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Our Community Institutions, Culture Societies, Parties,
Professional Unions, Places of Worship and Charity Societies

 

The Zionist Organization in Kurow

by Benyamin Wajnrib/Ramat Gan

Translated by Toba Ajzenstat

Edited by Toby Bird

It began in the year 1898. A fresh and wonderful wind was blowing through the Jewish world of Poland, something new had come into existence, a new ideal.

Dr. Herzl had shaken the foundations of the Jewish world and the tremors were felt also in Kurow.

Nuchim Sztrasburg, Duvid Hersh Sztrasburg, and Moishe Sztrasburg began the work of founding an agudas tzion – a Zionist association. They called together people from various circles, except chassidic ones, because the chassidim held that Zionism was a new kind of false messiah.

So the three Sztrasburgs with much effort brought together a handful of Jews. First of all they began praying together on Shabbes. The minyan was held at the home of my grandfather, Yitzchok (Andruss) Nisenboim, and its members were: 1) Nuchim Sztrasburg 2) Duvid Hersh Sztrasburg 3) Moishe Shulims [Moishe, the son of Shulim] Sztrasburg[1] 4) Yitzchok Nisenboim 5) Nachman Degenszajn 6) Avram Hersh Bubis 7) Yankel (Machinist) Sznajderman 8) Mechel Brutman 9) Chaim Shmuel Lustman 10) Chaim Mordechai Gryngroz and a few others whose names are not known to me.

They began by selling shares of the Jewish Colonial-Bank. A share cost one pound sterling and in Poland at that time this equalled ten Russian rubles, a nice sum of money. They distributed about 25

Photo caption: Tobale and Duvid Hersh Sztrasburg

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such shares and with that they began the campaign for political Zionism.

Nuchim Sztrasburg was one of the outstanding men of his generation in Kurow in those days. With his energy, speech, and agitating he accomplished a great deal for the Zionist idea. He was the central pillar of the Haskalah movement. He created many disciples and heirs with his Zionism and put his stamp on Zionist life in Kurow even after his death.

His children followed in their father's footsteps. His eldest daughter, Chaya Ester, did not rest – no Zionist or cultural event was mounted without her help; and likewise his son, Moishe, who went to work for peasants in the fields and prepared himself to go to Eretz Yisrael. He is in fact in Eretz Yisrael in a colony in Kfar Hogla near Hadera. His daughters, Sheindel and Feiga, are also in Israel. Chaya Ester and her husband, Berl Hitelman, did not achieve this but their two sons, Mottel and Yisrul, live here. His daughter, Freidel, perished together with her husband, Leibl Noechels [Leibl, the son of Noechel] and their children.

Duvid Hersh Sztrasburg, whose house was a meeting place and a true home for all who thirsted for knowledge, founded the first Jewish school in Kurow, and in this school he himself taught the boys and his wife, Tobale, the girls; the school already at that time had a wide program

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Photo caption: Moishe Sztrasburg, the distinguished active Zionist. Perished

[note: this is Moishe Shulims Sztrasburg – Moishe the son of Shulim Sztrasburg]

of Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish, German, and arithmetic. In general he was the “learned Jew” who was the community spokesman representing the Jewish population to the non-Jews of the town administration. He died on the 24th of Adar, 1919. His wife, Tobale, died on Tu B'Av [the 15th of Av], 1922. Surviving them are their son Shmuel and their daughter, Chantshe, in New York. Their other children were murdered by the Nazis.

Moishe Shulims Sztrasburg, who was the most fiery Zionist, was capable of leaving his work for days and weeks, forgetting about wife and children, to do Zionist work.

My father, Yankel Wajnrib, used to tell me that when Moishe Shulims was sewing the wedding clothes at the house of my grandfather,Yitzchok, for his son, Levi, every half hour he tore off a Keren Kayemet stamp[2] and as he did this said to my father, “You see, Yankel, now I have laid a brick to the building of the Land”. Only a great writer and artist would be able to depict this ideal type of man and lover of Zion.

Yitzchok Nisenboim, my grandfather, was also carried along with the current. The meeting place and prayer house of the Zionists was located at his place. My father, the son-in-law of Reb Yitzchok Nisenboim, began reading “Hatzfira” and all the propaganda brochures in that home; this influenced my father who later

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Photo caption: Mechel Brutman on his deathbed

became one of the main leaders of Zionism in Kurow, in particular of Mizrachi.

Nachman Degenszajn, who at that time was the leaseholder of the Kurow mill, was a very wealthy man and also had an influence in various circles.

Avram Hersh Bubis, who was a son-in-law of the Kurow rabbi, Reb Yechiel, and a learned man, an opponent of fanaticism, assisted Zionist activity in our town with his sharp wit.

Yankel Sznajderman, a simple, honorable Jew, a strong lover of Zion, lived to see several generations of followers. He perished at the hands of the Nazis, yemach shemam – may their names be erased. All of his children [who were in Poland] perished at the hands of the Nazis[3] . Two of his sons, Yitzchok and Moishe, were in America. His son, Yitzchok, one of the founders and leaders of the Kurow Landsmanschaft in New York, died in 1954.

Mechel Brutman was the youngest of everyone but was the first one to actualize his Zionism: in 1920 he traveled to Eretz Yisrael with two of his sons. On coming to Eretz Yisrael he was immediately killed by Arabs in a pogrom in Yafo. His oldest son, Fishel, later brought his mother, Blimale, to Eretz Yisrael, together with his brothers and sisters who live here now.

Chaim Shmuel Lustman was an institution unto himself; without him, so it seems, the shtetl couldn't have survived. He healed Jews and Christians practically for free; he worked day and night. He was a devoted Zionist until his death. The whole town took part in his funeral.

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Photo caption: Chaim Mordechai Gryngroz who was in the Jewish Legion. Died in Haifa

The Beitar walked at the head of the funeral procession with a large blue and white flag.

Chaim Mordechai Gryngroz was an exception to all those mentioned above with his proud nature and lack of fear of non-Jews. He didn't know what fear meant – he was a member of the town fire brigade, which wasn't at all typical for a Jew. Later he went to America. When the Jewish Legion was founded there in 1917 Chaim Mordechai became a member and fought on the front in Eretz Yisrael.

After the end of the war he came to Kurow in the uniform of the Legion. All the Jews and non-Jews were very happy to see him and had respect for him. He took his wife, Gietshe, and his children to Eretz Yisrael. He died at his home in Haifa.

The work and the propoganda for Zionism continued on the scale of the Zionist movement of the time until after the outbreak of the First World War. The Germans and the Austrians occupied Poland. At the time of the Austrian regime in Kurow Zionist activity started to spread its wings. Refugees from the border areas came to Kurow, among them Hebrew teachers, and the Zionists began

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Photo caption: Chaya Herc, the daughter of Yitzchok Maryams – [meaning: Yitzchok the son of Maryam.]
Perished

the founding of a school named Beis Sefer “Hatechiya”. The founders were already of the younger generation such as Moishe Najmark, Hersh Nirenberg, Yirmia Frydmacher, Dvorale Tajtelboim, Chaya Herc, and others, but still with the Sztrasburgs at the head. The first teachers in the Hebrew school were: Hochman, Brycman, Yirmia Frydmacher, later also Yaakov Togfojgiel, Avramtshe Cymerman, Wajntrob, and Blat, who created cadres of students who wrote and spoke Hebrew and who became the avant garde of chalutzim.

At that point thechief worry of the Zionist movement in Kurow was how to keep the school going financially. For that purpose the women's union was also founded then and at every opportunity it raised money in order to be able to keep the school going. Those who were the main active members then were: Moishe Najmark; Bracha Etta Najmark, his wife; Hersh Nirenberg who died young; Chaya Ester Sztrasburg; Yoshua Sztrasburg; Chantshe Sztrasburg (New York) ; Mindel Sztrasburg (New York) ; Itshe Sztrasburg; Perl Sztrasburg, Leizer Tajtelboim (Israel) ; Gershon Wajda and Sura, his wife, (Los Angeles) ;

Photo caption: Yoshua Sztrasburg. Perished

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Photo caption: Itshe Sztrasburg with his little son. Perished

Avram Aron Sztern and his wife, Layele, (Bogota, Colombia) ; Ester Rochelsman (Israel) ; Gershon Opozdowa Zelcer; Usher Ajdelsztajn; Usher Kirszenboim; Yisrialke Madmer; Moishe Chanisman (Brazil) ; Yisrul Volf Zajdenworm; Sura Rivka Goldszlager; Chaya Yute Tenenboim; Sheindel Tenenboim; Feiga Ruchel Ricer; Laya Hopenhaim (died in Canada) ; Chaya Elka Sztern; Sura Nudelman-Lerman (Canada) ; Yankel Lomberg; Yossel Lerman; Leibl Landman; Yankel Rochelsman (Colombia) ; Hersh Loberboim (Argentina) ; Naftali Zalcberg (New York) .

Also at that time the Zionists founded the “Kultur”, a library with a non-partisan character whose users came from all segments of the population.

Also contributing its help to the school was “Mizrachi” which was founded at that time by Yankel

Photo caption: Usher Kirszenboim who was secretary of the Zionist Organization. Perished

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Photo caption: Dvorale and Leizer Tajtelboim, Israel

Wajnrib. This organization embraced a large portion of the religious and chassidic Jews. As curators of the school in the role of supervisors – to ensure the teachers didn't teach the children any apikorses (heretical learnings) – there were delegated by the Mizrachi: Yankel Wajnrib, Yidel Bryk, Shmuel Elia Grosman, Henech Wurman, Naftali Wajnberg, Hersh Rapoport, Yechiel Mayer Morgensztern.

In the year 1918, when Poland became independent, the Zionist Organization grew even bigger. At that time the one who ran the Zionist Organization was Dvorale Tajtelboim – she was, in fact, the president. This was a very great honor, particularly for a woman.

However, Dvorale Tajtelboim was worthy of the honor because she tirelessly and energetically led the activity and the agitation without letting any kind of difficulty stop her. Her house was always open to all Zionists. She almost didn't have a private life; she devoted everything to the welfare of the Zionist Organization in Kurow, which had indeed flowered and become many-branched. She put together the committee of Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, worked on the school committee; all in all she was the living breath of the Zionist movement in Kurow. In that work, her husband, Leizer, was a true helpmate who used his free time to aid his wife in her sacred work.

About two years before departing for Eretz Yisrael the Tajtelboims moved to Lublin and there also Dvorale immediately became one of the most active of the Zionist leaders and was involved in the committees of Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael and Keren Hayesod.

From Lublin the Tajtelboims left for Eretz Yisrael. They withstood various troubles and hardships and made it through everything safely. To this day they remain devoted patriots of our Jewish land.

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Photo caption: Dvorale Tajtelboim at the conference of Keren Hayesod in Lublin, in the second row, third from the left. In the third row, fifth from the left is Rabbi Tovia Gutman Rapoport.

[note: Rabbi Rapoport was also from Kurow – there is an article by him in the Kurow Yizkor Book, pp. 621-654]

The Fourth Aliya which began in 1924 again brought fresh blood into the Zionist Organization.
The young people began declaring themselves as members en masse. At this time the younger generation was already the one engaged in active work. And we should specifically point out the intensive work of two couples: Itshe and Chana Wachenhazer-Rozen, Moishe and Sura Ester Cukerman-Blumels, and also the untiring work of Moishe Finkelsztajn, who was for many years chairman of the Zionist Organization in Kurow.The active members at this time were: Yaakov Hersh Rozenblat; Yocheved Wachenhazer-Rozenblat, his wife; Berl Hitelman; Moishe Apelboim; Shmuel

Photo caption: Itshe and Chana Rozen and their daughter, Chaya. All perished

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Photo caption: Chayale and Temele, the children of Itshe and Chana Rozen. Perished

Finkelsztajn; Henna Rozenzon; Shloima Wachman (in Israel) ; Shaya Leib Chanisman; Malka Rotfarb; her husband, Itshe Fiszman; Chaya Goldberg; Roiza Blumels (in New York) ; Frayda Niderberg; Chaim Yoshua Niderberg; Mayer Tajtelboim; Surale Tajtelboim, his wife; Sheindel Apelboim; Berech Lewin; Mayer Najmark.

Then the work of the Zionist Organization broadened and we truly “beat down the

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Photo caption: Moishe and Sura Ester Blumels and their daughter, Feiga. All perished

doors”. There were meetings every night at which we approved certificates for those who wanted to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael. The revenues from Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod were growing then thanks to the tireless work of that time.

Following the temporary period of several years of stasis in the Zionist movement the younger generation started taking a very active part in it, distinguishing themselves by their great energy. Once again a Tarbut school was founded which cost a lot of money. With great effort we maintained it so that our children would be able to read and write Hebrew. It is worth noting that at the time of a convention in Vonvolitz [Wawolnica] on Lag B'Omer all the surrounding little towns were envious of us when our children performed recitations in Hebrew. Those who stood out at the convention were: Yossel Tajtelboim; his wife, Frandel Cukerman; Benyamin Wajnrib; Liftshe Goldberg (his wife) ; Sana Grosman; his wife, Frandel Melhendler; Mendel Bryk, Leibl Zylberblum; Hersh Klajdman; his wife, Pesl Perlman; Aron Wajnrib; his wife, Maryam Wasersztrom; Toba Finkelsztajn; Chaim Rozenzon Yechezkels [Chaim Rozenzon, the son of Yechezkel]; Yankel Wolman.

Photo caption: Moishe Finkelsztajn, longtime chairman of the Zionist Organization. Perished

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Photo caption: Standing from right to left: Hershel Klajdman, Shmuel Finkelsztajn – perished.
Middle row: Sheindel Apelboim, teacher, Henia Zager (in Israel) , Henna Rozenzon – perished.
Bottom row: Surale Tajtelboim, Pesl Perlman – perished

Even at that time various parties had already started establishing themselves in the Zionist movement; a segment went over to Beitar and a segment to the left-wing groupings of the Zionist movement.

Photo caption: Malka Rotfarb and her husband, Itshe. Perished.
[note: Malka Rotfarb's husband was Itshe Fiszman. See p. 32 of this article]

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Photo caption: A Group of Zionists.

Standing: unknown, Leibl Zylberblum, Chana Shuchhendler [note: this follows the Yiddish spelling in the caption]

Sitting: Mendel Bryk, Beila Rapoport, Hershel Klajdman, Rivka Grynfeld-Shuchhendler, Chaim Rozenzon. All except Rivka (in Israel) , perished

Upon my departure for Eretz Yisrael in the year 1936, accomplished with great effort, when I felt very well the truth of the saying “Eretz Yisrael is achieved only through hardship”[4] , my friends from all the groups in the Zionist Organization

Photo caption: A Group of Zionists.

Standing: unknown, Leibl Zylberblum, Chana Shuchhendler [note: this follows the Yiddish spelling in the caption]

Sitting: Mendel Bryk, Beila Rapoport, Hershel Klajdman, Rivka Grynfeld-Shuchhendler, Chaim Rozenzon. All except Rivka (in Israel) , perished

Photo caption: Benyamin Wajnrib, his wife and children (in the window of the train) , at the Lublin train station on their departure for Eretz Yisrael. There have come to see them off ( from the right) : Ozer Grosman, Yechiel Anker, Benyamin Wajnrib's brother, Aron Wajnrib, their mother, Sheindel, and Sana Grosman.

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parted with me very warmly, with tears in their eyes. We kissed and hugged one another hardly suspecting the coming doom.

It is also worth remembering that in the Zionist Organization there was a youth movement by the name of “Hatechiya” that helped in all the

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Photo caption: At the departure of Yaakov Gurman for Eretz Yisrael, there can be seen : Boruch Zalcberg, Itshe Chanisman, Hershel Sznajdleder, Yaakov Gurman, Sheva Wajnrib, Sura Mindel Glozman, Leibl Rozenzon, Chaya Gotlieb.

[note: standing next to Sheva Wajnrib, who is in the center of the photo, there is my mother's cousin,
Mayer Kornsztajn, whose name was not given in the caption]

activities and flower-days. Among those active were: Yaakov Gurman (Israel) ; Chaim Rozenzon; Sheva Wajnrib; Beila Goldberg (Israel) ; Sura Mindel Glozman; Tzipa Rozen; Mayer Nisenboim; Shloima Nisenboim; Mordechai Ajdelsztajn (Sweden) ; Ozer Grosman; Tzina Melhendler (Israel) ;

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Photo caption: Aron and Maryam Wajnrib. Perished

Tovia Ajzensztat; Leibish Wajnrib (Israel) .

When one thinks about the fact that all this no longer exists, was destroyed, one is overcome with horror. However, we should and must remember, and always, at every opportunity, recall what happened and swear revenge for the blood that was spilled.

Photo caption: A group gathered at the departure for Eretz Yisrael of Motel Hitelman (son of Chaya Ester and Berl Hitelman and grandson of Nuchim Sztrasburg.)


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The text of the Yizkor Book in this paragraph gives this name incorrectly as “Moishe Shulim Sztrasburg”; it should be “Moishe Shulims” which means “Moishe, the son of Shulim.” The correct name appears in the Yizkor Book text on p. 25 and there is also a memorial for this family on p. 1068 of the Yizkor Book.
    It was very common to informally address or refer to people in the town using a person's given name together with the possessive form of the father's or mother's given name. Literally, the name “Moishe Shulims” translates as “Moishe of Shulim.” An example of a mother's name used in this way appears in the caption under the photo of Chaya Herc on p. 28 where she is referred to as “the daughter of Yitzchok Maryams” meaning she is the daughter of Yitzchok who is the son of Maryam. Return
  2. The Keren Kayemet stamps would be torn off a sheet or out of a booklet of these stamps. Return
  3. The Yizkor Book has: “All of his children perished at the hands of the Nazis.” I have added the phrase “who were in Poland” in square brackets because of the sentence that follows in the text. Return
  4. This is a well known rabbinic saying. Return

 

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