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[Pages 207-8]

Rabbi Shlomo Prisand

Donated by Michael Kreindler

Rabbi Shlomo Prisand (1875-1941), who was known in our town by the diminutive Rabbi Shloimele, excelled in scrupulously observing the Mitzvahs, ignoring his own well being and most material values of this world for the work of the creator and life in Olam-Haba.

He was a distinguished scholar, a keen and proficient student of the Torah, Mishnah, Talmud and Poskim. An educator admired by his pupils, some of whom were priviliged to get to Israel and remember to this day their dedicated and humble teacher.

Rabbi Shlomo Prisand was born to a merchant family that was blessed with many children, a traditional Jewish family, all of whose sons continued in their father's footsteps as merchants. Only he, Rabbi Shloimele yearned to study the Torah. he embraced the Torah with his entire spiritual being and spread (it) among others. Initially he ran a private “Cheder” at his home near the outskirts of town, and many pupils flocked to him from far away. He soon acquired a reputation as a highly dedicated teacher who could explain and instill the Torah with his kind hearted and patient manner, and many sons from the town's most prominent families came to study at his house. For many hours every day the students learned Torah from him and meticulously recited the verses of the Mikra, Talmud and “Tosafot” (Addenda). Those who excelled among them were invited on Sabbath to recite their chapters in public.

After many years of carrying on his holy work at this home, Rabbi Shloimele began to teach and educate at the Talmud-Torah Institute in town, seeing in his work a holy mission to enlighten, enrich the knowledge and teach decorum to his young students. But he was not fully content working only with children. Since he was unyielding about observing all the Mitzvahs, he was also active among adults, prodding and encouraging them to observe the mitzvahs, give tzedaka, give anonymously, give for Pesach staples, help with donations for new brides, and above all, observe the sanctity of the Sabbath.

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Rabbi Shlomo Prisand was a zealot when it came to observing the Sabbath, being strict not only with himself but also with others. Even before the arrival of the Sabbath he would walk briskly in the commercial districts of town to remind store owners that Shabbat-Hamalka is waiting at their doorstep and they should hurry and finish their work. His scrawny figure was well known to the merchants who, upon seeing him would rush to close their business, some out of respect for him and others out of shame and fear of sinning. Only after completing this public mission, during which he was once photographed unbeknownst to him, would he go to his home and prepare himself for the Sabbath. He would often bring with him a guest from the synagogue, and if he was fortunate enought to host a Torah scholar, the Sabbath would pass in reading and discussing passages and issues from the scriptures. Exept for discussions of the Torah, Rabbi Shlomo Prisand did not talk on the Sabbath. On the other hand, he would sing Zemirot with Hassidic enthusiasm together with his family between courses at the Sabbath dinner table.

Rabbi Shlomo was observing all Jewish holidays and all fasts, to the smallest detail. On the eve of Pesach he would check every corner of the house to completely eradicate the Hometz. He would change all the dishes to a special Passover set that was maintained in the attic for the occasion. He even replaced the table-top (board) with a new one, and cover it with a special tablecloth that was not used the rest of the year. The Matzos were of course Matzah Shmura. He would never dip the Matzo in the soup or any liquid, so that it would not form Chometz. On Yom Kippur eve he would leave the house right after the meal and walk to the synagogue wearing his Keital and socks. He would not move from his place throughout the night and the following day of fasting, returning home only afteer the Neilah service, observing the scripture “It is a Sabbath of Solemn Rest to you and you shall afflict yourselves ...” (Leviticus 16). On Hannukah, Rabbi Shlomo would present a totally different image, and it was almost impossible to recognize this ascetic Jew, who would spend the rest of the year with the Lord's Torah. During the eight days of Hannukah he would overflow with exuberrance, played the dreidel and other games with his children, and told them about the heroism of the Maccabees, and Hanna who sacrificed her children in the name of God.

Usually, he liked to tell Hassidic tales, and did it with much skill and delight. His stories about the miracles and marvels that were done by the Baal Shem Tov and his students were a cause for memorable enjoyment and excitement to his listeners. I often thought to myself, where does this drawn and humble Jew draw the strength to withstand the trials of life and the growing current of many Jews who were abandoning their traditions. Undoubtedly, it was only his unshaken faith in his creator that fortified him and guided him in the unwavering path of observing the Mitzvahs, from which he never deviated right or left.

It could be said about him that he conformed to the words in Joshua 1: “This book of Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall mediate on it day and night...” Rabbi Shlomo Prisand was notable for perfection in all his deeds, and he never did anything with even a trace of conceit. He was unpretentious in all his ways and he was totally devoted to studying the Torah, doing good deeds, observing the Mitzvahs and enlightening the eager to learn. He would defer his will only to his maker, and for that he was admired and respected. The horrible Holocaust that flooded Europe appoached also Rabbi Shlomo's town, but he was fortunate to have succumbed to natural causes, a fate that was denied from the rest of his family: his dedicated wife - Hava, his daughter - Hanna and his son in law Ezra Reichbach with his two granddaughters Rivkale and Zunia, were all lost in the Holocaust after his death. His youngest son Shimon died in the Buchenwald Camp, and his two older sons, Michael and Feivish fell at the front during the first world war.

Only I was left, since fate has brought me to Israel, in the early thirties - to the holy land about which my father, Rabbi Shlomo, dreamed and prayed all his life.

Will these words serve as a memorial candle to my father, a rightous and honorable man who imparted the Torah to so many of our town's people.

[Page 209]

Yosef Ben Meir Yehuda Streisand

In Remembrance of her Father

by Judith Kahn-Streisand

Donated by Michael Kreindler

All who lived in our town knew that there were always people present in the Bes Midrash of Reb Yudel. Besides those who prayed there, many of the people of the city entered as they passed by the street to daven Mincha or Maariv. Some searched for a place to hide from the rain. Sometimes the Bes Midrash provided a warm place, and a roof over one's head, on cold winter days, or a bench to sleep on if visiting from another town.

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Among the local inhabitants who prayed there, one who especially stood out was Reb Yosef Streisand, z”l, not only because of his tall stature, and long beard, which added to his height, but also because of his holy spirit in the Bes Midrash. Even though he was a successful blue collar worker who employed other workers, the Bes Midrash was very important to him. He was concerned with the conditions of the poor who prayed there, and he worried about their lack of material things. Thanks to his charitable nature, he succeeded in helping a poor sick man who was in the hospital in our town. He was accustomed to going out on the streets, and to the local stores to gather money to give to the family of the sick man so that they would not suffer while he was hospitalized.

There were many small merchants that traveled once a week to a nearby town to a flea market. Reb Yosef used to help them by giving them a loan to buy merchandise. After they sold their goods, they graciously returned the money at once.

When a speaker came to the Bes Midrash, Reb Yosef worried that the worshipers would leave before the end of the speech, so he gathered contributions beforehand. A large number of worshipers in Reb Yudel's Bes Midrash were very poor. Local people and strangers would gather there on Shabbos and Saturday night, and at the end of prayers, Yosef would stand by the door of the Bes Midrash, and personally arrange as best he could, a home for each parishioner to go to for a hot meal. Because of his devotion and kind heart , he was always the last to leave, and he always had a guest or two in his own home. On Shabbos, he was accustomed to arrange Minyanim in order to read the Torah in his home, which was attached to the Bes Midrash.

Simchas Torah was a great and joyful day for him. He had great spirit when he stood with all his honor and beauty on the Bimah, inviting with his strong clear voice all the men to the hakafos. This honor and position had been passed down to him from his father Meir Yehuda Streisand z”l . He held this position until he left for Israel in 1936. He knew the names of all the worshipers, and the names of their fathers, and he never confused them. When he invited the worshipers to the hakafos, he did not discriminate rich people from poor. He called upon those who sat along the Eastern wall, those who sat elsewhere, and even those who stood at the door. This irritated the rich parishioners, but he was not deterred, because he was accustomed to treat everyone equally, because he felt “all Jews are friends”.

Simchas Torah was a day that was entirely happy. Many people were accustomed to gather in their homes, and drink beer and eat sweets. In his home, he served a keg of beer and served good food. His guests were happy, and they ate, drank and danced Chassidic dances. Reb Yosef danced with great enthusiasm on top of the table. Happiness with the Torah made a Jew's heart the happiest.

During WWI, the Russians attempted to burn the Bes Midrash. Here it is important to point out a heroic act done by Reb Yosef. He climbed on the roof of the burning building, and began to break up the shingles in order to prevent the spread of the fire to the rest of the Bes Midrash. The enemy saw him and shot at him trying to kill him, but he hid until they left. He again went up on the roof, but this time his clothing caught fire so he quickly ran down to the river behind the building, and put out the fire. He again returned to the roof to extinguish the fire, and this time he was successful. However, when he climbed down he was completely black with soot, and he had burns on his body, but he was extremely happy that he had saved the building. His wife was unable to speak for two weeks because she was so hoarse from shouting and begging him to come down from the roof. People all over spoke of this heroic act, and one of the inhabitants of the city who had emigrated to the United States sent a letter praising Reb Yosef for saving the Bes Midrash from burning.

Besides his interest in the Bes Midrash, he worked with the Chevra Kadisha. If someone died in the city, the family came immediately to call him, and he would devote what little time he had to this duty. He would travel close or far away in heat, rain or snow to do the mitzvah of kindness to the dead. He would travel by wagon if the place was in some distant village. Sometimes the families would call him in the middle of the night, and he would go immediately to fulfill his obligation. He was never absent during the funeral, and he made sure that everything was done according to the Jewish Laws. One time a deceased person who had been in water for two weeks was brought to him from a neighboring community. Understandably, the appearance of the body was horrible, and the stench and deterioration was a dangerous health hazard. No one would come near the body but Yosef prepared the body according to the law. He believed that a person performing a mitzvah would not be affected. Once on a snowy day, Reb Yosef had to deliver a dead woman in a casket for burial but the street was extremely slippery, and the casket was very heavy, so he got down on his knees and pushed the casket. Others soon came to help him, and they gave the woman a proper Jewish burial.

He also worked as a member of Yad Harutzim, and Shomrei Shabbos (Keepers of the Sabbath), and he was one of the founders of Kupat G'Milat Chasodim which was a charitable organization that provided loans to the righteous. There are many stories about him which seem to be fantasy, but they all are true. This working man who had a heart of gold, sanctified his whole life to the Creator of the World, and his creations, and lived with complete faith throughout his life.

It is worthwhile to point out another event in his life. During WWI, the Russians would seize Jewish men for work camps. One Saturday night the Russians came to take Reb Yosef just as he began the Havdalah Service. He invited the soldiers to stay, and he conducted the service according to his customs. The soldiers respectfully sat through the ritual in silence. When he finished the prayers, he gave the soldiers food and drink, and the soldiers shook his hand, and left his home. My father called this “the miracle of Havdala”.

In 1936, he moved to Israel. He was a Zionist. He always had a JNF box in his home, and he donated to Karen Hayesod. While in Israel, he worked with the Chevra Kadisha, and with the synagogue where he prayed. The people of Kfar Saba knew and loved him. When he died in 1955, the local rabbi in his eulogy compared him to Jonathan the Shoemaker who all his life earned his bread by the work of his hands with respect to the days of his death. May his memory be a blessing!

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