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[Page 369]

These I Remember Fondly

by Chava Shapiro, Kfar Hasidim

Every evening, Chava, the teacher, would return to her room, which was in the houses of the Maggid. She would be exhausted from running from house to house, where she taught poor Jewish girls the Aleph–Bet, how to read Hebrew and the meaning of the prayers. The walking was difficult for her because she limped, but in spite of it, an expression of charm and satisfaction always graced her face which was wrinkled before its time. She was devoted to her work with heart and soul, and felt great satisfaction in that she was able to impart of her learning to the daughters of Israel. Since it's impossible to live from satisfaction, my mother would secretly help her with support. At night I would steal behind her room so that I could hear her pure prayers that would be enunciated without mistakes. Also on the Sabbath and special seasons I would likewise listen to the weekly portion, chapters of the Mishne and the “Borchi Nafshi” prayer. I loved her expressiveness which reflected her solitude, because Chava was a lonely widow. Although I was very young then, I understood her broken heart, and remember that she was taller than the other women her age, and if I was privileged to be sent by my mother on an errand to her, my joy knew no bounds. It is incumbent upon us to recall among the people of our city, this pure and righteous woman, Chava, the teacher.


Hersh–Leib, the Water Carrier

He was a unique personality, a simple man who carried his burden of two buckets upon his shoulders, from dawn to dusk. His body bent more and more from the weight, but he paid little attention to his tired body. Happy and good–hearted, he joked with all who came into contact with him, and from time to time burst out with a wise saying or a joke. His buckets he filled faithfully to overflowing. If he spilled some on the road he wouldn't charge for it, and when mentioned to him, he would answer: “It is forbidden to fool people, God forbid!”

His wife was a virtuous woman who kept their narrow room clean. They ate modestly, and saved from food to send their only son to study Torah. He was an excellent student and advanced until they were able to send him to one of the better Yeshivot. During vacation time when he returned home, not only his parents but many in the city looked upon him proudly, as if he were city property. Wasn't he the son of the water carrier of all of them? On the Sabbaths, when he went to synagogue with his father, Hersh–Leib's body straightened, and he would walk proudly as if asking: “What do you think of the pride and good fortune that the Lord has granted me?” True! Many envied him! Who could imagine that the water–carrier, Hersh–Leib, would be privileged to see a son, a scholar, so fine and also good looking.

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R'Eliezer, the Teacher

He would dress meticulously, was modest in his ways, soft–spoken and every word of his mouth carefully thought out. He supervised his students to be diligent, and wise in the use of their time. He was a scholar and God–fearing. He exuded life, and loved to joke. His knowledge of the Talmud and its commentaries he had acquired by himself, because his father had died when he was young. His mother supported herself by baking a special kind of bread. He studied in the Heder, and loved learning. His mother's occupation did not attract him, so he was of no help to her, even though he loved her dearly. Years passed and he spent his time sitting in the synagogue and learning, until people took notice of him. A respected and prosperous family chose him to marry their only daughter. He began to teach, was extremely successful and produced outstanding students. Many envied him. His mother's joy knew no bounds. She had lived to see “nachas” from him. Besides his teaching ability, he distinguished himself by his moral characteristics: honoring his fellow–man, not speaking evil, nor displaying envy. We remember him as one of the martyr's of our city, who were cruelly destroyed by the unclean animals.


R'Fishel, the Tailor

He would sew silk garments for the people of the city. He was pure and holy. By day he was engrossed in his work, and his nights were spent in the House of Study of the Mishne Association, of which he was a founder. While he worked he wouldn't pay attention to anything else. The needle went up and down, his hands trembling and his eyes closed due to the effort. He produced little because he was so diligent. He prayed that the Lord protect him from cheating people, and that his work should be satisfactory. I remember when he came to measure the silk garments for the Rabbi's family, of blessed memory. With measured steps and humility he approached the door, and stepped back, as if sunken in thought. He feared that perhaps he would disturb the children of the Rabbi at their studies. How could he dare to go inside. Perhaps..., but he must take measurements!

Thoughts followed thoughts, until suddenly the door opened, and the rebbetzin found R'Fishele standing shamefaced, without uttering a word.

“Shalom R'Fishele” she greeted him pleasantly, “What brought you in the middle of the day to our house?” With difficulty the words came and he stuttered “To measure! I want to measure.”

The rebbetzin, who understood his confusion, tried to calm him with words: “Come in, come in R'Fishele.” He entered and began measuring. Everything went well. When asked by the rebbetzin if the clother would be ready for Pesach, he answered with lowered eyes and with emotion: “With God's help, if the Lord will help me.” And then he was on his way. This precious Jew deserves to be remembered in the Memorial Book of our city.

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He was the watchman of the houses on the street of the Maggid of Kozienice, a simple man who loved his work. On the long winter nights, when all was covered with snow and frost, when the roofs of the houses groaned under the weight of the frost and snow, and when people were tucked into their beds, and sunken in deep sleep, only the steps of R'Asher's studded boots were heard, and his white form, with a long stick trudged from one end of the street to the other. He harkened to every sound, perhaps a burglar is attempting to steal into one of the houses on the street. When he heard suspicious barking of dogs, he placed his stick on his arm, ready for battle.

In this way he circled year after year, during the hot summer nights and the long, cold winter nights. In the morning he prayed with the conscientious early risers, said some of the Psalms, grabbed breakfast, and a short nap, and again returned to his tasks. He loved to chop trees, and wouldn't let a stranger approach this work, because from time to time, when the rebbitzin ordered Yuzef, the house Goy, to chop wood, R'Asher would become very angry. How could anyone dare to steal his work of lighting the ovens? He was a wonder! He loved his work, body and soul; never complained; on the contrary, he always spoke with joyful enthusiasm, and the gleam of satisfaction spread over his face. We will remember him for good in the Memorial Book of the Jews of Kozienice.

[Page 372]

This is Not the Year of Redemption

by Malka Shapiro

The rebbetzin, Sarah Devorale rose and turned to the elders in the group: “Perhaps you remember the story of the Sabbath on which the portion “Bo” is read?”

“Wasn't it on the portion of Bo that your father, the Tzaddik, R'Elimelech, used to come to Kozienice, from the house of Grodzisk, after he was appointed chief judge of the city rabbinical court” said the beadle, Issachar–Ber, a native of Grodzisk. “Indeed, so it was. My father, of blessed memory, would arrive on Thursday with his entourage, at a late hour, because the snow covered the roads, and the wagons were pulled blindly through the forest.”

While the Hasidim were still hurrying to the lighted stove in the Study House, frozen from the cold, my father stood, may his soul be in Eden, wrapped in his fur coat with my grandfather's staff (Rabbi Elimelech of Liz'insk) on the threshold of the Study House, inquiring of the townspeople, who had come to welcome him: “Nu, how is Berele?” This question he asked annually, when he came to Kozienice. But this time he received a reply, because Berele was on his deathbed. My father commanded that Berele and his bed be brought. The messengers hurried and brought Berele to the entrance of the Study House. My father took him quickly to the Maggid's room and there he was closeted with him for a long hour. After Berele was returned to his home, my father came to his rooms and his face shone, but he was quiet and wouldn't answer the questions of those who approached.

On the morrow Berele died, and a large funeral was arranged, as if he were an important personage. And since my father and his Hasidim accompanied the coffin to the cemetery, all of the city's inhabitants came to his funeral. People even said that it appeared that Berele was one of the 36 secret righteous men for whose sake the world existed, because during the funeral clouds covered the sky and darkened the earth. Also a wailing was heard from all around the city and no one knew from whence it came. But my father would not talk of the matter any more, and no one dared to ask him about it.

And behold the year 5,620 rolled around, and all of the giants of the generation thought it would be a year of redemption, and in all of the diaspora there was an awakening in anticipation of the coming redemption. (The Hebrew letters signifying the year spelled the word crown.) Only then did I dare to ask my father about the meaning of his meeting with Berele, and whether because of it he knew the exact date of redemption. After a long period of silence, my father turned to me and said:

“Your intention is to know the truth my daughter, and supposedly Berele was to pass on the information to one of the sons of my holy father before he died. Therefore I would inquire after his health every year when I came to Kozienice, thinking that perhaps the time had come for him to tell me. When I heard that he was deathly ill I rushed to speak to him, and now that I have I can only tell you that this year, is not the year of redemption.”?

[Page 373]

These are My Family Members in Kozienice

by Roza Greenberg, Netanya

I was born in Kozienice into the Ankerman family. I lived at no. 28 Lublin Street, in the house of my grandmother, Tcharna–Devorah Mandel and my grandfather, Shlomo. My grandmother had four children, Chana–Feige, Henna–Tsirel my mother, Yaakov–Hirsh and a daughter of their old age, Raisel. All of them established families, but to my despair, almost no one remained to memorialize them, therefore I must be their spokesman. Chana–Feige, the eldest was married to Naftali. They established a family and five children were born to them: Aaron–Shlomo, Yisrael–David (who survived the Holocaust, but died 3 years ago in Israel of a serious illness), Feivel, Esther and Henakh.

My mother, Henna–Tsirel, married my father, Gedala–Tuvia and they had six children. The firstborn, Shlomo–David, was God–fearing, and followed in my father's footsteps, was diligent in his Torah studies, but had difficulty making a living. My father was God–fearing, was interested only in holy things, lived only for others, and did not strive for greatness. The second daughter, Rivke Roza, that's me, the third, my beautiful sister, Malkale, the fourth, Moshe–Gedalya, and after him was born my brother, Yaakov, the last of the sons, and then my sister, Chaya–Sara.

The third brother, Yaakov–Hirsh, married, and his wife Chana gave birth to five children: Shabtai, Rivke, Sarah (Sonia), Yosef and a son of their old age: Shlomo. My youngest sister, Raisel, married Yaakov and they had four children: Sarah, Dina, Shlomo and Chanale. The oldest son of Chana–Feige, Aaron–Shlomo married Chava, and they had three children. After their marriage they left Kozienice. Yisrael–David and his first wife, Rachel (the daughter of Hershel Popelnik) had three children: the eldest, Shlomo, a daughter, Esther and one other. Brother Feivel married and left Kozienice after his wedding.

The daughter Esther, married Meir and they had two children. The youngest brother Henach remained a bachelor. The eldest son of Henna–Tsirel, Shlomo–David, married Chana, who gave birth to three children: Benjamin, Esther and a daughter of their old age, Rivke. I Rivke–Roza, and my husband live in Israel, and we remained in order to memorialize our family. In poland, we gave birth to a daughter, Sarah–Malka. During the war I handed her over to Christians, in order to save her, but we lost track of her during the war and to this day I don't know whether she is alive or dead. But in my heart she will remain alive until the end of my days.

The third sister, Malkale, married Shlomo. They had a daughter named Chana. The brother, Moshe–Gedalya married Rachel. They had a son named Leibele, and his mother–in–law's name was Chana Kestenberg. Near Kozienice was a small village named Sheczechow. There were about 300 Jewish families in the village before the war. My father–in–law was the Shochet (Ritual Slaughterer) there. His name was Mendel and his wife, Sarah–Malka. They had seven children: Bracha, Glika, Chana–Bella, Pinchas–Levi, Reisel, Yisrael, and my husband who survived, Moshe–Bunim.

[Page 374]

The eldest daughter, Bracha, married Moshe Valtman and they had three children: Joshua, Bracha and Reisele. The second daughter, Glika, married, and her husband Moshe Dorfman, who survived, lives today in the U.S.A. Three children were born from their marriage. The eldest lives with his father in the U.S.A. The second, Kalman, perished in the Holocaust, and also their sister Rachel perished. Chana–Bella married but she and her husband, Joshua didn't have any children. The brother, Pinchas–Levi, married Ita. They had three children; Joshua, Feige and Rachel. Reisel was married to the son of the Shochet of Shidlovsk Chaim. They had three children: Brendele, Sarah and Malka. The brother Yisrael married the daughter of the Shochet of Shidlovsk, Shaindel.

Now, I want to mention some members of my family, because almost no one else has remained to memorialize them. Therefore I will recall them. I had an aunt by the name of Tziral, and her husband, Shlomo Kugel. They had six children, two of whom went on Aliyah to Israel, and one who died in Israel. The eldest daughter, Chaya, and the second daughter, Bracha now live in Tel Aviv. The son was Avishai, and the other daughters were Devorah, Tzima, and Tovah, who died in Israel. Another uncle was Yaakov Weintraub. He lived in Kozienice on Lublin Street, and had a leather store. His wife was Blumele. They had seven children: Miriam, Chaya, Puah, Frieda, Yoel, Meir and Bracha, who survived and today lives in Belgium. My grandmother, as I've already mentioned, had a big house and she would rent out rooms.

A few people left no one to memorialize them and I'll mention them. One was Hershel Kammer, the baker and his wife, Leah. Another neighbor was David Tzaitvingel and his wife Tovah.

[Page 375]

Leibush Pesach a Happy Folk–Type

by Leibele Fishtein, Ramat–Gan

He was always penniless. He lived by Yosl Didyes in a small house which contained five souls: Pesach and two sons, his wife Rechele, and a daughter. In the house there always stood cartons and baskets with childrens' shoes, which the shoe factories sent to be nailed with wooden spots. He sat at a shoemaker's bench and with an awl made holes in the soles, and his two sons would hammer the wooden nails into the holes. From all three breadwinners, there was never enough to finish the week. He was always so well organized that he wouldn't have to think about having enough to make the Sabbath. He was known throughout town as the one, who if he would play a trick on someone and would not succeed, he would worm his way out because everyone would say it was just a joke.

Yosl Didye's wife once met him going out of the cellar with a pot of her goose fat, which she had prepared for Pesach. “What are you carrying, R' Leibush Pesach?” “I'm carrying a pot of fat. I'm going to ask my wife if it's our fat.” “But it's my fat” says Esther. “It's your fat? So here take it back, and let my wife go and take her own fat from the cellar!” On Friday, he took a pot with two handles (A cholent pot), filled it with water, covered it with paper, tied it with a string, carried it to the baker, and paid for having it cooked. On the Sabbath, after the services, the bakers used to take the pots of cholent out of the oven and set them on a shelf . Everyone who came to take his or her cholent knew their own pot. Leibush Pesach always came first. He carefully surveyed each pot, in order to make it appear that he is attempting to identify his own. The different cholents could always be identified as to where they came from – from the poor or the middle class, or the rich. Leibush knew how to recognize each. He always took home a cholent from which he would truly have a satisfying Sabbath. He would do this every Sabbath. When he was caught in the act, he would say that a man is not an angel and is bound to make a mistake occasionally. “What, I should bring back a cholent that I've opened? What's the difference? A cholent is a cholent?”

On Fridays, on the way home from the Mikve (Ritual Bath), it was a custom by us to eat a carrot Tzimmes or baked Ferfel. Leibush already knew exactly who did and didn't observe this custom. He would tour several homes. When he would enter, he would say: “Shprintze, my life, Your excellent Tzimmes just melted in my mouth. I can taste it at this very moment.” “R' Leibush Pesach, today I don't have a carrot Tzimmes. I made baked Ferfel, and it got completely burned. It's bitter and doesn't fit to eat. I wouldn't dare give you any.” “O' Shprintze, dear life, you should only know how I love bitter Ferfel, and especially if it's burned a bit. You would certainly give me the entire batch. In that way you would not upset anyone who might eat it.”?

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There is a saying that kadochis is not an illness, and Purim is not a holiday. But as far as Leibush Pesach was concerned, Purim was, indeed the best holiday. All year he would gather and write down addresses, of those to whom he would send the traditional Purim treats (Shalach Manos). When Purim came, he would employ all three children in the carrying of three large plates, which were covered with clean napkins. Each plate contained only a written note: “To Yona Tzemach; to Yitzhak Milgrom; to Pinchas Freilich. For today's big holiday of Purim I am sending you as Shalach Manos: a blessing, that you and your entire family should be healthy and live till 120. He, who is in Heaven should make all of your undertakings successful?”

The rich who read this blessing and heartfelt wish did not stop to think too long, and filled each plate with Purim baked goodies and a coin. The child who had brought the plate, was also given something for carrying and bringing the plate. Even those who weren't rich would put in a small coin and cover it with Hamantaschen.

The Entire Family Perished in Treblinka!

[Page 377]

Where are the Gorgeous Souls?

by Abraham Tenenboim, Warsaw

Almost 40 years separate me from that time, when I lived together with the 5000 Jews of Kozienice, lived with them and among them. Even so, hundreds of them stand before my eyes, as if alive, Kozienicer Jews. Types and figures peculiar, exclusively Kozieniceites. Kozienicer butchers, blacksmiths, carriers, water carriers, shingle makers, carpenters and musicians. Here they stay in front of my eyes: Itzik with his fiddle, tall Yisrael with his trumpet. When Shlomo Itziks marched through the streets in military uniform, at the head of a military orchestra, he thought the whole world belonged to him, so proud was he in the role of conductor.

Tens of Jews has animal nicknames. For example: Feivel Oger (stallion). Harnessed like a horse, he pulls his heavy wagon, and we little chaps hold his wagon from the rear. When he feels us, and that it has become difficult, he turns around and begins to chase us away. Meanwhile, other chaps appear and pull his wagon into a side street.

Even greater troubles, created by us, were endured by the old water carrier. (I've forgotten his name. Let other Kozieniceites mention him). Often, when he was carrying two heavy buckets of water, we used to run behind him and throw stones or rubbish into the water. The old man would get angry and at the top of his voice scream: “Bastards!” But the truth of the matter is that it was he himself who was born before his mother's wedding. He would become so embittered, that tears would stream from his eyes, and we, 10 year old rascals, were overjoyed with our accomplishments.


The Kozienice “Tshortes”

For generations, legends were told about why they were called “Tshortes” (Devils, from the Russian word Tshort). For generations, the onion trade in Kozienice and the surrounding communities was exclusively in the hands of the Kozienicer “Devils”. They were plain, good and hardworking people. A whole “tribe”: Shmiel, Yisrael–Abraham, Luzer, Reuben, Naftali, Feivel and others. They all lived together or near each other. There were very friendly relations between them. It was a well–planned corporation. They would contract with the producers large plantations of onions, and would not have to occupy themselves with any of the details. Where are They, the Enlightened Figures?

It is true that these unconnected, detached thoughts cannot give a picture of the variegated life of thousands of Jews, who were either gassed or burned alive. The heart becomes clamped as I write. Where are they, the gorgeous souls, the Kozienicer Jews, the Jews of Poland and Europe??

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And once again the Fascist–Antisemitic beasts are preparing to do their deadly work. Fifty anti–semitic newspapers in Western Europe circulate millions of copies daily with poisonous attacks on Jews. I believe that publishing this book at a time like this is an extraordinary necessity, for the honor of the martyrs as well as for the on–going war against the bloodthirsty anti–semites. It would be good if every one of the survivors would mention at least a few of those who were murdered. In that way we would eternalize their names on the pages of the book for our children and for those who follow us.


Zalman–Baruch, The Politician

After the outbreak of WWI Kozienice Jews would impatiently wait each day for the blind one (on one eye) Zalman–Baruch. He, with his yellow–gray, long beard, was the greatest politician in Kozienice. He is among the few, who read the pages (of newspapers), therefore he is well informed as to all of the events in the world. Since when is Zalman–Baruch such a great authority and politician? From the moment that he won the Lottery. How many thousands of dollars it was, I don't remember, but people of the older generation remember this great event, when shortly before WWI he won the Lottery. Every day as soon as he settles himself in the Study House, he's surrounded by a mass of people. Each one wants to be as close as possible. He's proud of his task, and he expounds on causes of the war. Wanting his audience to understand how the war was being conducted he used to fill his hand with spittle, to signify the sea, and then he would show how Austria and Prussia (Germany) attacked Russia. Kozienicer Jews would listen attentively to all that Zalman–Baruch had to say.


As If Alive, They Stand Before My Eves

And perhaps all of these Memorial Books will, in time, fall into the hands of historians, so that they will be able to work up a new history of the most unfortunate nation in the world. As if alive, they stand before my eyes: Shmiel Weinberg and his wife Rode; Shmuel–Leib Goldman and his wife Male; Feige Flamenboim–Reiss; Yisrael Rochman, their brother and partners; Yisrael Shpiegel; Gittel Rechthand; my three brothers, Yaakov and Hersh Shermeister and Yarachmiel Tenenboim, my mother Hendl, her three sisters; Abraham Kohn; Yakl Zaltzberg; Yisrael–Itche Dimenshtein (Briks); Eli Fleisher and his wife Gele; Chanale Avenshtern and her husband Shmiel; their children, Luzer the groats–maker and the Chlivners and tens of others; Hundreds of Jews: Communists, Bundists, Zionists, religious Jews and irreligious ones, young and old, mothers and children, all, who incorrectly perished only because they were Jews!

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Blind Chanale

Who in our town didn't know the blind Chanale? In my youth, Chanale was about 60. She was born blind in both eyes. When we knew her, that means in the nineteen–twenties, we knew that she was all alone. She didn't have a single relative, and never had her own home. She lived with the female milk carrier, near the river, in the neighborhood of Shmerl Falberg. She was thin, tall, dark–complexioned. Her blindness didn't keep her from knowing the entire city, she knew who was who and how much money he possessed; where everyone lived; who loved whom; who is traveling, and where; what maiden or woman is pregnant, and from whom! Blind Chanale would, with full confidence, predict whether the pregnant women would give birth to boys or girls, and if it happened that she was wrong in her prediction, she would not let it upset her, and wouldn't keep her from making further predictions. On the other hand, when she would predict correctly, her blind face would light up. Everywhere she went, she would proudly repeat: “You see! I said that Blume Moshe's would have a daughter!”

She got around without a walking stick. Instinctively, she knew each Jewish home, and even knew how many rooms there were in each house. She knew everyone by name. She would support herself from alms, that were given to her everywhere she went. She was always given food and a few groschen (pennies). She loved children, and because of it children loved her. She would often tell them stories, and children love nice stories. Before Pesach when all houses were whitewashed, Chana would know instinctively exactly which houses had already been done. She would be asked: “Chanale, how do you like the whitewash?” She would open her blind eyes widely and exclaim: “Beautiful, as if it were painted!”


Feivel Oger

Where he lived, I don't know! When I would awaken in the morning, he was already with his four wheeled hand wagon and two sons in front of Yankl Shipper's restaurant. That was his home base. Until late in the evening he would sit there with his family, his two sons. There he would eat his breakfast, lunch and supper. You could always meet him sitting on his wagon. It was his table, bed and workshop. In summer, when the sun was hot, he would sit on the large boulder which lay in front of Yankl Shipper's restaurant, at the intersection of Radom and Lublin Streets. He would sit and dream of the “good old days”, when the shoemakers sent packages of shoes to Lemberg, Katovitz, Sosnovietz and other cities. In those days he would load up a high wagon with packages, harness himself to his wagon and drag it to the train station, about three kilometers distance. Then he would earn about 10 zloties a day.

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His two sons would help push the wagon and it provided a livelihood. Later a post was set up in the city, and they would take the packages with horse and wagon to the train. There he sits and waits, maybe someone will have a package he wants delivered. Why he was called Feivel Oger (Stallion), I don't know. Maybe because he would harness himself to his wagon, if one hadn't seen him but only heard his name, I mean his nickname, he would think that this Jew was a giant. But in actuality it wasn't so. He was a short, thin man, with a bronzed, sun–tanned face, and barefoot. He didn't believe in shaving himself, but he had no beard. A few stray hairs on his chin hung every which way. A goat has a thicker beard. Rarely would one hear him speak! What for? When he was given something to deliver, he already knew where to take it. He knew everything and everyone in the city. All one had to do was to shout out loud: “Feivel! ”

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Searched For and Finally Found

by Chaim Dimant, Paris Translated from Yidish

Everything is white, and cold as ice,
The lips burned, the fists clenched All is spoiled, because who endured?
Why oh why did this happen?
People hanged, they wanted to destroy the world, Children seized by force and ending as smoke Women raped and then choked.
Why oh why did they murder:
Fascism, banditry and Hitlerism
No, I must leave here for I die of fright.
The streets run with blood, all fields one grave.
I have no more courage – since I felt the rod.
A storm they brought on the world,
Because that is what they yearned for:
From the world – to make one wild animal,
And to make fun of this wild animal.
The world understood what these outlaws thought up, To enslave Europe, torture her with skill.
For freedom is our yearning,
And then the world came to its senses.
To free the world with force,
And again and again use force and power!
Freedom came,
The whole world rang,
To welcome freedom All sang out.
We are young, the world is open We sought freedom, and finally met it!

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These Are the Kind of Jews That Lived in Kozienice

by Itshe Blatman

You can say, that the water–carriers were the most upright and honest Jews in town. One of them, Hersh–Leib, was not at all a lion (Leib). He was a small, weak, skinny Jew. He was also called Hersh–Leib Bozer. Bozer means a fool. But he was not at all a fool. He was more of a Bontshe Shveig (a silent one). He carried the buckets of water in the winter, in the worst cold, and in the summer – in the greatest heat, spoke little, did not complain about his fate and always seemed satisfied His only needs were a piece of bread and a verse of the Psalms. And even so, he often went hungry.

His kapote (long black coat) was always covered with patches, but he knew why he worked and suffered cold: Because he had an only son, who sat in the House of Study and learned day and night. I remember how he used to come into the House of Study. He used to stand near the furnace and warm himself while looking at his son, learning. He was fortunate, because it wasn't a small thing to have a son a scholar. He convinced himself that he was the richest man in town, because ordinarily, by such Jews as he was, their children usually went out to work at age 10, but Hersh–Leib supported his son, the scholar, until his wedding, and was well–rewarded for everything.

A fine Jew, a very wealthy man, came from another city and took the son as a son–in–law for his only daughter. In that way Hersh–Leib, the water–carrier, got a fine, rich Jew as an in–law. I want to tell about two other water–carriers. They didn't have the spiritual history that Hersh–Leib had, but thanks to them a great event occurred in town.

One, Shammai the blind, because he was very near–sighted. He had to use his hands, in order to see better. He carried the buckets of water and aged until he became an old bachelor. The second, “Shkanke, water–carrier” unfortunately died very young, and left a wife and daughter. His wife took over his occupation and the clientele of her husband. All day the mother carried water, in order to earn a piece of bread for herself and her small daughter.


The Prominent Ladies Arrange a Wedding

The little girl lived in the street and grew up, like a wild creature of the forest. When she was a bit older, he mother gave her two buckets for carrying water. She was almost 18 years old, and this disturbed the prominent ladies in town: Henye–Yechel–Yelner's wife, and Yaakov Becker's mother, a dear and righteous Jewess. Day and night, on Sabbaths and Holidays, she was occupied helping the poor: Winter – with a bit of firewood, a warm cloak for a child or a pair of shoes. She also assembled challah to distribute for the Sabbath.

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Another prominent lady, Hodes, the wife of R' Yonah, the town cantor's wife. She was called the proof–reader, because her husband was also the proof–reader of scrolls of the Torah. She was also a dear lady, and very modest. She fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. She also occupied herself helping the poor, older ladies. She sold candles in front of the Maggid's tomb, and women would buy them and light them at the Maggid's grave. She also did everything to see to it that Shammai, the water–carrier, should be a Jew, equal to all other Jews. She saw to it that he had a prayer–shawl, and that Shkanke's daughter should not become an old maid.

With luck a match was arranged, and the prominent ladies began to prepare the wedding. They ordered new clothes for the bride and groom, and prepared all sorts of goodies for the feast. The wedding took place near the synagogue, where all weddings were held, and not at the cemetery, as was the custom for poor orphans in other small towns. In fact it was held at the Rebbe's large House of Study, and the whole town participated. The musicians played vigorously. Everyone ate everywhere and it was merry and joyful in town. Most of all, the prominent ladies were overjoyed; Henye and Hodes, and the rebbetzin, of blessed memory. A child was born. The father Shammai, unfortunately, later became completely blind. With his hands he patted the baby's head and was pleased, like all fathers. The German murderers put an end to them.


The First Contact with Eretz Yisrael

I remember, in 1910 or in 1911, there was an uproar in town: Moshe Berishes was going to Eretz Yisrael. He was a learned Jew, a scholar. He would teach a group of Jews, laborers, on Shabbat, although secretly he was a bit of a “Maskil” (enlightened). Therefore he dreamed of going to Eretz Yisrael. In the end he didn't go. They said in town that he had applied to Baron Rothchild in France, for financial help for his trip, and that the Baron did not reply. Therefore he remained in Kozienice. What happened to this Jew afterwards, I don't know.

In 1921 two young men from Kozienice left for Eretz Yisrael. One was a Mizrachi (religious Zionist) and the second, a Zionist. The first, Elimelech Feigenboim, was a son of Itshe Mordecai Nutes. The second, Itshe Blatman, from Staroviesh, was myself, the writer of these lines. It took us one year to reach Eretz Yisrael, but we arrived. A few years later other Kozienicer Jews arrived, but the first letters to reach Kozienice with stamps from Eretz Yisrael came from us two “Halutzim” (pioneers).

[Page 384]

In the Fight for Poland's Freedom

We lived on the sand dunes. “Na Piaskach”, as the neighborhood was called. I remember, about eight men passed our shop. My father asked them where they were going, and they said that they are going to the copper factory to request money for an organization, which is fighting for Poland freedom from Czarist Russia. The delegation consisted of half Jews and half Poles. I remember a few of the names: Arish Schneider, Yisroel Zifferman, and Eliezer Friedman, all of them respectable Jews. The Poles were Pokzshevinski, the barber–surgeon, Mlastek and others. When they were coming back, my father asked them if they had gotten anything. They answered that they had gotten more than they had expected. The owners of the copper factory were Gerer Hasidim, very dear Jews, who were observant, educated aristocrats. When they went to prayer services on Friday evening, everyone knew that it was time to close up shop. In this way Gerer Hasidim and other respectable Jews in Kozienice helped the fight for Polish independence from the Czarist yoke of Imperial Russia.

Another Jew helped fight the Czar in his own way. This was in the year 1905, when the struggle against Czarism was aflame. The repressions were great, especially against Jews. The revolutionaries in Kozienice, at the time the P. P. S., were ready to demonstrate openly in the streets against Czarism. they needed a flag, which would express the character of the demonstration. There was a Jew, named Abraham Rosenberg. He was called “Abraham of the soda–water”, because he manufactured soda–water. He was a respectable Jew, from a nice, prominent family, a Hasidic follower of R' Zelick. He knew how to print, and the ability to draw caricatures. He made the banner for free. It portrayed the Czar with a large whip in his hand, and a big pig next to him. The caricature was very expressive. The banner was carried at the head of the demonstration. Police and Cossaks beat and maimed on all sides. There were many wounded. But Abraham's banner was transferred from hand to hand and from one street to the next. Children and adults talked about the banner in the House of Study and in the synagogue. He had created a commotion in town. These are the kind of Jews that lived in Kozienice.

[Page 385]

Types and Curiousities of Kozienice

by Yerachmiel Sirota, Paris

Many of us very well remember Khaim Yage, the beadle of the synagogue, and old Jew, with a curly grey beard who was extremely wise. By nature he was very jolly and good–hearted. He would observe things and then pass them on to everyone in a joking manner. He didn't like some of the wealthy men because of their stinginess, and many Hasidim because of their hypocrisy. Whenever you would meet him, he would almost immediately make you laugh. Once, he told his good friends, that he had revenged himself on a stingy rich man. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the rich man came into the synagogue, and requested that I whip him, as was the custom then. So I whipped him a few times. Standing up, he said to me: “You didn't spare me. It must be good to be able to whip someone!” I answered: “You fall into my hands only once a year, and it was my intention to drive out your stinginess.”


Each To His Own Trade

Once I met the town undertaker, Yankele Polkovnik, a short Jew. Jews were afraid of his good morning greeting, because you have to answer him “a good year!” I asked him: “How's your livelihood?” He answers: “Not good; in fact very poor. I haven't had a single job all week.” He relates that in his youth he was a shoemaker, and worked with a Pole. “What can I tell you?” He spoke Yiddish like flowing water, and in the morning he even said the blessing with the children. When the boss went to the fair, he, banging the nails into the shoes, remarked about a boy who forgot to put on his cap while saying the blessing. Nu, you should have heard Michael Shaltz yell at his son “why he was saying the blessing without his cap on.”

Once before the holidays, a bookseller came to town. He sold, near the Study House, prayer books, high–holiday prayer books, prayer–shawls, and even story books. The bargaining was intense and only with great bitterness was he able to sell something. He became very angry and pleaded; “O, Lord of the Universe, send me at least one non–Jewish customer!”

Once, going quite early to the first minyan (prayer service), I heard a scream. All of the neighbors from the surrounding streets came running, so I also ran. I asked: “What's that screaming?” A neighbor answered: “Hershel Becker's daughter doesn't feel good.” So I asked the neighbor: “How old is she?” “19 years old.” “It's almost 80 years that I don't feel good and I don't make such a fuss.”

One winter during a cold spell, two cheder teachers were sitting in the Study House near the hot furnace and discussing their respective livelihoods. One says: “You know, if you were a minister in the government, you would have a fine livelihood!” “How so?” “You would still be able to continue teaching the children ABC!”?

[Page 386]

Once Yankel Treger met me and pleaded: “All year I come to pray in the Study House, and I am never given the honor of being called up to the Torah. What have I done to deserve such treatment?” So I spoke to the Gabbai (the man in charge of distributing honors), and he told me that on the coming Sabbath he would give him the honor. And so it was. But instead of calling him to the reading of the Torah, he gave him the honor of lifting the Torah, after the reading had been completed. Yankel became very angry and yelled up to the Gabbai: “Keep it for yourself! All year I have the honor of lifting loads without you.” (The name Treger was a nickname, because he worked as a porter, and Treger means carrier).

Abish Bontshe was a round (no Father no Mother) orphan. When he was still very young, he lost both parents, and was raised by his grandfather. At age 17 he was tall and fat without measure. He ate “days” (every day somewhere else), and was constantly hungry. Yankele Noreck, the shoe manufacturer, had pity on him and took him into his factory and provided him with room and board. His sleeping place was behind the workshop, and the mistress brought him his food in a large bowl. His table was the work bench. Once the mistress brought him soup. He began to search with his spoon, searched and didn't even find a single potato, only water, suddenly he threw off his jacket, and his shirt, and was at the point of removing his pants, when the owner asked him: “What are you doing, Abish?” “I might drown in the process, but I'm determined to find a potato!”

They Will Not Harm the Jews Kozienice, 15th of Tammuz, 5641 (1880–1881)

When the official of the city of Kozienice learned that most of the inhabitants of the villages are whispering against the Jews, and request to change market day from the weekdays to the Sabbath, the official ordered that market day be changed to the Sabbath, and that the Jews should turn over the keys of the pubs to Gentile women. On that specific Sabbath, hordes of farmers flocked to the city, except that without Jews there was no business. When there were no buyers for the produce that they had brought, and no store open for them to sell them food and supplies. Even in the pubs they couldn't quench their thirst, and trade was at a standstill. Towards the end of the day the city official went out on the street and asked the farmers about the business of the day. They replied: “How can there be a market day without Jews?” This was the official's opportunity to convince them how bad it would be if the Jews were driven out, because then there would be no trade at all and they wouldn't be able to sell their produce. He proved to them how essential the Jews were for their well–being. They scratched their heads and admitted how right he was, and promised that they wouldn't harm the Jews.

[Page 387]

Chaim Yage Tells About the Kozienicer Maggid

by Ber Zilberberg, Tel Aviv

Chaim Yage was a regular visitor to our home, besides his monopoly on every Friday and eve of a holiday. When he would come to us he would have a stiff drink, and this he loved very much. As soon as he came, my father, of blessed memory, poured him a drink. He would down it and began rubbing his hands. “Oh, now I've become a different person.” My father knew already that the “different” person also had to have a drink. After the two glasses, R' Chaim was completely satisfied! I was only a small boy at the time, and I watched in wonderment how R* Chaim downed the burning liquor in one gulp. Afterwards I would request of him: R' Chaim, tell a story of days gone by, of what once happened!”


A Short Partnership

And so he began to tell: “Once, two Jews came to the Maggid; workmen, tailors, and requested that he draw up partnership papers for them. They wanted to set up a business to make and sell clothes at the fairs. One would put up money and the other his house for the work, and so on and so forth. The Maggid took a piece of paper and wrote the four letters: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, Daled, (A.B.G.D. first letters of Hebrew alphabet) and gave them the paper. The Jews looked and saw that nothing was written about their partnership that they had discussed; but only the four letters of the alphabet. They said: “Rebbe, you didn't write anything about our partnership.” So the Rebbe answered them: “This is enough for Jews who enter into a partnership.” Aleph means “ernes” honest, which means that each of you will have a Beth (second letter B), which stands for Bracha, “a blessing.” And if there should be between you a Gimmel (third letter), meaning “genavo,” stealing one from the other, then you'll both come to Daled (fourth letter) which stands for “dalus”, meaning poverty. Now you both know what each of the letters represents!”


A Gift For The Rebbe

When the Maggid was still a boy learning in Heder, there was a farm boy learning with the Maggid. His name was Asher–Zelik, and his father was an overseer for a Polish noble. Asher–Zelik was provided at the Heder with room and board. On Fridays he would go home to be with his parents for the Sabbath. Years passed. Yisroel became “the Kozienicer Maggid”, and Asher–Zelik became the overseer in his father's stead. Once, Asher–Zelik said to his wife: “Rivke, you know the Rebbe, who lives in the city, was a classmate of mine in Heder.” His wife said: “That must be one of your new dreams. You'll soon tell me that you are also a good Jew!” “Rivke, what are you talking about? Am I a bad Jew? Rivke, I want to bring him a gift.”?

[Page 388]

Asher–Zelik took a basket, put cheese, butter and eggs in it, and went off to the city to the Maggid. Asher–Zelik came to the Maggid's prayer house, looked in through the window, and saw that the Maggid is engrossed in learning from a huge tome of the Talmud that covered the entire table. “Good morning, Rebbe, shalom aleichem to you, Yisroel. Do you recognize me? It is I, Asher–Zelik, from the village of Yenikov, who learned together with you in the same Heder. I brought you a gift.”

Asher–Zelik looks around the small prayer house and sees one bed. He bangs the Maggid on the shoulder and says: “Yisroel, you conduct yourself just like I do. In my house there also stands a pull–out bed!”


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