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[Page 304]

Chapter Twelve:

Religious Institutions of Bialystok
Schools, Houses of Study, Minyans


ח    H

The Houses of Study of the Chanayk District

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Great Chanayker Beis–Medrash [House of Study]

35) The public also calls the Great Chanayker Beis-Medrash, Beis-Medrash Eiznban [railroad]. Chanaykes, in the west, at the edge of the city, is a residence for the poor part of the Jewish population in Bialystok. In the other Jewish neighborhoods of Bialystok, “Chanaykower” is a curse word to designate a provincial, uncultured person. The Great Chanayker Beis-Medrash is the oldest and largest in the district. It was founded in 5615 - 5616 [1855 – 1856]. It has up to 150 pews. Its original founders were: Shual RAJSKI (ROGOWSKI family) and Avraham-Moshe WOLJA, who donated the lot and for that reason he received three pews. The Beis-Medrash was rebuilt and enlarged by Yitzhak SZNAIDOWSKI, Shlomo-Moshe SZTURMAN and Jona FABELINSKI in 5646 [1886]. Those who prayed at the Beis-Medrash were from the toiling masses: wagon drivers, weavers and the like. A gemiles khesed [interest free loan fund] was created before the war [First World War] by Yitzhak ROGOWSKI and Avraham-Yakov WOLJA.

There was always much praying and studying in the Beis-Medrash. A Mishnah [codification of the Oral Law] Society and a Shas [Talmud] Society were established there. Among its worshippers and students were found Torah giants, such as the Sokolker Rabbi, born in Bialystok, and from that area, Reb Shalom the baker's son, who authored a scholarly book, Binyan Shalom [House of Shalom] on a course of debate in the Talmud. Reb Yehoshua-Leib ZYLBERFENIG, a giant of Torah, the father of the Rabbi Reb Avraham-Shmuel ZYLBERFENIG, also prayed and studied there. Recently, the Novaredoker community has studied in the Great Beis-Medrash – the Beis-Yosef yeshiva.

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Libe-Ruchl's Beis-Medrash

36) Libe-Ruchl's Beis-Medrash also has a second name, Beis-Medrash Eiznban hakhadash [the new railroad]. It is called Libe-Ruchl's because her heirs gave the lot in her name on Sosnowa-Brukowa Street. It was built in 5636-5637 [1876-1877]. It has 90 pews. Its founders were: Reb Pesakh-Elihu SZAFER haKohan, a Jew, a scholar and Reb Yitzhak GLOGOWSKI. Its first leaders were: Yakov WAJNTRAUB, Leibl BLASK (Leibl the gabbai [assistant to the rabbi]), Binyomin DOBRONEWSKI. Bricks began to be applied before the war, but it was not finished; it remained half wood and half brick.

This is the poorest Beis-Medrash in the city; the majority of its worshippers are from the lowest strata: wagon drivers, organ grinders[22] and beggars, but they are still noble Jews and take part in all of the needs of the city and charity. Up to five minyonim [groups of ten men needed for worship] worship there in the morning and several minyonim at Minkhah [the afternoon prayer]; there is an Ein Yakov [Inspirational and ethical teachings of the Talmud] Society and a Mishnah Society and a Shas Society.

The Beis-Medrash was named “the scholarly House of Study” in that neighborhood; several young rabbis came out of it. Several of Bialystok's Torah greats studied in it, such as the Rabbi, Reb Avraham-Shmuel ZYLBERFENIG ber Yehoshua and a son of Libe-Ruchl, a sister of the well known gaon [Torah genius], Reb Yehoshua Lieb DISKIN. Earlier, he was a bookkeeper for his father-in-law, Reb Avraham NIMCOWICZ; later he was the kehilla rabbi here[23]. In the city, he was considered one of the greatest and most intelligent scholars. The Rabbi, Reb Nakhman Yakov, a great master of the Talmud and post-Talmudic commentaries, knowing them almost by heart, also studied here. The shamas [rabbi's assistant] of the Beis-Medrash, Reb Yitzhak EJDELBERG, the father of the current Plotzker [Plock] Rabbi, was a great scholar.[24]

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The Baker's Beis-Medrash

37) The Baker's Beis-Medrash (on Zalawski Street) was founded by the baker's group in 5647 [1887]. There was a yeshiva in it for a time (see further).


Beis-Medrash Tehilim[Psalms]

38) Beis-Medrash Tehilim in Korczak's Alley (Odessa Street) was build half of wood and half of brick by Shmuel-Tzvi LIS and Gitl ZABLUDOWSKI, who gave the lumber for it from her father's Beis-Medrash in Markowi Gori and also money. The dedication of the Beis-Medrash was on P. Teitzei[1*], 9 Elul 5673 [11 September 1913], with the sefer-Torahs [Torah scrolls] carried in with a great parade and with song. The worshippers of the Beis-Medrash also include the local poor people. Ein-Yakov and the Midrash [Torah commentaries] are taught there. It has a gemiles khesed[25].

Eli Meilekh's Beis-Medrash

39) Eli Meilekh's Beis-Medrash, on Szulte Street, was built in 5661[1901] by Reb Elihu Meilekh, with a yeshiva, a beautiful Beis-Medrash, where the residents in that vicinity worship (see further).


  1. Until a few years before the war they were a separate group in the Beis-Medrash with their own Torah and rabbi to teach Tanakh[2*] and Mishnius. The group called itself kat-rine [joyful group]. Peddlers belonged to it. Return
  2. A student of his told me that it was demanded of him that he become the plenipotentiary [a person invested with the authority to act independently] for Reb Haim BRISKER. However, he was a man of great modesty and very pious. When Reb Haim asked him to relate a new idea about the Torah, he answered that he only knows what he does not know. Reb Haim asked him to tell what he did not know and was impressed by his pride in Torah and gave him semikhah [rabbinical ordination]. Return
  3. I was given a report about the last two Botei-Medrashim [plural of Beis-Medrash] by Reb Shlomo-Yakov RABINOWICZ, a map maker, a very fine Jew and scholar, the gabbai of Libe-Ruchl's Beis-Medrash for many years and the father of the young painter, Ben-Tzion RABINOWICZ. Return
  4. About this last Beis-Medrash and the disputes with Reb Shmuel LIS, who demanded 650 rubles from the Beis-Medrash, but the Beish-Medrash demanded an accounting from him, see the Bialystoker Togenblat [Bialystoker Daily Newspaper]. 1914, Numbers 98, 99, 113, and 118. Return

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Parshas Ki-TeitzeiDeuteronomy, chapter 21, verse 10 to chapter 25, verse 19, the Torah portion that begins “When you go,” which was read the week of the dedication Return
  2. Tanakh is an acronym for the Torah (the Five Books of Moses). Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writing); Mishnius is the collection of books codifying the Oral Law. Return

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