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[Pages 219-221]

Our Leaders in Israel

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

Aron Mendlewicz

Aron Mendlewicz belongs to that generation of idealists, the pioneer generation, that was in love with the idea of Zionism and always intended to make aliyah [immigrate] to Eretz Isroel. He became a bookkeeper in the Kupat Holim [Workers' Health Center], where he has been employed for many years. He is also active in all sorts of community projects.

Being the descendant of a great and extended Brzeziner mishpokhe [family], he also has not forgotten his origins, although he lived from 1916 to 1933 in Kutno, a well-known shtetl in Poland, where, incidentally, he was a town councilman. (The shtetl became famous due to the classic writings of Sholem Asch.) He became particularly active in the Brzeziner colony after the great destruction, and of late, he is the financial officer of the local lay-kase [credit union] that is regulated by and under the control of the Israeli government. He is represented in our sefer [book] with an important chapter in which two Brzeziner families are portrayed. In the depiction of these extended families, we see the kver-shnit [cross section] of an old, deeply rooted Jewish life in Brzezin.

S. Pinczewski

Szlama Pinczewski is the descendant of a Hasidic middle class family. He received a traditional education and later studied a great deal on his own. He also became knowledgeable about world literature. The Pinczewski brothers became prominent industrialists in Lodz, with a reputation throughout all of Poland. Certain historians regard them as co-creators of the great Lodz textile industry. Szlama Pinczewski was not only well-known in the business world. He was also a dynamic personality in our Jewish communal society, with all its problems and concerns.

His entire family was murdered in the great destruction, among them, his daughter, who was a gifted artist. It is only by chance that he came to Isroel. He came as a yoyred [expatriate]. He lost everything in the great destruction, all his possessions. It so happens that years ago, he had invested a little money in a certain Eretz Isroel business undertaking, which now provides him with the means to manage his affairs. At the beginning, the business did not do very well. Over time, things got better, and he was able to succeed in a very middle class, comfortable way.

In those years, he was not active in landslayt [fellow townsmen] circles. When Shikkun Brzezin [Brzeziner apartment project] came into existence, he became active and would often show up in Brzeziner circles. With J. D. Berg's arrival in Israel, an old friendship was renewed that went as far back as their kheyder [religious school] years. They both had studied with the same teachers. Now they carry on a regular correspondence, and Pinczewski is strongly interested in all landsmanshaft [society of fellow townsmen] matters. He is also represented in our book by a significant chapter, “Brzeziner Rabbis and Hasidim,” which describes an important part of the Brzeziner Jewish community.

Fiszel Benkel

Fiszel Benkel belongs to the old settled toyshovim [residents] among our landslayt in Israel. He is a son-in-law of Herszel Lachman. He is a refined and proper person. With self-sacrifice he devoted himself to the work of the Brzeziner landslayt in Israel. When he speaks of our great accomplishments, he speaks with such warmth and sentiment, that he is practically moved to tears. He is one of the extremely important people of that small group of leaders in the Irgun Yotzei Brzezin colony [Organization of Former Residents of Brzezin].

David Poliwoda

David Poliwoda belongs to the practical leaders of our circle in Israel. He is a person with common sense and a lot of community experience as a former leader in the circles of Mapam [United Labor Party]. He belongs among the first organizers of the Brzeziner cooperative and is among the very first who helped, with body and soul, to build the Shikkun Brzezin in Uno. After the annihilation of our people, when our shtetl was wiped out in Poland, where it had reigned for so many generations, he was strongly interested in transplanting into our own land the way of life of our past generations that had been so violently cut short. He therefore displayed an intense interest in all the needs and affairs of the survivors. He is a member of the Irgun Yotzei Brzezin.

Mojsze Har-Jaffe (Szajnberg)

Mojsze Har-Jaffe belongs to the younger generation. Although he is not originally from Brzezin––his cradle was actually in Piotrkow––nevertheless, he was closely linked with everything that had a connection to Brzezin and Brzeziners. In Brzezin, he was one of the founders of the pioneer youth movement. He went with a group for preparatory training and later emigrated to Palestine. The first years in Eretz Isroel were certainly not easy. Others were broken under the stress of the harsh realities and returned to their shtetlekh. He remained in Israel and became an active builder of his own independent life in the land.

In Israel, he is close to our landslayt. They organize themselves into their own circle and look for mutual assistance from each other. Mojsze Szajnberg once traveled to America, and he wanted to build a bridge between the American and Israeli landslayt. He believes that there has to be closer contact between these two communities, because the majority of our remaining landslayt are concentrated within them.

In Israel, he is one of the most active of our circle, and he was involved, with heart and soul, in the work when the housing project of Kfar Uno was being built. Szajnberg is also represented in this sefer with an important chapter about the youth and pioneer movement in Brzezin.

Monisz Gutkind

Monisz Gutkind is a scholar, a great lover of Yiddish literature, a great admirer of our classical writers, Mendele and Peretz. He is the descendant of an enlightened Hasidic family. Since his father, Nachman Gutkind, was one of the first Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion], he was surely influenced by that path, and he always aspired to live in Isroel.

He has also been in Israel for a long time and has become acclimated to the way of life here, although he is not estranged from the past. He feels that the endeavor to immortalize our shtetl, both through the buildings in Israel and through this Sefer Brzezin, is truly a holy work. He is an honorable and devoted leader among our landslayt in Israel.

Aron Fogel

Aron Fogel (son of Ester-Laja, the baker) went through the sorrowful and painful wandering path of the survivors. He was among the first who sent us the shocking report from our annihilated community about the horrors and nightmares of the Nazi camps. When he was liberated from the Nazi camp, he was among the first to go to Brzezin and see with his own eyes the enormous devastation, the annihilation of our idyllic, prewar shtetl––Brzezin . . . He ran away from the curse that had been inflicted on our shtetl . . .and he made a vow that everywhere and at every opportunity, he would recount the Megillah Eykho [Book of Lamentations] of Brzezin . . .

At one time, before the deluge, he was a central figure in Brzezin's communal organizations. Now he lives quietly and modestly in Israel and is active in the community––though certainly not as before in Brzezin––and he is also in close contact with the local landslayt. He is represented in our book by an excellent chapter encompassing generations of Brzeziner life. He relates how Brzezin first became a tailoring center, and he describes the various segments of Brzezin's organized society in his interesting account.

Jechiel Erlich

Jechiel Erlich is a descendant of a learned Hasidic family. His yikhes [distinguished heritage] on his mother's side extends all the way back to Rabbi Reb [title of respect] Fiszele from Strykow. He himself received a thorough traditional education. Since Brzezin did not have a yeshiva, Jechiel became a besmedresh lerner [Talmudic student], just like a lot of other young people of his kind.

He has lived in Israel for many decades. He was among the first to settle in Israel, with pure unconditional love. He lived through the difficult, thorny ways of chalutzism [pioneering]. He lived in Kfar-Saba, where he was engaged for many years in raising chickens and also had a small soda water factory. All the years he has been in Israel, under all sorts of conditions, he has remained true to the roots of his soul. He is strongly committed to religious Judaism. He lives as his ancestors did. Ideologically, he is close to Poalei Mizrachi [religious Socialist Zionism].

His daily discourse and the occasional droshes [sermons] that he gives before an audience are always intertwined with maymer khazal [wise sayings] and with simple examples and sayings of our old khokhmim [wise men].

Although his home is far from the main center, he is bound with all his being to the activities of the landslayt of our shtetl. When the Shikkun Brzezin was built in Kfar Uno, he thought of it as a symbolic accomplishment, since the way of life of our Brzeziner generations that had been destroyed could now continue in our own land. Many years ago, he was in America on a short visit, and he left a good impression, with his observant piety and simplicity.

This observant and Hasidic, scholarly world, of which he alone is heir, permeates his beautiful composition in our book.

Lemel Horn, e"h [may he rest in peace]

Lemel Horn, e”h, came from a middle class, well-to-do home. He received a very fine Jewish upbringing. He was thoroughly at home with the wisdom of “PaRDeS” [acronym for the four levels of understanding of the scriptures]. He was also an expert on sayings and their meanings.

He was closely tied to Political Zionism, with the idea of building his own independent, nationalistic life on his own Jewish soil. When he was already in Israel, he turned Revisionist and became allied with the extreme right wing of the Zionist movement.

He came to Israel through Russia, where he was active in Zionist circles, and in order to support his family, he engaged in trade. He built a leather factory. Although not a very wealthy man, he became respectably middle class.

He is extremely busy with his business and also with community matters, but he never forgets for one minute his Brzeziner landslayt. He is always involved with activities for his Brzeziners.

When the relief work began for the survivors, for those who were rescued from the Nazi death camps by a miracle, he threw himself, with heart and soul, into this holy work. He became chairman of the Israeli Relief Committee, a position he held until his untimely departure to the eternal world. He virtually gave his life for this work. He did not spare his own health, because he felt the extraordinary importance of organizing assistance for the victims of Hitler.

When the building of the Shikkun Brzezin was completed in Kfar Uno, he viewed the great historical accomplishment of our landslayt as a purely personal triumph, as a great yontov [holiday] in his life. He was practically breathless and feverish over this work. We know of many letters he sent to landslayt in America; he spoke to them with terrific enthusiasm and warmth about this accomplishment of ours. He could foresee that the disrupted generations would again spin our Brzeziner way of life on Israeli soil.

When he saw the progress of this Sefer Brzezin, he was overcome with tremendous joy. First, we had raised a monument of concrete and brick, meaning the Shikkun Brzezin [apartment complex and culture house], and now, with this third endeavor, we would end with a written memorial for future generations in which we would describe the destruction of our Brzeziner community and the generations that existed before the deluge.

Unfortunately, to our great sorrow, he did not live to see the great moment of the conclusion of this project. It would certainly have given him great pleasure. He also intended to contribute an important, significant chapter about certain aspects of the Brzeziner way of life. He did not even have time to prepare it, which is truly a great pity, but even greater is the loss of his own illustrious personality.

He had his home in Jerusalem. He considered it a special rare honor to live in the holy city.

He leaves his wife, Blume, three gifted, intelligent daughters and one son, all devoted heirs to his life's dreams.

Koved zayn ondenk! [Honor to his memory!]

 

brz221.jpg -   A group of Brzeziner intellectuals
A group of Brzeziner intellectuals

 

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