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[Page 39]

“Mizrachi” in Our Town

by Benyamin Wajnrib

Translation by Pamela Russ

Before I proceed to the essential facts of the Mizrachi movement in our town of Kurow, I can't not print on paper the face of the leader of the Mizrachi movement in our town.

This was my father Yankel Weinreb, son of Reb Leibish Shochet's of Ostrowa, married to

 

Yankel Weinreb, perished

 

Shaindel Yitzchok's in the year 1899 at the age of 16. It was arranged by Reb Yitzchok Nisenboim (or as he was called, “Andrus”) for this boarding young son–in–law to receive a large dowry, a beautiful daughter, and twelve years of room and board in a home that was the location of this Zionist organization. Every day, “Hatzefira” [Hebrew newspaper in Poland] arrived there, all kinds of brochures, books. And even though my father was a very religious man, going every day to the Beis Medrash [Study House] with his large Gemara [Talmud], with his eyes looking downward so that, G–d forbid, he should not see a woman, and as a chassid of Lublin for generations and generations, he used to go to the Rebbe Reb Avremele Eiger, of blessed memory, and was there from Rosh Hashana until after Sukos, but he was also a lover of Hebrew books. He read all the published works that came to his grandfather's home. In those times, these publications were considered non–kosher and invalid.

This was all done discreetly, so that none of the chassidim should, Heaven forbid, discover this. He,

[Page 40]

however, did continue with his study of chassidut. But when the Balfour Declaration was declared in 1917, a great joy encompassed the Jewish masses in Poland, my father openly spoke in the Beis Medrash and in shul about establishing a religious Zionist party, the Mizrachi, and not to leave everything for the non–religious Zionists, if for the Land of Israel – if the religious would be great supporters of this. He was a major participant in the establishment of the “Mizrachi.”

Very soon, there were many assistants. The other participants were:

Hershel Rappaport, Henech Wurman, Yidel Brik, Naphtoli Vineberg, Shmuel Eliye Grosman, Yechiel Meyer Morgenstern, Shmuel Dovid Levin, Sender Zishe Eizenstat, Alter Bergman, Yosef Leyb Grosman, Yankel Hochman.

This was the first elected administration. They began to solicit members from the religious masses, and soon more than 100 members were registered. With this good beginning, the Mizrachi began its activities.

The administration brought in speakers through the Central Committee of the Mizrachi. This is how HaRav Gutman Rappaport was brought to us. Today he is a Rav in Toronto. His speech in shul left a marked impression. Also, the Radzanow Rav spoke and inspired the regional Mizrachi.

Many young men of the Batei Midrashim [Study Houses] joined the lines of the Mizrachi. Then the extremist chassidim put up a great outcry. Motel Zilberblum, Noach Lehrman, and others began to decry my father as the evil force,

 

Shaindel Weinreb–Nisenboim, Yankel's wife, perished

[Page 41]

Shmuel Dovid Levin in Buenos Aires

 

a heretic, and other such names. My father ignored all of this and continued with his work for the Mizrachi.

It went so far that they informed on my father to the Rebbe, Rav Shloime Eiger, of blessed memory, and the Rebbe himself sent for him. My father traveled to the Rebbe, and the Rebbe admonished my father strongly. But my father could not remain “guilty” and he said to the Rebbe:

 

Yankel Weinreb's daughter Sheva, with her husband Mendel Fajerstein, from Ostrowa, perished

 

“Rebbe, I am a lover of Zion. The Mizrachi is a religious party, and I have not, G–d forbid, strayed off the right path. You can see that the “Agudah” [religious party] has also begun working for Israel.”

The Rebbe replied: “Who says, Yankel, that the Agudah, in my view, is kosher? You should know that anything that is called “organization,”

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Yankel Hochman and his daughter Shprintze, perished

 

is forbidden, and I am against it. ‘If G–d did not build the house, then the builders have labored in vain’ [Psalm 127].

My father left the Rebbe and did not go back to him again.

When my father came back home that time, he sat the children down at the table that evening and 20 times, sang the song “Al Eim Haderech” [“to the crossroads”; Hebrew song relating the love of Israel] until we knew it by heart. Each time he sang the song, tears ran from his eyes. That is how he infused the love of Israel into his children.

The Mizrachi then played the central role in Zionist work. When the San Remo Act was passed in 1921, and a great passion ruled over the Jewish people of Poland, and the Keren Hageulah [the Redemption Fund] began its work, Mizrachi became the leader of all these activities.

Thousands of men and women – after the speeches of my father (in Hebrew), Nachum Strassburg, Hershel Rappaport, Moishe Najmark, Henech Wurman – rushed to the tables where they were accepting golden tokens. Women removed their pins, earrings, pearls, men

 

Serke, a daughter of Yankel Weinreb, perished

[Page 43]

Seated, from left to right: Kaile Noach Mendel's, Vineberg, Chaya Noach Mendel's, Naphtoli Vineberg, Noach his grandson, a son of Miriam (in Israel), Faige Gittel.
Standing, from left: Henyele Naphtoli's, Miriam Naphtoli's (lives in Israel), Yankele Naphtoli's, Baila Naphtoli's, son of Avrohom Shmuelichel – all, other than Miriam and her son Noach – perished

 

gave gilden ten rubles, golden watches.

The passion continued without end. There was a team of ten secretaries at the podium of the shul, who provided receipts for the donated tokens. The efforts by the people were so great that an additional unit had to be created at the bridge [entry shelf] of the Holy Ark. The managers of this second unit were: Shmuel Elye Grosman, Naphtoli Vineberg, Shmuel Dovid Levin. The lines of people with tokens for the Keren Hageulah continued to grow steadily. We could hardly handle all of it.

All the tokens were packed into valises and taken to Warsaw by Yankel Hochman and Shmuel, Dovid Levin (today he is in Buenos Aires).

The work of Keren Kayemet of Israel [Jewish National Fund] lay primarily on the shoulders of the Mizrachi. That is how Henech Wurman was elected as director of Keren Kayemet and my father as treasurer of the funds.

At that time, 600 charity boxes of Keren Kayemet were distributed in Kurow. The monthly income was very large. Henech Wurman, who was a very energetic person, did not allow himself to be diminished, was also the representative of the Jews in the non–Jewish region, and he cast off many decrees of the non–Jews, accomplished a lot for the Keren Kayemet at that time. I remember a fact that Yisroel Lehrman, Noach Lehrman's son, who was a member of the Agudah and strongly fought against Zionism, spoke up during the speech of an

[Page 44]

emissary from Warsaw about the Keren Kayemet, and he said that the monies of Keren Kayemet were going to brothels. Henech Wurman could not let this pass in silence and immediately sent him to court. During the court case discussions, the judge was generally given to understand the goal of Keren Kayemet, and the judge sentenced Yisroel Lehrman to three months penalty – with the right of Henoch Wurman to pardon him.

The religious extremists began a terrible outcry in town, and they tormented Henoch Wurman, broke windows, and tortured him. But he was hardly frightened, and demanded 500 zlotys for Keren Kayemet – and with that he would redeem the prison sentence.

I remember it was already that final day of being able to pay off the sentence, and a great crowd went to Henech Wurman. They shouted at him, but he said his own piece, that if a young boy can express himself in that way about such a holy thing as the Keren Kayemet, then he should go to prison. But if they want, then he could go before a Rabbinical court.

So, the religious ones did not have a choice and they went to Rabbinical court, and Reb Yankele Moti's judged that he would have to pay 250 zlotys as a punishment. With that, it ended. And the extremist religious people were now enemies to Reb Yankele for this judgement.

The location of the Mizrachi at that time was at Reb Pinchas Moti's, and each night, my father, along with 40–50 other Jews, would study Mishnayos [Oral Torah] and some Gemara [Talmud]. On Shabbath, he once again would study Perek [“Pirkei Avos” ; Ethics of Our Father”] with a group, and this led many Jews to Mizrachi.

[Page 45]

Pinchas Etinger Moti's (died in Israel) and his son Nute (living in Israel)

 

The first émigrés to Israel of the Mizrachi group were Pinchas Etinger and his son Meyer, who left to Israel in the year 1920, and the Mizrachi organized a great banquet in his honor, and there were fiery speeches given.

In 1920, the next émigrés to Israel were the Kurow Rav, HaRav Av Beis Din [head of Rabbinical court] Reb Aryeh Mordechai Rabinowycz, also a discreet supporter of Mizrachi, along with his entire family. He then went with the founders of Bnei Brak who took him on as their Rav.

At that time, there was a great tumult, that a Rav and his ten children would leave a city. But as a great lover of Zion, he disregarded any blockades, and in that way he actually saved himself and his family from destruction.

The Rav, Reb Aryeh Mordechai today is found in Jerusalem, where he is the Rav for Batei Warsaw [Houses (community and religious locales) from Warsaw] and lives his life through Torah and its laws.

[Page 46]

After that, the next émigrés were Dovidel Shochet Rosenberg (Moshke Shochet's grandson) and his family and worked in a settlement here, and today he and his family are in Israel.

This was all thanks to calculated activities of the religious Zionism, the Mizrachi.

Later, more youth were attracted to Mizrachi, and they undertook a strong participation in the movement and helped spread religious Zionism. Of the most important were:

Yechiel Anker, Osher Edelstein, Gershon Zeltzer, Yankel Rubenstein, Yitzchok Keiman, Yechiel Eizman, Velvel Ginzberg, Moshe Chaim Gewirtzman.

 

Gershon Zeltzer – perished

 

And along with the Zionist organization, the work of solicitation went on in the Jewish community and in various institutions where a Zionist had not yet had a foothold, and it came to pass that Yechiel Anker became the chairman of the Jewish community and established funds for Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayesod.

And all this vanished with the smoke of the gas chambers through the Nazis, may their names be erased.

 

The Kurow women in New York submit a check of a few thousand dollars to the Jewish Appeal, to build a house for a new émigré

Seated from right to left: Evelyn Rosenberg, Baila Guberman – Chairlady, Sophia Morgenstern, Edmond Rosenberg – Secretary and Treasurer, Anna Schneiderman – Secretary of Ladies Auxiliary, and Leibel Morgenstern. Sholom Rubenstein – President, and Chantshe Kenig – Treasurer of the Ladies Auxiliary, were absent.


[Page 47]

The Cooperative Bank

by Benyamin Wajnrib/Ramat Gan

Translation by Pamela Russ

Kurow was a poor town. There were many craftsmen and small merchants who barely earned a living, Jews without capital would run around every day trying to grab up a few hundred zlotys, one borrowing from the other. It had been a long time that the town already needed a bank that could lend every worker, merchant, and others, a few hundred zlotys so that one could do business with that, or work. There were all kinds of attempts that were not successful, until finally, by chance, something worked.

When they chose a Rav in the town of Kurow, after HaRav Aryeh Mordekhai Rabinowycz (and this was HaRav Reb Elimelekh Gutterman), the administration of the handworkers' union, at the head of which was Yisroelke Zamdmer, requested 1500 zlotys as the first founding capital for a cooperative bank and for that they promised their votes for HaRav Elimelekh Gutterman, to which he agreed. The Rav paid this money.

With this foundation money, the handworkers' union in Kurow took to the task, but they did not have a finance person who could run a bank.

Because of that, they approached Sholom Goldberg (the son of the Korower Rav, Reb Yekhiel), who was

 

Sholom Goldberg, left Kurow with his family to Israel. He died there, so did his wife Soroh. His daughters Liftche and Baile live there.

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Sholom Goldberg before leaving to Israel in 1935, with his wife Sorole, his son Mordekhai and his wife Perel, his daughter Baile (in Israel) and two grandchildren. His son Mordekhai, wife and children – perished.

 

known in town as an honest person and a knowledgeable person in financial issues. This Sholom Goldberg, who for many years was chairman in the Jewish community, and generally one of the most respected people in our town, put forth all his energy to establishing this bank.

A general meeting took place of all the members who paid their fee and then an administration was created with the following people:

Sholom Goldberg, chairman of the administration; Yisroel Zamdmer; Yidel Brik; Avrohom Hersh Bubes, treasurer; Hersh Rapaport, chairman of the council; Yaakov Kenig; Yosel Lerman, bookkeeper; Yisroel Volf Zaidenwurm; Shmuel Khanisman; and Motil Etinger (Tilly's).

Sholom Goldberg left his own business almost entirely and spent every day in the bank. He went to all kinds of people asking them to put in their money saying that he would take personal responsibility for their money.

This made a great impression, and people from all different circles started to come and bring their monies to the bank and everybody went over to Sholom

[Page 49]

Yosel Lerman, secretary of the bank
Perished

 

Goldberg and gave over their money directly into his hand so that they would be sure about their money. That is how a certain capital was collected in the bank and they began to give a loan of a few hundred zlotys to every Jew in Kurow.

The Jews were relieved. The bank distributed tens of loans every week of two, three, or four hundred zlotys. The bank also received loans without interest from the “Foundation” which was supported by the American “Joint.”

The bank held almost the most important place in the city. The Christians, who at some point had some funds, and lost it all for all kinds of reasons, were simply jealous of the Jews' success.

The power of the bank grew from day to day. Every annual meeting of the bank created a festivity in town. They gathered together and every time elected other people for the administration and the council. In the handworkers' union, which was the main founder of the bank, (in general, the handworkers' union played a great role at that time in Kurow), there was a good organizer – and that was Yisroelke Rymezh, who with an iron hand held together all the colors in the

[Page 50]

union. And this gave the handworkers the greatest strength for them to accomplish everything they wanted. Also, those people who helped Yisroelke Zamdmer, such as Leizer Hersh Kenig, Moishe Ritzer, Motil Etinger, Berel Hitelman, and others, took an active role and organized the handworkers who were a majority in our town, and had the most influence.

But their greatest accomplishment was the cooperative bank with Reb Sholom Goldberg at the head.

The bank existed for a long time. Even when Sholom Goldberg left his leadership position at the bank for personal reasons and left to Israel with his family, the bank continued to run under the leadership of:

Yeshaya Leib Khanisman, chairman of the administration; Itche Rosen, chairman of the council,

 

Yeshaya Leib Khanisman
Perished

 

until the great crisis came to Poland, in the years when Hitler came to power in Germany. A great fear and tension took over the Jewish population in Poland, and there was a terrible crisis that also befell the very useful institution. The cooperative bank was locked down even before the terrible tragedy struck our dear, holy brothers.

 

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