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Reb Yehoshua Roth zl
by Moshe Bank
He came of a large family and his father, Reb Hirshele Roth, may God avenge him, had to work hard, helped as he was by his elder children, to support his family decently. Reb Hershele was a generous man, respected by all. His home was open to the needy and everybody was made welcome. He kept the mitzvot religiously, be they minor or important; set aside the time for Torah study, learned, and did all he could to help bring up the Jewish children in the spirit of the Torah.
A member of the Agudat-Israel party, he was its chairman in the shtetl. Reb Hershele loved Eretz Israel and preached about emigration and participation in its rebuilding. And, indeed, he lived to see his son Yehoshua and two of his daughters realize his dream.
In matters of faith and the mitzvot Reb Yehoshua followed in his father's footsteps. To ensure a livelihood in Eretz Israel he learned carpentry and electricity. It was rare indeed in the shtetl of those times to see a youth learned in the torah turning into a craftsman, and such a step took a lot of courage.
After marrying Adele, nee Schertz, also of Brzozow, they went to Eretz Israel in 1935. Making their home in the north of Tel Aviv, they opened a shop of electrical appliances where Yehoshua did repairs. He was always optimistic and well-tempered, seeing the positive side of everything and slow to assign blame. He was soon well-known for his honesty, his natural tact and kindness, and his readiness to help others.
During the Me'ora'ot (disturbances) of 1936-39 and the conflict with the mandatory government, he was fully confident of the victory of the Yishuv and whenever we met would try to persuade me to buy a plot of land, to support my family when they finally arrived.
When the Second World War broke out we began receiving the Job's tidings of mass murders and massacres perpetrated by the damned Nazis. These rumors were confirmed by eye witnesses who had seen the outrages themselves. Then, by ones and twos, the rare survivors who had managed to live through this hell began arriving in Eretz Israel, penniless and empty-handed. Yehoshua's home was opened to them and he did his best to help.
I was a soldier in the Jewish Brigade of the Middle East British Army at the time, and hardly ever managed to see him when on leave. He was consumed by the horror of the Holocaust. He encouraged me, praising me for enlisting to fight against the Nazi Amalek which had risen up against our people. Repeatedly he predicted the creation, in our time, of a Jewish State with a Jewish Army which would repel any attack by our oppressors.
He supported the underground movements which fought to drive out the British and establish an independent Israel. When the war ended in Europe and escape routes from Europe and illegal immigration to Israel were organized, some survivors from the shtetl arrived as well. To our sorrow they were just a handful, arriving gradually one by one, altogether comprising some tens of people. They were wrecks, physically and mentally, in dire need of help and encouragement. Yehoshua, God rest his soul, comforted them and did all he could for their rehabilitation. His open house was regarded by the members of the shtetl as a kind of Institution for assisting them in being absorbed in the country.
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He initiated and assisted in forming a mutual fund for Brzozow survivors which he helped to manage till he died. The loans which the fund could afford to give were always given in a kindly and generous spirit, accompanied by the hope that the recipient would soon stand on his own two feet and be able to help others.
Another of Yehoshua's enterprises was the initiation of yearly memorial services for our martyred brothers of the shtetl, at which ceremonies he always abjured us never to forget what had been done to them. These memorials were also annual get-togethers for members of the shtetl at which reminiscences were exchanged and a public Kadish said in memory of our dead. In all these beneficial activities he was aided by his wife, Adele, who devoted herself to them heart and soul, just as he did.
He bequeathed his devotion to these memorial services for our martyrs to his children, and they made an effort to go on holding them after his death. But it must be sadly admitted that with the passing away of the older generation and the aging of those remaining, it becomes more difficult to bring the members of the shtetl to the services than it had been formerly, a fact which we can only regret.
In his last years Yehoshua suffered from heart trouble, and had to slow down in all his activities. One result of this was that he devoted more time to torah studies and intensive reading of Jewish lore. In those years, when my wife and I happened to visit Tel Aviv on the Sabbath, we would pay them a visit, to enjoy Adele's delicacies ranging from a plate of cholent to a Sabbath pie. Yehoshua would be seated at his ease in an armchair, a book of musar (morals) in his hands and his face glowing with the transcendental spirit of the Sabbath. He would explain the nature of the book to me or explicate the weekly portion. Sometimes we would be carried away by memories of the shtetl and at one time he remembered how, in my childhood, while I was still attending the Heder, I would sometimes visit his home on Saturday afternoons to be tested (farerren in Yiddish) by his father, Hirsheleh, God rest his soul a custom among the Heder pupils. After being tested and having proved that I had progressed satisfactorily, I was awarded with cookies and fruit (Shabbas Oybst in Yiddish).
For many years Yehoshua would take his family to tour the country on Independence Day enjoy the sight of the mountains and valleys, smell the perfumes of spring and enjoy the general progress and development. He would visit friends and relatives and when in the Northern region would come to see us. Whenever I offered him a head of lettuce or a radish straight from the garden he would compliment me, saying: Though you are not too strict about the mitzvot, you are fulfilling the mitzvah of settling in the land, and this outweighs all the other mitzvot.
I enjoyed seeing him relaxed, delving into the past but engaged with the present and looking forward to a better future for the people of Israel in their land. He enjoyed his children's advancement in life, the way they combined their home way of life with that of the outside both observing traditional values and progressing with the times. Finally, in November, 1973, his heart, which had withstood so many crises, finally gave up the struggle and he died.
We mourn for those we have lost but cannot forget.
by Avraham Levite
While in the shtetl Yehoshua was a devoted member of Tze'irei Agudat Israel. By nature mild-tempered and tolerant, a result of his upbringing, he concentrated on positive activities such as culture and Torah studies, not on political conflicts and arguments with other parties, as was customary among the young members of the various political groups.
His contemporaries, youths at the Beit Hamidrash, sons of Baaley Batim, would, upon completing their Torah studies, enter their fathers' businesses or open a store of their own. Yehoshua went his own, individualistic way. Though belonging, as we have said, to a non-Zionist movement, he nevertheless achieved Zionism by their deeds, going to Eretz Israel with his wife, Adele, in the mid 30's.
Unlike other pioneering youths who went to
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Hachshara (training camp) before going to Israel, Yehoshua trained himself privately and independently: he learnt a trade in order to be able to support himself there by the labor of his own hands, and for many years he worked as an electrician.
When I arrived by immigrant ship in September, 1945, I was forced to wait for several weeks at the Ayanot Kibbutz, unable to leave until an identity card of the Mandate Government had been arranged for me. When I received the card and became a legal citizen I went to Tel Aviv and naturally went straight to the home of Yehoshua and Adele in Dizengoff St. I walked along stumbling and hesitating, cowering under the burden of all that I had been through, overcome by misgivings: Would there still be a common denominator between us, after we had been separated from each other before the dread Holocaust, and had lost all connections for such a long time? Our meeting was highly emotional and they received me cordially and warmly, as one welcomes a survivor.
All the remnants of the Holocaust from our town, those with no relatives in the country, knew only one address in Tel Aviv Yehoshua Roth. Their apartment, consisting of one room and a shared kitchen, in which they lived with their two daughters (before the birth of Tzvika, long may he live) was spacious enough to take in anyone who came to them.
I shall never forget the scene when I first entered the home of Yehoshua and Adele. As I opened the door leading to their room I saw an enlarged picture of a beautiful baby girl on the wall. I pulled up short, feeling a chill down my spine. I knew that picture it was a photograph of their eldest daughter, Dina, long may she live, who was by now a school girl. Yehoshua and Adele had sent the portrait to their parents in Brzozow before war had broken out. The proud grandparents had shown it to the whole shtetl, boasting of their lovely grandchild. The shtetl had been like one large family and everyone was everybody's neighbour. The picture was passed from hand to hand and was seen by all, both on the bridegroom's side and on that of the bride, either at the Roth's or at the Schertz's. What joy and excitement! A shtetl baby in Eretz Israel! All their love of Eretz Israel and their hopes for the future which were centered on it were reflected in their eyes. And the families themselves what a privilege! A granddaughter in Israel!
What has happened to all those people? The grandmothers and grandfathers, where are they now? Where are all those who devoured that picture with their eyes, hoping in their heart of hearts that perhaps they, too, would live to see such a consummation for themselves?
When I told Yehoshua and Adele why I was so upset they were overwhelmed and tears appeared in their eyes. For them my story meant a gruss from their martyred parents, a message from the beyond, from a time when the shtetl, together with the whole Diaspora in Europe, were swept away to be drowned in a sea of blood.
In commemorating the shtetl and its inhabitants it is our duty to mention Yehoshua, God rest his soul, who devoted most of his time and energy to the commemoration of our martyrs.
Every year until his death, he would organize the days of memorial; saw to it that a memorial tablet was paced in the cellar of the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, initiated and managed the Charity Fund named for the martyrs of our town.
Yehoshua attempted to bring out a Memorial Book in his time and contacted some of our people for the purpose. He talked to them, trying to persuade them to realize the importance of such a project, but finally gave up for lack of response.
Now that his dream has been realized, though he has not lived to see it, let us salute his activities and devotedness to all that was connected with the memory of our shtetl. May his memory be blessed!
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by Moshe Bank (Feingold)
The friendship between the Parnass family and mine went back to our grandparents who prayed at the same synagogue and whose shops were next door to each other.
When I was still a child, my grandfather, of blessed memory, used to send me with a bowl of Mishloah Manot (sweetmeats) every Purim to Reb Shimeleh Parness of blessed memory Moshe's grandfather. Reb Shimeleh had a limp and used a walking stick. He would sit smoking
a long, twisted pipe which never left his mouth. These two, the stick and the pipe, were his trade marks. He was a strictly observant Jew and insisted on his children and grandchildren's observing the tenets of Honor thy father and thy mother' down to the last detail. In his last years Reb Shimeleh transferred his haberdashery shop to his son, Naftali Hersch, God rest his soul, father of Moshe, keeping one corner of it for himself, to sell paper goods for writing, packaging and decorating purposes.
It is no wonder, therefore, that I was well-acquainted with Reb Naftali Hersch's sons, especially Moshe. Later our similar life styles brought us together. The family belonged to the Bobov Hassidim and when the sons grew up they were sent to study at the Yeshivot. While still a child Moshe was known for his tendency to play pranks and for his impudence, but he was forgiven much because of his wit and intelligence as well as for his facility in Knowing how to answer. As a youth he was sent to the Yeshivot to study, changing them until he finally reached the capital Warsaw where he attended the family Metivtah and was confirmed as a Rabbi.
In Warsaw he peeked and was hurt, as the saying goes, became captivated by the Zionist idea, frequented Zionist clubs, read the modern literature and finally joined the Zionist movement.
When the time came for him to enlist in the Polish army he did not resort to self-torture (plaggen sich in Yiddish) as did other Yeshiva youths, but was recruited for two years of active service. When he was released he returned to the shtetl, shortened his capote but continued observing the tenets and the traditions. His acute awareness of the futility of remaining in Poland made him join the pioneering groups which were preparing themselves for immigration to Eretz Israel. It was this that brought him to Ahdut Po'alei Zion, a movement whose headquarters were shared with the Zionist Pioneering Youth Association Gordonia, and it was there that he met his future wife, Minna Shtertz, long may she live. They married and came to Eretz Israel in 1936.
The young Parness couple settled in Petah Tikvah and had a hard time making a living. Those were the days of the Me'ora'ot (events a euphemism for Arab terrorist attacks throughout the country) when insecurity and unemployment were rife in the land. Petah Tikvah, Mother of the colonies, boasted a large number of workers, intelligent and aware, and Moshe, able and articulate as he was, quickly found his place among them and served as their spokesman.
In 1938 Moshe and his wife joined a group of workers which initiated a settlement of subsidiary farms in the Beilinson Quarter, an eastern suburb of Petah Tikvah. In time and after much labor these farms produced vegetables and fruit, and the small hen-coops supplied eggs and meat as needed. It was also there that their two sons were born, Baruch and Arik. A year later Moshe, obeying the call of the national institutions, enlisted in the Supernumerary Police and was active in the Haganna. With the outbreak of the War of Independence he was called up and made responsible for vehicles in one of the large Zahal camps in the vicinity. After his release in 1949 he soon adjusted to civilian life and devoted himself to the absorption of new immigrants. He worked as a building laborer and, at the request of the Petah Tikvah Secretariat of the Workers' Council, became active in the Building Laborers' Union. He was later elected to the Council's Secretariat and put
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in charge of all its assets and properties, devoting himself to this task until he retired.
In his active period he had earned the confidence of the workers of Petah Tikvah who elected him to represent them at Histadruth conferences, in the Center of the Eretz Israel Workers' Party, in the Agricultural center and in other institutions. Within the framework of his activity in the Hapo'el House in Petah Tikvah is named after him.
Moshe also devoted some of his time to municipal matters, serving as chairman of the Building Committee on behalf of the Municipality. He was active in the struggle for Jewish labor and a decent living for the workers, the latter activity having won him his renown.
It was my privilege to get to know other aspects of his personality. His wife and I had been friends as far back as the shtetl. In Israel I visited them regularly and our friendship became firmly established when it transpired that they knew my future wife, who was a kindergarten teacher in their district and taught their eldest child.
He loved books and was familiar with Hebrew literature in all its facets. For many years it was our custom to go together to the hot springs of Tiberias and the Dead Sea, which gave us the leisure to exchange ideas on different subjects and reminisce about the distant and not-so-distant past.
The Friday night meal in the Parness home was conducted in the traditional manner. The table would be covered with a gleaming white cloth. Sabbath candles were lit, wine and challot were laid out, and Moshe would bless the wine in a ringing voice, using a traditional melody full of the Neshamah Jetherah. Later, in the manner of govrin Yehuda'in (Jewish gentlemen) he would break off pieces of the challa and hand them around. The zmirot (songs) accompanying the meal evoked many memories and took me back tens of years, to the Friday night ceremony in my father's house. When the spirit was upon him he would dredge up from his memory all kinds of melodies, whether from the Modzitz Hassidim, mostly sad, or from the Bobov Hassidim, which for some reason always reminded me of marching songs.
I remember that a melody sung once by Moshe reminded me of an air I had heard as a child. He immediately hummed the whole melody which, according to him, came from the Bukovsk Hassidim and was of the tear-wrenching kind. He had a clear singing voice, a slightly metallic tenor, and every prayer he intoned or melody he sang was rendered in a most pleasant manner. He often passed before the Ark in his synagogue, to the great pleasure of the congregation.
In him were intermingled both the mundane activities in the service of the public which he represented, and an insistence that the public follow all those national tenets and the various aspects of Israel's traditions which had become sanctified by generations and which Moshe, God rest his soul, regarded as sublime, a divine thread forging the chain which linked us to Israel and the past.
It is thus I shall remember him always. May his memory be blessed.
by Moshe Bank (Feingold)
On his mother's side Shmu'el, blessed by his memory, was the grandson of Reb Ephra'im Stiglitz. Reb Ephra'im was one of the richest most highly respected men in the shtetl. When he later moved to Rzezow with a congregation many times the size of that of Brzozow, he remained one of the most prominent and eminent citizens there.
His father, Reb Ya'acov Fiderer, came from Eastern Gallicia. He was a clever man with a realistic attitude both to conditions in general and the state of the Jews in particular, so that he looked for every possible way of getting Shmu'el out of Poland.
I knew Shmu'el ever since we were children for he went to school with my brother, long may he live, from the first grade of public school till they graduated from high school 12 consecutive years. In all that time Shmu'el was a frequent visitor at
Our house and we would sit talking for many a long hour so that I really got to know him well. He was a gifted boy and did well at school; handsome and snub-nosed, fair haired and of a
typical Goyish appearance. We had mixed classes at the Gymnasium, boys and girls together, and more than none of the Polish girls was attracted to him. Like all his Jewish class mates he was imbued with the Zionist spirit and with them became a member of the Zionist Youth organization Gordonia.
One day in the summer of 1936 Shmu'el surprised me by visiting me at the commune where I was staying at the time. He told me, inter alia, that though his father had managed to obtain an affidavit to the U.S.A., for him he had decided to go to Eretz Israel as a student at the Technion.
After the first year of study his teachers advised him to change his course of study and to learn foreign languages at which they saw that he excelled.
At that time there was much terrorist activity by the Arabs (Me'ora'ot) in the country. Shmu'el joined the Haganna, participating in many courses and activities there. He also took part in the settlement of Hanita, where he stayed to help in defending the Kibbutz. He was sent on many important missions for the Haganna in Lebanon and took part in Kibbush Avodah activities in Haifa Port where he worked under the most difficult conditions.
In 1942 he married Zippora, nee Grinman, and settled permanently in Haifa. A year later he enrolled as a student of law in Jerusalem and graduated as a lawyer in 1947.
As a Haganna member he participated in the battles to capture Haifa which culminated in victory two days before the Passover of 1948. With the beginning of the war of Independence he became part of the legal establishment of the Zahal, serving there till he reached the age of exemption from military service. Immediately after the War of Liberation he was nominated Custodian of Missing Aliens' Property in Haifa, a task demanding much responsibility, scrupulousness and tact.
When this job was concluded he opened a private practice which kept him busy for many years and earned him the respect and trust of his clients and fellow lawyers and judges. He was an easy man to get on with, mild in speech and reasonable, of whom it can be said: The speech of wise men is tranquil.
His words were always peppered with humor and fell charmingly upon the ear.
A few months before his death, during one of our conversations together, he told me that, together with some judges and lawyers, he was participating in a study group in which the stress was placed upon various problems, and discussions were conducted from those legal points of view which had a bearing on contemporary verdicts. Shmu'el also said the following: What a pity that as a youth I paid to attention to my father who taught me some Yiddishkeit, when he wanted me to study the Talmud because he claimed that it could be of assistance to me sometime in life.
He was taken away from us in his prime of life and will be missed not only by his family but by his numerous comrades and friends.
His memory will live in our hearts forever.
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by Avraham Levite
I knew Zvi Rotenberg from my early childhood. His father, Reb Itzhak Rotenberg, God rest his soul, and my father, may God avenge him, prayed together at the Bianer Clois and sat next to each other on the same bench. Zvi and I both ran around outside the Clois during the prayers, each with his own friends.
Being the younger, I was still exempt from religious duties while Zvi, for all his love of fun, kept one ear opened to the Cantor's prayer and from time to time ran to his father to join him in kdusha and barkhu, not forgetting to run out again to his friends and rejoin their games.
In time his father passed away and twice a day Zvi came to the Clois to participate in the prayers with someone seeing to it that he rose up at the right time to say Kadish.
I would watch him in awe he was an orphan! Then I would glance at my own father, to make sure he was still there. Zvi grew u at one stroke, became serious. The duties of the household now devolved upon him and he began helping his mother to make a living. His mother was highly encouraged by his attitude of devotion respect towards her, which made the burden of her widowhood lighter. She spoke of this with great pride to all her neighbours.
Zvi continued his observance of all the tenets, was a member of the Shomer Hadati and went to pray at another synagogue. As I have said, he was older than me and had his own friends. In time the ties between the two of us weakened; each one went his way and had his own occupations. Though we rarely met we remained friends.
With the outbreak of war, life in the shtetl disintegrated. One calamity was followed by another until finally the youths of the shtetl were taken away and sent to the Plashow Camp. All this has been described elsewhere in this book.
During our stay in Plashow we maintained connections with the small Cracow Ghetto which was only a few kilometers from the camp and could sometimes be reached. There were some thousands of inhabitants in the Ghetto then, enjoying a few quiet months of reprieve before their final liquidation in March, 1943.
Zvi, like many others, did not believe that the killers would spare those who worked for them in the camp. They just wanted to exploit their working power and when this was exhausted would consign them to the same fate as the rest. We therefore believed it necessary to preserve our strength as much as we could and to hold out until, by some miracle, we might manage to escape.
As each day of hard labor in the camp with its starvation rations weakened us and threatened our flimsy chances of fighting for our lives, Zvi and a few friends decided to move to the Ghetto at the beginning of winter. They were well aware of the fact that life in the Ghetto was only temporary and their turn would come soon, but they preferred this temporary reprieve from the terrible conditions of the camp.
During his stay in the ghetto Zvi kept up his ties with those who remained in the camp and organized some help for them. Here was revealed his devotion to his townsmen, his readiness to help and his innate kindness. He managed to get us some warm clothing and supplied us regularly with some loaves of bread, insisting that the bread be given to some of the young men who, because of their poor physical conditions, needed urgent assistance. In this way he actually saved lives, a fact which will never be forgotten.
As a result of the terrible conditions at the camp the numbers of those moving to the Ghetto increased. There were about twenty young men among whom was myself.
The Ghetto was liquidated in March and we were brought to Auschwitz Birkenau.
As this was mainly a transit camp we made up our minds to exploit any possibility of getting away from this fearful place.
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We were left for a few days in quarantine and wandered around aimlessly, waiting for the decision regarding our destination. Zvi organized our group and it was decided that we would all stay together, as far as it was in our power. We kept an eye on each other, giving warning of the dangers that threatened us at every step.
All our townsmen left together in the transport to the Auschwitz coal mines, where, in spite of the fact that we worked in three shifts, we maintained contact to the best of our ability.
When I broke a leg in the mine, I was laid up in a clinic at Yawishovitz and waited for transport to Auschwitz. I remember Zvi at the window of the infirmary, trying to smile at me and encouraging me with the movement of his hands. We both knew it was the end for me. We never heard from each other again until the end of the war.
The miracle did take place. Zvi and I fell into each other's arms in 1945, in Tel Aviv.
During the last few months, as I worked on the final preparation of this Memorial Book, I was bolstered by the thought of the few survivors impatiently waiting to get the finished work into their hands. The image of Zvi was always there before me, waiting.
It is no longer possible to give him the book. May these lines serve as a monument to his memory.
May his memory be blessed.
by Avraham Levite
The sad news of Moshe Schweber's death came from New York after this book had already gone to print. One of the active initiators of this Memorial volume dedicated to the Brzozow Community, he did not live to see the fruits of his labor.
Born in 1917 to a highly respected family, his education was typical of his time: the heder, public school and the local gymnasium.
Like most of his peers Moshe was an ardent Zionist, a member of the Gordonia youth movement. A serious, unpretentious lad, he was a persevering pupil, intent on getting to the roots of anything he came to study.
As it was impossible, upon his graduation from the gymnasium, to emigrate to Eretz Israel, he joined his elder brother in France with the intent of continuing his higher studies. But for various reasons this plan failed to materialize.
When the German cohorts invaded France all the Jews, foreigners and immigrants living there were immediate targets. It was only by a miracle that Moshe escaped the jaws of the Gestapo which was already aware of his presence. He managed to join one of his sisters in Switzerland.
After the liberation he returned to France, there to marry the Viennese-born Vera Gordon, long may she live. They left France in order to make their home in New York where their children were born and raised.
Moshe continued his Zionist activities in America, participating actively in anything to do with Israel.
A pleasant man, he was well known for his personal integrity. He was an affectionate and faithful friend.
During his many visits to Israel we, his friends and childhood companions, had the pleasure of meeting him a memorable experience for us all, awakening forgotten memories of our childhood adventures in the lost pre-holocaust world.
For the last few years he had been suffering from some heart disease and the fatal attack came on June 28, 1984.
His family and friends are left bereft and grieving by his sudden death.
May his memory be blessed.
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