Even before the expulsion edict came upon the Jews of Reden, they knew then, between the years 1902-1910, to organize their communal life, relates Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon. I don't know why the Reden Jews' responsibility for one another was greater than any other part of the town; they also came to Dąbrowa in the same stream that came to find an acceptable livelihood, from Krakow and Nowe Miasto, Hamilanik[?], Peczniew, Wislica, Szydlow, Chadzyny, Pinczow and so on.
Even so, at the beginning of this settlement, they knew how to organize institutions that would be of mutual benefit. The first thing they established was a Talmud Torah for the children of Reden, in Sliwka's prayer house. Poor and rich children alike studied there, and a committee paid the tuition for the needy children. Even then the argument of whether to add secular learning to Torah teaching was abandoned. In other words, writing, arithmetic and Russian language was taught. Many Jews protested to this, claiming that this was heretical and unconventional. However, the committee members, headed by Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon, of blessed memory, stood their ground.
The first Melamed (teacher) was Mosze Lejb who was the brother of Joske Melamed. He was a black-bearded Jew of impressive appearance, tall, learned and knowledgeable in Torah. His family lived in Wolbrom and they established a school in Dąbrowa. Mosze-Lejb taught Mishna and Gemara and Joske taught Chomesh. The prayer house was divided into sections and in each section a different group studied. The pupils were: Abram, Lejb Strzegowski's son, Barza and Wolf, Janowski's son, Herszel Frochtcwajg, Josef Gutman, Zelig Gutman's son and others. At different hours, girls also studied there, like Chawa who was Lejbl Frochtcwajg's daughter, Gatliosh who was the late Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon's widow. It was expensive to use exercise-books and so they wrote on slate boards. The girls continued learning with Frajdl, Jakob Gliksman's sister. She taught them embroidery, knitting and writing. There were also girls sent to study overseas.
Mosze-Lejb's school was closed by the authorities on the grounds that there
needed to be at least one qualified teacher.
The French company that ran the mines operated a hospital in the town, and it was always full and cramped with Christian patients, in particular from the poorer classes. The Jews did not send their ill to this hospital because of a concern that the food was not kosher and for fear that they wouldn't receive attention because they were Jews. As mentioned, the hospitals and clinics belonged to the French companies, and since Jews weren't allowed to work in the mines they were also unable to receive medical assistance.
Out of a sense of mutual assistance, and a care for fellow man, an internal
Reden Jewish organization was formed and a Bikur Holim and Linat Zedek
groups were established. Medical equipment was purchased and stored at Rabbi
Jakob Fiszel's house, and was loaned to the ill if they required it. They
also had a doctor, Dr. Lipski, and the feldscher (old-time barber-surgeon)
Mosze Mitelman, who was sent to visit patients at the directive of the
committee. If the patient was poor, the committee would pay for the doctor's
TheLinat Zedek group set out with the overlying aim: to stay overnight at the patient's home. As Mrs. Chanoch Gerszon relates, Unbelievable as it was, these deeds were not the result of compulsion, moral preaching or playing on the conscience, in order to influence the person to stay over with the patient; it is known that in Dąbrowa, fifty years ago [ca. 1920] there was no public transport and these people had to walk many kilometers on cold winter nights, carrying torches, in order to reach the patient, and even so there was not one Jew who would say: I'm not going quite the contrary, they were disproportiontly angry if someone was left out of doing his part in these mitzvot: charity, taking in visitors or visiting the sick.
The following righteous Jews should be honorably mentioned for doing so much for
the welfare of the sick in those days: Rabbi Jakob Shalom Fiszel and his wife,
Gimpel Tryman, Chaim Dawid Herszfeld, Tuwia Bajtner, Aron Lemkowicz, Icchak Oks
and many others. The newspaper, Zagłębie Zeitung, from 1939 printed the
following announcement: In the tradesmen's hall a general meeting was held in
which a new Bikur Holim committee was formed: Jakob Parasol, Zajonc,
Wajszalc, Kastenberg, Mosze Herszkowicz, Gliksztajn, Lokwicz, Chanoch Goldberg,
Herszl Liberman, Waltfrynt, Chaim Lewi, Icze Majer Nusbaum, Herszl Gliksztajn, Isser Zukerowski,
Aszer Zigel, Aszer Dawid Luksenburg. From this announcement it seems that in other parts of
the town there were Bikur Holim organizations.
|Pupils and teachers of the Mizrahi Hebrew school|
In spite of their growth in numbers their financial situation did not improve. Due to a lack of livelihood some of the population were forced to smuggle goods over the border, but the poverty was great, and in the town's streets, men women and children walked about in painted flour sacks that had been sent by the American Joint organization. In order to show that there was no shame in forced poverty, Reb Lichtcyjer, of blessed memory, was the first to appear in these clothes wearing wooden sandals. He would say jokingly: If only my wife would live more modestly, but she is a modern woman and needs a bed and also a wardrobe. In those days, all sorts of ways were found to cover up the naked body, but the supplies were a problem. We, the children of those same years, well remember how our mothers and sisters would go out in the streets on cold winter nights, to wait in line till the morning next to the bakeries in order to obtain a damp loaf of bread, baked from black flour mixed with straw and chestnuts.
With the assistance of the American Joint organization, kitchens were established. Each morning a cup of cocoa, rice soup and white bread was distributed, which was a scarcity after eating the black bread. The Joint also distributed clothing in the schools and the Talmud Torah institutes. We found a certificate belonging to the Jewish relief committee of Bedzin in which it was written: We hereby confirm that Mr. Szpilberg, a representative of the Dąbrowa Relief Committee, received in our warehouses, 15 coats which had been sent to the aforementioned committee by the Joint organization in Warsaw. In Reden the committee was comprised Jakob Szalom Fiszel, Lejbl Strzegowski and Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg and the kitchen was in Lejbl Strzegowski's home. In Hute Bankowa the committee was comprised of Sturnik, Rabinowicz, Frydman and others.
At the end of WW1 Poland became independent, but its independence did not bring
an improvement in the welfare of the Jews of Dąbrowa. Halercziks (General
Haler's men) appeared in Dąbrowa's streets and attacked the Jews, cut their
beards, and not infrequently caused bloody injuries from pulling out their hair
by its roots. The Halercziks pogroms took place in Krakow and Lvov, as well.
With the national awakening which came as a result of the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Jews of Dąbrowa began to abandon old ideas of the need for the Jewish presence in the Diaspora, and began to move with the times. Groups of adults organized themselves for self teaching in secular and religious studies. Thus the Tvuna group was formed in Hute Bankowa for Talmud studies. They studied and freely debated all sorts of subjects. Rabbi Blumenfeld, even in his last days on earth, used to proudly reminisce of these lessons that he gave to the boys. In conjunction with Hute Bankowa, in Reden a boy's study group was organized, and the lessons were taken by Rabbi Szymon Tenenbaum, of blessed memory. At the same time the main profession that was learnt was book keeping and was taught by students who came from advanced trade schools. Their examinations had to be transferred to Krakow.
The establishment of the Mizrahi school was a successful peak of the religious Jews, who were also progressive in their lifestyle, like Szalom Fiszel, Szlomo Rabinowicz, Frydman, Jungster, Szywek, Aron Lemkowicz, Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg and others. The need for a Jewish school, that combined secular and religious studies, was vital in a prevailing spirit of national pride. Bedzin had two schools-Yavne and Mizrachi. Sosnowiec had its own Hebrew school, and Dąbrowa did not want to fall behind these towns.
The first steps towards the establishment of the Mizrachi school were modest.
It began operating in Fuksbroner's house. Its first teacher was Yehuda Krempel,
and the only secular teacher was a Londner from Bedzin. It was difficult to
claim that this was the school that Dąbrowa had hoped for. A new period dawned
for this school when it was transferred, in 1921, to Sender Rajchman's house.
It took up a whole wing in one of his three buildings, that were arranged in a
U formation with a large spacious courtyard between them. This was a breath
of fresh air for the children who found they a had a neat and clean classroom
with benches, a small platform for the teacher and pictures of the four seasons
displayed on the walls. This change was imprinted well in the children's
spirit, who had only yesterday studied in a narrow, stifling room next to a
long table, at the head of which, sat an irate, scowling rabbi. During the
breaks between classes they received a cup of cocoa with a roll, and during
other breaks they exercised with the teacher named Szpigler.
|The teacher Wajnrajch
in the Mizrachi Hebrew school
The school, in spite of the fact that it was under religious supervision, was a hothouse for the growth of Zionist youth movements. Each academic year ended with a impressive show to which the parents were invited, and their pride at seeing their sons performing on stage was boundless.
The Mizrahi school was seen as an aggravation by the Agudat
Israel group, at the head of which stood Chaim Mosze Eisenman, of blessed memory, who
established a large cheder, that was spread over a number of rooms, called
Yesodei Hatorah. Both these schools were crammed full of Jewish children, and
during the day the sound of Torah could be heard in their courtyards.
A Jewish man who was an imposing figure, well excepted and with a agreeable disposition, and his voice was deep and pleasant when he stood at the reader's desk. He was learned in Halacha and gave interpretations which were suited to the times. He arrived in Reden with the authorization of the rabbinate of Granice. In his presence was a congregation of the prime of Reden's Jews and surrounding him a spirit of reconciliation and brotherhood was inspired. This, took pat the same time that all the town was in turmoil because of a quarrel that had erupted between Rabbi Alter Mosze Aron Lewi, also known as the Rabbi from Peczniew, and Rabbi Mosze Rappaport, the education teacher.
The election of Rabbi Lewi from Peczniew to the rabbinical throne in Dąbrowa did not come at an appropriate time, and there were many that opposed, especially amongst the Hassidim from Gur, even though he was a Gaon in Torah (he stammered). Meat that was to approved for slaughter by Rabbi Mosze Rappaport was forbidden by Rabbi Lewi. The quarrel lasted for years and even the intervention of eminent members of the town did not bring appeasement. During prayer times in the synagogue Rabbi Lewi sat on the right side of the wall and Rabbi Mosze Rappaport on the left hand side. During the Torah reading on Rosh Hashana the Gabai, Rabbi Mosze Winer, hammered on the desk and shouted: I will delay the reading if Rabbi Lewi does not make amends with Rabbi Rappaport! Rabbi Mosze Rappaport rose and stood upright, marched towards the Rabbi and held out his hand, but the Rabbi, in view of the congregation, refused to take the hand outstretched in peace. The rejection of his hand was the talk of the day in those times.
Rabbi Eliahu Wisler was an agent for peace in Reden, the opposer of the
cantakerousness that had prevailed in Huta Bankova. He was a force for unity
as against separation. He was well liked by Rabbi Szlomo Halperin, Jakob
Shalom Fiszel and Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon. Abram Grosfeld saw him as his type
of rabbi and offered him a post as a teacher in Reden. In the same period, his
father passed away and he was compelled to return to Granice, to handle
affairs. He looked after many children and could hardly support them all.
During the war his son hid him in a barn belonging to Christians. After the war
he went to Czestochowa, where he was placed on the rabbinate's throne.
However, his heart yearned for the Land of Israel, and in 1947 he arrived
there. Rabbi Eliahu Wisler endeavored to receive an appointment in the
rabbinate, however, he remained modest and unassuming and didn't seek
prominence. He was contented working as kashrut inspector in Lod. He passed
away at the age of 70.
It is hard to understand how this short statured Jew, broad shouldered, with a short yellow beard over pink cheeks, became an accepted visitor to the council and local authorities. Not his typical Jewish appearance and not his cultured Polish language, had the merits which caused the authorities to open the town council doors, but for all that, Wawa Fajner was, for many years, a lobbyist and a defender of rights for the Jews of the town. The Jews needed him: one because his shop had been closed because the shopkeeper had been found serving in the shop not wearing an upper garment. A second because he hadn't placed official prices on his products, and a third because his scales weren't balanced; a birth certificate to this one, or a burial certificate, or one of a thousand demands for that were dictated to the common man by the authorities. Wawa, short in stature, brought them the necessary permits.
On Friday it was his sacred duty to supply Shabbat provisions to the town's needy. In the afternoon, after dipping in the mikve, wearing his Shabbat attire and with a basket in hand, he would go from house to house collecting chala and wine for the needy, being afraid that, Heaven forbid, the Shabbat would begin with a Jew unable to bless it.
In spite of his popularity he remained as one of the ordinary citizens. In
Jekutiel Kajzer's house, in the tradesmen's small prayer house, he prayed and
took part in its celebrations and sorrows. He was active in the Chevra
Kaddisha, and to give a Jew a proper religious burial was for him an rewardless
act of true kindness.
A different kind of a well known personality who devoted himself to the society
was the feldsher (a type of doctor), Mosze Mitelman. He was made of a
different substance, coming from a family that was closely and firmly tied to
Polish circles, and the Polish language was the spoken language in their home.
The feldscher, himself, spoke Polish fluently. His attire was elegant. He
traveled in a carriage drawn by two fine horses; his sons studied in Polish
universities and became doctors and engineers. He was employed in the city
council's sanitation department, and each morning he set out to the markets to
inspect the quality of the villagers' milk, to check that it wasn't diluted or
contained another contamination, and more than once did he have to pour out the
milk on finding a strange mixture within it.
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