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[Page 478]

Memories of my Youth

By Yizi Rosenberg

Contributed and donated by Alain Bornstein

Edited by Jerrold Landau

In my time (the time before the Second World War) the religious youth in Zawiercie were concentrated around two yeshivot. One was run by the Kromolówer Rebbe. The Yeshiva directors were then the Süssmann brothers, sons of “Guten Srulke” (Srulke the Good), Yerachmiel and Chaim Eliahu. The second yeshiva was located in the Beis Midrash. It was led by the older youths of the Beis Midrash with Aaron Silberstein and Yisrael Weitz at its head.

Our town was populated by Torah scholars who had a reputation in the world of Torah learning. The aforementioned Süssmann brothers are especially worthy of note. I spent time with them almost every day.

As far as I remember, during the years 1937 and 1938 they completed the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud several times, along the Tosafos [a commentary on the Talmud], Sifri [a midrashic Torah commentary] and the early and late Talmudic commentaries. They were in contact with the greatest Gaonim of their time, with the Gaon Yosha Dinenburg, the author of “Tzafnat Paanach”, and with the renowned Gaon Chaim Ozer Grodzinski from Vilna. They most certainly remained in contact with the previous Rosh Yeshiva of the Zawiercie Yeshiva, he great Gaon Reb Arieh Zvi Frommer (the Kozieglower Rov).

[Page 479]

With the brothers, I saw entire piles of responsa from the aforementioned Gaonim who had addressed the yeshiva youths as “Habochur Hagaon” [The scholarly yeshiva youth]. These great Gaonim did not address just anybody in such a manner.

I also remember that, on occasion, Yerachmiel used to study Torah for 18 to 19 hours without interruption until his voice became hoarse. Even in such a condition, he used to lie down on a bench and turn the pages of the Gerama. Ignoring his tiredness, he always asked me to pose questions to him relating to each and every page of the Talmud in order to refresh his memory. The first word I uttered was enough for him to continue and complete the entire page. I was constantly amazed at his depth of knowledge of the sources.

From this very circle, one must also mention the Kromolówer Rebbe and his sons, in particular his son Reb Moshele Rabinowicz, the son-in-law of the Radomsker Rebbe and the founder of the famous Yeshiva “Keter Torah” and the “Kibbutz Gavoha” (the latter was a Yeshiva for older students). This sharpness and depth of his knowledge were famous in the whole of the learned world.

The influence of the Kozieglower Rov was absolutely enormous.

Aside from the aforementioned personalities, in my time there were Torah scholars and truly sincere Jews in Zawiercie, such as Reb Chaim the rabbinical teacher, Reb Leibel Chwat, Reb Yaacov Rosenberg, Reb Avraham Helfgott, Reb Zelig from the Alexander Shteibel, Reb Mottel Bornstein, Reb Shiäle the rabbinical teacher, and many more whose names escape me at the moment. All these were engaged in learning Torah for its own sake day and night.

Zawiercie was also the home of very pious and dedicated Jews, such as Reb Shimale Kornitzer, Henech Srulke's, Yisroel Brieger, Landau, Benjamin Perlman, Israel Isaac Machtiger, Chaim Gabai, Moshe Sofer, Kopel Speiser, Avraham Cohen, “Shiäle with the beard” and others.

Jewish Zawiercie was destroyed by the cruel anti-Semitic enemy, the like of which the world had never seen before. Rabbis, Rebbes and those who studied together with all the Jews were led like sheep to the slaughter in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The soul weeps from pain and sorrow which one remembers the terrible destruction. One is constantly reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah.

“Would it be that my head was water, and my eyes a source of tears – I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. [Jeremiah 8, 23].

Written during my visit to Tel Aviv, Israel

 

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