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The Song of “Hazamir”

by M. Szpira and M. Gelbart


“The time of the nightingale has come…”

(Translator's note: from a poem by Haim Bialik)


In the years 1909-1910, singing societies such as Hazamir and Lira arose in all of the Jewish cities in Poland. The young gathered in these groups where the Czarist regime was derided, where there was singing and where fun was had. In our hometown, such a singing society was organized in 1909 in the home of Haim Zikin (he was called the 'Jewish advocate' and he possessed a strong baritone voice). The young people who could sing were Itzele Fajerman, Nakhum Pacanowski, Meir Birenbaum, Seidi Lewkowicz, Nisen Sobol, Pinche Rabinowicz and me. We would deafen the market with our singing.

On a certain evening, Klubajnski, a Jewish bandleader (director) from the Russian regiment that was then quartered in Radomsk, came to our group and we established Hazamir. The founding meeting took place in Haiyenneh Lewkowicz's hall and many joyful speeches were made. Most of all, I remember a speech made by a girl named Madzhia Firsztenfeld. This is how she expressed herself: “We must have a singing society, because when we come to Polish concerts and entertainments, we are told, 'Jews go to Palestine.'” Her words had a greater effect than those of all of the others and those gathered, workers and intellectuals, zealously threw themselves into the work. Dr. Mitelman was elected as president, Dr. Glikman as vice-president, Adash Horowicz, secretary. All took pride in the chorus. Only the religious Jews and Hasidim opposed Hazamir and cursed it. My grandmother's curse was, “Let grass grow on Hazamir's road.”

Beautiful concerts were presented in the city-theater, which, at such times, were packed with visitors, Jews and Christians.


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After the first concert, we lost the conductor Klubajnski, who had to leave the city with his regiment. We immediately received another conductor, Kap. He led beautiful concerts, too, but he was also forced to leave us. We were again left without a conductor. Nevertheless, Hazamir had luck and by chance, we took as our director the greatest Jewish composer, Matathias Bensman. At that time, Bensman argued with the Warsaw Hazamir Society, and he consented to come to our city and serve as our conductor. Then a new life began for our singing society. Now for the first time we properly took part in good, real music. We presented Bensman's compositions at our concerts. We also presented Halevy's opera, “Yidn” in Hebrew, which every newspaper critic unanimously praised. Thanks to Bensman, the poet Marek Ornsztajn came to us, too and with us presented his drama, “The Eternal Song.” In general, we drew [audiences] from near and far to Nowo-Radomsk because of Bensman and the Hazamir chorus.

I will now relate an interesting fact. On a beautiful summer evening, Bensman sat at the piano and studied with us the musical implications of his “Song of the Planter.” Suddenly an alarm bell sounded, a sign that there was a fire somewhere in the city, and we, the singers, scattered. When we came back later, we were surprised to see Bensman still sitting at the piano playing. We then told him that a fire had broken out, and he shouted at us, “What fire? Where a fire? If we are singing, the walls can burn around us, but we must not be interrupted.” He left angry.


A group of the members of “Hazamir”

From the right: Mendel Gliksman, Nakhum Pacanowski, (standing), Itche Fajerman,
Nusim Sobol, Gershon Grosberg (standing, now in Israel), Meir Birenboum


We then took as director, the well-known Jewish composer, who is now in America – Mikhal Gelbart. He contentedly directed the chorus; he led beautiful concerts with us and literary evenings and we loved him.

Suddenly, out of the air, Bensman again appeared before us. What could we do? We were pleased with Mikhal Gelbart, but we did not want to remove Bensman. Therefore, we decided to appoint two directors. In order to support two directors, concerts were not enough for us. We then presented different operettas, dramas and one act plays, emulating Warsaw and Lodz. The members of the dramatic section were Mordekhai Zelig Rozenblat, Motele Szpiro, Pinche Rabinowicz, Abraham Epsztajn, Leibish Zandberg, Shlomoh Bugajski, Miss Szternfeld, Sale Slawik, Ite Aronowicz, Dovid Krojze, and Moishe Szwarc. Several members of our society made an impression with their playing, for example: Szymon Medwezec, Motel Szpiro and Pinche Rabinowicz.

When Mikhal Gelbart prepared to leave us, we arranged a beautiful farewell evening and presented him with a silk ribbon on which was written in gold letters our thanks and appreciation. We were left with Bensman, with whom we thoroughly mastered Lewandowski's 'Hallelujah,' the 'Farom' (Bensman), “Song of the Planters” – the song of the Jewish workers in the fields in Eretz-Yisroel, Bialik's “national song” and other classical Yiddish and Polish songs. After this, Bensman again disappeared.

It was difficult to find an acceptable director after he left, but in order to keep Hazamir from falling apart, we organized literary evenings and lectures. Moishe Szwarc, who then had returned from Eretz-Yisroel, would take part, too. He would lecture, was our prompter and, in general, made Hazamir lively. Moishe Szwarc would also bring his friends from the Czenstochower Drama Society and they would present Gordin's “The Jewish King Lear,” and Peretz's “The Crazy Bum.” Years later – in the times of the [First] World War – it is thanks to Hazamir that the organization Kultura developed, which carried out a great number of cultural activities among the young people.
Max Szpira




b. To G-d and to People

Nowo-Radomsk belonged to the category of cities in Poland that never remained backwards in any field, and responded to the problems and needs of Jewish communal life.

When the Enlightenment and, later, socialism infiltrated Jewish life, Nowo-Radomsk was one of the first entry places, where these ideas were accepted and firmly established. (This is not the place, nor am I equal to the task to write the history.) What I will do here is note only a page of Nowo-Radomsk Hazamir, where I was given a certain time to be active as director.


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When Hazamir choruses bloomed in Poland, Jewish youth flowed to them en masse. There they found a sanctuary where they were freed of the frume religious fetters, sang gorgeous songs and heard a new word. There was no mekhitse (partition) between boy and girl. Nowo-Radomsk was then one of the first to organize such a Hazamir. And when Nowo-Radomsk did something, it had to be better and go further than somewhere else.

I see before my eyes the gorgeous premises of Hazamir with its large beautiful concert hall, its own library and an apartment for the director – an intellectual and social home for the young, who had so looked to escape, for a while, from the religious Jewish ghetto and found in Hazamir the proper spot where the young derived wonderful satisfaction.

Hazamir possessed not only a good chorus, which sang so beautifully, but also a drama section, which studied and presented dramas by Jewish writers, such as “With the Tide” by Sholom Asch and the like. Jewish literary works were read and discussed. Literary-Musical evenings were arranged from time to time – helping to build the structure of Jewish Culture. And this was dangerous in Polish Jewish shtetlekh in those years.

Nowo-Radomsk's Hazamir was different in that it did not pass from one extreme to the other, which was the case in other cities (from Beis Midrash fanaticism to cultural fanaticism). Nowo-Radomsk understood that the young are the young! That “man does not live only spiritually,” that fine arts and culture would also fulfill the young people. So Hazamir arranged entertainments, where one danced, frolicked, “made acquaintances,” laughed and had fun. As a Jewish expression says, what is to G-d is to G-d and what is to people is to people. In Nowo-Radomsk Hazamir, everything was given and taken in buckets, singing, drama, literature – for the soul, and dancing, playing, going to summer resorts and all kinds of entertainments – for the body.

Ebullient and rich were the activities of Nowo-Radomsk Hazamir, which prepared cadres of devoted cultural workers during its short existence and produced a considerable amount of talent.
Mikhal Gelbart




“Kultura” – Its Goals and Active Workers

by D. Koniecpoler – D. Krojze


a. A Center for Multifaceted Cultural Activities

At the end of 1914, after several months of fighting around Radomsk, the Austrian army occupied the city. Far away, the bloody battles were being fought, but in Radomsk itself, life took on a more or less normal form. Normal, understand, under conditions of war. Great poverty reigned in the city; the factories and workshops were idle and speculation in foodstuffs flourished. However, excluding the lowered economic situation of the population, these war years were unprecedented in their rich content and it was the most interesting era in the history of the Radomsk Jews.

Simultaneously with the terror that the war brought was born a great hope for a new epoch, one that would be dominated by peace and social justice. The Radomsker youth were also carried away by this vision of a new and better world. The political and social activities, which had been so brutally suppressed by the Czarist regime after the stormy years of 1905-1906 and were completely paralyzed for years, were revived and took in wide circles of the Jewish population. At the same time, a striving to learn grew among the young, and a group of young people founded an organization that carried on extensive and colorful activities during the war years.

I established my first contact with these activities on the second day of Shavous 1915. I happened to stroll on the Neiem Weg with a group of young people, as was then the custom, deep in a heated discussion. Suddenly Aba Winer (perished on the 20th of July 1943 in Czenstochowa) called me over to the side and confided in me the secret that a youth group had been established. I was invited to a meeting that same day at three o'clock in the afternoon, which would take place in a “meeting hall” in an attic room over Ahron-Wolf Szwarc's little soda-water factory. At the head of the group were then several old friends, such as M. Z. Rozenblat, Hershel and Dovid Krojze and so forth.

Not long after, the group rented a three room premises in Szpaltyn's house on Strzalkower Street, taking advantage of the legal permission Rozenblat had to use it as a library.

The group began a wide range of activities and with each month gained new members who distinguished themselves with their activities, among them Dovid Gold, Pinye Kalka, Yakov Aronowicz, Shlomoh Gabrial Waksman, Meir Birenbaum, Abraham Winter, Fishel Gliksman, L. Bajgielman, etc. Because it was necessary for it to appear to the authorities, that an 'older' person was the chairman, we chose the photographer Weinberg, who was officially designated as the chairman. However, in fact, we young people carried out the rich cultural and educational activities.


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The Steering Committee of “Kultura”

Standing (from the right): Y. Fajerman, Hershel Krojze, Dovid Koniecpoler, Abraham Lipszic,
Leizer Bajgielman, Meir Birenbaum, Aba Winer, Y. Bugajski

Sitting: Dr. Yakov Aronowicz, A. Rajchman, L. Weinberg (leader), Dovid Krojze, Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat


We created a rich library, arranged readings, evening courses, musical and artistic evenings. Not being rich in our own [performers] we brought them from surrounding towns such as Czenstochow, Lodz, etc. The artistic appearances of Professor Wilenberg and the theater presentations with Julius Adler particularly deserve to be remembered. Thanks to our initiative, our city was gratified with several appearances by the then well-known Vilner Troup.

The esteem of the youth-group was so great that the Jewish artists, who were members of the Austrian city administration, gladly accepted our invitations to appear with readings, recitations and the like. Thus, for example, Dr. Tindal-Tosing, the gifted actor from the Reinhardt Theater, appeared in our meeting hall with a cycle of recitations from Heine, Schiller, Lessing, etc. Although we did not carry on any philanthropic activity, we did from time to time donate the receipts from artistic evenings to relieving the need that reigned among the poor people.

For a time we did not have any official authorization, but that did not prevent us from being very active. After the organization, which we named Kultura, became legal, we used all of our energy and carried on our activity with great zeal and fire.*

*When the well-known Jewish historian Meir Balabon, who occupied the office of head of Jewish matters in the Austrian General Government, visited our city, he was greatly impressed by our activity. He jokingly declared that the name 'Kultura' came from Kol (voice) Torah, [leading to] the hypothesis that Professor Balabon had assisted in legalizing the organization.

In the last years of the war, political party life flourished greatly in Poland. In Radomsk, too, emissaries from the different parties began to appear; groups of Po'alei-Zion, Fareinikte and later the Bund, too, were created. From the beginning, this did not have an influence on our activities. We gave every party the opportunity to use the dais of Kultura, where our sincere desire was [to see] how much more we could learn and how much more we could enrich our knowledge.

With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and the proclamation of the Balfour Declaration, party life in the city began to get stormy and the inter-party differences intensified. The idealistic times were over, when opposing parties were able to have joint use of one meeting hall. Passions grew stronger and in the end Fareinikte took over the meeting hall of Kultura and Po'alei-Zion took control of the Zaks family's wedding hall, which they “expropriated” (But that is already another chapter).

A group of young men carried out the rich and broad range of activities of Kultura and exhibited limitless self-sacrifice and energy. Thanks to their organizational abilities, they created one of the best cultural institutes, in which our city had the right to take pride. I hold it as my duty to remember some of them here.



Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat

Was the creator of the “youth group” and we accorded him great respect, as the one who had shown us the way. He “provided for himself” by giving Hebrew lectures and through a small book business. He perished together with his family in 1942 in Treblinka.



Hershel Krojze

Belonged to the older comrades and was a devoted volunteer. We young people had in him a sincere and warm friend. By trade a printer. Perished with his family at Hitlerist hands.




Dovid Gold (Klej)

Descended from a Hasidic house. Studied in the Beis Hamidrash, but at the same time was engrossed in the Jewish Enlightenment and Hebrew literature. Was one of our first comrades and already there was apparent in him the signs of the later earnest and profound writer. After, when he became a member of the Socialist Zionists, he decided to become a worker and became an apprentice in Gelbard's printing establishment. He never had time, always was busy. Fingers blackened with printer's ink – a true proletarian. We, his closest friends, knew about his struggle with his Hasidic parents, but he never complained about it to anyone.

Dovid emigrated to Eretz-Yisroel in his twentieth year, where he carried on an active and creative life throughout the years.


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An active volunteer in the workers' movement in Eretz-Yisroel. Died in Israel in 1948.



Yakov Aronowicz

Descended from an intelligent Zionist family. Was one of the most active comrades in our group, which he endeavored to give a bourgeois-Zionist hue. Later studied medicine in Vilna and practiced as a doctor in Radomsk. Perished at the hands of the Germans in 1942.



Abraham Kamelgarn

Was a store employee. A dear and sincere friend, always ready to help someone else. Very frum (pious) but with socialist tendencies. The last time I saw him was in the summer of 1942 in the Radomsker ghetto, emaciated and depressed. Several weeks later he exhaled his soul in Treblinka with the remaining Radomsker Jews.



Fishel Gliksman

A sincere person, a folks-kind (a child of the people) without pretensions. Always ready to do something for the organization and it was hard to find an action in which Fishel did not take part with life and soul. He displayed the same readiness to help after the Second World War in relation to his Radomsker landsleit. Died after a difficult illness in Los Angeles.



Moishe Lewkowicz

Was a musician and one of the first Zionists in the city. He greatly helped us, particularly in taking care of various matters with the Austrian regime. [No matter] how many times we turned to him with our request, he always accommodated us. Was a constant visitor to our evenings from the start and they were many.



A. Alebarde

In one year, 1905, was transformed into a revolutionary activist from a Beis Midrash boy and remained through all the years a devoted Bundist worker. Murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto, to which he ran from Czenstochow.



Zakin Szrajber

A glorious people's type. A tailor by trade, however, he worked as a hired worker and constantly dreamed about the coming better world. In later years, he moved closer to the Po'alei-Zion (Social-Zionist) party, which he represented on the Kehile managing committee. A lover of books, he created a rich book collection, dedicated to the Jewish workers' movement.

When I visited him later in his ghetto lair in Radomsk in 1942, he told me that he did not have the time to bring any of his book collection with him except for a letter of Leivick's, which he rescued under a hail of blows. Believed to have perished in the Treblinka gas chamber.

Among the older generation, we could not find many supporters and friends. We were too Jewish for the bunch of intellectuals and too goyish (Christian) for the Hasidic and middle class Jews. We must remember the individuals who came close to us and helped us with our work.

*

At the close, it is worthwhile to remember the putsch, which was carried out in our organization at the beginning of 1916.

On a certain Sunday, Aba Winer came breathlessly to me and told me that the bourgeois-Zionist group with Yakov Aronowicz at the head, had taken over the library, taken out the books and locked the meeting hall. We immediately alerted our 'democratic group' and it was decided to pry open the meeting hall [door] and install a new lock. Simultaneously, we proceeded to create a new library. Our friends Alebarde and Zakin Szrajber donated several dozen books and we ourselves gathered together a few of our own books and filled the shelves. Our “general staff,” which I had the honor to lead, [met] in the cabinetry workshop of my parents.

Wednesday, Yissakhar Bugajski, who had belonged to the putschists came to us and declared that he stood again with our group.

After short negotiations, the putschists came back to us and brought back the library. For a time, peace again reigned among us.

*

We have to thank the enthusiasm and devotion of a small group of young people who built one of the most beautiful cultural institutions, of which any town would have been able to boast. However, that which was built with such youthful ardor was later destroyed because of the unraveling party passions. All those who actively worked with Kultura in the era of its growth have carried warm memories their whole life. Kultura was the school through which they were drawn to community work in their later mature years.
Dovid Koniecpoler



b. Ascent and Decline of “Kultura“

We, a group of young people, carried around the idea of establishing a cultural society for a long time, but the realization of the idea first succeeded in 1915.

The solemn opening of the society, which we named Kultura occurred on the 15th October 1916, and representatives from city hall, the Kehile (Fishel Donski and Adolf Lewkowicz) Zionist organizations (Yankiel Witenberg, Abraham Grosberg, or Abraham Rade's as we called him, Mendel Fajnzilber and Shlomoh Krakowski) took part in it. Delegates from the neighboring cities – Czenstochow, Piotrkow, Bedzin, Sosnowiec, and Belchatow – attended.


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The souvenir of the Jewish organization “Kultura”, which was printed in this form and distributed
the day of the opening of the Nowo-Radomsker organization (the 15th October 1916)


A membership card for “Kultura”


The occupying regime was represented by Lieutenant Shubert (a Hungarian Jew who occupied an important place in the administration of our city), a delegate from the Austrian Civil-Committee with the name Famerancel and a group of officers. The greatest surprise for us was the tremendous part the assimilated intelligentsia and those studying in colleges, who always abhorred Yiddish and stayed far away from every national activity, took in the celebration. At the opening, speeches were given – Dovid Krojze and Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat in Yiddish, Hershel Krojze in Polish.

Immediately, with its rise, Kultura began broad-based activities. It moved from Ahron-Wolf Szwarc's small attic room, where until then, it carried out illegal cultural activities, to a large meeting hall on Strzalkower Street (near Leib Karp's). The number of members of the society grew from day to day.



The First Season

One of the first tasks that we undertook was to establish a library. At our call to the public, large donations of books and money flowed in. After a short time, the library owned a considerable number of Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish books. Every evening in the library's reading room, workers and young people from all circles gathered, spending their free time reading a newspaper, a book or in discussing timely questions. The dance room, which was located in the same building as Kultura, began to stand vacant. The young transferred en masse to Kultura, where they took an active part in all kinds of cultural events.

The local college youth, students from Warsaw and Lemberg high schools and the intelligentsia were sympathetic to our activities and gladly worked with us. Gabrish Winer, a student from the Lemberg Polytechnic, Hifek Lewkowicz, Adolf Lewkowicz's son, Henjek Donski, the previously mentioned Fishel Donski's son, Miss Szczarajnski, Miss Bem, Josef Bem's daughter, Miss Wisotski, teacher in the government school, Madzie Winer, Bezaleel Zajfenzider's daughter, and Haim Krajndler, director of the Folks-Shule, must particularly be remembered.

Having such strength, we decided to establish evening courses. Those elected to the committee which was supposed to conduct the courses were Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat, Dovid Krojze, Yankiel Aronowicz (later a medical doctor) and Ludwik Witenberg. In time, Gabrish Winer, Hifek Lewkowicz, Miss Bem and so forth joined. Representatives of the local government (Daniel Rozenbaum) and the Kehile (Fishel Donski), etc., took part in the joyous opening.

The evening courses were held in the shul for a long time and enjoyed a Kehile subsidy.



The Glorious Period

In 1916, after a year of fruitful activity, we decided to create a chorus, utilizing the visit of musician Matathias Bensman to our city. After a short time, the harmonious singing of the mixed chorus of men and women rang in Strzalkow Street. At that time, the dramatic section, which was led by Kiva Mitelman, also arose.

The society carried out its activities with great ardor and zeal. Every Shabbos, lectures were given by Mordekhai-Zelig Rozenblat, the brothers Dovid and Nakhman Gold, and the teacher Krajndler. Austrian officers from time to time also lectured on German literature and the like. The literary and musical evenings also were a great success, at which the dramatic section and the chorus performed. Absorbed in our activities, we simply forgot that we lived in wartime, that near Falków, cannons thundered and human blood was pouring.



The Downfall

The war approached its end. From neighboring Russia, the reverberation carried from the great revolutionary storm and in the Jewish-Polish cities and shtetlekh noisy political life suddenly awoke.


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Several workers' parties began to organize, such as the Bund, Po'alei-Zion, Tseri Zion, etc. Party speakers flooded the cities and shtetlekh. They came from Warsaw, Lodz and other bigger cities, in order to carry out their work of agitation. The lectures took place in Kultura's meeting hall. For a period of time the managing committee strove to preserve the society as an impartial cultural center. But this did not succeed for long. In place of harmonious cooperation, unrestrained party struggle began, which brought the downfall of Kultura.
Dovid Krojze



“Melamdim” (Teachers in religious schools) – Teachers – Educators

by Yitzhak Grosman


In my childhood, no folks schools yet existed in Radomsk. Even the future doctors and lawyers received their education in khederim (religious schools). The first folks school opened – I do not remember exactly when – I think in 1903 or even in 1905 in Solomon Radel's house and it was called “the Jandowe Szkole.” There one studied in the Russian language. The head teacher was a Jew named Golomb. In the morning, he taught in the school and in the afternoon Russian in the khederim, as he did not earn a living from the [folks] school alone. In the khederim one had to teach the children in Russian at that time and permission was taken away from the Melamedim to run religious schools. The teacher Golomb came from deep Russia. He knew a fine Polish and every Friday he even taught the older children Polish in secret. He spoke a weak Yiddish. Not everyone in Radomsk could decide to send his child to this government school. First, young boys and girls learned together and second, one studied there without a hat and the students had to wear a special uniform, I was registered in this school, but when my grandmother Hinde went and took a look at how the school appeared, she became remorseful and would not let me study there so that I would not become a “goy.” During every “galawke” i.e. when the birthday of Czar Nikolai or his family members was celebrated, the teacher Golomb took the initiative and gathered together the children from the government school and from the khederim and led them into the shul and the cantor Reb Shlomoh Zaks and the choir sang the Russian hymn “Bozhe Tzarya Khrani.” Such a day was a holiday for the religious school children both big and small, from the schools for the youngest children to the Gemara khederim.

I was born in 1893 and already in 1897, that means at age four, I began to study with the well-known teacher of the youngest children, Abrahamele Melamed, a Jew with a wide beard. The kheder he ran was in the courtyard of Rabbi Zev Meir. Abrahamele Melamed loved the children. All, poor and rich, were alike to him, and the children also loved their teacher. Two assistants worked with him. When Reb Abrahamele Melamed died, his son Reb Itzel Meir took over as Melamed. He was young and introduced various revisions in the method of teaching. One learned very heartily with him, because he knew how to win the sympathy of the children. The children wanted to learn only with him and not with the other assistant, who Reb Itzel Meir had inherited from his father.

This was the first stage. At age five I went over to Yosef-Ber Melamed. This was a taller Jew with a pointy beard. He studied Gemara with us and was a strict one, even a little irascible. Besides his position as a teacher, he had additional income. He could write and read Russian (he had even passed an exam in the Russian language) and had permission to teach Russian to the children in his school. Indeed, he earned [his living] by writing requests to the regime, to the naczelnik, to the governor, and even to the Czar and the Czarina themselves. He boasted that he was always successful, because he had a good pen and a beautiful handwriting. When his daughter, Devorah the Po'alei-Zionist, was arrested as the leader of a strike in Yosel Hamer's sock factory, he ran to the vice mayor to ask that a request be written to the chief, that his daughter Devorah, a chaste woman, who was arrested in error should be freed. This could harm a Jewish daughter's chance for a match, besides her earnings helped to pay for the running of the school. The naczelnik should know – he wrote – that the Melamed is loyal to the Czar and Czarina and prays for a long life for the Czar's whole family. Half a hundred children are praying for the freeing of the daughter of Reb Yosef-Ber Melamed, who is a pauper, and the Czar must take pity on him as a father pities his children. Reb Yosef-Ber read the request aloud to us and wanted to know what we thought of it. When we asked him why has had not written it himself, he answered that he did not want the authorities to recognize his handwriting and therefore he had dictated the contents. He, indeed, received an answer, that a guarantee should be given, that what he writes is the truth and then his daughter would be released. My grandmother Hinde, of blessed memory, gave the guarantee and the dark Devorah (that was how she was called) was freed. Yosef-Ber Melamed had another job. In the summer he would invite the students every Shabbos afternoon to his home in order to teach a chapter of the Mishnah and he treated them to beer, which he made himself from plum juice. The Rebbitzin, however, asked them to pay for the refreshments.


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Another type of Melamed was Reb Mordekhai Yosef. We called him Fonya (Russia) because when we left his kheder it was as if we had served in the army. For every foolishness that a student was guilty of, he was asked to go up on the table and he was given a whipping. The first lash was given by the Rebbitzen and, then the students [gave] the rest. Reb Mordekhai Yosef did not live just [from the income] from the school. He was occupied with selling Warsaw caps and Jewish hats but without ribbons, because the Zionist youth organizations wore hats with one or two ribbons and, therefore, he did not want to carry such goods. He sold the hats during the yahrzeits for the Radomsker rebbes and the students helped. Thus he taught both Torah and commerce. When one left Mordekhai Yosef, something from the Torah still remained in his head.

A similar type of Melamed was Eidel Melamed, Mordekhai Yosef's brother. His was strict, but at the same time also a bit of a modern teacher. In addition to Gemara, he also taught Tanakhand the modern Hebrew of Palestine. The whole week he taught only until ten o'clock in the morning and then he called in the Rebbitzen to listen to the manner in which the students behaved in the house and in the street and then the students explained how one behaves “between a man and his neighbor.” Eidel Melamed composed a report and started a trial. Every student received his verdict. He was called to confess his misdeeds and he came home with a “pulled out ear” pinched and beaten up. The trials lasted until three in the afternoon and finally when we were freed for the entire Shabbos, it became joyous.

Lipa Melamed was a Jew with a wide beard, quiet and seldom excited. He lived very modestly. With one piece of sugar, he drank ten glasses of boiling tea. He smoked a pipe. He boasted himself that he had made a benediction on cherries first when a pot of cherries cost not more than three kopecks. In a word, he lived in want. He had a son named Abraham who was called “the long head.” He was a member of Po'alei-Zion and led the strike of the sock workers. Lipa Melamed his wife was named Hana-Rivka; she was small with a kupke (hat worn by observant women) on her head and sold kerchiefs in the market. Every Thursday Reb Lipa would go out with the pipe in his mouth, in order to make sure that his wife would not be robbed. However, when he noticed how a non-Jewish woman had hidden a stolen kerchief in her bosom, he told his Hana-Rivka only after the non-Jewish woman had gone away. When he was not studying, he would plead with his wife that one does not degrade even a Gentile in public. Lipa loved his students very much and studied with them late into the night. For the kerosene, understand, he took payment. While Reb Lipa went to the Beis Midrash for Minkhah-Maariv, the students created an upheaval in kheder. With Lipa, one already was studying Gemara with commentary on the Talmud and a casuistic interpretation. As a rule, he did not strike [the students]. He only threatened that he would bring the whip with the seven strips from the attic and that was the greatest threat. He was also the custodian of the ohel (tomb) of the Hasidic Rebbes, of blessed memory, Tiferes Shlomoh and the Khesed Abraham. He opened it at their yahrzeit, went around with the tzdoke pushke (donations can) and divided the money among the respectable poor.

Aba Melamed, a son of Zalman the tailor of women's clothing, a cautious Jew, was a young man with a small beard. He lived in one room, where he ran his kheder. He only had individual students, whom he prepared for Haim Dovid Melamed (see below). Aba was a secret teacher, i.e. he did not have permission to run a school. Sometimes he taught the students in the Beis-Midrash and sometimes in his home. His wife was the wood merchant Krakowski's daughter. She wanted Reb Aba to be a merchant, too, but he only wanted to be a teacher and his father-in-law had to agree to this. Because teaching did not provide a good income, the father-in-law, perforce, had to support Aba and his family.

Haim Dovid Melamed was a Jew of average height, the son of a tailor. He was devoted to his students, lived in seclusion and did not even look at his own daughters. The rich children such as Szczeranski's and Rozenbojm's studied with him. In the afternoon, Golomb of the government school taught Russian in the kheder and observed the “galawkes.”

At that time, 1905, there was already a small Bund, which was against the celebration of the “galawkes.” Haim Dovid's students were challenged to stop studying with Golomb and if not their peyes (side curls) would be cut off and their hats taken.

The Bundists indeed organized us, so that when Golomb would want to sing “Bozhe Tzarya Khrani” with us on the day of the “galawkes,” the students should leave the kheder and [Golomb] would be alone. And, indeed, that is what we did. I remember that this was on a Thursday, a market day. All of us went out to the market and saw how Aly Barda, Abrahamche the soap maker's son-in-law, carried the red flag. Since I directed the strike at Haim Dovid's, he requested that my grandmother Hinde, of blessed memory, take me out of his kheder and take me straight over to Ahron-Hersh Melamed.

Haim Dovid's wife ran a business among the students; she sold them kohlrabi and roasted potatoes.

Ahron-Hersh Melamed was a short Jew with a large thick beard. He argued that if a Jew did not “look up and look down,” he would not yield to the temptation of any sin. Reb Ahron-Hersh conducted himself as a rabbi; every day he went to immerse himself ritually. He hardly ate anything and he would not accept every student for study with him. They wanted to make him a judge, but he politely refused.

From Ahron-Hersh we went to study in Henekh-Fishel Kotsker's yeshiva in Kopel's Beis Hamidrash. This was the last step of studying in khederim.

Ahron-Hersh had daughters, who cooperated completely in the workers' movement, but he did not know about it and when he was told that his daughters worked with the Zionist youth organizations he simply would not believe it.

Reb Henekh-Fishel Kotsker was a tall Jew with a goatee, a wise man who always loved to quibble with the students and with random passersby. He held his yeshiva in Kopel's Beis-Hamidrash. Shabbos he studied with the crowd in the Beis-Hamidrash and the craftsmen particularly loved him. He was accorded great respect.


[Page 265]


When a preacher came to the Beis-Hamidrash to give a sermon, Kopel Shamas would not permit him to speak before he received Fishel Kotsker's wisdom.

Mikhal Melamed was a short Jew; he barely earned enough to live on. He was a “primary school” melamed. His school was small and without assistants. He would say to his students: “If one studies alone, the soul is clean.”

Yitzhak-Yosef Melamed, a son-in-law of the (female) chicory-maker, was of the [same] type of melamed as Aba. He lived in a small room and smoked many cigarettes. He asked his students to gather discarded cigar tips from which he took out the tobacco for his cigarettes. He was also musical. His pupils brought him hair from horsetails and he showed them how to make fiddles.

His kheder was in a small room. The students sat on the bed near which stood a table. On the other side stood a broken bench, which often fell and Reb Yitzhak-Yosef would always fix it. Once the chicory-maker came into the kheder and seeing how her son-in-law worked, yelled at the students that because of them he would yet get consumption, because he sweats too much. She asked them to go out to the Beis-Hamidrash so the room would be uncrowded. Reb Yitzhak-Yosef, afraid of his mother-in-law, led the students to the Beis-Hamidrash, and there he again began teaching.

In old age, Reb Yitzhak-Yosef gave up teaching. He had received a small inheritance from his mother-in-law, the chicory-maker and with this he opened a lime store. The store went well. His grown sons helped him with money and enlarged the business. In time he opened a second lime store, so he was even thought of as a rich man. When he had a little time, one would find him sitting studying in the Radomsker Gerer shtibl.

The Lelewer teacher Zainvil Goldman was a commonplace non-Orthodox rabbi in Radomsk. He loved Eretz-Yisroel and taught Tanakh, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish and German. He had a great influence on his students and gave them a love of Zion and instilled in them a national spirit.

Berish Sztatler was a teacher of Hebrew and bookkeeping and a devoted Zionist.

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