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[Page 205]

Bilgoraj Community Activists


Biłgoraj Community Activists

by Sh. P

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Reb Levi Stern, z”l

He was a tradesman, a baker by trade, a scholar, a very faithful communal affairs worker, and a zealot for Judaism, who dedicated himself to Jewish affairs. He participated in all the institutions for Torah and benevolent deeds, in all the societies, and in philanthropic institutions such as Linat Tzedek [for providing lodging for poor wayfarers], Bikur Cholim [society for tending to the sick], Chevra Kadisha [burial society], and Beit Lechem [provision of bread to the poor]. He gave of his energies with a full heart. In short, he was an early organizational activist, an influential Jew who stood up for his views, a Hassid, and a proper blend of Hassidism, activism, and zealotry. He was a good husband, a man of stature, an energetic man who could impose fear, possessing a balanced temperament, a man who was able to use his energies in a manner appropriate to the situation, the place, and the time.

He was called Levi Bracha's. Who in Biłgoraj did not know Levi Bracha's? He led the Rudniker Shtibel. Nobody would raise a hand or a leg were it not for him.

Woe over those who are lost but not forgotten.


Reb Yisrael Moshe-Itzis, z”l

He was a Trisker Hassid, and head of the Chevra Kadisha, always pursuing mitzvot, working in charitable and benevolent endeavors. There were times, acknowedged by the Jews of Biłgoraj, when he literally put himself in danger to save a fellow Jew. He was a man of stately countenance, a community activist of an earlier generation.


Reb Netanel Shier, z”l

He was a sieve and wine merchant, a Gerrer Hassid, and a very wealthy man, who loved charity and benevolence. He led a proper Jewish religious home. He knew how to make use of his wealth. He took sons-in-law from the finest Hassidic, scholarly homes, such as: Shimon Warszawiak, Chanoch Rotenberg,

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and Itamar Feferman. His sons were Chanoch Shier, Mendel Shier, and Yitzchak Meir Shier.

He was responsible for a generation of pious, Hassidic people.


Reb Avraham Harman, z”l

He was one of the finest Jews that Biłgoraj possessed. He was wealthy, and gave charity and performed benevolent deeds in a generous fashion. He fled from honor, not wanting and not allowing attention to be drawn toward himself. On the contrary, he was shy, humble man. He dedicated his time to Torah. He made sure to run a strongly religious home.

He worshipped in the Rudniker Shtibel. He was always at his place in the corner. He did not take on any trusteeship, and did not promote his opinions. Nevertheless, his entire presence evoked honor. Regarding such individuals, one says: “Woe regarding those who are lost but are not forgotten.”


Reb Eliezer Buchbinder, called Reb Eliezer Mohel, z”l

He was the son of Reb Moshe Buchbinder of blessed memory, with whom the writer of these lines had the merit of studying. He was a scholarly Jew, who spent days and nights with Torah. He benefited from the fruit of his own labor.

His son Reb Eliezer was a great Torah scholar. He was a mohel [ritual circumciser] in this city, without expectation of remuneration. He categorically refused anyone who wished to reward him, for he wanted to obtain the mitzvah in a pure fashion. He was involved in business, having a grocery story from which he earned his livelihood. Finally, he studied with young men.

He was one of the prominent Jews of Torah and Hassidism in Biłgoraj. Our generation is now bereft of such people – and that is unfortunate!

* * *

Biłgoraj had many scholarly Jews who were G-d fearing and wholesome. There were merchants and tradesmen among them. They did not know of politics. They were dear Jews with warm hearts. We will note only a few of them here, such as Reb Aharon Waeiberg, Yechezkel Teicher,

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David Furer, Tebl Stempel, Moshe Model, Yekutiel Fest, Yaakov Goldbard, Shamai Adler, Hillel Janower, and others.

Who remembers the Jews as they appeared on the Sabbath in their festive clothes, with their bright faces, entering the Jewish homes on Friday night or on festivals – the warmth, the genuine Jewish family life, the “your children are like olive saplings around your table”[1], the harmony between parents and child, the guests at the beautiful Sabbath or festival table.

There were social organizations that concerned themselves with their poor fellow man, providing them with everything. Whenever a poor Jew found himself in dire need, our dear tradesman stopped their work, and provided help for anyone.

Woe over those that are lost and are not forgotten!


Yona Akerman

Who from Bilgoraj does not remember Yona Akerman? He was honored by all circles and strata – Hassidim, householders, merchants, and artisans. Every one of them knew that Yona Akerman was the symbol of honesty, without airs, sycophantism, and politics. He attained the highest positions in almost all the official capacities of Bilgoraj, such as: representative in the communal council, representative in the city council, etc. His goodwill was evident in all of them. He was truly someone who did not chase honors, but honor pursued him. Simplicity and modesty were his way, despite his intelligence, tall stature, and knowledge of languages. He did just about everything with no expectation of reward.

He lived simply and modestly, in an ordinary manner. His profession was to write claims. He would give advice in all matters, mainly gratis. He literally hated rewards. Gentiles also recognized his traits, benefited from his advice, and honored him very much.

He did not benefit from the world. He lived like an ascetic, always suffering and never speaking out. He was the patron of the entire Akerman family. He took care of everyone, setting them up, even though he himself was satisfied with the minimum.

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He was one of the first ideological Zionists. He lived with and got along with everyone. He worshipped with Hassidim, and everyone honored him.

During the war, he travelled through Russia and endured a great deal of suffering. His refined character could not withstand the tribulations. He died alone in deep Russia. Thus did he live and thus did he die…

May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.


Shochtim[2] in Biłgoraj Before the Holocaust

Reb Eliezer Shochet, z”l

He was the type of honorable Jew seen of old, a great Torah scholar and a Hassid. He was good to his fellow man, and occupied himself faithfully in communal affairs. He had all the fine traits that are required for a shochet. He was honored by the Jewish people of Biłgoraj. He worked with great faithfulness and wholesomeness. He was killed in the great destruction. Woe!


Reb Zev (Velvel) Shochet, z”l

He was taken on as a shochet in Biłgoraj while still a young man. He was G-d fearing, wholesome, and a great scholar. As the son of wealthy Jews, he spent his young years in Yeshivas, and learned a great deal. He worshipped and socialized in the company of tradespeople., and studied Talmud with them. Later, he also became a mohel[3]. He did everything in a wholesome fashion for the sake of the mitzva.


Reb Yontshe Kantor, z”l

He was a young man, a Sokolower Hassid, and a merchant, who became a shochet in his later years. He was a scholar, G-d fearing, an activist for the Aguda cheder, to which he gave of his energies for education. He was involved in the cheder and Beis Yaakov in Biłgoraj. In fact, he took part in almost all the institutions. He earned his livelihood from the toil of his hands. He was beloved by his fellow, and greeted everyone politely. He had a good temperament, with all the traits mentioned by the sages. Who can give us a replacement!

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Psalms 128:3 Return
  2. Ritual slaughterers Return
  3. Person who performs circumcision Return

[Page 209]

Everything Vanished Like a Dream

by Simche Shatz

Translated by Moses Milstein

Whenever I find myself in solitude, a picture from 17 years ago, when I was a child of 13, comes to me.

As in a dream, I see the leaning house and its shingle roof, near the city power plant, the windows looking out to the garden full of green trees and leaves, the fragrant matchiekes calling to you and casting a spell just like a lover her love. The whole garden resembles a green velvet carpet from which various flowers in different colors sprout.

The windows are open all night long, the delicious fragrances filling hearts with joy and hope.

In the evening, when the sun goes down, it is a pleasure to sit in the garden surrounded by trees.

Old and young stream to the power plant's garden. Beautiful songs sung by Jewish youth elicit joy and pleasure in the listeners, and the hearty voices cut through the stillness of the night.

And Jews lived like this and were happy until the cruel days of the Holocaust arrived.

It was the end of August, a nice summer day, kids playing at Pinye Tsimring's place, catching butterflies, playing football. It is a pleasure, birds are singing, people are happy on this summer day, neighbors are sitting in the courtyard warming themselves in the sun, so lighthearted you want to sing along with the birds.

In a corner of the courtyard a young girl is sitting embroidering a kerchief, and singing

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a song to herself about a young tailor who loved a pretty girl. It seems as if the pleasant singing is coming from far away, becoming weaker and weaker until no sound is heard and then with one voice you hear others shouting, “Bravo!” She becomes embarrassed, reddens, and runs into the house.

The courtyard becomes strangely still, the dogs barking as if they sensed something bad. I am sawing wood with my brother when suddenly someone cries, “ Fire!” I scamper up to the roof of the house, and I see huge clouds of smoke billowing from the bridge street. People begin to speculate, one says it's certainly the bathhouse, another says it's the Boyars, the peasant community. Jews are standing around venturing guesses, but soon they see a large fire on the other side of the city, the Zamosc road, the Bagner road. There is fire on all sides now.

A panic ensues. Everyone carries bedding and other things to the lawns near Hershele's mill. The fire grows bigger, swallowing house after house, street after street. Streets disappear like: Rinek, Kosciusko, Zamosc, Bagner, Third of May, Shul Street, Pilsudski. The flames destroy the “big” synagogue, the besmedresh, the cheder, the yeshiva, city hall, the butcher stalls, the city cinema. The Kosciusko street down to the “sands” miraculously survives. The burned-out Jews go to neighbors, acquaintances, and family.

And thus, Jewish possessions and property, the result of hundreds of years of toil and effort, disappeared with the smoke.


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