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[Page 377]

Rabbi Zalman Hasid

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.[1]

We quote below an excerpt from the book Ramathaim-Zophim, a commentary on the book Tana Rabi Eliyahu, by Rabbi Shmuel Zilhah[2] 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[3], 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[4] 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).


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Rabi Simchah Bunim of Przysucha was a lumber trader, and would travel to Danzig on business. He was ordained a Rabbi in the year 5575 (1815), and ceased trading and traveling. This is our proof that the event described here happened at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Return
  2. May his memory be blessed in the next world. Return
  3. Rabi Simchah Bunim of Przysucha Return
  4. Reich Toller  a German coin Return


[Page 380]

Avraham Fried Yerushalmi  Zionist No. 1

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[1] 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”[2] 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[3] and the first after the Balfour Declaration.[4]

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[5] 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.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. [Hovevei Tzion  the precursor of the Zionist Movement] Return
  2. [A leap of faith  according to rabbinical tradition, when the Children of Israel were fleeing the Egyptian Pharaoh's army and arrived at the Red Sea, they hesitated. But Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped in to lead the way, before the Red Sea had even parted.] Return
  3. [“Certificates” (sertifikaten in Yiddish) was the name given to the visa and documentation required by the British Mandatory Government in Palestine for permission to settle in Palestine.] Return
  4. [The declaration by the British Government in 1917 that Palestine would become a Jewish homeland.] Return
  5. Beit Olim  house for immigrants to the Land of Israel Return


[Page 381]

Natan Tatz

by Rivka Eshajwicz (Alter)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Natan Tatz was born in the city of Sierpc. He stemmed from an important Hassidic household.

He was tall and slender, with a fine head of grey hair, a thick moustache in the style of Polish landlords, trustworthy eyes, and an aristocratic bearing. Natan Tatz made an exceptionally good impression upon people.

He was a man with a resolute character and physical vigor. He had a wide open heart to everyone. He was well-known and recognized in the city and the region, both by Jews and by the Polish population. He knew how to overlook trivia, and always demonstrated simplicity, folksiness and a love for truth in his interpersonal relations. He was always prepared privately to go to others and assist anyone who was in need.

The Jewish societal and cultural life in Sierpc had to thank Natan to a great extent.

He was a founder of the Jewish Public Library, a city councilor, a financial supporter of the Culture League, and supported all cultural as well as Bundist activities and undertakings.

[Page 382]

He helped publish various publications and proclamations. Thanks to him, it was possible to conduct the evening courses where one could learn to read and write. He played a great role in the work for the Yiddish School.

Natan Tatz himself set up a private charitable fund which gave loans to poor people. If someone could not repay the loan on time, he would not refuse to lend to him again. When giving financial assistance, he never investigated to which party the needy person belonged. Bundists, Zionists, Orthodox people and Hassidim – if someone turned to him, the loan would be granted.

Natan was respected by everyone, and everyone displayed great politeness and esteem toward him. He was a spiritual and cultural leader in Sierpc.

A the outbreak of the Second World War, when Tatz was forced to leave the city, he gave over the manufacturing enterprise to his employee Chaim Buda, so that he could distribute all the merchandise gratis to whoever came.

Natan Tatz was in the Warsaw Ghetto during the time of the German annihilation of the Jews. He was murdered during the time of the ghetto uprising.

*

Chaim Jurkewicz writes the following about Natan Tatz.

Comrade Tatz was not involved in technical work in the Jewish Bundist organization of Sierpc, but he always remained in tight contact with the party. He felt obliged to find out about everything that took place with the organization. Representatives of the central committee or lecturers who came to Sierpc had to stay with Natan Tatz.

I recall the 1927 city council elections. The Bund obtained a victory and elected two councilors. The party members requested that Comrade Ehrlich of blessed memory come to the accounting meeting. The central committee responded that Comrade Ehrlich was occupied. We found out that he was in Plock, not far from Sierpc. A delegation of the Sierpc Bund went to Plock and lobbied Comrade Ehrlich to come to us as well.

Our joy was great when Comrade Ehrlich arrived to us in the city. Every member wished that Ehrlich would stay at their place. Finally, Comrade Natan Tatz arrived and declared, “Comrade Ehrlich will be at my home, and all the members must gather at my home. If I cannot conduct the day-to-day party work, I wish at least to have the merit of hosting our party leaders.”

*

During the time of a financial campaign for the party or for the cultural activities, Comrade Tatz always made his own generous contribution. Once, the female Comrade Ika Tatz came to Sierpc from Warsaw. We met at the home of Comrade Natan, and discussed party matters: the organization was growing apart. The headquarters was too small. What should they do?

Comrade Natan Tatz listened to everything and finally declared, “If I will give you a half of the sum, things will be good.” Indeed, with Natan's help, the fine headquarters

[Page 383]

in “Dom Lodowy” was rented. It was sufficient for Natan Tatz to receive a letter from the Bund central headquarters about dues to the party or to the school organization to save the schools – for him to pay the required sum with the greatest punctiliousness. Immediately thereafter, as if he felt that he was coming with a complaint, “Comrades, what have you done recently for the action?”

Thus was Comrade Natan Tatz, who was tormented by the Germans along with the six million Jews.


Reb Nachum the Head of the Community

by Yaakov David Sendrowicz)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He was of average height, with a small, black beard, strands of grey hair, and two deep and thoughtful eyes that exuded his pious Jewish good heartedness and demonstrated that the person feels the pain of those that suffer, and rejoices with others' joy. He was always clothed in a cut-off kapote and short sleeves in accordance with the Gerrer manner. The always open door and the spacious, friendly, Jewish home of the Tatz family was always open to guests and activists, as well as to poor people, who were given something to eat as well as something to wear. For such people, or for a young child that a poor woman held in her bosom or by the hand, the large kitchen that was active from morning until late at night was available – for the frequent guests, an emissary from a yeshiva, a collector from Kupat Ramban”[1], a collector from Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, general activists, Hassidim who had come from afar – all knew that Reb Nachum's house was open for them.

Now, after a hiatus of 20 years, when I think about the interesting personality of Reb Nachum, I am faced with a riddle: how could so many fine traits have been concentrated in one person? He was the head of the community, a position that demanded pride, stubbornness, and intelligence. Simultaneously, he was a man of the people and a populist Hassid. When he was involved in a communal matter, he was enveloped in stubbornness and wisdom, pride and refinement, as he struggled with persistence and patience until he accomplished what he intended. He was completely different when a broken person with a pained heart stood before him. Someone's horse had died, and he had to be lent a few zlotys from the communal coffers to purchase a “new” horse so that he could earn a livelihood for his household. Someone else had a sick person in the house, and had to purchase medicine to save a life, but unfortunately there was no money in his pockets. A third person required a bit of wood and coal to heat the house so that the children would not, Heaven forbid, freeze on the cold winter days. There were many other similar problems. At such a moment, one could see two broken people, one opposite the other. Reb Nachum stood deep in thought, as he wrinkled his forehead. His words sounded like they emanated from a prayer leader with an anguished heart,

[Page 384]

whose duty was to help Sierpc Jews. Thus did the people approach their communal leader and relate to him with trust for many long years.

Hassidic Jews or Aguda activists would come to take council with Reb Nachum or to have a discussion with his son-in-law, Leibel Pietrikowski, who directed the Aguda Bank, which was headquartered in his house.

*

Just like yesterday, I see Reb Nachum dressed in his silk kapote with his silk gartel [ritual belt], with a velvet Sabbath hat on his head, sitting Friday night at the Gerrer shtibel at the corner of the long table during the break between the service of the welcoming of the Sabbath and maariv, as was the custom in the shtibel. Reb Nachum held a Holy Zohar and studied the weekly Torah portion from it. His face was beaming, his forehead was full of wrinkles, and his glasses jutted out high on his forehead.

*

The air was full of anti-Semitic incitement. The fundamentals of the long-time homey town life were breaking down. It felt as if things were becoming uncomfortable. People were lost in thoughts about the old Jewish home of the Land of Israel. The old homeland was casting off the sorrowful garments and clothing itself in new garments of freedom. Even with Reb Nachman, the intercessor, the Jewish intermediary with the government offices, things were becoming somewhat divided. He sent two children (a son and a daughter) away on hachshara, and later to the Land of Israel.

The terrible war broke out. I met Reb Nachum in Warsaw, in a small room in a multi-story house. He was sitting shiva for his son Henech (Chanoch) who fell while walking on the street. A wall was damaged by bombs, and fell down, covering over many people including my friend Henech (Chanoch) Tatz.

Our Sierpc acquaintances came together through various routes, in order to avoid being captured for work by the accursed Germans. They came from cellars or attic rooms, or from temporary lodgings that they requested from people so that they could set themselves up with their children until one found another temporary location, or until they would succeed in escaping across the border. We all came together in a small room in order to comfort the mourner, Reb Nachum.

That good natured man had no more energy. He was without the luster, completely broken. He was silent, and the wrinkles on his forehead were much larger. Reb Nachum's wife, the former princess of the Tatz home, the former Jewish mother with a wide apron and a good heart, the typical merciful Jewish woman from whose house nobody was left hungry, sat on a low bench on the side. Now she herself was in a strange house, mourning for her fallen son. With tears in her eyes, she silently whispered chapters of Psalms from the Korban Mincha Siddur, with her head lowered, covered in a kerchief, appearing to be mute and powerless.

With heavy hearts and mute lips, we left Reb Nachum's home forever.

His merit should protect us.


Translator's Footnote

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kupath_Rabbi_Meir_Baal_Haness Return


[Page 385]

My Girlfriend Ika

by David Meir

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Ika (her proper name was Esther Rivka Richter, nee Tatz) was born on January 20, 1887 in the town of Sierpc, Poland. Her father, Yosef Leib Tatz, was a wealthy wine merchant and a Gerrer Hassid. She was given an Orthodox Jewish education in her childhood. At the same time, she was sent to a private Polish pension school where they taught the curriculum of a Russian gymnasium (middle school) of that time.

In her youth, she was exceptionally pious. Her very close childhood friend, Dr. Esther Grobard (Fuchs) tells that one Sabbath afternoon, when they both went walking behind the city engaged in conversation, they did not notice that it was getting dark. Ika suddenly stopped in the middle of the sentence, and went under a tree to recite the mincha service, like a pious Jew.

From her early childhood, Ika was noted for her warm, humane heart, which was constantly ready to help a poor, weak, or needy person. Under the influence of the haskalah tendencies, she, along with other girls, began educational activities for the poor girls in town. They taught them to read and write Yiddish and Polish, as well as other subjects. They agitated the maid girls that they should demand more free time from their employers so that they could study. The activity took on a philanthropic character. The girls did not know about Socialism.

At the age of 15, Rivka traveled to Warsaw to complete her education. There, she became indoctrinated into the Bundist movement, which opened up a new world with new ideas to her. Her burning striving to justice and uprightness and her desire to help her fellow found their proper expression.

At the end of 1915, when Warsaw was taken by the German armies of Wilhem II, creating the possibility for open activity among the Jewish working masses, Ika became one of the first and most active doers in the “Large Children's Homes” [Grosser Kinder Heimen] set up by the Bundist organization.

Normal Yiddish day schools that were later organized into the well-known “Our Children” [Unzere Kinder] sprouted from the children's homes. Ika was active for the entire time in that society, in which she was a central figure – the soul and driving force.

As the administrator of the first “Grosser Kinder Heimen,” she did a great deal to build up that Jewish pedagogical workers' institution in an exemplary fashion.

For clearly personal reasons, she left Poland for London, England in 1924. There, she survived a difficult personal tragedy. Shortly thereafter, she settled in Paris.

In France, she was always

[Page 386]

closely connected with the Bundist Movement, and was especially very active in the Skif Children's Organization of Paris, where the children were veritably improved.

When the Workers' Circle in Paris founded the Workers's Kitchen at the outbreak of the Second World War in September, 1939 for the refugees from Germany and Belgium who began to stream into Paris, the Bundist Organization designated Ika as the administrator of the kitchen. One could not have made a better selection. Ika immediately became the soul of the new institution. She threw herself into that work with all her energy. Nothing was too difficult for her.

When the Nazi Army approached Paris, her friends begged her to use her American visa and leave France. She categorically refused to do so. She knew what was awaiting her when the Germans entered. However, she remained at her post and continued to extend assistance as long as she was free.

The Hitlerists entered the Workers' Kitchen (110 Rue Vielle Du Temple, Paris) on May 29, 1941 and arrested Ika. She was taken to Fort de Romaninville.

Even in prison, she conducted herself as a holy person. She did not reveal the names of the remaining members of the kitchen administration, and took everything upon herself. Even the murderous Hitlerists had to bend their thick skulls at the inner light of a soul that radiated from the holy martyr.

As the Germans reported, she died on October 5, 1942 of a heart attack.

The Bundists of Paris honored her by building an institution in Corvol (about 60 kilometers from Paris) in a large, beautiful house with a lovely garden, where workers' children would come to rest during the summer months and winter vacations. The place bears her name “Ika Home”[1], thanks to her, who lived and was murdered like a holy one.


Translator's Footnote

  1. See http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/photos_048/dscref181.html Return


Riva Alter (Rivka Iszajewic)

by M. Alter

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rivka Isziewicz, the youngest daughter of Reb Shmuel Leib and Lipsha-Tane, was born in 1894 in the city of Sierpc. Her unassuming parents were very beloved in the city.

The Iszajewic family consisted of seven people: the parents and five children – two brothers Yaakov Hersch and Meir Yisrael, and three sisters Nicha, Shifra, and Rivka. Everyone in the family was Hassidic and religious except for the youngest daughter, Rivka, who moved out of her surroundings and

[Page 387]

branched out into modern Jewish societal life. In order to be independent, Rivka became an undergarment seamstress.

During the first years of her societal activity, she affiliated with Zionism. At that time, we were a group of friends who began studying the Hebrew Language.

Together with the group of friends, she helped found the “Jewish General Library,” which was the meeting point of the progressive youth of the city.

Later, Rivka became involved in cooperating with the future martyrs Ika (Rivka) Tatz and Mania Glazer (Wasser) in the Bundist movement. During its first years, she was one of the active doers in the Bundist Organization of Sierpc.

A few years before the First World War, she worked in Lodz, where she was active with the General Bundist movement.

Later, during the time of the First World War, she often visited her Iszajewic family (Oved Iszajewic) in Wloclawek. In Wloclawek, she soon became active in societal life and in the Bundist Movement.

In the Bundist circles of Wloclawek, she met her husband Meir David Alter at the Zukunft cultural society. They were together for 37 years.

They went to New York in 1921. There, her only son, Shmuel (named after her father) was born.

Even there in the large city of New York, she always took a strong interest in societal and political life. Even though she had been away from her hometown of Sierpc for 36 years, she constantly pined for her hometown the entire time she was in New York.

During the time of the German annihilation of the Jews, she often regretted that she was not there, to go along the martyr route together with all the Jews.

Always healthy, happy and joyful, she suddenly became ill on October 30, 1956. As she lay on her sickbed, she left her husband an oral will providing that, after her death, he should give $500 dollars in her name to the Bundist and cultural organization and $100 to the Sierpc charitable fund in Tel Aviv in memory of her eldest brother Yaakov Hirsch of blessed memory, who was occupied a great deal with charitable deeds in Sierpc during his lifetime.

Let these lines in the Sierpc yizkor book, in which Rivka took great interest and unfortunately was not able to see during her lifetime, serve as a dedication to her.

In honor of her memory!


[Page 388]

Types and Personalities of the Bundist Movement

by Chaim Jurkewicz of Santos [1]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When I recall my hometown of Sierpc, a lovely visage spreads before me, surrounding the tall mountains and valleys that were called the Dolinkes (dales) in Polish. We often went on excursions there. Who of us at that time, in the days of our youth, did not stroll in the Dolinkes and swim in the river that cut through the town? We always conducted our circles there in the green meadows during the summer.

Together with the beautiful nature, the flowers and trees, the Jewish youth also lived and carried the finest dreams of freedom and brotherhood, of a bond between the Poles and Jews. I will mention here some of those youths, who were the leaders of the Bundist Movement in Sierpc.

 

Comrade Leibish Oszer

I will recall here our beloved comrade Leibish Oszer. Who in the city did not know Comrade Oszer? He was a working man who possessed an innate intelligence and acquired worldly knowledge. His steps in the city council were conducted with the greatest attention. Even his opponents were more than once forced to swallow the bitter feelings due to the way in which Comrade Oszer treated them. His oratory talent was amazing. He was fluent in several languages.

The Polish workers' representatives in the city council were very respectful and held the responsible activity of Comrade Oszer in great esteem. When they had to select various committees in the city council, such as for social assistance for the poor, for hygiene, and the like, the Polish workers' representatives voted for Comrade Oszer.

Comrade Oszer was not afraid of the most difficult societal work. He neglected his family life and his private job as a tailor. Therefore, he earned a meager livelihood, but he was always in first place in societal endeavors. Comrade Oszer was a known person in Sierpc. Even the opponents of the Bund, the bourgeois people, would summon none other than Comrade Oszer when they had to speak with a representative of the Bund.

I recall the First of May celebrations. All of the preparations were made so that the May Demonstration would be fine and imposing. Jewish and Christian workers would march together. The red flags of the Bund-Zukunft fluttered with their Yiddish writing and slogans and left the greatest impression in the city. The committee delegates walked in the first row, with Comrade Oszer at the head. The delegates of the Polish workers spoke, and the Jewish masses waited for the words of Comrade Oszer. He appeared at the podium, and was greeted with stormy applause. He spoke briefly, sharply, with feeling and in spurts.

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We forgot that we were surrounded by enemies. We marched further and sang Jewish workers' songs. At night, we came together again at the traditional First of May banquet. Comrade Oszer again addressed the members. His words brought into the hearts strength and belief in Socialism.

 

The Leaders of the Zukunft Youth Organization

I wish to mention here our beloved members of the Jewish Youth Zukunft. The young members were divided into three circles that bore the name of Bundist leaders: Medem, Michaelewicz, Grosser. A self-educational circle was active to prepare the young members to lead the cultural activities, as was a press committee to distribute the “Yugent-Veker” and other publications. There was also a dramatic club that conducted various regular events.

In the self-educational circle, one could find the writer of these lines and the beloved martyred comrades such as Yitzhak Gurna, Yissachar Sakowicz, David Gurna, Hersch Tikalski (later went to Argentina where he died), the female comrade Masha Arfa, and others. All of the members belonged to the Zukunft organization from their youngest years.

The comrade Yitzchak Gurna was a quiet, unassuming working youth. He worked during the day and studied at night. He grew up and became one of the leaders of the Bundist youth movement in Sierpc. He was sent as a delegate to the youth conferences. His lectures, performances and discussions caught everyone's attention.

During the war, he went off to the Soviet Union, where he was mobilized in the Red Army and was killed on the front.

Yissachar Sakowicz conducted the work of the press committee with great responsibility. He read a great deal and had a sharp memory. When friends mentioned a writer or something about articles that were published a long time before, it was sufficient to ask Comrade Sakowicz, and the answer was already given on the spot with the greatest detail. Comrade Sakowicz was a young worker, a tailor from a poor family. He was murdered together with thousands of brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers from Sierpc.

David Gurna, a young worker, led the drama club of Zukunft. He was at the helm of all cultural undertakings, which were performed very impressively under him. Everyone was captivated by the workers' songs and folksongs that the choir performed in the dramatic presentations of the drama club.

Mention should be made of the female members who played an active part in all undertakings: Paula Krida, and Yenta Tatz; as well as the male comrades: M. Zabicki (today in Mexico, an active doer in the local Bund), Nota Fasa (today in Brazil), and the bakery worker Comrade Elbe, who was the head of the superb chapter of the Culture League that was created despite all the financial difficulties. The library and all the party institutions were located there. Elbe and his wife ensured that the culture hall was kept tidy, as appropriate for

[Page 390]

a Socialist institution. The keys were indeed found in their hands. Comrade Avraham Rybak was the overseer of the library.

With great dedication, the simple workers and common folk worked in the cultural institutions, giving over all of their free time.


Translator's Footnote

  1. On the coast near Sao Paolo, Brazil. Return


Attorney Yehoshua Podskocz

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.

 

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