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[Column 817]

My Parents

by Isakhar Okon/Tel Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

My father, Alter–Mendl, was born in Czyzewo in 1870 and I do not know if he acquired his love of work during his childhood years or later when he married my mother, dear and kind Liba, the daughter of Shlomo–Ber Kaczanek. Her parents lived in Kosk,

[Column 818]

two kilometers outside Czyzewo. They had a windmill there, the only one in the area.

Right after the wedding, they lived in Bialystok for a while. First, in 1895, after the death of my grandfather, Shlomo–Ber, my father took over the windmill and with it began to carry on

 

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My mother Luba [Liba in first paragraph], brother Shmuelka, sister Gitel, brother Noakhal, sisters Etel and Chayatsha, last from the left, my small daughter who perished

[Column 819]

field work for his own use. He had five acres of land, cows and chickens.

We were eight children, four brothers and four sisters. The boys would go to kheder [religious primary school] in Czyzewo every day and one of them would take along a small container of milk for the Czyzewo rabbi's family. My father was proud that he did not let any other milk be used in his house.

On Shabbos [Sabbath], my father and we went to the Czyzewo house of prayer to pray. My mother also went to the city to pray on the holidays. I often heard how women praised her as a genteel, bright soul. On Yom Kippur, she did not let the Makhzor [holiday prayer book] out of her hardened hands.

When we grew up, we helped with the work, worked at the mill and so on.

Our economic worth stood particularly in the field, located a half kilometer from the village.

She toiled for her entire life, my dear mother, quiet, patiently carrying the burden for the entire house and she helped my father in all his work. In 1920, when the Hallercziks [followers of the anti–Semitic Polish General Jozef Haller] entered Czyzewo, they severely beat my father. He was covered in blood from the wounds on his head and over his entire body. My mother bit her lips so that my father would not hear the cry of her grieving heart. She suffered silently and did not leave his bed, changed the bandages on his wounds day and night and when he finally got up from bed, everyone saw it as a miracle from heaven, as if he had really been resurrected.

There also was constant danger in continuing life in the village. When their sons

[Column 820]

grew up, they all received permission to carry weapons. My brothers were known for their courage and strength and they evoked fear in the young rascals in the area.

Bands of robbers who attacked the peaceful residents came to that area from time to time. But they did not dare come near us. It was not worthwhile for them to challenge our heroic family. In 1937, during the pogrom in Czyzewo, my brother Shmuelka stood guard with a weapon in his hands and helped the Czyzewo Jews day and night.

Reb Yankl Wapniak lived in the neighboring village of Brulin, a slight distance from us. We would meet him sometimes and speak about the situation and with worry remember that we lived in a God forsaken place, cast aside, with gentiles. At the beginning of the 1920s, Yankl Wapniak and his family moved into the city [Czyzewo] and our family remained alone.

In the late 1920s we, the adult brothers, decided that it was time to bring in a motor that would help the wind drive the windmill. It was lively; there was no lack of income. But the times were turbulent. The boycott actions began in Czyzewo, which poisoned the peasants' minds and agitated their mood. The situation grew more bitter with each day and in 1938 the situation was unbearable. Two brothers and one sister emigrated to Uruguay, Israel and Argentina. My parents sold their possessions and left for Bialystok to begin a new life that did not promise anything good.


[Column 821]

Our Parents

by Ch. Kirszenbaum

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Yakov–Leib Kirszenbaum was born in Lomza in 1878. His father, Reb Sholem, was a teacher and later he became the mohel [ritual circumciser] at a misnaged [opponent of Hasidism] yeshiva [religious secondary school] in Warsaw. He raised his only son, Yakov–Leib, as a good student, sent him to a yeshiva and married him off when [Yakov–Leib] was still young to the youngest daughter of the well–known merchant, Reb Mendl Szedlesker (Zusman), among the first settlers at the Czyzewo station.

Reb Mendl Szedlesker was a rich man and probably had promised the yeshiva student a good

 

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Yakov–Leib Kirszenbaum

[Column 822]

dowry and for the first three years provided him with kest [support given by a father to his daughter's husband so that he could study Torah].

The first conflicts in the house began after the sheve–brokhes [seven blessings recited for a newly married couple during the end of a meal within the first week of their marriage]. The grandmother, as was her habit, prepared the table for breakfast and laid down a rustic brown bread. The new young man [the groom] did not know how to deal with it. Finally, he decided to ask if it was possible to have two rolls. He was not accustomed to eating anything else for breakfast…

Hearing such talk, the grandmother

 

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Rayzl Kirszenbaum

[Column 823]

decided in her heart that the son–in–law was, alas, sick, and her daughter was in a bad marriage.

However, she kept silent.

This is how our father's first days in Czyzewo appeared, according to what we heard in various interrupted conversations in the house. However, we do not know if our grandmother gave him, her son–in–law, our father, rolls for breakfast or if our father, having no other choice, became accustomed to and adapted to eating the rustic brown bread. On the contrary we know that at the time of the first Days of Awe a sharp incident occurred between the son–in–law and the father–in–law, which led to the first serious calamities.

Although my grandfather was not a very fervid Hasid, he would go to his rebbe every Rosh Hashanah and proposed then that his young son–in–law go with him.

My father, the son of a misnagid [opponent of Hasidism], categorically refused. There was a sharp exchange of words and my grandmother became involved, saying that it was not worthwhile to maintain such a sick misnagid in their house… She proposed a get [religious divorce].

Her daughter, our good–hearted mother, already had love for her husband and in no way did she want to hear about a get.

However, the atmosphere in the house again became heated and father–in–law and mother–in–law decided to provide money for the son–in–law to become his own boss.

Thus it happened that our parents were able to open the first tearoom and guesthouse at the Czyzewo train station.

Thousands of people, merchants and wagon drivers, well–bred

[Column 824]

czy0824.jpg

Brukha Kirszenbaum

 

Jews and artisans, [Hasidic] rebbes and rabbis came into our guesthouse. Our teahouse was designated as a meeting place for arriving brides and grooms. Banquets were held there for weddings and in honor of a siem celebration of the completion of new Torah scroll. They would come to us from neighboring shtetlekh, particularly from Wysokie and Zaromb. Our guesthouse had a good reputation in the entire area.

Our mother was the one mainly occupied with the tearoom. Our father ran large businesses, was a wholesale grain merchant and was involved with loading and unloading wagons. In addition, he never refused to accept a task on behalf of the community–at–large. He was the gabai [assistant to the rabbi] at the house of prayer. And he always found time to read a religious book. He was beloved for his honesty and affability. He was esteemed and loved for his erudition and his good, humane traits and his constant smile.

In our memory remains his quiet and mild persona, which glowed with love

[Column 825]

for the family and with good will and devotion. He believed in the victory of good over evil and that God would not allow Hitler to annihilate His people.

They remained in Czyzewo their entire lives until the liquidation and [they] perished at the hands of the Nazi murderers in Szulborze and Auschwitz.

[Column 826]

May our few words serve as an eternal headstone for our unforgettable parents, brothers and sisters.

Reported by:

Itsl Kirszenbaum, New York
Gitl Kirszenbaum–Cukert, Kfar Saba
Sura Kirszenbaum, Tel Aviv
Sholem Kirszenbaum, Tel Aviv


[Column 825]

Reb Mendl, the Son of Yisroel–Shlomo

by Dov Gorzalczany

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Only a few people knew that his family name was Glina.

At the end of the 19th century, he inherited the windmill from his father, which he ran with his sons until 1915. However, when the Russian military withdrew from Czyzewo during the First World War, his mill and the three other windmills [in Czyzewo] disappeared in smoke.

Reb Mendl already was in Russia when the mill burned. He had succeeded in escaping with the last troop formation. In general, Reb Mendl was strongly sympathetic to Russia. He showed this during the years of the Russo–Japanese War. He was a constant opponent of the well–known “Moshel Japonczyk,” who was against the Russians.[1]

Reb Mendl did not lick any honey [did not have an easy life] and he was homeless in the vast, raging Russia. Over the three years that he was in Russia, he was the shamas [assistant] to a local “rebbe” and he could live on his income, although he was very impoverished. Returning to Czyzewo in 1918, he did not bring any possessions from Russia. However,

[Column 826]

he brought with him a shlal [large number] of stories and tales.

I remember only one of his stories, which Reb Mendl loved to repeat at every opportunity and I provide it here:

It happened in the same year when the tsar was overthrown. One of his most esteemed and richest Hasidim came to the rebbe. It should be understood that Reb Mendl immediately led him into the innermost and most important place, right to the rebbe, as with everyone like him. But in a short time, the Hasid came out of the rebbe's reception room agitated and very irritated and left without saying goodbye, also forgetting to give the shamas a “going away present. When he, Reb Mendl, later was alone with the rebbe, he asked the rebbe what had happened and what did it mean, why had the Hasid been so upset?

The rebbe explained:

– The Hasid had proposed his son as a groom for the rebbe's daughter and [the rebbe] rejected the proposal without delay.

– How is it possible? – Reb Mendl wondered. The richest man among the Hasidim, a well–known merchant, a big manufacturer. It is said that he possessed perhaps 250 factories, such wealth,

[Column 827]

such a good match. How is it possible that the rebbe dismissed it? The rebbe answered in this way: “My 250… there are many, many more dear for me than 250 factories.

And Reb Mendl added:

Although the rebbe had perhaps no more than 250 Hasidim [followers], he had great inspiration. And a short time after the story the Bolshevik Revolution made a ruin of the Hasid's possessions and of his mill.

After returning to Czyzewo from Russia, Reb Mendl no longer showed any initiative. He maintained himself with a small teaching position. However, he was a presence at all communal occurrences. For example, I remember:

Reb Mendl stood in a circle of various people in the middle of the large market, very angry at the incorrect and dishonest tax evaluation. To my question about how much the estimate had been, he answered, nothing

–So, I asked again, why are you shouting, Reb Mendl?

–This is still too much, he replied with a tit for a tat.

The Jew had an eloquence, a really amazing thing. If he had only wanted to, he could purify a crawling animal with 150 impurities and if it really pleased him he could make the red heifer[2] impure with mere words.

Reb Mendl did not lack time. Therefore, he carried on conflicts with young and old, openly, in the Hasidic shtibl [one–room house of prayer] and wherever he found someone. His constant “partner in conflict,” Reb Yudel Wapniak (he traded

[Column 828]

in lime), built a house. Reb Mendl asked him:

“From where and from what?”

– One walks around, Reb Yudel answered him.

– So, let me try, said Reb Mendl. He stood up and began walking back and forth.

From this you can build? – he asked.

Or during the constant debates with the socialists:

– Why did the tsarist time not please you? Is today better? You could cook a pot of noodles for five kopekes and today there is scarcity. May God protect and save us.

Reb Mendl had a completely different theory about life and death. He argued, “It is not true that death is unavoidable; dying is just by chance. Whoever it happens to, it catches up with him. The old die; the young die, middle aged and, God preserve us, even children. Everything is nothing more than chance and not a must.

And Reb Mendl actually was correct. In 1940, he and his wife were sent out and this time in a sealed troop transport to the Soviet Union, somewhere very deep in distant Kazakhstan and as long as packages of food could be sent from Czyzewo, Reb Mendl and his wife, Nekha, could labor on the cold Soviet steppes. But after the occupation of Czyzewo by the Nazi hordes for the second time in June 1941, help ended from his home city and both old people, Reb Mendl and Nekha, breathed out their souls and left their bones somewhere on the distant cold steppes.

Actually, true, an “accident.” May his soul rest in peace!


Translator's Notes:
  1. Japonczyk is Polish for a Japanese male return
  2. The ashes of a red heifer without impurities were used for ritual purification during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem. return


[Column 829]

Reb Fishl Lubelczyk

by Bat–Sheva and Shlomo

Translated from Hebrew by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Reb Fishl Lubelczyk was the third generation of the main branch of the Lubelczyk family that settled near the Czyzewo train station just when the train line was built.

There were three brothers: Shlomo, Chaim and Eidl. Shlomo and his wife, Sheva–Ita, had four sons and two daughters. The oldest son, Yisroel–Nakhman left Czyzewo during the First World War, evacuated to Russia and returned to Warsaw from there, began trading and ran a large business. Of his family branches, only

 

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Sheva–Ita Lubelczyk
See the picture of Shlomo Lubelczyk on page 86

[Column 830]

one son, Dovid, remained near the station where he continued to handle the shipping until the end at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The second son, Mordekhai, also moved to Warsaw after the First World War and became known in the commercial world. He and almost his entire family later emigrated to Eretz–Yisroel and he died here in deep old age.

The third son, Avraham–Berl, and his wife, Yakha, left in 1915 in the flow of refugees to Russia from which they never returned.

Fishl, Avraham–Berl's only son, was born in 1890 and had a good upbringing with his father. As an experienced merchant, he raised his only son for Torah and commerce. As a young man of 18, he [Fishl] was betrothed to the daughter of a well–known rich and well–established man from Serock [Poland], Yisroel Yankl Zabuski, a distinguished family, large forest merchant and contractor for the Russian government.[1]

This Reb Yisroel–Yankl was the main provider of building materials for the construction of the Kierbedzia Bridge between Warsaw and Praga over the Vistula River.

Fishl Lubelczik lived in the city; he continued to carry on his father's business and before the First World War he had great contact with the large cities and giant Russia from which he brought various food items.

[Column 831]

czy0831a.jpg
Yerukhem and Elka Lubelczyk

 

After the rise of new Poland, his mother Yakha, a smart

 

czy0831b.jpg
Yokheved Lubelczyk

[Column 832]

and good–natured woman, of good ancestry, a granddaughter of Reb Yerukhem Altshuler, famous gaon [sage], Bodker rabbi and one of the four sages who were called the “Arba Khayot,” returned from Russia. Hundreds of Jews from the area would make a pilgrimage for the yahrzeits [anniversary of a death] of the four.[2]

His [Fishl's] wife, Elka and the children also returned with his mother. At the time of the German occupation, Fishl remained alone in Czyzewo because he could not manage to leave. He eventually built one of the most beautiful houses in the shtetl on the main street.

His house was known as an open house for visitors, for all local charitable purposes. He always was one of the first donors.

At the start, he prayed in the large, city house of prayer, which was built during his term as a dozor [member of the synagogue council] and with his active participation. Later, he went to pray in the Aleksander shtibl [small, one–room house of prayer].

[Column 833]

His father was not a fervid Hasid, but he would travel to the Otwocker [Rebbe] from time to time. Given that there was no Otwocker shtibl in Czyzewo, he went to the Aleksander [shtibl], where he occupied a distinguished place. He was again elected to the kehile [Jewish community] council.

As a sympathizer of the Zionist movement and a member of Mizrakhi [religious Zionist], he later took part in founding the Kheder Metukan [modern religious school]. He was generous with his donations to Zionist funds.

He tried to raise his children as religiously observant and intelligent people. He was one of the few who sent his children to study in the gymnazie [secondary school] in Lomza and Lublin.

There were four children in the home. Two of them are in Israel. His daughter, Leah–Gitl

[Column 834]

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Leah–Gitl and Avraham–Berl Lubelczyk

 

and her husband Yehuda perished at the hands of the Nazis. The youngest son, Avraham–Berl, fell at the front, fighting in the ranks of the Soviet army, immediately on the first day after the attack on White Russia by the Hitlerists. The father and mother perished at Auschwitz, may the Lord avenge their blood.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. The Avraham–Berl mentioned in this paragraph is Fishl Lubelczyk's father. Fishl's third son, who carried the same name, was named after Fishl's father. return
  2. Arba Khayot – the four creatures, often referred to as the “angels of fire, who hold up God's throne.” return

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