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[Pages 22-26]

The town in the years 1891-1913

by Max Chekhanov, New York

Translated by Edward Jaffe

Donated by Rona G. Finkelstein


I left Vishkov in 1913 on the way to America. At that time statistics showed that the town's Jewish population consisted of about 1500 families. It was calculated as follows: the large synagogue had 800 worshipers and the new synagogue – about 200, the Gerer Hasidim prayer house – 200; Alexander Hasidim – 200; Amshenover Hasidim – 50. And the same number of worshipers were in the Otvosk and Radziminer prayer houses. In the Dan Synagogue (also called the "German Synagogue" because there were some who wore "short dresses") worshipped about 100 persons. At that time there were a few private worshipping groups consisting of a few rich people and other pious Jews. At that time that was the population composition in town. Lets assume out of respect of the martyred that their statistics were correct.


Jewish income

At the beginning of the 20th century the Vishkov Jewish population could be divided into two groups: Mitnagdim and Hasidim. Two third of the population were Mitnagdim and one third Hasidim. Both the Mitnagdim and the Hasidim were very pious Jews. It appears to me that the difference between the two Vishkov groups was that the former prayed in the Ashkinazi style, and the latter in the Sfardi style.

As far as I remember, according to their income Vishkov's Jews fell into the following categories: shop keepers, money lenders, small business people, quite a few wood merchants and their workers, butchers, fish sellers, deliverers by horse and buggy, carriers, tailors, shoemakers, smiths, leather makers, horseshoe makers, tinmen, glass installers, pot makers, bakers, carpenters, turners, embroiderers, watch repairmen, rope makers, coppersmiths, goldsmiths, painters, and others. Then come the rabbis, beadles, bible teachers, ritual slaughterers, matchmakers, minstrels and musicians. There was also one Jewish doctor, a Jewish pharmacist, a Jewish female dentist and two paramedics. We also had three carbonated drinks factories, three ice cream factories, a scale factory, and a wicker chairs workshop. To that must be added the poor beggars, and those seeking alms from house to house. I believe, I cited all income earners of Vishkov at that time. The general economic condition of Vishkov's Jewish population can be detailed in the following manner: 1% rich people, 9% well to do, 40% middle class that had plenty to eat, 40% lower middle class that had just enough to eat, and 10% poor and indigent.


When did Jews settle in Vishkov

For as long as I lived in Vishkov I posed this question many times to the older town's people, but never obtained a satisfactory answer. I am not delving into the non-Jewish sources about the history of our town. As I remember there was no written record about our community in years past. All I know about the age of the Jewish community in our town is summarized below. When I was 11 years old, my late father took me once to visit the family plot at the Vishkov cemetery. My father pointed out the graves of four generations of our ancestors: the grave of his father, the grave of his grandfather, the grave of his great grandfather, and the grave of his grandfather's grandfather. When I asked my father whether other earlier members of our family are buried here, he responded in the affirmative. But he did not know where-their graves are located.

Is there a trace left of you, dear holy graves?


Vishkov's Rabbis

During my childhood there was a rabbi and a spiritual teacher in Vishkov. I knew the rabbi well because he lived adjacent to the same yard (the synagogue yard). As a child I frequently visited the rabbi's house and played with his grandchildren. I remember that the rabbi was a real pleasant person. A real lover of the Jewish people and all living creatures. He always had a smile on his gentle face. If he had to call somebody from the synagogue he asked me to do it. Although I was a small child, he knew me well and used to ask me gently "be so good" or "excuse me", "don't be insulted, please call so and so from the synagogue". The spiritual teacher I knew only by his appearance. Beyond that I knew nothing of him. Once there was an argument between the rabbi and the spiritual teacher. The argument was so intense that it caused a fight between their respective followers. The town's youths resorted to strange name calling of the two sides. The rabbi's supporters were called "bombers" and the spiritual teacher's were called "turtles". There were also those who were "neutral' and called "trulelus". I did not understand the meaning of these strange names.

I also remember that the quarrel led the "neutral" group to steal a Torah on the Jewish holiday of Hoshana-Raba which they took to a known Jew in the nearby village by the name of Vigoda. There they celebrated Shmini-Etzeret and Simcha-Torah. In the morning of the same Shmini-Etzeret a high ranking official with police and artillery soldiers arrived in Vishkov from the provincial town of Pultusk, and chased all worshippers away from the large synagogue.

The end result of this quarrel led to the arrest of the spiritual teacher. The incident made a lasting impression, many of the older people remember it to this day. Whatever happened to the spiritual teacher I do not know. I only know that the Vishkov Jews quieted down after this incident.

Many years later when the rabbi died, Vishkov's Jews selected as a religious authority a prestigious person from a rabbinical family. With the new rabbi I had a difficult and unpleasant incident that I remember to this day.

At that time I already had a bookstore in Vishkov where I sold Warsaw Jewish newspapers. As soon as the new rabbi arrived in town, he sent for me to come and see him. My late father, whom I appreciated and loved dearly, insisted that I comply with the rabbi's request. I did it because of my father's request.

When I came to see the rabbi, I greeted him and wished him much luck. I asked him why he called me. He immediately began reproaching me and asking why I decided to make a living by selling books and newspapers. I in turn asked ther rabbi why his friend,a pious so and so,can sell books and I cannot? It was true that the pious Jew did not sell newspapers. Instead of an answer the rabbi began shouting at me and in an angry voice stated that "I would rather see you sell pork than books". I responded to the rabbi by telling him that this type of advice he ought give his friend that sells books, and I promptly left. My late father later approved of my response. He too was not particularly happy that I dealt in books and newspapers. Nevertheless, he told me that the rabbi had no right to tell me to deal in pork.

Years later, the rabbi and I reconciled our differences. After World War I when I moved to America, the rabbi forgave me. He sent me a heartfelt letter in which he also thanked me for my participation in the Vishkov aid society in New York. Regretfully the rabbi, who later became the chief rabbi, together with his whole family was murdered by the Nazis.


The rich of Vishkov

As far as I remember, in my time in Vishkov about 15 Jews were considered to be wealthy. It is no exaggeration to doubt that any one of them was worth more than 100,000 rubles. Nevertheless, they were considered to be rich.

The Vishkov Jews did not excel in their generosity, with the exception of one who could be considered a very charitable man. But at the same time he behaved like a real dictator. He was involved in an unpleasant incident, when in the year 1912 the well known writer and philosopher, the famous late Hilel Zeitlin, could not come to a literary evening arranged by the town's youths in Vishkov. The gathering took place without Zeitlin's participation, whereupon the late writer B. Yaushzon described the incident in a brochure under the title "The Rabbi was Dragged to a Concert".

It was said about another of Vishkov's rich that his daughter sympathized with the town's workers and taught some of them how to read and write, In the period of 1905-6 when the revolution was being suppressed by Czar Nicholas the second. The word circulating in town was that she did it because her father became non-observant.


Vishkov's Elite

Besides the rich we also had in Vishkov an elite. There were Jews claiming various progenitors. Some of them claimed the Amshinover rabbi as a relative. Others were proud to be associated with the Yabloner rabbi, the first Hasidic leader who left Poland for the land of Israel. He personally participated in the building of the town of Bnei-Brak. There were also Jews who prided themselves as relatives of Moishe-Tuvie Stanislaver (the great personality described in the "Day-Morning Journal" by the well known writer I. I. Troonk).

Others were proud for entirely different reasons. There were some that always claimed that Nochum Sokolov belonged to their family. Others I knew claimed to be related to the Warsaw Jewish book publisher B. Simin. There were others, the type you could meet in any Jewish town, who could demonstrate in writing that they are descendants of King David or even Maimonidis. Who could disprove it? There were others who prided themselves with personal achievements. In short we had in Vishkov a varied elite.


Vishkov's old

I don't remember whether in my time there were too many real old people. Nevertheless, a few of them are deeply imbedded in my memory. One of the old people was said to be about 90 years of age. Others thought he was over 100 years old. I was too young to estimate his age. An interesting thing happened to him at his advanced age: he became a widower and then married for the second time a young and beautiful girl. A rumor circulated in town that the old groom was carried to the wedding canopy.

A second old man, I recall, belonged to a Mishna study group and was a respected citizen. The study group held an annual feast. It so happened that two members of the group brought their disagreements for resolution at such a feast. The whole group selected the old man to adjudicate the disagreement. Even though he was not a great Torah scholar, all followed his reasoning and as soon as he rendered a verdict, it was accepted by all. The Mishna study group in our town was generally known for the respect they paid to the town's old-people.


Vishkov's heroes

Vishkov had it's heroes who showed real courage when Jews had to be protected. From my earliest childhood, I recall how two Vishkov Jews dispersed a market full of farmers. The reason for this incident I do not remember. I only know that both were honest and pious Jews. Apparently the market place was generating a potential danger to the town's Jews.

I also remember a Vishkov young Jewish man, who served in the Czar's guard, who upon returning home on leave settled a dispute with a policeman, actually a "senior police officer". On Sabbath at midday, an arrested Jew was brought to Vishkov's market place by horse and buggy while being guarded by an out of town policeman. Upon arrival he screamed asking to be rescued from desecration of the Sabbath. Soon a large number of people gathered, including the Vishkov rabbi. The arrested was then transferred to the charge of the 'senior police officer'. The rabbi asked the officer to transfer the arrested Jew to his care until the Sabbath passes. The officer turned down the rabbi's request. Then our guardsman became embroiled and offered to assume responsibility for the Jew, until after the candles are lit. The policeman refused. Our Viskov young man became very upset and both began quarreling. After exchanging some words, our guardsman picked up the "senior officer" by a leg, lifted him above his head and turned him around three times, as if he was performing the ritual of "kaporot". The gathered crowd liked what they saw and gave the Jewish hero a loud cheer. After this incident the "senior police officer" escaped from Vishkov and the town got rid of a Jew hater.

I also remember when one November evening, newly recruited soldiers arrived in town. They became inebriated and began to beat Jews. Panic set in. Jewish storekeepers closed their businesses. I myself locked up my father's store (I was then about 11 years old). Soon thereafter two Jewish young man came out into the street and started beating the drunken Poles. The hooligans beat a hasty retreat and escaped as far as they possibly could go.

Once in the year 1907, a rumor spread that at the upcoming market day that the Poles will start a pogrom against the Jews. That was during the time when a bloody wave of pogroms swept through the Jewish towns and villages. Our Vishkov had a strong Jewish youth who organized a self defense force. As the market day neared the tension grew. But the self defense group was ready for any eventuality. As soon as the drunken Poles raised havoc, a Jew, actually one from a different town, engaged the hooligans and handily dispersed them. The town was spared a pogrom. As a consequence, the organized Vishkov.defense group was left with little to do.


Vishkov's revolutions aries

In the stormy year of 1905, in Vishkov as well as in other towns and villages of erstwhile Russia, the spirit of revolution against the czar was rising. I remember a group of Jews together with Poles leading a demonstration with banners proclaiming the czar's misdeeds. Later, a few participants in the demonstration were arrested and expelled. Among Viskov's Polish revolutionaries were also anti-Semites. A few such young Poles who belonged to the intellectual class (at least that is what they pretended) and claimed to be "revolutionary patriots" one sunny Sabbath afternoon attacked a group of Jewish boys and girls who were peacefully walking across the wooden bridge over the river Bug. The Poles berated the Jewish boys and girls with expressions and words as well as deeds that cannot be repeated or discussed.

The town also had revolutionary fools. A Jewish worker told a joke about current affairs to a group of other Jewish workers who did not like one of the expressions. Therefore the "proletariat " beat up the poor Jewish worker. He was lucky to escape alive.

Another difficult incident is engraved in my memory. There was a tailor of woman's clothing in town. A worker like any other of his kind. He did not excel at anything. This tailor was shot and the murderers were not caught. During my time it was the only murder in Vishkov. Word got around that he had something to do with the stormy incidents at that time.


Vishkov's guards

There were only a few guards in town but they gave us plenty of trouble. Mostly it had to do with the existing czar's regime. Our Vishkov guards were no exception.

Once on an ordinary winter evening in the year 1908, 1 was at the Vishkov railroad station awaiting the daily package of Jewish newspapers from Warsaw. Suddenly a "senior guard" approached me and asked that I follow him. He took me to an empty field. Looking around and seeing that nobody was there he told me the following: "I know that your bookstore is kosher, you had controllers and inspectors who convinced themselves that you sell only approved books. You should, however, know that there are pious Jews who asked me to make trouble for you. And you should also know that there are preparations afoot to raid your bookstore and destroy your books. Therefore, I ask you that every first day of the month, according to the Russian calendar, you meet me at this very place, and bring me three rubles. In other words, I want from you three rubles a month in order to protect you. And I also want something else: your father deals in Jewish lottery tickets which are illegal. Therefore, I demand that you bring with you a lottery ticket for every drawing, and I will leave your father alone".

For a moment I thought about the possibility of a raid on the bookstore. But I decided that it is not worth doubting his word, and I accepted all his proposals. Thus, I paid the "senior guard" three rubles per month until I left Vishkov.

I had another incident in my bookstore. One evening a group of boys were learning Hebrew literature in the store. We used to spend time as a group twice a week. We were taught by an older well-read and able colleague. Suddenly, two guards came in with a pretext of having to make a search for people holding an allegedly secret meeting to "depose the czar". I began to explain what we were doing, and in the meantime my friends stepped outside. One of the guards pursued them. Outside the door my friends played a trick, causing one of the guards in his haste to fall into a pit full of whiting that was prepared for a new building. Ultimately the guard came to me and demanded two rubles in order to cleanse the whiting from his soiled clothing. He excused himself for having disturbed us in the innocent study of Hebrew literature and promised never to disturb us again. However, he demanded for himself and his friend, the second guard, six rubles for not disturbing us in the future nor report the owner of the building for leaving an open whiting pit. I handed them the demanded sum and both guards from that time on developed a friendly attitude toward me.

I also remember another incident. Once on a beautiful and warm day, I went for a walk with a girl (actually my current wife). We passed the bridge and went onto the Lahav road. We were young, our feet were strong and the natural surroundings were beautiful, it was a real pleasure. On one side of the road flowed the river Bug and on the other side the eye was delighted with the blossoming spring trees of the famous Skisiver forest in our area. We walked deeper into the forest. Suddenly, from a hiding place jumped out two strange, unknown to us guards, with whips in their hands. One of them hit me with his whip across my shoulder. Instead of escaping, I came closer to the guard and asked why they are doing it to me. We are only friendly wanderers. One of them said they will stop hitting me and added that he sees for the first time a whipped Jew that does not run away. The guards wanted us to give them some coins and cigarettes to smoke. I took out a pack of cigarettes and they lit up. I put two other cigarettes behind their ears for later use. I also gave them the coins they requested. They "thanked" us and told us to return to town because they are looking for somebody that may cause a shoot out, and therefore it is best for us to go forth.


I remember other things

I remember other things about our town that no longer exists. I remember Vishkov's groups of time past. The Burial Society, Mishna Study Group, a Shas Group, an Eyen Yakov Group, a Human Life Group, a Tilim study Group, a Dowry Group, a Visiting the Sick Group, a Money Lending Group, the Righteous Group, and a Secret Help Group.

I remember when a train passed through Vishkov for the first time and my parents carried me to view the new wonder.

I remember when Vishkov's people ran after the first car that passed through town.

I remember when gas light lamps were installed in Vishkov to provide light in the streets.

I remember when the first telephone line connecting Vishkov with Warsaw was installed.

I remember when Vishkov's Jews won several times the great Rabbis Lottery (that of Gerer and Alexander).

I remember when we sold in Vishkov under my direction 75 copies of Jewish newspapers, 60 of the Warsaw "Moment" and 15 of the Warsaw "Day".

I also had in my bookstore about 120 readers of Jewish and Hebrew books. There were also in Vishkov two subscribers of the Hebrew publication "Hazman" ("The Time"), two for the "Hatzfirah" ("The Dawn"), and one for "Hatzofeh" ("The Scout").

All of them appear alive in my memory, the devoted readers of Jewish and Hebrew works, and the loyal friends of the great national Jewish and Hebrew Journals. I remember them and others from our town where I spent 22 years of my life from 1891 till 1913. Where I was known as Abraham Mordekhi Chechenoviecki (now somewhat shortened to Max Chekhanov).

My town Vishkov – an interrupted song of a vanished Jewish life.





[Page 26-29]

30 Years of Community Life

by Yitskhok Beharov

Translated by Sheldon Clare


Zionist beginnings

The origin of concrete Zionist work in Vishkov occurred in the year 1916. Thanks to the campaign for the "Keren Kayemet" (Jewish National Fund) alms boxes that were found in every Jewish home.  The local Zionist organization was also established in the same year. In the presidium, the following were elected: Avraham-Moshe Levin, Moshe Ayon, and Henekh Kaluski. In the managing committee: Itcheh Shkarlat, Rafael Shkarlat, Moshe-Leib Kahn, Itcheh Barev, and Yosef Landau.

The Zionist organization was the most dominant in Vishkov. Masses of youth flowed into it. Even then, we owned our own small Zionist synagogue, that our friend, the Zionist Elyahu-Meier Goldman, bequeathed it in the names of Henkh Kaluski, Khaim-Noson Vengrov, Shmaiya Rapoport, Itcheh Barev. Here, I will recall others of our contemporary (actionists). Very possibly, I have certainly omitted names-this is a story of more than 40 years ago-they should therefore not feel missed. It happened simply unintentionally. These are the kind and loyal Zionist leaders: Leibish Pshetitsky, Meier Ihrlikht, Moshe Novominski, Shlomo Rozenberg, Avraham Brodatch, Yekhezkal Yagoda, Yitzkhok Neiman, Yakov Neiman, Pinkhas Feintzeig, Dovid Chervonagura, Moshe Sokol, Meier Shchigel, and others.

We were represented in the community with a united (DOZORES) and had a large representation on the city council. As the largest party, we obtained the only Jewish (LAVNIK) in City Hall. Noson Vengrov, was an important defender for the interests of the Vishkover Jewish population.

In 1926, through the Zionists, there was created the first educational institution, where from childhood on, it attempted to educate about Zionism and "Eretz Yisroel"- this was the "Gan-Y’ladim" (Children’s Garden), also were organized Hebrew lectures for the Zionist youth. The learned scholars were Yitzkhok Shkarlat, Shapira, Pitchnik, and Bookshtayn. The sale of Zionist membership certificates was very intensive. Incidentally, every year, the eastern leader came to us, the saintly Rabbi Yitzkhok Nissenboim, of blessed memory. Every year, he used to appear at a lecture in the big synagogue. Large and small, all of Vishkov used to come to hear this witty speaker. His call to support…

Years of Communal (Social) Living [Photo – The Nagduzheh Street]


…the Land of Israel. He did not look upon this as if we had a lot of Jews. Also, from "Agudah", there was opposition to the Zionist principles. Every year, we raised for the "Keren Hayesod" some $1000. The devotion was (without bounds?). I remind myself: That in 1929, I happened to be with Shmaia Rapoport to accompany Rabbi Nissenboim during his (Keren Hayesod) campaign in Vishkov. We first went to the devoted Zionist Leibish Pshetitzki, stirred to tears, he spoke (HAZORAIM BADME’A BRANA YIKTZORO – Hebrew) and he drew upon more than he knew. Every year, he used to raise his fee (donation). He was the example and the other contributors emulated him. I will mention here the Zionist committee of the last 10 years. They were: Henekh Kaluski, Rafael Shkarlat, Shmaia Rapoport, Itcheh B’herev, Avraham Bradatch, Khaim-Noson Vengrov.


The Library

Also in 1909, a group of enlightened youth began to think of putting up a library. Seeing in this institution an important cultural center for the city. One began to raise money and at the same time, some books were brought from Warsaw. But immediately, a difficult question was put forth: Where do we find a location for the library? Just now came a good opportunity: Bercheh Segal traveled to America. He lived on "Pshedmieshceh" near the Christian Filipovski. Bercheh’s wife Khaveh, who loved Yiddish books, had with the agreement of the Christian, a liberal person, agreed to give their apartment for the library. Not looking on the fact that the library was found "Behind" (I think it means just out of the city) the city, the youth streamed en masse, and "sneezed" at this institution. The books were exchanged (borrowed) twice a week. Quickly it was shown that the library could not accommodate the inquiries of the readers. The amount of books was small. They were soon all read and the public requested more books. But where does one get money? Someone came up with the idea to create a drama section and the income of this concept would go to buying books. Because of this, the library indeed became richer with the works of great writers.

Also, with great strength, a lively cultural-activity was carried out and one used to bring lecturers from Warsaw such as the writer, Kh. D. Naumberg, the historian, Dr. I. Shiffer, the leader and Zionist Yitzkhok Grinboim and other personalities. In 1916, Yitzkhok Epshtayn and his family traveled from Vishkov to Russia. Only his son Moshe and his sister Henyeh remained – members of the Zionist organization. They gave up their house on Stodolneh Street for the movement. First, the library began to develop. It was comfortable for bookcases and for a special reading hall where the youth had an opportunity to engross themselves in a newspaper and in a book. In that era had indeed blossomed cultural-activities. A special speakers-circle was carried out with (KESTL OVNTN) and prepared lectures of literary and Zionist themes: Yitzkhok Shkarlat, Ehrlikh (a student), Yungshtayn, Shafar, Shapira. The management committee consisted of: Rafael Shkarlat, Moshe-Leib Kahn, Yitzkhok Shkarlat, Ehrlikh, Yosef Landau, and others.


Parties, Societies, Institutions

I want to further tell about a series of other organizations and institutes, which were active in Vishkov.

[Page 28]

As early as 1916, there was in Vishkov a Jewish workers-movement under the direction of the "Bund" (Socialist Labor Party). During the first city council election, they obtained 356 votes and 3 councilmen. Most important in the movement stood a cultural-developing youth. I will here recall the names that I remember: Dubanik, Yisroel Goldvasser, Yekhiel Bzhozeh, Simkhe-Yakov Vengrov (a brother of our Zionist Leader), Motl Rinek, and Avrohom Yedvob. They led a cultural-activity among the workers, gave lectures, brought outside lecturers, and organized a professional union. They also had a cooperative.

In the later years, the management of the "Bund" were the councilmen Simkha-Yakov Vengrov, Avrohom Yedvob, and Avrohom Yagoda. We had a society "AKHIEZAR" that used to occupy its time giving help to poor ill people - with a doctor and also with prescriptions. The administers of "AKHIEZAR" were: Moshe-Dovid Yoskovitch, Moshe B’herev, Ziske-Moshe Shteinberg, and Moshe Pshshchelenitz. The majority of them are now martyrs. In the same year, a (Loan-office?) was established familiar to us with the name "Tavazhistva" directed by the said institution. Those who gave out loans for the "lower middle class": Khaim-Dovid Goldvasser, Kerner, Avrohom-Moshe Levin, Mendl Shkarlat, and Dovid Gurney. At the head was Moshe Ayon. From the aforesaid small "Tavazhistva", later grew out the large "Peoples Bank" which received help from "Joint", (which led the Peoples Bank?), with its loans supported hundreds of merchants and artisans. There stood the devoted leaders: The artisans Moshe-Dovid Yoskovitch, Yitzkhok Khzhan, Fishl Bronshtein, and Yakov Holtzman. The bookkeeper was Moshe Ayon and his helper, Yakov Pzhemirover.

In 1919, I became married to the daughter of the wood merchant and sawmill-owner Yehoshua Sokol (may he rest in peace). I then opened a small business in Rinek. In time, I became one of the wholesale merchants and was one of the few who had the franchise to sell tobacco and cigarettes. (The last time the Polish government restricted the number of franchises given to Jews to sell tobacco and cigarettes. Only three Jews in each town had the right for the franchises. I was one of the three.) In those days, the tax was rather high. The finance office (Oozhand Skarbovi) was in Poltusk, where the appraisal committee sat and set the businessman’s taxes as they understood. On the part of the Jewish businessmen from Vishkov (who were by the way in the majority), none of them sat on the committee. Of course, the contemporary attitude of the Jews in Poland, the appraisal committee put enormous taxes on the Jewish businessmen. Every attempt was made to run to Poltusk to repeal this personal injustice.

Then, together with Yitzkhok Mondrey, Yosef Vengazh, Shmuel Elboim, Yekhiel-Meier Rubin, and Eliahu-Meier Goldman, I spoke with the secretary of our community, Moshe-Yosef Abramchik, and it was called a general assembly of all Jewish businessmen in Vishkov. At the assembly was indeed created the first businessmen’s-union, where also there was an election of the management of additional businessmen: Itschi B’herev-chairman, Yosef Vengozh-vice chairman, Yitzkhok Mondrey – treasurer; in the management: Pinkhas Piyenik, Sholem Zissman, Yitzkhok-Ber Rozenberg, Yekhiek-Meier Rubin, Yakov-Arieh Rabinovich. The secretary was the community secretary Moshe-Yosef Abramchik. We quickly presented ourselves in the tax-office in Poltusk.

As for the legal case (affair) of the taxes for the Vishkover Jewish businessmen, they should call upon the businessmen’s-union. We rented a hall on Strazhatzkeh Street. The merchants and artisans then had an address to call upon against injustice, against incorrect tax-measures, against those that the (SAKVESTATORN) used to for taxes, transferred (bequeathed) ownership of housewares or workers’ tools. The businessmen’s-union immediately delegated the secretary Avramchik to Poltusk to take care of tax-matters for many Jews. After it was established if it was to determine, the amount of tax, every line of business and vocation used to send a representative to the appraisal-committee. Avramchik always accompanied them. Also the secretary of the "Khila" (community) was seen there. He knew all the Jews and was also of the opinion that one could indeed count on him. With this aspect, much was accomplished. "Not one Jew was saved from [simple or plain ruin]" – (This sentence doesn’t make sense. Perhaps, he meant that no Jew was totally ruined.)

For a period of 14 years, I was the chairman of the businessmen’s-union. In time, we approached the dear Jew (subsequently, a martyr) Dr. B. Leykher, who was the legal consul of the union and displayed a lot of initiative by defending the interests of Jewish artisans and merchants in general and for every particular individual. One case I will mention. In many Polish towns, a campaign began on the part of the (SHONAI-YISRAEL) to make the towns nicer and cleaner "Covered under the cloak" (I think this means not telling the Jews.) The so-called "urbanization". This campaign actually happened to the Jews. (GRAD) did not care for the Jewish neighborhoods, the Jewish streets, the Jewish homes, which they decided to tear down. One of the campaigns was to transfer the commercial markets far out of town. This was for the Jews a true evil decree. Constantly, the markets used to be in the built up market areas where Jews used to live and had their businesses. Moving the markets and fairs out of town had significance as the Jews would have remained literally without bread. In the new areas one would want to erect the "fresh-baked" businesses subsidized because of the anti-Semitic organizations. Also, Vishkov had…


[Page 29]

(Photo – The Turbot School), (Photo - A Group of Hekhalutz Friends)

…been surrounded by this evil decree. The (STARASTEH) soon gave out a deadline to move the markets far from the town. The (words are missing) intervened with the mayor Volski. A liberal (words are missing) convinced him that he should with a delegation of the businessmen’s-union travel to Voiyevadeh in Warsaw, so that the evil decree will be cancelled. Also the city was against the decree of (STARASTEH). Leading this delegation indeed stood Dr. Leykher. It was because of him that the decree was called off. We appointed Dr. Leykher as a life-long honorary member of the businessmen’s-union in Vishkov.

Here, I wish to mention a second event from this dark time. When in Poland, the anti-Semitic agitation spread out not to buy from Jews, the (SEYIM-TRIBUNEH, same person?) the interior minister Skladovski declared, that it is permitted to have an economic anti-Jewish boycott. His familiar saying to permit this anti-Jewish agitation was: "Avshem- by all means". With the assistance of the official Polish authorities, more businesses were established-Polish, which had never been involved in commercial trade. Their only purpose was to crush Jewish existence. To help these so-called "businessmen" came the "picketers" group. Led by student hooligans (ruffians), who demonstrated in the streets with anti-Jewish slogans, "Svoy do Svegah" (this means: Go to your own kind, not to strangers). The police did not disturb these demonstrations. These were called peaceful demonstrations that were carrying out the minister’s slogan "AVSHEM". The police only looked out for demonstrations bringing about scandal.

At one of these anti-Semitic demonstrations, when the excited masses went through the town with their slogans, they prevented a meeting in the market, near the iron-works of Pinkhas Feintzeig. There, one of the masses provoked a shot from a revolver. They soon found witnesses, saying that they saw shooting from Pinkhas Feintzeig’s balcony. This began to show the first signs of a pogrom. They began to loot the goods from the market-stalls. But the merchant’s-union with the Zionist (LAVNIK) Khaim-Noson Vengrov stood guard. Quickly, in the street, the mayor together with the police and the out-of-town police from Poltusk had intervened. We then were able to save Vishkov from a certain pogrom.

The merchants-union had created a popular merchants-bank, under the name "Bank Kupyetski". The bank took care of all possible "law?" and merchant-organizations, and gave loans, borrowed on goods-cargo, and helped with taxes. The presidium (board) of "Bank Kupyetski" consisted of Dr. Leykher, Mordkhe-Mendl Lemberg, Itzshe B’herev, and the management: Yitzkhok-Ber Rozenberg, Yitzkhok Epshteyn, Shmuel Elboim, Yosef Vengozh; Treasurer: Yitzkhok Mondrey, Bookkeeper: Moshe-Yosef Avramchik; Assistant: Zundl Elboim. The bank ran its constructive activity until the outbreak of the Second World War.

In Vishkov, there was also a "non-interest loan office", leading the office was: Yisroel-Moshe Tzembal, Moshe Shtern, Yakov-Dovid Pzhetitski; Secretary: Sheikeh Postolski; and Bookkeeper: Yakov Yacobovitch. This organization rescued a lot of Jews. A lot of artisans or small merchants had the opportunity to obtain a 300 zlotys loan with the privilege to repay the loan at 15 zlotys per week. There was also an "Agudas Haortodoksim" (Orthodox Association). This means an organization of "Agudas Yisrael" (Israel Association). This brought together the whole pious-religious-traditional Jewry. They had their representative in the community and also in the city hall. They created a "Beis-Yacov" school for girls. They had teachers from the center. From local women’s association leaders they helped Tzirl and Hadassah Rozenberg (today in Israel). The leaders of the "Aguda"…

[Page 30]

(Photo - Shibulim Group - Hashomer Hatzair), (Photo - Macabee - Vishkov 1931)

…were: Khaim-Binyomin Vernik, Mordkhe Vinter, Borukh Tzluyak, Yakov-Moshe Plontschak, Khaim-Meier Lis. Here, there was a "Revisionist-Organization" with a really substantial-effect. At the top stood the leaders of the revisionists in Vishkov: Lipeh Kerner, dentist (Today in Israel) and my cousin (SHTELUNG?) Moshe, may he rest in peace. There was a department of the Women’s Zionist Organization "WIZO" that assisted all Zionist campaigns. The leaders were: Brokheh Kalusky (Dr. Leykher’s wife), Rivke Shkarlat, Rokhl Yonish. There was a "Mizrakhi" organization. They even had their own Gerer study hall (SHTIBL). They participated in all Zionist activites.Their management was composed of Yakov Levin, Yitzkhok-Meier Visotzky, Moshe Ostry, Leml Rubin. There was an activity led by the "Rightist Poele-Tzion" (Workers of Zion). They created in Vishkov the "Hakhalutz" and directed the training of groups. They sent a lot of pioneers to Israel, sent others, and also went themselves.Their leaders: Yisroel Kalusky, Shmaia Gurney, Khaim-B’nyomin Bruk. (All now in Israel).

Our Vishkover "Hashomer Hatzair" (Guardian of Youth) owned a large meeting hall, their own library with many Hebrew books from which the youth learned Hebrew and prepared to travel to the Land of Israel.The leaders were: Khaim B’herev, Falek Gurney, Levin, Khanscheh Shapira. Many of them are actually in Israel now. The leftist "Poele-Tzion" owned (ran) a "Workers Evening Courses Organization".They brought teachers from Warsaw.Their leaders were: Yisroel-Moshe Tzembal, Yakov Shtelung, Yakov Volman. They had representatives in all organizations. Vishkov also had a sports-organization "Macabee", with their own orchestra. Sport-exercise was carried out by Dr. Leykher, dentist Leshchinski, dentist’s wife Gutshtat.They are all martyrs.

In the town’s "Talmud Torah" (Hebrew School), the children of the less well-to-do parents studied.They did not have any means to pay tuition for private tutors.The Talmud Torah took up three homes near the large synagogue.The budget was put together with the help of the whole Jewish population.Everyone paid a weekly allowance and the community gave appropriate subsidies.The leaders of the Talmud Torah were: Morkhe-Mendl Alenberg, Yitzkhok Epshteyn, Yitzkhok-Ber Rozenberg.


The Organized Community

The major institution of the Vishkover Jews was the Jewish organized community (K’hileh). Between the (DOZORES?) representative of all parties was chosen through official election.On the basis of a proportional system. The community conducted with all the religious (HAKHARKHOTON?) of the Jewish population: Rabbinate, ritual slaughter, mikva, Midrash study (B’tai Midrashim). In the community budget, there was also an appropriate place for social help for the poor.The budget was put together by the community tax and receipts from the ritual slaughter. This maintained all the communty’s institutions.The community also had a say with the burial society. In the last period, the head of the community was Yitzkhok Epshteyn. 1st Vice-President – Henekh Kalusky , 2nd Vice-President 6#150; Morkhe-Mendl Alenberg, Secretary – Moshe-Yosef Avramchik. The budget of the community had to be approved by the "STARASTEH" in Poltusk. It is interesting to add a small detail.We Zionists put into the budget to help four pioneers who were travelling to Israel. The entire budget was approved. The "STARASTEH" however barred the position of helping the pioneers. For him, Israel was an "unkosher" legal matter.




[Page 30]

The Yeshiva, Synagogues, Study Places,
and Prayer Quorums

Translated by Sheldon Clare


The Vishkov Yeshiva, "Beis-Yosef"had a good name throughout the town, and here is the proof: Of the 200 students…


[Page 31]

…that studied there,the Rabbi commuted from "outside of town". The Yeshiva was above the big synagogue and was led by the spirit of the traditions of the late Rabbi Yosef Salanter. Rabbi Shimon Khofetz, the Yeshiva head, required nothing. His total pusuit was to educate the students with Torah. They should constantly learn, day and inght. He told the young men how to live in the world so that they could enjoy (benefit) from the next world.

The Rabbi of the Yeshiva was Rabbi Avrahom Tzitrin, who later became recognized as a rabbi in a larger city. Besides this, other Torah readers gave Torah lessons. The Yeshive committee consisted of: The Gerer Hasid Reb Avrohom Lerner, the Hasid Reb Yakov Shmilkis, Reb Eli Rozen, Reb Butcheh the baker. His son-in-law Alter and other dear Jews, who took upon themselves the concern for the young men to secure a night’s lodging, food, clean laundry, and other needs. An ardent and energetic women’s committee helped the Yeshiva and its students. While for the older boys, there existed a kitchen. They used to arrange for the younger ones with different hosts to have "eating days" (GEGES’N TEG) and where they were to sleep. Our pious mothers did everthing so that the students could quietly study Torah and not worry with the necessities. The members of the women’s committee were called "The Lady Trustees of the Yeshiva". Some of them I will mention: Rivche Astroviak, Khaveh Markuskhamer, Libeh Rubin, Dvorah the knitter, Ruzhkeh Molotek, and others.

One time after Passover, Khaveh Markuskhamer and Rivche Astroviak came into my place of business and asked for places for Yeshiva students to sleep. I alone studied in the Makover Yeshiva for a period of two years of"eating days" and slept in someone else’s bed. Knowing the feeling and taste of a Yeshiva student, I quickly consented to their message (request). As long as the Yeshiva existed in Vishkov, two Yeshiva students slept at my place. One of them ate with us every Saturday and another (not one who slept here) ate with us every day. Besides the women’s committee, there were also 20 Jews who were involved in a special Yeshiva-committee. Voluntarily, they took on the burden of worrying about the Yeshiva’s needs. Although alone, one they did not have much to eat… Both committees created "pocket money" for the Yeshiva students – and alone we were very far from and being able to eke out a living.

Vishkov had 9 houses of worship and two minyanim (prayer quorums). They were all (distributed ?) at the big synagogue on Warsaw Street. There was concentrated almost all of the religious life of the town: The community, the Talmud Torah, that occupied three large rooms, the Yeshiva above, the mikva in the courtyard, the (HAKHNASAT-ORKHIM or visitors place) where every stranger could sleep overnight.

In the synagogue, there were prayers 8 times in the morning. There were 14 Torah scrolls. All three tables from afternoon to evening services were occupied with learners. At the right table, Reb Khaim-Yehoshua Friedman taught with the "Ein Yakov" group. In this group were tailors, shoemakers, and other tradesmen. They put down their scissor and iron, their kaftan and awl, the saw and hammer and came to satisfy their spiritual requirements. Caretakers of the"Ein Yakov" group were: Nisen Bzhezhinski, Yehuda-Yosef Malchik, Hersh-Fivl Gershkovski, Yakov Holtzman. At the middle table sat the "M’silat Yishraim" (Circle of Honesty) group wherethe rebbe was Reb Shimon Trebernik, the trustees: Fishl Bronshteyn, Khaim Markhevke, Shmuel Brama. The left side was taken up by the "Mishnaes" group. Trustees in the synagogue were: Yekhiel-Meier Domb, Hershl Holtzman, and the synagogue committee: Yakov Eikenboim, Moshe B’herev, Shmuel-Leib Holland.

The synagogue had two sextons: One was called Shmuleh, with the nickname "Moov". He had a helper Hershl, known with the popular name Hershenkeh and his wife Hinkeleh. Shmuleh’s nickname "Moov" came about in that he was always with the Rabbi. One time, officials came to ask the Rabbi something. The Rabbi did not know Polish. In Polish, he asked the sexton Shmuleh (Hershenkeh’s salary came from [DOS RED]?? Doesn’t make sense ???). Since then, "Moov" remained as his nickname. His work consisted of sweeping the synagogue, kindling the Sabbath candles, preparing the water for the priestly benediction, bringing the wedding canopy with the poles to a wedding (The wine glass with the bottle of wine was carried by the head-sexton Shmuel). Hershenkeh’s salary – came about by going to Jewish homes every Thursday and Friday and getting 5-10 groshn. He existed on this for a whole week and also celebrated the Sabbath- and Hershenkeh used to really celebrate the Sabbath with fish and meat…

Hershenkeh also had an additional-mission. Every Friday evening at 4 o’clock, he used to every summer and winter, arise and even in the dreadful cold, went through the Vishkov streets and monotonously, but with a wonderfully sweet melody, called out: "Jews, Jews, arise for Community services (L’VODAS HABOORA)! And the Jews obeyed. They indeed arose and went to the synagogue and collectively read Psalms. That is how Hershenkeh continuously awoke the Vishkover Jews for services for 25 years. Awoke, not always full (foodwise) and without warm clothing. Until one time when he caught a bad cold and Dr. Leykher told him to stay in bed and not to worry about going to awaken for Psalms… For a time, Hershenkeh, did not go out to awaken. A Jew from Vishkov came to him, a tailor, and gave him 150 zlotys to cede the good deed to awaken the Jews Friday evening for Psalms. Hershenkeh sold this good deed, but the whole town was convinced that this was surely not Hershenkeh’s " Jews, Jews…" At a later time, Hershenkeh became better. He…


[Page 32]

(Photo: Itsche Shkarlat – One of the first Zionists in town)

…began to cash in his "pension" – the weekly pay of 5-10 groshn. However, he looked bad. When someone asked what was the matter, he answered that every night, he heard a voice from Heaven: "Hershl, Hershl, what have you done? What answer will you give the next world, when they will ask you why did you sell such a "mitzvah" (gave away such a mitzvah) for money?" Hershenkeh and Hinkeleh wept, screamed and the Vishkov Jews returned the 150 zlotys to the tailor. Hershenkeh took back his right to wake the Jews for services. But on Friday nights, Hershenkeh already did not go alone. His Hinkeleh went with him; she was afraid to leave him alone. His chanting became weaker and weaker. One Friday evening, Hershkeleh indeed fell (on his position?) during the awakening for services. Singing his song: "Jews, Jews, arise…" He fell alone, collapsed…

The small synagogue on Starazhatzkeh Street was for the "Psalms Society". Owning 6 Torahs and besides praying several times a day, they also studied a lot. They were called the "Synagogue of the Burial Society". On Varshever Street, one found the A.G. Zionist Synagogue, that carried the name of its owner, the late Eli-Meier Goldman who wrote it over to (during his lifetime?) to the Zionist organization, under the names of Henekh Kaluski, Itche B’herev, Shmaia Rapoport.

From the study houses came unconditionally the seniority of the Gerer study-house (Shtibl) on Strazhatzkeh Street, it was built by the wealthy Hassid Reb Z’khariya Kopolovitch. There, praying and studying occurred during the whole day. Through the window, the beautiful voices of the young men carried out while they taught a page of Gemora with Tosefet. Every evening, about 60 Jews sat at a long table in the first room and studied the "Daf-Yomi- The daily page". In the second house, ordinary older Hassidim sat. Gossiped (talked) about Torah, told stories about rabbis. I remember some of their names: Brukh Zeitog, Itche-Meier Tziviak, Hehoshua Sokol (my father-in-law), Motl B’herev (my father, a ritual slaughterer), Yakov Shokhet Blumshtayn, Izik M’lamed, Yitzkhok Mondry, Khaim-Henekh Shtelung – the Bal-musaf of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (I cannot until this day forget his sweet and exalted praying), Yitzkhok-Hirsh Bialistok, Berish Tchervonogureh, Sholem Zissman, Khaim-Khaikl Hiller, Yitzkhok Epshteyn – the (President?) of the community.

In the second Gerer study home on Varshaver Street, prayed the supporters of "Mizrakhi" and many young people, who used to travel to the Gerer Rabbi. They then understood that they could travel to Ger and simultaneously love "Eretz Yisrael." The trustees of the "Shtibl" were: Reb Moshe Oster, Khaim Kremer, Yakov Levin, Yitzkhok-Meier Visotski, and Leml Rubin.

In the Atvatzker study home, prayed the Vorker Hasids, who used to take advantage of every free moment to study Gemora and Tosefos. Reb Borukh-Mendl Burshteyn used to sit there day and night and study, while his wife Kreyndl was the "bread winner". Borukh-Mendl for his whole life went only in one direction: From his home to the Atvatzker study home – and returned. He sneaked along the walls so that no one would look at him, or to touch him. He became a martyr as other worshippers of the Atvatzker study home: Reb Yitzkhok-Ber Rozenberg, Reb Pinieh Pienik, M’shhaleh Psheshchelinietz, Yakov-Yosef Plonchik, Yisroel-Yosef Krishtal, Yakov Markuskhamer, Morkhe-Mendl Halenberg, Khiel-Meier Rubin. and many others.

One should also recall the Alexander study home with the dear Hasids and wonderful Jews, where the Torah-expert and scholar Shimon Srebnik (Khatzkls). The wonderful (SHEYNEH-actually means beautiful) Jews and Hasids: Reb Yekhiel Shultz, Berish Volinski, Zishe Kaluski, Mordkheh Khanhas, Feivl Shron, who together with their families, became martyrs. Of the distinguished Hasids in Rodziminer study home, I remember: Simkhe Shnek, who every Saturday, used to walk on the bridge after eating and there, said 10 pages of Gemora by heart, Dovid-Leib Domb, B’nyomin Brodek, Yosef Vangazh, Shepsl Borenshteyn, and others. In the "Pshedmiehshcheh" was found the large minyan of Reb Yoske Lakher. There, the neighborhood Jews prayed. Also the Porendzher shoemakers had their minyan, where they prayed Minkhe-Meiriv and every morning. Besides this, the dear artisans studied Ein-Yakov. They had praying and studying on their minds, rather than earning a living…

I will end my survey of the worship houses in Vishkov with the Amshinover study home and its dear Hasids: G’dalyahu Shokhet Tentshe, Tzvi Rozenberg (now in Israel),…

[Page 33]

…Moshe-Yosef Avramchik, Avromcheh Holland (FAR-SHTAT?)



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