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[Page 638]

Popular Figures


[Page 640]

R' Chaiml Herbst

By R. M.

Translated by Renee Miller

One of the most colorful figures in Sandz was R' Chaiml Herbst. More than fifty years younger than his brother R' Hanukh Herbst, he also represented a new generation in the cultural history of the kehile [religious community], so different in spiritual development. With peyes [side curls], the beautifully-combed copper-colored beard, a soft felt hat on his head, he made an impression of a gentlemanly aristocrat, with his finely carved features, velvet-brown eyes and his dignified, tall figure. He surely belonged among the patriciate [Polish for patriarch] of the Sandzer kool [people of the community] – his father, R' Shloyme, was among the distinguished negodim [rich men], mekurovim [intimate] with the “Divrei Chaim” [Rabbi Chaim Halberstam].

His education contained the embellishment and polish of a gentle young man: on one side relevant knowledge on tanakh and talmud, and on the other, a good knowledge of German, from classical German literature (Schiller, “Song of the Bell”), with the addition of classics from Yiddish literature.. A Zionist, who was above all a maskl[1] with a misnagdish[2] background and an odd manner of a Hasidic balebatish [proprietor], he bridged the contradictions with his charm and elegant ease, and even more so with his sharp wit and abundant humor. Lyrically and musically gifted, he sang with a lot of feeling, traditional nigunim [melodies] and folk songs. During Nahum Sokolow's[3] visit to Sandz in 1913, as one of the greeters at the railroad station, he so very touchingly intoned Abraham Reisin's[4] XXXXXXXXXX [“What Does He Want To Teach Us?”] that Sokolow would not leave until he had learned the melody.

This talented, charming and gifted person did not have any luck in his business undertakings: he had both a wine shop and as a representative of the Netherlands Professional Society [?-ed.]


Translator's Footnotes

  1. adherent of the Haskalah {Jewish Enlightenment}- M. Weinreich Return
  2. misnaged - opponent of Hasidim (within Orthodoxy) Return
  3. (1859-1936) - Zionist leader and prolific Hebrew author Return
  4. (1876-1953) - wrote politically engaged poetry and prose, expressing his socialist leanings...www.britannica.com] Return


[Pages 641-643]

Several Figures
(R' Ber Szupnik, Tserele, the Family Safir)

by Yitzhok Frankel

Translated by Renee Miller

[Page 641]

Szupnik

The two brothers, Berish and Aron Szupnik were well known in Sandz.

R' Berish, of medium height, dressed in the Jewish manner, in bgodim [clothing] that had been made for him for his wedding, forty years before, walked bent over, and with his eyes to the ground, but his thoughts soaring to the heavens.

He never saw passers-by. He was a Jew who gut gekent lernen toyre [knew the Torah {the five Books of Moses} very well], and in addition, he knew the old Greek and Roman cultures, and many European languages, too.

He knew all religions and their creators and many theories and their theoreticians.

He was an expert on world literature who was not a university professor, nor even a writer.

In the summer of 1937, in July I fortuitously saw Her Szupnik in the street. He did not notice me. When I greeted him, he raised his bent over head and reached out his hand to me. I had the opportunity to invite H' Szupnik to give a talk, shabos afternoon at the Socialist Hand Workers' Union on the theme, “The Rise of Religions”. H' Zupnik responded that he thought the theme of the destruction of the Second Temple would be more appropriate. I took his advice. H' Szupnik was very pleased. Then, he asked me if I would have the time to walk on the Helena, and then he began to ask me why I was against Hebrew and Eretz-Israel. I answered H' Szupnik that Eretz-Israel was very poor, had no treasures of nature and could support a people. The best evidence, capitalism uses all corners of the erd-kugl [earth] and Eretz-Israel has been allowed to be laid to waste for [or by?] the Bedouins. As for Hebrew, it belongs to the historic languages; 90 percent of Jews speak other languages, we have a rich Yiddish culture with enough Jewish writers who can satisfy the cultural requirements of the Jewish population.

And then R' Berish Szupnik said:

“--Frankel, I must persuade you that you are not right. You can not disguise what it means to have one's own mother, your own home. We live among strangers. No poor home, no poor mother exists”.
[Page 642]
--”R' Berish!”

“Have patience, I want to tell you, R' Frankel, to relate to you..today I had yortsayt for my holy mother. I am not as fanatical as they believe. I was at my mother's grave and I embraced the gravestone, kissing it and crying, like a small child. You may believe me, when I left the grave, I was a new person. My heart had become so light. I had AROPGERED everything that you can tell your own mother. It's not a stranger. I hope, and in my premonition, I am certain that Eeretz Israel will be a good mama to her children. I am very happy with my belief, that Zionism will be realized, and I say to you R' Frankel, you will remind yourself when you will be there, in Eretz-Israel, that I was right. One must have one's own home, with one's own language.

--R' Szupnik, I am very far from Zionism, and I never contemplate being in Eretz-Israel. Maybe my children will go there.

--Look at the Dunajec [River], not far off, see how a dog stands at the shore, flaps his wings, as if to fly, and quacks at the children swimming in midstream and the children are not little dogs but ducklings. The peasant woman had sat the dog-quackery on the duck eggs, and the ducklings swim away, and leave the mother alone on the shore. What suffering have the children caused the mother!

And there R' Szupnik got a severe headache. I took him to his home.

Two days later, I visited H' Szupnik in his room at three in the afternoon. But H' Szupnik had already finished eating breakfast and lunch together. On the table, a glass of water, a plate of potatoes left over from yesterday, not re-warmed, and a large book lay there. When I came into the room, we were both embarrassed. I had knocked on the door and no one answered. I thought maybe H' Szupnik was sick and no one had heard. I had to try to go in to see what was going on.

--Herr Szupnik, I came to see how you are...why don't you warm the potatoes with margarine?

--Herr Frankel, sit down. I am so accustomed that it does not matter to me what I put in my mouth to stop the hunger. I am enjoying this book that I am reading now so very much, that I don't know what I am eating, and it is not important. I am not working physically.

That is how a lamenvovnik [one of the thirty-six Good Men] lived, with his hope that Zionism would become a reality and I would surely be in Eretz-Israel, and that I would remember his words that the Jewish people will come to Eretz-Israel.

Honor to the memory of R' Berish Szupnik from Sandz!

[Page 643]

Tserele

Tserele! The mother of poor women in childbirth in Sandz.

Tserele knew everyone well. She was a widow with children and struggled very hard to make a living. She traveled to markets, bought poultry and eggs and provided them for the rich, and in that way, supported her family.

However, Tserele was not only a mother to her children, she also worked on behalf of others. She was mother to all poor women and those in childbirth.

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