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[Pages 104 - 106]

Yehudah Leibush Kurz,
of blessed memory

by his daughters Sheindel Shvebel, Bluma Mostovsky, Miriam Bar Haim

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

He was born in Tarnow, Galicia, in 1862. Starting from early childhood, he studied in Batei Midrash (study halls) and Yeshivot, and continued studying on his own. In spite of the fact that he came from a family of Hasidic roots, he did not limit himself to religious studies. He would read the newspapers, and read the literature of the “Haskalah” (“Enlightenment”) Movement. He became enthusiastic about Zionism and spread his enthusiasm to others. He and his family continued their Zionist activities after settling in Ropshitz. He found this very Hasidic Shtetl to be a fertile field for planting the seeds of his ideas, which began to grow and became the harbinger of the rise of the Zionist Movement.

His activities were concentrated around the youth. He secretly brought them reading material, because their parents and all the surrounding community at that time were opposed to the “Haskalah” and to Zionism. His circle of supporters and of those who understood his outlook grew and continued in his path. When the “Ahavat Zion” movement was founded in Tarnow, to encourage the love of Zion coupled with settlement activities in the Land of Israel, he was one of its founders and a member of its council.

He spread the idea of religious Zionism, coupled with fulfillment of the Mitzvot (commandments), and published many articles in periodicals such as: “Hamagid”, “Hameilitz”, “Hatzfirah”, “Ha-aretz, and also in Jewish periodicals in England and in America.

He published a booklet called “Haetrog”, in Yiddish, urging the purchase of a Hebrew Etrog, opposing the ban which had been placed on it in very orthodox circles.

A second booklet that he published was “Zichron Zion”, which explained Zionism according to the Gemarah and the Midrash. There also appeared the booklet “Tochacha Mehagalut: (“Rebuke from the Exile”). He loved to write and to read, and he exchanged letters with the important Zionist leaders of that generation in the world, including Herzl.

He was a modest, humble, honest and traditionally religious person. He belonged to the Mizrachi movement. In spite of his inner tranquil soul, he was a brave rebel and fighter. He fought with the pen and with his persuasive explanations. He was not a talented speaker.

His activities in the Shtetl were manifested in all public domains: the community council, the Hebrew School, the Synagogue, the Jewish National Fund, visiting the sick, and support activities. He was active himself and convinced and influenced others to be active. He devoted most of his time, as well as his financial means, to the well-being of all. He worked devotedly, with no desire for monetary reward. He was a small merchant who provided for his family with the help of his wife. He always tried to save on public expenditures, for example on necessary trips which were made at his personal expense, and public notices which he wrote himself in his beautiful handwriting.

Our mother, Haya Kurz, nee Koss, of blessed memory, bore the major burden of raising and supporting the children, because of the multiple and varied activities of our father. She accepted this burden which fell upon her, with love, humility and understanding, and made it possible for her husband to pursue his activities for the benefit of all the people.

In the year 5660 (1900), our father traveled to the Land of Israel to bring Etrogim back to Poland. I remember the stories he would tell about the Land of Israel at a time when Tel Aviv had not yet been built. He rode on a donkey from Jaffa to Tiberias, with the Arab owner of the donkey walking by his side holding a parasol to shade him.

Where did this man get the tremendous energy to go against the tide? Undoubtedly, his boundless love of the Land of Israel and his great religious faith were what sustained him.

In 1933 he came on Aliyah, reaching his safe haven in the Land of Israel. He would quote the verse: “…and you will rise and go up to the place which the Lord your G-d will choose (Deuteronomy 17, 8), and would say: “I have been privileged, with G-d's help, to fulfill my heart's desire and joy”. He underwent the adjustments to life in the new country with love, together with the families of his children and grandchildren. He would gather wild flowers from the fields and paste them into an album, and would clear away small stones in the yard to prepare the ground for planting. He wrote articles in the newspaper “Davar” and in “Hahed”. He was overjoyed to have fulfilled his dream of living in the Land for which he had worked and fought.

In Ropshitz, the “Shomer Hadati” movement planted trees in the forest in appreciation of his work on behalf of the religious Zionist movement in the Shtetl.

He had planned to write a novel about life in the Land of Israel, but apparently did not get the necessary inspiration and the pages remained empty.

It was thus that he spent the remainder of his days, enjoying the development of the Land. He died peacefully in 1942, at the age of 80, and was buried in Petach Tikvah.

Our extended families, on both sides, were exterminated in the Holocaust; among them an older sister Rachel Hochner and her family who lived in Przemysl. “Y'hi zichram baruch” (May their memory be a blessing).


[Page 107]

My Father's Home

by Sarah Ganor

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

I remember my home, a traditional home in which I knew much happiness and laughter; a home which extended a helping hand to all the needy.

My father participated in all the voluntary activities of the shtetl: help for the sick, gathering money for brides, etc. My mother cooked for the poor, and made fruit jam for the sick, and sent the food with us, the children. Our home was always open for guests.

My heart cries for my family which was exterminated: my mother, my sister and brother-in-law with their two children, my brother Moshe with his wife and three children.

The Femshtein family, with whom we lived like one family, were all exterminated, except for one son who emigrated to the United States at the age of 15. His name was David. The rest of the family was lost: the uncle Leib and his wife, the son Eliezer and his wife, the daughter Esther with her husband and children Azriel and Natan, the son Hirsch with his wife and their children Eliezer and Nachum.

I also want to mention here our neighbors: the Schechter, Franzblau, Betheil and Shpielman families, and all those who were exterminated and have no family in the Land of Israel who can remember them.


[Pages 108 - 109]

In Memory of
Dr. David Eichenholz

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

He was born in 1895 in Tarnow, Western Galicia. He studied in the Gymnasia, and from his early youth he absorbed the treasures of Jewish traditions with which his origins were blessed. He came to Ropshitz with a degree in Law, to accept a position in the Law Office of Dr. Bruno Kritg.

Even at that time he was drawn to the “Poalei Zion” movement, although in Ropshitz there was no opportunity for practical organizational activity.

After he achieved official standing, he decided to remain in the Shtetl, which he liked, particularly because of the local Jews. He opened his own Law Office. Aside from working in his profession, he was always aware of the poverty and problems of the Jewish inhabitants. He defended, at no charge, the poor who were accused of illegal activities and similar “sins”. Most of his clients were people with many children who worked hard for their daily bread and who were always exposed to special “treatment” by the anti-Semitic authorities who made their lives miserable. After the provincial offices were removed from Ropshitz, a troop of “Juanken” were sent there, who amused themselves by pestering the Jews, or actually attacking them physically. In these cases, Dr. Eichenholz reacted humanely and did everything to undermine the acts of these bullies.

When the “Joint” set up an interest-free loan fund for the Jews of Ropshitz, Dr. Eichenholz was appointed to head it. Thanks to him, the fund functioned very well. When he resigned the position in the 1930's, a special delegation was sent from the “Joint” to convince him to continue.

Over the years, David Eichenholz was, by himself, like a whole institution, and continued his work until the outbreak of the Second World War. He then fled, with his wife and child, to Russia. There, his lot was one of suffering and sorrow, like all refugees.

After the liberation, he returned to Warsaw and became active in the community as a lawyer, as a member of the committee of “Poalei Zion”, and as one of the “enlightened” leaders of the party in the capital. His Zionist upbringing, however, did not let him remain in Poland. Even though his oldest son was destined to take his place in Polish literature, and even his youngest son intended to remain, Dr. Eichenholz decided to make Aliyah and settled in Ramat Gan. After being certified to practice his profession, he also became interested in literature and in the press. He published a series of articles in “Neue Welt” about the problems of Aliyah and absorption in the country.

After a severe illness, Dr. Eichenholz passed away in Ramat Gan, leaving a wife and two sons.


[Pages 110 - 111]

In memory of
Avraham Yehudah Melamed Dardeki

by Mordechai Reiss

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

He was not alone in Ropshitz. There also was Hirsch Elimelech, with whom I also did my early studies because of the proximity of our houses and because he was a friend of my father.

The one whose reputation spread in the Shtetl, however, was the teacher Avraham Yehudah, of tall stature and distinguished appearance, as opposed to Hirsch Elimelech who was of short stature. The small children flocked around him and loved him very much. He loved the children, as he loved everyone. He was well known for the sweet smelling tobacco, which he himself ground and which he would pass around in a snuff box to the men during the prayers in the “Kloiz” (prayer house). He offered his fancy snuff box even to those who hesitated to come near and sniff. As children, we were especially impressed with the size of the snuff box, inlayed with shining little stones. He would let the children, in turn, help with the grinding of the tobacco. I, who was not one of his pupils, was jealous of them. Sometimes I would sneak into his room to participate in the grinding of the sweet smelling leaves which took place with happy singing. The teacher, with his gracious heart, did not protest, even though I wasn't one of his pupils. He took down from the shelf one of the copper mortars he had and gave me, too, a chance to participate. My joy knew no bounds!

His good reputation, however, was mainly a result of the way he took care of the poor people who would come to the Shtetl to beg. They knew that he would always provide them with a place to sleep. He was like a one-man foundation for them, and they never failed to take advantage of that. The beggars from the surrounding towns streamed to his house in the evening in order to assure themselves a place to rest their heads. For this purpose he would spread out mattresses on the ground for his guests to lie on. Even when these guests occasionally walked away with some of his meager possessions, Avraham Yehudah continued as if nothing had happened. When it happened that there were not enough mattresses, he even gave up his own bed and slept on the ground. His granddaughter Devorah, who is living here in Israel, told me that he would examine the mattresses from time to time, and would refill them with straw when necessary. He would then test the mattress himself to see if the straw would not cause any discomfort to his guests.

Such was Avraham Yehudah, the teacher and the human being. Blessed be his memory!


[Page 111]

My Father's Home

by Minah Reich-Shachar

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

I do not remember my mother. It is said that she was a very righteous woman. It was from my father that I received my education and it was a fully religious education. My father was a G-d fearing Jew. He received Rabbinical ordination at a young age, and became well known as a great scholar. Although he never pursued distinction or honor, it was granted him by the community. He was a member of the community council for many years and fulfilled many public functions.

In spite of his deeply religious beliefs he did not object to his daughters obtaining a wide education, and, although he was not a Zionist, he did not stand in my way when I decided to make Aliyah. Although my path was not always what he desired, his great personality and his memory served as an important signpost in my life.


[Page 112]

Memories

by David Femstein

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

I am writing these lines the day after Yom Kippur on which I recited the Yizkor (Memorial Service) for my loved-ones who were exterminated by the murderous Nazis.

I remember from my youth how my parents would send us out of the “Kloiz” (prayer house) when they recited the Yizkor for their relatives who had passed away. Today, I recited Yizkor for my whole family: my parents, Leib and Anna Femstein; my brother Henk and his wife and children whose names I do not even know; my sister Estiah and her husband and children; my brother Lazer, and my youngest brother Nachum.

It is very painful for me to know that all of them could have lived out their lives, like me, because I asked them to emigrate to the United States. My father, however, even in his last letter, refused to accept my advice because, with the little money that he had, it would have caused him to lose half of his possessions. (It was forbidden to take money out of Poland at that time.)

As I am writing these words, all my life is before my eyes, and I realize that I have none of my loved ones with me except for my mother's sisters and their families who live in Israel. I have visited them three times and have seen that they are doing well in their lives, and this comforts me somewhat on my loss. I was also able to meet several people from Ropshitz on my visits.

On my trip to Europe I felt a great desire to visit Ropshitz, in spite of the fact that my relatives in Israel advised me not to, because of the heartache it would cause me. The lure was particularly great when I visited Vienna where I had spent the years of my youth between 1914 and 1916. It seemed so close to my home in Ropshitz! I was so close and yet so far! My life in Ropshitz will always hold a warm spot in my heart.

This is all I can contribute as a memorial, together with my best wishes to those who are publishing it.


[Page 113]

My Father's Home

by Leah Karpas (Rosen)

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

We were a family of seven. The parents, Hersch and Malkah Rosen, died before the Nazis rose to power. The son Yonah and the daughter Shoshana made Aliyah as “Halutzim” (pioneers) during the “First Aliyah”. Here they worked and lived theirs lives on the land. The brothers Yitzchak and Menachem, however, with their families, were exterminated in the Holocaust.

The father of the family was the prototype of a G-d fearing Jew, a scholar who learned Torah for its own sake, while barely earning a livelihood. He was a noble soul whose humble purpose in life was to spread Torah learning and to raise generations of Torah scholars for the Jewish People. He was blessed with a wife who was a righteous and modest woman, a “woman of valor”.

Yitzchak, the brother, earned his living as a milkman, a job which greatly limited his family life. Eleven souls living in a miserable abode would have been enough to make any Jew rebel, other than one like him. Yitzchak, however, with his noble soul, knew how to find the good even in his troubled existence. In spite of the crowded conditions he was careful to fulfill the mitzvah (commandment) of hospitality for the poor. He kept mattresses in the attic for this purpose, and every evening he would take them down so they would be ready to perform the mitzvah.

The brother, Menachem, was also a scholar and a righteous man. He was a storekeeper in the town of Glogov. When the Nazis came to power he was living in Lwow, and he returned to Ropshitz to try to save his family. He was exterminated with them by the Nazi monsters, “yimach shmam” (may their name be obliterated). “Hashem Yikom Damam” (may G-d avenge their blood).


[Page 114]

Gedaliah Kol-Tov

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

He came to us in the middle of the 1930's, when he was 30 years old, an elegant, good looking man, whose character suited his name (Kol-Tov means completely good). Sometime later he brought his wife from Przemysl. Even though he was a married man he became involved in all the youth movements and after a short time became their patron. Since he was born in Russia, he spoke Russian and was well versed in Russian literature. He would quote from the poetry of Pushkin and from introductions from Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. In a short time he completely adapted himself to the people of our Shtetl, as if he had been born there.

When the war broke out, the fact that he was a Russian citizen enabled him to provide considerable help to the Jewish population. When war broke out between Germany and Russia, however, the Germans dealt more harshly with him than with the rest of the population.

He met his final end, like all the Jews of Ropshitz, in Poskov. “Yehi zichro baruch” (may his memory be a blessing).


[Pages 115 - 117]

My Father's Home

by Itta Shachar

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

I was born and grew up in Ropshitz, in a traditional, but progressive and not strongly religious home. The house was kosher. My parents went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and Holidays, and my father and brothers also went early on weekday mornings.

We were four children: two sons and two daughters. We went to a Polish school, but my father was not satisfied with that alone. My brothers went in the afternoons to the Bet Midrash (study hall) for religious studies. My father, in his spare time, taught my sister and me “Chumash” (“The Five Books of Moses”) with Rashi's commentary, and also taught us to write in Yiddish. He was very busy in his work. We had a printing house and a haberdashery. My mother also helped in the store, so we children helped with the housework from a very young age. In spite of that we learned a lot. My father taught us how to learn. He would examine our homework and correct our mistakes. We had a daily newspaper, “Der Heint”, and my father would show us how and what to read, and then we would explain the articles of the writers of the time, such as Ytizchak Greenboim, Moshe Kleinboim (Sneh), and Shalom Asch, both philosophical and literary. This created an atmosphere of cooperation in the home, and we enjoyed expressing each one's views which we found interesting.

My father was a very respected person in the Shtetl. He prayed in the “Kloiz”, which was also a place for social meetings where problems and public issues were discussed.

My mother was a very bright woman. She ran the household and also worked in the store. She was very diligent: a real “woman of valor”. She also educated us, and taught us how to act with other people, how to help them in their time of need, and not to talk about it, in order not to embarrass them.

We had wonderful grandparents. My grandfather was a Zionist. He would gather us and tell us about the Land of Israel, and that our language is Hebrew and we should learn it, and that the Jews need a homeland because where we are living is “Galut” (the Exile). We must prepare ourselves for Aliyah, he said, and there are already many pioneers there who are building up the Land. We must prepare ourselves in all ways, but first to learn the language. We were 12 – 13 years old when our grandfather decided to speak to our parents about this. He asked that the girls be registered in a Hebrew School. My mother agreed immediately. She said it didn't bother her that we should learn Hebrew; she didn't realize what my grandfather's intentions were. My father, however, was a harder nut to crack. He didn't agree. He knew what my grandfather's intentions were. In the meantime, my oldest brother read in the newspaper that it is possible to learn Hebrew by correspondence. He wrote to an agency in Krakow and received a positive reply and began to learn without any problems. They sent him lessons in writing, and he learned at home and sent them his answers, all this without the knowledge of our parents. When my father found out several months later, he had no choice but to agree. After that, I too began to learn in school.

Thus the years passed until the Zionist youth groups were organized in Ropshitz. Then the real conflicts with our parents began. Each one of the four children went his own way: my oldest brother in “Mizrachi” where he became the head of “Hashomer Hadati”, my younger sister in “Akiva” (General Zionists), and I in “Hashomer Hatzair”. All of us wanted to go on Aliyah. There were serious discussions in the home. On the one hand, there was no productive future for the young people in Poland; taxes were high and it was very difficult to assure a financially secure future for the children. On the other hand, we were very strong in our aspirations to go on Aliyah at any cost, and no one was willing to concede. We loved our home and our parents very much, but we saw that there was no alternative. The economic situation was getting worse from day to day.

My oldest brother, Yissachar, was very devoted to my parents, and he decided to remain with them. We, the two sisters, came on Aliyah in 1933.

In the meantime, my grandfather died, and that was a great loss for me. I lost the one who understood me so well. There were not many in those days who understood the young generation so well.

During the years 1928 – 1930, many of the youth left the Shtetl. Almost all of them concentrated in the big cities, like Krakow and Lwow, and from there went on Aliyah or emigrated to America to seek their fortunes.

In 1936 my sister and I tried to get a permit for my parents and brothers. We were lucky and received the permit, although with great difficulty. One has to understand how difficult it was for us, as young girls, to show the British Mandatory Government that we had the means to support them, because there was much unemployment here. We received the permit and sent it home so that the family could come on Aliyah. However, in spite of our great efforts and desire, they did not arrive. Then came the devastating war and destroyed all of Polish Jewry, our beloved family with them. “Yehi zichram baruch” (may their memory be a blessing), and my G-d avenge their death.


[Pages 117 - 118]

In Memory of my Mother and Sister

by Nechama (Sinai) Mazah, from Hadar – Har Hasharon

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

Sima Mali Sinai – my mother.
Matel Sinai – my sister.

When the war broke out, my widowed sister, Matel, and my younger brother, age 19, were living at home with my mother. My sister Shindel and I were away – Shindel was in a preparatory camp for Aliyah, and I was already here in the Land of Israel.

Shindel hurried home to see her mother, as if she knew in her heart that she would never see her again. She did not stay long, and fled with the others from the preparatory camp. My brother also fled. Matel, however, was not able to do so and she stayed with my mother, as a daughter devoted with her heart and soul, until the end. My mother, in any case, was not capable of leaving. The Germans, as soon as they arrived, shot and murdered my mother, aged 58. My sister Matel was sent to a concentration camp, apparently Auschwitz, where she too was murdered.

May G-d avenge their death.


[Page 118]

About Eli Reivitz and his Family

by Nechama (Sinai) Mazah

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

As close neighbors, I still remember them as human beings worthy of the name. They were always ready for any call for help, wherever it came from. Aware of the mission of man on this earth, they saw helping their fellow man as an obligation. They did not ask for thanks for their deeds. They loved to give and not to take, and they saw this as their purpose in life. Humble people, who never spoke about themselves, although it is assumed that there was what to speak about.

Thus were these beautiful souls cut down, exterminated by the vile monster; the secret of their life and death unknown.

May G-d avenge their death.


[Page 119]

My Father's Home

by Haim Klein-Weitz

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

My father, Alter Weitz, from Niedzwiada, became an orphan as a child of 10. He was adopted by a childless uncle who lived in the town and was sent to Ropshitz to study with a “melamed” (teacher). He remained there, studying in the “Bet Midrash” (study hall).
When he was 16 years old, his uncle arranged for him to marry an orphan girl who was his relative, and promised him all his possessions “after 120 years” (i.e. after he passes away). The children who were born of this marriage were taught by teachers who educated them in the spirit of Jewish tradition. Although he was a Bobov Chasid, he was a Zionist, and he did not oppose preparation for Aliyah. We were four brothers; two of us went to the preparatory camp for Aliyah, and the others went to the Bobov Yeshivah. The Rebbe once invited my father to a Chasidic conference where he asked him where his other two sons were. My father answered him that they were at the preparatory camp for Aliyah. The Rebbe replied: “If you had sent them also to me, they wouldn't remain Zionists …” In the end it turned out that those who had prepared for Aliyah remained alive, while the Yeshivah boys became prey to the Nazis.

My father was excited by everything that happened in the Land of Israel. He rejoiced at the opening of the University on Mount Scopus and saw it as “Atchalta D'geulah” (the first stage of the Redemption). The non-Jews respected him and called him “Rabbin” because he was a Chazan (cantor). Because of this title, however, he once was the victim of a blood libel, and was only saved by a miracle. This is the story: There was a Christian girl who worked in our house. She was fired, for various reasons. A few days later her father appeared and asked about her. My father told him that she had left a few days before. The man then went to the police and claimed that his daughter had disappeared and that he thinks that the Jews had slaughtered her to use her blood for making Matzot. It was just before Passover, so the timing was appropriate for this blood libel. The mobs were getting ready to attack the Jews. My father went to Dr. Eichenholz, who immediately demanded that the matter be investigated. The judge instructed the police to look into the matter, and then, under pressure, the man admitted that his daughter was now working elsewhere.


[Pages 120 - 121]

In Memory of My Father, Mother,
Brothers and Sisters (of blessed memory)

by Mordechai Reiss

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

My first steps in this world were in my home with my father, mother and two sisters, Chaya and Zelta. My brothers, Avraham and Yaakov were older than me and they were mobilized into the army during the First World War. I was only four years old then. When Avraham was discharged from the army he married Devorah Winiger and moved to Germany where he lived until he was sent back to Poland by the Devil's emissaries. There, except for his daughters Shulamit and Yetta who were saved and now live in Israel, his fate was that of the six million. My sisters Chaya and Zelta, with their families, were also exterminated in the Holocaust, together with the Jews of Ropshitz and Tarnov where they lived until the end.

Our home was not that of the rich, although we had an adequate livelihood. My mother, Rivka, told that after their marriage their financial condition was very poor. For lack of any alternative, she made a living sewing dresses for the women of the town. My father, who was gifted with his hands, helped her. Sometimes the sewing machine broke down and he was able to take it apart and fix it himself. He was even able to sew better than her, and were it not for his help she would not have been able to keep up with the task.

As long as I can remember, my father, “Reb” Yitzchak (of blessed memory), never sat idly. As a learned man, a student of my grandfather, the Rabbinic Judge of the community, he served as an example for one who loves to be occupied and to work.

Once, when I was sick, he sat down on my bed and, in order to amuse me, took a pencil and paper, and for several minutes there danced before my eyes visions of horses and riders. He drew pictures well, even though he never learned drawing.

After the war we opened a tobacco store, a good business at that time. The people liked my father and they patronized the store. They called him affectionately “Itzik”, and me they called “little Itzik”. They knew of his talents as a workman and they would consult him in planning a house or stable that they wanted to build, and he was always willing to give advice. He would go to them and fulfill their requests, and I, the child of his old age, would go with him. We would come back home with fresh fruits or other tokens of their appreciation.

My father was a man of action who achieved gratification from what he accomplished, and he was very proud of the store which he had bought. The store was unusually wide and tall, so he built a balcony which served as another room and a kitchen. The store below remained as it was, with all its comforts. He drew up all the plans himself, and drew the outline to show the carpenters where to make the steps leading up to the balcony. I remember once returning home with him after he was supervising that work, when he was full of satisfaction and pleasure, and he said to me: “Your brothers learned Torah from their grandfather, and you will also learn from me how to work; and we will yet be privileged to achieve our goal of Aliyah to the Land of Israel, and not to America.

My dear father never had the privilege of achieving this goal. He died as a young man, close to the age of 50, when I was only 10 years old.

May his memory by blessed.


[Pages 122 - 127]

The History of One Family

by Yehoshua Gold

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

I don't want to write more about Rabbi Naphtali from Ropshitz because others have already written about him. Instead, I want to write about someone who was close to him. I am a descendant of that person. His name was Shmuel Zinvel Birnbaum. He was a learned Jew who had a well developed sense of humor and whose opinions befitted those of the Rabbi. He was of distinguished descent: a descendant of Rashi and of R. Isserlis, the Rabbi of Krakow (known as “The Rama”). His descendants in Israel and in the U.S. have records of his lineage.

Shmuel Zinvel gave his children a Torah education, and they became Dayanim (Rabbinic judges) and Shochtim (ritual slaughterers) in the entire region. I remember three of his sons: Yaakov, Naphtali and David. Yaakov and Naphtali lived in their later years in Tsfat (Safed). When they were no longer able to work as Shochtim, because their hands trembled in their old age, they left their wives and families and came on Aliyah to the Land of Israel, as was common in those days. The third son, David, was the head of a Yeshiva in Ropshitz.

Yaakov's daughter, Chana, married David's son, Shmuel Zinvel. They are our grandfather and grandmother.

In addition to Shmuel Zinvel, David also had other children: Mindel, Feiga, Chaim, Gittel and Reuven. They were merchants. Shmuel Zinvel was a Shochet, a Dayan, and Mohel (one who performs circumcision) in the town of Borowa, near Mielec. When I visited him during my vacation, I searched his attic and found correspondence between my grandfather and the Rabbi of Shineiva (?), who was the greatest authority at that time, asking if it is permitted to belong to the “Choveve Zion” movement. Evidently the answer was positive since his father-in-law and his uncle made Aliyah.

Our grandmother's father, Yaakov, used to send presents from Tsfat, for example an olive wood jewelry box which he sent to his granddaughter, my mother (the daughter of Shmuel Zinvel and Chana). The box aroused my curiosity, and my mother used to tell me that he used to send the Hebrew letter “Hey” made of ivory as a gift to his great grandchildren when they were born.

After the War of Independence, when I was released from the I.D.F. (the Israeli army), I made a special trip to Tsfat to search for any clues about my previous generations there. I found an old man living in an old age home, who was quite ill but remembered the two Birnbaum brothers who were well known for their learning and righteousness. When I told him who I was, his face lit up and he said: “Now that I have lived to see the great grandson of R. Yankele, it was worth living to this difficult old age, and now I can die in peace.” He directed me to an old man from the “Chevra Kadisha” (burial society) who took me in the morning to a distant hill where, among the weeds and thorns, were two gravestones which were preserved among broken remnants of other gravestones. These were the graves of the Birnbaum brothers, Yaakov and Naphtali.

David, their brother, moved in his old age to Borowa, where my grandfather had lived. He passed away there at a ripe old age.

Shmuel and Chana Zinvel had six children: my mother, Gittel Leah, Moshe Mayer (who took our grandfather's place and was cruelly murdered by the Germans), Naphtali (who came on Aliyah in the 1920's, but died at the age of 40), Chaya (who emigrated to the United States and who also died at a young age, leaving three young daughters who are still living there), Yocheved (who was exterminated in the Holocaust), and Esther (who married Eliezer Goldner of Ropshitz and who was also exterminated with her family). Our grandmother, Chana, was also murdered, in her old age, by the Germans.

Our grandfather Shmuel Zinvel performed the circumcision himself on all of his grandsons. In the 1930's, when his daughter Esther gave birth to a son, he came to Ropshitz in spite of heavy rain and expected flooding. On his way home after the circumcision, just after his wagon passed over a bridge, the bridge collapsed and was washed away in the river which had overflowed is banks. It was considered a miracle.

Our grandfather was a very special person. His appearance was very distinguished. He had strong principles in many ways – in Jewish law, in Jewish learning, and in his way of life in general – which he bequeathed to all those around him. To us, his grandchildren, he left memories of himself and of events we experienced which have remained with us and guided us all our lives. In addition to being a Dayan (Rabbinic judge), a Shochet (ritual slaughterer) and a Mohel (on who performs circumcisions), he also served as a Baal Tefilah (one who leads the services in the synagogue) on the High Holidays. We remember to this day his pleasant melodies for the prayers, both of the evening and of the morning, and his melodious chant when he learned Gemorah.

Our grandfather on our father's side, Yonah Gold, was a descendant of the famous rabbi called “the Chatam Sofer”. He was also very learned and also served as a Baal Tefilah. His livelihood was exporting eggs to England. It is told that once he visited Borowa on business, and, of course, went to see Shmuel Zinvel with whom he had studied in the same Yeshiva in his youth. When he saw his daughter, Gittel Leah, he suggested a match with his son Ephraim Fishel who was studying in a Yeshiva. Shmuel Zinvel answered that he first wished to test the boy to see if he is a learned Jew. R' Yonah assured him that his son is indeed learned, so they drew up a marriage contract on the spot. After the wedding the young couple lived in Borowa, and they had four children. Grandpa Yonah visited London, on business, before the First World War, but since he was considered an enemy alien (since Galicia belonged to Austria at that time) he was not allowed to return to Poland. After the war he decided to bring his family to Holland, and after that, to the United States. He left his son Ephraim Fishel and his daughter Sarah in Poland, to maintain their Jewish identity, as he feared that his other children might assimilate in America.

Ephraim Fishel and Gittel Gold were our parents. We were eight children: Naphtali, Yehudit, Esther, David Yaakov, Yoseph Mordechai, and Hindele who were exterminated in the Holocaust together with our parents. We, Sarah and Yehoshua, are living in Israel.

Our father was a very learned and scholarly Jew. Our mother was a very religious, chaste and modest woman, who excelled in her charity which she performed anonymously.

Our brother Naphtali was ordained as a rabbi at the age of 18. Our sister Yehudit was active in the “Shomer Hadati” organization, and ran the library of the Zionist movement. Our sister Esther was similarly active. Our two young brothers studied in the “Talmud Torah”, and our sister Hindele was the baby loved by all.

Our brother Naphtali became a Belzer chassid at a young age. How did this happen? In 1931, when he was 16 years old, and already a Torah scholar, my father tried to send him to a higher Yeshiva in Frankfurt. While he was in Krakow, waiting for a visa which my father was going to bring him from the German consulate, he sat and studied Gemorah in the Belzer chasidic “Shtibel” (small synagogue). Those who saw him there recognized that he was a scholar, and informed one of the rich men (named Landau) of the Belzer Chasidic sect in Krakow. Landau came to see Naphtali, and when he heard that he was going to go to Frankfurt, he feared that his religious fervor might be harmed and he took him under his wing and sent him directly to Belz. He remained to study there in Belz where his fame spread as “Naphtali from Ropshitz”.

May all their memories be blessed.


[Pages 128 - 131]

Shlomo Issler

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

In the chapters about the Zionist youth, we mentioned Shlomo Issler, the teacher and leader from Ropshitz who was privileged to come on Aliyah but died of an illness shortly thereafter. His Kibbutz, Ein Hamifratz, of which he was one of the founders, responded to our request and sent us the page dedicated to him from its Founders Book. We are grateful to the Kibbutz, and the words will be in honor of his memory after so many years:

The lofty image of Shlomo stood out in the encampment among the tents of “Kibbutz Gimel” which was in Bat Galim.

Shlomo was a man of good will who could never pass by his fellow man with indifference. He would engage in conversation, tell a joke, or wink at a passing young girl. He loved his fellow man and knew how to make contact with him and speak to him. He was one of the few in the Kibbutz who knew Hebrew well; he had a deep rooted affinity to the Jewish people and its culture. He came from a home in which his parents were traditional but not extreme. His father was a dealer in wood and coal, was affiliated with “Mizrachi”, and was well thought of in the community.

Shlomo was in the beginning a pupil in the “Cheder”, later studied in the public school, and then continued to study on his own. He was a diligent, self-taught man, with a thirst for knowledge, but nevertheless a social, active person by nature. He founded one of the two groups of the “Hashomer Hatzair” organization in the town, was its leader and was responsible for its maintenance. He covered the expenses of the meeting hall and helped the needy so they could participate in the outings and summer camp of the movement. Much of his time was devoted to the organization, its development and activities, and in traveling to its conferences. He was a vibrant young man who attracted many to follow him. Shlomo did not limit himself to activities within the movement. He also participated in activities of the local Zionist Organization and the Jewish National Fund, and was one of the most prominent leaders who molded the life of the Jewish youth and pointed them in the direction of Aliyah. People trusted him because he was always ready to listen to them, to give advice, and knew how to keep a secret. He was a man of action.

In 1929 he underwent training in agriculture and then went to Holland, with 50 “Chalutzim” (pioneers) to complete their training in raising cattle. In spite of the difficult conditions he held on until the end of the training period, which not all of them were able to do, and then came on Aliyah to the Kibbutz.

At first he worked on the roads, whenever work could be found in those days of unemployment. Shortly after his arrival he was chosen to be treasurer, a job which required difficult maneuvering between merchants and foundations on the outside and members of the Kibbutz on the inside.

In spite of his financial duties, Shlomo did not forget his affinity to Jewish culture. He was among the first, at that time, who sought new expressions of tradition. He, together with Pala, who was in charge of the kitchen in those days, organized the first Passover Holiday in the Kibbutz. The “revolutionaries” among the members mocked him and were angry at this young, bourgeois man, but Shlomo was not deterred. The Holiday was celebrated successfully, and since then the Passover Holiday has become a cultural experience and one of the central holiday celebrations in the Kibbutz.

Shlomo served as treasurer for only a few months. He fell ill with typhus, was admitted to the government hospital, and, perhaps because of the bad conditions and faulty treatment, did not survive the illness. He died within a few days. His death shocked the Kibbutz, as if struck by lightning.

The first grave – a wound felt by all – a new bond.


[Page 143]

A Monument

by Miriam Bar-Haim (Kurz)

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

We erected a monument in the cemetery in Holon in memory of our martyrs.

We buried there a bone which was found at the site of the crematorium in Belzec, where all the girls from our shtetl were sent.

Jews from Ropshitz living in the United States contributed to the erection of this monument. The chief contributor was Mr. Menashe Stein.

We, the remaining survivors, gather at this monument every year on the second of the month of Av to say kaddish.

We will always remember what Amalek did, and will pass this memory on to the coming generations.

May their memory be blessed.


[Page 144]

A Poem

by Ita Rosenfeld, Tishrei, 5745

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

[Translator's Note: The following translation cannot capture the beauty of this moving Hebrew poem.]
Rest in peace in the grave of your fate
And may your bed of earth be sweet for you
In the foreign land which abandoned you
And opened its arms to cruel murderers.

Two generations have passed
Yet many hearts still feel the pain
Their eyes are filled with tears of sorrow and longing
Their trembling hands are clenched in fists.

What People has ever known such grandfathers and grandmothers
Who experienced orphanhood as a symbol in their lives
And what entire generation of children
Grew up without parents or grandparents
Without uncles and aunts
With only a handful of family who miraculously survived.

No! The years have not caused us to forget you
And your children see you in their dreams
The smiling, shining faces and eyes
But why do they always awaken in fright?

They must add another link in the chain
A link of words, of memories laid out
So your descendants, the generations to come, will know
Not only the tragedy but also the wonderful moments
The traditions of life, the ways of the Diaspora.

So the children of the Land of Israel, speaking Hebrew, will know
That the Redemption had its beginning in your homes.

The heavens above Ropshitz and above Jerusalem
Are the same heavens
The same large sun gives light and warmth to all
And when the time comes, our G-d will remember us all.

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