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[Page 284]

My Grandfather Yaakov Shechter
and my Father Moshe Gross

by Etia Gross

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My grandfather Yaakov Shechter was a goodhearted man. He tried his luck in the United States at a young age, but he returned to Podhajce and continued his work. He stopped working during his old age, and supported himself from the money sent to him by his sons from the United States.

He was noted for his deep faith and desire to help other people. He would lend money without interest to those in need. However, his crowning trait was his hosting of poor guests.

Who does not recall these poor people, those who rely on donations, who would go from door to door? Among them were people who lost their livelihoods, fathers who were collecting a dowry for daughters who had come of age, as well as regular loafers whom, without delving into the reasons that brought them to that state, were for the most part destitute, bitter of spirit, and hungry for bread. The chief concern that they had when they entered the city was to find for themselves a place to sleep, for there were few people in the city who would run to invite them into their homes for the night, and they did not have money for a hotel (even at a low price). Thus began the blessed work of my grandfather.

My grandfather had only a room and a kitchen. Nevertheless, two or three people always spent the night with him. It was no simple task to set up two or three beds each night and to make them in the morning. Aside from this, there was the concern that the guests not be hungry for bread.

These donation collectors (called in Yiddish “Di Oreme Leit” – the poor folk), would go from door to door throughout the entire day. They would gather together individual coins, and were not willing to spend on food the money that they had collected with so much effort. They would arrive in our home at night tired and hungry. My grandmother and mother would always cook a warm soup for these needy people, and prepare coffee and a roll for them in the morning. The lives of these people were not simple – every person had his own troubles. Just as they differed in their troubles, they differed in their customs. Among them were quiet people who recognized the goodness of their hosts and offered their thanks. There were also those who received everything that came to them without expressing gratitude. However, my grandfather was not waiting for thanks, for he performed his deeds with great love for these needy people, and out of a soulful duty to assist his fellowman.

Many people passed through my grandfather's home, and among them were people of interest. Among them was one man who knew how to tell splendid stories. On account of this, he read before us “The Man of Stories” (in Yiddish; Der Mayse Yid). Another of them was skilled at imitating the sounds of various animals. There were also people of bitter spirit who did not open their mouths. We children loved to hear their stories. After dinner, we would run to Grandfather's home, sit on the bed, and listen attentively to the stories of the adventures that they experienced.

After my grandfather's death, my father continued on with this activity. Grandfather's entire residence served only for the hosting of poor guests. Mother returned from the store in the evening tired, but she would always serve dinner to these needy people. My mother worked very hard. We had a large bakery with many workers. Despite this, she found the time and energy to concern himself with these people. In addition to a place to sleep, they would also receive a plate of warm soup at night, and a cup of coffee and a roll in the morning.

My father continued on further in this manner, and distributed challas to the poor of the city every Friday. He would even bring a guest for the meal every Friday. I recall that one of the wealthy men of the city said that he would not take any guest for the Sabbath who had eaten at the home of Moshe Gross, for they were finicky and used to good food. I remember the following incident: Once, some Jew came to us for the Sabbath meal. My mother used to place on challa next to each guest. The meal began, and fish was served as the first course. The guest did not know that he would be served several other courses, so he ate a great deal of challa and fish. As was the custom in those days, after the fish course, chicken soup with noodles, meat, stuffed cabbage and dessert were served. However, this poor guest could not enjoy this bounty. After some time, this guest once again came to us for the Sabbath eve meal. When my mother placed the challa before him, he smiled and said, “I fell into this trap only once. Now I know that you eat to the fill, and there is no need to eat a great deal of challa.”

However, those good days passed, and the terrible Nazi era came. My parents, my sister and I were saved only through a miracle. My father made aliya to the Land in 1949. His first years in the Land were difficult, for he was not young, and he did not have any money. He worked hard and became rooted, and when he had amassed a sum of money, he immediately placed it at the disposition of the community. He founded a modest charitable fund, and he continued to assist his fellow by giving interest free loans to people in need.

[Page 285]

 

pod285a.jpg
Moshe Gross may he live (living in Israel),
and his wife Rivka of blessed memory

 

pod285b.jpg
pod285c.jpg
Leb Kressel of blessed memory
and his wife Pepa of the Gross family
Aba Rubinstock of blessed memory
and his wife Adela of the Gross family

 

pod285d.jpg
Michael Goldberg of blessed memory
Born in Podhajce on June 28, 1897.
Died in Tel Aviv on 4 Shvat 5673 (January 7, 1973)

 

[Page 286]

 

pod286.jpg
The Grave of Rabbi Yosef Aryeh[1] and Chana Brecher

 

The Inscription on the grave of
Rabbi Yosef Aryeh Brecher
The inscription on the grave of Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Brecher of blessed memory, who was the first Hebrew teacher in Podhajce

Here is buried
An upright and pure man, an example of an active person
A man of feeling, and preciousness of the spirit
Dedicated to studying of Torah
Observant – correct and assured.
He supported the poor with his fortune
He died with the name of the shining light
Rabbi Yosef Aryeh the son of Reb Dov HaKohen
Brecher of blessed memory
Died 25 Sivan 5706
About the age of 89
May his soul be bound in the bonds of everlasting life

________

After our terrible destruction in Europe
A memorial is engraved here
Also in memory of our pure and upright mother
Chana the daughter of Reb Chaim Mordechai
Fueurstein may she rest in peace
Who died in Podhajce on 16 Adar I, 5673
May her soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life

Here is buried
Rabbi Chaim Mordechai
The son of Rabbi Yosef Aryeh HaKohen
of blessed memory
Of the Brecher family
Who died on 14 Cheshvan 5726
At the age of 86.
He was of noble spirit and a precious man
Expert and sharp in all areas of Torah
The author of the Yehoash glosses on the Bible,
Torah Shleima Mishe Torah, Chizkuni
The Heichal HaKodesh Concordance, and others.
All the letters of the Torah were etched upon his heart
A genius in the research into Torah and tradition
His mouth did not desist from learning day and night
May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

 


Translator's Footnote

  1. The caption reads: “Rabbi Aryeh-Yosef Brecher, but from the grave photo and the transcription of the inscription, it is evident that this was an error, and Rabbi Yosef Aryeh Brecher was intended Return

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