bugajski, who had belonged to the 'putschists' came to us and declared that he stood again with our group.
After short negotiations, the 'putschists' came back to us and brought back the library. For a time, peace again reigned among us.
We have to thank the enthusiasm and devotion of a small group of young people who built one of the most beautiful cultural institutions, of which any town would have been able to boast. However, that which was built with such youthful ardor was later destroyed because of the unraveling party passions. All those who actively worked with 'Kultura' in the era of its growth have carried warm memories their whole life. 'Kultura' was the school through which they were drawn to community work in their later mature years.
b. Ascent and Decline of 'Kultura'We, a group of young people, carried around the idea of establishing a cultural society for a long time, but the realization of the idea first succeeded in 1915.
The solemn opening of the society, which we named Kultura occurred on the 15th October 1916, and representatives from city hall, the Kehile (Fishel Donski and Adolf Lewkowicz) Zionist organizations (Yankiel Witenberg, Abraham Grosberg, or Abraham Rade's as we called him, Mendel Fajnzilber and Shlomoh Krakowski) took part in it. Delegates from the neighboring cities Czenstochow, Piotrkow, Bedzin, Sosnowiec, and Belchatow attended. The occupying regime was represented by Lieutenant Shubert (a Hungarian Jew who occupied
The souvenir of the Jewish organization Kultura, which was printed in this form and distributed the day of the opening of the Nowo-Radomsker organization (the 15th October 1916).
(Bottom) A membership card for Kultura.
an important place in the administration of our city), a delegate from the Austrian Civil-Committee with the name Famerancel and a group of officers. The greatest surprise for us was the tremendous part the assimilated intelligentsia and those studying in colleges, who always abhorred Yiddish and stayed far away from every national activity, took in the celebration. At the opening, speeches were given Dovid Krojze and Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat in Yiddish, Hershel Krojze in Polish.
Immediately, with its rise, Kultura began broad-based activities. It moved from Ahron-Wolf Szwarc's small attic room, where until then, it carried out illegal cultural activities, to a large meeting hall on Strzalkower Street (near Leib Karp's). The number of members of the society grew from day to day.
The local college youth, students from Warsaw and Lemberg high schools and the intelligentsia were sympathetic to our activities and gladly worked with us. Gabrish Winer, a student from the Lemberg Polytechnic, Hifek Lewkowicz, Adolf Lewkowicz's son, Henjek Donski, the previously mentioned Fishel Donski's son, Miss Szczarajnski, Miss Bem, Josef Bem's daughter, Miss Wisotski, teacher in the government school, Madzie Winer, Bezaleel Zajfenzider's daughter, and Haim Krajndler, director of the Folks-Shule, must particularly be remembered.
Having such strength, we decided to establish evening courses. Those elected to the committee which was supposed to conduct the courses were Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat, Dovid Krojze, Yankiel Aronowicz (later a medical doctor) and Ludwik Witenberg. In time, Gabrish Winer, Hifek Lewkowicz, Miss Bem and so forth joined. Representatives of the local government (Daniel Rozenbaum) and the Kehile (Fishel Donski), etc., took part in the joyous opening.
The evening courses were held in the shul for a long time and enjoyed a Kehile subsidy.
The Glorious Period
In 1916, after a year of fruitful activity, we decided to create a chorus, utilizing the visit of musician Matathias Bensman to our city. After a short time, the harmonious singing of the mixed chorus of men and women rang in Strzalkow Street. At that time, the dramatic section, which was led by Kiva Mitelman, also arose.
The society carried out its activities with great ardor and zeal. Every Shabbos, lectures were given by Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat, the brothers Dovid and Nakhman Gold, and the teacher Krajndler. Austrian officers from time to time also lectured on German literature and the like. The literary and musical evenings also were a great success, at which the dramatic section and the chorus performed. Absorbed in our activities, we simply forgot that we lived in wartime, that near Falków, cannons thundered and human blood was pouring.
I was born in 1893 and already in 1897, that means at age four, I began to study with the well-known teacher of the youngest children, Abrahamele Melamed , a Jew with a wide beard. The kheder he ran was in the courtyard of Rabbi Zev Meir. Abrahamele Melamed loved the children. All, poor and rich, were alike to him, and the children also loved their teacher. Two assistants worked with him. When Reb Abrahamele Melamed died, his son Reb Itzel Meir took over as Melamed. He was young and introduced various revisions in the method of teaching. One learned very heartily with him, because he knew how to win the sympathy of the children. The children wanted to learn only with him and not with the other assistant, who Reb Itzel Meir had inherited from his father.
This was the first stage. At age five I went over to Yosef-Ber Melamed. This was a taller Jew with a pointy beard. He studied Gemara with us and was a strict one, even a little irascible. Besides his position as a teacher, he had additional income. He could write and read Russian (he had even passed an exam in the Russian language) and had permission to teach Russian to the children in his school. Indeed, he earned [his living] by writing requests to the regime, to the naczelnik, to the governor, and even to the Czar and the Czarina themselves. He boasted that he was always successful, because he had a good pen and a beautiful handwriting. When his daughter, Devorah the Po'alei-Zionist, was arrested as the leader of a strike in Yosel Hamer's sock factory, he ran to the vice mayor to ask that a request be written to the chief, that his daughter Devorah, a chaste woman, who was arrested in error should be freed. This could harm a Jewish daughter's chance for a match, besides her earnings helped to pay for the running of the school. The naczelnik should know he wrote that the Melamed is loyal to the Czar and Czarina and prays for a long life for the Czar's whole family. Half a hundred children are praying for the freeing of the daughter of Reb Yosef-Ber Melamed, who is a pauper, and the Czar must take pity on him as a father pities his children. Reb Yosef-Ber read the request aloud to us and wanted to know what we thought of it. When we asked him why has had not written it himself, he answered that he did not want the authorities to recognize his handwriting and therefore he had dictated the contents. He, indeed, received an answer, that a guarantee should be given, that what he writes is the truth and then his daughter would be released. My grandmother Hinde, of blessed memory, gave the guarantee and the dark Devorah (that was how she was called) was freed. Yosef-Ber Melamed had another job. In the summer he would invite the students every Shabbos afternoon to his home in order to teach a chapter of the Mishnah and he treated them to beer, which he made himself from plum juice. The Rebbitzin, however, asked them to pay for the refreshments.
Another type of Melamed was Reb Mordekhai Yosef. We
A similar type of Melamed was Eidel Melamed, Mordekhai Yosef's brother. His was strict, but at the same time also a bit of a modern teacher. In addition to Gemara, he also taught Tanakh and the modern Hebrew of Palestine. The whole week he taught only until ten o'clock in the morning and then he called in the Rebbitzen to listen to the manner in which the students behaved in the house and in the street and then the students explained how one behaves between a man and his neighbor. Eidel Melamed composed a report and started a trial. Every student received his verdict. He was called to confess his misdeeds and he came home with a pulled out ear pinched and beaten up. The trials lasted until three in the afternoon and finally when we were freed for the entire Shabbos, it became joyous.
Lipa Melamed was a Jew with a wide beard, quiet and seldom excited. He lived very modestly. With one piece of sugar, he drank ten glasses of boiling tea. He smoked a pipe. He boasted himself that he had made a benediction on cherries first when a pot of cherries cost not more than three kopecks. In a word, he lived in want. He had a son named Abraham who was called 'the long head.' He was a member of Po'alei-Zion and led the strike of the sock workers. Lipa Melamed's wife was named Hana-Rivka; she was small with a kupke (hat worn by observant women) on her head and sold kerchiefs in the market. Every Thursday Reb Lipa would go out with the pipe in his mouth, in order to make sure that his wife would not be robbed. However, when he noticed how a non-Jewish woman had hidden a stolen kerchief in her bosom, he told his Hana-Rivka only after the non-Jewish woman had gone away. When he was not studying, he would plead with his wife that one does not degrade even a Gentile in public. Lipa loved his students very much and studied with them late into the night. For the kerosene, understand, he took payment. While Reb Lipa went to the Beis Midrash for Minkhah-Maariv, the students created an upheaval in kheder. With Lipa, one already was studying Gemara with commentary on the Talmud and a casuistic interpretation. As a rule, he did not strike [the students]. He only threatened that he would bring the whip with the seven strips from the attic and that was the greatest threat. He was also the custodian of the ohel (tomb) of the Hasidic Rebbes, of blessed memory, Tiferes Shlomoh and the Khesed Abraham. He opened it at their yahrzeit, went around with the tzdoke pushke (donations can) and divided the money among the respectable poor.
Aba Melamed, a son of Zalman the tailor of women's clothing, a cautious Jew, was a young man with a small beard. He lived in one room, where he ran his kheder. He only had individual students, whom he prepared for Haim Dovid Melamed (see below). Aba was a secret teacher, i.e. he did not have permission to run a school. Sometimes he taught the students in the Beis-Midrash and sometimes in his home. His wife was the wood merchant Krakowski's daughter. She wanted Reb Aba to be a merchant, too, but he only wanted to be a teacher and his father-in-law had to agree to this. Because teaching did not provide a good income, the father-in-law, perforce, had to support Aba and his family.
Haim Dovid Melamed was a Jew of average height, the son of a tailor. He was devoted to his students, lived in seclusion and did not even look at his own daughters. The rich children such as Szczeranski's and Rozenbojm's studied with him. In the afternoon, Golomb of the government school taught Russian in the kheder and observed the galawkes.
At that time, 1905, there was already a small 'Bund,' which was against the celebration of the galawkes. Haim Dovid's students were challenged to stop studying with Golomb and if not their peyes (side curls) would be cut off and their hats taken.
The Bundists indeed organized us, so that when Golomb would want to sing Bozhe Tzarya Khrani with us on the day of the galawkes, the students should leave the kheder and [Golomb] would be alone. And, indeed, that is what we did. I remember that this was on a Thursday, a market day. All of us went out to the market and saw how Aly Barda, Abrahamche the soap maker's son-in-law, carried the red flag. Since I directed the strike at Haim Dovid's, he requested that my grandmother Hinde, of blessed memory, take me out of his kheder and take me straight over to Ahron-Hersh Melamed.
Haim Dovid's wife ran a business among the students; she sold them kohlrabi and roasted potatoes.
Ahron-Hersh Melamed was a short Jew with a large thick beard. He argued that if a Jew did not look up and look down, he would not yield to the temptation of any sin. Reb Ahron-Hersh conducted himself as a rabbi; every day he went to immerse himself ritually. He hardly ate anything and he would not accept every student for study with him. They wanted to make him a judge, but he politely refused.
From Ahron-Hersh we went to study in Henekh-Fishel Kotsker's yeshiva in Kopel's Beis Hamidrash. This was the last step of studying in khederim.
Ahron-Hersh had daughters, who cooperated completely in the workers' movement, but he did not know about it and when he was told that his daughters worked with the Zionist youth organizations he simply would not believe it.
Reb Henekh-Fishel Kotsker was a tall Jew with a goatee, a wise man who always loved to quibble with the students and with random passersby. He held his yeshiva in Kopel's Beis-Hamidrash. Shabbos he studied with the crowd in the Beis-Hamidrash and the craftsmen particularly loved him. He was accorded great respect. When a
Mikhal Melamed was a short Jew; he barely earned enough to live on. He was a primary school melamed. His school was small and without assistants. He would say to his students: If one studies alone, the soul is clean.
Yitzhak-Yosef Melamed, a son-in-law of the (female) chicory-maker, was of the [same] type of melamed as Aba. He lived in a small room and smoked many cigarettes. He asked his students to gather discarded cigar tips from which he took out the tobacco for his cigarettes. He was also musical. His pupils brought him hair from horsetails and he showed them how to make fiddles.
His kheder was in a small room. The students sat on the bed near which stood a table. On the other side stood a broken bench, which often fell and Reb Yitzhak-Yosef would always fix it. Once the chicory-maker came into the kheder and seeing how her son-in-law worked, yelled at the students that because of them he would yet get consumption, because he sweats too much. She asked them to go out to the Beis-Hamidrash so the room would be uncrowded. Reb Yitzhak-Yosef, afraid of his mother-in-law, led the students to the Beis-Hamidrash, and there he again began teaching.
In old age, Reb Yitzhak-Yosef gave up teaching. He had received a small inheritance from his mother-in-law, the chicory-maker and with this he opened a lime store. The store went well. His grown sons helped him with money and enlarged the business. In time he opened a second lime store, so he was even thought of as a rich man. When he had a little time, one would find him sitting studying in the Radomsker Gerer shtibl.
The Lelewer teacher Zainvil Goldman was a commonplace non-Orthodox rabbi in Radomsk. He loved Eretz-Yisroel and taught Tanakh, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish and German. He had a great influence on his students and gave them a love of Zion and instilled in them a national spirit.
Berish Sztatler was a teacher of Hebrew and bookkeeping and a devoted Zionist.
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