Translated by Theodore Steinberg
by Rabbi Kalman-Eliezer Frenkel
Translated by Mira Eckhaus David
We are used to call our land Eretz-Israel homeland (Moledet), because the Israeli nation was born in it; But this word is not too simple, and every country a person is born in, is his homeland, as the sages say: The beauty of a place is in its inhabitants, that is, from its residents you can know the beauty of the place. And if this is right for a country, it is surely true for a city, where a person was born, raised and educated. In this respect, each of us cherish his homeland. But I will admit and not be ashamed, because as a resident of Siedlce, I have always envied great jealousy in Warsaw, Lodz, and the like. In Warsaw I would have find Jewish merchants with complicated businesses, or in Lodz, the preoccupied Jewish blacksmith, and yet they were involved in public activities, Torah, Hasidism and the like. When I visited there, I always pondered in the words of the Mishnah Don't say I will change once I'll have time, in case you will not have time, and the Rabbi of Kuczek would interpret the Mishnah: in case you will not have time perhaps your Torah, which you deal with, is desirable to God, although you don't have time, but out of trouble. Meaning, that the city of Siedlce, with all its importance, was a provincial city, with no industry and no great trade and its people had a lot of free time. However, I'm not looking now for bad things but to show the good and the beauty of the city. Now we are busy in building a monument to this ruined and desolate city from its holy residents, so our sons and future generations will know who its residents, Yeshiva students, rabbis and public activists were, who were all slaughtered and killed by the Nazi murderers with the help of local Polish during the World War in 1939-1942. This book that is dedicated to the hollies of Siedlce, residents of Israel, residents who are different in their views, opinions, and each of them, as his ability and mindset and in accordance with his views, came to describe what he saw and found in this city, its businessmen and institutions and the people whom he knew and met in Siedlce. I will talk about the Mizrachi, that I was one of its founders. But I will not fulfil my obligation as a religious Jew if I do not first describe to the reader the rabbis of the city, whether I knew them
personally or whether I heard about them. I dedicated the first chapters of my memoirs to the rabbis, Yeshiva students, public activists, merchants and Hassidic of Siedlce, and later to the Mizrachi that was founded at a later time. And I must state in advance, that most of my knowledge of Siedlce is from fifty years ago until 1918, when I left Siedlce and moved to Radzyn. Ever since, thirty-four years ago, I would rarely come to Siedlce, as a passing guest, and I did not know what had formed in it until the Second World War.
The Rabbis of the City
It's been said about the rabbi of Liadi, that once he was asked by one opponent during the period of debate between the Hassidim and the opponents, whether Messiah of Israel, to his arrival we expect every day, will be from the Hassidic people or the opposition people. The rabbi answered them that the Messiah will be from the opponents. The opponent wondered: but the Hassidim always say that your way is the right way, while your honor tells me, that Messiah will be an opponent. The rabbi answered him: The Hasidim respect also a real opponent, but the opponents do not want to respect the real Hassidim, therefore in order for everyone to believe in the Messiah, he will be from the opponents and the Hasidim will believe in him as well.
To the praise of Siedlce I must note that in the last hundred and fifty years, the rabbis who served the city were distinct Hasidim and also distinct opponents and almost all were likable all over the city boulevards, between Hasidim and opponents, and this is a reason to praise the city, which did not differ in the rabbi's views, and if he was a wise student, loyal to his role as the city teacher, master of the city, he was respected by all the members of the community, unlike in other cities in Poland, where also the matter of the rabbinate was being swept away in the dispute between the Hasidim and the opponents. I had not heard of such a controversy during my time in Siedlce. And so, the rabbis who served in Siedlce were once a Hassid and once an opponent, and they were all important to the public, each according to its greatness in the Torah and his deeds.
The first of the rabbis I have heard of is Rabbi Zussia Plotsker, in about one hundred and fifty years ago. Rabbi Zussia Plotsker was a passionate Hassid of the disciples of Rabbi Bunim of Przysucha. A friend of the Rabbi of Kuczek and the Rabbi of Warka. Rabbi Shmuel Shinwar, the author of the book Ramatayim Tzofim, served as the next rabbi of Siedlce. He also was a Hassid. The rabbi who served after him was Rabbi Israel Meisels, a well-known opponent, the son of Rabbi Doberish Meisels, a rabbi in Warsaw whom the Russians deported to Galicia after the Polish uprising against the Russian emperor (The Phobestania). After him, Rabbi Mordechai Lifshitz, the author of the book Brit Yaakov, served as the rabbi. He found his rest in Siedlce, in the new cemetery
an on his grave was built the tent of Rishon, the tent of Zion. The son of this rabbi was the known Rabbi Yaakov Zalman Lifshitz from Kovno. His son-in-law was Rabbi Eliyahu Klatzkin from Lublin, who lived at the end of his life in Eretz Israel and his second son-in-law was Rabbi Yechiel, who was a teacher and served as such in Siedlce in my time. Followed him Rabbi Itzela, a teacher, who served as the rabbi until the last period of the extermination. Rabbi Baruch Mordechai was known as a clear opponent. He was succeeded by Rabbi Yissachar Baarish Grahbard. He belonged to the Hassidim and except for his greatness in the Torah, he knew languages and wisdom and was a man of the world. Later he was called to serve as the rabbi of Benzin, written the book of questions and answers called Divrei Yissachar. Followed him in the rabbinate of Siedlce was Rabbi Shimon Dov Analik of Tykocin, who was known in the class of Yeshiva students as Der Schwartzer Iluy. I knew him personally and I will talk more about him. He was a definite opponent, was raised and educated in a circle of opponents. The city Tykocin was known as a fortress of resistance to Hassidism. And yet, I do not know if there was a rabbi so dear to the Hasidim as this Rabbi Shimon. And not only because he adapted himself to the people of the city, was wearing a silk garment all days of the week and on Shabbat Was wearing a shtreimel on his head, as is the custom of the place, but because of his integrity and dedication to public and Torah matters. And although he opposed not only to Hassidism itself but also to national and political views, nevertheless the Zionist people also liked and cherished him, because he was a man of truth, and was willing to give his life for the commandments of the Torah and the affairs of the community. I remember, at the time of the beginning of political Zionism, one of the residents of Mezrich, one of the richest men and public activists, a great and enthusiastic Zionist and a great in the Torah, came to speak at the Beit Midrash and he received permission to do so from one of the community leaders of the city, Rabbi Itzchak Nahum Weintraub, who was then head of the community and he didn't ask the rabbi for his permission. Stickers were posted on the walls of the beit midrash in the Shul Hoif&$148;, that on a certain day and at a certain time a certain person will speak. At the scheduled hour, the rabbi came down from his house, entered the beit midrash and announced that he did not give permission to speak in the beit midrash on any political matter and the like. Rabbi Itzchak Nahum Weintraub approached him and said to him: Rabbi, we have already given permission and we have already gathered an audience, respecting the people requires that he be allowed to speak. Rabbi Shimon kicked him in the leg and said: In my entire life I have not been defeated by a man; I am the responsible of the Beit Midrash. Tykucin still does not have a rabbi and I can return there. And he did not, in any way, allow the speaker to speak, saying that the beit midrash is a place for prayer and ethics and not for secular matters.
This rabbi wrote two books about the Torah, Ora Lemishpat and imrei Rashad. The last book, in its most, contains his sermons which he recited before his audience. He was a great speaker and preacher for the status of a rabbi. At that time, he taught a daily Talmud class at the Beit Midrash of Shas and was
dedicated to public affairs, in general and in detail. During the pogrom in Siedlce in 1905, he turned to the substitute of the governor, the regional Russian minister, and demanded him to stop the shooting and the murders in the city. The substitute replied that the revolutionary Jews were firing on the army. The rabbi denied this and demanded that he will go with him to do searches and find the revolutionaries. When he went out and saw the corpses of dead Jews on Warsaw Street (who were Rabbi Mendele Tiblum and one of Alexander followers, neighbors who were both killed on Saturday night), the rabbi took off his shoes and walked in socks in the street. When the substitute of the governor asked him for his actions, he said that he, as a rabbi, was mourning when he saw an ally Jew lying dead on the street. These things affected the substitute of the governor until he turned to the Henzlenik Tikhonovsky, damn him, and said to him: We went and searched all over the city and did not see or find a single revolutionary who had a weapon to fire in the Russian army and did not see a single soldier wounded. On the other hand, there are dozens of Jewish people killed. People with families, with small children, people who never held a weapon in their hand and did not know how to use it. These words were joined by the battalion minister, Hadovolsky, whom Tikhonovsky had invited from the city of Biala, to come and help the Russian army against rebellious revolutionaries, and then the battalion commander was given the custody of the city and the hateful Tikhonovsky left the city with his men. That was on Monday (the pogrom broke out on Saturday night) evening and the deads have not yet been buried. After the pogrom the rabbi of blessed memory, became sick due to all the trouble and fear and in the middle of his life, while he was 50 years old, he passed away in 8 Shvat, about six months after the pogrom. The city then felt the great loss, when its rabbi was taken from it, its pride and glory. Rabbi Shimon left behind a son, Rabbi Leibel from Grajewo, who served as a rabbi in a town, and his three sons-in-law, that were married to his daughters, all served as rabbis in towns in Poland. One of them is Rabbi Alter Brizman, who served as a rabbi in Kolno, rolled to Russia during World War II and from there came to our country, broken and shattered. Rabbi Shimon rests in the new cemetery next to the pogrom saints and so a third tent was added at the Siedlce cemetery. The third tent, which was after Rabbi Baruch Mordechai's grave, is a markup of rabbi Hershley Rabinowitz, the son of the Rabbi of Biala, a young Yeshiva student, whose followers crowned him as a teacher and a rabbi and he moved to Siedlce. He came in the summer months and on Yom Kipurim he caught a cold and got sick. After Sukkot he died and he was only twenty years old and left behind a widow with small children. His followers built him a tent on his grave. One on the sons of Rabbi Hershley, Rabbi David, later moved to London and was named the Rabbi of Biala. He died there in his youth. The second son, Rabbi Yechiel, lived in Siedlce and was his father's successor. During the war he rolled to Russia and from there to Tel Aviv, to Zvulun street and today he is the rabbi of Biala and Ozarow Hassidim.
The tent of Rabbi Shimon Dov was, therefore, the third tent in the new cemetery in Siedlce. The successor rabbi after Rabbi Shimon Dov was a rabbi from Mogielnica, who arrived to Siedlce after a few years, Rabbi Chaim - Yehuda Ginsberg, of blessed memory. He was a Hassidic rabbi and not only a Hassid, but a Hassidic person with all its positives and negatives, and a great wise student in the Polish argumentation method and was dedicated to the city affairs. Here, too, we have seen the greatness of the people of Siedlce. No disputes arose over him, although this rabbi was far from the previous rabbis like far east to west. His predecessors were far more modern than him and also better preachers than him. When I left Siedlce in 1918, he served as the rabbi and only by word of mouth do I know, that after Rabbi Ginsburg served Rabbi Shlomo Eichenstein, Rabbi of Khodoriv, until the days of the extermination and he escaped to Russia and no one heard about him later.
In the days of the rabbi from Mogielnica, well-known Torah figures stood out in Siedlce, some of them merchants who were extreme in the Torah and some concentrated in studying Torah. Among these was rabbi Moshe Hirsch, who used to teach a regular lesson at Mishnayot, and at the same time he was attached to a regular arbiter of the local rabbinate. At that time, or a little earlier, the rabbi from Radix, Rabbi Israel Kuzmir, also joined the Court of Justice in Siedlce (he has a son in Eretz Israel), and this too it to praise Siedlce, whose residents did not go to seek an arbiter from afar but appointed people for the Court of Justice from among their brothers. Another important Torah personality stood out during the period of the rabbi from Tykocin, Rabbi Nachman Lev, who was the rabbi's substitute in the Shas lesson in case the rabbi was busy. But he was too simple and modest to take the position of an arbiter or of a rabbi, though he deserved it because of his greatness in the Torah and his integrity. Rabbi Lev was the son-in-law of Rabbi Avigdor Riddle, a simple Jew but a loyal and honest merchant. Rabbi Avigdor's sons also excelled in honesty. He married his daughters with Yeshiva students with Torah and God-fearing. One of them was Rabbi Nachman Lev. His eldest son was Rabbi Shimon Riddle, a wholesale merchant of flour, an honest and religious man, famous in the city Lamuel, who would leave his trade to perform a mitzvah without receiving any benefit. Riddle had a son in Israel, Mr. Yaakov Riddle. Rabbi Nachman Lev also had sons in Israel. In the last years, rabbi Monish Riddle, who previously was a known Tabak merchant in Siedlce
and survived the extermination, also came to Israel. There were also Jewish merchants in Siedlce that owned large trading houses and concentrated in studying Torah. Of these, Rabbi Tuvia Karmarez should be mentioned, the son-in-law of Rabbi Avrahamcha Lifshitz, a very distinct wise student, who had a shop for sewing materials on Warsaw Street, that sat all his life at home and studied Torah and only in moments of rest would he enter his shop to look after it a little. He deserved to be a rabbi in one of the large towns because of his greatness in the Torah and the Halacha. And though he lived his life in distress, he did not want to make a living from the Torah. His sons were Torah students, his eldest son, Rabbi Hirsch, and his son, Rabbi Mendel Karmarez, a cigarette factory owner who invented a state-of-the-art machine and received a patent from the Russian government. Rabbi Hirsch Karmarez has a son in Eretz Israel, a rabbi in Kibutz Gvat, where his sons are. Rabbi Mendel Karmarez also has a son in Eretz Israel, Mordechai Cnaani. The son of the latter, Avraham - Hertz, fell on the conquest of Jaffa, in Nisan 1948. Even more astonishing was Mr. Tuvia Karmarez, who was actually far from trade and the like and whose entire essence was only the Torah. He is the brother-in-law of Rabbi Eliezer Lifshitz, a great merchant of tobacco, an enthusiastic Hassid and a great scholar, who also dealt with his trade. But he never came to his store before the fifth hour, after the pray and the regular lesson, and in cases he went to eat lunch, he never returned to his store, but sat and learned in depth. He was among the rich, had a large house, a large trading business and yet was an enthusiastic Hassid, who concentrated in studying Torah. He has a grandson who lives in Hadera, Mr. Isser Rosenberg, who is the son of his daughter, and his daughter's daughter, Mrs. Ehrlich, lives in Kfar Pines.
Rabbi Shmuel David Zeidenzeig was quite similar to Rabbi Eliezer Lifshitz in the city of Siedlce. At the time he was a timber merchant and spent most of the week in Warsaw. But about an hour before he left you could find him at home sitting and reading the Gemara, thinking about the Torah. Also, on his return in the winter days on Thursday afternoon, after greeting the members of his family, he would sit and engage in Torah. He followed his father in this regard, my grandfather. The late Rabbi Yisrael Sinai Zeidenzeig of blessed memory, who had complicated businesses, houses and forests, was a Kock Hassid, who studied in the beit midrash of Baal Chiddushei HaRim of blessed memory. He was also the owner of the Engelsky Hotel in Siedlce, on Feinkana Street. He stayed outside the town for weeks and every Saturday he stayed at the Hassidim's house for hours after the prayer ended and studied Torah with devotion until late in the afternoon and only then returned home for Shabbat meal. His sons-in-law were known as part of the genealogy of the greatest in the Torah and in the Hassidism, among them was my father, may he live long life, who studies his entire days the Torah and worship God.
At the time, there were two famous Jews in Siedlce, Rabbi Avrahamcha Lifshitz and Rabbi Yosef Anzels. Both excelled in philanthropy and Hassidism. Rabbi Avrahamcha Lifshitz was the father of Rabbi Eliezer Lifshitz and the father-in-law of Rabbi Tuvia Karmarez, whom I mentioned above. Rabbi Yossele Anzels had two well-known grandchildren in Siedlce, who were
famous in their philanthropy. Rabbi Asher-Moshe Galkenbaum and Rabbi Avraham-Yodel Rosen, both partners and their homes were full of Hassidism and Torah and especially excelled with their help to the needy and rebellious. Their wives also excelled in these virtues. Their concern was at the beginning of winter to prepare trees, potatoes and cloths for the poor and their family members and were known for the righteousness of their philanthropy. Rabbi Asher - Moshe Galkenbaum has only one family member left, Rabbi Aaron Galkenbaum, who lives in Bnei Brak and works in the city municipality. Rabbi Avraham-Yodel Rosen came to Eretz Israel with his sons and died here in good health. A similar type was Rabbi Mordechai Heinsdorf or Rabbi Motil-Ephraim, as he was called earlier among Alexander's followers. His commerce place was Borski house, and his house served as the house of the Hassidim's committee. On Rabbi Hillula's day, Rosh Chodesh meal, holiday and festive, I found there, far from the city on the way to Sokolov, Hassidim eating and drinking. The above mentioned has a son, a daughter and grandchildren in Eretz Israel.
A special person was Rabbi David Mintz. He was a merchant and a Hassid at once. He made a living through a stationery store on Warsaw Street, near the district court. He studied diligently, dipped every day in the Mikveh and was a humble and honest man and never had an idle conversation even among the Hassidim. He studied with intent and his trade was also for the work of God, so that he would have a livelihood and would not need the help of the people, and as soon as he was freed from it, he would return to his work, to the worship of the Creator. The man was lucky because his wife was just like him and helped him in his trade as much as she could, so that he would not have to devote himself too much to his trade. He was called Rabbi David Leibels in Siedlce, after his father-in-law Rabbi Leibel Orzel. Rabbi David's son-in-law is Rabbi Ze'ev (volovil) Soloveitzik, the son of the glory Rabbi Chaim Soloveitzik from Brisk. Rabbi Ze'ev Soloveitzik filled his father's place and was a rabbi in Brisk. During the war he escaped and made an Aliya to Eretz Israel and he now lives in Jerusalem and is known there as the Rabbi from Brisk.
There were also nice types of homeowners in Siedlce who were not among the Hassidic community, but their behavior was exemplary and they are: Rabbi Hirsch - Yosef Tsernobroda, Rabbi Moshe - Abba Eisenstadt, Rabbi Israel Gottgeld, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Levin, Rabbi Gedaliah Orzel, Rabbi Natan-David Glicksberg, Rabbi Fishel Frenkel, Dr. Sheflin, etc.
Rabbi Hirsch - Yosef Tsernobroda was a religious Jew, an opponent, who was praying when he woke up, studied his regular classes and later came to the trading house. He was reliable in his speech as well as in negotiations with people. His brother Berl was dressed like the Hassidim but was known as an educated person to a certain extent. He was the librarian of the library in Siedlce and later one of the founders of the youth club called Hazamir (the Nightingale).
Rabbi Moshe - Abba Eisenstadt had a modern home and was a reliable and good Zionist merchant. His son Paltiel Eisenstadt is in Eretz Israel.
Rabbi Grones Friedman was a wealthy Jewish man and had a home. His trade was mainly with the gentiles, to whom he lent money for houses and estates. He would pray in the large public beit midrash and still would wear silk clothes on Shabbat. He instructed his sons in Torah and Hassidism. His grandchildren are in Israel, the Friedman brothers. Similar persons were Rabbi Gedaliah Orzel and Glicksberg, Hassidic partners. They lived in one house and even though their business was a lending business such as Rabbi Grones Friedman, they were considered very honest traders. Rabbi Gedaliah Orzel was one of the followers of Radzyn and the Rabbi from Radzyn was often accommodated in his house. Glicksberg was for many years the member of the committee of Talmud Torah and a more modern person. But they both instructed their sons in the Torah. Glicksberg's son, a survivor of the Nazi hell, arrived to Israel in recent years.
Rabbi Israel Gottgeld and his partner R. Moshe Chaim Levin excelled in public activism, and after a quarrel between them parted ways with the partnership. Both of them were typical public activists. Rabbi Israel Gottgeld was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Anzels. He received a large amount of money from his father-in-law in Siedlce and also from his father. He had two large houses and did not need to run a business. As he had a lot of free time, he devoted himself to public activism. As rumor has it, he was recently the chairman of the community. His son Levy was among the organizers of the Zionist Organization in Siedlce. He was said to be a diligent and loyal activist, one of a kind, who, because of his activism, forgot to marry in his youth. At the time of the extermination, he was captured among the rest of the Jewish people, may God avenge them. Moshe Chaim Levin was dedicated to the pursuits of Talmud Torah activism together with Rabbi Moshe Zakon who had no sons. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Levin has a grandson in Israel named Binyamin Levin.
I must mention two more Jews, Rabbi Fishel Frenkel, a rich man that built his own special synagogue; And the other is Dr. Sheflin, who was then considered as half a doctor of medicine and also built him a synagogue in his courtyard on Feinkana Street called Sheflin's Beit Midrash. It was interesting to see how doctor Sheflin grows a beard and serves as a doctor. Since most of the doctors were gentiles, people thought he was a specialist and asked him to examine sick people and he also wrote pharmacy prescriptions. These two, like Rabbi Israel Yechiels before them, whom I did not know - built special synagogues with their money for the benefit of the public that were later named after them.
Synagogues for Torah and prayer
In addition to the synagogues that I mentioned above, there were also a tailors' synagogue in Siedlce by the Great Synagogue and a synagogue in Daluna Street, called Petersburg Stiebel and a butcher's beit midrash on the butchers' shops street, apart from lots of Hassidim houses (Shtiblech): for the followers of Gur, Skarenwitz, Alexander, Amshinov
Forsov, Biala and more. Each synagogue served as a place for the Torah and there were those who had a special Maggid Shiur in the evenings, between Mincha and Maariv and on Shabbat and holidays. The houses of the Hassidim served as a place of Torah for young men, Yeshiva students, who sat and studied, also for the owners of the houses who devoted many hours a day to study Torah. Many old men and young people, who were not among the Hassidim, studied in the great beit midrash Torah and God's worship, and many young people from Siedlce also studied in famous yeshivas abroad.
There was a Great Yeshiva in Siedlce. The Rosh Yeshiva was Rabbi Israel Drogetsner. The second Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi David Itzchak, was a diligent Torah scholar and a good explainer, who attracted the young people to the Torah and many young people from distant towns were attracted to this yeshiva. The people of the city would provide them with food by the days: Each homeowner undertook to support one Yeshiva student for one day a week in order to allow him to study Torah. The Yeshiva students were also provided with accommodation. This state of spreading of Torah and God-fearing continued in Siedlce all the days until World War I in 1914, when many adults and young people were taken into the army and a great change came in the private and public life of Polish Jewishness.
At that time the public activism concentrated only on community affairs and charities in the city, such as: an orphanage, a hospital and a house for elderly people. I do not remember the activists of the orphanage, etc., but I do remember the city or community activists, which are Rabbi Itzchak - Nahum Weintraub and Rabbi Moshe Temkin. Both of them were religious in the full sense of the word, early risers to the Beit Midrash. These two devoted themselves to the public affairs of the public in Siedlce. During the previous war, while the Russians were leaving Poland, Rabbi Moshe Temkin, who had medals (badges of excellence) of the Russian Tsar, packed his goods and traveled with his family to Russia. At the end of the war, he returned to Siedlce without property, broken and shattered. On the other hand, Rabbi Itzchak-Nahum Weintraub remained as the head of the community throughout the years. He was a handsome Jew on the outside and inside, properly dressed and one of the Zionist leaders. His son-in-law, Mordechai Meir Landau, was at the time a devoted religious Zionist, a director of a credit bank. He died in his youth in Siedlce and I eulogized him in the name of the HaMizrachi at the time.
I do not know what was Rabbi Itzchak-Nahum Weintraub's income and how he could have devoted himself so much to the public affairs. But the fact is, that over the years we have seen Rabbi Weintraub as the head of the community who was devoted to the affairs of the public in faith and pleased the whole community.
Before I will start to describe the state of the parties or the beginning of the
Zionist parties' organization, I consider it my duty to speak of the butchers, the Hazanim (cantors) and the Shamashim (beadles) as the public servants of the community.
At the time, the head of the butchers in Siedlce was Rabbi Chaim Shochat, a Jewish Hassid. At the end of his life, he handed over the butchering to his son Rabbi Shimon Shochat. The above-mentioned has a son in Israel, Mr. Kleinlard, one of the leaders of the Agudat Israel workers in Jerusalem. The rest of the butchers, which I remember in Siedlce were Rabbi Yitzchak Meir and Rabbi Zalman Shochat, the later has a son in Israel.
The Hazanim (cantors). I remember the Hazan from Brisk in my days, a man with a large beard, who was always wearing a cylinder on his head and participated in all the events that took place, a circumcision, a bar mitzvah, a wedding etc., he gave his blessing and received his reward. Followed him, I think, was Hazan Yaakil Rovner, followed by Rabbi Yosef Pesovsky, who made an Aliya to Israel at the end of his life and died here two years ago. The last Hazan, Mr. Zopowitz, also made an Aliya to Israel after the last war.
The Shamashim (beadles). It is also worth mentioning two Shamashim (beadles) that were special persons. The first that I still remember, was Rabbi Isaac, or Eisele Shemesh. He was known as the Shamash of the Beit Din. He was a great Jew in Torah and God-fearing, who added respect to the local rabbinate. And I do remember what I have heard from the late Rabbi Israel Sinai Zeidentseig, of blessed memory, who said that 80 of 90 years ago, during the decree on the cutting the payot and religious clothing in Russia, and Rabbi Eisele was still a young man, who spent his time at the beit midrash, who was dressed like a religious guy at that time, with long payot, and a Russian policeman was coming towards him with large scissors in his hand, he grabbed Rabbi Eisele's hand and cut his payot with the scissors. Rabbi Eisele cried like a baby, because how would he show his face, that looks like those of a gentile with no payot, to all his acquaintance? And the policeman on the other hand, enjoyed his actions and laughed at his weeping. After a few moments, Rabbi Eisele got up, picked up his trimmed payot from the ground, put them in his hand and ran away. What did Rabbi Eisele do? He glued his payot on both sides of his hat and thus did not look like a man whose payot had been trimmed. A few days later, the policeman met Rabbi Eisele on the street and was amazed at the sight of his eyes, is it possible that these payot had grown long again? So, he grabbed him by the hand and surprisingly Eisele took off his hat along with the payot and mocked at the policeman. And so, no one accounted Eisele as without payot, and only when he would sit in the beit midrash studying and his hat dropped to the right or left side would a payot come out next to his face and the other behind him.
The other was Rabbi Hershel Shemesh. He was an exceptional. He was always elegant in his appearance as one of the richest, but he had a very gentle soul, in Israel and especially in Siedlce. When a rich Jew would marry his daughter, in his house or in a hall, he would set a table full of good things, specific people or the Shamashim would have served the refreshments to the guests and as usual the Shamashim would have
eaten and enjoyed the feast openly or secretly and also took dishes from the feast in their pockets for their family members, some of them even provided food for their family members for a whole week through these dishes. Hershel HaShamash did not act this way, he never enjoyed the feast and led himself to eat his meal in his house before coming to the feast. He himself never tasted the meal and did not take for his family even if the in-laws asked him to do so. Therefore, he was very reliable on everyone and when he came to the feast, they used to give him the key of the closet or the room in which they kept the groceries. And even if the in-laws and the relatives wanted something, they had to turn to him. He was very reliable in his position and he was proud of his actions. He respected the Shamashut profession. And if there were faithful Shamashim in Israel, then Herschel HaShamash is one of them, if not the leader among them.
At the time they mentioned his daughter who was a member of the PPS, A socialist party in Poland, that used always to shout that the Russian Tsar Nikolai was shoving in her throat. She sat in the prison in Siedlce and once a red flag was found hanging from her room's window.
At that time, in 1944, when I was studying with a well-known teacher, young people came to him and asked him for money to buy weapons for the revolution people. They were wearing black shirts with a steep collar and red belts. Once in winter, as I left the room in the evening, I had to go through Konsky - Rinok, a garden on Warsaw Street, the Konsky Rinok was full of people and in the middle, someone stood and spoke in front of the audience. The next day, Jewish boys dressed in black shirts ordered to close the shops in the same manner religious Jews were accustomed to walk around on Friday evenings before it gets dark, to warn that shops should be closed and Shabbat candles should be lit. This situation lasted for weeks and months. Suddenly, they ordered in the middle of the day, to close the shops and the crowd would disperse home. I did not understand it then and I do not understand it even now, what they got from it, as most of the shops or ninety-nine percent of them belonged to Jews and the gentiles thought that it is because of a Jewish holiday or some kind of a mourning for Jews, until one clear day, it was Tuesday, a loud explosion was heard in the city and echoes were heard throughout the city followed by gunfire. It was later found out that a bomb had been thrown at the city police chief and he was killed and as a consequence, the police started firing all over. One of the bullets hit Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Lublin, the son of Rabbi Moshe Shulkis, who passed away some time ago, and his son came from Lublin to build a gravestone on his grave. When Rabbi Shlomo Zalman heard the bomb nearby, he began to run away and one policeman shot him, and that week, on Friday he died of his wounds. I remember the funeral that was arranged for him in Friday evening before in got dark, in order to bury him before Shabbat enters. Since then, the government announced
a military status in the city and the signal for this was a long pole which was placed on the city clock above the police building. One of the rules of this military situation was that any gathering was forbidden and at certain hours in the evening it was forbidden to walk outside without a special license. This tense situation lasted until the pogroms in Siedlce, which took place in the month of Elul (17 - 18) 1905.
I still remember the outbreak of the pogroms. The governor of the city brought a military unit and trained it for the role of suppressing the uprising of the revolutionaries. On the same Saturday evening, while I was standing on the street, a military patrol passed by us, two Jews stood on Prospektova Street and had a conversation. As a child I asked them naively, how someone is able to kill someone else? Both of them told me that if it is a revolutionist, they are willing to kill even their father or their brothers. I wondered about the discipline and the special training of this organization and as they passed by me, a single shot was heard followed by shots of guns and cannons incessantly, all night, and on Sunday and Monday as well. A fire of houses was also added to it (as they were of wood). It was not clear whether the houses were set on fire due to the bullets or were ignited on purpose. On Tuesday, the pogroms ceased and the dead were buried. Licenses were distributed to all those who wanted to leave the city. Our family also received such a license and of Wednesday we left the city and did not return for months.
At the time, Siedlce was preparing a rescue committee to help the families of those killed and those who had lost their property in the fires and the robbery that the soldiers carried out for two and a half days. There were also cases of rape as was the custom of soldiers who were given a free hand to kill and plunder. In this committee, except for the member of the community, were also Mr. Tzetzkas, who then served as the secretary of the community and the converted lawyer Zonderland, that despite the fact he abandoned Judaism, he was a very respectful lawyer, honest and loyal with financial matters.
The detailed the rest of the details from the pogrom above, in my memoirs about the Rabbi from tikcyn, Rabbi Shimon Analik of blessed memory. The pogrom in Siedlce caused many of the youth to leave the city and some of them even left the country and traveled to the United States, Canada and South Africa. Among those known to me was Mr. Mordechai Rosenbach. I found him in Durban in South Africa, twenty years ago when I visited there. He is very rich, owns a tobacco factory and was very happy to meet a Jew from Siedlce. In recent years he has donated twenty-five thousand lirot to the University of Jerusalem and a sum of fifteen thousand lirot has worked to yeshivas in Eretz Israel. And according to the information I received from him, he is coming to Israel soon.
Zionist work, or rather, Israeli work of Siedlce people
Begins in 1689, meaning two hundred and sixty years ago. Rabbi Michal Tikoczynski from Jerusalem, the grandson of the chief rabbi R. Shmuel Salant, tells us about this in his book, and according to Mr. Tidhar in his book Encyclopaedia to the Pioneers of the Yishuv and its Builders (Part One, p. 17), Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid from the city of Siedlce and one thousand people from Poland and Russia, made an Aliya in 28 Cheshvan 1700. Five hundred died along the way. He purchased the courtyard for the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem and built there a synagogue named after him. From the month of Cheshvan, 1720, after the deportation of the Ashkenazi community and the destruction of the courtyards by the Arabs, the place was called the ruin of Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid. And I will copy the words of Rabbi Michal Tykoczynski from Jerusalem in his book as they are, and this is his language: And the rumor came then in 1689 in the Horodna district and its surroundings, that God began to visit his country and that a considerable number of those who live in the Ashkenazi community (probably there was only a Sephardic community) to gathered in the courtyards of God in the midst of Jerusalem and the late Rabbi Yehuda from the city of Siedlce decided to make an Aliya to the Holy Land together with other great rabbis in Torah, charity and asceticism. Among them was Rabbi Yaakov of Vilna, the father of the late wise Rabbi Zvi. They arrived to Jerusalem and settled in the Ashkenazi courtyard, which was the courtyard of the synagogue from Ashkenazis. When they came, they dedicated themselves to living a life of asceticism in holiness and purity. Some speculate that in their prayers they delayed the end and it was decided in heaven that he will dye, and so a few days after his arrival to Eretz Israel, the Tzaddik Rabbi Yehuda the Hassidic passed away, and a few days later, the rest of the Tzaddikim and the Hassidim that came with him, died too. This tragedy that befell the congregation of the Tzadikim for the return of Zion did not extinguish the passion to Zion that many had. The desire to make an Aliya to Jerusalem did not stop and the Ashkenazi courtyard was expanded and the Ashkenazis also owned houses and shops around their main courtyard and the settlement flourished. So far I have copied from the above book.
Some of Siedlce people did not know that it was Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid who built the synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is still named after him the ruin of Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid. I could not find out who was Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid, but even in my time I knew some of the Aliyah members who made an Aliya before official Zionism ... One of them was Rabbi Israel Yosef (I do not remember his last name). I also remember that he was the Gabbay of the Descarnewitz Hassidic house in the city of Siedlce. His son was from the PPS. in those days. Maybe it gave him a boost out of shame, to make an Aliya to Eretz Israel. I remember that he traveled and returned after a year and brought with him packs of moss growing in Israel and distributed perfumes to bless on them on Saturday night and also 8 Tzitzits from the beginning of the fleece were distributed among his acquaintances. After settling his affairs, he returned to Eretz Israel a year later and we have not heard from him since. After him I remember Rabbi Leibel from Soda Wasser, from street
Feinkana, which had a soda and soda pop factory. This Jew longed all his life to make an Aliya to Israel. Once he traveled to Israel as a tourist and returned from there. After the Balfour Declaration and the handing over of the mandate to England, he applied to the Ministry of Eretz Israel in Warsaw, which I attended together with the late Rabbi Nissenbaum as the power of attorneys of the Mizrachi and asked to be given a permit to make an Aliya to Israel. He told us that he had sold his soda factory in Siedlce and intended to make an Aliya to Eretz Israel and establish a factory there. Rabbi Nissenbaum doubted if an old Jew as he was, is still capable of doing something in Israel. That year there was a drought in Jerusalem because the rains in I came to Israel in 1924, and I have found Rabbi Leibel in Moshav Zkenim in Jerusalem, where he spent the rest of his life.
It is worth mentioning Rabbi Kaddish Goldstein, who liquidated a factory, left his home and made an Aliya to Israel in 1902 and has a grandson here, Mr. Yona Popovsky and great-grandchildren.
|Kaddish Goldstein, who made an Aliya to Eretz Israel fifty years ago|
Rabbi Gedaliah Gutgeld evaded his family members, who did not agree that he will make an aliya to Israel. And one evening in 1907, he went out as if to close the shutters of the house and made an Aliya to Israel. Also, he has grandchildren and great-grandchildren here.
In addition, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Weinberg, a Jew from Bar-Torah, the owner of a vinegar factory, was considered amongst the rich people and made an Aliya to Israel among the tourists. He returned and then made an Aliya again, probably without a property. He suffered a lot in Israel. He lived in Tel Aviv and on the night of Shabbat of Parashat Bereshit, while he was sitting and studying in the house of Gur's Hassidim, he had a stroke and he died on the Gemara. His daughters live in Tel Aviv.
Fifty years ago, R. Moshe Mordechai Lifshitz made an Aliya to Israel. He was the son-in-law and nephew of Rabbi Avraham'tzi Lifshitz of Siedlce. Rabbi Moshe-Mordechai Lifshitz has sons in Eretz Israel and if I am not mistaken, the owners of the Lifshitz printing press in Jerusalem are his descendants.
In the old cemetery in Tel Aviv, on Trumpeldor Street, I saw a gravestone with the inscription: Rabbi Avraham Moshe Bar Yosef of Siedlce, who drowned on the sea of Jaffa on 11 Tammuz 1908, is buried here. I interrogated about him and I was told by Chevra Kadisha in Tel Aviv that his last name was Berlinerblum. They were probably not used to writing the last name on the gravestone here, but his grandson came a few years later, handed his last name and erected a gravestone on his grave. Who the man was I could not find out.
The late R. Yehuda Reinman, whom we all knew in Siedlce as a very religious and devout young man, was a bookkeeper in banks, he married the daughter of Rabbi Mikela Rosenberg Brisker and was a candidate for a position of a rabbi in Siedlce after the death of the Rabbi of Tykocin. Rabbi Yehuda Reinman came to Eretz Israel in 1926 or 1927, and died in Tel Aviv on the 24th of Iyar 1930, leaving behind a wife and two sons. One died of an illness and one fell in Spain while traveling there to help the rebellions. The wife became ill and returned to Poland where she died. Let my words be of remembrance for this noble family, that have no remnant left. The father of Rabbi Yedidya Reinman, Rabbi Leibish Yedidim, as he was called in Siedlce, a Hassidic Jew who was devoted to the work of God (he was the son-in-law of the Rabbi of Zwolen from his marriage to his second wife). This distinguished old man died in Jerusalem a few years after the death of his only son. Also, the son-in-law of Rabbi Leibish Yedidi's, Rabbi Herzl Glickman came to Eretz Israel at that time; Rabbi Herzl was the son of the noble woman Bluma Orex, as she was called in Siedlce. Rabbi Herzl had a cement pipe factory in Siedlce. In Israel, Rabbi Herzl Glickman was for some time one of the settlers in the village of Hittin near Tiberias of the Mizrachi and did not succeed in earning a living here. This family was well known among Radzyn's followers. Rabbi Herzl's brother, Rabbi Moshe Itzhak, was the son-in-law of Rabbi Heshil, who became the Rabbi of Radzyn after the death of the late Rabbi Mordechai Yosef. Rabbi Herzl
Glickman lived in Holon near Tel Aviv and died two years ago in Tel Aviv, where he rests. He left a wife, a son and two daughters. He is a member of Dan busses company.
Of Radzyn's followers came to Israel at that time Rabbi Kalman Hoover (?) from Siedlce. At the time, he was known in Siedlce as one of the best teachers. I also studied with him when I was ten years old for eleven years. He studied with only 4 selected fellows and was a good explainer. I remember that he knew how to teach the boys the commentary on Akdamot that is said in Shavuot before the reading of the Torah, to explain the matter of the birth of the moon, the incense matter according to a well-known addition in the Shavuot Tractate. He was weak, suffering from headaches. When he came to Eretz Israel, he settled in Hittin village of HaMizrachi and when I arrived there, I was amazed to see how Rabbi Kalman rides a horse, and he was one of the best farmers. When the people of Hittin dispersed due to lack of water, Rabbi Kalman Hoover settled in Petah Tikva and made a living from a grocery store. He died a few years ago in Petah Tikva. His son Shmuel Hoover settled in the Avraham village of Hapoel HaMizrachi near Petah Tikva, the rest of his sons live in Mexico and are very wealthy.
Another of Radzyn followers, may he live long, Rabbi Itzchak Bronstein, from the Berg family from Siedlce, a great scholar who currently lives in Tel Aviv. The late Rabbi Zalman Gershon Nosovski also made an Aliya from Siedlce. He was considered in Siedlce among the great and distinguished merchants. He was a member of the Biala Hassidim and passed away several years ago. He left behind a wife, sons and daughters. His eldest son Chaim - Dov is a dairy owner. The young son, David, is a clerk in the Department of Commerce and Industry of the Government. His daughter is an activist at the committee for Siedlce in Tel Aviv.
Zionist action in those days. Before I will talk about the history of the Mizrachi in Siedlce, that I was one of its founders, I would not fulfil my duty if I will not mention two people from Tze'irei Zion (Zion Youth), who brought me to Zionism and then to Mizrachi. Both my father's and my grandfather's houses were houses of Torah and Hassidism and the matter of Zionism and Mizrachi were stranger to them. I was then a five- or six-years old boy. I was already studying Gemara. As I was the eldest in the house, my father hurried to teach me a lot of Torah, much more than suitable for my age. When I was two and a half years old, I was led to a Heder wrapped in a tallit. By the age of five I had already started studying Chumash and a feast was prepared in my honor and I had to deliver a sermon (I think since then the fear of the public has disappeared from me). At the age of six I started studying Gemara. My father, as was the custom of the Hassidim at that time, went every year to the Rabbi of Skierniewice for Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah until after Yom Kippur. When I was seven years old, my father took me with him to the Rabbi. Since then, I travelled with him to the Rabbi in all the trips he did, and sometimes also in the winter, for fifteen years until the period of the World War in 1914. And so, I managed to absorb Hassidism to some extent. By the time I was twelve - I had already wrote Hidushim in the Torah. Many Hidushim in the Torah that I wrote, were printed during 1912-1914
in various magazines, like Shaarei Torah in Warsaw, Hame'asef in Jerusalem, Ohel Itzchak by Rabbi Kalman of Satmar, Asefat Chachamim in Galicia and Tel Talpiot in Hungary. in 1913, articles by me were also printed in HaModiha by Rabbi Akiva Rabinowitz from Poltava.
The same learning in depth in the Torah, from the dawn of my childhood, really led to the weakness of my body that has continued since, because I did not know in my youth pleasure or play, apart from writing Hidushim of the Torah or sitting together with Hassidim and receiving newspapers, magazines and letters of questions and answers from genius rabbis of the world at that time. A lot of questions and answers letters are currently with me and I hope I will be lucky to print them. I exchanged letters with the Rabbi of Brezan and Rabbi Yoav - Yehoshua of Konskie. In the questions and answers book named Shem Olam by the Rabbi of Voytek, the son-in-law of the famous Rabbi Skidel, about ten questions and answers to me from the years 1912-1914, were printed (The book appeared in 1928 in Riga). Chapters from the Hassidic chapters, which I studied and which I heard, were presented in my book rumors and evidence, which I printed in 1939 in Jerusalem and in my book burnt offering of the month, which was printed in 1950. The chapters I heard are mainly included in the book Imrot, which is now being printed.
But how did I get familiar with Zionism? As I said, I was then about five or six years old. My father traveled to the Rabbi and I went to pray with my uncle at the house of the Gur Hassidim in Siedlce, and between Shacharit and Musaf, during the prayer break, I went up to my grandmother's house to taste something. And here comes Mr. Yshahayahu Zeidenzeig, which is now named Ben Sinai, the brother of my late mother, who is now in Tel Aviv. Veteran Zionist and his friend, Mr. Leibshe Kahana, the son of Berl Kahana, a well-known man in Siedlce, who was a great philanthrope. They both sat in the same room where I tasted on Yom Kippur and sang songs of Zion in Yiddish and Hebrew. The melody and words captured my heart. I remember that I could not taste anymore and my heart was drawn to Zion. Since then, I dreamed of Zion and saw it all the time: in my dreams and when I was awake. And from the moment I heard about the founding of the Mizrachi in Warsaw, I organized and founded the Mizrachi in Siedlce.
The history of the Mizrachi in Siedlce. There was no real Zionist action in Siedlce, as in other Polish cities during the Russian Tsarist period, in which organization of any kind was strictly forbidden. The action was expressed in collection of pennies for the Keren Kayemet and in the sale of shekels. And I still remember that Mr. Paltiel Eisenstadt would turn to me and sell me a Zionist shekel. And only with the German Occupation in 1915, the restrictions were cancelled and various organizations began to operate. At that time, the Zionist Organization in Warsaw and the Histadrut HaMizrachi started operating. I belonged to the Mizrachi group, and began organizing young people under the Mizrachi flag. One day Mr. Nechemia Malin, a clever and a knowledgeable man, invited me and started pleading that I will organize the Mizrachi and suggested that I will contact Rabbi Asher Orzel,
a well-known figure in Siedlce, who at the time had a bank, and ask him to serve as the Mizrachi chairman in Siedlce. At that time Rabbi Zlotnik, a rabbi in Gabin (now known as Rabbi Avida and lives in Jerusalem) was the speaker on behalf of the Mizrachi. I invited him on behalf of the Mizrachi, to come to Siedlce to lecture on the Mizrachi. I rented the theater hall on Ogradova Street for that purpose.
|The Presidency of the first Assembly for the establishment of Mizrachi Youth|
On behalf of the German government of the Emperor Wilhelm II, two rabbis served then in Poland. One named Karlibach and the other Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Cohen. Both of them had the goal of organizing ultra-Orthodox organizations, as a barrier against the Zionism spirit, that was then blown from the West, especially from England, after the Balfour Declaration. Some young people who were not absorbed in the Zionist spirit, founded an organization called Tvuna. Apparently, it was an organization for Jewish studies, but it could be recognized that an anti-Zionist spirit is blowing in it. And so, two organizations that oppose each other's opinion were established. On the one hand, the Tvuna , in which most of the religious intelligence was united, and on the other hand, the Mizrahi youth organization, which I headed.
Dr. Cohen and Karlibach succeeded in organizing in Poland the Admors (Hassidic leaders) and many rabbis in the organization Shlymei Emunei Israel or the Orthodox Association, who later changed its name to Agudat Israel. And although there were positive sides to the foundation of Agudat Israel in terms of strengthening and establishing religious Judaism, the main goal was anti-Zionism. However, after the defeat of Wilhelm and the recognition of
|Mizrahi Youth conference in Siedlce,
with the participation of Gnibowski and Y. Greenberg from Eretz Israel
|The Mizrahi Youth committee in Siedlce|
Poland as an independent state, a panic arose within the Tvuna members and thanks to the action of the Mizrachi and the young people of the Mizrachi, who began to develop a Zionist action then, they took off the walls of Tvuna hall the pictures of Dr. Cohen and Karlibach and the entire organization, with its members, officially moved to the Mizrahi Youth, and thus the Histadrut of the Mizrahi Youth in Siedlce became a strong organization in the social and political sense.
In 1918, I left Siedlce and since then I have not participated in the work of the organization and only after that, in 1920, when I came to Warsaw to run the Mizrachi Center, I had the opportunity to speak with friends and personalities from Siedlce. I think it is possible to find people from Siedlce, who will be able to write details about the Mizrachi since its inception until the period of the extermination by Hitler, damn him.
In 1924, I made an Aliya to Eretz Israel with my family. I learned from rumors that the Mizrachi movement in Siedlce later developed and attracted hundreds of members. They founded a Mizrahi school and took a position in the city and in the elections of the rabbi in Siedlce. After the late Rabbi Chaim-Yehuda Ginzburg, two candidates appeared, one from the Mizrachi and one from the Aguda.
In the above things, I intended to place a memorial monument for Siedlce, our hometown, so that our sons and grandsons would know and remember the memory of our holy and dear brothers whom the Germans, with the help of the Poles, destroyed in their reign, or the sake of engraving in their hearts the duty and mitzvah to avenge their vengeance, as stated in our Torah: Remember what Amalek did to you - do not forget!
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