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[Page 550]

Chapters of Events


[Page 553]

Erev Shabbos and Shabbos in Zawiercie
[Sabbath Eve and the Sabbath in Zawiercie]

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Of course, Zawiercier Jews observed Shabbos with closed shops, workshops and so on. However, Sunday was also a rest day. Not only for Christians, but also Jews – shopkeepers, retailers and artisans were forced to keep their businesses closed.

The young would make use of the Sundays for excursions around the area as well as to more distant regions; we visited, for example, Zakopane, Ojców, Krakow, Wieliczki (thanks to the large train [ticket] discounts of up to 50 percent on Sundays).

Friday was the day of the capable lady of the house; She got up at dawn, heated the oven, went to the market to buy fish and meat and other necessities for Shabbos [Sabbath]. Early in the morning, she kneaded challahs [Sabbath breads] and baked goods, baked cakes, some at home and others at the baker. Then: a symphony of cleavers; the capable ladies of the house of the house chopped meat balls and chopped fish.

It was a pleasure for the young boys in the kheder [religious primary school]; they only studied for half a day. They went with their fathers to the mikvah [ritual bath] and in honor of Shabbos their mothers gave them white, ironed underwear and a clean towel.

Friday night was the “season” of the Shomrev-Shabbos [Shabbat observant] (Henekh, Srulke's son, Srulke Briger, Shimele the apothecary and so on). They would make sure that, God forbid, one was not too late in closing their shop before blessing the [Shabbos] candles. Just out of spite, many Christian customers would turn up just before the blessing of the candles – and it was a shame to waste the amount that would be earned from a sale. [The shopkeeper] would go out of the shop (the shutters were already half pulled down) and tell the Shomre-Shabbosnikes [Shabbat observant] – Jews in shtreimlekh [fur hats worn by Hasidim] – soon, soon…” They would deal with their customers for a while, but when the business would drag on, the shopkeepers would drive out the customers. The Christian customers would often joke: “Why are you so afraid of your God?” The closing and the locking of shutters and blinds [would follow]. The result was that in a few minutes on the streets and particularly on the almost exclusively Jewish Marszalkowska Street, it would be Shabbos. The glow of the Shabbos candles would be seen from the windows – usually a light for every soul in the household; women lit the candles and said a prayer.

My grandmother, for example, while blessing the candles would bless her grandchildren as well as children in general who were with us as guests.

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And first running to the synagogue, dressed up for Shabbos. Jews would be dressed in silk topcoats and velvet “Jewish” hats, if not in shtreimlekh. In the spirit of Shabbos, until the Lekhu Neranena [Come let us sing – prayer opening Shabbos service], and after the Friday night meal, Shabbos songs were interwoven and ended with mystical ecstasy with the Birkes hamozn [prayer said after eating] blessing. During the summer, on Friday nights after the meal, we, the exuberant ones, would go to the aleje [boulevard], stroll through the streets, quibbling over points of Torah, politics, and other matters.

On Shabbos, until noon, there was a bar mitzvah celebration, sometimes an aufrufn [“call-up” to read the Torah before a marriage] of a young groom and sometimes the naming of a just-born girl. For a bris milah [ritual circumcision] that fell on a Shabbos, most of the congregation of the synagogue, from the house of prayer and from the shtiblekh [small, one-room synagogue] would walk according to position to where the father, the person celebrating the happy occasion, prayed.

We would celebrate sude-shlishes [the third Shabbos meal] (We would pronounce it shaleshides) in the shtiblekh with a glass of beer, drawn from a barrel, with which we would chew on a piece of herring, with salted, little matzos, kidney beans and chickpeas.

After Minkhah-Maariv [afternoon and evening prayers], we would run home to Havdalah [ritual ending the Sabbath], grab a small amount of food and run back to the shtibl for the melave malka [evening meal ending the Sabbath].

At the conclusion of Shabbath night that occurs on a new moon cycle people recite a prayer and drink wine to bless the new moon. The prayer is named Kiddush Levana – Sanctification of the Moon.



I remember how many Jews – Hasidim as well as ordinary Jews, old men, and young boys – would gather on Rosh Hashanah in the synagogue courtyard and march from there to a river behind the mikvah [ritual bath] to perform tashlikh [tossing breadcrumbs into a moving river symbolizing the casting off one's sins] (We would say Teshlikh.

[Is this] an allusion to emptying the teshlikh [small bags], the pockets?)

After the Tashlikh prayers, the group would turn out their pockets and throw the crumbs – as a remedy for shaking off all their sins – into the river.

Then the group would sing Hasidic melodies with exaltation.

The Zawiercier Jews would then go home to their families and their houses in a lighter mood.

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Zawiercie also had a mikvah [ritual bath] and a steam bath.

Every Friday, starting early in the morning, one could see fathers and grandfathers leading their children and grandchildren to the mikvah. The mikvah was nothing special, but the public, nevertheless, felt themselves washed in honor of Shabbos and in honor of the entire week.

The steam bath was a very impressive institution; a big oven had been built in the steam room, a little like a bakery oven, well-lined inside. The difference was that the opening of a bakery oven was sufficient only for a few loaves of bread. Here, it was wide, four-cornered, and not as deep as a bakery over. Large stones lay piled at the opening of the steam bath oven that the bath attendant would heat to glowing for those who made use of the oven. Groups sat on a scaffolding of soaked-through wooden seats, which reminded one, lahavdil [word used to separate a sacred object from a profane one] of the amphitheater seats of today's movie theaters.

The very experienced “sweaters” would sit on the highest seats. There it was hellishly hot. If this horrible heat was not enough, they would give themselves courage: “Ah, ah, ah, and boo-boo-boo and again, oh, oh, oh and later, boo, boo, boo; Yudl (that was the name of the bath attendant), Yudl gozlin [thief], Yudl kroyn [crown], hav-v-v-e pit-t-ty, give mor-r-r-e pails [of water]. Give steam, Yudl, ah, ah, ah; a pleasure… Yudl, another pail. Have pity!”

Steam filled the air. The heat was unbearable on the highest benches; children wailed because it was too hot for them.

However, fathers and grandfathers thought nothing of it. They again wiped and flogged the young rascals with small brooms.

Gentiles had their sport in the inns. On the benches [of the steam bath], Jews yelled out [interpretations of the] Talmud. Jews, pale, without healthy rosiness on their faces during the week got back their [liveliness] on erev Shabbos in the steam bath. This had to last for the entire week.

The steam bath was a good exercise place for our coming military heroes. The steam from Yudl Pariser's steam bath went deep into the bones…

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In a Non-Hasidic Shtibl [1]

Ahron Benyamin (Yoma) Lugerner

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

We had a minyon [prayer group of at least 10 men] at the Gmiles-khesed [interest-free loan] society. Hasidim [followers] of some sort of [Hasidic] rebbe did not pray there, but just [regular] Jews.

There, the constant bal koyre [reader of the prayers] and bal shakres [reader during morning prayers] was Fishl Turner. The bal musaf [reader during the additional Sabbath and holiday prayers] – Wigderl, the maker of inferior quality clothes; Pinkhas Wigderzon and Yonis Lugerner were the gabaim [managers of synagogue affairs]. Mendl Litwak (the capmaker) was the Talmudist of the shtibl (later, the Talmudist was Berl Szwarc). His pleasure was to eat at the third Shabbos [Sabbath] meal that we would arrange every Shabbos. Zalman Wigocki, a good bal koyre and a Jew, a good comrade and a dedicated friend, had a claim to the tails of the herrings. He would often place them in his pocket, so that they would not be taken from him at the table. It once happened that Leibl Marszelik drew a tail from Zalman's pocket with a handful of Landrin [made in St. Petersburg] candies. When Zalman noticed that he was missing a tail from his pocket, he would always suspect Yosl, the gr'ter [convert to Judaism]. Yosl was a great clown, a fiddle player in the band, about which it was said in Zawiercie that among the tailors, he was the best musician, and among the musicians, he was the best tailor. It is not difficult to guess that this Yosl (Yosl Grinbaum was his name) was also a tailor.

Because Zalman and Yosl were good friends, Zalman did not make a big fuss over Yosl stealing the tail of the herring.

During the First World War, our shtibl went through a crisis. The German commandant ordered that we could only pray in the synagogue or the house of prayer. After interventions, it was permitted to pray in the Blachacz's (Worcman's?) brick building on the third floor. This house was located on Marszalkowska, neighboring Kopl Hendler's house.

We acquired new worshippers in the new shtibl. I was then the bal shakres. The congregation was very satisfied with my style, particularly Shimele the tailor, Yokhanon the upholsterer and so on. However, several weeks later, it was permitted to pray everywhere, so we rented a place in Tolokh Masacz's house. Above us lived

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Yisroel Faker (Grinblat). He bought and sold furniture. At the wedding of his daughter, we strongly rejoiced. There was no lack of whiskey there. We drank into the morning and got drunk. Then it was also decided that Mendl Litwak should be the bal koyre] because Fishl Turner was no longer one of our followers. Rafael Sznajderman (Hoftacz) and Berish Najman were the gabayim. Every Shabbos, we celebrated the third Shabbos meal with pomp and enthusiasm. There was food according to the demands of Jewish law because Yeremiahu, Yakele the baker's son, brought a six-pound cake, Abele Parizer brought herring, his brother, Ezl, brought beans and chickpeas, small matzos and radishes (direct from Pilica). Before the meal had begun, we were guests of Rafael Sznajderman. His wife was very friendly to guests. However, we had to behave very elegantly, that is what she taught us. When we entered their house, we had to take a bow, some sort of bend, as was done in their house in Galicia (she came from there). Because we were respectable, she served us soft beans, almonds. She gave Mendl and Hershl kulakes (korpioles – turnips). However, Mendl Karpial, who also prayer with us, always blushed – he looked pale up to his golden beard when they mentioned korpioles.[2] Therefore, he always looked to the side so he would not see how they were devouring the korpioles.

An old Jew lived at the New Market. He was called Leib Kire. He would make fun of Leibl Marszelik, saying that little by little he was slipping into another shtibl. He accidentally told this to Zisha Marszelik, who was a competitor of Leibl's. In truth, there was also a third Marszelik in Zawiercie, with a gypsy-like face and with a nice figure. He was actually hired more often for a celebration, because his improvisation as a batkhn [wedding jester] was more progressive and he did a great deal so that the musicians would play more and he would be able to preach less. Tovya with his trumpet often did him [the batkhn] a favor. So did Zalman klezmer [musician], he on a bass, as well as Yosl Grinbaum (the convert) with his fiddle. He was then the conductor of the band. Among them, too, was Anshl-Yoma with his bugle, Skharye with his fiddle and Nakhum with his bass. At the same time, Leibl Dimant also played at weddings but he played more at rich weddings, because his music consisted of more classical and fewer of the of traditional wedding pieces that all of the old klezmorim [musicians] would

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play. He, Leibl, also played then in the movie theater. He also was a good actor and acted in the play, Der Vilde Mentsh [The Wild Man]. And therefore, he would sing: “If you beat me, it does not hurt me.” With Berish Najman, Zalman Wigodski [spelled Wigocki above] and others, he played Naftali Sheyna Giteles [Sheyna Gitele's Naftali], and others.


One of the amateur groups in the town


We Kurnik Hasidim also played – without Leibl Dimant. Once, at the conclusion of Simkhas Torah [holiday commemorating the completion of the yearly reading of the Torah and the start of the reading for the new year], we performed a play named Toyt-lebedik [Dead-Alive], really the same play as Naftali Sheyna Giteles. The city rich man, Reb Sheyna Gitele's Naftali, had no rest in the next world after his death. He returned to the city and asked his former acquaintances to help him have a place of repose in the next world. Fear broke out as soon as he knocked on the door. Everyone ran to the rabbi and asked him and his religious judge to do something about this. As we explained this to the rabbi, the corpse knocked on the shutters of the religious court. The rabbi and the judge and the shamas [synagogue caretaker] were frightened and hid under the rabbi's table.

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The comedy was very nice and cheerful. We only performed this in private homes, for those who prayed with us – sometimes here and sometimes there. Zalman Wigodski played the rabbi, Yosl the convert [to Judaism] as dayan [religious judge]; Shaya Kasier, also as the water carrier and the city guard; Berish Najman was the rabbi's shamas. I played the milk woman, because I was then the youngest among the members and could create a female voice. Mendl Litwak and Hershl Najman acted as demons. This all lasted until 1920, when I left Poland for America.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. A one-room synagogue Return
  2. The similarity between the word korpiole and the name Karpial caused the embarrassment. Return

[Page 566]

Yakov Hersh Czebiner

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Reb Yakov Hersh Czebiner [person from Czebin] was such a popular and important figure in the former Jewish Zawiercie that we found it necessary to publish the few lines written by his grandchildren. Although, in another location in this book, the figure of the Czebiner is described in detail (see A. Honigman – Zikhroynes [Memories]), we are making an exception here of our policy of not giving words of praise from family members to members of their family because of the great praiseworthiness of the Czebiner.

As it turns out, the Czebiner's grandchildren themselves do not know how long the “old Czebiner” or “Itshebiner,” as the people called Czebiner, had brought his excellent medical help to the Zawiercie Jewish community. They write about his 30 years of activity in Zawiercie, while A. Honigman describes the Czebiner during the years between 1881-1898.

(The Editors)




Our grandfather lived on Marszalkowska [Street] and for 30 years (1901-1932), he was closely connected to life in Jewish Zawiercie.

Every Zawiercier remembers the “old Czebiner,” always smiling, sometimes playful, who treated the sick in Zawiercie, both the rich and the poorest of the poor. He would often leave money for medicine with the sick poor.

Day and night, one would see the Czebiner, who brought help and consolation to the sick in Zawiercie, Poręba, Kromołów and many other neighboring villages and settlements.

An autodidact, with an uncommon medical intuition, he acquired respect and love from the Zaweriecer, with his honest and moral life.

His funeral in 1932 was a real manifestation of gratitude to the “old Czebiner,” both on the part of the Jews and on the part of the Poles in our city.

Written by his grandchildren


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