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[Page 141]

Lines haTzedek

by Shmuel Gotlib

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund




Among all of the parties, organizations and institutions that once existed in Kurow, it is worth remembering the Lines haTzedek [institution providing help for the sick poor] institution. As I understand it, this was one of the most important for the shtetl [town]. It can be compared with the Kupat Holim [health insurance fund] here in Israel.

We all remember that there were enough poor people in our shtetl and, as I remember, medical help was on a very low level. The shtetl had only one doctor, a Christian, who had to serve the shtetl as well as the villages around it. That is a population of 10,000 souls. And if a rich man became sick, he needed to bankrupt himself and if, God forbid, a poor man [became sick], he had to sell his last pillow. There were many cases when people died because of a lack of medical help.

At this opportunity I want to remember the feldsher [traditional barber-surgeon]


Copy of a letterhead from Lines haTzedek in Kurow, with Yankl Wajnrib's handwriting

[Page 142]

Chaim Shmuel Lustman, of blessed memory, gave a great deal of help to the sick Jews. However, at the same time, he only was a feldsher. Right after his death (1932) the idea for a lines hatzedek in the shtibl [one room synagogue] of the Rabbi, Reb Yankele [diminutive of Yakov] Matises was born. This was on a Shabbos [Sabbath] night. Half a minyon [10 men comprising a prayer quorum] of men would remain after havdalah [ceremony ending the Sabbath] and they would discuss the news of the week. As a boy, I would always love to hear what the older men were talking about. Among those who remained was my father, Leibish Gotlib, may he rest in peace, Reb Yudl Brik, Reb Yankel Wajnrib and others. The theme was:

Lines haTzedek. That they must create an institution that would be impartial and all residents would support it and it would support all of the sick who would turn to it for help. Whoever remembers Reb Yudl Brik, may he rest in peace, knows that when he undertook something, he had to see it through one hundred percent. He was one of the most energetic people in the shtetl, full of initiative.

The first task was to bring another doctor to the shtetl, a Jewish one. A managing committee was created with Reb Yudl Brik, Yakov Wajnrib, my father, Leibish Gotlib, and others at the head. It was decided to call a meeting of all residents in the house of prayer.

It was a Sunday evening, winter, when the people were not away at fairs, but were at home. The house of prayer was fully packed with people, the floor was wet from the snow brought in and a blue smoke from the cigarettes that were being smoked hovered over their heads. The 200 lamps blinded the eyes with their strong light.

Mekhl Shamas [sexton] received a wink that he should silence everyone. He gave several raps on the balemer [elevated Torah reading desk] and it became quiet. At the desk stood several esteemed businessmen with Reb Yudl Brik at the head. Yudl spoke about the importance of such an institution as the Lines haTzedek, whose task was to help the sick poor and simultaneously to bring their own Jewish

[Page 143]

The Managing Committee of the Lines haTzedek in 1938
The picture was taken during a banquet at which the Kurower Shimkha Huberman was a guest from America.

Sitting from right to left: 1)Yosef Yudl Zalcberg, 2) Naftali Lewin, 3) Moshe Apelbaum, 4) Yoska Khazan [cantor] (Okerman), 5) Leibish Gotlib, 6) Rabbi Reb Elimelekh Guterman, 7) Shimkha Huberman, 8) Yankl Wajnrib, 9) Shmuel Chanesman, 10) Avraham Rik, 11) Asher Eidlsztajn, 12) Yitzhak Kajman, 13) Yisroel Zajdnwort, 14) Itshe Feferman, 15) Pesakh Libskind's two children.
Standing: Itshe Apelbaum, Pesakh Libskind, Leyzer Hersh Kenig, a boy, Dovid Rocziner (Korngold), Moshe Blumels, Ahron Wajnrib, Yudl Sztern, a boy.


doctor and to give inexpensive and free remedies for the needy sick.

The assessments began after Reb Yudl's speech. The exit was blocked by a long, heavy table from the house of prayer. Wide-shouldered Jews did not let anyone out until they contributed.

Thus the meeting passed with great success.

The institution Lines haTzedek began to develop and grow. In a short time, they brought

[Page 144]

the Jewish Doctor Perec, who excelled as a specialist and was very beloved by the population. The shtetl supported the institution, as well as the landsleit [people from the same town] in America. Lines haTzedek was supported by the entire population without any difference as to class, social position and party and it existed until the last day of the shtetl's destruction.

Ramat-Gan, December 1953


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