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Institutions and Personalities

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The Orthodox Community
and its Institutions in Zawiercie

Yaakov Shlomo Pardes

Translated by Mira Eckhaus



Personalities and Institutions

I came to Zawiercie while I was a child, - in the year 1912, about a year and a half before the outbreak of the First World War. The city was already in full economic development. The factories, and especially the T.A.Z. factory, which employed about ten thousand workers at the time, prospered. Even then Zawiercie was a magnet that attracted new residents - Jews and Christians. This process stopped with the outbreak of the World War in 1914. Everything fell silent because of the war. However, in terms of the organization of the Zawiercie settlement, the seed was sown for the next development at the end of the war.

In independent Poland, city life began to be vibrant again, in all circles of the general population and the Jewish population.

Various parties developed among the Jewish population, headed by important and well-known people.

In this review, I would like to specifically mention the personalities and events within the circle I was close to. We were in the circle of ultra-Orthodox Jews who were in the“Agudath Israel” organization.

At the head of this organization was Reb Hershel Haberman, one of the descendants of the“dziedzices [heirs]” of Kromolow. He was an exceptional scholar, great in the Torah, and a Czestochowa Chassid. Prominent in this circle was Rabbi Yoel Czweigel, who was a scholar, Chassid, and passionate social activist. Reb Hershel Haberman was also an orator with supreme grace, one of the proponents of Agudath Israel's ideas within the various strata of the people. There was no public meeting or celebration of any kind at which he did not speak. With the power of his speeches, he managed to impress and excite all the listeners by his ideas. He was also an important entrepreneur for valuable factories in the city.

In the ultra-Orthodox circle, the following social activists stood out: Reb Hanoch Kavet, a scholar and a Chassid, one of the most important men of the Ger Chassidim; Reb Shimon Kornitzer, a Chassidic man of the old generation, who owned a pharmacy and dealt tirelessly, day and night, with the public needs and Mitzvahs. He was the symbol of kindness and charity. Everyone who knew him bowed his head before him, - even the non-Orthodox residents of Zawiercie treated him with courtesy because all his actions were altruistic and impartial. Reb Shimele - that's what they affectionately called him - was teaching between Minchah and Ma'ariv a chapter in“Ein Ya'akov” to the crowd that came to the Beit Midrash for that purpose. Reb Shimon died a martyr's death at the hands of the damned Nazis. May God avenge him. Among the activists of the committee of the

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“Beit Ya'akov” school (founded by Agudath Israel)


“Beit Talmud” was also Reb Leibel Berger, a Torah scholar, a factory owner, a Chassid, and a God-fearing Jew.

* * *

“Beit HaTalmud”

We should note the first public school, called“Beit HaTalmud”, was founded by Rabbi HaGaon M.M. Landau before the establishment of the public schools by Agudath Israel throughout Poland, under the name“Yesoday Torah”. In these schools, they also taught two hours of secular studies a day, to prevent the children from being forced, according to the compulsory education law at the time, to attend the Polish schools.

Indeed, the ultra-Orthodox social activists in Zawiercie excelled in being the first in these circles in Poland to realize that a modern ultra-Orthodox school had to be opened, to avoid sending children with parents who were not“observant” Jewish to the Polish schools.

The result was that while there were still no modern religious schools in the medium-sized cities and large towns, but only private cheders, the“Beit Talmud” school in Zawiercie, which was established in the center of the city (in the new market), was already flourishing. The private cheders in Zawiercie in this period disappeared almost totally.

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At the“Beit Talmud”, the students received the original education, which was faithful to the Lord, to his Torah, and his people. They also taught all the students at school the same secular studies that were learned in the Elementary Polish schools. This matter was crowned with great success, and everyone saw beautiful results from this educational institution.

The teachers in this school were: Yaekal Melamed, Itche Meir Melamed, Natan Peretz, and my father, Reb Yosef Pardes (born in Czestochowa). The Bible was taught by Yochanan“Lodzsher”.

The“Beit Talmud” had five classes. We started studying Gemara in the third class. In the 1st class they taught Hebrew and the beginning of the Torah studies. In the 2nd class, they taught Bible and Mishnah. The examiner of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th classes was Reb Zelig Neiman, one of the leaders of the Alexander Chassidim.

At the“Beit Talmud”, the method of splitting the subjects of studies among teachers who specialized in their profession was already introduced. Every teacher has his subject. My father was talented in explaining wonderfully the Gemara and he taught Gemara in three classes. Bible, as mentioned, was taught by“Lodzsher”, whose first name I forgot.

From 3:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon, there were secular studies according to the program of the elementary schools. Thanks to this, the Polish government recognized the“Beit Talmud” as an official institution that meets the conditions of the compulsory education law. All the high schools were open to the graduates of the“Beit Talmud”. In this school, Meir Isarawski taught Hebrew (with a mixed accent of Lithuanian and Sephardic). The secular subjects were taught by the Yanawski brothers - Raphael and Michael. Both were Polish patriots, especially Raphael, who volunteered for the Polish army and was seriously injured during the Polish-Soviet war in 1920-1921. As a result of these wounds, he died before the end of the Polish-Soviet war. In the Polish high school, he was an excellent student in all the subjects of studies.

At the end of the 5th class, about half of the graduating students entered the yeshiva that was situated in the Beit Midrash in the city.

* * *

“Migdal Oz” Yeshiva

Even when it comes to the Yeshiva, the ultra-Orthodox in Zawiercie excelled and were exceptional compared to the ultra-Orthodox in the other cities in Poland. It was customary at that time in Poland, that the folks who finished their studies at the private cheders and wanted to continue their Torah studies - were forced to travel to different yeshivas in Poland and Lithuania. Almost all of them were not educated in their places of residence and went to places where there were central yeshivas.

Shortly after the foundation of Zawiercie, young men from Zawiercie established a yeshiva all by themselves. In my time, the yeshiva's name was“Migdal Oz”, and it was managed by the alumni who founded it.

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At the head of this group of young men was the above Reb Yoel Czweigel, who worked tirelessly to perfect the yeshiva. Through this, the city became a place of the Torah. The young men did not travel to other cities to continue their Torah studies and studied in Zawiercie.

Thanks to this, the voice of the Torah grew and the central Beit Midrash in the city was full of young men from Zawiercie, other cities and towns, who came to study Torah in Zawiercie.

The result was that many homeowners were also attracted to the Torah study, and the Torah study never stopped in Zawiercie.

* * *


And what's more: in most towns in Poland, the Torah studies were divided according to the Chassidic Shtiebelach, each sect of Chassidic - in their prayer house. And each group - in their place.

This was not the case in Zawiercie: they studied together in the central Beit Midrash on Marshalkowska Street. It is true that, due to lack of space in the Beit Midrash, lessons were also given in the Shtiebelach, but the division was only according to the classes and according to the lesson's subject and not according to the students' affiliated with one Chassidic court or another. Thus, for example, children of parents who were Chassidim of Alexander, Czestochowa, and Strikow studied together in the Shtiebel of the Ger Chassidim.

If we have already mentioned the prayer houses of the Chassidim, the Shtiebelach, it is worth mentioning - even if it is superficially, as I do not remember all the details - the number of the Shtiebelach and the personalities who served as Collectors (Gabbaim) during my stay in Zawiercie.

There were two Shtiebelach of the Ger Chassidim: one was in the new market. The other – is on Hezsha Street. In one of these Shtiebelach, there was a collector (Gabbai) who was an upholsterer named Bruin (later, Rabbi Yakel Friman organized another Shtiebel for the Ger Chassidim, the third Shtiebel).

Alexander's Chassidic also held two Shtiebelach. In one of them the Collector (Gabbai) was Hezkel (I don't remember his last name).

The Radomsko Chassidic also had two Shtiebelachs - one in the Leibel Bugayer house, and one in the Berish Schneiderman house. The Collector (Gabbai) of one of them was Moshe Gnandelman.

The Czestochowa Chassidim had probably one Shtiebel. The Gabbaim who served there - if my memory serves me correctly - were Hershel Haberman, Yoel Czweigel, Reb Hanoch Bornstein. It seems to me that Reb Hanoch Kavet and Reb Abrahamche Rothstein were also among the Gabbais of the Czestochowa Shtiebel.

Apart from that there was a Shtiebel of Reb Shlomles (the gabbai was the butcher Ezesha), and a few more Shtiebelach of Chassidim without identifying them with any“court”.

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There was also a Minyan of“Linat Tzedek” and a Minyan of“Amcha” or Radomsko.

This arrangement gave Zawiercie the stamp of a great place of Torah, which was well-known throughout Poland.

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Yeshiva Heads (Rosh Yeshiva) and Lesson Teachers (Magidei Shiur)

As mentioned, in the Beit Midrash there was no Rosh Yeshiva. There was a central person in charge, whose responsibility was to examine the students from the lower classes whether they could be transferred to higher classes. The person in charge, who had the title of Rosh Yeshiva, was chosen from among the excellent students. The Rosh Yeshiva was replaced every few years. This was one of the most effective and appropriate innovations of Zawiercie.

And one more thing: the yeshiva was run by the teachers and the public activists all the years not to receive a prize.

There were three classes in the yeshiva. The graduates of the elementary school“Beit HaTalmud” or young guys from outside entered the first class. In the 2nd class studied older boys, whose studies in גפ”ת (basic and common study method of the Babylonian Talmud) and Rishonim were deeper, while in the 3rd class, they were already studying גפ”ת on their own and the lesson they learned every day was Poskim and“Pilpul” (debate).

At the head of each class, there was one young man who was like a“Rosh Yeshiva”, who had the task of preparing a lesson for each day,“Magid Shiur”. As it was customary that several young men divided the teaching role in the class among them, every day a different young man would teach a lesson and was the“Magid Shiur”. As a result, five different young men taught five lessons during the week.

The older guys would teach in the middle class and the younger ones in the class of the younger ones. The guys who were excellent scholars taught in the third class of the oldest boys. It was customary for the guys who were the teachers in the classes to relearn the article they were teaching in their class so that they would be very knowledgeable in the article they were teaching.

In the years 1916 (5676) and 1917(5677), the scholars who served as the Rosh Yeshiva were: Shlomo David Waxberg, Simcha Mandel Neigeboyer, and two cousins named Leibel Bugayer. They were distinguished by calling one of them the“Big Leibel” and the other the“Small Leibel”. One of them was the son of Getzel Bugayer and the other was the son of Moshe Bugayer. Both were excellent scholars and very knowledgeable ins Shas (six sections of the Mishna).

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After them, the following guys ran the yeshivas (that is, the classes): Itche Ber, Yaakov Landau, Leibush Rabinovich and , Moshe Yitzhak Pardes. This is how the Rosh Yeshiva were switched - generation after generation. When the young men who served as the Rosh Yeshiva got married - The younger guys would take their place.

This arrangement existed - As I have been told – from a long time ago in Zawiercie and was changed in 1918(5678), as will be recounted below.

In the years 1916(5676) and 1917(5677), apart from those mentioned above, there were also the following young men who excelled in the Torah: the son of the oil seller (“Neftshezesh”), whose name I do not remember; Yosel Yosef Landau, the son of“Yeme” Moshe (Binyamin Moshe) and his relative David Landau, Itche Meir Landau's son, as well as Mordechai Pardes, Wolf Landau (Yaakov Landau's younger brother), Mottel Zisman (Mottel Srolkes), Yaakov Israel Bernstein, Israel Srulke Herman, Yosel Herman, Eli Milchiar, Shlomo Weizman, Naftali Weil, Hendel Erlich, Kapel Speiser and many more that I can't remember right now.

From the younger generation of outstanding young men in the above years, I will mention: Israel Srulke Weizman, Leibush Froman, David Silberstein, Alter Chaim Pardes, and more.

* * *


Rabbi HaGaon Reb S. A. Pardes and the monthly Biblical journal“Pardes”

In the year 1918 (5678), as mentioned, there was a change in the yeshiva order: this year a meeting of the yeshiva directors was held, in which all the young men participated. It was decided at this meeting that since the number of students in the yeshiva is increasing, with God's help, every day, it is necessary to look for a Rosh Yeshiva, great in Torah (and even a Gaon in the Torah). It was also agreed in this meeting that, of course, it would be necessary to take care of all his needs.

Rabbi Yosef Pardes, who was among the activists of the yeshiva, also participated in that meeting. He proposed to appoint as the Rosh Yeshiva his brother-in-law, Rabbi HaGaon Reb Shmuel Aharon Halevi Pardes, who was then living in Zesharik, which is near Zawiercie.

Rabbi S. Pardes, who was from a dynasty of rabbis and tzaddikim (the son of the Rabbi of Czestochowa) excelled as a genius already in his childhood and was the son-in-law of Reb Shalom Meir Kirshenbaum of Zesharik. In Zesharik he was supported by his father-in-law and engaged tirelessly in the Torah. Following the promise of his father-in-law, who respected the great scholars, he ate“Kest” for 15 years.

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The young Reb Shmuel Aharon was able to engage in the Torah and continue his studies during this entire period. And so, it was.

However, in the meantime, several children were born to him, and the living expenses were large, and for that reason, - and mainly due to an internal passion within himself, - he began to publish a Talmudic journal called“HaPardes” (the orchard).

The first newspaper of this journal was published while he was still living in Zesharik (printed in Piotrkow). The following newspapers were published while he was living in Zawiercie. The second newspaper has been printed in Bedzin. There was no large printing press in Zawiercie. There was only the printing press of Blumenfeld and Bernstein, who did commercial printing only (i.e.: too small to print books). Before the Second World War, Reb Shmuel Aharon visited the United States of America and since he could no longer return to Poland, he remained in the United States and continued to publish the“HaPardes” journal in New York. This journal appears to this day in New York even after the death of its founder.

The earnings Rabbi Pardes made from this journal made it easier for him to make a living and at the same time to prevent him from being forced to engage in secular matters, because he wanted to engage only in learning the innovations of the Torah. The great rabbis and Gaons of that generation wrote articles for the monthly journal, in which anything new or news from the Torah world would be published.

All this was enough within the period of 15 years of“Kest”, as stipulated by his father-in-law, whose economic status had worsened in the meantime. But when the 15 years of the“Kest” were over, Reb Shmuel Aharon was forced to find a main source of income to support his family.

Because of this, his brother-in-law, Reb Yosef Pardes, who was then living in Zawiercie, proposed to appoint Reb Shmuel Aharon, who was knowledgeable in the Torah and was great in“Pilpul” (longwinded debate), as the Rosh Yeshiva of“Migdal Oz” yeshiva.

Following this proposal, several members of the committee traveled to Zesharik in order to offer him the position. After negotiations, Reb Shmuel Aharon was appointed as the Rosh Yeshiva of Zawiercie Yeshiva.

* * *

Since the appointment of Reb Shmuel Aharon Pardes as the Rosh Yeshiva, the study of the Torah in the city has increased even more. Pews were added to the Beit Midrash until there was not even a place to sit for the older members of Zawiercie, who came to the Beit Midrash to study their lessons. Therefore, they opened a room next to the synagogue, which was called“Polish” for the needs of the young men, so that they could study there.

Rabbi Pardes became Maggid Shiur (teacher) in the highest class, that is: in the third class. Only once a week would he teach a lesson in the second class as well. In the middle of the day, close to the hours before noon, the lesson took place in all classes. Because of the commotion

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and the noise in the Beit Midrash, the lessons of the classes did not take place there. Each class heard the lesson in one of the Chassidim's Shtiebelach in the city, since in the middle of the day there was silence in these Shtiebelach. Only in the morning and in the afternoon did all the classes gather at the Beit Midrash in the city to repeat the lessons and also study on their own.

Even though he was appointed as Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Pardes did not stop publishing his journal“Hapardes” every month.

Rabbi Pardes served as the Rosh Yeshiva of Zawiercie for three years. Afterward, he served as the Rosh Yeshiva of Bedzin yeshiva, which provided with him more options because Bedzin was a larger city. After a while, he was appointed as the rabbi and as a Community Av Beit Din in the city of Szteszakawa in Galicia, not far from the Zaglombie area.

All the time, Rabbi Pardes was in contact with all the great rabbis of the generation, and among them with the rabbis of America who sent him their own Torah innovations, so that he could print them in his journal“HaPardes”. Therefore, he traveled to the United States for a while, regarding his magazine. However, for various reasons, he settled in New York. He prepared to bring his wife and family over. However, in the medical examination, which the American consulate conducted through the consulate doctor, they found that his wife was not in good health. Therefore, she was not allowed to enter the United States.

Again, Rabbi Pardes made efforts to bring his family to the United States, but in the meantime the Second World War broke out in which his family perished along with the other people of Israel in the holocaust by the Nazis, Damn them. Thus, he lived alone and lonely until the year 1947 (5707) in New York. He passed away there after a long and difficult illness. He was brought to burial in New York by the Kollel Polin-Warsaw.

* * *


The Gaon tzaddik Reb A.Z. Fromer (the Rabbi of Kezsziglow)

After Rabbi Pardes left Zawiercie, the yeshivas classes continued. They were managed again by young men: Wolf Landau, Mordechai Zisman, Yaakov Shlomo Pardes, Yaakov Israel Bernstein, Aharon Zilberstein, Israel Weitz, and Leibush Froman. Although I listed the names of the young men one by one, these young men served as Rosh Yeshiva-class yeshiva for very long periods and educated many generations of students. They did not serve as Rosh yeshiva classes at the same time, but each in his student cycle.

Another change in this interim situation took place in the year 1923(5683), when the great Gaon and

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Tzaddik, Reb Aryeh Zvi Fromer of blessed memory, who served as a rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Kozieglowy near Zarki, came to Zawiercie. In his yeshiva studied fifty older guys, many of whom were already excellent learners.

The voice of the Torah was therefore emanating and rising in Kozieglowy.

However, unfortunately, Reb Aryeh Zvi and Kozieglowy's people he received a deportation order from Kozieglowy.

And here is how it happened: in the courtyard next to the courtyard where the rabbi lived, lived the Christian priest of the city. He did not look favorably on this kingdom of the Torah that the abovementioned rabbi HaGaon managed. And the voice of the Torah stung his ears.

Therefore, the priest looked for different tricks to inform the authorities about the rabbi. Finally, he found some reason to accuse him, and, in the end, the rabbi received a deportation order.

After he received a deportation order, the rabbi came to Zawiercie and moved his yeshiva there. Of course, all the young men and students of the yeshiva classes in Zawiercie started to study at the Rabbi of Kozieglowy's yeshiva. Only the first class was left out. The first-class students were too young and not yet able to understand the lesson of rabbi HaGaon that was taught in a way that only diligent Torah scholars could understand. Therefore, this yeshiva class continued to be managed by the young men even with the arrival of the rabbi of Kozieglowy.

The yeshiva of the rabbi of Kozieglowy grew and expanded as students came from all over the surroundings of Zawiercie to study with the rabbi. Many students even came from distant cities to learn Torah from him. The rabbi was a Torah Gaon. He was a scholar of the Holy Gaon, Reb Avraham Bornstein, the Rebbe of Czestochowa, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing for the life of the world to come. After the Rebbe's death, the Rabbi of Koziegłowy led his yeshiva in Czestochowa, and later in the city of Lodz. The rabbi was one of the close associates of the Rebbe of Czestochowa, even in terms of his teaching method, which was called“the Czestochowa manner”, in terms of delving into the issues, clarifying the Halacha, as well as studying all the Rishonim - on every issue and tractate.

Thanks to the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, Zawiercie became a great Torah place. Every Shabbat night the rabbi gave a lesson in Midrash Rabbah in the Beit Midrash. All the diligent Torah scholars of the city gathered for this lesson and the Beit Midrash was full to the brim. It was a wonderful lesson. Everyone found spiritual pleasure in this lesson, which was properly accompanied by legends, commentary, and Hasidism. There was a sweetness in his words, which charmed every listener who would listen to his words with passion. This was felt by the absolute silence that prevailed in the Beit Midrash. Not even the hum of a fly could be heard during this lesson. All week the diligent Torah scholars in the city would repeat and talk about the innovations they heard in last Saturday night's class.

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The Rabbinic Controversy

During this period there was no rabbi in the city, since the rabbi HaGaon Menachem Mendel Landau ZT”L had left Zawiercie a few years before. The dignitary people of the city - mainly among the diligent Torah scholars and the Chassidim - began to initiate action to appoint the Rabbi of Koziegłowy as the Rabbi of Zawiercie. But the Rabbi of Koziegłowy - who was famous among the greats Rabbis of Poland at that time as a Gaon and received questions from almost all the great rabbis of that time, to answer them in practice - was also a tzaddik and a Chassid. His prayers were said loudly and with great enthusiasm. Therefore, even the common people of Zawiercie understood that he was a great man, who won hearts with the pleasantness of his ways and did not upset anyone.

According to the law at that time, it was not enough for the city's community leaders to elect the rabbi, he needed to be elected in a general election by all the city's residents.

There was no doubt that the Jews of the city would elect the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, but unexpectedly came up the candidacy of Reb Elimelech Rabinovitch, the son of the Rabbi of Kromolow, Reb Nathan Nahum HaCohen Rabinovitch, from the descendants of the Rebbe of Radomsko and the grandchild of“Ba'al Tiferet Shlomo”, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing for the life of the world to come. The Rabbi of Kromolow had many close friends in the city that followed him, because he, the rabbi, lived in Zawiercie for about twenty years. His son, Reb Elimelech, was a rabbi in the city of Kaminsk, which is close to Czestochowa, and his father, the Rebbe, wanted his son to serve as a rabbi of Zawiercie. Mainly the Chassidim of Radomsko supported the Rebbe's wish, because Reb Elimelech brother-in-law of the Rabbi of Radomsko during this period, Reb Shlomo Hanoch, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing for the life of the world to come, who led the Rebbe institution in Sosnowiec.

Thus began the struggle for the throne of the rabbinate in Zawiercie. It seemed that the chances of the Rabbi of Koziegłowy were high because all the diligent Torah scholars of the city, as well as the Chassidim, except for the Chassidim of Radamsko and Kromolow, enthusiastically supported Reb Aryeh Zvi.

As the election date approached, mass public meetings were held, almost every day. Each side brought famous speakers. In favor of the candidacy of the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, spoke Rabbi Tronk of Kotna - also a scholar of Czestochowa, - Rabbi Alexander Zisha Friedman, the well-known Aguda activist (one of the students of the Rabbi of Koziegłowy) and the local personalities Reb Yoel Czweigel and Reb Mordechai Mattel Zisman, the son of the Dayan“good Israelke” ZT”L, who was a famous orator, who could give a speech without getting tired for many hours a day.

The supporters of the Rabbi of Kaminsk brought their own famous speakers.

There was a concern regarding the reaction of the common people. On the one hand – the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, who was the son of a medium merchant in Sosnowiec, that is, he was also one of the common people. He did not have a magnificent dynasty; he was not the son of a rabbi or rebbe. And therefore, it was assumed, according to conversations with the common people, that they would also vote for the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, because the common people expressed

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in the conversations their pride that a person who is a great Gaon and a tzaddik can also grow from among them.

However, on the election day, everything turned upside down. After counting the votes in the ballot box, it became clear that the Rabbi of Koziegłowy received 540 votes, while the Rabbi of Kaminsk received 627 votes.

They began to look into the matter and found that the votes of the artisans' organization tipped the scales in favor of the Rabbi of Kaminsk.

Not all the details of how this happened are clear. After a few days, they began to discuss rumors in the city that the leaders of the artisans' organization, which had 150 members, threatened their members, and bribed them with sums of money to change their minds, which was formed first for the benefit of the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, to elect the Rabbi of Kaminsk.

This matter is clear to me, but all those who were involved in the dispute are, unfortunately, already in the world of truth, and almost all of them died a martyr's death. Therefore, we will not investigate mysteries of the past[a]).

Some have said that perhaps the common people feared that if a Gaon, an exceptional Torah scholar, would be elected as the rabbi of the city, the position of the local Torah scholars would be established. Perhaps they feared that the rule of their diligent study of the Torah would oppress the feelings of inferiority of the common people. This version means that they did not do what they did out of financial self-interest, as the first version claims, but out of a desire to have a popular rabbi who grew up in the city, in a very popular Rebbe's courtyard in the city.

Perhaps there was weight in this decision to the fact that the common people in Zawiercie had already experience with one of the greatest rabbis and Gaons of his generation, Rabbi Reb M.M. Landau. This rabbi was also far superior to the average level of the Zawiercie people, and he always felt that the place was too tight for him, and therefore he was often absent from the city. The people of Zawiercie, - with all their admiration for this famous rabbi - felt that they did not have a rabbi because for a long time, he had not been involved in the current affairs of Zawiercie.

It is possible that they simply wanted a less famous rabbi, a rabbi who would be deeply involved in the city and its matters, a resident of the city, who grew up in it and loved it.

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The Election Results

In any case, the results of the elections brought heavy grief to the city's diligent Torah scholars and especially to the yeshiva students who saw the failure to elect the Rabbi of Koziegłowy as an affront to the honor of the Torah. On the one hand - a rabbi who is famous throughout Poland as a great Gaon and as Posek Halacha, and on the other hand - a rabbi who admittedly received acknowledgment from the greatest rabbis of the generation, but who has not yet reached the highest level of the Rabbi of Koziegłowy. That is: a rabbi who was seen as a mediocre rabbi compared to the rabbi whose Torah words warmed people's hearts Indeed

Indeed, the day after the election, when the residents of the city came to the Beit Midrash to pray - they found all the tables and benches of the Beit Midrash turned upside down (like in the 9th of Av), and the young men sitting in a mourning position.

About a year after this incident, the Rabbi of Koziegłowy left Zawiercie and settled in Sosnowiec. He did not manage a yeshiva there because the place was not suitable for a yeshiva for him. He would only teach a lesson every day in front of Torah scholars (about 15 people). A few years later - after the death of the Rabbi and Gaon Reb Meir Shapira ZT”L, who was the Community Av Beit Din in Lublin and the head Yeshiva of“Hachmei Lublin Yeshiva”, one of the leaders of Agudath Israel who served as a delegate on its behalf in the Polish Sejm – the Rabbi of Koziegłowy was appointed in his place as the head of this famous yeshiva in Lublin. The Rabbi of Koziegłowy led this yeshiva until the outbreak of World War II. Amid this war, he fled from Lublin to Warsaw. He lived in ghetto Warsaw. There he went through all the troubles and tribulations experienced by the leaders of Warsaw Jewry. He worked in“Shuster Shop”, which was run by Mr. Avraham Handel. In this“Shop” worked rabbis, Rebbes, and the great rabbis of Israel - for the needs of the German army. Their work in“Shop” saved their lives for several years, and they were not sent to the fire furnaces. But finally, the exterminators came upon them as well: gradually they were all sent to Majdanek or Treblinka by the Damn Nazis and died for Kiddush Hashem.

I wanted also to add something about the events of the Jews of Zawiercie during the Nazi occupation, and about the work of many of the people of Zawiercie and the surrounding area in the“Shops” of the“Loftwaffe” in the factory T.A.Z., but I heard that many, who were also eyewitnesses, talked about it at length.

Our hearts ache when we remember this vibrant city, the holy community, which symbolized Jewish practices together with Torah study, with passionate, sincere, and devoted concern to the cultivation of the people of Israel's values.

And here came the men of Samael's gang, the Damn men of darkness, killing and destruction and wiped-out the people of Israel in this precious city, which was characterized by its Torah and deeds.

Editorial comment:

  1. Who can tell, after so many bloody years, the truth in a fierce struggle like this? Return

[Page 443]

National religious groups
in Zawiercie and their institutions

by Dr. (of medicine and dentistry) Y. Borenstein

Translation donated by Alain Bornstein

It is with a holy fear that every one of us remembers the Kedoshim[1], who during their lifetime kept alive the eternal flame (Ner Tamid), with the feeling of national self–awareness that one is a Jew. It was the spiritual burning bush that burnt inside them like a fire, until their pure souls left them.

We, children and brothers of the “holy ones” (Kedoshim), do not simply want to recite “yizkor[2]” and “kaddish[3]” for our deceased loved ones; we also say “yizkor” in the ears of future generations: see and remember what became of the entire Polish Jewish population. Remember too that all the achievements in Israel, the strength and Jewish national pride, which uplifts you and purifies you, today, tomorrow and the day after, is all thanks to the initiative and dare courage of those who died (for the sanctification of G–d's name – a Kiddush Hashem).


An example of the physical destruction

Let us illustrate the degree of the physical destruction of our nation by describing just one house in one town in Poland: the large apartment building and dirty yard on 21 Aptetchne Street in the town of Zawiercie. In that house I spent my youth.

Only a few individuals remained alive from the many inhabitants of that building. Entire families, like Mendel Yoskowicz's, were wiped out, and no memory remained of them. Both the younger Yoskowicz brothers, Moshe and Elazar, who were members of the “Hashomer Hadati” movement, are no longer with us. Yoskowicz's[4] two daughters, Chana and Frumtche, are no longer with us. No memory remains of the families of Naftali Weil, Dovid Weil, Mendel Zandberg, Hillel Kocki[5], Getsel Lewkowicz

[Page 444]

and Birnfreind. From the large families of Leibel Kwat, Mordechai Kravetz and Dovid Tcherkowsky, there remained only a single daughter from each family.

The heart constricts when one remembers all that. Who am I that I should be worthy of saying “Yizkor” for all those families mentioned above, while their memory is still so fresh in my memory? I feel small and lowly compared with those who have given up their pure souls amidst the most terrible tortures; people with whom I used to play during my childhood and with whom I spent time during the Jewish holidays like when we celebrated the holiday of Succot[6] together in the succot[7] that were was set up in the yard.

The words of kaddish stay stuck in our throat when we say them for our father and mother, relatives, close friends and acquaintances, our spiritual leaders, rabbis, teachers, our fellow pupils and comrades in the youth movements. I was at the time a student in the Mizrachi cheder “Torah Va'Daat” and an activist in the “Shomer Hadati” movement, which during a certain period was a strong movement organization in Zawiercie.


Be Respected and Sacred


The “Torah Va'daat” School – The Torah and Knowledge School

Everything that had an influence on my spiritual development later in my life stems mainly from the time when I started going to the above mentioned modern cheder (more correctly, school). The school “Torah Va'daat” was situated on the Marszalkowska Street in Hendel Hammer's house. It was there that the headquarters of the Mizrachi and Tzeirei (Young) Mizrachi were located.

The classrooms there were large ones and had large windows. Hanging on the walls in the largest room were portraits of Herzl, of Rabbi Mohilever and Rabbi Kook, as well as of our national poet Bialik.

On another wall hung a large picture of the beloved bochur[8] from Zawiercie

[Page 445]

who had recently passed away at a young age, Moshe Dovid Szkloz. He was the son of a shoemaker, a simple, honest, kind–hearted, dear Jew who honoured the Rabbis. His young widow (I think she was called Malle), who was also a daughter of a well–to–do shoemaker and a fine Jewess, was well–liked in town thanks to her refined ways and kind–heartedness, her delicate manners, and her lovely smile. This made her husband, who already as a boy was well–liked in town, even more popular. Their wedding was held in the presence of a large crowd. R' Moshe Dovid Szkloz was a popular boy in the “Migdal Oz” Yeshiva – a scholar who was later very involved with the Tzeirei Mizrachi movement. He used his youthful vigour especially for helping to organise the “Torah Va'daat” school. His funeral was one of the most imposing impressive in Zawiercie at the time.

His friends (Yisroel Herman, Yehoshua Grinberg, my father, may G–d avenge his blood, Osher Yechiel Bornstein) used to organise remembrance ceremonies in the “Torah Vodaas” school in Szkloz's memory. At one of those ceremonies I sang a song which Moshe Dovid Szkloz had written in Hebrew.

The school was somewhat of a revolution in the life of religious Jews in Zawiercie, just as the Mizrachi movement was at that time in Zawiercie.

* * *

I feel fortunate that I spent my youth in the environment of the above–mentioned school, where we learnt not only Talmud, but also the Bible, Hebrew, Jewish and general history in the spirit of modern Jewish thinking. There, we celebrated the national holidays including the fifteenth of Shevat, the anniversary of Theodore Herzl's death, Lag Ba'Omer, and the Proclamation of the Balfour Declaration. Hebrew was much developed there. In those days this was something new in our town because I do not think that a Tarbut[9] School was already established there at that time.

Studies of nationalistic nature were greatly encouraged. Stories in the Talmud and the Midrash that were in line with nationalistic ideology, such as the story of Bar Kochba and his uprising, were taught to us children in much detail.

I spent my time in the classrooms of “Torah Vodaas” not only during school hours.

[Page 446]


The School “Torah and Knowledge”. Teacher and Students


I would go there also on Shabbat and on certain evenings, when Tzeirei Mizrachi held their meetings. My father would often take me along to the debates and speeches. Despite the fact that I was still a child – and I would often fall asleep during the debates and discussions – a lot of it nevertheless remained engraved in my memory.

Y. D. Erlichman and Leibush Yehuda Erlich of Tel Aviv invested much effort and resources in the “Torah Vodaas” school in order to educate the youth in the spirit of national–religious Judaism and pioneering. They are, to the best of my knowledge, the only survivors from amongst the leading members of Mizrachi and Tzeirei Mizrachi. The name of Shabtai Chazan who used to be the leader of the school was often mentioned with much praise and as a model of pioneering because he made aliya[10] and settled in Israel and worked there in agriculture.

Unfortunately, many of the activists in Mizrachi and Tzeirei Mizrachi had planned to make aliya, but due to family commitments they did not manage to realize their plans. This was also the case with my father. My father's friend Yehoshua Grinberg returned from Israel. Sadly, he did not survive the war. I also did not hear from his son Avraham, one of the best students in the “Torah Va'daat” school, after the great catastrophe.

[Page 447]

My father, my mother, my youngest brother Leib and my younger sister Naomi died in Auschwitz.

As mentioned earlier, Shabtai Spivak was principal of the “Torah Vodaas” school. The teachers were Mordechai–Motel Szechter and Dovid Werdyger (later Reb Shabtai Spivak's son–in–law, today of Magdiel, Israel). I think that Kopel Mintz was also a teacher there. Secular studies were taught by Leibel Wigdorzon and Shlomo Spivak during a certain period of time.

* * *

“Hashomer Hadati” – The Religious Guard

From the “Torah Va'daat” school we continued into the “The Shomer Hadati”. The Mizrachi youth movement was industriously organised by Zvi Rubinstein. He trained us to become group leaders and encouraged us to publish a wall newspaper. Shortly before World War II, the “The Shomer Hadati” was considered the largest youth group in town. The leadership of this group consisted mainly of the younger contingency like Manek Rosenberg (who died unfortunately), later also Shalom Granek, Zoshye Vigodska, Yechezkel Szachter (today in Sweden) and myself. Granek died in combat in Israel.

At the Mizrachi headquarter there was also a large library


The Group “Flowers” of the “Hashomer Hatzair”

[Page 448]

that contained almost the entire haskala[11] literature in Hebrew, Yiddish literature and many literary classics.

For a short while I was the assistant librarian, together with Zvi Rubinstein. As assistant librarian I often took books to the town's rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech Rabinowitz. The truth is, as a child I felt antipathy towards Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech, due to the well–known controversy about the rabbinate. As a child I aligned myself with the supporters of the Rabbi of Kozieglowy out of a feeling of fairness. When my father took me on the eve of Rosh Hashanah to Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech, the town rabbi, I grudgingly and in a not very friendly manner stretched out my hand to him to wish him “a good year”. I could not forget the controversy as well as the injustice done to the children of the Rabbi of Kozieglowy, who walked around in threadbare clothes and whom people in town said were literally starving. As a child I could not easily forgive the Kaminsker (i.e. Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech) this injustice, and this was the cause of my childish antipathy.

However, later, when I used to bring to Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech books from the Mizrachi library, my attitude toward him changed completely. From the short conversations that I had with him, I discovered his refined nature and kindness. In 1945 I met him again in a camp, just before his death. More details about this case will come later.


The great destruction

In 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the war, the Jewish–nationalist youth from all denominations were well–organised in Zawiercie. Generally, nationalistic fervour was strong amongst all national–religious Jews in Zawiercie. Tens of national–religious pioneers travelled to Israel.

Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority remained attached to their town – mostly because of family commitments. The mind was oriented towards remaining in the town. We continued believing in the “civilized world”, and it did not occur to anyone that on 1 September 1939 German airplanes would start bombing Zawiercie (at 6 o'clock in the morning).


Translator's Footnotes

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kedoshim. The term “kedoshim” is sometimes also used to refer to the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust because these people fulfilled the commandment of bringing honour, respect, and glory to G–d. Return
  2. A special Yizkor “Remembrance” prayer for Holocaust victims is recited at various times during the year. Return
  3. A special Memorial Prayer for Holocaust victims is recited at various times during the year. Return
  4. The surname in Yiddish is אסאקאווס and is difficult to interpret. Yoskowicz was the closest surname from Zawiercie Necrology. Return
  5. The surname in Yiddish is קאציקע. The closest surname from Zawiercie Necrology is Kocki. Return
  6. Festival of Tabernacles Return
  7. A temporary structure with a roof of branches in which Jews eat and, if possible, sleep during the festival of Succot. Also called a “tabernacle”. Return
  8. Young learned student Return
  9. The Tarbut movement was a network of secular, Hebrew–language schools in parts of the former Jewish Pale of Settlement, specifically in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. Its existence was primarily between World War I and Two. Return
  10. Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel Return
  11. An 18thi19th–century movement among central and eastern European Jews, begun in Germany under the leadership of Moses Mendelssohn, designed to make Jews and Judaism more cosmopolitan in character by promoting knowledge of and contributions to the secular arts and sciences and encouraging adoption of the dress, customs, and language of the general population. Return

[Page 449]

The Torah vaAvodah Movement

by Tzvi Szapiro

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Among the party organizations in Zawiercie were religious organizations of which we do not have to be ashamed: Tseiri-Mizrakhi[1], Bruria[2], and Hashomer haDati[3] (part of the Torah vaAvodah[4] movement). The best young men and young women from the religious middle class in our city took part in these organizations. The organizations were located at the premises of Mizrakhi[5] at Marszalkowska Street, in Reb Hendl Hamer's house.

There also was a Mizrakhi school, Torah Vodaath[6], where the best teachers taught, such as Shabtai Szpiewak, Tovya Grosbard, Dovid Werdiger, Mordekhai Szechter, Kopl Shimeon Minc, Dovid Yokhanon Gotfrid, Dovid Gold. Yakov Ber Erlichman was the director of the school. The trustees were Leibush Erlich, Chaim Kran, Asher Yehiel Bornsztajn, Moshe Dovid Szklarcz, Yeshaya Grinberg, Pinkhus Szmulewicz, Harshl Landa, Meir Finkelsztajn and Moshe Rozenberg.

Every evening, male and female friends would come together there; the


A group of Mizrakhi and Poelei Mizrakhi activists

[Page 450]

Tseiri-Mizrakhi in one room, the Bruria School in the second room, and Hashomer haDati in the third room of the school. Evening Talmudic lessons, lectures, informal talks, and so on were arranged. On the winter Friday nights, studying with us were the comrades: Kh. Kran, A. Y. Bornsztajn, Y. Herman and L. Erlich.

All of the activity was led in the spirit of Torah vaAvodah and was intended to raise a Jewish, religious generation in the spirit of Torah and work. We also took part in all Zionist actions; money collections for Keren Kayemeth l'Yisroel[7], for Keren Hayesod[8]; assigning male and female comrades to hakhshara[9] locations so they could prepare physically for immigration to Eretz Yisroel.

There were those male and female comrades who did not have the travel expenses to go to Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, we created a dramatic society in which Tovya Meirowicz (director), Avraham Erlich, Nakhemia Erlich, Harshl Szpira, Abele Szalberg, Ruvin Wargon, Lipa Borensztajn, Meir Shimeon Zigelbaum and several comrades from Hashomer haDati took part. At that time, we were a big hit with the population. The first performance took place in Zawiercie in the new movie theater, Arlekin. This was in the aleje [boulevard] at Sondowa Street. We presented various numbers, among others, also scenes of Eretz Yisroel.

The scenes of Eretz Yisroel were presented by the Erlich brothers with the entire ensemble. Then: A Gast fun Amerika[10] (performed by Harshl Szpira, Ruvin Wargon, and Abela Sztalberg, with the entire ensemble); Yidn Leyenen Zeitung[11]]; Khazonim[12]. We were a big hit everywhere. We performed in Zawiercie, Zarki, Będzin, Sosnowiec, Königshütte[13] and in their surroundings. And really: with the help of the income from the performances, several comrades immigrated to Israel.

I participated in several years of hakhshara[14]; even stood at the head of one hakhshara, acquiring workplaces and so on. I was in hakhshara settlements in the following cities: Pogony, Olkusz, Królewska Huta, Pradla, Zagórze, and Siemszyce.

I resigned from my certificate [allowing immigration to Eretz Yisroel] because of party and political reasons. According to the request of my parents, I married. In 1936 I settled in Będzin.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. religious Zionist youth organization Return
  2. a woman's youth movement Return
  3. Zionist youth organization Return
  4. Torah and labor – religious Zionist youth organization Return
  5. Religious Zionists Return
  6. Torah and knowledge Return
  7. Jewish National Fund Return
  8. The Foundation Fund – United Israel Appeal Return
  9. preparation for immigration to Eretz Yisroel Return
  10. A Guest from America Return
  11. Jews Reading Newspaper Return
  12. Cantors Return
  13. Koenigshuette or Królewska Huta Return
  14. agricultural training for immigrants to Eretz Yisroel Return

[Page 451]

Khederim[1], Melamdim[2] in Zawericie

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

My first melamid [teacher] was Reb Moshe Frumerman, who was called Vatevke; [there was also] Kopl Belfer[3] whose task was to bring the youngest children to the kheder and take them back home. If a child did not have the desire to go to kheder, Kopl Belfer took them by force on his back. The crying and sobbing of the young child were heard along the entire way, – all the way to the kheder.

While studying, Reb Moshe liked us to scratch his feet with a tin lid. At the same time, he moved his wooden pointer across the large letters of the Siddur[4].

My second teacher was Reb Shmuel Leibele. He lived in the courtyard of Avrahamtshe Koniecpolski, on Marszalkowska [Street], near the synagogue. It was not enviable to be the student that he caught by the ear. The young beginner student came out without his entire ear…

Later, I studied with Reb Itshe Meir Melamed (Rozenblum). He lived in the courtyard of Reb Hershl Pilcewicz (Hershl Olocz) on Hocze Street. We would come home late from kheder. During the winter days, we would leave the kheder, trudging in the snow, holding a lantern in our hands, in which the kheder boys had stuck a Chanukah candle.

And who remembers Sandl Tokocz's khederim? The greatest pleasure for us children was when we left the kheder during the recess. We would make small boats out of paper and place them on the river that snaked very close to the kheder wall in Sandl Tokocz's courtyard.

Later, the khederim became the general kheder, Yesod haTorah[5], which was located at the New Market in Reb Berish Frajberger's house. There the teachers were: Reb Itshe Meir Melamed, Nusan Perc, Dovid Gotfrid (the Lodzer[6]), Yeshaya Wolf, Reb Yosele Pardes and others.

We had the greatest pleasure when Reb Yosele Pardes taught us a Talmud lesson – with his charming melody. He would

[Page 452]

would stand on a small chair because he was short in stature. Still, now, the fine flavor of his blissful teaching comes to me when I think of it. In addition to his teaching, he was a good ba׳al-tfile[7]. He was a Radomsker Hasid. It was worth the trouble to hear him pray, accompanied by the small choir of his sons; there was such a sweetness in the praying.

There was no greater joy than bringing home the best diploma, which was called: Hey[8] – a gift diploma after the examination. Such a student was considered to be the best in the kheder.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. religious primary schools Return
  2. religious school teachers Return
  3. assistant to a teacher in a kheder – religious primary school Return
  4. prayer book Return
  5. Foundations of the Torah Return
  6. from Lodz Return
  7. leader of the recitation of the prayers Return
  8. the Hebrew letter ‘h’ Return

[Page 452]

In the Paths of Torah and Knowledge

by Yeshaya Landau

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

The first educational institution I knew in my life was the Torah elementary school “Yesoday HaTorah” (which was established by Agudath Israel). I remember it as if it was only yesterday. On the morning of my third birthday, my parents brought me to the “cheder” which was in the new market. We entered the principal's office (at that time it was Reb Leibush Zicher), they wrapped me in my father's tallit, and that's how they took me into the preparatory school. When I entered the classroom, my parents handed out sweets and delicacies to the children in the classroom. The teacher and the children in the classroom greeted me with a traditional blessing.

The preparatory teacher – as we called him, who was usually a “melamed” or a “rabbi” - was Reb Yochanan Gethelf (“Lodzer”). He was a neat Jew, with pleasant manners, who was liked by his young students. He sat me on his lap, caressed me, encouraged me, and showed me the letter “Alef” on the blackboard. When I got off his lap and sat among the other children, my neighbor told me that the letter “Alef” had the shape of a “floor water carrier”.

“And to what do the rest of the letters resemble?” - I asked.

I did not receive an answer to this question.

This is roughly how most of the children of Zawiercie entered the load of studies.

* * *

According to the concepts at that time - it was a methodical school, almost like today: seven classes, a principal, one-hour breaks, and bells to announce the break and the start of the lesson. The children

[Page 453]

didn't sit around the Melamed's table, as was customary in the “cheder”. There, special teachers taught three hours a day of secular studies (Mathematics, engineering, history, nature, geography, Polish literature, Yiddish, grammar, etc.), according to a plan that was approved by the government.

Among the teachers, I remember Reb Yosef Shimon Maltz, Reb Itche Meir “the Great”, the one with the wide and long beard, and Reb Moshe Aharon Weitz. Reb Yosef Shimon was also engaged in the selling of holy books in his apartment. Reb Itche Meir was a Melamed in the second grade. He was a veteran in education: He was even the young Melamed of my father. Reb Moshe Aharon Weitz was a teacher in the third or fourth grade. His students liked him to the point of identifying with him when he announced a strike to raise his salary. They went to his house and studied with him, thus the principal was forced to increase his salary. Reb Moshe Aharon was a gifted pedagogue, with a pleasant voice, and was a composer of Chasidic melodies.

Yakel Froman taught us to sing. Many of the melodies and songs were written and composed by him.

Many of the residents of Zawiercie probably still remember his melodies for “Betzet Israel Mimitzraim” (Israel's Exodus from Egypt), “Ezrat Israel” and more. Especially, to this day, I still have in my heart the anthem of the yeshiva students, which Reb Yakel composed in Yiddish - and mainly because Reb Yakel sang it accompanied by a children's choir, at the time they celebrated in my honor at the house of my grandfather, Reb Binyamin Moshe, my “Chumash feast”, in the presence of dozens of guests. The celebration was held on Saturday night.

The theme of the anthem was: “The schedule of a Yeshiva student, according to the order of the days of the week.” The anthem begins as follows:

It comes on Sunday morning
The clock makes a sound
This guy gives a jump
He should not be late for class
etc. etc.

Reb Yakel - who was a little lame, but always joking, funny, cheerful, and happy - organized a drama class at the school, which, as usual, presented plays on biblical, historical, and other subjects at the end-of-school year celebrations. Hundreds of spectators, including women and children, came to watch the plays: such as “The Conversos of Spain”, “Talmud Torah in Bolshevia”, or “In old age - At the boys”. They would sell tickets for these plays.

The drama class included elderly students in the “cheder” as well as the Yeshiva students of the Beit Midrash. I remember that among those who participated in the drama circle were Zvi Liberman, P. Covet, L. Froman, Hertziger, Yosef Herman, Shlomo Kleiner, K. Czweigel, and many more.

Reb Yakel's son, Reb Leibish Froman, who was my teacher and friend, was a diligent Torah scholar, clever,

[Page 454]

and shrewd, - he was one of the students of the Rabbi of Koziegłowy, - a public activist, with great talents, a good orator, and a great writer. He often wrote in the daily and periodical journals of Agudath Israel in Poland. He served for many years as the chairman of the Tzei'rei Agudath Israel in Zawiercie and participated in all the conferences of Agudath Israel in Poland. He worked hard to bring Agudath Israel closer to the practical work of settling the Land of Israel, and he aspired with all his heart to immigrate and settle in Eretz Israel. In his letters to me, after I immigrated to Israel, he always asked me, what “non-arduous” profession should he study to earn a living in Israel (because he was incapable of hard work). The poor man did not know that a time would come when to make a living in Eretz Israel one must work hard.

My Rabbi and teacher, Reb Chaim Bevis, of Ostojow[1], the son-in-law of Reb Yakel, will also be well remembered. He was one of the distinguished and excellent students of the Rabbi of Kocziglower. After he was widowed from his first wife (the daughter of Reb Yossel Diamant - one of the elders Chassidim of Czestochowa, whose son was before the First World War in Israel), he married his sister-in-law, the daughter of Reb Yakel Froman (and maybe vice versa). Then he was also appointed as Teacher of Tzedek and Dayan in Zawiercie.

Reb Yakel's elderly brothers will also be remembered: Reb Mendel and Reb Shemelke Froman and their sons. They also had a large part in the spiritual view of our city – especially thanks to their musical sense.

Reb Mendel was a regular prayer leader (Ba'al Tefilla) during the Days of Awe with the Rabbi of Pilica. All over Poland, there were conversations about the sweetness of his prayers. His son Avraham Itzhak, used to travel every morning by train to Bedzin-Sosnowiec - and when the month of Elul came, he would memorize the tunes of the prayers. When he did that, Jews from the entire train would gather to his car, to enjoy his tunes.

I will also remind you, of Israel Shlomo (the son of Rabbi Mendel Froman), or “Meshugener Srulke” as his friends affectionately called him. Each time he crossed the old market, which was populated only by Jews, the “yoizel” (sculpture of Jesus), which stood there in the middle, was unbearable in his opinion. Every time he would turn his head to the side to avoid looking at the statue, and while walking he would repeat several times the verse “Sheketz Ieshkatzenu”; but all this was not considered as a solution in his opinion, and he decided that this abomination (shikutz) should be uprooted from its place.

And so, he did as he said…

And here: the next day, on a stormy winter night, Jews passed by the place and saw that the “yoizel” was gone. A short investigation found out that “Meshugener Srulke” was involved in this action. A commotion arose in the Beit Midrash, and the Jews were caught by fear of “what would the gentiles say” (or what would the gentiles do) …

Over the years, Israel Shlomo Froman became a Doctor of Philosophy in Switzerland. He was a very talented journalist and activist.

[Page 455]

* * *

And Israel Froman was the only son of Rabbi Shemelke after his eldest son Yakele died in Vienna from appendicitis. I remember him with excitement, because we parted, when I immigrated to Israel, in a way that left its mark in my heart.

It was one night, at 11 o'clock, while I and my whole family were standing at the train station waiting for the train that should take us to Israel. Around us was a large crowd, hundreds of our friends, Jews, and non-Jews, that had come to accompany us and say goodbye to us before we immigrated to the Land of Israel.

And here, amid the noise and commotion, Israelke managed to make his way towards me. He was sweating. His breath was short, and he was all panicked - from running too much as he was afraid that he would be late. Israelke took me aside as if he wanted to share a secret with me, and a small book in his hand. It was a small pamphlet named “The Praises of the Baal Shem Tov.” He handed me the pamphlet and said:

“On your journey to Israel, - accept this humble gift from me. Who knows if I ever get to live in Israel, so my wish is that at least this book will be there with you. By doing so you will remember me there forever”… I was amazed to hear these words, and I felt in them all the passion that was in his soul for the Land of Israel.

Although in my story I have already arrived (with Israelke Froman) at the train station – I must pause and linger a little longer to say something about the public activists - the young and the adults - who were active in the cheder “Yesodi HaTorah” (elementary Torah). These were:

Reb Nehemiah Zandberg, who was almost the regular examiner at the cheder. Every Shabbat, he would examine a different class about the Gemora. At first, he was one of Alexander's Chassidim, and he would pray in their Shtibl. But when he saw that Alexander's Chassidim were not doing enough to strengthen Judaism in their place - and especially for the sake of the education of the younger generation, - he joined the Gore Chassidim and prayed in their Shtibl, which was located in the new market. Here he found a room for extensive religious and educational activities.

Reb Shlomo Yehuda Dazenzweig, like Reb Nehemiah, was a former Chassid of Alexander, and later became a Chassid of the Rabbi of Gore and began to dedicate himself to mitzvot and good deeds. He also served on Shabbat, sometimes, as an examiner in the cheder.

But his main activity was charity and kindness: to help someone with Gmiluth Chassadim, and help another one to look for some support, etc. He didn't have to worry about making a living because his wife was a woman of valor (Eshet Chail). She ran a large haberdashery shop and employed several clerks there. In this way, he was free to do his “business”.

[Page 456]

* * *

Reb Shimon Karnitzer (Shimale Uptoker). Who can forget how he was always running in the streets? He was always in a hurry. His tight schedule did not allow him to walk normally. Time was a luxurious thing for him. Every moment was precious, he used to say, it's a shame to waste time just like that, on useless things. He was always troubled and rushing - but not in his business and private affairs. These did not interest him at all. The pharmacy was run by his wife (the daughter of Reb Shlomo Haberman), although he was the responsible and qualified pharmacist. He knew Latin as well as Polish (which was a rare thing among ultra-Orthodox Jews, at that time). But Shimon believed this was not his role in life. And indeed, he devoted his entire life to mitzvot and good deeds: for example, on Shabbat after the meal, he would run to the cheder, to give the children a lesson in Pirkei Avot. Then he had to run quickly back to the Beit Midrash, because people from the circle of learning the books of Moral, Hovat HaLevavot, Mesilat Yesharim, etc. were waiting for him there. Then he had to give a lesson to the class studying the chapter of Mishnayot. And more and more. Meanwhile, on the way, he saw a group of children walking around just like that, in the school court. They have to be brought into the Beit Midrash. And here, between classes, he remembered Reb Fishel “Sagi Nahor” (blind, who knew everyone by voice and remembered everyone he saw even decades ago), or another poor man who was sitting in the Beit Midrash near the back wall. He must have been hungry since the last meal, - Reb Shimale thought, - I must run home and get him something to eat. He brought the poor man the food by himself because when such a mitzvah happened to be near him, he would not let a messenger carry it out, God forbid. No. He will run fast and bring the food.

But if the Shabbats were sacred among the mitzvot of holiness, then on the weekdays more mitzvot between a man and his fellow man (ben adam lechavero) were added; He had to run to get a loan for someone who needed it, or for lobbying, to the “Magistrate” or the “Scarv” for some person, or to take care for support and relief for a third person, and so on. Meantime, he remembered, that at so-and-so's house, his and his wife's beds are next to each other… and he should try again to convince them that they should stand separately…

Reb Shimale was very fortunate: wherever he found himself, the mitzvot happened to be next to him. Once, while he was in Warsaw (probably on his way back from the Rabbi of Gore or on the way there) – he entered a hotel. There he found Menachem Morgenstern sleeping in a bed. The kippah was drooping over his head.

Reb Shimale stood by the bed - thinking over and over, he turned around and returned to the bed where Reb Menachem was sleeping. Reb Shimon did not know what to do. Should he wake Reb Menachem so that he can wear the kippah? After all, it's a shame to wake a Jew from his sleep - and it's also forbidden to leave him like that! - It's impossible!

[Page 457]

Reb Shimon stood there, thinking over and over until Menachem woke up. “I have a piece of advice and a proven virtue”, said Reb Shimon, “before you go to sleep, take on yourself the burden to think that the kippah will not fall off your head, and it will not fall…”

Reb Shimon Karnitzer came from Krakow (he was probably the grandson of Rabbi Akiva Karnitzer who was the son of the daughter of the famous “Hatam Sofer” from Perssburg and the son-in-law of Rabbi Reb Shimon Sofer Schreiber, the son of Reb Moshe Sofer Ba'al “Hatam Sofer” from Pressburg). Reb Shimon Sofer was a rabbi in Krakow.

* * *

From Reb's Shimale's inventions

And now, I will talk about the “patent” of Reb Shimale, which is entirely his and belongs to him solely. And this is his invention:

Thousands of Jews would come to Rabbi of Gore on holidays and festive days, the Beit Midrash was too small to accommodate them all. During the preparation of the “Shulchan” - when everyone wanted to hear the Torah from the Rabbi's mouth - they stood crowded and packed together, yet there was not enough place for everyone.

Reb Shimon once pondered: If it is not possible to stand next to the Rabbi, due to lack of space on the ground, then it is possible to “rise” to… the ceiling!…

Therefore, Reb Shimon tied himself with his belt (Gartel in foreign language) to the planks, which were stretched along the length and width of the ceiling of the Beit Midrash. Thus, he floated in the air, tied to the ceiling, for the entire time the “Shulchan” was being prepared. Others saw him, and so many did like him. .

During the days of the terrible Holocaust, when the damned Nazis shaved off half of his beard lengthwise (of one cheek) - Reb Shimon did not want to cut the other half. And so, he continued to run through the streets of the city, as he did regularly - with the Tallit and Tefillin under his armpit - until the end.

Reb Shimale's son, Rabbi Bertche Karnitzer, was accepted as a rabbi in the city of Rypin after its rabbi, Rabbi Itzhak Yedidia Frankel Shalita (who is now a member of the Tel Aviv Chief Rabbinate) immigrated to the Land of Israel.

He was highly respected in Rypin. He knew how to make a beautiful speech in Polish as well. Every national holiday he would make a speech in the city square, in front of all the residents, including the priest.


Translator's Footnote

  1. The translation of the place name from Hebrew letters אסטאוו to English letters Ostojow is not completely verified. Return

[Page 458]

Religious Life in Our City

Rywka Froman-Zeglman

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Forman Family – Well-known Bal-tfiles [prayer leaders] and Prominent Communal Workers

The Hasidic circles in Zawiercie, with their shtiblekh[1]] and with their Hasidic rebbes occupied an important place in the city. It is clear that they did not visit theaters and cinemas. They actually lived musically and artistically in zmires[2] or at particular celebrations such as Siyum haSefer[3], Simkhas Torah[4] and, mainly, delighting themselves with the praying of a good bal-tfile[5].

The most popular bal-tfiles were the Fromans – Reb Mendl and his sons, Leibush and Avraham-Yitzhak, as well as his younger brother, Reb Shmelke (Reb Avraham'ele Gancwajch's son-in-law) and Reb Yokl. Mendl, Reb Shmelke and Reb Yokl were sons of the Pilcer Rebbe, Reb Leibush Froman, of blessed memory.

Reb Mendl was the bal-tfile in the Gerer shtibl[6] at the New Market. He would pray to the accompaniment of his family choir (his sons and his brother, Yokl). Hasidic Jews had great pleasure from his praying and they would say that Reb Mendl and his choir impressed them as if they were hearing the Leviim[7] in the Temple in Jerusalem. His “worship” at Musaf[8] on Yom Kippur[9] moved the congregation to repent. At the saying of Vekhakh Haya Omer [And thus he would say], –


The Froman family

[Page 459]

the congregation thought that the High Priest [in the Temple] had said it himself. The congregation knelt in great fear.

His oldest son, Reb Leibush, was later known as the bal-tfile in Będzin, where he would be the usual bal-tfile with the rabbi there (father of Reb Itshe Meir Lewin, former aid minister and leader of Agudas Yisroel until today). His second son, Reb Avraham Yitzhak, prayed in a shtibl in Hershl Harberman's house, at the Apteczner, as well as in the chapel of the Gmiles Khesed [interest-free loan] Fund. Reb Avraham Yitzhak had a strong, fine voice, like an opera singer.

Reb Shmelke prayed with the rebbe, Reb Abrahmele – his father-in-law – at the New Market. Until today, Zawierciers in Israel say that after hearing Reb Shmelke pray, it is difficult for them in Israel to adapt to a [new] bal-tfile.

Reb Yokl led the musical activity in the kheder[10] of Agudas Yisroel[11] Shlomi Emuni Yisroel[12], where he organized a choir. Every Lag-Ba-Omer[13], he would lead the kheder boys singing, each with a bagel and egg in his hand, through the Zawiercier streets until they reached the village of Marciszów, where they spent the holiday. Reb Yokl composed his own songs and melodies, as well as a lot of witticisms.

* * *

The Froman families were also active in the Agudas Yisroel movement.

Reb Mendl Froman's son, Shlomo Froman, graduated from university and was very active communally. As a child, he was wildly temperamental with Hasidic mystical ecstasy. Once, he caused great fear among the Zawiercier Jews, under the belief that he had broken a sculpture of the [Christian] Holy Mother Mary. Once, during a competitive vote between Kocziglower and Kaminsker [Hasidim], he waited for the Kaminsker [Rebbe] and gave him a response from the Gerer Hasidim – followers of the Kocziglower, who were turned against him, the Kaminsker.

Despite his wildness, people noticed his extraordinary capability and they said that a great man was growing up.

And really: in one of the Warsaw yeshivas[14], where he studied as a young man, he was called a gaon [genius]. The yeshiva immediately became too confining for his desire to study. He learned that in Vienna there were

[Page 460]

conferences of Agudas Yisroel taking place. He smuggled himself into Vienna. There he persuaded the Swiss rabbinical delegation, which stood at the head of the large yeshiva in Zurich, that they should try to obtain permission for him to enter Switzerland. He did not have to wait long and he received the permission as well as money for his travel expenses. He made great progress at the Swiss yeshiva, both in religious studies and in secular subjects. There he received the matura (matriculation certificate) after studying for a short time at the yeshiva, and a few years later, the title of philosopher from Zurich University.

As a young man, he was chosen as secretary of the Commission for Reforming the calendar (at the head of which stood the famous Swiss scientist, Dr. Lewinstein).

He traveled as an emissary to America, Canada, Africa, and various countries in Europe. He became a correspondent for various newspapers, in which he described Jewish life in the countries he visited.

In 1936, he traveled to Canada as a delegate of the Central Union of the Jewish rescue institution, Beis Lekhem[15] in Poland.

He had just returned to Poland, right before Hitler's occupation of Poland. He could not escape from the Nazi claws.

People from Zawiercie said that in the end he was a teacher at the Russian Conservatory in Lemberg, where it appears he did not live under his real name. Someone denounced him, that he was a Jew. The Gestapo arrested and murdered him.

So, barely blossoming, a tree was cut down in the very intense process of his development.

* * *

Yankl Froman's son, Leibush, was chairman and leader of the Tserei Agudas Yisroel[16]. He was a very talented speaker and he excelled with his culturally rich ideas and ideological speeches, which he gave in various cities in Poland and particularly in Zawiercie. He made it possible for many members of Tserei Agudas Yisroel to immigrate to Israel, but, alas, he did not live to do this and was annihilated along with the majority of people and the majority of the buildings of the Jews in Europe at the murderous hands of the Hitler bandits.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. small Hasidic houses of prayer Return
  2. melodies sung at the Sabbath table Return
  3. completion of the book – celebration of the completion of Torah study Return
  4. holiday celebrating conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah reading and the start of the next cycle Return
  5. leader of prayers Return
  6. one-room house of prayer and study Return
  7. descendants of the Tribe of Levi Return
  8. prayers recited immediately after the morning prayers Return
  9. Day of Atonement Return
  10. religious primary school Return
  11. Orthodox Union of Israel Return
  12. Union of the Faithful in Israel Return
  13. holiday between Passover and Shavous, the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people Return
  14. religious secondary schools Return
  15. bread for the needy Return
  16. young men's movement of Union of Israel Return

[Page 461]

The Torah vaAvodah Movement
and the Bruria Organization in Zawiercie

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The Torah vaAvodah [Torah and labor – religious Zionist youth organization] branch of the Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] movement created various aid organizations among the young people: Tserei Mizrakhi [Mizrakhi youth movement] – for boys and girls up to 18 years old; Bruria [woman's youth movement], which was an independent women's group.

Among the Mizrakhi personalities in my time, I remember: Reb Chaim Kron, Hershl Landau (Reb Yehiel Windman's son-in-law), Melekh Pachter, Leibush Erlich, and many others whose names I do not remember.

Yisroel Herman and Hershl Rubinsztajn then stood at the head of Tserei Mizrakhi.

Yisroel Herman was a recognized speaker and the [Tserei Mizrakhi] center in Warsaw would often send him to various cities for lectures as well as on organization matters.

It is correct to say that he dedicated a great deal of strength, all of his strength, to the Torah vaAvodah movement in Poland and Zawiercie in particular.

The number of comrades whom he encouraged to emigrate to Israel was large, but he, himself, was not privileged to do so.

Hershl Rubinsztain, also from his youth, was active in the Torah vaAvodah movement and he made use of his intelligence and consciousness. He had to support himself and his sisters, yet he dedicated his entire free time to the movement.

The most cultured and finest young people were in Ts-erei Mizrakhi and even children from Hasidic homes. For example, I remember the bitter struggle, the member Moshe Rajzman, the son of the well-known extremely pious Reb Henekh, Srulke's son, had to endure in Zawiercie. In this struggle, the movement whose purpose was to build Eretz Yisroel based on Torah and work had the upper hand. Other children from Hasidic homes also had the same bitter struggle, both at home and among comrades who retained their previous attitudes.

Alas, he also, like many other comrades, did not have the merit to emigrate to Israel.

[Page 462]

In my time, also active as [members of] Tserei Mizrakhi – in addition to those mentioned above were the brothers Avraham, Pinkhus and Nakhmia Erlich, Henekh Diamant, Shimeon Ziglbaum Tzvi Szapira, Toyva Meirowicz Ruvin and Leibl Wargon, Chaim Dach, Libermentsh, Lipa Zajfman, Lipa Bornsztajn, Dovid Meirczik, Yitzhak Jakubowicz, Lapidus and many others, whose names I have forgotten.

The leaders of HaShomer Hadati [The Religious Guardians] were: Moshe Morgnsztern and, then, the Rozenberg brothers (Yitzhak, Menakhem and Shaul), Sholem Granek and others. A group of [female] friends, such as Y. Granek, Brukha Froman and others, also were active in HaShomer Hadati.



In Zawiercie, Bruria [a woman's youth movement] was divided into groups in which cultural activity was carried out appropriate to the age and to level of those taking part in this or that group.

I was at the head of the dear to me and unforgettable Bruria, from when the organization was founded until the end of 1935, when I emigrated to Israel. In addition to the groups' activities, there were also organized joint gatherings of all the groups. I was at the head of the two oldest groups. The comrades Szajndl Liberman and Mindjia Nauman were at the head of the younger ones. In addition to them, active in the organization were: Dwoyra-Dora Rubinsztajn, Dwoyra-Dora Birnsztok, Malka Froman, Faygl Grinbaum, Zelda Szlezinger, Hinda Wajl, Yadzia Dafner, Gitl Bornsztajn, Gutsha Zisman, Chaya Dajch, Y. Brama, Yadzia and Nadzia Lapidus, Chaya and Shifra Rajzman, Dwoyra-Dora Groman, Y, Meirowicz, Tseshka Liber, Pola Zisman and others.

Bruria sent members to hakhshara [agricultural training for potential emigrants to Eretz-Yisroel]; they then emigrated to Israel and here devotedly fulfilled their duties to K.K.L. [Keren Kayemet LeYisroel – Jewish National Fund], Keren Hayesod, Keren Torah vaAvodah [Torah and Labor Foundation] and so on.

In addition to widespread cultural and idealistic activity, Bruria also organized modern Hebrew courses.

[Page 463]

The Alizot group of Bruria


In 1934, the Zawiercie Bruria was the initiator and the host of a conference of all Bruria branches in the Kielce province. The conference took place in the large cinema, Stela. Taking part in it from Mizrakhi [Religious Zionists] were Rabbi Najfeld, of blessed memory, Levi Eingster as well as Laya Sapir from Eretz-Yisroel.

The conference was a great attraction for Zawiercie.

The conference decided to create a Khug Madrikhot [instructors' circle], in which representatives of all the cities from the Kielce province were represented. I became the chairwoman of the instructors' circle; Comrade Sheyndl Liberman – secretary. Therefore, all of the work of the central office of the circle was carried out by the Zawiercie Bruria leadership. This fact strengthened the popularity of Zawiercie – both in the branches of the Kielce province, and in the central office. The Zawiercie Bruria was a pattern for our Bruria branches in Poland. In my function as chairwoman of the circle, I visited the central office in Warsaw; all of the cities and shtetlekh [towns] in Zaglembie, as well as all of western Galicia – Chrzanów, Jaworzno, Oświęcim, Bielsko Wadowice, Nowy Targ, Nowy Sącz, Tarnow, Krakow and so on – at least to Zakopane. I

[Page 464]

gave lectures and created organizations in places where there were no Bruria organizations.

The Hitlerist lava flooded Europe. Its result was to choke what we called Zawiercie.

All of this belongs to the past. Alas, no more than memories survive.

[Page 464]

From Days Gone by in Zawiercie

Shraga Shpeizer (Shaar Hagolan)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

As a yeshiva student, I was one of the youths of “Agudath Israel”, but the first bonds of Haskalah and Zionism had already penetrated our ranks. Indeed, a group of young people in this union started a struggle to change its path. In the end, many moved to “Tze'irei Mizrachi”. Several members moved from “Tze'irei Agudath Israel” to “HaChalutz” and “HaShomer HaTzair”.

* * *

Until about 1916, each teacher would run his own “cheder” in his own home. The teachers were: 1. Shmuel Leib (teacher of young students) and his son-in-law Yosale: 2. Itche Meir: 3. Yehoshua Wolf: 4. Natan Peretz and more.

Around the year 1916, all the teachers organized and set up a sort of a joint “cheder”, in which classes according to grades were already customary. For this purpose, they rented a house near the “Fabritschne Teich”, which is near the river. After a year or two, they rented the hotel in the new market with all its wings. A parents' committee was established and the institution was called “Beit HaTalmud”. As the “cheder” manager was elected Mr. Yaakov Ber Erlichman (now works in the community committee in Tel Aviv. His son Avraham lives in the vicinity of Netanya).

After a certain period, the cheder” was transferred to the sponsorship of “Agudath Israel” and its name was changed to “Yesodi HaTorah”. At the same time Rabbi Yochanan Gottfried, who was called “the lodger”, joined the team of teachers.

The artistic director (voluntarily) was Mr. Yakel Froman. - a cheerful man, full of joy in life, who created a good atmosphere around him. He directed the “cheder” choir and would organize a magnificent student performance on the occasion of the completion of each Talmud tractate.

[Page 465]

He would compose the performances, the chants, and the melodies. He was the director and the performer.

The version of the “hymn” for the students of the joint cheder, which was composed by Yakel Froman of blessed memory was:

(The next poem is translated from Yiddish by Gloria Berkenstat Freund)

We are the students of the large, beautiful kheder [religious primary school],
We constantly study the Torah prophets,
We thank our teachers and the committee
Thanks to their effort we reach a path
We are proud, we are proud without anxiety, without fear
Because we study the holy Torah,
Yes, yes, we are proud,
Yes, yes, proud, proud, proud…

Oh, how good and how nice
It is for a young man
When he sits and studies the holy Torah
When he sits and thinks
And considers the words well,
The meaning of the Laws of Moses.

Sunday morning arrives
Gates and shutters are still closed
He looks to see if it is time (!).

The clock chimes
The young man jumps up
He is afraid; he is already late.

* * *

I would also like to point out the great role of the Zionist pioneer movements in our city (I joined at an older age). I remember that in 1918-1919, a pioneer farm was founded in our city. A group of guys decided to fulfill and organize their dream and ambition for agricultural work. They received land in the yard of Mr. Landau (the son-in-law of Reb Yehiel Windman) and grew a wonderful vegetable garden in it. I don't remember the guys' names. But I remember that my elder brother Naftali was among the founders of “HeChalutz” and the pioneer farm.


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