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[Page 467]


Reb Chanoch Gershon Szpielberg, z”l

by Mosze Judkewicz

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld




Elderly and having lived a long life, this week Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpielberg passed away. He was a learned scholar. He was born in Łódź, and he studied with the Rabbi from Żarki. After he married the daughter of the wealthy Reb Lajbele Frochcwajg from Dąbrowa Górnicza, he moved to live in this town till he made aliyah in 1935.

On coming to Dąbrowa the veteran townspeople grew to know him as a talented Yeshiva student and a scholar, a lecturer and activist and within a short time Reb Gerszon became an address for all that was related to the public benefit. There was not a communal institution in the town, including the kehila committee, in which the late Gerszon did not participate. He was the activist and the activator. In his communal work – which wasn't to receive reward – he was tireless. He neglected his home and his businesses, and his wife looked after the children and ran the business in order provide for the family.

He was amongst the founders of “Mizrachi” in the town and the first to “dare” to call for the building of Eretz Yisrael above the bimah of the Bet Midrash. There was not an emissary who had not his found first stopover in Reb Gerszon Chanoch's home. He was strict with himself in religious matters, however towards his fellow man he acted according to the School of Bet Hillel [had a lenient approach]. He was a Chasid of the admor Sofrin from Komarno and in his spare time he was always to be found hunched over Gemara.

In the early nineteen twenties he sent his oldest son Szraga, who was one of the founders of Kfar Ganim near to Petach Tikwa, and in 1935 Reb Gerszon Chanoch managed to make aliyah with all his family.

He settled in the Montefiore neighborhood. Here as well he was occupied in helping his fellow man. With his death, one of the first national religious Jews was lost.

He was survived by a wife, long may she live, and a large family.

May his memory be blessed.




The activist and the activator

by Kalman Barkai

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld




Gerszon son of Icchak-Cwi Szpielberg z”l, born in the city of Łódź, was a distinguished leader, a scholar, enthusiastic Zionist, was an activist and activator in the Diaspora. From the day he came to our town he dedicated himself heart and soul to all the institutions that existed at the time. He founded “Mizrachi” and the “Talmud Torah” school and “Tarbut” [cultural society]. He was the first to respond to a call for assistance, and participated in every fund raising drive of the “Keren Hakayemet” [National fund] and “Keren Hayesod” [Foundation fund]. As a member of the kehila committee, he strove for a national fund. More than once he endangered himself in order to save Jewish life though not for the sake of reward.

In 1935 he made aliyah and here as well he didn't overlook improving the lot of his fellow man, and continued to dedicate himself to charity institutions. During the Second World War he was restless till he organized our townspeople in order to send parcels to every needy person in the Diaspora, and he also took care of the survivors here.

More than once he came to me to inform me that someone or other needed a place to work or support. Then he would say to me in Yiddish: “Zay visen az inser brider oder shvester hot kayn parnuseh!!” [“They know that our brothers or sisters have no income!!”] Since it was customary to call our townspeople affectionately “brider und shvester” [brother and sister].

He was chairman of the organization till the last moment. He was very happy to learn about the publishing of a book about the Dąbrowa kehila, and to our great sorrow he didn't manage to see it himself.

Woe for those who are gone and are irreplaceable.


[Page 468]


Ruwen Lichtcyjer (Glozerman), z”l

by Szlomo Hajda

(as told by Reb Isachar Hajda)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld




One of the most outstanding personalities in the town of Dąbrowa Górnicza was the Chassid, Reb Ruwen Glosserman ztz”l, known as Reb Ruwen Lichtcyjer (after his wax candle making business).

He was born in 5627 (1866) in the town of Żarnowiec and was one of the important followers of Reb Yisrael from Pilów ztz”l. His studiousness of the Torah was exemplary, months could pass and Reb Ruwen would remain studying all night in the Bet Midrash, and from overtiredness he would fall asleep at the table. All his life he carried out charity and aid over and above his resources. In particular the mitzvah of taking in visitors and charity were prominent. He made a living from the sale of wax candles and oil to the large factories. I heard about his wondrous deeds from Reb Isachar Hajda who now lives in New York and who witnessed most of his activities. His home, which had four rooms, was open day and night to every passerby: to the poor, to the traders coming to fairs, to the scholars studying the Torah day and night, and also to the emissaries who went about collecting money for the yeshivas.


dab468.jpg [18 KB] - Reb Ruwen Lichtcyjer, of blessed memory
Reb Ruwen Lichtcyjer, of blessed memory
one of the 36 righteous men[1] in the Dąbrowa Górnicza community



[Page 469]


Reb Bencyjon Apter relates that he once had the occasion to visit Reb Ruwen's apartment and there already wasn't a spare bed available for him, and when he saw this he immediately gave him his own bed and he himself slept on the floor. He upheld the words of the Fathers “The poor will be at home in yours” that is to say that the poor will go about your home unembarrassed like members of your home.

Reb Ruwen excelled in charity and gave donations without limits. His generous hand was open for all the needy. When Reb Ruwen noticed a beggar, he would put his hand into his pocket and extract silver coins and give them to the poor man without counting them. When someone was going to marry off a son or daughter and didn't have enough money for the dowry, he would receive a generous sum of money from Reb Ruwen which would cover a large portion of his expenses.

If he would go out into the street with a large sum of money in his hand in order to buy something, on meeting up with poor people or emissaries collecting money for yeshivas, he would distribute money to them and go back into his home without a coin. In his old age, when he became impoverished he continued to give charity over and above his ability. One cold winter's day, when the roads were filled with snow, a Jew came towards him and asked for money for something important. Reb Ruwen replied to him: I don't have any money, but I will give you my new boots and you can sell them. And whilst speaking Reb Ruwen removed his boots and gave them to the Jew and Reb Ruwen went on his way barefoot in the snow. A wealthy man saw through the window of his home how Reb Ruwen plodded through the snow, and asked what was it about? Why are you walking barefooted? Reb Ruwen told him the story. He told him: It is inappropriate that an important Jew like yourself walks barefoot in the street, and gave him another pair of boots.

It was his custom to go to the homes of the poor and see what they were lacking: wood for heating, articles of clothing, food, and he would kindly complete what was missing. And a deed of Reb Ruwen was that on a cold winter's night he came to Rabbi Alter Moshe Aron haLevi in Dąbrowa the author of the books “Candle for a Hundred” and the “Crops of the Earth” the son in law of Reb Josef Blumenfeld ztz”l. On entering he noticed that the family members were freezing from cold (since at the time the rabbi was in a difficult financial state). After leaving the house Reb Ruwen the rabbi saw a wagon loaded with coal for heating coming from the end of the street and the wagon driver began unloading it in the courtyard of his home. The rabbi asked him: What is that? The wagon driver replied that he had been sent to give the coal to the rabbi. However the rabbi refused to accept the coal for free, and the wagon driver remained firm. After discussion, the rabbi agreed to take it, and after a time the rabbi learnt that the dispatch had been surreptitiously sent by Reb Ruwen in order not to embarrass the rabbi. And about Reb Ruwen the passage from Psalms can be said: “Joy to those who enrich the poor“; Astute and blessed is the man who cleverly gives charity in order not to embarrass the poor man.

Once his family members saw that Reb Ruwen coming back from the bathhouse in clothing that weren't his, patched and dirty clothing of a poor person, since he left his clothes so that a poor person would be left with good and clean clothes.

A deed occurred in the town of Dąbrowa to a Chassidic Jew, virtuous, a giver of charity and aid, extremely wealthy by the name of Reb Chanoch Rechnic z”l. Once his dear friend Reb Ruwen came to him and said that he needed several thousand złotys for the dowry of an orphaned bride. Reb Chanoch gave him the key to his large treasury and told Reb Ruwen: Take as much as you need. And Reb Ruwen took as much as he needed and married the orphan with this money. A few years passed and Reb Chanoch went to live in the city of Warsaw, and when it came time for him to leave this life he ordered his sons to bury him in Dąbrowa, where Reb Ruwen lived, but the “Chevrat Kaddisha” [burial society] from Warsaw opposed this saying that they deserved him and it was forbidden to transfer him to another town. After the deceased's heirs had paid the “Chevrat Kaddisha” a goodly sum of money, they were allowed to transfer him to Dąbrowa and he was buried with great dignity.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the Germans carried out a “selection” and sent off all the elderly to be killed and Reb Ruwen was also amongst them. When Reb Ruwen stood at the doorway of his home, the S.S. commander asked him: What is your honor doing here? Reb Ruwen replied to him: They sent me with all the elderly. The S.S. commander said to him: Go back to your home and make sure that the people of your town have all that they need. And Reb Ruwen returned safely and continued to supplement the shortages of the townspeople till his last days, and after that he passed away in his bed and not at the hands of the Nazis.

In 5703 [1943], his pure soul rose to the heavens. And who wasn't upset about the death of Reb Ruwen, who had been dedicated all his life to the general Jewish population, and all his deeds were done modestly and surreptitiously.



Translator's footnote

  1. Lamedvavnik, is the Yiddish term for one of the 36 humble righteous ones or Tzadikim mentioned in kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. According to this teaching, at any given time there are at least 36 holy persons in the world who are Tzadikim. return



[Page 470]


The Visitor

(Dedicated to my father-in-law, Reb Josef Cyna Klajnman, of blessed memory)

by A. W. Werthajm

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund




Who stands there in the street, in late evening time,
And yearns for a person, to ask him something?
Who looks so helpless, at the crossroads
In the autumnal pain of the wind, worsening weather?
Eleven o'clock at night, a Jew went astray
In the shtetl [town] Dąbrowa, the small kehila [religious community].
It is empty and the streets, for example, the streets are like a desert,
As if no Jews even lived here…
He went to look for the Linat-haTzedek [poorhouse]
And there he found – locked doors.
And here pain tears at his feet as tongs,
And no one is here to take him somewhere.
“God in Heaven!” – hiccups and cries the Jew;
“I stretch out my hand in prayer to You.
Show me a miracle of Your benevolence,
That I not die here, in lonely strangeness…”
In one of the alleys of the shtetl of small alleys
Reb Ruwen lives, known as a candlemaker.
He draws his livelihood from his craft.
However, his hand was open – to help Jews.
“Reb Ruwele Magid [preacher]” – many people call him.
He wears a smock, greasy with fat
Like a king, dressed in a toga of gold…
His face is pure, his eyes – very joyous…
He will always find many ways,
(Day by day, before his feet cross
The threshold of God's house, where he comes to ask)
Who needs help, a sick person to tend.
Then, he goes to the Beit-Midrash [house of study or synagogue],
Pours out his heart, in elevated prayers,
To hear the sweet and holy sounds
And to feel encouraged and firm in his belief – – –


*

Reb Ruwen finishes eating his meal.
A folded page in a sefer [religious book], placed on the spot.
Then he stands up, tired, and yawns,
He washes his hands, says the blessing word by word,
Later, he reads the Kriat Shema[1], bends,
Turns off the lamp, it barely sparkles.
Then he lays his body stretched out in bed,
And the small room rocks– a small ship in foam –


*

Half awake, hours pass in a nap
Did someone knock on the shutter? Or is the wind moving it?
“Is someone murmuring, kick him over:
A Jews suffers agonies outside now”…
Reb Ruwen springs from his bed astonished,
Pulls on his boots, his caftan – turns off,
Then turns on a lantern near the lamp,
Opens the door and goes out into the night…


*

A wind rushes and thrashes like whips,
Throws the small lamp back and forth
Reb Ruwen walks farther and ignores it,
He cuts through the darkness and his vision is sharp…
Suddenly he hears a rustle in the distance,
Some sort of shadow creeps around near the wall.
Here he sees a Jew standing and shakes his hand.
A shalom alechem [hello],” he smiles in turn.
“Where do you come from, Reb Yid[2], so late?”
“Excuse me, I think I have already met you.
Now come with me to my room, that is what I want and ask…”
The Jew explains everything on the way,
How he wandered here late at night.
Reb Ruwen listens, his eyes shine:
“Praise He in heaven that I was awake!”
The visitor barely looks in his room
Here he sees refreshments and liquor on the table.
They both drink very heartily: L'chaim [to life]!
The Jew wipes his tear-filled eyes…


*

Reb Ruwen gives his guest his bed,
And he himself lies down on the ground.
He immediately sinks into a slumber. He dreams: as if floating
In heaven, how everything around shines. – –

Tel Aviv, Chanukah, 5727 [1966]





Translator's footnotes

  1. Reb Yid is a polite way of addressing a man one does not know and is the equivalent of “sir.” return
  2. The twice daily recitation of the prayer – “Shema Yisrael” – “Hear Oh Israel.” It is recited upon awakening and before going to sleep return



[Page 471]


Reb Reuven Lichtcyjer, z”l

by Efraim Lenczer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I feel that it is worthwhile to portray and understand the character and personality of Reb Reuven Lichtcyzjer of blessed memory, even though there was no lack of philanthropists and good-hearted people among the Jews of Poland in general, and among the Jews of Dąbrowa in particular. Nevertheless, Reb Reuven Lichtcyjer was different from other philanthropists in his approach and psychological grasp of the motto “a person is close to himself.” According to his conception, a person must first of all worry about others, and then about himself as well. He would contradict the “intermediate” trait of “what is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” (Tractate Avot, 5:10). His opinion was: what is mine is yours – if you need it more that I do; and what is yours – is not yours, it is only given over to you, so to speak, on behalf of someone who needs it more than you do. It is given to you to give to others, and if I am in need of it – then of course, I am also allowed to benefit. I will also stand on your behalf in the time of need, so what is wrong if I also benefit from yours in the time of need?

The following is from his statements in his lectures in the Beis Midrash:

It is written in the Torah “Honor your father and mother.” What is the word “et[1] written twice? When a person becomes elderly, he can no longer earn his livelihood, and, having no choice, depends on the table of his children. The children are obligated to support the parents so that they will not feel inferior, heaven forbid. They should feed them in honor, and tell them “eat, dear Father, and eat, dear Mother”[2]. They should treat them with refinement so that they should feel good, as if at home.

A fire broke out in the town of Jurik [perhaps Żarki], and the entire town went up in flames. Of course, help came from charitable organizations, however, “the handful did not satisfy the lion.” The poor “burned out” people took up the staff of wanderers to request donations, and also reached Dąbrowa. There were heretics who did not believe that every person from Jurik requesting help was indeed one of those who had suffered from the fire. This reached the ears of Reb Reuven of blessed memory Lichtcyjer. He would say, “If a Jew goes out on a journey, leaves his house and family to gather donations – he is not doing this for enjoyment, and 'everyone who stretches out is hand should be given.'” He told the following parable:

Every morning when I set out on my way, my horse walks lazily even though it has rested all night in the barn. Do you know why? Because my horse knows that it leaves its house every day to wander aimlessly on paths, and it will be hungry and thirsty at times. However, when it returns home in the evening, it runs quickly even though it is tired from the entire day. Do you know why? Because the horse knows that it is going home, and therefore does not feel the weariness.

The meaning of the parable is: A Jew goes out on the journey without choice – with all the dangers that lurk on the route for Jews – in order to earn a livelihood for his family and hungry children. Do not ask him a great deal, and do not interrogate him, for “one does not check with regard to issues of livelihood.”

The Tvuna group for Torah study, lead by Rabbi Blumenfeld, gathered around it the best of the lads of Dąbrowa between the years 1917-1925. During those years, it served as a refuge for the poor, a place for hosting wayfarers, and the kernel of Young Mizrachi in the city. Reuven Lichtcyjer was greatly desired and beloved by this group. Through his influence, a refuge for the poor and a group to tend to wayfarers was set up in the home of Yaakov Szywek. There was no impoverished wayfarer who did not find shelter and food in that house.

Reb Reuven, of blessed memory, Lichtcyjer, in his holy way, would ascent the podium every Sabbath in the Beis Midrash of Reden to deliver a sermon before Musaf, in his holy manner. He spoke to the hearts of the worshippers, encouraged them, and preach moral lessons regarding the importance of the commandments of giving aid to those in need, etc.

He fortified his words with proofs from the weekly Torah portion, and spiced them with adages of our sages. Reb Reuven of blessed memory was very enthusiastic. He elongated the sermon, and the minutes continued on and went by. Finally, the time came to conclude the service, go home, and prepare for kiddush and the Sabbath meal – but who would be so brazen as to hint to Reb Reuven of blessed memory that he should shorten his words?

Once after Reb Reuven concluded the sermon, Reb Shlomo Halpern of blessed memory approached him and said to him in jest: “The Gemara states, 'That which is hateful to do, you should not do to your friend,' but I say, 'That which is beloved to you, do not do.' You, Reb Reuven, love to preach, good and fine – but you must think and ask whether your friends also like to listen to your speeches, especially at a not so appropriate time.”



Translator's footnotes

  1. The Hebrew accusative particle. return
  2. In Ashkenazic pronunciation, “et” is pronounced “es”. “Es”, when spelled with an ayin instead of an aleph, means “eat”. Thus the play on words on “es.” return



[Page 472]


Yizkor
[Prayer commemorating the dead]

by Israel Kornfeld

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund




There was a pious Jew in our shtetl [town]; he was named Reb Ruwen Lichtcijer. He went to the Bet Midrash [house of prayer or synagogue] every morning to plead for each Jew, for each person – for health, income and peace. His prayer to God was for each Jew who did not have an income. He greeted everyone with a smile, with a cheerful good morning. Reb Ruwen, the pious Jew, always had in mind how to help and with what to focus on for a dejected person. He hated stingy people and was angry at the wealthy and pleaded with God for the poor and the downhearted, for help and not only to see their need and pain. Everyone knew that Reb Ruwen possessed a warm heart, because he helped as many of the downhearted as he could.

Reb Ruwen's life was a modest one. As was his custom, he wore the same clothing summer and winter and he did not live only for himself.

Jews in our shtetl lived quietly, some with a trade and some as merchants. And among them were cheerful youth and unions and meeting halls. Cheerful dancing and jumping and singing their cheerful songs. Reb Ruwen rejoiced with them and prayed with great ecstasy together with all of the Jews. On a dark morning, dark bloody devils unexpectedly attacked our poor shtetl. Suddenly our Jewish life fell into a dark abyss…

Jews sat slumped and silent like a fallen, twinkling star. The dancing and singing of the young was heard no more. The Hasidic shtiblech [small prayer houses] and also the unions and meeting halls were no longer there. Our pious Reb Ruwen could not help anymore and watched with sorrow and grief and rage. There was no one to care. Reb Ruwen could no longer take care of the fallen. Reb Ruwen declined terribly, surrounded with sorrow and grief, hearing the Germans order Jews, young and old, small and large, to wear the Jewish Magen David [Star of David]. And Jews lamented and cried. There was no limit to their trouble and suffering. The small number of Jews were pressed together in the ghetto, like animals in cages. And the poverty in the houses was great. Jews were hungry and there was no crumb of bread. And Reb Ruwen felt hunger and need with them.

Suddenly, all of the Jews, young and old, large and small, had to gather at a place. It is certain that Reb Ruwen, the pious one, decided not to give his body and his soul to the German murderers. Not to stick out bones and neck for the bloody murderers for slaughter, or to be burned. The old, heartsick man lay and asked: “Where are you, God, in whom we believed; where are you, creator, with your pity? You watch as we are burned in fire and flames, how we are strangled and we are forgotten. Where are you, God; you have closed the Gates of Mercy. Did you create us as blazing chunks of wood, for death on the gallows and not to die [a natural death]? Oh, omnipotent one, where is your compassion?”

Reb Ruwen lay there an old man, sick with closed red eyes; the blue-white tallit [prayer shawl] stretched out on his weak body. He sat up on his bed with all of his strength and with tears, with lifted hands: O, God, provide a miracle for everyone, that the German murderers should be burned and accursed with desolate defeat. And let me die among my own!

There was a sadness, a sorrow in our shtetl. Our Reb Ruwen, the righteous man of the generation, was no more. In the long, quiet night, his tearful eyes closed.


[Page 473]


The remaining Jews carried the saintly body – covered in sanctity by the holy tallit – to the hill of Jewish graves and brought him to a Jewish burial.

There in the old home on the hill among Jewish graves lies Reb Ruwen, not alone. There is no one left who will say Kaddish [prayer for the dead] and who will leave a tear. May these written words be our communal Kaddish… Amen…


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