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[Page 232]

Memories of Home

by Rywka Barkai (of the Janowski family)

Translated by Amy Samin

We lived at 15 Królowa Jadwiga Street. It was a large house built of red bricks. We lived in the yard, on the first floor, only a few stairs up. Our apartment had two rooms, a big entrance hall and a huge kitchen with a basement below where we kept vegetables in the winter, and in the summer it was a kind of refrigerator where we kept milk products and fruit. I have no doubt that the basement served as an excellent bunker for Jews during the Holocaust. It was said that in the days of the Russian rule the house was used as a prison and the basement as a cell for solitary confinement. In the same yard, opposite us, lived a Jew named Jechiel Ferens. At the front of the house was a pharmacy owned by a Christian named Janicki. Also, a doctor named Gozowski lived in the same house. There were also two shops at the front of the house, the fabric shop of the Lemkowicz family and a small market belonging to the Perlgrycht family. The street was very long, beginning at the Christian church and continuing down to Gola Nogi. The entire area was called Reden, because it was built on a coal mine of that name. Acacia trees were planted all along the length of our road, adding beauty to the view. On the hot summer days the trees would blossom and their white flowers would give off a lovely scent.

dab232.jpg [41 KB] - The Janowski family
The Janowski family

My mother, Mrs. Gitel Janowski of blessed memory, the oldest daughter of Reb Jekel Wajntal Maimon of blessed memory, who upon investigation was revealed to have a family connection to the dynasty of the Rambam, was a woman of average height with a round face who wore a wig, observed the mitzvot, and was a loving and devoted mother to her sons. I remember the stories she told about her father, my grandfather of blessed memory, who was one of the first settlers of the town and had a business supplying food to the coal factories in the town, called Towarzystwo Francusko-Włoskie. She, as the oldest daughter, kept the company's books. I remember very little of that grandfather of mine. When I was a girl he would come to visit us. He was a short, thin, agile man, always smiling and his small eyes darted here and there. He was a cheerful man who told jokes from the days of the war with the Russians in the days of the czar and he used the cane that he always carried to add motion to his stories. He was a widower. I never saw my grandmother; she had died previously when she was still young. My grandfather lived with my aunt, my mother's sister Mrs. Rachel Ingster of blessed memory, until he died. I remember the day of his funeral, that gloomy day in our home, which at the time I barely understood.

Once my mother told me how she had met my father, of blessed memory. When she was just a young maiden of sixteen, as she sat in school, my grandmother came and called to her to come out and told her: “Come, Gitel, to the seamstress. We will sew you a new dress.” My mother was very surprised, but she went with her mother without saying a word. At the seamstress' shop she was told they were measuring her for a wedding dress.

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She was astonished, and thought in her heart, “Is it possible that I am about to get married? Who will be my bridegroom? Will I find him pleasing? Will I love him?” When she got home, they told her that her groom was Hecel Janowski from the nearby city of Wolbrom. They said of my grandfather that he was an extremely intelligent and well-educated man who had once written a geography book. I never knew my grandparents from Wolbrom.

The day of my mother's wedding to my father arrived; they settled in Dąbrowa and raised a family, bringing seven children into the world. They supported the family through commerce: they had a fabric shop and they lived a quiet life. Once thieves broke into the shop at night and emptied the shop of its merchandise. My mother told me that on that exact night, at the time the robbery was happening, she dreamed that my father had suddenly died and she was following after the funeral procession, crying and shouting, “Take anything you want, just leave my husband, that good, precious jewel! Please, God!” She awoke suddenly and found her husband sleeping peacefully beside her. Her joy was boundless, but when the two of them woke up in the morning and went downstairs to the shop, they were surprised at what they discovered. My mother gave thanks to God that the stolen merchandise had been taken in place of the life of her dear husband. She never told my father a word about the dream.

Truly, my father of blessed memory was a dear man loved by all of the members of his family. He was an honest, kindhearted, and modest man, content with his small portion. He was a Torah scholar and a God-fearing man. His heartwarming laughter brought beauty to his gentle features which were framed by a beard and mustache. He was not only interested in religious matters but in what was happening out in the wider world. He loved to read all sorts of books and newspapers; he was interested in politics, science books, and he even read the newspaper Hatsfirah which apparently one of my brothers made sure to bring him for his enjoyment. Although he was a believer, he was not a zealot, and was tolerant of the opinions of the younger, freer generation. Though he knew quite well that his sons were set on a path to a more modern way of life, he never tried to force their decisions but rather tried to understand their feelings.

At the House of Study he would read from the Torah. At Purim he read the Megillat Esther (Book of Esther); it was also his custom to bring it to our home, in order to read it for my mother, sister, and all of the female neighbors who lived nearby who could not, for one reason or another, go to the House of Study to hear the megillah being read. I very much loved hearing his pleasant voice while he read aloud, and that pleasant melody echoes in my ear as if I heard it only yesterday, especially when he enumerated all the sons of Haman in one breath. On the eve of Passover he would arise early in order to break the fast with every firstborn son in the area. I also remember that he knew a prayer against the evil eye, and more than once the child of a neighbor would come to our house and give him a handkerchief and request in the name of his mother, who suffered from terrible headaches, that he say that prayer. My father never refused and never sent anyone away without helping him. He would take the handkerchief from the child and stand in the corner of the room, mumbling quietly for a few moments. Then he would return the handkerchief, saying, “Run home quickly and put this handkerchief on her forehead and you will restore her to health. And you – don't make a sound on the way home.”

As I have said, we were a family of seven children. The oldest, Welwele, was married and lived in Myszków with his family, all of whom were killed in the Holocaust. My sister Chaja-Sara of blessed memory, was a devoted and faithful daughter, kindhearted and with a gentle soul. She devoted herself to housework and handcrafts: sewing, embroidery, and crocheting. Once she crocheted curtains, and then embroidered them with a depiction of the coming of the Messiah, with a big lion and next to him a lamb, as well as many other animals and a young shepherd standing next to them. It was a magnificent picture. My mother of blessed memory told me of the self-sacrificing nature of that sister's soul. It was a winter's day, terribly cold in the town, but my sister paid no attention, she took me, a baby just a few months old, to the baby clinic to be weighed and to obtain food to supplement what little my mother was able to give me. On the way home she slipped on the wet snow in the road and, together with me, fell to the ground. She broke her leg, and was barely able with the last remnants of her strength to return home. She suffered for many years until the leg healed. All of her life my sister of blessed memory dreamed of going to Eretz Yisrael. Once I was living in Israel she wrote to me, telling me she wanted to walk all the way to Jerusalem, the holy city. She married and had three sons, who live in Israel. She herself never achieved her dream of seeing Zion. I remember how she loved to sing: “Zingt shoyn zingt shoyn Tzion's techter, vaynen welen mir nisht oyfheren, biz undzer hilf vet zayn!” During World War II she was taken to Auschwitz and killed there. May her pure soul be bound up in the bonds of everlasting life!

My brother Bercze (his true name was Dawid bar Izachar, but we called him by the affectionate nickname Bercze) was the jewel of the family and my parents were very proud of him and predicted great things would come of him. He was short and had a pleasant face and curly hair in the back. At the front he was bald. He was an extremely intelligent person. He obtained his education through his own efforts. Aside from studying Torah, he dedicated himself to secular studies and had but one goal in his heart: to buy books and to learn.

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He was an enthusiastic Zionist who worked tirelessly for the Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal) and the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund). The blue collection tin at our house was always full of coins. He wanted to continue his studies and become a rabbi, and planned to travel to Vienna in order to complete his education and become certified as a rabbi, but he was prevented from doing so by my mother, who begged him not to leave her and travel so far from home. He was a sensitive man who loved his fearful mother deeply, so he abandoned the idea and with a broken heart was forced to remain at home. When I was still a little girl they told me how Bercze created courses in the Hebrew language which were offered in our city, and even in the nearby town of Będzin such courses were offered, and he gave lectures about literature and about Eretz Yisrael and what was being done there. I remember learning many words in Hebrew, including: shulchan (table), kiseh (chair), chalon (window) and so on. I also learned a lovely poem by Bialik:

At the window, at the window stood a pretty bird!
A child ran to the bird, the pretty bird flew away
Weep, child, weep – where's the pretty bird?
There's no bird at the window, the pretty bird flew away!

One day Bercze traveled to Basel to participate as a delegate in the Zionist Congress which took place there in the presence of Dr. Herzl. Later on he decided to start a family, and married his heart's desire, the maiden Chana Sztorchajn of blessed memory, the daughter of the well-known Reb Gecel Sztorchajn of our town. The wedding took place in the city of Krakow. The young couple settled in the town of Częstochowa; my brother was a teacher in the Hebrew gymnasia called Axelrod. He taught the Hebrew language and Hebrew history. Later, when a law was passed that every teacher needed to be certified he didn't give it much thought, just traveled to the city of Krakow, passed the examination and received all of the necessary credentials for teaching and even the title of professor; by then he was no longer young. My parents were always impressed that this son never cost them a penny in tuition.

My brother's greatest aspiration was to move to Eretz Yisrael; but first he thought how he could send his parents there. His dream was realized: my parents arrived in Eretz Yisrael, but he and his wife were sent to Treblinka by the Nazis. Only his only son was able to move to Eretz Yisrael before the outbreak of the Second World War.

I recall the cultured home of my brother and my heart swells with pain when I think how quickly it was all destroyed: the beautiful, dark furniture, the cleanliness and orderliness that ruled all, the large library in my brother's room. In his library you could find there books in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Russian and even Greek, which my brother learned on his own. Among the books were the writings of Bialik, Mapu, Mendele Mocher Sfarim, Shalom Ash and many others. In secular languages there were trilogies by Polish poets, geography texts, Greek mythology, dictionaries in many languages, and more. In spite of everything, my brother kept to the traditions, not forgetting to lay tefillin and to observe and honor the Sabbath and the holidays.

dab234.jpg [25 KB] - Bercze Janowski
Bercze Janowski
Who carried the burden of disseminating the Hebrew
language before WW1 in Zagłębie and later became
a teacher in the gymnasia [high school]

Before every holiday he would come to us together with his young son named “Ga'agoo'im” (yearning, to symbolize his longing for the land of Zion), so that he could personally bless his parents, brothers and sisters. And if because of illness or any other reason he was unable to come, he would write postcards which I loved to hear when my father of blessed memory read them aloud. The blessings he sent us were full of quotations from the Torah and of wisdom written in his beautiful handwriting. My parents would be so happy; tears would flow from their eyes. He educated his only son in the Zionist spirit, and before the outbreak of the Second World War he was able to send him to Eretz Yisrael so that he could continue his studies at the Hebrew University, and the son excelled at his studies.

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The brother younger than Bercze was Nachum. They said at home that he was handsome, and learned the trade of a tailor. Once he was invited to a wedding, where he danced all night. It was the middle of winter, and because he was sweating he caught a chill on the way home. He didn't say anything to my mother for he did not wish to worry her. After a few days he was much worse, but by the time the called for a doctor it was too late. He had been stricken with a serious lung infection. He struggled with the angel of death for several days until his strength was gone. It was the night of the Ta'anit Esther (feast of Esther), and while he was still conscious of his surroundings he asked my father to read the Megillat Esther to him. My father complied with his wish; when he had finished reading he turned and saw that his son was no longer breathing and that his spirit had departed. Heavy indeed was the mourning in our house.

My brother Elimelech and I were together at home for many years, and I loved him very much. We shared a room, although he was many years older than I. He chose the printing profession and worked in a print shop for most of his years. He was a member of Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) and from among his friends I recall Bendet Szwajcer who died young, Baruch Szenhaft who was very active in the party, and Zisman Krzanowski who lived not far from us. That brother was a talented actor, and once even took part in a production of Isha Ra'ah (Bad Woman); he would always take me to plays. He loved music, and bought himself a mandolin and filled our house with the pleasant sound of his playing. Whenever he felt like playing, he would call for me to come and sing. There was a real choir in our house in those days. My parents would sit and listen, filled with pleasure, and I was so happy because I truly loved to sing. I had song books with musical notes in them. I remember Bialik's songs in Hebrew (“I have a garden and a well…”) and the songs of Kipnis and of Gebirtig in Yiddish. It seems to me I will never forget those hours. We were more than brother and sister; we were good friends who did not keep secrets from one another. I always told him what was in my heart. He always understood me and gave good advice. When the papers came giving permission for me to enter Eretz Yisrael I was so happy, and my brother even more so for he saw it as a sign of hope that I could move there. Only my mother of blessed memory was not delighted for it was painful for her to part with the daughter of her old age. The certificate was sent to me by my brother Icchak of blessed memory, who had been in Eretz Yisrael since 1924. When the date of my journey arrived, my brother Elimelech accompanied me to Warsaw, where the two of us stayed over with my relative Leah Rosen of blessed memory, the wife of Szabtai Klugman (long may he live) who is now in Israel. The next day I boarded the train and parted from my brother with great emotion. To my deep sorrow, I never saw him again.

The immigrant train traveled by way of Katowice, where at the station many Jews with tears of joy and envy in their eyes were waiting to bless our journey. Among the many friends and relatives who were there was my sister of blessed memory, and Esther and Alter Pomocnik, long may they live.

Last but not least, my brother Icchak of blessed memory, the most dear of men. He was the one who made sure my parents were brought to Eretz Yisrael. They arrived in 1935. He made sure to send his wife Frida, the daughter of Gecel Sztorchajn. As I've already mentioned, his older daughter married Bercze and his younger daughter Frida, who lives in Israel, was married to Icchak of blessed memory. I had, therefore, two sisters in law.

Frida brought my parents and cared for them all the way because by then they were getting on in years, over seventy. When they arrived it was Lag B'Omer and there was great joy in the home of my brother Icchak of blessed memory. Icchak knew how to show respect for Mother and Father. He prepared a special room for them and gratified all of their wishes, especially those of my father of blessed memory, who had so badly wanted to come to Eretz Yisrael. He hired a car and took them to see all of the holy places and did all he could to make them happy. After a few years, when my mother grew weak and took to her bed, Frida cared for her like a merciful nurse; she also helped my father a great deal, because in the twilight of his years his hands shook so badly he needed help feeding himself. My mother died in Jerusalem and was buried on the Mount of Olives. My father was lonely and isolated. He came to live with me in Tel Aviv, and after two years he also passed away and was buried on the Mount of Olives in the family grave my brother Icchak of blessed memory had arranged. The grave was isolated and neglected for twenty years following the War of Independence. No one could go and visit on enemy land, and only after the Six Day War were we able to go and see whether the tombstone was still in good condition.

The youngest son made sure to raise a tombstone for his dear parents though he was unaware that he would fall gravely ill and be taken from us when he was still in his prime.

May his memory be blessed.

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by Mosze Judkewicz

Translated by Amy Samin

I don't know if it's a coincidence, but the fact is that I began writing my memoirs of Dąbrowa Górnicza on Tisha B'Av. Indeed, that day is one of predestination, persecution and destruction, which pursued us throughout our exile ever since the destruction of the holy temple. It seems that our generation, more than any other, felt the destruction that the Nazi beast wrought upon the Jews of Europe.

When I recall Dąbrowa Górnicza, the city of my birth, I am overcome with longing for the days of my childhood and youth. Before my eyes I see, firstly, my dear parents, my brother and sisters the unforgettable Chaja-Brajndel, Ester, Blumele, Miriam, Aron-Szlomo, and Jecheskel, and all of the honest Jews, innocent and honorable people, whose only sin was in being descended from Abram, Isaak and Jakob. I see my friends and comrades, with whom I had forged ties of love and camaraderie, and my heart is filled with pain and suffering for all of those sacred figures who once lived but no longer exist, and the memory of whom will be with me all the days of my life.

It's possible that in the eyes of a stranger, that is one not of my city, or in the eyes of my children, my words about my city will seem overly emotional and provincial, though for me there is no other way. I was extremely attached to the place, my friends, comrades and acquaintances. We were all as one family, faithful partners in happiness and sorrow. Those from my city will understand my words, as parents understand the words of their child, even when he mumbles.

In truth, our city of Dąbrowa does not have a particularly distinguished lineage. It does not have a special historical past like those of other cities and towns in Poland, some of which are hundreds of years old or even as much as a thousand years. Our city is only about two hundred years old. Dąbrowa Górnicza belonged to the Zagłębie Region, as did the cities of Będzin, Sosnowiec, and the surrounding area. It was one of the cities of the coal industry, one of the largest in Poland. The foundries for iron and steel casting in the part of the city called Huta Bankowa employed thousands of workers and, together with the commercial businesses were the main source of employment for most of the Jews of the city.

The city was divided into two parts: the older part was called Old Dąbrowa and Huta Bankowa, and the second part was called Reden Colony. I never learned what the origins were of those names. In the first lot of the city were located - in addition to Huta Bankowa from whose tall chimneys would issue thick smoke which spread out and blackened the skies above the city … all of the institutions of the city, such as the municipal offices, the banks, the courthouse, the post office, the community council, the rabbi and so on. In the middle, between the two parts of the city, was a large church. Many people would take a shortcut down the side streets so as not to pass by the “defilement.” I never forgot to say, “…you shall utterly detest it, and you shall utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.” (Deuteronomy 7:26) and to say the Aleinu three times as I passed the “defilement.” The majority of the population of the city was Christian. Among the approximately thirty thousand Christians were about 1,200 Jewish families.

The Jews mainly made their living in commerce, though there were also craftsmen: tailors, bakers, shoemakers, and barbers. Some were members of free professions such as doctors, clerks, pharmacists, lawyers and the like. There were a number of rich men in the town, as well: coal mine owners, food wholesalers, and grain and lumber merchants. As in any other city or town there were various public institutions such as a community council, a people's bank, charitable institutions, a library, a merchants' association and one for workshop owners, sports associations, and more.

The first Jews to arrive in Dąbrowa Górnicza settled in Old Dąbrowa. I remember the names of many of the first arrivals: the Rechnic family, Miodownik, Luksenberg, Feder, Wygodzki, Parasol, Zarnowiecki, Futerko, Mitelman, Wajnsztajn, Waltfrajnd, Ajzenman, Fuks, Wajzsalc, Szapir, Fajner, Kanarik, Londner, Lajtner, Nusbaum, Grajcer, Prejzerowicz, Szpigelman, Siwek, Gluzerman, Szlezynger, Faska, Zygrajch, Sztorchajn, Szwarcbaum, Rajchman, Krajcer, and Klajnplac. I particularly want to mention the rabbi of Dąbrowa, the brilliant Rabbi Alter Mosze Aron HaLewy, who was a Torah prodigy and the author of books, among them Ner Le'meah. He was among the most important Chasids of Radomsk, with the author of Hesed Le'Avraham. The son-in-law of the prodigy, Rabbi Josef Blumenfeld of blessed memory, was the chief justice of the religious court in Tel Aviv.

I must point out that it is not my intention to write the history of our city, or even everything about the Jews of Huta Bankowa. Most certainly others, who are more knowledgeable, will do so. I will limit my description principally to the part of the city known as Reden, where at 10 Królowa Jadwiga Street, first stood my cradle.

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It was there I grew up and received my education, where I studied and dreamed of Eretz Yisrael, until my dream was realized in 5696 (1935) when I left my parents, brother, sisters, and friends, who to my deep and lasting sorrow I never saw again, and made aliyah (moved to Eretz Yisrael).

There arise in my memory matters and incidents involving the Jews of Huta Bankowa which are liable to be forgotten, and I will also mention those. One such incident is that of the engineer Kava. A French Jewish engineer named Kava worked in Huta Bankowa, where there was a large group of French-Poles. He was a nationalist Jew. He would come to synagogue during the High Holy Days. His wife was active in social work in the city. The anti-Semitic Polish clerks couldn't stand the thought that a Jewish engineer would hold such an important position in that huge factory. They hinted quite clearly that he was not wanted there and once, he went into his office and found an onion on his desk. He turned in his resignation.

There was an assimilated Jew named Szternik, a dentist, who had ultra-leftist views. His sons were strongly influenced by the Kremlin. When one of his sons reached the age of bar mitzvah (thirteen), he sent for Reb Little Michale (Klayn Michale) and said to him, “You should know, Reb Michale, that my son is about to be bar mitzvah. Therefore, I ask you to buy him tefillin and to teach him everything a Jew needs to know, just as my father taught me.” Of course Reb Michale made sure to fulfill this request, and was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. That's what the assimilated Jews were like…

There was a Jew named Reb Wowe Fajner, the head of the Chevra Kaddisha (burial society). He was always coming and going from the city council, where he arranged everything. He was needed by everyone, the aged and the young, male and female, whoever needed to arrange for a fictitious wedding, he would bring witnesses … it was the period when everything needed a certificate. Reb Wowe could arrange everything without any trouble. He had access to all of the ledgers and could do with them as he wished…the door to the mayor's office was always open to him. Most interestingly, though he was unaccustomed to speaking Polish, he was always able to convey his meaning through hand gestures and gifts.

Those closest and dearest to me were the Jews of Reden, and if after reading these lines the people of Huta Bankowa are jealous, I apologize, for those Jews … approximately two hundred families … were made of a very special material. They were kind hearted and philanthropic. True friendship existed in the colony of Reden between Zionists and adherents of Agudah, Chassids and the educated, between the members of Hashomer Hazair and the Noar Hazioni and Gordonia. One interesting and informative fact: I once asked the elderly Chasid of Wroclaw, Reb Ben-Zion Apter, who was known for the strength of his marvelous memory and his knowledge of all of Poland, if he remembered Dąbrowa. He immediately recalled the Jews of Reden and their houses of study, and he even remembered some of their names. “There were dearly-loved Jews in Reden,” he said.

Only a few weeks ago we laid to rest one of the last of the Mohicans of the Jews of Dąbrowa, Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg of blessed memory. He was one of the founders of organized community life in our city. In the appreciative remarks I published in Hazofeh for the shiva (seven day period of mourning), I wrote: “Elderly and having lived a long life, this week Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg passed away. He was a learned scholar. He was born in Ł&oactue;dź, and he studied with the Rabbi from Żarki. After he married the daughter of the wealthy Reb Lajbele Frochcwajg from Dąbrowa Górnicza, he moved to live in this town until he made aliyah in 1935.

On coming to Dąbrowa the veteran townspeople grew to know him as a talented Yeshiva student and a scholar, a lecturer and activist and within a short time Reb Gerszon became an address for all that was related to the public benefit. There was not a communal institution in the town, including the kehila committee, in which the late Gerszon did not participate. He was the activist and the activator. In his communal work … which wasn't to receive reward … he was tireless. He neglected his home and his businesses, and his wife looked after the children and ran the business in order provide for the family.

He was amongst the founders of “Mizrachi” in the town and the first to “dare” to call for the building of Eretz Yisrael above the bimah of the Bet Midrash. There was not an emissary who had not his found first stopover in Reb Gerszon Chanoch's home. He was strict with himself in religious matters; however towards his fellow man he acted according to the School of Bet Hillel [had a lenient approach]. He was a Chassid of the admor Sofrin from Komarno and in his spare time he was always to be found hunched over Gemara.

In the early nineteen twenties he sent his oldest son Szraga, who was one of the founders of Kfar Ganim near to Petach Tikva, and in 1935 Reb Gerszon Chanoch managed to make aliyah with all his family.

He settled in the Montefiore neighborhood. Here as well he was occupied in helping his fellow man. With his death, one of the first national religious Jews was lost.”

The first Jews to arrive in Reden were mainly from the Kielce region to which Dąbrowa also belonged. Until the names of those who came became known, they were called by the names of their towns, for example: the Proszowicer, the Kielcer, the Wolbromer, the Szydłower, the Olkuszer, and so on.

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Others were called according to their professions or their employment: Peter Merchant, Berysz Stitcher, Awremele Tinter and so on. Still others had names given based on physical descriptions, such as the Tall Israel, Ginger Mordechai, Black Motel, Little Michale, Little Joskele, and others.

Almost the entire population of Reden was Chasidic, and I cannot recall even one instance of desecration of the Sabbath or a holiday by a resident. The synagogue or, as it was called, the House of Study, was always filled with worshippers and students. My honored father, may his righteous memory be blessed, was among those teachers who taught classes in the evenings, summer and winter. I recall that more than once on a snowy winter's night, my father would be late returning home from the House of Study. My righteous, honored mother of blessed memory worried that perhaps he had been hurt by hooligans or drunks, would send me to the House of Study to bring him home, and more than once I dared to remind him, “Father, it's late” for he would often remain in the House of Study until it was quite late, without having eaten since lunchtime. “Man cannot live by bread alone.” On the yahrzeit days [anniversary of the death] of our masters, teachers and rabbis and the notables of Israel, large feasts were held in the House of Study, especially on the day of happiness of our admor of Radomsk [Radomsko]. Most of the Chasids of Reden belonged to Radomsk-Krimilov [Kromoł&oactue;w]. Reb Jakob Szalom Fiszel, who in his youth spent much time in the company of the author of Hatiferet Szlomo Reb Ruwen Grosfeld, Reb Szymon Tenenboim, Reb Isaak Bajtner, Reb Herzl Liberman, my honored father Reb Szalom Judkewicz, Reb Chaim-Dawid Herszfeld, Reb Chaim-Lajb Jungster and others. There is not enough paper to describe them all. They were all loving, holy, and pure; each and every one deserving of special appreciation. They were all, without exception, good Jews, Chasids, and men of good deeds; kindhearted and righteous. The Jews of Reden were as one family; in times of happiness and times of sorrow, they were all as one person. It was known that the emissaries of yeshivas, rabbinical emissaries, representatives from the Keren Hayesod and the Keren Hakayemet, who appeared at the House of Study, for example Lajb Jaffe, the poet Natan Bistritsky, and others who inspired an enthusiastic response from the Jews of Reden.

For the Yamim Hanoraim [“Days of Awe”] it was necessary to secure additional seating, for the House of Study was too narrow to fit everyone. The morning prayers were led by Reb Chaim-Dawid Herszfeld of may his righteous memory be blessed, and the Musaf prayers were led by my honored father of blessed memory. The people of Reden remember their prayers until today. The “poets” were Gerszon-Lajb of blessed memory and Abram-Jakob, long may he live. Talented and famous singers Reb Aron Lemkowicz and Reb Herszl Gliksman, may their memories be blessed, and my brothers Aron and Jecheskel of blessed memory. The people of Reden were public figures, men with initiative, and the first to be involved with any public activity or institution in the city. The first pioneers in Eretz Yisrael from our city were sons of Reden: Sliwka, Liberman (Barzilay), Grosfeld, Szpilberg, Lenczner, and others. The youth counselors and leaders of all of the movements were young people of Reden.

As was stated, each and every one of them deserves special appreciation. It is not possible to pass over Reb Jakob Szalom Fiszel, the devout man and an enthusiastic lover of Zion, or his son-in-law the Renaissance man, the righteous Reb Szlomo Halperin, well-educated and a typical man of culture; or take for example as a type of proverbial Jew Reb Pinchas Josel, or Reb Chaim-Dawid Herszfeld, an innocent and righteous man loved by all and who respected everyone; Reb Herszl Kajzer the contemplative, always immersed in books about whom it was said that he knew the entire Mishna by heart; the wealthy philanthropist Reb Nachman Gutman (his son-in-law was Dr. Tolo Nusenblat from Vienna, the well-known researcher of Herzl who died during the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto). Reb Jankel Rozen, brother-in-law of Gerszon-Chanoch Szpilberg of blessed memory one of those whose sat at the eastern wall [of the synagogue, where honored members of the community sat facing the congregation], and his son-in-law Shabbtai Klugman known as the author K. Shabbtai; Little Joskele, whose jokes always made everyone laugh. I could mention dozens more of the residents of Reden, about each one of whom an entire book could be written.

The final person who is more than deserving of mention is Reb Ruwen Gluzerman, who was known as Ruwen Lichtcyjer. They would tell the story about him that before the First World War he owned a candle factory (that's where he got the name) and was a wealthy and righteous man. By the time I knew him, he was far from wealthy and was devoted to the things mentioned in the chapter, “Immeasurable Things”: benevolence, hospitality, visiting the sick, dowering a bride and the like. In the pursuit of such holy work he would from time to time travel to cities and towns in the area, delivering sermons intended to awaken people's desire to perform mitzvot and good deeds. His beard and patriarchal image made him resemble the figure of an ancient prophet as he stood wrapped in a tallit on the bimah [platform in synagogue for Torah reading] and preached. When the spirit of enthusiasm overcame him he would hurl his words at the wealthy men sitting at the eastern wall, “Do you consider that the money you hold in your hands is your own? You are just the guardians of it, and are in charge of saving the money and ensuring its proper and just distribution. 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine, saith the Lord' as it is said in the poetry of King David in the Psalms, and if Ruwen Lichtcyjer (he spoke of himself) comes to you and needs a donation, you must answer his call with the money! He does not need it for himself, but for the needy, the poor, the sick, and for the dowering of brides.” His words never caused bitterness or anger, for everyone knew he spoke from the depths of his heart, from his pain and sorrow that there was not enough to help all of those who came to him for aid.

[Page 239]

dab239.jpg [41 KB] - Girls from the "Bet Jakob" School
Girls from the “Bet Ja'akov” School

Even today, I still remember his words, which were always blended with words from the Torah, Midrash, and Agada and which were uttered with prophetic pathos. His work and his devotion to the good of the poor were without limitation. I saw him in various guises, including: as a fiery prophet, or as Reb Lewy-Jicchak from Berdichev [Berdychiv], teaching the rights of the people of Israel, and once he reminded me of the legendary teacher Reb Chanine Szaddai who had only a small amount of carob to eat from one eve of Sabbath to the next, yet thanks to him the world exists. Great indeed was his sorrow when the day came that he could not perform the mitzvah of providing hospitality to guests as was his custom. I will never forget the events of one bitter winter night, when I returned to the city by train very late. A man with a sack on his back also disembarked when I did, and asked me if I knew of a place where he could spend the night. I told him he should come with me, for I knew of someone who would no doubt be happy to host him. I arrived at the home of Reb Ruwen Lichtcyjer where, in spite of the late hour he sat immersed in a book. On the table next to him was an oil lamp. I will never forget the moment when, after a light tap at the door, Reb Ruwen opened it. I apologized for disturbing him, but that a guest needing a place to stay waited outside in the cold. Not only was Reb Ruwen not angry, he was so happy that I had brought him a guest that he did not know how to thank me. “Do you know, my dear,” he told me, “I couldn't go to sleep for I had not yet performed the mitzvah of hospitality today.” He immediately brought the guest inside, helped him remove his burden, and began to care for him with affection. Such a man was Reb Ruwen Lichtcyjer. He was one of the lamed vavnikim (36 righteous men in the world) thanks to whom the world exists. I wrote above, “The final person who is more than deserving of mention,” indeed, Reb Ruwen was the last Jew in Dąbrowa to purely give his soul unto his creator, and the filthy hands of the Nazis never touched it. The Jewish youth who remained when all the rest of the Jews were exiled gave him a proper Jewish burial. May his virtue protect us.

I have written a chapter of memories about my city of Dąbrowa. I did not mention Moszelach, Szlomolach, Blumalach and Miriamlach, those beautiful souls, many of whom perhaps could have been saved but who refused to be separated from their beloved parents and in life and in death, a pure and holy death, were not separated.

Ramat Gan, Elul 5726 [August/September 1966]

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