by Yekuthiel Wakhman / Tel Aviv
Translated by Pamela Russ
I was commissioned to write about the artisans [manual workers, craftsmen] in Kurow, but it is difficult for me to concentrate, remember, and clearly describe the artisans, I really want to tell a little about everything, without any order, jumping over things, and eventually you'll learn something from this, also some things about our artisans.
The town was surely one kilometer in length and one kilometer in width. In the eastern part of the town on the Lublin road, and from the west on the Warsaw road. Along the width, the last house of Nowyrinek, two houses past Mendel Kalb, until the street of Mottel Niderberg and Khaim Nisenboim. The majority of the Jewish population was concentrated in the center from the Pulawy Road until the Hawlicza [not sure of this term], with all its little streets on both sides of the highway. Just a small number of Jews lived in the Christian area.
Both our people and the streets had unusual names:
|From right to left: Meyer Najmark, his wife; Khaim Yehoshua Niderberg, Frandel Cukerman, unknown, Yosel Tajtelboim all perished
A wedding street, a death street. The wedding ceremonies were done in the shuls, and eulogies for the dead were delivered in the Beis Medrash [Study Hall]. To escort the bride and groom to their chuppah [wedding canopy and ceremony] you had to pass through the Beis Medrash street, and escort a deceased person through the shul street. A groom coming from a different town was taken around the city hall several times.
The given names of the people went by inheritance, from grandfather to grandchild. The lekishes [dummies], the shmegdes [thickheaded], the oksen [oxen], kradnikes [thief], kakelines [not sure], kukeches [not sure], and slowly no one was embarrassed by these names. Sometimes, they were even proud of these names.
You'll never trick me, I am a lekish.
And if Yekusiel (Ksiel) Wakhenhazer (Oks) was complaining to Yekhiel Feldberg that he could not understand something, then Yekhiel replied:
How can I understand? I am a shegde [thickheaded person].
The artisans did not live badly. They
not only produced materials, but also went to the fairs to sell their products. These people were generally active and busy in all areas of the town. The bank was in their name, they had several charity groups hachnosas kallah [aid for poor brides], and others. At the head of these manual workers were:
Yisroel Zamdmer, Moshe Najmark, Mottel Ettinger, Faivel Rik, Gershon Tajkhman, Shmuel Khanisman, Yisroel Volf Zajdenwurm, Yisroel Moshe Tenenboim.
As was already said, they were busy with social help for each other. First, for the winter they prepared several hundred koretz [corn measures; equal to 122.99 liters] for the needy. Zanvil Yosef's gave his cellar for this storage need. During the hard frost, the poor did not have any potatoes to eat, so these potatoes were distributed to them.
Once it happened, in the year 1923, that the town of Ryka was burned down. It happened on the night of Passover. Immediately, the following morning, matzos were collected, meat, eggs, and other foods, loaded into two cars, and quickly taken over to Ryka. As the cars began to move, Yoske Khazan cried out:
So, now we can go pray!
As was later evident, the help from Kurow was among the first to happen.
Other than Hakhnosas Kallah, there was also Bikur Kholim [aid for the sick], Linat Hatzadek [caring for the sick, medical supplies, medical and recovery interventions, etc.], Gemilas Khesed [nonprofit financial assistance].
There were several Jews in town who were active in agriculture, such as Geler Dovid, the sons of Yosef who were seven brothers (four lived in Kurow). Leybel Yosef's had his own field that he worked on his own. And his brother Zanvil Melhendler, who did a lot for the town, such as paved the Beis Medrash street, straightened out the place for the shul, put fences around the cemeteries. He merited to come to Israel and here is where he died.
We had some humble Jews living with us, but there was a lot to learn from them, as an example, Alter Szabenmakher, who really was counted as one of the 36 righteous men [Lamed Vov Tzadikim; according to Jewish tradition, these 36 righteous men wander the earth and maintain our existence through their protective connection with God]. Also, Hersh Mekhel Lekisz, who barely earned enough money for a small piece of dry bread, but was always the first to give a donation, more than he was able to.
Once, as a group of young boys in Beis Medrash, which was usual for us, we were playing around with the coats. Hersh Mekhel came over to me and said:
Look here, look what you've done. If you would have thought about how many Jews have kissed these coats, then you would not throw them around.
He never went to a farmer's truck to buy something if someone was already there and was haggling [over prices].
If we are talking about productive Jews, we have to mention Mendel Mandelkern (Waczaz). As is known, he also liked to mix into all the town's issues. If they had to make a well in the middle of the market place, he went to the administrative office, raised the appropriate monies, hired workers, and watched over the job until it was completely done. Yes, later it became known that the water was not drinkable, but could only be used to wash laundry. Only Mendel did not use any other water, he felt a very good taste in it…
There was an odd type in the town Yisroel Mogerman (Wroni). The children loved him dearly, because on Lag b'Omer [33rd day of the Omer; days counted from Passover to Shavuos] he made merry with bonfires [day is traditionally celebrated with bonfires]. He was a good drummer as part of the musicians, and made his own flutes for playing. He was a fisherman, he hunted for pigeons, he had a pigeon coop, raised pigeons, transported chickens, and planted some trees near his home. He did everything perfectly, firstclass. But of all these abilities all he became was a porter.
When he was called up to the army, to Pulow, he divided up to his father the chickens,
to his mother the cat, Yankel the pigeons, Mordekhai the trees.
About the Khalutz [pioneers in Israel], a Discussion in the Beis Medrash, and My Departure for Israel
In the year 1923, the Khalutz organization was established in Kurow. Its goals are known. First, we had no particular location, and the Zionist organization allowed us to be there for a time. Later, we rented our own place on the street of Yisroel Balebus, at the home of Leybel Rozen, and after that we moved to the court of Yidel Beker. The leaders and founders of Hekhalutz were: Yosel Tajtelboim, Moshe Strasburg, Yidel Mandelker, Dovid Kartman, Velvel Wurman, Khaim Shiye Niderberg, Yekusiel Wakhman, Yitzkhok Fishbajn, Meyer Najmark, Nasanel Grosman.
The most important task was to attract the youth to productive work. We wanted to break the opinions and psychology of some of the Jews about physical work. We enthusiastically and demonstratively went through the streets with spades, saws, and axes. Not only one mother wrung her hands and moaned:
Woe to the mothers who have to see this.
When the municipality had to pave some of the streets in town, and then every businessman was forced to partake in the work of this task for a few days, or hire someone on his stead, we took care of this job. Every day, 15 to 20 of our friends went out to do this municipal task of paving the roads. Other than that, we sent our friends to do private physical work, such as chopping wood, and other similar hard jobs. The principal woodchoppers were Meyer Cederboim and Meyer Wajnberg.
There were 70 members of Hekhalutz. We sent a group of friends to Hakhshara places [training for agricultural work]. At that point, all that was left for us to do was cultural work. Yosel Tajtelboim was very well read, expert in Hebrew literature, and knew very well what was going on in Israel. He subscribed to Ha'olam [The World], Davar [The Word], Hatekufa [The Era]. He frequently gave lectures, taught Hebrew to the remaining friends three times a week. There is a lot to write about Yosel Tajtelboim.
Those friends who went on Hakhshara, did not pass the test after several months almost all of them came back. Just a small number of them made aliyah to Israel.
It was on a night at the beginning of March, in the year 1933. That was the night that I immigrated to Israel. On that evening, as I was leaving the home of Yosel Tajtelboim, where I had gone to say goodbye, I passed by the Beis Medrash [Study Hall], I heard the all too familiar sounds of the learning. I stopped at the window and looked in. At the southwestern table were seated
|Yidel Mandelker, a grandchild of Mendel Waczaz, his wife Margalit (today in Havanah, Cuba), and his two cousins
… Yankele Simkha Meyer's, Shloime Khane's, Yankele Hertzke's, Shloime Tevil Wakhenhazer, Yankel Khane's Kaplan, Mordekhai Stoljer's son. Naturally, I wanted to say goodbye to them. When I approached the table, Shloime Tevil looked at me angrily, and shouted:
So, you came to disturb the learning?
Well, I said, yes, I will disturb the learning, but this will be the last time because I am leaving soon to Israel.
He was embarrassed, became milder and soft. But he still said:
I don't know how long you will be there, but you will certainly come back to Kurow.
And then, with his finger, he pointed at Mordekhai Stoljer (who had already returned from Israel). Mordekhai Stoljer saw that a finger was pointed at him, so he came forward. No, he was not in agreement with Shloime Tevil that I would come back from Israel:
You, Yekusiel, will certainly not return. You will remain there as a dweller.
Shloime Tevil did not want to give in, and since he had once lived in Gniewoszow, and he could not contain himself there, always yearning to come back to Kurow, he finally did come back. If he were compensated here, he would not leave Kurow. At this point, Yankel Kaplan (Khana's) called out that he felt the same way when he was in Kuzhmir he was very much drawn back to Kurow. Even though he was given a great amount of respect in Kuzhmir, and things went well for him, it still was not Kurow! Then Shloime Khane's said that even though he was not a Kurower, and in the beginning it was difficult for him to become acclimated there, now he was closely tied and feels very much at home there.
Yankele Simkha Meyer's remarked to Shloime Tevil, that meanwhile, he was still disturbing the learning.
Yankel Hertzke's (Sznajdleder) commented, that he readily agreed that every month one of his opponents (he was the leader of the Agudas Yisroel [religious group] in town should leave.
When I left the Beis Medrash, Mordekhai followed me and once again reassured me that I would successfully settle in Israel:
When I arrived there, no one knew me, and here in Kurow, I am a respected person, in the shul and in the Beis Medrash, I am given an honorable aliyah [during the reading of the Torah], and successfully bid for the opening of the Holy Ark [before the Torah reading] for the entire year [a very esteemed position]. You, however, you will come with the khalutzim, and the country is entirely theirs, so you will be very much at home.
And we bid each other goodbye.
Now, as I remember our town, and disregard each of the party conflicts and oppositional arguments, there was still a loyalty from one to the other. If someone needed help, no one looked at his party loyalties, and, in his time of need, he was helped immediately and put back on his feet.
When I remember that all this no longer exists, all destroyed by the Nazi murderers I become shaken and agitated.
To this very day, I am still very proud of being a Kurower.
Standing from right to left: Rukhama Ricer with her child; Yekhezkel Tenenboim, her husband; Soroh Stajnbukh, Yekhiel Noakh's daughter (Paris); Khaim Alter Zajdenwurm; BenTzion Tenenboim (son of Yisroel Moshe); Esther Malke, wife of Yisroel Moshe
Seated from left to right: Pinkhas Stajnbukh, Faigele Stajnbukh (Paris), Yekhiel Noakh Tenenboim; his wife Freindel; Yisroel Moshe, their son; Yisroel Moshe's two children Faigele and Zalman
Seated on the bottom: Yisroel Stajnbukh, Khayale Tenenboim. Other than the two indicated from Paris, all perished
|Yosel Hokhman (Rapnik) photographed as an Arab, was in Israel, had a carpenter's workshop, but returned to Kurow. Was active with the communists, worked hard materially, became a porter, and died young.
by Shmuel Gotlib
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
by Shmuel Gotlib
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Among all of the parties, organizations and institutions that once existed in Kurow, it is worth remembering the Lines haTzedek [institution providing help for the sick poor] institution. As I understand it, this was one of the most important for the shtetl [town]. It can be compared with the Kupat Holim [health insurance fund] here in Israel.
We all remember that there were enough poor people in our shtetl and, as I remember, medical help was on a very low level. The shtetl had only one doctor, a Christian, who had to serve the shtetl as well as the villages around it. That is a population of 10,000 souls. And if a rich man became sick, he needed to bankrupt himself and if, God forbid, a poor man [became sick], he had to sell his last pillow. There were many cases when people died because of a lack of medical help.
At this opportunity I want to remember the feldsher [traditional barber-surgeon]
|Copy of a letterhead from Lines haTzedek in Kurow, with Yankl Wajnrib's handwriting
Chaim Shmuel Lustman, of blessed memory, gave a great deal of help to the sick Jews. However, at the same time, he only was a feldsher. Right after his death (1932) the idea for a lines hatzedek in the shtibl [one room synagogue] of the Rabbi, Reb Yankele [diminutive of Yakov] Matises was born. This was on a Shabbos [Sabbath] night. Half a minyon [10 men comprising a prayer quorum] of men would remain after havdalah [ceremony ending the Sabbath] and they would discuss the news of the week. As a boy, I would always love to hear what the older men were talking about. Among those who remained was my father, Leibish Gotlib, may he rest in peace, Reb Yudl Brik, Reb Yankel Wajnrib and others. The theme was:
Lines haTzedek. That they must create an institution that would be impartial and all residents would support it and it would support all of the sick who would turn to it for help. Whoever remembers Reb Yudl Brik, may he rest in peace, knows that when he undertook something, he had to see it through one hundred percent. He was one of the most energetic people in the shtetl, full of initiative.
The first task was to bring another doctor to the shtetl, a Jewish one. A managing committee was created with Reb Yudl Brik, Yakov Wajnrib, my father, Leibish Gotlib, and others at the head. It was decided to call a meeting of all residents in the house of prayer.
It was a Sunday evening, winter, when the people were not away at fairs, but were at home. The house of prayer was fully packed with people, the floor was wet from the snow brought in and a blue smoke from the cigarettes that were being smoked hovered over their heads. The 200 lamps blinded the eyes with their strong light.
Mekhl Shamas [sexton] received a wink that he should silence everyone. He gave several raps on the balemer [elevated Torah reading desk] and it became quiet. At the desk stood several esteemed businessmen with Reb Yudl Brik at the head. Yudl spoke about the importance of such an institution as the Lines haTzedek, whose task was to help the sick poor and simultaneously to bring their own Jewish
Sitting from right to left: 1)Yosef Yudl Zalcberg, 2) Naftali Lewin, 3) Moshe Apelbaum, 4) Yoska Khazan [cantor] (Okerman), 5) Leibish Gotlib, 6) Rabbi Reb Elimelekh Guterman, 7) Shimkha Huberman, 8) Yankl Wajnrib, 9) Shmuel Chanesman, 10) Avraham Rik, 11) Asher Eidlsztajn, 12) Yitzhak Kajman, 13) Yisroel Zajdnwort, 14) Itshe Feferman, 15) Pesakh Libskind's two children.
Standing: Itshe Apelbaum, Pesakh Libskind, Leyzer Hersh Kenig, a boy, Dovid Rocziner (Korngold), Moshe Blumels, Ahron Wajnrib, Yudl Sztern, a boy.
doctor and to give inexpensive and free remedies for the needy sick.
The assessments began after Reb Yudl's speech. The exit was blocked by a long, heavy table from the house of prayer. Wide-shouldered Jews did not let anyone out until they contributed.
Thus the meeting passed with great success.
The institution Lines haTzedek began to develop and grow. In a short time, they brought
the Jewish Doctor Perec, who excelled as a specialist and was very beloved by the population. The shtetl supported the institution, as well as the landsleit [people from the same town] in America. Lines haTzedek was supported by the entire population without any difference as to class, social position and party and it existed until the last day of the shtetl's destruction.
Ramat-Gan, December 1953
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