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Dąbrowa Górnicza in the years 1815-1939 {Cont.}


[Page 48]


The first organization of the Jews of Reden

“Even before the expulsion edict came upon the Jews of Reden, they knew then, between the years 1902-1910, to organize their communal life,” relates Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon. “I don't know why the Reden Jews' responsibility for one another was greater than any other part of the town; they also came to Dąbrowa in the same stream that came to find an acceptable livelihood, from Krakow and Nowe Miasto, Hamilanik[?], Peczniew, Wislica, Szydlow, Chadzyny, Pinczow and so on”.

Even so, at the beginning of this settlement, they knew how to organize institutions that would be of mutual benefit. The first thing they established was a Talmud Torah for the children of Reden, in Sliwka's prayer house. Poor and rich children alike studied there, and a committee paid the tuition for the needy children. Even then the argument of whether to add secular learning to Torah teaching was abandoned. In other words, writing, arithmetic and Russian language was taught. Many Jews protested to this, claiming that this was heretical and unconventional. However, the committee members, headed by Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon, of blessed memory, stood their ground.

The first “Melamed” (teacher) was Mosze-Lejb who was the brother of Joske Melamed. He was a black-bearded Jew of impressive appearance, tall, learned and knowledgeable in Torah. His family lived in Wolbrom and they established a school in Dąbrowa. Mosze-Lejb taught “Mishna” and “Gemara” and Joske taught “Chomesh”. The prayer house was divided into sections and in each section a different group studied. The pupils were: Abram, Lejb Steschgowski's son, Barza and Wolf, Janowski's son, Herszel Frochtczweig, Josef Gutman, Zelig Gutman's son and others. At different hours, girls also studied there, like Chawa who was Lejbl Frochtczweig's daughter, Gatliosh who was the late Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon's widow. It was expensive to use exercise-books and so they wrote on slate boards. The girls continued learning with Frajdl, Jakob Gliksman's sister. She taught them embroidery, knitting and writing. There were also girls sent to study overseas.

Mosze-Lejb's school was closed by the authorities on the grounds that there needed to be at least one qualified teacher.



Medical assistance and “Bikur Holim”

The French company that ran the mines operated a hospital in the town, and it was always full and cramped with Christian patients, in particular from the poorer classes. The Jews did not send their ill to this hospital because of a concern that the food was not kosher and for fear that they wouldn't receive attention because they were Jews. As mentioned, the hospitals and clinics belonged to the French companies, and since Jews weren't allowed to work in the mines they were also unable to receive medical assistance.

Out of a sense of mutual assistance, and a care for fellow man, an internal Reden Jewish organization was formed and a “Bikur Holim” and “Linat Zedek” groups were established. Medical equipment was purchased and stored at Rabbi Jakob Fiszel's house, and was loaned to the ill if they required it. They also had a doctor, Dr. Lipski, and the “feldscher” (old-time barber-surgeon) Mosze Mitelman, who was sent to visit patients at the directive of the committee. If the patient was poor, the committee would pay for the doctor's visit.


[Page 49]


The“Linat Zedek” group set out with the overlying aim: to stay overnight at the patient's home. As Mrs. Chanoch-Gerszon relates, “Unbelievable as it was, these deeds were not the result of compulsion, moral preaching or playing on the conscience, in order to influence the person to stay over with the patient”; it is known that in Dąbrowa, fifty years ago [ca. 1920] there was no public transport and these people had to walk many kilometers on cold winter nights, carrying torches, in order to reach the patient, and even so there was not one Jew who would say: “I'm not going” – quite the contrary, they were disproportioangry if someone was left out of doing his part in these “mitzvot”: charity, taking in visitors or visiting the sick.

The following righteous Jews should be honorably mentioned for doing so much for the welfare of the sick in those days: Rabbi Jakob-Shalom Fiszel and his wife, Gimpel Tryman, Haim-Dawid Herszfeld, Tuwja Bajtner, Aron Lempkowicz, Jicchak Oks and many others. The newspaper, “Zagłębie Zeitung”, from 1939 printed the following announcement: “In the tradesmen's hall a general meeting was held in which a new “Bikur Holim” committee was formed: Jakob Parasol, Zajonc, Wyszalecz, Kastenberg, Mosze Herszkowicz, Gliksztajn Lokwicz, Chanoch Goldberg, Herzel Liberman, Waltfrynt, Haim Levi, Itche Majer Nusbaum, Herszel Gliksztajn, Isser Zukerowski, Aszer Zigel, Aszer-Dawid Luksenburg. From this announcement it seems that in other parts of the town there were “Bikur Holim” organizations.



The years 1914-1925


Pupils and teachers - dab049.jpg [34 KB]
Pupils and teachers of the “Mizrahi” Hebrew school


[Page 50]


These years saw a tremendous contribution to the Jewish life in Dąbrowa. Following WW1, the Russian Czarist regime was deposed and in its place the Austrians and the Germans took over. Dąbrowa belonged to Austria and served as a border to Bedzin which belonged to the Germans. Both of them were more liberal than the Czarist authorities in their relationship to the Jews. Up until the outbreak of WW1 the Jews constituted 5% of the general population, and reached 9% in the years 1914 to 1925.

In spite of their growth in numbers their financial situation did not improve. Due to a lack of livelihood some of the population were forced to smuggle goods over the border, but the poverty was great, and in the town's streets, men women and children walked about in painted flour sacks that had been sent by the American “Joint” organization. In order to show that there was no shame in forced poverty, Reb Lichtcyjer, of blessed memory, was the first to appear in these clothes wearing wooden sandals. He would say jokingly: “If only my wife would live more modestly, but she is a modern woman and needs a bed and also a wardrobe”. In those days, all sorts of ways were found to cover up the naked body, but the supplies were a problem. We, the children of those same years, well remember how our mothers and sisters would go out in the streets on cold winter nights, to wait in line till the morning next to the bakeries in order to obtain a damp loaf of bread, baked from black flour mixed with straw and chestnuts.

With the assistance of the American “Joint” organization, kitchens were established. Each morning a cup of cocoa, rice soup and white bread was distributed, which was a scarcity after eating the black bread. The “Joint” also distributed clothing in the schools and the “Talmud Torah” institutes. We found a certificate belonging to the Jewish relief committee of Bedzin in which it was written: “We hereby confirm that Mr. Szpilberg, a representative of the Dąbrowa Relief Committee, received in our warehouses, 15 coats which had been sent to the aforementioned committee by the “Joint” organization in Warsaw”. In Reden the committee was comprised Jakob Shalom Fiszel, Lejbl Steschagowski and Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg and the kitchen was in Lejbl Steschagowski's home. In Hute Bankowa the committee was comprised of Sturnik, Rabinowicz, Frydman and others.

At the end of WW1 Poland became independent, but its independence did not bring an improvement in the welfare of the Jews of Dąbrowa. “Halercziks” (General Haler's men) appeared in Dąbrowa's streets and attacked the Jews, cut their beards, and not infrequently caused bloody injuries from pulling out their hair by its roots. The “Halercziks” pogroms took place in Krakow and Lybov, as well.



“Mizrahi” School

With the national awakening which came as a result of the “Balfour Declaration” and the establishment of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Jews of Dąbrowa began to abandon old ideas of the need for the Jewish presence in the Diaspora, and began to move with the times. Groups of adults organized themselves for self teaching in secular and religious studies. Thus the “Tvuna” group was formed in Hute Bankowa for Talmud studies. They studied and freely debated all sorts of subjects. Rabbi Blumenfeld, even in his last days on earth, used to proudly reminisce of these lessons that he gave to the boys. In conjunction with Hute Bankowa, in Reden a boy's study group was organized, and the lessons were taken by Rabbi Szymon Tennebaum, of blessed memory. At the same time the main profession that was learnt was book keeping and was taught by students who came from advanced trade schools. Their examinations had to be transferred to Krakow.

The establishment of the “Mizrahi” school was a successful peak of the religious Jews, who were also progressive in their lifestyle, like Shalom Fiszel, Szlomo Rabinowicz, Frydman, Jungster, Szywek, Aron Lemkowicz, Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg and others. The need for a Jewish school, that combined secular and religious studies, was vital in a prevailing spirit of national pride. Bedzin had two schools-“Yavne” and “Mizrachi”. Sosnowiec had its own Hebrew school, and Dąbrowa did not want to fall behind these towns.

The first steps towards the establishment of the “Mizrachi” school were modest. It began operating in Fuksbroner's house. Its first teacher was Yehuda Krempel, and the only secular teacher was a Londner from Bedzin. It was difficult to claim that this was the school that Dąbrowa had hoped for. A new period dawned for this school when it was transferred, in 1921, to Sandar Reichman's house. It took up a whole wing in one of his three buildings, that were arranged in a “U” formation with a large spacious courtyard between them. This was a breath of fresh air for the children who found they a had a neat and clean classroom with benches, a small platform for the teacher and pictures of the four seasons displayed on the walls. This change was imprinted well in the children's spirit, who had only yesterday studied in a narrow, stifling room next to a long table, at the head of which, sat an irate, scowling rabbi. During the breaks between classes they received a cup of cocoa with a roll, and during other breaks they exercised with the teacher named Szpigler.


The teacher Wajnrajch - dab050.jpg [24 KB]
The teacher Wajnrajch
in the “Mizrachi” Hebrew school


The teachers were: Simcha Nusbaum, Szlomo Wajnrajch from Jedrzejów, Mindel Nusbaum taught Hebrew and “Tanach”; the principal Wajner and later Braunsztajn taught “Gemara”, Szpigler, Motek Kajzer and Bella Kazonowska taught History and Mathematics. In particular, the teacher, Szpigler, will be fondly remembered for introducing a lively spirit amongst the pupils on excursions and with his cheerful songs. The pupils wore a special dark blue cap with a white cord at the front and had a Magen Dawid embroided. The studies were carried out in Hebrew with much use of Ashkenazi.

The school, in spite of the fact that it was under religious supervision, was a “hothouse” for the growth of Zionist youth movements. Each academic year ended with a impressive show to which the parents were invited, and their pride at seeing their sons performing on stage was boundless.

The “Mizrahi” school was seen as an aggravation by the “Agudat Israel” group, at the head of which stood Chaim Mosze Eisenman, of blessed memory, who established a large “cheder”, that was spread over a number of rooms, called “Yesodei Hatorah”. Both these schools were crammed full of Jewish children, and during the day the sound of “Torah” could be heard in their courtyards.



Rabbi Eliahu Wisler

A Jewish man who was an imposing figure, well excepted and with a agreeable disposition, and his voice was deep and pleasant when he stood at the reader's desk. He was learned in “Halacha” and gave interpretations which were suited to the times. He arrived in Reden with the authorization of the rabbinate of Granice. In his presence was a congregation of the prime of Reden's Jews and surrounding him a spirit of reconciliation and brotherhood was inspired. This, took pat the same time that all the town was in turmoil because of a quarrel that had erupted between Rabbi Alter Mosze Aron Levi, also known as the Rabbi from Peczniew, and Rabbi Mosze Rappaport, the education teacher.

The election of Rabbi Levi from Peczniew to the rabbinical throne in Dąbrowa did not come at an appropriate time, and there were many that opposed, especially amongst the Hassidim from Gur, even though he was a “Gaon” in Torah (he stammered). Meat that was to approved for slaughter by Rabbi Mosze Rappaport was forbidden by Rabbi Levi. The quarrel lasted for years and even the intervention of eminent members of the town did not bring appeasement. During prayer times in the synagogue Rabbi Levi sat on the right side of the wall and Rabbi Mosze Rappaport on the left hand side. During the Torah reading on Rosh Hashana the Gabai, Rabbi Mosze Winer, hammered on the desk and shouted: “I will delay the reading if Rabbi Levi does not make amends with Rabbi Rappaport!” Rabbi Mosze Rappaport rose and stood upright, marched towards the Rabbi and held out his hand, but the Rabbi, in view of the congregation, refused to take the hand outstretched in peace. The rejection of his hand was the talk of the day in those times.

Rabbi Eliahu Wisler was an agent for peace in Reden, the opposer of the cantakerousness that had prevailed in Huta Bankova. He was a force for unity as against separation. He was well liked by Rabbi Szlomo Halperin, Jakob Shalom Fiszel and Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon. Abram Grosfeld saw him as his type of rabbi and offered him a post as a teacher in Reden. In the same period, his father passed away and he was compelled to return to Granice, to handle affairs. He looked after many children and could hardly support them all. During the war his son hid him in a barn belonging to Christians. After the war he went to Czestochowa, where he was placed on the rabbinate's throne. However, his heart yearned for the Land of Israel, and in 1947 he arrived there. Rabbi Eliahu Wisler endeavored to receive an appointment in the rabbinate, however, he remained modest and unassuming and didn't seek prominence. He was contented working as “kashrut” inspector in Lod. He passed away at the age of 70.



Wawa Fajner, of blessed memory

It is hard to understand how this short statured Jew, broad shouldered, with a short yellow beard over pink cheeks, became an accepted visitor to the council and local authorities. Not his typical Jewish appearance and not his cultured Polish language, had the merits which caused the authorities to open the town council doors, but for all that, Wawa Fajner was, for many years, a lobbyist and a defender of rights for the Jews of the town. The Jews needed him: one because his shop had been closed because the shopkeeper had been found serving in the shop not wearing an upper garment. A second – because he hadn't placed official prices on his products, and a third because his scales weren't balanced; a birth certificate to this one, or a burial certificate, or one of a thousand demands for that were dictated to the common man by the authorities. Wawa, short in stature, brought them the necessary permits.

On Friday it was his sacred duty to supply Shabbat provisions to the town's needy. In the afternoon, after dipping in the “mikve”, wearing his Shabbat attire and with a basket in hand, he would go from house to house collecting “chala” and wine for the needy, being afraid that, Heaven forbid, the Shabbat would begin with a Jew unable to bless it.

In spite of his popularity he remained as one of the ordinary citizens. In Jekutiel Kajzer's house, in the tradesmen's small prayer house, he prayed and took part in its celebrations and sorrows. He was active in the “Chevra Kaddisha“, and to give a Jew a proper religious burial was for him an rewardless act of true kindness.



Mosze Mitelman, of blessed memory

A different kind of a well known personality who devoted himself to the society was the “feldsher” (a type of doctor), Mosze Mitelman. He was made of a different substance, coming from a family that was closely and firmly tied to Polish circles, and the Polish language was the spoken language in their home. The “feldscher”, himself, spoke Polish fluently. His attire was elegant. He traveled in a carriage drawn by two fine horses; his sons studied in Polish universities and became doctors and engineers. He was employed in the city council's sanitation department, and each morning he set out to the markets to inspect the quality of the villagers' milk, to check that it wasn't diluted or contained another contamination, and more than once did he have to pour out the milk on finding a strange mixture within it.


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