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[Page 255]

At the Funeral of Shalom ASZ's Mother in Kutno
(Impressions from our special envoy)

by Y. Sh. GOLDSZTAJN

(Reprinted from a photocopy of the “Today” of Warsaw, where was published the report by Y. Sh. Goldsztajn about the funeral of Asz's mother).

Receiving Kutno's painful telephone news of the death of Shalom Asz's mother, the editors decided today to send a delegation to the funeral procession to pay their last respects to the mother of a great Jewish writer on behalf of our editorial board. The delegation, consisting of Mr. Nehemiah Finkelsztajn, Y. M. Najman, and the author of these lines, arrived in Kutno Friday early in the morning and traveled to Shalom Asz's brother, Mr. Wolf Asz, the elder of Shalom. Asz's brothers, who lived in Kutno and was a prominent landlord and community worker there. The deceased lived with him, in his own house.

In the mourning house, apart from Mr. Wolf Asz, we met the two other sons of the deceased who live in Poland – Mr. Yaakov-Yehoshua Asz of Warsaw, who is one of the most prominent leather importers on Franciscan St and Mr. Melech Asz of Łódź, as well as their wives, children and other relatives. There is a deep sorrow in the home. From every corner comes grief and despair.

With wide eyes, the children tell of the last minutes of their mother, who died at the advanced age of 91[1] and was a type of Jewish woman that is rare to meet. Until the last minutes of her life, she was completely mentally alert, neat, cheerful, independent.

On the last day of her life, her son from Warsaw came to visit his ill mother. Her joy was great. She asked to informed “her Shalom” in America, that he should come because she wanted to see him. When the children asked if he should be telegraphed, she exclaimed “God forbid, no, he would be also frightened and worry that something happened. Just write a letter telling him to come.” Half an hour later, she was not alive anymore.

Her husband died 32 years ago. Since then, she lived only for her children. She had given birth to six sons and three daughters, two of whom died – the eldest son and youngest daughter, both in the United States. Two sons and two daughters are currently in the United States, not counting Shalom Asz, who is currently temporarily living there. 35 years ago, she was in America with the children for a few years, later she moved there, but she did not want to leave the children in Poland and so she moved back here.

She was a trembling mother over her children but most of all, she was attached to her great son Shalom Asz, whom she called “my comfort, my jewel”. And trembled and worried about him. The love was reciprocal. The great poet

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literally worshiped her and when he celebrated his fiftieth birthday with a grand parade in Warsaw, eight years ago, he seated his elderly mother next to him and she was honored. At every premiere of Shalom Asz's stage work, she used to come to Warsaw and to Łódź and rejoiced like a little child to her son's success. A few days ago, at the premiere of “Kiddush Hashem”, the old woman was unable to attend in Kutno and came to Warsaw. Although, in the year 1995 Szalom Asz was determined to settle in Israel, he had not decided which place he would live in. The current mayor of the amazingly growing town, Bat Yam, David Ben-Ari, invited him. The great author was invited to this fine town, with its splendid Mediterranean coast, to build, as he wished, the most up to date and best home. After the death of Szalom Asz this house, with its entire contents, pictures and antique collections, was given by Mrs. Asz to the municipality of Bat-Yam, to be used as an Asz museum and cultural centre – Szalom Asz's House.

 


Shalom ASZ's mother. Portrait by a young Kutno painter, Chaim TYBER

 

How far she was keeping track of her son's greatness can be seen in the way she collected every piece of newspaper clipping in which her son was mentioned, a critique or news about him. She kept it as a sanctuary. A few days before her death, she passed it on to the children, as an inheritance. It was a large package. We unpacked it and found hundreds of newspaper clippings about Shalom Asz's work in “Today” and in old newspapers and magazines from decades ago. Each novel was packed in a separate parcel and bound with silk ribbons of different color. She did not miss anything…

… Among the newspaper clippings, we even found an election call to vote in the Sejm elections for number 16. On the edge of the paper, Shalom Asz wrote down a word with a pencil and the old woman kept it. On some packages was written in a trembling handwriting: “Your faithful mother, Malka-Frajda”.

Half an hour before her death, one of the daughters-in-law moistened a handkerchief with perfume and wanted to perfume her. The ill mother did not let her do it and said, “This handkerchief belongs to Shalom, he forgot it when last time he came to see me and therefore it should not be touched”.

* * *

We pay a visit to the premises of the Kutno Jewish community. The chairman, Yehoshua Falc[2], tells us:

– Three years ago, the old woman came up to the community premises and declared: “I am afraid that after my death, the community will give me an honorary ground. And I do not want a free ground.” With trembling hands, she took out three bags of silver money and said: “Here is two hundred złotys and give me a receipt for it. My Shalom will choose the land for me.” Two years ago, when Shalom Asz was in Kutno, he went to the cemetery with the president and selected a plot of land. But in the middle, he sat up and said: “There is no need. The Almighty will help and my mother will still have a long, blessed year…”

We're going to the mourning house.

Many Chassidic Jews and young men sit and study Mishnayot with a heartbreaking melody. A group of elderly women lead through the purification at the home of the deceased. Two o'clock, the funeral procession begins. Hundreds of people gathered on the street. All came to pay their last respects to the mother of Shalom Asz, who was embraced in the town with great affection and glory. At the head, three men carry the bier on their shoulders. These are the three sons of the deceased. However, the most famous of them is missing, the great Shalom Asz. His place is occupied by a foreign Jew.

Hundreds of mourners follow the bier. The highest dignitaries of the city, town councilmen, the notables of the community, where Shalom Asz is an honorary member, the Kutner rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak-Yehuda Trunk.

The bier passes in front of the municipal school. The number of followers continues to grow.

At the cemetery, the bier is placed near the gate. The black cloth is removed and in the name of the editorial staff of “Today” Y. M. Najman speaks:

– The editors of “Today”, began the speaker, have placed upon me the duty to say goodbye to Shalom Asz's mother, the mother of a great Jewish writer and a great son of the Jewish people.

Shalom Asz always remembered his mother as a symbol of a torn Jewish heart, which trembles and worries over her children, whether near or away. The deceased was a most blessed Jewish mother, because she gave us a Shalom Asz.

With his work, Asz portrayed Jewish motherhood with great piety, and he took this model from his mother. He carried out her rare qualities and the language she had put in his mouth.

Shalom Asz is not with his mother now. He could not see her, but his heart and soul are now with her, with this woman, in whom Asz saw not only a mother, but a model of a Jewish woman.

It is not known whether Jews are a race or a people, but one thing is certain: the strongest trait in them is the feeling of family, which is inherited from mother to

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child and this goes like a red thread across the work of Shalom Asz.

Near this very coffin, we have the feeling that not only a mother gave birth to a son, but a son gave birth to a mother. Shalom Asz shone with his creation and crowned his mother and she rewarded him for it, with her motherly loyalty and love. When the generation of children she left behind will say kaddish here, over the coffin of their mother, they will have to remember their older brother, who was not destined to accompany his mother. And as the city and its leaders stand before this bier, they must remember that they stand before the woman who gave birth to a son who made Kutno famous on the world map and made the city a symbol and an emblem.

After the eulogy, the bier is carried to the open grave. The deceased is taken down, according to a Kutno custom, lying on a pillow which is placed under the head – and then the burial begins.

After the burial, the city cantor Polakewicz says an “el maleh rachamim” prayer, in the name of all the children, of Shalom Asz and of the editorial staff of “Today”.

Returning from the burial, the congregation remains standing in front of the gate of the cemetery and the brothers of Shalom Asz stand up and say kaddish with heartbreaking voices, choking on their tears.

The Kutner rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak-Yehuda Trunk (a grandson of Rabbi 'Shiele Kutner), was also planning to mourn, but due to the fact that the burial took place on Friday afternoon, no one should mourn.

For an entire Friday, Kutno lived under the impression of the funeral. No matter that Friday was market day, from which half of the city draws livelihoods, each and everyone abandoned their shops and workshops and came to pay their last respects to the mother of a great poet. Wherever they went and wherever they stood, people spoke about the deceased, about her wisdom, piety and extraordinary energy, which lasted until the last day of her life.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Malka Frajda Asz née Widawska (October 1, 1850, Łęczyca – 1938, Kutno), so she was at best 88. She was the second wife of Mosze Asz. Return
  2. probably Sender Falc, the last chairman of the community. Return


Shalom ASZ and Motke

by Zvi ASZ, Nahariya

Translated from the Hebrew by Eli Rubinstein

Every year, in late summer, the writer Shalom Asz came from Paris to visit his elderly mother, who lived at his brother Wolf's house. The great writer's visit became a special experience for all the city's residents, Jews and Christians alike. First, his visit was dedicated to his mother, spending time with her and giving her the respect she deserved. But his mother was also proud of her beloved son and famous writer. While at his mother's house, he greatly enjoyed the large library he had dedicated to his mother. Indeed, when the son returned to his permanent residence, to Paris, his library was a faithful reflection of the spirit and greatness of the son, Shalom.

However, already on the evening of the first day of his visit to Kutno, the writer was impatient. He found no rest for himself. His associates knew the reason — he had not yet met his protagonist, Motke, who was already eagerly awaiting the writer's arrival. And before he could handle addressing his family, acquaintances and fans — he inevitably felt like seeing Motke first.

The meeting of the creator and his protagonist was free, cordial and short. Routine greetings, fragmented, tasteless and senseless words were exchanged. And there was one and only reason in their meeting on Podrzeczna Street — while Motke rubbed with his fingers the thousand-złotys banknote “the present owed” by the writer to the archetype of his famous work. The meeting was over and completed until next year, when the two would meet again, and the writer would once again stick into his hands the note so longed for by Motke. But once — so my father z”l told me — Motke resented the writer for calling him “Motke the thief” in his book. “I'm not a thief,” Motke claimed. “I make a decent living by my profession”… Indeed, in Shalom Asz's view, Motke did not steal the property of others.

Motke scared all the haters of Israel, who harassed “the common Jews.” The Gentiles feared Motke boys like death. A knife, an ax, a hammer, a cleaver, a stone, etc. — these were the weapons of the butchers, porters, bakers and other “common people” who knew how to preserve the dignity of the Jewish people, their lives and property. They had Motke as the head and leader.

When Shalom Asz compared Motke to the “Golem” of Prague or to “Noah Pandre” (by Z. Schneur[1]), Motke did not understand the intent of his friend. But in his heart and in his senses, he understood and said to him: “Shalom, do you hear, Jewish blood will not be free in Kutno!” And between his teeth he hissed “We will not stretch our necks for slaughter” and fell silent.

Quiet and peaceful, without saying “goodbye”, as if his tongue stuck to his palate, the writer turned away.

He knew very well that his choice was not in vain — and that was his reward.

Translator's footnote

  1. Zalman Schneour (1887, Shklov, Belarus – 1959, New York), Hebrew and Yiddish poet and novelist. A descendant of the founder of the Chassidic Lubavitch movement. Return


The Shtetl of Shalom Asz and Its Heroes

by Avraham LUSTIGMAN, Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Mages

In the small town lived the distinguished writer and from it, he drew his inspiration, he described it and dreamed of it all his days. He raised his heroes from the narrow alleys and out of the crooked houses, and took them out into the air of the wide world. They are living heroes — and not fabricated from the heart. Asz rummaged in every corner and saw the innocent and frightened eyes, the modest mother and the humble maidens, the Jewish poverty, the carters, the idlers, the matchmakers, the butchers, the fishermen — Asz saw them all and immortalized them all.

A lot of headaches caused him, Shalom Asz, his heroes who used to abuse and curse him for describing them in his many books. It is told, that Berel “Mozni Wojtek,” one of Shalom Asz's heroes, wanted to break his bones. It happened in the nearby town of Łęczyca. Shalom Asz was miraculously saved from his dangerous fists and fled for his life as Berel shouted after him: “Some day, you will fall into the hands of a simple uneducated person; some day, I will teach you a lesson for putting me in your book. I will crush your ribs.” Berel Mozni was a sturdy carter and was famous for his strength. Truth be told, whoever feared for his life turned away from him. Even the gentiles treated him with respect and called him the “Jewish Cossack.” He was considered privileged among the carters, had a broad beard and always served as a gabbai in the carters' synagogue. By nature, he was not a bad person towards those who knew his character. I remember that he hated to death the merchants who seemed bloodsuckers to him. In this respect he was also influenced by his revolutionary daughter who always told her father that all the bourgeois should be killed. This thing got stuck in Berel's mind and he looked forward to the “revolution.” He comforted the other carters in their trouble and told them: wait a little while. When the “popular masses” will come, everything will work out; and at the time of the act, he swayed his large hairy hands and blew expletives and curses towards the merchants.

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting heroes of Shalom Asz was Motke the thief that everyone knew in the town. Shalom Asz became very famous in the Yiddish literature by the description of this hero. All theaters presented

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the play “Motke the Thief” with extraordinary success. I remember, that when the Warsaw troupe arrived and wanted to present “Motke the thief” in our town, there was “trouble.” Motke ran like a madman across town and in great anger tore the ads off all the walls as he screamed: “What? They call me a thief?” They will present plays? I will beat them violently and mercilessly, you can call me by all sorts of names, but I have never been a thief.” It was necessary for the troupe to give Motke a “bribe,” and only then he calmed down and allowed to present the play on the theatre stage. He received, of course, two entry tickets in the first row, for him and for his wife. There was a noise in the theater, and everyone was watching how the living heroes would react to the play. But Motke and his wife laughed along with the whole crowd, as if the matter does not concern them at all.

Lately, Motke had fallen from grace and become a human shadow. His health deteriorated and he suffered from various ailments. Only his thief's eyes were still burning. His voice became hoarse, and when he spoke, he put a finger on the scar on his neck — a reminder of the surgery he once had. He was still engaged in his previous art, known to all who read Asz's book on the name of this hero.

His wife managed all the affairs, while he, Motke, asked for alms and also became… religious.

Motke liked to talk about his troubles in front of people. It was possible to talk to him about everything, but — not to mention the name of Shalom Asz. To the sound of this name alone, he became furious and a torrent of curses poured out of his mouth.

Until the last liquidation operations, some of Shalom Asz's heroes were still alive including “Motke the thief.” They perished together with all the martyrs of Kutno. Now this town now lies under its ruins, and no trace remained of the well-known synagogue street that has become a city garden. The six-hundred-year-old cemetery was completely destroyed, and its tombstones were taken for paving streets.

This is how the town of Shalom Asz was cut from the land of the living and disappeared forever.

(HaYom, 11.2.49)


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The House of Szalom Asz in Bat Yam

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz

Although, in the year 1995 Szalom Asz was determined to settle in Israel, he had not decided which place he would live in. The current mayor of the amazingly growing town, Bat Yam, David Ben-Ari, invited him. The great author was invited to this fine town, with its splendid Mediterranean coast, to build, as he wished, the most up to date and best home. After the death of Szalom Asz this house, with its entire contents, pictures and antique collections, was given by Mrs. Asz to the municipality of Bat-Yam, to be used as an Asz museum and cultural centre – Szalom Asz's House.

 


House of Szalom Asz in Bat Yam

 

A collection of personalities stand at the head of the initiators of Szalom Asz's house and Szalom Asz in Bat-Yam, with David Ben-Ari, as director.

In the house, all has remained unchanged – the salon with the valuable paintings' collection by famous artists; Chanukah lamps and other Jewish antiquities, also a bust of Szalom Asz, created by Jakob Epsztajn; Szalom Asz's work room with his famous work table, pens, glasses, pictures and diplomas. There the collected works of Szalom Asz can be found, note books, documents, photographs, books from his library and various works in several languages, press cuttings (about Szalom Asz and his works), antiques from Szalom Asz's collection which were recent gifts to the house. Szalom Asz's Scroll of the Law, childhood works by him, books from a collection “Szalom Asz in the Theatre”, and so on.

Friends of Szalom Asz's house from all over the world constantly send material to enrich the house. The most valuable items were sent by YIVO [Yiddish Research Organisation] in New York, IKUF [Yiddish Cultural Association] in New York, “Congress for Jewish Culture” in New York, Mark Turko from Argentina, Majlech Rawicz (from Montreal, Canada), Nachman Majzel (of blessed memory).

People come often to Szalom Asz's house for courses, cultural events held together with the municipality, which often is the real cultural centre for Bat-Yam and an art centre for visitors from all over and tourists. In the visitor's book you can find many thousand signatures and also dedications in many languages from tourists from the four corners of the world, from all continents.

Szalom Asz's house, serving as a town museum, requires a larger building next door, for concerts, lectures, cultural events and exhibitions. The corner stone was already laid years ago. The plans were completed but the building work has not yet happened. There is no money.

The program of school children's outings to Szalom Asz's house developed very well, which was very important for increasing the popularity of the name of the famous writer Szalom Asz and his work. The visitor receives an education about Szalom Asz and his life and creativity from the director of Szalom Asz's house, Icchak Turkow.


Kutno Rabbis, Sages and Authors

by Aharon Shlomo, son of R' Ze'ev Zvi z”l ELBERG

Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Mages

Our city was privileged to contribute in honor of the Polish Jewry a group of genius rabbis, community leaders and wise leaders, and also a group of famous authors: Shalom Asz, Dr. Avraham Glikson, Trunk's sons from the lineage of the Gaon of our strength[1], Y. M. Najman, Bar-Drora (Issachar Dov Frajer), all of them from the generation of yeshiva students at the time and, without a doubt, they were influenced by the splendor of the Gaon of our strength, the charm of his witty sayings and the grace of his pure ways that were praised throughout the land.

The Divine spirit also rested upon the simple homeowners in their manners, the events of their daily life and their negotiations with the people, and the expression of cleverness was reflected from their families.

The old Baba, a simple Jew, who was a frequent visitor to the estate owners' courtyards in the villages, told me that it is known that every “Polish nobleman” liked his Jew: he was his advisor in all his manners and business and did not take a step in his private life without using the court Jews. He listened to his clever advice and did not arrange anything without his court's trustee, his “Shrul,”[2] because the cleverness and the sobriety of a Jewish mind is above all riches.

At festive parties the Polish nobles amused themselves, with great pleasure, at the wit of “their” Jews, and did not forget to invite them to all meetings and consultations. On their lips was always a faithful devotion for the service of Berek Joselewicz[3] and his comrades in the days of the Polish uprising against the Russians. The picture of the Jewish officer, who fell heroically in the suburbs of Kock, decorated the palace of every estate owner, and tales about the service of King Saul Whal[4] who was crowned King of Poland when they were at a loss and found in him a faithful and honest leader.

This Baba once came to the Polish nobleman's palace on a day of celebration and a large gathering of the noblemen in the area. The estate owner wanted to brag about his wisdom before his friends. He asked him in a soft grin: “Please say my friend!” showing him a picture of that man, “Do you know who he is?” And he did not hesitate for a moment to answer him: “Your Honor asks me if I know him, he'd better ask him if he knows me…” They were dumbfounded and covered their heads in shame.

Once, they asked him if he would not mind giving his opinion about the “rabbi” they had chosen for themselves, while showing their palace dog lying in the middle

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of the circle where they were sitting…He answered them at once in fine words: “Surely the bright masters know and are familiar with the Polish proverb circulating in our world: Like synagogue, like rabbi”…

The joking of the gentiles with the Jews knew no bounds, but the Jews always responded tit for tat to every rude attacker. Once, a Polish estate owner joked with “his” Jew about the soul leaving the body, and to anger and upset the Jew who was subordinate to him he shot his joke at him and said: “The soul of the Jew comes out through the buttocks and that of a believing Christian through the nostrils”… “Well, very good,” replied the Jew, “I will give you advice and you will live forever, if you wish please listen to the advice of a faithful Jew and you will have a happy life forever and ever”… “Ah, how?” he asked him. “Please put your nose inside the Jew's buttocks…”

The Polish Foreign Minister Szebeko, owner of the Gołębiew estate near Kutno, son-in-law of Hipolit Wawelberg[5], from the directors of H. Wawelberg Bank in Warsaw, did not take a step without consulting the late Shmuel Baba, a famous grain merchant in Kutno, and his son, Mr. Simcha Baba[6], who is a member of the Board of the Liberal Party of Israel. The latter is a talented author and I believe he will not disappoint us in the future of his life.

Summary of things I wrote down from the words of my uncle's R' Yosef Korn[7] – elder of our community who lived one hundred and seven years.

* * *

HaRav Moshe Yekutiel HaCohen Kaufman[8], author of Lechem HaPanim, son-in-law of Magen Avraham[9], did not find his satisfaction. He resigned and returned to his hometown Krotoszyn (East Prussia) and became a permanent judge there. He wrote many books, besides organizing his father-in-law's factory – approximately in 1710.

HaRav Dov Berish, author of Butzina Kadisha, did not stop studying the Torah in the Beit Midrash.

HaRav Israel Kon a native of Kutno.

HaRav Tuwia Bryn, son-in-law of Katzav[10], his brother, Rabbi Nisan, went to Golub and was not appointed after him.

HaRav Eliezer Brisz, a maskil from Leszno. On the death of Tsar Alexander I, he eulogized him in a poem, sent it to Warsaw and from there to St. Petersburg. Was a posek[11] for the Rabbi of Lissa. Passed away in 1830.

HaRav Rabbi Shmuel – moved from Kutno to Płock.

HaRav Rabbi Leibush Charif[12], Arie Leib son of Rabbi Moshe Zuenz, brother of Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschutz, came from Warsaw-Praga to Kutno (1810) and moved to Płock (1768-1833).

HaRav Fligeltaub, “Kanfe Yonah”, moved at the end of his life to the city of Koło.

HaRav Yehoshua Itzik Shapiro, author of Emek Yehoshua, came from Kalwaria and returned to Słonim. Served for six years, had an argument with Chassidim who persecuted him and he left them (approximately 1842-1848). His popular name was Rabbi Itzik Charif, he loved riddles and his saying Kutno ceased to be a city.[13]

HaRav Rabbi Moshe Aharon from Lithuania, father of the Kronzylber family from Piotrków, came from Stryków. An avid Chassid of Rabbi Fisheli, a prominent scholar of the place without longwinded debate.

One of the most special in the Kutno community, who excelled in his wealth, honesty and nature, was R' Pinchas HaKohen. Chassid shebikechunnah[14], from the city's wealthy and important, a wise homeowner who had a three-story stone house in the city center, a crown glory to his spiritual height, and his wife the homemaker, famous in giving in secret to the poor from good families as a righteous woman of valor…

This Rabbi Pinchas [Rabinowicz] was a grain merchant exporting abroad. At that time Kutno, which was located near Thorn[15] on the border of West Prussia, sent on a large scale from Congress Poland, which was an agricultural country, to industrial Germany its surplus produce through the railway, of which Kutno was a central node. The regions of Płock, Kalisz and Warsaw used this train that was the only one under the rule of the Tsar of Russia. This Rabbi Pinchas managed his business in faith until all the merchants of the country trusted to give him their crops, some in commission and some in sale!

The family of this Pinchas was divided into five pairs, sons and daughters, like olive seedlings around his table, and in addition to them regular guests who came to Kutno for their trade.

If my memory will not be mistaken, I will explain them by their names: from the daughters I remember the eldest who married Mr. Yitzhak Kriszek from the city of Ozorków near Kutno. The young man, who was learned and crowned with good manners, was one of my esteemed friends, a grain and bran merchant who also exported to Germany. According to the rumor, he has a married daughter in Israel, one of our survivors.

And the sons, the eldest, Mr. Shlomo, a respectable man in the community; second to him, my good friend, a community leader, observant, handled matters wisely, Mr. Naftali, a merchant, had a shop at his parents' house; third to him, Mr. Moshe, he got married in the nearby city of Koło, founded a Hebrew gymnasium there and headed it, an important community leader in his place of residence; fifth to him, Mr. Feivel, moved to Danzig and immigrated to Israel, but he could not get by there and went back to the Diaspora, his location is unknown to me because the connection between us ceased for the time; my soul is grieving for them, almost all of them became victims of the European Holocaust, may HaShem avenge their blood!

I skipped the fourth son because he deserves a special mention, and he is a very dear friend, Mr. Yitzhak HaKohen Rabinowicz, electrical engineer who lives in Haifa. He showed heroism and excelled in his many Zionist activities, and it is worth telling in his praise that he is a beloved son of a family of good deeds. Forty years ago, before the routes of immigration to Israel were organized, he escaped from the Diaspora, passing through countries and seas, and settled in Beirut, Lebanon. The paths of providence led him in a straight way. He married the daughter of an engineer from Lublin, and his house was wide open to all immigrants who came through illegal sites in order to sneak into Israel. They found in his house, as in the house of Abraham avinu, food, drink, and lodging. The writer of these columns, who was on the way of his third aliyah[16] but failed and his permit expired, was among those who owe him a debt of gratitude. Meanwhile, he moved and settled in Haifa and he is respected by all the residents as an honest man. He has two married daughters and three grandsons – may they multiply and may he derive pleasure from them as befits him.

* * *

And here's a correspondence between me and HaRav Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk.

Rabbi and president of the rabbinical court of the holy community of Kutno, may God protect and preserve it!

With God's help, Tuesday 7 Adar II 5695 [12 March 1935]

Close to redemption a spirit of joy and happiness, my honored and beloved ally, my friend from my youth, the wonderful and exalted in the Torah and wisdom, the energetic activist, our teacher the rav, R' Aharon Shlomo Elberg, may his light shine.

Your letter was delivered to me by your sons and I was happy for your safety and that you are already a citizen of our country. May God grant that your wish will succeed in your hands in the near future, to fulfill that a man and his family will not come to Egypt but only to our lovely country. If only our eyes could see the ingathering of our scattered ones from among the gentiles who rise against us as in the days of Haman to annihilate us from the country. It is impossible to imagine the enslavement difficulties of the present exile, in its last days. Apparently, it feels that its end is near and therefore it harnesses the rest of its strength to fight us with raging fury. God will have mercy on the remnant of His people (read Megilah 17, the war of the beginning of redemption). I will make an effort to fulfill your wish regarding the book Yeshuot Israel of the rabbi, the rabbi of the Jews, my grandfather, which is out of stock in the book market, because I know that the book Divrei Dodim is your favorite. My dear, give me a hand to pull me out of the pit of the Diaspora after I have already given my daughters to men. Who am I and what do I have, here? My allies are already in a decent number in Tel Aviv. I have a lot of acquaintances like R' Daniel Sirkis the community leader. Maybe you'll find a job that suits me so that I can make a living for myself and my wife, maybe in Petah Tikva. Strive for my benefit, surely you have vigor and desire and I will thank you all the days

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of my life for this act of kindness for me. Your faithful admirer expects that his words of request will enter your heart.
Yitzhak Yehuda who lives here in the community

 

With God's help Tuesday 10 Nisan 5695 [13 April 1935[17]]

On a sleepless night he will get to hear the herald on the mountains[18], my respected and dear friend from my youth, the educated and wise, the fine man, Mr. Aharon Shlomo Elberg, may his light shine.

For sure you received my letter to you and I repeat your question, why am I delaying my arrival to the gates of our country? But, my dear, I feel how hard is the grief of being separated from it. Therefore, I'm waiting, maybe I'll be granted to settle in it. I think, maybe now is the right time for that and I have a lot of confidence in my townspeople, after all my honorable brother-in-law, the holy rabbi of Sochaczew[19], may he live long and happily, is now with you. You can enjoy his advice and resourcefulness on this matter. Nothing will stop you from helping me, to bring me out of darkness into light and from enslavement to redemption. Your faithful admirer – a blessing for a kosher and happy holiday on Har HaKodesh[20] and greetings to all the members of my community and the aforementioned blessing for the holiday – signed.

And greetings to my dear person, our teacher and rav, Z. Metal, may he live long, my words are also said to him that we will have good days, and a blessing of joy and happiness for the holidays and festivals.

 

And my answer:

With God's help the day after Passover 5695, Tel-Aviv, may God protect her.

To my teacher and rav, the Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk, may he live long and happily, president of the rabbinical court of the holy community of Kutno.

Beloved rabbi! Forgive me, your Honor, for the delay of my reply to the letter from 7 Adar II for the reasons that I've been busy, and the most important thing is, that I wanted to examine the opinions of some of our friends regarding this question.

Our country is seen today as a blessed land of God, with prosperity that gives strength and life to all who found shelter in it. Who would ever have thought that that the son of dear Ezra'le, who always ate his sons' meat, would be able to find his livelihood? He's a postman in Borochov neighborhood [Givatayim] beside our Mr. Shapiro, the postmaster. And who would have thought that Chaim Noah would be able to do any work, that he would support his wife and children and be satiated with the happiness of life? It is a great pity that I was not helped by my great initiatives when I immigrated – despite the help I got and the energy I devoted – and by the crooks and swindlers of Bnei Brak who deprived me and robbed me. We could have built a moshava[21] of our own like the one I dreamed of. Indeed, there is still a lot of work ahead of us, because we are not standing in the middle of the building, just at the beginning, and with vigor and dedication we can create great things, we need the act of Nahshon[22] to jump into the sea… I've heard a nice joke from one of the Chassidic leaders. According to the halacha it is permissible to kill a louse on the Shabbat, but it is forbidden to kill a flea, meaning, he who crawls and whispers and does not move from his place, is not a living creature… and it is permissible to kill him even on the Shabbat, but he who has a soul that jumps and skips shouldn't be touched by hand! This ban is intended for the crawling[23] residents of Kutno… If our rich and influential man had not rejected the offers and accepted them on his visit last year, then he would have become rich and trust the country. To the very question: no one will prepare for his friend[24] in his absence without a few deliberations and arrangements, both early and late. As substitute for R' Aharonson z”l, we recommend Amiel or Herzog[25] from Dublin. It seems that the candidacy of R' Brod failed because of his critique and judgment in the matter of a “veteran Mizrachi.”

The main thing is that there is an extensive room for a wide range of work in all professions and diligent hands are needed, and anyone who will wake up to come and join the builder's camp, God will be with him and he will succeed!

With the blessing of Moadim l'simcha[26] and God will bring us together to the festivals cheerful and happy in the building forever and ever.

With respect and admiration Aharon Shlomo Elberg

The addresses of the three postcards were:

A) Herzl Street 20, POB 1269. This is the address of the General Bank of Dov Bilig (I worked a hard and strenuous work).

B) 115 Nahalat Binyamin Street, 115, the address of my nephew Zelig Metal, I was a guest when I came to him.

C) POB 849 that I took to find some grip in search after search… and I still haven't been able to raise my family members. Of course, my precarious condition made my hands shake and shackled them, my grief was great being uncertain about returning to Diaspora, and a free hour and a clear mind were far from me. I knocked on many doors of salvation and was not answered, and meanwhile the riots broke out[27]… and because of the evil, the righteous man has been taken away[28], woe to the beauty buried in a foreign land, his heart is the heart of a lion in the Torah, and why, as one of the greatest of our last period, he did not find his way to escape to our country. This is a badge of shame for the leadership of the movements in general and the Mizrahi movement in particular, the man was the light of the world and an abundant treasure of life flowing to a great extent, and it is a pity we did not how to use this fertile power!

* * *

Rabbi Yehuda Zvi Wadnik, was a top-ranked teacher for fine young men. It was said about him that he was also a sharp chess player and trained his students for this purpose. He had two sons: the eldest became famous for his essay about Baal Shem Tov and was appointed ritual slaughterer in the town of Hrubieszów near Lublin. The youngest, Nachman, was the joker who lowered the standard of morality of his friends and drew harsh criticism from all the important men of the city. He was hated and despised and moved to Łódź.

Rabbi Zvi Prajs, son-in-law of Rabbi Eliezer-Dov HaKohen Ajlenberg, had an ironware building materials store and donated to the establishment of a yeshiva in Beit HaMidrash. He taught the Torah in public with the best young men and was among the most important Gur Chassidim in our city.

Rabbi Pinchas Bresler, owner of a fabric store, studied the Torah regularly with the best of Beit HaMidrash (the writer of the columns among them). Despite his impaired speech he was accepted as a teacher and was praised for being knowledgeable in Rishonim[29] and adhered to the truth of Halacha as a responsible veteran posek. (After him, at the end of the community's existence, his son-in-law inherited his chair).

Rabbi Eizik Zaklikowski, a cantor and the city's mohel, lived a long life. When he fell ill his old friends did not visit him, he sighed bitterly before me: Gather my friends – when?! Those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice [Tehillim 50:5], when I make for them a great Kaddish or a mourners' meal, then they come, and when I'm on my deathbed, they forget me… His grandson, Rabbi Leibush Finkler inherited his virtues. He was a pleasant singer and a communal worker.

R' Hirshel Neeman was a Kashrut supervisor and the rabbi's attendant[30]. Sometimes, the Aleksander Chassidim met at the home of his son, Rabbi Moshe'le[31], before he served as a rabbi in Wiskitki, and the grandchildren joked about the rude expression of Rabbi Zvi[32] when he prayed mincha and expressed, with a strong emphasis. Veyanuchu Bam (instead of weak), and they stood around him and accompanied him with Bim Bam, to the worshipers' laughter and the Gaon among them. The grandson, Yechiel Yeshayahu Trunk, describes him nicely in his book “Poyln.”

Rabbi Yaakov Comber inherited the attendant job from his father-in-law, the aforementioned R' Zvi, and managed the residents' register. Was cheerful and joyful and used to amuse the Gaon who prayed for a vision in earnest, and said to him: the rabbi's way is to lengthen and pray the last Ose shalom[33] to the minyan of worshipers. Maybe the rabbi should stand – simply – a few more moments? He answered him, you must believe that it is already with a pause of a few moments… Towards his old age they gave him a glass of fine wine to drink to strengthen him, and his attendant is asked, how much does the wine cost, he told him a light price, he said it is a waste of money, why? He told him that the sages have already said: “It is preferable for one to care for his body by eating higher quality food…” They won! He used to say: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting (Kohelet 7:2), however, I don't have a better wish… I prefer the house of feasting and God will wipe the tears away from all faces! (The son, Zundel Comber, academic historian, served as a teacher in the schools – a Populist).

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R' Yekel the scribe loved to play pranks and always entertained. Once, on a Shabbat, on a cold winter morning he stood freezing to find a gentile to turn on his stove. His gentile neighbor, Wilwer, felt sorry for him, you will catch a cold. He answered him and said, we will make a contract between us I will turn it on for you tomorrow and you today! Agree! He entered and turned it on for him. The next morning, he got up early and knocked on his door: “Mr. Wilwer, get up I will turn it on for you, I am ready, don't be lazy.” R' Yekel, was also a book seller and the writer of bills. He did not have the time to repay them and the notary came… He asked him, what is your occupation? He took him by the stove “a scribe to God!” And you are not rich? He took him by the stove “I am a proofreader” and said “This is Mr. Boga the controller and he is poorer than me! However, what am I missing? The rich man has several rooms and I divide my room, this corner is a bedroom, and this is a dining room, and this is a work room and the stove heats all the rooms together, and what else am I lacking, never mind, I will pay the bills a little late…”

R' Ze'ev Yehuda (HaKohen) Wolf Lajb Szymanowicz, a teacher at the state school, an old man sitting in the Beit HaMidrash and studies, walks leisurely, a Torah scholar… Once, Dr. Handelsman, who was assimilated to the highest level, invited him and said to him: my son became Bar Mitzvah, teach him… He was amazed to hear that and went to R' Yehoshe'le and sighed before him, what should I teach him? There's no point of talking about prayers, the Gaon told him, teach him Kriyat Shema! He sighed again; he would not even wear a hat! It will be without a hat… (I wrote this fact from his remarks over forty years ago). He lived long in poverty because the Tsarist government left during the war and he remained without a pension. He turned to the German occupier, who added him to the list of pension recipients and he was helped by it, as much as possible, in his old age.

R' Leibush Finkler used to apologize when he pressured members to give charitable donations, saying that the donation collectors are leeches

 


Leibush Finkler

 

sucking the bad blood from the sick body so they must generously donate a beautiful gift to recuperate and recover, and with these words of reconciliation he drew them to him… And, maybe in my opinion, it is necessary to emphasize the words of the comforter (Yeshayahu 60:17) “and I will make your officers peace and your rulers' righteousness,” meaning, this charity saves from any bad command and bad rulers! He was the brother-in-law of David Yaakov Metal z”l, grandson of the tzadik of Radoszyce. He engaged in negotiations and set a regular time for the study of the Torah. In the last years was the cantor praying the Musaaf at the Skierniewice Chassidim house.

HaRav Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib (Zilberberg?) was born in the city of Łęczyca in 5554 [1794] – he passed away in Jerusalem, 3 Shevat 5625 [30 January 1865], author of the books Zayit Raanan and Tiferet Yerushalim.

At that time the Kutno rabbinate was of great importance. It was the metropolis of the Warsaw-Plock-Kalisz regions, the grain barn for export and import of foreign trade and great rabbis sat on the rabbinical chair. Our rabbi, Zayit Raanan, did not agree to sit quietly on his chair and earn a respectable living from the rabbinate. He settled his affairs, took his bundle of savings and sailed to our Holy Land to live in it sparingly, to teach the Torah in public not for the sake of receiving a bounty, and to strive for the development and the building of our country.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the rabbis of Kutno and Kalisz left their exemplary mark on the population: Rabbi Moshe Leib of Kutno – author of Zayit Raanan, Rabbi Meir Auerbach of Kalisz – author of Imrei Binah, Rabbi Israel Yehoshe'le of Kutno – author of Yeshuot Israel and Rabbi Chaim Elozor Wax of Kalisz – author of Nefesh Chaya. The famous ones who came after them worked hard and invested large donations for the prosperity and development of our country and the expansion of its settlement.

From his[34] world-famous students, we learn the magnitude of his teachings, his inspiration and influence in the research of the halacha: Rabbi Shmuel Zanvil Klepfisz [1820-1902], the Rabbi of Warsaw for thirty years, was his student and was ordained by him; and the rabbis: R' Yehoshua Zvi Michal Szapira [1840 Hebron-2 September 1906 Jerusalem], Rabbi Yeshayahu Orensztajn [1836-1908 Jerusalem], Rabbi crown and Rabbi Yehuda Blumenfeld (Yudel Łomżer) [1820 Łomża –24 September 1910 Jerusalem], and many other great rabbis in the country and abroad received their ordination from him. No secret was hidden from him and all the treasures of the Torah were engraved on his heart. He deciphered everything difficult in minute-by-minute analytics, and to this testifies his book, Tiferet Yerushalayim, that he composed on serious questions of the genius of the geniuses, Rabbi Akiva Eger z”l [1761-1838]. When he arrived to the air of our country he sent it to Warsaw, it was immediately printed as a glorious addition to the Mishnayot and was received with a happy heart by all the learners.

Our rabbi ztz”l was one of the excellent rabbis of Zion. He found a solution to all difficult questions of the geniuses of the Torah except for the permit of living out of the country. He mustered up courage and strength and made efforts to immigrate and settle. He showed his beautiful strength in the teaching of the Torah to thousands of students, and also encouraged the settlement and the building of our country. Among all the writers of the history of Jerusalem, we find famous people who received influence and inspiration from him. Rabbi Yoel Moshe Salomon (5598-5673) [1838-1913], a writer and printer, builder of a city and founder of Petah Tikva, was considered one of his students. Apparently, they consulted together about the neighborhoods outside the wall and the conquest of “Yehud” to turn it into Petah Tikva! And, I draw a conclusion, that in the time that Salomon edited and published the newspaper HaLevanon[35],” our rabbi ztz”l was found in its issues with his contribution of religious articles on current affairs.

In the rabbinical world there are two famous types who need the printed word without moving, even by a hair's breadth, from the commands under the slogan: “Then I shall not be ashamed when I look at all Your commandments” (Tehillim 119:6). And, as opposed to them, the daring who are proficient in the basics of halachot and innovate halachot, different halachot every day…

 

HaRav Yitzhak Pinchas Kubec z”l

HaRav Yitzhak Pinchas Kubec was born in Łódź, which was famous for its textile industry, but the heart of young Yitzhak Pinchas did not tend to the life of action but to spiritual life. Already in his youth he inherited the rabbinical chair of his father-in-law, Avraham Bornsztain, who sat in Rawa Mazowiecka, and indeed, even then he stood out as a rabbi. He was versed in all the treasures of the Torah and many enjoyed his advice when they turned to him and he guided them in the ways of life.

In 1916, he was accepted as posek in the community of Kutno and received a lot of praise from the rabbi since he taught more than him… His whole appearance expressed the grace and kindness of a wise scholar. His sidelocks that curled behind his ears and his long beard added a rabbinical charm to him, whose teachings are arranged in the mouth and the heart of a wise senior scholar who is accepted and respected by the people.

After an impure case of kashrut, it was decided to appoint him chief supervisor for slaughter and kashrut affairs in the city and after the city's judges passed away, he was also appointed posek and chief judge, the rabbi's assistant. In the book, Yeshuot Malko of the Gaon of Kutno ztz”l, which was edited and arranged by the rabbi's grandson who inherited his chair, the book's editor expresses his gratitude for R' Yitzhak Pinchas' help in editing and arranging the book: “And in that

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I express my blessing and thanks to the honor of my sharp friend, our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Pinchas, may his light shine, Kubec, from this community who helped me a lot in the work of copying from the sidur and in proofreading.

His proficiency and sharpness helped him to get to the bottom of the debaters' minds, and thanks to the trust they had in him he mediated and made peace between them and everyone was pleased with his smart mediation.

When the Rabbi of Kutno lay in Warsaw[36] on his deathbed and wanted to write his will, he ordered to remove the rebbetzin and also the community leaders, Mr. Steinfeld and his friends, and only saw R' Yitzhak Pinchas as his competent and faithful confidant and dictated the will to him.

 


HaRav Yitzhak Pinchas Kubec hy”d

 

In the raging years of the war, in 1939, the Germans, may their names be blotted out, captured our city and deported all the residents to the ghetto in the suburbs of Konstancja, and there was no rabbi left in the city. They accepted him as a substitute rabbi and he alone carried on his shoulder the rabbinate of the Jewish community of Kutno.

When he passed away in 1942, everyone participated in his funeral in the ghetto because they appreciated his holy service in the time of emergency in the ghetto and said to him with warm tears: “And you, go to the end, and you will rest and rise to your lot at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13).

May his soul be bound up in the bond of life

* * *

David Yaakov Metal z”l

He was born in 5640 [1880] in Kutno to Rabbi Pinchas Zelig a veteran Warka Chassid. He was orphaned from his father in his childhood and wandered to study the Torah in Lutomiersk with Rabbi Warszawiak, great in the Torah and Chassidut. He was the only son to his righteous mother, who watched over him as is he was the most precious thing, and brought him to a purpose when she married him as a son-in-law to Rabbi Ze'ev-Zvi son of Rabbi Yitzhak Yudel ztz”l Elberg, and he was liked and loved by all people. When he was a public activist, he gave good advice to anyone who asked, sang his songs well and gracefully not for receiving a bounty, and was a cantor and shofar blower in the Great Synagogue in Kutno. In 5676 [1916], when the “Mizrachi” movement was organized in Poland, he devoted himself to it with all his talent and vigor for the benefit of its development, for the building of our holy country under the slogan “Eretz Israel according to the Jewish Torah.” His singing ceased in the last years of his life, a tree bearing fruit was plucked at the prime of his life after a serious illness. He passed away with a good reputation in 5678 [1918]. The whole city mourned him warmly and praised him with a bitter and mournful eulogy, in the synagogue and in Beit HaMidrash where he studied.

He was granted to leave an only son who lives among us, a son like him, Mr. Pinchas Zelig Metal, a dedicated activist to Hapoel HaMizrachi[37]

 


R' Nachman Yitzhak Ajdels z”l

 

Our acquaintance had an only son, who bore his father's name, David Yaakov hy”d[38], and married him when he reached marriageable age. He grew up in Israel in the fervor of the defense of the country and at the outbreak of the War of Independence he was one of the best instructors of the soldiers, and as a devoted officer he guarded his company at the risk of his own life. He fell in battle in the fields of the Negev and was buried in Revivim among the holy of the nation. God will avenge his blood and bound his soul in the bond of life. He left a young widow from the Arye Szymański family in Rehovot and a lovely son, Ehud-Shmuel, named after his grandfather the Mizrachi activist, the late Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Szymański who taught the Torah in public.

 

Meir Leibush Łęczycki hy”d

Shivers grip the bones when I talk about one of the martyrs, who gave his life for the sanctification of God's name and ascended to the gallows in the main street to be hanged in public by the Nazis, because, as a city leader he refused to hand over Jewish girls for prostitution. He chose the suffocation of the soul and gave his holy soul to the heavens!!!

A native of Łęczyca, who bore the holy name of the Malbim[39] ztz”l, highborn and learned, he found shelter with the Admor of Alexander. He lived in our city Kutno, was a vegetable wholesaler and ran his business with the ability that God had given to him. He loved charity and kindness to all people and was liked by all the inhabitants. His hand was open to every important public enterprise and was first to donate to all the funds for the benefit of Eretz Israel, a devoted and loyal member of the Mizrachi movement, and was elected one of the active leaders during the election to the community committee.

On a day of the wrath, he was plucked at the prime of his life in the death of Harugei Malchuṯ[40], for the honor of God and his Torah, may HaShem avenge his blood. His delicate family and children, who were raised and educated by him to Torah and mitzvoth, perished among the martyrs of our people in the Holocaust inferno, in the Chelmno extermination camp, HaShem will gather their ashes under his throne of glory among the holy and pure – “Rejoice, O ye Nations, with His people: for He will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries!” (Devarim 32:43).

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Yitzhak Hiler z”l

A man, wise in the mighty Torah and knowledgeable in the laws of God and one of the best yeshiva students of the Alexander Chassidim, lived in our city Kutno and was one of the great supporters of Mizrachi. He passed away at the prime of his life in 5678 [1918]. His widow and two sons immigrated to Israel and the two families are planted and established in Israel according to their father's will, the holy and pure with refined virtues that was always honored and praised by the residents.

 

Yitzhak Hiller z”l

He owned coal warehouses next to the nearby train station Krośniewice (Ostrowy), was rich and delicate and his politeness was expressed in his polished appearance. During the war of 5674-5678 [1914-1918], he moved to our city Kutno and occupied an important place in the community. As a respected highborn and learned scholar, he engaged in trade, did not neglect his Torah and did not forget what he had learned. If my memory serves me correctly, he was the son of a rabbi and a teacher in Ozorków near Łódź. He was proficient in a good portion of Mishnayot and the Mishnah was known to him. He renewed the curriculum and devoted himself to the education at schools. When the Mizrachi movement was organized, he was among its best members and participated in all the activities on the agenda. He had an only daughter and married her to a good young man. He didn't live long and passed away in the years of wisdom and the fate of his family is unknown to us. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life

 

Rabbi Meir the blacksmith

We did not know his surname because he was called by the name of his craft, not a clean and easy craft, because he always left sooty from his work, tired and weary from the beating of his sledgehammer, and yet he was loved and cherished by people and earned a good reputation. He left families branched out in Torah and greatness and saw life and good in his work!

Our Rabbi Meir was respectable and compassionate rabbi, his hand was open to everyone in need and to the beggar. Therefore, he was awarded with son-in-laws, rabbis who studied the Torah and traded in our city and the surrounding area, Rabbi Avraham Bigelajzen owner of a big stone house in the city center (Królewska Street 50), second to him Mr. Yosef Aharon Zandman and the third Mr. Shmuel Płocker. From them branched out great-grandchildren and grandchildren, God-fearing and Torah learners, like olive seedlings around their tables, engaged in study and negotiation.

The author of these columns raises sweetness and rejoices in his memoirs about an honest and pure Jew like this Rabbi Meir. When I was a diligent young man, I woke up and went to Beit HaMidrash in the early hours of the morning, not far from the time of midnight, even though I was a big coward… I had to pass the entire width of the city through alleys, from the leather-worker street to synagogue street. I restrained my cowardice with my diligence and opened Beit HaMidrash. I studied in a pleasant voice in the lust of the diligent, secluding myself with the Tannaim[41] and Amoraim[42] of the Talmud until the member Rabbi Meir the blacksmith came. His friends gathered to recite their chapter of Tehillim, Seder Ma'amadot[43] and Yehi Ratzon[44] after Tehillim.

Of the descendants of Rabbi Meir in Israel are his grandchildren, from the Zandman family a clerk at the Haifa port, and farmers from the Bigelajzen family in Herzliya, and maybe some of them have not yet been discovered. When I immigrated, thirty-five years ago (5685) [1925], he was very old, probably lived long and saw life and blessing in his days.

His friends to ashmoret haboker[45] were: R' Zvi Meir Gajst of the Alexander Chassidim, the lessee of our city's bathhouse, R' David Gecyl the tailor, R' Meir Dorn the milliner and several other members from the craftsmen and traders who prayed the Vatikin prayer at sunrise.

Sometimes there were quarrels between us, those who studied aloud and disturbed the Kaddish[46] and Barchu[47]… Anyhow, I was privileged to be loved and cherished by all and we lived in peace and politeness.

Once, those who quarreled with the young men came to complain before the Gaon, Rabbi Yehoshe'le ztz”l, about the young men that he liked much, and said: Our Rabbi! Don't think that they are so persistent in the study of the Torah. They also stop and play with notes and cards for long hours. Then he answered them: do you think that the apprentices of the leather workers and tailors do not stop their work and play like them, why did not you come to complain about them?! You only complain about the Torah students, that is, you are only angry at those who study the Torah, don't let this bother you…

The saying of the Gaon of Kutno to justify young men who play with notes, served the Zionists' propaganda and Rabbi Złotnik used it a lot: the ultra-orthodox are not comfortable with the Zionists who do not believe the Torah and mitzvot as much. He asked, like Rabbi Yehoshe'le, how many assimilators are there around you, why aren't you angry at them, but you are angry at the Zionists because they believe in the doctrine of the resurrection of Zion, don't get angry at them because of this… Rabbi Yehoshe'le also brought the assimilated closer and did not treat them very harshly. On the contrary, he acted as our Sages had taught us: “the left-hand drive sinners away and the right draw them near.” He called them by the holy name and the title of rabbi.

* * *

The wholesale merchants in the city were: R' Nachum Binush Wajsberg, and next to him his son-in-law R' Yoel Sztajnfeld, R' Beril Fiszer and R' Hirsz Jakubowicz Brisker. In the early hours of the morning lots of carts from the surrounding towns made noise near their shops, also the owners of retail shops in the city and the surrounding area and later also Kanał and Zakszewski.

Suppliers for construction iron and estate owners were: Zindel-Zandel and Meir Manczester. Market days were held twice a week and the farmers from the area brought carts of grain to the city. The main buyer was R' Yehuda Goldsztajn who had a large warehouse near the Great Synagogue. The farmers sold the grain and bought fabric and woven material that the retailers prepared for them on market day at the street stands, and also traveled to market days in the surrounding towns. My aunt, Riesel, wife of R' Nachman Beril, the son of Yitzhak Yudel, excelled as a woman of valor. He engaged in public affairs and piety and she controlled the street, measured and cut according to the will of her buyers.

R' Shmuel Asz and Rabbi Yaakov Opatowski brought wholesale fabrics from Łódź.

The bankers in the city have also did favors to their many customers, they were: Emanuel Hirszberg, his heir Wladek and Rabbi Yaakov Bromberg, son-in-law of Rabbi Yaakov Lipski and the son-in-law of Rabbi Icel Nowomiast, also Gelblum and Rabi Asher Mendelson, member of the Sejm[48], and Rabbi Yehuda Moshe Goldberg son-in-law of Rubinlicht, a nobleman and activist in mitzvot who passed away in the First World War.

The businesses for construction lumber were managed by: Mordechai Kibel – the poor orphan hoped for customers, and Itshe Holcman-Drzewicki, named after the estate owners, was ambitious in his time.

The city was mostly populated by Jews, merchants, dealers, artisans and blacksmiths who made a living from their work, and with their sweat they earned a slice of bread smeared with olive. They established institutions of kindness and charity, Talmud Torah societies, Bikur Cholim[49], Linat Tzedek[50], Gemilut Hasadim[51], and holy people who dealt with true charity[52]. My uncle, Rabbi Nachman, controlled them with both hands and with him a group of activists headed by R' Shmuel, son of Rabbi Bezalel Wolsztajn, who built and repaired ovens to warm up the winter cold.

It is also necessary to mention the wholesalers who exported grain to Danzig, first and foremost Rabbi Pinchas Rabinowicz, a Chassid and a man of action who succeeded, and Rabbi Nachman Bril a distinguished man in the city. In the export of cattle and sheep to Germany were: R' Yosel Rozenkranc and his partners, R' Moshe Gąbiner and his sons, Hirsh, Natan and Leibel Asz who succeeded at that time, and this R' Moshe who succeeded in the second marriage of his half a dozen sons: Wolf, Elimelech, Elazar, Yaakov Yehoshua, Zevulun and our author Shalom Asz! Motke the thief! Became angry at Shalom with his claim, is that possible? You will accumulate wealth in my name, and I'm clean?! And I testify

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that he was not a thief but an abandoned and failing orphan. I will mention in praise the porters who created their own minyan and their rabbi, Rabbi Yakel Sofer, authorized it. They were late in paying the weekly payment so he prepared a bill that they owe him for the weekly Torah portions: Eikev, Re'eh, Shoftim, Shotrim, four late payments…

 

Those engaged in public needs

In the city everyone rests from his work and flows to the churches and Batei HaMidrash!!! One store is open, that of Starnowski, the pharmacist for medicines that was the art of the gentiles! Later, one of our best friends in Beit HaMidrash learned this art, and he is Meir Borzekowski who opened a pharmacy in a village between Kutno and Łęczyca. The friend has a married daughter in Kfar Ono, one of the important founding families in the village!

In 5647 [1887], the enlightened members of “Talmud Torah” envied the big cities and asked R' Yehoshe'le to establish a general Talmud Torah cheder for the city's children! A meeting of all the city's circles was held, the ultra-orthodox objected until the Gaon defeated them and the institution was founded… On the eve of Rosh Chodesh[53] Elul 5672 [13 August 1912], R' Beril Fiszer grabbed me and said “Listen my friend, it's half a jubilee to the foundation of the Gaon's cheder, let's have a commemorative party!” I took out my payment and gave it to him, you were right! It was between transitions of power. The Gaon's son passed away and the grandson has not yet reigned, and the party was well attended. At the age of thirty I signed up to work as a member and spoke in words of surprise: “Gentlemen, how do we educate?! Not a chapter in the history of our people, no geography of the land. We are almost ignorant and empty in a world of advanced culture… The immigration is increasing and we are to blame if our children are lost in the big world, like semi-savages!”

Two years have passed and the First World War broke out in 5674 (1914). The esteemed rabbi[54] stayed in the baths in Germany and was imprisoned… I entered with full vigor into the arena of activists and in the election under the occupation, I became a community leader. I took the portfolio of education and declared Talmud Torah a general school. I volunteered to write every request to the German authorities and dedicated the writers' salary to the teachers' payment. In the old market was a barracks for the army that fled and the building was empty. I went to the authorities to ask them to hand over the building to us and improve it to an elementary school for our children, they agreed and we negotiated the program. I explained Chruściel, the Superintendent of Schools, that our children from the cheder only studied Judaic studies eight hours a day. It is impossible to jump into such a gap and to devote one hour, this is definitively not enough! We reached a compromise, half and half, three hours of secular studies and one hour of religious study at their expense, and two more hours of religious studies at our expense (the shouting of the ultra-orthodox teachers: the grandson of R' Yitzhak Yudel converts two hundred Jewish children bareheaded). R' Israel Bekerman, who immigrated and became famous as a tzadik in Tel-Aviv, was appointed teacher at the school and I allocated sidurim, chumashim and pairs of tefillin to the needy and guarded them as the apple of my eyes.

When we saw in the vision the defeat of the conqueror, and with him the Turkish who conquered our country, we made a plebiscite to demand the Land of Israel for the Jewish people. We saw the birth of a nation as the birth of a child. The feeding pit was blocked and the closed mouth was opened, Poland is blocked and it will be necessary to emigrate to the United States or to our country, and it is necessary to give our children a better culture so that they will know well all matters of life, science and intellect.

I made an effort and created a gymnasium, “Am Ha'Sefer,” in the toil and sweat of a handful of members, we influenced our residents to give their children to us instead of the gentile school Macierz. Mr. Yehuda Lajbisz Grinbaum, who lives with us, traveled to Cracow and brought academics in the composition of the best forces with Dr. Leszman at their lead, and even though there were dark forces that whistled and slandered our institution, those who always shouted “schools are not necessary!” the rabbi joined the supervisory board and his children were given teaching positions. Dr. Goldman's wife, member of “Assuta,” served for a while as the school's secretary. On Shabbat eve we gathered the parents to give them results! Beautiful forces came into service like Rabbi Yehuda Riftin and his daughter, and it is necessary to bring up in sacred memory the unforgettable member, Alexander [Sender] Falc, who was murdered for the sanctification of God's name!

As a funny joke I have to write the defiance of the late Zvi Yosef Plezker who shouted at me in the manner of the fish market: I will blow your brain, why did you raise my tuition payments! I was privileged to answer him after years of toil in Israel, please my friend! I prepared for you talented sons to hold respectable positions in banking institutions (Kupat HaAm), a son who is a manager thanks to Am Ha'Sefer… I have to write that I suffered a lot from the devaluation of the currency in the inflation. I paid on account and on time but their value went down and depleted me, however, public afflictions are my favorites. There were members who felt in the period of my aliya to Israel that the institution might suffer because of the depletion of forces. Mr. Lajbusz Kilbert, son-in-law of Rabbi Yechiel Szlajfer, offered to give me the institution as a private property, to utilize it and stay. I thanked them very much! But my decisions were strong without retreat!

Shabbat eve! I have to write an introduction to the creation of “Am Ha'Sefer.” Once Mr. Yosef Ajzenman, son-in-law of Rabbi Shalom Kronzylber, of the best Alexander Chassidim, came on the rabbi's mission who asked to see me! I went, and here's the matter: the rabbi's son Yosef, studies at Macierz gymnasium and until now he had the right not to come on the Shabbat, and from now, the principal Kostro is going to cancel the right and forces the students to come on the Shabbat, otherwise they would be expelled from school… I refused and said to the rabbi, this is the matter that hurts me, the handing over of Jewish children for conversion by the gentiles, it is necessary to establish a Hebrew gymnasium for ourselves! Shabbat eve Mevarchim Elul[55], mental distress to the ultra-orthodox, the rabbi said sometimes you have to compromise, before founding a Hebrew gymnasium we must take the path of request. We went to ask Kostro, and he opposed us and said: I don't accept old dogmas! I added in front of him: we call an educational institution a small temple, how can we build the temple with one hand and destroy it with the other! He did not move from his stubbornness! We left him in disgrace and went to the head clergyman to ask him to influence Kostro, and he also refused because he was not his subordinate… When I returned, I said to the rabbi, now thank me that my decision is firm to build our own institution!!!

Translator's footnotes

  1. R' Yehoshua Trunk. Return
  2. common Polish nickname for the name “Israel”, used here as synonym of “Jew”. Return
  3. Berek Joselewicz (17 September 1764, Lithuania – 15 May 1809, Kock) was a Polish Jewish colonel of the Polish Army during the Kościuszko Uprising. Return
  4. Saul Wahl Katzenellenbogen (1541–1617), aka “the king of a day,” was a wealthy and politically influential Polish Jew who is said to have briefly occupied the throne of Poland on 18 August 1587. Return
  5. Polish Jewish banker and philanthropist (1843–1901). Also, a Polish patriot. Return
  6. Simcha Baba (27 November 1902 – 10 December 1973) was an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for the General Zionists between 1951 and 1959. Return
  7. aka Yose'le the Goldsmith. See article on page 298 of this book. According to data, he was born 8 December 1837 and died in 1936, so he was a bit short of 100. Return
  8. circa 1661-1722, in Krotoszyn. He resigned as Kutno rabbi, following some controversy. Return
  9. Avraham Abele ben Chaim HaLevi Gąbiner (c. 1635 – 5 October 1682), known as the Magen Avraham, was a rabbi, Talmudist and a leading religious authority in the Jewish community of Kalisz, Poland. Return
  10. or “son-in-law of a butcher”. Return
  11. Posek is the term in Jewish law for a “decisor”, a legal scholar who determines the position of halakha. Return
  12. “Leibush the sharp”. Return
  13. (1801 Słonim – 1872) a similar joke is attributed to Rabbi Israel Yehoshua Trunk, in the article on page 235. Return
  14. Chassid shebikechunnah - “the most pious in the priesthood.” Return
  15. now Toruń, in Poland. Return
  16. Aliyah (lit. “Ascent”) the immigration of Jews to Israel. Return
  17. date is probably wrong because 10 Nisan 5695 was a Shabbat, not a Tuesday. Return
  18. Yeshayahu 52:7 – How beautiful are the feet of the herald on the mountains, announcing peace, heralding good tidings, announcing salvation, saying to Zion, “Your God has manifested His kingdom.” Return
  19. Rabbi Avrahan Borensztajn. See article on page 268 of this book. Return
  20. Mount Moriah, the place of the temple in ancient times. Five days before Passover, time for pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Return
  21. Moshava (lit. colony) is a form of rural Jewish settlement. Return
  22. Nachshon was a tribal leader of the Judahites. According to a Jewish Midrash, he was the person who initiated the Jews' passage through the Red Sea, by walking in head-deep until the sea parted. Return
  23. see article on page 84 for explanation of this term. Return
  24. the author is speaking of himself at the third person, “his friend” means “my friend the Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk”. Return
  25. in the election of rabbi of Tel Aviv, after the death of Rabbi Shlomo Aronson (1864–1935), first Ashkenazi rabbi of Tel Aviv. Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog lost to Rabbi Amiel, of Antwerp, Belgium. Herzog was the father of Chaim and went on to become second Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi in Mandate Palestine after Rabbi Kook. Return
  26. Moadim l'simcha (lit. “A happy festival period”) greeting used during the intermediate days of the Passover and Sukkot holidays. Return
  27. premises of the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. Return
  28. Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk died on 11 March 1939. Return
  29. Rishonim (lit.”The first ones”) were the leading rabbis and poskim who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries. Return
  30. Rabbi Israel Yehoshua Trunk. Return
  31. Rabbi Moshe Pinchas Trunk, son of Rabbi Israel Yehoshua Trunk. Yechiel Yeshayahu Trunk is the grandson of Moshe Pinchas. Return
  32. Hirschel/Hersh is a kinuy for the Hebrew name Zvi (both mean “stag”) Return
  33. The Jewish prayer for peace. Return
  34. probably refers to Rabbi Israel Yehoshua Trunk. Return
  35. HaLevanon was the first Hebrew newspaper in Eretz Israel. It was published intermittently, and with different frequency, in 1863-1886 in Jerusalem, Paris, Mainz and London. (The National Library of Israel) Return
  36. Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk died in Warsaw on 11 March, 1939. Return
  37. Hapoel HaMizrachi was a religious pioneering and labor movement in Eretz Israel. Return
  38. see article on page 312 of this book. He died in the battle of Bir-Asluj, 20km south of Beersheva, in the Negev desert. Return
  39. Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser was a rabbi, master of Hebrew grammar, and Bible commentator. Return
  40. Harugei Malchuṯ (lit. Royal Martyrs) is a term in the Jewish tradition that refers to Jews killed by a foreign government, usually because of their Jewishness. The term first referred to those killed in the decrees of destruction in ancient Rome. Return
  41. Tannaim were the rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah. Return
  42. Amoraim refers to Jewish scholars of the period from about 200 to 500 CE, who “said” or “told over” the teachings of the Oral Torah. Return
  43. Seder Ma'amadot is a collection of verses from the Tanakh, Mishnah, and Talmud that are to be recited each day of the week. Return
  44. May It Be Your Will. Return
  45. The last third of the night. Return
  46. Kaddish, also known as the “Mourner's Prayer,” is said in honor of the deceased. Return
  47. The barechu prayer is an invitation to the congregation to worship God. Return
  48. The Sejm is the lower house of the bicameral parliament of Poland. Return
  49. Bikur Cholim - visiting the sick. Return
  50. Linat Tzedek - the society recruited volunteers to spend the night beside the beds of sick people so that their families could get some rest. Return
  51. Gemilut Hasadim - “The giving of loving-kindness.” Return
  52. i.e., Chevra Kadisha – dealing with the dead. See article on page 302 of this book. Return
  53. Rosh Chodesh is the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar marked by the appearance of the new moon. Return
  54. Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk. Return
  55. The Shabbat, which immediately proceeds the month of Elul, is blessed. Return


Mr. Jonathan Majranc

by Yitzhak MAJRANC

I would like these few lines to be a memorial to the figure of my father z”l, who was one of the well–known figures in Jewish Kutno who perished under the Nazi oppressor.

My father, R. Yonathan Majranc z”l, received his education in his youth in the city of Kalisz, with Rabbi Chaim Wax ztz”l, and after his marriage he moved his residence to Kutno, where he was a follower of the late Rabbi Yehoshua Trunk. Dad told me a lot about the genius Rabbi Yehoshua Trunk: the main area of activity of my father z”l was in “Bikur Cholim[1], where he served as chief gabbai. Who will not remember the blessed actions of this institution during the First World War in 1914? After the Russian government, in those days, abandoned Kutno, a committee of dignitaries of the city was established for local authority. Among the 12 members of the committee elected was also my father z”l, who was appointed deputy mayor and served in this post until the establishment of independent Poland. But more than once, father z”l filled the place of the German mayor when he was absent from the city, during the German occupation in that war, and this not in order to receive a reward. Dad was also a judge in the court established by the Germans in our city. And I remember the instructive case of a priest

[Page 266]

brought before the court on a charge of espionage in favor of the Russians. The German judge sentenced the priest to death but Dad, who was sitting at the trial with other public figures, refused to sign this deadly verdict and thus the priest survived death.

When community institutions began to be established in German times, father was the chairman of the community. Dad continued working in public affairs even after the establishment of independent Poland. Although his private business suffered greatly from it, Dad did not stop devoting himself to public affairs. After the war, under Polish rule, father z”l was a member of the city administration for a long time, and won not only the sympathy of the Jewish public but the sympathy of all the citizens of the city knowing that he was dealing with public needs with faith. Only his illness forced him to cease his occupations, as instructed by the doctors.

Father z”l also devoted himself to Zionist activity, before the #&147;Mizrahi” [2] was established in our city, but when the political parties began to organize, father turned away from the activity. Despite this, he continued to contribute to the Zionist funds, buying the Zionist shekel [3] and in the elections for the Polish “Seim[4] he conducted vigorous propaganda for the Zionist list.

Interesting detail: a year before his death, elections were held for the Zionist Congress and for father who was already ill, it was difficult for him to climb the stairs, so the election committee responded and came down to him, to allow him to vote.

The appreciation and respect that the entire Jewish public in Kutno felt for him was also expressed with his passing. Since there were two “Chevrot Kadisha[5] in our city, one of which did not want to accept the authority of the community committee, father z”l tried during his lifetime to make peace between them. But he failed. And when father died on Saturday night, the two burial societies came to our house on Saturday night to take care of his burial and began to quarrel over which of them would get to take care of the deceased. We, the family members, when we saw what was happening, called the rabbi of the city and he ruled that the quarrel between the two companies must end once and for all. And thanks to the deceased, peace was made between them and since then there has been only one burial society. In his obituary for father z”l, the rabbi noted that thanks to the honorable deceased, a long–standing dispute was put to an end.

Dad was a public activist who was always looking for the common good; he was attached to his people in every fiber of his soul.

May his soul be bound in the bundle of eternal life

Translator's footnotes

  1. Visiting the sick. Return
  2. Orthodox Zionist movement established in 1902. Return
  3. Symbolic currency giving the right to vote in Zionist Congress elections Return
  4. Polish parliament Return
  5. Burial societies Return

 

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