by A. S. G.
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
He was born in 1864, in Jędrzejów and died in New York in 1922.
He was of a family of Jalubzhag (Jarosław?), Hassidim, studied in the Cheder and Yeshiva and in the Bet Hamidrash. Was very knowledgeable in Jewish studies and educated in general studies as well. From the time of his youth, he was a loyal Zionist. In 1916, he moved to Będzin. He lived in the house of his father-in-law, tried to be a merchant but finally he gave up commerce and became an entertainer [badchan = jester] at weddings. In that occupation he excelled and became famous in the entire region as the most gifted wedding entertainer. He was known as a flowing source of folk humor and clever jokes, and was invited to every religious festivity.
He was also active in community work. In particular, he devoted his time and energy to the Mizrachi movement in Będzin. He was one of the first underground Mizrachi members in 1917, and contributed to it his talents. He was the secretary of the Committee, a talented speaker, and teacher of the weekly Torah Portion. He combined his entertaining with love for Zion and settlement of Eretz Israel, as well as longing for a homeland and a life devoted to tilling the soil. He was well-known in the religious as well as the non-religious circles.
By the request of his son, who lived in America, he left Poland by the end of the summer of 1921 and settled in New York. There he also became active in the Mizrachi movement and corresponded with the Mizrachi members in Będzin. Was appointed teacher of Jewish studies, assembled and led meetings in New York and was elected delegate for the eighth annual congress of the Mizrachi Movement in America, under the presidency of Rabbi Meir Berlin. He was active in the Harlem neighborhood and helped to increase the number of Mizrachi members and Mizrachi influence in the city. He welcomed visitors from Europe, among them the Mizrachi ADMOR Rabbi Mendel Landau of Zabrze, was in touch with Rabbi Berlin and with the Mizrachi leaders in America, made speeches in synagogues and won fame as a popular speaker. In all his letters he stressed his longing for Zion.
He became suddenly ill and was operated on. He died in the summer of 1922.
Translated by Meir Bulman
I met him when I was a child before WWI when I accompanied my father at to the synagogue. the synagogue was in the home of Reb Szlomo Szajn, Chaim's father, in the old market facing the church. In the early 20s, as Chaim was building his mansion on the busy Małachowskiego Street, our kloyz was in his new home and he funded its maintenance. The congregants gave him his due respect; I will never forget the festivities when he was called every Simchat Torah to the bima as they sang and danced before honoring him with Ata Hareita. He was also designated Chatan Bereshit and read the first portion of the Torah.
Everyone who met him was impressed by his majestic appearance and elegant clothes. The thick cigar in his mouth (at the time, it was rare in Poland and was custom-ordered from Katowice, Upper Silesia), his kind traits, his tolerant relationships with others and his love for children always charmed us. Only those who knew him well knew how special that humble and beloved man was.
Chaim was the first of three brothers, only of whom, Reb Motelle, survived and is with us in Israel. Reb Itshele, the youngest brother, was jailed with his only son as foreign subjects (according to forged documents) in the internment camp in Vittel (alongside the poet Itzhak Katzenelson). They were later sent to the Auschwitz death camp.
He was among the town's notables and wealthy men, and among the most important industrialists in Poland in the field of metal production. Despite his many worries and his business success, he did not seclude himself like other rich men in the town, and he found a way and time to devote to communal life. His home was open to all in need and served as a gathering place for envoys from Eretz Israel. Bialik, Leib Yaffe, Yitzhak Gruenbaum and others like them were hosted in his home during their stay in Będzin. He loved Eretz Israel and generously contributed to its needs. I recall that once, decades ago, I visited him to fundraise for Keren Poale Eretz Israel, and although he was not very fond of the Zionist labor movement he gave me a generous donation. I left his home encouraged and continued my fundraising efforts, which succeeded more than I had expected.
There was no philanthropic institution in the town that he had not joined as an active or honorary member. When a financial crisis impacted the Będzin community, Zionist leaders approached him and asked him to accept to restore the Jewish community market. The people of Agudath Israel also approached him because they recognized him as the person fitting for rescuing the community from crisis. He agreed to the role and succeeded.
He and his wife Chana loved children very much but they did not have any. They adopted an orphaned girl, Sarah, whom they raised, educated and married off (today in the United States). They donated the bottom floor of their house to HaShomer HaLeumi, which managed to recruit many youths who participated in scouts-like activities and Zionist activism.
When WWII began, Chaim Szajn was able to escape Poland with his wife, leaving all of their riches to be plundered by the Nazis. They reached Eretz Israel with almost no financial resources. Few of his friends remembered his past kindness, and he complained to me about their ingratitude several times.
He passed away in Tel Aviv (1948) and years later, his wife passed away at a very old age. They were buried in the old Nachalat Yitzhak Cemetery in the Zagłębie section near the grave of the elderly Zajonc from Sosnowiec, the late Ms. Singer and my parents Avraham and Gittel Hampel, may they rest in peace. When I visit my parents' graves, I also visit the graves of the Szajn family members and commune with their beloved memories.
Translated by Meir Bulman
He was a unique figure. He was among the first members of Mizrachi, to which he devoted a large part of his life.
His love of Zion was limitless. Every happy event in Eretz Israel lifted his spirits and all bad news saddened him. He was a Torah scholar who devoted time to study of Torah and teaching Talmud at the Mizrachi club. He made his living with the fruits of his labor as a watchmaker and he always connected with common people, and he used that connection to enlist people for the Zionist cause, especially for Mizrachi.
One event attracted much attention from the Jewish community in Będzin and its environs: once, the Rabbi of Sokołów, who was a central figure in Agudath Israel, visited Będzin. Reb Szalom also visited him, and as they discussed Zionism, he asked, Rabbi, how does your honor see the Ge'ulah arriving without Zionism? The Rabbi answered, I do not know. When Szalom heard that, he bravely stood up and said, a Rabbi who does not know the people of Israel will be redeemed must not be a spiritual leader of his community. Those daring words, of course, caused a stir and upset the Rabbi's Hassidim and Szalom had to leave immediately.
Reb Szalom had a very pleasant voice and when he led prayers on Shabbat and holidays the audience was spiritually elated, especially during the High Holy Days.
In the last days he resided in Będzin as an elderly man, he devoted all his time to Torah, charity and Zionism.
In 1924 the members of Mizrachi purchased a large plot of land in Eretz Israel from the Menucha Ve'Nachala company, and Reb Szalom devoted his full attention in enlisting members and planning settlements. His dream was to found a sort of a cooperative village, as he said, grinden a shtetel, but his dream did not come true; for some reason, the land transfer was not titled in the names of the members. Reb Szalom's shtetel plan, as the members called it for many years, was removed from the agenda, and he was deeply disappointed.
In 1930, his source of income dried up. After many deliberations, he decided to leave Będzin, which he was so attached to, and travlled to his sons in the United States. He continued his interest in the fate of our country and studied Torah while hoping that he would live his final years in Eretz Israel, but he passed away in a strange land during WWII. He will not be forgotten by his friends in the movement and by his many pupils, wherever they may be.
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