Translated by David Rendelman
Was our town of Wolbrom beautiful?
Too much loved and too much endeared was our city of birth, Wolbrom. This should answer the question. We actually never believed that the nearby Poviatove towns of Olkusz and Miechov were better attired; Poviatove had institutes with officers, gymnasiums (with gymnastics and gymnasts – (this seems tongue in cheek – the translator)), many up-to-date and beautiful fashions, and more outside culture and civilization. However, with us, and certainly with the entire Wolbromer youth this bore no influence. For us the town of Wolbrom was the most beloved and the most beautiful.
For us there was no equal to the narrow Wobromer streets which were paved with spherical stones and narrow walkways of small sharp lace before the houses and homes of strange form and position. The market-place, very small, was an entire world in and of itself. In groups and in pairs we walked for many hours in the winter nights, up and down, all around the Kolinski- Denkmol. In a single night we would circle the market place a hundred times, and it seemed to us that the market-place was infinite in size. The walkway, upon which we used to walk in pairs, forgetting the world, far beneath the city mountain, upon a mountain in tbe Olkuszer forest, was like a fantasy world to us, and the girls with whom we walked, the beautiful princesses, the river from the other side of the city by the Black Forest, in which we swam around like little ducks, Adam-naked, and sending to a beloved one duck flowers – this was for us one giant sea.
In the town there was born and deeply breathed the healthy air from the surrounding forests, raised, absorbed in mama's milk all the secrets of Yiddishkeit, all nuances and subtleties of the written and the oral Torah, together with the deep beliefs in the great wonder of "and it will be after the end of days" and there grew unholy idealists, and each of us found ourselves before each idea having to make our choices. However, the deepest ideals, the deep belief in man, suicide, standing prepared to sacrifice for the common good – here the beauty of the inner soul gave our town her children, who in a small measure as well as in an excessive amount, in their way of life with their inner beauty made it such that the town of Wolbrom excelled and radiated throughout the region.
All us Wolbromers were proud of our city of birth and valued Wolbrom highly. Did we exaggerate? Perhaps. A village to fall in love with, if you'll pardon the expression. And beloved was Wolbrom to us, and remains as our city of birth. The local Zionists accepted the ideas of Zionism with a hard-line, as the realization was that our home-town was only a town of exile, although close to the heart, it was only a strange and temporary night's lodging.
And now, already almost twenty years after the tragic and savage death of our Polish Jewry, when Poland was no longer a night's lodging for Jews, not even a proper cemetery for the former proud Polish Jewry, who went away to the periphery of the world with smoke from the crematorium; and now, when our Jewish town – built during long generations of Jews and thus so deeply rooted – founded and destroyed, annihilated by the satanic Hitlerism, by the active and passive assistance of the prevailing majority of the local Polish neighbors – there lives in us the holy memory of our city of birth.
All, all mentioned our annihilated Jewish town of Wolbrom with the greatest affection, with the holiest tremor of the heart, and from all our hearts there screams the pain of the that horrid tragedy:
"Vi l'hai shofra dibli b'araa."
Of written Jewish historical facts of the rise of the Jewish settlement of Wolbrom -- we have none. The community records were destroyed together with the community. In memorial there remains the inscription of one from that time, of about fifty years ago, still remaining deep in the earth that has grown a few tombstones, from which I read "Year Heh ' Shin Chof sofit". And if one should accept that at that time there had already disappeared tombstones that were even older, being the old cemetery had existed for more than four hundred years before that time. My grandfather, Rav Sheime Shohet (that he should be remembered with blessings) Bornshtein, told me that before the old cemetery the Jewish dead were brought to Krakow, and that according to the tradition of the fathers the Wolbromer Jewish settlement had existed for a thousand years. How much of what I've heard is legend and how much reality is hard to determine. An example of what grandfather told me was that the name of the city "Wolbrom" came from the permission that a group of Jews coming from Germany received from the then owner of the forest region to chop down a part of the forest and settle there. This permission was supposedly called "Walne Ramb" and from there came the name of the town "Wolbrom". Fact or legend?
Let us then speak of the topography of the town which was founded by Jews though for a given time was a "Yiddin-rein" town. In the days when I was a young boy, until the great-fire in the first years of the twentieth century -- the market with the upper parts from the small streets, which drew out from the market, was essentially Jewish. Heading towards the ends of these streets a Polish character dominated, which were somewhat moved off, they had an entirely distinct appearance and generally carried special names such as "Oistres", "Wengress". It is difficult to imagine that the Polish ends of the streets should have existed at the beginning, or better said, the beginning of the town, and suddenly thereafter there grew Jews in the market. It simply makes sense that the beginning of the town was the center -- the Shul- Street and the market-place. In the measure of development the Jewish town attracted peasants from the nearby villages, which erected their cottages by the ends of the streets, which in time densely surrounded, like thick chains, the Jewish town. Later with suburbanization and the growing wealth of the Polish peasants, houses and land were purchased from impoverished Jews, they penetrated deeper into the center of the town, until… until finally there came the critical moment of Hitler's cataclysm, when the Jewish Wolbrom was annihilated and the former Polish peasants, together with new stratum peasants of the new villages, became the only owners of the town, the inheritance of all Jewish houses, shops, and great parts of Jewish possessions and goods accumulated by the Jews through hard labor and long Jewish generations.
According to all probabilities the accepted picture which we can make of the building of the town of Wolbrom , as incidentally from many other Jewish towns – had an evolutionary development. At first there gathered a great number of Jews in a line of villages in the vicinity until it was a true need was felt for a central point for the Jews and for economic purposes. Then they made their way through the given government, through the given lord and received the permission for the Jews to erect in a central point -- what should be accessible for all the Jewish settlements thrown about from the surrounding villages -- a shul, a mikveh, a yeshiva. A Rav settled there, a rosh-yeshiva, a shohet, as well as great merchants and artisans. Such at the beginning of the town was Shul-Street, and near the Shul they built a synagogue. When the population grew -- after a synagogue, a cemetery, a slaughter- house, community bath-houses with running water, which had its beginning from the well-rich "Stak". Around the Shul-Street with its community institutions were found bakeries, fish-sellers, butchers, storehouses, tanneries, candleshops. Such was built and developed, the town, a religious and economic center for the Jews of the surrounding villages. The business-character of Shul-Street is evidenced by the forms of the buildings which would bear witness of themselves. In the beginning the Jews brought animals from the vill. With the development of the town the Jews built a special, huge market-place, and Shul-Street remained the religious center, to which the Jews from the surrounding villages used to come to Shul for the High Holy-Days, to see the Rav with their questions and for judgements, to celebrate weddings, circumcisions, to use the mikveh. The town used to provide teachers and shohetim. When I was a youngster my father Rabbi Haimele Shohet (that he should be remembered with blessing) was the village-shohet. Every day he served a huge village or small Jewish settlements. Every week he shechted for kosher as many as 10-12 animals in the surrounding villages and even more calves. From this we can deduce that after the beginning of the twentieth century there lived in the villages around Wolbrom around 1000-1500 Jews. Whether in the surrounding villages there were Jewish inns or taverns? -- I do not know. They did not have an important place in Jewish lives in the villages, and were certainly not common. From my father I never heard about Jewish inns or taverns in the village. Only about Jewish shops, even more about Jewish artisans, and certainly about "wealthy" Jewish peasants and good-citizens. Later, when because of different decrees, boycotts, the Jews for the most part left the villages and settled in the town, and it was rare that those amongst them opened a shop; good- citizens, like Moshe Barmartsik, or as he was called "Blinder Moshe", and Yankel Karufel, lived off of their saving. The not well-to-do took advantage of their connections with the village: animal- merchants, in the manner of the Fadleshitser, butchers, like the Bedliner, or produce-merchants like the Mukaver, and the entire surroundings became village-peddlers.
Such was built and developed the Jewish town of Wolbrom and was educated as a business and artisan center for all the surrounding villages. Already by the eve of the Second World War, when the Poles already had occupied the town with fast positions in business and artisan work -- yet all Jewish Wolbrom played a high role in the condition from the growing of the surrounding villages and spreading out their borders in the areas of artisanship and business.
The beginning of the twentieth century was met with a Wolbrom Jewish community already well-established for generations -- both in the business economy as well as in artisanship, a spirit -- thrust with Torah and Hasidus. The town numbered around three to four thousand Jewish souls, who densely populated the Shul Street, the market-place, and drawing away from the market, like the Krakover Street, Miechover Street, Piltser Street, Elgoter Street, and yet others. The Jews of the town felt as if they were in their natural home, simply -- in their Wolbrom. And when something bad should occur from the Polish neighbors, and this happened often -- it was considered as an external disturbance, God's punishment that falls, bringing with it great or small sufferings, and then dissappears. The home remains the home. Who could talk of home like one could talk of Wolbrom, which, according to legend, had an underground pass, accessible from Wolbrom, that traveled throughout the region, and passed under the mountains (R'tsua) and stretched underground all the way to the very Land of Israel. And the proof: the salt mines in the nearby town of Olkusz (Nachum Halkushi). -- The Wolbromer Jews gave much personality to the town, even to the point of making it a holy city.
An occurrence, which brought a huge shock to the lives of the town was the "great fire" in the first years of the twentieth century. The rumor amongst the Jews was that the Goyim had set fire to the Shul, because it was taller than the church. (In the rebuilding, they made the Shul smaller than the church). And although the Polish firemen were supported almost exclusively by Jews -- they took care of only the Jewish houses on the borders of the Polish streets. In this fire the entire Jewish part of the town burned and became leveled with the earth. Only few Jewish houses, which were located among the peasants, were saved. The "great fire" was a turning point in the history of the town, such that the Jews even began counting the years from the "great fire"! A year, three, five, after the great fire. As a result of the fire, the wooden town was built anew (and walled?). Second -- a great part of those whose homes and businesses were burned were forced to throw themselves from business into artisanwork. And third -- part of those who suffered loss went to the nearby towns and with hasty speed further developed towns like Sasnovtse, Bendin, Zaviertshe, Tshenstochov. They were intermediaries between Wolbrom and the cities and gave a hatching of a push to intensify the penetration of the Poles in the center of the city, purchasing places from the Jewish ruins of the fire and putting up their own houses. As a symbol of the conquering penetration there was erected "Kominskis Kamenitse" in the market, the only three- story house in the town.
A second shock, although of a different type, was the Russian-Japanese war, and the subsequent Revolution of 1905. If the "great fire" stirred the static economic condition of the town -- the Russian-Japanese war with the subsequent Revolution, stirred the static way of life and way of thinking of the town. Besides a small part of the Hasidic Lamdanim, who grieved in the holiness of the Csar-institute which had its prince in the heavens and gave strength to their Russian Csar and therefore obedience to Russia -- the entire world of common people together with the more worldly Hasidim from deep in the heart wished a desolate end to Jewish suffering "sir thief" (extreme Yiddish sarcasm here -- translator). The same meaning was also shared in the town regarding the Revolution of 1905. Most Jews in the town, betting on an improvement in their lives, were sympathetic with the Revolution. All could be said when the Revolution arrived somewhere near Petersburg, Lodz, and in the town there reverberated its echo: only it seemed different, when this same Revolution broke into the town, it broke in like a storm which twisted all like a wire with the feet above and the head below. Then everything was disputed. Besides the very comrades the "unionizers" ("achdus" or "revolutionary leaders") were all Jews going around worried: "What will come of this?" And when the Revolution ended with the arrival of a triad of Russian souls and with the taking of the leadership from the "union" -- the town sighed with relief.
The high-leader of the union was Lozer Biderman. He was called Lozer Terk, or from his father's name Lozer Moshad Bides. He was of the best students in the synagogue, and became an apikorus (heretic) and went even to the level of a revolutionary leader of the "union" (party/movement). After the falling through of the revolution of 1905 he disappeared from the town, and after several years showed up once again in the town ill and staggering. My mother, who lived as a neighbor with the Bidermans, used to relate that Lozer Moshe Bider said that a man did not have any soul, and other "terrifying" things… I was already then a Gemara-student and knew of the Cohen-Gadol, who who served God for forty years and became a righteous man, and of Elisha Ben Abouyah, the Rabbi of Rabbi Meir, who became a heretic; however, the person of Lozer Moshe Bides was for me standing alive and for me violently effective. The Living Dead Monument of the Revolution of 1905 in the town forced me to think about much. When I was in summertime going from synagogue I came across him, a haggard hat and bones as white as chalk, he was walking back and forth on the walkway from his father's house. I remained standing as if soldered to my place, not tiring of watching him and thinking.
Soon he turned to his house. By the end of the summer the revolutionary hero, the first who brought the new ideas from the outside world into the town -- Lozer Biderman, or as he was called, Lozer Moshe Bides, died. When I was going from the synagog, passing by Moshe Bides house and heard, that Lozer Goyset, I was drawn like a magnet, not able to stop, went into the house and became astonished from the scene which I attended: the Havera-Kadisha dressed him in a tallis-katan, and with his final strength he tried to tear himself away from it, until his sister took the tallis-katan off him. I thought long about this: from where such a hatred to religion, and this in the last minute of one's life! He was buried in the cemetery.
A second personality from that era, who left on me a colossal impression -- was Natan Frenkel (called Natan Hefshi, may he live a long life, and lives in Hertselia), who went to Israel after the Revolution of 1905. About Zionism and Labor- Zionists, at the time I knew nothing of "unions". Back then, the land of Israel existed only in the Torah, in the prayers with a "next year in Jerusalem" in the prayer book. The messengers that came from there -- were to me legendary personalities, knotted and tied to the synagogue, kings, prophets, priests, the Greats, and with the belief in the coming of the Messiah. And here in the middle of the room a younger man is excited, and not only this, he his not even frum and he goes to Israel. The only acceptable answer is this, what I heard in the Gerer Shtibel, that he (Natan Frenkl) listened to a second type of apikurisim (heresy), that would prove to be worthless when the Messiah arrives.
After the happenings of 1905, there remained still on a certain side of the town, of the more or less carried away from the new outside winds: Avraham Yitshak Gelibter. I remember how he stood Shabbos davening in the Gerer Shtibel, stiff, tall, thin, with an open and small prayer book in his hand, not rocking back and forth and not stirring with his lips. They found on him, in his coat, keys (no one dared to carry on the Shabbos) and they threw him out of the Shtibel. Shortly thereafter he left to Warsaw. According to what people said he worked in the press; Avraham Yosel Shlomele Melamed's, who as a sign of his enlightenment wore a pressed collar on his shirt with a black silken cover, for a certain time he hung around the synagogue like a derufener and not indiscreet; Shlomo Fish the Blachershs' son who, as people said, went to Germany to attend a non-Orthodox rabbinate seminary. Today he is a non-Orthodox rabbi in England. Further, one includes the influence of the new winds from 1905 and which remained in the town: Mendel Shvarsboim, outwardly appearing as a Hasidic Jew and davened in Aleksander Shtibel, however inside he remained by his freethinking opinions; Alter Feldman, who became a truly observant Jew, a Gerer Hasid; the esteemed upholsterer in the town, later became one of the foundations for the foreign handy-work in the town.
In the years very close to the First World War the town began to feel strong economic competition because of the rise of Polish merchant enterprises, which penetrated into the center of the city. Such was the manner in the market, they opened Polish pubs or taverns which undermined the existent-possibility of the tavern of Motel Shenker, who, until then had lived comfortably in a commune: Motel Shenker, his brother, their sons and son-in-laws – together six families. There was then also opened the first Polish grocery food store and others. The rumoring amongst the Jews was heavy. They were not very far from actual economic damages, which was still general and minor; but the heavy-laden rumors came from the fear for the future, and certainly because of the strengthening anti-Semetic agitation and boycott which came with the Polish economic rivalry. The justifiable Jewish fear reached the high point with the blood-libel – near to the First World War, on the Hasidic Jew, Rabbi Reuven Fromer (may he be remembered with blessing), a brother of the Kojshiglaver Rav. After much fear, the blood-libel ended with an effective repeal by the help of great intercessions and by much money.
According to the then general standard of living in Poland, the town of Wolbrom was a town for making a living. A great part of the means of making a living was business. However, not a small place in the picture from the town was occupied by this condition: a great number of dealers in second-hand things which had with wife and children from early in the morning until late in the evening stepped on the new machines and drove to the markets in frost, rain, and heat, they furnished for the peasants clothing and wash; Jewish tanners from generation to generation which provided the surroundings the necessary leathers, like the branching out of families from R. Mordechai Yoav Shpigler from the Elgoter Street. The seeds of B'nai-Torah used to rise before dawn, run to the synagogue, grabbed for a page of Gemara, prayed with the first Minyan and hurried off to work. A second tanner-family from generation to generation was the Balbatishe Garber-family from the Shul Street, whose grandson, Yehiel Ben-Porat, lives today in Tel-Aviv. It is impossible to list all of the different Jewish occupations, the Jewish tailors, hat makers, oven setters, watch makers, goldsmiths, carpenters, and others. It should be mentioned however one deep characteristic from this mass of Wolbromer Jewish artisan from before the First World War, who grew with their virtuous lives…
Yehiel Kaval, a tall Jew with broad bones. Even though in deep old age he bent over quite a bit, as if an anvil would strike him on the shoulders, and his splendid black beard had silvered -- he still seemed as though he were forged from iron. Not one day did he miss davening shaharit and minchah-maariv in the Shul, even in the worst winter frost, when the great majority of those who usually attend would daven in the warm synagogue, he stuck with those few who refused to abandon their positions in the Shul. He was known by all the peasants in the area as a blacksmith and a locksmith. From his work he bore the honor of his numerous family, built a small house on Krakover Street and all his sons worked as artisans who loved their trade. One of his sons, Wolf Gershunovits, lives in Tel-Aviv and runs a lock-shop. Also two grandchildren, Mendel Stitsky and Esther Frost, are in Israel; Reuven Dovid – a tanner from the Shul Street, born a Jew, and dying at the age of one hundred ten years old, was a common man who sacrificed his earnings to such a degree that by his generous hand and economizing his money he made weddings for poor orphans, visited the sick, renovated the Shul-mikveh and wrote Sefer Torahs. Several of his great- grandchildren live in Israel; Eliezer, a tree master, an artist in his trade, strongly progressive in his time. He went away to America; the two ofrims, distinguishing oven-shtelers, by whom "locked" brick ovens the entire town in the frosty winter night were delighted, warming the shoulders by the ovens, drinking tea from their fietsikes and eating Shabbos tsholent from them; Moshe Yosef Soler. Summer and winter he was the first in the synagogue before dawn, and read out the entire Psalms. Davened with the first minyan and rushed home to his carpenter workshop. A small but healthy Jew with a thick black beard he took great pleasure in his delightful work, undoing the roar in an obstacle and bringing out a good jest, if he only had a for whom, but his astute blue eyes always shined with pleasure. In his long life he taught many Jewish youths the art of carpentry. Two of them, the brothers Binyamin and Avraham Tsveigntboim, they live today in Israel, learned carpentry from Moshe. Rabbi Alter Zeigermacher, a tall, slender Jew with a blond-gray koze-beard, who busied himself in his trade with dedication, as if it were the work of heaven, a Jew, a scholar. He was sharp, and loved to speculate on religious philosophy and the last posek in the subjects at hand were for him the "Moreh- Hanevochim" and the "Sefer Ha'Amida" by the Rambam. Also he erected a fliade of young shining watchmakers, goldsmiths; Rabbi Shimeon Becker, a righteous member of the community. A bit of a Torscholar, he never held his bread from any poor family in need, giving such that no one should be known "upon the mountain" until God Himself would help; an old teacher, a Jewish dressed representative, only, with a great blond tuft inside a Jewish hat. A brave man of science he was the first true teacher in the town on worldly subjects. In the well-to-do households he gave lessons in Polish, Russian, mathematics, natural sciences, and as much as he would conceal (in the way of knowledge - too much worldly information and ideas would have frightened prospective parents of those he would have tutored --translator) for the sake of making a living, he brought into the town the first sparks of worldly interest.
Finally to complete the picture of the town of Wolbrom for the first personalities, who built the foundation of Torah, wisdom, wealth and privilege. In the first place is the "Rothoiz", to which the eyes from the entire town turned with admiration, and the origins of which is not exactly known. As far as anyone could tell it always had this name, back when the town was "Yidden-rein", there was the moatse of shtokik house in the market intersecting Krakover Street with a tall, long gate. The owner of the house from the "Rothoiz" was called Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Erlich. In the town he was known only under the name Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Kolector. According to conversations he was in his youth a collector and sold tickets and won/earned forty thousand and became rich. However, the town knew his as a great forest merchant, and the town fantasy valuated the wealth from "Rothoiz" as equal to millions. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Kolector, a broad-boned man with a fine kept white beard, seemed as if he embodied Torah and wealth. He was a distinguished Gerer Hasid amongst the table sitters (tishzitsers) yet at the place of truth. When only the Gerer Rebbe was in the locality he went to Wolbrom, staying by Rabbi Avraham Mordechai and then the entire "Rothoiz' was converted into a Rebbe's house. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai led his position as patriarch of the town with stature and a generous hand. In the older years he created a small Hasid house of prayer in his house, which was called Rabbi Avraham Mordechai's Gerer Shtibl, and had a more strict than tolerant character of the usual Gerer Shtibl. The very color of strictness was taken from there, which here in his Gerer Shtibl were the highest known- announcers were his sons and son-in-laws: Rabbi Shlomo Erlich, Hendl Erlich, Rabbi Iser Zaltsman and Rabbi Velvel Alter, the strictest and most enlightened in the town. At the same time the old Gerer Shtibl became conducted from the extreme Hasidim with the produce-merchant Rabbi Moshe Feivel Blakavski at the head. However, then the old Gerer Shtibl every first night of Rosh Hashanah and Motsei Yom Kippur after davening came to Rabbi Avraham Mordechai's Shtibl to offer good wishes… And in the holidays at night the Hasidim from both shtibls got together to celebrate by Rabbi Avraham Mordechai with a good glass of Moshke with a bite to eat and a bit of true Hasidic dancing. From this respectable family there lives in Israel Devorah Tsanin Rbbi Velvel Alter's daughter and Shoshanah Rabbi Iser Zaltsman's daughter, her brother David Zaltsman (that he should be remembered with blessing) did not die long ago in Tel Aviv, across from the "Rothoiz" on Krakover Street was located the house of the iron- merchant Rabbi Yehoshua Verdiger, a Jew, a talmid-chocham and a respectable Gerer Hasid with his son-in-law Mendel Dovid Stashevski.
Right of the "Rothoiz" in the market was a distinguished place, the walled one-storied house of Rabbi Avraham Dovic Tsigler, who owned at that time the only textile business in the city and was considered after Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Kolector as the second wealthiest man and respected host. Of Rabbi Avraham Mordecha was the patriarch of the Gerer Hasidim, Rabbi Avraham Dovid Tsigler was the patriarch of the Aleksander Hasidim in the city, and as Rabbi Avraham Mordechai's son-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Dovid's son-in- law Rabbi Moshe Hirsh Hocherman was counted among the strictest observers among the Aleksander Hasidim, his son, Gershon Hocherman was of the pioneers from Wolbrom who first made aliyah to Israel and is now a respected resident of Haifa. Between the houses of Rabbi Avraham Mordechai and Rabbi Avraham Dovid was located the house of Rabbi Hanan Gotlib, who was far from the other two in financial wealth. However, he was rich in his Torah and considered as the patriarch of the Radosker Hasidim. His sons are in Israel: Obadiah, Mordechai, Dovid, and Meir, all – Zionist activists in Wolbrom and pioneers, who made aliyah to Israel after the First World War. And if we speak already about the Wolbromer Hasidim-Shtibls we should mention the Fintshever Shtibl. The Fintshever Hasidim consisted mostly of small merchants and artisans, who were not specially gifted in Torah, but were warm spirited with the Fintshever Rebbi. Moreover there were in the town hard-working poor artisans, traveling salesmen, market riders, who went and warmed in the local Wolbromer Rabbi's home, Rav Alter. Later, his son, Rabbi Yosef Natan Rotenberg, and yet later, his son-in-law, Rabbi Shalom Rukeach. Rabbi Shalom's son is living in Hertseliah. And we should in passing mention the respected and distinguished families, as the: Estreichers, Potashes, Tsveignboims.
Certainly, the common world gathered in the synagogue in the morning, and in the evening to daven and in the social mitzvot such as visiting the sick, reciting Tehillim, the study of Mishna. Their spiritual leaders were poor in the way of finances. However, wealthy in Torah, which used to every Shabbos after resting the spiritual thirst, after interpreting for them the Parsha of the week, a perek of Mishnah, a bit of Midrash and for every yoma difgra something from M'anina D'yoma. From these Talmud-Chochamim, we will here pause on Rabbi Mordechai Wolf and his son-in-law Avigdor Hirsh. Both were of small physical stature, strong endurance from eating only to keep up the body and serve God with all 248 limbs and 365 arteries from the morning upon opening their eyes until going to sleep at night. Both were clear in all heavenly ways and paths as well as in the home, and they knew only the way from home to the synagogue, the shtibl and the mikveh. With one word: Both, the father-in-law with the son-in-law, were complete tsadiks, which were seldom found even in that time; however, then the father-in-law with the son-in-law typified two extra-special men. Each had his own way in Torah and tsedakah.
The father-in-law Rabbi Mordechai Wolf with his short, thick beard and with his black burning eyes, like a volcano spurting fire. Not one minute was he able to sit in one place. Here he sits absorbed in Shila Hakodesh. Here he hurries to his spot, sweeps up his eyeglasses unto his forehead, bends to all sides the forward part of his body, pressing hard with both hands on the table. Here he runs several steps there and back, and here he sits again bent over a book and immediately thereafter stops and the whole time he hums, he hums like a stormy sea. His son- in-law Avigdor Hirsh opposite him with a little beard barely several white yellow circular thin tiny hairs and soft blue constantly smiling eyes, sat and learned gracefully with a quiet delicious little nigun. The father-in-law Rabbi Mordechai Wolf learned with his students with his soul on fire, demanded from them going beyond the frontier frumkeit and discipline of the being – a true Shammai; his son-in-law opposite him spoke sweetly of Israel, sweetly of the humps of Divine justice, constantly his students listened patiently and patiently they translated all podrovne – a true Hillel – both completed and raised the value of Torah and frumkeit to the highest of madregas, to the highest of heights.
From after the short moment from farveltlechung from a small part of the Jewish youth in the year 1905, until just before the outbreak of the First World-War – the toof Wolbrom was back to being ruled with frumkeit , Torah and Hassidus. There were also foreintselte, at each side fortgeshritene, as a road to take: Rabbi Yehoshua Mendel Frenkel (Natan Hafshi's father), a tall Jew with a fine, kept, stately beard. A whole week he is away from home, where he worked as a business employee, coming home for Shabbos and davening in the Gerer Shtibel, where he used to relate the news from "Hatsfeira" in the town; Rabbi Haim Yitshak Tsveigenboim, an intelligent Torah Jew. Before the Second World War he made aliyah to Israel and died there; Rabbi Hershl Bidlovski, a well-built Jew with a broad open face and round beard, a social worker, a guardian; Rabbi Velvel Alter, a thin Jew with a pair of intelligent eyes and a gray and trimmed beard, and others. Their fortgeshritene arrived to expression through reading a newspaper, Avraham Mapu and endless books, and certain in their sympathies with the duties of Zion. Later they were the founders of the "Hamizrachi" in the town. However, none doubted their frumkeit. Even the extreme Hasidim knew them and their way, took them in jest, picked on them a bit, upon which they felt strong enough to answer with an opposing hint of ineffectual strength.
The Torah, frumkeit and Hasidus in the town flowed and struck with such strong determination, that it carried away even the fortgeshritnste who had sent their children to the synagogue and worried, hoping that they should excel in learning and in frumkeit. With her Torah, frumkeit and Hassidus, the town's humble fame grew in the region and the citizens of Wolbrom could declare with humble pride, "I am a Wolbromer". They had what with to be proud of: the synagogue was full with diligent students, young geniuses, young students, young married men, young adults put up by their in-laws as boarders so they could study. They drew Torah from the Wolbromer Well and there came also students from the nearby towns and not only from the nearby ones. In the yeshiva in Wolbrom's synagogue there came to learn students from seventeen kilometers away, from Sosnovtse. From Bendin and from the even further Kelts, Yendsheyov. Not the summertime heat and not the wintertime frost and blizzards could stop even for a minute the rhythm of the work of the Creator in the synagogue. Already four o'clock in the morning in the immense cold and blizzard, the secret beckoning light from the blitz-lanterns and oil-lamps, through the many high windows of Wolbrom's Torah Temple – awakened and drew near the entire Torah-enlightened youth and town, who tore themselves away from their warm beds, from their still child-like dreams and sweet sleep, washed the hands, quickly got dressed and with their dangling tsitsit and girdled frocks, they ran from all streets, as if drawn by a magnet to and into the synagogue. All the long tables and benches were already by five o'clock in the morning thickly sat around and the cacophonous symphony of the Gemara nigunim tore apart the town's streets and split the heavens.
The first violins in this synagogue symphony were played by the three Avrahams; Avrahamele Hanam (Gotlieb), Avrahamele Moshe Feibls (Blokovski) and Avrahamtshe Haimele Shochets (Shtark). All three were considered as the shtetl geniuses, however if the first two Avrahams stood out with their flame-firey rapture, with laying and building many storied and many turreted towers -- Avrahamtshe Heimle Shochets stood out with his harshness and never was saturated of searching for truth. With his learning "in place", with his constant deep probing to grasp every Torah subject, deeper to understand the true meaning and reason for every peirush of Rashi, from every "V'am Tomer", from Tosefta and from every V'duk from Maharasha. The sitting place of Avrahamthse was therefore always besieged with young synagogue boys, the Prachei-Cohana, with their open Gemaras in hand, who patiently waited for their turn, Avrahamtshe should translate a difficult passage of learning, with whom they were baffled, not to go further than a step, and they were never disappointed in their young Rabbi. Here the three Avrahams were considered as the best learners; Ovadiah Gotlieb (today in Israel), Avraham Grossman, Moshe Goldkorn, Cdovid Yizraelevitsh, Moshe Barzisavski, Avraham Weinshtein, and others. Amongst theses youth of the synagogue, Avrahamtshe's students took the place of honor, the head of the table: Yehuda Frenkel (died in Israel), his brother Menashe Frenkel (murdered), Yehiel Haberfeld (murdered), the brothers Yitzhak and Shalom Alter (murdered), Moshe Munovits (murdered), Leibish Shvartsboim (died in Vuratsov before the war), and a long-life to Yechiel Ben-Porat (Israel), Meir Kivkavitsh (Israel), Yehiel Chocherman (America), Yishaya Korinbrot (Israel) and others. These were the pillars of the synagogue.
From being absorbed in learning "in place" in the sea of students, the group became absorbed in the religious philosophy of the Sefer HaMida, Moreh N'vucchim (Guide for the Perplexed). Later this was still insufficient for their cravings. They started to search the worldly picture, reading books, newspapers, learned Hebrew, Polish, arithmetic. History, geography, natural sciences, with the help of "Shevah Volkovski's" letter which was published in Krakow. For a time the "picture" was moving along strongly and conspiratorially between the synagogue walls. The city frumkeit, meanwhile, did not notice the change which came before them in the synagogue in the deep hidden-ways of the evil eye. When the matters had awoken, as it had already absolutely called for an organized cleaning of the house, it was first created in the synagogue. An uncharacteristic organization was created in the synagogue through students -- for the gathering of money and help of the needy.
The first who detected the danger was Rabbi Mordechai Wolf. He took fire in his way. He screamed out loud "a city burns and people remain silent". Between Mincha-Maariv he gave a bang on the bima and proclaimed and announced: from today onwards I publish a newspaper. The first edition is "Hear Israel, God, our God, God is One". When this is well understood, I will publish the second edition. Rabbi Mordechai Wolf's noise had a second effect: from one side was felt the beginning of the flaring up of a battle between fathers and sons, splitting families. From the second side the open battle was felt, such that the bolder of the synagogue's students brought the organization out from the four walls of the synagogue -- out from the conspiratorial into the open light. The organization was carried over to a small shtibel on a tiny side street. The organization went on to call itself "Achiozer" (Brother's Helper), and went even further to carry with it a Zionist character. At the first gathering in the new location was gathered a managing committee made-up of: Avrahamtshe -- presiding chairman, Ovadiah Gotlieb -- secretary, Yehudah Frenkel -- treasurer, Dovid Yizraelevitsh -- manager, and managing members: Menashe Frenkel, Moshe Munavits, Yenkl Zaltsman, Yehiel Hocherman, and Itshe Alter. At the first meeting it was decided: 1) to collect money for trees for Y'ar Hertzl, 2) purchase shekels, 3) found a library, and 4) welcome girls into the organization. For the first time in Wolbrom's existence there was in the streets, to evil wonder from the elder generation, seemingly Jewish students in the company of Jewish girls, walking together to Labzov, to the river and to the surrounding forest. The battle in the town blazed, however these flames were extinguished by many serious and many tragic battles. The First World War broke out. Rabbi Mordechai Wolf had precisely warned the guilty parties. These guilty parties were the Jewish students, who went astray of the righteous path.
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