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[Page 81]

Institutions and Organizations

 

Torah Insitutions in Ostrów Mazowiecka

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein & Michal Richman

 

Heder Kloli [General] – age 8 classes - four hundred students – 12 ulica Batorego. Founded in 5692 [1931-32] by Rabbi Aszer Rozenbojm, shlita”a.

Managers: The Rabbis Jakob Kagan and Zew Szulman
Committee Chairman: Rabbi Aszer Rozenbojm
Vice-Chairman: Reb Jozef Leyb Rozinowicz
Secretary: Reb Zew Augustower
Treasurer: Reb Dawid Skolka
Committee Members: Rabbi Abraham Pecyner, Rabbi Dawid Mincberg, Rabbi Jozef Mendelkorn shlita”a, Reb Zanwel Wengrow, Reb Jakob Israel Lewinski, Reb Fiszel Berenholc, Reb Jakob Cwi Goldberg.

 

The Holy Yeshiva “Beit Josef “(a Nowarodok Yeshiva [Yiddish for Nowogródek], located in the Old Synagoue, had two hundred students and was founded in 5690 [1929-30] by Rabbi Asher Rozenbojm shlita”a.


Yeshiva Director: Rabbi, Gaon Joel Klejnerman
Manager: Rabbi, Gaon Aaron Ogulnik
Committee Chairman: Rabbi Aszer Rozenbojm shlita”a
Committee Members: Reb Arija Margolis, Reb Mordchai Miller, Reb Cwi Jozef Warszawwski, Reb Mosze Jeruchem, Reb Jakob Berenholc, Reb Josef Kejlewicz, Reb Icchok Jelen, Reb Jakob Cwi Goldberg.

 

The Great Talmud Society - in the New Synagogue. Founded in 5690 [1929-30] and had one
Hundred students, men who were great in Torah learning and reverance for G-d.

Society gabe: Reb Icchok Jadower
Lesson Preachers: Rabbi Abraham Jakob Frydman
Rabbi Aszer Rozenbojm, shlita'a
Reb Arija Margolis
Reb Mordchai Miller
Reb Abraham Cwi Polakiewiec
Reb Gerszon Srebrnik

 

ost082.jpg
Heder Kloli students age 8 classes

[Page 83]

Yeshiva “Beit Josef”

By Meir Segal, former Yeshiva Dean, Ostrowa
Now a rabbi in Haifa

Translated by Ros Romem

The town of Ostrów Mazowiecka, situated between Warszawa and Bialystok in Poland, was typical of large Jewish towns in Poland before the Holocaust: its Jewish colour, its Hasidic residents and practical people; packed synagogues and everything was full of Torah, piety and righteousness.

In the centre of town was the holy “Beit Josef” Novarodok Yeshiva where about two hundred young men studied. The Old besmedresh served as the study hall, rented rooms served as lodgings for the men, and a dining hall and kitchen were set up on the site.

A small portion of the expenses was covered by the local inhabitants and the greater portion by money from the United States, solicited and administered by typical charitable women.

The head of the yeshiva was my brother-in-law, Rov, gaon, tzadik, Reb Joel Kleinerman zzvl”h, who was killed with his family during the Holocaust years hy”d. He was a noble and moral person, knowledgeable in Torah and from the family of an Admor, the grandfather…Moreinu Horowiec, zz”l. He and I, the person who wrote this article, were the co-directors of the yeshiva. The spiritual leader of the yeshiva was gaon, Rov Aron Ogolnik zz”l, who with his family were among the millions murdered in Poland hy”d.

It was a typical Musar “Beit Josef Novarodok” run on the principles of the Admor, Moreinu v Rabeinu [our guide and teacher], Horowiec zz”l. He founded the Musar yeshivas of Russia and Poland, in cities such as Kiev, Kharkow, Rastow, Gomil, Bialystok, Warszawa, Miedzyrzecze [Yiddish Mezrich], Ostrów etc.

The spirit of the “Beit Yosef Novarodok” institution embodied a life of Torah, frowning severely on luxury and teaching courage and the glory of ignoring the vain pleasures of this world.

The Ostrów Mazowiecka Yeshiva had a special character. Adjacent to it, outside town, there was a house for studying ethics and prayer, as it was the custom of the yeshiva students to be alone, each with his maker, in prayer and in musar exaltation.

[Page 83]

My Acquaintance with Ostrów Mazowiecka

By Icchok Szlaski, Tel-Aviv

Translated by Ros Romem

In retrospective this was just one town among many other such towns, all of one form and colour in the years before the Holocaust burst upon the Jews of Poland. Yet in our eyes, the eyes of Czyzewo school children, Ostrowa seemed like a big city, on two levels: religious spirit on one hand and secular authority on the other.

There are several factors for the religious spirit: the first being the two great beacons of light that lived and worked in this town and they were the local rabbis. Gaon, Rabbi Reb Meier Dan Plocki, zz”l, the Morah d'Asra and the great Hassid and scholar Rabbi Reb Ben-Cjon Ostrower z”l. Both those great men were renown in the Hasidic world and to the scholars of Poland. My first contact with this town was not with the town itself but with the name of the town “Ostrowa” through them.

The elderly Hasidim in the shtiblakh would say their names with great respect and with a quiver of sanctity and admiration. When recollecting the name of one of them they would recall it in one breath with the name of their town “Ostrowa”. In our imagination we, pupils in heder, who rolled in the dust at the feet of the old Hasidim in the shtiblakh, pictured a big city with wide horizons, which was honoured that two great Jewish scholars should live there. This aroused in us a sense of childish wonder and an innocent, subconscious ambition to reach this city to meet both men, to be under their protection and to be enriched by the goodness of their Hasidism and scholarship. In this there was a hint of a first desire for larger spaces, an innocent desire to sail afar to see and learn about the whole world.

The second factor was a family event, which had taken place previously. It left a powerful impression on me and strengthened my opinion of Ostrowa as a big and very important city. It was the wedding of Reb Jechiel Szulwiec z”l, son of the rabbi of Komorowo (a suburb of Ostrowa).

One of the important leaders of our little town was Reb Josef Kotlarek, owner of the tsitsis factory. His daughter married the Komorowo Rabbi's son. There were a lot of guests at the wedding, mostly rabbis and Hasidim. It was celebrated in great luxury and glory at the bride's home, led by the rabbi who was the father-in-law. As a child living next door I joined in the celebration and was very impressed with the appearance of the rabbis and the Hasidim and with the everyday conversations of these wise scholars, who were from Ostrowa. In my heart I thought then: Indeed this is a big city, an important Jewish city, full of Hassidim and pupils of Torah scholars.

Incidentally, when I recall the name of Reb Jechiel Szulwiec, z”l the Komorowo Rabbi's son, I remember a good neighbour, an old and dear friend of ours. He was an innocent yeshiva student, a Hasid and a pious man in every way, filled with love for the Jewish people and Israel, humble before G-d and man. He was respected and honoured by all his acquaintances and friends. I had the privilege to be his neighbour when I live in Czyzewo, our little town. His pleasant manner, his personal behavior and his friendly, gentle attitude towards every Jew, whether Mitnaged, Hasidic, or not, had a good influence on me. When I parted from him to make aliyah he expressed the hope of seeing me in Israel. To our regret this wish was not fulfilled. He shared the fate of the glorious Jews of Poland, hy”d.

The second factor was secular authority. Ostrowa was the seat of the Governor. At that time our little town belonged to this district and in our eyes, little children, this was not a minor matter. Indeed all the people of the adjacent towns would travel to this city to take care of important government business that the local authorities were unable to deal with. They reported there for military service. According to the rumours, it even had electric lights, a courthouse, a City Hall and so on and so forth. That means all the attributes of a really big city. But the train does not quite reach the city like Warszawa or Bialystok. And this was actually its only defect, reducing its value in comparison to the big capital or the district capital in our eyes. But indeed these were cities far from our little town, both in distance and in conception. Ostrowa was not, as it was close by, almost a neighbour. Czyzewo residents made frequent and urgent journeys there and on every occasion you heard its name. This was a sure sign that Ostrowa was a big, important city and that it would be worthwhile, at the first opportunity, to reach its gates and get to know it first hand. Thus I made my first acquaintance with the name of the city “Ostrowa”. Further acquaintances as an adult with the city proper, took place during the period of intensive Zionist activity at the end of the twenties and beginning of the thirties.

During the second half of the twenties I was studying at the besmedresh, but despite this I was a great reader of newspapers, especially the Zionist press. I often came across the name Ostrów Mazowiecka on the occasion of district conferences and meetings of Zionist and community workers concerning important Zionist movement events. Unintentionally I always came across the name Margolis which appeared repeatedly in connection with every public activity of Jewish or especially Zionist importance, such as activities for the funds, Hebrew culture and education, pioneering preparation, aliyah and so on. It should be noted Ostrowa was a town full of public activities, being home to alert and eager Jews in the broadest sense of the word. In regards to Zionism, the parties and youth movements were remarkable for their diversity and intensity. For some reason its name was glorified among other important towns that excelled in many activities and the name of any active volunteer that was published in the press added to its honour among all Polish Jewry. The years passed rapidly.

In the early thirties I was one of the young workers in the Zionist Movement in Poland, a regular participant at the General Zionist conferences and conventions. I had the opportunity to personally meet and get to know many volunteers I had only read about previously in the press. They were many and varied. They differed from each other in their qualities. The young were remarkable for their youthful enthusiasm and noisy shouting, compared to the older ones who behaved with moderation and with quiet persistence, earning everyone's respect and admiration.

And then I had the opportunity to come into contact with, among others, the Ostrower community activist Arija Margolis. He was one of the great dreamers and fighters for the Zionist movement. He was outstanding in practical matters, activities directed at Jewish community problems and especially concerns of the Zionist Movement and the establishment of Israel. He was well known at district conferences. He was among those who sat at the head of the table, for he was always very involved in all aspects of Zionism. I still remember the last conferences. One was in Lomza and one in Ostrowa, with the usual participation of the Zionist movement leaders in Poland. Margolis had a big, important task. He did it without imposing his personality because he was gentle and moderate, but persistent, diligent and dedicated. By chance we were on the same ship making aliyah and afterwards in a building during the years of the incidents here in Israel and to this day I feel respect and real friendship for this true and faithful activist who achieved so much.

From one of the conferences the noble character of Mrs. Jetka Rajgrodski is engraved in my memory. She was an active community worker, with a deep awareness and understanding of world problems, Judaism and Zionism. Her appearance at the conference aroused admiration and respect among the participants. Her husband Pinchas Rajgrodski was an active local Zionist volunteer, as was the Knorpel family, Dan and his sister Chawa. They lived in Czyzewo for a while and were well respected. Today can any of us count all our loved ones who once lived and are no longer? Their memory will remain forever holy to us.

With time my visits to Ostrowa increased and I was always favourably impressed, for it was a vibrant Jewish town, a town of commerce, musar, Torah and wisdom; of alert and sparkling youth. There were a lot of public institutions and many activities in every field of Jewish life, like dozens of other towns during the time of the existence of the glorious Jews of Poland.

Yes! Once Ostrowa was Jewish but it no longer exists and it will never rise again. It burnt with the House of Israel in the terrible Holocaust that broke out upon the head of the unforgettable Polish Jewry. Honour its memory.

[Page 86]

About the Town in General

By Synai Kac, Haifa

Translated by Ros Romem

I was not born in Ostrów Mazowiecka, so I cannot write about the town before the First World War. I arrived in Ostrowa in 1920 and I found it strange. I found an old, shabby, little town of old wooden houses in poor condition, scattered without order or planning.
The crowded living conditions were dreadful and it was almost impossible to find an apartment. I asked for an explanation and was told that once upon a time, a great rabbi passed through town and because the townspeople received him with the honour he deserved, he left them with a blessing that they would not be struck by fire. Since then the town had never been damaged by any large fire and had remained as it was, the blessing had become a curse.

Like the external, so was the internal appearance. No great opulent synagogue stood out, like in the rest of Poland and Lithuania.
It is unnecessary to add that it was hard for the Jews to make a living. There was hardly any industry, except for a few flour mills of which one was even quite large, with a surrounding concentration of wheat commerce, owned entirely by Jews and many Jews eked out a living from this business. There were two sawmills where non-Jews also worked. The economic situation affected the social life of the town. On the whole there were no institutions worth mentioning. The activities of the Jewish community were limited by a lack of adequate funds.

There were no modern schools. The girls studied in the Polish Public School (for Jewish children) and the boys studied in the Talmud Torah and in private hederim that had not changed in many generations. There was a small library with Hebrew and Yiddish books and this was where the Jewish intellectuals, such as the teachers, gathered. This group did not play any particular part in Jewish social life and limited itself to maintaining the library and purchasing a few new books every year. After World War One there was a change in the Jewish population. During the war the German Army brought Jews from the small Russian towns at the front to the middle of the country and many families used to another kind of social and spiritual life were added to Ostrowa. Youngsters who had already studied in schools yearned for a social life.
The older generation of these “new” citizens, or “Litvakim” as they were called, was not comfortable in the shtiblakh and not satisfied with the two Botei Medrashim. These Jews had already educated themselves through Jewish newspapers published in Russia before World War One. They absorbed articles by Sokolow[1], read Ahad Ha'am[2] and Zionism was their daily bread. They searched to satisfy their spiritual needs and desires.

I remember the first Zionist meeting that took place outside town in an empty house belonging to the family of the late Hirsz Tejtel, owner of the town sawmill. At this meeting I spoke of the great mission ahead for the Zionists and their need to be well organized in order to play an active part in the state and the society that would rise after the achievement of independence for Israel. This was especially important as an election was drawing near for the town council and the Polish Sejm. At that time those who would later become the outstanding activists of the town did not understand what this had to do with Zionism, but in a short time the situation changed completely and the face of Jewish society took on a different appearance. I will not deal with the sparkling life that the Zionists introduced and the major revolution that took place in Jewish public life in Ostrowa after the Zionists took to the stage.

[Page 87]

Ostrów-Mazowiecka and the Zionist Movement

H. Glinka

This article was written in both Hebrew and Yiddish. The translation from the Yiddish appears on pages 275-277.

[Page 88]

ost088.jpg
HaNoar HaZioni in Ostrów Maz.
Comrade Zew Golodzierz leaving for military service
23 March 1938

[Page 90]

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Histadrut and “Tarbut” committee

 

Footnotes
  1. Nachum Sokolow, President of the World Zionist Organization. For more information see supplement, Zionism, personalites. Return
  2. Ahad Ha'am was the pen name of Aszer Cwi Ginsberg (1856-1927). He was a Zionist, the leader of “cultural” Zionism. According to Ahad Ha'am the purpose of Zionsim was to create a place for Jews, of their own, where they could refashion their inherited traditions. He accepted that modern Jews no longer believed in Orthodoxy and a Jewish settlement on its own land could redefine its culture in reborn Hebrew. Return

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