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The First Rabbi of Zgierz

by Rabbi A. Y. Brumberg and other sources

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

The organized Jewish community of Zgierz, whose beginning is dated in official documents from the year 1824, already at that time had the need to engage a rabbi.

In a request to the municipal committee that dealt with religious affairs, the dozors (communal leaders) Baruch Sztejnbok and Meir Blumental requested that the Old Believer [1] Rabbi Shalom Hirsch Cohen, for this was the wish of the entire “Parish” [2].

In their request to the authorities, the dozors describe the candidate for rabbi as exemplary in his moral conduct and sincere in his rendering of prayers. Therefore, the communal organizations request that a concession for the office be granted to Rabbi Shalom Hirsch Cohen. His salary would be 60 Polish Zloty.

The confirmation of Rabbi Shalom Hirsch Cohen as rabbi did not come easily. The municipal authorities did not rely on the recommendation of the dozors, but they rather demanded certificates and recommendations regarding his rabbinical capabilities and his person. Manes Kalski and Aba Darenwus gave such recommendations. In their declaration, they asserted that Shalom Hirsch Cohen, the rabbi of the house of prayer and the city of Zgierz, had already in the year 1823 taken the office and performed the function of rabbi in the town of Grabowo (Leczyca region).

Aside from the recommendation, Rabbi Cohen went himself to the office of the mayor of Zgierz and presented his certificate of ordination, which was given to him by the rabbi of Leczyca. The document states as follows:

“I know Shalom Hirsch Cohen, the beloved rabbi of the city of Zgierz, as a fine person, who is intelligent in learning and piety. He conducts himself very well in religious ceremonies. I know that he has a fine manner of speaking, saturated with Talmud, as well as early and latter laws. In debates with him, I find him full of wisdom and piety. All of his deeds are exemplary. In accordance with this, I treat it as an honorable thing to support him with my hand, stating: he should teach and judge, so that mattes should be in accordance with his opinion. To certify this he (Rabbi Shalom Hirsch Cohen) possesses a certificate from the esteemed Strykower Rabbi, Moshe Aharon. Two is indeed better than one (with respects to certificates), and these two testify to the stability of such a virtuous man. These words are stated in honor of his learning and piety.

In Leczyca, on Monday, January 24, 1827.

(Signed) Chaim Ickowicz Auerbach from Leczyca.

In agreement with the original that was presented, I issue my certification – Zgierz, January 27, 1827.

Y. Zymski – judicial translator.

The following document is a certification of the concession for Rabbi Shalom Hirsch Cohen to the office of rabbi. The document states:

It was issues in the city of Zgierz in February, 1827.

In the office of the mayor of the city of Zgierz, the Old Believer Shalom Hirsch Cohen presented himself, and was qualified as rabbi after giving over the following declaration: “Seeing that he is qualified as a rabbi, as he showed the examination certificate of the rabbi of the community of Leczyca, which is placed before me, he will take on the duties of rabbi in the local (Zgierz) synagogue. As well, the enclosed declaration of the communal leadership demonstrates (that he is fit to take on the office of rabbi), and I issue a concession for that office.

This declaration is signed by Shalom Hirsch Cohen.”

At the end it is signed by: Naszegozewski, mayor of the city of Zgierz.


Reb Shlomo Yehuda Leib HaKohen of holy blessed memory
The last rabbi of Zgierz

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

Zgierz was known for its great rabbis, which made it famous in the world as a place of Torah and Hassidism. The first rabbi, Reb Shalom Tzvi HaKohen, known as The Elder Tzadik, was known as a Gaon and genius. Even during his youth he was known as a wonder child.

A considerable number of rabbis who later occupied the rabbinical seats in many places in Poland came from the Yeshiva which he founded in Zgierz. Great rabbis of the world came to him for approbations on their works [3]. He was also the builder of the Great Synagogue of Zgierz. According to the stories told by people, he also worked wonders, such as for example with the case of the grandson of Reb Yitzchak Zylberberg, who was mute. Reb Shalom Tzvi gave the young boy a pear and told him to recite a blessing. The young boy recited the blessing – and began to speak.

The second rabbi after Reb Shalom Tzvi was also called Tzvi. In order to characterize him, it is sufficient to bring down the following fact: when he noticed that one of the residents of Zgierz was building a house on a day of Chol Hamoed, he requested that the man stop building the house and not desecrate Chol Hamoed. The Jew answered that he already had paid the workers for their work. Then Reb Tzvi invited him home, and took out the sum of money that was required by the workers from a drawer so that the Jew would not suffer any loss.

The final rabbi, Reb Shlomo Yehuda Leib was not only a great scholar, but also a Maskil, who occupied himself with logic and philosophy over and above his Torah learning. Aside from the Jewish philosophical world, and Jewish philosophy from the middle ages and other time, he also thoroughly studied general world philosophy, and was capable of talking about Kant, Leibnitz, Spinoza, and others. His sermons and speeches were always intertwined with pearls of philosophy. However Reb Shlomo Yehuda Leib was not only involved with Torah. He was also interested in everything that took place in the city. He was concerned about the livelihood of the average Jew of Zgierz, and he fought like a lion against the manufacturers who completely or mostly displaced the Jewish workers from their workshops, due to economic or social reasons. He was a father and provider for everyone. More than once he used his personal situation to interfere with the affairs of the manufacturers – for the benefit of the interests of the workers.

It is interesting to bring down the characterization of the rabbi of Zgierz, according to the description of the Jewish writer A. Litwin, who visited Zgierz in 1912.

“I visited the 'Prophet Jeremiah' of Zgierz who regretted the situation of Jewry in Poland and lamented over their national destruction. The rabbi of Zgierz does not talk in abstract issues. He describes and portrays facts that he had seen. I have seen him sit and write entire scrolls [4], dripping with agony and pain. Here… he blames the construction of the tramway, which came and tore away the livelihood of one hundred Jewish wagon drivers. The factories push away the means of livelihood of the hand workers, almost all of whom are Jews. The gentiles have already become active in business, they set up cooperatives and the Jewish storekeepers must seek their bread in an entirely different manner.”

Such was the image of the last rabbi of Zgierz, as he was seen by a foreign tourist.

Alas, Reb Yehuda Leib foresaw, but not in its entirety. He did not imagine that very soon they would not only take the livelihoods away from the Jews, but also their lives. Together with his community – old and young, rich and poor, important Jews and ordinary Jews – all of them were murdered in a cruel fashion. The Christians were left a Judenrein Zgierz.

Much, much more tragic than in the times of Jeremiah the prophet.

May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life, and may his name shine among the martyrs of Israel.


The Rabbi and righteous teacher
Reb Yechiel Ichel Elberg of holy blessed memory
And his son Reb Avraham Natan, may G-d avenge his blood,
the head of the rabbinical court of Laski and Sanok

by Yehuda Elberg

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 367: Rabbi Yechiel Ichel Elberg of holy blessed memory.}

The young Rabbi Ichel was different than other people. The way of people is to breathe into their midst air that bestows upon them the force of life. However for Ichel, the study of Torah was his breath from which he drew his life force. Without it he had no life.

Reb Ichel devoured pages of Gemara at all hours of the day and night. The wick of the lantern was already charred; the light was dwindling, the kerosene running out, and Ichel continued to swallow up the page of Gemara into the breath of his nose. The time passes, but the Torah of G-d exists forever. Every page that he absorbs into his essence is part of the “treasury of life”.

The friends of Reb Ichel were already young married men, fathers of children… It was also necessary to enlist in the army. What would become of Torah?

It happened that the rabbi of Zgierz died, and left behind a widow with two orphans. Reb Ichel decided to marry the widowed rebbetzin. The community would certainly concern itself with her livelihood and the livelihood of the children, and he would be able to dedicate himself to the study of Torah; Indeed, she was older than he, what does that matter? She would still be able to bear him children and to raise them in Torah and the service of the Creator…

There were some people who demanded that the husband of the rebbetzin fill the place of the deceased rabbi. Yechiel Ichel did not agree. He would agree to issue decisions of Jewish law as they come up, but the rabbinate.. is like an “axe” [5]… No, to this he could not agree. Lest you ask, livelihood? Thank G-d, Jews bake bread, bread requires yeast. Give over to the rebbetzin the rights of selling yeast, and G-d will help.

Reb Ichel became a “Judge” in Zgierz, and his wife Dvora became known as the “Yeast Rebbetzin” (“Yoven Rebbetzin”).

Reb Ichel constructed for himself a lectern from the wood of the boxes of yeast. He hung a kerosene lamp from it, and the members of the household would find him poring over the Gemara, when they were asleep or awake.


The first rabbi of Zgierz was the cousin of the Admor Reb Henech of blessed memory of Aleksandrow. Both of them were relatives of and Hassidim of the Admor of Kock. The Rabbi of Kock requested that the rabbi found a Yeshiva and spread Torah. This Yeshiva was later the “forging vessel” for rabbis and Hassidim who spread out to all of the cities and towns of Poland. The rabbi was great in Torah and sharp. He bestowed these fine traits to his children Yitzchak Mendel and Shlomo Leib, who later basked under the shade of their stepfather Reb Ichel.

The Admor Reb Yechiel of Aleksandrow placed his eye on Yitzhak Mendel, and grabbed him up as a groom for his daughter before he was thirteen years of age. The second son, Shlomo Leib, too the daughter of the new rabbi of Zgierz as a wife, and thus did he later inherit from him the rabbinical seat.

Reb Ichel was greatly pained that his son Natan was small in stature in comparison to his stepbrothers [6]. He felt that the lad suffered from feelings of inferiority. People called him Natale [7], and he, Natale, his head being filled with Talmud and Jewish law, was great in Torah and had his own novel ideas, and his name went forth in the entire country.

When Rabbi Yechezkel Michelzon of Plonsk took Natan as a husband for his daughter, he also concerned himself with coronating him as a rabbi in some community, but Natan refused to accept the rabbinate.

Reb Ichel was surprised and wished to ascertain the reason for this. Even though he himself had refused to accept the yoke of the rabbinate, this was because of his fear of forsaking Torah. However he, Natan, who has time thank G-d also to look into a newspaper, and also… to occupy himself with secular matters… Therefore he wanted to enter him into a position of leadership and to make him fulfil the duty of “honoring one's father”. However, the eyes of Natan filled with tears, and his body shriveled even further. The father understood what was in the heart of his son. His small stature was what held him back, and prevented him from succeeding. Reb Ichel made peace with the situation, that he should occupy himself in business. However, even in this area, success was not forthcoming. In the meantime, Reb Natan occupied himself with Torah and Divine service, and he succeeded in enriching the body of rabbinical literature with the books that he authored, such as Bayit Neeman (Faithful House), Beit Avraham, Pinat Habayit, and others, which were received with blessing in religious circles.

Chavale, Natan's wife, who was used to a life of comfort in the home of her father, did not Heaven forbid complain when things came down to a slice of bread. Reb Ichel saw the situation, and requested a small salary from the community for his wife the rebbetzin who owned the rights. He then transferred the right of the sale of yeast to Natan for his livelihood. Chavale was embarrassed to have Natan occupy himself in this manner, which was beneath his honor, so she herself took on the yoke of the work.

Her father-in-law Reb Ichel saw how she, the small one, dragged the boxes of yeast to the purchasers, and his heart fell within him. This pampered one… and his heard lamented: Chana herself is also small in stature, and these young children, oh, Master of the Universe!… If they would be similar to their father… and he shed tears and supplicated to his Creator, begging that his grandchildren would be people of stature and not be embarrassed like their father to be rabbis of the Jewish people.

His prayers were accepted. The children grew up and became tall. They studied and excelled in Torah. However after the First World War the yeast business declined, and there was great financial pressure in the house. The children began to entertain thoughts of desertion, and began to desist from the study of Torah. Tevil went to work in a weaving factory. Later he began to go around without a beard, and he cut his curly peyos (sidelocks). Eventually he joined the Zionist Chalutzim (pioneers), and prepared to make aliya to the Land of Israel.


{Photo page 369: Rabbi Avraham Natan Elberg.}

Reb Ichel went to supplicate on the graves of his forbears. He wept, supplicated and begged for mercy over the fate of his son Natan and the fate of his grandchildren. In the interim, Reb Natan accepted a rabbinical position in a small town, but Reb Ichel complained that this place was not fit for the honor of such a great scholar as his Natan.

Then the news arrived that Reb Natan was called to an honorable position, to serve in the city of Bielsko. Reb Ichel wept from great joy, and when they brought the rabbi under the canopy to the synagogue [8], Reb Ichel pulled his grandson Yitzchak Yudel to join with his father under the canopy. He was certain that the merit of his late father would stand up for the great-grandchild who bears his name, so that he would dedicate himself to this path, the path of the rabbinate. In the eyes of his spirit, he saw him as a rabbi with a splendid countenance, a full beard, preaching with exactitude in front of the congregation, like his father, grandfather, and the entire dynasty of rabbis of blessed memory. He learned an “a priori” logical deduction from his son. If Natan, who is not of fine stature, merited this greatness, he Yitzchak Yudel would certainly be fitting to stand at the helm of a large congregation, especially if the merit of his father, the Reb Yitzchak Yudel the Tzadik of Kutno, stands up for him.

Yudel wrote his Torah novellae and sent them to his grandfather. The grandfather expressed admiration and emotion, and compared the Torah novellae to raindrops falling onto the sea. The fish that live in the water swallow up with thirst each drop of rain that falls to them from above. Thus are the novellae of Torah to those that study them… Every novel idea is like a raindrop of pleasant rain.

One day a Jew of Bielsko came to Zgierz, turned to the Beis Midrash, and related: Yudel left his father's house and went to Lodz.

Reb Ichel was astounded to hear this bad news. He had dedicated his soul on behalf of this grandson, and it was only on his behalf that he made strong efforts so that Natan would accept a rabbinical position, so that he would be in a place of fine greatness, which would be a place for this Yudel to come to his own.

Reb Ichel shed many tears. His stature was bent, and his health weakened. When he tripped on a rock, he took to bed with his leg bound up in a cast, he felt pangs of regret that perhaps he was punished over his lack of faith in G-d. Was in not possible for the son of Natan, who was immersed in Torah, to remain G-d fearing in Lodz?

When he received a letter from Yudel, he hurried to write to him a letter filled with words of Torah. At the beginning he wrote: “In honor of my dear grandson, the rabbi and great in Torah, the sublime lad Reb Yitzchak Yudel may his light shine”.


His leg healed with difficulty. At the behest of the doctor, they took Reb Ichel to a village in the forest of Dombrowka. The rabbi felt that this fresh air would hasten his recovery. On the Sabbath, people came to him from the city, worshipped with a quorum and read the Torah. During the weekdays, the Jewish people were bound up with the bonds of livelihood. The men returned to the city, and then… five entire days without a quorum, without being able to recite “kedusha”, and without answering “amen” [9]….

On one of the days of the week, Reb Ichel woke up his household, and requested that a wagon be summoned to take go back to the city.

The route was long.. he did not have patience, and he did not stop asking “When? When will we reach the city already?”

At home he began to make preparations. He washed up very well, and wrapped himself up with his tallis and tefillin. His prayers were recited silently, without strength, but the silence also reached the ears of his attendant, who realized that Reb Ichel was praying with the tunes of a festival.

After his prayers he made the “shehakol” blessing [10], drank a bit of water, made the “Borei Nefashot” blessing, and continued with his preparations. He once again washed up… and tried to drag himself to his bookcase, but his energy left. He turned to the attendant and said: “There, under the shofar is my kittel, and under the kittel are my shrouds”.

Now the attendant became afraid. Reb Ichel ordered him “Be careful! I will be a righteous advocate for…”

Reb Ichel requested that the attendant recite the deathbed confessional with him. After the recital of the final “Al Chet” [11], he hinted to him with his ten fingers that he wished a quorum to be summoned. His lips moved as if he was answering “Amen”. His eyes closed, and his breath ceased. With the final “Amen”, his soul departed to the other side of the gate of heaven” – said the attendant.

May his merit stand for the entire community of Israel.

(From the works of his grandson, the writer Yehuda Elberg)

Translated into Hebrew by Y. A. Malkieli.


Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Cohen of holy blessed memory
(Admor and forger of ideas)

by F. S.

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

One of the prominent and interesting personalities who peered out from the depths of life in Zgierz was without doubt Reb Yitzchak Mendel, the son of the first rabbi of Zgierz Reb Shalom Tzvi, and the brother of the last rabbi, Reb Shlomo Leib.

When the previous rabbi of Zgierz, Reb Shalom Tzvi HaKohen reached his old age, he lost his wife Rachel. Since she left him only daughters and not sons, the matchmakers urged him to marry a wife, and gave him several ideas.

From all of the honorable ones that were presented to him, he chose an eighteen-year-old girl from a fine family. After hesitation, she finally agreed to marry the old, septugenarian rabbi, after he promised her a male child.

Indeed, she bore two sons to him, who were very similar to each other, Reb Yitzchak Mendel and Reb Shlomo Leib, the final rabbi of Zgierz who perished along with his community during the time of the German occupation.

The eldest son Yitzchak Mendel was created for greatness. He was a genius in his youth, sharp with a brilliant mind. When he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, the Admor Reb Yechiel of Aleksandrow chose him for his daughter. The wedding was celebrated about two years later with great splendor and glory in nearby Aleksandrow (for the rabbi Rabbi Shalom Tzvi died a short time after the birth of the youngest son). Throngs of Hassidim gathered from near and far, and all of the Admorim of the land came together to celebrate in the joyous occasion of the Aleksandrow rabbi, some for the wedding, and others for the Sheva Brachot [12].

{Photo page 372: Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel Cohen.}

Yitzchak Mendel spoke for a long time at the sermon at the wedding ceremony. He went from valleys to mountains, and from mountain crests to plains. He uprooted mountains and ground them one against the other, until his father-in-law Rabbi Yechiel himself stopped him, and covered the face of the groom with his hands, so that Heaven forbid the evil eye should not take control of him.

After the wedding, he was supported at the table of his father-in-law, who honored him and raised him up. The Hassidim of Aleksandrow saw in him a heir to the dynasty of Aleksandrow after “one hundred and twenty” [13], even though that from among the sons of the Rebbe was Reb Yisrael Yitzchak, the author of “Yismach Yisrael”, who would be fitting for that post.

The good and peace of the Rebbe was deprived. For not too long passed, and the anger of the Satan jumped upon him, which danced among the Hassidim and instilled in them the venom of dispute and controversy. Reb Yitzchak Mendel, just like his father the rabbi, was of the faithful of Gur. There was controversy and competition between Gur and Aleksandrow all the days. The dispute continued from the days of Kock and Warka. The war raged throughout all public gathering, and every rabbi, parnas (communal administrator), shochet and any other functionary was involved. In short, it raged in all areas of influence in Jewish communal life.

The Hassidim of Gur suffered greatly and were deeply pained about this great “Gur” soul who defected to the Aleksandrow camp; that walking encyclopedia of Torah and fear of Heaven that disappeared and left their camp. Young Hassidic men, the best friends of Yitzchak Mendel, to whom this matter affected their hearts, decided to take matters into their hands, and to return the “exile” to the camp of Gur. In the darkness of the night, they smuggled him from his room in the fortress of Aleksandrow and brought him with joy and gladness to their Rebbe, the author of the “Sfat Emet”. Disappointment and pain prevailed then in the camp of Aleksandrow, but the Hassidim of Gur raised their heads and celebrated their victory with shouting and joy.

The camp of Aleksandrow would perhaps have been prepared to swallow this bitter pill, that touched the innermost parts of their revered Rebbe. However, young Yitzchak Mendel overdid it. He added fuel to the fire when he mocked and disparaged his brothers-in-law, the sons of the Rebbe. When one of them would present a certain novel idea in learning to him, he would turn to him with mocking and denigration: “An ignoramus such as you, for is it not written in such and such a Gemara, on this page… these words are written, so why are you claiming it as a novel idea?”

His brothers-in-law were not able to forgive his behavior, and they did not permit him to sit with them at his father's table. These matters came to arguments and strife, and he finally divorced his wife and returned to Zgierz.

After this deed, he repented and recognized his error. However, as a Cohen, he was not able to fix the matter and remarry his divorced wife [14]. His eyes were opened up now to see that his friends who incited him to this misled him. He decided to distance himself from them. He stopped worshipping in the shtibel, and distanced himself also from Gur. He went to the Beis Midrash to worship with the “masses”, who were far from the tumult and gaiety of the Hassidim.

He married a second time, but again got divorced. Then he remained without a wife.

However, he did not abandon his studies. He read a great deal, and began to take interest in world literature, especially German, and in books of philosophy. He recited poems, songs, and segments of operas that he knew by heart. He philosophized with anyone who was willing to discuss with him these matters that he was attracted to. He would wander around the Beis Midrash for hours and hours, thinking and pondering, with his head in the highest heavens. His discussions were spiced with adages from the Talmud, Kabbalah, and Rambam, and he would transfer over to Aristotle, Schopenhauer, Pascal, and Spencer. He would bring a proof to his words from here, a contradiction to his interlocutor from there, he would build towers and destroy them with his impressive and unique knowledge and sharpness.

Sometimes he would approach his brother the rabbi with a joyous face: he found the correct answer to a question in the Tosafot [15] of a certain Gemara. The rabbi attempted to debate with him and to adjudicate the essence of the discussion, until finally he would agree with him, for there was no other way. After he finished with his brother, he would find someone else, start up with a Hassidic topic, move over to Kabbalah and philosophy, jump to Plato, turn back to Zohar [16], and then return to Hassidic stories, like a spring that is overflowing its banks.

In his old age, Reb Yitzchak Mendel merited to find some peace and calm for his stormy soul. The rabbi of Zyrardow, who lived in our city, died without leaving a successor. His orphaned Hassidim decided to coronate Reb Yitzchak Mendel as their Rebbe in his place. The also bought him a “spodek” and silk cloak. Rabbi Yitzchak Mendel led his flock faithfully, and sustained them with a great deal of Torah and knowledge, until the world war broke out and the Jewish world in Poland was turned inside out. Destruction came upon everything. May his memory be a blessing.


The Courts of Admorim

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

Our city of Zgierz did not merit to have its name known in the name of one of the Tzadikim who lived in it, as did nearby Aleksandrow and Strykow – nevertheless it found favor in the eyes of several Admorim who desired it as their place of residence

Text footnote on page 374:

Indeed, two Admorim lived in the city. One was the Rebbe of Brzeziny who died in the first years of the 20th century. The Hassidim built a canopy for him in the cemetery. The second was the Rebbe of Zyrardow, who was buried under the canopy of the aforementioned after his death. To our sorrow, we were not able to find any other personal details regarding them.

The House of the Admor Reb Shmuel Bornsztejn of holy blessed memory of Sochaczew

He was born in the year 5617 (1857) in Kock to his father the first Admor of the Sochaczew dynasty, the Gaon Reb Avraham Bornsztejn of holy blessed memory, the author of the “Avnei Nezer” and “Eglei Tal”, and to his mother the rebbetzin Sara Tzina of blessed memory, the daughter of the Admor of Kock, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgensztern of holy blessed memory.

He spent the years of his youth in Parczew and Kroszniewice, where his father the Gaon served as a rabbi. He was an only son to his father, and his father instilled his entire essence into him.

In the year 5629 (1869), his father took him to his own Rebbe the Admor Reb Chanoch Henech HaKohen of Aleksandrow. On their way, they passed through Zgierz and stayed over at the home of the elder rabbi, Reb Shalom Tzvi HaKohen of holy blessed memory, who was an enthusiastic Kocker Hassid. There, he met the two sons of the rabbi: Reb Yitzchak Mendel and the final rabbi of Zgierz, Reb Shlomo Leib, may G-d avenge their blood.

After he married his wife (in the year 5634 – 1874), the daughter of one of the finest of the Kocker Hassidim, Reb Eliezer Lipman, the son-in-law of the Admor of Radomsk, the author of the “Tiferet Shlomo” – he was not supported for long at the table of his father-in-law. Rather, he returned to the place of his father, who in the meantime had become the rabbi of Nasielsk. When the author of the “Avnei Nezer” moved from there to Sochaczew, his final stop in the rabbinate, his son Reb Shmuel followed after him. He lived in a large home in the center of the city, and earned his livelihood from the wine business. However his heart did not go after business, and he spent most of his time with his father, and his hand did not depart from him.

Reb Shmuel of holy blessed memory was also active in communal life. He took a stand regarding the entire problem that came up during that time, even regarding the Zionist movement that was then beginning to develop. All of his days, he wished to make Aliya to the Land of Israel. He visited the Land in the year 5651 (1891) – with the encouragement of his father the Gaon – with the aim of purchasing land there and establishing a Hassidic settlement. The ban that existed at that time from the Turkish authorities regarding the sale of land to the Jews of Russia prevented him from going through with the purchase. At the time of the Balfour declaration, he took a positive stand regarding Orthodox settlement in the land of Israel.

After his wife died in her prime, he married a second wife (in the year 5663 – 1903), Mirel the daughter of the Gaon Reb Moshe Natan Szpiro, the head of the rabbinical court of Kozniece and the author of the book “Shemen Lamaor”.

(The Rebbetzin of Sochaczew was a known and recognized personality in Zgierz. She continued to live in the Rebbe's “court” even after the death of her husband the Admor, with her sons who were orphaned at a young age, until the Holocaust. She moved to Lodz during the first years of the war, and from there to the Warsaw Ghetto, from where she set out on her final journey with her family to Treblinka, may G-d avenge their blood.)

After the death of his father (in the year 5670 – 1910), Rebbe Shmuel was coronated as the second Admor of the Sochaczew dynasty, and he moved to live in his father's house. At the time of the outbreak of the First World War (5674 – 1914) he was in Germany, and he remained there for convalescence at the medicinal springs. After much effort, he succeeded – along with several other Admorim, to return to Poland. However, he did not return to Sochaczew out of fear of the Russian authorities, and he moved with his family to Lodz.

He continued to lead his flock in Lodz, instilling in them faith and strength to keep and guard all of the principles of Hassidism even during the difficult years of occupation. In the year 5678 (1918) he decided to distance himself from the tumult of the large manufacturing city, and he moved to nearby, quiet Zgierz. However, even there he did not find rest at first. Horodlicka, a great hater of Jews, persecuted him and wished to expel him from his residence. Only in the year 5682 (1929), did he manage to find rest and respite, when he set up his own Beis Midrash and Yeshiva. He placed Reb Mendel Wechsler may G-d avenge his blood, who was an old student of the Gaon Reb Avraham of Sochaczew, and a resident of Zgierz as the head of the Yeshiva. On Sabbaths and festivals, Hassidim came from all corners of Poland, Hassidic students and those who did not know all that much but were nevertheless honorable. They came to listen attentively to the Torah that was spoken by their Rebbe by the table. They turned Zgierz into a city of Hassidim.

Reb Shmuel did not last long in our city. He took ill in 5686 (1926) and was taken to Otwock, where he died on the 24th of Tevet 5686 and was brought to burial, accompanied by a great crowd, in the canopy of his father the author of the Avnei Nezer, of holy blessed memory, in the cemetery of Sochaczew.

After his death, his book “Shem MiShmuel” was published in eight volumes. It included words of Torah and Hassidism ordered by the weekly Torah portions and the festivals, which he was wont to say each Sabbath and festival between the years of 5670 – 5675. The book, which took its place among the classic books of Hassidism, was written in a rich and clear language. Aside from his own ideas and novel thoughts, he brought down many words from his father the author of the “Avnei Nezer”, and from his grandfather the Rebbe of Kock of holy blessed memory.

His son, the third Admor of Sochaczew, Rabbi David Bornsztejn of holy blessed memory, who was known as the Rebbe of Wyszogrod, was also a Gaon and giant of Torah. He served as rabbi in Tomaszew and Pabianice. He led his flock for about seventeen years, and died in the Warsaw Ghetto on the 8th of Kislev 5703 (1943). His entire family likewise perished, except for one son, Avraham, who lives in Israel.

The second son of Rebbe Shmuel of holy blessed memory, Reb Henech Bornsztejn of blessed memory, was later coronated as the fourth Rebbe of Sochaczew. He made aliya to Israel in the year 5685 (1915) and lived in Jerusalem. He died there on the 26th of Elul 5725 (1965).

The fifth Admor (the son of Reb Henech) was Rabbi Shlomo Bornsztejn of blessed memory, the rabbi of Yad Eliahu of Tel Aviv. He was killed in an automobile accident (20 Av 5730 – 1970), in his prime.

One of the sons of the Admor Rebbe Shmuel was the well known Yiddish writer Moshe Bornsztejn of blessed memory (his pen name was M. B. Stein), the author of the play “Heaven and Earth” (Himel un Erd), and many other books. He died in Jerusalem (12 Shvat 5621 – 1961).

One of the sons-in-law of Reb Shmuel was Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk, the rabbi of Kutno, one of the founders of Mizrachi in Poland. He was a scholar and warrior.

The children of the Admor Reb Shmuel of holy blessed memory who live today in Israel are:

  1. Reb Aharon Yisrael Bornsztejn (the son-in-law of the Admor Reb Yitzchak Zelig Morgensztern of holy blessed memory of Kock, the head of the rabbinical court of Sokolow), who lives with his family in Tel Aviv. His eldest son Shmuel Avraham, who was born in Zgierz, fell in the War of Independence on Lag Baomer, the 18th of Iyar, 5708 (1948) in Tel Adashim. He was 20 years old when he died, may G-d avenge his blood.
  2. His daughter Sara (the wife of Shaul) Rapaport and her family, who live in Bayit Vagan in Jerusalem.
(from an article by Chetzroni in “The Book of Sochaczew” and other sources.)


The House of the Admor Reb Menachem Mendel Landau
of holy blessed memory of Strykow

by F. Sirkes

Translated by Doubi Swarc and Emanuel Frankel

Edited by Jerrold Landau

The Tzadik Reb Avraham Landau of Czekanow, the founder of the dynasty of Admorim of Strykow, was from among the students of Reb Fishele of Strykow (the student of the Magid of Mezerich and Reb Elimelech [17]). He was born in the small town of Parzenczow near Leczyca to his father Reb Rafael Dobrzinska and his mother Roda, in the year 5549 (1789). (As is known, Reb Avraham adopted his family name Landau as a token of recognition of his father-in-law Reb Dan Landau from the city of Plock). In the year 5579 (1819) he was coronated as the rabbi and the head of the rabbinical court in the community of Czekanow. He died in the year 5635 (1875) at the age of 86.

The history of the Admor Reb Avraham Landau of holy blessed memory is related in the book of Reb Pinchas Zelig Glicksman, (his father Reb Avraham Hirsch Glicksman was one of the prominent people and activists of the city of Zgierz), which was printed in Lodz in the year 5694 (1934) in the name “Rabbi Zeev Lipshitz” – the City of Ozorkow and its rabbis. There he brings some sections from the letter of the Admor Rabbi Menachem Mendel Chaim Landau of holy blessed memory to P. Z. Glicksman about the history of his grandfather Rabbi Avrahamele of Czekanow.

“… His father Reb Rafael was one of the hidden Tzadikim. He lived in a village near Parzenczow, where he had a liquor store that was leased to him by the head of the village. He dressed as did the farmers. I heard wondrous legends about him that testify to his greatness and holiness.

The mother of my grandfather of holy blessed memory was named Roda. She was a scholarly woman of valor. Her father Reb Moshe of blessed memory died during her childhood, and she was educated on the lap of her maternal grandfather the famous Rabbi and Gaon Reb Zeev Wolf Auerbach of holy blessed memory, the head of the rabbinical court of Leczyca.

Reb Rafael of blessed memory had three sons and two daughters. The first son was my holy grandfather Reb Avraham of holy blessed memory. The second was Rabbi Yitzchak from the city of Bierzwienna, who died during his young adulthood during the times of tribulation. The thirst was the Rabbi, Gaon and Hassid Yisrael of blessed memory, the head of the rabbinical court of Lutomiersk. The daughter Sara Rivka was the wife of the Rabbi, Gaon and Hassid Reb Menachem Zeev HaKohen Jerozalimski of holy blessed memory, who was the head of the rabbinical court of Lodz. Later he was accepted in the city of Janowa, and he was appointed as a rabbi in Kock by order of the holy Reb Menachem Mendel of holy blessed memory, the Kocker Rebbe. There he reposes in honor.

The daughter Rachel Lea was the wife of the Rabbi, Tzadik, Hassid and ascetic Yitzchak Izak of holy blessed memory of Zgierz.

The aforementioned Rebbetzin Sara Rivka of blessed memory was famous for her righteousness, and studied as a man. Torah and wisdom were united in her. She reposes in honor in the city of Zgierz, next to the grave of her pious mother Roda of blessed memory and her pious sister Rachel Lea of blessed memory. After the death of her husband in Kock, she moved her dwelling from Kock to Zgierz, where she earned her livelihood from a spice store. She was known to be always occupied with commandments and good deeds.”

It is further related that after the death of Reb Rafael the father of the Admor of Czekanow, his wife Roda moved to Zgierz. They set up for her a liquor store, as she had previously in Parzenczow. Her son the Admor of Czekanow used to visit her annually in Zgierz and spend several days with her, in order to fulfill the commandment of honoring one's mother. She had great joy and contentment to see how the Hassidim streamed to him.

Roda Dobrzinska, as we read, struggled greatly for the rights to live in her house on Szerodzka Street, which was outside of the area of Jewish residency. After a lengthy battle that was conducted with strength and diligence, she received the right to settle there, only until the year 1832, with restrictive conditions. Only Mrs. Dobrzinska and her unmarried children were permitted to live there. No other Jew could live in the house, and it was permitted to rent out to a Christian. A heavy monetary fine would be imposed if the conditions were transgressed.

Her daughter Sara Rivka of blessed memory, who was knows as “The Janower Rebbetzin” died on the day after the holiday of Sukkot in the year 5643 (1884). Her sister Rachel Lea (died on the 5th of Kislev 5637 – 1877) was a widow for many years after the death of her husband, the scholar and Hassid Reb Yitzchak Izak of Rakowice, who reposes in honor in the old cemetery of Lodz. She earned her livelihood from the liquor store that she inherited from her mother Roda of blessed memory. Her husband died on the 20th of Elul 5608 (1848) at the age of 50 in Lodz. He had fled there from Zgierz due to the cholera epidemic that was ravaging Zgierz. Their only son Reb Moshe Bunem, was a scholar and well-known Hassid. He resided in Zgierz, where he reposes in honor. Their son-in-law was the rabbi who was great in Torah and Hassidism, a Hassid of Tzanz, Reb Yitzchak Asher Izak, whose mother-in-law Rachel Lea supported them for many years. Reb Yitzchak Asher Izak made a name for himself as one of the great ones when he published the Laws of Fundamentals of the Torah of the Rambam [18] in a small volume (Warsaw 5624 – 1864) with his two commentaries “Beir Hamelech” and “Archut Hamelech”. The rabbi of Zgierz, the Rabbi, Gaon and Tzadik Reb Shalom Tzvi HaKohen wrote about him in his approbation to the book “that he is diligent in the tents of Torah and divine service, and this will merit the many”. Reb Yitzchak Izak Kihen went to his eternal world at a young age, when he was 35 years old, around the year 5641 (1881), and reposes in honor in the old cemetery of Lodz, where he lived during his final years.

Tied with family connections to Zgierz, in the year 1920, the Tzadik Reb Menachem Mendel, the son of Reb Dov Berish the Admor of the community of Biala Podlaska and the grandson of Reb Avrahamele of Czekanow, came to live in Zgierz. He died in Otwock on the 19th of Shvat 5696 (1936), where they erected a canopy over his grave. His son Reb Yaakov Yitzchak Dan Landau inherited his seat. He had previously been known as the Kinower Rabbi.

His Hassidim built him a house on the Jewish street. He had a Beis Midrash and Yeshiva, were approximately sixty students gathered, who streamed to him from the entire area. They were supported in the dormitory that was in the house of the rabbi. Some were put up in the rabbi's court and others in rented rooms. The final head of the Yeshiva was Reb Tovia Landau, who was the son-in-law of the Admor of Slonim, who lived in the city of Baranowice.

Hundreds of Hassidim would come to Zgierz for the festivals. Most of them were put up on the Street of the Jews. One of them was a famous prayer leader, Reb Yaakov Doran (Yankel Prager) who conducted services on the High Holy Days. At the outbreak of the war, the Rebbe of Zgierz moved to the Warsaw Ghetto, where he lived in a bunker until the Ghetto uprising. He was ultimately sent away on a “transport” along with his family.

Today, his son the Admor Reb Avraham Landau may he live long serves as the head of the dynasty of Strykow. He conducts a Yeshiva, Yeshivat Strykow “Kol Yaakov” in his home in Tel Aviv.

P. Sirkes.


  1. This term has been used extensively earlier in the book. It is apparently a Polish term for Jew “Believer in the Old Religion”. Back
  2. The term here means Jewish community. Back
  3. When writing a book on a Torah topic, it is customary to solicit approbations from well-known rabbis, which are then printed at the front of the book. Back
  4. The Hebrew term 'Megilla' is literally a scroll, more specifically one of the five Megillot of the bible: Esther, Lamentations, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), and Ruth. Colloquially, the term refers to a long written discourse. Back
  5. A reference to a statement in the Mishnaic tractate of Pirke Avot that one should not make Torah a spade to dig with – i.e. that one should not use Torah to earn one's living. Back
  6. The word is 'step brothers', but I expect it means 'half brothers' here. Back
  7. A diminutive form of the name. Back
  8. Apparently, the installation ceremony. Back
  9. A quorum (minyan) is a gathering of 10 adult Jewish males needed to conduct a formal prayer service. On can recite the prayer service privately without a minyan, but certain important segments of the prayers, such as the recital of 'kedusha' (the sanctification), kaddish, and answering amen after the repetition of various parts of the prayer, can only take place with a minyan. Back
  10. A blessing recited before eating various kinds of food, that are not bread, grains, wine, fruits or vegetables. After such eating, the Borei Nefashot blessing is made. Back
  11. Al Chet is part of the confessional recited on Yom Kippur, and also recited if possible as part of the final confessional before death. Back
  12. The 'Seven Blessings', the week of post marriage festivities. Back
  13. 120 years is considered the fullest possible lifespan, and the term is used when talking about realities that will be after the death of someone, but without wishing to imply that one is wishing for that person's death. Back
  14. According to Jewish law, a Cohen (person of the priestly caste) is not allowed to marry a divorcee – not even one's own former wife. Incidentally, no man is allowed to remarry his former wife if the wife has been married, and then either divorced again or widowed, in the interim. Back
  15. Tosafot (literally glosses) is a compendium of commentaries, mainly written by the grandchildren of Rashi, that appear on a Talmudic folio. Back
  16. Zohar is a segment of Kabbalah. Back
  17. Two of the early Hassidic leaders. Reb Elimelech refers to Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk (Lezajsk). For full detail, refer to the Lezajsk Yizkor Book on www.jewishgen.org, translated by myself. Back
  18. This is the first book of 14 Volume compendium of Jewish law (Yad Hachazakah) of Maimonides (Rambam). Back

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