by I.M. Sidroni (Sendrowicz)
Translated by Alex Weingarten
In this chapter, we would like to pay tribute to an exalted and famous Hasid, Rabbi Zalman Hasid, who lived in Sierpc at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
We quote below an excerpt from the book Ramathaim-Zophim, a commentary on the book Tana Rabi Eliyahu, by Rabbi Shmuel Zilhah from Sinyava, who was the Presiding Judge of the Community Courts of Wlodawa, Brok, Siedlce, Łowiczm, and in his later years, Presiding Judge of the Community Court of Nasielsk. In the book, published in Warsaw without any notation of date, he writes on page 210:
When I was in Przysucha, one of the students told me about the charitable acts of the Admor of blessed memory, of how he once traveled to Danzig, through the town of Sheps. An exalted personage, Rabbi Zalman Hasid, who was very poor, lived in Sheps. When he arrived at his lodgings, he sent for Rabbi Zalman Hasid, and said that he wanted to make a feast for him in the style of the Hasidim. He gave him a fistful of silver coins, and Rabbi Zalman took the coins home and purchased fish and poultry and all that would be necessary for the guests, and he still had coins left.
After Rabbi Zalman had gone, Rabi Simchah Bunim asked the landlord's servant to bring a furrier, and bought a warm coat and hat for Rabbi Zalman, and also purchased shoes and boots. He also bought some linen, and had a shirt made for Rabbi Zalman, as well as other clothes. When it was time for the feast, he told the servant to wrap everything, and bring it to Rabbi Zalman. They went to Rabbi Zalman's house and he told the family to dress Rabbi Zalman warmly, because it was winter. He saw that the family was very poorly dressed, and he immediately gave some coins for the servant to bring clothes, and they brought the merchandise to the house and there was great rejoicing.
After they had eaten he ordered some drinks, and gave the family many coins. After the feast he went to his lodgings accompanied by Rabbi Zalman. When they parted, the Admor took some RT and gave them to Rabbi Zalman as a parting gift. The latter did not want to accept it, since he still had coins remaining from the first two times, as well as the clothes. The Admor replied that ‘The Torah says ‘Thou shalt surely give him, and thy heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him’ [Deuteronomy 16, 10]. There may be controversy about the particulars of the saying, but the simple explanation is that he who gives out of pity is not giving charity, but is restoring his own good health because his body cannot withstand more pity and distress. For this, one must give a number of times, until his ‘heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him’ when there is no more pity for the poor recipient, and only after that can he realize the commandment of charity. And now that I have given you everything, my heart no longer grieves for you, and I can fulfill the charity commandment as directed by the holy Torah. All my efforts were to achieve this level, and if you do not accept it from me, all my labors will be for naught, God forbid. ’ When Rabbi Zalman heard this, he immediately accepted it cordially, and they parted amicably. See how a person like this has the spirit of God within him.
In the newspaper HaModia that was published in Tel-Aviv on the 17th of the month of Kislev 5715 (4 December 1954), in the column Tales of Hasidim by Yehudah Leib Levin, there is a different version of the same incident:
Wounds of Compassion
When he was a lumber merchant, Rabi Simchah Bunim would travel every year from Przysucha to Danzig, and would stop to rest in the town of Sheps, at the house of Rabi Zalman, a learned Hasid, a poor and beleaguered man.
Rabi Simchah Bunim bought utensils and sheets, and even brought food to the house, and dressed Rabi Zalman in new clothes against his will, and did the same for his family. On Saturday night, as he was about to leave, he placed a large sum of money in Rabi Zalman's hand.
Rabi Zalman refused to accept it, and said, ‘You have already given me a great honor, sir. Much too much. ’
‘All that I gave you was to cure my wounds of compassion,’ answered Rabi Simchah Bunim, ‘Not to you, but I gave it to myself, because your troubles distressed me. Only now can I fulfill the commandment of charity. Why would you stop me from doing this?’
We heard the same story from Rabbi David Hamburger of Żuromin of blessed memory, who heard it in his youth (more than sixty years ago) from Rabbi Avrahamke Nishat of blessed memory (one of the most outstanding and honored Gur Hasidim in Sheps).
by Ephraim Talmi
Translated by Alex Weingarten
Avraham Fried Yerushalmi, our revered activist, deserves an honored place as the number one Zionist in the history of Zionism and public affairs in our town. If in the previous generation of Hovevei Tzion in our town, the name of Reb Chayim Nachum Tunbol was on everyone's lips, in the era of Agudat Tzion and widespread Zionist activity, Avraham was the leader, the patron, the mentor, the counselor, the propagandist, and the implementer.
He came to us from the neighboring town of Zhoromin, after he married Sarah, the daughter of the well-known Reb Eliezer Vasolak, a scholar and among the first Hovevei Tzion in our town. Avraham was the son of an eminent and scholarly Hasid, who was zealous and sharp. He was raised in the Hasidic tradition, but his religious beliefs lapsed, and with all of his youthful enthusiasm he became wholeheartedly inspired by Hovevei Tzion. He was fervent and passionate, agitated and an agitator, active and motivating others. He leapt into the sea of communal Zionist involvement and swam in it with a Hasidic exuberance, with the devotion of a fanatical believer. He was the foremost of the speakers and the foremost of the doers. He did not just politely ask; he also consistently implemented. He lectured, explained, and preached, and achieved. He labored and persevered in his Zionist activity.
He was not like some Yeshiva students in town whose public activity served as a launching board for a political career. Their activism was for them like the pleasures of the Sabbath, a light burden because it came with the wages of honorable acts. Avraham paid dearly for his agitated activism; he neglected his family and his livelihood. He had many detractors whom he had exasperated in disputes that had upset their complacency and the slow drift of their lives. But he had many admirers, followers, supporters, and friends. He was not a man to be deterred by difficulties or terrified by any sacrifice. He knew how to defend his convictions and stubbornly persist in achieving his goal. But everyone, even his most voluble opponents, recognized his integrity and honesty.
Avraham Fried Yerushalmi, who preached Zionism and Aliyah to the Land of Israel did not rest on his laurels, and he wanted wholeheartedly to realize his principal hope, his life's yearning, and be one of the builders of the new fatherland. He set up a barn like one of the peasants. He may have been the chief activist and leader of the Zionists in our town, but he saw no loss in dignity in this simple and dirty labor. He went from house to house to collect potato peels and other vegetables, food for his cows, and would then sell milk to his customers, and barely eke out a living from his manual labor.
Avraham realized his Zionist dream one day at the beginning of 1921, when he packed his few belongings and went to the Land of Israel with his wife and three small children. This was a daring Leap of Nachshon that surprised many and enhanced his reputation. This was a Zionist leader who shows by example that which he has been preaching. He was the first immigrant from Sierpc before there were certificates and the first after the Balfour Declaration.
His beginnings in the Land of Israel were not strewn with roses. When he arrived at the Port of Jaffa, he was housed along with young immigrant pioneers in the Beit Olim in Jaffa, just as the bloody riots broke out in May, 1921. Arabs attacked the Beit Olim as well and cruelly murdered many Jews as the Arab policemen looked on or aided them.
This was the baptism of fire for the Zionist leader and enthusiastic pioneer. He went with his family to the sands of Nordia, which today is a bustling urban center, but was then a dangerous wilderness, where jackals howled at night. He set up a tent there, and worked at transporting gravel from the nearby beaches that was used for the building of Tel-Aviv, which was then proceeding at a fast pace. This was very brutal labor for a family man his age, but a man like Avraham did not flinch at hardships, suffering, or difficult work. He followed his camels laden with boxes of gravel with love and joy, and would accompany the tinkling of their bells with bursts of an exuberant new Hebrew song, Camel, my camel, you are like a brother to me with your gravel.
Sarah, who stood by Avraham's side, suffered greatly as a mother and housekeeper in the new land. The tent was their living quarters, kitchen, bedroom and guest room.
But people like Avraham and Sarah were not satisfied with just providing for their own family. Very quickly they became known to every pioneer and immigrant from Sierpc and the surroundings. Their tent, and later their house on Bograshov Street, was open to everyone in need. Every pioneer from Sierpc and Zhoromin, from Rypin and Raciaz, and all the towns in the district would initially come to the house of Avraham and Sarah. They came for a first meal, for a warm greeting, for a guarantor for their first loan, and even to borrow some cash (to be returned or not…). From his few pennies he would give to the destitute, and the one loaf of bread that the family had he would share with the hungry. He would offer a piece of his red watermelon to the visitor, and never said to anyone I have been deserted, I am alone.
It was a home in the fatherland, a fortress for everyone, and many of the pioneering immigrants would credit Avraham with convincing them to remain in the Land of Israel when he supported them and nurtured them. And many of the women, whose privation and resentment at their new way of life was getting the better of them, found comfort and aid with Sarah, who was the good mother to them all.
Avraham is a man of the people, devoted and diligent in activities as a Zionist, public servant, and humanist. He was a father to all, and Sarah was the mother of all of us. This will be forever to the credit of the Yerushalmi family.
by Chanoch Nachshon
Translated by Alex Weingarten
This man deserves recognition because of his character and his courage during the period of the Warsaw Ghetto.
After he finished high school, he went on to Warsaw University, where he studied law. During this period, he had already made his mark as a public activist who was self-effacing and not one trying to build his career. During those days, he was the chairman of the students' election committee.
He was active during the Jablonna period – a name that is unknown today, but in its time was well-known among Polish Jews, as the camp for Jewish students who volunteered for the Polish army during the war between Poland and the U.S.S.R. after the First World War. But the Poles did not want to give these students any responsibility, or to conscript them at all, so they shut them up in an army camp and kept them there with nothing to do. In protest, a famous song Jablonna (the name of the place) was written during that period that expressed their frustration.
Yehoshua was active in the camp, and reportedly one of the composers of the song. He was not directly involved in politics, but was active in the protection and nourishment of children in Poland. He was a member of the Centus group that erected enterprises and institutions for children. During the Warsaw Ghetto period, the Jewish mutual aid group Z.O.O.S. was founded, and encompassed the most dedicated activists of all the parties. (This was an organization that over time included about 3000 workers and volunteers.) Yehoshua was the head of the legal department along with the attorney Mieczysław Warem. Jonas Turkow says in his famous book The Destruction of Warsaw, that this mutual aid organization, ZOS as it was called for short, became in time the illegal but recognized representative of the Jews in the Ghetto, until the command group of the militia organization was established.
The Ghetto also had a vibrant intellectual life. The underground leaders made sure that the spirit of the Ghetto inhabitants would not be crushed. Jonas Turkow relates (in the above book, on page 230) that among his closest supporters in the special committee that was set up for this purpose were Dr. Emanuel Ringleblum, Elhanan Zeitlin, and also Attorney Yehoshua Podskocz. Yehoshua was also the head of the committee (see page 240) that took care of hundreds of artists in the Ghetto.
On the tenth of August, 1942, according to Jonas Turkow, there occurred the liquidation of the Little Ghetto and thousands of Jews were banished to the Umschlagplatz (collection point). Turkow states, The quiet procession of thousands of people made a horrifying impression… I stand and look through the windows and see familiar faces, Professor Balaban, Yanusz Korczak at the head of his children, Dr, Lichtenbaum Shpiel-Fagel, Attorney Y. Podskocz, the wife of Dr. Shmuskewyz, … Dr. Braude-Heller and so on – a complete legion of activists and people of note.
That was the end of a brave, good, honest and modest man, who did not seek honors and was involved in public affairs for the good of all, courageous and a shining example.
I can still see him standing in front of me. In one of his letters to us, before the outbreak of the Second World War, he wrote that he was thinking of Aliyah to the Land of Israel. Everyone who knew him will not forget him, and is proud to have known him.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Sierpc, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 28 May 2013 by LA