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[Page 539]

Former Residents of Sierpc in Israel

by I.M. Sidroni (Sendrowicz)

Translated by Alex Weingarten


A. The Earliest

Sierpc Jews took part in all the Aliyot[1] to the Land of Israel, except for the First Aliyah.

The following young men from Sierpc came with the Second Aliyah (1904-1914): David Bornstein, Akiva Glazer, Yitzhak Kahana (who was called “Kana,” originally from Plonsk), Yitzhak Oren (Aaron) Liebson, Yitzhak Karpa (Itche Karp), and Shmuel Szampan

However, the Land of Israel was then desolate and wilderness, and it was a constant battle to attain the minimum conditions for existence. Most of the immigrants of the Second Aliyah did not make it, and left the country. Among those that left were five of the six immigrants from Sierpc. The only one that remained was David Bornstein. (Itche Karp returned a few years ago.)

David Bornstein (1870-1944) was one of the founders of the first moshav[2] in the land, Ein-Ganim (1907-08). He was an advocate of Jewish labor and of Hebrew as an everyday language for all of his life. He championed manual labor and farming, and was contemptuous of all those who, in that period, abandoned the land and looked for easier occupations, or left the country. He himself was a model of the “new Jew” in the renewed homeland. He was the first and a leader everywhere, whether in guarding the moshav, or on its council. He never asked anyone to do anything that he would not do himself. Even when he was more than 70, he worked his land by himself; he tilled the earth with his hoe and irrigated his orchard. Until his last day, he did the same things that he asked of others.

One morning, when he was 74, he was found unconscious in his barn, on his milking stool. His head was resting on the cow's stomach, and the milk was overflowing from the milking pail. He never recovered consciousness and died in his house in Ein-Ganim… May his memory be blessed.

In 1908, during the period of the Second Aliyah, Chayim Nachum Tobol visited the land of Israel. He was among the first of the Hovevei Zion[3] in Sierpc.


Between the Second Aliyah and the Third Aliyah, during World War One, the following four young men from Sierpc immigrated to the Land of Israel: David Lieberman, Noatak Lerer, Chayim Pindek and Shmuel Rosen. They emigrated from America as volunteers in the Jewish Legion[4] at the beginning of 1918. Their unit, the volunteer unit from America, was called “the 39th King's Sharpshooters.” It fought alongside other units of the English army, and freed Palestine from the Turks.

Some of the soldiers of the Jewish Legion left Palestine at the end of the war. Some others, Zionists that wanted to remain to protect the Jewish settlement, left after the disbandment of the Jewish Legion by the English government. This was a punishment for their participation in the defense of the Jews of Jaffa in the bloody clashes with the Arabs on May 1, 1921. Only a few of the volunteers remained in the country, and among them was the Sierpc volunteer, David Lieberman.


The first of the immigrants from Sierpc during the Third Aliyah (1919-1923) was Avraham Freed (Yerushalmi), who came, together with his wife Sarah (daughter of Eliezer Wesolek) and their three children at the beginning of 1921. They “managed” to get a taste, soon after they arrived, of the bloody clashes of the first of May in that year. The others that came during the Third Aliyah were Avraham Zajdemark and Yaakov Meir Neiman (the latter returned to Sierpc).


Thus the links from Aliyah to Aliyah continued and grew longer and stronger, until the day when the number of former residents of Sierpc in Israel grew to 215 families; thus may they multiply.

In those days there was no organization of Sierpcers, nor was there need for one. The modest home of Avraham and Sarah Yerushalmi was open to all the people of our town and also to the former residents of the surrounding towns (who were almost all bachelors), and they shared their meager pieces of bread with all their guests. If someone needed a reference, he would get it from Avraham Yerushalmi; if someone needed a guarantor for a loan, Avraham Yerushalmi would be it (and in many instances, also the payer).

In a few cases, there were organized activities by all or some of the Sierpcers. In the intermediate days of Sukkoth in the year 5695 (1934) there was a meeting of all the Sierpcers in Avraham Yerushalmi's house in honor of two guests from Sierpc, Yossel Blachman and Yeshayahu Friedman, who were visiting the Land of Israel.

To mark Avraham Yerushalmi's 60th birthday and 25 years since his aliyah, in the year 5705 (1945), he was registered in the Gold Book of the Keren Kayemet.[5]

The newspaper Davar that appeared on 23 Sivan 5705 (June 4, 1945) wrote: “The certificate of registry in the Gold Book of Keren Kayemet was presented by a group of friends and admirers to Avraham Yerushalmi, a dedicated veteran Zionist activist from Sierpc, Poland, upon his reaching the age of 60 and 25 years since his aliyah to the Land of Israel.”


A tragedy overtook the Sierpcers in Palestine when Shmerel (Shmaryahu) Hazan drowned in the sea near Tel-Aviv.

Shmerel Hazan left Sierpc in 1919. He stayed for a time in Danzig and Berlin, and later traveled to America. He arrived in Palestine in 1925. He worked in various places at various jobs (for a while he worked together with a partner as a carter) and often he was unemployed. He heard of an opportunity to find work in Haifa, and he went to the “Office” (the employment office of the Histadrut[6] was in the “Red House” on the seashore of Tel-Aviv) to ask for two or three days work to pay his expenses for the trip. When he was in the “Office,” he heard screaming that people were drowning in the sea. Shmerel ran to rescue those that were drowning. This happened on the 25>sup>th of Tamuz, 5686 (1926).

In Sivan, 5702 (1942), a headstone was erected over his grave in the old cemetery by the “Zion” committee (a Histadrut committee for erecting headstones on the graves of workers and anonymous shomrim[7]). This was done with the participation of the community council and some of the former residents of Sierpc, and in their presence.


B. “The Sierpc Townspeople in Israel Organization”

There were no organizations of townspeople (landsmanshaften) in Israel until World War Two. There were associations of expatriates from different countries, but the well-organized Yishuv[8], which gloried in its Zionist ideology, did not especially approve of these associations. The organized Yishuv considered these associations a diaspora phenomenon, something that reinforced the differences within the Jewish people and prevented a union of the exiles.

During the War, when details of the horrible Holocaust of the European Jews became known, groups of townspeople from various towns started to organize. The purpose was to be ready to render aid, when the war would hopefully end, to the survivors. The former residents of Sierpc in Palestine, who were few in number, also became organized.

The activities leading to the organization of the Sierpc townspeople began in the year 5704 (1944).

The meeting of the Sierpcers in Palestine took place on the second intermediate day of Sukkot in 5705 (October 5, 1944). The meeting confirmed the resolutions of a preliminary meeting and elected the members of the interim committee as members of the executive committee of “Association of Sierpc Townspeople in the Land of Israel.” In addition it was decided that all those present would each contribute one [Palestine] pound, in addition to the six pounds to be contributed by each member during the course of the year. This would go to the “Aid Fund of Sierpc Townspeople in the Land of Israel” that would be used to assist Sierpc refugees anywhere in the world.

In the first meeting of the committee, Avraham Yerushalmi and Zvi Algavish (Crystal) were elected chairman and secretary respectively.


The Second World War ended on May 8, 1945. New immigrants started coming to Palestine, the survivors who had been saved from the great destruction. They came in a number of ways - both “kosher” and “non-kosher” (according to the laws of the [British] Mandatory Government). Many were captured and interned in Cyprus. There were residents of Sierpc among both those that managed to get into Palestine and those that didn't. It was necessary to help them to become accustomed to the life in the new land.

The activities of the Gmilat Hasidim[9] fund of the “Association of Sierpc Townspeople in the Land of Israel” began during this period. The fund's capital was composed of money received from Sierpc townspeople in America (the major portion), and money collected from Sierpc townspeople in Palestine (the smaller portion). The aid was distributed as loans (without interest, of course) with easy conditions for repayment.

But the loans were considered grants by many of the immigrants, and the money was never repaid. The state of the fund worsened, until its activities were stopped altogether.

After many misgivings and much hesitation, the activities of the fund were renewed. The new committee started to collect money from the association members in Palestine.

During a visit by Sierpc townspeople from Mexico, various sums were contributed to the Gmilat Hasidim fund, thereby allowing it to continue with its undertakings.


At the end of the war, the townspeople's organizations started to arrange for memorial meetings for the martyrs on the anniversaries of the destruction of their communities. The large organizations started first, and the smaller, less active ones, followed suit.

This custom became accepted in the country, and the organizations held memorial meetings every year for their martyrs.

Before the memorial service, there was an open meeting of the townspeople, who had not seen each other for a year, or for years. After the memorial service, there was usually a regular meeting of the organization. The agenda consisted of a report of the activities, discussions, and election of the committee.

The first memorial meeting for the martyrs of our town was held by the “Association of Sierpc Townspeople” on Monday, 26th of Heshvan 5711 (November 6, 1950), the anniversary of the day of deportation of the Jews of Sierpc, the 26th of Heshvan. Since then, the memorial meeting is held every year on the anniversary of the deportation. (The date of the deportation was selected as the day for the memorial service by the Sierpc survivors when they were in the refugee camps in Germany.) The members meet prior to the memorial service, and afterwards hold a regular meeting, and elect the committee.


In addition to the above meetings, a number of meetings were held in honor of former residents of Sierpc from the United States, Argentina, and Mexico, who were visiting Israel.


In addition, the “Association” held two meetings in honor of two important members, who were dedicated activists in Israel and abroad, upon their reaching 70 years of age. These were Avraham Yerushalmi Fried, on the 20th of Tammuz, 5715 (July 10, 1955), and Avraham Ben-David Mlawa of blessed memory, on the 1st of Tammuz, 5716 (June 10, 1956).


Many Jews living in Israel and the diaspora, including the survivors, have felt that the various annual memorial meetings were not enough to remember the millions who were lost. The nation looked for a way to commemorate the millions of sacrifices that would be appropriate to the enormity of the extent of disaster and the loss.

Thus was born the idea to erect a monument that is fitting for the People of the Book - a monument in the form of a book. There would be a book for each city and town whose Jews were tortured and destroyed by the oppressor. The book would be written by the Jews of the town, about their lives in the past, their struggles in the years before the Holocaust, their torments during the Holocaust, up to the moments of their death. The idea spread to all of the Diaspora, and found enthusiastic support among all classes of people. Intense activity began, gathering historical material, writing memoirs, descriptions of ways of life, and collecting testimony about the Holocaust. Considering all the difficulties in realizing this mission - from both the cultural-spiritual and technical and financial perspectives - about 150 “Yizkor” books have already been published in Israel, the United States, and Argentina.

The “Sierpc Townspeople in Israel Organization” began its work on a Yizkor Book for the martyrs of our town. The first circular on this topic appeared in the month of Nisan, 5712 (April 1952).[10]

The comrades who were preparing the book ran into many difficulties. It turned out that it was not simple to create something where there was nothing, to publish a book by people who were not writers, without sources and historical records about Jewish life in the town in the past, and without documents and data about Jewish life in the town more recently. The book was written with the hard work and devotion of a number of friends in Israel, with the help of a number of comrades who are Sierpc townspeople living in the United States. We are also very thankful to three friends, who to their great credit, contributed to the financing of the book. These are Avraham Ben-David (Mlawa), Yitzhak Oren (Ahron) Liebson, and Mordecai (Max) Sina.

The preparation of this book took seven years full of great effort, persistence, and patience.


At the end of this article on the townspeople of Sierpc in Israel, we must remember our townsman Isser Czeslak (Asher Ben-Mordecai). He fell in battle in the Israeli War of Independence, in the north of the country, near Kibbutz Daphne, on the 10th day of Tamuz, 5708 (July 17, 1948). He was 28 years old.

In the “Yizkor” Book published by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, page 117, it states:

“Asher Ben-Mordecai was born in 1920 in the town of Sierpc, in Poland. His father was Mordecai, and he called himself by his father's name after he survived the desolation of the diaspora. He was the son of pious parents who were merchants. He was at first schooled at home, and then continued his education in the Hebrew school, “Tarbuth,” and joined Poale Zion, Left[11] when he became older. When World War Two broke out, he went with other refugees to Russia. He joined the Polish Army in Exile when it was formed, and with it reached Palestine in 1944. He lived for a while in Kibbutz Beit HaArava, and later moved to Tel-Aviv, and was a construction worker.

“When the War of Independence broke out, he enlisted immediately. In July, 1948, he came with his company to Tel-Aziziat, which is near Daphne in the Upper Galilee. He was slightly wounded, and was sent to recuperate. But he would not rest until he was returned to his place on the Northern Front, where he fell on July 17, 1948. He was buried in She'ar Yashuv - Dan. On March 3, 1950, he was reburied in the military cemetery in Haifa. He was the last surviving member of a family of seven souls who were exterminated in the great Holocaust. He sanctified the name of his people in the homeland.”


[The following is a list of endnotes. The translator's endnotes are inside of square [] brackets to indicate that they are not part of the original text; the footnotes that were part of the original text are listed here as endnotes, without the square brackets.]

  1. [Aliyah (pl. Aliyot) is the Hebrew term for the various cycles of Zionist immigration to Palestine. These are denoted as First Aliyah, Second Aliyah, etc.] Return
  2. [A moshav is a cooperative agricultural community where the members own and work their own land.] Return
  3. [Hovevei Zion - literally “Lovers of Zion” was a forerunner of the Zionist movement.] Return
  4. [A Jewish volunteer group that fought in the British army during the First World War.] Return
  5. [Jewish National Fund, an organization dedicated to purchasing land and planting trees in Palestine.] Return
  6. [The Jewish labor union] Return
  7. [Members (literally - guards) of the first Jewish self-defense groups in Palestine.] Return
  8. [Literally - settlement; the term applied to the unofficial authority of the well-organized Jewish population living under the British Mandate government in Palestine.] Return
  9. [Beneficial Fund] Return
  10. In the years 1947-1948, there were four pamphlets published to the memory of the martyrs of Sierpc. Two pamphlets were issued by the Sierpc Holocaust survivors in Germany. One was called “The Destruction of Sierpc” (printed in Latin letters), and the second was titled “An Anthology of Sierpcer Survivors.” Two pamphlets were issued by the Sierpc townspeople in America. One was called “Yizkor;” the second did not have a name. These pamphlets give an account of the suffering of the Jews in Sierpc until the deportation, a description of the expulsion, and the torments in the death and labor camps. Return
  11. [A Zionist-Socialist Organization.] Return


[Page 543]

“Mister United Sierpc Relief”[1]

by Yehuda Leib Mintz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When one discusses or writes about Sierpcer Jews, their life and economic creativity, their societal and cultural activities, the four Sierpc Landsmanschaft organizations in New York play a very important role. These are the old Sierpcer Gemilut Chasadim, the Independent Sierpc Young Men, its ladies' division called the Sierpcer Ladies Auxiliary, and the Sierpc Branch 42 of the Jewish National Workers Union.

Each of those organizations had its own role in various realms of Jewish societal life in America, as well as in Europe, the Land of Israel, and, of late, the State of Israel.

The most noble of their activities, as well as the most prominent, was the founding of the United Sierpc Relief - the Sierpc help organization that was created by all four organizations with the goal of assisting Sierpc natives wherever they are found, whether in Sierpc itself (before the great misfortune of Hitler, may his name be blotted out), in the countries where the bitter fate had brought them, or in their new home in the Land of Israel.

It is natural that in a book about Sierpc, mention must be made of that united organization - the United Sierpc Relief Organization. Its founders included Mordechai Tzvi Mintz of blessed memory - the Sierpc teacher who educated a generation of Zionists and Hebraists in the town and continued his teaching work in America; Shlomo Loeb (Lobashka) of blessed memory, who belonged to the Zionist workers' camp both in Sierpc and in New York, and, together with his late wife Pesha, spent all of his years involved in charitable activities; and Yaakov Sand of blessed memory a long-time member and leader of the Sierpc Young Men's Organization.

It is obvious that in order to function properly, an organization must have workers - people who are willing to dedicate their time and energy to the goals of raising the necessary financial means, maintaining contact with the needy people and distributing the assistance to those in need. To move forward, the activists required the driving force that would propel the organization forward. That driving force was no longer a physical driving force alone - let us say an electric motor that would be set in motion once and continue to go. The driving force that was needed for this type of relief work must be spiritual - a driving force that springs forth from the depths of the soul of the individual personalities who possessed warm hearts and fine senses of sensitivity to the ideal goal for which the help organization was created.

The United Sierpc Relief Committee had the fortune of having that very internal drive embodied in the personality of Mr. Max Sina - a long time member and activist in the Sierpc Young Men's

[Page 544]

Organization. A book about Sierpc and its Jews would simply be imperfect if it failed to mention Max Sina and his good deeds amongst us. Standing near to him in our joint work - I as the financial secretary and my wife Rashe and Mordechai Rzejszokto as corresponding secretaries of the Sierpc Relief, of which Max Sina was the president - we often admired his singular deep dedication to the work for the Sierpcers. For him, the word “Sierpcer” was a magic word that instilled a life spirit - a soul - in him, an inspiration that reflected off of him and influenced those with whom he worked together.

When a Sierpcer requested assistance, or if he merely heard that there was someone who required assistance, Mr. Sina would immediately feel a great sense of responsibility and would strive to help without any additional clarification of qualifications - the word “Sierpcer” was already a sufficient qualification. This was just like the word “Jew” to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Berditchever[2] of blessed memory, for whom he would always serve a righteous intercessor before the Master of the Universe. Can one ask a mother about the qualifications, or positive and negative traits of her child? It is her child - she loves him - and that is all. That was the very relationship that Max Sina had with his dispersed Sierpc fellow natives, wherever they might be found. With him, there was no cause for doubts. If he took something on, if he set off on a designated path to help his fellow natives, there would never be a case of “return us back” - always forward, forward, and never back.

It seems that Max Sina himself had for a long time not been vigorous and healthy. However, he displayed exceptional strength when it came to his beloved relief work for Sierpcers. I can never forget the warm evenings and nights that we spent in the basement of my house in Brooklyn sorting the clothing and food to make packages to send to the Sierpcer refugees in France, Italy, France, the Land of Israel, and Africa. He himself was a capable man who could have permitted himself some personal comforts after a hard workday in New York. Instead of traveling for a weekend to his summer home by the sea to cool off and rest, he came to our house where everything was collected and undertook the work that was holy to him. If it was too late to go home, he would spend the night with us and wake up very early in the morning to catch the train to go home. He never complained about others who were not as willing as he was to work. He carried out his holy duty that certainly brought him spiritual enjoyment.

When it was decided to undertake the activity for the Sierpcer Relief, for various reasons of which here is not the place to write, Max Sina was conducting a “Sierpcer Relief” on a small scale by himself. He obtained money, of course putting in no small amount of his own cash, and sent it to where he thought there was the need.

When the first refugees from Germany began to arrive in America, he himself conducted the individual assistance

[Page 545]

activity for them. He found work for those he could, and if it there was the need, he would take them into his own shop. They learned the trade of sewing on the machine, and then they were employed by him or by someone else. On many occasions, he spent entire evenings with the students in the shop, in order to avoid a meeting with his partner or with the Workers Union. When it was possible, one of the new arrivals would find a paternal accommodation at Mr. Sina's house during his first days in New York, and receive warm maternal treatment from his prominent wife.

When at last the undertaking of creating a Yizkor Book to perpetuate the memories of the martyrs of Sierpc came to the fore though the initiative of our fellow natives in Israel, and a leading hand was needed in order to turn to the fellow natives in America for financial assistance as well as to collect written material and documents or data from historical works, Max Sina took upon himself the mission to conduct this work and to do everything that was needed, to make it possible for our fellow natives in Tel Aviv to do their work. Due to his poor state of health, he had already retired from his private business. On account of his weakness on his feet and his poor vision, and after several serious operations including on the eyes, he suffered from several serious accidents that caused him no small amount of additional physical suffering. However, none of this held him back from continuing with the work. He continued to connect with everyone by telephone, to call meetings at his home, and to do everything that he could do to help actualize the Sierpc Yizkor Book, which had lately become his purpose in life.

That intensive dedication to his work to help the Sierpcers had its influence upon those surrounding him, so that it was almost impossible to refuse his requests to become involved and do work, even in cases where one was not in complete agreement with him. There was something about the dedication of Max Sina that stood higher than any cold reckoning and accounting.

That characteristic of Max Sina shone like a ray of light through all the years of our mutual work for the Sierpcer Relief until his final undertaking to create the Sierpc Yizkor Book - and from that stems our respect for Mr. Max Sina, “Mr. United Sierpc Relief.”

Unfortunately, he did not merit in seeing the Sierpc Yizkor Book. He passed away on May 20, 1959, corresponding to the 12th of Iyar, 5719. May his memory be a blessing!

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The title of this article is slightly different than the title as listed in the table of contents. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levi_Yitzchok_of_Berditchev. Return

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