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p. 490

The Przedborzer Dynasty

a.

Rebbe Reb Yeshayahule was one of the 18 students of the Rebbe from Lublin (the Prophet) who themselves became rabbis. When he was crowned as a rebbe, he also went in the path of his great Rebbe.

The Rebbe was born in the city of Lask, near Lodz. He was descended from a rabbinical family of great lineage in Poland. His great grandfather, Reb Meir Getz, was the rabbi in Lask and in Piotrkow, and was greatly esteemed in the learned world. His father, Reb Meir, died when [Reb Yeshayahule] was young, leaving no other child but his son the “halo of gold” who was famous as a child prodigy. He was barely 14 years old when a Przedborz businessman took him for a son-in-law on the condition that he would continue to sit and study Torah for its own sake.

In Przedborz, Reb Yeshayahule met the son of the local magid (preacher), Reb Yakov-Yitzhak, who was already called the “Saintly Jew” and both, leaving their wives, traveled to Lithuania to study in the yeshiva of Reb Dovid Tewele, where they lived on “salt and bread,” with a piece of dry bread and with a cot on the pure earth… When they came home to Przedborz after several years studying in Lithuania, they were invited to join the “Prophet” (through Reb Dovid Lelewer).

p. 491

Since Reb Yeshayahule was very widely known in the learned world for his brilliance and Hasidus, immediately after the death of the “Prophet” (5575 [1815]), when the public divided the “inheritance,” Reb Yeshayahule was crowned as the Przedborzer Rebbe. His friend, the “Saintly Jew,” had been elevated while the “Prophet” still lived.

Reb Moishe Lelever, Reb Dovid's son, Reb Yosele Nejsztetiszer, Reb Ahron Krakow, the Tiferes Shlomoh and other great scholars and Tzadekim (saintly men) were Reb Yeshayahule's Hasidim and “hangers on.” All his life, the Rebbe Reb Yeshayahule was a man who stayed at home studying, leading a modest life. And, like all city-rabbis, he received support form the Kehile that was barely enough to be considered austere. He, also, had to take payments for advice, but the money that he had to gather from the poor, from the bitter hearts who came to him, he used for matters of charity. Whoever came to Rebbe Reb Yeshayahule hungry, left satisfied. The city had great veneration for him. Not without reason: He defended his Kehile his whole life.

b.

A very characteristic story was told about him in the shtetl. German cloth-makers came to Przedborz (so called sukiennikes [Translator's note: Polish for draper or clothier]) and built a cloth factory there near the Pilica [River] that brought prosperity to the city. They mostly employed Jews; while not knowing any language other than German, the Germans could communicate only with the Jews. The middleclass daughters were enthusiastically befriended by the Germans, strolled around with them, free as a bird, along the streets. In Przedborz, potatoes became expensive as a result [of the increased number of workers], and the poor did not have the means to buy them. Learning of this, Reb Yeshayahule began to storm against the Jewish daughters associating with the Germans. They sent “good friends” to the Rebbe Reb Yeshayahule, promising a large sum of money if he would leave the Jewish girls alone… Although Reb Yeshayahule was then indigent, he, to be sure, refused the proposal with great contempt and cursed the factory that it should sink…

In time, the legend continues, the work in the factory began to decline; the owners of the factory had to end the work. The workers, as a result, dispersed all over the world and potatoes immediately became cheaper… When the Przedborzer Jews would tell about these miracles, they would add, “You can still today see the ruin that the Germans built and that the Rebbe, Reb Yeshayahule had cursed, with the towers of the cloth factory now overgrown with grass and moss.”

The following occurrence was also told about this Tzadek. When Reb Yeshayahule was Rebbe, the regime ordered that every Jew should choose a family name. The supervisor of the “names,” naturally looked for a bone to lick. When one did not give him any money, he issued an ugly surname, so that the family would be shamed by it…

When Rebbe, Reb Yeshayahule was ordered to choose a surname, he asked that “Weltfreid” (world joy) be registered. The official, who understood well the significance of this expression, did not want to register the name, wanting a bribe for it. However, the Rebbe, a great enemy of unjust rewards, said no money should be given. This official then suddenly became terribly ill and another who represented him registered the Rebbe's name “Weltfreid” without any opposition and without reward.

c.

A whole world really rejoiced with Rebbe Reb Yeshayahule; he had almost no opponents, like other rabbis of the time. With his magnificence, Hasidim say, he discredited many edicts against the Jews. Anyone who crossed his threshold was helped with income and with other salvations.

As long as Reb Yeshayahule lived, the Przedborzer Jews literally swam in plenty of good things – for example there was an abundance of income was in the city. However he himself was satisfied with his lot in life. When Reb Yekl Widomer settled on the other side of the city (in the village of Widome), beyond the Pilica, and began to act rabbinical, giving blessings and remedies, Reb Yeshayahule made very little of it… On the contrary, let still another Jew, a Tzadek, defend the sinful world… However, when it was brought to him that Reb Yekele Widomer engages in self-flattery, Reb Yeshayahule answered in half-Polish and half-Hebrew: “Tu jak tu, vatam hu omer” – that is, “here, so to say, what does the simple person say?” (In the rabbinical manner, he wanted to give him a jab, calling him “tam (simple)”).

Reb Yeshayahule died at the age of 75 (4 Elul 5591 [13 August 1831]). At his grave stands an ohel to which the pious public would make a pilgrimage.

d.

The Rebbe Reb Yeshayahule had only one son, Reb Emanuel, who was still very young at the death of his father and therefore did not want to take over the rabbinate in Przedborz. In the interim, Reb Moishele Lelewer took his place and after his departure for Eretz-Yisroel, the Rebbe Reb Emanuel became the successor to his great father. Reb Emanuel died in Warsaw at the age of 63 (27 Shevat 5625 [23 February 1865]) and was buried there (his ohel is located not far from the Warker's ohel).

His son, Reb Abraham-Moishe Weltfreid, Reb Emanuel's successor went through great trials during his life.

When he lived (in 1872) in the shtetl Sulejow, near Piotrkow, he was accused of a blood libel. A young Christian boy disappeared from the shtetl and this was before Passover. The “rabin” (Translator's note: Polish word for rabbi) was blamed; he had slaughtered the child “for blood for matzohs.” The mob attacked the Rebbe at the Seder. Everything in his home was demolished and looted; the floors and the walls were ripped. The young Christian boy was found in the morning rambling around in the city woods.

p. 492

After, Reb Abraham-Moishele became Rebbe in Przedborz. However, for certain reasons the “elite” there persecuted him and chased him from the shtetl. Reb Abraham-Moishele and his court then settled in Rozprza (therefore he was called the “Rozprza Rebbe”). However, here, too, he did not have great satisfaction, although he was well respected in the city itself.

At first he met with this sort of thing: a Shabbos goya (Translator's note: a Christian woman who performs work prohibited to Jews on Shabbos) would come to heat the oven in the apartment of the Rebbe. Once, the rebbitzin, by mistake, treated her to a little glass of layek (a poison with which copper was polished) instead of whiskey, and the goya died as a result. The local Christians immediately attacked the Rebbe's house. However, the Rebbe succeeded in quieting the anger and rage of the mob through various means.

During the First World War, hunger sprang up in the court of the old Rebbe. Bandits attacked his home with guns, looking for money in the armored strong box. The Rebbe then left Rozprza and settled in Radomsk. His Przedborzer enemies had remorse for their old sin, placated the Rebbe and took him back to Przedborz. He died there on the 22nd in 5678 [1917] (Translator's note: no month is given) at the age of 78. Although he had worried that he would not be buried in the ohel of his eminent grandfather, the Beis-Din (religious court) ruled that he deserved a holy spot in the ohel.

The Rebbe Reb Abraham-Moishele was a great sage. A whole world came to him and even Christians thought very highly of him. Turabowski, a certain Lord from another area, did not do anything without first receiving advice from the Rozprza “Prorok” (Translator's note: Polish for prophet). When conducting lawsuits about inherited estates, the lord, as he would always stress to his Christian friends, in the merit of the Rozprza Rebbe, would win them all. When he lost a lawsuit after the death of Reb Abraham-Moishele, in the greatest excitement he cried out in court after hearing the sentence, “As long as my Rebbe was alive no court had any power over me,” and therefore, he cried passionately. This Lord would often visit the grave of “his Rebbe” and there cry out his bitter heart…

“The Rozprza's” sons were the Pabianicer Rebbe and the Tomaszower Rebbe and the Rebbe Yisroeltce of Radomsk.

Y. Feinkind


p. 495

Reb Dovidl Lelewer

a.

Before Reb Moishele Lelewer, the son of Reb Dovidl Lelewer, was elevated to his father's place, he was in the village of Strzalkow. So modest was Reb Moishele that no one near Plawno knew that this poor teacher of the youngest children was a son of Reb Dovidl Lelewer and a son-in-law of the “Prophet” of Przysucha. He sat in the village in the study of Torah, turned from all the desires of the world, and starved there together with his wife and little children.

Once Reb Dovidl Lelewer had a desire to see how his son was doing. At dawn on a winter Friday morning when the frost was cracking, he sneaked out of his home and quickly ran to Strzalkow. The road to this village led through Paderewek and when he arrived there, it was already daybreak. Seeing a river near Paderewek, Reb Dovidl chopped out a piece of ice and immersed himself in honor of Shabbos. Perhaps he would no longer have time to immerse himself [when he arrived] in Strzalkow, a great distance from Paderewek. Just at the time Reb Dovidl immersed himself, the Paderewek “farmer” (the milk lessee) Reb Yenkl drove by with his horse and wagon carrying home a little wood from a nearby woods. Seeing how the old Jew with the ancient grey beard was crawling naked out of the frozen river, shivering with cold, “the farmer” sprang down from his wagon, quickly threw off his Dubielno furs and wrapped the shivering little Jew in them. Throwing the wood off of the wagon, he warmly placed the straw and hay around him and pressed the mare, in order to bring the unconscious man to Paderewek.

In his home, Reb Dovidl Lelewer was warmed with hot water bottles and hot tea. When he came to, Reb Dovidl asked the farm lessee how his income was and so on. “The farmer” forcefully justified himself, explaining that he more or less has an income. However, he must toil very hard and has no days or nights. He must, as G-d gives the day, travel to the city with the milk cans. And he cannot comply with everything the nobleman demands of him.

Reb Dovidl sighing deeply and nonchalantly, said to the arendar (Polish for farm lessee), “It is already high time that you should buy the estate and stop being a “farmer.” Reb Yenkl, hearing these words, laughed strongly. However, he thought to himself, “G-d grant from his mouth into G-d's ears”…

Reb Dovidl took leave of the arendar and his household and went on his way to his son in Strzalkow. He came in time to enter his son's home before candle lighting.

b.

At that time, Paderewek belonged to a great nobleman who lived in Krakow and he had an administrator sitting on his estate. The nobleman would visit his estate from time to time in order to take a look at what was happening there and to go over the accounts with his administrator.

p. 496

The story is told that on the same Friday at night, when Reb Dovidl Lelewer was with his son Reb Moishele in Strzalkow, the nobleman actually came to Paderewek. Upon checking his estate, he became very upset because of the bad state of affairs under the administrator and immediately in the morning he asked that the Jewish lessee, Reb Yenkl be called. He approached the nobleman, “broken in three” (bowing), with his hat in his hand. The jasny pan (the noble lord) proposed to him that he should raise the money and buy the estate from him. Reb Yenkl pleaded that he did not have the amount of money that the estate would cost. The nobleman calmed him and said that he should not be so concerned, because he could pay in installments. The nobleman told him to come straight to Krakow on Monday where the sales document could be written.

Leaving the nobleman, Reb Yenkl remembered what the old man had first said on Friday, upon leaving his house. He made havdalah as soon as he saw the first three stars in the sky at the close of Shabbos and left for Strzalkow in his horse and wagon. There he first realized that “the old man” whom he had met immersing himself in the river was the great tzadek, Reb Dovidl Lelewer.

c.

Approaching Reb Dovidl, Reb Yenkl heard him singing “Zareinu wekhaspeinu yarbe kakhol” (“May He make our descendants and wealth as much as the sand”). As soon as Reb Dovidl ended the tune, he called the Paderewek arendar to him and asked him: “Nu, how are you doing with the nobleman?”… Reb Yenkl became very confused, seeing that the Rebbe already knew everything.

The lessee explained the whole story to him and at the end added, “From where does one get the money for that, holy Rebbe; I am only a poor arendar?” Reb Dovidl did not give an answer but pleasantly sang and hummed the tunes of the “full week” with his hands. When he was as far as “Fear not my servant Yakov,” he said, “You know, Yenkl, go to Krakow, buy the estate from the nobleman with mazel (good luck). Do not worry about anything, G-d will help. You have saved a Jew from death!...”

On Monday at dawn, the nobleman drove to Yenkl's house with his coach harnessed with 4 draught horses and took him to Krakow. The nobleman sold the estate to be paid through installments, attested to by a notary according to the precepts of the statute. The nobleman's relatives made a hullabaloo and blamed the Jew that he had gotten the estate by cheating and started a lawsuit against him. Reb Yenkl again ran to Reb Dovidl Lelewer and he assured him that the lawsuit would come to nothing. Reb Yenkl won in all instances and became a very rich man and a greatly hospitable man, too.

M. Feinkind
(From the book, “Estate Jews in Poland”)


p. 496

Gidzel (Gidle)

Supplementary Writings to the material on pages 486-487 (Translator's note: which are in Hebrew)
The shtetele Gidzel is found about 12 km. from Radomsk. There, the majority was Jewish – simple, toiling, quiet people. Gidzel was always a source of daughters-in-law and sons-in-law for Jewish Radomsk and a holy place for the Christians from the entire area. In the times of the holy “Jacek,” the Christians traveled together from the entire surrounding area for “vacation” in Gidzel. The women would, as was their way, get very drunk, break Jewish windows and rob stores. Yet the Jews lived there, had income, married off their children.

When the war began, the shtetele received another face, too. The river Warta, which calmly flowed on the west side of the shtetl for hundreds of years, suddenly became a stick in the German's eyes. The regulation of the water was begun with Jewish sweat and blood. The entire shtetele was transformed into one large work barracks. The Jews were driven together from all of the surrounding shtetlekh for this purpose. They were packed into cold dirty stables and used as a labor force.

The first victims from the shtetl, for wanting to help the dejected Jews, were: Leibish Tajchner, Hela Geldbart and Naftali Urbakh. They were sent away to Auschwitz in 1941, from which they never returned.

The Gidzeler Jews lived under constant terror until the 9th of October 1942, when they were driven out of their houses to the Radomsker Ghetto. Later, they were sent away to the gas chambers of Treblinka with all of the Radomsker Jews.

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