Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
We in New York knew G'dlake Seid as a quiet man who was not active in communal affairs. He was a capable businessman and a sociable man, but he could not utter a word at a meeting. It seems that the shocking news of the death of all of Goniadz gave him a push to throw himself into the aid work on behalf of the individual Goniadzers who survived. Evidently as he needed a great deal of help to be able to organize an aid committee.
At the Goniadzer Ladies Auxiliary (New York Ladies Union), which excelled with aid for Goniadz in its time of need, Seid easily agreed that they [the Ladies Auxiliary] should incorporate as an organization in the
planned committee and when he turned to me for technical help
|The two pictures were taken during the visit of
Gedaliah Seid (of blessed memory) and his wife in Israel, 1951
I promised to place myself in the service of the task without delay, on the condition that this not be bound with too many parliamentary idle words. I meant by this that the aid committee should be declared as a fact and to then draw people to something that exists and is already functioning. (Here it is necessary to
mention that the Goniadz-Trestiner Landsmanschaft could not as an association join an aid committee only for Goniadzer. Therefore, they [the new committee] had to think of Goniadzer Jewry wherever they would be located.)
Seid truly from the start was afraid of public meetings that could yet ask, who authorized you to organize a Goniadzer aid committee? But the circumstances demanded bold activity; we began to do the work ourselves. And as usual people did not
frown when someone else freed them from heavy work. And right from the start, the work was varied and difficult, although the call was admirable. Seid received courage; the thought was constantly in terms of doing and not of meetings.
There are those whose who acquire the World to Come in numerous years, and there are those who acquire the World to Come in an instant. It happens that a person repays himself and the community with one sacred work for an entire life of daily work. G'dlake Seid achieved this in full measure through his great accomplishment with the aid committee.
I remember Moshe-Kalman, his father, the turner. Sick, always coughed and wiped his face with a red handkerchief. He was an Ein Yakov Jew, one of Nisen the tailor's students. He coughed out his soul and his son, Yakov, was left as an orphan at a very young age. He became the provider of food for his family a mother and two sisters.
We studied together in Motye's kheder [religious primary school]. He had a beautiful voice and he was one of the best choir boys with the khazan [cantor], Reb. Nakhum, of blessed memory. He was the long-standing solo singer and he would turn his melodies with a fine sense of music. His resounding voice would be heard during the study of Gemara [Talmud] and younger children would pay him a kopike for going over a section of Gemara with them.
Once Idel Meir, the watchmaker's son, brought a chess set to kheder. The kheder students were very happy playing and decided to make their own chess set. Who would make it? Yakov Tuker, naturally. Kopikes were collected for Yakov, who little by little turned all of the pieces on his lathe. This would be done in the evening by the glow of a small lamp. The cold in the room was unbearable. The windowpanes were covered with frost. The poor turner's wife did not have the money to heat [the room]. But Yakov turned the chess set with his own hands and everyone was proud of their friend, the artist.
Gonaidz started a new occupation, matzo baking, between Purim and Passover and it was called podriad [enterprise].
I remember three such enterprises: at [the house of] Gershon the orphan, the Sotnik's relative; at [the house of] Gershon the cabinetmaker near the beis-medrash [house of prayer]; and in Josl Sayke's house where Yoske's [wife or daughter] Nekhame's old bakery was located. The bakery was run by Majczuk's [wife or daughter] Mirke Feywl and Mashe [wife or daughter of] Shimon Yankl Mirke stood at the market the entire summer with a trough of fruit. In winter she would sell lampshades. And there was no income from this and the enterprise came after Purim. Yakov Tuker was employed there [the matzo bakery] as a matzo roller. His work hours were from six in the morning until late in the evening. And he never could be absent. I was then studying in the kheder of Uncle Shlomo Moshe, Shimeon's son, who lived in Saike's house. I would drop in to see Yakov rolling and, at the same time, learn the trade. Yakov was interested in teaching it to me so that he could catch his breath for several minutes I would work in fear that my father would learn that I had slipped out from kheder and also that the supervisors the rabbi and Gershon Borukh would catch me. But I learned on the condition that my work would be added to Yakov's account.
Our friend, Yankl Szmerke's son, died in the spring of 1920. The khevre kadishe [burial society] approved that we, his friends, would carry the mite [board on which the deceased is placed or carried] to the cemetery. On the way back, Sender Miltshon told us that the turner's wife received a letter from the Zionist Organization that her son Yakov fell in the fight
in Eretz-Yisroel along with Josef Trumpeldor and six other comrades defending the solitary settlement of Tel-Hai in the Upper Galilee.
Dear, dear Yakov! You fell a hero, defending the Jewish land and Jewish honor!
In your merit and in the merit of your fallen comrades, who defended a solitary Jewish settlement, the entire Upper Galilee was saved and remained in Jewish hands.
Your death is a worthy one and full of consolation like the death of our millions of brothers,
sisters, who were tortured in the concentration camps and gas chambers. Your comrade, Trumpeldor's last words, Never mind; it is good to die for our country, was also said in your name. You were the first to fall in Tel-Hai, running to block the gate against the wild Arab bands. You were a model of self sacrifice and heroism and we will always remember your name with reverence.
And Goniadzers are proud: the fine choir boy, the chess turner-artist, the matzo roller grew into a great Jewish hero of the entire people and land of Israel.
Translated from Yiddish to English by Gloria Berkenstat Freund A beautiful, bright soul.
Who does not remember him? A grandson of the old rabbi, a genteel, sensitive one, rich spiritually.
His rabbinical pedigree did not create any luxury for him - not in his orphaned childhood years and not in his youth, when, during the World War [One] years, he lived as a refugee in Bialystok and later - as a teacher at the Hebrew public school in Goniadz, where he occupied a respected place and was beloved by everyone.
His delicate body could not long endure and during the difficult war years he became ill with tuberculosis.
His devoted sisters applied every means to save him, sent him to sanatoria in Germany and to Switzerland and then, in 1921, brought him to America. He was in treatment for several years at the best
sanatoria, first the Arbeter-Ring sanatoria around New York, later in Denver, Colorado and in California, hovering between better and worse.
Yonatan knew that his days were numbered and he accepted his fate
Translated from Yiddish to English by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
|The days and years pass, pass, Natan Neiman.
And I stand again at your burial garden bed.
The blue Rocky Mountains in their timelessness - -
They do not speak today - they are all still.
Are they happy that I have come? - -
I take a handful of your grains of sand and I spread them apart - -
The silence immediately becomes bright, delighted
As if it has heard a reawakened voice.
Through a ballad I made your death known,
And through it people grew to love you
And yet I do not avoid asking you now: forgive me
For leaving you at the end of the world in Colorado.
Forgive me, too, that I wake you unexpectedly from your rest,
And take my 14 lines with approval.
Denver, May 5, 1948
with resignation. He died in full consciousness on the 25th of March, 1933 (27 Adar, 5693) in the Denver sanatorium.
The famous poet, H. Leyvik [Halpern Leyvik], long may he live, who in 1932 started a friendship with Yonatan, was with him during the agony of his death and took part in his funeral and burial. He then created the unique Ballad of the Denver Sanatorium - a pearl of Yiddish poetry that has been published many times and also translated into Hebrew by A. Shlonsky.
Leyvik visited Yonatan's grave in 1948 and immortalized him impressively in a sonnet entitled, On the Grave of Natan Noyman [Yonatan Neiman].
Yonatan left a diary - a small notebook where he recorded his great experiences: family memories from his childhood, impressions of friends, copies of touching, content-rich letters to his devoted sisters, opinions about Yiddish and Hebraic works and writers,
moods from his sick bed and also several original lyrical poems and free translations.
From his diary, written in a fine, restrained style with a deep feeling and clear understanding, radiates the bright personality of a young, smart man who loved life and who approached his end stoically calm, without complaints to God and to the world.
I did not go to visit your brother out of pity, - the poet, H. Leyvik, said at the time to Yonatan's sisters - I came to him to learn how a person can be purified through suffering.
We bow our heads to his spiritual strength. Neiman's purified soul was united in a great and elevated work of a world famous Yiddish poet. With the deepest recognition, and with the friendly consent of the author, we include the fine, touching sonnet in our Yizkor Book.
Translated from Yiddish to English by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
|As at night, the stars fall
Become still and quickly lost
Thus fall my sparks
By now for years and years.
Letters and moans, quiet tears,
My windows are open
(Written in the dark after a hemorrhage)
Translated from Yiddish to English by Gloria Berkenstat Freund What a bright personality he was! I remove the negative side - his intolerance to Jewish apikorsim [literally, heretics] - he was entirely fair. Christians are what they are, but Jews, sons of the covenant, to whom God revealed himself, and they would sin? - this cannot be tolerated
A Din Torah [law suit before a rabbinical court] before my grandfather: A Jew sold his holiness to another one for two gildn. He arrived home and his wife shouted that she would rather have the holiness However, the customer would not take back the money. They came to the rabbi. My grandfather ruled that the customer is not really a customer and scolded both Jews, One does not trade in Godly things!
My grandfather's sense of humor: With honey cake and whisky in the house of a rich man of the shtetl; the rich man says to my grandfather: Rabbi, I am still a godl [prominent man]. - My grandfather answers: In Lithuania a groshn [small coin or penny] is called a godl.
Welwl and Zalman play chess, my grandfather sits and studies. Suddenly he raises his head, looks at the chess board and shows one of them a move. The brother protests: Father, why, why? My grandfather answers: Never mind, never mind, we need to help someone who is weak
When I came to Motya the Melamed [teacher in a religious school] in kheder [religious primary school], Motya said to me this: Your grandfather, of blessed memory, warned me: ‘Motya, do you hear me, we do not hit children in my home.’
In his boyish years my grandfather was a great brat. He liked to ride on a he-goat. Therefore, he did not grieve when my brother, Khone, often did not want to go to kheder.
My mother adored my grandfather. When she was a small girl she wanted to learn to read and write Russian. A small book cost 15 kopikes; my grandmother was stubborn: it is not needed. My grandfather finally asked my grandmother to give the 15 kopikes. He told my mother that in his young years one learned to write Russian on the floor with chalk. And when the floor was covered with writing, it would be wiped with a wet rag and he would again write.
My grandfather was very well respected by the Christian gentlemen. They trusted me because they knew that I was a grandson of the old rabbi. Apparently they believed that a grandson of such a rabbi must be an honest young man
Translated from Yiddish to English by Dr. Isaac Fine His first education was in the traditional religious elementary school of his Jewish town. However, he did not continue his studies in the House Of Study, as did the children of other merchants in town. At the beginning of the twentieth century, some young Goniondz men journeyed to known centers of Torah learning, such as yeshivas and torah centers in other cities. Dovid Rudski was among those who pursued secular culture. He went to Lodz, where the German language prevailed. There he succeeded in acquiring a smattering of German language and culture. Since he did not receive economic support from home at that time, he was forced to return to Goniondz.
When he came home he suffered from pulmonary problems. His family very actively sought a cure for him, and a cure was found. He continued to improve his competence in the German language and later in French as well. He wanted to travel to France and study there. Meanwhile, the time came for him to present himself to the Russian Army for induction. His parents were suppliers to the Osowiec fortress. He had learned how to make a certain kind of hatband worn by the army in summer from a Goniondz hat maker.
He was recruited into the army and sent to Moscow, where Russian physicians conducted pulmonary exams for recruits. After a time, he was given a medical certificate stating that he was cured from pulmonary disease and fit for military duty. After being declared fit for duty, he went to Paris with neither parental approval nor their assurance that they would provide him with economic support. He hoped to achieve economic independence by his own efforts. He did indeed succeed in achieving this goal by means of the hat maker trade he had learned. Later, however, he did receive financial support from his family in Goniondz.
At first he concentrated on philosophic studies and passed the baccalaureate exam. Dovid at that time transferred to the Faculty of Medicine. He completed his medical studies shortly before the outbreak of World War One, and was granted the title of Doctor of Medicine. In Goniondz, Dovid had been very involved with a group of friends who were immersed in Zionism and secular culture. He very much enjoyed their discussions. Dovid also participated in the foundation of the Goniondz Zionist Library, later called The Dawn, after the Dawn group of young Zionists in town. In Paris he participated in Zionist meetings with Dr. Max Nordau. The Paris Zionists recognized this very competent Jew from Russia. They fully accepted him into their group.
When World War One broke out, he volunteered for service as a military physician with the French Army, with the approval of the Russian Embassy. France, England and Russia were at that time allies against the German Empire. He fulfilled this role with distinction. In a weekly edition of the Russian periodical Rivya Vidanosti Ogonoyed, his photo appeared with the inscription A son of our land, doctor of medicine, now on the French front in charge of a medical detachment. He was once wounded on the front line. After his recovery, he again returned to the front to assist in providing medical care for the wounded both in hospitals and in the field.
At the time of his return to active duty, the typhus epidemic was spreading among the troops like wildfire. Dovid's devotion to curing the ill moved him to labor tirelessly day and night. He finally succumbed to the disease and perished. In his life and in his death, he distinguished himself by his dedication to duty. May his memory be for a blessing.
Translated by Marvin Galper Leibel was born and raised in the town of Grajewo. He acquired distinguished competence in Hebrew language and grammar, the Bible, and the Talmud through a program of personal self-directed studies. He studied Hebrew language and grammar in the seclusion of his attic. He also acquired knowledge of Russian and Polish as well as calligraphic script. When his time arrived for active duty with the Russian Army, he was assigned to serve as a regimental headquarters scribe. This duty spared him from many strenuous military drills and maneuvers. When the time came for him to stand watch with his rifle on his shoulder, he would memorize the 618 commandments from the book Commandments Of The Lord, whether by day or by night, in intense heat or in bitter cold. He observed these commandments throughout his life, but the law of the rifle, never. This is the sort of soldier Leibel Bachrach was in the town of Saratow on the Volga River in the late eighteen hundreds of the nineteenth century.
He was an iron merchant in Goniondz. Leibel was always immersed in his studies at home during his leisure time. His wife Shayne Belke facilitated his freedom for solitary studies to a considerable extent. He often studied late through half the night while very quietly humming a Gemora tune, so as to not awaken the family from sleep. If any of us awakened during the night we would witness a remarkable sight. The house would be enveloped in darkness and sleep, except for father immersed in his Talmudic studies, with a small kerosene lamp by his side. The sweet melody which accompanied his studies was wonderful to hear.
He never relied on the classroom teachers of his children or their private tutors. He often had talks with teachers and tutors about the most effective methods for bible instruction and childhood education in general, as well as education of his own children in particular. His first step was to teach his children Hebrew with the proper intonation, so their teachers could then continue on in the same fashion using the appropriate word stresses. With his talent as an educator, he allowed his children to pray according to the Ashkenazi tradition. Goniadz was very immersed in traditional Judaism. He, however, was a Chassid, and prayed in the Sephardic fashion of the Chassidim.
Leibel Bachrach was the first in Goniondz to advocate the principle of equal education for boys and girls. His vision embraced not only German, Polish and Russian, which were then in fashion, but also the Hebrew language, the Prophets, a special book of bible commentaries, and the Introduction To The Talmud as well. He was a gifted educator and completely lacking in self-consciousness in his approach to teaching. He could explain the first problems encountered in Talmudic study with such clarity that even a child could comprehend. All his students found it a pleasure to learn from him.
When the First World War broke out in 1914, the German Army bombarded the Russian fortress of Osowiec. While this bombing created devastation among the homes of Goniadz, Leibel Bachrach remained immersed in Talmudic studies in the tiny apartment of Yehuda the cap maker, surrounded by a group of refugees from Grajewo. The assembled group seemed oblivious to the surrounding bombardment.
Leibel Bachrach was also a prolific writer in both Hebrew and Yiddish. He was interested in both secular and spiritual matters. He communicated with both merchants and yeshiva directors. When he sensed that a merchant in Warsaw or Brisk, for example, was an educated man, he would add on a few sentences on biblical matters or other Jewish topics to the end of each business letter.
He was a long time subscriber to Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals such as The Time, The Friend, The Life or The Moment. Russian newspapers from St. Petersburg also arrived at our home on a regular basis. The Russian newspapers were intended only for us children to learn Russian, and certainly not for absorption of the Russian spirit. Leibel Bachrach established a well-balanced Jewish education for his sons and daughters. In November 1917, when the news of the Balfour Declaration reached Goniondz, he advised the town youth, including his daughter Chaske who now lives in Israel, Children, learn a trade and be in the land of Israel.
Arye Leib Bachrach died in Goniondz in 1919. His bones remained in Goniondz and it seems that not a trace of his grave remains. But his name lives as a perpetual memory, engraved on the tombstone of his wife Shayne Belke in a Tel Aviv cemetery.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund He was called Leibl Mushke's [Mushke's son] or Leibl Pekarski. To me he was Chaim Aryeh. This is because we studied together in the same class in the Goniadzer Hebrew School. There, everything was in Hebrew, our names, too.
I remember the name in Hebrew because this was characteristic of our acquaintance, our comradeship and, perhaps, for our entire life. Both of our ideologies and strivings were the same through all the years, built on Hebrew and Zionism, although we were almost always physically apart since our parting in Goniadz, he in the distant city in Canada and I in New York, thousands of miles apart each from the other. We were together only one more year and worked in the same school in Montreal, Canada.
Our friendship was deep and strong. True, we did not correspond because Chaim Aryeh was not a letter writer, but we were bound together emotionally and we could never forget one another. When he suddenly left us, a wound remained in my heart.
When I begin to think of our young period, the word zealot comes immediately to my mind. Chaim Aryeh was a modern, zealous man, that means not for studying Gemara [Torah commentaries] like a [poet Chaim Nahman] Bialik's zealot, but for modern subjects: Hebrew language, literature and several sciences, all subjects that we studied together. His zeal was natural and elemental. He had the strength of pulling along everyone around him like the force
|Chaim Aryeh Pekarski|
of a terrible rainstorm. When we prepared ourselves for examinations, he could study 18 hours a day. Sleeping or playing, all of the things that play a great role in a young person's life, did not exist for him. He had one purpose to study. And he studied with persistence and a strong will that broke through all difficulties.
Chaim Aryeh loved to talk of that period: incidentally, he possessed the ability to tell stories. Everyone already knew the story of the string when I returned to Montreal and I met Chaim Aryeh there.
The story is from the last days of our Gordz exams from the Gordz school. Chaim Aryeh was then constantly studying and repeating, truly as it is written: While you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise, before eating, in the middle of eating, during the day, at night without measure and boundary. I do not know how many hours a night he slept then; I was afraid that he even studied
in his sleep. And also I with him as much as possible, as much as I could help him. When he arose early, I had to arise early, earlier than anyone in the house. How does one arise earlier than everyone? I did not have an alarm clock and he did not want to bang on the shutters because this would wake up other people in the house. It was decided to bore a small hole under the window, draw through a string and to bind the string to my hand. And so it was. Chaim Aryeh came in the morning, pulled the string and woke me from sleep.
The same story was repeated in Montreal, but a little more intensively. There, I have to confess, I could no longer keep up with him. His zeal and determination were even stronger than before, at a time when the differences in our character traits were more distinct and stronger. I let myself be influenced by the environment and went along slowly. He stormed with his entire strength and wanted to take in everything around him. His energy had no boundary. Perhaps this actually was his misfortune, his energy burned out too quickly.
We were then newly arrived in America and learned to read, write and speak English. The goal was to prepare ourselves for university. Chaim Aryeh threw himself into English with fervor. English, as is known, is not a phonetic language and speln, that is, the laying out of the words, is an entire education. Chaim Aryeh developed his own theory about how to learn speln. He wrote each word 10, 20, 50 times; it depended on the difficulty of the word. And as he began to write, there was not enough paper. He wrote on everything, the calendar, on the walls, both sides of envelopes, all paper
bags and all sorts of wrapping paper. There truly remained no paper in the house on which there was no writing.
I was told that he acted the same way later when he was in the Canadian Far West. He reached the goal that he had set for himself. He graduated from the university there, became a lawyer and one of the most important Jewish leaders in Western Canada. There he also married and built a family.
Chaim Aryeh was an immigrant who was newly arrived in a country where he was strange and where the language and the customs were strange. He had to make his way in the country with his own 10 fingers, adapt himself to new circumstances and establish himself. This was not easy. First, he needed to support himself and at the same time study. Secondly, he needed to begin his career as a lawyer when he already had a family with children. He achieved both, thanks to his stubbornness and enormous driving force.
Earlier he had maintained himself and supported his family as a Hebrew teacher. As such, he did a great deal in the area. He founded a day school in Edmonton, one of the first in the country, which made a great name for itself in the history of education in Canada. He was a very capable teacher and administrator. It is a shame he did not remain in the profession.
And as a lawyer he achieved great esteem in the province in which he lived. There he became the greatest in his field among Jews and non-Jews. At his death, he was mourned by all of his colleagues and the flag over the courthouse hung at half-staff for his funeral as an expression of sorrow.
Our sages have said that a man does not leave the world with half of what he wanted to achieve. This was particularly true about Chaim Aryeh. He achieved wealth and fame; he created a beautiful family. He was a leader in Canadian Jewish life. But he did not achieve one thing, settling in Eretz-Yisroel.
There is no doubt at all that this was one of the main goals of his life. He wanted to transplant his family to our homeland as we once dreamed in our youth. He hoped to raise his children in the land of which we dreamed, in our revived language. This he did not achieve. He tried. He especially traveled to Eretz-Yisroel in the 1930's,
knocked on the doors of the Mandate Government and tried to find a new soil and foundation for his family. However, he returned in a grave mood. I saw him then for the last time. Traveling through New York he stayed with us in our house and spent several days with us.
Yes, if he had been 15 years younger, he certainly would have achieved it with his stubbornness and diligence. But a man is only young once. Even he did not have enough energy for a second time.
Chaim Aryeh, my friend, you went through Goniadz, the small shtetele, to Edmonton, the capital city of the province of Alberta, like a storm. Your tempest lived its life somewhere in the distant emptiness of Canada and disappeared. Chaim Aryeh, the friend of my youth, your illustrious memory will always live in my heart.
He emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel in 1929 and settled in the Kibbutz Ayelet ha-Shahar in the Galilee. He was drawn to the Galilee while still at home. There he met his friend, Genya, and he brought his parents and sister there. In 1935, his first son, Nemrod, was born.
He did every kind of work in the Kibbutz, simple fieldwork as well as with the tractor.
He was connected with Haganah [the defense - underground military organization from 1920-1948] throughout the years and always was ready to defend the country, particularly during the time of Arab unrest. During the Second World War he demanded that he be permitted to join the brigade (in which his two brothers
served). However, this was not permitted because he was needed in the country.
In 1943 the British secret police carried out a search in Nakhum's house and decided to arrest him. However, his comrades and the local members of Palmach [strike force - elite Haganah fighters] hid him and sent him away from the kibbutz. He spent over a year in another kibbutz under another name and in constant fear.
In the war for liberation, he fought in the Galilee against the Syrians (a downed Syrian airplane still lies as a memorial where it fell in the middle of Ayelet ha-Shahar). He was courageous during the worst times and also encouraged his comrades in arms. Shortly after this, he enlisted in the Tazhal (Tzva Hahagana LeYisroel [the Israel Defense Forces] - the official army of the land of Israel). He was a sergeant at first, then a lieutenant. In that capacity, he welcomed the young people from the eastern nations and helped them to adjust to their new circumstances. After the war, he was involved with educating the young people at the kibbutz.
At that time, he also took upon himself the literary task of writing the kibbutz journal. At the same time, he became the official Galilee correspondent for Al HaMishmar [On Guard] (daily newspaper of Mapam [United Workers Party]). The kibbutz erected a hut for him deep in the field where he did his literary work undisturbed.
In November 1951 he went through the course to become a full lieutenant in the army. He graduated with distinction for endurance. He became the military chief of the entire region when he returned to the kibbutz.
In 1952, on Israel's Day of Independence, he fell in a tragic manner in an accident during his division's maneuvers.
Translated from Yiddish to English by Gloria Berkenstat Freund Yosef Bobrowski, or Yosef Mendele's [son of Mendel], as he familiarly was called, belonged to the older generation of Young Goniadz. This was a generation of pioneers who began a new chapter of history in Goniadz during the first decade of the [20th] century. Idealism and ideologies reigned over our city at that time . Zion was the main ideal, and this necessitated: Hebrew, Zionist associations, Zionist Simkhas Torah minyonim [groups of 10 or more worshipers celebrating the fall holiday marking the completion of the yearly reading of the Torah] (where pledges were made to donate to Keren Kayemet LeYisroel [Jewish National Fund]) and emigration to Eretz-Yisroel. As small as the group was and as modest its start, their accomplishments were of important significance for the increase in Zionist strength in Goniadz and for the founding in 1915 of the Hebrew Folks-School [public school] with which its founder and the yeshiva director, Moshe Lewin, won over Goniadz.
The library was created by the same group of idealists. This was a Folks [public] Library in which reigned a Zionist atmosphere.
As usual there were both dreamers and doers among the young people Yosef Bobrowski was among the dreamers. As a former yeshiva [religious secondary school stressing the teaching of Torah] student, as well as a Hasid, he was the pious one amidst the group. He even prayed wearing a gartl [a belt signifying the separation of the sacred from the profane] and let his beard grow.
Yosef emigrated to America before the First World War. Here, he worked in a shop until he succeeded in [starting] his own small factory for women's clothing. However, he was not swallowed up by the factory. His spiritual and communal ideals and interests remained [he was a] Goniadzer.
Based on the size of his [monetary] donations for all purposes and institutions in which he believed and he was by nature a passionate
believer one would think that he was a very wealthy man, although he was very far from being one.
Yosef was one of the pillars of the Goniadzer Aid Committee after the destruction of Goniadz. He also was slender [frail]; things were difficult for him physically. At that time, Yosef already was gravely ill and at the same time he worked for the United Jewish Appeal with self-sacrifice. In his characteristic manner, he once said to me: What should I do leave everything in chaos?
Yosef's heart would yearn with longing to just once be able to meet the friends from his youth who were living in Israel. However, his wish did not come true. He died in Norwalk, Connecticut on the 3rd of November 1950.
Translated from Yiddish to English by Dr. Isaac Fine When I wish to conjure up a mental image of a tzaddik , I think of Nissan the tailor. He was a short, hunchbacked man with a blond beard. He was always dressed in a long tallis coat when he was sewing or working with the steam iron. At all times, his mind was filled with spiritual thoughts in connection with divine matters. His wife was a tall, heavyset, commonsense-minded woman, like most women in the shtetl. He, however, was very sensitive and delicate. He was never heard to speak a coarse word. His thoughts were always immersed in Ein Yaakov or in other holy volumes. From his work he barely made a living.
I recall a Sabbath when my father and Reb Nissan were leaving together from the synagogue. We were neighbors. Reb Nissan told him that in a dream he had seen the Temple in Jerusalem and heard the singing of the Levites. His description of the ceremonies and the music from the Temple, which he had experienced in the dream, took a long time to tell and we stood in the street listening until he had finished.
I loved to hear his teaching of the Ein Yaakov legends. He studied with a group of men in the House of Study at a table near to the porcelain oven. He explained the interesting stories from Ein Yaakov with great love and understanding. His customary students were Avramke the glazier, his brother Arkye, Chatzkel the water carrier and other Jews of humble social standing. On Yom Kippur, after Shir HaYichud , he never went home, but would remain for the night in the synagogue. He would lay on straw under one of the benches for a few hours, and then he would read Psalms. In this way, he remains in my memory a pure tzaddik in his relationships with both God and man.
The mission of the feldscher was to heal wounds and also minor ailments. They were not trained to deal with any more serious medical problems than that, nor were they permitted to do so. However, there were able men among them who, through practice and experience, had earned the confidence of the people and had been permitted to deal with more serious problems. Yankl the roife was this kind of feldscher.
I recall him from my childhood as an older man. Goniondz Jews rarely went to the Polish Dr. Knapinsky, although he was a quite competent physician. One needed to converse with him in Polish, and one needed to treat him with reverence. In addition, a visit to his office cost twenty kopecks. Also, it was required to buy the medicine for his prescriptions from the Polish pharmacy of Lintchevsky, which again was quite expensive. In contrast, the expenses with Yankl the roife were much more modest. This was in large part because he prepared the medicines himself. By seeing him, one was able at the same time to save money and also avoid the gentiles.
The whole town used to buy common remedies, such as zinc ointment, from him. He mixed the ingredients himself. For stomachaches he would first prescribe castor oil and then an enema. Even though the roife was very much respected, there were rascals who used to tease him about conducting this sort of unclean business. One time, for example, when one of the wilder young men met him at night in the darkness, he cried out to Yankl from the distance, Rabbi Yaakov, make me an enema. This comment affected Yankl's dignity. He ran after the youngster as fast as he could, but could not catch him. After this incident, he came to Gedalke's classroom, where I was a student, and asked where was Shimon Abramsky. The latter was a youth from Grayve who was studying with Gedalke. When the youth was pointed out to him, Yankl wanted to hit him with a stick. The boy swore that he knew nothing of the matter, and was overcome with fear.
When Yankl the roife recommended that an ill person be brought to Dr. Knapinsky for a consultation, one knew that the matter was quite serious. Yankl would accompany the patient to the physician, and Knapinsky would obtain a detailed report from Yankl. It was quite clear that the doctor respected his opinions.
Yanke1 the roife was quite successful in his professional career. On Sundays, when the Christians would come to church, and on Mondays, which was market day, many of them would come to Pan Yankl.
In the winter of the great fire, Pesach of 1906, he married off his youngest daughter to a wealthy young man from Krinik. He didn't invite in the orchestra from Stutchin, which was ordinarily invited. The Stutchin orchestra consisted of a fiddle, a flute, and a drum. Rather, he brought in the military orchestra from Osoviec. The whole shtetl was in a very festive mood. Everyone stood in the old marketplace and sang and danced along with the music. Goniondz had never had this kind of attraction before.
Immediately after the fire he built a magnificent wooden house next to Schloime-Yossel the fisherman, and did not require any loan in order to do so. During the three bitter years of the German occupation during the First World War, Goniondz did not have a physician. The German military doctor from Osoviec was very rarely brought in. For those reasons, during that time period Yankl was the only healer of the sick in town. Many people died of weakness, simply because they did not eat enough, and Yankl's remedies could not help them.
During the winter of 1918/19 Rabbi Yaakov was very busy. He cured the first of those who were struck with the typhus plague at that time, including Cheikel Yevreisky and me, and thank God we were restored to health. Later, when the epidemic had spread in a very dramatic fashion and there were many critically ill, a physician from Kniesin was brought into town, but he was not able to help very much.
In 1923 the Polish government sent the roife a medal as a reward for his meritorious actions in the past. In 1863, the second Polish uprising against the Tsarist regime broke out and the Russian regime threatened the death penalty for any person who provided the slightest assistance to the rebels. Yankl the roife, who at that time was living in Sapatzkin, which was located near Grodno, had given medical assistance to those who participated in the uprising. Yet years later, when Poland achieved its independence, they recalled his deeds and rewarded him with great honor.
He was very much loved by all. When one met another townsman in the greater world, the first question was about the synagogue hill, and the second, What do you hear about Yankl the roife? He lived out his years in honor and generosity. He left this world in 1926, at which time he was more than ninety years of age.
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