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I Remember …

 

Y. I.

 

A. Our Courtyard

In the courtyard in Ostrolenka that had two exits – one to Synagogue Street, now Kilinskiego, which led to places of prayer, minyanim, study halls and Chassidic shteblich, and the second to Cyganska (today Berek Joselewicz), which led to Torah, heders and yeshivas, stood the cradle of my childhood, my father, of blessed memory, a lamdan and great Chassid, brought from Poltusk to marry the youngest daughter of Reb Josel Mejrann. The two of them suited each other – he, in his erudition and gentle Chassidism and she, in her great modesty and devotion to her Torah scholar husband. Reb Josel Mejrann owned the courtyard, where the voice of my father echoed day and night and penetrated the neighbors' homes. The neighbors were of all sorts, Chassidic Jews, simple types, merchants and “common people”. For many years, they lived in our courtyard. First, I will mention the two who lived near our apartment. They were Chanoch the Fat and his wife, Fejga the Fat. This is what all of us in the street called them, because of the unusual proportions of their bodies. In addition, they had a store of sausages and all kinds of smoked meats, which contributed not a little to their obese bodies, which swelled from day to day. This tendency toward obesity was passed down to their descendents.

Reb Chanoch was a well-known meat merchant, and also traded in poultry for export. Therefore, our courtyard often became a poultry market. The noise was unbearable. The calls of the roosters and turkeys deafened the entire courtyard, which sometimes became a battle field. The hot-tempered turkeys fell upon and bit each other, penetrating each other's flesh with their beaks until blood flowed, without the possibility of separating them. I liked to observe these battles. If someone passed through the courtyard dressed in red – he was not to be envied. The turkeys immediately beset him with their cackles. Therefore, for many years I wore white clothing as a remedy. When the birds were sent for export, quiet prevailed once again in our courtyard.

When World War I broke out, I left the city, together with thousands of its inhabitants. Since then, I do not know what happened to that family.

The second neighbor lived opposite us, next to Grandfather's apartment, which faced the street and was opposite the study hall. This was Szymon Landau the Scribe. He was known for writing Torah scrolls, Biblical scrolls, mezuzot [parchments inscribed with verses, affixed to doorposts in Jewish homes] and parchments for phylacteries. He was an Otwock Chassid, a very quiet man. Absolute silence always prevailed in his home and, except for the scratching of the goose quill on the parchment, nothing could be heard. But on holidays, when he drank liberally, he changed completely. He spoke, was joyous and repeated the refrain “Yadi yadida, yadi yadida” when he joined the circle of dancers. He and all his family (except for one daughter who lives in Canada) were murdered by the Nazis, may their names be obliterated! May God avenge their blood.

Beyond his [apartment] was the apartment of the Lachowicz family. My Uncle Nyske and my Aunt Neszke and their family lived in a two-room apartment. My uncle was a calm person. He worked as the foreman at Mendel Bialy's sawmill. My aunt was his complete opposite: a fiery woman, involved in everything that took place in the city, full of energy, always ready to do good for others, to help in time of trouble. A real woman of valor, who also helped support the family. They succeeded in emigrating to Israel with their children, and passed away there. May their memories be blessed.

After their [apartment] was the apartment of the shoemaker (I have forgotten his name). He was

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stubborn and silent, as though for spite. A type of the common people, he never specified the price of his work. “First order, then we'll see” was his usual refrain. Sometimes he said “I rely on your honesty” – and indeed, he took what was given to him. Despite this, he cast a black gloom on the entire courtyard.

Another tenant: Reb Icchak Ajzyk, who made and sold cigarettes and was called “Papierosnik”, and his wife, Rejzel, who was always ailing and sad. He was also an Otwock Chassid. They were childless, but they brought up the wife's nephew, whom they treated as if he was their son. Since the income from the cigarettes was not enough to live on, during the second half of the day, Reb Icchak Ajzyk worked at another profession – he was a tinsmith. They lived next door to us; we had a common wall. As I was like one of their family, I learned the lore of smoking very early … Although Reb Icchak Ajzyk was feeble and suffered from a strong cough, he was always happy with his lot. He passed away during World War I, and his wife – even before him. May their memories be blessed.

Opposite him lived Awrejmele Szlafmic, the wine maker, also an Otwock Chassid. His profession did not provide him with adequate support, as he was burdened with many children. He died of cancer even before World War I. I have forgotten the names and occupations of the other neighbors, who changed over frequently. The only one who is etched in my memory in great detail is Reb Mosze Hersz the Baker.

He lived near the exit to Cyganska Street, nearly at the edge of the courtyard. He was a sort of secret lamdan, in the style of the lamidvavniks. Thin, short, with bright and honest eyes. He prayed in the shtebl of the Gur Chassidim, was a zealous observer of mitzvot, and was as precise about those that were easy to perform as those that were more difficult. He always smoked a long pipe. They called him Mosze Hersz the Baker only because he stood on the street and sold baked goods. His wife passed away in her youth, and he raised a young orphan in his home, a distant relative. The relationship between them was not of the best, because the latter did not follow the ways of Torah, as Mosze Hersz wished. After working hours – selling bread – he was always bent over heavy tomes and studied them day and night. He studied more than he learned aloud, an unmistakable sign of certain Jews. His house was always full of smoke from his pipe, mingled with the fragrance of fresh baked goods. When one entered his house, there was the feeling that here lived a great and illustrious Jew, whom no one recognized. The only one who understood him was my father, may he rest in peace, who treated him with great respect and befriended him. Together they spoke about Torah and Chassidism. He visited him at his home from time to time. When he came to visit us, their conversations often lasted into the late hours of the night. Sometimes, I would enter his home. Although I was still a child, I still felt something special within the four walls of this unusual man.

During World War I, when the Russians ordered the population of Ostrolenka to leave the city – already in flames – Mosze Hersz was ill and did not want to leave his home. He always refused to be examined by a doctor and would not agree to take any kind of medicine. This time, too, he insisted on staying and did not agree to accompany the neighbors, who proposed taking him with them. “God will be with me everywhere, even in the greatest danger”, he said. He meant “Until the wrath will pass”. But the great believer paid for this with his life … We left the city and reached Czerwin, which was not too far from Ostrolenka and from immediate danger. The next day, to our surprise, we saw Mosze Hersz approaching us, limping and tottering with his last strength, and with death reflected in his eyes. He smiled at my father (this was his last smile), because he was unable to utter a word, and lay down on a bundle of bedding that had been packed for travel. My father put some medication in his mouth to strengthen and calm him …

The next day, Reb Mosze Hersz was no long among the living. May the memory of this saint be a blessing.

 

B. One Hundred Explosions in One Day

Passover Eve 1915, eighteen months after the outbreak of World War I. Ostrolenka was still far from the front. Cannon fire was heard day and night, like distant thunder. Sometimes, a German plane or zeppelin would appear, and the Russians tried to “intercept” them with fire from a regular cannon. But it affected them “like last year's snow” did. All in all, a cloud of thick smoke arose and quickly dispersed in the air. When the “guest” dropped an incendiary bomb on the city, there was real damage, but not in modern day proportions. Now and then someone was killed, and a few fires broke out.

I remember that after such operations, we would go

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out to look for unexploded bombs on the ground. Usually, we did not find anything, a sign that most of the planes had been sent for reconnaissance only.

We, the children, loved to follow these “air fights” between the planes and the cannons – which did not damage the planes at all. We also followed with pleasure the army camps, marching with powerful Russian singing in the streets of Ostrolenka, toward the front. It continued thus for a time, and we were sure that with this – “our” war had ended. On Passover Eve, while the city prepared to welcome the holiday of the two Seders [Jewish ritual feasts], Four Questions and Four Cups, I went out just then on some household errand. Suddenly, I heard such a mighty explosion that the ground trembled under me. I ran to the nearest house to take cover. The first bomb fell with great impact, apparently not far from the house where I was, because all the windows shattered and fell – and immediately again the same noise and explosion, this time right near me. And so it continued without a stop, and I thought that there would be no end to this hell. The planes attacked at short intervals. This time, many “guests” visited our city all at once. It was clear that the enemy had decided to raze the city to its foundations.

From the beginning of the war, Ostrolenka became known in the strategic world. The newspapers wrote about the large army units camped near the city, on their way to the front. The River Narew was also continually mentioned because of its strategic importance for the entire front, which stretched to the border of Eastern Prussia. Decisive battles were expected near the city, and it was therefore clear that the purpose of the bombings was to disrupt the supply route and destroy the barracks. They did not strike the populace itself, as this was not yet in style … Because of the aerial attacks, panic awoke in the inhabitants. On that day, there were many killed and wounded. Fires broke out in all parts of the city and the idea of the evacuation arose. The joy of the holiday was spoiled. To the usual Four Questions, a fifth, and most serious, question was added: What do we do and to where should we turn? The newspapers immediately published menacing headlines: “One Hundred Bombs on Ostrolenka! German Planes Destroyed Many Parts of the City!”

And thus it was, as we had originally expected. That Passover Eve was the beginning of the end …

For about two months, the front came closer to us, and shells even fell in the streets of Ostrolenka. This was around Tisha B'Av [the date of the destruction of both Holy Temples] and for us, it was a real Tisha B'Av. In a short time, an order was issued by the Russian Army regime, that all inhabitants must leave the city for “strategic reasons”. With a heavy heart and a sensation of death, we left Ostrolenka, together with all the inhabitants. The Russians followed us and set fire to every house that was abandoned. Given no choice, we left the city of our birth, which was in flames.

 

C. My Grandfather

I remember my grandfather, Reb Josel Mejrann, as a tall, strict man with a beard, an intense face and flashing eyes – a man who would not tolerate injustice, even if it was inflicted on someone else. But for all this, he was good-hearted, ready and willing to forgive and to do good deeds without end – on the condition that you knew the right way to approach him … From family conversations, I came to know facts about his good deeds: he would, if necessary, interrupt a meal and try to exert himself on someone's behalf – and run to the municipality, to the head of the district or to the prison commander. I remember this clearly. Besides being the owner of the entire courtyard where many neighbors lived, my grandfather was a hatter by profession, and ran a workshop with workers and apprentices. He provided merchandise for Russian Army regiments camped near our city.

My father, may he rest in peace, a scholar and fervent Otwock Chassid, was supported by my grandfather for many years after he married my mother. He received one of the apartments in the house and, later on, began to engage in business – despite the fact that he held a license to teach – with the consent of his rabbi, of course. He ran a large-scale business, but also did not neglect Chassidism, devotion, the Zohar [considered the most important work of Kabala, Jewish mysticism] and the Kabala. As a child, I used to ask my grandfather for a few cents to buy sweets. Of course, he gave [them] to me willingly, and sometimes also looked for me. He loved me very much, and usually called me “the grandson of Josel Mejrann”. My grandfather had five sons and four daughters. My mother, of blessed memory, a modest, good-natured woman (murdered by the Germans, my God avenge her blood), was most tolerant of her husband, the scholar. She always went along him and understood how to value his ways, which were not always simple and straightforward. She, herself, absorbed the Chassidic spirit of her father, Reb

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Josel, who had the refined desire and will to receive into his home a son-in-law who was a Torah scholar …

As has been mentioned, my grandfather was the owner of the courtyard in which stood a large wooden house, with exits to two streets. The apartment we got from my grandfather was included in my mother's dowry. We lived there until the outbreak of World War I. I was proud of my grandfather, with his lofty mien and majesty of face. In my childhood, I spent many hours in his house. I was always drawn there; his home was an inseparable part of my home. My grandfather was one of the prominent worshippers in the beautiful synagogue that stood opposite our courtyard. At night, unlike other children, I was not afraid to pass near the synagogue, which imposed dread on all passersby. There were widespread stories of the deeds of the dead, who prayed there in the late evening hours and called the names of those who passed by, inviting them to be called up to read the Torah. This was a sign that that person would not live out the year, God forbid. First of all, I felt a certain closeness to the synagogue and secondly, perhaps it was thanks to my grandfather's steadfast stance, so full of self-confidence. All this fortified me against certain fears, although I was quite a coward in my childhood.

A few years before the outbreak of World War I, my grandfather passed away from an illness from which he had suffered for a long time. I remember that it happened during the night. At that time, I was sleeping at my grandfather's (my parents had gone to Warsaw, with a sick child). Suddenly, a sustained cry woke me.

By the time I opened my eyes, my grandfather had already breathed his last.

The strength left that house.

May his memory be blessed.

 

D. Pania, Kawale, Nawiwaj …!

Like a divine voice, this deafening call split the skies of Ostrolenka. It even penetrated the house in the old market near the bridge, where the people known as “Orylas” rowed their rafts on the river, far, far out of the city. From their places of Torah near the river, the heder children and the Gemara youths, who learned independently, left their studies and ran to the river to see the great “wonder” and hear the wild voices of the Orylas. Our attention was especially drawn by the huts of straw, like birds' nests, that they built on the rafts for rest, and to sleep in at night. Where do they come from and where will they go?!, we asked. And how do these people live on the water? Sometimes, we mimicked their cries and threw stones at them, just as a lark, a way of sharing the joy of the water people. “Pania Kawa-a-le-e-e!!! Nawiwaj-aj-aj!!!” Sometimes this rang out like the regular call of the Oryla gang, and sometimes, like a shout to endless distances: Pania Kawale! (Perhaps it was Kawalski, but to us it sounded exactly like Kawale.) Sometimes, bent over the railings of the bridge, our eyes glued to the rafts, we felt like we were sailing on the bridge and as if they, the wooden platforms, were standing in one place – – – “Nawiwa! Nawiwaj!” and other words and cries we did not understand. When they stopped or got stuck, their shouts especially reached the heavens. Sometimes, hours and even days passed until they were extricated from their plight. In these instances, we often came there after school hours, to see how the matter had ended.

 

E. How I “Discovered” the Promenade Park

In my childhood, I received a strict Jewish Chassidic education. I was the only child (unfortunately) of an Orthodox father, an outstanding scholar, a Torah great, strongly Chassidic, meticulous about the smallest detail and a zealous fighter for anything pertaining to Judaism. Therefore, expectations of me were very great. Even as a small boy, I was dressed in a long silk kapote, and my long earlocks reached my shoulders. The main thing: it seemed that I was supposed to fill the place left by my brothers and sisters who had passed away, without apparent reason, as early as their first year of life …

Perhaps because of this, I was confined to the four walls of our house, to my very pious father, who forbade me to take even one step anywhere without his permission, Heaven forbid. But the Evil Inclination sometimes loves to break into precisely such strict homes … Thus, my devoutness was not so genuine as was proper for the son of such a father. Actually, I felt like going out somewhere and taking a “prohibited” look at certain things. My father, sensing this, took a hard line and was doubly forbidding.

The struggle this childhood imposed on me was difficult. This is not the place to describe life in homes like these. I would like only to relate an unbelievable event from those years, which, later on, greatly amazed

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me. As I said, I grew up in the shadow of my father, the great Chassid. We prayed together, we learned together. He did not leave me even for a minute. This was probably his exaggerated fatherly love for the only son remaining to him.

The only thing I liked then (and this was my reward for my repressed childhood years) – were the Chassidic stories he told during our walks on Sabbath afternoons, when my father went to the fields outside the city with some of those from the shtebl. I will always remember the sandy path leading there. On Sabbaths, after the afternoon rest, a long time after we ate, when the Sabbath's rest radiated from everyone, the Jews of the different shteblich strolled there, row upon row, talking among themselves about Torah and Chassidism and telling miracle tales of the saints and the courts of the Rebbes. For a child like me, these were unforgettable moments of freedom and release, after a whole week during which I absorbed the dust and mustiness of a room for about 12 hours a day. During those moments, on the Sabbath walk, I knew that I was a child. Walking on that very narrow path, my glance wandered over broad fields, sheaves of wheat and the marvelous expanse, which literally made me lose my balance … Flocks of chirping birds flew all about. The chirps of the birds in the courtyard of our house were completely different. Gentile children ran the length of the fields and their happy, free laughter rolled out over boundless distances …

We had just reached our destination, that is, the usual spot where we rested – when I heard some sort of noise from somewhere very close by, as well as the sounds of free laughter that grew without end. In the distance, I discerned a grove of tall trees standing in rows. I did not understand this and asked my father: “What's going on there?” His face became grave, as though covered by a cloud, and he spat out angrily: “Sit!” The Chassidim exchanged significant glances between themselves and ended with a deep sigh …

Since then, I did not ask any questions and even forgot about the existence of the place.

From August 1915, when we were ordered to leave the city because of the battles that were drawing nearer, we lived in Lomza. From time to time during the German occupation, I would visit Ostrolenka, which I missed greatly.

Once, innocently strolling along the Lomza Road, I suddenly came upon a place that seemed strange to me. I saw a grove with rows of trees and benches before me, and in it were young couples who strolled along embraced, laughing and carrying on.

For me, this was an amazing discovery!

Now I received an answer to my innocent question “What's going on there?”, which I had asked my father then.

– Are you a native of Ostrolenka, or not?! …

Now my memories of Sabbath afternoon walks with Father in my childhood years arose and floated to the surface …

With dread, I grasped it all …

They intended to hide from us, the Chassidic children, this “sinful” place, which they themselves tried to avoid out of disgust.

Thus, I “discovered” the promenade park of Ostrolenka.

 

F. The Ritual Slaughterers Family

Reb Szmuelke the Ritual Slaughterer, in his time one of the heads of the ritual slaughterers in Ostrolenka (two others were Reb Gerszon and Reb Chaim Ber), was also the head of an extensive family of ritual slaughterers. He was known in the city as an expert in his profession and trained many students. He was a Torah scholar, of the Alexander Chassidim. He had six sons. They were all ritual slaughterers and mohels [Jewish ritual circumcisers], as well as superb public prayer leaders, known in the entire area.

The closest of the shtebl's members to my father, Reb Mosze Aron, the eldest of Reb Szmuelke's sons, visited us often. He served as a well-known ritual slaughterer around Ostrolenka, in the towns of Czarny, Kadzidla and other nearby places. He stood for “Torah study and work” and, like his father, Reb Szmuelke, he was a fervent Chassid. He traveled to the Rebbe of Worka in Otwock. At the same time, he was a very honest man, who made do with little, and in his free time dedicated himself completely to the study of Torah. Day and night, Reb Mosze Aron Kachan (from a family of Cohanim) sat bent over holy books with love and devotion. It is true, God must dwell in the heart of a Jew so that he will observe the mitzvot, pray with fear and love, make the blessing aloud before every meal – the Otwock-Worka Chassidim were very strict about this. But the study of Torah is above all.

Once, on a fast day, he saw Hersz Icchak, one of his sons and a close friend of mine (today a well-known ritual slaughterer-cantor in America and head of one of

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the communities there), wandering around and wasting time that should have been spent studying Torah. When he asked him for an explanation, his son answered that it was a fast day and that, therefore, he had no strength to learn. To this his father answered: “Ah, you are looking for an excuse. It is better that you should eat something and start studying immediately …

“ It happened that Reb Mosze Aron suddenly cast doubt on his ability to be a ritual slaughterer, although he was still strong. It is said that when news arrived of the sudden passing of Mosze Aron (he passed away in Lomza, where he lived with his family after World War I, on Sabbath Eve, while he was immersing himself in the ritual bath), Rabbi Jehuda Lejb Gordin, the Chairman of the Board of Rabbis of Chicago, tore his clothing and said “The Last of the Mohicans has gone!

…” Because of the war years and the development of the immigration movement in Poland then, Reb Mosze Aron's family dispersed all over the world: two sons (both of them ritual slaughterers and cantors) and four daughters in America, two daughters in Brazil and two daughters in Soviet Russia. Reb Mosze Aron's wife passed away after a time in Lomza. Another son and daughter were murdered in Poland by the Nazis, may their names be erased. The other sons of Reb Szmuelke the Ritual Slaughterer were also, as was said, famous ritual slaughterers, mohels and public prayer leaders, among them: Josef Welwel (a ritual slaughterer in Chorzel), Jehoszua Baruch (a ritual slaughterer in Rutek and in Blendowia, in the Warsaw region), Chaim Berel (a ritual slaughterer in Ostrolenka, about whom there will be a separate chapter) and Mordechaj Mendel (a ritual slaughterer in Zaromb).

It should be mentioned that Reb Szmuelke also chose a ritual slaughterer for a son-in-law. This was Reb Naftali Frydman, a ritual slaughterer in Ostrolenka for so many years. Many of them were killed by the German murderers. May their memories be blessed and preserved in our hearts and may God avenge their blood.

 

G. Note the Quiet

As a child, this was what I called him “deep down”. And no one knew about it.

He was an Otwock Chassid, prayed in the shtebl of my father, of blessed memory, and was one of his faithful friends. I always liked being in his quiet presence, which warmed my heart.

He was never a “sharp” Chassid and did not display wonders of erudition. He was an honest man, in the fullest sense of the word, and conducted himself modestly. At prayers in the shtebl, he sat on the side, far from any prominent place, simply, like someone who knew his own worth and place. He sometimes traveled to his Rebbe.

Note was proficient in the Bible, stood for honesty and was always on the side of justice. But even when he objected to an injustice that was caused someone – even then he remained Note the Quiet. He did it privately, gently, speaking from the heart, in a distant corner, not in public, Heaven forbid. He shied away from any Chassidic dispute that broke out, or from shtebl gossip. “Jews, why is this necessary?”, he used to ask. Sometimes an argument erupted about some public or private matter, with shouts and invective, and often this led to blows and real slaps “flew”, Chassidic-style slaps … Note succeeded in imposing peace in those instances. His gentle presence was a good influence. As soon as he appeared, with his captivating smile, amidst the noise and confusion, the excited crowd calmed down and, inadvertently, the disputants stopped quarreling and did not insist on carrying on the dispute.

Note was fair, blond, with blue eyes and heavy eyebrows. His appearance expressed energy, tenacity and the iron will of a religious Jew who was not a fanatic. He spoke quietly, with a slightly husky, but still fine and gentle voice, and it was as if the words came from the depth of his heart. He always parted his golden beard in two, and combed each part so that its end turned up. Apparently, he wanted to minimize the value of his beard when he went out among people.

In my childhood, I knew very little about his private life. It was probably not very tempestuous. I remember only that he was married and owned a small grocery store near the big wooden bridge. On regular days (except for market or fair days), customers appeared infrequently, but I visited him often. First, as I said, I loved Note's presence very much; second – his store was near the wooden bridge (later built of iron), which tempted me in my childhood with a flood of green and flowers on its opposite side, and with the cries of those who rowed the rafts, the Oryla, which reached the heart of the heavens.

In my childish eyes, the bridge was like a giant floor of wood resting on the river, leading those who

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trod on it to cities and towns, to enchanting landscapes, to ancient fortresses and monuments that could tell of wars that raged there, and of magnificent victories: beginning with the days of Napoleon, through the Polish Revolution, the battles between Russia and France, the Swedish invasion, etc. And all these took place on that wooden bridge.

This was completely contrary to the quiet nature of Note, the bridge's next-door neighbor. Only once, I remember, in 1914, when World War I broke out, Ostrolenka became an important geographic center, well-known in military strategy. It was mentioned by statesmen, generals and important commanders. Russia flooded our city then with an army which marched to the front to stop the German invasion. The Russian strategists could not understand why, at the beginning of the war, the Germans did not [try to] prevent the Russians from advancing with even a single shot. The Russians did not perceive the trap that the Germans prepared for their army under the command of General Samsonov; too late, everyone awoke. Our city became one big barracks. Day and night, rows of foot soldiers, artillery and cavalry passed through it. Their only goal was: To the front – via the bridge! At the head of their armies were Russian generals, with beards like a Ruski Kacap, and in their hands open maps, which they looked at “like a chicken at people”, for they did not know how to read them correctly. They asked the citizens: Which way to the bridge? – while the bridge was under their noses …

The passing soldiers also brought a great deal of noise and tumult to Note's store. They entered with rude shouts, with careless looks, grabbing anything that came to hand – bread, rolls, fresh or dry – taking them without paying most of the time, and immediately running out and getting back into the ranks. Their look said: “What does it matter, tomorrow we will probably not be among the living” … One step separated Note's store and a bloody war for life or death! …

As the battles came closer to us, the cannon fire did not echo like distant thunder, but deafened our ears and spit real fire in our eyes. Note lost his serenity and retreated into himself. Everyone talked about leaving the city and taking only what was most essential. And Note became even more quiet …

* Even before the end of World War I, after long wanderings, Reb Note Cukierkorn returned to Ostrolenka with his family, like many others. Under the German occupation, the city gradually rose from its ruins and was rebuilt. Life flourished again.

In September 1939, when the Nazis attacked Poland and declared a war of destruction against the entire world and especially against the Jewish People, Note was expelled, together with all the Jews of Ostrolenka. They wandered around various ghettos and reached the concentration camps.

It is known that Note and his family were murdered in the Slonim Ghetto, together with other Jews from Ostrolenka. (Of his family, two daughters survived. One of them, Nechama Zygelman, lives with her family in Israel, in Pardes Chana.)

May these lines be an eternal remembrance of Note and his family who were destroyed! May their memory be eternally blessed!


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The Story of the Lewin-Levy Family

Their Contribution to Aliyah to the Land of Israel,
to the Fight Against the Nazis and to the New State of Israel

Israel-Mojzesz Lewin (1873-1938) was known in Ostrolenka as an enthusiastic Zionist activist. A man with a sharp mind, he had great technical know-how, and worked as a building contractor for the Polish Army, the electric company, sawmills and flour mills.

With the support of his wife, Leja Lewin (1884- 1943), the daughter of Ze'ew and Dina Hajblum, the Lewin house was a warm Zionist house. They were very active in the professional preparation of youths and adults before their aliyah – their emigration to Israel – as well as in collecting contributions for Zionist funds.

In 1914, when World War I broke out, Israel- Mojzesz, Leja, and their children fled from Ostrolenka to Riazan, near Moscow, where his brother, Zvi, lived. They lived with him until the end of the war, and in 1919, they returned to Ostrolenka.

Since 1926, the name of Israel-Mojzesz was a byword in the city. At the request of the Zionist movement, he volunteered to take upon himself an important Zionist mission: training many pioneers in various construction-related professions before they emigrated to Israel. It became routine for Zionist youths and activists from the general Zionist movement, as well as Bundists, to gather at the Lewin home and passionately debate their different opinions – as to whether or not it was necessary to make aliyah to Israel.

Leja assisted her husband a great deal in his public activities, as well as in collecting contributions for Zionist funds, including on “Flower Day”. To those debating in her home the necessity of emigrating to Israel, she said, “Whatever happens, everyone will have to go to the Land of Israel.”

Israel-Mojzesz Lewin (1873-1938) passed away in Warsaw in March 1938.

Leja (Hajblum) Lewin (1884-1943), stayed in Warsaw during the war with her two married sisters, and was murdered by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in March 1943.

Leja's mother, Dina Hajblum (1850?- 1940), died in late 1939 or early 1940, after the German Nazis invaded Poland in World War II.

Five of the children of Israel-Mojzesz and Leja fulfilled their parents' vision and made aliyah to Israel:

Batya (Lewin) and Hercke Sojka, in 1933.

Malka Lewin, in 1935.

Arie and Chanka (Lewin) Levy, together with their son Avraham, in 1948.

Reuven and Czarna (Lewin) Levy, together with their son Moshe, on February 18, 1949.

and Frida (Lewin) and Fabian Jagoda, together with their son Alexander, in May 1949.

These were the 12 children, and their descendants, of Mojzesz and Leja:

Isidore Lewin (1900-1926), worked as an engineer in Germany and then moved to Russia. He was killed by Stalin in 1926, during the political purges. His wife was jailed. His daughter, Fania Lewin, lived in Moscow.

Zwi Levin and another three children (males) lived in Russia, were murdered there.

Frida (Lewin) Jagoda (1904-1979) made aliyah to Israel in May 1949 with her husband, Fabian (1905- 1987). Both of them passed away in Tel Aviv. Their daughter, Fania Sadovnik, had four children, Rachel (in Barbados) and Paulina, Edie and Debi (in the United

[Page 248b]

States), and grandchildren: their son, Alexander (1933- 2009) and his wife, Judith, had three children, a son,

Steven, and two daughters, Ami and Heidi. Steven and his wife, Sussane, had three children, Lee Michael, Aaron Hunter and Molly Roze. Ami and her husband, Marc Shefter, have one child, Barri Leigh. Heidi and her husband, Robert Samson, have one child, Elijah. Ami and Heidi and their families live in the United States.

Batya “Bashka” (Lewin) Sojka (1907-1978) made aliyah to Israel in 1933, with her husband, Hercke (1902-1959), who passed away in Tel Aviv. Batya passed away in Caracas, Venezuela. Their son, Mark (Mojzesz-Moshe) Soyka, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1943, was named after his grandfather. He lives in Miami Beach, Florida, with his wife, Gabi, and their four children, Paluma, Gabriel, Sasha and Daniel.

Hersz-Jakob Lewin (1910-1944) fought as a partisan against the Nazis. He was murdered by them together with his wife, Ruth (née Rosenthal). Their daughter, Bianka “Biele” (1939-1943) was murdered by the Nazis when she was four years old.

Malka Lewin (1910-1986) made aliyah to Israel in 1935. She passed away in Haifa.

Peszka (Lewin) Frydman disappeared in the forests when she fled to the partisans, after her husband, Abraham, was shot and killed by the Nazis at the door of their home, in front of his mother.

Arie (Lewin) Levy (1911-1992) made aliyah to Israel in 1948 and passed away in Tel Aviv. His wife, Chana “Chanka” (née Boden), may she live many long years, is a survivor of Auschwitz. She was born in 1924 in Hrubieshouw, and lives in Tel Aviv. Arie met Chanka during one of his missions: in 1946-1948, Arie helped in the illegal transfer of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Austria to Italy, through the Alps, on their way to illegal immigration to Israel.

Their son, Avraham (born in a British detention camp in Cyprus after Arie and Chakna were captured while attempting to immigrate to Israel illegally), and his wife, Bella, have two children, Keren and Shahar, and six grandchildren. Their daughter, Lea (named after her grandmother Leja), has two children, Sharon and Tomer, and three grandchildren.

Reuven “Ruwek” (Lewin) Levy (1921-1995) was “the son of Mojzesz and Leja's old age”. There is evidence that he was born in 1919. He passed away in Ra'anana, Israel, on September 21, 1995. His wife,

Czarna (née Zielinski), was born in Poltusk on October 30, 1919 and passed away in Tel Aviv on February 5, 1994.

In September 1939, with the German invasion of Poland, their children, Frida (Lewin) Jagoda, her husband Fabian, their children Fania and Alexander, and her youngest brothers, Arie and Reuven, fled from Ostrolenka to Bialystok. In 1940, they were expelled from Bialystok, and endured great hardship and suffering during their journey in Russia, through Bukhara, to the Ural Mountains.

On December 30, 1940, Reuven married Czarna in Russia, near Wolgada. In 1943, he was drafted into the Polish Brigade in Russia, which fought against the German Nazis. He served in the Brigade as a logistics officer until 1946. He fought the Nazis and received the Conqueror of Berlin medal.

On July 6, 1944, their son, Moshe, was born in the Ural Mountains. After the war ended they returned to Poznan, in Poland, and then, in 1948, to Lodz.

After the continued pogroms against the Jews in Poland, in 1948, Reuven, Czarna and their son, Moshe, left Poland by train to Paris, France. On February 18, 1949, they embarked on the S.S. Transylvania at Marseille, France, and sailed to the port of Haifa, Israel.

Reuven and Czarna had three children:

Moshe Levy was born in 1944 in a forest in the U.S.S.R., while his parents were escaping from the Nazis. He was named after his grandfather, Mojzesz- Moshe. He lives in Tel Aviv.

Eitan (Levy) Levin was born in Tel Aviv on March 12, 1949, a month after his parents made aliyah to Israel. He lives in Ra'anana with his wife, Liora. They have three children: Sharon and Nati Eder (who have two children, Shahar and Aviv), Boaz and Hagit Levy (who have two children, Ziv and Adi), and Nimrod Levin.

[Page 248c]

Avraham Levy was born in Tel Aviv on March 10, 1958. He lives in Ra'anana with his wife, Ester, and their two children, Eran and Idan.

Since making aliyah to Israel in 1948-9, the Levy brothers, Reuven and Arie, continued in the footsteps of their father, Mojzesz. For approximately 45 years, they worked as industrialists in an iron cutting and bending factory.

Mojzesz and Leja's children who made aliyah to Israel, and their children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, both male and female, served and now (in 2009) serve in the Israel Defense Forces as officers and soldiers. Eitan as a fighter pilot, Avraham and Eran as tankists, Boaz and Nimrod in intelligence, Idan in infantry, and more.

In 2001, during a visit to find his roots in Poland, Eitan Levin and his wife, Liora, found the Lewin house in Ostrolenka, where his grandparents, Israel-Mojzesz and Leja, had lived together with two of their children: Reuven and Arie. It was located in the back yard of a new private house, at Berek Joselewicz Street 16. The 70 square meters, one-story, four room house (in a railroad-style layout), and the garage and chicken coop next to it were absolutely identified by Yehuda Chamiel and Shlomo Margalit, who were neighbors and friends of Reuven and Arie. The house heater, the kitchen oven, the linoleum floor, the wooden cupboards and the lamps looked as they had then - as if frozen in time!

Eitan (Levy) Levin

Secretary and Member of the Book Publishing Committee

Son of Reuven and Czarna (Lewin) Levy

Grandson of Israel-Mojzesz and Leja Lewin

 

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