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[Page 295]

Personalities and Figures

R’ Shaul Dovid Englard


He was born in Krakow in 5635 [1875]. His father, R’ Yakov, was a descendant of one of the most prominent and distinguished families there. He was educated in one of the renowned great yeshivas of Krakow and in his home setting, a house doubly blessed with Torah and greatness. While yet a young lad, he earned a reputation for excellence in study and good deeds. He married Sore Feigel, the only daughter of the philanthropist, R’ Gavriel Altman of Oshpitzin. For a while he continued his studies at his father-in-law’s home and then began to engage in commerce. He established a wholesale grain enterprise. R’ Shaul Dovid was successful and expanded his business to include other agricultural products; primarily, he marketed eggs. As time passed, he became the principal supplier of eggs in the region and beyond.

R’ Shaul Dovid built a magnificent household that welcomed guests and was known for its charity and generosity. He was one of the gabbaim of the tomchei aniyim [supporters of the poor]; his wife also distributed charity to the poor and did much of it unobtrusively. He was renowned for his generosity and supported those who studied Torah. His name appears on many s’farim [learned Torah treatises], attesting to his contribution towards their publication.

He had one son and seven daughters, all of who were married to Torah-educated and energetic people. Most of them were leaders of the Radomsker Hasidim in town.

From this illustrious family, only one daughter survived with four children to carry on their ancestral tradition.



R’ Moshe Hirshsprung HY”D

R’ Moshe was married to Chaya, the second daughter of R’ Shaul Dovid Englard; she died young, while giving birth to their third daughter, Yehudis. He then married Miriam, his departed wife’s younger sister, who bore him one daughter. Miriam brought up her sister’s three daughters as if they were her own.

R’ Moshe was well learned and charitable. He was in the jewelry business. He was easygoing and outgoing, greeting all graciously. He used to say, “Whoever transacts his business honestly and faithfully receives his reward also here on earth, because his customers are always grateful to him; the women who light the Sabbath and Festival candles in the candlesticks and the men who recite kiddush over the wine in the goblet they bought from me all trusted me.” He would conclude, “It has all been very worthwhile.”

May his memory be a blessing!


[Page 296]

R’ Miche’le Blumenfrucht HY”D

He stemmed from a reputable, well-to-do family, known for its good traits. He was known as a talented young man, a diligent Torah scholar, clever and incisive, with much understanding and education. He married the daughter of R’ Avrohom Hirsh Wulkan of Oshpitzin, a member of a very wealthy and respected family that engaged in wide-ranging trade with the estate owners in the area and had a reputation for steadfast involvement in kehilla affairs and needs. For a number of years, R’ Miche’le was supported by his father-in-law while he studied Torah and ethics. He soon blended into the city’s landscape, understood its needs, and worked to fulfill those needs as yet unmet. He established charitable institutions and founded several communal associations, among them a free loan society and hachnosas kalla.

His talents, his interactions with people, and his pleasant manners were instrumental in bringing him to the fore. He attained the position of head of the kehilla council before he was even 40 years old. This was a rare accomplishment at the time and it is evidence of his popularity among all strata of the population. He successfully administered kehilla affairs with great aplomb. It should be noted that kehilla officials in Oshpitzin were all unpaid volunteers. When R’ Miche’le completed his term at the kehilla he was able to devote even more energy to the philanthropic institutions he had established.

R’ Miche’le was fortunate enough to establish a wonderful home and have sons and daughters who turned into people of substance, supported Torah institutions, and were active in charitable affairs.

When the Second World War broke out he left town and reached Tarnow, where he went into hiding at the home of his brother-in-law, R’ Yisroel Wind, on Wysznica Street.

As oppressive measures, searches, and akzies increased in an attempt to round up Jews for deportation, a bunker was built in the house: an elaborate underground structure supplied with running water, electricity, and sanitary facilities. The entrance to the bunker was concealed and was accessible by raising a trap door in the floor that covered the staircase. Everything was optimally camouflaged and seemed to promise safety. A substantial number of people who lived in the house, and their relatives, hid there under relatively decent conditions.

A terrible disaster struck. The main water pipe burst and flooded the bunker, which then held about a dozen people. Since the entrance was narrow and there was no other emergency exit, only several managed to escape through the small opening. The rescuers who were summoned were not able to help, and the bodies of the drowned were later removed by the chevra kadisha.

Rabbi Chaim Kupferman [?] of Oshpitzin, now in the U.S.A., identified R’ Miche’le Blumenfrucht among the dead although he was without beard and payes, and he himself saw to his proper Jewish burial. HY”D.


[Page 297]

Yakov Better

Ch. Z. Simchoni

It seems that every one of our townsmen knew Yakov. All were familiar with his charming personality, his hearty cordiality, and his realistic approach to community affairs. They knew the refreshing smile that never left his face, his gay laughter that resounded and was infectious, his entrancing stories, and his conversations filled with wisdom and understanding. It is equally certain that Yakov knew every single one, the old and the young. He knew their background and the history of every family and household in town. He knew them personally, where they had come from and their names and family details. Yakov was the living and talking “family tree” of the Jews of Oshpitzin. He had the expert discerning eye of a talmid chacham, recognizing people whom he had met in his youth and then met again decades later; even if they looked completely different, he recognized them by voice. When the survivors of the Shoah began to arrive here [Israel] as young, solitary orphans, it was Yakov Better who found them relatives or supporters here or overseas, people who themselves were refugees and did not know that the others had survived or sometimes even their family relationship.

Yakov was born in 5655 [1895] to his parents, R’ Shmuel and Zisel nee Agra. He studied in cheder and yeshiva, but most of his secular knowledge – including a number of foreign languages, accounting, and banking – he had acquired by himself, as he was very diligent, energetic, perspicacious, and had an excellent memory. When only in his twenties, he was already a senior officer at the first bank opened in Oshpitzin by R’ Wowtche Landau and his son-in-law, R’ Yosef Nathansohn.

He had been attracted to Zionism in his youth, and he became one of the upper echelon leaders. Most of them learned from him and studied Hebrew under him. As a result of this activity he was expelled from the bes medrish of the admor R’ Elazar.

He left Oshpitzin towards the end of the First World War, wandered, and came to Germany. At first he lived in Katowice and later in Beuten, where he managed a bank owned by Jewish partners, and he finally settled in Berlin. There he maintained close contacts with the leaders of the World Zionist Movement and participated in all the important events they organized.

Yakov always kept in touch with his home town and the people who came from it, and he was a very devoted son to his parents and family, visiting them often; at those times, he renewed his contacts with his many friends.When he made aliyah in 5695 [1935] he found his chalutz comrades who had made aliyah long before him and spent most of his time in their company. He was active in the Oshpitzin Landsmanschaft from its very beginning as a member of its board, as its secretary, and in other positions.

Yakov not only looked younger than his age but also had a youthful disposition until the last day of his life.We will not forget him.


[Page 298]

About R’ Avrohom Gross HY”D

R’ Avrohom Gross was born in Jaworzno, the eldest son of R’ Shraga and Osnat Gross. At an early age he married the daughter of R’ Ruven Scharf Z”L of Oshpitzin. The latter was the son of R’ Yankele Scharf, author of Degel Reuven.R’Avrohom was an outstanding figure and personality, of distinguished and impressive appearance, whose primary concern was always for others rather than himself. He was known for his role as an interceder with the authorities, as one seeking to benefit and promote the welfare of his townsmen. When misfortune struck one of the town’s residents, he ran immediately to the governor’s office at the castle to knock at the palace gates, where his elegant bearing and powers of persuasion always crowned his missions with success.

He owned a business dealing in school texts and office supplies and owned the first printing press in town. He achieved the reputation of an honest merchant who was well liked by all. His mastery of Polish and German was outstanding. During election campaigns for the Austrian Parliament [This refers to the period before World War I] he would appear before the inhabitants as a speaker on behalf of the candidate for parliament supported by the admorim.

For a number of years R’ Avrohom Gross was the head of the kehilla, i.e., the chairman of the kehilla administration, and it is due to his great acumen that the kehilla ran smoothly and that he was able to navigate and supervise all of the activities in a fashion that avoided the pitfalls of party infighting and factionalism which arose from time to time. He was popular in all the sectors of the Jewish population of the town.

May these lines written after the abyss of the oblivion, as recalled by his younger brother who was then a resident of Poland, serve as a monument on his grave in the city of Sosnowiec, to which he was transported on his sickbed with the rest of the town’s Jews who had been expelled from it two days before Passover in the year 5704 [This must be a typographical error, as the Jews were driven out of Oswiecim in 1941 or 5701]. He died childless and bereft of his world and the city in which he had toiled for some 50 years.

N. Z. B. H.


[Page 299]

R’ Pinchos Greier, HY”D Josephus

R’ Pinchos’s personality was exceptional. His bearing reflected the inner man. He was of medium height, a bit stooped, had a smile on his face, sported a scraggly gray beard, and had small and penetrating eyes that moved swiftly to and fro. He always looked troubled and busy, much occupied with the affairs of his household’s four-story building, magnificently built, and with his family, his dynamic wife and his two sickly daughters, to whom he devoted so much of his time and energy and from whom he had so little joy, as their illnesses were incurable.

When he was happy he would recount many incidents and, like an overflowing fountain, he would recall memorable and forgotten events. His words were incisive, innovative, and sometimes razor-sharp, and his quips had great significance, containing a measure of sarcasm usually directed at himself and his lot, which was quite cruel.

I remember from my youthful days in the bes medrish, as I lifted a book that had fallen, R’ Pinchos would turn to me and say: “Young man, do you know the difference between a book and its author?” He would continue, “Come, and I’ll tell you. When a book falls it is picked up and there are some who will even kiss it and return it to its proper place, which is not quite what happens with the author, for should he fall no one picks him up, he is not kissed, and sometimes he even gets kicked in the behind.”

Once, as he was walking from the bes medrish, he was asked why he refrained from taking a shortcut through the house of the local rabbi, the author of “Ohel Yehoshua” [Rabbi Yehoshua Pinchos Bombach], with whom he was close. He pulled his hat over his eyes and covered most of his face and said, “I don’t want to show my face before the rabbi, for what can the rabbi think when he sees me? He would perhaps call to mind an idea for my eulogy – and there is plenty of time till then.”

This was the face he showed in public, but in his innermost self he was a very serious person and would weep when no one saw. He was great in Torah and wisdom, intelligent, and quick-witted. Most of his time, especially at night, he would devote to study and contemplation.Throughout the night a dim light would be seen coming from his window.Sitting bent over at his studies, he would doze, wake up, and return to his studies until morning came.He studied and would write novellas and critiques in his illegible hand.

With the passage of time he published, at his own expense, his book Beis Pinchos on a number of Tractates in the Kodoshim division. The last book to be published was the second part of his work on the Tractate of T’mura, but most of his novellas remained in manuscript form and were incinerated together with their great author.

May his memory be a blessing!


[Page 300]

Dr. Moshe Goldberg

Hans Loew Z"L

Like many outstanding personalities of his generation during that period, Dr. Moshe Goldberg does not have a complex biography. It is possible to describe his lifestyle in a few lines. He was born in 1872 in Grybow, a small town in the Galician Carpathians, studied at gymnasia in the provincial cities of Tarnow and Nowy Sacz, completed his course of study in law at Vienna, received his doctorate at the university and, after doing his internship, came to join the legal practice of Dr. Beer [?], the only Jewish attorney in Oswiecim in those days. He served as his deputy in his home and office on Kanter [?] Street until the death of Dr. Beer, when the house and office passed to him. Here he remained all of his life, except for the last years of the First World War – he was then in his forties – when he served as a judge of the military court.

He brought his young wife, Augusta nee Chayes from Stanislawow, into his home in 1907.Here they had four sons and one daughter. Here he lived and worked until the Shoah. In September 1939 he moved to his father-in-law’s home in Stanislawow, and experienced the suffering that was caused to many there after the “liberation” by the Russian victory [partition of Poland by the treaty of August 1939 between Germany and the U.S.S.R.].He and the rest of his family perished together with the Jewish community in their martyrdom at the Jewish cemetery on Hashana Raba in 1943 [October 20].

Externally, his was a colorless way of life like that of countless others, but he was an exception. Unlike so many others, his way was that of the minority possessing an individualistic personality.Born into a family of prosperous merchants, his father was a confirmed intellectual.His father was a skeptic, and yet he celebrated life and raised his three sons and two daughters in that spirit, namely to be free thinkers.He was not fond of business, and he transmitted to his son, Moshe, his negative regard for the Jewish merchant whose entire being was wrapped up in making a profit, together with his tendency towards skepticism. These attitudes were adopted by his son and turned into a large measure of antagonism toward religious tradition. He also inherited from his father the unusual talent of irony, which was his forte and rescued him from any note of satire, deprecation, or mockery.Dr. Goldberg made fun of no one, nor did he scorn anyone, although he knew how to attack his opponent with piercing rhetoric.He was able to rise above them all and regard everything from a higher plane.He who looks from above can see the distortions and that which is meaningless below, while being able to see afar and broaden his horizons.

So it happened, when he was a young student in the 1890s in Vienna, that he came to realize the emptiness of assimilation in all its absurdity and joined the ranks of the Jewish National Student Association, Kadimah, which raised the banner of the Zionist flag.

Having a broad education – not merely juridical – in all the branches of knowledge flourishing in the ancient royal capital in the last decades of the century, and having imbibed refined culture during his years of study there, Dr. Goldberg reappeared in Oswiecim, a small Galician border town populated by Jewish small merchants, most of them piously religious to an extreme. He found a few families who were estranged from such piety, but they regarded themselves as no different from good Germans or Poles. Naturally, there was no lack of controversy and strife among sectors of the Jewish population: discord between shtibel and shtibel, friction between families, and conflicts based on cultural differences. An association existed to disseminate literature, but Dr. Goldberg, in the throes of his ironic vision, saw all that was absurd in the assimilatory trend and felt that the absurdity was even greater in Oswiecim than in Vienna, since those in Oswiecim lacked the Viennese assimilationists’ level of culture.Yet he considered the lack of tolerance by the pious as even more crucial.He opposed them with every fiber of his being, and as a proud member of his people he prepared to do battle against them on behalf of Zionism in Oswiecim.Understandably, he became the leader of the Zionists there by virtue of his learning, his ability, and his intellectual level, which were so much greater than those of the few local Zionists.

These lines are not written to detail the formation of the Zionist movement or its leadership in Oswiecim, but only to describe Dr. Goldberg himself. As indicated earlier, Dr. Goldberg saw his environment from a higher plane.Few have such a vision, and it is only rare individuals who have it.The great ones, those with superior irony, reach the heights of human culture and spirit, like Leonardo, Shakespeare, and Goethe.As with them, irony appears in others together with the gift of mental balance and a great capacity for love.

Dr. Goldberg was blessed with both of these traits in great measure.One would never see him aggravated or angry in public.He was always controlled, polite, and tactful.In the most heated debate he knew how to remain calm, and in his contests with the pious and the assimilationists he neither cursed nor maligned. “The Black Company” was his harshest epithet.A sudden outburst was far from his style, and because he did not know how to hate, his stature was above the rest.

The love in his heart was his greatest attribute and was not confined to his family alone, but to all his friends. He was a good husband to his life’s mate and a devoted father to his children. His wife accompanied him throughout his life in devotion and warm concern until his very last day. She, too, may she rest in peace, died with him in Stanislawow.

He brought up his children to be good people.The late Eliyahu, his oldest, was an engineer with two degrees who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Israeli Air Force.He devoted many years of effort to acquiring airplanes in France for the IDF.Unfortunately, he lost his life there in an accident in the snows of Mont Blanc. He was a member of Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan. His second son, Dan, a member of the same kibbutz, interrupted his medical studies overseas in order to prepare himself for seamanship in an institute in Naples and, indeed, became one of our first seamen, participating as a sailor in the Second World War with his life at risk from German submarines. He was for many years the chairman of the Seaman’s Union in Israel. His daughter, Ruth, is married to a high-ranking officer of the IDF.His third son, Herbert, was not yet fully prepared for a career because of his youth, and remained in Poland. The fourth son, Amnon, died in one of the battles of the Second World War.

As mentioned earlier, the love of Dr. Goldberg was not confined to his family circle. He also devoted it to his many friends and fellow Zionists. He spoke to them with love. His wise counsel and kind assistance were always permeated with generous affection.


[Page 302]

R’ Chaim Goldberg

Ben-Yosef

He was one of the popular figures in town, a smiling Jew with a rollicking happy voice, and when he appeared he spread good cheer. He was a simple Jew, upright and straightforward, honest and goodhearted. He stemmed from amcha.

R’ Chaim Ben Menachem was born in 5645 [1885] in Wysznice, a town near Krakow. He was married in 5669 [1909] to Feigel, the daughter of R’ Yitzchak Eizik Lerer of Oshpitzin and from that point on he became a permanent resident in town. He opened a business dealing in unprocessed hides near the local slaughterhouse on the estate of R’ Chaim Schenker. Through his business dealings, he established relationships with the lords of the manor who raised cattle, with butchers, and with meat processors on the one hand, and with tannery owners on the other. He employed workers, not all of them Jews, in his large warehouses.

He was admired and well liked by people, and he used his acquaintance with government officials for the benefit of the community, having fines against merchants for after-hours operations and the like canceled.

He was sensitive, generous, and charitable to all. I often met him on the way to the baths on Friday afternoons or before holidays with a large bundle of clothes under his arms: he was bringing these to distribute to the poor, whom he also invited to come for Shabbat meals in his home, and he wanted them to be clean and presentable.

His household was renowned for its hospitality. The comfortable home was always open to any passerby. R’ Chaim’s two daughters were active in the Bnos Agudas Yisroel, and dozens of their friends would come and go at all hours with the feeling that they were welcome.

R’ Chaim was one of the regular frequenters of the home of Rabbi Yechezkel Segal Landau, the rabbi of Kety, and was a regular worshiper in his bes medrish. When the new synagogue of the Bobower Hasidim was built, he made that his steady place of worship in order to be together with the Hasidim for whom he had a special regard and affinity.

At the outbreak of the Second World War his license for dealing in hides was revoked. He found a way to fill his warehouses with coal, and many of the needy and those in want of this vital commodity during the winter benefited from his largesse and generosity.

May his memory be a blessing!


[Page 303]

Eliezer Gleitzman

Rabbi Yedidia Frankel, Chief Rabbi, Tel Aviv-Jaffo

I knew Eliezer Gleitzman for some years.The way he walked and talked and his way of relating to people expressed the bearing of nobility. I noticed this when I got to know him in the B’nai B’rith Lodge.I saw before me the figure of a sensitive soul, someone with aristocratic manners, and it was difficult to believe that he had acquired them in a Jewish town of East Europe. Yet, it was indeed so! His education and his fundamental Yiddishkeit were deeply ingrained in Eliezer Gleitzman who, with his beautiful manners and his amiable relations with people, represented for us the perfect image of a Jew.

When he began to manage the affairs of commemoration of the Oshpitzin kehilla we came into more frequent contact, and I was never able to refuse his request for me to participate at the memorial meetings he organized annually, even when I was very busy. When he arranged for the setting up of a symbolic monument in commemoration of Oshpitzin at Kiryat Shaul, he devoted himself faithfully to the glorious memory of his kehilla, sparing no effort and exerting more strength than he could afford in order to realize his goal of establishing a memorial to that precious group of Jews whose name were inscribed once in golden letters and now in letters of blood and ashes. Instead of Oshpitzin – Oswiecim. A testimonial to the ultimate destruction and everlasting disgrace, Auschwitz remains as an eternal symbol for all time of the scum of mankind, of the degeneracy of humankind, of the wild beast known as man. Thus, the good Eliezer Gleitzman wanted to tell coming generations about another Auschwitz, an Auschwitz of precious Jews, talmidei chachamim and industrious, community-minded people; men of refinement, charity and diligence; tzadikim and Hasidim, upright and innocent, of whom there remain here and there scattered and solitary branches. Most of them have taken root here in Eretz Yisrael, some overseas. I got to know Gustav Haberfeld who survived and went to Los Angeles, a rare spirit, a man of great courage who greets everyone with love and affection. I also got to know Hasidim and men of stature, such as R’ Hirshel Tauber – that true Hasid – and very many others, but the common denominator that characterized them was purity of heart, refinement, and all were warm-hearted and conscientious.

Therefore, as you are coming together to write Sefer Oshpitzin, I agreed to write some lines about that wonderful Jew who devoted himself to assuring that the memory of Oshpitzin will not fade from mankind. That was the late Eliezer Gleitzman.

May his soul rest in Paradise!


[Page 304]

In Memory of Eliezer [1]

Nathan Scharf

In calling to mind the image and accomplishments of the late Eliezer, it should be noted that there were two distinct periods in his life in Eretz Yisrael; the first, when he worked as a chalutz in the Galilee, Shomron, and Bnei Brak, living in a meager hut and doing manual labor, and the second, when he had established himself here and began a business. What exemplified both periods was that he was always content with his lot and that he was boundlessly gratified to be able to participate in the creative renewal of the Land. He was a gentle, outgoing person, and his courtesy and willingness to help others were a constant aspect of his character. His communal activities covered many areas, but his crowning achievement was his gathering of the widely scattered former townsmen of Oshpitzin and his founding of the organization, which he headed from its very beginning until his last days. Through his powers of persuasion he gathered the chaverim around him and, with their assistance, welcomed new arrivals from overseas, giving them proper advice and sometimes also a modest bit of financial assistance from the meager resources available to the organization.

It would happen at times that during meetings of the organization there were stormy and volatile sessions due to differences of opinion among the participants.Eliezer’s calm disposition always served to moderate and soothe the atmosphere.His sincerity, goodness, and gentleness aroused the unbounded admiration of all.

These traits were not accidental, for he had acquired them at home and he jealously guarded them.I can remember from my youth when I would daily make my way to the cheder or the shtibel through the snack bar that his parents had on concession. As if it were now, I can see his father walking his measured steps behind the counter to serve his customers.His parents, too, were public spirited and started a library for the lending of books to enhance Torah study and increase everyone’s knowledge.

The image of the late Eliezer, who devoted his best efforts and energy toward the association’s activities, will always remain before his townsmen and his memory will be honored through the fulfillment of his last request and project: publishing the memorial book for Oshpitzin, the city of his birth. May his memory be a blessing.



[Page 305]

And Ahron Held His Peace [Lev. 10:3]

Ben Zion Chaim


In memory of my grandfather, R’ Ahron Gerstner

My grandfather, R’ Ahron B”R Yitzchak, was born on the day after Rosh Hashana, the Fast of Gedalia, in 5662 [Sept. 16, 1901] in the city of Auschwitz, Poland. He studied there under the tutelage of Rabbi Bombach, Rabbi Kitzlinger, and the aged shochet, R’ Asher Scharf from Jalmowice[?]. He was kindhearted and bright and was, therefore, beloved by all.

In 5685 [1925] he married Zlate, may she yet live on for many years. He was a gifted ba’al tfila [worship leader] and prayed sweetly and pleasantly and, despite having been married only a year before, led the services on the High Holy Days in the style of Zydaczow-Komarno even though he did not come from a Hasidic family.

When the Second World War broke out, he wandered through Europe with his wife and three children. In spite of all of the great suffering he experienced in Siberia, his spirit was unbroken. As soon as the war ended, he returned penniless to the city of Biale and immediately began to establish a synagogue and gather the few Jews who survived.

New horizons were opened for him. Thousands of surviving orphans searched for relief. Grandfather did not stand by idly. He immediately began to be active in the Va’ad Hahatzala [Rescue Committee] and started many children on their way toward Eretz Yisrael. During this activity he became ill and was obliged to travel to France for surgery.

Immediately after his recovery he made preparations for aliyah, but like most Jews at that time he was deported to Cyprus. He did not sit back on arrival there but became the organizer of Children’s Camp #64 and, some time later, the main functionary of PAY [Po’alei Agudas Yisroel] in the camps. He worked with great energy, primarily for the children’s camp, to obtain better food from the British. He was assisted in all his efforts there by his many friends, among them the late R’ Binyomin Mintz and the late R’ Yosef Pfeffer.

When the State was established, he came to Israel and was sent to Jabalya (Givat Aliyah) in Yafo. He immediately began working towards the establishment of a mikveh, together with a number of others. As time went on, he continued his public activity and became the PAY secretary in Yafo. When the decision was made to settle in Deir Jassin (today Givat Shaul Bet), the task of organizing the project on behalf of PAY was assigned to him. He was active until 5718 [1958] and then became ill and left public affairs.

About six months ago he became bedridden. His illness worsened until Iyar 14 [May 20, 1970] when he returned his soul to his Maker, completely lucid to his last moment.

He was 68 when he died. He was buried according to his wishes in Zichron Meir, in the Netzivei Poniviez cemetery. Surviving him were his wife, a son, two daughters, and grandchildren.

T. N. Z. B. H. [May his soul rest in Paradise!]

 


[Page 306]

R’ Yitzchok Huppert

Dr. Yakov Golan

In the Psalm of Praise for the Sabbath Day, the ancient poet says of the righteous, “They shall yield fruit in old age; vigorous and fresh shall they be” [Psalm 92].This verse is fitting for the dear departed, for he did reach the ripe old age of 95.Moreover, he was not only aged but sprightly as well. Until his last illness felled him some two weeks ago he was hale, hearty, and lucid – and was so in his mental and emotional faculties until the very last minute – exactly as written in the psalm. He was blessed with great vigor, and he was granted a great prize.

All of this was precisely the opposite of what might have been expected. He suffered hardship in his young years in a small village in Galicia, as a child in a large family that did not always have the bare necessities. His student days were also harsh, in a foreign land far from home.Later he returned to Poland and married his unforgettable wife. Before his only daughter was born, he was recruited into the Austrian army and did not see his family for years.Captured by the Russians, he toiled at slave labor in Siberia as a prisoner of war captured by the Russians. After the war he emigrated to Germany with his family and became a businessman in Berlin.When the period of the Shoah drew near, he was again obliged to change his profession in order to prepare for the possibility of making aliyah.He and his wife arrived in Jerusalem towards the end of 1938, having come by way of a Nazi transit camp. Here, with great diligence and energy, he made his living in a way that was hard for him.Until late at night he sat at a sewing machine and, together with his wife, did tailoring until death separated them twelve years ago.Then, too, he did not despair and did not succumb to his bitter lot. At first he remained alone, and later he came to us and lived with our family without disturbing anyone, in spite of his advanced age. On the contrary, one might say that the last years, when he was still spry enough to care for himself, were contented years full of experiences. He was a charming person, so that anyone with whom he came in contact was delighted to converse with him. These years were, perhaps, a kind of compensation for what he had suffered earlier.

[I assume that this was the eulogy delivered by Dr. Golan and also assume that Dr. Golan was the son-in-law of R’Yitzchok Huppert.]


[Page 307]

R’ Moishele Wulkan (The little Moishele)

R’ Yakov Wulkan had three sons: R’ Chaim, the oldest, known to all as R’ Chaim Yakov’s, R’ Dovid, and R’ Moishe. The latter was affectionately known as R’ Moishele, or “the little Moishele.” The three of them were among the famous and outstanding figures in town. R’ Chaim, as I remember, was a dignified elder for whom all would rise and make room. He was a notable scholar, very bright, philanthropic, and a man of many deeds. He served as the senior gabbai of the chevra kadisha, as the prayer leader and shofar blower in the bes medrish of the Chrzanower Hasidim, and all his deeds were proper and honest. His brother, R’ Dovid, was also a great scholar, one of the honored balebatim in the kloiz of the admor Rabbi Elazar, and was one of the frequenters of his home, seated among his closest adherents. He did business as well as participating in public affairs. He was active in the g’milas chasodim society and performed his duty at the chevra kadisha. Moishele was a wonderful combination of good taste and nobility: he had pleasant manners, was quiet-spoken and reserved, performed good deeds, and affably provided wise counsel. Although quite short, he was a giant with respect to manners and good traits. Modest and unassuming, satisfied with a minimum for himself, he was extremely generous to others.You always found him surrounded by people who came to hear his words, which were spoken quietly and with confidence, pleasant and brief yet full of content. He was exceptionally virtuous and acted with integrity.He was scrupulous, delicately refined in all his ways, well-dressed and spotlessly clean, with a long pipe with a crystal mouthpiece stuck in his mouth, discharging the aroma of fine tobacco all around him, a winning smile on his lively face with shining, clever, and magnetic eyes that attracted all ages to his side whenever he came to his regular corner in the Chevre Mishnayes, the spot where he spent most of the hours every day.

These people were the heads of families of sons and grandsons of whom one could be proud. All of this precious beauty was destroyed by the enemy, may his name be blotted out. HY”D! May we venerate their memory forever!


[Page 308]

The Late Moshe Wulkan

There are no training institutes for public service; neither did they exist in Oshpitzin. There are, however, certain people who have the recognizable characteristics identifying them as suitable for such work, either because they were born with the talents and abilities for public affairs or because they acquired them early on in their youth. Such traits were especially conspicuous in those people who had absorbed them along with the aleph bet, since they came from Jewish homes where tzedakah and loving-kindness, courtesy, helping others, and brotherly love were everyday activities. A young man growing up in such a home internalized these positive traits and with the passage of time they came naturally to him, so that public activism was a natural and obvious result.

R’ Moshe Wulkan belonged to this category of public figures. He had the basic characteristics from birth and acquired others from his many experiences in interaction with people and with local and government authorities. While he was young he acquired, in addition to his Torah learning, a broad and comprehensive education through his own efforts. R’ Moishe’le, in fact, studied all his life, and his every free moment was devoted to learning. While yet an avrech, he began his big business dealings with princes and counts, the owners of estates near and far.

He was a handsome, striking figure, always exquisitely dressed. He expressed himself forcefully in a number of languages and was accepted into high society despite being a pious Jew who scrupulously observed Torah and mitzvot in their entirety. Before reaching his thirties, he was already elected to the kehilla council, where he served for some 20 years and excelled in his many-sided activities. In the later years [before the war] he was chosen as chief executive of the Agudas Yisroel and the PAY and as deputy chairman of the kehilla council and served primarily as the liaison with the regional authorities. For many years he also served as a member of the municipal council and was active in its social and educational institutions.

His wife, Regina Wulkan nee Zucker was also active in public affairs and city institutions. She was a founding member of the social service committee serving schoolchildren and the poorer sections of the city and was on the committee caring for children in need. At her initiative, kitchens were established in the public schools to provide free meals and even clothing when needed. She responded to every call for help and joined in the tasks of providing assistance, gathering funds, and organizing promotional events. Mrs. Wulkan was a true helpmate to her husband R’ Moishe’le in most of his public activities.

He was truly beloved by all, known for his affability, his approachability, and the smile that never left his face. Even those who were far removed from his way of life, a life of Torah and mitzvot, liked and admired him.

His last public activity was while in exile in Russia during the war as a member of the Polish Jewry Committee. He was put on trial for “anti-Soviet activity and incitement,” accused of organizing public worship and conducting such, and was given a 10-year sentence, of which he served two years in a forced labor camp in far-off Asia.

After the war he stayed for some time in France and emigrated from there to the United States. He visited Israel several times. He died of old age in the United States and was laid to rest in Jerusalem.


[Page 310]

R’ Mordechai Wildman

Ch. Berish

R’ Mordechai Ben Moshe Dovid was born in [Nowy] Sacz in 5650 [1890]. Like most of the young people in his town he went to cheder, then to yeshiva and to the bes medrish of the admor, the author of Divrei Chaim [Rabbi Chaim Halberstam].

When he came of age he married Zlate, the daughter of Berish Kriezer from Oshpitzin, and he moved there and made it his permanent home. He opened a shoe store that grew into the largest of its kind in town.

R’ Mordechai was a regular at the bes medrish of R’ Chaim Schenker and one of the leading balebatim in town. He was involved in community affairs, devoted time to Torah study, and participated regularly in the daf yomi [daily study of a fixed portion of the Talmud]. He was very attached to the dynasty of the admor of Sacz, and traveled every year to the graveside of “the Divrei Chaim” [Rabbi Chaim Halberstam]. Likewise, he was an adherent of the Komarno rebbe, whose sons would stay at R’ Mordechai’s home when they visited Oshpitzin.

He was a modest man. He gave a lot of charity, much of it unobtrusively, and he did kind deeds for the sake of heaven.

He established a magnificent home and was very devoted to his family. As his sons came of age they helped him expand his business. His eldest son, Moshe Dovid, assisted him in the store, while his second son was the outside man, dealing with buying and selling and doing extensive business with suppliers, factory managers, and government authorities. He became a public figure and often interceded on behalf of those with lesser contacts with the regional governor and thereby helped his people and townsmen in their difficulties. His daughter, Rachel, the only one who survived from the entire family and is now in Israel, also worked in the family business.

There were also another son and daughter in the Wildman family: the daughter, Genendel, who married R’ Zalman Zalmanow, one of the prominent Chabad Hasidim in Warsaw and a close adherent of the rebbe, and the youngest son, Yisrael, who was an outstanding talmid chacham of the elite young Radomsker. They all perished in the Shoah, HY”D!


[Page 311]

In Memory of D’vora Weinheber

N. Scharf

With the death of D’vora, the Oshpitzin Landsmanschaft lost one of the top ranking figures of the chalutz aliyah of our town, the city of Hasidim that the archenemy of the Jews turned into a charnel house and whose memory will be an everlasting disgrace.

This D’vora, tall and upright, who heroically carried various public responsibilities in the community and in her party on her shoulders for decades, was not able to overcome the pain and distress of the disaster that struck her family with the loss of their oldest son, Uri, in the War of Independence.

Indeed, the grief of bereavement has no cure and takes its toll. The pain and distress gnaw at the heart, and for years D’vora was confined to her home and bed. She struggled against the bitterness of death until she was completely heartbroken. My last two visits with D’vora are etched deeply in my memory. One was in the hospital, when I shuddered at her pale and deeply lined face; with much concern, I promised to visit her again at home. Several weeks later, when I learned that she had recovered somewhat, I found her full of energy and vitality. For quite a while, longer than we had planned, she talked of various matters: the joy of her grandchildren and the elaborate library that had been assembled, instead of jewelry or other nonsense.

I was once more filled with hope that we would yet meet again and again to reminisce about things half forgotten. To my great sorrow, that was the last visit.

Hand in hand, D’vora had struggled together with our late Chaver Eliezer [Gleitzman], the chairman of the Oshpitzin Association from its very inception. At every occasion, in every activity, D’vora was at the forefront, and whatever D’vora did, she did with utter enthusiasm and endless devotion.

Her memory and accomplishments will be remembered forever by those who knew her and appreciated her with respect and admiration. May her memory be a blessing.


[Page 312]

R’ Chaim Kohen Silbiger

Sarah Herndorf


My parents’ home was a very religious one, not especially affluent. All of my father’s family were zealous Hasidim. My father was more moderate and less stringent. He was easygoing, soft-spoken, and community minded. Everyone respected him, especially the young people who remembered him from when Poland was re-established and there were subsequent pogroms in the towns.

At that time a self-defense group was organized in our town by 18-year-olds. One Friday night they all came running home from the synagogue to report that the gentiles were attacking passers-by, and my father also came running home, but he grabbed the military hat which he had from his military service in the Austrian army and went to join the boys at their posts, he being the only older person who had seen fit to join in the defense of the city.

He was very talented, a literate and enlightened person. His handwriting was extraordinarily beautiful. He was expert in astronomy, medicine, and other sciences.

He used his knowledge of medicine in a practical way. The people in town would come to request his help. Both the poor and the rich came at all hours of the day and night. He devoted himself to healing the sick with love, and he never refrained in all his years from providing help to anyone in need. He was always in his patients’ homes – all without any remuneration, of course. He did apply himself to business somewhat, in order to provide for the family, but the major burden of providing for the family fell on my mother until we grew up and were able to help.

He, himself, had little regard for money. He used to say that money was only a means for life, but not its goal. He always made do with what he had. The bulk of his time and energy he devoted to healing the sick and he was eminently successful, so that he was renowned for it in the whole town.

Unlike others, he was tolerant of Zionism. What happened to my friends never happened to me. He never tore up a book or notebook of mine when I secretly studied Hebrew, nor did he come to our meeting place raising a hullabaloo.Yet he was an extremely strict disciplinarian.We girls had to pray on Shabbat, to learn the Ethics of the Fathers in the summertime and Borchi Nafshi in the winter, and he forbade us to speak Polish or read a Polish book on Shabbat. We had to be present for kiddush on Friday night, on Shabbat, and for havdalah as well. Once I was out on an activity away from town and didn’t notice how late it had gotten. I ran all the way home but was still fifteen minutes late for havdala. Fearfully I opened the door. Father was sitting at the table with the cup in his hand and everyone else was standing looking upset. When he saw me he stood up and made havdala without saying another word. My aunt and uncle started shouting that it was all his fault, since I was a Zionist, and asking why he did not punish me. He did not respond. I was never late again, ever.

From childhood I lovingly remember the winter Shabbat nights after the meal, when Father would gather us around the stove and tell us in his wonderful way the legends and tales of the Hasidim with all of their wonders, until late at night. This did become a hindrance later on, because my brother Shlomo and I were prevented from participating in activities and my fabricated excuses were not always successful in getting us away. We made up these stories in spite of the fact that he knew that we were in the movement. There were always good Jews who saw us going into the meetinghouse, and they would tell him about it and give advice on how he should react. Then he really got angry. His honor had been impugned in that we had become the subject of gossip, which he hated terribly.

My eldest brother, Yoav, made aliyah as early as 1925 and he paved the way for us to Zion. A year later my sister Dora followed him. In 1932 my brother Shlomo and I came, and in 1935 we brought our parents and our sister Rachel. Remaining in Poland was only my brother Yosef, a wise yeshiva bochur and my very best friend. All of our efforts to bring him as well were unsuccessful and he perished in the Shoah, HY”D.

Our parents lived here for about another 25 years, but they grieved all those years for the son they had left behind. Towards the end they moved to Bnei Brak, and there our father died on 11 Teveth 5720 [Jan. 11, 1960] at the age of 87, and our mother a year after that. They were laid to rest in the Zichron Meir Cemetery.

May their memory be a blessing.


[Page 313]

My Father-in-Law, R’ Chaim Silbiger

(Born in Oshpitzin in 5633 [1873])

Zvi Eliash


I had never met this wonderful Jew until we succeeded after many efforts to bring him and his wife to Eretz Yisrael.

He was of short stature. He possessed knowledge of Torah, Hasidism, and general sciences. He was a talmid chacham, expert in Talmud and Codes. He was one of the important Hasidim of the admor of Sacz. He was a frequenter of the court of the admor of Shinova, the author of Divrei Yechezkel, the son of the first admor of Sacz. He was an expert in sciences, especially medicine, because he had been inducted into the Austrian medical corps during the First World War and worked with renowned doctors in the hospitals all the years of the war. With his quick grasp he learned the practical side of medicine. He was a thoroughgoing lover of Zion. When he succeeded in coming to the Land, he showed me with pride how many shkalim * he had bought, dating back to the First Zionist Congress.

This must have been done in complete secrecy, as at the time Hasidism was battling against Zionism. He also did not oppose his children’s desire to make aliyah. On the contrary, he saw them off with blessings and good wishes for fulfilling their dream. We greeted them with much joy. They came directly to Rehovot because their children lived there.They got an apartment near their oldest son, R’ Shimon Yoav, and all the children saw to their every need. As time passed, we realized that it was beneath their dignity to rely on the support of their children and we decided to put up a kiosk on the lot belonging to his son, R’ Shimon, for the sale of soft drinks, cigarettes, cake, and sweets.With that, he again became a businessman and made an honorable living. He even was able to buy presents for his grandchildren. In the synagogue he was respected, gave charity, and gave of himself to others.It was interesting to see him on Shabbat as he made his way to the synagogue in his shtreimel, white stockings, and the traditional garb of the Galician Hasidim, wrapped in his tallit. He would stride from his house to the synagogue by way of the main street, Rehov Herzl. People on the street would stop to look after him, and everyone he met would greet him with “Gut Shabbes, R’ Chaim.” He was loved and respected by the entire public in Rehovot, both the Orthodox and the secularists.When he opened his kiosk, scientists from the Weizman Institute would make a point of buying their cigarettes from him in order to have the opportunity to talk with him about some topic. Dr. Bloch, the general director of the Weizman Institute, would stop by, buy a pack of cigarettes, and have a long chat, for he too was from a Hasidic family. He especially liked to hear the sayings of the famous admorim.

He had great expertise in medicine, and most of the old people, his friends from the bes medrish, would consult him and not the doctors when they felt poorly.There was a well-known pharmacy in Rehovot, that belonging to Dr. Levinsky, which would make up medications for him according to his prescriptions.

R’ Chaim was an expert in halacha and customs, and he always had learned debates with great authorities. He usually won, because his memory was sharp and clear and never failed him to the very last. When he reached his 80s and it had become difficult for him to continue running his small business, he asked his children to assist him in finding a place in a home for the aged. He used to say, “A person should not work until ‘the last clod [is thrown on his grave]’ but ought to prepare a few years for that road from which no one returns.” He chose Bnei Brak because it was not too far from Rehovot and he had close friends and relatives there who would be happy to visit. Hardly a day passed without a visitor. Nearly every Saturday night it was my turn to visit them.He was always ready with some nice sayings based on the Weekly Portion.He gave himself over completely to Torah and good deeds and continued to do so until he was 87.

He was buried according to his wishes in the Zichron Meir Cemetery, in the Kohen section. A year later his wife joined him and was buried right next to him.


[Page 315]

R’ Yehuda Hakohen Silbiger

My late father, R’ Yehuda, the son of R’ Shlomo Hakohen, was born in 5626 [1866]. He chose to learn Torah from an early age and was known as a child prodigy.

Later he enrolled in the yeshiva and was one of the students of the first admor of the Bobowa dynasty, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, when he served as the rabbi and av besdin of Oshpitzin. From that time on he was his close adherent and would frequent his home when he moved to Wisnicz [Nowy] and later to Bobowa. He was known as one of the bocherim who excelled in Torah study, spending days and nights diligently at study.

When he came of age he married Sarah, the daughter of the famous philanthropist, R’ Chanoch Wulkan. He opened a store and built his home in the city of his birth, Oshpitzin.

With the outbreak of the First World War he was drafted into the Austrian army and served in the reserves.At the same time, his oldest son, R’ Chaim, now in Canada, was also called up for regular service and served together with his father; they fought on various fronts. It was a rarity in those days for a father and son to serve together in the army.

He was a businessman all his life, and in the later years he dealt in coal and kindling wood and made a good living for his family.

My father was a congenial person and a man of exceptional character. He devoted time to Torah on a daily basis and also taught his household to be devoted to Torah and Hasidism, and he lived to see the coming generation following in the same path.

All of his family perished in the Shoah. The only survivors were his son, R’ Chaim, who emigrated to Canada many years ago and his youngest son, Yehoshua Pinchas, who lives in Jerusalem. (His son Avrohom went through four years of hell in various concentration camps and on the day of liberation, May 8, 1945, in the last muster at Rechenbach [?], when they announced the arrival of the Russians and the liberation of the prisoners, his heart gave out, he fell, and he died on the spot. HY”D)

My father died in the Sosnowice ghetto on 15 Elul 5702 [Aug. 28, 1942] and was buried there.

T.N.Z.B.H.


[Page 316]

R’ Nosen Hakohen Silbiger

My grandfather, R’ Nosen Hakohen Silbiger, served in Oshpitzin as an expert mohel for the townsmen and surrounding area. Most residents of the city and nearby villages were circumcised by him. He was a scholar and great talmid chacham. Together with his close friend, R’ Shimon Dov Steinfeld, he personally served the first admor of Bobowa, R’ Shloime’le Halberstam, when he was the rabbi and av besdin in Oshpitzin. Both were from the select and best of his students.

My grandfather, R’ Nosen Silbiger, excelled in his superior qualities. He was charitable, hospitable, and his house was open to any unfortunate. He was considered one of the wealthy people in town. His wine business was administered by him and his sons, and he owned properties in the little marketplace (Maly Rynek). In his courtyard in more recent times a brush factory was started which employed Jewish youths.

My grandfather performed the mitzvah of circumcision with utter devotion, and more than once he put his life at risk in order to perform it properly and on time.There was an occasion when a villager from one of the nearby villages summoned him to circumcise his son on the eighth day. As was his custom, R’ Nosen never refused to perform a mitzvah that came his way, and he acted quickly. He packed up his equipment and joined the villager on his cart on the way to the circumcision.

These were the days of thaw. A heavy rain poured down and the wagon proceeded with difficulty. By the afternoon they reached a bridge over a turbulent river.The water had overflowed the banks and covered the bridge. It was impossible to cross. Near the submerged bridge a number of farmers had congregated with their wagons and were patiently waiting for the rain to stop and the bridge to reemerge. The rain, however, did not stop and the bridge remained obscured. Hour after hour passed and the day was drawing to a close, so that if they waited any longer it would be too late to perform the mitzvah at its proper time. The baby’s father began to weep out of great distress and hopelessness.Then R’ Nosen took his hand and said to him: “Take my hand and we will attempt to cross the bridge on foot, because our wise men have said that no evil befalls those on a mitzvah errand.” The gentile farmers couldn’t believe their eyes.The two waded into the roiling waters, which came up to their waists.The mighty flow whipped at them, but they continued step after step until they had passed the treacherous waters.

Soaked to the skin, they arrived before dark at the villager’s home and managed to perform the bris before sundown. In commemoration of this event my grandfather would make a thanksgiving feast annually on that date.He would invite his family, relatives, and friends to the se’udat mitzvah and recount the details of the episode and bless the One who had performed miracles for him in that place.

It was grandfather’s custom to observe the shaleshudes mitzvah every Shabbat at his home, surrounded by his extended family: sons, daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as friends and neighbors such as R’ Dovid Wulkan, R’Meir Henich Gutman, and R’ Berel Wald, among others. They sang the z’miros pertaining to that meal and heard his words of Torah.

My grandfather had five sons, three daughters, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His oldest son, R’Avrohom, had moved to Nuremberg in Germany; R’ Chaim Yitzchok lived in Janzur [?]; R’ Yehuda lived in Munich until the Jews were deported from there. Four of his children live in Israel. R’ Shlomo Alter and the youngest son, R’Shimon, lived in Oshpitzin. His son-in-law, Eli Metziner [?] also lived in Oshpitzin, and his son-in-law, R’ Elchonon Eisenberg, was one of the prominent Bobower Hasidim, an educator and influential man. He had a good voice and would lead the services on the High Holy Days in the new bes medrish of the Bobower Hasidim.

Most of grandfather’s family perished in the Shoah, HY”D.

In addition to my grandfather there were other mohelim in town. They were: The shochet R’ Mendel Flinker, the shochet R’ Berish Neifeld, R’ Chaim Shimon Miller, and R’ Shmuel Schnitzer. The admor R’ Eluzer’l Rosenfeld and his son R’ Zvi Hirsh also circumcised their own sons, the sons of their relatives, and those who prayed at their bes medrish. Occasionally acting as a mohel was Rabbi R’ Chaim Yehuda Halberstam, the son-in-law of the av besdin, and chief rabbi R’ Yehoshua Pinchas Bombach.



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