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{320}

Common Happenings and Memories

Anski-Questionnaire

Yaakov Frydman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In the year 1913, 5603 [1], Sh. Anski sent a questionnaire to all of the Jewish communities with the name: A local historical program, sent by Sh. Anski, with the assistance of A. Yudiki, via the Jewish ethnographic expedition through the name of Baron Naftali Hertz Gincburg. (This is the same as the “Jewish Historical Ethnographic Society”.) The purpose was to collect material from the Jewish communities and their lives, so that the consolidated material can later be published for future historians.

However, fate was different. It did not take into account the good will of Sh. Anski and the material assistance of Baron Gincburg. The First World War broke out and destroyed the hundreds of years of collected spiritual (and physical) treasuries of material. The entire undertaking was driven into the ground due to the wartime conditions and Anski's death.

Thus was lost the very valuable material that was certainly collected also from other Jewish communities. Who knows if this was the only material that has disappeared? During the time of the First World War, I guarded the collected material throughout all the places of my wandering, so that it would not be lost. (I guarded it for another 35 years in the Land of Israel, until the bitter lot that took place during the Second World War – after the Nazi-Hitlerian murder of the Jews, so that a historical chapter about a small town in Poland will be published, in order to perpetuate the name and the life – the Jewish life of our city of Sochaczew.

There were 166 questions in the questionnaire. There were answers to 70 questions. Beside every question the number was noted, as in the questionnaire. I will now give it over in printing, as it was written 44 years ago, with minor improvements.

Question: What euphemisms were there in your city?
Answer: Sochaczew Persians, Sochaczewer Tatars, Czechmeloch, Ra-Sochaczew.

Question: For how long was there a community in Sochaczew [2]?
Answer: For 500-800 years

Question: How many synagogues are there in your city?
Answer: One synagogue, the communal Beis Midrash, and the Rebbe's Beis Midrash.

Question: When was each of them built, and who built them?
Answer: The synagogue was built in the year 5620 / 1860. It was built by the community. The other Beis Midrashes were built later.

Question: Which ones are communal, which ones are Hassidic, and from which Hassidim?
Answer: The synagogue is for the community, the greater portion of them being Misnagdim. The same with the communal Beis Midrash. Hassidim have their own various shtibels and minyans [3]. The Rebbe's Beis Midrash belongs to the Sochaczewer Rebbe and his Hassidim.

Question: What stories and legends exist regarding the old synagogues?
Answer: At night, the dead come to worship in the synagogue. When the shamash opens the synagogue early in the morning, he makes two knocks on the door – a signal that the dead must leave…

Question: Which of the synagogues had burnt down?
Answer: The old city synagogue burnt down in the year 5619 / 1859.

Question: How did the burnt down synagogue look, and what types of illustrations and holy objects were burnt there?
Answer: Four Torah scrolls were burnt, along with the Holy Ark, and the rest of the holy objects that were found there.

Question: Are there old castles, towers and palaces, whole or in ruins?
Answer: There is an old, destroyed castle that stands atop a hill. It is called the “Schloss-berg” [4] in the city and the entire region. Now there is only the hill, and the ruins are destroyed.

Question: Who lives, or who used to live in the castle?
Answer: It is said that a Polish count used to live in the destroyed castle. Some say that a Polish king lived there. I heard from Reb Yisrael Sofer, an old man, that when he was still a child he heard it said that a great priest, an archbishop, lived in the old city. He once went up to the Schloss-berg and said that his grandfather's grandfather's great-grandfather once lived in the castle. It was further said that a king once lived there. Also – a Mazowian duke.

Question: What historical memories and legends are bound up with those buildings?
Answer: it is said to this day that there are buried palaces on the mountain upon which the castle stands, and there one can find many treasures with gold. It is said that years ago, many people dug on the mountain and found gold.

Question: How many cemeteries do you have?
Answer: Three cemeteries that are all next to each other.

Question: When did they stop burying in the old cemetery?
Answer: With the first one, it is not known. With the second one, they stopped burying about 40 years ago.

Question: Please write how you obtained the new cemetery?
Answer: The third cemetery, that is the last one (as stated previously), was negotiated for with the poretz, the owner of the baths, by the former old rabbi. The poretz sold the place with good will to the community. After the purchase, the rabbi with the Jews of the town made seven circuits with the Torah scrolls around the purchased area of the baths and sanctified it as a cemetery.

Question: Are there any graves about which legends circulate?
Question: The Shach's brother[5], (the former local rabbi) said during his lifetime that “whomever will come to my grave will be helped”. After his death, many people went discretely to his grave, so that nobody else would know… When someone stole into the cemetery and went to the grave to pour out his heart – he did not find the grave anymore. It had disappeared. There is also a second version.

Question: Write about all the old gravestones of known people of old.
Answer: It is not possible to read the gravestones in the first two cemeteries. The majority of the gravestones are small, low stones that have almost sunk into the ground. The script is almost obliterated.

Question: Are there presently or were there special Jewish industries (such as tallis makers, chandelier makers)?
Answer: Years ago there were, today there is not.

Question: Do any old ledgers of the community, Chevra Kadisha (burial society), Chevra Mishnayos (Mishna study groups), Chevra Shas (Talmud study groups), Chevra Tehillim (Psalm reciting groups), etc., exist?
Answer: The ledger of the Chevra Kadisha remains.

Question: Do any old time objects remain in the synagogues or with the residents (such as ark covers, Torah crowns, Torah pointers, spice boxes, objects with Yiddish inscriptions, etc?)
Answer: One resident had a Torah pointer with a tas [5]. One of the groups has another pointer. In the old synagogue, one can find today an old Chair of Elijah [6] that is over 100 years old, from the time when they used to circumcise the children in the synagogue.

Question: Did your city ever have a great rabbi, a Gaon, or a great Yeshiva head?
Answer: There were several rabbis who were Gaonim (Rabbi Elazar Tzvi Charlup of blessed memory, Reb Moshele Charyf of blessed memory, Reb Leibish of blessed memory, the head of the rabbinical court of Apta – Sochaczew, Reb Nachum Rapoport the brother of the Shach, Reb Nachum Gincburg, Reb Elazarl Kohenof blessed memory, Reb Avrahamele Bornsztejn.)

Question: Did your city every have a great Tzadik, an especially good Jew? From what lineage was he, and whose student was he?
Answer: The Tzadik and fine Jew the Admor Reb Avrahamele Bornsztejn was there. He was a son-in-law and student of the Kocker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kock. Today his son Reb Shmuel (of blessed memory [7]) lives in Sochaczew?

Question: Does his portrait exist?
Answer: The portrait of Reb Avrahamele Bornsztejn exists, drawn by the local artist Lozer of Alasz (Rozenfeld).

Question: Can you write about his appearance, character and way of life?
Answer: Rabbi Avrahamele Bornsztejn, short and with a splendid countenance, his eyes almost always closed. He talked very fast, such that only very few could understand him. He was always very happy with other Jews. He never differentiated between a rich person and a poor person. He gave Tzedaka with a full hand. He sat and learned day and night. He wrote responsa and led a Yeshiva. For him, eating and sleeping were limited to the necessities of life. Many stories were told about him. Of them, two characteristic episodes stood out: When he was still a lad and came home from Yeshiva, his mother gave him a roll and butter to eat. He was expected to spread button on the roll. However, he ate the roll and left the butter behind. His mother asked him, “Why is this? Why do you not spread butter on the roll?” He answered: “You want me to take the time to cut the roll and to spread the butter? This is too much neglect of Torah.”

Even when he was older and already a rabbi, he slept very little. If he lay down for a few minutes, he would quickly get up, wash his hands, and say, “Mne… mne. So long to sleep” [8] In truth, he had not slept for more than a minute.

He worshipped early and did not tarry long during his prayers. He was a genuine rabbinical personality from the old world.

Question: Do any of his grandchildren remain? Their names?
Answer: His son and grandson are well-known rabbis.

Question: Did they leave behind any published books?
Answer: Yes. Reb Elazarl left behind “The Novellae of Maharach” (The Novellae of Rabbi Elazar HaKohen), and from Reb Avrahamele – “Eglei Tal” and “Avnei Nezer”.

Question: Do any of their manuscripts remain?
Answer: Yes, many manuscripts remain from Reb Elazarl and Reb Avrahamel.

Question: Is there any Tzadik with you presently? What is his lineage?
Answer: Reb Shmuel Bornsztejn may he live long, is the son of Reb Avrahamel and the grandson of the Kocker Rebbe.

Question: Did you have or do you now have any well-known Jewish wealthy people.
Answer: Yes, there were and there is now.

Question: Did they play or do they now play a Jewish role?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Did you have a well-known cantor, musician, jester, joker, etc.?
Answer: There was Avrahamele the jester.

Question: did you ever have an informer in the city (a city-informer)? What can you say about him?
Answer: Yes, there was one, Menashe Freund. In his younger years, he was an inspector. At the time he forced Jews into poverty. He took what he could from them. He informed on them, and those who were arrested were warned by him that he would inflict strong penalties. Many died through him. Later, he turned over a new leaf, and he began to do good for the local Jews. He expended much money for the city. It is further told that in his old age, he would seclude himself in a room, where he would worship. They buried him near fence of the cemetery.

Question: Do you know the reasons behind any incidents of apostasy?
Answer: One instance was due to family reasons. They treated him very badly, not wanting to give him food and clothing. He turned away from the family, and to anger them, he converted to the Catholic faith. Another converted to the Praboslavic faith. A third converted with his entire family to the Catholic faith.

Question: Are there any recent cases of apostasy? How many in the last few years?
Answer: In the last few years there were no cases of apostasy.

Question: Do you know of any cases where apostates returned to Judaism?
Yes: From among the last two, one of them went to live in Krakow. He became a Jew once again. One of the aforementioned left behind a large family. The mother still lives. It is told that every Friday, she makes a clean cloth for the Sabbath…

Question: Did it ever happen that an apostate was beaten or murdered?
Answer: The person who converted to the Praboslavic faith was found murdered. Nobody knows who did it.

Question: Do you ever find bones when you dig in the earth?
Answer: We find them in many places. A few years ago we found an entire human skeleton buried in the earth.

Question: Are any special days of penitence or fast days observed from the old times, such as the 20th of Sivan, etc. [9]?
Answer: A fast day was declared during a time of illness, but it is no longer observed.

Question: Did your city have a connection with the Polish revolution?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Were there Jewish Miecznikes, who took part in the revolution? What type of sentence did they receive?

Answer: There were two men. One was captured and sentenced to hanging. One night, his father stole him out of jail and sent him out of the country. The second one is still alive. He is called Binyamele “Crower”. His signal for the Polish revolution was to “crow like a hen”. When he was saved from death, he gave the sign: “To the earth with a pair of pants”.

Question: Do you know any stories that were spread regarding Napoleon's war?
Answer: Napoleon was in the city. The rabbi's assistant looked out of the window in order to see him, which was not permitted. The rabbi shouted out: “Baruch, where are you?” At that moment, Napoleon ordered a cannon to be shot. The cannonball went straight through the open window. A Hungarian Franciscan soldier went into the house of a Jew and found a barrel of sauerkraut. He started to eat with his mouth straight in the barrel – and he suddenly died. They found a great deal of money on him, and the family became wealthy for the rest of their days.

Question: Was there ever a blood libel with you?
Answer: In a local church, a box with the inscription was found: “Blood for Jews for Passover”, and immediately spread a rumor that Jews murdered a Christian child.

Question: Did things quickly calm down, or was there a trial?
Answer: The Jews immediately turned to the governor and ask that he conduct an investigation. After that investigation, he destroyed that box and there was no trial. This happened many years ago.

Question: Did you ever have epidemics? Are there people who remember them?
Answer: There was an epidemic about 60 years ago. Many people remember the epidemic that took place 20 years ago.

Question: Who among you is occupied with communal matters (who builds baths and mikvas, and makes sure that there is a pharmacist and a physician in town)?
Answer: The city counselors. Also private activists.

Question: To which Rebbes do the Hassidim in your city affiliate with?
Answer: Amshenover (Myszonower), Gerrer, Grodzisker, Aleksandrower, and the local Sochaczewers.

Question: Were there ever disputes between the Hassidim and Misnagdim in your city?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Did the Misnagdim ever excommunicate the Hassidim?
Answer: No.

Question: Were there ever fistfights and court cases between Hassidim and Misnagdim?
Answer: Yes, there were fistfights and court cases. Twelve years ago and two years ago.

Question: Do any documents and manuscripts about them remain?
Answer: It is unknown.

Question: Do you know of any disputes between the Orthodox and the non-believers (Apikorsim)?
Answer: There were disputes between the Orthodox and the Zionists.

Question: What Jewish groups are there today? How old are they?
Answer: There is the Chevra Kadisha, the Talmud Torah group, Bikur Cholim (Visiting the sick), Hachnasas Kala (Providing for brides), Linat Hatzedek (Providing for shelter for the poor), the Tehillim group, the Bachurim (Young men) group, Hachanasat Orchim (providing for guests), and the Tailors

Question: What types of parties existed in 1905?
Answer: The P.P.S. and Poale Zion.

Question: Did you have strikes? By which group of workers?
Answer: No.

Question: How many craftsmen do you have? In which crafts, and how many are in each craft?
Answer: Weavers, blacksmiths, bookbinders, clockmakers, general merchants, tailors, shoemakes, carpenters, stitchers, hat makers. 3 weavers, 2 blacksmiths, 3 bookbinders, 6 clockmakers and rope makers. (We don't know the numbers of the other professions.)

Question: Do you have factories? What types?
Answer: Of artificial silk.

Question: Do Jewish workers work there? How many?
Answer: There is not one Jewish employee.

Question: Are there any very old people with you? What are their names?
Answer: Shamai Jakubowicz is 102, Zilpe Nasielewicz is 105.

Question: Do you have any women who are farsprechers [10], ritual bath attendants, and wailers [11].
Answer: Yes, only ritual bath attendants and wailers.

Question: Their names?
Answer: Eidel Pesse, Bine Gittel Szmejser, Miriam Sochaczewski.

Question: What is the prime industry in town?
Answer: Colonial shops, manufacturing, leather and grain.

Question: Is the Jewish community in your town rich or poor?
Answer: Poor.

Question: Is there strong emigration to America? The reasons? How many traveled? To where?
Answer: It is very strong. It is due to family poverty, not enough sources of livelihood, conscription, etc. We estimate that 200-300 families have gone. They went to Chicago, Baltimore, California, Colorado, Toronto, Canada and other places and countries.


{330}

In Those Days

by Pinchas Graubard

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Small things, nice things. However, they create the tone of our lives. They are the air that we breathe. I wish to discuss them.

We conducted a strike of the maids in our small, beloved Sochaczew. In the larger cities, one had the pleasure of inciting the factories and workshops, when the proletariat was thrown out of work by the thousands in the towns due to political or economic conditions. What type of members of the proletariat did we have in our town? Very few, a few tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, furriers, and shingle makers. We agitated them with great fear and trepidation, that they shouldn't slip away from our hands…

In general, we agitated and worked with anyone who had the minutest connection to the proletariat. At times, we crossed the border and dragged in the Poale Zion working youth, children of families of householders, who had no connection to the proletariat.

It was even a bit difficult with the maid girls. At first, we had to spend a long time convincing them that they are people who are equal with everyone, and they must absolutely struggle for a better life – which for them was something that they could not completely understand. Secondly, the householders [12] made noises and issued warnings throughout the entire town, pointed fingers at the long beards and shouted: “You are already crawling to the maid girls, this is not the way it should be! You want to turn them into Socialist leaders! Otherwise you are not worthwhile. We want to show you, youngsters, what you are saying. Thank G-d that there are still police in town!”

Yes, there were indeed police in town, but our duty is to struggle with you. Therefore, we do not out-shout you, but we will continue on with the strike. The town householders sprung up from their skin, and one of them even received a few fiery blows. Regarding the blows, a relative of mine even got involved – a particularly pious Jew who had once tore the hair from his head when he saw with his sharp eyes how Gedalya Warszawski, the father of the writer Ozer Warszawski, extended his hands to a girl…

That relative began to pester us greatly. He scratched the bones with threats and informing on us… We gathered together and tried him. The verdict was almost unanimous, we would break his bones but good.

The leader of our small “group of troublemakers” (“Baiuvka”) was named “Omnibus”. He was crowned with that bizarre name because he was thick and chubby, and he always moved with difficulty. As he walked, he would sway to the right and the left, like a veritable omnibus. Now he had to issue the verdict. Coldly and calmly, he shook his head and muttered:

“Nu, you can leave him alone already, it will be good…”

On a dark night, he with a few other Baivuka members accosted that relative in his house, took him house into the deathly stillness of the Kaze Alley, and indeed carried out the verdict appropriately. The relative made a commotion, and the group ran away.

We had intended that this would be the end of the threats and accusations, but we were mistaken. After this relative had received his beating on the Kaze Alley, he gathered together a group of Jews and fell upon our two friends and beat them until the point of fainting. One of the two indeed later died from his beatings.

We again gathered together and conducted a trial. Since one of the beaters, Aharon B. excelled with his cruelty, we sentenced him to the extreme penalty: shooting.

One of our “tribunal” led the evening meeting in a small attic room which was the dwelling of one of our members, a bag maker who owned his own small workshop, and died from hunger ten times a day. The attic room was dirty and squalid. A bag machine was on the table, and close by was a spinning wheel with thread. The children slept on the dirty beds. They had pale, dirty faces with closed eyes, sniffling noses and disheveled hair. They slept in small groups, half covered in rags, as in Rejzen's song: “Hands and feet twisted together”.

The mother was spread out on a crate, taking a nap… The windows of the attic room were stuffed with pillows and covered with newspapers. A small kerosene lamp was burning on the table, with two smoky tips with wicks, spreading a yellow, murky light, mixed with smoke and fumes. We sat down together with the bag maker and thought about the means how we could carry out this harsh verdict against Aharon B.

Suddenly, the bag maker's wife woke up. She opened her eyes and saw the faces of us conspirators around the murky light of the smoky lamp.

“What is this?” she said as she uttered as she stood up in the middle of the room, “What are these plans, I ask you?” She ran over to her husband and shook him by the shoulders:

“Shlimazel [13], a disaster and a plague to you in your bones, who has come here? What type of business do you have with them? You are, so to speak, a householder, a manufacturer, a bag maker who works for himself, as I say. And they are strikers, Siberniks [14], Socialists, who would not even put a finger in cold water for you. They wouldn't strike for you, and would not help you even if you were dying of hunger in front of their eyes.”

She cleared her throat with a harsh rasp and continued her rant, “Do you want to be thrown in jail with them in Austrog? Do you not care about your wife and children? A fire will burn you all! Get out of here! You must leave now! Out! Out!”

Suddenly, she lifted up both hands, threw her head back, and began to shout at the top of her lungs:

“Gevald, gevald, gevald!” [15]
The children were suddenly woken up from their sleep and began to cry. The bag maker's wife took the barrel of water, and let it loose in a torrent in the room with her full might. The “tribunal” disbanded and fled…


2

The police would come to us with some frequency. The did not leave us alone. We also did not leave them alone. We caused them much work and worry. Something happened almost every day. Here a little strike, there a covert gathering. Sometimes someone broke the bones of an informer but good. Sometimes we disarmed a policeman, and sometimes there was a report from us of a revolution. Above all, we often afflicted the town with freshly issued proclamations.

The police would come to us together with the local gendarmes. Earlier, several Christians who belonged to the Social Democratic organization were arrested. After that, they turned to us. We must admit that both the police and the gendarmes acted with great energy. Among the gendarmes there was one small gendarme with squinting eyes and an acute nose that was able to pick up any smell. That person had a strong desire to follow anyone. He could smell better than a dog. He stuck his sharp nose everywhere and searched with his eyes. He followed after people like a Satan. You might be going along, lost in thought on a side street, or in a wide field that borders upon the street, feeling at ease. The white clouds in the clear blue sky speak of eternal joy. The wind caresses the back like a soft, warm hand, reminding one of forgotten moments of childhood – suddenly, instinctively, you turn the head around, and he is there! That gendarme with the sharp nose and squinty eyes…

You had to protect yourself from him. When you left the house, you had to look around well on all sides, looking for the short gendarme. You could not always protect yourself from him. Suddenly, I met him face to face. His eyes danced with shock. He suddenly went still as a stone, like someone beaten to the ground. Meanwhile, I sneaked into a yard and hid in a nook. Through a crack, a hole, I saw my gendarme running around like someone who was poisoned, not knowing where to look for me. I knew that this game would get dangerous, and he would eventually report on me. A few hours later, I found a safe corner below the city, and at night, Baruch Ber, a strong youth with wide shoulders, carried me to Grodzisk via Blonie.

This was the beginning of a journey to the border. I felt very sorry about my native piece of land, and I felt as if someone had delivered a sharp blow to my past, with all of the beloved personalities that were bound up in it.

Baruch Ber drove the horse. We drove fast. However, we arrived in Blonie at the exact moment when the P.P.S. was conducting a raid on the post office.

“We find ourselves, it seems in a difficult situation, what do you mean?” Baruch Ber uttered as he honored the horse with hot blows. A few minutes later we found ourselves far away and safe from the danger.

The next morning, I bid a heartfelt farewell to the wide-boned Baruch Ber, and traveled into a forest. There it would certainly be good and peaceful to stay. It was a distinguished hiding place.

However, the stillness made me nervous. The tall, silent pines reminded me of the reason I was hiding. In my imagination I saw my friends, the short gendarme, the attic room, Omnibus, my relative who was beaten soundly in the bones, and my heart felt great pressure. I pined for my friends, for the mischievous youths, and for our societal work.

I did not remain in hiding, but rather set out for Czestochowa. I had friends there. There, I met Avraham Wijewiorka for the first time, who stood in our ranks at that time.

I was also not able to remain in Czestochowa. The meeting, in which I took part, was surrounded by the police. I and a few other friends wished to escape. I was not able to remain any longer in Czestochowa, and I returned to the forest.

I decided to remain in the forest for a long time, until the arrests of our friends would cease. Indeed, the forest was also a jail for me, albeit there were no jail guards.

The emptiness tormented me, until an uncle of mine arrived to transport me to the border.

We arrived in Lodz. The city was teaming with Cossacks, police patrols and spies. The people went around with thick heads [16], and everyone was looking over their shoulders. It seemed as if the city was besieged with enemies.

My uncle shouted out:

“You go on ahead. He called me a pale one. It is not good when we go together. See how many Cossacks…”
Fear overtook him when he accompanied me a little farther. He went and trembled.


3

In Lodz I met up with an acquaintance Yoel Wosk, and bid farewell to my uncle. Yoel Wosky was a mobile, joyous Jew. He loved a joke and a prank, and when needed – he could walk around like a young, spoiled child.

I traveled with Yoel Wosky to Wloclawek and from there by horse to Lipna until Dobrzyn. The journey lasted an entire night. The horses refused to go. Yoel did not do anything about it. He was in the wagon and passed the night singing a popular song of Zunzer.

He had a weakness for me, probably because I had helped him at times in his mischief and pranks. In Dobrzyn I put on a suit, purchased a hat, and for the first time took off the long kapote with the small Hassidic cap.

Yoel bought me a “fulpasik”, a type of temporary border pass of that era. I took leave of him, and set out from Dobrzyn to Golub, at that time a German town that shocked me greatly with its vanity and earthiness. Dobrzyn and Golub, two neighboring towns, two symbols – one for its lack of beauty and laziness, and the other for its culture. The culture attracted me, but my heart was yearning for that time… With the “fulpasik” in my pocket, I set out for Berlin and from there to Antwerp.

I began thinking of a purpose and a bright future. I had spent some time in Belgium, and suddenly the bag maker from my town arrived. He was the one whose wife with her hysterical shouts had broken up our “tribunal”. The bag maker traveled to America. The hysterical wife and the hungry children had somehow caused him to abandon his Poale Zion ideals, and he traveled to seek livelihood in the land of dollars.

“What do you hear from home?”

“What can one hear? It is quiet.”

“Quiet”.

“Yes, the short gendarme no longer sniffs in the streets, the police no longer conduct searches, the householders stopped informing… there was a tumult, and now the tumult is over.”

Perhaps indeed I should travel home… That thought suddenly caught hold of me, as if under duress… I thought and thought, and traveled from Belgium, from that land where I was simultaneously light and serious, like an old, true revolutionary, where I swayed to and fro on the wagon, rode horses, toured museums, heard various revolutionary speeches and attempted to become part of the proletariat.

When I once again saw my town, it seemed to have changed. It was poor and downtrodden. Poor houses, poor people, a poor sky and a poor son. Everything there was small, mundane, lonely…

Our organization had been cut down. In the streets the loafers were singing beneath the hearty laughter of the householders:

“We have already killed all of the strikers.”

“We have no more fear of the strikers.”

“We are free to study the Torah…”

The meager remnants of the organization were led by one of the beaten members, an ill and broken person.

I went through a deep crisis. My hands were helpless and I went around as if not in this world…

The crisis ameliorated somewhat when suddenly news broke out in town about dark tribulations. A group of hired drunks were to come and make a pogrom.

We organized a self defense group. The local S.D. promised us help. The Warsaw Poale Zion organization sent us the member Nemerin with a few other members. The brought weapons. During the day, when the community was generally uncomfortable as they awaited the pogromchiks with terror, we called a mass meeting specifically with the rabbi in the Beis Midrash. Many householders came. Nemerin delivered a sharp lecture. He spoke about the reasons that instigated the pogroms, and about Poale Zion, which educates the Jewish workers and awakens might and self sacrifice. “Gone are the times”, he proclaimed, “when a Jewish worker would go around with an upright back and his head held high, and would call for the button of a policeman and the pointed moustache of a gendarme… The Jewish workers have grown up, and know how to stand up against all pogromchiks and their protectors in high places. No more fear, no more cowardice, only belief in the power of the Jewish worker!”

The householders who were standing in the Beis Midrash and who heard those words were now not smiling mockingly, as used to be their habit. They stood with their heads down, terrified and forlorn, seeking the protection of the workers, of the treif [17] strikers, the accursed Poale Zion…

The Pogromchiks did not come, and no pogrom took place. The collected arms were hidden away, and the town was calm.

{Photo page 335: Avraham Lewkowicz (Kaiser) and his wife Esther}


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. The English and Hebrew years do not match here. 1913 would be 5673. Return
  2. The implication being a Jewish community. Return
  3. It is evident that the responder did not count the smaller shtibels in his response to the earlier question. Return
  4. Castle Mountain. Return
  5. The Shach, acronym for Siftei Cohen, is one of the prime commentators on the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law Return
  6. A chair used during circumcision ceremonies Return
  7. In parentheses, seemingly added by the editor. Return
  8. I am unsure as to what the expression mne is referring to. It may be a fragment of a word. Return
  9. The 20th of Sivan was often observed as a fast day in memory of the Crusades and the Chmielnicki pogroms. Its observance has fallen into disuse – probably on account of these events having been overshadowed by the Holocaust. Return
  10. Women who assist other women with prayers in the women's section of the synagogue. Return
  11. Women who lead the lamentation at funerals. Return
  12. Literally children of 'balebatish' families. – i.e. children of householders – people who owned their own houses in this context. It would roughly be equivalent to our concept of the middle class, as opposed to the working class. Return
  13. A term used for a person of ill luck – with a mildly derogatory connotation. Return
  14. I suspect that this is a term for people who are liable to be deported to Siberia. Return
  15. An expression used in case of emergency or danger. Return
  16. The implication here is somewhat derogatory – the English term 'dense' might fit. Return
  17. The word 'treif' means non-Kosher, usually in its literal sense, here in its figurative sense. Return

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