Translated by Renee Miller
Edited by Fay Bussgang I came from Piotrkow to Brzezin with my parents at the age of five, several days before the outbreak of the war in 1914. In Brzezin I studied in a kheyder [religious school] with various melamdim [teachers], later in the kheyder Jesode Hatora [Foundations of Torah], and finally, with Reb [title of respect] Mordechai Kochman and others. I learned secular subjects with the teachers Jehuda Fuks, Szpigel, and others.
Together with the studies I absorbed a lot of what was good about Brzeziner Jewish life. I became a real Brzeziner, which became so near and dear to me, even until today.
I remember that during the time of the First World War when great need prevailed, Brzeziner Jews did not allow their poor brothers to fall. They formed a Relief Committee and, in a dignified manner, helped with bread, wood, and coal. They created a biker-khoylim [organization to visit the sick] to help those who were in need of medical assistance.
When the war ended, the shtetl began to get help through support that came from the Brzeziner landslayt [fellow townsmen] in America.
Life in Brzezin began to return to normal. The magaziners [owners of clothing enterprises] and tailors resumed their work, and everything sparkled again with life and creativity. They threw themselves into their work; the sewing machines hummed in every house from before dawn until late into the nightand all night on Thursdays.
Some time later the workers became organized, and a workday of twelve hours was established. Then the youth had more time, and there was an opportunity to get involved in culture and sports. A great Yiddish library was created with a reading room, and everyone enjoyed it. It was a very rich library and included a variety of cultural publications.
In approximately 1923, the organization Poale Zion [Workers of Zion] was founded under the leadership of Mr. Biedak, Mr. Jacob Benkel, and others. In a short time they succeeded in enlisting the young people, since at that time, this was the only place in Brzezin where Jewish youth could enjoy themselves socially. A sports club was also created under the name Stern [Star].
So time passed, and parties were formed in Brzezin, such as the Bund [Socialists], the Folkists [for national autonomy within Poland], general Zionists, Mizrachi [religious Zionists], and Agudas Yisroel [non-Zionist Orthodox party]. Brzezin took part in all the movements. They collected money for Keren Kayemeth [Jewish National Fund] and for all the other funds. At the same time, Brzeziner Jews continued to study in the boti-medroshim [prayer and study houses], talmetoyres [tuition-free schools], supported orphans, and fulfilled the mitzves [commandments] of gmiles-khsodim [interest-free loans].
In 1924 when the call was heard for a great aliyah [immigration] to Eretz Isroel [Land of Israel], Brzeziner Jews joined in. A substantial group left Brzezin and traveled to Palestine, but a number of them returned to Brzezin. It probably was not their fault. They simply were not properly prepared to live in Eretz Isroel at that time.
In 1927 a sizeable group of Brzeziner youthsuch as Mojsze Szajnberg, Fiszel Maliniak, Abraham Herszenberg, Chaim Igielsky, Dawid Pruszynski, zl, [may his memory be blessed], Abraham Zylbercan, zl, Fiszel Mitelsztajn, zl, Jeszaja Rozenblum, zl, Jakob Butkowski, zl, and othersformed the Hitachdut [Federation] organization [Socialist-Zionist labor] in Brzezin and the youth organization Gordonia [pioneer youth group]. Their task was to help the Brzeziner youth understand better the problems of Eretz Isroel and to prepare them to be good pioneers for the building of their new home there. In the course of a short time, a substantial group of youth became members of Hitachdut, thanks to those who played a very active role in this movement. A very fine library was created, as well as a sports club and a Jewish orchestra, which marched through the Brzeziner streets during celebrations. The shtetl hired Yiddish actors and arranged theater performances and readings.
In 1928 the Hechaluc [pioneer movement] was formed in Brzezin. We were preparing ourselves and began the appropriate training for emigration to Israel.
In 1929 Brzezin sent its first pioneers to undergo training. These were Mojsze Szajnberg, Jehuda Bialer, and later, Menachem Rajchman, Icek Herszenberg, and others. When we came to the training grounds at the firm Szlit near the Nemen River, we Brzeziners were not ashamed. We showed our devotion to work and the bond with our people and our readiness for everything. Thanks to our competence, we immediately took part in all the work at the training place and were approved to make aliyah to Israel.
In 1930 Brzezin sent its first pioneers to Israel. The entire shtetl said goodby to us and arranged a sude [celebratory meal] by the river near Icek Bialek's. They accompanied us to the train at Koluszki, from which we traveled to Warsaw, to the Hechaluc central office, before completing the last part of the journey to Israel. Our friends, relatives, and hundreds of Brzeziner Jews awaited us in Koluszki. Brzezin bid good-bye to their pioneers whom they were sending off to Israel. The pioneers who were about to leave danced, sang happily, and cried with joy, together with the Brzeziner Jews. The train left Koluszki, and from far, far away was heard the shout of hundreds of Brzeziners, L'hitraot b'Eretz Yisroel [See you in Israel]. Until today, the last Shalom, shalom, l'hitraot! [Peace, peace, we'll be seeing you!] resounds in my ears.
Arriving in Israel we found a small group of Brzeziners such as: Szymon Krongrad, zl, Chaim Icek Grynfeld, zl, Lemel Horn, zl, Mojsze Ginzberg, Isachar Fiszer, Dawid Poliwoda, Fiszel Froman, Gedalia Waldman, Michal and Chana Benkel, and perhaps several more Brzeziners. We contacted them and began to organize a separate Brzeziner group.
We did not forget that we were the first Brzeziner pioneers and many more were yet to come. We were three in one room and lived a communal life. Almost all the Brzeziners who came during that time stayed with us. Although we ourselves did not have an easy life, nevertheless, we shared what little we had, and we invigorated the new pioneers with our strong spirit. That made it easier and helped them overcome any difficulties. So it went until everyone had adapted, and the Brzeziner families in Israel grew and lived happily.
During this time Jews came to Israel by various methods, such as through Maccabi sports events, exhibitions, excursions, and by other so-called illegal aliyahs. In all this, Brzezin had a part; in every endeavor, Brzeziners came. Our landslayt did not embarrass Brzezin; they took part in building the land, actively participated in the Haganah (self-defense organization), and were always ready to sacrifice themselves for their people and their land.
During the War of Liberation, all Brzeziners in Israel, together with the entire yishuv [community], took part and fought heroicallyand sacrificed seven of their dear ones, who, with their Brzeziner blood, together with all the others, consecrated the victory of Medines Isroel [State of Israel].
Translated by Renee Miller
Edited by Fay Bussgang According to our history, Jews have never lost their connection to Eretz Isroel. Brzeziner Jews, also, have never forgotten the land of our forefathers.
As early as 1910 Reb [title of respect] Nachman Gutkind, a Jew from Brzezin, traveled to Eretz Isroel on a visitone of the first maskilim [adherents of the HaskalahEnlightenment] from our town. When he returned home, almost the entire town came to welcome him back and to learn what was happening in the Holy Land.
Several years later, but still before the First World War, a few Brzeziner Jews were already candidates for settling in Eretz Isroel. Among them was the Szotland family, which lives in Israel to this day, and Isachar Fidler, who came there in 1913 in order to buy a cemetery plot on the Mount of Olives. He died in Jerusalem during the First World War.
After the First World War, when Eretz Isroel was already under the British administrationright after the Balfour Declarationwhile the Jewish community was small and work was very hard to get, as early as that time, Brzeziner Jews were coming into the land in spite of the difficult conditions. In 1920 there were already in the country two Brzeziner tailorsJosef Zlotnicki (Zahavi) and Isachar Fiszer (Abraham Blecher's son). They worked in an orange grove or at other manual labor.
First row, standing, from right to left: Gutkind, Szajnberg, Poliwoda.
Second row, from right to left: Mendlewicz, Benkel, Leczycki, eh
In 1921 these Brzeziner Jews came: Gedalja Waldman, Monisz Gutkind, and Michal Benkel. They worked on the highways and at various public service jobs, with the view that they would fill these work slots for the national Jewish cause. At that time, that was the motto of the Zionist organization. The salary the central committee paid at that time was very low in comparison with other private jobs.
In 1921, during the time of the anti-Jewish pogrom in Jaffa, Jakob Cymerman and his family came to the country. They settled in Tel Aviv, and they are Israeli citizens to this day.
In 1922 Michal Benkel brought in his cousin Sarah Blachowicz and his sister Chana. In that same year, the Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] BrzezinersChaim Grynfeld and Mojsze Fogelalso came. Their families, which are still in the country to this day, came later.
In 1923 a tailoring cooperative of Brzeziners was founded. Those who joined the cooperative were Zlotnicki (Zahavi), Fiszer, and later, also David Poliwoda, who had come at that time from Germany. The tailoring cooperative exists to this day. In general, the Brzeziners were already active in the Haganah [Underground military], Histadrut [Workers' Union], and in all other organizations in the country.
Seated from right to left are David Rozenberg, Israel Fiszer,
Szmul Sulkowicz, Lemel Horn, Mojsze-Icek Frankensztajn,
Chaim-Icek Grynfeld, Jechiel Erlich, Josef Szajnberg,
Jechiel-Michal Herszenberg, David Zicher, and Har-Jaffe (Szajnberg)
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