The second son-in-law was the Rabbi Reb Mendele, the son of the Gerer Rebbe, the 'source of truth,' who was the Pabianice rabbi and later, the rabbi in Kalisz. His wife died while very young, too. Only a son Abramele remained, and he became the Pabianice rabbi succeeding his father.
The third son-in-law was Reb Motel Blas. He lived in the Rebbe's court. He had a large wholesale food business and was a clever Jew.
The fourth son-in-law was the well-known rabbi and righteous holy man, Reb Abramele, of blessed memory, of Amszinow. I will write more about him, because he was well-known and beloved by the whole city. His wife was the youngest daughter of Hasid L'Abraham, the well-known clever Rebbitzin, Tzipele.
Finally, I will write something about the last rebbe who perished at the hands of the [Nazi murderers] -- the martyred Hasidic master, Reb Shlomoh Hanokh Henekh Hakhohan. He was a great sage. His Hasidim said of him that he had the wisdom of King Solomon. During the First World War in 1914, he lived in Sosnowice. At the time of the outbreak of the war, he was in Berlin and it was with great effort that he was successful in returning to Sosnowice. Radomsk was then still occupied by the Russians. He carried out rabbinic duties, while simultaneously starting a large business in conjunction with his Hasidim. In time, he became rich. He remained in Sosnowice. It was told that he did not want to come back to live in Radomsk, because he father and his grandfather died [there] when they were forty-eight years old. He had become ill with the same diabetes as his father and his grandfather; he wanted to pass the age of fifty outside of Radomsk. Later, thanks to his wisdom he [accumulated great wealth]. It was
estimated that he was the wealthiest millionaire in Poland. Alas, the German mass murderers murdered him in Warsaw.
Thus perished and disappeared the beautiful, great Hasidic Dynasty, which was famous in all Poland, together with the whole of Polish Jewry, which was the foundation of world Jewry.
Between 1780 and 1820, there lived in Radomsk in the house near City Hall (later Yosef Neikron's house), a doctor who was called Professor Bernard. He was the greatest physician in the whole area and he was called to all the Lords, [wealthy landowners] and to the Duchess Lubamirski, too; in a phrase, the greatest and the most distinguished doctor. He knew nothing of yiddishkeit, did not even know of Yom Kippur. Completely assimilated with the Poles, he was removed from Jewry.
Once, the legends tell, the well-known Rebbe, Reb Dovidl Lelewer, of blessed memory, saw him and he was supposed to have said, "A shame, the Jew has a great soul and something must be done to save it." He informed his intimates that when the doctor came to Lelew (which is not far from Radomsk), he should be notified. The doctor once came to Lelew on Shabbos and the rebbe was informed that the doctor is here. Reb Dovidl went out and stood [at the entrance to] a house. The doctor rode by on a horse (he rode to the stream to water the horse) and Reb Dovidl stared at the doctor. Coming back, the doctor led the horse. Then the Reb Dovidl let the doctor know that he wanted to meet with him. The doctor made a special trip Lelew and Reb Dovidl closed himself in a room with the doctor for a whole day. Obviously, no person knows what they talked about there. However, this is known, on the same day they both traveled to Lublin to the Rebbe of Lublin, the 'Prophet.' They remained there for ten weeks and after this, when the doctor returned to Radomsk, he was a Bel Tshuve (newly observant Jew). He threw out all of the utensils, pots and dishes and bought everything new. His wife, too, became newly observant. She cut off her hair and put on a kupke (head cover) such as all frume women wore at that time. The doctor began to learn Torah with such ardor as great Jews are wont to do and, in time, he became a student sage in Nigle (religious texts dealing with everyday life) and Nister (esoteric doctrine). He was given over to complete self-sacrifice, that is, he fasted, immersed himself every night. As a matter of fact, in winter, he chopped through the ice and immersed himself in order to atone for his earlier un-Jewish life.
The doctor left Radomsk and settled in Piotrkow. There he devoted himself completely to the study of Torah and his name became known in all of Poland as Doctor Reb Haim-Dovid. The most famous personalities came to him in order to marvel at the notable Doctor Bel Tshuve. When later, as rebbe, he went to a sick person, he first said different chapters of tilim (Psalms). Then he examined the patient. Repeatedly, he asked for thirty-six rubles for charitable purposes, which was at that time a large amount of money. When someone said to him that they did not have so much money, he answered, "Sell everything, even the pillows, but the money must be." He saw that the sick person only needs to have his soul redeemed. He went to the poor Jews without payment. The rich Poles again called him and there, too, he first said Tilim. Because of jealousy, the other Jewish doctors said that he had become insane. However, he performed [normally] in all respects, but as a true great saintly man and an extraordinary great man, who gave away everything he earned to the poor.
My father, Reb Yezkeil Tzvi, of blessed memory, told me that my great grandfather, Reb Mendele Tzvi from Piotrkow, of blessed memory, was the best friend of the doctor, of blessed memory. The doctor would, according to his words, sit through the entire night studying Torah. At three o'clock every night, he would awaken the children and give them something to eat, because he said, "How can a child sleep through twelve hours without something to eat? That would weaken them."
The doctor's wife also became extraordinarily frume. My grandfather Reb Mikhal Tzvi told that when he was a young boy of ten, the doctor had forgotten his tobacco pouch on Friday night. He sent my grandfather to his house to bring it. The doctor's wife took him by the hand and led him outside of the room and told him to wait outside saying, "You know, my child, that among we Jews [women and men must by separated]?" He had to wait outside until she brought out the tobacco pouch.
The doctor, of blessed memory, would say that with a patient one must conduct oneself as it says in davenen (praying), "Creator of remedies, Great praises, Lord of miracles." First one must write a prescription for a sick person, that is "Creator of remedies." If that does not work, one must say tilim, that is "Great praises" and then if the situation becomes worse, one must hope for a miracle from heaven, that is "Lord of miracles."
Three children survived the doctor, of blessed memory. However they were all very poor. A son-in-law became rebbe in Gorszkowice. It is said that the doctor, of blessed memory, left a blessing for his children, "Long life, but poverty," so that they would remain good Jews. He died in Piotrkow. The city built an oyel (structure over a grave). My great grandfather, Reb Mendele Tzvi, of blessed memory, as a friend [of the doctor] was buried near the oyel. My grandfather left a testament to his children, that when they had a time of trouble, they should travel to Piotrkow to the doctor's oyel. Until the end of Polish Jewry, Jews from all over Poland came to the grave of the marvelous doctor, Bel Tshuve and great Tzadek and rebbe and good Jew, may his merit defend us.
This was a remarkable great hidden Jew. He spent most of the time in the woods; he dressed as a peasant, with a string of straw tied around [his body] as a gartl (belt). When a rebbe or a wise student came to visit him, they had to wait until he returned from the woods with a bundle of wood on his shoulders. His piety cannot be described. His whole life was spent in Torah and labor and solitude in the woods, from which he brought wood for the poor Jews. He recited most of the Torah in Polish. The Shabbos before his funeral, on which was read the Torah portion, "Re'ei," when he died in the month of Av (August), 1799, he recited a Torah [portion], which mirrors the greatness of the hidden saint.
He said, "'Pacz Sobie', watch out for yourself, you should not look for sins and bad habits in other people, only look for your own bad habits. No man is a finished moral person. See that you do enough good for those nearby. The person should always look to himself: 'Pacz Sobie.''"
Jews traveled on foot from all over Poland to Plawno to the grave of the remarkable and eminent Tzadek, on the date of his death during Av. The Radoszitski family in Gidle and Radomsk was descended from him. His grandson, Borukh Radoszitski, lives in Marseille, France.
The Landa family is descended from him. The father of the Landas is the well-known teacher Reb Yoske Malamed, who was a sharp Hasid.
Later, the rabbi was Reb. Szmul Zelwer, who was called Reb Szmule Rabbi. He was one of the old Kotsker Hasidim. His son, Izraelke Rabbi, was a tall Jew, a person of stately appearance, and with great musical abilities. He was the Bel-Musif (cantor at the Musif service on Shabbos) with the Sochaczewer rebbe. Jews who still remember told me of the enjoyable yom-tov, which Reb Izraleke Radomsker created for the Hasidim with his davening during the Days of Awe in Sochaczew with his choir, which consisted of the well-known family of singers from Radomsk, Mendele and Shlomohle Epsztein.
At the same time, there was also a rabbi, Hirsz-Yosef. He was extraordinarily well versed in all of the pusikim. It was said of him that he read the second part of the "Shulkan Aruch" seventy times. When one went to him to ask a shayle (question regarding religious purity), one already knew that ninety percent would be kosher to him. Then he would always find the pusik, which provided a loose construction. I remember that when there was a difficult question about the lung of a slaughtered cow in the slaughterhouse, the poor butchers begged the slaughters to go to Reb Hirsz-Yosef with the shayle. Then they were sure that with Reb Hirsz-Yosef, it would be kosher.
After Reb Hirsz-Yosef, Reb Yosef-Aleizer Buki was the rabbi. Reb Yosef-Aleizer followed the path of Reb Hirsz-Yosef. Reb Yosef-Aleizer was short in stature, but with a great mind, a good mind and great shrewdness.
After his death, his son Reb Tovia Buki took his place. He was a great student sage. Reb Henech Zelwer, a son of Reb Izraelke Rabbi, was rabbi for a short time, too. Reb Henech was a quiet and unassuming man, but a great teacher and one of the great students of the Sochaczewer Gaon and Rebbe, Reb Abraham Bel 'Avni Nezer.'
The first shoykhet who was well-known in Radomsk was my grandfather, Reb Mikhal Shoykhet, of blessed memory. He was born in Piotrkow. His father was the well-known shoykhet Reb Mendele Magze, [descended from] shoykhetim for many generations. Reb Mikhal the slaughterer was the ninth generation from Reb Shefatyah Hakhohan, the author of "Reb Shefatyah Hakhohan," known to all Jewry under the name 'Shoykhet.' Reb Mikhal was descended from the shoykhet's daughter, who was called the 'beautiful Esterka.' At first, he was the shoykhet in Rozprza. Later, he came to Radomsk as shoykhet at almost the same time that the Tiferes Shlomoh became rabbi in Radomsk. He was a Warker Hasid, not only because he traveled to Warka, but because he fulfilled in his daily life the teaching of his great rebbe. The doctrine of his rebbe, Rabbi Yitzhak of Warka, was love of the Jewish people, which meant love of each Jew without distinction as to whether he is a Hasid or a common Jew, a tradesman. Reb Mikhal Shoykhet had his group that was made up of tradesmen, with whom he studied Chumush, Rashi, and Mishnah every Shabbos. He had gathered many Jewish tradesmen, all beautiful scholars. I knew some of them, who were called Reb Mikhal's Hasidim, such as Getzel Szneider and Feivel Pelcznmacer. Many became fine, courteous Jewish Hasidim, such as my father-in-law, Reb Yosef-Ber Gelbard. He became a Hasid and a Jew who was able to study thanks to Reb Mikhal Shoykhet.
Every day, many poor traveling Jews sat at his table for meals. His house was open to every poor Jew. On Shabbosim and Yomim-Toyvim, ten or fifteen soldiers who served in the Russian military in Radomsk had meals at his table. He sent twenty rubles, which remained [after expenses] to Eretz-Yisroel every month for poor Jews. He was also very learned in medicine. There was not a poor person in Radomsk who did not call Reb Mikhal Shoykhet. All of the apteikn (pharmacies) accepted his [prescriptions]. The frume Hasidim had complaints about how a Jew, a teacher, and a shoykhet, besides, could visit sick women. It was reported to Tiferes Shlomoh (see above).
He was also, one can say, the rebbe of the shoykhetim of all of Poland and Russia. He wrote his famous seforim about ritual slaughter and non-kosher slaughter. All of the shoykhetim, as well as many rabbis from all of Poland and Russia turned to Reb Mikhal Shoykhet when they has a difficult shayle in matters of non-kosher slaughter. His closest friends who stood with him in shaylus (religious questions of purity) and responses, were Reb Shlomoh Kliger of Brod, the Kaliszer Rabbi Reb Chaim Alezer Waks, and the Tarnower Rabbi Reb Izrael Hakhohan Rapoport. How deeply he was versed in Torah
learning with Tiferes Shlomoh, can be seen in the approval which the Rabbi, Reb Hirsz Mair Hakhohan, of blessed memory writes in the Sefer of Reb Mikhal....
How great and distinguished he was in the scholarly world can be seen from the approval of the Rabbi, the Gaon, Reb Shlomoh Kliger [widely praised] for his seforimů.
The Tiferes Shlomoh left a will that as long as Reb Mikhal Shoykhet could walk, he should be allowed into the slaughterhouse, and that is how it was. Reb Mikhal Shoykhet went to the slaughterhouse for inspections until he was seventy-seven years old. He was also a great joker and wit. His sayings and jokes were repeated throughout Poland.
There is an interesting story of what once happened to Reb Mikhal Shoykhet and it is worthwhile to tell it here. When he had finished writing his sefer, he traveled to Warsaw to have it printed. He packed the writings and eighty rubles in a large kerchief (at that time there were not yet briefcases, as now). Arriving in Warsaw, he entered a tram, which was then still pulled by horses. There was a great amount of pushing around him just as he entered the tram. When he finally sat down on a bench, he noticed that the kerchief with the writings and eighty rubles were missing. He traveled to the Amszinower shtibl at Panske 28 and when he entered there was great joy. Reb Mikhal was very eminent among the Hasidim, because he came to Warsaw every year in the name of the Amszinower rebbe for melodies. The Hasidim asked him, "Why are you so depressed?" They knew him as a person who was never depressed, but always cheerful with a good word. He told them what a misfortune he had met in which his writings and all of his money had been stolen. The Hasidim said, "Do not worry. First we will take a drink of whisky, it will soon be [made] good and [with] faith in G-d." A L'chaim was made. Two eminent young men [were chosen to help Reb Mikhal Shoykhet]]. One of them was the well-known Warsaw moyel, Reb Yitzhak Yosef Rozental. They traveled out the Praga, near Warsaw. The well-known rebbe of the thieves, Reb Chaskele Szpigelglas lived there (not to be confused with the well-known president of Khoylel Poyln, Reb Yehezkeil Szpigelglas). They come to the rebbe. He speaks up to them, "What is new?" (You must know that the rebbe of the thieves was a Jew with a beautiful white beard; he sat and studied. However, his income came from being thought of as the leader of the thieves. They each allotted [to him] a share of their theft. He also [adjudicated their disputes]. The young men tell him the whole story about the writings and the money, which were stolen. He answers, "If my children (that is the band of thieves, who were under his influence -- author) did this little bit of work, you can be sure that the writings will be returned. Come to the 'kawiarnia' (that is, coffee-house) tomorrow at noon and I will be able to tell you for sure." The next day at noon, the Hasidim come with Reb Mikhal Shoykhet to the 'kawiarnia.' Reb Chaskele is already there and he tells them, "The writings are available." He is asked, "And the money?" He answers, "The money is already eaten up; the children work yet, they must eat. But for the writings," he says, he deserves compensation. They ask him, "What do you mean? You already have the eighty rubles and you still ask for compensation?" He says, "I have already said the money is eaten up, but for my efforts in bringing back the writings, I deserve compensation." There is good and angry talk; it doesn't help. He keeps to his [demands]. Finally, he says, "You know of the Din-Torah, let us go to a Din-Torah (law suit in a rabbinical court), to Reb Zeinwele (Rabbi Reb Zeinwele Khlepfisz, a great Jewish sage)." Then they go to the Din-Torah. Each argued their case and Reb Zeinwele decided that Reb Chaskele must be paid three rubles. When he was given the three rubles, he said that the writings lie in a safe in the main post office. That is how the writings were returned.
Reb Abraham Soyfer (scribe) was the best friend of Reb Mikhal Shoykhet. He was the greatest and most skillful and well-know soyfer in all of Poland, a great Jewish teacher and an old Warker Hasid. I still have the Sefer-Torah that my grandfather, Reb Mikhal Shoykhet, had Reb Abraham Soyfer write. Abraham Soyfer was a joker like Reb Mikhal Shoykhet, too. It was told in Radomsk, that when my grandmother, may she rest in peace, Reb Mikhal Shoykhet's wife suddenly died young (she was thirty-nine years old), Reb Mikhal Shoykhet was in the slaughterhouse. Everyone asked who should be the one to tell Reb Mikhal such bad news that his wife had died. Such news no one wants to tell. Reb Abraham Soyfer said, "I will go." And he went to the slaughterhouse. Coming in, Reb Mikhal asked, "What's new, Abraham?" He answers, "Have you heard, Mikhal, the news in the city? All of the women in the city have died." Reb Mikhal said, "Who knows if my wife was the first one to die?"
Reb Mikhal Shoykhet had two sons. Reb Moishe-Yual, who was the shoykhet in Amszinow, died young. The second son was my father, Reb Yehezkeil Shoykhet, of blessed memory. He had two daughters, too. The oldest, Chana, was the wife of the well-known Reb Moishe Dovid Fridman, who was the secretary of Khoylel Poyln for many years, while Reb Motel Horowicz was the president of Khoylel Poyln. Later, he had a beautiful wine business in the market. (When he died, it was taken over by his son-in-law Mendele Landa.) He was the Bel-Musif (leader of the musif service
for the Hasid L'Abrahm and one of the most distinguished of the Radomsker Hasidim. The second daughter, Golda, was the wife of Reb Moishe Grosman of Piotrkow, a handsome and eminent businessman. I will write about my father, Reb Yehezkeil Shoykhet, in the chapter about the Khevre Kedishe (Burial Society).
Reb Noach Shoykhet and his son Reb Henekh Shoykhet
The shoykhet after Reb Mikhal was Reb Noakh Rubinsztein. He was a rarity among Jews, a great Talmudic sage, one of the remaining old Kotzker Hasidim. When one spoke to him, one saw his Kotzker sharpness and honesty. He bowed to no person, told everyone the truth and, at the same time, had the goodness of the Jew. He had [learned his good traits from his father-in-law]; he was a son-in-law of the well-known folk-rebbe, Reb Yekele Widamer, who was known for his love of the Jewish people. He traveled for many years to the old Kotzker rebbe, Reb Mendele. He was a small and thickly built man, but a true hero. When a butcher deserved it, Reb Noakh was capable of giving him a slap so that [the butcher] was afraid to utter another word. He was not a coward. The butchers trembled before him, but simultaneously everyone loved him for his simplicity, honesty, and good traits.
His son, Reb Henekh Shoykhet, was an extraordinarily good and modest person, full of sympathy for every Jew. It is impossible to write about his goodness. After my father, of blessed memory, he was my rebbe and teacher of ritual slaughtering. I learned much from him. He suffered much slander and libel because of his goodness. He died young in 1922. The whole city mourned this rare, good Jew.
Reb Henekh Shoykhet left a son Hirsz-Mair, who followed his father as shoykhet. Alas, he perished together with all of Radomsk's Jews.
Two of Reb Noakh's sons survive in Eretz-Yisroel, Tubi and Mendel Rubinsztein; both live in Haifa.
Reb Yehezkeil Shoykhet and the Khevre Kedishe
My father, Reb Yehezkeil Shoykhet, was a great Talmudic sage. He would wake up at five o'clock every day and would sit and study; more correctly, he stood and studied. On the days when he did not go to the slaughterhouse, he studied until ten o'clock; then he first went to the mikvah and to the Beis Midrash to daven. Every year, he read the "Shulhan-Aruk" (the collection of laws and prescriptions by which an Orthodox Jew lives) with the "Magen Abraham." When someone needed to know about a law in the Shulhan-Aruk, he came to him to ask. He had his Talmudic lectures on Gemara with Tusfus (commentaries on Talmud named after the author) and each week he read the Zohar of the week's Torah reading. He was for many years the Gabe (trustee) of the Talmud Torah (free elementary school for the poorest children maintained by the Jewish community) and for all years the second Gabe of the Khevre Kedishe. I can also remember that he was the second trustee together with Reb Mendel Feierman, later with Reb Moishe Pelman, then with Reb Yaakov Yehoshua Zeligson and Reb Yaakov Dovid Feitlowicz was the last Gabe. However, the most active in the Khevre Kedishe was always Reb Yehezkeil Shoykhet. He literally sacrificed his life for the mitzvah of accompanying the dead to their eternal rest. When he was called to the deceased, even in the middle of the night, he was always ready, dressed himself quickly and literally ran to fulfill the mitzvah of accompanying the body to its rest.
I will relate some facts as to how well organized the Radomsker Khevre Kedishe was and with what devotion the Khevre Kedishe members worked, not for a reward, G-d forbid, but indeed, as loyal soldiers for the Jewish people. I hold it as my duty to here remember some of the Khevre Kedishe members because of their legendary work.
The oldest of the Khevre Kedishe members was Reb Mordechai Gliksman (he was called Mordekhai "Pimple", because he had a pimple on one eye). He was a tailor, but when there was a death, he left his work in his shop and was the first who came to sew the shrouds and to help with the ritual cleansing of the body. His grandson Chaim Goldberg, a communal worker, survives him in Haifa.
Then there was: Reb Henekh the Rosh Yeshiva [head of Yeshiva], Reb Abraham Yitzhak Bendlmacher, Reb Szmul-Zeinwl Brener, the Fiszer Reb Dovid Zajonc, the tailor Chaim Yakov Goldner, who was called "Weisele," because he had a blond beard (he was in the Khevre Kedishe for many years as a devoted dear soldier), Reb Mair-Ahron Rudnitski, the most active and outstanding volunteer of the Khevre Kedishe (his son Yekeziel was for many years president of the Radomsker landsmanschaft in New York), then Reb Hersz-Leib Birnboim, a tailor, a very religious and refined Jew and, above all, who of us older Radomskers can forget the Shames of the shul and Shames of the Khevre Kedishe, Reb Yosef Weisberg? He was called Yosef Safkower. He literally sacrificed his life through his holy work. I can remember the Safkower coming at three o'clock in the morning to waken my father, of blessed memory, and together they went to a body. He was so devoted in the years 1918-1919, when Radomsk went through the terrible illness, typhus. He went to wash the bodies of the typhus victims before their burial, until he, of course, contracted the disease himself and he died during Passover 1919. He had a funeral such as Radomsk had never before seen. The whole city, men, women and children, went to accompany the beloved Shames and Khevre Kedishe worker to his eternal rest. A son, Weisberg, survived him in Metz, a very fine Jewish member of the community.
During the war in 1914, the front was in the shtetl Brzeznica. The Russians were still in Radomsk. After great effort and influence, the Khevre Kedishe received permission from the Russian general staff to go out to the front every night where they searched the fox-holes for those killed. When they found someone who had been killed, they brought him to Radomsk. The body of the killed was laid in the old house that stood near the mikvah. The old house was once the Tiferes Shlomoh's first Beis Midrash; later the porters had their minyon there. Every day my father Reb Yezekheil Shoykhet, of blessed memory along with Rabbi Reb Yosef Buki, of blessed memory (the Rabbi was a kohan), went to the house, undressed all of the martyrs and took off all signs that would enable them to identify the names and families to provide a means for the 'deserted wives' to receive rabbinical permission to remarry. I photographed all of the martyrs. It was poignant when a victim was brought from the fox-holes, a Russian
soldier who was found without any documents, but was found wearing tefilin.
My father and Reb Yosef Bulki recorded all of his body marks with the community of the Khevre Kedishe, which later helped his widow receive authorization to remarry. While the Russians were in Radomsk, they chased all of the Jews from the small villages which were close to the front. The village Jews came to live in Radomsk. After the Russians were driven out by the Austrians (after Chanukah 1915), a peasant came from the village of Debroszitz to a Jew from the village and told him that during the fighting a Jewish soldier was killed there. The peasant had buried him together with a Cossack near a tree. [The tree] was the mark. The Khevre Kedishe made every effort with the Austrian military regime to receive permission to bring the Jewish soldier to the Jewish cemetery. It continued until winter 1916 when they finally received permission. A minyon from the Khevre Kedishe traveled by night with torches to light the area and they searched the whole night until they found the grave of the Jewish martyr together with the Cossack. Early in the morning, the martyr was brought to Radomsk to the Jewish cemetery. The whole city took part in the funeral.
The first khazin in Radomsk was Reb Abrahamele Admininer, a handsome Jewish scholar, an eminent Hasid and a dear good person. His davening was a mix of cantorial art and Hasidic ecstacy. He was an exception among the khazinim. It is said a khazin is a fool, but he was a great sage.
After him Reb Shlomoh Zaks was the khazin, a beautiful person with a
stately appearance and celebrated musical abilities. He was known throughout
Poland through his sweet and heartfelt prayers. He was one of the first
lovers of Zion in Radomsk. When one heard Shlomoh Khazin sing at a simkha
accompanied by the well-known musician and fervid Zionist, Moishe Lewkowicz,
it could be said that one knew what is meant by heartfelt Jewish music.
Both of them together put a religious national feeling in the musical soul.
Tiferes Shlomoh had a shamos, who was called Abraham-Leib Gabe. He was
the father of Kopel Shamos. Abraham-Leib imagined that the entire office
of the Hasidic rabbi relied only on him. He had even once said (he spoke
through his nose), "If Abraham-Leib were not the gabe (trustee), the rabbi
would not be the rabbi." He was a fanatic of pious Hasidism. Two important
yahrzeitn fall on the 12th of Elul (September-October), Rebbe Reb Bunim
of Pszczolki, the founder of the philosophical Hasidism, whose students
were the Rebbe Reb Mendel of Kock and the Rebbe Reb Yitzhak of Warker.
The yahrzeit of Rebbe
His son Kopel was the shamos in the community Beis Midrash. He also had the key to the Rebbe's oyel. Kopel was a particularly fervent Jew with a great yellow beard. He could teach well and was an influential person without fear of anyone, as if the Beis Midrash belonged to him. Many Jews even called the Beis Midrash, Kopel's Beis Midrash. He was a devoted Jew, a Hasid of Rebbe Reb Motele of Kuzmer and, simultaneously, he was the first Zionist in the city and splurged much money on Eretz-Yisroel. Every day he sat with Yitzhak Aronowicz or with Berisz Sztutzki and read "Hatzfire" (a Hebrew periodical published in Warsaw starting in 1862) with zeal.
Reb Berl Shamos was a very fine Jew. He was the father of Witenberg, who had a bookstore and was the father-in-law of the well-known Abrahatzhe Minski. He was, one can say, an aristocratic shamos. He was also then the only good moyel in the city and administered the Jewish Metrical Books in City Hall, the births, marriage akts, etc. In general he was a cultured person.
Later his son Leibel was the shamos together with the beloved Shamos Yosef Safkower. The two shamosim were also
the shamosim of the Khevre Kedishe. Peretz, was also the shamos of the Beis-Din (the rabbinic court) and the Khevre Kedishe. He also spoke through his nose. It is told, that when Reb Dovid, the son of the Radomsker rebbe Reb Hirsz Mair, died young, the rebbitzin bought a cemetery lot near her son's grave. She was then fifty years old and Peretz Shamos was already nearly eighty. The rebbitzin asked that it should be written in the Pinkhus of the Khevre Kedishe that she had bought the cemetery lot. Peretz Shamos said, "Rebbitzin, rebbitzin, it is not necessary to write, I will remember when you come." He was so accustomed to burying the people that he thought he would outlive them all. He had two sons, one of them was Aitzhe-Alezer Pelman.
Reb Yaakow Dovid Weintroib, of blessed memory
One of the most beautiful figures that Polish Jewry possessed lived in Radomsk. One can say one of the old legendary Lamedvov Tsadikim (thirty-six good men who justify the existence of the world). Not many people in the city knew the great Jew and Tsadek through and through. I had the rare honor to know this Jew a little, because he lived in the house where my father, of blessed memory, lived. This was a Jew, a great scholar of religious texts dealing with daily life, in other words, the Tanakh, Gemara, and all of the commentaries. He knew everything well, but more than that he was a great hidden saint of Kabbalah. He knew all of the books of the Kabbalah of the Maharal (the rabbi of Prague), etc. In a few words, there were no books about the Kabbalah that Reb Yaakow Dovid had not studied and not only read fluently, but he was permeated with the spirit of the great personalities who substantiated the Kabbalah. It can be said that he was one of the Kabbalah sages of Tzfat (Safed). I heard him recite the Torah several times. I must admit I am not a great expert on Kabbalah, but what I knew from others who understood a little, I grasped from his Torah recitation, one could not imagine a greater prominent Jewish personality, than Reb Yaakow Dovid.
When the Rebbe of Aleksander, Reb Izrael-Yitshak, the happy Izrael, died in 1910, many Aleksander Hasidim came to Radomsk and wanted to make Reb Yaakow Dovid their rebbe. However, as already has been said, he did not want to be a leader and a rebbe. But he did travel to the new rebbe, Reb Ahron of Biala. The Aleksander rebbe died in the month of Shevat (January/February) and Reb Yaakow Dovid had already traveled to Biala on Purim. He could not wait longer to see the new rebbe and spiritual leader. When the Rebbe, Reb Ahron died during Shavous (he was only the leader for several months), Reb Yaakow Dovid traveled to the brother Reb Mendele in Strykow. One can see how great was his love of the Jewish people and how far-reaching an outlook he had can be seen from the following, which his son Rabbi Reb Yekhiel Weintroib of Tel Aviv told me.
Right after the First World War, when the Polish State arose and the
vile Polish anti-Semitism was felt step by step, he said to his son, "I
beg you to leave Poland. If I had enough strength, I would go from house
to house and would yell that all Jews should leave Poland. However, I do
not have the strength, and besides that, who will listen to me? My children
should all leave Poland, because Poland will not be good for Jews." He
said the same thing to his oldest son Reb Noakh that he should go to Eretz-Yisroel.
And in fact, almost all of his children survived, because before his death
he had told them to go to Eretz-Yisroel.
The following is told as witness to his love of the Jewish people and his great love of Zion. The Rabbi Reb Yekheil told me that my father Reb Yekhezeil Shoykhet, of blessed memory, once asked Reb Yaakow Dovid, "What is your opinion of how is it possible that it is told that many free-thinking Jews, who hold nothing of Jewishness, go to Eretz-Yisroel and build the land with devotion?" Reb Yaakow Dovid answered, "King Dovid says in 'Psalms,' chapter 69: 'For G-d will save Zion, and build the cities of Judah; And they shall abide there, and have it in possession.' How will this be? All Jews, even sinful ones, will help redeem the land from the Gentiles, but the seed of His worshipers will inherit it. The end will be, that in Zion only those who love His name will dwell in it and those who do not love His name or will not do atonement will desert the land, while those who love His name will dwell in it."
As already said, he devoted his whole life to Torah and worship; the
support of the family was his dear wife Frimet, who was called "Frimet
the Kupke" because she did not wear a sheitl like all pious women, but
a head covering which was called a kupke. All ancient women wore it. She
baked cakes for weddings and challahs for Shabbos, which supported the
The wife died in Eretz-Yisroel and three sons survived her there. The oldest son is Rabbi Reb Noakh Weintroib. He had many seforim besides the Torah and Kabbalah. The second son, Reb Ahron, lives in Jerusalem. He is a great teacher and author of seforim. (He looks exactly like his father, of blessed memory.) The third son is Rabbi Reb Yekheil Weintroib; he lives in Tel Aviv and is a rabbi in a shul. This is a rare, fine person, a gentle heart with the traits of his father. The youngest son, Mordekhai, is a shoykhet and Khazin in America and a great scholar.
Hersz Dovid Nomberg
The well-known writer and journalist, Hersz-Dovid Nomberg was actually born in the city of Aszimow, but he was raised in Radomsk. His mother Khihle was the daughter of the famous Hasid, the rich and eminent Jew, Reb Bunim Eizenberg, who was known throughout Poland for his tzdoke (charity). He was, it can be said, the most generous man in all of Poland. There was always a kettle of warm food ready in his house for when a poor Jew found himself in the neighborhood. [The poor Jew] specially went to Amiszow to eat until he was sated at Reb Bunim Eizenberg's home and there, in addition, he received a nice donation. Reb Bunim was, in general, a rarity among rich Jews. Besides the food and money, which he gave, he fulfilled the mitzvah of cheerfully giving charity to all men. All the Hasidim and scholars were drawn to Reb Bunim Eizenberg in order to sit at his table and he carried on as Hasidic rebbe. He traveled to the Rebbe Reb Tzudek Hakhohan of Lublin, where he was thought of as a great leader of the Hasidim.
He had three children. At that time, he gave each child ten thousand rubles as a dowry. The daughter Khihle married Hersz Dovid's father in Amszinow. She did not live with him for long for two reasons. First, immediately after the wedding, he had 'kalye gevarn,' as it was said then, that means he became a follower of the Enlightenment and strayed from the religious path. Second, he became ill with tuberculosis and traveled to Merano, Italy to be healed, where he died after several months. Meanwhile, Hersz-Dovid was born of the unfortunate marriage.
When the child was two years old, his mother Khihle married again and this time to Reb Aiche Szternfeld of Radomsk, a distinguished and noble Jew, a great scholar and a Gerer Hasid, one of those who sat at the table in Ger. That is how Hersz-Dovid came as a child to Radomsk and was raised in the Hasidic atmosphere with his grandfather, Reb Bunim Eizenberg and Reb Aiche Szternfeld. As a child he was already a prodigy, had an extraordinarily good head, which grasped the most difficult things and a uniquely good memory.
At eighteen, he married his dear wife Mashele, the daughter of the well-known iron merchant, Reb Mordekhai Szpira. He had three sons with her, Moishe, Aliezer and Yezekheil. Immediately after the wedding, when his was still a Hasidic young man and davened and studied in the Gerer shteibl, he had already secretly, and later already openly, begun to read and study modern literature. He read and studied the whole night. He had also secretly begun to write his first and best work, in which he portrayed Radomsker types. Particularly successful was the portrait of the old Gerer-Kotsker Hasid, who was called Fiszel Kotsker.
After several years of kest (support provided by a father-in-law to enable the son-in-law to continue with his religious studies) with his father-in-law and already the father of three children, he opened a food shop. When a customer came in to buy something in the absence of Nomberg's wife, he did not tear himself away from the book he was reading, but yelled into the customer, that he would immediately come in and the customer should meanwhile serve herself. Slowly, all of the goods were gathered together from the shop.
Nomberg began to associate with progressives, played chess and stopped studying as [he had done] before. As his father-in-law Mordekhai Szpira was a fanatically pious Jew, he forced [Nomberg] to divorce his wife Mashele, whom he loved extraordinarily. He loved his children very much, too. However, despite this, he gave his wife a get (religious divorce) and left Radomsk for Warsaw, where he began his literary activities. In a short time, he became known in the Jewish literary world as a good man-of-letters and a journalist.
Meanwhile, his wife married another man at the wish of her father. However, she did not live with him for long, because she could not forget her Hersz-Dovid and divorced her second husband. When Hersz-Dovid was already well known in the Jewish world, he returned to Radomsk and wanted to remarry his beloved wife Mashele, but it was already too late. According to Jewish law, a woman who has married another man after a get cannot marry her first husband for a second time. Thus, Hersz-Dovid remained alone his whole life and did not marry again. When he was already the very well known man-of-letters Nomberg, he would come to Radomsk every year to visit his beloved mother Khihle Szternfeld, as well as to see his children. He loved his mother very much and because of this he did whatever she wished. It was self-evident, because his frume mother requested of him that he daven in talis-un-tefilin. He put on the talis and tefilin and meanwhile he would completely forget and being engrossed in his thoughts, he would go out on the balcony and run deep in thought back and forth in his talis and tefilin until noticed by his mother, who made him aware of this.
When his youngest son, Yekheziel died in Otwock, at only fifteen years
of age, he was called from Warsaw. He did not want to come, saying, "I
will not bring my son back to life, but if I were to see him dying, I would
not survive it."
Hersz-Dovid Nomberg died in Otwock and was brought to Warsaw for burial. His grave is near the oyel of the three great writers Y. L. Peretz, Sz. An-Ski, and Yakov Dinenson. His wife Mashe married an eminent, pious and clever Jew, Reb Aichele Wolhendler, to whom Radomsker Jews came for arbitration of the most difficult law suits before the Rabbinical courts. They had a son, Kalman, who was the shoykhet in Mychow.
Abraham Grocholicer was a tall Jew with a beautiful white beard. A person with a stately appearance, he was not a Ben Torah (Jewish scholar), but he was a very pious Jew and a frequent visitor to the Rebbe's court. He was a great believer in the strength of the Hasidic Rebbes and was never absent from his Rebbe's table. He was especially a great believer in being
visible at the third and final Shabbos meal and shook along with the Rebbe during the singing of the Shabbos songs of the third meal, where the great Hasidim were soaked through with religious ecstasy and enthusiasm. He lived in Bugaj, not far from the Russian barracks, where the Russian military was stationed. Few Jews lived in the neighborhood. Once on a Shabbos, he noticed that there was a great commotion in the barracks. The officers and the soldiers were running around confused. Abraham Grocholicer went up to an officer and asked him, "Excuse me, what has happened in the barracks. I see that there is so much running here and there, something extraordinary must have occurred. The officer told him that they were all disturbed because they did not know what to do with the horses. They all had become ill at the same time and they were dying and the veterinarian was powerless because he did not know what kind of an illness this was and, as a matter or course, did not know any remedy for it. All the veterinarians in the city had been brought to him, but no one knew what it was. He already had been given all kinds of medications, but the situation was hopeless. Abraham Grocholicer said to the officer, "I will see something to do and, possibly, I will be able to bring a remedy for the horses."
On Shabbos in the afternoon, the Grocholicer went to the Rebbe for the third Shabbos meal. At the end of the blessings of the third meal, when the Rebbe's shamas already had brought in the two candles (the shamas would stand with the two candles near the door until he heard being said, "I give you the crown of the nation.'" Then he came in with the candles). Abraham Grocholicer scraped together all the little pieces of challah and all of the crumbs, which remained from the third Shabbos meal and put them all in a red handkerchief. He davened Maariv, heard the Rebbe's Havdalah and the beautiful prayer that ends Shabbos, which the Hasidim sang and went straight to the barracks. There he declared to the general, that he had brought a good remedy for the sick horses. The general asked him, "Who are you, a doctor? A veterinarian?" Abraham Grocholicer answered him, "I am the "rabbi" and I hope that with my remedies I will be able to cure the sick horses. As is known, the Russians, even the generals were very superstitious. They believed in everything holy. The holy Rabin should cure his sick horses, especially because he had no other hope.
Abraham Grocholicer took the pieces of challah with all of the crumbs,
mixed them with a sack of oats and said it should be fed to the horses.
The foolishness was successful; a miracle happened and all of the horses
became healthy. It should be understood what kind of reputation the old
"holy rabbi" received with the Russian officers and, especially, with the
general. He was spoken of as if a holy one with the greatest reverence;
he was called "Gospodin Rabin" (Mister Rabbi). From that moment, he was
the envoy or the intercessor with the general, as well as with the Russian
officers. When a favor was needed for the Jews, and, particularly, that
the Jewish soldiers should be released erev Yom Kippur. Or when Jewish
soldiers wanted to come to the city after their hours of service in order
to eat kosher meals with the Jewish families, who had invited them. The
Rebbe or the Rabbi brought his beautiful shtreiml with the beautiful silk
coat and a nice stick with a silver head to Abraham Grocholicer. Dressed
in the rabbi's clothing, he went to the general to intercede for the Jews
and he was successful each time. The Russian officer did not have the presumption
to refuse the request of the "holy rabbi." "Gospodin Rabin" was invited
to each solemnity by the Russians, such as a "galuwke" (that is, a birthday
or a "yahrzeit" for the Czar and his family members). The "Gospodin Rabin"
went dressed in the Rebbe's silk clothes with the beautiful streiml as
the representative of the Radomsker Jews. I have to mention that he spoke
Russian well, which was a rarity among Radomsker Jews. It is easy to disguise
how brave Abraham Grocholicer was because of the great respect he received.
He began to believe that he was indeed a rabbi. The fact is, however, that
he did a great many favors for the poor, unfortunate young Jews who fell
in Fonye's (Russia's) hand as soldiers.
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