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[Page 267]

Figures

 

[Pages 99-100 Hebrew] [Pages 269-271 Yiddish]

The righteous Reb Aharon Yehuda

by Yaakov Ben-Binah

Translated by David Goren

Reb Aharon Yehuda, the dayan (religious judge) of Zychlin, was a great tzadik who feared God, avoided sin, and was extremely knowledgeable of both the revealed and the hidden. His day began very early in the morning. With the first light he went to the beit hamidrash to do the work of the creator. He carried a bag that was full to the point of overflowing with his prayer shawl, two pairs of tefillin, books, and food and water for the whole day. It was difficult to fathom how this Jew, small and weak, all his body skin and bones, could manage to carry such a large and heavy load, other than accepting the fact that Reb Aharon Yehudah was not actually walking on the ground – he was rather floating between heaven and the earth.

 

The righteous Reb Aharon Yehuda of Mszczonow

 

When he walked to the beit hamidrash, he did not look to the right or the left to avoid, God forbid, to seem distracted, though that was not his heart's intent. All those who were in the beit hamidrash would look at him and be filled with joy, as he washed and immersed, whether in the summer or the cold of winter, in order to be worthy of doing his holy work. By the scant light of a candle (we did not have electricity in the town) he started to study and pray and went on almost until the afternoon. Like Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, he was satisfied with a “dry morsel”, eating a roll and drinking a glass of milk in order to fulfill the mitzvot of Hamotzi and Birkat hamazon (blessing on bread before and after). People brought him his minimal daily serving with the hope that by doing this they would go to heaven.

In addition to the prescribed fasting days, Reb Aharon Yehuda fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. He was small, but his eyes radiated tenderness and affection. He delivered a sermon on the bible and commentaries on Shabbat and every other day of the week before afternoon and evening prayers. Everyone was ecstatic absorbing his teachings. When he was asked about the kashrut of a chicken, he did not rush to decide. He looked for ways to make things easy and avoid leaving a family, God forbid, without meat for Shabbat. He was modest and humble, innocent and honest. Above all, he was spiritual - he did not know the shape of a coin. He was full of love for his fellow human beings and the people of Israel. When people approached him with problems, he would listen with great mercy, trying to find the most reasonable solutions. He never turned the Torah into an ax for digging.

During the days of awe, he would pass before the ark of the beit hamidrash or the great synagogue begging and sobbing before the merciful God – not for himself, but for his holy congregation and for the Jewish people. Despite the fact that his voice was weak, it could be heard throughout the building, even raising to the women's section.

During the holiday of Sukkot, he fulfilled the commandment to spend eight days in the sukkah and stayed there to sleep. He was sensitive to the truth, a glorious trait. Whenever he thought that something was wrong, he did not shy away from those in power. He would express his opinion explicitly and impartially. Reb Aharon Yehuda died at a good old age. During his funeral, all work and trade ceased. The entire town accompanied him on his last way with great sorrow.

[Pages 271-274 Yiddish]

Hasidic wars in Zychlin

by Avraham Razon

Translated by Leon Zamosc

Shmuel Abba Zychlinski was born in Piatek and later he came to Zychlin. He was a very intelligent fellow who in his younger years was already engaged in spiritual work, writing songs dedicated to Eretz Israel. He was one of the first maskilim in Poland.

Shmuel Abba was a great admirer of nature. He had a beautiful garden in his yard, with all kinds of trees and fruits. There was a water well and a beit hamidrash for prayer on holidays. The garden was surrounded by a high fence.

Shmuel Abba excelled in music, loved to sing and listen to singing. He knew a great deal and spread knowledge among the intelligentsia of the region, as well as among the common people. It was not that easy -- the people were primitive and held him to no standards. He, however, did not panic. He liked to go to the Oporow forest every other day and give his thoughts there. On the way to the forest he greeted all the people he met, and would come back from his walks refreshed and full of hope. People were already waiting in his house to receive a blessing from his holy lips. Many of them slept in his garden,

Shmuel Abba was a powerful speaker who knew how to win an audience. Every Friday afternoon he would speak, in different tongues. The yeshiva students of the area used to come to hear his Hebrew. He was able to talk, without interruption, for six hours. Even Nahum Sokolov came from Wyszogród to hear him speak Hebrew.

His teachings began to spread and he talked more and more to the youth about the return to Zion. Against this were the Kotzker Hasidim, followers of Rabbi Simcha Binem Bornstein, the Zychliner rabbi. And the fighting began. Two camps were formed in Zychlin - the disciples of Rebbe Shmuel Abba and the Kotzker adherents.

Then Shmuel Abba started fighting for his ideas, which included creating a more modern yeshiva, where one could also learn Hebrew. His main followers were Leibl the scribe, Hersch Kasha and Esther the wife of the gabbai.

On one occasion during Rosh Hashanah, when Shmuel Abba's followers had gathered around the well to pray, their opponents tried to interrupt them. But the Rebbe continued the prayer and said with pain: “Dear God, I submit to you the whole matter and I ask you to judge who is right - and you should judge justly.” His followers began to fight with the Kotzkers and there was a public outcry. The Kotzkers accused Rebbe Shmuel Abba of writing books against Czar Nicholas II Romanov, the last Emperor of Russia.

Then came Shavuot. The Rebbe was walking in the garden and his followers were coming to pray in the beit hamidrash. The place was full of people, also outside. Suddenly three policemen approached the Rebbe when he was starting the Shavuot prayer. They wanted to arrest him for writing against the Czar. There was pandemonium.

In those days there was a law that allowed someone else to temporarily substitute for an offender. Rabbi Hersch Kasha, one of the most devoted followers, told the police chief that the Rebbe could not go to prison on holy Shavuot, forged in chains. “I'm going to sit in for our holy rabbi”, he said. He was chained and taken to prison, where he spent two weeks.

The episode was a major scandal, but the whole matter was eventually clarified. It was demonstrated that the Rebbe's poems and writings were in the spirit of the Torah and not against the Czar, and that he called the Jews to go to their home, to the Holy Land - the Land of Israel. Rabbi Hersch Kasha was released. The Rebbe entered the small beit hamidrash and the congregation was full of pride about the great victory. There was rejoicing and a lot of talk about the righteous man's triumph in the town. In his garden, the great teacher said nothing - he just looked at the trees and went back to study.

After the High Holidays the Rebbe opened the roof of his sukkah, so that more air could enter. He went again to the Oporow forest. On the way, he blessed the reapers in the fields and his heart sang a song about the Jews harvesting their own fields in Eretz Israel.

When he returned from the forest, he wrote a poem and hid it in a bookcase. After the Holocaust, when Leibl the scribe was preparing to go to Palestine, he told him: “I know that you are going to Eretz Israel and I will give you a blessing with a poem that I have dedicated to our holy land. You will put it in the synagogue among the books of our prophets.”

Leibl traveled to Eretz Israel carrying the poem and the blessing. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he went straight to the Western Wall. Not far away stood the old synagogue. He approached the Holy Ark, placed the Rebbe's poem and the blessing among the books, and said: “In the name of the holy righteous, Shmuel Abba of Zychlin, I ask you Holy God, to pay heed to the troubles of my people and bring them back to their land, their fields, where they want to live and work, because they have not forgotten anything.” When he received Leibl's letter about this, the Rebbe was very happy.

Not long after that, the Rebbe passed away. His son Moshe became a rabbi in Zychlin. He did not interfere in any matters. He was a great learner and always kept busy. Rabbi Hersch Kasha also passed away .

A new life began in Zychlin. Rabbi Simcha Binem became the spokesman. Although he was not a Kotzker Hasid, he was a supporter of the Kotzker dynasty. He did not have many disciples studying with him. The rabbi was very clever, had a distant look. His students were part of a theatrical group. For Purim, they performed the play “Ahasuerus,” once with Rabbi Simcha Binem and the second time with Israel Yitzhak Helmer. Mordechai Ber Weiden, who was a very delicate man, played Queen Esther.

Later on, a Hanukkah society was formed, headed by Binem Kilbert. The richer people of Zychlin used to go to the village of Tretki where they celebrated the holiday. Binem Kilbert led the way. They ate and drank, using wine from their own garden for the kiddush ceremony. They went on Sunday to the village and would come home by Friday, rejoiced and pleased with the Hanukkah holiday, as if it were an “Olympics.” The participants included Israel Yitzhak Helmer, Binem Kraut, Avraham Helmer, Avraham Lenchinski, Ferber, Chlawny, Moshe Rozenberg and Rabbi Simcha Binem. At the end of the holiday, the rabbi used to give a speech about the Maccabee heroes and the miracles of Hanukkah. They sang Hanukkah songs and celebrated Hanukkah with latkes and donuts, like all the Jews of the small towns.

Some time later, a war broke out over shechita and hazanut. Shlomo Zebulun was a beautiful singer and a butcher. The Kotzker Hasidim were against him and there was a fight between Avraham Helmer and Zebulun. Avraham Helmer was a respectable baal tefillah who led the prayers with his five sons. Shlomo Zebulun had a beautiful voice and you loved him. Their war lasted a long time.

In the meantime, Rabbi Simcha Binem died. He was succeeded by his uncle Itche Meir Zachil, who was not a Ger Hasid and faced strong opposition from Moshe Chelmski. In any case, Itche Meir did not serve as rabbi of Zychlin for long because he soon passed away as well.

But the war was bound to continue. In the next chapter, the Ger Hasidim would confront the dayan Aaron Yehuda of Mszczonow, one of the most righteous men of our generation.

[Pages 101-103 Hebrew] [Pages 275-276 Yiddish]

My father-in-law, Reb Menachem Meir Rozenbaum

by Yaakov Neufeld (Noy)

Translated by David Goren

My father-in-law, Reb Menachem Meir Rozenbaum, was one of a kind in the town. He was the man that offered inspiration to all those yeshiva students who were seeking their way after the First World War, when new horizons were opening to the youth. Reb Menachem showed us the path to Zionism. Without disconnecting us from the traditional ways and Torah study, he taught us to prepare for personal fulfillment in Eretz Israel. The students of the beit hamidrash would huddle around him to absorb his words. He was a guiding light for an entire generation.

In those days, all the yeshiva students learned the oral and written scriptures, but there were two distinct groups among them. There were those who studied in the “shtibel” of the Ger Hasidim, who believed that the Jews had to reconcile with diaspora life until the arrival of the Messiah and not rush to redemption. The other group were the students of the beit hamidrash, who did not accept that narrow horizon of fate and sought to break the cycle of life in the diaspora. Reb Menachem Meir, who was a founder of the religious Zionist party Mizrahi, was the instructor and guide of these students at the beit hamidrash.

 

Reb Menachem Meir Rozenbaum

 

His inspiration was completely spiritual. He did not bother about life's practical things - his wife Leah dealt with those issues. But when it came to causes related to Eretz Israel, he would donate personally and generously. During the “socialist campaign” to establish the Histadrut (the workers' trade union central in Palestine), he was praised for his superb example of how to raise money.

Reb Menachem Meir devoted all his energy and strength to help the students of the beit hamidrash to fulfill themselves in the Zionist idea until he eventually came to Eretz Israel himself.

I worked then as a member of the Jewish community committee and I could see up close how important it was that the Zionist movement, in all of its streams, should capture the minds of the communities. Reb Menachem Meir's influence over the Jewish residents of the Zychlin was huge. He was originally a follower of the Ger Hasidim, but their opposition to Zionism forced him to break away. He founded and led the Zychlin branch of the religious party Mizrahi and disseminated the Zionist idea among all the layers of the Jewish community. It was not an easy task because Zychlin was a stronghold of the Ger Hasidim and the town's rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter was close to them. Their power was great, not so much in their numbers, but in their firmness and their brashness to declare that all scholars or God-fearing Jews with any type of connection to Zionism were criminals who harmed the People of Israel. Not everyone was able to stand up to such pressures and accusations in order to be counted as a “Zionist”.

Reb Menachem Meir, a Jewish scholar, was a pillar of light for all those who dared to break the barrier and connect to the Zionist movement. Being part of the rabbinical institutions, he could not be elected to the governing committee of the community, but he supported the election of most of the members from the Zionist parties. This factor helped overcome the objections of the Ger Hasidim and the town's rabbi, facilitating the dissemination of Zionist ideas in the synagogue and the beit hamidrash when Zionist lecturers or envoys from Eretz Israel visited Zychlin.

[Pages 100-101 Hebrew] [Pages 276-277 Yiddish]

Reb Menachem Meir Rozenbaum

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

In his youth, Menachem Meir Rozenbaum was known as a God-fearing, prodigious Jewish scholar and as a passionate Zionist. He worked as a butcher in several communities, encouraged Jewish youths to study the profession before emigrating to Palestine, and was one of the founders of the Union of Ritual Slaughterers in Poland. He became shoychet in Zychlin in 1900 to the great dissatisfaction of the Ger Hasidim, who opposed his Zionism and called him names like “apikores”, “rebel”, “scavenger” and so on. More than once they tried to disqualify the kashrut of his slaughter. His home was a meeting place for people of all the Zionist organizations, though officially he was a member of Mizrahi, the party of the religious Zionists. We, the members of the secular youth movements Hechalutz and Tzeirei Zion, often sought his advice. When we began to distribute the shares of Bank HaPoalim he gave us lots of helpful advice to ensure the success of our endeavor. He always tried to make peace among the various Zionist factions.

He came to Eretz Israel in 1934. Very soon he had disputes with the Jewish religious establishment and spoke against its leaders. For that he was punished – he was de-certified as shoychet and his name was widely smeared.

Despite the difficulties, he was able to see the fulfillment of his vision. He raised children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and all in Israel.

When he was 85 years old, he invited me over and said with a smile: “God bless that my health is good, my mind is clear, and I was never forced to compromise my views. Every day I learn a chapter of Sha's alone and another chapter in a group. These days I am finishing the entire Sha's and, God willing, I will start it again.”

When I wished him long life, to 120, he gave me a playful look and said “Yoselah, why are you limiting my life? Why shouldn't I be like Methuselah, who lived 969 years?”

Menachem Meir Rozenbaum died at the age of 88. He will always be remembered for good by all those who knew him.

[Published in the newspaper Davar, September 26, 1954].

[Pages 103-105 Hebrew] [Pages 277-279 Yiddish]

David Steinberger (Shamir)

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

David Steinberger was born in 1888 in the city of Mszczonów. Coming from a family of distinguished Torah sages, he attended a yeshiva and became a Jewish scholar. In 1907 he married Tova, the eldest daughter of Reb Shmuel Biderman from Zychlin. As was customary at the time, he was invited to live with his in-laws for a few years. Two years after the wedding, however, he reached a turning point, giving up his free accommodations, leaving Zychlin, and beginning an independent life in Lodz.

The occupation of Poland by the Germans during the First World War allowed all proscribed political organizations throughout Poland to come out to the open, including the Zionist movements and parties. In London, Chaim Weizmann was negotiating the Balfour declaration with the British government. David Steinberger, who by then had returned to Zychlin, immediately joined the Zionist activities with great energy and dedication. He founded the Bnei Zion Association, organized the local youth and developed friendships with activists of all the different Zionist tendencies. Among other things, he founded a Zionist library, worked in the committees for Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemet, and organized Jewish and Zionist literature gatherings on Friday evenings.

 

David Steinberger (Shamir)

 

He instilled a love for Hebrew in the Zychlin youth by teaching the language in evening courses that also included classes on Torah, Jewish History and the Land of Israel. He was a superb lecturer and teacher, and his home served as a base for all the Zionist groups in the town, especially the young activists. Every Shabbat we, the youngsters of Zychlin, gathered at David's home and argued passionately about Zionist and literary topics. He charmed the audience with his passionate conversation and we thirstily absorbed his words.

Eventually, he initiated a daring project – to create a Jewish/Hebrew school in Zychlin. It was an idea that few believed was possible. He recruited the best pedagogical minds in various disciplines, including his brother Yosef, who had previously been a teacher in Warsaw. The school gained reputation in the district and its impact was felt in Poland at large, including among those who were heading the Tarbut school in Warsaw.

I remember well the day of the Balfour declaration, which became a big holiday in the town thanks to David's initiative. A big party was held in the hall of the school on Pasieka street, where he appeared dressed in his best holiday clothes. His face was shining from excitement and joy, reflecting the huge significance of that historical event.

David also served as teacher in the Hebrew schools of Kutno, Bialystok and other places. For a short time, he was also a writer for the Warshaver Togblat (Jewish Daily) by invitation of its editor A. D. Nomberg.

David Steinberger became David Shamir when he came to Palestine in 1925. During the first years he had difficulties finding employment – the typical problem of all the arriving pioneers. But he had always been very good at both asking for help and fulfilling requests. We were roommates and, as a union worker, I was able to help him get day jobs, though the work he did was not even close to matching his knowledge and capabilities. Still, he never refused the jobs that were offered to him – he was willing to do anything to support himself.

In 1926, David got a teaching job in Jeda, a new settlement in the Valley of Jezreel. From there he moved to Ramat Gan, where he was the pedagogical manager of a boarding school. Over the years, he taught at many schools and educational institutions, where he inspired in his students a great love for the land, language and nation of Israel. In the 1930's he opened LeOr, a boarding school of his own in Ramat Gan that he managed for more than 10 years.

After the War of Independence, already in his retirement age, David volunteered to teach in Beer Sheva, where he served as the first principal of a school for new immigrants. With unlimited energy and excitement, he devoted himself to educating children from diverse origins, especially Sephardim, with whom he shared his love of Israel as a nation and country.

In his last years, he worked in the construction sector of the Kibbutz Artzi movement. Despite his age, he did not want to give up work – he claimed that without work there was no point to life. David was a very conversational man who exceled in his depth of knowledge about literature, Torah, Judaism and many other aspects of life.

He was proud of his sons, daughters and grandchildren. His first son, Bunim Shamir, lived in kibbutz Shaar Hagolan and was a leader of Hashomer Hatzair and the Kibbutz Artzi movement. His second son, Ami Shamir, was a reporter and translator. His three daughters and their husbands were all members of the labor movement and educated their children in that spirit as well.

All who knew him, especially his thousands of students, were distraught with grief when he passed away. Many of them had come as pioneers to the Land of Israel as a direct result of his strength of conviction, education and spiritual inspiration. I am deeply saddened by the loss of my teacher, rabbi and good friend.

His memory will live in all those who knew him.

[Published in the newspaper Al HaMishmar, May 14, 1960].

[Pages 105-106 Hebrew] [Pages 279-280 Yiddish]

Tova Steinberger (Shamir)

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

Tova Steinberger (later Shamir when she came to Eretz Israel) was raised in a traditional Jewish home of Zychlin. Her father, Reb Shmuel (Shmelka) Biderman, was an observant Jew who traded in wood, was a member of the Jewish community's committee, had strong opinions, and was very strict. Following the customary ways, Reb Shmuel insisted on leaving his mark on his children's education. His daughter Tova, however, was one of those young women who fought for a new, freer way. Her struggles paved the way for herself and her siblings, who also became committed Zionists when they matured,

 

Tova Steinberger (Shamir)

 

During the first years of Tova's marriage with David Steinberger (who also came from a very traditional family) they stayed close to their parents' ways, but they quickly took distance and stood on their own. Their home in Zychlin became a center of Zionist activity and Hebrew literary discussions. It was always crowded with activists of the Zionist movement (young and old) and students of the Hebrew school.

Her life was not always easy. She was able to get through crises thanks to her personality, sense of responsibility and love for her family, all of which were reflected in her various activities.

She was full of life and pleasantness. From the depth of her heart she knew how to be truly happy and how to respond to the pain of those who were less fortunate. In Israel she was proud of her children and for good reason. Her first child, Bunim of kibbutz Shaar Hagolan, was a leader of Hashomer Hatzair and Mapam (the United Workers Party). Her second son Ami was a talented journalist and translator, and her three daughters and their husbands were people of the labor movement who raised their children in that spirit.

When you saw Tova exuding happiness on Passover's seder night, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, you saw the true happiness of a Jewish family.

A few months before celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, Tova fell sick and passed away. She was a true woman of valor, someone who epitomized the traditional role of the Jewish mother.

May her memory be blessed.

[Published in the newspaper Al HaMishmar, February 11, 1958].

[Pages 280-281 Yiddish]

Avraham Getzel (Ben-Yaakov)

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by Leon Zamosc

The news of the death of Avraham Getzel have shocked all of us. I was privileged to work with him in the Tzeirei Zion and Hechalutz organizations in Zychlin, a few years before coming to Eretz Israel.

In 1917, upon returning to my hometown Zychlin from Lodz, I met again with the young people with whom I had studied in the heder and the yeshiva. We were all very close. The oldest was Avraham Getzel, who had just returned from Warsaw, where he had been working as an employee. He led our group as we took the first steps to participate in public life. With the independence of Poland, socio-cultural and political organizations could now legally operate in the open.

In addition to founding the Zychlin branch of Tzeirei Zion, Avraham Getzel was one of the main speakers at the organization's first regional cross-conference in Plock. The delegates established the district chapter of the Zionist Socialist party (which was Tzeirei Zion's political arm), electing Abraham as regional secretary.

In late 1918, the Socialist Jedrzej Moraczewski was appointed as prime minister of Poland. At the time, Workers' Councils were being formed all over the country, often with the participation of Jewish socialist movements. Abraham Getzel was elected to the Zychlin Workers' Council and became one of its leading members, fighting for the interests of the working class and the poor, who saw him as a true representative.

 

Celebrating the departure of Abraham Getzel (Ben Yaakov) to Palestine

Standing from right: Michael Lajzerowicz, Zechariah Targovnik, Avraham Hodes, Yehoshua Wojdeslawski
Seating: Tzvi Lemberg, Zlotogorski, Avraham Getzel, Aryeh Opatowski, Yosef Rozengarten. Below: Yaakov Zhukhovski, Yaakov Lemberg

 

He came to Palestine with the third aliyah, changing his name to Avraham Ben-Yaakov. He working in the construction of the Haifa-Jeda highway and in the stone quarry in Jerusalem. When he became seriously ill, doctors ordered him to travel abroad to recover and Berl Katzenelson, the editor of Davar, helped make the trip a success. Coming back from abroad, he was unable to return to physical labor, but he worked as head of the insurance department of the Histadrut's Solel Boneh construction company,

Unfortunately, his beloved son was killed during the war in 1948. The tragedy had a fatal effect on Avraham. He avoided his friends and acquaintances. Once, I met him in Tel Aviv and invited him to walk by the sea - he refused. After that, I never saw him again.

He died suddenly in the United States while on a trip related to his insurance work.

Those who were close to Abraham will always remember him.

[Pages 107-108 Hebrew] [Pages 281-282 Yiddish]

Aharon Kanarek (Zamir)

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

Aharon Kanarek was one of twelve siblings. In his youth he studied in the beit hamidrash and the yeshiva. He was considered one of the brightest youngsters in Zychlin, a man of HaTzfirah (the Hebrew newspaper published in Warsaw). He was an avid reader of Hebrew books and active in the Bnei Zion Association. In 1923, when the Zionist movement in Poland split into the Al HaMishmar and Et Livnot factions, he joined Al HaMishmar and his relationships with me and other members of the group Eretz Yisrael HaOvedet (Workers of the Land of Israel) were very warm.

 

Aharon Kanarek (Zamir)

 

After his arrival in Palestine in 1925, he worked for some years with the Nesher publishing company, but he was forced to leave his work due to severe illness. He was bed-ridden for fifteen years during which his wife had to support the family on her own (may she live a long life).

He was sixty years old when he died, leaving a son and a daughter.

May his memory be blessed.

[Published in the newspaper Davar, March 9, 1956].

[Page 108 Hebrew] [Page 282 Yiddish]

Menachem Olsztyn

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

 

 

He worked in Israel for forty years, first with his son Leibish at the University in Jerusalem and, after his son died, at Moshav Tel Adashim until he became blind. He was a devoted labor man in Israel as he had been in Zychlin, where he had worked from early morning until late at night. More than a worker, he was an artist in his profession. I once passed by the Zychlin synagogue to find him doing reparations on the roof. My blood froze in fear of a disaster, but he was doing it with great pleasure.

All the members of Moshav Tel Adashim liked him. He worked tirelessly, but on the eve of Shabbat or a holiday he would take off his work clothes, dress up in his best attire, and go to the synagogue. When the services finished he would leave glowing. His children sang special Shabbat songs until the late hours of the night for everyone's pleasure.

He died at the good old age of ninety-five leaving five daughters and a son, thirteen grandchildren and twenty-three great-grandchildren.

[Published in the newspaper Davar, February 21, 1966].

[Page 109 Hebrew] [Pages 282-283 Yiddish]

Leibush (Aryeh) Olsztyn

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

Leibush (Aryeh) Olsztyn was a worker's worker. From a young age he toiled in metalwork, a profession that he had learned from his father, who had started working at age eight and continued working all of his life. After the First World War, when Poland's public, political and cultural life was flourishing, Leibush joined the Zionist labor movement. Because he was artistically inclined, he was assigned cultural tasks such as organizing a choir, a string orchestra, and a drama circle.

 

Leibush (Aryeh) Olsztyn

 

In 1924, he was among those who came to Palestine as part of the fourth aliyah wave. He quickly arranged for all his family (eight people) to join him. Leibush was the only Zychliner who did not stop until his entire family was reunited in Eretz Israel.

He worked hard his entire life. Despite having cancer, he did not quit his professional work until the very last minute. He was involved in the metalwork of all the public buildings of Jerusalem including Binyanei HaUmah (the Jerusalem Convention Center). In the last days of his life, lying in the hospital, he was still making plans for that important project and thinking of ways to implement them on time.

Leibush (Aryeh) Olsztyn was taken from us when he was only fifty-three. He was a good friend and a good man. He was modest and maintained his connection with the Israeli labor movement until his passing.

[Published in the newspaper Davar, October 1, 1950].

[Page 106-107 Hebrew] [Pages 283-284 Yiddish]

Michael Lajzerowicz

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

Michael Lajzerowicz was a baker, a hard worker from his youth. He was an active member of our Polish Zionist youth movement Tzeirei Zion. In his spare time he was an avid reader and was very respected by the Zionist youth of Zychlin. He was called the “dreamer poet” because he gave more to society than it was willing to receive from him. He liked to discuss literary topics and was always keen on convincing others about his opinions.

 

Michael Lajzerowicz

 

Michael came to Eretz Israel in 1922. His first stop was Jerusalem, where he worked in various jobs. In 1924 he moved to Tel Aviv and was active in the bakers' union. Then he moved to Haifa, where he was an independent worker. His entire livelihood came from his manual labor and he worked tirelessly. He was a fighter in the Haganah, sustaining injuries on two occasions during his service. He had a secret place in his Kriyat Eliyahu home where he kept a stash of Haganah weapons. The British raided his home and bakery several times, arresting him on two occasions. To his great fortune, the weapons were never discovered.

He educated his children in that spirit. His two sons were singers and entertainers who went on a tour to perform in the United States. To please their parents they invited them to accompany them. During the trip Michael developed cancer. After a couple of months he passed away at age 65, leaving a wife, two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren.

[Published in the newspaper Davar, May 16, 1966].

[Page 110-111 Hebrew] [Pages 284-285 Yiddish]

Moshe Kelmer - From Zychlin to the Knesset

by Yosef Rozengarten

Translated by David Goren

Deviating from the “straight path”, a group of Zychlin yeshiva boys began to associate with Reb Menachem Meir Rozenbaum - a committed Zionist and one of the most honest men in the town. Reb Menachem Meir was a member of the Zionist religious party Mizrahi. When he set out to organize a youth branch of the party, Moshe Kelmer was the first of his adherents. Moshe was the fifth of seven siblings – six sisters and one brother. As they grew up, they all joined Zionist labor parties and were devoted activists.

The youngsters gathered frequently at Reb Menachem Meir's home, where he would quiz them on their yeshiva and beit hamidrash studies and their knowledge of the Talmud. After these exams, he would tell them stories to nurture love for the Zionist idea in their hearts. Reb Menachem Meir was blessed with many daughters. One of them was Tova, with whom Moshe Kelmer was in love and he would eventually marry.

 

Moshe Kelmer

 

In 1920, Reb Menachem Meir asked Rabbi Nisenbaum, a leader of the Mizrachi party in Poland, to allocate a visa certificate to his future son-in-law. After receiving the visa, Moshe came to Eretz Israel in 1921, immediately starting his public activity within the framework of the Hapoel Mizrachi party.

Between 1922 and 1924 he worked in Jerusalem as a construction worker while completing his studies in the teaching certification program of Mizrachi. He then moved to Haifa where he continued his activism with Hapoel Mizrachi while administering two buildings for the contractor Nirenshtein. After that, he entered the political scene of Tel Aviv, where he served as secretary of the city branch of the Hapoel Mizrachi party.

With the merging of the HaBoneh and Mashkantaot construction companies in 1935, he was appointed manager of Mashhav, the new combined company. He worked there until his death.

Moshe Kelmer was a central figure in the Zionist congresses, a board member of the Keren Kayemet, and a founder of the bank Adanim. He established Hapoel Mizrachi's work center and was a member of the party's national leadership, becoming a member of parliament during the first, second and fifth Knessets. He was dispatched on six occasions as emissary to the United States and Canada. He also participated in a special Knesset delegation to Ireland. In 1965, he was formally certified as a lawyer.

Regardless of their political views, the Zychliners living in Israel were proud of Moshe Kelmer's career to the pinnacle of public service. His illness and sudden death were a source of sadness for all Zychliners in Israel and around the world.

[Page 112-114 Hebrew] [Pages 285-288 Yiddish]

Three Zychliners

by David Steinberger (Shamir)

Translated by David Goren

Yitzhak Kelmer

Yitzhak Kelmer distinguished himself by his great imagination, inexhaustible knowledge about Zionism, and tireless disposition for public service. He was “one of the people”, the child of a typical, simple family of Zychlin. He inherited from his father problems to solve and the responsibility of having to earn a living for his family. He took all those responsibilities as a matter of fact. He was a manufacturer, merchant and salesman but he lacked proficiency in the inner workings of Jewish trading. He was an honest man who could not cheat and as a result got into trouble, borrowing here and paying there, writing, erasing, positioning, eliminating, fluttering and treading water. For him, all those troubles were temporary and passing. He did everything with a strong sense of commitment, whether it was related to his work or to his service to the Jewish community and Zionism.

He was not discouraged by obstacles or lack of cash. We needed a more spacious place for the Zionist Association, which required a significant amount of money to modify the building. Even the optimists shrugged their shoulders – where will the money be found? Yitzhak said little, but his smile suggested that he had a plan. And when the moment came, he executed his plan quickly. I cannot remember how the miracle was accomplished, but there were many others. He illuminated the room, took care of culture, marketing, parties, visa certificates, and his greatest satisfaction came from accompanying someone to the train station and seeing him off to Eretz Israel. Then, happiness radiated from his face.

Yitzhak was single. Everybody wanted to change that, including his mother, his friends, and even himself. But his public service in general and his Zionist activities in particular were always expanding and he had no time for such personal matters…

-- Yitzhak, when will you go to Eretz Israel?

-- It is not my turn yet, I must first assist several friends to make aliyah… And by the way, who will we leave here to take care of things?

 

Riva and Rivtcha

Here was an inseparable pair, two girlfriends, like twin deer. I do not think anyone ever saw one without the other. Riva and Rivtcha were always together. They were both full of grace, from “nice Hasidic families” where the fathers fought our movement in every possible way. But the girls joined the movement with heart and soul despite their parents' objections.

Riva helped her aging parents at home and Rivtcha was the main salesperson in her parents' store, she practically managed the business. In the store, between one shopper and another, there were discussions on Zionism. Somehow, in addition to her work, Riva found time to help the town's poor, to listen to anyone who had difficulties, to help, lighten, comfort, calm… And despite all of this, she still had time to be with Rivtcha.

In the evenings, Riva and Rivtcha participated in meetings, lectures, activities… They collected donations and managed election campaigns. And if something was urgently needed during the day, they would made themselves available as if there were no home and no store. They were always ready to give their time to the cause of Zionism.

Rivtcha somehow managed to marry as well. Riva, however, could not waste time in such mundane things. “I simply don't have the patience”, she would say… They were happy when they were busy with their activities, and the holy work had a way of always returning to glorify them and raise their souls.

 

Pinchas (Pintcha) Getzel

Pintcha was an out-and-out yeshiva boy and a baker by profession. He worked nights in his parents' bakery and relaxed during the day. He used to sit and snooze, stand and snooze, speak and snooze and even walk and snooze. In our organization, he was a member of many committees, and despite his hard work he never missed a meeting. He usually slept a few hours during the day, but if there was a Zionist activity, Pintcha did not hesitate to skip his nap. At the meetings he was wide awake, participating in all the discussions, arguments, and votes. But at work he occasionally fell asleep, which resulted in ruined baked goods that had to be trashed. When his parents reprimanded him he felt bad, but he did not change his ways - Zionism took priority over work and all personal matters.

Pintcha had a good demeanor. He would never yell or get angry. I would give a prize to any Zychliner who could testify they had seen Pintcha upset or heard him raise his voice. He would not begrudge or complain. He accepted everything with love. He treated all sad cases with extra tenderness. When someone refused to donate, Pintcha did not give up. He would make his case until he reached his goal.

I recall a lecture about “Love and Hate in Zionism.” The lecturer opened the talk arguing that to love the goal of building a Jewish homeland, one must hate living in the diaspora. Pintcha opposed this idea saying that we did not need to hate our lives, and that if we wanted to change our lives we had to do it on the basis of a healthy foundation. I remember that I told him: “In fact, you identify with the lecturer's idea except that the word 'hate' bothers you… The concept is alien to your personal nature.”

Time went by and I eventually caught him displaying anger. During the electoral campaign for the Polish parliament a speaker of the religious orthodox party Agudat Israel began badmouthing Zionism and Zionists. Pintcha heatedly said “I hate him as much as I hate an anti-Semite Gentile.”

If you insulted Zionism – even Pintcha got angry.

[Published in “Yediot Zychliners in Israel” December 1944]

[Page 111 Hebrew] [Pages 288-289 Yiddish]

My grandfather, Reb Avraham Itche Boim

by Yaakov Neufeld (Noy)

Translated by David Goren

My grandfather Reb Avraham Itche Boim was a Mszczonow Hasid and student of the Torah, but he did not outwardly appear to be part of the group of Hasidim in the town. He stood out in the community, synagogue and beit hamidrash for the strength of his convictions and the personal example of his daily life. He was revered and respected in the Jewish community. As a regular subscriber of the Hebrew daily HaTzfira, he allowed other Hasidim to secretly come to marvel at the sight of a newspaper in the holy language. Despite the admonitions of the fanatics, they looked and discovered that no harm came to them. My grandfather contributed greatly to reducing the extreme religious dogmatism that prevailed in the town.

His son, Reb Bunim, was also an Mszczonow Hasid and student of the Torah. Contradicting the anti-Zionist stance of his peers, he decided that his place was in Eretz Israel. On Sundays, when the stores had to close by state regulation, some Hasidim would furtively come to the back door of his store to hear the news from Palestine and ask about the progress of his plans to make aliyah. They thought that he was hallucinating. It was like this for many years, until he fulfilled his dream. Several family members had already left before him, and in the mid-1930s he joined them with his wife and children. He died in Israel.

We will remember forever my father Reb Nachum Neufeld (son of Israel Shmuel); my mother Chawa, daughter of Reb Avraham Iche Boim; my sister Chana, her husband and their daughter; and my brother Aharon Leib, his wife and their daughter. They were all murdered in the Shoah by Hitler (may his name be erased) during the Second World War. May their memories be blessed.

 

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