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[Page 485]

A profile of Menachem Wajnszel, z”l

by Kalman Barkai

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Menachem was the eldest in his family. He had another two brothers and three sisters. The family lived in the Third of May Street, in the house belonging to Gliksztajn; the town's rabbi, Reb Alter-Mosze Lewi z”tsl also lived in the same courtyard.

We would play “War” together, and his young brother Matitjahu was our “emperor”: he organized the wars with the enemy, gained victories and captured children into “captivity”.

On Sabbaths, when I went to the rabbi to recite what I'd learnt during the week with Reb Motel the teacher z”l, I saw Menachem standing there before the ark, his head hunched over the Gemara [Talmud] and he was completely immersed in it. He wore a black silk cloak with a silk sash, and on his head he hat that was typical of Jews in the Diaspora. Whilst I was reciting quotes from the Torah to the rabbi, he would ask: “Menachem, Menachem, are you listening? Thus Reb Motel teaches and the pupil really does know”. And Menachem would reply: “Yes, yes, I'm listening, the words are correct”. And at the time I thought in my heart: “How jealous I am of you; if only I could be like you, full of Torah like a pomegranate.”

During the same period Reb Menachem would give lessons to the children of homeowners in the town. He taught them Hebrew and Tanach [Bible].

Several years later, I passed through the Third of May Street and saw a picture of Reb Menachem Wajnszel. I was amazed: Is that really his picture? What happened? One couldn't recognize the man; European attire, head uncovered, his hair black and curly and he was wearing a tie. In the same year, on the memorial day for Herzl a commemoration was held in the synagogue, and members of the Hashomer Hatzair came to participate. Menachem led the marchers and was also amongst the speakers. I stood at the side and looked at him, my heart was once again full of jealousy. I thought to myself: “What an intellectual youth, I would like to be educated like him. I recalled how he stood in the rabbi's home immersed in Gemara. And at the time I was still a pupil in the cheder. A desire stirred in my heart to follow in his footsteps. This gave me an internal drive to join the ranks of Hashomer Hatzair. A few years later Menachem made aliyah amongst the first of those from Hashomer Hatzair, and a number of years I also made aliyah and managed to realize my dream.

[Page 486]

During one of my first visits after I made aliyah, I approached Menachem. We talked and brought up recollections from the past, and I revealed to him that he had a part in my making aliyah, since he had served as an example to me. He lived in Jerusalem, in the Betzalel neighborhood. After a period he moved to Tel Aviv and worked in translation in the “Mazeh” archives.

Menchem brought his mother and sisters to the country, and his two brothers came to the country and only his father never managed to come, since he passed away at an early age when his children were young. When his mother passed away in Israel, Menachem was no longer alive, since he died at an early age. He left a wife, Hila, educated and intelligent, and two sons who are senior clerks in the government.

Although many years have passed I have not forgotten you Menachem. What a pity that you passed away so early; you could have given us a great deal, as a religious Jew and as a member of Hashomer Hatzair.

Woe for the loss and you will not be forgotten.

My father, Reb Elijahu Wygodzki, z”l

by Juda Wygodzki

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Even in childhood, under the wings of my father z”l, I sensed the trait that most characterized him which was of seeking harmony. My father was known as an arbitrator of disputes, and frequently the people of our town of Dąbrowa would come to discuss with him and request that he as a mediator and referee between them. I was always amazed by his talent of bringing reconciliation between the disputing parties. I particularly recall an incident in my youth: Members of the hachshara [training] kibbutz in our town requested Pesach [Passover] alms for the poor from the kehila committee flour for matzos. Several members of the committee were worried about supplying them with flour, since they knew that they weren't religious and were worried that they would bake bread for Pesach. My father invalidated the fears of the opposition saying that they should be trusted, since that in every Jew, no matter how distant from religion he may be, there is a spark of Judaism. In the end they relented and even the most stringent accepted my father's opinion and the flour was supplied to those that requested it.

Not only in the public arena did my father seek harmony, and he also behaved this way in his home and in his relationship with his wife and children. I recall, that my brother Mosze z”l began teaching and later on administered the Yiddish school belong to TSYSHO [Tsentrale Yiddishe Shul Organizatsye / Central Yiddish School Organization]. If my father opposed the way my brother took this on, he didn't express it in public as other fathers did, since he knew that it would distance himself from his son. He endeavored to grow closer to my brother in order that he wouldn't move away from home and its field of influence and indeed he succeeded in doing this. My brother, in spite of his opinions that were considered “progressive” at the time, customarily put on teffilin [phylacteries] every day.

I wondered how my father was so successful in mediating between people and only when I was more mature did I discover what I had only sensed as a child: My father was optimistic in his approach to a person's character, and he also believed that within the most evil and tough person there is a good trait, if we relate to him harshly we will never discover this. He carried out the words of the Haza”l [sages of blessed memory]: “Always judge a person favorably, to see his positive side”, and “Always warmly welcome a person”, however when he had to relate to someone strictly, my father knew how to hold his own.

I remember that once a man with a pistol in hand broke into our home and threatened my father that if he didn't give him a great deal of money, as he'd demanded – he would shoot him. My father, even though he didn't have anything in his hands for his defense, managed to frighten this man with only aggressive words, till he left our home the same way that he came.

Like most of our family, my father was also involved in the soap industry. At night he used to place a guard in the factory, which contained a large stock of soap. One night my father set out to the factory and saw that the guard wasn't there. He suddenly heard the footsteps of people in the warehouse and quickly closed the door and called for help, however the thieves, who were greater in number than he was, managed to break down the door and escape. My father chased after them and managed to catch one of them by himself.

My father was occupied all hours of the day in his factory, and in the evening he would be involved in Torah study and didn't stop his studying till late at night. Apart from that many people many people used to come to our home to receive advice about their problems. Many times, when we came home from the youth movement that we frequented, we would find him sitting next to his desk and writing. He was so immersed in his work that he often didn't notice us.

[Page 487]

He managed to publish three books in his lifetime: “Shomer Emunim” [Keeper of the Faith], “Ko omar le Beit Yakov” [Thus you will tell the House of Jacob] and “Ayin hamayim” [The water spring]. Other long essays remained handwritten, since he didn't manage to publish them in his lifetime.

My father was a Gur Chassid, a Lover of Zion, all his life, and even planned to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. When I made aliyah to the country during the period of the riots my father encouraged me saying: “You went up and achieved what Moses and Aaron didn't manage to do”.

He wrote many letters to me from the Diaspora and they helped to comfort me in the most difficult periods. I received a telegram with an aliyah permit, several hours before I was to leave, such that my departure was very hasty. I remember how my mother z”l cried as she packed my belongings, scared that we wouldn't see each other again. My father calmed her by saying that they would also make aliyah to the Holy Land, however they met a bitter and cruel fate and all of them died as martyrs.

My mother Sara-Szprynca z”l, my dear father, my brother Mosze, my sister Frajdl and my sister Lea z”l, married to Reb Mosze Lewi with four children – none of whom survived.

I will also recall my dear friends Elimelech Lenczner. Dawid-Szlomo Klajnplac, Juda Oks, with an artist's hand a perpetual smile on his face, Menachem Bowkowski – a dreamer and a friend, and Rachel Prajs, the sensitive orphan from “Hashomer Hadati” [Religious Guard], that most of the articles and songs in the wall newspaper were her handiwork.

May their memories be blessed.

Reb Nachman Aron Gutman, z”l

by Dr. Wolf Gutman (Haifa)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

My father, Reb Nachman son of Zelig Gutman, was born in 1876. He was an active Zionist all his life and a keen supporter of activities of “Hechalutz” [The pioneer] in Poland. Over the years he became a member of the administrative board of “Keren Hayesod” [Foundation fund] in Poland, and his donations to the various Zionist funds were most substantial. He saw himself as having a special duty to help the many pioneers from the Zagłębie region in every possible manner, to help the “Hechalutz” training camp and to make aliyah.

An additional mission that my father saw for himself during his lifetime was to immortalize the visionary of Zionism, Dr. Binyamin Ze'ev [Theodor] Herzl. Encouraged and at the instigation of his son-in-law, Dr. Tolo Nusenblat z”l, he purchased furniture from the dining room of Herzl's apartment. This furniture was displayed in its original layout in Dr. Nusenblat's apartment in Vienna, and only select people were allowed access to the room in which they stood. Amongst these people was C. N. Bialik, Berthold Feiwel, the Chief Rabbi of Sweden, Dr. Ehrenpreis, and others. The plan was to transfer the furniture to Eretz Yisrael and place them anew in the Herzl Institute, that was to be established in the country in accordance with Tolo Nusenblat's dream. In 1952 I managed to discover six chairs from this room in Vienna and brought them to Israel. The chairs were donated to the “Keren Kayemet Leyisrael” [Jewish National Fund], and over a number of years were displayed in the “Herzl room” in the National Institutes building in Jerusalem. To the best of my knowledge they are now located on Mt. Herzl.

Reb Nachman-Aron was also very active in the financial life of Dąbrowa. Together with another industrialist, Mr. Holenderski, he purchased the “Flora” coalmine. At that time, his success in purchasing this mine brought about an anti-Semitic campaign in the newspapers and in the Polish Sejm.

After the German occupation he moved with his family to the Warsaw Ghetto – and was killed there.

My mother, Chawa Gutman, daughter of Reb Israel Szmuelewicz from Piotrków, was also born in 1876. She excelled in her unusual modesty and succeeded in turning our house into a warm Jewish home that was open to everyone. There were many young women who would come to her home to present their problems, and they always found in her a maternal heart ready to help everyone. She herself was active in many philanthropic organizations in Dąbrowa.

My parents had four children: three daughters and a son.

My eldest sister, Tamara, was born in 1896. She married Dr. Tolo Nusenblat and after their marriage they moved to Vienna, the capital of Austria. The home that she established in Vienna quickly became a center for social Jewish life in this city, and they would meet up with many Jewish writers and artists.

My brother-in-law and good friend, Dr. Tolo (Naftali) Nusenblat, who was born in 1849, was renown as the first researcher of the life of Herzl, and as an historian who laid the foundations for the Herzl research doctrine. Amongst his students were Dr. Aleksander Bajn and H. Frenkel.

[Page 488]

He translated many biographical compositions of Herzl, of which the following were particularly well known: “Am bederech lashalom” (1933) [A nation on the way to peace], “Bnei hador misaprim al Herzl” (1936) [The children of this generation talk about Herzl], and “Shnaton Herzl” (1937) [The Herzl annual]. He contributed to magazines and many newspapers.

In his youth Tolo Nusenblat was amongst the prominent leaders of the “Hashomer Hatzair” [Young guard] movement.

dab488a.jpg [33 KB] - Reb Nachman Gutman
Reb Nachman Gutman, the dedicated Zionist
philanthropist and patron of “Hashomer Haztair”

(with Jakob Frochtcwajg a long time “Shomer”)

In the First World War he served as an officer in the Austrian army and received the highest medal of honor for his bravery. As far as is known, Tolo Nusenblat died as a hero during the large uprising in the Treblinka camp.

My second sister, Hela, was born in 1899. She displayed a particular inclination to music and was a pupil of the famous pianist Julius Wolfson, in Vienna. She even gave a number of public concerts in this city.

My youngest sister, Dr. Karola Gutman, was born in 1902. She was a lecturer for art history in the Jagiellońska University in Krakow, and published a number of scientific works on Flemish art and about historical synagogues in Poland. She participated in many international congresses on art history, and worked in close participation with Professor Lucati from Rome, a world renown expert on art history.

I myself am the only survivor of this magnificent family.

dab488b.jpg [27 KB] - Pioneers in Dąbrowa
Pioneers in Dąbrowa in the agricultural training
before they were sent on “aliyah” in 1920

I was born in 1898, educated in schools in Germany and I was amongst the leaders of the “Hashomer Hatzair” in Vienna. In 1920 I settled in Prague and I was an assistant in the German university in this city. I made aliyah in 1940 and I was active in the medical society, a member of the executive of the “Kupat Cholim” medical organization, a member of the central committee of the Israeli Medical Society, and recently as chairman of the national council of the “Kupat Cholim” medical organization. My only son, Israel, was born in 1932 in Prague, and today is a member of Kibbutz Hatzerim in the Negev, on behalf of which he carried educational missions in youth movements in Israel and overseas.

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