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[Page 11]

Jewish Klobuck

 

Historical Notes and Memories

by Baruch Szimkowicz

Translated by Asher Szmulewicz

The settlement of the Jewish town of Klobuck or Klobucko, according to the “Evreiskaya Encyclopedia”,[1] is in the distant, foggy past. The first Jews that constituted the shtetl and built the community did not leave any records. The archives of the shtetl were destroyed by the Germans during World War II. Therefore we did not have any evidence of the exact date of the creation of the Jewish settlement of Klobuck.

The tradition, handed down from the Jews in the shtetl, said that the first Jews of Klobuck came from Działoszyn (Zaloshin), a shtetl with an older Jewish settlement, located approximately 30 kilometers north of Klobuck.

There was an old, unused, cemetery in Klobuck. No one knew how old the cemetery was. On Tisha B' Av[2] when people traditionally went to their ancestors' tombs, they also visited the old cemetery. There was a tombstone, covered with moss, that the old people of Klobuck said was the tombstone of the first Rabbi of Klobuck, Reb Yitzhikel z”l (of blessed memory). After him, Klobuck had three other Rabbis until the destruction. Calculating the tenure of each of the religious leaders that served in the Rabbi's position, it was determined that the Klobuck Jewish community existed for more than 200 years before the German extermination of the Jews.

Additionally, it was not well established how old the Shul (Synagogue) was, or the Batei Midrashim (Houses of study), which also were all destroyed by the Germans. From various opinions, the Shul stood approximately 80 years

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before it was destroyed. It was not the first Shul. The Batei Midrashim were even older.

About the history of the shtetl of Klobuck, our Landsmann (fellow countryman) Moshe Weinman who lives in Paris, wrote:

“In 1935 Klobuck celebrated the 800th anniversary of the creation of Klobuck. The historian Jan Dlugowicz, who lived in Klobuck for a long period, declared that the name Klobuck came from when the foundation of the first house in Klobuck was laid. At that time, a hat was found, and a hat is called Klobucko in old Polish, and that is how it became the name of the shtetl.

There is no precise date when the shtetl was created. Some historians said the creation date of the shtetl was 1135, others said it was 1185. In any case it can be said that Klobuck was one of the oldest shtetls in Poland. The antiquity of the village can be proven by the fact that the church, which was built over a large area, was built on the remains of an older church that was destroyed in the big fire in 1796.”

*

The first verifiable news about Jewish life in Klobuck is from the year 1808. At that time, Luszczewski, the Finance Minister from the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, decreed that Jews had to have all their printed books stamped, and pay a special tax on each book.

The burden of organizing the stamp tax payment fell on the Jewish communities. The town of Czestochowa sent to each of the communities within the Czestochowa district an announcement dealing with the stamp decree. Among the list of the communities, Klobuck was mentioned. Dear Sir Dr. Szaczki (of blessed memory) wrote about this in his historical work “Jews of Czestochowa Until the First World War”, which was published in the Yiskor Book of Czestochowa, “Czestochower Jews” (published in New York under the editing of Raphael Maler).

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From Szaczki's publication we know that there were Jews in Klobuck in the year 1808 under the administration of the Czestochowa community.

*

In the “Evreiskaya Encyclopedia” at letter kof (k) there is the following information about Klobuck:

“A village close to Czestochowa, within the Piotrków province, but because the village was in a border strip (between the Russian-German border) difficulties existed for Jews to establish themselves there. In 1856 there were only 444 Jews in Klobuck. From the 1897 census there were 3576 inhabitants including 1027 Jews in Klobuck, or 28.6% of the overall population.

*

I left Klobuck in 1923, when there were more than 450 Jewish families, comprising approximately 1600 people. From 1923 to the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish population virtually did not change. In general, a majority of the young Jewish people left Klobuck between the two World Wars, and moved to bigger cities, the land of Israel or emigrated to various foreign countries.

Klobuck, at the crossroad between Czestochowa and Krzepice, was a beautiful village surrounded by orchards, gardens, a stream called “Jike” and ponds. The entire area was covered with forest land, and meadows, which in the spring were blanketed with green grass. During my childhood the other young boys and I cut green plants for Shavuot. Close to swampy ponds in the harvest season, we cut green Hoshanot (willow twig) for Sukkot.

In summer time, in the evening, the young people would swim in the ponds from one bank to another; it was joyful and lively. On the Zavader pond there was a watermill, with its big wheel, that was turned by the power of the water.

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The watermill belonged to a Pole with a long beard. He looked like a Jew.

At the end of the summer the Czestochowa fishmongers rented the swampy ponds, removed the water and took out the fish. The swampy ponds were full of tenches and pike fish. In the winter, when it was very cold, a thick layer of ice covered the ponds, and the landlord of the soda factory, Itshe Unglick, hired peasants to cut the ice in cubic blocks,which were saved for the summer.

There was another neighborhood named Zagorz, which was in a forest close to the village, that was related to the Klobuck Jews, but more precisely with the young boys of Klobuck. On Lag BaOmer[3] the teachers with theirs pupils went to Zagorz and played “war” with wooden swords, one Cheder against the other.

In Zagorz the imperial castle was located. The Russian Royal Prince used to spend a few days in the castle - according to the tales of a few Jews.

So the shtetl remained embedded in my memory.

 

The Rabbis of Klobuck

As stated earlier, the Klobuck community had four Rabbis until the extermination of the Jews by the Germans. Even the oldest town's people did not remember the first Rabbi, Reb Yitzikel, of blessed memory. We only knew about his good deeds for the community, and that he was a genius Torah scholar. He published a book that did not survive.

After Rabbi Yitzikel, the Rabbinate seat was occupied by Rabbi Yoshua Israel, of blessed memory. Several (Klobuck) Jews knew (and remembered) him well. He was a parent (in-laws) of Rabbi Yitzik Djalowski. When he passed away, the well known Tzadik (righteous) Rabbi Yankele, of blessed memory, became the Rabbi of Klobuck, and because of him the Klobuck (Jewish) community

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became renowned. About Rabbi Yankele there were various wonderful stories.

Rabbi Yaacov Rabinowicz, righteous of blessed memory, was simply called Reb Yankele by Jews who loved him. He was the son of the Radomsker Rabbi “Baal Chesed le Avraham” and a grandson of the “Baal Tiferet Shlomo”. When Rabbi Yankele became the Rabbi of Klobuck, Klobucker Jews lived in a “Splendid Period”. Making a living was easy, and Jews from others villages came to Klobuck to listen to Rabbi Yankele's interpretation of Torah, or to receive a blessing, or to ask for advice from him about various subjects. On Shabbat and in particular during the Days of Awe (High Holidays), Jews from the surrounding villages came to Klobuck to davenen (pray) together with Rabbi Yankele.

My grandfather, Avraham from Krzepice, said that he only went to Klobuck for Rosh HaShana to davenen (pray) with Rabbi Yankele, and to hear his sighs and the “Oy Veh” of his “Peh HaKadosh” (sacred mouth), which enabled my grandfather to achieve a state of repentance.

When Reb Yankele became the Rabbi of Klobuck, he was very young. Nevertheless he could exceed all of the great Torah scholars, and was proficient in Shass (Michnah and Talmud) and in the Tanach verses. Savant Rabbis wrote to him to ask him about various difficult questions. They decided their conflicts in accordance with his answers. The questions and answers are part of his book, “Emet LeYaacov” (Truth of Yaacov).

Rabbi Yankele established new rules for davenen (to pray). He stated that in the Shabbat morning prayer the “Kedushah” should start with the word “Nekadesh”, according to the Ashkenaz tradition. The “Kedushah” of the Shabbat Mussaf prayer should start with the word “Keter”. This was contrary to the prior local traditions, when Jews used to say “Nekadesh” for the “Kedushah” of the morning prayer and “Naritzach” for the Shabbat Mussaf Kedushah. His decision remained in place thereafter, because the Rabbi who succeeded him did not want to change the decree of the Righteous Rabbi.

The young Rabbi from Klobuck, Yankele, contracted tuberculosis. He was brought to Otwock (a famous Polish spa). From there he went to the closest shtetl, Kortshew (Karczew), where he passed away, at only 29 years old, in year 5662, 21st of Iyar (1902 ).

For the Jews of Klobuck and for his followers from other shtetls,

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Book “Emet leYaacov” (Truth of Yaacov)
From former Rabbi of Klobuck:
Rabbi Yankele with Haskamot
(Endorsements) from Rabbis

 

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Book “Emet leYaacov” (Truth of Yaacov)
From former Rabbi of Klobuck:
Rabbi Yankele with Haskamot
(Endorsements) from Rabbis

 

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after his death Rabbi Yankele was revered as a model. During every hard time, disease, epidemic, or Heaven forbid, pogrom, when the community was saved from trouble, we believed that the merit of Rabbi Yankele, Righteous of blessed memory, protected the shtetl.

His Yuhrzeit (death anniversary), the 21st of Iyar, was a special day for the Jews in Klobuck. Every year, for his Yuhrzeit, in the great Beit HaMidrash (House of Study), a special remembrance lamp was turned on, which consisted of the symbolic carving of the Kohanim hands raised up, blessing the people. That was in recognition of the fact that Rabbi Yankele was a Kohen. Also, there were two lions resting on a Magen David (Star of David) beside a carving of the year and the day of his passing away.

Every Jew in Klobuck felt a duty to come to the Beit HaMidrash on the Yuhrzeit of Rabbi Yankele. On this day the Beit HaMidrash was full of Jews. In addition to the big lamp, as described, hundreds of candles were lit, and people recited Mishnayot for the peaceful resting of his soul. Less educated people read Tehilim (Psalms). This occurred every year until the German extermination of the Jews.

A few years after his passing away, when the Klobuck community had to hire a Shochet (ritual slaughterer), the will of Rabbi Yankele was taken into account. The Radomsker Chassidim devoted themselves to serving as the Shochet, because the Rabbi of Radomsk said it was the “will” of Rabbi Yankele, and so it was. Reb Moshe Zander was thus hired to be the Shochet, and he was a scholarly Jew, with an easy and accommodating manner, and good humor.

 

Rabbi Yankele's wonders and good deeds

Jews from Klobuck said about Rabbi Yankele the following:

When his first baby boy was born, later the well known Reb Avramele, people came to the Beit HaMidrash to announce the good news and wish him mazal tov. Rabbi Yankele,

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the young father was sitting and studying with his students, and said that he would first finish the lesson and then he will go see the baby.

So it was - half an hour later, together with his students he came to the new mother, and while looking at the baby he immediately said that the baby would be a great genius. One of his students, an insolent teenager asked: “Rabbi, how do you know that he will be able to study”? Rabbi Yankele answered: ”watch closer and you will see”. The insolent teenager didn't stop and said that he was watching but did not see anything.

The teenager indeed did not see, but Rabbi Yankele had the greater insight. This baby became the famous scholar, Reb Avremele.

*

Once Rabbi Yankele was invited to Działoszyn to participate in a Din Torah (Judgement according to the Torah) with two other Rabbis. Reb Yankele stood close to Reb Shimon Szilit.

When Reb Shimon Szilit came in the room, Rabbi Yankele asked him if he needed anything. Reb Shimon answered immediately that he made a good living, thank God, he was healthy and that he did not need anything. Twice Rabbi Yankele asked the same question and received the same answer.

When Rabbi Yankele prepared himself to leave and travel back to Klobuck, Reb Shimon, while saying goodbye, asked him for a blessing. Rabbi Yankele answered: you missed the opportunity, when I asked you before if you needed anything. The time to ask was before the davenen; the davenen was a favorable moment to ask a wish of the Master of the World; now it is too late”.

This story was told by Reb Moshe's son, whose name is Yankele and lives in Jerusalem.

*

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A poor man came to Rabbi Yankele and complained that it was winter and he did not have warm clothes to wear. The Rabbi called his wife and told her that since he had two coats, she should give one away to this poor man. The Rabbi's wife acted accordingly and gave the poor man a coat.

On Shabbat, the Rebbezin (Rabbi's wife) realized, to her distress, that she gave away the better coat. She told her husband, the Rabbi, about her grief, but he calmed her down and said: “it does not matter, since this poor man will be warm, I also will be warm.”

*

Rabbi Yankele, who sat day and night studying, never had time to meet with the village community leaders. Shmuel Szperling and Feivel Mass decided that they needed to meet with the Rabbi to discuss community issues. They arranged a meeting with the Rabbi by telling him that he was going to get a raise.

As soon as it was announced, the meeting was scheduled. Both Jewish community leaders came to the Rabbi and told him that they wanted to give him a raise in his salary of two rubles. The Rabbi cut them short and said: “I don't need a raise, anyway the Rebbezin will spend it. If you have an important charity matter, you can spend this money on that instead.”

*

Finally I will relate a tragic event in my own family which is related to Rabbi Yankele:

My uncle Levi had a great misfortune. My aunt Rachel, his wife, gave birth to a son, but she passed away just before the Brit Milah. My uncle lived on the Shule street, where Rabbi Yankele also lived. People went to the Rabbi to ask what they should do about the Brit and the funeral.

Rabbi Yankele while listening to the tragic event,

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moaned and said Baruch Dayan HaEmet (Blessed the Truthful Judge)[4] and asked them to come back the next morning. He needed time to think about this overnight.

The next morning, when the people came to him, he ordered that the Brit occur first, after the corpse's purification, in the same room where the deceased mother laid. So it was done. Rabbi Yankele was the Sandak (Godfather) and the baby was circumcised in presence of his dead mother, who was laying on the purification bed, covered with a black cover. Rabbi Yankele sat in front of the deceased mother, and asked everybody to drink LaChaim (to the life) and to congratulate the mother, who was present at her son's Brit Milah.

The Rabbi gave the baby two names - Reuven Binyamin, an allusion to the story of our Matriarch Rachel when she gave birth to Binyamin. Almost everybody came to this strange Brit.

*

 

The Last Klobuck Rabbi

The last Klobuck Rabbi, who was exterminated by the Germans together with his community, Reb Yitzhak Henech Goldberg, of blessed memory, came from a great family. He was a grandson of the famous genius and first Gerer Rebbe -Baal Chidush Harim. Rav Yitzhak Henech was very concerned with Torah studies. He studied with teenage students. His students were: Yaacov Granek, Emanuel Charjewski, Leizer Kleinberg, Avraham Mendel Liefer from Truskolasky and the writer of these lines.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Chesed shel Emet (This expression is used in Hebrew for the last respects given to a dead person, it is a true kindness because the deceased will not be able to “pay back”) Return
  2. Tisha BeAv 9th of Av is the anniversary of the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem and is a fast day Return
  3. Lag BaOmer or the 33rd day of the Omer is a festive day marking the end of the epidemic that killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva Return
  4. Baruch Dayan HaEmet (Blessed the Truthful Judge). This sentence is said when learning about somebody passing away. Return

 

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