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Yisrael Leizer Bencer
– One of the Thirty-Six Tzadikim

by Y. Rechtschaffen

Yisrael Leizer the “Lamed Vov”1
standing next to the home of Chanina Weisman

 

As is known, the world only exists on account of the thirty-six Tzadikim in the world who protect it in every generation. Each generation has its own group of thirty-six. They protect and concern themselves with the peace of the world in every generation. Who would have imagined that we in particular, the people of Rozniatow, would have merited that one of these thirty-six Tzadikim would dwell and spread out his wings with us in particular.

This man was our Reb Yisrael Leizer, and nobody would argue that he was one of the thirty-six. Who was this man; what were the details of his story; from where was he; and to where was he going? Nobody knew of his origins, but there were many rumors about him. They said of him that he came here in his youth, and later left to study the secrets of Torah in a center of Torah.

They said of him that he was a great genius; however in truth, nobody was able to find out by speaking with him, for the man simply did not speak at all. One day, this young man returned from his studies from one of the Yeshivas. Nobody knew which one. All of the people of Rozniatow wished to merit to have this fine young man as a son-in-law. They sent emissaries and marriage brokers, for everyone wished to take him as a husband for their daughter – but everyone returned empty handed. They thought that he was still too young, and that he was not thinking about this seriously. They let him wait for a little while, a year or two.

In the interim, the years went by and the young man did not marry. He was slightly strange. He had a strong and healthy body, but he did not have a beard, only two or three hairs on the left and right side of his face. Furthermore, on one hand he had six fingers instead of five. One looked as an extra one, but who paid attention to such small details? The most important thing was that the young man certainly possessed fine traits, but nobody every saw him in the Beis Midrash or the Kloiz studying a Talmud. He stood by the windowsill during prayers, but he did not move his lips in prayer. Perhaps he worshiped privately, without enunciating the words and without moving his lips, but nobody saw him praying.

The man would disappear on the eves of holidays, and nobody knew where. Later on, when people already gave up on him, they also saw some idiosyncrasies in him. He dressed as a common person, with worn-out and torn clothes. He lived in a small room, four by four, without any furnishings, not even with a table or chair. There was only a large oven in the room, upon which he would ascend to sleep or rest. All sorts of books were scattered on the floor. Did he read them? Nobody knew. How did the man earn a living? Primarily from porting. He was a strong, tall man with muscles of steel. He would unload a transport wagon full of sacks of flour, sugar or some other merchandise in a very short time, without any effort. Early in the morning, one could see him on threshold of Sara Bor's store. She was the daughter of Wolf. There, in the corner, he waited for wagons so that he could be the first to unload them. He made a great deal of money, but what did he do with the money? To where did the great deal of money disappear? They asked him with surprise, until one bright day the mystery was solved, and the secret was exposed.

One day, a merchant from nearby Zolochev arrived in town. After he finished his business and purchases, as he was about to leave, he remembered something and turned to the merchant:

“I am jealous of you, oh people of Rozniatow, you are fortunate and it is good with you!”

“Why are you jealous of us?” asked the man of Rozniatow.

The merchant answered:

“Because you have a very generous and rich man living among you, who gives a great deal of money to the poor, and his charity will stand forever.”

“Who is this man?” asked the Jew in surprise.

“He is your great philanthropist who, at the time that Zolochev went up in flames, and our synagogue also burnt down along with all the books in it… After a brief time, we received a gift from this person who is full of mercy, your great benefactor, is he not Reb Yisrael Leizer Bencer, may his honor be raised. He sent us the entire Vilna Shas2 with fine binding, along with all other books that we require – many copies of the Chumash, Mishna, and Ein Yaakov. All of them were new books.”

This news of the unusual deeds of the quiet Yisrael Leizer spread very quickly through the town, and the whole town was astir.

The man disappeared again.

After some time, when the man got older and he was no longer able to work as a porter, he began to sell holy objects – books, machzors 3, tallises, and mezuzas. He was particularly diligent about selling tallises and wearing tzitzit4. He requested that the children check if their tzitzit are in order and ritually fit, and if not, he would give new tzitzit to them for free… saying that the mother had already paid.

He would secretly bring in new books that were needed in the Kloiz and the Beis Midrash. He did so in a manner that nobody knew who the donor was.

When he would receive packages of books at the post offices from various book publishers, the tax officials saw fit to check into him and to demand taxes for his wide-branched business. To this end, they sent a special person from the central tax office in Warsaw to investigate the man and his widespread business, and to check out how he avoids paying taxes to the government. One bright day, the taxman appeared and asked all of the passersby where is the store of the bookseller, Mr. Eliezer Bencer in Rozniatow. They showed him the dwelling place of Yisrael Leizer and when he opened the door and saw what was going on there, how Yisrael Leizer was wearing torn and worn out clothing and sleeping on an oven, surrounded by piles of books, newspapers and “sheimos”5, he shouted out in fear “Boza e Moi” “Oh god”, and he quickly closed the door.

He went to one of the neighbors, sat down there, took out a piece of paper, and wrote one word on the entire page: “Zabrak”, i.e. “poor and destitute”.

Yisrael Leizer concerned himself with children who were reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah. He made sure to bring to their homes a fine pair of tefillin (phylacteries), tzitzit, and other such necessities.

Everyone was convinced that Yisrael Leizer, with his behavior, was none other than one of the thirty-six Tzadikim.


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Rabbi Hamerling


Rozniatow had great rabbis and scholars. We can read about this from the old monuments in its cemetery. When I was young, my mother once told me that she still remembers that when she was a young girl, they told a story abut a certain rabbi, great in Torah and very intelligent, who served in our city.

Once, a young couple appeared before them, wishing to divorce. It was customary in those days amongst rabbis that if a couple comes before a rabbi for a divorce, the rabbi will start to question them, and to talk to their hearts. He will then send them home, asking them to return after a month or two. In the meantime, the couple would make peace between themselves, and they would not come back to the rabbi. On this occasion, a young couple appeared before the rabbi. When the rabbi invited the husband into his office to hear his complaints, he said to the rabbi: “My father married me off to this woman. We got married only yesterday, but I cannot live with her.” “What is the reason?” asked the rabbi. “She is ugly, and I cannot tolerate her”. The rabbi sent him out and called the bride into his office. He did not ask anything, but looked very carefully at her face, and afterwards called his assistant and said to him in brief: “Command the scribe to write a bill of divorce (get) in accordance with law and tradition.” He arranged for the divorce, and then proposed a proper and fitting match for each of them separately. Thus were the rabbis of Rozniatow.

Rozniatow also had its disputes. After the passing of the previous rabbi, a segment of the community supported the candidacy of a relative of the previous rabbi Reb Itzikel, whereas their opponents wanted specifically Rabbi Hamerling, who was the head of the Yeshiva of Jaroslawow in Eastern Galicia. He was appointed as the local rabbi with great splendor and honor. After his appointment, even his opponents accepted him.

He was of average height with a gray-white beard, and he always wore a black rabbinical hat and cloak. On Sabbaths, he wore a streimel on his head as was customary. He was refined, and beloved by his fellowman. My teacher, Reb Yehudale, or “Yudel Melamed”, as he was known in town, would always send me to the home of the rabbi with a “question” that he had regarding the gizzard of a chicken6, with an enlarged liver, etc. On Sabbaths, the teacher would send his students to the rabbi for a test of their knowledge of Chumash, Rashi, or a page of Gemara. When we appeared at the house of the rabbi on the Sabbath afternoon for our exam, the rabbi would declare in a festive voice to the rebbetzin: “Rebbetzin, the children have arrived. Please prepare a snack for them.” The rebbetzin would prepare a snack of dried fruit, sweets, and a cold drink for the students who were being examined. The children always loved the house of the rabbi, whether because of the sweets that they received, or because of the caress that they received from the rabbi accompanied with words of encouragement: “very good, very good”, even to those who stumbled a bit and did not succeed at the test. The rabbi caressed everyone on their cheeks, and wished them all that they should occupy themselves with Torah and commandments “mitzvot”, and that they should continue to succeed in their studies.

On Shabbat Shuva7 the rabbi would deliver a lecture to the congregation – as was customary throughout the Jewish world – on issues relating to the holiday. However, he was not blessed with oratory skill. He was not a professional speaker. Nevertheless, scholars and ordinary Jews came from all of the synagogues and kloizes to hear the rabbi's lecture, and they paid attention to his words with awe.

His style was not to look for stringencies in matters of kashruth. He always looked for a way to permit, to make kosher8. He knew the members of his community and their level of livelihood. Therefore he worked hard, delved into the books, and searched until he found a reason for a leniency. He would not make the questioner wait a moment. He explained the matter, for the bitter heart of the poor person was beating quickly and impatiently.

When the rabbi died, all of the stores were closed, and all residents of the town, young and old, followed the funeral procession. The town suffered a great loss with the death of its spiritual leader.


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The Rabbinical Judge Reb Yehuda Tzvi Korn

Until the choosing of a new rabbi, his place was filled by the judge Rabbi Tzvi Korn. He was a great scholar, with a wonderful memory. He would be able to immediately point out the paragraph of Halacha (Jewish law) or the page of Gemara.

He was a living Talmudic encyclopedia. He lived a life of anguish and difficulty, however he never complained, Heaven forbid, about his lot. He was happy with his lot. Since he himself lived in a meager fashion, he understood very well the spirit of those who came to him with questions on kashruth, and he attempted with all his might to find a reason to declare the fowl kosher.

Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, the young rabbi, Rabbi Mecner, the grandson of the rabbinical judge Rabbi Yechiel Nebenzahl of Stanislawow, was accepted as rabbi of Rozniatow.


Religious Functionaries

Aside from the young rabbi and his rabbinical court, the following types of people were counted among the religious functionaries: shochtim (ritual slaughterers), mohalim (ritual circumcisors), gabbaim (trustees), and shamashim (sextons).

All of these religious functionaries worshiped in the later minyan (prayer group) of the kloiz, that took place at 9:00 a.m. Rozniatow had the good fortune to employ the best shochtim. I will start with them.


Shochtim

The head of the shochtim and the most honorable of them, as I remember, was Reb Moshele Weiser in his time. He was a Jew with an impressive appearance, of middle height, with a black, trimmed beard and a high forehead. He would size you up immediately with his two shiny eyes, that exuded wisdom and intelligence. You would realize immediately that a Torah scholar and fearer of Heaven is standing before you. He would conduct a regular class in the kloiz for the grown youths, I being among them. He taught us a class in the laws of “Yoreh Deah”9. He would explain things in a wonderful fashion, and if he realized that somebody did not understand, he would repeat his words and explain a second time, until the law was clear and understood by everybody. The shochtim did not only engage in their own profession, shechita. They also were involved in teaching, the study of Torah and wisdom, and guiding people on their paths of study – some in Chumash and Rashi, Ohr Hachaim10, or a page of Gemara. They would study “Yoreh Deah” and other such things with the older boys. Every one of them was fitting to be not only a shochet and bodek11, but also as an honored rabbi and expert in Torah.

The son of Reb Moshele, Reb Zeida, married Bracha the daughter of Reb Yosef Shimshon Stern when he grew up. He also became a shochet. He was a fine young man, refined, with eyes that exuded love, and goodhearted.

There was one other young man in my time, who was a colleague of Reb Zeida Weiser. This was Reb Yankele Hochman. These were children of a Torah imbued generation, whose hearts were captivated by the beauty of truth.

There was also the shochet Bratshpiz. He was a man of impressive appearance, tall with a black beard. He wore splendid clothes, and exuded honor. He left the town during the 1930s to serve as a rabbi and head of a rabbinical court in Czechoslovakia.

Reb David Roth the shochet was also an outstanding person in town.

When Reb Zecharia David Liberman served in town as the head of the community, there was a need for an additional shochet. However, the depleted communal coffers were not sufficient to hire an additional person. However, it became known to Reb Zecharia David that Reb David Roth also had a sweet voice, so he combined the positions of shochet and cantor into one position. When Reb David Roth was accepted as a shochet, the condition was made that as part of his duties, he must serve as the cantor in the large synagogue or the Beis Midrash, that he had to serve in this post for ten years, and that he was forbidden from leaving this post for that duration of time.

For the young man Reb David, this was a splendid opportunity. He jumped upon the opportunity, and signed the agreement with Reb Zecharia David.

Reb David the shochet was from a family of cantors. One of his brothers served as a cantor in the United States, and whenever he composed a tune for a prayer, he would immediately transmit it to his brother Reb David. Reb David also composed several tunes, and he transmitted them to his brother.

Reb David had a very sweet voice, and he was an exceptional prayer leader. He won his acclaim with his sweet prayers that awakened his listeners to great intent in prayer. The melodies that he composed were well known to the townsfolk. He also established a choir of boys, and taught them to read musical notes, and to understand the principals of music and the cantorial arts.

His fame also spread beyond the town. People came to town and took interest in him as a shochet and also as an exceptional prayer leader. He received many fine job offers as a shochet and a cantor. He received an invitation from Stanislawow with a very high salary. However Reb David was bound to his agreement with Reb Zecharia David for the timeframe, and he was not able to leave until the ten years expired. At that time, he accepted an honorable position in Przemysl, and signed the contract. Then, he sold his rights as a slaughterer to Reb Yankele Hochman, and left the town.

Reb David was of splendid appearance, tall, handsome, and brave. On one occasion, as he was walking to the kloiz in the evening, four gentile shkotzim12 started up with him and attempted to beat him. Reb David grabbed one of them, lifted him up, and smote the other three with him. They barely managed to flee.

He perished along with the rest of the community during the days of the Holocaust.

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Mohalim

Almost all of the shochtim were mohalim. However there were also a few non-clergy who occupied themselves with the holy work of bringing Jewish children into the covenant of Abraham our Father. They did this for the sake of Heaven and not to receive recompense. On the contrary, they would give their own money to poor family who had many children. Yosef Shimon Stern was among these mohalim who did not seek recompense.

He was a wealthy Jew, who had many possessions. He was also a scholar, and had a large family. One daughter married Zeida, the son of Reb Moshele the shochet, who also served as a shochet in the town.


Rebbes

One of the phenomena that awakened a deep meaning in Jewish life of Poland, was, without doubt, Hassidism, which took its own form in Eastern Galicia. For the most part, the people of Galicia were simple folk, who lived lives of want and poverty. They did not know joy at all, and their entire concern was how to sustain their large families, how to repay debts, and how to pay back what they borrowed from charitable funds. Hassidism was what brought them a new light and hope. It chased away sadness and filled every Jewish heart with joy, as it combined that heart to the community of Hassidim.

If a Rebbe came to town, all of the Jews of the town would stream to him, to pour their heart and agony out to him, and ask for his advice. One would come to the Rebbe to ask about his daughter who had come of age, without him having even one coin for the dowry. The second would come to the Rebbe to consult about an incurable illness. The third would come regarding a domestic dispute. Another would come to ask the Rebbe's advice regarding the leasing of lands from the local earl. Everyone would have his own private issue. When they came to the Rebbe and poured out their hearts to him, the weight on their hearts already was lightened. They already felt some relief of spirit. The Rebbe was the doctor, psychologist and advisor to the simple Jews. As was the custom, the Admors arrived on Thursday, and remained until the following Thursday. There were Rebbes who had faithful Hassidim in town. When they found out that the Rebbe was coming for a specific week, they would go out to greet him at the train station in Krechowice, a distance of seven kilometers from town. They would accompany the Rebbe into town with song.

The Rebbe would stay at the home at one of his Hassidim, and there he would receive his Hassidim “in peace” and hear their requests. On the eve of the Sabbath, they would set up tables in the old kloiz. There, the Hassidim would come after they ate their own Sabbath meal in their home. They would spend time with the Rebbe in song, dance, and great spiritual heights until a late hour of the evening.

Great was the belief of the Hassidim in their Rebbe. His image was always bound before their eyes, and they were bound to him with all the strands of their souls.

The Rebbe of Bolekhov, Rabbi Perlow, always stayed at the home of my revered father, the large house of Reb Hersch Rechtschaffen. The Rebbe of Golina, Reb Betzalel, who was the son-in-law of Reb Chaim of Tzanz (Nowy Sacz), would always stay with Reb Yaakov Shusterman. The Rebbe of Burstyn and others would also come to our town. Each Rebbe had his own Hassidim. These Hassidim believed in their own Rebbe with complete faith, and they would come and go, and conduct their business in accordance with his holy word. They would drink up his words with thirst, and learn from his deeds. They would fine salvation for their stormy souls in the home of the Rebbe, as well as a balm and bandage for all of their woes.

The simple Jew believed that the Rebbe was a holy man of G-d who had the ability to request mercy on the Jewish people; and he also believed that there were other holy Rebbes and great people, so he would also travel to other Rebbes and not just “his” Rebbe in order to pour out his requests and needs. This was not the case with the Hassidim and scholars. Once they had chosen their own Rebbe whom they knew was great in Torah, expert in Talmud and halachic decisors, they cleaved to him and only him. They did not know of and did not travel to a different Rebbe. Often, Hassidim who believed in a certain Rebbe opposed a different Rebbe. From this, all sorts of controversies and disputes broke out. Here is not the place to elaborate upon them. I only wanted to bring here a short list of Admorim who used to visit our town. When a Rebbe arrived to our town, he would often be accompanied with one or two gabbaim (aides).


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Sofrim (scribes)

Reb Baruch Gelick, who lived outside of the center of the town, in the “Old town”, was the Sofer Stam13 of the town. He provided all holy objects to the population of the town. He wrote Torah scrolls, Mezuzas, and Tefillin. He was thin, with a yellowish small beard. He was always clean and polished, and everyone who saw his externals realized that he was a man who occupied himself with spiritual matters.

Y. Rechtschaffen


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The Old Kloiz and its Worshippers

by Mordechai Stern

The Old Kloiz, or the “Zhidachevai” as many people called it, was a very old building. The elders who worshipped there would relate that they still remember that their grandparents called it the Old Kloiz.

“Zhidachevai” – since most of the Hassidim of the Admor of Zhidachev worshiped there. Mother Rebbes who visited Rozniatow from time to time also worshipped in the Zhidachevai Kloiz. The main thing was to greet the Sabbath queen in a congregation of Hassidim and men of good deeds. The Hassidim of Zhidachev took pride in the fact that also those who were not members of their own Hassidic group worshipped in their kloiz. Therefore, the worshippers of the kloiz knew how to give honor also to other streams and to Admors from various Hassidic dynasties who came under the shadow of their roof.

I remember how the Rebbe of Bolekhov used to come to Rozniatow annually to visit his Hassidim. As was customary, most of his Hassidim worshipped in the large Beis Midrash, mainly in the first prayer quorum. The Rebbe would lead the Friday night service of Welcoming the Sabbath. Only one solitary Jew objected to this invitation. This was Reb Mordechai Krigel of blessed memory, the grandfather of Mrs. Tzila Fettman, who now lives in the Kibbutz of Ramat Kovesh. Reb Mordechai was a Hassid of Chortkov, and very sharp in Torah. He permitted himself to oppose the Rebbe of Bolekhov publicly, and he demonstrated his opposition by not coming to worship in the kloiz that Sabbath eve.

The place where the Reb Avrahamche Eichenstein of Zhidachev and other members of the Zhidachever dynasty stayed was my father's house, on a street that was later on called Herzl Street, in the house next to the notary. From there he went to the home of Reb Yehuda Weisberg. In the latter years, he would stay with Eli Spigel.

As far as I remember, the Rebbe used to arrive in town on Thursday, and the Hassidim would go out to greet him at the train station of Krechowice. Town notables were among the Hassidim, including Reb Elazar Yitzchak Leib. Despite his extreme old age, he would go out to greet him, and he would invite him to worship the Sabbath Eve service at the great synagogue. The Rebbe answered positively, and on the eve of the Holy Sabbath, the Rebbe would worship in the large synagogue, which was also too small to accommodate the crowd that had come in honor of the Rebbe. Many remained outside and worshipped outside, for the Admor of Zhidachev was famous for being a first class prayer leader. His pleasant voice attracted many from outside the circles of Zhidachev Hassidism. These musically inclined people praised his prayers very greatly.

Hassidim from other Hassidic dynasties, such as Chortkov and others, came to listen to his prayers and words of Torah. They derived great enjoyment from this. The table celebration of the Sabbath Eve was set up in the old kloiz. There, the Rebbe would present to the Hassidim a Hassidic idea or statement, or words of Torah, for there was no shortage of Torah scholars in the old kloiz.

This was an exalted time, and a festive spirit pervaded the kloiz. One Sabbath after another, a different Rebbe would visit Rozniatow, and would feel duty bound, at least on the Sabbath Eve, to worship in the kloiz. The Rebbes of Strettin and Dolina also had the same custom.

The following scholars and Torah giants worshipped in the Kloiz: Rabbi Hamerling, Reb Chanina Weisman, Reb Tzvi Hersch Mendel Artman, Reb Bendet Horowitz, Reb Feivel Reizler, Reb Berish Friedler, Reb Shabtai Spigel, Reb Itzi Krechowicer, Reb Mordechai Krigel, Reb Moshe Weiser the shochet, the rabbinical judge Reb Yehuda Tzvi Korn, and Reb Shmuel Wirt.

Reb Shmuel Wirt was a one of a kind character. He always sat at the back of the kloiz, that is not at the eastern side, not far from the entrance. He did not make himself stand out, and he did not participate in any arguments. There was a candle beside him, and a book of Zohar14 or Jewish ethics (Mussar) was also always on hand. He was always studying. He did not take any part in communal or public matters. On the other hand, his many sons-in-law were very knowledgeable in communal matters as well as spiritual matters. These were Yosef Shimon Stern, Avraham Zauerberg, Kalman Halpern, Berish Weiss, and Yisrael Kornblitt. They all worshipped in the kloiz.

There was only one occasion during the year that Reb Shmuel made himself stand out, and this was not only in the kloiz. This was every year on the festival of Simchat Torah. On that day, he was glad and he made the congregation joyous. He would dance, and invite everyone around him to join in the dancing. He would go to the outskirts of the town in song, while we boys followed after him. He would call after us:

“Rejoice and Be Glad on Simchat Torah”15.

We children got tired from all the dancing, while he, despite his advanced age, continued to dance and dance. The voice of his singing filled the entire street.

The following people were numbered among those that worshipped and studied in the kloiz: Reb David Roth, the shochet, who was a proud and fine Jew, a prayer leader who knew music, and a scholar; Reb Lipa Teneh; Reb Meshulam Klinger; Eliezer Ber Klinger; Reb Kalman Frankel; Reb Yisrael Tzvi Londoner the Kohen; and my in-law16 Reb Leib Falik; Reb Yaakov Hamerman, Mordchai Tisch; the teacher Yehudale Kaufman; Reb Tzvi Akselrad; Reb Yosef Rubinfeld, an upright Jew; and Reb Meshulam Fruchter the Kohen. His place in the kloiz was right next to my father. I always looked at him, with his refined face. He was a pleasant man, with a dear soul. He never reprimanded the children who were creating a disturbance.

The custom was that those who studied Torah in the kloiz would arise early and study to the light of a candle. They would study from a new book. A few of them were careful to worship at sunrise17, while others continued to study as they were enwrapped in their tallises until later hours of the morning. People studied in the kloiz from the early hours of the morning throughout the day.

I wish to point out a few people here: Reb Itzi Fessberg; Reb Zeida Weiser and his brother Itzi; the brothers Leibish and Yaakov Hochman, the sons of Reb Moshele Eli. Both Reb Zeida and Reb Yaakov inherited the rights of shechita from their fathers, and became shochtim in Rozniatow. There were others, such as Sender Rosenberg; Mordechai Spigel; the brothers David and Monty-Mordechai Stern the sons of Yosef Shimon; Yaakov Keller; Yaakov Fruchter; Shimon Rechtschaffen; Shmuel Leib Rosenbaum (died in Israel); my brother-in-law David Akselrad; Shmuel Londoner. All of them were murdered by the Nazi soldiers. The few who survived included Moshe Fruchter and Yehuda Hamerman-Wiczner (U. S. A.); Mordechai and Yaakov Rechtschaffen (Australia); Reb Tzvi Fessberg;, Avraham Friedler (Saraf), and my brother David (Israel); and David Nussbaum.

There was no need to hire external prayer leaders or cantors in the kloiz, for there were prayer leaders among the worshippers of the kloiz. I remember in my time, when I was still in Rozniatow, that the following people lead services on the High Holy Days: Reb Moshele the shochet, Reb David Roth the shochet, and Reb Reuven Getzel Heisler. On other festivals, the following people led services: Reb Vove Hoffman, Reb Avrahamche Zauerberg, Reb Gedalyahu Weber, and others.

On the High Holidays the services were always commenced by the elder Reb Yaakov Meir Nussbaum, the grandfather of our friend and comrade David Nussbaum-Rubinfeld. After his death, his place as the commencer of services in the kloiz18 was our rabbinical judge, Reb Yehuda Tzvi Korn. He was an extremely modest man, who behaved discretely towards his fellowman and his G-d. He always distanced himself from communal matters, and he never took interest in anything other than religion and judgement. By chance, I got to know him from up close, for during the time of the First World War, when his home was hit by a shell, he went with his family to live in the home of his brother-in-law Mishel Artman who was our neighbor. However, that home was too small to hold both families, so the family of the judge came to stay with us. The judge sat day and night studying. His mouth literally did not cease from his learning. The reader of the Torah on every Sabbath and festival was Moshe Weiser, who was very active in communal matters.

The old kloiz was badly damaged during one of the many fires that afflicted Rozniatow. It was impossible to continue worshipping and studying there. The community and its activists did not have sufficient financial means to rebuild the kloiz. Therefore, until the kloiz could be rebuilt, all of its worshippers spread out to various other houses of prayer. A few joined the kloiz in the building of Reb Itzikel, and others went to other places of worship. A large number worshipped in the synagogue of Tzvi Rechtschaffen. A Torah class took place regularly in that synagogue. Reb Yisrael Tzvi Londoner the Kohen gave the class. Young and old attended that class on Sabbath eves and on all other days of the year.

During that period, the Gaon Rabbi Hamerling died. This was a great loss. Every Jewish home in Rozniatow was in mourning. During one of the days of shiva19 Reb Yisrael Tzvi Londoner delivered a eulogy during the class in the Rechtschaffen Synagogue. This was not a prepared eulogy, and many people only found this out afterwards. Shimshon Rechtschaffen was among them. During the time of the second class, Shimshon and David the son of Yosef Shimon Stern approached and asked Reb Yisrael Tzvi Londoner to repeat his eulogy. This was a speech that made great impact, and it included many novel Torah ideas. It also repeated over some of the novel Torah ideas of the late rabbi.

When I was already in Germany, Reb Shlomo Teitelbaum, nicknamed “Shlomo di bard”20 was sent by the community and the kloiz, equipped with a letter signed by Reb Moshe Weiser the shochet among others, to raise money for the rebuilding of the old kloiz of Rozniatow. Obviously, I acted to the best of my ability among the Roznaitow natives in Germany. When I visited Rozniatow in 1934, the gabbai (administrator) and activists of the kloiz expressed their thanks to me for my help in collecting money for this holy purpose.

The rebuilt old kloiz continued on with its Hassidic tradition. The Hassidim of Zhidachev were centered there, as were other Hassidim and studiers of Torah. Nobody felt themselves disadvantages, Heaven forbid, if they were Hassidim of a different dynasty than Zhidachev.

The gabbaim of the kloiz were good Jews. They were generous people who toiled on behalf of the kloiz for the sake of Heaven, and not for the sake of receiving a reward. The final gabbaim of the kloiz were, as far as I remember: Reb Yisrael Tzvi Londoner, Reb Meir Frankel, and Reb Binyamin Keller.

The square, photographed in 1929
At the right is the home of
Kringel, Keller, and Gelobter

 

This Reb Binyamin was a straightforward man with a warm Jewish heart. He would run like a deer to a large or small mitzvah. He always knew how to protect from iniquity, and he always would give the benefit of the doubt. He loved the game of chess. Even during a day of the fair, he was able to leave his store to search for someone who would sit and play chess with him.

The father of Reb Binyamin was Reb Baruch of Reb Shmuel Hirsch, as they called him21. He was a happy and joyful Jew. Even though he was very poor, he knew how to entertain people at his own expense. It is told that his wife asked him to get some wood to light the oven during the difficult, cold winter. She said to him: “Baruch, go and see wood” (In Yiddish: “Gei ze haltz tzum heitzn”)22. Reb Baruch went to the marketplace, and returned as he came, without wood. His wife asked him: “So Baruch, what is with the wood? Did you see wood?” Baruch answered her, “I saw wood, for that is what you sent me to do”. He knew the yahrzeits23 of all of the Rebbes and of all of the worshippers in every synagogue. Each morning, he would run from one synagogue to another in order to drink a “lechayim” with the person who had yahrzeit. Apparently, this was also his breakfast.

The shammas (sexton) of the kloiz was Reb Koppel, and someone else by the name of Leib Pares. They called him by his mother's name, Leib Mirches. He had previously been a wagoneer. He drove travelers from Rozniatow to Krechowice and back in his wagon. He was known as a high class wagoneer, since he had a carriage with two strong horses. Leib Mirches would only transport important and well to do people in his fine carriage.

He finally tired of this means of livelihood, and preferred to serve as the shamash in the kloiz. He treated this work as holy work. He concerned himself with the cleanliness and heating of the premises, with the intention that even the poor and the beggars would have a place to warm up on the harsh winter nights. Even the young men who were drafted to the army, and decided to wear themselves down and stay up at night in order to become emaciated, found refuge in the kloiz. Often, they would leave the place in disarray and cause a great deal of work for Leib Mirches. However, Leib Mirches did not chastise them. He did not request that the gabbaim of the kloiz shut the doors of the kloiz to the boys in the days prior to their army interview. On the contrary, he made sure that they had strong drink, and helped them rather than hampering them. The shamash Leib Mirches did not shut the kloiz in the face of Jews, whether they were local poor people, or guests.

Most certainly, many other worshippers of the old kloiz are worthy of mention here, and having a monument erected in their memory, and not just with one word; but who can give due to all of these people after decades? Therefore those whom I skipped over should forgive me. Let this article here serve as a modest memorial to the kloiz and its worshippers who were murdered by the armies of Hitler and his assistants.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. According to tradition, there are 36 special discreet holy, righteous people in the world at any given time. These are called the 'Lamed Vov', the Hebrew numerical value of 36. Back

  2. An edition of the Talmud. Back

  3. A Machzor is a festival prayer book. Back

  4. Tzitzit are the four fringes on the corner of a tallis, and also on the four corners of the 'small tallis' worn inside ones clothing at all times. Back

  5. Worn out holy books that are to be buried in an honorable fashion. Back

  6. This would be a question regarding the kashruth of the chicken. A punctured crop or gizzard would render a chicken non-kosher. Back

  7. The Sabbath of Return, a name given to the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Back

  8. This refers to questionable situations regarding punctures in internal organs of slaughtered animals, unintentional minor mixtures of milk and meat, etc. In the case of a poor person who has just submitted the animal to ritual slaughter, such questions can have a major impact on their livelihood. Back

  9. One of the four segments of the Shulchan Aruch (The Code of Jewish Law). Among other things, Yoreh Deah deals with the laws of kashruth and ritual slaughter. Back

  10. Ohr Hachaim is one of the biblical commentators. Back

  11. A bodek is an inspector of the internal organs of a slaughtered animal. The two jobs – shochet and bodek – are often performed by the same person. Back

  12. A derogatory term for gentiles. Back

  13. Stam is the acronym for Sefer Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzot. A Sofer Stam is a scribe who writes Torah scrolls, Tefillin, and Mezuzas. Back

  14. Zohar is the main Kabbalistic work of Judaism. Back

  15. A quote from the Simchat Torah liturgy. Back

  16. The word here is 'son-in-law' but I suspect that it might have a more generic meaning here. Back

  17. It is considered especially meritorious to recite the morning prayers at the time of sunrise. However, for those who are engaged in serious study, it is considered appropriate to delay the recital of the morning prayers. Back

  18. This most probably refers to the person reciting the Pesukei Dezimra section of the service, which precedes the formal beginning of Shacharit. Back

  19. The seven day mourning period following a death. Back

  20. Shlomo the bearded. Back

  21. This sentence is incorrect in the Hebrew, obviously. I translated it literally. Back

  22. A Yiddish expression for “Go get some wood”. Back

  23. The anniversary of death. Back

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