Translation by Yael Chaver
1. On the History of the Town
I wanted to find as many sources as possible for the history of the town, but there was not much. Gutenberg's Polish encyclopedia should have contained several lines about Kurow, including its geographical latitude, but the twenty volumes of the encyclopedia that I found in Tel Aviv did not contain this information. Apparently, these details are in the two supplemental volumes, which are not available anywhere in Israel. I turned to the Polish Consulate in TelAviv; they did not have the encyclopedia. I tried to connect with the Polish National Library in Warsaw, hoping to obtain the famous Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic Countries (1896), which contains information about each and every town in Poland. The Polish Consulate required so many formalities that nothing came of it. However, a copy of this Dictionary is owned by the American National Library in New York. Our friend Shie Teneboym in New York was kind enough to visit that library and sent us an offprint. Searching in encyclopedias in many other languages, I found information about Kurow only in the German Encyclopaedia Judaica, the Russian Yevreiskaya Entsiklopediya and in the Polish encyclopedia by Trzaski, Evert and Michalski. However, we have a wonderful and extremely important source in the Pinkas Va'ad Arba HaAratsot, 16671764, published by Mossad Bialik in Jerusalem in 1945. Below is a copy of the map, with the name of Kurow circled; in this map it appears as Kurve, following the spelling of the time.
I approached several renowned historians, asking them to send us relevant articles and information, point us to sources, and everything they know about Kurow: the demographer and sociologist Jacob Leshchinsky, and the historians Dr. Jacob Shatzky and Dr. Philip Friedman. Leshchinsky responded that he had no particular information about the economic conditions of the population in that town or area, and that he had published general economic information about Polish Jews. Dr. Friedman responded from New York: After receiving your letter I started looking for materials in my own archive and in the YIVO archive; unfortunately, I found none. Naturally, Polish and Yiddish historical and geographical literature contains scattered
bits and pieces about Kurow. But finding them would require very much time and work; personally, I am unfortunately unable to take on new responsibilities, due to a chronic lack of time. I wish you much success in the hard editorial work that you have undertaken.
The famous historian Dr. Jacob Shatzky responded: …Kurow does not have a rich history. The problem is, however, that the relevant literature is regional, Polish, and is not available even in New York. You will have to find someone here who will be able to collect something, under my instructions. Thus, for example, copies must be made from the Polish Geographical Dictionary. If I'm not mistaken, Tsederboym's parents came from Kurow. Kurow and the Jews played a role in the events of 1861. It is possible to compile a bibliography based on the Kwartalnik Hystoryczny, Finkiel Bibliografia Historii Polskiej, and other sources. But where can one find the books? Ask Joseph Kermish; he wrote a book about the duchy of Lublin in the 18th century. Unfortunately, I myself have nothing about Kurow.
I immediately approached Dr. Kermish in Jerusalem. Here is his reply: In response to your letter, I am sending my Polish book about Lublin and the duchy of Lublin, Volume 1. I would be happy if you could use it. Unfortunately, Volume 2, for which I assembled much archival material over several years, was lost during the war. The demographicstatistical materal about Lublin and its vicinity, including Kurow, was supposed to be included in that volume. Dr. Kermish's book, published in 1939 by the Polish Municipality of Lublin, proved very useful. Below are several interesting excerpts: I searched for a long time, in all the libraries in the country, for no. 2 of the magazine Der Yunger Historiker, edited by Dr. Raphael Mahler and Dr. Emmanuel Ringelblum. I knew that the issue contained several bits of information about Kurow. The Encyclopedia Judaica refers to that issue in its entry on Kurow. I finally discovered that the historian Dr. Mahler had that issue with him in Jerusalem. I asked him to be so kind as to send us the relevant entry, which he, of course, immediately did. We send our sincere thanks to all the important historians who helped us with information about Kurow. Special thanks are due, of course, to Dr. Joseph Kermish, who sent us his book. We wish to give special mention to the valuable work of the Kurow rabbi, the major Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovich of Jerusalem, who wrote his Gedolei Koriv on the basis of studies of all possible sources: sacred and secular books, archives, and personal research.
Before the war, I had read an article in Wiadomosci Literackie by BoyZelenski about the Polish playwright Narciza Zmychowska, who spent a long time in Kurow in the late 19th century, when she was hiding from the Czarist regime; she wrote several important works that describe Jewish types of Kurow. However, I could not find these books anywhere. In conclusion, though, because for us Kurow is no more than a grave and a ruin, details about a Polish writer are less important.
I believe we have done everything possible in order to provide all important historical information about our town, Kurow.
2. The Names of the Town
Its Polish name is Kurow. In Yiddish, it was officially known as Kurov, pronounced Korev or Koriv. In Hebrew and in sacred books as well as in community records it was written Kurov or Kuriv. At the time of the Council of Four Lands it was written Korva. Here, we have chosen the form most commonly used: Koriv.
3. Accusations and Insults
Some people, the few who survived, mention in their memoirs, descriptions, and even letters, certain grievances and wrongs done by other survivors or victims. These are complaints about bad behavior when hiding in a potato storage pit, underground bunker, or attic. Other types of claims (nothing serious, God forbid, such as betrayal and the like) are not for us to judge. We have not deleted these passages and notes, but only smoothed out their tone. In this hell of destruction when every person in hiding was about to have a nervous breakdown and on the verge of insanity, various excesses could happen. Complete humanity could not always survive.
4. Party polemics
The memoirs and historical descriptions of social groups or of political party life in the town include strong mutual accusations: this or that person disturbed meetings, broke them up, prevented them, and the like. We have hardly touched these passages, only deleted some of the most extreme ones, although in the context of the Nazi destruction it would have no difference if they had stayed in the text. On the other hand, history should not be glamorized. The flaws should also be noted, as they are human. There was a case before the war when a Kurow communist shot a leftwing Zionist. We weren't sure whether this fact should be included in our memorial book. The matter remained open; we mention it without the name of the perpetrator. One party was especially attacked by some memoirists; we wanted someone a member or a sympathizerto add their remarks and possibly respond to the accusations. Regrettably, not a single one of the Kurow survivors was able to do this. The few who survived had in the meantime changed their political views and were not competent to speak on the subject, as their objectivity might be questionable.
Who in town did not have a nickname? Sometimes it was joking, or even malicious, but the nickname stuck. If the person were referred to by his last name, no one would know who it was. Obviously, we tried to avoid calling people by their nicknames as far as possible, especially by nicknames that ridiculed or belittled. However, we could not avoid this completely, and I believe it was actually unnecessary. If anyone, or anyone's family member, feels offended, we hereby beg their pardon.
I don't know whether I will have to apologize to YIVO for deviating from their conventional orthography. If so, it is still worthwhile. In any case, as people living in a small shtetl, where conversation was very idiomatic (an authentic PolishJewish dialect), we want to present the complete intimate and sincere flavor of the Yiddish spoken in Kurow; it is impossible to follow the rigid Lithuanian dialect or even the less rigid Volhynian dialect. The nuances of Polish Yiddish must not be lost. If we do not want to speak in the stiff formal language of newspapers, the authentic, idiomatic and very rich shtetl dialect must find expression, including even its neologisms. A Jewish woman of Kurow never said nit [not] but rather nisht; not s'iz mir shlekht oyfn hartsn [I'm distressed] but s'iz mir shlekht oyfn harts or harets; not dil [floor] but podlige; not gebrakht [brought] but gebrengt. Sometimes we allowed ourselves to do phonetic transcriptions of actual speech. Thus, atlasene [satin] might be written atlesine; similar forms are tutin [tobacco], titin and totin; shul [synagogue] and shil; protsent [percent] and
pritsent; hersh [the name Hersh, or deer] as herish. We have retained the local expression tretwar [sidewalk] rather than trotwar, which reproduces the French pronunciation. People of Kurow said gigat [had] instead of gehat; instead of rukzak [rucksack] we have plyetsak and pleytsak. Uniformity of last name spellings was another issue, such as khanshmanthese families chose to write it as khanshman. Another issue that often comes up is collapsing two words into one: if the combination a bisl [a little bit] is now written abisl, why not collapse similar phrases such as a shtikl [ a small piece], a sakh [a lot]? The word zeyer [very] is used both as an adverb and as a pronoun, zeyers [theirs]. We have allowed the adverb to be written zer (I believe it would be better to use the same form for the adverb). In several cases, we also allowed the prefix ba to be written be. We also permitted ourselves certain other minor departures from the YIVO orthography. The issue of the word yidnrat is no longer purely one of orthography but also one of ideography. Some prefer yidnrat while others prefer yudenrat. We have used the most common form, yudnrat.
7. Editorial Surgery
Even the material produced by a professional writer is usually edited, not to mention that of nonexperienced writers. There are certainly memoirs of historical value in our Yizkor Book; first and foremost, the sacred, bloody memoirs of surviving partisans and people who hid out in refuges. We consider it a miracle, a bonus miracle, that all these people, our last Kurowites, had the chance to tell the worldat least the Jewish world what they went through, the crucial testimony about the innocence of those slaughtered as well as the horrible crime of the Nazis and their underlings. Our Kurow folks recount many important details that have not been told in other books of testimony; there are, after all, so many nuances and details of this catastrophe that each survivor presents their own contribution. However, what I want to emphasize is the form, by which I mean that some of the memoirists' accounts are simply very well told. It seems that even murder can be described well or poorly. On the other hand, even in these memoirs some editing was necessary…
Besides the section on the Holocaust, we would like to mention the memoir of Rabbi Tevye Gutman Rapoport, which definitely has historical and quotidian value as well as literary value. This is followed by the memoir of Yankev Hersh Zilbershteyn, which is also of twofold value historical and literary. Some renowned writers contributed to our Yizkor Book: Kurowites and people who had a family connection to Kurow. First of all, our two famous poets, Moyshe Shulshteyn and Leyzer Aykhenrand, Kurowites living in Paris. Other wellknown writers who have family ties with Kurow are Shiye Tenenbaum, Shloyme Rosenberg, D. Naymark (all now in New York), Yechiel Granatshteyn (Israel). Jacob Glatstein's grandfather, Yungman, was also a native of Kurow.
There are about eighty participants in this book. Most of them are published in print for the first time, which naturally required a great deal of preparation. Each person wanted to express his deepest feelings of longing and pain, and could not know that he was using almost the same words as the others. Each person wanted to recount the maximum amount of precise details that he considered important and worthwhile. We therefore abridged as much as possible, but always retained the unique personal sections, even if they were na´ve and full of pathos. We included more than one Holocaust memoir with identical facts and events, as each person's impressions were different and even contradictory. We beg the pardon of those dear compatriots whose work was not published, as well as those whose materials underwent major editing. Some wanted to cite and argue with Theodor Herzl or Karl Marx; quote from the Bible or the Sages; argue with political parties and their
programs. We deleted most of that, leaving only that which is characteristic for the town's portrayal.
We would like to thank the renowned artist Yosl Bergner (of Warsaw and Australia, now in Safed), who gave us an engraving plate of one of his ghetto pictures, and even declined the slightest honorarium, including repayment for the plate, because, as he said, I want no reward for any of my ghetto paintings. We also thank the wellknown metal relief artist, Aryeh Merzer (of Warsaw and Paris, now in Safed), who permitted us to copy two of his artistic reliefs, Mother Rachel and Thou Shalt Not Kill. Thanks also to the engineer and artist Davidovich, who gave us the rare English book Jewish Art in European Synagogues by Georges K. Loukomski (Hutchinson & Co., London 1947), which contains pictures of the most beautiful synagogues of Poland; we took our image of the Kurow synagogue from that book. Thanks also to the writer and art collector Hersh Fenster (Paris), who sent us the copy of a photograph of the Kurow synagogue; he took this photograph together with the artist Montshik, who was murdered by the Nazis. We also thank A. L. Payans of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, an Israeli expert on Hebrew, who helped us with translating, editing, and correcting most of the Hebrew texts in this book, as well as the brilliant English translator, I. M. Lask, who translated almost all the English texts for us. Also due thanks is our fellow Kurower Dovid Rozenberg (Dovidl Shoykhet), who wrote down some impressions dictated to him by several survivors of underground refuges.
I requested that something be written about the two interesting and beloved figures MeirMekhl Rotfarb and Shmuel Finkelshteyn. Unfortunately, no one wrote anything. I would have done so myself had I not been so busy, because I knew them well and was friends with them. MeirMekhl was studious, and later became an enthusiast of Spinoza. He was a dreamer and a scholar; an interesting conversationalist; simultaneously religiously observant and a freethinker, depending on his mood and feelings. This reclusive student served in the Polish army during the Bolshevist invasion of Poland, and was captured by the Bolsheviks. When he returned, he married (in Warsaw) the Kurow native Khaye Flaxer (daughter of Yankl Flaxer and Beyle Grossman, who died young). MeirMekhl eked out a living from a small shop. His food warehouse was in a cellar on Lubeckina St. near Pawia St. They had three children. In the shop, he was always holding a book in Hebrew or Yiddish, by Spinoza, Kant, Krochmal, Luzzatto, Graetz, Horodetsky, Peretz and Nachman of Bratslav. His dream was to be enclosed in a room, even in a tower, as long as he was supplied with bread, tea, cigarettes, and books. I saw him during the first days of the war, in 1939. He was thinking of buying a red maciejowka cap, cutting off his beard, and going over to the Soviet side, where many had fled. But he stayed behind, and was murdered along with his wife and children.
Shmuel Finkelshteyn was a typical maskil who devoutly believed in the power of learning, and therefore spent his time studying. He went to Vilnius and took courses and seminars, when I believe he was already a father. He was very refined, with an aristocratic bearing, extremely honest and punctilious. Initially he was a member of the Mizrachi movement and later became very radical, but was always refined and respectable. The last time I saw him was as late as 1940 in Bialystok, under Soviet rule. Surprisingly, there he was more practical and ran a proper business. As usual, he was very disappointed by the new reality, yet continued to believe in the power of knowledge and culture… And this believer in progress and humanism was betrayed by Poles and Ukrainians, and shot by the Germans.
The board of the Kurow Association in Israel which in the last two years functioned as the Book Committeewill certainly list, and thank, all the Kurow activists who worked to produce this book, made large financial contributions, helped to collect materials and organize them, and also wrote for the book. The Book Committee will thank them properly in our Yizkor Book. However, I feel a special need to express thanks to the person who invested boundless energy, effort, and labor; who in the last two years lived and worked feverishly only for this book: Benyomin Vaynrib. He deserves fourfold thanks. He has a major share in the good deed of creating our monumentbook! He is the technical administrator of the book. In addition to everything else, he and his wife Liftshe helped to correct and supervise the accuracy of the names of Kurowites in the book.
Personally, I feel truly fortunate that I was able, over two years of intensive editorial (as well as organizational and technical) labor, to have achieved the publication of this precious, moving memorial book for our nearest and dearest. We have a Yizkor book of such commendable, grand scope that is not only a memorial to those murdered but will renew and reinforce the family feelings among Kurowites, who are dispersed over all parts of the globe.
Let this Yizkor book be at least some consolation for our great disaster.
Right to left: standing, top row: Golde and Moyshe Fridman, Ida and Yitzchok Nisenboym, Chantshe and Nechemya Kovo, Pessie Beor
Standing, second row: Shmuel Shtern, Zelig and Sara Handelsman, Harry and Esther Grossman, Yosl and Ethel Veos, Elik Beor, Yankl Meir Shtern.
Seated: Yankl and Roza Hershman, Meir Tenenboym, Tzipora Veyde, Khashe and Moshe Starn.
Expressions of thanks
Thanks to the editor, the writer Moyshe Grossman
Translated by Yael Chaver
We title this thanks, because we can find no stronger expression or more suitable term to express our sincere feelings and great gratitude to our town compatriot, Moyshe Grossman, of whom we are proud, for his tremendous work on the Yizkor book for our town, Kurow. Our esteemed Grossman didn't just do editorial work on the book. He invested his heart and talent in it. Every reading and editing was a reliving of all the horrors and deaths of the martyred victims of Kurow. He therefore trembled before every word, like a soferstam who trembles as he writes each letter in a Torah scroll. He thought deeply about each and every letter and word, and checked it again and again, leaving no errors, as befits the memory of the victims as well as the honor of the survivors, in order to enrich the Yizkor book so that it may serve as a beautiful memorial. We sincerely thank our renowned and beloved writer Moyshe Grossman, for developing the raw materials into a beautiful Yizkor book. He refined, polished, and smoothed the large mountain of material that we thought was impossible to master. We wish him a long and productive life in enriching our Yiddish culture. Well done!
[signed] The Kurow Yizkor book committee.
Tel AvivRamat Gan, February 1955
Thanks to Secretary Binyomin Vaynrib
We, members of the Book committee, send special, heartfelt thanks to our secretary Binyomin Vaynrib, for his tireless, energetic, devoted work during the past two years, for helping to set up our great memorial project, for organizing meetings, gatherings, projects, collecting money, managing farranging correspondence with all Kurowites in the world; for administrative work on the memorial book, for taking care of everythingtechnical aspects, compiling the list of victims, collecting obituariesand working actively throughout the last two years, dedicating his time, strength, and nerves. We will long remember this, with profound gratitude.
It is our pleasant duty to thank all our dear fellow Kurowites and associations, all activists who made possible the publication of the Kurow memorial book, either by collecting contributions or by writing for the book, sending important images and materials.
Special thanks go to:
Rabbi Tevye Gutman Rapoport, for his considerable efforts, for writing appeal letters, lecture appearances, traveling from Toronto to Montreal and even to New York, and at the forefront of activity regarding the book notwithstanding his poor health and advanced age (eighty years old, may he live to 120 ).
Our friend Y. Zilbershteyn (Yaakov Hersh Fishl Soyfers) of Winnipeg, for traveling to New York and Montreal in order to start off the memorial book contribution project.
Our two Kurowite printers in Tel Aviv. First, Meir Zaltzman, who helped us with mechanical advice and instructions; and Shloyme Snapir (Flusfeder), of the important HaPo'el HaTza'ir publisher. As a printer in this publishing house, he in fact printed our memorial book and took extra care with its final appearance.
We take this opportunity to mention the compositor Elimelech Birnbaum, who had not composed Yiddish type for a long time and had trouble with the new orthography, along with other deviations from the orthography (local expressions and idioms); and the typesetter Mikhoel Brodski, who took care to achieve as fine an appearance as possible.
We send our best friendly and brotherly thanks to them all.
The Kurow Memorial Book Committee
Local Kurowites, from left: Yankl Gilbert and wife, Yisroel Blumenkrantz anad Dovid Karsman, inspect the table in Beilinson Hospital
Right to left: D. Silver, an activist in Palestine; Pinches Akerman, secretary of the Kurow Association; Dovid Bayer, treasurer; A. Lerman, president; A. Shwis; Dovid Goldshteyn, presenting the check for the project
Kurow and its Great Men
by Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovitch, Jerusalem
Translated by Yael Chaver
Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovich, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court of Kurow and its district, and now a rabbi in Jerusalem, Batei Varshe and its neighborhood, was educated by, and studied with, his father, the Righteous Genius, our teacher Rabbi Yaakov Aharon, Head of the Community Court of Ostrowo, Poland (may his righteous memory be for a blessing.)
He was the soninlaw and student of the Righteous Talmudic scholar Rabbi Y. Eybeshits, Head of the Community Court of Losice (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), and served there as Rabbi and Head of the Community Court under his fatherinlaw. (Following his authorization to decide matters of rabbinic law, by the great geniuses, the Genius Yitzchak Ze'ev Halevi Soloveitchik of Brisk, the Genius of ┼üykowo and ZduńskaWola, the Genius ShneurZalmen Fradkin of Lublin, and the geniuses Rabbi Yitzchak Faygenboym and Rabbi Petachya Horenblas, rabbinic judge and halachic judge in Warsaw, may their memory be for a blessing. He was later Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Kosowo, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Kurow and its district, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court in Bnei Brak, in the Land of Israel, and now serves as Rabbi in the Batei Varshe neighborhood and its surroundings.
With God's help
Kurow is an ancient town. Jews began living there centuries ago, as shown by a gravestone that is about 600 years old, which used to be located in front of the synagogue. Before the First World War, the Russian government ordered all the inscriptions on the gravestones in the old Jewish cemetery of Kurow to be copied. In the process, two gravestones were discovered of students of the holy Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), who died on the 5th day of Av 5335. Apparently, these students were in the area and died while they were exiling themselves, as holy men used to do, wandering from place to place as a form of mortification; according to the Mishna, exile grants forgiveness (Sanhedrin 37). The sages had a wellknown saying that anyone mentioning a righteous man has a duty to bless and praise him. Blessings and praise are none other than recounting his greatness, and I will therefore offer one story.
Maran Yosef Karo (author of Beit Yosef) (may his righteous memory be for a blessing) once invited the Holy Ari for a festive meal at his house. The Ari agreed, on condition that he not be served any hindquarters; he was careful not to eat hindquarter meat because of the veins. The host reassured him that he need not worry, as he himself had removed the veins. In the course of the meal, the Ari pushed away the meat that he was offered. When the Beit Yosef (may his memory be for a blessing) asked him why he did so, the Ari pointed at a piece of meat with veins. Maran Beit Yosef was sorry, as he thought that he had not been careful enough while removing the veins. As is well known, Maran Beit Yosef was blessed with visits by the Maggid, who appeared to him each night. The Maggid told him, Don't be sad. It's not your faultyou did the deveining perfectly but do not compete with this great man and his holy customs: he can find veins even in walls. (MECh33, 1).
Our town, Kurow, is famous for its wellknown scholars who studied and taught in it, and left a legacy in the form of their important books.
With God's help, the fourth of Elul, 5712 8251952
In answer to the letter sent by you, respected teacher, dated 26 Av 5712, I am honored to report that the space dedicated to the Kurow community includes, so far, the following books:
a. Peri Megadim, on Shulchan Aruch 10; bears the name of Avigdor Shabtai Zilbershtrom. b. Kav Hen, by Rabbi Noah of Kurow; bears the name of Akiva Milshteyn. c. Kav HaYashar, bears the name of the town, no note of the author.
|Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovitch, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court of Kurow and its surroundings. Now Rabbi in Jerusalem. Author of Sefer HaYehudi, Tiferet Yonatan, Klil Tiferet, and Zechuta deAvraham.|
As our sages (may their memory be for a blessing) said: No memorials need to be made for the righteous, their sayings are their memorial (Jerusalem Talmud, Shekalim 2.5, 11a), and it is thanks to them and their merit that our town gained fame in the Jewish world. It is well known that the few outstanding individuals can testify to the many. The great people that our town had the honor of producing are not only witness to their own qualities but also the qualities of the other residents, people who were close to them and to the spirit of Torah and were Godfearing. Let me mention a few of them.
|A bill of sale from the 19th century, written by Rabbi Yechiel Goldberg, who served as rabbi in Kurow for forty years, and lived to age 88.|
On April 23, 1952, I was privileged to participate in the first memorial service for the martyrs of our town who were exterminated by the wicked (may their names and memories be blotted out). I also joined in the second service, on April 13, 1953. It is now my privilege to participate in the book commemorating the martyrs of our town (may God avenge their blood) who were murdered for their faith by the Nazis (may the names of the wicked rot).
May God console us in our terrible grief, and may we live to soon witness the arrival of our righteous Messiah.
[signed]Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovitch, Rabbi and Head of the Community Court, Kurow.
Author of the following books: Keter HaYehudi, Tiferet Yonatan, Klil Tiferet, Zechuta deAvraham. Son of the Admor, the Genius and Righteous teacher Rabbi Yitzchak Alter (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), Head of the Community Court of Ostrowo, son of the righteous Rabbi Maharam (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), son of the holy Rabbi, our teacher Rabbi Yehoshua Asher (may his merit protect us), Head of the Community Court of Zelechow and Paris¤îw, son of the holy Rabbi, Rabbi of all the Jews in Diaspora, our teacher, the Holy Jew of Przysucha (may his merit protect us and our children, Amen).
Soninlaw of the Genius, the Righteous, of the lineage of our teacher the Rabbi Yonatan Eybshitz (may his righteous memory be for a blessing), Head of the Community Court of Losice.
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