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The Shtetl Ciechanow and Yiddish Literature

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Nearly every Yiddish shtetl in Poland got reflected in Yiddish literature. There are shtetlech with Jewish villagers from which there came forth portrayals by great Yiddish writers who wrote about their surroundings and people of the years of their childhood. Writers such as Sholem Asch, I.M. Visenberg, Avraham Raisen, are examples. Ciechanow also produced writers who in one way or another introduced their shtetl to Yiddish literature.

The shtetl also entered Yiddish literature through its famous rabbis and rabbinic personalities. This is how the great writer I. Opatashu memorializes in his novel The Ciechanower Nigun the personage, the great Tzadik Reb Avreml Ciechanower, whose great -grandson was the great American poet Zishe Landau. Landau in his poem, also mentions his great-grandfather, the Ciechanow Reb Avreml.

Zishe Landau was born in Plotsk but he traced his distinguished ancestry back to the Ciechanow Tzadik and famous rabbinic scholar, Gaon Reb Avreml of Ciechanow and his son, Reb Wolf, who became Rebbe in Strikov -- the grandfather of the poet Fishe Landau. (See Raisen, Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, 2nd volume).

Besides this above-mentioned connection with Yiddish literature, there were in Ciechanow, in the last years prior to the khurban, the talented writers and artists. One of these was Yosl Grosbard. His brother has written about him. This brother is himself a very talented and recognized artist who now lives in Israel.

Yehoshua Grosbard also names the following talented Jewish boys whose talents didn't have the opportunity to develop. They perished in World War II:

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Chaim Krulik -- had a talent for drawing. Copied paintings and wanted to be a great artist. Herschel Friedberg -- copied pictures of Eretz Yisroel; the Western Wall, Rachel's Tomb, also painted landscapes. He died in Israel during World War II; Glass or Lass -- wrote reviews and poems and his end is not known; Nisl Kancianer -- was musically talented. Painted. Died in Israel.

In this section we bring the literary works that relate to Ciechanow Jewish writers and with the Jews of Ciechanow.


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Zishe Landau

To the Ciechanower

I'm not free - of my zaides
There's a long chain behind me;
I am not free - my every step
Is closely followed from close eyes!
Relaxed, but with a firm hand
I continue in this iron chain.
My blood feels you close, Ciechanower
Because as was your life, so does mine carry duty.
If I want to or not, I accept it with love.
Still for this iron destiny
My heart will not fear
Because just as you, so feel I the holiness of the duty
Here is the net of duties and laws,
Oh, how many there are and joy!
And only a slave can think that an eagle
Doesn't hold his arms outstretched in his cage!
Oh, Reb Avraham Ciechanower,
I, like you, stretch out my arms.
(From the book, Poems (Lider) by Zishe Landau.
Published by “Inzl” publishers, New York, 1937).

I. Opotashu


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The Ciechanower Nigun

dedicated to Zishe Landau

It was already well into Friday when Wolf Landau awoke, started to stretch and remained in bed with his hands beneath his head.

Friday was his day of rest. To the editorial office where he worked, he did not go on Friday. The newspaper, an orthodox one, did not appear on Shabbat. On Friday Landau ate breakfast in bed. This heavy duty weighed upon him and made a demand on him.

And if you like, it wasn't a duty at all. Just listen to this -- and if the Bailer Rebbe's second son, the Rebbe Reb Menakhem Mendl, came from Poland to New York, what does that have to do with him, with Wolf? It's true that the Bialer Rebbe is a great-great-uncle. This means that he, Wolf, is a great-grandchild of the Strikover Rebbe, a blood relative of Reb Menakhem Mendl. In Poland these blood relatives never met. When Wolf, a boy of sixteen, came to New York, the fifty-year-old Menakhem Mendl had been a Rebbe for a long time. Now the Rebbe must be around seventy. And he, Wolf, just from the distance that separates them, these kin, his head starts to spin. Still, more than once Wolf feels that since the age of sixteen he is following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, the Strikover. The Strikover sang hymns to God and to all the people of Israel and the great-grandchild sings songs to “girls like half-moons.”

Wolf's great-grandfather, Reb Avreml Ciechanower, believed that the impurity spreads itself during night-time on the tips of the fingers and can possibly touch the face during sleep, so the Tzadik, Reb Avreml, slept with hand gloves, and the grandchild, to spite his grandfather, dreamt about “girls' songs” and “impure matters” -- also sang the Sefra Achra with its forty-nine degrees of impurity, so what kind of a relationship could there possibly be between the grandchild and his grandfathers and uncles?

And yet?

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As soon as Wolf discovered that Reb Menakhem Mendl is in New York, he became restless. He didn't speak about this to anyone. Not with his wife, not with his two children. He tried to ignore this bit of news, convinced himself that he had long ago forgotten about this, but as soon as he was left alone, he beheld an old man, an illustrious face, dressed in silk and satin, with beard and payes, his eyes -- bright. This is what he had been told about the appearance of the Strikover, the Bialer, that's how the great-uncle Reb Raphael looked and that's probably how Reb Menakhem Mendl looks.

And what about Wolf Landau?

No tzitzis, a head of blond hair falls on his forehead and into his blue, dreamy eyes, and in his eyes a revocative smile to people and to the world.

It happened more than once that when Wolf stood in front of the mirror combing his thick head of hair he asked himself: “What sort of connection does my revocative smile have with the Ciechanower, with the Strikover, with the Bialer?”

On the surface -- no relationship. But deep in the soul Wolf was drawn to the Ciechanower simplicity, to his deed modesty, when he could hide himself away from people. But I., Avraham, am a sinner. Ever since my youth people have been running after me.

For many years Wolf went around with a song to the Ciechanower Zaide. The first line of the song was always on his lips, whether at home or at the office, whether in the street or when he was by himself, the song would come to him, begging for an improvement of myself.

“Closest to my blood
Is you Ciechanower,
Because just as you during your lifetime
I feel I have a duty.”

And when these lines urge him on, then he feels that for twenty years he was fooling himself; that his songs about “blue and red nightingales” were merely misleading candles that distanced him from his grandfathers and uncles, while in reality a cry begs to be expressed from within him.

“I am not free from my zaides!
From them a long chain extends to me.”

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And this chain pulled Wolf and drew him to the Rebbe who came from Poland, Reb Menakhem Mendl, who also wrote poetry in his youth.

After lunch Wolf Landau exited from the subway on east Broadway, turned in on Henry Street. It was only here that his heart rose up, fluttered, and could not calm down.

The Rebbe stayed in a two-story wooden house. He occupied the complete second floor.

Wolf carefully made his way up the wooden stairs that squeaked, not knowing what he would talk about to the Rebbe. In front of his eyes stood his great-great-grandmother, the wife of the Ciechanow Rov, the Tzadikah, Iteleh. Was she truly such a tiny little woman? And during the winter, when she would go to a woman who was after a birth, bringing a container of jam, Did her grown sons carry her in their hands?

A Jew, without a jacket, just in his tallis-koten, beard and payes, stopped Wolf.

“What good news does a Jew have?”

“Is Reb Menakhem-Mendl alone here?”

“Here.”

“And who are you, his shames?”

“Yes.”

“I want to see the Rebbe.”

“Not Shabbat. He doesn't see anyone on Shabbat.”

“It's not Shabbat.”

“To the Rebbe it's already Shabbat.”

“Tell the Rebbe that a relative has come to see him.”

“What relative?” The shames' wise eyes looked at the shaved relative scornfully.

“Tell the Rebbe that Reb Mordekhai Motl's grandson came to see him.”

“That's to say that you're Reb Strikover's grandson?”

Wolf nodded his head in the affirmative.

“Have you been in America very long?”

“About twenty years.”

“Doing what, in business?”

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“No, I work for a newspaper.”

“A writer?” the shames asked, drawing out his words.

At this point the door opened, and the Rebbe, a tall man, slightly bent, in a satin capote, quietly entered, in his soft slippers, and remained standing at the door. His white socks contrasted with his black satin. The thick silk belt was loosely tied around his hips, and his wise, much-suffering face, was framed by a gray, pointy beard. He looked at Wolf as though he felt sorry for him, for how can a man destroy his own image of God form!

The Rebbe offered him “Shalom” and said:

“As I hear, you are a grandson of uncle Motl.”

“Yes, Rebbe.”

“Your father told me that he has a son in America. You're called Wolf, named after the Strikover Rov Z”L. You had a great zaide, Wolf.”

“We had an even greater great-grandfather,” Wolf said.

“Are you learning at all?” the Rebbe asked him.

“It's a long time since I stopped learning, Rebbe.”

“Too bad, too bad, Wolf,” the Rebbe said, his face clouding over, “but if you, a writer, have come to see me, come to see a relative, a Rebbe, you are still okay. I have faith that you will return to learning one day. And now, Wolf, it's ahead Shabbes by me,” the Rebbe said, extending the tips of his fingers, then went into his room with the familiar Ciechanower nigun, and shut his door after him.

Wolf remained standing in the middle of the room and looked toward the closed door. Did he feel insulted? No. Who knew better than Wolf how holy the Shabbat was for the Ciechanow Jews! After all, Reb Avreml Ciechanower, Z”L, had asked that the Hasidic Rebbes not come to him for Shabbat, because if they were to come he would have to conduct himself like a Hasidic Rebbe while, all his life, he had stuck to the “Ashkenazi way.”

And for Reb Menakhem Mendl? For him it was already Shabbat. And although it was Shabbat the Rebbe had come out and greeted Wolf with Shalom, said a few words to him and then had gone into his special room with the Ciechanow nigun on his lips, the nigun that Wolf remembered from his young days.

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As he heard the first zmira nigun, he saw, in front of his eyes, the first Ciechanower, Reb Avreml, hurrying Friday morning after davening, going quickly, with his shames, from store to store, checking the scales, making sure that his Jews are giving the right weights. And by two in the afternoon the Shames is already going by himself through the narrow streets, calling out: To shul, to shul.”

And when Wolf descended the stairs, he was already on Henry Street, the Ciechanow zmira-nigun once more came to him, and he carried it through the streets of New York.


Yehoshua Grosbard

My Brother, the Poet, Yosl Grosbard

All of us at home knew that Yosl was growing to be a writer. Already in 1927, at the age of 22, he was already featured in a journal that appeared in Pultosk. He had a poem, “My Shtetl” published there and it drew the attention of the Yiddish literary critic.

Yosl was born in the year 1905 in a small shtetl called Serotsk, where the rivers “Bug” and “Narev” join. He would always tell that as a youngster he swam in the Narev and nearly got drowned. This connected him lovingly to the shtetl. As a child he moved with his parents to Ciechanow, where he completed the folk shule and later helped his father in his work as a house painter.

In 1918 Yosl came with his parents to Warsaw. There he worked in a metal factory, where he was badly exploited by the boss. At the same time he was active in the metalworkers' union and in the youth movement of the Bund Tzukunft. Later in Komstzunft and later in the young communists party. He studied in evening classes and studied art for awhile with the artist, Moishe Applebaum.

In 1928 Yosl came with his family to Ciechanow once more. He was active in the An-ski library, gave lectures on philosophy, communal and cultural themes; wrote and composed music for poetry for various publications in Poland as well as elsewhere, such as “Farois”, “Literarishe Bleter” and “Undzer Veg.” In his poetry one can feel his attachment to the day-to-day life.

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The talented poet and labor leader in Ciechanow -- Yosef Grosbard
The talented poet and labor leader in Ciechanow -- Yosef Grosbard

Picture Index

In “To my Song” published in Argentina's “Der Shpigl” he wrote:

Come down from your high places
Take off your dress of blue,
I'll furnish you with simple boots
And you'll walk beside me.
In his poem, “Nem Tzunoif Aleh Vortzlen” (printed in “Farois”):
Let the joy of the dream fill you
From the blade of grass and from each tree,
Oh, try your best to understand
The secret of -- wanting to grow and of being…

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The restless sweetness in the air
Accept together with the nightingale's sweet song
See how the bird delights
As it faithfully builds its nest.

Yosl's attachment to the concrete life appears more clearly in his cycle of songs called “Doh” Here) published in “Farois” 1938.

It's not only the vanished body of my zaide
Dust, beneath the moss-covered stone,
Not only the lingering fear
Of my Mother's -- Father's present plagued days,
But also my proud bright dream
That springs up like a freshly blossoming tree --
My dream of the week to come
Is interwoven and tied to the earth -- here.

In a second poem in the same cycle Grosbard wrote:

Right here! From this same mother's lap
As the pine tree, poplar and the rose
So it is that I also am from here.

It is interesting to note the theme of the cycle of songs: “A Grus Dir Bergelson Fun Shtetl” (Regards to you Bergelson from the Shtetl) published in “Shpigl” of Buenos Aires, 1945. The editor added the following:

“The poet, Y. Grosbard, sent us this poem in 1938. He already then felt the terrible khurban that was approaching the Yiddish shtetl and shtetlech of Poland. Grosbard wrote us at that time that this poem is the first in a cycle of poems called “A Grus Bergelson Fun Shtetl” that I'll shortly be sending you. We awaited the future poems, but meanwhile the war broke out and destroyed the Jewish life in Poland. From Y. Grosbard we not only did not receive any poems, but neither did we receive any word or sign of his life. Where is he to be found, this loving, sorrowful poet Grosbard who, in the year 1939, believed that “Wonders will yet appear”?…

*

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Generally speaking, Grosbard had a struggling nature, was always ready to discuss various problems, especially those regarding literature, poetry, art and music. He loved to sing and play. He didn't like beating around the bush, as he wrote in his poem “Aibikut's Dibros” (Eternal Words), published in “Yalkut Hamoadim (B) in Buenos Aires 1943:

There are all kinds of words, hard as granite,
Simple ones, raw ones, that flow from blood.
Words that strike like lightning and remain cold --
Bengalish fire that it quickly extinguished.

Yosl hated this cold phony fire and for this reason he experienced deeply all of life's events. Just before the war, when eastern Jews were driven out of Germany, he wrote in his song, “Plitim” (Refugees) published in “Folks' Tzeitung” June 1939:

These days --
That are coursing through you
Are flames
Of a burning stream.
In a poem from the cycle “Here”, he wrote:

And against the dark waves of today,
And against the enemy --
I shall struggle with raging force,
And fight with teeth,
With arms and legs --
Until - - -
There will arrive in my land
The brotherly hand…
In another of Yosl's poems we read:

My doubting heart never was
Believe -- that wonders will yet happen.

Unfortunately he never lived to see the day of this wonder. Recently I have received articles from friends, from newspapers and journals where there are reviews about Grosbard. I also received an article from friend Appel from the “Forward” of January 23, 1960. There the writer Sh. L. Shneiderman wrote the following about a trip to Yosl's place of birth, Serotsk:

“Serotsk also produced a talented young poet and artist, Yosl Grosbard who, shortly before the outbreak of war started to get attention from the Jewish literary and artistic circles of Warsaw. His deeply-sorrowful poems of the shtetl express the spirit of the lyricist and the eye of the artist.”

“In 1939, just before the catastrophe, Yosl Grosbard wrote a cycle of poems in which there is expressed the deep worries that prevailed in his birthplace, Serotsk. It was a sort of premonition of the great khurban.”

There are the poems called a “Grus Din Bergelson fun Shtetl” that I have mentioned above. Shneiderman, however, makes the mistake in thinking that Grosbard was describing Serotsk. During the 20's he was living in Ciechanow and he wrote the poem in Ciechanow, but the poem is characteristic of the majority of Yiddish shtetlech in Poland. That's the greatness of the poem, in that it generalizes and expressed that which is characteristic…

Everyone in Ciechanow knew Yosl in his day-to-day life when he was working hard as a house painter in order to earn a livelihood. Little did they believe how talented this young man was, but those who knew him closer felt, as they spoke with him, that he was a person who had deep feelings for the suffering and endurance of those around him. In this sense his poem, “The Woman with the Milk Pitcher.” In this simple way he showed much artistic empathy and rich form.

His talent started to deepen and widen, both in poetic and artistic creation. Unfortunately, it was all to end. Together with his wife and young child and our parents he, like all our Jews of Ciechanow, were tortured and murdered by the Germans in Auschwitz.


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Songs of Yosl Grosbard

A Grus Dir Bergelson fun Shtetl
With words from my gray spirit
A letter, I write you, in a poem
Oh winds! Carry my regards far off --
About my shtetl, tell all
Summer has flown away together with all the birds
The days -- filled up with grayness
The yishuv has huddled up together
Embraced, like children with their mother.
Gloomy autumn is now here
The sky above is patchy -- gray on gray,
All the roads are bare and empty
Full of mud after the rain.
Angry winds are now around
And are neighing just like horses
And strive to uproot hundred-year-old trees
From their deep roots in the soil.
The despair covers the narrow streets
And remains standing at the end of the alleys
And wanders back and forth
For where else does it have to go?…
The marketplace -- how old it looks in all this cold
It was once boisterous -- now a finished hero
At a table, a woman freezing stands, a Jew
And behind them the stones often shine red.
The railway station -- an indifferent local
Its walls sinking and dreaming in its stony sorrow.

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Trains come and quickly leave
And smoke and fumes quietly rock the way
In the houses of the rich the radio plays concerts loudly
And present-day joyful music as well.
And green parrots still draw out from envelopes
Of 'katarinkes' -- the blue good fortune.
More losers now than ever
Fear and angst -- await at every door
Not only by Reb Gedalya are the shutters closed
It happens: in the morning night lurks here.
Oh You, great Judge so far away
Forgive my sorrowful talk
My suffering heart never did exist
Believe -- that miracles will yet happen!…
The Woman with the Milk Pitcher
In windy weather, in frost and snow
Like a part of the daily-gray shine
A dark shadow passes in front of my window
The gnarled shadow on the opposite wall --
The woman with the milk pitcher in her hand.
In houses, in courtyards with wooden steps
There await her, in kitchens, the pots and the saucepans
The old woman comes with her pitcher of milk, early each morning
And fills the utensils with milk
All alone, in her old age, she makes her rounds.

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For groshns that she gathers each day in this way
She brings home for the nourishment herring and bread.
She chews up her food with her toothless mouth
That's how she spends her old years, she and her pitcher.
Like birds that have flown from their nests at summer's end
Across oceans, to warmer lands,
So children have long ago parted
And an aching heart is left…
At least if the birds would return next year
And greet us happily with twitter and tweet,
But children have vanished like stone in the sea
And mother is left alone with a broken heart.
Recently, in the dim light, at my window a while,
The old woman with her pitcher there stood
She motions with her hands, giving me to understand:
“Just think about this -- Is it really possible, that which is written
That one will no longer be able to sell the bit of milk
That it's finished!
No longer to climb stairs, go from house to house?”
And she ends with a piercing crying again:
“All that's left is a rope on one's neck,
And simply to expire thus.”

(Written in 1938, published in “Der Shpigl”

Buenos Aires January 1945)


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Shimon Stern

Tears

The following poem was written by the youngest brother of the great poet, Yisroel Shtern. Shimon lived many years in Ciechanow, where he was active in the Zionist organization as well as culturally. He wrote poems. Some appeared in the journal, “Shprotzungen” in the late 1920's in Warsaw.

Yisroel Shtern had another brother, Hirsh. (He was called “Hershele”), a well-known figure in Warsaw's Writers' Union. He was on friendly terms with everyone, was a fine singer of folk songs. Many of them he composed for the famous folk-singer, Kipnis. He also spent much time with his family in Ciechanow. By trade he was a boot-maker.

This poem “Tears” Shimon dedicated to his artist friend Yehoshua Grosbard.

Holy are those who cry
When days approach like messengers of doom
Of years loaded with pain
Of growing-up years,
When such a childish fear strikes
Without reason, not making sense.
“Without reason, not making sense”
When a mother stands at the bedside of her dying child
And there is no proper place for her heartfelt prayers --
So she cries and cries
And her hot motherly tears fall
Upon ice-cold stones
Upon ice-cold stones
When days start to press upon the old man
And choke,
When minutes dance around him
Words remain empty
Like shadows of a fading light --
God of mercy and grace
And he cries and he cries
Holy are those who cry.

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Drawing of the Grosbard family's house on Proshnitzer Street in Ciechanow, by Yehoshua Grosbard
Drawing of the Grosbard family's house on Proshnitzer Street
in Ciechanow, by Yehoshua Grosbard

Picture Index

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Avraham Pinkhas Unger

The Son and the Grandchild of the Ciechanower Rebbe, Reb Avremele

The Ciechanower Rebbe, Reb Avremele Landau, had a son, Reb Wolf, who was greatly beloved by his father's Hasidim. Finally, some of the Hasidim, mainly those of Warsaw and Lodz, crowned Reb Wolf as their Rebbe, and they chose the city Strikov for the Rebbe's place. Strikov is only three miles from Lodz. At that time there were already two railways in Lodz. One went to Warsaw, the other to Dombrove, Bendin and Sosnowitz. From Dombrove a train went to Ivangrad and passed through Keltzer and Radomer provinces. This helped a lot for Keltzer and Radomer district Hasidim to come to the Strikover Rebbe.

The Hasidim built a nice large house in Strikov for their Rebbe, and a large Bais Hamedresh as well. It was called “The Cold Bais Hamedresh.” In addition they also built a smaller Bais Hamedresh. In the large Bais Hamedresh they davened only on Shavuos, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, because on those yomtovim several hundred Hasidim came to the rebbe. The small Bais Hamedresh was long, with many windows on both sides, with a large bookcase. There they davened on week-days, on Shabbat and also on the Yomtovim -- when not many Hasidim came -- Pesakh and Sukot. On one side of the Bais Hamedresh there stood a large house with a gate through which one entered and there was a second door for entering the Bais Hamedresh and the Rebbe's house.

On the other side of the yard there was an orchard. In there stood a hut with tables where the Rebbe rested after a walk in the orchard. In the huts the Rebbe received wealthy Hasidim and rabbonim who came to ask the Rebbe for advice regarding their Kehillot, or to discuss Torah matters with him. At the end of the small Bais Hamedresh there stood the Rebbe's house where the Rebbe greeted the Hasidim who came to him. In this house the Hasidim also bade the Rebbe farewell when they departed for home.

To the Rebbe, Reb Wolf, all kinds of Hasidim came, rich and poor. Religious functionaries also came, rabbonim from smaller and larger cities, cantors, young men who boarded at their in-laws, and so on. Some of the young men came to the Rebbe asking for ordination to be rabbis.

The Rebbe's shames was called Groinem. His job was to select the Hasidim who would sit at the Rebbe's table. After davening, Groinem once more called out each Hasid by name to join the Rebbe at his table. He seated the Hasidim, each one at his place, and when the Rebbe's sons and sons-in-law were seated, Groinem would call the Rebbe, telling him that all are seated at the table. He returned and called out: “Quiet please, the Rebbe is entering.” All, like one man, rose to their feet. The Rebbe said Kiddush over a large wine-cup. Wine kept being added to the Rebbe's cup so that there would be enough for everyone. Some Hasidim hid the wine of the Rebbe's kiddush cup to bring it home for a sick one, so that he should drink from this wine and recover.

The Rebbe washed his hands -- and after him the Hasidim. The Rebbe made the Hamotzi. Everyone got a piece of his challah. After this the Rebbe got a large platter of fish so that he should have enough so that there would even be some left over. After the Rebbe finished passing the fish around to all those who were at the table, Groinem placed the platter with the remaining fish in the center of the table. A grab was made for the remaining fish by those who were not sitting at the Rebbe's table. They had finished eating early so that they could come to the Rebbe's Torah talk on time.

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When the Rebbe was giving his Torah talk it was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop. When the Rebbe finished his Torah talk he would call upon a Hasid who had a good voice to sing zmirot. After the blessings the Hasidim danced until it was time for the afternoon worship. After that they ate Shalosh Seudah and davened the evening prayers.

After evening prayers the Hasidim came to say farewell to the Rebbe. Each one would leave a note with his wishes (a good livelihood, to marry off a daughter, health) and thereby left a contribution.

When Reb Wolf died his son, Reb Motl, became the Rebbe in Strikover, but he didn't have half the number of Hasidim as his father. Many of the Strikover Hasidim started to go to the Alexander Rebbe who up to that time was considered a small-town Rebbe. Other Strikover Hasidim started to go to the Sakhochover brilliant one, Reb Avremele, and still others to the Gerer Rebbe.

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The Rebbe, Reb Motl, was very learned, knew the Tanakh very well also. He knew many chapters of Tanakh off by heart. He could also read and write loshen kodesh very well, as well as other languages and was the author of two books. One book was called: Ki Mordecai Doresh Tov.

Once the Rebbe saw me reading a Hebrew newspaper (at the Rebbe's house). He asked me where I got it. I told him that a few fellows subscribed to it. There was something that I didn't understand in the paper, so I would ask the Rebbe and he would explain it to me.

I learned by Rebbe Reb Motl and also in the Rebbe's house itself I read many books, both Yiddish and Hebrew ones. Often the Rebbe would see me reading a book or a newspaper but he didn't comment.

(From the book, My Hometown Strikove, published by “Arbeiter Ring” New York 1957.


Yehoshua Podruznik -- the Ciechanower Writer

Yehoshua was born in Ciechanow in 1894 into a Hasidic family. He learned his Yiddish studies from his father, Yitzhak, a Gerer Hasid who also had an interest in modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature.

At the age of 13 Yehoshua and his parents left for Antwerp. There he completed high school and then worked in the diamond industry, studying at the university at the same time.

Podruznik started his journalistic writing at the age of 16 as a correspondent for “Friend”, where he regularly worked until the outbreak of World War I, when the newspaper ceased. At the same time he published several articles in the Parisian “Neyem Journal” ((New Journal) and in the “Yiddisher Velt” (Jewish World) where one article concerned the National Language Question in Belgium.

Together with the engineer Y. Lifshitz, Podruznik published a monthly journal in 1913, called “Der Yidisher Student” (the Jewish Student) that was the first attempt at a periodical that would unite the various thousands of Jewish students of eastern Europe who studied in the west European universities.

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During that period Podruznik, together with M. Lipson and I. Krefliak, edited the first Jewish newspaper in Belgium as well. It was called “Der Ma arev” (The West), a weekly that was published only four times.

At the start of World War I Prodruznik left for London, where he worked for “Di Tzeit” (The Time). Then he went to New York. There he worked at various times in “Tog” (Day), “Tzukunft” (Future), “Vahrheit” (Present). He was on the editorial board and publisher of a large work, “A Togbukh fun Der Milkhomeh” (A Diary of the War). He also wrote feuilletons in “Kurds” (Art), at one time translating the novel, “Roiteh Lily” (Red Lily, Farlag “Yiddish”, New York).

When Jabotinsky founded the Jewish Legion, Podruznik joined. After World War I he returned to London, where he once more worked for “Di Tzeit”, was one of the founders of the monthly “Renaissance” under the editorship of Leo Kenig, and in 1920 ceased his journalistic work and founded “Das Internatzionale Tzeitungs Bureau” (The International Newspaper Bureau) -- an institution that made a name for itself with its bibliographic collections. This newspaper bureau served various governments in historical and community societies and so on. Podruznik collected over a million excerpts from newspapers and journals that have a connection with Jews.

In 1924 he also edited an English journal devoted to the profession of journalism.

For the last five years Podruznik is working on a large five-volume undertaking on the theme: “Moderne Yiddishe Merkverdikeytn” (Modern Jewish Matters).

(Source: Zalmen Rai in -- Lexicon Fun Der Yidisher Literatur, Philadelphia, vol. 2, p. 842).

Zalmen Raisen's Lexicon, as is well known, only includes biographical information up to the year 1928, when this was published. Regarding the further life of Podruznik we discovered the following: He is carrying on with his newspaper bureau to the present day, in partnership with his son.

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