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Reb Laibish Borenstein - the Rebbe, Teacher and Spiritual Leader

With the arrival of Reb Laibish in Ciechanow, the religious education in the Talmud Torah was expanded and strengthened. The influence of his personality can still be felt to the present day through his students and admirers who were privileged to survive the great tragedy of our people.

Reb Laibish was a quiet man, calm, always deep in thought. He lived in a higher world and strove to create a better, loftier world, and in this spirit he influenced his students.

Reb Laibish was not simply a teacher. He was a spiritual leader who lived together with his students. Nothing in the Talmud was hidden for him. He instigated a new method of learning that made the student independent and put him on the path of thinking. The Rebbe organized a separate House of Prayer (Beth T'fillah) for his students, conducted Shalos Seudas with them, talked Torah at the table, danced, sang, with one word – filled the whole life of the students with content.

He did his educational work with much love so that the children grew very attached to him. They felt a high respect for him. When a student was weak in this studies, Reb Laibish had much sorrow, and the medicine he found in the soul of the child. He used various means to light the fire of the soul, the spark, with which he generally had success. Mainly his success showed Shabbes and Yomtov when he had his students at his table.

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The Talmud Torah building, the teachers and the principal
The Talmud Torah building, the teachers and the principal
L to R: Wolf Greenbaum, Herschel Nirenberg, Yosef Chaim Stempion, Reb Avraham Aaron Kalman, Mordecai Tzinamon, Mendl Gotliber.
Second row top: Yehoshua Bromson and executive member, Isaachar Ciechanower

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They studied Torah, ate together, sang zmirot, danced with much hasidic fervor.

In particular there remained in our mind the last Shavuos before his death. For a whole 48 hours he did not take leave of his talmidim. The children ran home for a few minutes to grab something to eat and returned to the Rebbe. His whole conduct that last Shavuos was different from previously, all, with so much fervor. He danced, sang, taught Torah, hurried, as though he felt that time is short. He still has something to say before it will be too late. And the students, wrapped in an enormous religious ecstasy, seemed to soak his words in, seized every thought. They felt that something great is about to happen, that every minute is precious, because who knows if there will still be the privilege to hear the holy words.

Reb Laibish left a spiritual inheritance for his students as to how to live as a Jew, how to be a Jew. This inheritance his students cherished faithfully. Generally, he used to go home to his family for Yomtov. That last Shavuos he postponed the trip, saying that he wants to make the trip in the Hebrew month of Sivan on the twenty-sixth day, for his father's yahrzeit.

He traveled home for the yahrzeit Friday evening for the davening, said Kadish, went to sleep and never awakened. This wonderful person passed away on his father's yahrzeit. He left orphaned students who mourn him to the present day. His death came totally unexpectedly.

The students sat in class and learned with interest, as they waited for the Rebbe's return. But, like a thunderclap, the news reached them that their saintly rebbe will not return to them. A cry from the heart broke out and all the students sat down on the floor – Shiva, and mourned their spiritual leader. Like faithful children the students observed the Kadish (prayer) and the study of Mishnot on the day of his yahrzeit.

Years passed, the struggle for life and existence spread the students in all parts of the world. In order that the memory of the Rebbe should not be forgotten, at the initiative of some of his pupils, with his beloved student Shmuel Fuchs at the head, a committee was formed to perpetuate his name by writing a Sefer Torah.

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The completion of a Sefer Torah in memory of the honored Rebbe
The completion of a Sefer Torah in memory of the honored Rebbe
From R to L, standing: Shlomo Loketch, Yisroel Beckerman, Dovid Bromson, Yechiel Lefkowitz, Shmuel Fuchs, Yudl Kronenberg, Tzadik Stopien.
Seated: Shlomo Fuchs, Isaachar Berko, Moishe Malina, Simcha Ciechanower, Shlomo Slurl and Zelig Ostry

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The day of the beginning of the writing of the Sefer Torah was a sad one for our family. Our beloved father died on that date. Naturally we could not participate in the joyful occasion. My brother did manage to mention my father before the crowd, but unfortunately he was destined from above to be torn away from us on that day.

In the celebration there participated our Rov. He spoke about the great personage, Reb Laibish, who was a great Torah leader. The beginning of the Sefer Torah writing was very successful, and just at the yahrzeit the end of the writing was celebrated. In a great parade, through illuminated streets, a folk-march took place. Ciechanow had never seen such a celebration up to that time. Men, women and drums participated and from everyone's lips a blessing was heard for Reb Laibish's holy memory.

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At the great catastrophe of our people, most of the talmidim of Reb Laibish perished. Very few remained alive. Their names are: the Rov Chaim Dovid Shevel, Rov Simcha Laib Dzedzitz (Rov in California), Maier Pshiskha, Shmuel Yosef Tzitrin, Yisroel Beckerman. His most beloved and best talmid was Rov Chaim Ber Shevel, the son-in-law of Reb Binyamin Krainer, Rov in Chicago.


Reb Shimon Srebnik

The next outstanding personage who played a role in religious education in Ciechanow was Reb Shimon Srebnik. If, according to tradition, there are thirty-six Jewish tzadikim, he was definitely amongst them at that time. His service to God was in total devotion, the love of the people Israel boundless. His system of instruction in the yeshiva was: every day the talmidim had to learn a portion of the Tanach from the Chumash, Nevi'im and Ktuvim and Mishna, so that in the course of a year the students would learn all of these completely. the Five Books of Moses, book of the Prophets and Chronicles and Mishna

Reb Shimon endured the most severe trial in the Soviet Union in exile. He was put in prison because for Yom Kippur he organized a service in the Arkhhongelester Forest. There he got sick and died, greatly honored by the whole Jewish population that was found there. I had the privilege of being in the surroundings of Reb Shimon until his soul departed from him.

Let us, in our Yizkor Book, also remember the others who helped in religious education: Reb Moishe, the father-in-law of Reb Shimon who knew Shas and p'sukim and more, off by heart; Reb Yirachmiel, who was already head of the Ger Yeshiva in the time of S'fat Emet Z”L; Reb Avraham Yonatan and fine young man, Reb Mordecai Tzimerman, Reb Ziskind Knoble, a great pedagogue.

* * *

It is understandable that to maintain such a learning institution, with such educators, was not an easy task, and it all existed because of the tireless work of Avraham Aaron Kalman. Let today's generation, and particularly the youth, take an example from such people as Reb Avraham Z”L and let the young people follow in their way.


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Activities of the “Agudah” and its Institutions

With the establishment of the Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow, the frum spirit in the shtetl was strengthened. The bais medrashim that were, until then, empty and neglected, suddenly were full every evening with students of Torah. At one table in the bais hamedresh Reb Chaim Mrock sat and learned with a group of tradesmen, Ein Yaacov, and at a second table a group are studying mishna. Reb Yisroel Student is teaching the Daf Yomi. Psalm reader groups were also organized at that time, as well as other frum groups.

At the first Agudat meeting in the Talmud Torah there gathered: Reb Mordecai Liar, Reb Yoel Dovid Weingarten, Reb Yisroel Yaacov Student, to give reports from the Knissiah G'dola. Great excitement overtook the frum public. The religious power was felt, the organizers, who fight to sustain the uniqueness of Jewish life.

With the establishment of the organized religious Jews to proclaim the Daf Yomi at that time, the voice of Torah was heard in all bais medreshim and shtiblech. All Jews, shomrei Torahs, learned communally at the same time masekhta. Festive Siyumai Shas Masekhot were organized. The festivals turned into great Torah manifestations. The grosh yomi that was organized helped in the development of a large Torah center in Lublin -- Yeshiva Chochmai Lublin, founded by Rov Shapiro Z”L. All this had an influence on the religious youth in Ciechanow.

Later the Tzirei Agudat Yisroel was founded, the organization of religious youth. It tried to win over the youth that found themselves under the influence of Zionism. The Tzirim conducted a strong cultural life in many respects: lectures, readings, parties, establishing libraries, and were also active in the political parties.


The Free Loan Society

One of the most important institutions that the Tzirim founded was the Free Loan Society that developed into a large benefit institution for all Ciechanow Jews. The founders were: Moshe Klinger, Yudl Kronenberg (now in America). Moshe Klinger was an especially interesting type. There was a time when he was already far from a religious life. He had already tasted the life of the modern youth movement, but he was quickly disappointed in it and once more joined the ranks of the Tzirei Agudat Yisroel and threw themselves with all their

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The committee of Tzirei Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow
The committee of Tzirei Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow

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energy and stubbornness into all the Agudah work, and especially to found the Free Loan Society that was the nicest institution in the whole area. It operated with large financial means and was supported by the “Joint.”

In the committee of the Free Loan Society, people of all levels were represented, such as: Avraham Shmuel Lichtenstein, Yoel Dovid Weingarten, Isaachar Ciechanower, Baruch Mordecai Malina, Wolf Henekh Zilbershtram, Gedalia Nagur, Binyamin Kirshenbaum, Moshe Rosenberg, Shlomo Slud, Isaachar Berko, and the two founders – Moishe Klinger and Yudl Kronenberg.

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