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[Pages XI帽II]

Our Book

by Jacob-David Berg

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

 

brz-A.jpg - Our Shul
Our Shul

 

brz-B.jpg - Handrawn Map of Town
Handrawn Map of Town

 

brz-C.jpg - Representatives of the Brzezin Book Committee
Representatives of the Brzezin Book Committee

Seated in the front row from right to left: Abraham Rozenberg, Fishel Maliniak, J. D. Berg,
A. Alperin (editor), Nachum Summer (associate editor)
Standing from the right: Joseph Shaibowicz (Shaw), S. Sobowinsky, Sam Fox, Jehuda
Fuks, Ruth Hauser, Louis Hauser, Joseph Diamond, A. Rozenblum, Melech Herszenberg

It is a custom that a collection by a number of authors, especially a book that is dedicated to the memory of a rebbe (Hasidic rabbi) should have a forward. Let me say here a few words about the history of this yizkor book, which ought to be a kind of matseyve (gravestone) for my, your, our shtetl, Brzezin.

It was in the year 1950. At that time, I had traveled to Israel as the chief representative of the Benevolent Society of the Brzezin landsleyt (countrymen) in America, and, as their chairman, I had the mandate to find out what would be the best way to help our brothers and sisters, survivors of the Holocaust, who were rescued from the camps. I found out, alas, that their situation was a difficult one. Most of them lived in temporary housing, in tents, from which they had to be taken as fast as possible. I had a talk with some of the leaders of the landsleyt, and it was decided that first of all, the needy末approximately forty mishpokhes (families)末had to be provided with a roof over their heads. A project arose to build an apartment building in Kfar-Unu and establish a community center nearby, a cultural center, for the intellectual satisfaction of the landsleyt. The plan was that the building should carry the name of our shtetl, Brzezin.

The project inspired me deeply. And although I saw before me the financial difficulties, I also knew that with deep conviction, strong will, and with the first ten thousand dollars that our treasury possessed, we could begin the holy work at once. I also knew that our Brzeziner landsleyt in America and in other lands, although most of them were not rich people, have warm hearts and brotherly feelings for all those who need help.

And with that plan I prepared to return home and influence our landsmen to begin as soon as possible the great work of building. But just before my leave-taking from our landsmen in Israel, an additional project was born that was no less important than the apartment building and the plan for a community center. I recall how our beloved Dovid Lenczycki末who is, alas, no longer among the living末turned to me at a gathering with tears in his eyes:

Friend Jacob, you came here as the messenger from our landsleyt in America, and you have undertaken to fulfill a great assignment to create apartments for our brothers and a cultural center for holidays and days of mourning; but it is no small thing to create a sefer hazikaron (memorial book) for our Brzezin, where our parents and the generations before them lived. Brzezin, which was known as a shnayder-shtetl (tailoring town), had also created precious, sincere, God-fearing, virtuous Jews, scholars in Torah and in worldly learning. Let us set them a worthy monument through a sefer!

And when I saw that the great audience at the gathering had displayed enthusiasm and had applauded these words, I returned home to our leaders in America with the three-part plan末to build an apartment building and a community center in Israel and to begin preparing a yizkor book.

After a time of difficult, intense (often, alas, thankless) work, the first two, with mazl (luck), were completed; the apartments and the community center were built for the Brzezin landsmen, buildings that were very useful for all who were in them and nakhes (pleasure) for those who visit Israel and meet with our landsmen in the apartment building.

And it may sound a little strange but building the houses of stone and cement went easier than creating the monument on paper, the yizkor book. Yes, there were all kinds of difficulties on the way末material, technical. Let us forget all the difficulties today, when before us open the pages of our modest history, when we get down to reading and remembering everything and everyone that are for us loved and dear末the individuals who are with us and those who are no longer with us, above all the kedoyshim-otehoyrim (sainted martyrs) who have vanished with the annihilated portion of the Jewish people.

It was, as it is said, difficult work, but divine inspiration overtook all who one way or another lent a hand. Landsmen from all parts of the world responded with help, from Africa and Brazil, from Australia, Argentina, and Canada, from a number of cities in America, and from the land of Israel. Everyone did something for the book according to his or her means and ability. Let here, in the first rank, be remembered with koved (honor) and thanks our friends, Nahum Summer and Joseph Shaibowicz. They worked in libraries and archives and collected information, pictures, and documents about Brzezin; they corresponded with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and researched material from the Jewish Historical Institute (YIVO) in New York; and they gave up their resting time after daily work末all with the aim that our Sefer Brzezin should become something substantial, a creditable monument for our generation and the generations to come after us.

It is understood that our friends and active leaders in Israel were equal partners in the holy work. They worked by researching the necessary material and information; they were with us as equals, concerned that the book should be detailed and the best. Let us remember all the coworkers and creators of the Sefer Brzezin: Aaron Alperin, the distinguished writer, and landsman Nahum Summer, who edited the yizkor book; the members of the Book Committee in Israel末Manny Gutkind, Moshe Har-Jaffe, David Lenczycki, may his memory be blessed, Yechiel Ehrlich, Aaron Fogel, Shlomo Pinczewski and David Poliwoda. In America末Joseph Diamond, Louis Hauzer, Melech Hirsh, Fishel Maliniak, Nahum Summer, Abraham Rosenberg, Julius Fox, Sam Fox, and Joseph Shaibowicz.

And above all末the ten score brother and sister landsmen all over the world, all those who donated and contributed in advance to the Yizkor Book, thereby giving the foundation for the publishing of Sefer Brzezin.

To all these末a heartfelt yasher-koyech! (Well done!)

Jacob David Berg


[Pages XIII-XIV]

Preface

by A. Alperin

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

Along the dirt roads of Crown Poland lies a shtetl, not far from Lodz, not far from Piotrkow, to the side of the railroad line. The town is Brzezin. Among landsleyt, there is a disagreement concerning how the shtetl should be recorded in history. Should this shtetl be called Brezin, Brzezin, or Brzeziny, the way it was, or the way it certainly is now, by its Polish name?

The debate is certainly not more than for the sake of history and末to erect a matseyve (tombstone). Because the shtetl is no more, let it be called whatever it is called now. No longer is there a Jewish Brzezin. It was erased from the Jewish map of the world, together with hundreds and thousands of kehiles kdushes (sacred communities) of Jews who once lived, once struggled, once created, once helped carry the golden chain of eternal Israel末and perished a violent death.

We don稚 even stand today at their kvorim (graves). Maybe there are some graves still left, and perhaps they also have already been obliterated from the earth. The destruction is total, the way in which the war of the Nazi murderers against the Jews was total. Today we place a collective gravestone for that which once was the Jewish shtetl Brzezin. Our collective gravestone is this very sefer (book), which will remain a memorial and which will be read by the children and grandchildren of our survivors.

We wish to announce and relate that there was in the shtetl of our ancestors in Brzezin a fine, genteel Jewish community. When there was a Jewish tribe in Poland of more than three million souls with their great yikhes (heritage); with their rich culture; with their yeshivas and modern schools; with their rabbis and writers; with their businesses and political leaders; with their great economic standing and deep spiritual foundations末this shtetl Brzezin also sparkled with Jewish life, with achievements and accomplishments for klal yisroel (the entire Jewish people).

The shtetl developed its own image and took on its own color in the Jewish reality in former Poland. Over all of Poland, Lithuania, and Russia you could, in the beginning of the present century, ask about the shtetl Brzezin, and you would promptly receive a reply. The shtetl was known all over; everyone knew about the shtetl Brzezin. Who had created such a great and good name for this small shtetl? Jews and only Jews末the tates un zeydes (fathers and grandfathers) of the present survivors who are widely scattered over the entire world and from whom no one is left in Brzezin itself.

The fathers and grandfathers built the Jewish shnayder-shtetl (tailoring town) Brzezin. The name of the shnayder-shtetl was carried far and wide over old Eastern Europe. Brzezin was a part of the social history of Eastern Europe, the history of industrial development and its processes. Jewish tailors maintained the economic standing and the entire importance of the shtetl末until the dreadful, total destruction of the Jewish kehile (organized community) and of Jewish life in Brzezin. And without the Jewish tailors there is no Brzezin, not the world famous Brzezin of many generations past末let the shtetl now be whatever it is.

The tates un zeydes from the widely scattered Jewish survivors of Brzezin末the tailors, the machinists, the merchants, the agents on commission末elevated their craft and business trade to great heights. The older generation of Brzezin tailors were genteel, Hasidic Jews who united Torah and craft into one. The younger generation joined the maskilim (supporters of the Enlightenment), the Zionist movement, and the national freedom organizations in Jewish society and proudly carried the name Jew. Jewish communal life was carried out with great attention, and just as in their business life, Brzeziner Jews went beyond the borders of their shtetl. Brzeziner supply depots with their connections extended deep into Russia, to white Siberia, from which used to come down the merchants, the kuptches, to buy finished clothing from Brzezin. And in exactly that way Brzezin Jewish businesses, party representatives, and cultural leaders were connected with the world leaders of the Jewish people, with the leaders of the time末with the leaders of Zionism, with the builders of the old-new Jewish homeland, with the pioneers of the Jewish yishuvim (settlements) in the new world and, above all, in the United States.

As luck would have it, when the terrible destruction of their old home shtetl came, the survivors from Brzezin, during their wanderings, received a great deal of help from landsleyt who had built new homes and built themselves a secure existence in free America. Also Brzezin landsleyt from Eretz Isroel (land of Israel), immigrants from before the war who were among the builders of the Jewish homeland, hastened to help those from the shtetl who had been rescued. Also landsleyt in Canada, in South America, in distant Australia responded to the call for help. Those mishpokhes (families) from the shtetl who remained alive, the community of Jews remaining from Brzezin, worked together in the holy fraternal rescue work.

Together with the fact that Brzeziner children have made the greatest sacrifice on earth for the Jewish homeland and gave their young lives when the hour struck to free the Jewish homeland, also Brzeziner landsleyt in America made a great effort末certainly not to compare with the fallen fighters末and did constructive work in the rebirth of the homeland. Brzeziner landsleyt in America built the Brzezin apartment building, not far from Tel-Aviv, where families from the survivors settled down in the heymish (home-like) surroundings, with the memories of the saintly ones lost in the total destruction of their old home shtetl.

A memorial for Brzezin was erected in the Jewish homeland for generations to come. Our hope is that the remembrance will be cherished in the Brzezin apartment building, together with the traditions of the martyred community of the shtetl. We are strong in our faith that the coming generations, the children and descendants of the survivors of the Brzezin community will retain in their memory the good name of the kehile kdushe (holy community) of their ancestors.


We write about them all in this Brzezin book, which is now presented to the landsleyt for all time and to the coming generations. It is a yizkor book and a history book. The entire life of the Brzezin kehile flows by in the book末from the earliest time to our days of terrible destruction; the path of ascent, development, blossoming until the decline and the completely annihilating doom; the path from the pangs of childbirth until the umkum (total destruction). It is seen in the research, essays and memoires, written and immortalized by our own landsleyt and passed on to the coming generations, the descendants of Brzeziner Jews and to future historians of  eradicated Polish Jewry.

It is a modest book. It does not claim to enter the sanctuary of beautiful literature. This was also not the assignment of the participants in the book and certainly does not have to be the aim of any publisher nor of any author of a yizkor book.  The publication of Sefer Brzezin comes from a deep inner striving of a group of landsleyt in America and in Israel to keep alive the spiritual heritage of their old destroyed home shtetl. And with the publication of this book, the group of landsleyt wanted to fulfill their sacred duty to entrust the heritage of the ancestors of the kehile kdushe (sacred community) fun dor tsu dor (from generation to generation).

We fulfilled the duty within the framework of our modest strength.


What is a yizkor book?

It is a part of our collective effort and care to maintain the continuity, to give to the coming generations the inheritance that we alone took over from our beloved tates un zeydes.

Only a people who have a memory have a future. It is so also with a mishpokhe and with the survivors of our destroyed kehile from our old hometown.

In the memoirs, discussions, stories, and family chronicles, the readers末and we mean principally the landsleyt末will still find in this yizkor book the kehile of Brzezin. They will remember hundreds and hundreds of names of their own friends and relatives who once created a Jewish life, carried out their part in the eternal spiritual existence of our people末and are here no longer. Many of them, the majority, were struck down before their time by the Nazi murderers, killed among the six million of our martyrs in Europe.

Their holy memory continues to live in this very book, in this very modest matseyve that landsleyt alone have erected for them in the remembrances and writings in this yizkor book.

The memory of the murdered lives in the hearts and minds of the remaining Jews of the shtetl on both sides of the ocean, in America and in the land of Israel末the landsleyt who recorded their inner thoughts in eternal memory here in this modest book. And thus did they record and publish this very book末also so that the future generations, the children, the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren, and to the end of generations shall again extend the golden chain of the memory of the kehile from which their ancestors came. In years and years to come, we shall remember the names of our own and our dear ones who were recorded in eternal memory here and there in this yizkor book.

We know that our ancestors live in us. Evidence of that is this very book, written not by any professional writer, but by ordinary Jews, landsleyt, who tell about their shtetl and about Jews from their shtetl. Our goal is that our ancestors, the holy Jews from our annihilated community, should live in the hearts and in the memory of future generations. This was our aim, and it was also our duty. This book is the result of our concern and effort. We publish this book with the hope that the coming generations will value the great concern and effort and末remember where they came from and know the responsibility that lies with them to maintain and hold dear the inheritance that they have received.


The landsleyt who recorded their memories that were published in this book wrote them down with great respect. They have done it to the best of their recollection, the way they understand and evaluate the destroyed life of their home shtetl. For the most part they are family chronicles, but all together they make up the history and the picture of the one great family of the annihilated Jewish community of Brzezin.

And, as family chronicles, the writings in this book are mostly personal, heymish (homey). In this lies the special significance of each yizkor book, both for the history of the shtetl and also for the general history of the murdered Jewish people in Poland. But as in family chronicles, here and there, family considerations slip in that have a smaller relevance to the public and possibly also certain inaccuracies. Therefore, the authors of the various works in the Brzezin memorial book bear the full responsibility themselves for their published descriptions, conclusions, and evaluations. The editors of the yizkor book deem it necessary to explain this with great emphasis and determination. And although the family chronicles and other works in this yizkor book are written by non-professional writers, we are sure that they will enter our rich literature and folk memoirs that are being so strongly and warmly evaluated and which are such a great treasure for our historians for their scholarly work.

All the landsleyt who in this book published their remembrances are very knowledgeable in the life that once was in their home shtetl. They are still steeped in the intellectual roots, in the surroundings of the shtetl from which they came. They still spiritually breathe the Jewish heritage of the shtetl. And they have made the greatest and sincerest effort to express their feelings about their near and dear ones from the former community in the Brzezin that was annihilated. They have given the greatest and sincerest effort to bring to life their destroyed Jewish shtetl in reminiscences that they have faithfully, in a heymish, familiar language, recorded in the yizkor book. And their compositions are truly folk memoirs末in the best meaning of the word.

And therefore末we believe that this yizkor book of the annihilated Jewish community of Brzezin is not only a sefer hzikhroynes (book of memoirs) that is bequeathed to the coming generations of landsleyt. Sefer Brzezin is also末according to our modest interpretation末an important contribution to the general history of the Jewish total destruction in Poland, and not only for the kines (lament upon the destruction of the Temple or other catastrophe in Jewish history) after the destruction末which must be written down and cared about for generations to come末but also for the research for the Book of Chronicles of the thousand-year past of the Jewish people in Poland, which had in the course of long generations spiritually nourished and maintained our widely scattered Jewish people over the entire world.

The Hasidic shnayder-shtetl Brzezin末which is portrayed in this yiskor book末is a ring in the golden chain of annihilated Polish Jewry. Because of the good deeds and sacred heritage of its inhabitants, the memory of this town will live in our present generation and will continue to live for many, many generations.


(pp. xvii-xx)

About Sefer Brzezin and the Destroyed Town of Brzezin

by Jacob Pat

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

If only real Brzeziners who were born in Brzezin were allowed to write in Sefer Brzezin, I would not have that right, since I am a Bialystoker-Warszawer, where I often heard about Brzezin. I knew that the Bialystok looms, which were humming days on end, also produced goods for Brzezin. Later I was a ben-bayes (member of the household) in Brzezin, coming there for evenings, meetings, holding lectures, walking on its streets. I knew it well, sat on the benches near the houses with a bunch of writers, dressmakers, and enjoyed myself well into the summer nights, spoke to hundreds, thousands of Brzeziner Jews末all remain continuously alive before my eyes. As my old good friend, the real kosher Brzeziner, Jacob-Dovid Berg末with Brzezin dear to his heart末asked me to write something for Sefer Brzezin, once and for all I felt that I should do it.

I have certainly seen Brzezin in its time of intense growth between the world wars. I have certainly seen Brzezin in its total destruction after World War II. I certainly see now before my eyes, in my imagination, the Brzeziner Jews. I see them in the large well-packed Firemen痴 Hall. I see the enthusiastic, carried-away young brothers. I see them the way they pay attention with open mouths, devouring every word, and see, see in their enthusiastic spellbound state that they are ready to spring up from their places and set out to conquer the world.

Brothers, friends from Brzezin, I will also take part in writing about you in Sefer Brzezin!

I did not want to rely only on my memories. Before writing these lines I read through all the articles that are a part of Sefer Brzezin末a great deal of historically important material. It is a true Megillas Brzezin (complete story of Brzezin). It is certainly the holiest matseyve (tombstone) that the idealistic Brzezin survivors could have raised for their town.

First of all, let me make a few general observations about the archives that are included in the Sefer. By now, hundreds of books have already been published about the hundreds of destroyed Jewish shtet un shtetlekh (towns and villages), about the millions of Jews who became holy martyrs. The Brzeziner sefer is certainly an exception; it is a completely unique sefer.

It is important in the distinct character and weight of the writings that are included in it. There is no nonsense, no florid language. No, the articles are charged with facts, with important material, with shtiker lebn (pieces of life). In them are recorded for generations to come hundreds of Jews of all kinds, frum un fray (observant and non-observant), teachers and tailors, Hasidim and socialists末all those who built an honest, life of hard work, built a unique industry. I read in them the history of generations and generations in the town, of the Jewish community, of its khevres (societies) and institutions. Jews come to life before one痴 imagination who were Hasidim, Jews who were Mayminim (believers), Jews who were fighters, Jews who were strikers, Jews who went to Siberia, went to prison in a procession of convicts. It is a collection of historical material that must now be used by writers and artists so that they may create works of art from this material. There were so many full-of-life, energetic, creative, dynamic Jews, master builders of a virtuous, creative life.

In the simple day-to-day tales, in the chronicle of years, in the hundred facts of life that tell about the days and nights, the weekdays and shabbosdike (Sabbaths) that were filled with activity, with deeds, with worrying about particular details and the community at large末in all these lie the solution to the mystery of the wonder of Jewish folk life, also the greater mystery of the unbelievable saintliness during the ghetto years, in the years of the downfall at the hands of the butchers.


I move on to the years when the kehile kdushe (sacred community) Brzezin still lived. Twenty-one kilometers from Lodz and 101 kilometers from Warsaw lay Brzezin, to which, in the years between the world wars, either the train brought me, or most often末the bus. I see now a picture swimming by from that time末a host of young people, boys and girls, also middle-aged craftsmen who waited for the bus in the marketplace末a circular plaza, cobblestoned, shops all around, small businesses, open stalls. But one sees only the local people who occupy themselves by chatting, giving sholem aleykhems (greetings). I come out of the railroad car and fall into tens, hundreds of sholem aleykhems. Their tates un zeydes (fathers and grandfathers) also did the same when they welcomed a rebbe who came to them. The same from generation to generation, one generation taken over by a second. Not now and not then was there such a tumultuous ardor, such a cordiality, as with Hasidim when they would entertain their rebbe. There is no translation for it末it was simkhe-vesosn (holiday joy), a true cordiality, a bliss, a mitsve-freyd (joyful deed) when Hasidim welcomed their rebbe. There was a mix of the world to come and the pleasures of this world. It also overtook the younger generation末call it by any name you want, basically it is the same. Soon people will empty into the street, in a group. Jews will come out of their doors, remain standing on the cobblestone pavement. Youngsters will run closer, "Sholem aleykhem, khaver (Greetings, comrade). "Sholem aleykhem."

The town sees, the town knows that 鍍he speaker has come. He is already here; there he goes with his friends. Hasidim were displeased with this; older Jews were upset. The speaker will lead the children astray from the straight path But one can do nothing; no one can help. It is such a time, a new time.

Later, we will be together in the large firemen痴 auditorium. 典hey are looking for trouble, a blunt Hasid says to himself, a stubborn person. They go to the 斗ecture. No, don稚 call it a 斗ecture; it is something different. It is something more. It is magic. They will hear what痴 going on in the wide world, in Warsaw and in Paris, in Vilna and in Moscow. They will hear about the Jewish workers, about their fight, about their great hope, and at the end, with all their strength, they will sing, enflamed, the strange, delicious Yiddish socialist songs

At that time this was not just an ordinary little town in Poland. No, it was Brzezin, the town of work, the town of factories, of tailor-workshops, of the Jewish proletariat. From here they did indeed send the fanciest clothing out into the great world, into the warehouses; surely we clothed an entire world!

In my head, in my imagination, are mixed together my own memories and pictures of Brzezin with the descriptions that were prepared so loyally and honestly by the Brzeziners who have written in such a genuine manner for Sefer Brzezin. Here I see again, as before, the hundred sewing machines and the great Brzezin tailor workshops. I see the Jews who work with all their strength; I see them heating the irons; I see, as I once saw, the way they pack the Brzeziner bundles of clothing, stuff the transport crates with the blue inscriptions on the large boards. There the wagon drivers crack their long whips at the harnessed horses, and the wagons, with the wooden poles on the sides, loaded with high crates of goods, go off with the crates and with the wagon drivers. They go off to the train, to the railway station; they go into the wide world.

Respect, brothers!There are no loafers; ordinary Brzeziners, shears and irons, provide an entire world with garments. They clothe the naked. There are no cane twirlers there, no idlers. The translation of Brzezin is work. Brzezin means toil, means well-made, quickly made; the merchandise has to go all the way to Siberia, to China, Australia. Brzezin means ideas, means industry末it is certainly a new and great expression, 鍍he clothing industry. Brzezin means a new world.

Memories come. We used to sit in Brzezin on the benches half the night, and with us were the Brzezin Jews who were knowledgeable, who had read a book, had delved into Brzezin history. Sitting were Jews who remembered the stories of their zeydes from the old men in the besmedresh (prayer house). They say that Brzezin is called Brzezin because at one time a great birch forest stood there [brzoza=birch], that the landowners used to go hunting in the forest

In 1366 King Casimir the Great gave Brzezin the status of a town with the right to hold fairs

Years and years later the forest was hacked down, and houses were built. Breweries were built; a town was built. Later Jews came, built workshops, built factories, made contracts with Lodz and Bialystok.

A Talmudist and dreamer sits with me. Once again I see before my eyes that Jew who remained in his old age a Brzezin patriot and could, by no means, ever forgive Lodz, which had so outgrown Brzezin末which in the 1900s still had a great deal more people than Lodz.

Who knows why that happened. Each town also has its mazl (luck). Who knows why in Kutno they dealt in cattle and in Zelichow they made boots; who knows why in Krynki they worked with leather and in Brzezin they made trousers and coats and clothed a world of Goyim (non-Jews) all the way to Siberia. Hard to have answers. A thousand reasons contributed. Why does it turn out to be the destiny of a ninety-six-year-old Brzeziner tailor末who, well into his very old age sewed with a needle even without an eyeglass末to be the founder of the Brzezin tailors union? It was a kind of mazl.

I mix together all that I remember, that I have heard and seen in Brzezin, also what has now been written by the Brzeziner writers for Sefer Brzezin, and again there emerges before me the shapes of those who built Jewish Brzezin, who organized the tailors, fought there for a better life together with those who had the initiative, were bright and capable, had a wanderlust, picked themselves up, left Brzezin, and built new homes in America and in Eretz-Isroel (the land of Israel).

Such were the Brzezin Jews, deeply-rooted oaks with long branches, craftsmen Jews, Jews who fulfilled the commandments, who were God-fearing Jewish tailors, who fulfilled the mitsve 套with the sweat of your brow shall you earn your bread (Genesis 3:19) They cut the manufactured fabric from Lodz and Bialystok, sewed, stitched, pressed, and sent their completed garments into the wide world.


I simply could not pry myself loose from reading and re-reading the writings in Sefer Brzezin末the stories about the agents on commission and traveling salesmen, about the employers and employees, the stories about the Hasidic sons and sons-in-law who got into textiles, into manufacturing, the stories about the young men formerly of the besmedresh, former yeshiva students who built the great clothing industry with zest and imagination.

I leaf through the galleys and read about the socialist work that began and grew in Brzezin末it began from the depths and the gloom of the workrooms. I myself did not see the beginning, but I did see its continuation, heard their speeches, their sharp senses and wisdom and was a witness to the new winds that blew there. Indeed there was once ardor, indeed there were once Hasidim, rabbis, but a new fervor came, with momentum, a new fervor, new Hasidim, and new rabonim (teachers).

Let us again remember how a young Brzeziner, a Yeshiva bokher (student), came back from Vilna to Brzezin. He did not come of his own free will; he was brought there in a procession of convicts, brought by White Russian policemen. He was deported from Vilna for underground socialist work; he had in his pocket a card from the Bund. He was the son of an old Hasid from Warka, Reb Chaim Yitzhok. He is today痴 Jacob-David Berg, the chairman of the Sholem Aleichem Institute in New York, who plays an important role in Yiddish culture-work in America. He is the one who recently persuaded me that I should write something for Sefer Brzezin.

I write and see at the same time public gatherings in Brzezin. There will not be such meetings again in the entire world. The meeting is in a shul. It is already evening in the town and evening in the heavens. Not only had almost a thousand passionate Hasidim come down in the darkness, but also generations came down with them. We were all together then in a higher world, a brightly lit one, as if the echo from the noise of the sewing machines would unexpectedly sound in the hollow of the great shul, the exclamation 適haverim un khavertes! (Comrades末male and female) floats down, and they marshal themselves with a passionate dream of a new world, of new people, new Jews for a greater freedom that will come. Whoever was worthy of having the honor of seeing the way the poor young tailors from Brzezin dreamed, they would at that time have been able to conquer the world. The world would be good and beautiful, the people would be good, there would be freedom and peace, the Jews would be!

An image comes to me about what they told me in those distant years in Brzezin. A tailor there has been called for a long time shir ameyles (song of praise). Why such a name? When he did not have any work, he could not sit idle; he used to fill up the days reciting from the Book of Psalms. Thus they gave him the name shir ameyles (song of praise).

Mixed up in my mind are the Brzezin Jews I had seen with my own eyes末with whom I had chatted in Brzezin, about whom I had spoken at the Brzezin meetings (may they rest in peace)末with the images and types from the memorial book (Sefer Brzezin). At the same time, the songs the Brzezin workers sang by the sewing machines ring out. I hear the song they sang then with such gusto末釘y the Pyramids. The songs of the theater also emerge末鼎ome Home Isroylik薄紡nd the songs that ridiculed 擢onien, who uselessly toiled so that Manchuria could remain

Surrounding me are the Brzezin scholars, cantors, singers. The Jews with the outlandish names emerge, nicknames末Hershl Koyrekh, Abraham Koyrekh, Abraham Czumski, whose coaches carried passengers to Kaluszyn. The Jews who made a pilgrimage to Palestine, to Eretz-Isroel, emerge; the Brezeziners emerge who were untimely dispersed to the ends of the earth.

Through generations, over the years, traditions and experiences were established, and there evolved an educational system for children; old teachers came, rosheshive (board of a yeshiva), and new teachers and female teachers. To this place came Yankele Melamed, Abraham Moyshe Melamed, Shloyme Peretz, Herszl Litwak, Itche Meyer Melamed, Henakh Melamed, Gimpele Melamed, Abraham Kaluszyner, Moyshe Fabianitzer.

The correction sheets from the sefer, the galleys, as I already said, do not let me go. There were certainly not only tailors in Brzezin; the scenes of the life there unwind as if in a panorama and wrap around you. Those who remembered them wrote about them for future generations.

Let us also not be embarrassed; let us remember a Brzezin market fair on a Thursday. Let us not believe that in Brzezin there were only tailors and teachers. The authors of the memorial book also brought to life, as if called up from the other world, the market place with its merchants, male and female, the baker and the jugglers, the organ grinders with the parrots. Also came the beggars, the cripples, who sat on the ground and sang heartrending 杜oralizing songs.

The horse traders also appear at the pig market, the husky butchers and animal handlers, who with great strength make the blood spurt from the necks. See, there is a big fair. They clasp hands together. After the fair they sit in the taverns and allow themselves a fling with roasted goose, chicken livers and gizzards, marinated herring, sour pickles, and foamy beer. All kinds of liquor is drunk末from aquavita to 90% alcohol; after a strong drink one eats a hard, salty cheese.

I would like to repeat a few lines about the fact that Brzezin grew along with the greatest centers of the ready-made clothing industry, that the extremely energetic, the boldest, came from the 兎xtreme depths of Brzezin poverty. It is surely something to marvel at, as it is told in Sefer Brzezin:

展ithout worldly education, with scant contact with the surrounding world that lay outside the narrow confines of their remote shtetl, they, the Brzezin Jews, reached into the furthest small corners of European and Asiatic Russia until their export amounted to the sum of eight million rubles.

Brzezin and eight million rubles末would you believe that?!

The Jewish worker organization in Brzezin, the Zionist organizations in Brzezin, the May demonstrations, the needle union, the Jewish library loaded with Yiddish books, the hungry book-readers

They come to read in Brzezin, writers come, the poet Yitzhok Katzenelson. Readings take place in the great Firemen痴 Hall, in the Hall of Life. Brzezin has plays in the theater末they play Shma Yisroel from Osip Dimov, With the Tide by Sholom Asch, The Jewish King Lear by Jacob Gordin, People by Sholem Aleichem, The Eternal Song by Mark Orenstein.

What did they do in Brzezin after a theater performance?  They used to carry the benches out of the hall into the courtyard, the Brzezin klezmer played one dance after the other, and the people together with the actors danced until daybreak.

I look at a picture published on page 158 of the book. It is a gruesome picture. It grieves the heart. It is a picture of a heap that is left of Brzezin末a heap like a mass grave. Under the picture is printed: 典his once was the Jewish cemetery of Brzezin. The little mountain that you see in the picture is the mass grave of the collected skulls that were found after the great destruction. This picture was taken in 1960 by the writer, a grandchild of Leybl Hendrikowski and the daughter of Jehiel Hendrikowski.

Mrs. Rhoda Hendrik-Karpatkin speaks to us this way in Sefer Brzezin: 典he Jewish population gave Brzezin life, zest, culture. With their diligence, hard work, and enterprise, the Jews made the town famous

Now there is almost no one left. That Brzezin is gone forever, but a rich heritage is left典he children and grandchildren of the Brzezin Jews brought the same spiritual legacy to America and Israel and everywhere else. The publication of the monumental Sefer, in which have been immortalized our most loved and dearest ones, is yet another small ring in the golden chain that gives honor to all the generations of Brzezin Jews.


Here I pause. I wanted somehow, to at least do my part for the truly historic important work to immortalize our wonderful past as it is in Sefer Brzezin.

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