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[Page 494]

In remembrance of Reb Icchak Oks, of blessed memory

by Dawid Kożuch, of blessed memory

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The romanticist of the alleyways…

The old middle class
Still lived then
With brass framed eyeglasses
And silver batim [the part of the tefillin or phylacteries that contains the parchment],
Golden atores [the ornamental collar of a talit or prayer shawl]
And steel minds.
Other years,
Other strengths.

(Isaac Leib Peretz)

In contrast with the custom of writing only about world famous people, it is worthwhile to remember with reverence a simple, quiet Jew, who was very well known in our shtetl, Dąbrowa Górnicza.

The recently deceased Reb Icchak Oks, of blessed memory, was and remained until his last days of his life the romanticist of the alleyways. He longed for beauty, for sincere friendliness among Jews, and he was bitter about the coldness that reigned in our lives. With all of his strength, he tried to warm up the atmosphere on a holiday or day of leisure so that it would be filled with exaltation and a festive spirit. His soul sang, listened and was enamored with open nature. More deeply and more strongly than anyone near him, he praised all that he saw.

He yearned with longing for a little connection with the Mother Earth, for a little grass, for the warble of a bird. He rejoiced with the world when it was renewed in the spring, with awakening seeds and joyfully singing birds. He inhaled all of this along with his unlimited enthusiasm for the humanitarian creation of our prophets from whom he would cite entire chapters by heart and, in general, the entire Tanach [The Torah, the Prophets and the Writings], which he would not allow out of his hand during every one of his free moments.


Being very religious and observant in his beliefs, he dedicated much time to the business of the Bet Midrash [house of study] as the gabbai [assistant to the rabbi] for many years and as a warm bal-tefilah [reciter of prayers]. There also lay within him a special desire to build this institution according to a particular taste, with the appropriate esthetic and disciplinary order, and he often met with dry opposition.

Everyone knew that wherever Reb Icchak Oks was – in the street, Bet Midrash or at a celebration – a higher spiritual and ethical atmosphere was created. He had a heartfelt love of our children and a love of heartily teaching the songs, being himself a masterful father to his own children, and it was hard to find his equal.


It was a good person who had died, according to the concepts of our neighborhood. The Eastern Wall of a Jewish settlement became emptier. Reb Dawid Hirszfeld, a Jew with a mastery of religious perfection and na´ve honesty, also left this street, as did Reb Jakob Szalom Fiszel, who bore pain and suffering from the street for all his years. Now, Reb Icchak Oks, the romantic who was always singing, has left for his eternal rest.

(Zaglembier Zeitung [Zagłębie Newspaper])

[Page 495]

Icchak Oks

by Isser Lavi

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Always, but always, he was superbly dressed, a short beard decorated his pleasant personality. He would burst out in song – either cantor's verses, or conversely operatic pieces or select tunes. He would stand behind the narrow counter in his shop and welcome any child who had come to buy an exercise book, pencil or postage stamps. That is how I visualize him standing before me, as if it were yesterday, and not 35 years ago. His warm-hearted farewells and blessings accompanied me on my way to Israel.

He was a close friend and soul mate to my father and my family. Together, they were a pair of music lovers, like two troubadours, they would sing on festival evenings and at friends' parties. Icchak and my father had mutual interests: if it was reading in the Bet Midrash, or analyzing the daily reports in the newspapers, including the Saturday papers.

I recall the two of them strolling in the evening towards the “Flora”, and we the boys Lajbl, Oks's son, and myself, accompanied them as they discussed matters of worldly importance and our little home; like about public activity and questions from the Bet Midrash, or about the activities of one of their household. This stroll was occasionally accompanied by relaxed singing from the best of their repertoire, some of which we remember to this day.

They had another common interest – their nationalistic and Zionistic awareness. They were traditional religious people though not Zionist builders and they were conscientious, though with this they believed in good deeds and social work. They ran a “Bikur Holim” [“Visiting the sick”] and “Linat Hatzedek” [“Hospice for the poor”] organizations and they were involved in every kind of aid to the needy and poor.

This is how I visualize the personalities of two close friends and I recall the eulogy that my father z”l wrote when his friend, Icchak Oks, passed away, in the prime of his life; my father's world was orphaned – after his soul mate had been taken away, however, who could have guessed that a number of days later they would end up in Auschwitz's incinerators.

Ruwen Grosfeld

by Isser Lavi

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

A bearded man and his facial expression indicated that he was one of the city's elders. I knew him as a neighbor and a family friend. His house and garden that were situated on the other side of the street, served me as a recreation place. In the shade of the trees in the garden and next to the pool nearby the house, we would happily spend our time. Most were young children and some were our age, and thus friendships were established.

He knew music, and this was another thread that linked him to my father z”l.

Everyone was very close, Ruwen and his wife, Sarale and their many sons and daughters, but I will especially remember Abram and Szymon z”l, Hela, Topcze and Motel, and those who should live long lives – Gitcze, Gerszon and Jakob Wolf.

Majerl Magerwicza

by Isser Lavi

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Not a Dąbrowa personality, but with this he was an unforgettable character. Over the “Terrible days” [days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur] he would appear at his relatives home who were our neighbors.

He was the seasonal “chazan” [cantor] who organized the singers and passing in front of the Holy Ark, in “minyans” arranged before the “Terrible days”.

However, before he finished his work as a “chazzan” and before standing before the Holy Ark, there were many rehearsals on sweltering summer nights at his relative's home or at our neighbor's home, at our home or the nearby Oks home. He depended on three people when he passed in front of the Holy Ark : Herszl Gliksman, Ichaak Oks and my father z”l. We, the young ones, who were towed behind our parents enjoyed these rehearsal evenings and on Shabbat and festivals. If I am blessed with a musical understanding and a love of Chassidic and Jewish music, these choral evenings under the loyal guidance of Reb Majerl contributed to this. He stands before me with his very short black beard and his hands and eyes conduct the singers and the choir, and his soul goes out to the songs and tunes that he brought to us then.

[Page 496]

Nachman Aron Gutman

by Isser Lavi

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

On the face of it he was a gentleman in our city, a wealthy man, the owner of coalmines, buildings and they say considerable property in Vienna – however, with this he was a precious Jewish soul. He had a national awareness and an open hand. His home was open to all comers and I as a small boy was one of them.
Jakob Frochtcwajg, one of the benefactors of the center, found a way to his heart and pocket, one day when I presented myself as one of the youths running the “Hashomer Hatzair” center. Thus the home of one of the greatest gentlemen of our city was opened. How can one enumerate all his public activities in our city? It was known that he donated to everything. To the K.K.L. and “Keren Hayesod” [National fund”], to the “League of a Working Eretz Israel”, to the “Tarbut” [“Culture”] organization and, of course, to the usual philanthropic organizations in the city of Dąbrowa.
He revealed himself, in all his glory, in his active assistance to the “Hashomer Hatzair” center. Before every winter season he made sure that firewood and coals was supplied to the center so that those that came would be kept warm. During the conference season, his donations grew for those in the center who weren't able to participate in these projects. He gave generously to every one of the movement projects. Every assistance reduced the oppression by the authorities against the center that was obtained by us. We honored him while he was still alive, however, his name will always remain with us as one of the movement benefactors who thanks to him, there are many living here with us in our country.

He, like so many others, died in the extermination camp.

Reb Chaim-Dawid Herszfeld

by Isser Lavi

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

He lived near our home and was involved a similar business to my father z”l. However, there was something else in common that we had: the love of playing music and song. A narrow street separated his and our home, window opposite window; on Saturdays, a time of heartfelt Jewish joy or on Sabbath evenings, when they came back from the “Bet Midrash” and the windows of the homes were open, melodies could be heard from both of the homes.

There was, as it were, a competition here and one voice would overcome the other, and it seemed as if the daily business competition continued here as well, but this wasn't the case and listening to the melodies and tunes, one had the feeling that there was a wholeness here, that an understanding had been formed and each one complimented the melody of his neighbor.

[Page 497]

People in Dąbrowa Górnicza

by Mordechai Gotlib (Jerusalem)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Josef Szywek

Josef Szywek's family from Lukasinskiego Street was a talented and dynamic family and their eyes saw what their hands accomplished. Josef Szywek was a prominent man, belonging to the Chassidim from Gur, a clever and bright man who had a handsome appearance, and was tall and broad shouldered. He was a great joker, and he had two girls and two boys.

Their home was a Zionist home – this was unusual for a Chassid from Gur not to come in the way of his sons Zionist activities. The Szywek family was always loyal to the Zionist dream without achieving it, only the son, Pinchas, managed to go and live in Israel.

I spent almost all of the week at the Szywek family home because I had become very friendly with his son Icchak. We carried out discussions and arguments in that house on different subjects and each discussion ended in singing and playing music. Ichaak played the piano and I played the violin.

All this family was destroyed by the murderers of our people. Pinchas, who was affectionately known as “Gingy” – became ill and passed away in Israel.

In Zermoski Street, in the Kopel Chasanowski building there was the bank for small workshop owners. This bank was established by the small workshop owners in Dąbrowa and over time developed and became an important bank. The bank manager was Grinbaum who was the brother of Emil Grinbaum. Grinbaum was clever and dynamic, he was a Zionist, not like Emil, and his Zionism was expressed in his purchasing of Zionist “shekalim” [membership fees for Zionist organizations]. He was also a community leader.


Szlomo Winer

He was a Zionist and a traditional Jew, a clever man and learned in court procedures, a leader in the kehila [Jewish community]. The Women's organization (“Froyen Farajn”) in Dąbrowa would invite him to run their annual general meetings.

He was a seeker of peace. When a dispute broke out between Rabbi Alter-Mosze Aron Lewi and the teacher, Reb Mosze Rapaport, before the Rosh Hashana [New Year] evening prayers, he demanded reconciliation from each of them.

He would lead the Kiddush [ceremonial blessing over wine] after the Maariv prayers, that became a tradition, and he also led the mitzvah of a boy taking the torah out of the Holy Ark. He was amongst the founders of the tradesmen union in the city.


Itsze Unger

He was involved in the marketing of clothing. He was an affluent man who honorably provided for his family. He was very popular. He was a Mizrachi member and amongst the founders of the Mizrachi school. He fought for years against the excessive orthodoxy in the school.

He revived the Hebrew language in the city and supported the Zionist youth movements and Hashomer Hatzair [“Young Guard”] in particular. He was an imposing figure, a natural actor, punctual, pedantic, honest and generous. His home was a Zionist home.

He had two daughters and a son, and from all the family only the daughter, Sara, survived and is in Israel.


Dawid-Ber Zygrajch

He was amongst the aristocrats of the city and one of its wealthy. He was a conscientious Zionist with a noble appearance. He had a beautiful home and his apartment was spacious and tastefully furnished. In his visitors' room there was a picture of Herzl hanging on which the words “A new light of Zion will shine” was engraved.

In his building there were two banks: the first, the “Lodowi Bank”, which was founded by Bernard Rechnic, Abram Najfeld, Minc and myself. The annual financial turnover reached considerable magnitudes, traders and shopkeepers received loans and returned them within a year. There was a generous relationship and understanding for a trader who had failed and was unable to pay money at regular intervals, and in such an event the loan payment day was extended. The second bank was “Kredytowi”, founded by Eliezer Tenenbaum and Itchl Sztorchajn. The bank developed within a short period. Rjwka Janowski (Barkai), who now lives in Israel, worked there and also Regina Zilbersztajn, as a teller (Regina survived and lives in Australia).

No one survived from Dawid-Ber Zygrajch's family.


The widow, Wajnryb

She was involved in the marketing of clothing. She was a religious and traditional woman. Her daughters did not stray from her path and her sons were Zionists. The Wajnryb family donated generously to the Zionist funds.

[Page 498]

Mrs. Wajnryb - dab498.jpg [25 KB]
Mrs. Wajnryb
a woman active in the philanthropic organizations

Her three daughters survived and managed to go and live in Israel, one son survived and lives overseas. Her granddaughter from her son, Dr. Efraim Wajnryb, Jadzia Klajn lives in Israel.


Gecel Sztorchajn

He was a Chassidic man and one of the greatest Chassidim from Radomsk. He dealt in marketing tobacco and cigarettes. Out of all his family only two daughters survive: Nesia, wife of Mordechai Narcys z”l who was manager of the “Betzalel” museum in Jerusalem, and Frida, wife of Ichaak Janowski-Narcys z”l.

The love of Israel burned like fire in the heart of Ichaak Narcys and he moved to the land of Israel in 1920. In so many ways he went through the pains of getting used to the conditions in Israel. He served as the secretary of the “Betzalel” school. His grandson is Uzi Narcys, the Regional Central Commander [of the Israeli army] and the liberator of the old city of Jerusalem. Two other grandsons live in Israel: Gadi and Raya.


Emanuel Waltfrajnd

He was a Chassid, from the Krimilow Chassidim. He dealt in wholesale fruits, and later stopped marketing fruit, opened a grocery store and made an honorable livelihood. He was a clever and astute Jew. He was staunchly active in public affairs. Of all his family two sons and one daughter survived and lives in Israel (in kibbutz) and another daughter in the USA.


Dr. Szmuel Mitelman

Dr. Mitelman, was a general practitioner with a wealthy practice. His father, the Feldscher [medic] was a public figure, helped his fellow man, he was a clerk in the Dąbrowa Górnicza city council. His brother, Edis Mitelman, was an engineer, who moved to Israel when he could have made a career for himself in the US. The desire to be in the land of Israel and amongst Jews led him to give up on many luxuries.

Dr. Emanuel Mitelman was not an “official” Zionist, but he was truly aware of everything happening in Israel and in the Zionist movements, in particular he greatly assisted the pioneers to go and live in Israel.

All his family was exterminated and he managed to survive Hitler's hoodlums and reached Israel with his wife, broken and exhausted. Both of them passed away in Israel. A daughter, who is an eye surgeon, survived them. His twin brother was killed in the Holocaust.


Berisz Lajtner

His home was large and the most beautiful in the city of Dąbrowa. He was amongst the city's well-to-do. He had a son and daughter.

His home was a kloiz [small synagogue] for Radomsk Chassidim. Every evening, after the evening prayer, boys whose curly locks were arranged behind their ears and with the beginnings of a beard, studied in this kloiz. Not only them, but fine young men who sat around the table and were financed by their fathers-in-law studied in the kloiz, likewise Chassidim studied in order to improve their understanding in Gemara. On the outset of the holy Sabbath, everyone would carry out the three meal mitzvah in the kloiz [small synagogue; house of study], accompanied by singing, music and dancing.


Mosze Herszkowicz

He belonged to the Krimlow Chassidim, he was a gentle person, polite, modest and learned. He had a fruit shop, had difficulty in making a livelihood and struggle for his existence.

He had two daughters. His wife, Sara-Chana, was the sister of Emanuel Waltfrajnd. All the Herskowicz family were killed in the Holocaust.


[Page 499]

Lipka Futerko

Despite the fact that he came from a wealthy and noble family, he was modest in his ways and behavior and he enjoyed discussions with every Jew. Zionism was not at all part of his outlook. He was a kehila [Jewish community] leader and also the gabbai [treasurer or honorary official of a Jewish Orthodox congregation] of the synagogue.

I would spent time in the home of Lipka Futerko z”l and enjoyed talking to him about various subjects. He was incredibly knowledgeable in Chassidic and rabbinical literature. His noble wife also participated in our discussions.


Jakob Dawid Nusbaum

He was involved in marketing timber. He was a Chassid, belonging to the Gur Chassidim. He and his sons were members of Agudat Yisrael. His younger son was a member of Poale Agudat Yisrael.

When his son visited me on one occasion, he requested on behalf of the Poale Agudat Yisrael members that I teach them Hebrew. I gladly agreed to their offer. They made good progress in learning the Hebrew language, so much so that they could listen to simple lectures on various subjects such as: About Yehuda HaLevi [Jewish philosopher and poet of the middle ages] and Even-Ezra, about the founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Ba'al-Shem-Tov, about Yehuda the Chassid, about the Gaon from Vilna, about Sadaya the Gaon, about the Bialik's HaMatmid [“The preserver”], about Ahad Ha'am's “Lo ze hadererch” [“That's not the way”], about the political parties in Israel about the Jewish street and the Zionist movement.

My labor was not wasted: over time most of them transferred to Tzirei Mizrachi [“Young Mizrachi”]. One daughter by the name of Frumka survived, who was wife of the Rabbi from Skala, and she lives in Paris.


Reb Chanoch Londner

He was Lea Zygrajch's brother. He belonged to the Chassidim from Gur. He was a bright student and a scholar, who could recite Torah. He was involved in the wholesale flour business with partners, however, because of a misunderstanding the partnership was disbanded and he lost all his assets. His livelihood was made from a grocery store and his wife Idel z”l carried the burden.

He did not travel frequently to Gur, but the personage of Rabbi Juda-Lajb Alter ztz”l, “master of the truth”, always stood by him. After the rabbi passed away, he gave his son the name “Lajbl” (thus it was reported by one of the family).

He stayed at home, busy in his Torah studies with an inner belief that this is the duty of the Jewish man in this world. In the Bet Midrash he did not dit near to the eastern wall, he was always hidden in a corner, covered by a talit [prayer shawl] and occupied in talking with the Almighty. He was amongst the last to finish praying. On Sabbath evenings he saw an obligation to dine with “visitors”, and would stand at the entrance of the Bet Midrash and with a wide smile he would invite people home without asking their numbers. He carefully kept the Sabbath and saw this as one of the greatest mitzvoth More than once he endangered his livelihood because of this. On Friday, before the Sabbath had started, and his shop full and packed with buyers – he would begin forcefully pushing them out. Those amongst the customers that knew him forgave him, and others grumbled and complained.

Reb Chanoch Londner - dab499.jpg [22 KB]
Reb Chanoch Londner
one of the outstanding Gur Chassidim for whom
the Torah was the guiding light till his last day

He acted severely in his home regarding the maintaining of mitzvoth and the holiness of the Torah, however, towards the general public he was more tolerant. He would say: A Jew – even though he may sin – is still a Jew. In a place where there are sinners, completely righteous men cannot stand, and hence we have no moral right to preach morals.

Reb Chanoch was exemplary in his integrity and his honesty to his fellow man. He modestly studied the Torah every day and at nights he would carry out a Chatzot [midnight service]. In the courtyard of his home, which was teeming with Jewish families, they knew this very well. He read a great deal and delved deeply until he understood the truths in the Halacha [legal part of Jewish traditional literature]. The system of learning Halacha in which Reb Chanoch studied Torah, involved a basic inspection in the Talmud problem, and added meanings into the commentaries and chapters and would not rest till he was satisfied.

[Page 500]

He was liked and respected by everyone; he was a gentle soul and great in matters of maternal respect. He did not follow those would cause dispute amongst the Jews and ruin everything good. He opposed the Zionist movement though related with understanding to his son Ruwen, who belonged to the Zionist movement and was very active in it. He allowed him to acquire a general education.

In his last years he suffered greatly from asthma, and worried about his home in which there were still three unmarried daughters, and for his sons that, heaven forbid, should they stray. On his deathbed, he called to his son Juda, in the presence of Reb Szlomo Rozenberg z”l and other Jews, put out his hand and asked him to promise that he would not abandon Judaism and tradition. The promise was given and I believed that Juda would keep his father's command and would carry it out to his last day.

He passed away before the Holocaust. His wife Idel z”l, who remained broken and alone after his demise, had to take on the burden of making a livelihood. She was killed in the Holocaust with her daughter, Bella, and Szymon Wajngarten and their children. Chava Londner and her son Juda survive in Israel. Ruwen survived from the Nazi claws, and remains dispirited in Canada.


Abram Najfeld

He dealt in the wholesale marketing of grains and wheat with two other brothers, Jonatan and Efraim, under the company name: “Najfeld Brothers”, a name which was famous and renown in Zaglembie. He was a popular man, who greatly supported the founding of a Jewish sports union and mutual assistance organizations. He had a national awareness, though he did not officially belong to the Zionist Histadrut. Since he was a wholesale dealer he treated the small traders with patience when they found it difficult to meet their payments.

Before the Holocaust, he entered into public activities. He tried climbing up the community leadership scale. He founded a “National Bloc” and appeared as the head of the party for the elections. In the bloc there were Zionists, Mizrachi members, and just Jews – tailors, cobblers, wagoners, porters and other craftsmen. He won a great victory and was elected as the head of the Jewish community in Dąbrowa. There were those that said that the secret of his tremendous victory were due to the feast and banquet that he held around a month before the elections for the ordinary people, and for the worshippers after Sabbath prayers.

To his credit it can be said that he heeded every need. He had connections with Polish clerks in the city council and endeavored to lighten the many burdens that were imposed upon the Jews of Dąbrowa.

He and his family were killed by the enemy of our people.


Reb Moszele Ajzenman

He belonged to the Chassidim from Gur. He was the spiritual leader of Agudat Yisrael in Dąbrowa and was a member of the kehila [Jewish community council] on behalf of his party. Apart from his greatness in the Torah, Reb Moszele was clever and an expert in worldly events, and was not restricted to matters of Halacha [Jewish law], but dealt widely in public and political activities.

We argued a great deal in the kehila of Dąbrowa. He was a difficult and stubborn opponent, he was a gifted speaker and had a deal of convincing power, and represented his party with great talent. After stormy debates, on the usual subjects, of course, we left every meeting, arm in arm, as loyal friends honoring each other, and we carried out friendly discussions till we reached our homes. We both lived in Poprzeczna Street.

All his family was killed in the Holocaust.


Reb Nachman Gutman

He was a spiritual man, connected to Jewish and Zionist values. In spite of the fact that he dealt largely with matters out of the Jewish realm, mainly related to the large capital involved in coal mines (he supplied materials to the mines) – he did not forget his origins. On Sabbaths he would wear his traditional Jewish clothing and pray together with the people of Reden in the same Bet Midrash. He donated to all the philanthropic societies, generously supported the national funds, and officially belonged to the Zionist Histadrut.

He held a particular fondness for the Hashomer Hatzair [“Young Guard”] movement, supported them financially and also morally, in the face of the authorities, he served as their patron.

His son-in-law, Dr. Nisblat, was the biographer of our great leader, the founder of the Zionist “Histradrut”, Dr. Theodor Zev Herzl z”l.

He was killed together with the Jewish community of Dąbrowa.

May his memory be blessed.

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