My Grandmother Of Blessed Memory
True, since the first meeting twenty years ago, I have grown up a little. However, little has changed since then and my circle of acquaintances has grown only slightly. Again and again, the same questions are asked. Very few know me. My parents my father, Aharon Wolf Gewirz, and my mother, who was not from Mikulince would be known by very few of you. However, if I mention my grandmother, that would be different. Ah, you're Pesia Feige Yoel's granddaughter? Yes. Everyone knew my grandmother.
She was a big, tall woman and a very good one. If anyone sprained a hand or an ankle, they would come to her and she would drop whatever she was doing to offer help to others. If you couldn't sleep or has aches and pains, she would help. If someone gave you the evil eye she would cure it. Everyone liked, respected and admired her. Nobody would ever forget to wish her well on Sabbaths and holidays. Not only Jews would come to her, but also nonJews from neighboring villages in wagons and carriages. She would help everyone and never turned anyone away. She would give advice, a hot compress or other assistance.
She was always surrounded by neighbors, friends and relatives. On Saturdays, her house was filled to overflowing with visitors. We all gathered there and she prepared delicacies and white grains for her daughters-in-law and grandchildren. So she loved us, like a mother hen. The family respected her wishes.
If there is a guiding hand, it planned my grandmother's end the same way. She was exterminated by the Nazis surrounded by her whole family. I am the only one left and it is my duty to pass on the memory of my dear grandmother Pesia Feige.
She was eloquent and exceptionally fluent in the Hebrew language. Chana graduated from Hebrew College before World War II with great honors, in Wilno. From her very early adolescence, she delivered yearly speeches in the ancient, beautiful synagogue in Mikulince, in the Yiddish and Polish language, commemorating the death of Dr. Theodore Herrzl, the founder of Zionism. Her eulogy of Dr. Herzl and her knowledge of Jewish history and the history of Zionism were excellent and very laudable.
It was unbelievable to listen to such speeches at such a very young age. Her death was a great loss to the Jewish nation, Jewish cause, and Jewish future. She was pragmatic and realistic, a genius. Whoever knew her, adored and respected her immensely. She was one of the first females from Mikulince experiencing the Hachsharah training at a very young age.
It would be difficult even with our present facilities, better schooling, and educational opportunities to surpass or emulate her knowledge level. Her loss of life caused by the brutality of the Nazis was a great loss of very significant influential ideas and contributions to Judaism and Israel.
by Ariella Reuveni Rohan
February 3, 1980
It was not easy to get Nisan Goldstein to talk about what he does. He hates the publicity which accompanies many volunteer activities and good deeds. He believes in "matan baseter"- (giving charity in secret) and "hatznea lechet" modesty. It wasn't easy to convince the gray-haired man to tell his story and when he finally agreed his condition was that the writing be restrained, limited to the facts.
Nisan Goldstein was born in Poland, the son of a family of fabric merchants. His parents were killed in the Holocaust and he fled to the forest. Together with a group of other young Jews, he managed to hide in a bunker for a while. But one day the S.S. discovered the bunker. Thinking armed Partisans were hiding in it, they began firing on it. Most of the young Jews were killed. The only ones left were Nisan Goldstein and a young boy who, after coming to Israel, held an important post in the Israel Defense Forces.
When night fall, Nisan, who was the elder of the two, decided that they must find a new hiding place. He carried the boy until they reached a group of partisans. -They were both saved and Goldstein vowed to help others with all his heart and to the extent of his abilities.
Goldstein came to Israel in 1951, settled in Haifa, began
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raising a family and opened a tiny fabric shop. The fabric business was not thriving in the '50's but Goldstein supported himself and his family honorably. Friday's proceeds were always put aside for "matan baseter", buying fruits and candy for hospital patients. Fortunately, his wife and six children understood him and cooperated in his charitable work. The family would have lunch early on Saturday and gave up the Saturday afternoon rest, because Goldstein always left on his hospital visits at 1P.M exactly. When the children were little, he took a different one with him, in turn, each Saturday. When the children grew up, it was agreed that they would take turns driving their father to the hospital and home again.
Except for the medical staff which has cooperated with him for many years, nobody at Rambam Hosptial knows Goldstein's name. The children wait for him in the corridors and call him "the Sabbath uncle" or "the good uncle". The soldiers in the hospital think he is from the Soldiers Welfare Committee.
by Amir Vardi
from the newspaper "Hashachaf" (the Seagull)
Haifa - June 5, 1981
"If there ever comes a day when I can eat a piece of bread and to drink water in broad daylight and without fear, I will devote my life to helping the sick and my home will be open to all".
Nisan Goldstein made that vow during the Holocaust which struck Polish Jewry, after he was rescued from a hole in which seven other Jews had died. Nisan Goldstein, 67, owner of a fabric store in Hadar Hacarmel, was buried this week in the cemetery at the Carmel shore after a fatal illness.
For thirty years, this man kept his vow, and only his death broke it. At least once a week, and,on Saturdays and holidays, he would visit the sick at Rambam Hosptial, with a smile on his face and his hands full of candies and pastries which he gave to the patients. Nobody knew what brought Nisan Goldstein to the hospital, because he worked quietly far from the spot- light. Only now, after his death, his vow has become public knowledge.
During his hospital visits, he wears dark glassed, tiptoes into the different wards, observes the patients and stops at the beds of those who were not visited by their own families that day. "First, I open the drawer next to the patient's bed and put in a fruit and a piece of candy. I walk away, and come back a few minutes later. When I see that my small gift was willingly accept- ed, I give a bigger gift. When my visit is over, I go home happy". He maintains contact with some of the patients, particularly the soldiers. With others, he prefers not to identify himself. "Patients who have recovered sometimes happen to come into my store", he says. "They look at me and say, 'I know you from somewhere'. "Maybe from a wedding or vacation resort", he replies, and doesn't identify himself. Good deeds, he believes, should be done in secrecy.
By contrast, he is well known in army offices in Haifa. For years, he has been "pestering" army officers to send soldiers to his home on holidays. A holiday without soldiers as guests simply is not a holiday, Goldstein believes, and his family agrees. Goldstein remembers that after the Sinai Campaign, he asked soldiers be sent to his home for the Seder night. "There are none right now", he was told, "But don't worry; it'll be okay". That wasn't good enough for Goldstein. He came back three times that day and repeated his request.
The guests didn't arrive until the evening, and the family, fearing they might not come, was very disappointed. Suddenly, Goldstein, who was sitting near the window, saw an ambulance parked outside his house. Fourteen slightly wounded soldiers and officers emerged from the ambulance. "We sat down at the table and had a Seder according to all the rules", Goldstein said. "We sang Passover songs, and one of the girl soldiers played the accordion. It was a wonderful Seder night. The soldiers slept at our house. In the morning, we took a walk on the Carmel. Later, I took them to a football game, and in the evening we went to the movies at the amphitheater. It was the best Passover in my life".
The soldiers sent Goldstein a thank-you letter and ended it with the sentence: "Cast your bread upon the waters". "I keep that letter as a good luck charm", said Goldstein, who plans to keep his vow until his dying day.
2. Dec. 22, 1981
Dear Fellow Townspeople:
Tonight, the third night of Hanukah, we former Mikulinceans living in Israel met at Haim Preshel's home and decided to publish a book about our town Mikulince. In our opinion, this is the last chance to undertake such a project, the last time it willbe possible to make a joint effort in this direction. Unfortunately, the number of Mikulineans in Israel is decreasing with the passing years and the same is true in the United States. This is the last chance to tap our memories. We are enclosing a number of things with this letter:
P.S. In order to include your relatives and neigbors in the list of Mikulinceans, we would appreciate your providing a list of their names so we can be sure to include everyone. Please send it together with your answer.
Subjects to the Book
Dec. 22, 1981
The town and its environs: landscape, history, people, the public
A. traditional religious life in Mikulince: prayer houses, synagogues, batei midrash, hadarim (religious schools), Talmud Torah (advanced religious school) general heder (intermediate religious school)
C. Rabbinical and community institutions, bath house, burial society, coffinbearers, Yad Harutzim.
D. National Awakening: Hebrew school, youth movements such as Mizrahi, Gordonia, Hashomer Hatsair, Hahvah, Beitar, Hehalutz, Hitahdut, Hachsharot (training) libraries, theater-clubs.
E. Education and culture: general education, studies in Tarnopol on the high school and university level.
F. Aliya of pioneers.
G. The period of the Second World War under Soviet rule. The Holocaust, the Nazi occupation, the Germans, the Ukrainians, the Poles, righteous Gentiles and survivors, building of bunkers, escape, organization of resistance by Mikulince survivors in other ghettos.
H. Mikulince after the war - the Holocaust
I. Mikulinceans after the war: the Soviet Union, Poland, camps in Germany, Austria, Italy, Cyprus.
J. Organizations of Mikulinceans in Israel and in the United States
K. Lists of names of townspeople.
L. Pictures and documents of public interest.
Association of Mikulinceans in Israel
Dear Children of Mikulinceans:
This letter will surely not come as a surprise to you, since you have undoubtedly heard from your parents a bout the "yizkor"book we hope to publish soon in memory of the people of Mikulince. The book describes the town, its physical and human landscape, and tries to reconstruct and bring to life, your parents' childhood experiences. The book also portrays many central and typical characters each of whom greatly influenced our education, personalities, and behavior. You will also find in the book descriptions of the town's religious institutions, educational and cultural opportunities, social life, sports and theater. You will be able to learn about the kinds of jobs people did in Mikulince, some of which no longer exist and others of which have changed with the times. The terrible tragedy which befell our people in Europe, including our town Mikulince, will find some expression in this book in the stories of our town's survivors. For the first time, our friends and brothers will tell about the trials, the hiding, the hunger and the degradation they experienced in the ghettos, in bunkers, in forests, in exile or on the various battle fronts. These are authentic stories written by their authors in the language they know best and translated into Hebrew for you word for word. There is no doubt that part of your own roots are imbedded in the ground on which your parents' cradles stood and those roots have been passed on to you, knowingly or otherwise. We are sure each of you will want a copy or two of this book in your home, for yourselves and for your children. We would appreciate it if you would order your copies now, before we send the book to the printer. Please give what you can to this important project and please include with your donations any details about yourselves, your life, your career or
anything else you would like included in the book. We would also be very grateful if you would write down for us what you learned from your parents about our town. What you write will show us that our work on this book was worthwhile. You can provide us with another small proof that the Nazi intention of destroying all memory of European Jewry was a complete failure.
Haim Preshel and Zelig Shpirer, the editorial board
The address for your replies: Zelig Shpirer, REhov Hayiladim 9,
Kiryat Motzkin 26321.
Dear Sons and Daughters of Mikulince:
For the past few months, I have been gathering, translating and editing the material which you have given me for the book we are preparing as a monument to our town. My wife Nehamah and I are doing this work with great trepidation. It is clear to us that we are preparing for publication facts and events which, if not published now, will never come to light.Very few of us are still alive to tell the town's story. There are only a few of us left in Israel and still fewer in the United States.
A few times in the past, we decided to undertake this sacred task when there were still many of our number alive in Israel who were ready and able to undertake this effort. Unfortunately, the problems of daily living and the large and small troubles all of us have faced, along with a feeling of inadequacy, left us unable to do the job which we were obligated to do. Only with difficulty were we able to make a list of the families who lived in Mikulince. We alphabetized the list so that each of us could become familiar with it and could later add any names found to be lacking. If we omitted someone or something, it certainly was not deliberate or from ill will. The committee which undertook this task spent much time trying to find ways to be sure that nothing was forgotten or omitted about any family in Mikulince. Todie Fogelbaum drew a map of our town and together with Zelig Shpirer, Itzik Hersch-Schwartz, Niusia Horowitz and Michael Goldhirsch, devoted many hours to going over the map house by house, courtyard after courtyard, street after street. The name of each family was written on a slip of paper and in a notebook. Thus the list was put together, name by name, and then alphabetized. The job is not yet done and the book is still open. We are waiting for articles, memoirs pictures and stories. The material received thus far is ready for printing. We are awaiting any additional material you may wish
to send and will treat it with all the respect it deserves. We are waiting not only for personal impressions but also for material on public life in town, on the town's cultural life and youth movements, on the Hebrew schools,on literature, theater, political parties, etc. We will repeat here what we wrote in our first letter: this is the last chance and the final opportunity and it is up to you.
On behalf of the committee preparing the book in memory of Mikulince
Hairn Preshel, Editor
October 5, 1982
Private Thoughts in Public
Izhak Schwarz (Izik-Hersch)
We now hold in our hands the book in which we read about the life of the Jews in Mikulince and the Holocaust they suffered. We have read the book, expressed our opinion, and put it on the shelf with our other books, and that's it .
We must not forget how much toil and effort went into writing and publishing the book. The difficult task of editing, translating and preparing the material was undertaken by our friend and colleague Haim Preshel with the help of his wife Nehama. The beginning was difficult - both in terms of gathering material and documents, and in financial terms. However, Haim's energy, perseverance and ceaseless effort inspired people to help turn the dream into a reality, and to create a monument to our town and to its people. I want to take the opportunity to thank Haim and Nehama Preshel on my own behalf and on behalf of all Mikulinceans in Israel and abroad. Haim and Nehama Preshel's hard and productive work made the dream we all shared come true!
He was one of the first to leave home, despite his regret in leaving his widowed mother; and hers in losing her only son perhaps, forever. At an early age, he came to Israel and paved his own way to succeed in life. For years, he was active in the
Labor movement, learned to be a teacher and educated a generation of pupils very successfully. Unfortunately, he lost his sight in a work accident at school. This does not break his courage, and his will to live, and he. continued to be active wherever he felt he could contribute. During the last twenty years, he has held as a volunteer top postions in helping the blind of Israel. He is particularly concerned with their integration as functioning members of normal society, and with their welfare. He has devoted more than ten years to the development of the Central Library for the Blind as a member of its board, as its treasurer, and as its vice-chairman. Most years, he is chairman of the Association of the Blind in Israel. He has helped build the Center for the Blind, has served on its board and recently became its chairman. When he reached age 70, he stepped down to make room for younger people.
As an educator, he continues to be involved in education by being active at the Jewish Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem and as a member of its board. He has devoted time, energy and initiative to this institution for more than ten years and, together with his colleagues there, has turned it into a central and important factor in both the material and spiritual education of the blind. These comments have not been made to flatter or praise Haim. He is active because the need to be active is part of his nature. He can't stand to be idle. He finds time for anyone who asks his help, and does everything possible to be of assistance.
Since childhood, Haim has been eager to learn: first in religious studies, in the field of Talmud, as was customary in those days, and since age 14 in secular studies and world literature. At age 14, he went to Lvov to study at the Jewish high school. We all know how difficult it was in those times for a Jewish boy from a poor family to get an education. His widowed mother couldn't help him, and we will never know where he
got the means. He was stubborn then, and is still stubborn, always taking on difficult tasks and conquering every obstacle in his path.
He spent his vacations with his mother and became active in the "Gordonia" youth movement where he gave interesting and inspiring talks.
In those days, he already understood that there was no future for Jewish young people in Poland with its anti-Semitism. In 1935, he immigrated to Israel as a student at Hebrew University. His private life in Israel will remain his personal secret. He came to our organization at the moment when we needed him most. Amid his multifaceted civic activities, he, together with his wife, devoted some of his blessed energy and ability to translating and editing, and the result is the book, Mikulince.
P.S. When I said many years ago that the book will come out only if Haim Preshel edits it, I apparently was not mistaken.
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