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[Page 280]

Ostrolenkans in Israel

 

The First Pioneers

Before I mention the names of the first pioneers in Israel who came from Ostrolenka, those who overcame all obstacles and difficulties, helped build new Jewish lives and contributed their share to the establishment of the Jewish state – I would like to briefly mention the first “nest” that produced young Zionism in Ostrolenka. These Zionists paved the way for the emigration of our townspeople and waved the young flag of the Zionist pioneer ideal with boundless pride.

In 1913, a sort of Zionist society, called HaKica, was established in Ostrolenka. In it were ten to fifteen young men, possessed of a strong love for Zionism and a yearning for the Land of Israel. Among the members were Awiezer Kupferminc (in Israel today, in Kfar Yechezkel, called Drori), his brother, Awigdor Kupferminc (who fell in Israel in the War of Independence), Motel Segal and others. Our task was to go to weddings in the city and collect money for Keren HaKayemet, to disseminate the Zionist shekel, as well as the pamphlets of the Groshen-Bibliotek [the “Penny Library”] (pamphlets containing short articles and stories by Zionist writers, which served as propaganda material for the Zionist idea).

Of course, most of the respectable Jewish balabatim in the city were against us, especially because, in those years, Zionism was considered flawed in its essence. Therefore, they often interfered with our activities. It should be mentioned that Mendel Brin, a well-known inhabitant, respected in Ostrolenka, prevented us from collecting money at his daughter's wedding. These phenomena occurred often, when we came to collect money for Zionist causes.

In 1914, I left Ostrolenka and arrived in America. For the first four years, I worked there in a department store and served in the Jewish Legion. In 1919, I emigrated to Israel and participated in the defense of Tel Hai. Then, I lived in Kibbutz Machanayim for half a year, and for eight years in Kibbutz Merchavia.

Now, for over thirty years, I have lived in Be'er Tuvia, always engaged in agriculture.

Among the pioneers who came to Israel were the Kupferminc brothers, mentioned above, Motel Cuker, David Lew, Meir Margalit, the plasterer Awraham Aron Takson and his son, and others.

Among the first pioneers were other young men, among them dedicated Zionist activists, who returned to Ostrolenka because they were unable to endure the difficult conditions prevailing in Israel in those days.

Motel Tzuker, Be'er Tuvia

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Awraham Aron Takson (builder) with a group of workers near a building in Israel in the days of the pioneers (standing in the bottom row, fourth from the right, dressed in an apron)

 

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About a Pioneer Family from Czerwin

In the town of Czerwin, Ostrolenka district, the Berel Frydman family was well-known and famous as expert tailors. The head of the family, Berel Frydman, earned a reputation as a superb tailor thanks to the uniforms he sewed for firefighters, uniforms that they wore with pride. Therefore, it is not surprising that his name was commended by the priesthood, the pritzim and members of the government, who all inundated him with work. Thanks to his connections with the pritzim, Berel the Tailor succeeded in establishing a nucleus of forty pioneers, who received agricultural training from Polish estate owners, in preparation for their emigration to Israel. Among the pioneers who prepared themselves for emigration were Berel's sons, Menachem Mendel, Awraham Zelig and Michael. After a period of training at the agricultural farm, Menachem Mendel emigrated to Israel in 1921 and became a member of the Tel Yosef farm. Of course, the lines between Israel and those remaining in Czerwin were not severed. Immediately after Menachem Mendel's emigration, his brothers, Awraham Zelig and Michael, and his sister, Chana, emigrated. All of them came to the Tel Yosef farm. Next, they began to plan the emigration of the rest of the family members, with the parents. This happened in the beginning of the '30s. The Mandatory government began to reduce the certificate quota, especially for large families. The brothers, members of the Tel Yosef farm, submitted countless requests to the High Commissioner for permission for emigration of the entire family, but he rejected all their requests, claiming that the family was too big, and that he feared it would be a “burden on the public”. After the intervention of Chaim Arlozorov with the High Commissioner (mentioned in Arlozorov's writings – Jerusalem Diary, page 228) and the commitment of the Tel Yosef farm to give them places there, the longed-for permit was given for the family: the father, mother and five children. In 1932, the family packed its belongings and emigrated to Israel, to the Tel Yosef farm. The town's Jews could not understand what was happening: an entire family “suddenly” got up and emigrated to the Land of Israel!… (In those times, it was customary to go to America, Canada or Uruguay.) Many among them mocked and laughed at this act, because they knew very little about Israel. They had only heard that the land was desolate and that life there was very hard. In their hearts, they believed that the family would return to Czerwin…

When Berel Frydman's decision to leave Czerwin became known to the pritzim and the priests, they all came and tried to convince and dissuade him from his desire to emigrate to Israel. They promised him the earth, if only he would not leave Czerwin. But they did not succeed in moving Berel from his strong will to go to Israel, to his children. The pritzim drew lots among themselves as to who would have the honor of transporting the family, with its possessions, to the railway station. And on Chanukah 1932, when the whole country was covered with snow, the magnificent sleighs of the pritzim appeared, harnessed to noble steeds, and brought the family to the station, many kilometers distant from Czerwin. After traveling fourthclass in an Italian ship via Trieste, the family arrived at the Tel Yosef farm. When the family came to Israel, it began to work on the government regarding the emigration of the eldest daughter, Fejga, with her family. Numerous obstacles, however, were placed in their way, such as the reduction of emigration, the limitation of certificates to certain ages, etc., so that the sister, Fejga, and her family did not succeed in coming to Israel.

In 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of World War II, Kalman, one of the brothers, traveled from Israel to Czerwin and met with the Jews there. He told them about the lives of the Jews in Israel, about kibbutz life, and tried to persuade them to emigrate to Israel and follow the footsteps of his family, the first and only family to take this step. But to his sorrow, it was already too late; the war broke out – and after it, the great Holocaust. His sister, Fejga, and her family sank in the depths of the Holocaust, together with the millions who were exterminated during those terrible days.

Today, the extensive Frydman family numbers nine brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren – all working and involved in Israeli life.

The mother, Rachel Leah, passed away a few years ago. While she was still alive, she received a prize from Prime Minister D. Ben Gurion – the Big Family Prize.

Yitzhak Gilboa (Frydman) [1]


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Meir Margalit – An Actor in Israel

In his brilliant roles in the Ohel Theater

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At a party in Jerusalem after the performance of The Good Soldier Svejk. From the right: Gershon Agron, of blessed memory (former Mayor of Jerusalem). In the center: Meir Margalit. Behind him: M. Ish Shalom (currently Mayor of Jerusalem)

 

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Ceremony conferring the Ramhal Prize for his theatrical acting on Meir Margalit, by Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor, Mr. Shoshani. From the right: Mr. Shoshani, Meir Margalit (seated, the actors Moshe HaLevi, David Vardi)

 

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With the President of the State of Israel

 

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Meir Margalit meets the President's wife

 

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Dr. Chaim Chamiel (far right) – in the President's home

 

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Dr. Chaim Chamiel, poet, religious teacher and educator, speaking at the commencement party of a summer seminar for rabbis and teachers (to his right: Israel's Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Herzog, of blessed memory)

 

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MeOfek LeOfek (From Horizon to Horizon): one of Chaim Chamiel's books of poetry that was published – Eins fun Chaim Chamiels Dershinene Lieder-beicher

 

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The Organization

The activity of the Organization of the Jewish Community of Ostrolenka in Israel began when Israel was under the rule of the British Mandatory government, and emigration was still restricted.

The situation of the Yeshuv [the Zionist community in Palestine] was bad then, because of the prevailing lack of work. Despite this, those from Ostrolenka tried to meet. A committee was established to arrange “official” gatherings from time to time. Later, they even set up a charitable fund for the needy, with the help of the Society of Ostrolenkans in the United States. Loans in small and larger amounts were given to those who were already in Israel for quite a while, and still had not made out well enough. In addition, support was extended to immigrants who had recently arrived. Of course, it was difficult to provide for everyone's needs from the money in the small fund, which had come, as said, from members of the Society, from overseas support organizations and from modest contributions of Ostrolenkans in Israel. Despite this, many were assisted with diverse needs, such purchasing an apartment, marrying off a son or daughter, setting up a small business, helping the seriously ill, etc.

After the establishment of the State, the situation changed completely. The new immigrants were already more or less taken care of, and the organization's activity decreased, until it stopped completely. Gatherings were held infrequently, except for annual commemorations and, sometimes, parties in honor of a guest from abroad.

Assistance from the United States and other organizations abroad also stopped completely, although giving loans to our townspeople did not stop. Keren Moshe [the Moshe Fund] was established, named after Mosze Margalit, formerly head of the Ostrolenkan community, who had passed away. The sources of the fund's monies were donations from Ostrolenkans overseas and in Israel, as well as sums donated by family members of the deceased.

The loan fund operates to this day, although not to the extent necessary. This is primarily because of the weakening of the warm and friendly connection with our townspeople abroad.

 

The Memorial Book

Since the publication of the memorial book ceased to be a dream and entered the phase of realization, the situation has changed drastically. Ostrolenkans, both in Israel and abroad, awoke and joined the mission of establishing an eternal monument, in the form of a book, to our city and its martyrs. Hearts drew nearer. All suddenly felt like an orphaned and united family that had decided that the time had come to erect a monument to its dear ones, slaughtered by Hitler's minions. Our townspeople across the sea were in America, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay and other places. In the main, our people in Australia joined the mission. They set up a fundraising drive for the book, with our dedicated townsman, Yitzhak Kachan, as Chairman, Lubka Lewy as Secretary, the brothers Chanoch, Hershel and Lazer Gold (Gingold), Leah Sojka as Treasurer and many others. Our townspeople from Argentina, Uruguay and other places responded with enthusiasm. To our regret, most of our townspeople were passive. In any event, the connection between us and our townspeople has become stronger since then.

With the decision to publish the book, an extremely small implementation committee was established for that purpose. First, an appeal was published and widely disseminated. Material was collected for the book everywhere. Contributions from abroad were received from book committees established for that purpose, as well as from private individuals, in addition to contributors from Israel. But all this was still not enough to cover the expenses of publishing the book in the planned format. The collection of material over the years worldwide, from the most remote places, as well as documents, pictures, etc., in addition to printing expenditures – reached a cost higher than expected.

Therefore, it was decided to look for additional sources of income. For this purpose, evenings and parties were arranged for local guests and those from abroad. At every opportunity, we explained the gravity of the situation to everyone. In the final years, we held Purim fetes, which brought in a certain amount of income. At the last fete, the Megilla [scroll] of Ostrolenka was read, describing the life and tragic end of our community: “Now it came to pass in the days of that Ostrolenka …”

We believe that the book will draw near even more of the hearts of our townspeople scattered all over the world, and bring a small measure of comfort for the terrible suffering caused by the Jewish destruction in our time.

A. Landsman

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Members of the Jewish Community of Ostrolenka in Israel Committee in 1951

Seated, from the right: Josef Wonszak, Awraham Finkelsztejn, Meir Margalit, Yitzhak Ivri, Dr. Chaim Chamiel (Camiel), Shalom Margalit, Zyskind Lachowicz, Yehuda Chamiel (Camiel)

 

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Standing, from the right: Reuven Levy (Lewin), Hone Eisenstein, Eliezer Ma Tovu, Chaim Drezner, Tzvi Rezyka, Shoshana Perelman-Blachowicz, Shlomo Kaczor, Rachel Weis-Chamiel (Camiel), Yehuda Yitzhaki (Chomont), Yafa Brojtman-Calka, Aron Szperling, Shaina Lachowicz, Aronowicz, Shlomo Zusman

 

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The Elder of the Ostrolenkans in Jerusalem,
Rabbi Awraham Szlomo Brum, May He Live Many Long Good Days

He was born in Ostrolenka in 1880, the son of Reb Israel Icchak Brum (the blacksmith), of blessed memory. He was a Gur Chassid, vigorous, saintly and very learned. In Ostrolenka, he always engaged in scholarship. (Awrejmel the Melamed lived near the river, opposite the shtebl of the Gur Chassidim.) In addition, he had a grocery store near the bridge, looked after by his wife, may she rest in peace. Later, he lived for thirty years with his brother in America. His son, Rabbi Jakow Mosze Brum, was a ritual slaughterer in Brooklyn. His son-in-law, Rabbi Israel Sapir (the husband of his daughter, Fejga), was also a ritual slaughterer in the same city.

Rabbi Awraham Szlomo Brum wrote many essays on religious subjects, the six sections of the Mishna, the Zohar and books of the saints, as well as on his Chassidic origins, which are still awaiting publication.

His essay, Happy is He Who Waits, a small book, full of Torah, Chassidism and allusions, devoted to the Land of Israel, was published in New York in 1952. Because of his modesty and humility, the author's name is not mentioned outright very much, but is only hinted at. Two letters of ashrei [happy] – a and s – hint at the name Awraham Szlomo.

In 1953, he came to Israel and settled in the holy city of Jerusalem, on Yosef Ben-Matityahu Street, near the Yeshiva of the Gur Chassidim. The head of the Yeshiva, the Saintly Rabbi Aron Israel – may he live many good, long days – visited Rabbi Awraham Brum frequently.

Rabbi Awraham Brum was blessed with a love of the Jewish people, as well as a love of the Land of Israel, which came from the depths of his Chassidic soul. In his book, Happy is He Who Waits, he describes extensively the attitude required of every observant Jew toward the Land of Israel as a Jewish kingdom. In the introduction to his book, he says:

As to the matter of opposition to the subject of the Land of Israel because of the liberality of the kingdom's people – we will not take it upon ourselves to speak, Heaven forbid, about God-fearing people, saintly and of good repute, may there be more like them in Israel. Surely these people in the Land of Israel are obliged to protest – whoever has the opportunity to protest. Thus, we note that at the start of the construction of the Second Temple in Nechemia Ben Hacaliah, he protests to the best of his ability about the extent of the desecration of the Sabbath prevalent then in Jerusalem, and also cursed them with curses and beatings, as we find at the end of Nechemia. But Heaven forbid preventing any Jew from coming to the Land of Israel (the spacing is that of the writer of these columns). For they, Ezra and Nechemia, wrote letters and asked all those in the Diaspora to come and help build the city and the Temple.

And further on,

Who can deny that there must be an early ingathering of the exiles? Because of the liberality of most of the people in the kingdom, Heaven forbid that there will not be an ingathering of the exiles at the beginning. The great Last Saints, each as one, replied and said that even if, Heaven forbid, they will not repent, the redemption will surely come.

He wrote about the Hebrew language,

Now let us see about the Hebrew language. In the Gemara Tractate Shekalim, there is a sage by the name of Rabbi Meir: Everyone who lives in the Land of Israel and speaks the Holy Tongue and eats its pure fruits and prays Hear, O Israel morning and night, will be told that he will be in the World to Come. And they explained there, that speaking the Holy Tongue leads to purification of the soul, for this Tongue has an inner holiness, “inner”, that is, unfelt, but it is holy”. (page 21)
And as to the conquest of the land,
And you must understand what is before you

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today – that the entire young generation there, young men, as well as young women, having no connection to those who have ancestral merits, sacrifice their lives willingly for the conquest of the land. For so it is. And it is the spirit of Heaven that gives them the strength and courage to fight this war of the start of the redemption. (page 9)
He believes with complete faith that the bloody period of Hitler, of suffering and torture, are the Days of the Messiah, and the destruction of millions of Jews [must be understood] in terms of “and it will be at the End of Days”.

And if, Heaven forbid!, this was for naught – the killings and the slaughters in all kinds of strange deaths, they and their wives, their sons and daughters and infants and all that they have – the like of which has never been since the creation of the world – how awful would that be! – surely it is the footsteps of the Messiah. (page 5)
He ends with the bloody wars with our enemies who surround us, and brings quotations from Gur and Alexander explanations.

The kingdom of our holy land began in the hand of Israel. If only it will be His will that we merit again that He return with mercy, without killings and wars, Heaven forbid, to Jerusalem, our ancient city, the place of the Temple, and then “speedily renew the Kingdom of David, Your servant”, and may Blessed God bring the horn of salvation. And it seems that for this sake, all of Israel living in our holy land, old and young, young men and young women, actually went to war with devotion – they will merit all good.

The Alexander Rebbe said: It is written, “When you go out to war”. And why is it not written “When you go to war”, but “go out”? Because in order to win a war, you must actually go out of the world, from all the world, and as is written in Chanoch, the commandment is not to fear enemies at the time of war. But it is our duty to defeat them, and stand up to them, as it is written “Do not fear and do not be pressed”. The basis of the commandment is that every Jew must place his trust in Blessed God and not fear for his body when he can give honor to Blessed God and His nation. This commandment indicates that, at a time of war, a man should not think of his wife, nor his children, nor his money, but free his heart of everything for war, and think that all Israel's existence is dependent on him, and it is as if he spills the blood of all if he fears, and this will turn back our days. Lest his brethren's heart melt as his heart, and so said our Sages: Cursed be he who keepeth back the sword from blood of he who fights with all his heart. And their intention is that he who sanctifies God is promised that he will not be found lacking and will merit life in the World to Come – from all this we understand the words of the Alexander Rebbe, of blessed memory, that one must leave the whole world for war in order to merit sanctifying God.

And in the merit of fulfilling this commandment of conquering the land in completeness, with actual self-sacrifice, we will merit the coming of the redeemer speedily, without any exceptions. God will help and fulfill even more, “for He doth avenge the blood of His servants, and doth render vengeance on His adversaries, and doth make expiation for the land of His people”. (End: pages 34-40)

*

In Ostrolenka, he was my last Rebbe at the heder, and prepared me for higher studies in the yeshiva established by Lazer Minc and Eli Keller in the east of the city, in the courtyard of Tuwja Wylozny. His memory is still lucid and clear, although he has reached a distinguished old age, may he live for many more days and years. He can relate details of matters of Chassidic life in the community, in particular, and of municipal events, in general. When he begins talking, he becomes an inexhaustible spring. He tells in complete detail about the dispute that broke out in the shtebl of the Gur Chassidim because of the new ritual slaughterer, whom the community refused to accept; about the division in the shtebl and the insistence of the Rabbi of the city himself, Rabbi Bursztejn, of blessed memory, who refused to accept the opinion of the Rebbe of Gur, himself, in favor of the new ritual slaughterer. He himself carried the letter of the Rebbe of Gur to the Rabbi of Ostrolenka, in which he asks him to yield. The Rabbi refused to accept the letter and was very angry, but immediately thereafter, the Rabbi called him and asked forgiveness for his behavior.

The matter was brought to a rabbinical court of three rabbis: Rabbi Szackes from Lomza, Rabbi Mojsoki and the Rabbi of Zambrow, as head of the

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court. The advocates were Chaim Pinczas Gingold and Israel Chmiel. Here, too, there was a judgment in favor of the new ritual slaughterer (Mosze Chaim Cywiak).

He also told of many other incidents – a living spring of memories opened in him, from which much could have been drawn, if not for constraints of time and place.

Reb Awraham, now 83 – may he live to 120 – still demonstrates a large measure of vitality and curiosity.

We, his townspeople here in Israel and his students, bear his name with pride and honor. He awakens in us memories of our childhood years and of the heder in Ostrolenka. We wish him health, fruitful creation and long life.

A. Yitzhak, Tel Aviv

 

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Happy is He Who Waits

Footnote

  1. Yitzhak Gilboa (Frydman) is a member of the abovementioned Frydman family. He was, as noted, a member of the Tel Yosef farm, joined the Palmach, was wounded in battle and lost an eye. Today, he lives in Tel Aviv and works in the Ministry of Defense. Return

 

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