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[Page 206]

Religious Figures

 

Reb Ben-Cjon Ostrower zz”l

By Tuwia Makower

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Rabbi, gaon, righteous Reb Ben-Cjon Rabinowicz, known in the Jewish world as Reb Ben-Cjon Ostrower, was one of the illustrious personalities and Hasidic authorities of his time. He was born in Warszawa in 5600 [1840]. Although his father, Reb Benjamin Dawid zz”l, a famous gaon (Warszawa magid), was a staunch Misnaged, Ben-Cjon was taken with Hasidism when he was young. From among all the young boys, his genius and bright ideas were recognized. He went, without his father's knowledge, to Kock to the well-known Kocker Rebbe zz”l and delved further into Hasidism. At seventeen he became the son-in-law of the distinguished Ostrower, Lejzor Antrifryner z”l (on ulica Warszawska ). After the wedding, living at his father-in-law's, he devoted himself to Torah and Hasidism. It is a fact that as a young man he wrote about the legislative part of the Talmud with the world re-known gaon Reb Akiwa Ajger zz”l. He was offered many rabbinical posts but turned them all down. He was nourished by lottery-slips, which his wife sold, the pious Chaja Gitl a”h. He sat night and day and studied, delving deep into Hasidism, becoming a very learned man, without expecting any remuneration. And that is how his name grew and became famous throughout the world. His authority shone not only on our town, but also on the entire Hasidic and learned world. Everywhere his word was law. Everyone respected him. It is worth mentioning that although he was a staunch Hasid, he was a close friend of the Litvak rabbi in Ostrowa, Rabbi gaon Reb Jehuda Lejb Gordon zz”l.

It is interesting that his journeys to the admorim were recorded: seventy-one journeys for the yomim neroim and sixty-nine journeys for Shavuos.

He died the 19th of Sivan 5687 [May 1927] in Warszawa (in a hotel on ulica Twarda). Before his death he had said that his table, at which he had studied his entire life, should be made into a coffin, (the table was taken to Warszawa and made into a coffin). He also said that when he dies in Ostrowa, that he must not be buried between prominent men, only near the wasertreger Zalcberg (served in the Russian military for twenty-five years during the period of the Russian-Turkish war and during that time kept all the laws of the Torah).

Thousands of Jews came to Reb Ben-Cjon's zz”l funeral that took place on ulica Twarda in Warszawa. The coffin was driven as far as ulica Gensia through the crowds. But at Gensia Street there were tens of thousands of people, so the coffin was carried by had. He was buried near his uncle, the famous Warszawer Moyrah-Hoyrah Reb Jidele zz”l, zy”e.

Reb Ben-Cjon was survived by a son, Reb Icchok Mejer Rabinowicz hy”d and a son-in-law, Reb Mosze Lejb Wolman hy”d (one of the Ploncker rabbi's sons). Both of them were murdered by the Nazis ym”sh.


[Page 207]

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Rabbi Mendel Galant zz”l

By his son Mosze Chaim Galant,
Shoy”b in Canada

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Born in Goworowo, near Ostrowa, his parents were Icchok Jakob and Malka Perl Galant. The father, a Warka Hasid, was a scholar and a god-fearing man. They brought up their son in the spirit of Torah and Judaism. He was an assiduous student (studying 18 hours a day). When people arrived at the besmedresh, he was already seated and studying. And he indeed became well versed in the six orders of the Talmud and post-Talmudic commentators. Later he married the daughter of Jeshija tallis-macher [prayer shawl maker] in Ostrowa, who gave him a considerable dowry and kest so he could continue his studies, with the prospect of becoming a rabbi. But he did not want to become just any rabbi. He did not want to earn his living through Torah and he did not want to become prosperous. Therefore he learned at a leisurely pace.

He became impoverished during the First World War and under pressure from the Warka Rebbe, who was his mentor, became the rabbi in the village of Poręba near Ostrowa.

During the Second World War he went far from home with his family, to Russia and remained religious despite many difficulties. He went days with only a piece of bread and water and when there was some - a little potato. This is how he existed for several years. After the war he returned to Poland. From there he went to a DP camp in Germany, where he was the rabbi until he was able to make aliyah to Israel, where he died at the age of eighty.


[Page 208]

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Reb Mordchai Mendel Markusfeld, shoychet z”l

By his son, Mosze Markusfeld, NY

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

My father, Mordchai Mendel Markusfeld z”l was born in Węgrow and married my mother Brucha, Jozef shoychet's daughter, in Ostrowa. When my grandfather Jozef became too old to continue as shoychet, my father took over from him.

On taking over he was taught by the Khevra Torah in the old besmedresh. They were all artisans, who worked hard all week. Yet Shabes at noon they came to the besmedresh and my father learned from them, as every word was explained. It took a year to teach the Khumash. Every Simchas Torah they made a large feast at one of the members' homes. And my mother would bake various dishes. My father, who was called Mordchai Mendel, liked everyone and disliked quarrels.

He was pious, a philanthropist and gave a lot of his time to helping people, Jews and non-Jews.

My mother Brucha was born in Ostrowa. She was also pious and hospitable, giving food to anyone who was hungry. In general, good to everyone and liked by everyone.


[Page 209]

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Reb Mordechi Lejb Goldwaser z”l
(My Grandfather the Healer)

By Israel Emiot-Goldwaser, NY

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Mordchai Lejb came from Łomża, was a great scholar and Hasid, a son of Hirszel Hasid; a second son, Reb Jechusza Mendel, a rabbi in Tykocin, was a well-known genius and maskil. Reb Jechusza Mendel's son is Professor, Dr. Mosze Goldwaser (a lecturer at Jerusalem University). Rabbi Zew Gold z”l, the former head of Mizrahi, was also a family member.

Grandfather had a flour and yeast business – inherited from his father-in-law – my great-grandfather Reb Meier Milner. His mill, a windmill, was well known in the area. Reb Meier Milner was a wealthy man and a well-known Warka Hasid.

Mordchai Lejb was paid as a healer and would to go to the sick for a consultation, or to write a prescription. In Łomża he often went to the hospital to perform the good deed of visiting the sick and there he met the well-known Doctor Landiñski and the doctor taught him medicine. He was also able to read and write prescriptions and knew about diseases. Because of his good mind he was well educated in this field.

Dr. Kliaczka used Mordchai Lejb for his experience with the sick, consulted him and even followed his advice. His prescriptions were accepted at the pharmacy.


[Page 210]

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Reb Izachar Srebernik and His Wife Alte z”l

By Michal Cur (Ciechanowiecki), Tel-Aviv

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Who from Ostrowa did not know or had not heard of Reb Izachar melamed? Of course I knew him. Reb Izachar z”l prayed in the Aleksander shtibl and I was taught by Reb Izachar melamed for several terms. He was one of the exalted melamdim. Being taught by him was a serious matter. He taught the majority of middle-class children and any poor boy who was very bright. I was lucky to have been one of Reb Izachar's pupils.

He was tall, with broad shoulders and a long, white beard. I would not go so far as to say we were afraid of him, even though with one look he could frighten you – but we had great respect for him.

The rebetzin, called Alte, a woman of average height, looked small next to him. She was a smart, energetic woman who helped her husband earn a living as a mercer.

On market or fair days we youngsters would help her take the table and merchandise to the marketplace and in the evening – bring it all back.

Reb Izacher was also a smart man. He seldom hit us although he always kept a thin stick close to him. Anyone who tasted it once remembers it still.

As I said, he very seldom hit us, perhaps because we were already grown children (between twelve and thirteen years old). He had another remedy. He would use sharp words that would hurt. This would only happen with those who did not know their lessons.

Once while listening to a student recite gemore by heart, he suddenly tapped one of us and asked a question. “So, so, speak up. Where did we stop?” The boy was so afraid he was unable to answer. Then he asked a second boy the same question. And when the second one could not answer either, Reb Izachar said: “So, it is exactly as if one goes from one gentile to the next”. This is how he taught us and with good results. After all we respected him for his knowledge.


[Page 211]

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Reb Eliahu Fajwel Pietruszka z”l

By Josef Leszcz

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

An old Warka Hasid, brother-in-law of Reb Izachar, mentioned on the previous page) who went to the rabbi's court often and celebrated Hasidism, a fanatically religious Jew, the type who came from the small villages in the old days.

He was a bricklayer, a labourer who had steady work. He was one of the best oven builders in the city, continually had work and was well known. Still he found time to discuss Hasidism and when it came to something done by the Warka Rebbe or something about Torah, he immediately interrupted his work and discussed it with great enthusiasm.

He died at the old age of ninety-five in Warszawa in 5675 [1915].

May his memory be blessed.


[Page 212]

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Chaim Jozef Frydman and Wife Ester z”l

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Chaim Jozef Frydman, a son-in-law of Eliahu Fajwel Pietruszka, was a scholar and an enlightened Jew. He had a beautiful handwriting, both block and script.

He did not have a trade, but since he was married he had to earn a living for his family. Against his will, he became a melamed. Therefore all his students learned to write and to do arithmetic. At the end of World War One, he took his family to America where he lived until the 1930's. He made aliyah and settled in Bnei-Brak, where he lived until 5701 [1941]. He died at the age of eighty-two.

May his memory be blessed.

His wife Ester a”h also died in Israel. She was ninety-three when she died in 5716 [1956]. She was a pious woman, with a good heart and helped the poor. Honour her memory.


[Page 213]

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Reb Abram Icchok Perkal z”l

By T. Makower

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

A son-in-law of Reb Mendel Zigelbaum z”l, one of the respected Gerer Hasidim, sat day and night studying Torah. For many years he was the principal melamed in Heder “Yesodi-HaTorah” and after classes he was absorbed in studying Torah until late at night and into the wee hours of the morning. He was for some years a melamed in Riga, Latvia and accomplished a lot in regard to religious education there.

During the Second World War, he was sent to Russian camps together with his family, his Henja Bejla a”h died in a camp in Russia. After the war, he made aliyah to Israel and died in Jerusalem.

May his memory be blessed.


The Learned Porter

By Jozef Leszcz

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

The porter Jakob Welwel, called der shiterer [ called, the thin] was a rare type even at that time. He read secular books and was a G_d-fearing man.

When he had time, he sat and studied and every day between mincha and maariv he studied, with the others, a chapter of mishnayes.


[Page 214]

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Shames, Reb Hirsh'ke Balbier z”l

By Tuwia Makower

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Hirsz'ke Shames, as the Jews called him (the Christians called him szkolnik because they thought he was a scholar) was an interesting person.

Born in Ostrowa in 5714 [1855], son of Jozef and Ester Jehudit Balbier (the father a bone-setter, a barber surgeon and the mother a midwife).

He was not the simple shames people were accustomed to seeing in the Polish and Litvak villages during marriages and circumcisions. He was far from being a beggar. He was solid, correct and dignified while going about his duties.

He also understood life, knew Russian and Polish, had a nice handwriting and therefore he kept the marriage and birth records at City Hall. The entire department was in his hands. Nothing could be done without him. He had free access to the metrical record books at city hall and remembered everything accurately, so much so that the officials depended on him. He died in 5691 - 1931.

May his soul be bound up in the bonds of life.


[Page 215]

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Reb Mendel Bilgoray z”l

Translated by Michael Richman

Reb “Mendel Czeslar” [Carpenter], which is what people called him, (made his living from building wooden houses) was a labourer. He worked all his life with his hands, was satisfied with his lot in life and helped others. A Jew versed in books and an Amszynower Hasid.

He made aliyah to Israel in 5696 [1936], where he had children. He lived a long life and died at the age of ninety-six on 11 Adar II 5714 [February 1954].

May his memory be blessed.

 

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Reb Zanwila Gutman z”l

By A. M-T

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

One of the old Strykower Hasidim, he was a religious man who kept G-d's commandments and did good deeds. He was a quiet man who made his living as a grain merchant.

May his memory be blessed.

Jews from olden days had a hard life and were still happy. They lived with the hope of better times for the Jewish communities and yearned for the Messiah.


[Page 216]

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Rabbi Dr. Efrim (Henry) Stolnic z”l
 
Reb Abraham Icchok Stolnic z”l

Two Brothers – Two Different Roads

By Nathan Stolnic, Cantor in Toronto, Canada
Born in Ostrów Mazowiecka

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

 

Reb Abraham Icchok Stolnic z”l My father

My father was born in Ostrowa and was a famous Hasidic musician and sincere bal-tefillah. He gave a number of old Hasidic melodies to be recorded by the cantor-composer A.M. Bersztejn z”l, published in Wilno in 1927 by the Jewish Historic-Ethnography Society. He died in Poland in 1927.

 

Rebbe, Dr. Efrim (Henry) Stolnic z”l My uncle

Was born in Ostrowa and was a former spiritual leader in Tampa, Florida. He was also an accomplished musician and writer. At the beginning of the century he took part in the weekly publication “Hebrew Standard” and other periodicals and published a music study in English. His composition for voice and piano was published in Los Angeles in 1899. He died in California in 1937.


[Page 217]

Fejga Zisl Bromberg z”l

By her grandson: Rabbi Abraham Icchok Bromberg

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Fejga Zisl Bromberg, a grandchild of the well-known Plock gaon Reb Dan (father-in-law of the brilliant scholar Reb Abram Landau of Ciechanów), was one of the wonderful and famous women in Poland and especially in Ostrowa.

Reb Dan was a very wealthy man. It is said that Napoleon, during his march through Poland in 1812, was in Plock and borrowed 10,000 gold Thalers from Reb Dan. Reb Dan obtained a receipt signed by Napoleon stating the he was responsible for the money. Fejga Zisl inherited the receipt and made a claim for the money from the French government. She tried for many years to recover this loan, even sent an attorney to France to represent her at trial. In the end she lost the court case, as the French government would not honour Napoleon's debt.

Fejga Zisl was orphaned in her early childhood and the Ciechanów Tsadik [pious man] gave her two blessings: wealth and long life - and both these blessings were fulfilled for her and all her children.

She married Reb Abram Bromberg when she was very young and soon the responsibility for earning a living fell entirely on her shoulders. Her husband sat studying Torah and serving G-d and devoted himself to the needs of the community. She controlled the business: dealing in forests and grain with the nobles. Her trustee was Reb Tanchum the shul-shames.

Reb Tanchum was an honourable, understanding man. Through him she sent thousands of rubles to the nobles, which proved his honesty. People said to him: “Take a thousand rubles from the money that you carry. It would not be missed by Fejga Zisl - she has enough!” Reb Tanchum answered them: “If I take the money, who will pay me to run errands?”

Fejga Zisl was well known for her honesty and wisdom and a lot of nobles dealt with her because they trusted her. She continued her business and became very rich.

She raised and arranged the marriages for six sons and two daughters. Her eldest son, Reb Dan Bromberg, was a great scholar, lived in the city and was an influential businessman. He prayed generally at the old besmedresh during the Yomim Neroim. He was the son-in-law of the learned and wealthy Reb Herszel Mendelson. He lived in Ostrowa until World War One, when he moved to Warszawa. His descendants live in Israel.

Her second son, Reb Chajm Mordchai, also a great scholar and successful merchant, was a son-in-law of the well-known wealthy Hasid Reb Zyskind Bialer who lived in Warszawa. He was also an enlightened man and a linguist.

Her third son, Reb Jakob, was the son-in-law of the well-known Hasid Jehuda Meir Lipsker from Kutno. He was also a great scholar, a bright man and a banker. He made aliyah to Israel, lived in Jerusalem and died in 1935. His daughter lives in Haifa.

The fourth son Reb Zew, a very wealthy man, was the son-in-law of a well-known Hasid from Warszawa. When he reported to the military tribunal in the district city of Łomża, the Governor said, this is the son of the famous, wealthy woman Fejga Zisl Bromberg - he must be a soldier...but Fejga Zisl said: absolutely not. She made a tremendous effort to free him. This business dragged on for six months and cost 50,000 rubles, but in the end he was exempted from military service.

The fifth son, Herszel, was the son-in-law of Reb Lejb Szechter of Łodz, a wealthy Hasid and scholar. He was known for his honesty and established large businesses.

The sixth son, Reb Natan, renown as a scholar and wealthy Hasid, was the son-in-law of the well-known, wealthy Hasid Reb Chajm Sidlowske from Piotrków. He lived in Ostrowa for a couple of years and then moved to Warszawa where he devoted himself to business and Torah. For many years he was a kehilla dozor representing the orthodox Hasidim of Agudas Yisroel. Two daughters in Poland and two younger sons in Israel are all that remain of all his children.

Fejga Zisl and her husband Abram Icchok were from Misnaged families, but Reb Ben-Cjon Rabinowicz from Ostrowa, the famous Ger Hasid, influenced her sons and they became Ger Hasidim.

Fejga Zisl also arranged for her two daughters to marry wealthy young men. Her first son-in-law was Reb Nachman Goldberg, from Trestyne - a village near Białystok. He lived in Ostrowa and was head of the kehilla until the First World War in 1914. The second daughter married Szlama Rajchman, a wealthy man from Częstochowa.

Fejga Zisl was a woman of wide interests in business and charitable work. At Passover the house was prepared to receive hundreds of Jewish soldiers serving in the army stationed at the Komorowo barracks - near Ostrowa. Soon after Purim the preparations started for Passover. Every shabes and yontef scores of poor ate at her table. She took care of the poor in the city, as well as her relatives near and far and the children and grandchildren of the Ciechanower Tzadik.

Also, she bought a building for the yeshiva and Talmud-Torah at her expense and interestingly, during the Nazi's war, virtually all the Jewish houses were destroyed, but the building she bought remained intact.

Every Monday and Thursday the young men from the yeshiva ate at Fejga Zisl's, sparing them the search for families to feed them on “essen teg

Her husband Reb Abram Icchok died when she was still young and she remained a widow with eight children and ran the business alone.

During the First World War she moved to Warszawa and died there in 5683 [1923] at the ripe old age of ninety-six.


[Page 218]

Typical Women of Old

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein


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The shoychet's wife,
Brucha Markusfeld a”h
 
Rebetzin Sara Ita Szolewicz a”h
 
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Sara Rywka Langlejb a”h
 
Fejga Rywka Hofman a”h

Pious women who devoted their time to community needs and volunteered their services to charitable institutions such as Khakhnasas Kalah, Bikur Holim, etc.

May their memories be blessed!

 

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