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[Page 170]

Personalities in the Town


Reb Feibush Lipka

by Yehezkel Cohen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Donated by Steve Bolef

The influence of my grandfather Feibush Lipka of blessed memory (my mother's father) upon me was very great not only during my childhood, but also as I matured and became independent. His patriarchal personality and refined spirit always accompanied me. He was a scholar as well as a dedicated Zionist in his heat and soul, who infected others with his enthusiasm.

His refined and enlightened personality served as a symbol for the Zionist movement in the town, where he radiated his personality primarily upon the Zionist youth. I recall how I enjoyed sitting with him for hours on end, as he told me about his trip to the Holy Land before the war, about the holy places that he visited and the sights that he saw. At such a time, his eyes burned with the fire of enthusiasm, as his words expressed his great love for the Land of Israel.

His emotional words penetrated deeply into my heart, the heart of a youth, and influenced me for a long time. He was the one who planted in me, and in the friends of my age, the love for Zion and the faith in the return to Zion. Under his influence, many youths became enthusiastic Zionists, who were no longer satisfied in following the normative path paved by their fathers.

I recall how he worked for the election of Rabbi Brod of Lipna, the candidate of the Zionists, for the Polish Sejm (parliament). The religious circles supported the candidacy of my father to the Sejm, whereas the Zionists, including me, fought for our candidate. My grandfather Feibush Lipka supported us with his whole heart, and utilized all of his powers of persuasion to that end.

His influence in town was great, and was recognized in all spheres of life. He had a great deal of property: sawmills a flourmill, lumber warehouses, land, and an electric generator that provided electricity to the entire town. Nevertheless, his great wealth did not blind his eyes and did not harden his heart. His headed the charitable institutions and supported his poor brethren with his money and advice.

He visited the Holy Land twice. The first time was in the 1880s, and the second time in 1914, at the eve of the outbreak of the

[Page 171]

First World War. He returned from these visits enthused, and urged the townsfolk to make aliya to Zion.

Feibush Lipka merited to have sons and daughters who followed his path and took part in communal affairs. He also had a great deal of satisfaction from his grandchildren who were affected with his love of Zion and stood at the helm of Zionist activities in the town.

He passed away full of activity and full of years.


Reb Feivush Lipka

Yosef Chaim Ruda[1]

by Eizberg

Translated by Allen Flusberg

Yosef Chaim Ruda was an active community leader who had a particularly significant impact on the Dobrzyn community. Always empathetic to all that was happening among his Dobrzyn brethren, he devoted a great deal of his time to community affairs.

It would take too long to go into all the details of what he did for dozens of years, working tirelessly for the sake of the town with no expectation whatsoever of reward. To this very day, many of those who emigrated from Dobrzyn long ago remember him and his many good deeds.

During World War I the number of townspeople in need escalated sharply. Yosef Chaim Ruda came to their rescue, seeing to it that free groceries were distributed to them. In this project he found loyal, dedicated assistants in Avraham Hirsh Kohn, z.l.[2], and Yaakov Beilowski, may he live long[3], who lives among us in Israel.

The First World War uprooted a large number of Jews from various towns. Some of them made their way to Dobrzyn, where they found a temporary refuge to wait out the storm. Chaim Ruda came to their rescue with great passion, working day and night to take care of them. He was always thinking about “the poor among your people”[4], and he took care of them the way a father looks after his children.

He was also one of the founders of the Cooperative Jewish Bank and continuously headed its administration. He considered it a very important institution and worked hard to expand its activity. And indeed, this bank helped many of the people of Dobrzyn with both large and small loans, its central goal being to be able to provide firm support for the “little guy”.

Ruda also served as a member of the committee that assessed taxes, which met right next to the income–tax office. In this role as well he revealed his humane approach and his great dedication.

However, most of all Ruda stood out in his Zionist activism, for he was a Zionist in every fiber of his being. He did all in his power to instill the concept of Zionism among his brethren and to help build up the Land, even though he himself was living far away, in Dobrzyn.

When Yitzhak Moshe Offenbach and Adolph Riesenfeld were officiating as the heads of the Zionist Histadrut[5] in the town, Yosef Chaim Ruda and Yaakov Beilowski, may he live long, served as deputies, together carrying the burden of operations. The two of them were also members of the local committee of Keren HaYesod[6].

Like many other people his age, Chaim was, in his youth, a yeshiva student who studied Torah day and night. Once he grew up he became secular and Zionist, bringing down upon himself the wrath of the ultra–Orthodox. On one occasion they even got up and threw him out of the synagogue. None of this was enough to prevent his extensive activity in support of Zionism, for which he travelled a great deal to Warsaw to attend Zionist conferences and various meetings that were convened in the city.

Ruda practiced what he preached. Under the influence of his relative, Shmuel Zanwil Pozner z.l., a Zionist activist who was well–known in his times (and who immigrated to Israel from Rypin before the war and passed away here), he sent two of his daughters to the Land of Israel. Although he himself longed to come on Aliya, as well, it was not meant to be.

Yosef Chaim Ruda, his wife Rivka, and their daughter Esther Yehudit (Yudka), perished in the Holocaust. So too also his only son, Pinchas, who lived with his wife in the city of Kutno[7], where he worked growing flowers on a farm that belonged to Katriel Isaac. Ruda's oldest daughter, Perl Leah, did not escape this fate, either, even though she immigrated to Vienna several years before the war to acquire property she had inherited from her grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Fuchs, z.l. She stayed there, and when the Germans seized Vienna she was caught and sent to a concentration camp.

Yosef Chaim Ruda's wife, Rivka, managed to escape to Warsaw after undergoing an extremely arduous journey that was the lot of all the refugees who were running away. In her testimony before someone from the Social Department, she related the story of the liquidation of the Dobrzyn community and told about the death of her husband. He, too, had fled with all the others from the town, carrying with him only a single suitcase containing his clothing. The tribulations of the journey and the deathly terror that he had experienced had sapped what little strength he had had left. During their wanderings he and his wife had hid out in a farmer's house, but he had fallen ill there and had never recovered.

The name of Yosef Chaim Ruda, who was among the active leaders of the community of Dobrzyn, is unalterably bound up with the community life of the town. His image and his activities are indelibly imprinted in the minds of those who came from the town; they recall his benevolence and kindness, as well as his great devotion to the Zionist ideal.


Yosef Chaim Ruda,
one of the leading Zionists of Dobrzyn


Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn–Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn–Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 171–173. Return
  2. z.l. is an acronym for “zichrono livracha” = of blessed memory Return
  3. “May he live long” is often appended to the name of a living person who is mentioned in the same sentence as someone who has passed away. Return
  4. “The poor among your people” is a paraphrase of Deut. 15:7, following Babylonian Talmud 71a. Return
  5. Histadrut = Jewish socialist–Zionist party in Poland Return
  6. Keren HaYesod (literally “The Foundation Fund”), a Zionist fund founded in 1920 to support the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. See the following Web site (retrieved June, 2014): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keren_Hayesod Return
  7. Kutno is a city in Poland, located ~100km south of Dobrzyn Return
  8. From p. 172 of reference cited in Footnote 1 Return


[Page 179]

My Dear Mother,
May She Rest in Peace

by Mendel Sonabend

Translated by Allen Flusberg

My departed mother, the Dobrzyn Rabbanit[2], studied during her youth in the Plock gymnasia[3] together with the future Zionist leader, Nahum Sokolow[4]. She knew four languages well: Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German.

She was well educated and quite intelligent; she would always be reading works of Tolstoy, Turgenev, Gorky, Mickiewicz, Heine, Bialik[5] and Peretz[6]. The Dreyfus trial caught her interest, and she followed it on a daily basis, reading in particular the reports by Max Nordau[7]. She was also interested in music and art, to which she dedicated much time.

She ran her household with modesty and good taste; she dressed nicely and properly, and dressed her children well, too. She did not leave concerns for running her household to the housemaid only, but rather gave thought to every detail, like someone who wanted to leave the stamp of her personality on everything. Her esteem and fulfilment came from her husband and children.

No sigh ever crossed her lips; her face always glowed with a loving smile, and nothing was ever lacking in her home. We children wondered where she got it all from, as we knew full well that the salary of the town rabbi was not particularly high.

In spite of our great economic hardship, she did not hesitate to help all who were in need; she was willing to share her last slice of bread with others. I recall how she once stood on a Friday, as the Sabbath was approaching, in front of the candles she had just lit, covering her gleaming eyes with her hands and then passing them over the flames as she blessed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And while she was quietly murmuring the words of the blessing, she burst out in heart–rending sobs. At that moment I saw before my eyes a Jewish mother who was asking God for health and success for her family members and for all the Jewish people. I got up on a chair and embraced her; I kissed her and comforted her, saying: “Right away Father will be coming home from the synagogue; he will greet us with the blessing of ‘Shalom Aleichem[8], so please don't let your face show signs of sadness.” Immediately the sadness disappeared, her face lit up, and she stood ready to greet my father.

And indeed at that very moment the door opened. Our father came in with his face shining, cheerfully declaring: “A Good Sabbath! A Good Sabbath!” Two guests came in with him, Russian Jews who were about to cross the border on their way to the United States.[9] My mother hastened to bring the gefilte fish to the table as she labored to make the guests' Sabbath as pleasant as possible.

My father noticed the sadness on the guests' faces. They were probably thinking about their families and were worrying about what would happen to them. My father quickly cheered them up, assuring them that everything would work out well. “Don't worry, fellow Jews, don't worry!” he said over and over. He poured some wine into their cups and toasted them, “Lechaim[10], fellow Jews, lechaim!”

Observing that the guests were wearing light clothing, my mother hurried over to the closet and took out some warm clothing. She gave it to them and wished them a safe trip, saying “Go in peace and arrive in peace!”

This is what my mother the Rabbanit was like, a modest and pure woman, whose heart was devoted to her children, her husband, and to all who were in need or were experiencing difficulties.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn–Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn–Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 179–180. See also the English translation of the Yiddish version of this essay (similar but with some differences) by the same author, on pp. 401–402. Return
  2. Rabbanit = Rabbi's wife (Hebrew) Return
  3. Gymnasia = high school Return
  4. Sokolow (1859–1936) was a Zionist leader and author. See the following link (retrieved June, 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahum_Sokolow Return
  5. Ch. N. Bialik (1873–1934) was a poet who wrote primarily in Hebrew. See the following link (retrieved July 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayim_Nahman_Bialik Return
  6. I. L. Peretz (1852–1915) was a Yiddish–language author of fictional stories and plays. See the following link (retrieved July 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I._L._Peretz Return
  7. Nordau (1849–1923) was a Zionist leader and author. See the following link (retrieved June, 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Nordau#Dreyfus_affair Return
  8. Shalom Aleichem’ = “Welcome, angels of peace…”, A Hebrew poem recited or sung just before the Friday–night Sabbath meal, welcoming the angels who bring with them the tranquility of the Sabbath Return
  9. Until 1920, the border between the Russian and German empires ran along the Dreventz River that separated Dobrzyn (in the Russian Empire) from Golub (in the German Empire). Smuggling people across the river border was common, and this is likely what the border crossing is referring to. See p. 415 of Y. Lipka, “Memoirs Dedicated to My Father”, R. Feibish Lipka, pp. 404–438 of reference cited in Footnote 1; also p. 270 of S. Aleksander, “The Grassroots Jews of Dobrzyn,” pp. 270–272 of reference cited in Footnote 1. Return
  10. Lechaim (Hebrew) = to life, a Hebrew toast Return


[Page 189]

Shmuel Zeinwil Lipka

by Minda Lipka Bornstein

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Donated by Steve Bolef



My late father was born in Dobrzyń. He served as the communal administrator (parnas) and was active in the Chevra Kadisha (burial society). He concerned himself with the Yeshiva students and supported them with his money. His home was open to those passing through the town.

His sons Wolf and Aharon Lipka, as well as his sons-in-law Wolf Szeinbart and Aharon Szlechter continued in the traditions of their father.

His memory will never depart from my heart!

His daughter: Minda Lipka Bornstein

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