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[Pages 175-256]

Once upon a time

 

My Town, Sierpc (Sheps)

By I.M. Sidroni

Translated by Alex Weingarten

In this chapter of our memoirs, we will try to take a tour of our town, Sierpc, through its streets and alleyways. In this brief survey, we will recall and examine the people and places that we meet on our route, with stories of lives and happenings that that have remained in our memory. We hope that you receive these memories with understanding and forgiveness.

In this chapter, I also recall memories that are not my own, memories of events that happened before I “came” to Sierpc, and also after I left. Some of these memories I have taken from stories I heard.

 

1. A General Description

Sierpc – surrounded by mountains. Our pleasant and friendly town, Sierpc, nestled in the valley. There were hills everywhere around it. An approach from any direction – whether from Plocki [Plotzki] Street, from the cities of Bielsk (Balsk, 24 kilometers away) and Golub-Dobrzyn on the Drweca (Dobrin, 35 kilometers); or from the New Market, the direction to the cities of Lipno (37 kilometers) and Rypin (30 kilometers); or from the “Wloclavian” direction, from the cities of Biezun (Bazyun, 21 kilometers) .and Drobin (Drobnin, 26 kilometers) – was always a descent from the highlands down to the valley. Our Polish neighbors populated the hills that were at the edges of the town. The valley that was the center of town – the market and the streets around it – was almost completely Jewish. The Jews of Sierpc automatically affirmed the Psalm “Out of the depths have I called Thee, O Lord…”

* * *

There were a few garden spots in the vicinity, which were the joy of all the young people. Especially well known for natural beauty and charm was Dolinki (“The Valleys”). This was a beautiful place, peaceful and enchanting to all its visitors.

* * *

The Sierpianitza River (which was called the Zhika, from the Polish zhaka for river) brought freshness and charm to the town. The river cut through the town, and on its banks – but not in the town center – there was a cheerful and eye–filling vista of greenery and trees. The source of the river was in the Plock District, east of Bielsk (Balsk). From there to the Sierpc District, and then – between the villages of Studzianitz and Vimishliny – flowing into the Skraba River, and into the Visla. The length of the Sierpianitza was over 42 kilometers.[1]

At the end of winter, when the snow melted, the river would rise. Then the Sierpc elders would remember the great flood of 1888. Our fellow townsman, S.I. Lanter, describes the great flood in this book. However, this author remembers a minor flood, in 1907 or 1908. There was a cold winter, and a lot of snow. At the end of the winter, around Passover, the weather suddenly turned warm, and all the snow started melting very quickly. The river rose by the hour, and flowed into the yards alongside it. Some of the houses that were near the river, like those of Rabbi David Klinman (Haber) and of Beria Oberfeld, were evacuated. The waters flowed mightily and quickly. They raged and clamored and swept large pieces of ice with them. A live cow was sighted floating on some wooden boards. A Polish girl was engulfed by the treacherous waves and drowned. Groups of Gentiles stood on the bridges throughout the day and night and broke up any chunks of ice that came near the bridges with long wooden poles, or they diverted them so they would pass between the columns that supported the bridges and not damage them. The high waters lasted for a few days.

There were four bridges over the Sierpianitza River, and they linked the two parts of the town. The bridge with the greatest traffic was the bridge on the Jewish Street. A second bridge was on Felka's property. (A rich German, who owned land and houses and a brewery.) This was a private bridge, and was called Felka's Bridge. A third bridge was at the end of Fara Street, behind the church. (These last two bridges carried very little traffic.) The fourth bridge was behind the New Market, on Third of May Street.

Both the young and the grown-ups would bathe in the river, outside of town, usually near the village of Boborova, about a kilometer from town. The children would play on the bank of the river, pulling small fish out of the water or skipping flat pebbles along the water. Women would wash their dishes in the river, and also their little children. On the first day of Rosh Hashana, after the mid-day prayer, the men would go to the river for Tashlich.

* * *

Sierpc received the dew from the heavens and the fat of the land. The surrounding countryside was well known for its fertile fields and the many orchards that provided quantities of tasty and juicy fruits. These orchards, which were owned by Gentiles, were leased to Jews, residents of Sierpc, who stayed there in summer, until the end of the fruit harvest. Then they would bring the fruit to town for sale.

 

2. The Market

The market was in the center of town. Its official name was The Old Market (Stary Rynek), but it was called just The Market, without an adjective (as opposed to the other market, which was called The New Market.) In the mid 1930s, the town council gave new names to the streets and markets, and the market became Pilsudski Place (Pilsudskiego Plac), in honor of the Polish leader, Josef Pilsudski.

The market formed a large plaza, with pavement of flat, large stones inlaid with simple, small ones. The houses around the plaza were, as in every town, usually wooden houses, with a few brick houses[2]. Most of the houses were two stories high: on the ground floor – stores, and on the upper floor – living quarters. There were a few small houses that had a sloping roof above the store level and, in the center of the roof, living quarters, a sort of half story. A few houses had cellars that were used for living quarters or as stores. In these houses there were three or four steps to the store level. In the front of the houses there were stairs made of cement. At the time of the First World War, the town council planted trees at the edges of the stairs around the market, and four trees around the pump in the center of the market. Jews did not take kindly to this improvement, and said, “They've turned the market into a village.” Because nobody took care of them, the trees did not last long. They wilted and were uprooted, one by one, until none were left. Jews owned most of the stores in the market, as in every town. Just a few stores had Gentile proprietors. The women, both Jewish and Polish, sat on one side of the market – the north side – and sold fruits and vegetables.

* * *

The central building in the market was the Magistrat (Town Hall). This was a two-story building, with a police station on the bottom floor, and on the second floor – the town council offices. A tower with a large town clock was on the roof of the building, and the clock had four faces that displayed the correct time in four directions. The clock would ring every quarter of an hour. The clock would ring the quarter hours in a high tone, and the hour in a low tone. This clock was the recognized authority in its field; it determined the schedule of the town, and everyone would set their clocks by it. If it were to happen that the watch keeper forgot to set it, then either the clock or the watch keeper was sick, and the town was like a flock without a shepherd…

* * *

The clock tower was also the watchtower for the fire brigade, whose station was in the courtyard of the town hall. Their vehicles and equipment were in a large storehouse in the same courtyard, which also was used for parties and theatricals.

The fire brigade was very important to the children, especially those who lived near Town Hall. What child wouldn't be ecstatic when he saw the firemen in the beautiful uniforms, with polished and sparkling copper helmets, when they assembled every Sunday morning for roll call and training? And this is how the roll call proceeded: the call – an ornate blast of the trumpet, which a fireman blew as he passed through the town. The firemen gathered in the town hall courtyard. After the roll call, which took place in the courtyard, the fireman walked out in order, four abreast, with the band, led by Mr. Strigner in the lead, to Plotzki Street, and paraded to the outskirts of town, where they trained. They left at ten o'clock, and returned at twelve. All the children living in the street they passed through and nearby streets were thrilled. And if the truth be told, not only the children, but the adults too, were delighted with the firemen's parade and the band music. Sometimes they would take the fire pumpers, barrels of water, and the rest of their equipment to the market, and practice putting out a fire: put up the ladders, quickly climb them, and hose

 

sie176a.jpg
Sitting, from right to left: Yaffa Yankelevitch (Paoiratchik), Yosef Meir Forskotch, Hanna Levin (Oberfeld)
Second row, standing: Gutke Frankel, Dvora Shapira, Naftali Tchernotchepka, Shoshana Smolinski (Sandrovitch), Baruch Lalonk
Third row, standing: Marina (Miriam) Gurfinkel, Pesach Gros

 

sie176b.jpg
Sitting: Beria Plato
Standing, from right to left: Meir Shtarkshtein, Moshe Fogel

 

sie177.jpg
The Town Committee of the Keren Kayemet in Sierpc, 5689 (1929)
Right to left: 1st Row: Avraham Bergson, Shmuel Tzina, Yaakov Yosef Grodke
2nd row: Rachel Leah Zheshotka, Kar Charka, Noah Lasman, Hanna Oberfeld
3rd row: Wolf Boda, Israel Olshok (Yizraeli), Levi Tikolski, Smolinski, Naftali Tchernotchepka Bergson and Grodke are in their "Zionist Youth" uniforms

 

down the house that was “on fire.” And out of the goodness of their hearts, by the way, they might moisten some of the curious Jews who watched their maneuvers.

And how we children rejoiced when a real fire broke out! The firemen were called, in case of a fire, by a trumpet call, a monotonic and sad call. (How sad and frightening it was when it came in the middle of the night…) But it took a long time until someone – of course, it was a Gentile – would find the trumpet (that was kept, in case of emergency, at the police station), and went to summon the firemen, who lived all around town, and especially near the outskirts. Because of this, there were bells in all the streets of the town. The first one who saw a fire would ring the nearest bell, and within a few minutes bells were ringing all over town, and all the firemen were alerted. Then the joy (of the children) started: the firemen came running, hurried and frightened, one in a fireman's helmet without a coat, and another in a fireman's jacket without a helmet, and a third with a fireman's belt with ax attached, and all running to the station in the courtyard of the Magistrat. Some of them swiftly took the fire pumpers and the water carriages from the storehouse, and others stopped the carriages in the market whose owners tried to get away (even though they were paid for every horse that participated in putting out the fire, the horses suffered, and the owners lost out), untied the horses, and ran with them to the station, tied them to the fire carriages, and all quickly galloped to the fire. If the fire was far away, they would open the taps of the water barrels, and they would ride with the water spilling into the street, just to get to the fire as quickly as possible. Most of the fires would break out in the villages, or at the town outskirts, in a hayloft, or a woodpile. There were also firemen who, during the fire, would first make sure that they were wearing neat and polished uniforms, and only then arrive at the station, too late, of course.

And the spectacle of the fire was beautiful…how the children rejoiced – those who came from far away to watch the fire – when they saw the awe inspiring sight, the red flames rising and licking the walls of a building, like tongues of giant animals… There were also adults who enjoyed the spectacle, so that one Sierpc Jew said that he was ready to pay 10 groschen (groschen – the smallest coin) for a fire and a zloty (zloty – 30 groschen) for a flood…

A few Jews were firemen. These were: the brothers Avraham and Zadok Bluman, Yokev (Yaakov) Vloka, Azriel Waldenberg, Yosef Meir Koda, Shlomo Lubashki, Avraham Malawa, Yeshiayahu Friedman, and one of the band members, whose name was Ezra Frankel. It was not proper for Jews to dabble in such matters…

* * *

The building next to the Magistrat, a two story building, belonged to Modorsky. This building housed Tulatch's pastry shop. The Polish gentry patronized this shop. There was only one Jew among them: Meir Malin. Also some of the Jewish youth patronized Tulatch, played billiards, and enjoyed the food. But they did it on the sly. They would go in through the back and spend their time in the room behind the shop.

* * *

Yaakov Glazer lived on the second floor. Glazer had a record player that was loud and clear, and he would entertain an audience with the music. On Saturday nights he would put the record player on his balcony and play songs, tunes, and cantor's pieces at full volume, which could be heard throughout the market. A crowd would gather downstairs, to listen and enjoy. And of course, they voiced their opinions of the cantorial pieces and the cantors.

* * *

The second building, a one-story house with an apartment on the roof, belonged to Michael Koplovitch. This house contained two novelties. Novelty number 1: Yaakov Yischar (Yakov-Sugar) Greenbaum opened a shop that sold soda, ice cream, chocolates, candies and cakes. (Before that he had a soda water plant in Nachbin's yard in the New Market.) This was the first store of its kind in town. The store was neat and clean, with white walls and furniture, sparkling utensils, bright lights, and of course, the sweets. And not least, the smile and expressive face of the shopkeeper, Mrs. Gitele, attracted a lot of buyers to the store.

Novelty number two: The landlord, Michael Koplovitch, had a haberdashery store in the building. In addition, he put in a machine that made notebooks (the machine would cut the paper and bind the notebooks). This was considered very progressive, a spark of industry. In his shop widow (one of the few shop windows in town) he had the notebooks arranged one on top of the other in a giant spiral, with just their edges showing. This was considered a great novelty, novelty number three, by the children who stopped at the shop window and looked at it for a long time. Michael Koplovitch was a member of the town council for a while, representing Agudat Israel.

* * *

When I came home for a vacation from Polish Army service in December 1921, after an absence of 21 months, I went on Tuesday, market day, for a tour of the market. Instead of the few stalls that were in the market just a few years earlier, there was a sea of stalls, lined up in rows, with all sorts of merchandise: haberdashery, socks, underwear, textiles, etc. I was amazed at the large number of stalls. I spoke to some acquaintances and heard of the poor economic situation, and of the problems of making a living and the decline in opportunities, the cutthroat competition between merchants, the government inspections, and the hard and despised living to be made from a stall (stragan in Polish) and the hard life of going to neighboring towns for market days and fairs.

As I kept walking, I was stopped by someone who held out his hand, called my name, and looked very happy to see me. I couldn't remember who he was. He asked again and again, “Don't you know me?” I looked at him and looked again, and didn't recognize him. In front of me stood a grown-up person, with a dark brown beard, dressed in an oversized, shabby cloak, with an old belt and a large winter hat that covered his ears.

I cannot describe how astounded I was that this person was my schoolmate in the heder (one-room school), Hershel Koplovitch, who was all of 21 years old but looked at least 42, like an elderly Jew who had undergone much suffering and troubles. But he had already managed to become “settled” with a wife and “earning” a living…Gloomy reflections flooded my thoughts and dispirited me very much. I saw the future of the Jewish youth in the Polish town, and also my future; a poor future, bitter, and cold…

(In later years, Hershel Koplovitch was an important public figure. He had a number of respected positions: chairman of the Small Businessmen's Association, its representative in town and regional committees for assessing taxes, and was elected as a member of the town council and community council on the Association list.)

* * *

A third house, two stories high, belonged to two partners: Avraham Natan Rankel and Michael Smolinski. Avraham Natan Rankel had once been sentenced to death. It was in 1905, the year of the revolution. The revolutionary propaganda was very persuasive, and many of the Jewish youth joined the revolution. At different periods, the rebels (who were called strikers) were very strong, and instilled fear, not only in the Jews of the town (on matters of wages, working hours, working conditions; on strikes, impounding apartments for meetings and lectures, and collecting payments for the revolutionary fund), but also in the town authorities. There was an incident where a certain daring policeman who tended to harass the revolutionaries received a threat from revolutionary headquarters to resign from the force if he wanted to stay alive. And the policeman immediately quit. Therefore, everyone was careful about discussing the revolution, both pro and con.

Once, in a Sabbath conversation in the prayer house on the revolution and revolutionaries, on those “infidels” who were rebelling against the kingdom of the Lord and the kingdom of the Czar, and the catastrophe they would cause, heaven forbid, to all the Jews and especially those of Russia, Avraham Natan Rankel said, “It's a mitzvah to hand these heretics to the authorities so they get what they deserve.” The revolutionary command heard of this (it was said that young spies would mix with the adults in the prayer house), and their court passed the death sentence. Only after much pleading was the sentence changed to a large fine.

* * *

We turn right, cross the street, and arrive at the houses of Yaakov Shlakman. Shlakman was considered one of the two richest men in town. (The other was Moshe Goldstein.) He had two brick houses, two stories each, next to each other, that extended over about one-half of one side of the market. In the larger one, which was on the corner of the market and Zhabia (Zhaba) Street, were two government institutions: on the first floor – the liquor store monopoly, and in contrast on the second floor – the courthouse. It was as if there was a connection between the two neighboring establishments: the yearning for the “monopoly” would in the end lead to the courthouse.

* * *

When Poland became independent, Shlakman sold the two houses. A Polish bank cooperative – Bank Spolddzhalechi – bought the corner house, and opened offices on the second floor (in place of the courthouse, which moved to Piastovska Street). Mario Livzhon, whose apartment and large textile store were in the second house, purchased it. Shlakman was a person who kept to himself. He lived far from the public eye and public life, and no one benefited from his wealth. After he sold the houses, he moved to Plock.

* * *

In the house behind Shlakman's houses, which was two stories high and belonged to Simcha Bonem Burstein (who was called “Beinam Esikmacher” [Vinegar Maker,] or “Der Heicher Binam” [Tall Binam] lived Avraham Shlomo Glazer, who had a bookstore, and later a printing shop. This family stood out in the traditional Jewish scene in Sierpc because they were assimilated. Except for the head of the family (who was involved with the community and public life, and was at the synagogue on holidays), all the rest of the family was distant from all aspects of Jewish life: in the religious sense, in the social sense, in the public activities, and in language (they spoke only Polish). In the end, one of the sons, Miazhek, converted. During the First World War, Avraham Shlomo Glazer was elected to the town council.

* * *

My parents lived on the second floor. My father (Eliezer) was an Alexander Hasid. In Sierpc, as in all Polish towns, the Alexander Hasidim were happier and more joyful than other Hasidim. They enjoyed company more than others, and on every holiday and feast day and rest day and sometimes also on ordinary Sabbaths, they would have a kiddush, a joint festive meal with a lot of singing, chanting, and dancing. Not all the worshippers in the Alexander shtibl (small prayer house) participated in all the parties and feasts. But there were a group of Hasidim that were naturally gay, and they were the “activists,” the dancers who made everyone dance. Among them were: Avraham Shohet (Burgand), Yaakov Meiria (Kolas), Mendel Garlitz (Lifshitz)[3], Yankel David (Bornstein), and the younger men: Yehuda Baruch (Skornik), Moshe Falka, Yankel (Stahl)[4], who were joined by poor Anshel (Maash), who was used by the Hasidim for all sorts of errands and deliveries.

My father participated in all the kiddushim, the parties, and Sabbath eve feasts that the Alexander Hasidim held. Sometimes there would be a party at our place. In spite of the fact that there was only one room, the saying “Sitting jam-packed and dancing with a lot of space” applied.

My mother (Yochevet) would tell a story: once, during Simchat Torah, the Hasidim gathered at our place, drank, and sang. When the wine went to their heads, they started dancing. Avraham Shlomo Glazer's wife (Udel, whose apartment was below ours) yelled that the ceiling was shaking in her apartment and the hanging chandelier was going to fall! The Hasidim were not frightened by her screaming, but changed the character of their dancing a little: they took off their boots and continued to dance in their stockinged feet.

My father was one of the founders and leaders of the Hospitality Society. My mother tells the story: when he came back from army service, he brought with him the pillow he had slept on in the army. Since he had learned from experience the troubles of the wanderers, he decided to found a hospitality society in the town, and said, “This pillow will be the first property of the Society.” And so it was.

I remember some of the other leaders, such as Mendel Garlitz, Yehezkel Bashkent, and Yaakov Shimon Rosenfeld. My father and Mendel Garlitz were the officers of the koleles in the Alexander shtibl. (This was the fund that collected money to support the Old Yishuv, religious Jews who emigrated to Palestine. They were organized in kolelim (communities): Polish Community, Galicianer Community, etc.) They would collect the money from Alexander Hasidim every month, and a Jew who would come from the Rebbe twice a year would take it to Alexander, and from there it was sent to Palestine.

* * *

A tailor called Zhabitsky lived in the apartment next to ours. I can remember two incidents that happened to our neighbor in the year of the revolution (1905). Zhabitsky then employed three or four workers. Once, on a winter's evening, two young men came to him and demanded that he let his workers go home, since they had already worked their full eight-hour day. The two young men would not leave until the workers stopped their work and went home.

I remember a second incident, when a lot of people gathered in our neighbor's apartment. One man, who was leaning on the back of a chair, spoke to all the people there. It was, as I understood later, an illegal meeting. Such meetings would take place in various apartments, whose owners would be notified of the meeting shortly before it took place, and without asking their permission. No one ever dared refuse, or notify the police, because the “strikers” (revolutionaries) intimidated the public.

* * *

There was a bakery for challahs and cholent in the basement that belonged to Avraham Moshe. There were a few bakeries like this in town that prepared challah and cholent for the Sabbath and matzos for Passover. A second bakery like this was (also in the market) in the basement of Pinchas Malave's house, and belonged to “Hanna Bekeren,” (Hanna the Baker). A third bakery was on the Jewish Street in the Kamnitza (The large brick house near the New House of Prayer.) This belonged to “Malka di Bekeren” (Malka the Baker), and a fourth (also on the Jewish Street) in the basement of Avraham Valuka's house, and belonged to “Hava di Bekeren” (Hava the Baker). Besides these specialized bakeries, challahs and cholent were baked in some of the bread bakeries. The owners of the specialized bakeries were very poor, and led a very hand-to-mouth existence. This house later became the property of Avraham Aharon Burstein and David Noa Zilberberg, the son and son-in-law of Simcha Bonem Burstein.

***

The next house, a two story brick house, belonged to Itchier Klin. He had a unique means of making a living, other than the rent. He would broker between people who lent and borrowed money with interest, take from one and give to the other, and get a cut from both of them. Usually the lender and borrower did not know each other; they knew just the broker, and trusted him.

* * *

The same building also housed the skaled aptchani (a medical store, like a drugstore, except that it was permitted to sell only patent medicines) of Volkoviski. The Volkoviski family was assimilated, like no other in Sierpc. Both of them were far from Judaism, in both the religious and national sense. He would visit the synagogue only on Yom Kippur. And when the gabbai (synagogue leader) wanted to honor him with a mitzvah, it would be “Tu tsu she nye movye” (in Polish “that which you do not say the blessing aloud”), by which he meant raising and re-rolling the Torah scroll.

When Volkoviski's wife was about to give birth, and in labor, she yelled “O bozhe![5] (in Polish, as she was accustomed). Afterwards, she would yell in Yiddish “Oy Got![6]. Her neighbors said that apparently her pains had become worse, and she was close to giving birth. And that's what happened.

* * *

Yair Oberfeld's grocery store was in the basement of this house. The town jokesters would say, “In Sheps ot a fraui geboiren 4 kinder un ain yar” (“In Sierpc a woman gave birth to four children in the same year.”) By this they meant four children and one Yair, since in Sierpc the word for “in” was pronounced like the word for “and”, and the word for “year” was pronounced like “Yair.”

* * *

The next house, a one story brick building, belonged to Lansky (a Pole). Pese Lubashka's haberdashery store, which was the largest of its kind in town, was in this building. The regular customers were the officers of the Russian battalion that was stationed in town, the Polish gentry, and the landowners that had large holdings outside of town. Mrs. Lubashka was an energetic woman, bold, with a lot of initiative, and she managed the business. (Her husband, Shlomo, was in America.) In spite of all the problems she had with the business, Mrs. Lubashka found the time, strength, and will to participate in charities and good deeds. She would collect money for, and give help to, respectable families that were hard up. She aided the sick and widows and orphans. Among her many customers were Russian and Polish officials, and she would use her influence to help one or another of the needy Jews.

* * *

Because of its location not far from the Russian-German border, Sierpc was used, like other cities adjacent to that boundary, as a base for smuggling people and goods. (The smuggling centers were in neighboring towns that were nearer the border, like Dobrzyn, Rypin, Zuromin, and Zielun. But some people in Sierpc were also active.) People who wanted to emigrate to America (draft dodgers or unemployed) with an exit permit from Russia (entry to America was not limited then) came to one of the border towns and the smugglers would take them into Germany, and from there they would sail to America. Using various scams, the smugglers would take the last pennies from the immigrants, and all their valuables. We used to call these emigrants “neshumas” (souls) and the smugglers “transporters of souls.” You couldn't cross the border illegally every night. Sometimes there were problems on the Russian side or the German side of the border. The emigrants would wander the streets of the border towns, sometimes for weeks, and they suffered terribly. Sometimes they would be caught, with or without the smugglers, by the border guards. But usually they would be freed by the usual means – “a confidential gift.”

* * *

I heard the following story from Zadok Lubashka: During the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905), a lot of boys of draft age would come to Sierpc and would be smuggled, as usual, into Germany on their way to America. There were also army deserters among them. Once, four army deserters (Jews, of course) were captured by the border patrol, and when their status was determined, the authorities wouldn't free them at any price. The soldiers were brought to Sierpc and they were to be sent, by foot and under guard, to the district authorities in Plock, 42 km away, where they would be court-martialed. Mrs. Lubashka found out about this, and she arranged their rescue. She hired a horse-cart, and thanks to her intervention, the soldiers were sent to Plock in it, but in handcuffs, and with an armed guard. Like all the carts and carriages on their way from Sierpc to Plock, this one stopped in Bielsk (Balsk, a town 24 km from Sierpc), to rest and feed the horses, while the passengers went to the inn to drink some liquor, or tea, and relax. The handcuffed soldiers, with their guard, also went into the inn. Someone started a friendly conversation with the guard, treated him to a drink and good food and raised a toast to the guard. When the guard fell asleep, the soldiers left through the back door, boarded a cart with fresh horses, and disappeared…

* * *

Mrs. Lubashka would come, according to my mother's stories, to all the Sabbath gatherings in the new beit midrash (house of prayer), in spite of the fact that she was not religious. She would come in a sheitl (wig) and say all the prayers with heart-rending sincerity.

As I said, Shlomo Lubashka was in America. But even when he was in Sierpc (he returned a few years before World War I), he was not very interested in the store. He would stroll through the market, at a leisurely pace, talk to a group of the hangers-on (those whose main interest was market days) who stood beside one of the shops, or sat on the steps of a store, and start, in his slow voice, to spin yarns about the wonders of America, or jokes at the expense of devout Hasidim.

Once he told the following story, “One cold winter Sabbath day, I was walking in Brooklyn (I was unemployed then). A gray bearded Jew stood near one of the houses, wearing a long fur coat and a tall fur hat, his hands wrapped inside his coat sleeves, his right hand in his left sleeve and his left hand in the right sleeve. He was looking around, and when he saw me, he thought I was a Gentile and asked me in broken English if I would be willing to light his stove. I agreed and followed him into his house. Inside, I found everything near the stove that was necessary to light a fire (apparently prepared the previous afternoon). There were thin slivers of wood, chunks of coal, a bottle of kerosene, and matches. I put the wood and coal inside the stove, poured kerosene on them, lit a match, and threw it inside the stove. The Jew who was standing nearby and hadn't said a word till then, extended his hands towards the stove, and made sounds of pleasure, ‘Aah, aah.' At this moment I stood up and said to him, “Shma yisrael, who would have thought that in the twentieth century in America there are still fools like this.” And before the astounded Jew could say a word, I ran to the door and left.”

According to a different version, the end of the story was this: when Lubashka finished his task, the Jew gave him a slice of challah. Lubashka took the challah, ran towards the door, and in a loud voice uttered the benediction, “Praise be O Lord, that you did not make me a Gentile,” and left.

* * *

I heard the following story from Mr. Zadok Lubashka: At the beginning of World War I, Itchia Margel told his neighbor Shlomo Lubashka that he had found in one of the books a clear clue that this war was the war of Gog and Magog (the Apocalypse) and we would soon see the coming of the Messiah. Apparently the clue was not that clear to Lubashka, and an argument ensued. In the midst of the argument, Lubashka proposed to Itchia that he buy from Itchia, at a low price, his portion in the Next World, and Itchia agreed. He went home, brought a book, and let Lubashka write the bill of sale on the title page, and sign it. Lubashka signed, received compensation, and the transaction was done.

An hour later, Itchia returned and asked Lubashka to cancel the transaction. Because the Mishna says, said Itchia, “All of Israel has a part in the World To Come”; it is forbidden for a Jew to buy another Jew's portion, or for a Jew to sell it. Lubashka, however, stood his ground. He wrote and signed it, and the transaction was binding. But after Itchia's pleading, he agreed to nullify the sale, gave back the money, and had his portion of the Next World returned to him.

* * *

Lubashka returned to America a short time after the end of the First World War, and later his whole family joined him. Mrs. Lubashka continued her good works for the poor and sick in America. Both Lubashkas were especially active in helping the Jews of Sierpc. Both before the Holocaust, when the Jews of Sierpc were still living in their homes, and also after the catastrophe, when they were scattered in refugee camps in various countries, the couple worked hard to send help, in cash and clothing and food packages, to the suffering Jews of Sierpc. They visited the homes of former residents of Sierpc and collected money and clothing, helped pack aid parcels, and took them to the post office to send them to their destinations.

* * *

Usually, every house had a yard. In every yard there was a wooden shack that was divided into small storerooms, one storeroom for each tenant, where they would keep wood and peat for cooking and heating, potatoes, laundry utensils, and utensils of other kinds. In a large yard there might also be a dwelling. The yard would be between the houses. Some houses on this side of the market were exceptions: the houses of Shlakman, Burstein, Klein and Lansky, which stood side by side and were attached to each other. These houses also had yards, but the entrances to them were from a different street, Zhabia (Zhaba) Street. Only the entrance to Lansky's yard was from the market. This yard was common to Lansky's house and the next one, Malawa's house. It also fronted on Zhabia Street, and was used as an alleyway between the market and that street.

* * *

The next house belonged to Avraham (Ben-David) Malawa. Avraham Malawa was an active public figure, and very respected. He spent a lot of his time and energy working to benefit the artisans of the town. Avraham Malawa was one of the founders of the Artisan's Association, and was its chairman. He was also one of the founders of Bank Ludowi (a local bank) and was on its board of directors. He was member of the community ccouncil for 16 years, until he left Sierpc. He was also a member of the town council for 16 years, from the first council that was elected in independent Poland in 1916, until he left Sierpc.

I found two newspaper clippings in my archives that testify to the public activities of Avraham Malawe:

In Das Yiddishe Folk (The Jewish People), No. 160 of Av, 5679 (July 1919), there appeared the following item under the heading “Tolerance”:
“On Sunday, July 20, the speaker from Polaei-Tzion (Zionist Workers), Mr. Yorman, was to visit our town. When the Chairman of Polalei Zion, Mr. Cohen, requested permission for the meeting and speech, the police commissar told him that he could give him a permit for a speech in Polish, but not in Yiddish. The same thing happened to a member of the Artisans' Association, Avraham Malawe, who wanted to present a report from the first convention of the Artisans Association, and was denied permission on the same grounds.”

In Hatzfira (The Siren) No. 1, of 11 Tevet, 5680 (January 2, 1920) there was a report of The Conference of Jewish City Councilmen in Poland. City councilmen from the Zionists, Mizrachi, and Artists participated in the conference. One hundred thirty representatives of about 600 Jewish city councilmen out of a total of about 1000 came to the conference. The proposal of the chairman of the organizing commission, Mr. Greenbaum, to found the Association of Jewish City Councilman, which would be a branch of the Interim National Commission of Polish Jews, was accepted. The list of the Central Committee included, among others, our friend, Avraham Malawe. (From the source, Malber, Sierpc).

Avraham Malawe defended the common man not only during his lifetime, but also after he died. To prevent the discrimination practiced by the hevra kadisha (Jewish burial society) between important and not-so-important people, he founded, in the early 1930's, a second burial society, whose members were all common folk. The chairman of this second burial society was my uncle, Meir Zashutke (who was called “Meir Baruchias,” son of Baruchia). The second burial society existed for only a short time.

Avraham Malawe was among the founders of Poale Tzion in Sierpc, and he achieved his youthful ambition. In 1934, he left his business and activities in the diaspora and emigrated (aliyah) with his whole family to Eretz Yisrael (Palestine).In Israel, Avraham Malawe was active in the Organization of Sierpc Townspeople, and in the Polish Immigrants Association as a representative of the Irgun. He tried as much as possible to help survivors who came to Eretz Yisrael, by loans from the charity fund of the Irgun or from the funds of the Polish Immigrants Association. He managed, with great difficulty, to transfer money from the Irgun to the fund of the Polish Immigrants Association.

Avraham Malawe was especially active and interested in the preparation of a book memorializing the Sierpc martyrs. He was very active in the book publishing committee. Nothing was too much for him in this endeavor, and he was happy about every additional article and photograph, and anything that brought us closer to our cherished goal.In his final years, Avraham Malawe (Ben-David) was chairman of the Organization of Sierpc Townspeople and the charity fund of the Irgun. He was also chairman of the committee that published the Sierpc Notebook of the Irgun. On the first of Tamuz, 5716 (July 10, 1956) the Organization of Sierpc Townspeople held a gala banquet in honor of Avraham Ben-David on his 70th birthday. Many people from Sierpc came to this banquet, and in speeches full of affection and admiration, they talked about his activities and deeds for the benefit of the Jews of Sierpc. Avraham Malawe died on 7 Heshvon 5717 (October 11, 1956).

* * *

We turn right, cross the street, and we are standing in front of a large, two story house belonging to Elia (Eliyahu) Glazer. In the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, Elia Glazer was a member of the community council. Hanach Levin later owned the house.

* * *

The tzhina[7] of Elia (Eliyahu) Papieroshnik was in the cellar of that house. Elia Papieroshnik's family name was Fatbrot, so why was he called Papieroshnik? Because of his other occupation, selling cigarettes, without excise stamps, that he rolled himself.

* * *

There were four tzhinas for selling boiled water in town: 1) the one we just visited. 2) Moshe Natan Klin's: this tzhina was in his apartment, in his house on the Jewish Street before the bridge (on the market side). His wife, who was called “Di Hoiche Malka” (Tall Malke) or “Di Moshe Natanze,” (Moshe Natan's wife) was in charge there. 3) The Shlisharken's: This tzhina was in the tavern that she had in the Jewish Street, between the old beit hamidrash and Horowitz's house. 4) In the mikveh. The tzhina in the mikveh belonged to the mikveh caretaker (“the Mikvenik”). Once it was Shmuel Leib and his wife Tona Iszajewicz, and later, Leib Schweitzer.

The sugar cubes (used to pay for the boiled water on Sabbath), after the many reincarnations that they passed through, from the children who brought them there, through the owners of the tzhina, finally ended up in certain grocery stores, and from there, to the customers. These same grocery stores had another source of sugar: there were penny- pinchers in town, who instead of giving groschen (the smallest coin) to the poor people who begged at the door, gave them a sugar cube, which was worth only half a groschen. The sugar lumps, which would accumulate in the pockets of the poor, also finally came to the same grocery stores, and from there, to the customers.

* * *

Yakir Plato and Yaakov Moshe Teitlebaum jointly owned the next house. This house was a one story wooden one, and was torn down before the First World War, when a three-story brick house was put up in its place. The landlord, Yakir, was like his name, a dear man. He was a good man, generous, modest, and quiet. The landlady, Pesa, was a shrew. She ruled the house, the cash drawer, the property, and the business.

* * *

The same building housed Isaschar's (who was called “Sugar Bergson”) store. Isachar Bergson was a wise Jew, was involved with the community, and was a very pleasant man. He was one of the modern Hasidim, very particular about his appearance, and always looked very neat, with a well-combed beard. Isaschar Bergson prayed in a shtibl (which had broken away from the Alexander shtibl) that was on Mikveh Street, in Shmuel (called “Shmuel Nagid”) Shampan's house. His son, David, was banished from the shtibl for the “ultimate sin” – he wore a collar.

* * *

A tailor had his shop in the yard. A large young man worked for him as a laborer, and another boy was an apprentice (the boy was the son of Haim Gunsher, who lived next to the mikveh). It was customary in these shops that not only would the owner abuse the apprentice, but so too would the laborers, and they would make fun of him. Once the laborer stuck a needle, with its eye on top, in the apprentice's chair. The boy screamed; a doctor was called who did whatever he could, but he wasn't able to remove the needle. The laborer fled to America, and the boy suffered severe pains. He suffered for two years, and after an operation that was performed by a German Army doctor (during the German occupation in World War I; the incident took place before the war), he died.

* * *

David Kloch lived in a cellar in the same yard. He was a tailor who made simple fur clothes. He would say, “I prefer to make five furs, instead of making one kiddush in a sukkah on a holiday that occurs on the evening after a Sabbath.” Some jokesters said that David Kloch's father died on the day of the first snow of that year. And since then, David Kloch observed the day of the first snow of the year as his father's yahrzeit (anniversary of his death.)

David Kloch had a nickname. He was called “Kloch mit di Kloitzkes” (“Kloch with Noodles”; apparently he liked noodles). Eventually, this house was sold to Itchia Shwitzer, a Jew from Raciaz, who went to America and came back. (He also bought the Lusmar house on the Jewish Street.)

* * *

The next house belonged to Yosef Haim Gutentag. This was also a one-story house, which was torn down during the First World War, and a three-story brick house was put up in its place.

I heard, from someone who knew Yosef Haim Gutentag's brother, Rabbi Gutentag of Suchatchin (Rabbi Tovyomi, who died in Tel-Aviv), that they were the fruit of the loins of the Annotations of Yom-Tov and that the family name Gutentag is a translation of Yom-Tov (Good Day or Holiday).

* * *

In both these houses, that of Plato and that of Gutentag, in their original versions, there were two grocery stores that belonged to two widows. The store in Plato's house belonged to Tchutcha Bilhe (Sara Baila, the sister of Shimshon Mordechai and Yehoshua Veisroze), and the store in Gutentag's house belonged to “Di Loite-Te” (the second wife and widow of Pinchas Loite). These two ladies were “women of valor” and bitter competitors. There was a constant battle between them. They would grab customers from in front of each other's store and draw them into their own store. There were rows and yelling there every day. Curses, juicy insults would pass back and forth and the town of Sierpc (or at least the nighborhood) would sit back and enjoy.

* * *

Loite's grocery store was passed on to her daughter, Shosha, after her death. Shosha was called “Shasha di Levitetas” (“Shosha, Daughter of the Loite-Te”). After her husband died, Shosha married Moshe David Mamalkin (from the province of Lomza). He was also a widower, and was called “Der Litvak.”

Moshe David was an Alexander Hasid. During the “sale” of aliyahs (the honor of reciting the blessings during the reading of the Torah) on Sabbath and holidays, he would bid up to “a gulden mit tzvei“ (A zloty and two groschen). He never made a higher bid. Therefore he was called “A Gulden mit Tzvei” (with the Litvak accent).

***

The next house, which had two stories, belonged to Moshe Zhalanovski. Unlike the other houses, the entrance to the yard was in the middle of the house (there were rooms above the entrance), and not at the side. The landlord had a textile store in this house. Later, he gave it to his son-in-law, Yosel Blachman. In the mid 1930's, Yosel Blachman was a member of the town council, representing Agudat Israel. He was also the Sierpc representative of Agudat Israel to the Great Congress of Agudat Israel in Vienna, in 1928. In 1934, he visited Palestine, and in 1935 he went on aliyah, together with his family, and settled in Haifa. He died in 5714 (1954).

* * *

Another store in this house was a small haberdashery, which belonged to Haskel (Yehezkel) Bashkes. He was a man with a kind heart and good deeds, who faithfully worked for the good of the community. He was a treasurer of the Welcome Guest Society, the Righteous Lodging Society, and the Sick Call Society. He would also give, for a deposit, various medical implements. Haskel Bashkes was called “Di Katzaftes Aidem” (Father-in-Law of Katzafte). He was called this because of his daughter-in-law, who was called “Di Katzafte,” and she was called this because of her husband, “Der Katzaf.” He was called this because he was a strong Jew, tall and broad, and looked like a katzaf (Russian peasant). Der Katzaf was a melamed (teacher) of little children, and the Katzafte had a haberdashery stall in the market. Haskel was just her father-in-law, but not his father-in-law.

***

We turn right, cross the street, and now we are standing in front of the large and pretty brick house of Radomski (a Pole). This was a corner house (the market on one side, and the Jewish Street on the other side), and it had – on the market side, the only pharmacy in town, and also a sklad aptchani (medicinal storehouse) and both of them belonged to the landlord.

One of the tenants of this house had very strange clothes. In all seasons, spring and autumn, winter and summer, he would wear a warm, long coat, galoshes over his shoes, a thick muffler wrapped around his throat, and carry an umbrella. He was a little touched in the head, but he was a quiet man. It was rumored around town that he had been a very learned man, who knew a number of languages, and spoke English fluently. Because of his constant studying, he lost his mind. The man's name was Zanbal Papiarchik. He lived with his sister, who was also not too rational. They had relatives in the United States who apparently supported Zanbal and his sister.

* * *

The small, low, wooden house of Pinchas Malawe was propped against the big brick house of Radomski, and it looked like a baby holding on to its mother's apron…. Later, Pinchas Malawe put up an apartment on top of the roof of his house, and it was also propped up on Radomski's house. Pinchas Malawe was a relative and protégé of Haim Nahum Tunbol, a scholar and an adherent of Hovev-Zion (predecessor of the Zionist movement); the prot?g? was also a scholar and knew his Bible.

* * *

Pinchas Malawa's shoe store was in this building during the 1890s. There was a tavern that belonged to the Malawe family. Here you could drink a glass of tea or sip a little liquor or a beer and have a simple cake, or stuffed meats, and other good things. Most of the customers at the inn were Jewish soldiers who served in the cavalry battalion stationed in Sierpc. In time, this became a club for the Jewish soldiers. Any soldier who received a few hours leave would come there, eat something, and have a pleasant time in Jewish company (since some of the young men from town would also come to talk with the soldiers). On holidays, when they had leave, the soldiers would make a minyan and pray there. The soldiers once scribed a Torah scroll there. The ceremony marking completion of the Torah scroll was held there, and it was done with great pomp, with the Rabbi and all the town elders in attendance. The battalion officers were also invited, but because there was so little room, the officers had their party at the house of Mrs. Lubashka, whom they knew because they patronized her store.

I heard the following story from our townsman with the phenomenal memory, Shmuel Itchia Lanter: There were a few Jews among the soldiers of the cavalry battalion stationed in Sierpc. One of them, from the town of Lutzk, was short, thin, and weak and, in addition, a loser. When this “hero” went to serve in the cavalry battalion, it was obvious that he suffered a lot. He couldn't get on the horse or ride it or take care of it. And both the officers and other soldiers tormented and harassed him.

After a while, they exempted him from maneuvers and had him do odd jobs in the battalion. But there, too, he found no respite from his enemies, because he was weak and the work was too hard for him.

Once someone whispered to him that he would quickly be rid of his troubles if he converted to the Orthodox Church. Of course, at first he paid no attention to such talk. However, as his problems increased and his strength decreased and the whispers became stronger, the lad couldn't resist the temptation to “change his skin.” In a splendid ceremony at the tchrkava (Russian Orthodox Church) in Sierpc, the Russians celebrated the addition of another soul to their church. This news caused a storm among the Jews of Sierpc, and especially among the Jewish soldiers, at the treachery of their comrade. But the deed had been done and there was no turning back.

For a while, the Russians treated their new co-religionist like a mascot and didn't bother him or harm him. But with time, his immunity wore off and the old times returned: torment, insults, and beatings. The soldier turned to his Jewish friends and pleaded and tried to justify his deed by saying he wanted to be rid of the persecution, and would return to being a pious Jew after he left the army. And he asked them to forgive his actions, which also shamed them, and he begged to be saved from his hell, or he would put an end to his life.

The Jewish soldiers started to discuss how they could help the fallen friend. They gathered, together with some of the town elders, in their “club,” the Malawa family tavern, and talked of how to save the unlucky soldier. After a long discussion, it was decided to smuggle the unlucky soldier across the border into Germany. One of the participants in the discussion was a member of the community council, Israel Bluman, and he was appointed to perform the deed. According to plan, two soldiers brought this soldier late at night to Israel Bluman's house. They dressed him in girl's clothes (as we said, he was short and thin), put him on a horse cart and, with the help of professional smugglers, took him across the border into Germany.

* * *

Behind the next house, which was the hotel of Mrs. Lipchik (a Pole), stood the two-story house of Shmuel Grobard, who was called “Shmuel Lant”. The name Lant was that of his wife, (who was called “Di Lenten”), Madame Esther Lant, whom he married when she was a widow and owner of the house and of the tavern (shenk in Polish) in the house. Because of that, she was well known in town and her husband was called by her name. His son-in-law, Avraham Groda, later owned the house.

* * *

During the First World War, Shmuel Grobard was a lavnik (counselor to the mayor) in the Magistrat and also a member of the community council. The landlord and his wife went to America after the First World War, to visit their sons. Shmuel Grobard died there. His wife, who did not approve of the burial arrangements in America, returned to Sierpc to die.

* * *

The house had four stores: the tavern belonging to the landlady (afterwards owned by a Pole and, later, Shmuel Moshe Zabitski's cobbler's shop); my parents' haberdashery store (afterwards that of my brother-in-law, Yisrael Karpa, and still later, a shoemaker called Yeshiayahu Radzanovski Marchonz); the grocery store of Rehavia (who was called “Hevia”) Tzipris (afterwards, of her son, Meir Tzipris); and the flour store of Tuvia Lant (who emigrated to America).

* * *

This house was at the center of the market. Opposite was the parking area for the carriages, (pawuz in Polish, an enclosed stagecoach for six passengers), which took merchants, traveling salesman (shpiliter in Polish), ordinary travelers, and passers-by to Plock on their way to Warsaw. The tavern (shenk) in this house was used by the passengers from out of town and the wagon-drivers, a place to stop, rest, eat, and drink. The carriages would leave Sierpc at midnight, and after a stopover at Bielsk (Balsk), would get to Plock at six in the morning. From there the passengers would sail in a statak (steamship) on the Wisla (Veisel) to Warsaw. There would be tumult and lots of noise near the parking place and inn every evening, and especially on Saturday night and on Tuesday evening, after market day, when there were many passengers for Warsaw.

* * *

Our store was called Yehudit's Store. Each haberdashery shop, like every other store, had its own special clientele. The main customers of the haberdashery of Mrs. Lubashka, the largest of its kind, were the families of the officers of the Russian battalion stationed in Sierpc and the rich Polish gentry. The customers of Yokev (Yaakov) and Luka, the second largest haberdashery shop in town, were in part, the same type of customers as Mrs. Lubashka's, and in part, different. The main customers of the haberdashery shops of Naftali Liebson, Itcha Meir Sandrovitch, and some smaller stores were the farmers from the district, who came to town on the market days, Tuesday and Friday. Our store was Yehudit's Store. Our main customers were seamstresses (Jewish and Polish), and rich Jewish ladies who, more than just being rich, were “ladies” (“Medames” as they were called).

In that time - before the First World War – our shop excelled in the variety of ornamentation for ladies' dresses and hats, such as silk goods, velvet, and also buttons and pins of different kinds and a wide selection of lace for ladies underwear and bedding. The busy time in our store was in the evening. The ladies, who would stroll in the street in the evening, would wander into our store to see if there was something new that interested them. With great patience and politeness, we would answer all their requests, and they would turn the store over from top to bottom. In the end, they would leave, with a promise to return with someone else whom they could consult with. They promised, and kept their promise. And they would return not just once, and not just with one advisor. And after all the conferences, they would take the merchandise home to show to their mother, their daughter, sister, neighbor, or dressmaker. And more than once we had to go, after a few days, to the ladies' homes to get the goods back. Thus they would tire us out, and muddle us, every evening, especially on summer evenings, until ten or eleven o'clock or later. And in the end, when they finally bought the merchandise, it would be on credit. And we would have to go to their houses an endless number of times, to ask them to pay their debt, as if we were asking for charity. More than a small number of entries in our swollen “debt book” were never paid.

We were so enslaved to the store that we had to open it on Saturday night. And not only on the long evenings of winter, but also on the short evenings of summer. When I came back from the shtibl on Saturday night with my father, we went straight to the store, which my mother {Yochevet) and my sister (Gita Bila) had opened after saying the prayer “Gott fun Avraham” (God of Abraham). When we arrived at the store, our valued customers, who had been strolling in the vicinity and waiting for it to open, were already there. As usual, they were looking for new knick-knacks for underwear, bedding, dresses, or hats. Of course, they didn't buy anything. First of all, the “Sabbath was still in their pocket,” and secondly, they had to come back with a mother, or sister, or dressmaker. Sometimes on Sarturday night, a Polish customer would come who needed something for Sunday. Then we would usually see “a live groschen” (actual cash) because it was “the beginning of the week.”

When they went to open the store, my mother and sister would bring the wine, the wineglass, a candle, and the incense box for Havdalah (Saturday night prayer). When the right moment came, and the store was empty for a few minutes, we hurriedly shuttered the store; my sister would keep the doors closed, I would hold the twisted candle, and my father would quickly say the Havdalah blessing. We would eat the Mlava Malka (Saturday night feast) meal when it was very late at night, and finally get some sleep.

The haberdashery business was not like selling textiles. There was a resemblance, in that both used outside capital. However, in textile goods, the trade was based completely on I.O.U's, and bankruptcy was common; the haberdashery merchants would use money that had to be repaid with interest, or was loaned as a favor. Very few used I.O.U.'s, and bankruptcies were unknown in this business.

* * *

During the period when the Russians were in control, until the First World War, the stores had to be closed on Sundays for the Christian prayer times, between 10 and 12 in the morning. But Sunday mornings were good times for business, especially for the haberdashery stores. The Polish customers would come (like the Jewish customers on Friday afternoon) to buy items of clothing that they might be missing, or a Sunday ornament. On the one hand, it was a pity to close the store, on the other hand, the customers wouldn't stand for it, but it was the law. What did the storekeepers do? When the time came to close the store, they would shutter the doors, and serve the customers who remained inside. Or they would let new customers in, after making sure there were no policemen in sight. And they would let their customers out, also being very careful. And those storekeepers with stores with a rear entrance had nothing to worry about.

We had a lot of problems with this, because our store was opposite the Magistrat (town hall) and the police station. We wanted to close the store exactly at ten o'clock, but it was difficult, because the buyers tarried. Therefore, we were caught many times, but we were not brought to justice because we would give “small gifts.” Once, a policeman gave us a summons, and my mother had to go to court. Those in the know told my mother to answer “yes” when the judge asks her if she admits to the crime. Then the judge would fine her one ruble, or sentence her to one day in jail. If she would try to justify her deed, she would receive a heavier penalty. And that is what happened. My mother confessed and was sentenced to a fine of one ruble, or one day in jail. Apparently, one ruble was a lot of money, and my mother selected a day in jail.

A day in jail was from 12 Noon until the same time the following day. So my mother entered the jail at 12 Noon. I accompanied her inside. The jail, which was called koza[8], was in the courtyard of the attorney Garfinkel, in an ordinary house with two large rooms, one for men and the other for women, and an entrance hall where the guard was stationed. Each room had a large, barred window, and the only furniture was a wooden cot.

After I had stayed awhile with mother, I went home. Afterwards, I brought her dinner, and sat some more with her. (Whoever wanted food from the jail, would get it. A guard would bring it from the vanzhnia[9] that was in the neighboring courtyard.) Because my mother was the only woman in prison that day, she asked the guard to let me sleep there, and he agreed. I went home to get supper and a blanket. In the morning, I went home again, and brought mother breakfast. At noon, we went home.

* * *

Rehavia Tzafris's grocery store was unique among the Jewish groceries: a large, clean store, with nice looking shelves on the walls, with goods neatly placed, large counters, and a display window. In the widow – samples of various kinds of goods: large candles and sweets wrapped in blue paper (or maybe just the wrappings of candles and sweets), and so forth. And at the bottom of the window, small cubicles, and in each cubicle, a different kind of ready-made noodle (something very new in our town): short ones and long ones (up to half a meter), thin and chunky, flat and round, solid noodles and hollow ones. Children would stop at the widow from time to time to stare at the strange noodles. The only customer for the noodles was the Russian Army battalion stationed in town. When Rehavia retired, his son, Meir Tzafris (who had been a grain merchant), took over. In the thirties, Meir Tzafris was elected to the community council as a member of Mizrachi.

* * *

The next two houses, two small one-story buildings, belonged to Shmuel Frank. When Frank became hard up, he sold the first house to Heet Kalman Bloom (who was called “Kalman Brenner”), who opened a ready-to-wear men's store there. The other store in the house, a textiles store, belonged to the brothers Nathan (he was not called “Nusan,” as Nathan would be pronounced in Sierpc Yiddish, but “Natan,” as it would be pronounced in Polish) and Wolf Tatz. Nathan Tatz was a member of the first town council that was elected during the German occupation in the First World War. He was a sympathizer of the Bund (the Jewish socialist anti-Zionist organization) and supported it financially. Nathan was a generous man, and helped many people with his charity.

Among the poor children who came to the soup kitchen during the First World War (it was in the yard where we lived, the yard of Moshe Elshtein) was a boy who would read a lot. He wouldn't take his eyes off the book even when mealtime came, not while he ate, and not when he finished eating. He also read while he walked. Nathan Tatz heard of him, and he took the boy into his house and brought him up as if he were his own son.

* * *

My grandfather, Avraham Sandrovitch, who was called “Avramie Zlochaver” lived in that courtyard. Zlochaver was my grandmother's (Rivka Feige) family name. Why was my grandfather called by my grandmother's name? It turns out that she was a “woman of valor” and was known all over town as a merchant. Because Grandpa would study the Torah all day and all night (“Work – is the study of the Torah”) Grandma would sell things and support the family.

This is the source of the name “Partushkova,” “Fartuch (apron)”, or “Koshitzkova” (basket) as the Gentiles of the town and the surroundings called the Sandrovitch family. Our haberdashery shop (in the market, in Shmuel Grobard's house) was bought with my grandmother's money. She bought the store after there had been a fire there. Even in my days, there were packages of buttons in burnt cartons on the lowest shelf that had been saved from the fire. Before she bought the store, Grandmother would take her wares to the houses of rich Polish gentry, to the nuns (who were called noness) in the Catholic convent that was then in Sierpc[10], and to the houses of the Russian officials. (Grandmother would speak very delicately, and address every customer, even young girls, as Pan, Pani, or Panienka (Sir, Madam, Miss). And so, when Grandma would carry her wares in an apron, they would say to her “Pani Partushkova” (Madam with the apron) and when she carried her wares in a basket, they would say “Pani Koshitzkova” (Madam with the basket) and so her children and grandchildren were called by these two names (usually with the given names) by the Gentiles.

Grandma would say (my mother told this to me): when she was young, everyone would be addressed as “You.” If someone wanted to show off and spoke in terms of zi (third person), people would make fun of him and say the following couplet: “Heren zi, zehen zi, veissen zi vos? Sheyen zi, beysen zi, essen zi dos.

* * *

My Rabbi, Moshe Danziger (who was called “Moisheye Karmelkeies”), once told us, among his entertaining stories for his students: His (he meant my) grandfather never saw his grandmother. Grandfather would get up early and go to the shtibl to study. When he left the house, his wife was still asleep. Grandmother would rise at first light, wake up the children, clothe them, feed them, and send them to the heder. Then she would eat, clean the house, prepare food for her husband, and set out to find sustenance for the household.

At twelve Noon, after finishing his morning studies (a lesson in the Gemara, a Torah chapter with commentaries by Rashi) and prayer and the day's chapter in Psalms, Grandfather would come home. His wife wouldn't be home, but the table had been set. The tablecloth was spread; bread, utensils and salt were on it. He would remove the porridge from the stove, wash his hands, say the blessing, and eat his breakfast. After he finished eating, and had said grace, he would doze a little at the table, and then again go to the shtibl to study.

Before evening, after a long and trying day, Grandmother would return. She would prepare the evening meal (which was called vietshere), feed the children, and put them to sleep. Then she would eat, prepare food for her husband, and tired and exhausted from the day's labors, she would go to sleep.

In the evening, after the evening prayer, and after conversations with other yeshiva students like himself, Grandfather would come home. Grandmother was already asleep, and again Grandfather found the table set for a meal. He removed supper from the stove, sat and ate vietshere, scrutinized a book, and when he became sleepy, he would stand up, recite “Kriat Shma,” and go to sleep. This, said the rabbi, happened day after day and week after week, and Grandfather and Grandmother would not meet.

Another time, this rabbi told the following story: His (he meant my) grandfather would from time-to-time go to visit his Rebbe. (The Rebbe of Lublin, from the Iger dynasty. There were no Lublin Hasidim in Sierpc. Grandfather came to Sierpc from Lowicz.) He would arrive before “First Slichot” (before New Year) and stay until after Sabbath Bereishis (after Sukkoth). Once, his wife gave birth to a son, and the Sholom Zecher and circumcision took place when Grandfather was at the Rebbe.

* * *

There are no more houses in the market square. We turn to that most important and essential institution, the one that was used by all the tenants of the market and the surroundings, the one that was at the center of the market, and generously gave to everyone who came – the water-pump. The pump provided fresh water for all the neighborhood (hard water; soft water was brought from the well near the mikveh) in all seasons of the year. Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, great and small, used the water. The great would take up the water by themselves, or use professional pumpers. The small would accompany the great, and benefit from their “aid” to the great, by pumping the water and carrying the buckets. The children would quench their thirst directly from the pump. Grown-ups would do the same thing when they didn't care about appearances. The peasants who came on market day would drink directly from the pump.

In the winter, the water that spilled near the pump would freeze, and a sort of iceberg would form around it, and the approach to the pump would become unsafe. The pumpers would bring sand and spread it over the ice to get to the pump. On especially cold days, the pump itself would be wrapped in straw, so that the pipe would not freeze. The children then had a double delight: seeing the pump and the surrounding ice, and also skating on the ice. There was also a children's riddle about the pump: “What stands in the middle of the market, and when you hold out your hand, begins to weep?”

The Old Market and market day were linked, not only because of the word “market,” but in many aspects. And in spite of the fact that there were a few markets in town, you could say that the heart of market day was in the Old Market. The income of most of the population of Sierpc, like that in most cities, was based on labor and commerce. The Polish population was mainly laborers and craftsmen, and the Jewish population (which was about 3500 out of a total of 10,000) was 40% merchants and 40% tradesmen and laborers (The rest were property owners, public officials, and miscellaneous). All of them looked forward to market days, which were the main factor in the economic life of the town.

Market days in Sierpc were twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. The major market day was on Tuesday, and a minor market day on Friday. The peasants from the countryside would bring their produce for sale on market day. They would bring eggs, butter, cheese (the Jews didn't buy cheese made by Gentiles – they called it “Polish cheese” – and the sticklers wouldn't buy butter made by Gentiles – “Polish butter”), potatoes, grain, chickens, cattle, pigs, horses, and chopped wood for cooking and heating.[11] They would buy food, kerosene, ready-made clothing and shoes, tools, cattle, or horses. On market days, especially Tuesdays, the streets were crowded with people, cattle, horses, and carts--especially the Old Market. In the market, the tailors put up stalls with three walls and a roof made of posts that were wrapped in canvas, and showed off their wares (ready made men's clothing). The hatters would put up stalls with one wall and two narrow walls and a roof. Between the narrow walls were shelves with hats on display. The shoemakers would put up stalls with two pairs of high support legs with a rod between them, on which they would hang shoes and boots. Peddlers would show their merchandise on tables and stands: weaves, cloth, underwear, and all sorts of haberdashery. Trade in grains, furniture and rope was concentrated in the New Market. The lot behind the New Market was the pig market; on Plotzki Street, behind the German church, was the cattle and horse market.

There were fairs in Sierpc six times a year, before Christian holidays. The fairs would take place on Wednesday (there would not be a market day on Tuesday that week). Merchants, peddlers, and salesman from nearby and faraway towns would assemble for the fairs. Merchants (they were called shachers) who were more interested in fraud than in sales came even from Warsaw. Peasants came not only from the surrounding countryside, but also from farther away. During fair days, the streets and markets, the sidewalks and the roads, were filled to capacity. In addition to the stands and booths that were set up in the Old Market, as on ordinary market days, stalls were set up on the sidewalks around the market, and carts passed between the two rows of stalls and the crowds of people with great difficulty. The shouting, outcry, and patter of the merchants and peddlers would fill the air, and the din and commotion were deafening. The policemen of the entire district would be brought to town for the fair days. But also the thieves and swindlers from near and far, both from the tribe and not from the tribe, would be “recruited” for those days. A fair day never passed without robberies, frauds, quarrels, and fights. The police had plenty of work.

* * *

For as long as I can remember, there was a rumor that the authorities were going to move the Old Market to the New Market, and the Old Market would be turned into a park. And the anti-Semitic establishment plotted to deprive the shopkeepers in the market, who were almost all Jewish, of their livelihood. And they began the realization of their scheme, not by moving the market location, but by changing the market day. In 1927, the Town Council decided to move the market day from Tuesday to Wednesday and from Friday to Saturday. The anti-Semites argued that they should be able to eat fresh produce on Sunday, like the Jews were able to eat fresh produce on Saturday. And because they were shifting the market day from Friday to Saturday, they would also transfer the Tuesday market to Wednesday. But their real intention was that, since the Jews would not violate the Sabbath, more Polish owned stores would appear, and there would be more Polish merchants. The Jewish public, led by the Jewish town council members, opposed the edict, but to no avail, and the decree was published. A committee was formed whose members were representatives of the whole Jewish community, under the leadership of the Rabbi, against the desecration of the Sabbath. The committee sent patrols to market, to prevent defilers (if there were such) from shopping in the market. But the edict did not last for more than a few weeks. The Jews stood fast, and even the secular Jews didn't violate the Sabbath, neither by selling nor buying goods. When the peasants saw that there was no trade on Saturday and that they had to take their goods back home with them, they relented and, a few at a time, started coming to town on Friday. In time, the market day became legally Friday again. And Tuesday became market day again instead of Wednesday.

I found in my archives a newspaper called Unzer Rayen Zeitung (Our Regional Newspaper – a non-partisan weekly devoted to trade, the community, and culture of the Jews in Western Poland, Vlotzlabek, Plock, Kotana, Bydgoszcz) which was published in Vlotzlabek, No. (34) 9, from the 16 of MarHeshvon, 5688 (11 November, 1927) with an item from Sierpc on the shifting of the market days. The article was signed by Ben-Haver and a footnote: “Because of unforeseen circumstances, this article was late to print.” This is what the article said:

“Our town is one of those whose previous town council decided to move the market days to Wednesday and Saturday from Tuesday and Friday, as was the usual practice. Jewish council members, with the backing of the whole Jewish population, vigorously opposed this proposition that could ruin all Jewish trade. But none of these activities had any effect, and the market days were set as Wednesday and Saturday.

“The people from the countryside, who immediately felt that the new law was against their interests, did not pay attention to the law, and continued coming to town on Friday, and not on Saturday. And so the market days became, in practice, Friday and Wednesday.

“The Christian merchants, the endekim[12] who campaigned ferociously for the new law in the previous Town Council, now felt the other end of the stick, that by trying to damage the Jewish businesses they also damaged their own, worked together with the Jewish representatives to return market days to Tuesday and Friday, because of the proximity of Wednesday and Friday. And starting with 20 September, 1927, Tuesday and Friday became the official market days.”

 

3. Plotzki Street

We will continue our tour and our survey on the Plotzki [Plocki] Street. In the mid 1930s, when the town council gave the streets new names, this street was called Ridaz Shmigli after the Polish Marshall of that name.

* * *

At the beginning of the street there was a big two-story brick building, owned by Moshe Goldstein. The house was completely taken by the Russian authorities: the first floor, by the Post Office and the Government Bank, and the second floor, by regional offices and by the governor of the region (natchelnik pivituvy). In back of the house was a large yard that extended to the Zhika (the river). A one story wooden house with twelve rooms was in the center of the yard; it was occupied completely by the Goldstein family. (The only instance in town of such comfortable living quarters.) Between the two houses was a garden with trees and a green hedge and between the trees were benches. (The only garden in a Jewish yard in town.) There were large granaries in the other part of the yard.

Moshe Goldstein was considered one of the two wealthiest men in town (the other was Shlackman). He was a successful grain merchant, and was also the supplier of the Russian cavalry battalion stationed in town.

The House of Goldstein (both the building and the family) was very attractive. It was a rich house that was conspicuous in its wealth, but not in its haughtiness. The houses, the living conditions, the large and neat yard, the garden, and all the practices of the house were proof of the wealth of this family. But the whole town benefited from the wealth of the Goldstein family. The community, the town institutions, people of little means and poor people were supported by the Goldstein family's charity and volunteer efforts. The lady of the house, Mrs. Zvetel Goldstein, deserves special mention for these good works. She was a kind and generous woman, gentle and good-hearted.

Di Blinde Hene” (Blind Hanna, she had one bleary eye) lived in the cellar of the front house, with her son, who was called “Dodia di Blinde Henes” (David son of Blind Hanna) and her daughter Nikhia (who was called “Nikhia di Blinde Henes” – Nikhia daughter of Blind Hanna). The mother and son made their living by selling milk from door to door and by selling wood for cooking and heating. Dudia would chop the wood every day after completing his milk rounds. Both mother and son would start conversations and tell all sorts of tales in every house they entered to sell milk.

* * *

After the First World War, the Goldstein family members who lived in Warsaw sold the house (the parents had passed away) to Aharon Lipke. Later, a second story was added to the house in the yard, and Shmuel Mendel Licht, who previously had a bakery, opened a hotel there. Part of the first story was used as the shtibl of the Gur Hasidim.

* * *

Moshe Shtarkshtein lived in the same house. (He came from Drobin before the First World War, and left Sierpc after the war.) He was not a very successful merchant. Moshe Shtarkshtein once came to the shtibl and said that he had just made 200 Marks. His listeners wondered – so early in the morning and such a large profit? And by who – Moshe Shtarkshtein? Then Shtarkshtein related how he came by this large sum:

Yesterday morning, someone offered to sell him a shipment of thread. He wanted to buy it, but somehow, he didn't. Today he heard that the contract had expired, and the value of the goods had gone down by 200 Marks. So it seems he saved 200 Marks…

* * *

Melobantchik's house was next to the Goldstein house. This was a small, one-story house. There was one store at the front of the house – Melobantchik's grocery and liquor store. The customers were mainly the large landowners from outside of town, who bought groceries and liquor in large quantities. The interior arrangements and furniture were a model of tidiness and order. It is doubtful that any other store in town, even among the Polish ones, could compare with this one in cleanliness and neatness. Because of its tidiness, and because of the many bottles on the shelves, the store looked like a pharmacy.

The Melobantchik family was a very respected one, and was considered one of the most intelligent in town. Mrs. Dvora Malka Melobantchik was a wise and generous woman, charitable, with many good deeds to her credit. At the beginning of the German conquest (in the First World War) Leib Melobantchik was appointed by the occupation authorities to the town council, and served as a lavnik (advisor to the mayor).

* * *

Moshe Gongola, the hatter, lived in the next house. His elderly father lived in the same house and helped out a little with the work. His father's name was Tzelelazer (Betzalel Lazer), and Rivka, Moshe Gongola's wife, used to say: “My father-in-law is no ful Lazer (half Lazer in Polish) but tzali Lazer” (complete Lazer in Polish.) If the elder Gongola's name had a Polish ring to it, so the name of the landlord, a Pole, had a Hebrew ring to it. His name was Shtandrmair.

* * *

A little bit further on there was an unpaved alley that extended to the Zhika (the Sierpianitza River). The alley didn't have an official name, but it was called Doli (doles – slope) because it inclined towards the Zhika. The alley ended with the lava, a low, narrow, wooden passage to ford the river that connected Plotzki Street with the Jewish Street (near the synagogue) and shortened the route between them.

There were few houses in the alley, and few Jewish families lived there. Among them were the Oberfeld (Mordecai) family and the Pshigoda family (Avraham, who was called “Penk” after his father-in-law, and Hirsh Rugza, who was called “Old Penk” – “der Alter Penk”).

* * *

After the alley, there was a one-story house that was jointly used by Hershel Ishaiavetz and Mendel Lencher. The first had a grocery store, and the second, an ironworks shop, both in the same house.

* * *

Mendel Lencher was a quiet and unassuming man. His grown sons managed the ironworks store, and he spent most of his time studying the Gemara. During the First World War, he bought the Kovzanitz estate near Rypin. He died suddenly there in the year 5687 (1926) and was buried in Sierpc. Mendel Lencher was a reader of the Torah and blew the shofar in the Alexander shtibl.

* * *

Past the house of Lencher-Lencher, there was a narrow street that extended, like the alley, to the Zhika and the lava. This street was also called Doli, but its official name was Shvyenti Vazhinietz (Saint Vazhinietz) after one of the Catholic saints. In the mid 1930s, when the town council gave new names to the streets, this street was named “P.O.W.” after the underground organization, a Polish military group that was organized at the end of the First World War and helped, according to the Polish version, to free Poland from the Germans.

This street too, like the alley, housed few Jewish families. Among them were the Lubianski (Mordecai) family, and the Shnitzer (Icha Itzhak David) family.

* * *

Mordecai Lubianski brought a matzo baking machine to Sierpc in the 1930s. The Rabbi, Yehoshua Heshel David Goldshlak, declared total war on the matzos baked by this machine, and declared them to be completely chametz (not kosher for Passover). Because of this, Lubianski had to bring the flour for the matzos from Plock. However, many people didn't pay attention to the Rabbi's prohibition, and ate these matzos. Every year, as the matzo-baking season approached, the Rabbi would renew his stubborn battle against the machine-made matzos, and every year, the number of people who ate them increased.

* * *

Icha David Shnitzer was one of a group of younger activists. He was an ardent Zionist, and was a leader at any Zionist, Hebrew, or cultural event. He was a member of committees of the Zionist Organization, of the Tarbut school, and of the library. He was also active in charitable works.

* * *

Zadok Bluman lived in the first house after Doli Street. This was a two-story brick house that belonged to Shich Lagrudnitski (a Pole). The Bluman family house was one of the few intelligent places in Sierpc. Zadok Bluman had a great deal of knowledge in matters of law and statutes. He was, as it was generally put, “half a lawyer.” His occupation was writing applications to the court and other Russian government institutions, and giving advice on legal matters. During the German occupation in the First World War, Zadok Bluman was an official of the German court.

Icheia Papiarchik lived in the same house. Icheia was a clever Jew, a pleasant man to have a conversation with, with an agreeable smile. He would say, “I don't have to keep books in my business, the Jews in town do that for me.”

* * *

In the next house, which belonged to Grabovski (a Pole), lived Azrieltia Podskotch, who was one of the senior Zionist intellectuals in town. He was a clever man, and respected by the whole town. His home was an intelligent and Zionist one. He was a member of the first town council that was elected during the German occupation in the First World War.

* * *

Shmulik Valuka lived in the same house. He was a teacher in the government elementary school for Jewish children. Shmulik Valuka was a faithful and devoted Zionist. He was active in all Zionist, Hebrew, and cultural activities, and one of the founders of the Zionist youth movement, Herzlia, and very active in it.

The school authorities did not look upon Shmulik Valuka's Zionist activities favorably. Only the fact that he had been a volunteer in a combat unit and had participated in Polish battles against the Bolsheviks (in 1920) prevented his dismissal from his job. But he was punished. It was an unofficial punishment, of “banishment”; for years, he was sent to teach in other towns.

* * *

The next house, one-story with a cellar, belonged to Shmuel Asher Ostashber. The landlord had a grocery store in the cellar, in addition to a textiles store in the yard.

In the first months of the First World War, Shmuel Asher Ostashber and his brother Itzik were sent to Siberia by the Russians on suspicion of spying for the Germans. They returned to Sierpc at the end of the war.

* * *

Above Shvyenti Vazhinietz Street, Plotzki Street split into two. A small park in the shape of a long triangle drove a wedge into the middle of the street. This park (which was called “Der Kleiner List Garten” – the Small Garden of Desire) was the only one in the streets of Sierpc. It had a few trees and a few benches, and the youth (of course, not the Hasidic young men) would stroll there in the evenings and on Sabbaths, or rest on a bench in the middle of their promenade. This park, which very likely brought couples together, any number of times was also responsible for splitting them up. Plotzki Street continued to the left of the park, to Bielsk (Balsk) and Plock. The road to Dobrzyn (Dobrzyn on the Drweca) began to the right of the park.

In later years, when the road to Dobrzyn (the start of the road, adjoining Sierpc) became busier and became a street, it was called Piastovska after Piast, the first king of Poland.

* * *

Beyond the park, both to the left and to the right, there were few Jewish tenants. Not far from here, the two streets became semi-rural, like a Polish suburb.

The first house beyond the park occupied all the space (together with its courtyard) between the road to Plock and the road to Dobrzyn. This house was a one-story house and belonged to a Jew, Moshe Kotzolk, who owned a grocery store (by the side of the road to Plock) and a lumber storeroom (in the yard behind his house, on the side of the road to Dobrzyn).

* * *

Beyond Kotzolk's house there were houses, empty lots, and tilled fields. On the road to Plock, on the left, not far away, was the kirche (the Evangelic Church; there were many Germans in the vicinity of Sierpc). After the kirche there was a large, fenced-in lot, with storerooms for agricultural equipment, that belonged to a Pole. He also had bicycles for sale and for rent, by the hour, to ride and for riding lessons. Obviously, children and boys from Hasidic houses didn't know how to ride bicycles, and also didn't take riding lessons (except for a few that dared, and folded up their pants' legs, and learned the ways of the “foreigners”). They would stand outside – if by chance they came to this Gentile neighborhood – and send jealous glances at the boys and young men inside riding bicycles and learning how to ride them.

Further on, in a large lot between the road to Plock and the road to Lublin, was the horse and cattle market. On market days, especially on Tuesdays, it was full of the sounds of men and cattle, with the yelling of the sellers and the brokers and sometimes with the sounds of shouts and fights of adversaries or drunks. A little bit further on, there was a large park (it was called “der Groiser Lis-Garten” – “the Large Garden of Desire”), and inside the park was the tchrkava (the Russian Orthodox Church, for the officials and the Russian Army). In the first days of Polish independence, the tchrkava was torn down, and in its place the sarostva (provincial authority) building was put up, and because of this, the area became developed, with more residents. Because it was in a Polish neighborhood, and far from the town center, the Jewish youth didn't tend to stroll or pass their time in the Large Park. But in quiet times, the Jewish youth would try to forget that they were among bitter enemies, and they would spend time in the park until late at night. But very often they would be chased out of the park by Polish youth. Beyond the Large Park there was the sawmill (together with a lumber warehouse) owned by Yisraelke Sherpherz.

* * *

Of the few Jews who lived in this neighborhood, I remember Binyamin Sochaczewski. His house was after the Kotzolk house, and before the German church, and he had a grocery store there. Binyamin Sochaczewski was an enthusiastic and fanatical Gur Hasid, and in addition, an idler.

* * *

Further on were the barracks of the 48th Russian Cavalry Battalion, which was stationed in Sierpc. The battalion came to Sierpc in 1888, and left it for Lolotzalbek in 1908. Also stationed in Sierpc was the 22nd Artillery Battery. The barracks had been built by Jews who rented them to the army.

We have arrived at the edge of town. We will go back by the other way, the road to Dobrzyn, which was called Piastovska Street.

* * *

We told the story of the small railroad (kolaika) that the Germans built from Lowicz to Nashlatz in the paragraph entitled “Traffic and Lighting” in the section “The First World War”. [Of the chapter “Memoirs” in this book]. It passed through Sierpc and shortened the trip to Warsaw. The Polish authorities built a wide gauge railway from Sierpc to Nasielsk, which was completed in 1924 and permitted a direct journey, without transfers, and a quick trip from Sierpc to Warsaw in less than four hours (the distance – 144 kilometers). The railway station was on the road to Dobrzyn (Piastovska Street) and because of it the neighborhood developed further, and the number of inhabitants increased. New residences were built, and institutions moved their quarters to the area, including the court, the hospital, and the public elementary school for Jewish children. In 1937, the line was extended to Rypin, and instead of Sierpc-Warsaw, it became Rypin-Warsaw. In that year, another railway line was completed, Lipano-Sierpc-Plock.

* * *

We have already mentioned that this area, till the small park, was like a semi-rural Polish suburb, and only a few Jews lived here. I can remember only one Jew who lived in this area, and that was Mordecai Lupatka. He had a grocery store and was a grain merchant. In later years the lumberyard of Mendel Gurfinkel was situated here, and the photography shop of his daughters, and David Sherpherz lived here.[13]

Opposite the small park there was a lane with a rural atmosphere: small houses, barns, and no road. The name of this lane was part of the rural character – Studolna (barn in Polish). The lane extended until the fields of its inhabitants. In later years, large modern houses were built here, which outshone any in the rest of the town, and the lane became a street.

During the 1930s, when the town council changed the street names, this street was called Narutovitch after the first president of modern Poland, who was killed by a Polish nationalist.

* * *

A large, modern building for the Tarbut [Culture] School was built on the same street. The building was completed in 1935, and it was opened then. The Tarbut School began in 1931. A kindergarten named Tarbut was opened in the Jewish Street, in the yard of Yosef Valosk (the building was sold to Moshe Asman and Yisrael Barko). When the place became too small for the kindergarten and the lower grades, they moved to Plotzki Street, behind the Kotzolk house. The Tarbut School stayed there until it moved to its new quarters.

* * *

We return to Plotzki Street. The first house, a two story building, was owned by Mairkovski (a Pole), and Hanach Pepper lived there. For a certain length of time, Hanach Pepper was a member of the community council. He ran on the Zionist ticket.

* * *

A little further down was the house that belonged to the blacksmith Yitzhak Lipski (who was called “Der Geller Blachazsh” – Yellow Blacksmith). At the beginning of the 1930s, Lipski emigrated to America, stayed there for five years, and then returned to Sierpc. About a year before the start of the Second World War, Lipski tore down his small house and started to build a two-story brick house in its place. However, the war began before his house was finished, and he never had the privilege of seeing it completed.

* * *

David Noah Zilberberg lived in the same house, and his grocery store was in that house. David Noah was a learned man, one of the most popular educators in town, and one of the most important of the Gur Hasidim. His was a noble spirit. He liked the good and the beautiful, neatness, and order. His beard was well combed, and his clothes were always neat and tidy. He was a learned man who never had a speck on his clothes. He also appreciated books. He had a very large library in his house, and his books were not only rich in content, but also had very elaborate bindings, and among them were some very expensive editions. David Noah also was a talented artist. Like many other Jewish artists in previous generations, his artistic tendencies manifested themselves in drawings of the tablets of the commandments.

* * *

After he had married off his only daughter, Figa Rachel, David Noah moved to the market and lived in the house of his father-in-law, Beinam Burstein (who was called “Tall Beinam”) and opened a kitchenware store there. He gave his old apartment, together with the grocery store, to his son-in-law, Zanvil Dormbus from Plonsk (Plinsk). With the passing years, Dormbus turned out to be an outstanding public figure. He was elected to the community council from the Agudat Israel list, and he was very active in it. In time he was elected chairman of the council, and he maintained this position until the destruction of the Sierpc community.

***

Leib Yitzhak Shafman lived in the next house; a two-story brick building that belonged to Frilinsky (a Pole). Shafman was a supplier of goods to the Russian Army stationed in Sierpc. After the army left town, Shafman became a rich grain merchant, with wide contacts among the landowners in the area. During the First World War, he bought an estate (susk) on the road to Plock.

The Bolsheviks captured Sierpc in August 1920 (the beginning of Elul) during the war between Poland and Bolshevik Russia, and held it for 10 days. During that short time they plundered many shops, especially shoe and liquor stores. The Bolsheviks would kill landowners in any of the places they captured, if even only one laborer complained about a bad attitude towards them by the landowner. Apparently, some of Shafman's complained, and the Bolsheviks executed him somewhere in the vicinity of Lipno.

The Bolsheviks also killed a second Jewish landowner from Sierpc, in addition to Leib Yitzhak Shafman – Yehoshua Verona. A third Jewish landowner, Bauman from Warsaw, was killed by the Bolsheviks in the vicinity of Sierpc.

* * *

The bakery of Yekel (Yaakov) David Bornstein (he used to be a grain merchant) was in the next house, a very small one (practically a shack) that belonged to Moshe Shperling. Yekel David was short, with broad shoulders, a wide beard, with a big smile on his face.

Yekel David was a prayer leader in the Alexander shtibl. He was called to the podium many times on Sabbaths. At the celebration of The Three Feasts he would always sing the chants “Yitzave.” He suffered a lot because of the illnesses in his family, and from lack of income.

* * *

After Yekel David Bornstein's bakery went out of business, the brothers Natan and Wolfe Tatz bought the small house, tore it down, and built a two-story brick house in its place. The opened a textile store on the first floor, and lived on the upper floor.

* * *

The next house, a one-story brick house with an attic, belonged to the watchmaker Moshe Shperling. I heard a story about Moshe Shperling from my Rabbi, Moshia Carmelkias. One Tuesday, a market day, a peasant came to the watchmaker and showed him a pocket watch that had “stopped.” The watchmaker took the watch, put the loup in his eye, examined the watch from every angle, opened it, and after a thorough inspection, told the peasant. “I see a lot of damage to your watch. The mainspring snapped, one jewel is missing and the second is worn, and in addition, it's full of dirt. If you want I can fix the watch so that it will be like new, but it will cost you one ruble.”

The peasant didn't agree to the high price, and took the watch back, and left. By chance, he passed the shop of the watchmaker Michal Smolinski. He went in and showed him the watch. Smolinski also examined the watch carefully, and told the peasant that it would cost one gulden to fix it. (A gulden is thirty groschen. A ruble was worth 6 guldens and 20 groschen.) The Gentile agreed to the cost, and left the watch with Smolinski till the following Tuesday.

The peasant received the repaired watch back the following Tuesday. He paid one gulden and left, satisfied with the service and the price. From there he went straight to Shperling, showed him the working watch, and asked why he wanted one ruble for the repair, when another watchmaker did it for one gulden.

Shperling took the watch, opened it, examined it carefully, and burst out laughing. “Can't you see” he asked, “that the gears are moving backwards?” The Gentile was stunned, looked at the watch works like “a chicken looks at a man” and didn't understand what was happening. In spite of this, he summoned up the courage to ask “But the hands are still moving?” “Of course they're moving,” answered the watchmaker, “but what good is it to you if the gears are moving backwards?”

The peasant took his watch and went to the market. He met some acquaintances there, and they went to the tavern for a drink. After they had emptied a few glasses, the peasant told them how the Zhidek (Jew-boy) had cheated him. He had seemingly fixed the watch, and the hands were moving, but the gears inside were going in reverse. He asked his friends to accompany him to the Zhid who had cheated him.

The peasant, at the head of this drunken group, entered Smolinski's store and said to him loudly “Zhidek, what did you do to my watch?” Smolinski took the watch, looked at the movement, checked the time against a large wall clock, and answered, “What's the matter? The watch is working fine.”

“What's the matter, you ask?” the peasant answered Smolinski in a louder and more impudent voice, “Just don't try to look innocent, you cheating Zhidek. Don't you know and don't you see that the gears are turning in reverse?” Michal Smolinski understood that some watchmaker had told him this fairy story about gears turning in reverse. He tried to explain to him that the whole story about gears turning in reverse is a lie, and that one of his competitors wants to get at him by spreading this tale. But the peasant would not calm down, and together with his friends threatened to tear down the store if he didn't fix the watch properly. The only thing that prevented a dangerous outburst on the part of the watch owner and his friends was the timely arrival of the police from the nearby police station.

* * *

Fultia (Raphael) Klinhoz opened a furniture workshop and store in Moshe Shperling's house in about 1910. This was something new for our town, because not only was this the first furniture store in Sierpc, but he was also the first Jewish carpenter. The carpentry trade was considered a Gentile one in Sierpc, like masonry, for instance. There were Jewish craftsman in Sierpc, but they practiced specifically Jewish trades like tailors, shoemakers, dressmakers, hatters, and the like. There were also craftsmen who worked at specifically non-Jewish trades, like tinsmiths, locksmiths, blacksmiths, cobblers, and tanners. There was also a wood carver who worked for the Polish carpenters and even was a reader of the Torah in the Alexander shtibl during the High Holy Days. There was also one family that sold fish, and sometimes the father and two sons worked on road construction. But a Jewish carpenter had been unheard of in our town. Fultia brought the first Jewish carpenters to Sierpc. They came from Warsaw. Later on, a Jewish carpenter called Meshulam the Carpenter from Plonsk (Plinsk) settled in Sierpc, but he was only part carpenter.

Fultia Klinhoz's life was strange and extraordinary. His roots were in Ciechanow (Tchekhanova), from a family of Alexander Hasidim. When he came to Sierpc, after his wedding, he still wore Hasidic clothes – an Atlas kapota (long coat), and a shtreimel (fur hat) on the Sabbath. He prayed together with his father-in-law, Ashria (who was called “der Blinder Ashria” – “Blind Ashria”) in the Gur shtibl, even though he had moved away from Hasidism. And suddenly he “reversed his kapota” and fell in with a bad crowd, and became such an extreme heretic that people said that he had sold his part of the next world and purchased the sins of others. Following this “conversion,” Fultia left Sierpc for a few years. When he came back, he opened the furniture store and workshop, which didn't last very long. (His wife, Tubia, had a store that sold knick-knacks (buttons, pins, etc.) in the building that housed the pharmacy, on the side facing the Jewish Street.)

Fultia would stroll through the market, approach a group of Jews who were standing there talking to each other, and start expounding on matters of cosmic importance: on his travels through various countries, on the wonders of the world, on Jews and Gentiles, on domestic and foreign politics, on everything… When he happened to run into Hasidim, he would talk about Rebbes, and Hasidim, and schools of thought, and “miracles of Rebbes,” sometimes in a mocking tone, and sometimes out of yearning and admiration. Anywhere that Fultia would be, he would become the center of a crowd and the main speaker. And whether his stories were truthful or imaginary, he knew how to fascinate his listeners. He would pepper his speech with the sayings of wise men, proverbs, quips, and jokes. And not only in Yiddish, but also in Polish, Russian, and German. In short, Fultia had a mouth that would produce gems, or as they used to say “His mouth moves on screws.” (“A fisk oif shroifen.”)

I remember that Fultia once came to the Alexander shtibl for First Slichot [pre-dawn prayers before the High Holy Days]. As is well known, in the shtibl they would say the First Slichot that were “Remember the Covenant” and “Thirteen Principles” after midnight. After the First Slichot there was a Melave Malka feast in the shtibl. During the feast, and for more than an hour afterwards, Fultia would talk about the world, about Berlin and Vienna where he had lived, according to him, for three years, and of the wonders and marvels he had seen there. And of his visits to Rebbes during his Hasidic period, and of the doctrines they had related to him, and so forth. We would get home very late, but they were interesting Slichot.

Dudi Beinam Sandrovitch lived in the same house as Shperling, in the attic. When his daughter, Sara Gitel, became engaged to Itcha Ash from Malawa, Dudi held a Melave Malka in his house, and invited his relatives, the Alexander Hasidim, and the neighbors. His neighbor Fultia was also among the guests. And he talked and told stories during the whole Melave Malka. Because all the guests were Hasidim, he related many Hasidic tales. I remember that he went into such a Hasidic ecstasy, that when a bowl of peach compote was put on the table at the end of the meal, Fultia stuck his hand inside the bowl (like Hasidim who grab remnants off the Rebbe's table), squeezed all the peaches in his hand, and put them directly into his mouth.

***

I heard the following stories about Fultia's pranks from our respected townsman, Icha Lanter. Once, during a meeting at the synagogue for the selection of community leaders (dozores), the congregation waited for the notables to arrive. They waited and waited, but they didn't come. Then Fultia announced, “I'm not waiting anymore. I don't care who is elected. They can pick Leib Shwitzer, Shaya Hitzer[14], and Meir Yitzer.[15]

***

A few days before Yom Kippur, Fultia sent his young son to Yokev Garlitz to ask him to lend his kitel [jacket] because “mother wants to make a kitel for father and she needs a sample.” (This is what he told the boy to say.) He sent the same request to Simcha Licht, Michael Turkltaub, and a few other important people who prayed at the eastern wall of the old house of worship.

On the eve of Yom Kippur, before sundown, Fultia returned the kitels to everyone. Because of the lateness of the hour, none of them examined their kitels; they put them next to their Talith, and prepared to go to the house of worship. When they arrived at the prayer house and started to put on their kitels, all the worshippers at the eastern wall had their left hands raised, because Fultia had sewed together the ends of the left sleeves.

* * *

In the first few months of the First World War, when Sierpc was still under Russian domination, but the Germans would conquer it from time to time for a few days, there were rumors that the town was full of spies, both Jewish and Polish, some for the Russians, and some for the Germans. It was whispered about town that Fultia was a spy. Once the Germans arrested him, when they were in control, on charges of espionage, and released him after a few days. Another time he was arrested (together with Stringer, the chimney sweep and leader of the fire brigade band) by the Russians on charges of spying for the Germans. Using witnesses, he proved to the Russians that the Germans had arrested him for spying for the Russians, and was released (together with Stringer) after a few days.

Suddenly, “the boy isn't there.” A short time after the second arrest and release, Fultia disappeared, and for over a year no one saw him or heard of him. In the summer of 1916, when the Germans occupied all of Poland, but travel between towns was restricted and allowed only with special permits, there were rumors that Fultia was in the vicinity of Sierpc. It was said that he had been seen near Rypin, dressed in a German officer's uniform, roving through the villages, investigating peasants who opposed the new regime, and handing them over to the Germans, who would send them to Germany. One day Fultia showed up in Sierpc. He was clean-shaven (until the day he left Sierpc, he had a handsome and thick black beard) and in uniform, with a light green military jacket, a green hunting cap, and yellow shoes. When the hem of the jacket lifted a little, a belt with a gun and holster was visible. During the first days after his return, Fultia would walk quickly through the market or some other street, without looking to the left or right. He would say “Good morning” or return a greeting to very few people. He didn't stop anywhere or talk to anyone. People would look at him, a little out of fear and a little out of respect. But in time, he became once again the popular Fultia from before the war. He removed his uniform, interrupted other people's conversations, and talked about all sorts of worldly matters. Only about himself or his exploits would he stay silent. And people were careful in his presence.

Fultia came back to Sierpc at a time when infectious diseases were spreading through Poland and in the town as a result of the war and, as in all wars, causing many deaths. In the week he came back, the two children of the Rabbi from Zielun, Rabbi Nachumtche, who lived in Sierpc, died. A meeting was held at the Old House of Prayer on the day of the funeral, after evening prayers, where Fultia was to speak. I was at this meeting, and it became so fixed in my memory that I remember it as if it happened yesterday.

The Old House of Prayer was completely lit, and full of Jews, great and small, old and young, and the women's section was also packed. The large congregation was in mourning because of the great tragedy of the family of the Rabbi from Zielun, and tensely awaited the speaker, the strange citizen-guest, and his speech. A murmur passed through the crowd – “Fultia is coming.” The congregation squeezed together even more to let him pass through, and he went up to the platform, wearing the costume that has already been described. Silence gripped the whole Old House of Prayer, and all faces turned to him. Fultia stood straight for a minute, and then looked around. Then he bent over, leaned his elbows on the lectern, looked foreward with a slight smile, and started to talk in a quiet voice:

Ir vet dach avade fregen, tsuvas is der Fultia aher gekumen” (“You will certainly ask – why has Fultia come here”). And he quickly straightened up, his face became very serious and red, and he roared with all his might, like a lion: “Ich red mit mein blut” (“My blood is speaking!”)

I cannot describe the great fear that was felt by the audience as a result of this bellow. If the Kaiser Wilhelm himself had been standing there, he would not have inspired more dread. Fultia began his speech, which lasted more than an hour, and its gist was: The congregation must maintain sanitary conditions – a clean body, clean houses, and clean yards, because dirt and filth cause the kind of tragedies that occurred that day. He quoted verse from the Bible and the sayings of wise men that stressed the importance of cleanliness and purity, and he asked the congregation to keep these commands so that they would live a long life.

Because of the heat and lack of air in the packed prayer house, and a little because of a relaxation in the tension, people began to cough. And again, a huge bellow suddenly came out of Fultia. “Ich farshik eich gleich kine Magdenberg” (“I will send you straight to Magdenberg” – [a fort in Germany]). Terror and fear enveloped the audience; we were stunned and paralyzed. Not only did the coughing stop, but so did the breathing. And everyone felt as if the house of worship was surrounded by troops, and we would all be arrested when we left. This atmosphere of fear remained to the end of the meeting, and when I left I looked around me to make sure there were no soldiers or police waiting for us.

After this great and terrible speech, his premiere, Fultia began speaking there every once in a while. He talked about public affairs and various municipal problems. The number of listeners and their attention, as well as the speaker's prestige, became less and less each time he spoke--until he started to speak every Saturday afternoon. He would start with a quotation from the portion of the week, add clarifications from one of the commentaries, and go on to secular matters. In these speeches, the speaker became an orator, the speech became preaching, and respect for him diminished considerably.

When Poland became independent (at the end of The First World War, in November 1918), the authorities started investigating Fultia's activities during the German occupation. He had to appear in Plock a few times for questioning. His sister, Sarah Mendelson (a midwife in Sierpc, an educated and intelligent woman), accompanied him every time to these inquiries, to protect him from his enemies. Apparently, the Polish authorities could not find any hard proof against him, so they decided to get rid of him in another way. Once, when Fultia and his sister were walking in Plock, after they had left the office of the investigating magistrate, someone shot at them. The bullet, which was meant for the brother, hit his sister. A second bullet immediately hit the brother. Both of them died on the spot. Of course, the authorities began to investigate, but the gunman was never found…

Thus ended the strange and eventful life of Fultia (Raphael) Klinhoz. The whole town mourned the loss of the brother and sister. And especially the sister, a young and pretty woman, smart and learned, who was very necessary to the town. She was a mother of young children who were left orphans and without a provider, murdered through no fault of her own.

* * *

Yaakov Meiria Kulas lived in the attic of the same house, that of Shperling, next to Dudi Binam Sandrovitz. He was short and broad shouldered, with a short black beard with hints of silver whiskers starting to show up. He looked angry and annoyed. Yakov Meiria was an Alexander Hasid. He was the only one in the shtibl who worked, not at an ordinary trade, but a Gentile trade – wood carving. (Except for him, there were no Jewish woodcarvers or carpenters.)

Yakov Meiria would lead the Additional Prayer (Musaf) on High Holy Days in the Alexander shtibl. His praying was very warm, and he prayed with his whole body and with all of his strength, “All my bones will say the words” as the saying goes. He would begin the prayer “I am poor in deeds” (before the Musaf prayer) in a whisper. And then he would suddenly burst out in a great cry “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.” The whole shtibl would be stunned. Then again he would pray in a whisper, and again a great roar would erupt “Shadai, the awful and terrible” and again the whole congregation would become alarmed. The children especially would be frightened when they heard the sudden yelling of Yakov Meiria.

In general, the boys and children in the Alexander shtibl were afraid of Yakov Meiria. When I saw him, I always pictured the Russian policeman Barchik, who resembled him in height, width, facial expression and beard. When I was a child and saw the policeman Barchik pass our store, I would be frightened to death, and I would hide deep inside the store. (During the year of the revolution, 1905, Barchik relentlessly pursued the rebellious workers, “strikers” as they were called. Until he received a threatening letter with a warning that if he valued his life he should leave the police force within three days, and that's what he did.)

As is well known, the best time for the mischievous kids in the shtibl was the hour of Bnei Hichla. At this time, the shtibl was dark, with the Hasidim at the dining table, eating the “three repasts” and singing; then the mischief makers would come out in strength. Ragging the Hasidim, helping to chant and sing, overturning the kettle with the water used for ritual washing of the hands, pouring out the contents of the bedpan, or throwing a towel at the head of one of the diners at the table. Neither persuasion nor threats were effective at this time in damping the high spirits and quieting the shouts of the gang of revelers. Then Yakov Meiria would get up and produce in a single roar, “”Shkotzim, Lavuzes” (“Infidels, rascals”)! And all the mischief-makers would head for the door as fast as they could. And from fear, the quiet children would run too, because if Yakov Meiria got up from behind the table, he didn't make a distinction between quiet children and loud ones.

* * *

Moshe Falka, Yakov Meiria's son-in-law, was from Zdenska-Vola, and settled in Sierpc after marrying Yakov Meiria's daughter. Moshe Falka was a short, gaunt Jew, with a small, wispy beard, and on the Sabbath he could hardly be seen in the broad kapota (long coat) and large shtreimel (fur hat). He was a great scholar and enthusiastic Hasid. (He was a Strikov Hasid, but since there was no shtibl for Strikov Hasidim in Sierpc, and since the two courts, Strikov and Alexander, have common roots in the Byala court, he prayed together with his father-in-law in the Alexander shtibl.)

In his first years in Sierpc, Moshe Falka lived with his father-in-law and concentrated on Torah studies and Hasidism. When he struggled to become self-sufficient, he tried a number of ventures, but didn't succeed. For a few years he was a teacher in Mlawa, and his family continued to live in Sierpc. At the end of the 1920's, he moved with his family to Lodz.

* * *

Moshe Yehuda Karsh's small, low, house was behind the Shperling house. He was a member of the town council for many years. He was one of three lavniks from the Merchants Association. (lavnik – advisor to the mayor. The other two were Poles.) He was an active member of many committees in town.

* * *

The next house was a one-story brick house, and belonged to Moshe Elshtein. Elshtein would collect stones. Not precious stones or ancient stones, but simple rocks. When Moshe Elshtein saw a stone lying in the street, he would immediately take pity on it, bend down and collect it, put it behind the lapel of his coat, and take it back to his yard and add it to one of the piles of stones there…

* * *

During the First World War, about 1916, the Glazer sisters, Hanna and Poza, sold the house to Baruch Lifshitz and Shimon Maniamtzuvka. This was after the death of their Grandfather, Elshtein, and their parents, Akiva and Breina Yetta Glazer. After he acquired part ownership of the house, Baruch Lifshitz started living there. Baruch Lifshitz was a member of the community council for a while. He was selected from the non-partisan list. Baruch Lifshitz emigrated to Eretz-Israel with his family in 5693 (1933) and settled in Bnei-Brak. He passed away in the month of Av 5713 (1953).

* * *

Yakov Hollander lived in the yard of the house that we lived in. Hollander was from Plock. He owned a large shoe store there. After a year as a widower, following his first wife's death, he married the daughter of Yeshaya Kaliski (who had won the big prize of 3000 rubles in the lottery). At the beginning of the First World War, Hollander lost his fortune and came to Sierpc. He earned his living by stitching. For a time during the war, he fashioned soles for sandals by hand from wood blocks. He worked hard, and made very little money.

During the war between Poland and Bolshevik Russia, in the summer of 1920, in the moth of August (beginning of the month of Ellul in 5680) the Bolsheviks occupied Sierpc for 10 days. Our neighbor, Hollander, because he had a hard life, thought of himself as the “bridegroom” at this “wedding,” close to the Bolsheviks who brought salvation to the poor and oppressed. What did he do? He put on his dark Sabbath suit, which he still had from his Plock period. He put the gold watch and chain, which he still kept as a reminder of his glory days, in his vest pocket and went out to meet the liberators.

And what did the visitors do? The first Bolsheviks that he met took his gold watch and chain. And our neighbor returned home poorer, and humiliated…

* * *

A little further on was the house of the watchmaker Menachem Shapiro. It was a one-story dwelling that also housed his store. Menachem Shapiro was a member of the community ccouncil in the 1930s, representing the Artisans' Association. Shapiro had just one leg (he was called “Der Lemer Zeigermacher” – “the Lame Watchmaker”). In the yard adjacent to his (Shmiga's yard) lived Ziskind Shpirstein, the bookbinder, who also had only one leg (he was called “Der Lemer Einbeinder” – “the Lame Bookmaker”). They both prayed in the Gur shtibl.

* * *

The second store in the same house, a grocery store, belonged to Yakov Hirsh Iszajewicz. He was called “Dem Meiden Machers Eidem” (“the Mead Maker's Son-in-Law”). He inherited the name from his father-in-law, who brewed mead. (Liquor made out of honey; it was called meid in Yiddish, from the Polish word miud, which means honey). He was called “Der Meiden Macher.”


Translator's Footnotes

  1. From the book Slownik Geograficzny, Krolestwa Polskiego, Warsaw, 1880 Return
  2. Everywhere on our tour, when we run into brick houses, we will refer to them as such. All other houses were made of wood. Return
  3. Mendel Lipshitz was called by his family name. Apparently not to confuse him with Mendel Lancher, another Alexander Hasid, but a quiet and moderate Jew, who preferred to sit and study to participating in Hasidic parties. Return
  4. Moshe Falka and Moshe Yenkl, very enthusiastic Hasidim, were Strikov Hasidim, a branch that was very close to Alexander (the two Hasidic groups descended from the Byala branch). Since there were no other Strikov Hasidim in Sierpc, they prayed in the Alexander shtibl. Return
  5. , Return
  6. Calls to God Return
  7. tzhina – from the Russian word “tzhi” – tea, i.e. there was a large stove in the cellar, with a large pot in it, where the owner of the “tzhina” would boil water, and sell it for making tea; on week days the transaction would be in cash, and on the Sabbath, for a sugar cube. Return
  8. Jail for minor offenders Return
  9. Jail for major criminals Return
  10. The “Klashtor” that was on the street on the hill that was later called “3rd of May”. Return
  11. There were no gas or electric stoves (this applies to the countryside towns, since Warsaw already had gas and electricity for lighting and cooking). Kerosene stoves were not used much, and gasoline cookers were new and very rare. Return
  12. “Endekim” – A nationalist, anti-Semitic party, whose name was “Narodova Demokratzia” (National Democracy) or N.D. for short, “En-De” Return
  13. See further on, in the review of the streets Zhaba, the New Market, 3rd of May. Return
  14. Family names Return
  15. He meant Meir Rosen, who sold eggs, and was called “Meiria Yaishnik” or “Meir Yitzazh”. Return

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