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[Page 143]

The Activities of Reb Yoel Dovid Weingarten

Reb Yoel Dovid Weingarten was a hearty Jew. He had a good word for everyone. He was a very good speaker and very energetic. With his arrival in Ciechanow he took over all the institutions that were established through Agudat Yisroel, such as: Talmud Torah, Bais Yaacov, Gmilat Hesed. He gave lectures for the young workers and B'not Agudat Yisroel. He also gave a lesson to the Psalm Readers Group. For many years he was the leader in the community. I do not recall any point in the religious community life in which he did not take part. Whoever knew him had to love him because of his sincerity and warmth that he showed for everyone.

I recall when Reb Yoel Dovid was hospitalized in Warsaw, severely ill, people of all Parties telephoned there to find out about the condition of their beloved leader.

Everything that he did for the benefit of the community was with heart and soul. The community work and his private life were as one. Unfortunately, we were not privileged to have this great personality with us for very long. In his blossoming young Reb Yoel Dovid was torn away from us. His death aroused great sorrow in all of the Orthodox world. To learn more about Reb Yoel Dovid, see “Types And Characters.”

There was another segment of the Jewish population that did not have a place in the existing Parties in Ciechanow – the religious workers and folk-masses. They always had to seek protection, in economic questions, from the secular enlightened workers' organizations, and in the religious domain they were not at all involved.

With the establishment of Poale Agudat Yisroel the situation changed.

Poelei Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow

Between Shmuel Fuchs and the Bundist, Yitzhak Yagada, there was once a chance discussion about socialism and social justice in our Torah. Shmuel Fuchs explained to his opponent the moral, social and just laws of our Torah. The powerful talk of our prophets opposing subjugation and slavery. Yagada then asked: “ If this is true, why isn't there a Party that renews the prophetic talk in our generation?” The reply was there is such a Party – the Poale Agudat Yisroel. Yitzhak Yagada explained that he is ready to devote all his energy for such a Party. From the conversation the foundation was laid for the Poale Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow in the year 1925.

Quick as lightning, the idea spread about the foundation of this organization. At the first meeting there were fifteen chaverim. Yoel Dovid Weingarten lectured for them as did Shmuel Fuchs and Yitzhak Yagada. They also later took part in the organizational work. The group grew continually. After one month the founding meeting took place, with the participation of our Rov, and more than one hundred chaverim.

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Yitzhak Yagada - one of the leaders of Poale Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow
Yitzhak Yagada – one of the leaders
of Poale Agudat Yisroel in Ciechanow

Picture Index

[Page 145]

The first executive consisted of: Shmuel Fuchs, President; Shmuel Nair, secretary; Yitzhak Yagada, Nachum Melman, Shmuel Gotfried, Chanan Livsky. Some of them had already been far from a religious life. The movement once more awakened in them the religious feelings.

As soon as this organization was established, lessons in various studies started, taught by Rov Reb Chaim Mordecai Bronrot, Reb Yoel Dovid Weingarten, Reb Mordecai Avraham Albeck, Menachem Shub's son-in-law, Reb Mordecai Tzinamon and others. Our Rov was very impressed to see sixty young men spending their free time in Torah study.

The first Orthodox library was organized. There was a reading room and other cultural corners.

The chaverim did not satisfy themselves just with their own learning, but took upon themselves to learn with the broad masses, to relive the situation of the poor classes of our shtetl. Evening courses were organized for the working youth as well as for children of workers. In these courses more than three children participated in religious studies as well as secular enlightenment studies through the teaching personnel of the folk school. The evening courses received the recognition of all levels of the population without difference of Party affiliation

The Party paid special attention to the so-called Amei Haaretzim – grown adults who did not even know how to daven. These people were received with much love and this brought them closer to the movement. After some time they became prominent members of the community.

The results if this activity showed immediately. In all the institutions of the shtetl there were chaverim, representatives of the Poale Agudat Yisroel. They took an active part in creating the religious and other institutions and later the organization was able to have their own leader in the Kehillah in the person of Avigdor Caplan.

Amongst the most important workers of Poale Agudat Yisroel there were: the Gmilat Hesed that helped the chaverim with loans for constructive purposes, coal-fund, to help the poor with heating; Pesach Actzich to help the poor folk make Pesach; active help in the soldiers' kitchen and other institutions.

Through the initiative of the Poale Agudat, public mass meetings were organized with the participation of the best speakers of the religious workers' movement such as : I. L. Arleon, Laib Frum.

[Page 146]

Branch of the Poale Agudat Yisroel
Branch of the Poale Agudat Yisroel
Top: Nachum Melman, Sh. B. Rosenberg, I. Yagada, Sh. Fuchs, Sh. Gotfried, M. Kostsheva..
Second row: Ch. L. Lipski, H. Vina, Sh. Lipsky, I. Kan; the last two names are not known.
Third row: D. Bromson, I. Lefkowitz, A. Caplan, I. D. Weingarten, M. Tzinamon, V. Mlover, Chanan Lipsky.
Fourth row: A Berstein, M. Fuchs, Simcha Fuchs] and others. In the central headquarters, great respect to the workers of the Ciechanow branch of the Poale Agudat Yisroel.

Picture Index

Through the initiative of this movement, there took place, in our home in Ciechanow, the first Land of Israel Conference of the Warsaw Central Committee, with the participation of members Dovid Rosenfeld (Cracow), Student Grafil, Lerner and others. The first Agudat Hachshara was established in Poland, which gave an impetus to work for the Land of Israel amongst the religious masses in Poland.

My mother Z”L took an active part in all their activities with advice and action and her participation became well known amongst the Ciechanow chaverim as well as amongst the central leadership.

[Page 147]

We established a summer camp in Makow Mazovyetzk. There was nobody to head it, so Frau Fuchs was called and the problem was solved immediately.

She took over management of the summer camp.

The chaverim who were active in the Poale Agudah movement were: Shmuel Fuchs, as president for many years; Dovid Bromson. Yitzhak Yagada was active until he perished through the hands of the Germans; Sh. B. Rosenberg, Reb Avigdor Caplan; the first head of the organization, Reb Mordecai Avraham Albick; Shmuel Gotfried – secretary for many years; Chaim Livsky (now in America); Shlomo Fuchs; Yekhezkl Sudjevsky; and finally there was the guiding spirit of the organization -- Levy Fuchs.

My hand trembles when I recall his name. The words of his speeches came from his heart. He had a gentle appearance, dreaming eyes, full of enthusiasm for noble ideas. He was always ready to make sacrifices, both of himself and others. He was just like his mother, together with whom he perished, not wanting to separate from her.

Yaacov Bronrot

The Ciechanow Kehillah and its Activities

After World War I, in independent Poland, the organization and activities of the Jewish Kehillah was regulated by a special law. According to this law, the Ciechanow leadership consisted of a council and an executive. The council consisted of twelve members, elected by the male adult population that paid Kehillah taxes. The Kehillah executive, consisting of eight members, was elected by the council. This organizational form of the Ciechanow Kehillah was established in the year 1926.

Before 1926, the Kehillah leadership consisted of four so-called heads. These were: Dovid Wise, Yaacov Misher, Moishe Rakovsky and Avraham Natan Skurnik. As chairman at that time was Dovid Wise.

In the first democratic election in the year 1926, the following three parties participated: Block of General Zionists and Mizrachi; Agudat Yisroel and hand-workers. Of the 12 mandates the following received representation:

[Page 148]

General Zionists and Mizrachi – 4, in the persons of Natan Tzeitog, Dovid Lakh, Aaron Kirshenbaum and Shlomo Gotfried. Agudat Yisroel – Binyamin Malina, Avraham Friedman, Isaachar Ciechanow, Avraham Klinger; Handworkers: Avraham Yaacov Bilzshiner, Avraham Yosef Alievnik, Mordecai Laib Zazshnitsa and Yaacov Altus.

Natan Tzeitog was elected as president of the council. Vice-President was Binyamin Malina. The elected executive consisted of three Zionists and Mizrachi: Shlomo Brenner, Henekh Goldman, Avraham Dovid Vinditsky. Hand-workers: Herschel Kirshenzweig; Vice-President: Henekh Goldman; Treasure: Aaron Gelbart.

In the year 1930 the term of the first elected Kehillah leadership ended and as a result of the new election the following Parties received representation in the council: Agudat Yisroel – M. I. Rakovsky, I. M. Sokoloff, I. D. Ciechanower and Mendl Leventhal. Poale Agudat Yisroel -- Avigdor Caplan; butchers -- L. Gurni; hand-workers: I. L. Altans, Shtifenholtx, Sh. Shuster; Mizrachi – Dovid Lakh; General Zionists: Dovid Wise and Yaacov Misher; as president of the council, M. I. Rakovsky were elected; vice-president -- H. Shtifenholtz.

The executive: Agudat Yisroel -- A. Sh. Lichtenstein, J. D. Weingarten, I. Greenbaum; hand-workers: -- A. Alyevnick, B. Tz. Ehrlikh, A. Margolit; Zionists and Mizrachi -- Shlomo Brenner, Aaron Kirshenbaum. President of the executive – A. Sh. Lichtenstein. Vice-President – I. D. Weingarten. Treasurer – A. I. Alevnik.

The elections to the Kehillah executive that took place in the year 1936: To the executive -- Agudat Yisroel: M. I. Rakovsky, Mordecai Noyar, A. Sh. Lichtenstein; Mizrachi – Avraham Natan Skurnik, Michael Shaft; Zionists: Dr. Tov; Poale Tzion -- V. Gotliber; Revisionists -- Mandshain; hand-workers -- F. Mundzak and B. Tz. Ehrlikh; Bund -- Kostsheva. President of the council -- Avraham Natan Skurnik; vice-president -- Dr. N. Tov.

Executive: Mizrachi -- Shlomo Brenner; Zionists -- Shabtai Fuerstenberg; hand-workers -- Hersh Kirshenzweig. Poale Tzion -- Yaacov Korn; Agudat Yisroel -- Ch. I. Greenbaum, Isaachar Ciechanower, Moishe Klinger. President of the Kehillah -- Hirsch Kirshenzweig; Vice-president -- Shlomo Brenner; Treasurer -- Shabtai Fuerstenberg.

[Page 149]

The Kehillah budget included the following income. Payment for schita direct taxes, and income from cemetery. Expenses were: Maintenance of the Kehillah council, subsidies ongoing support for: Talmud Torah, Bais Yaacov School,

Bais Sefer Yavneh, Religious Evening Courses, Free Loan Society, Linat-Hatzedek, Bais Lekhem, Hakhnasat Orchim, soldiers' kitchen, J.N.F. and Keren Hayesod; assistance for needy individuals in cases such as housing, illness, or recovery after an illness.

The Rebbe Rov Hagaon Rebbe Chaim Mordecai Bronrot and the Kehillah Activities

From the year 1915 until the Holocaust, the Kehillah Rov and Av Bet Din (head of the religious court) was Rov Hagaon Rebbe Chaim Mordecai Bronrot, Shlita. His position gave him top religious standing in the shtetl, but in his activities he did not limit himself to religious matters only. Rov Bronrot was active in a broad range of communal life of the Ciechanow Jews and also took an interest in every individual.

There was practically no meeting or gathering of any institution at which he was not present; or any commission whose activities did not engage him if they dealt with any aspect of Jewish parnoseh. He participated with advice and action. He also helped individuals in time of need or in an argument about money or a family dispute. People always found his door open for such cases. In him they found a warm heart to confide in and seek advice. The Rov tried to help everyone; used his influence of relatives or interceders in the government organs. Oft-times he would set out in the shtetl to call on the wealthy ones in order to gather a proper sum to assist a fallen family.

The Ciechanow Jewish population knew very well how to value this relationship of the Rov to the Kehillah. When Jews came with their problems, and this wonderful man could not, because of certain reasons, fill their requests, the appealer would say: “To whom can I appeal, then, if not to you? You are, after all, the head of the Kehillah.” Or some others expressed themselves -- “the father of the shtetl”.

In the Kehillah the Rov was always the honorary president and an equally authorized member of the Kehillah management, no matter how it was constituted, and in every term of office. The Rov was also represented in all the various community and government instances that were active in Ciechanow and in the area. Quite often he was the only Jewish representative present.

[Page 150]

The Kehillah President, Chaver Kirshenzweig

The Kehillah president, chaver Kirshenzweig, occupied this important position for ten years. He was one of the leaders who conducted business not according to Party lines, but did what was best in general for all. That was chaver Kirshenzweig. He worked on everyone's behalf with the whole fire of his young soul. He particularly busied himself with workers, with craftsmen.

Chaver Kirshenzweig was not born in Ciechanow. He wedded himself to Ciechanow in the year 1924 and immediately threw himself into the work of organizing the hand-workers' movement -- with all his youthful energy.

The workers always found a friend in him, one with an open heart for their painful problems. He was the first one in the shtetl to stress the importance of the workers to get organized.

Kirshenzweig had his first victory in 1926 during the first democratic Kehillah election when the hand-workers appeared as an organized group and got a third of all the mandates in the Kehillah council. At that time, Kirshenzweig was elected as the Kehillah president. With him at the helm, the Jewish population felt that it has a devoted representative who is ready, at any moment, to suit every Jew.

The Kehillah secretary and Director of the Folk Bank, Chaver Binyamin Kirshenbaum was devoted to his Kehillah activities. He was the one who actually carried out the Kehillah decisions. R Chaver Kirshenbaum remained in his position in all the terms of the elections. Everything that was said or decided was expressed in his precise recordings that he wrote in Yiddish and in Polish. If there had been anything left, after the German destruction, of the Kehillah archives, the history of the Ciechanow Jewish Kehillah would be able to be reconstructed about the period between the two world wars.

[Page 151]

Kehillah Disputes in Ciechanow

Approximately in the year 1925, a dispute broke out in the Kehillah about the shoichtim (ritual slaughterers). Up until that time they were Reb Yaacov Hillel and Mendl Shockett. They were already old, and no longer capable to do this work. So many candidates started to arrive to fill the part of shoichtim. Every one of them tried to get supporters and followers. The candidates for shoichtim were: Reb Chaim Isaachar Fish, supported by the Aguda executive; his father-in-law, Reb Binyamin Malina, was then vice-president of the Kehillah council. The second candidate was Reb Matityahu Chaim Calberg, a grandson of Tzadik and Alter Zukerman.

The battle regarding the schita took on a very sharp form. Reb Matityahu Chaim was supported by the older Ciechanow Jews because of the sentiment toward the Tzadik.

Rov Bronrot disallowed all the candidates with the motive that their ideas related to schita are not perfect The Rov immediately sought new candidates from elsewhere who would know the “trade” of schita and also be Chazanim (cantors), he decided. As shoichtim there were hired: Reb Melekh Gutheimer, and the famous Chazan- Shoichet, Reb Laizer Barakhovich.

Everyone saw the great talent o these two chazanim and made peace with them. Everyone was convinced that the Rov had been proved right and the dispute ended.

It is worthwhile to mention an episode of the Kehillah activities. When the Kehillah started to organize, the initiation of the shoichet, it met with a strong objection at first on the part of the shoichtim and especially on the part of Menachim Shockett. He did not want to be an employee of the Kehillah.

The dispute went so far that Rov Bronrot had to disallow the schita of Menachim Shockett. For a long time the Gerer people supported him and did not pay attention to the disqualification, but finally the shoichtim had to make peace with the idea that the schita no longer belongs to them, and the dispute ended.

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