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[Page 534]

Jews that I knew {Cont.}

Jakob Sternik

Jakob Sternik was, from several aspects, an uncommon character in Dabrowa. Most of the town's residents were new, who had come to this new “place with a livelihood” that they had learned about, coming from the surrounding region, a few of them coming from afar. This wasn't the case of Jakob Sternik – he wasn't a Polish Jew at all. He was born in Proskurov [now Khmelnytskyi] in the Ukraine.

At the beginning of this century [20th] there was a large influx of Jews from the Russian “Pale of Settlement” to Poland and they went not only to the large Polish cities, but also to the provincial towns. Jakob Sternik and his wife Katja (from a rabbinical family: Babad – Bet Av Bet Din) Belaya Tserkov [now Bila Tserkva] in the Ukraine, on completing their studies at the dentistry school in Warsaw, they settled in Dabrowa a few years before the outbreak of World War I.

Jakob Sternik, in addition to being an excellent dentists and acquired a wide and respectable clientele, amongst the Jews and non-Jews alike, he knew how to make himself liked by others. Even though within his personality there were many contradictions, he aroused about himself a feeling of respect and trust.

On one hand he was a Jew from the Pale who was drawn, like every Jewish intellectual from the same period to the non-Jewish world – to the assimilation side, and on the other hand he leaned towards Jewish Socialism of the “Bund” model.

The settlement in the town that was Jewish Chassidic on one hand and Zionistic on the other hand, had a great influence on Jakob Sternik, and added contradictions to his own contradictions. It is difficult to say that he was a socialist at all, or a socialist of the “Bund” type in particular, though certainly he was a liberal of the 19th century Russian type. However, together with this it was difficult to be swept up and not just a little, by the light that flickered from distant Zion.

His friends, who visited his home and he theirs, and those he had become friendly with, were complete Zionists, or partial, a third or a quarter, like Szlomo Halperin and Israel Zilberszac, Dawid Ber Zigrajch and his partner Joszua Manela. Very gradually Jakob Sternik became a donor to the “Keren Hayesod” [Jewish Foundation fund]. And whilst he became closer to the Jewish people, to its problems and to Zion, a rift flared up in his home. His wife, though she was not a communist but a Bundist, in any case she was drawn by her children. And her children – all six, including Emanuel who made aliyah and came back – were ardent communists. Jakob Sternik was torn between his weak Zionism, that he held in his heart, and the socialism-communism of his wife and children. The Polish Secret Police, noticed what was happening in Jakob Sternik's home, and saw him not just as any communist, but the Communist with a capital “C” of the whole area, as it were, and at each opportunity they would arrest him, or at least carry out a search in his home. Once in the year 1923, during a state crisis, he was arrested and sent for a certain period of time to various prisons outside the town.

Jakob Sternik died in his middle age, from a serious illness, many years before the outbreak of World War II. His wife and children later moved to Warsaw, and there they carried out their communist activity. During the Holocaust his wife was killed, as was his son Sasha and daughter Tamar. The rest of the children: Lulek, Dina, Wolf (Kot) and Emanuel (Malo) survived in Russia and after the war returned to Poland. In the Polish Communist regime they had important positions up until the “Jewish crisis” following the Six Day War. What happened to them after this is unknown.

[Page 535]

Jakob Szalom Fiszel

Jakob Szalom Fiszel was a man of the “first layer” of the Jewish settlement in Reden. He was a perfect example of uprightness, spiritually whole, fulfilled with the world and fulfilled with himself. Two things were completely distant from him: anger and the twisted ways of the traders. He never saw himself as someone who would leave his serious-reticent self. And there wasn't a man, amongst his allies and those that weren't, who he would dare to say that Jakob Szalom Fiszel didn't behave correctly with him.

As mentioned, he was one of the first in the suburb and he opened a store for building materials (steel products and paints) and was the first in the whole region, and for decades remained unique. Jews and non-Jews from the region had a single address when they needed steel products or paint: Jakob Szalom Fiszel's store. Everyone related to him with complete trust, and this, undoubtedly, is the way it remains in the memories of all his friends and acquaintances.

Jakob Szalom Fiszel was naturally closed and introverted, although as his business developed and the development was immediate and he was a wealthy man, the expansion of his business and his wealth were not outwardly seen and likewise in his home. Everything was in a modest style from an “internal honor” aspect.

He wasn't involved with great scholars, discussing Halacha [Jewish law] and Agada [rabbinical literature]. He was a naive and simple man, pious and philanthropic. Although by nature he wasn't a businessman, he didn't avoid any charitable deed, funded by him and carried out by him.

This is a story about a Jew who fell sick during the Shabbat. Early in the morning, when Jakob Szalom was summoned urgently to the sick person, since his whole life he was dedicated to “Bikur Holim” [“Visiting the Sick” organization], he ordered that the doctor be brought immediately, and until the doctor came he lit a fire, in order to serve the sick person a hot drink, since the believed that this was a type of “pikuach nefesh” [an activity which can save an endangered life is allowed on Shabbat].

Jakob Szalom Fiszel's name preceded him as an expert at “removing the evil eye”. When anyone felt something in a part of his body, or anyone was unwell, immediately one of his family, mainly one of the females in the family, would get up early to go to Jakob Szalom Fiszel's doorstep, so that he would “remove the evil eye”. And Jakob Szalom would not hold back the good from it's owners. He would enter the room, say what was needed, and would bring complete recovery to the ill of Reden.

His “expertise” didn't prevent him from ridiculing the superstition, his “expertise” of “removing the evil eye”. However his ridicule of the superstitions of the naïve Jews of the region didn't originate from him, rather from his son-in law Szlomo Halperin, a modern man, the husband of his only daughter, Rjwka-Lea.

Jakob Szalom's love of Zion came from him. Naturally, he was a loyal Jew, not only regarding every point in the “Shulchan Aruch” [code of Jewish laws], but regarding every Jewish custom, and of course he never forgot to pray the “mincha” [evening] prayer; though in spite of this he wasn't one of the orthodox, haters of Zion. On the contrary, influenced by his son-in-law Szlomo, He favorably regarded all the Jewish youth who placed Zion at the center of their lives. The new age knocked on the door of this naïve Jew's home in the form of his son-in-law, whose father-in-law loved him deeply and greatly respected him.

Jakob Szalom and Malka Tajbl, his wife, experienced the most ideal partnership that a person could imagine for himself. Not only did they live for decades together, they never reached a situation when one of them would raise a voice against the other, rather they couldn't imagine that he or she should not lovingly receive the words of their partner.

[Page 536]

Jekale Rozen

Jakob Rozen or “Jekale” as he was affectionately known, was the second son-in-law of Lajb Frochcwajg. Reb Lajb behaved like he did to his first son-in-law - Ruwen Grosfeld. That is to say, he provided a large dowry in order to secure a highborn, learned man. Jekale was the son of a Chassid – an Alexander Chassid – Moszele Rozen from Zawierce, a modest and pious man. After his marriage Jekale began selling tobacco products, and dealt in this trade most of his life.

Everyone that came in contact with him would be overwhelmed by this handsome, good-looking man. However it wasn't his good looks that drew attention to him, rather his cleanliness. It was an unforgettable cleanliness, almost unnatural amongst the Jewish townspeople and it is superfluous to say that this level of cleanliness wasn't customary amongst the “common” people in the small suburb of the town. Jekale was a Chassid and a pious man. Whose piousness came before his intellect, he was a sharp contrast not only to his surroundings, but also to himself. More than once the passing thought arose: What does a Jewish Chassid have with this exorbitant cleanliness?

Jekale who was a Chassid, was not a natural trader whose whole essence was in trade and money. He was more a man of the Bet Midrash, the Book [Torah], prayer and Chassidism. However as a troubled Jew he couldn't devote himself to what his heart yearned – life had its own demands. There were nine children born to him and his wife Pesla, nee Frochcwajg, and there was a need to educate them, clothe them, provide them with shoes and support them. As long as his wife was alive, she being a capable woman in trade and looking after the home, quietly managed everything. When his wife passed away at an early age (44) all the children still sat at their father's table and with the death of the mother a great change occurred in the life of the family. Very slowly, Jekale began losing his assets, and very slowly, particularly towards his old age, he became more and more of a Bet Midrash person.

Nevertheless, influenced by his eldest daughter, Lea, who was an ardent Zionist from her early youth, Jekale sent two of his sons to the Land of Israel. Icchak made aliyah as a pioneer in 1919, and Ruwen lived in Israel for a certain period of time.

After the death of his wife Pesla he married his second partner – Golda nee Warszawski from Czestochowa. Yakele honored his second wife and lived with her in love and companionship, in the way he had lived with his first wife.

There were nine children born to him during the first marriage: Lea, Jechiel, Icchak (went to Israel with the Third Aliyah), Ruwen, Rajzl, Rachel, Israel, Sara and Tamar. Five of them were killed in the Holocaust. Of those that survived, three (Ruwen, Rajzl and Israel) are living in Baltimore in the USA.

dab536.jpg [12 KB] - Jakob Rozen
Jakob Rozen z”l
A businessman and an Alexander Chassid

There were three children born form the second marriage, two of them, Mosze and Josef immigrated to the USA after the war. The only daughter from this marriage, Bluma, lives in Israel. She is married to Jechezkiel Ben-Zew (from the descendants of Admorim [Chassidic rabbis] and the grandson of Rabbi Abram Gancwajg, a Rabad [Rabbinical Judge] and Admor in Zawierce), a State Attorney assistant.

Jekale Rozen was killed in the Holocaust. He went with all of the community to Auschwitz in Elul 5702 [August 1942].

[Page 537]

Jakob Sliwka Salwi

Jakob Sliwka Salwi was a very rare personality amongst the Jews of Poland. These didn't place particular emphasis on exterior matters. The sensitivity to neatness and punctuality was very distant from the typical Jew in Poland. Jakob Sliwka was this exception. He was an immaculately ordered person and an exorbitantly punctual man. And this is the way he behaved in his private life: in his attire, in his work, in his accounts and everything that he had – thus he behaved in his public life: in his public Zionist activities.

dab537a.jpg [20 KB] - Jakob Sliwka Salwi
Jakob Sliwka Salwi z”l
a Zionist, directed others to Zionism

He was a totally upright character, enjoyed manual labor, a man who only spoke what his heart felt, a man who does not compromise with the truth and his conscience.

He was a Zionist from his early youth – one of the first sons of Dabrowa to catch on to the idea, to love it and act on it. Apparently he had a general tendency towards public activity, since even during World War I, as a young boy, when the financial situation of the Jewish population in the Reden suburb was difficult, Jakob Sliwka would go from home to home, collect money and hand them out modestly, secretively, amongst the needy.

He had a tendency towards culture and arts, and even played the violin, and on the outset of Shabbat, his neighbors had an opportunity to enjoy his violin playing.

Jakob Sliwka made aliyah twice: once after he finished his service in the Polish Army (was released as a lance-corporal), though he didn't manage to integrate at the time because of restrictions imposed by the English; and a second time – in 1925, and from that time on till the day he died, he never left the country.

After he came back from Israel he managed to find some good work. Since he was a clerk, an excellent accountant and pedantic, he managed J. Strogowski's office, and reached an excellent financial status according to the concepts in the Polish township of the time. However, he was unable to compromise with life in the Diaspora; for several years he wandered about Dabrowa before he made aliyah for the second time.

During all his years in Poland, in Dabrowa, he was an extremely active in Zionist activity, particularly in the “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael” [Jewish National Fund]. For many years he was the delegate of this fund in the town, and under his leadership the town achieved a high level of fund raising for the “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael” – was the main Zionist activity in Poland in general, and in particular in the small town.

dab537b.jpg [20 KB] - Jakob Sliwka and his mother Frymetl
Jakob Sliwka
and his mother Frymetl z”l

His absorption in Israel was accompanied by various difficulties, as it was for the immigrants during the same period – the Fourth Aliyah period.

[Page 538]

However, it didn't continue that way. He moved to Haifa and moved between various places with his profession: a steel products store, the “HaPoalim” [Workers] Bank, and in “Karat”. In each place that he worked in he achieved great respect and had significant success. He was very well respected because his like of orderliness, because of his preciseness and because of his natural organizational talent. Everyone knew: Jakob Sliwka was one of the few people that can be given money without counting it, and there is no shade of doubt that nothing would be missing from it.

He managed to see the rebirth of Israel and died with his good name. He was survived by a son and daughter.

Gecel Sztorchajn

Gecel Sztorchajn was a prominent man in Dabrowa. He was a wealthy man, a building owner in the center of town and had a thriving store. He had eleven children, most of them settling in Dabrowa, ran businesses and they were amongst the prominent people of the town.

In spite of the fact that outwardly Gecel Sztorchajn was a man that was successful in everything he did, one could doubt that he was a happy man. He was amongst the most orthodox and extremist Jews in the town, and everything to do with “enlightenment” [refers to cultural enlightenment movement in Poland] and in particular Zionism, was an abomination to him.

And then new spirits flared up, of “enlightenment” and Zionism in his home, and with intensity. The first flare up in the Sztorchajn home occurred when his successful daughter Chana became a Zionist, and not just an ordinary Zionist, but one of those ardent Zionist characters. And the pain that the successful daughter brought to her extremely orthodox father grew a further step. Chana fell in love with a relative Bercze Janowski, the Zionist with a capital Z in Dabrowa at that period of time, who not only had very little from his family, but also he showed no interest in commercial life. On the contrary, he had like most of the Zionists of the period, nausea from a life of trade and commerce. This fact alone was to make Gecel Sztorchajn miserable, and to further the “disasters”, Bercze was a Hebrew and Hebrew literature teacher – a complete “heretic” in the father's terms.

After the first flare up, the way to further “disasters” seemed to be paved. Not one of Gecel Sztorchajn's sons and daughters – apart from his son-in-law Szlomo Jechiel Rabinowicz – continued in their father's footsteps, in the way of extreme orthodoxy. Even though they were traditionally observant Jews, they were very far away from their father's loathing of “enlightenment” and Zionism. They were “contaminated” by composed modernism.

Gecel Sztorchajn's two youngest daughters Nesia and Frida were “given the mission” of intensifying the flare up. These didn't relent to their father in his war on Zionism, and rose up and carried out a deed that undoubtedly caused a great deal of sorrow to their father: They became pioneers, left their wealthy father's home and made aliyah to the land of Israel.

Gecel Sztorchajn, who without a doubt was a religious man with all his heart and was far from hypocritical, being confident that his way was the way of truth, of Judaism, the way G-d had ordered him to live by, he didn't easily accept the tragedy that his daughters had bestowed upon him and he suffered greatly from the “evil deeds” that his two daughters had carried out.

Nesia and Frida settled well in Israel, although they underwent a difficult period of absorption. Frida married Bercze's brother, Icchak Janowski, the son of Mordechai-Lajbicz, who also changed his family name to Narkis. His son was General Uzi Narkis, who became well-known not only in the Jewish state but in all the Jewish and non-Jewish world.

Nesia married Mordechai Potasz, who is Mordechai Narkis, who over time became the manager of “Betzalel” [art academy in Jerusalem].

Gecel Sztorchajn and his wife passed away before World War II broke out. His children and grandchildren were all killed in the Holocaust. Only two daughters of the Sztorchajn family survived, Nesia and Frida and the son of Bercze and Chana, whose parents sent him to Israel with a desire and hope that they would make aliyah after him, however their hope remained unfulfilled.

The grandson of Gecel Sztorchajn also survived, the son of Szlomo Jechiel Rabinowicz (in Jerusalem) and a granddaughter (Herszl's daughter) in Nancy, France.

[Page 539]

Josef Salwi (Sliwka)

by Baruch Prawer (Kfar Saba)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

At the beginning of 1911, Kfar Saba was filled with almond orchards. Only one family lived there. The workers and foremen would leave on Friday afternoon and go to Petach Tikwa to spend the Shabbat there. At the end of Shabbat they would return in order be ready for work the following day. There wasn't a Jewish settlement between Petach Tikwa, the region was barren.

In Petach Tikwa, there was a worker's hostel belonging to Szabtai Rabinowicz z”l in which workers and new immigrants lived. I happened to visit this hostel when I came to Petach Tikwa, and was surprised to see Josef Sliwka who had recently arrived from Dabrowa Gornicza. My joy was abounded. We immediately became friendly and started looking for a room to live together in. I saw him as a good friend, serious, impassioned to the Hebrew language and a member of the “Hapoel Hatzair” [Young Worker] party.

We found a small room in which we could barely arrange two beds that we had built ourselves. Making beds was fashionable in those days: oil cans and wooden boards and sacks full of straw instead of mattresses (during the Second Aliyah period the Jewish workers didn't make use any sort of furniture). We decided to stay and work in Petach Tikwa, and we worked together in the orchard of Jakob Kajl z”l, one of the single orchard owners that was in favor of Jewish work only.

He was involved in the worker's public life in Petach Tikwa, mainly in the “Hapoel Hatzair” branch. He participated in meetings that took place Ein Ganim. He wasn't a man of many words, didn't take part in arguments, but his very presence in the meetings proved that he wasn't detached from the problems that penetrated our worldly realm, he paid alert attention to them. He dedicated his free time to reading and playing a guitar that he'd brought from home. If I'm not mistaken, there were only two workers in Petach Tikwa that knew how to play music. They didn't appear publicly, only to a limited circle of people. I, as his neighbor, greatly enjoyed his playing music in our room. His playing was full of feeling and I knew that an artist was playing the strings.

With him being a sensitive and inspired person, he did not neglect working with a hoe in the orchard, and was regarded as one of the best orchard workers. They would say: Sliwka has two musical instruments: the hoe in the orchard and the guitar in his room.

We lived together as brothers for only six months, since in the spring of 1911 [5671] I had a serious work accident, and was taken to the Rothschild Hospital in Jerusalem. I didn't go back to the same room. This event had a great affect on him, and his participation in my sorrow was boundless. He decided to leave Petach Tikwa.

Franz Oppenheimer, the famous Zionist economist from Germany, suggested building up agriculture in Israel, which was in its early development, on the basis of cooperatives with the aim of organizing the future economy on the principal of the workers owning the means of production, consumption and supply.

dab539.jpg [15 KB] - Josef Salwi (Sliwka)
Josef Salwi (Sliwka) from the Second Aliyah.
One of the founders of Nahalal
[the first workers' settlement in Erez Israel]

The first experiment was the founding of a cooperative in Merhavia in the Jezreel Valley. Josef Salwi, learning about the establishment of the cooperative grew excited about the idea and joined it. He soon became popular amongst its members, and specialized in the growing of vegetables and led the workers of this branch. He persevered in this work with dedication and great knowledge. (During World War I a unit of the Germany Army was positioned close to Merhavia, and it bought all the unit's supplies of vegetables from there).

Josef, whilst he was liked and popular on the members of the cooperative in Merhavia, continued to be modest and reticent.

[Page 540]

He didn't abandon his music playing, he initiated and organized a stringed instrument group, and member Soszanna Blajbsztajn-Sela was the pianist. Several members who knew how to play participated in this group, and would on occasion present concerts for which not only members of the cooperative and visitors enjoyed, but also soldiers and officers from the German unit.

With the end of World War I the financial situation deteriorated in the cooperative, and Josef roamed to other work places.

At the end of 1919 he learnt that I was going to visit my family in Sosnowiec. He passed on the address of his mother in Dabrowa in order to pass on details of his life during the war years, since there hadn't been written correspondence during that period. Obviously I invited his mother to my family's home and she was very glad to hear the particulars that I told her about. Later, he also traveled to Poland and brought his mother to Israel.

Whilst in the cooperative in Merhavia he absorbed the doctrine of cooperation and mutual assistance, and also wide experience in agriculture. When the first cooperative moshav was founded, Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley, he was one of the first to join and founded an exceptional farm. He educated his children and loved the village life. He suffered greatly in his last years when working in his farm was taken away from him, and because of health problems he was forced to work as the manager of the “Kupat Holim” [Health fund”] branch in the Nahalal moshav.

The former Dabrowa survivors of the Holocaust, in Israel and overseas, could be proud of the son of their town Josef z”l, who was the first pioneer in Israel, amongst the implementers of Jewish labor, till his last days, he stayed close to his village, Nahalal.

A Nahalal member talks about Josef z”l

I only knew Josef Salwi by name, that he was a member of Merhavia and a well known expert in the growing of vegetables. During the World War I period he served as the manager of Merhavia, and he had good connections with the German Army headquarters because he was renown in agriculture. Also in our area – Nahalal – he was a well-known expert and admired as a vegetable grower. More than once people in the settlement made use of his status for the sake of local affairs.

My first meeting with him was in Merhavia. We met up regarding the organization of the first moshav. The center of the organization was then located in Mikve Yisrael. Members of the organization learned that the Joszua Hankin was about to make the first purchase of land in the Jezreel Valley. At the time A. Yofe, Elimelich Lewin and others also worked in Mikve Yisrael.

Because of the situation and the lack of workers, work was given to the Arabs living near the swamps, and the Jews were required to provide an expert to supervise their work.

dab540.jpg [25 KB] - Josef Salwi Sliwka with his son
Josef Salwi Sliwka with his son
long may he live, during a restful moment (in Israel)

To carry out this work a worker who knew out to provide leadership was required. Everyone recommended Josef Salwi as a suitable and talented person for this position. After a short discussion, he agreed to take on this position.

On returning from these discussions I stopped next to a shed from which Arabic music emanated. I was surprised to hear and see Josef playing the mandolin. A thought went through my mind that there was a musician in our group and I was very pleased. Next day armed with stick, we rolled up our trousers and went down to the Ein Harod spring, where Josef showed me the beautiful planted rows and the vegetable seedlings. I was very impressed and saw that his talent with a hoe was not less than that with a mandolin. Josef was impressed with the possibilities of the area and heartily recommended that this area be selected for a place to settle.

After this meeting I recognized him as a man capable of establishing a farm, and would be helpful in implementing the idea of a moshav. Thus he became one of the best agriculturists and a loyal member of Moshav Nahalal.

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