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[Page 541]


by Mordechai Gotlib (Jerusalem)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Rabbi Elijahu-Nisan Wajsler, z”l

Reb Elijahu served as a teacher in Dabrowa (in Reden) up until 1916. He was known by the name as the “genius from Gernic”. He served as a rabbi in Czestochowa, where he taught many students. He was regarded as an adjudicating authority, and could ordinate rabbis. He was described as a famous “gaon” [genius] who knew how to moderate on questions of Jewish law. He was strong-minded and never favored anyone, and together with this excelled in his love of Israel and was widely popular. He was famous for his expertise and wisdom and was an excellent expositor of integrity.

His son, Reb Mosze Wajsler is alive, and is the owner of the “Shoshana” ladder, factory and a distinguished resident of Bnei-Brak [in Israel]. A gentle soul with a generous heart, who continued in the footsteps of his father z”l and the ways of his father-in-law, the “gaon”, a great Torah scholar, Reb Abram-Isachar Gotlib, may the Lord revenge his blood, that even in his youth was regarded as the genius from Wolbrom and his innovations were printed in Torah journals and also in the book “Shvilei Cohen” of the rabbi from Radomsk. Reb Abram-Isachar Gotlib was made head of the “Keter Torah” [Crown of the Torah] yeshiva and its principal in Wolbrom. Around 100 students studied in the yeshiva. Reb Abram-Isachar Gotlib was very successful in his position, and was later sent to serve in the same position, as the head of the “Keter Torah” yeshiva in Czestochowa.

Reb Abram-Isachar Gotlib z”l, was regarded as great Torah scholar, one of the great Torah teachers and geniuses. He published Torah innovations in Torah journals that appeared in Poland, and Rabbi Sztokhamer, and Rabbi Reb Alter Mosze Aron Lewi from Dabrowa would visit him frequently.

Reb Elijahu-Nisan and the members of his family, were miraculously saved from Hitler's claws, and managed to make “aliya” [emigration] to Israel. In Israel he worked as a “mashgiach” [kosher supervisor] on behalf of the chief rabbinate. He died at an old age, thirty years ago, in Bnei-Brak.

Zew Fajner, z”l (Wowe)

Zew Fajner, and as he was known in Dabrowa – Wowe, was broad shouldered and short. His eyes displayed innocence and simplicity. He would rise early to do the Lord's work, and whilst the silence of night still reigned over the land, he was one of the synagogue worshippers – his father-in-law was the “gabbai” [beadle] there – and was an active member of the “Magidi Tehilim” [Psalm worshipers] society.

He was an interesting character and there was none like him. Reb Wowe was an inseparable part of Dabrowa Jewry. Even though he didn't know how to read or write, he was the only liaison between the Dabrowa city council and the Jewish population. He registered births and found assistance for the needy. He arranged birth certificates and certificates for weddings and likewise, was the head of the “Chevrat Kaddisha” [burial society] in Dabrowa and in this position – a rather unpleasant position – he went to visit the sick who were dying, in order to immortalize the prayers said when they breathed their last breath. It was told that he avoided visiting ordinary sick, in order not to frighten them by his visit.

He knew and remembered everything by heart. On arriving at the Dabrowa city council he would approach the book shelf and extract the appropriate ledger, serve it to the clerk and point to the place where the required name appeared. The council clerks respected him very much and admired him greatly. His relationship with the council clerks and the police was excellent and he took great advantage of this for the benefit of the Jewish population in Dabrowa, and always knew how to plan his deeds with remarkable wisdom. On Sabbath evenings and festivals he would invite the council clerks and the policemen to his home for stuffed fish (gefillte fish). The stuffed fish were very favored by the gentiles and in between eating the fish and drinking beer, he would discuss everyday matters and the result: all the reports and protocols against the Jews were cancelled and the Jews breathed a sigh of relief.

Zew Fajner died before the Holocaust that befell his people. May his memory be blessed.

[Page 542]

Eliezer Tenenbaum z”l

From the time of his youth he was captivated by Zionist activity, and movement matters. The whole essence of his soul was dedicated and he was amongst the Zionist movement activists in Dabrowa. He was head of the Zionist Histadrut [union] in the town. He represented the movement wherever he was, with honor. He was a very meticulous person, and was always exacting about the substance as well as the format.

The principles by which he behaved did not contain any contradictions between his words and deeds. He was the founder of the “Kredytowy” bank and served as its manager. Even though he wasn't healthy he wasn't deterred from any activity or effort, and after work he would devote many hours to reading, meetings and assemblies. He was also a social person, who would not miss out on social events.

His imposing appearance in the Jewish community on behalf of the Zionist Histadrut [union] was accompanied by enthusiasm and profound moral exuberance, and also those that opposed the Zionist movement treated him with great respect.

Reb Szlomo Halperin z”l

He was an educated Jew, scholarly and an exalted academic, and was one of the exemplary and interesting personalities that Dabrowa was blessed with. He displayed a deep understanding and a wide knowledge in the Bible and the Talmud, and was exceptionally expert in our ancient Chassidic literature, in books from the Middle Ages, in Chassidic and rabbinical literature, in new classic Hebrew literature and foreign literature. His friends always recalled Szlomo Halperin as reticent, who in his early youth had surprised his teachers and his friends with his sharp wit, his ability to debate “Halacha” [Jewish law], and everyone foresaw a rosy future for him in the field of Torah and studies. However, young Szlomo was caught up by the Zionist movement, and for education, he chose a way different than that designated by his father, teachers and friends.

He excelled in Torah and was reverent. As a moderate and person of compromise, Halperin always strove to reveal the best and most pleasant aspects of a person. He loved truth and peace and kept away from quarrel and contention. He was reserved by nature, humble and shy, however he was a intrepid warrior against any injustice, falseness and distortion in society.

Every conversation with him enriched those around him in his additional knowledge in various fields. He was a symbol of honesty and superior morals. He was an understanding and discrete man, with both generosity and pedantry as one. He was a sort of wonderful combination of opposites.

He was killed in the Holocaust together with the Jews of Dabrowa.

Dawid Kozuch z”l

He was good friend and an easy going person, with a good heart, imbibed with Jewish culture, dedicated and loyal and popular with all his friends. Everyone paid attention to his convincing words and placed great importance to his opinions. He excelled in worldly wisdom, great exuberance and a smile that never left his face. He was connected heart and soul to the Zionist concept, and excelled in his great organizational skills and was the secretary of the Zionist Histadrut [union] in Dabrowa. He was engrossed in good reading and acquired wide knowledge in world events, and as a Jewish intellect, who was equipped with a large cultural background, he could converse at length on Jewish wisdom, about Greek philosophy, about the Rambam and Jehuda Halevi and about Appleton and Socrates, about the bookseller Mendele, about Shalom Aleichem and about Alexander Dioma and Mark Twain, about religion and “Kabbalah” and about poetry and prophecy, about popular Chassidic music and modern music, about painting and art and about cinema and theater.

He was had much to offer, and would frequently publish interesting articles in the “Zaglembier Zeitung” [Zaglembian daily].

[Page 543]

Lea Zygrajch z”l

Lea Zygrajch was one of the founders of the Women's Organization (Froyen Fareyn). The purpose of the organization was to help the needy and assist the suffering. She was very active and encouraged others.

Lea Zygrajch - dab543.jpg [18 KB]
Lea Zygrajch
active in charity organizations

Lea Zygrajch was a gentle soul and good hearted, and faithfully and dedicatedly she dealt with public needs and performed immeasurable charity work. She always had an open hand for the poor, orphans and widows. The charitable and philanthropic work that she performed, with the nobility of the modest, she established a special style that was manifested not in giving money through obligation, but as a spiritual test of the highest order and for the beneficial feeling of the needy.

I will note one of her good deeds. Her neighbor fell ill with a very serious and chronic illness. The doctors told her husband that she needed complete rest, and he needed to rent a special room so that a nurse could take care of her – the family of five lived in a single room, and the husband who barely made a living was unable, in spite of his goodwill, to fulfill the doctors' orders. When Lea Zygrajch learned of this, she vacated one of the rooms in her apartment, brought two porters and transferred the sick neighbor to her apartment. Lea looked after her with ultimate dedication for a long period until she made full recovery.

Lea Zygrajch, may the Lord revenge her blood, was killed in the Holocaust together with the Jews of Zaglembie.

The home of Reb Lajbusz Zygrajch z”l

Reb Lajbusz Zygrajch dealt in wholesale glassware, pottery and porcelain. Eight families made an honorable and profitable livelihood, working in his store. Reb Lajbusz was a dynamic person, full of life, energy and initiative – he had a clever mind and the good heart of a warmhearted, good and sensitive Jew. His home was always open to the suffering and the tormented and all the needy always found a sympathetic ear. Reb Lajbusz was a Chasidic man and didn't leave the “shtibel” [small synagogue] on Sabbath evening till he found a “guest”, who would come home with him to dine by his table. How pleasant it was with all the members of the family by the Sabbath table. The Sabbath tablecloth, which was spread over the table, covered the worries and concerns very well, that were part and parcel of all the weekdays. In his industrious labor he had no limits on his work hours and only on Sabbath eve, he managed to sit together at the table filled with all sorts of good things. After saying [the prayer] “Shalom Aleichem lemalachei hasharet” [Welcome to the guardian angels], he blessed the wine and Reb Lajbusz sang Sabbath tunes, with all the members of the family singing with him and during the break – between eating fish and meat – this sons and daughters – who absorbed education and Zionism and excelled in their spiritual wealth and there pleasant behavior with their fellows – opened their mouths and sang some of the best Jewish melodies and carried out a discussion about Zionist Hebrew books and educational books on the “Love of Zion” of Mapu, about “Memories of the House of David” by Fridberg, about “The diligent one” by Bialik, about “That's not the way” by Ahad Ha'am, about “The sins of youth” by Lilienbaum, about “My horse” by Mendele and books by Frajberg, Smolenski, Gordon and others.

The spirit of the family arose, after not dreaming about it during the week and the arrival of the Shabbat was felt in the whole home and interweaved with a Zionist atmosphere that prevailed in the home, these were the most pleasant holy and spiritual moments in the life of this home.

[Page 544]

[One paragraph of this article was not translated because it is in difficult prose and doesn't add any relevant information – the translator]

He was one of the best Krimolow Chassidim and this was a custom of Reb Lajbusz Zygrajch from earliest times: On “Simchat Torah” [festival of the Torah], he would assemble all the Krimilow Chassidim in his home and generously serve them drinks and they would dance and be merry and their hearts were enhanced by wine and foods and various delicacies till the evening and then the dancing was renewed with greater vigor till they reached the “shtibel” and evening prayer and the “hakafot” [dancing around with the Torah scrolls], which ended with a great banquet in honor of the Torah.

Reb Lajbusz Zygrajch and all the members of his family were killed in the terrible Holocaust, may their memories be blessed.

The only ones to survive were his son Jakob remained alive, and he is a distinguished resident of Givatayim, and his granddaughter Tamar, who lives in the United States.

Mindl (Mindzia) Nusbaum, z”l

Mindl Nusbaum - dab544.jpg [15 KB]
Mindl Nusbaum
the Hebrew teacher in the “Mizrachi” school

She was a wonderful personality, affable, emanating wisdom and refined culture. She was the first woman in Dabrowa who spoke Hebrew clearly and correctly. She chose her profession by her talents – a Hebrew teacher. She greatly excelled in education and she was the best teacher in Zaglembie.

Through her open and friendly attitude she became a good friend to all those who made her acquaintance. Her forever smiling face and alert eyes filled with wisdom, served her loyally to her gentle and good heart, the heart of a good friend. From her early youth she excelled in the Zionist movement and never strayed from her belief in the dream of Jewish revival. She was a pioneer and made “aliya” [emigration to Israel] to the country to establish it and establish herself.

The sudden (and tragic) demise of Mindel Nusbaum greatly shocked the whole family, and stirred the emotions of all the Dabrowa émigrés in Israel. All those who knew and respected her in Dabrowa, particularly her friends in the movement, carry her memory of love and admiration in their hearts.

[Page 545]

Josel, the water drawer

by Lajbl Perkal

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

“Josel Wassertreger” – that's what he was called; we always saw him with heavy buckets – full of water – that he carried on the “noshidles” (yoke) on his shoulders.

I don't remember the color of his eyes or the shade of his hair, I only remember that he had a forelock that came down his forehead and almost reached his eyes. He never combed his hair and it seems that he never washed his face that was wrinkled from the wind, sun and cold.

People remembered him when they needed his services to haul water for them – and later they would forget him just like one would forget a worthless object.

In the morning he would appear in somebody's courtyard with his tools, the “noshidles”, standing and waiting till someone would call him from a window. In the evenings he would disappear completely – as if the earth had swallowed him up. We didn't know where he came from, where he was born or where he lived.

It seems that Josel was always hungry; when he received his “wages” – a plate of soup and a piece of bread, his eyes would look out for each crumb, that none, heaven forbid, should fall on the ground. He would push the bread into his mouth with his thick fingers, and some would always go in his pocket, as if he was worried that tomorrow he would be lacking.

He was apathetic to the events around him and he always had a secret fear in his heart. From whom? I don't know - was he frightened of the adults who didn't pay him sufficiently for his hard work, and also didn't show interest in his lonely and difficult life!? – Or from the children that always teased him in the street and the courtyards of the houses, throwing ash or small stones!? – Josel's brain could not fathom what they wanted from him, why were they torturing him and causing him strife; more than once he called out for mercy, wanted to cry and ran away from the mischievous tormentors.

We were children. We teased him, not because we hated him, but simply from childish wickedness – we used to shout at him “Josel Meshuga” [“Crazy Josel”] and sometimes we pointed at him and simply called: “Him” – and everyone knew who was being referred to.

Josel had no-one to turn to, no-one to complain to, and even no-one to hear his claims that he was being deprived, that he was being badly done by, or suffering injustice, as he was always “happy with his lot”. He had a deal of patience, and did not get angry with people and even not with the children that pestered him – he only let out his anger on the dogs that would incessantly bark at him, and more than once they caught his leg or his torn trousers.

One spring morning, two days before Pesach [Passover]: the room was still dark, but a little light filtered through the windows. A knock on the door awoke me from my sleep.

The water drawer - dab545.gif [20 KB]
The water drawer
Illustration from the works of I. L. Peretz
by the artist Josel Bergner

I climbed out of bed and went to the door. “Who's there?” I asked. “Eh, eh, Josel!” came a reply. I recognized the voice of Josel Wassertreger and I opened the door. Josel came in with a smile on his face, and instead of a good morning greeting he asked: “Water!?”. I told him yes and quickly went to slice him a piece of bread and after that he went on his way.

[Page 546]

I was very pleased that Josel had appeared that morning, and I told my brother, little Mojszele, who slept with me in the kitchen: “You know Mojszele, that Josele is one of those exceptional individuals, there aren't many like him, he remembered that tomorrow evening the holiday begins and we need plenty of water; he didn't wait till I called him, and came early this morning in order that there be enough time to bring to the others, as well. He is very conscientious in his work, and knows the burden of duty he has”.

I heard footsteps in the next room, they were the footsteps of our mother who came into the kitchen on hearing the noise of Josel's buckets in the corridor. She asked me if I'd given him a slice of bread, since he was always hungry in the morning, and went I told her I had, my mother said: “You did well, tomorrow is Pesach eve”.

Josel's fate touched my heart and I could not remain apathetic to his lonely life and difficult work. The man never knew a congenial time in the bosom of a family. In one of the discussions with my friends I explained to them that Josel was a human being like me and like them, that was created in G-d's image and he had the right to consideration and freedom. This reaction led to amazement amongst my friends, and once again, arguments broke out, positive and negative opinions regarding him, about his life's purpose and the meaning of his existence, as if we had the ability to decide his purpose and future.

Once, when I visited one of my friends, I saw a rare sight: Josel had been sat next to the table as if he was one of the family, and not in an out of the way corner or the corridor, like he was always used to in many homes, they served him bread and butter, a plate full of soup and porridge for dessert. Josel apparently appreciated the kind treatment given him, and when he finished the hearty meal and received an old vest as a present, he stood up from his chair, pointed to the full barrel of water and asked: “Should I bring more?…”

There was a time that I saw it as a duty to avenge Josel's honor, but I didn't know how. I thought to myself – if Josel would once dare to complain, he would certainly say: “People say that I am a fool, people would do better to leave me alone, to live as I am in peace. Occasionally I'm spoken to antagonistically as if I don't fully fulfill my duties, it is crazy to chase after me and continually persecute me”. However, Josel Wassertreger never complained, just as he never groaned under the weight of the full buckets, as if he was born only for this hard labor.

However, his facial expression spoke for him, the wrinkles etched in his face and neck were a reminder of the difficult years and tense times that had transpired in his life. He always lived in his own world, a stranger and a foreigner to the lives of the people around him, most days he would go barefoot, the cloak that covered his body was covered in patches, and it wasn't clear what part belonged to the cloak and what part to the patches.

Josel didn't have rest days – if it was in the sweltering summer, and pools of sweat ran down his forehead and drip by drip flooded his eyes – Josel always hauled and hauled and only when the sun went down and it became cooler, he had a breath of relief and disappeared. And in the cold winter days, when his whole body shivered from the cold, when the frost penetrated under his open cloak, and the hunger bothered him so much more, and he no longer had the so-called “savior” slice of bread in his pocket – more than once he ran out of strength from the burden of the buckets. He suddenly lay down in the middle of the road, under his load, not moving for a moment, as if he were resting, and afterwards glanced along the road, lifted his head up, as if requesting mercy from heaven, slowly lifted himself up, so not, heaven forbid, he lose a drop of water and continued on his way…

On one cold and stormy winter's day we came, a group of children, to the water pump and began sliding on the ice. No longer than a quarter of an hour had passed and we had a section of several meters of ice that ready for our enjoyment. We had so much fun that we forgot to return home, and suddenly Josel appeared. We teased him for his serious facial expression and the sight of icicles under his nose and around his wet clothing – that looked like long, thin Chanukah candles.

When Josel lifted the water on his shoulders he slipped in a puddle next to the pump and fell. His body was splayed on the ice and the cold water poured over him. He lay there helplessly for several minutes. I quickly went over to him with the rest of the children, we helped him to get up, we saw that his hands were swollen from the cold and were bleeding, we felt sorry for him. His pale eyes showed deep pain and gratefulness to us. We helped him re-pump the water and transferred the buckets to the other side of the road. Our hearts were full of pity, and from then on we never teased him again.

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