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Chapter Sixteen:

Bialystok Personalities

 

I stop here for various personalities who are connected to Bialystok, who were born here or lived and made an impression here. The prominent men and respected people who already were discussed earlier are not mentioned here. Here I will speak about those personalities who in general have not yet been mentioned or only in passing, Here are people from various times and various strata. Certainly, not all of those who are worthy will be mentioned here.


א    A

Bialystok Crown Rabbis

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Until now I have not stopped to discuss the crown [state appointed official] rabbis. The rabbis [who were appointed by the government] were given a role in every function by the tsarist regime that was supposed to be carried out by the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community].

 

The Essence of the Crown Rabbi (Rabbis)

The Russian government, disrupting the old kehile-organization [organized Jewish community], simultaneously removed from all of the ordained rabbis and Talmudic authorities who possessed no general education the right to be elected as official rabbis in the kehilus [plural of kehile]. The government called them duchovny (spiritual) rabbis without any practical value. The tsarist government gave the right to become official rabbis, to be elected rabbi only to the Russified rabbinical candidates who had graduated from rabbinical schools in Vilna and Zitomir, which they [the tsarist government] had founded for this purpose. They alone had the right to be elected as official rabbis, to manage the metrical [vital records] books and to provide religious marriages and divorces and to carry out all of the official functions of a rabbi.

Jews accepted them as government officials who were thrown at them by state edicts. They were called “crown rabbis” and did not have any value in the kehilus. The true rabbis to the Jews were, as before, the duchovny rabbis. It happened that the rabbinical candidates were all Jewish graduates of the Russian middle schools who did not even have any Jewish religious knowledge and could not even read a Hebrew text. There were strange occurrences where the government designated a person who was completely ignorant, a transgressor, a Russified, assimilated man who was an adversary of the Jewish religion.

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However, there also were individual exceptions found among the rabbinical candidates who were by chance good, people's Jews. However, the extremely pious fanatics were not satisfied with precisely this sort of rabbinical candidate because those who were chosen as rabbis considered themselves spiritual representatives of the kehilus and strove to improve their [the kehilus'] internal spiritual and cultural conditions by spreading the Enlightenment and culture within them. Therefore, the extreme pious Jews were more satisfied with the ignorant Russified rabbis.

In the beginning Bialystok still partially had the Polish kehile laws. Therefore, the duchovny rabbis simultaneously were crown rabbis, mainly before there were rabbis who had graduated from the rabbinical schools. Thus, for example, the Bialystok Rabbi, Reb Eliakim-Gecl MEIR also was a crown rabbi to maintain the metrical records and he also was a censor. After his death, his son Betsalel, an ordinary Jew, maintained the metrical records at first. But in 5620 [1860], when the first rabbis graduated from the rabbinical schools, a strict law was issued that the kehilus must have a “crown rabbi” who had graduated [from a rabbinical school].

 

Yehoshua SZTAJNBERG

The first graduate as a crown rabbi in Bialystok was the well-known Hebraist and learned man, Yehoshua SZTAJNBERG from Vilna who later was a teacher and inspector at the Vilna Teaching Institute, the son-in-law of Adam haKohan LEBENZON.* Bialystok was his first rabbinical seat. He was the rabbi here for a total of seven to eight months in 5621 (1861).[1] A.D. LIBERMAN, then the correspondent from Bialystok, relates[2] that in the Bialystok delegation that presented itself to Tsar Aleksander II at his visit to Bialystok (on the 4th of Kheshvan 5621[20th October 1861]) were: Mordekhai ZABLUDOWSKI, Eliezer HALBERSZTAM, Dovid ZABLUDOWSKI, son of Reb Yitzhak Meir (Dodya Mikhala's son) and Yehiel-Ber WOKLOWSKI and the remaining town notables were with the newly elected Rabbi Yehoshua SZTAJNBERG who presented the tsar with bread and salt and a poem that the rabbi had written with respect (a Hebrew one) in a small, expensive box. We do not know about his other activities during that short time.

*[Translator's note: Avraham Dov Ber LEBENZON was known as Avraham Dov MICHAILISHOK; LEBENZON'S wife's family lived in Michailishok and he lived with her family there for many years after their marriage which resulted in him having this surname. “Adam” is an acronym of “Avraham Dov MICHAIKISHOK.”]

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Reb Shlomo-Zalmen BENDET

The second rabbi after him was Reb Shlomo-Zalmen BENDET from Rasein [Raseiniai], a son of the Rabbi, the righteous man and the holy Hasid, our teacher, our Rabbi Shmuel.[3] He was an ordinary, middle-class Jew who knew Russian and was recommended by the Kovno governor to the local rich man, Reb Itshe ZABLUDOWSKI as an honest man with the request that he be elected as rabbi in Bialystok and thus it was. He was chosen as the rabbi here in 5662 [1862].[4]

As the old men said, he wanted to act as a rabbi from the beginning. He wore a long coat with wide sleeves like the Russian pope and he did not subordinate himself to Reb Lipele because he relied on his great ancestry. He once entered a quarrel with him about a city cantor who had been hired then – the well-known great cantor, Borukh KARLINER, who Reb Lipele opposed because he would repeat the words even louder several times. Of course, Reb Lipele prevailed and Borukh KARLINER had to leave Bialystok. Reb Shmuel BULOWSZTAJN, a Jew, a scholar and a pious man was one of the rabbi's supporters and close friends.

Later Reb Shlomo-Zalmen's two sons lived here, respected businessmen Yudl BENDET and Ayzyk BEN TOVIM. The latter was a pious follower of the Enlightenment who traveled with Reb Shmuel MOHILEWER in the first mission (assignment) to Eretz-Yisroel in 5650 [1890] and remained there. He was one of the first well-known [council member] of Hovevi Zion [Lovers of Zion] in Yafa, under the leadership of [Vladimir] TIOMKIN.

Reb Shlomo-Zalmen BENDET died on the 8th of Iyar 5628 [30 April 1868]. It says on his headstone that he was an honest and upright man and an accomplished man, nothing more. It appears that he was not a scholar nor a follower of the Enlightenment.

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Meir MARKUS

After him, Meir ber [son of] Shimshon MARKUS, a graduate of the rabbinical school, was the rabbi in Bialystok for a long time. Meir MARKUS was born in Sokó³ka in 5600 [1840]. He later studied in the local yeshiva [religious secondary school]; he then entered the Vilna Rabbinical School. When he graduated he became the rabbi of Sokó³ka, his city of birth. When Reb Shlomo-Zalmen BENDET, the Bialystok rabbi, died, he was chosen here as the rabbi in his place. He was an honest, middle class Jew and a very fine man, a modest and virtuous man. He did his job perfectly, recorded the vital records, was a religious teacher in the Real School [Yiddish speaking secondary school] and gave sermons in Russian on the gala days [days on which bands played and the city's fountains were turned on after the winter]; he also was an active member of all Jewish community institutions and was one of the first members of Hovevi Zion.

Meir MARKUS was an affable man, but he was a man without a strong will and was subservient to all of the influential people in the city, such as WOLKOWISKI, even when he was the rabbi. When there was a difference of opinion at a meeting he would shake his head [in agreement] with each side. He was very guarded in everything, but once he failed in this when he confirmed the news of Dr. GRANOWSKI's horrible deed against a Jewish boy (see further) in a correspondence in a Petersburg newspaper; he immediately received an administrative penalty for this from Dr. CHAZANOWICZ – he was sent from Bialystok for two years. He died on the 14th of Nisan 5661 [3rd of April 1901]. He was the rabbi in Bialystok for 30 years.

 

Dr. Yosef MOHILEWER

The fourth rabbi in Bialystok under the Russian regime was Dr. Yosef MOHILEWER, the grandson of Reb Shmuel MOHILEWER, may the memory of a righteous man be blessed. He was chosen as rabbi in 5662 [1902] after the death of Meir MARKUS, but his candidacy met with great opposition from the then greatly influential person, Yehiel-Ber WOLKOWSKI, who understood that with Dr. Yosef MOHILEWER as rabbi, the young social activistd, mainly the Zionists, would receive the upper hand in the leadership of the kehile and he [WOLKOWSKI] and his group would have to give up their place to them. Therefore, he [WOLKOWSKI] did everything he could to reject the election and, later, when it took place and Dr. MOHILEWER was elected with a large majority [WOLKOWSKI] lobbied that [Dr. MOHILEWER] not be employed in the gubernia [province], but all of this did not

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help and Dr. MOHILEWER was employed.[5] However, WOLKOWSKI died immediately afterward and Dr. MOHILEWER, as the Bialystok Rabbi, eulogized him.

Dr. Yosef MOHILEWER was raised by his great grandfather and [studied] Tanakh [The Five Books of Moses] and the Talmud under his guidance and with teachers for secular studies. He later graduated from two faculties, agronomy and French, where he was an engineer-agronomist,[6] and the philosophy [faculty] in Konigsberg where he was a doctor of philosophy. His exceptional dissertation was: “The Psycho-Physical Parallelism of [Wilhelm] WUNDT.” His influence as a rabbi and orator in Bialystok was great. He usually strongly supported the Zionists and their institutions. He was the rabbi in Bialystok for 13 years until 1915.

Before the occupation by the Germans during the early war years [First World War], he was director of the just created Hebrew Teachers' Seminar in Odessa and he also was one of the representatives at the Odessa kehile. When the Bolsheviks captured Odessa, he escaped to Eretz Yisroel on a French ship. He was director of the Jerusalem Hebrew Gymnazie [secondary school] there.


Footnotes

  1. It turns out that in Hakarmel on 3 of Elul 5620 [21 August 1860], no. 9, Yehoshua SZTAJNBERG signs an essay, “Rabbinical Candidates,” but on the 2nd of Kislev 5621[10 November 1860], A. B. LIBERMAN writes (in Hasharon in Hakarmel) that Yehoshua SZTAJNBERG is the rabbi in Bialystok, but on 9 Adar 5621 [19 February 1861], Yehoshua SZTAJNBERG wrote about himself as “Rabbi in Vilna” (this was pointed out to me by Shimeon KONIAK). Return
  2. Hakarmel 5621 [1860], no. 19. Return
  3. At that time Reb Shmuel the Hasid was a well-known sage and righteous man. He was descended from the well-known BENDET PADKOVE family. It was said about him that before his marriage to a rich bride, he recognized among the poor people at the banquet for the poor, his former bride [fiancée], who had been driven from him during the CHMIELINCKI times.* He left his rich bride and married [the poor one] (see the agreement of the Raseiner Rabbi, Moshe LAPIDIS in Zikhron Yakov, the book of questions and answers of the Brisker Rabbi who was Reb Shmuel the Hasid's grandson and published a book of Hasidus of his.

    *[Translator's note: Bogdan CHMIELINCKI led attacks by Cossacks against the Jewish population in Ukraine resulting in the massacre of approximately 100,000 Jews during the years 1848-1849.] Return

  4. In Hakarmel, 5622 [1862], no. 12, A.B. LIBERMAN says that at the dedication of the great house of prayer, the elected rabbi recited a Misheberakh [public prayer for an individual or group of people] for the tsar and his family. It appears that this was Reb Shlomo-Zalmen BENDET. He was the rabbi here in such a manner for six years, from 5622 [1862] until 5628 [1868]. Return
  5. Thanks to the intercession of Yudl KALICKI and the author of Pinkas [record book]. Return
  6. Reb Shmuel did not want to permit his grandson to study, but I convinced him that he should permit him to study geography in order to receive a position as a director in a Baron ROTHSCHILD colony and then Reb Shmuel himself would be able to settle in Eretz Yisroel. However, Eliyahu SZID, the then manager of the ROTHSCHILD colonies refused the request for this because it was not worthwhile for him. Yosef MOHILEWER then entered the philosophy faculty in Konigsberg in order to become a doctor-rabbi. Return


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ב    B

Writers Born in Bialystok or Inhabitants of Bialystok

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

We further provide here in alphabetical order a large list of writers [who wrote] in Hebrew and Yiddish, a few also in Polish.

A. URANOWSKI. A. URANOWSKI wrote his Toldot hashira haivrit beyeme habenaim im antalogiya uveurim History of Hebrew Poetry in the Middle Ages with an Anthology and Annotations] (Bialystok, first book, 5691 [1931]; book two – 5691), he was a teacher here in the local Hebrew gymnazie [secondary school].

Eliezer ATLAS. Eliezer ATLAS was born in Baisogala, Kovno gubernia [district], Rosh Khodesh [start of the new month] Adar, 5611 [February 1851]. He lived here as a book

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keeper. He[7] was a well-known Hebrew writer, critic and editor of HaKerem [The Vineyard]. He died here in Nisan 5664 [March 1904].

Yehezkiel EIZNBERG. Yehezkiel EIZNBERG was a Hebrew teacher and Zionist activist here. He published Hatzair [Youth] (Warsaw), a collection of Hebrew short stories.

Y. INDICKI. An owner of the local bookstore, Y. INDICKI compiled Hebrew textbooks, anthologies for beginners: Sefer HaMekhanekh [The Educator's Guide], HaMekhanekh HaShalem [The Complete Educator's Book] Historia Ivrit [Hebrew History] for children, HaMetargem [The Translator], translations from Yiddish to Hebrew, Torat HaSafa [The Study of Language] with explanations of the topic and the words in Yiddish with useful expressions and Kore HaDorot [Reader of the Generations].

Naftali Hirc BOJARSKI. Naftali Hirc BOJARSKI was a local teacher of bookkeeping. He wrote two philological brochures Heker Milim Ethomology], Bialystok, 5669 [1909] and Bialystok, 5674 [1914].

Twzi Ben HABAVLI – born in Bialystok, a son of Reb Elizer BAVLI, wrote Mafteakh Khadash al Megilat Ester [a new index for the Book of Ester] (Petersburg 1880).

Y. BACHRACH – wrote HaRambam, Shitato Ve'ikrei Da'to [Maimonides, His Method and His Main Ideas] (Bialystok, 5695 [1935).

Meir BACHRACH – novelist and sketch writer in Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers.

Ahron BEREZINSKI – wrote in local Undzer Lebn [Our Life] and very beautiful short stories and sketches in the American newspaper Forvets [Forward]. He was also co-editor of Undzer Lebn. He began to write in the Bialystoker Togeblat [Bialystok Daily Newspaper].

Yitzhak GOLDMAN – the well-known Hebrew printer in Warsaw from Jaszinowke. Yitzhak GOLDMAN married here [in Bialystok] to a Bialystok woman and spent 10 years here after the marriage and engaged in learning and the Enlightenment and developed into a great Jewish follower of the Enlightenment.

He then became a Gemara-teacher [teacher of Talmudic commentary] in the Warsaw Rabbinical Seminar and, later, he became a great printer of Hebrew books. The publisher of HaEshkol [The Cluster of Grapes] (Warsaw), the first attempt at a Hebrew encyclopedia.[8]

Yitzhak GOLDMAN was a scholar and a follower of the Enlightenment, as shown by his essays in the notes to the books that he published. I knew him in my youth in Warsaw. He made an impression with his gift of speech and his outward appearance as a pious

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Mendl GOLDMAN – born in Bialystok; a writer of lyrical poems and in local, Warsaw and American newspapers. His poems received their premiere in the Forverts; also a translator of Polish romance novels into Yiddish. Writer on political, communal and literary themes; official editor of Undzer Lebn [Our Life].

Yakov GORDON. Yakov GORDON was a local French teacher. He wrote a drama and poem named Hagiyoret bat HaRav [The Converted Jewess, Daughter of the Rabbi] (Warsaw) 5564 [1807].

Moshe Yekhezkel (Moric) GUTFARB – German teacher. He translated Masa Hodi [An Indian Journey] from German to Hebrew and published various articles in the HaShakhar [The Dawn] atlas and Kneset Yisroel [The Jewish People] 5646 [1886].

H. G. GRAJEWSKI – compiled Oytser baYurim [Curator of Commentaries] (Lomza, 5673 [1913]), anthology of various commentators on Tanakh [Torah, Prophets and Writings – the Hebrew Bible].

M.D. DAVIDSON. Menakhl-Mendl DAVIDSON was in his youth known for his humorous Hebrew lines in SMOLENSKI's HaShihud [The Bribe]. Previously being a teacher in Horodno, he considered himself a friend of A. Sh. FRIDBERG and the Hebrew poet, Konstantin SZPIRA. Later he lived [his remaining] years in Bialystok as a language teacher of Russian, French, German and Hebrew. But he was not a poet, nor a writer.

* * *

Jew, but he already was a Hetzitz V'nifga [he peeked and was harmed [committed heresy – a reference to a well-known story in the Biblical commentaries]. His children already had assimilated completely, but his Bialystok wife remained the same pious woman.

It was said that she once came home from Kol Nidre [the Aramaic prayer opening the Yom Kippur service] and finding her [son] Maks smoking a cigar she fainted. Her husband was called from the small synagogue; he asked her: “What happened?” She told him. He said to her: “You should have let the gentile boy finish smoking his cigar.”

He once won 25,000 rubles in a lottery. He bought his own house on the wide Mila Street in Warsaw. And he once came in for early morning prayers. The gabbai [sexton] went over to him and said to him: “Rebbe Yitzhak! If I had known that you like the first minyon I would have sent the shamas [rabbi's assistant] to call you every Shabbos.” He answered him: “I do not like the first minyon as much as I dislike the second one.”

Dovid SLICKI, the well-known Hebrew writer, once met him standing in a group and strongly praised a scholarly argumentation that he had had printed at that time. He said to him: “Rebbe Yitzhak! I bet you that if Moshe Rabbenu [Moses our teacher] would have printed your book, he, too, would have said that it is good.”

Yitzhak NISSENBAUM (Alei Heldi [About My World], 86) told him of a witticism: When Reb Yasha-Ber [Josef Dov] SOLOVEITCHIK, the Brisker Rebbe, published his book Beis HaLevi, he gave it the name Yad HaLevi (abbreviation of Josef Dov), but he told GOLDMAN that he could correct the language errors in his book. He told him: “I have to correct the name of the book immediately because Yad HaLevi is found only once in Tanakh [Five Books of Moses, Prophets and Writings] in the story of Micah's idol (Judges 71:12). He [Josef Dov] changed its name to Beis HaLevi.

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In Bialystok, he only was the writer of Hebrew verses for gravestones. He was a great joker. He died here in the local old age home when he was over 80 on the 10th of Tammuz 5673 [15th of July 1913].

Yeshayahu DAMASZEWICKI or Y. BERSHADSKI. Yeshayahu DAMASZEWICKI came here from the village of Zajmoszczi near Volkovysk. Here he studied and developed and became a Hebrew teacher and a Hebrew writer. He was a co-worker at HaZman [The Time], a well-known, good writer. His stories about Bialystok life Be'en Matarah [Without a Goal] were well-known.

Yisroel DUNIEC – published Hasagat Yad [The Hand's Reach] and Yad Lamikra [A Helping Hand for the Scripture] (Bialystok, 5681 [1921]). [These two titles are commentaries on Biblical texts.]

Yisroel DIMOW (Yosef PERELMAN) – he was born in Bialystok (1878); was a well-known belletrist, novelist and dramaturge who from the start wrote in Russian. He left for America, wrote there in English and Yiddish and later also in German. At first he was well-known for his Russian plays about Jewish life in Bialystok under the name Shema Yisroel [Hear O Israel – the central prayer of Judaism]. His Eybiker Wanderer [Eternal Wanderer], Der Zinger fun Zeyn Troyer [The Singer of His Sadness] and so on are also praised.

CHAIM HURWIC – he was born in Bialystok. He began to write for the Bialystoker Tageblat [Bialystok Daily Newspaper]. Later he moved to another newspaper and then was a journalist in America.

A. Sh. HERSZBERG – the writer of the Pinkas [book of records]. [See the bio and bibliography of Yisroel HAJPERIN at the beginning of the volume.)

Zwi WIDER – born in Bialystok into the working class. His father was a baker. He wrote newspaper articles about the economy, economic life and communal life.

Shmuel Meir haKohen [descendant of the priestly class] WAJS – author of Sefer haMazkir [book of commentaries] on the Parsha Bereshis [First Torah portion – “In the beginning…” of Genesis], 24 columns, Bialystok, 5689 [1929]. Alas, it is a worthless, little book.

WINER – a local German teacher. He was a correspondent for the Bialystok and Petersburg Herald; he wrote essays, descriptions of Jewish life under the name “The Jew from the cradle until his burial.”

Chaim WISOCKI – born in Bialystok; writer of novellas, sketches and short stories in Bialystok and Warsaw newspapers.

Moshe WISOCKI – born in Bialystok; journalist, founder and editor of various temporary newspapers.

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Chaim Zwi ZABLUDOWSKI – he put together a small book, Kovets Hidot [Collection of Puzzles] (Ivria, Warsaw, 1908).

Mikhl ZABLUDOWSKI – he published [a book about] physics in Yiddish, Bialystok 1928.

Mordekhai ZABLUDOWSKI – he published a geometry [book], part 1, Bialystok 1919 in Yiddish. Mordekhai and Mikhl ZABLUDOWSKI, sons of Noakh ZABLUDOWSKI, were engineers, teachers at the local artisans' school.

Noakh ZABLUDOWSKI – he was born in Bialystok; he was one of the great Yiddish and Hebrew correspondents and newspaper writers from Bialystok, before it had its own newspaper.

Leib CHAZAN – Leib CHAZAN was a Hebrew teacher and scribe born in Bialystok. He wrote a novel about life in the factory entitled Geulah [Redemption] (Kowal, 1931) and published Mishnius Nezikin [Talmudic Tractates on Damages], adapted for the Hebrew schools. He wrote in Hebrew newspapers and journals and was a translator of the Russian classics into Hebrew. He left for Eretz-Yisroel and he was a Hebrew teacher there.

Avraham TIKTIN – He was born in Bialystok. He later was the head of the Vaad haKol [community council] Avraham Tiktin. In his youth he published two Hebrew books: a translation from French of Toldot Pat Lehem [French title: Histoire d'une Bouchee de Pain, English title: The Story of a Mouthful of Bread] (Warsaw 1882) and an original novel, Halifot VaTsava [Changes and War] (Warsaw 1889). However, after this he left Hebrew completely and became a correspondent in the Russian liberal newspapers in Petersburg for the state. Later, he wrote and writes publicity and communal articles in the Bialystok Yiddish newspaper. He published the brochure, Hitlerodia and the Third Salvation and a book, What Everyone Must Know, 600 pages.

Asher TRCZANOWICZ – former Hebrew teacher of beginners and director of studies at the first kindergarten. He began his journalist activities at the Bialystoker Togeblat [Bialystoker Daily Newspaper] as a city chronicler. Today he is a correspondent for the Warsaw Ekspres and the editor of the Bialystok supplement to this newspaper.

Asher CHAWES – he was a local Hebrew teacher who assembled Hagrun [The Letter Writer],a book of sample letters (Warsaw, 5659 [1899]).

Eliezer Ber LIBERMAN. Eliezer Ber LIBERMAN was born in Pilwiszek, Sulvaki district, on the 8th of Elul 5580 [18th of August 1820]. He was the father of the well-known first Hebrew Socialist, Artur FRAJMAN

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(LIBERMAN), the publisher of Haemes [The Truth]. He was the oldest newspaper correspondent in Bialystok in [Ha]Karmel [Mount Carmel]. He lived most of his years here [in Bialystok] as a Hebrew teacher in rich houses. He was the Hebrew teacher of Izidor ZABLUDOWSKI, later a famous professor, and he [LIBERMAN] died here in 1895. He wrote Megillat Sefer [a collection of essays, fables, letters and short stories] (Johannesburg 5614 [1854]), a translation from German, Sipurim, Mishlei Musar [Stories, Moral Fables] and letters: Tzedek u-Mishpat [Law and Justice] (1866), a translation of the Shadal [acronym of Samuel David Luzzato] Ge Hizzayon [The Valley of Vision](1889).

Of his small book, Megillat Sefer, a translation that has no value today, the then Hebrew writers Avraham MAPU and Kalman SZULMAN wrote praise. Kalman SZULMAN said: “Young friend! Since you, my master, have separated from me, the joy of my life-spring has departed from me.” This small book was dedicated to the rich man and Hebrew poet, Eliezer HALBERSZTAM. He also collected subscribers from Bialystok and from the other large Lithuanian cities for it.

M. LIPSON. The true name of the Hebrew and Yiddish writer, M. LIPSON, was Mordekhai JAWOROWSKI. He was born on the 27th of April 1885 in Bialystok. He published the Yiddish newspapers of jokes, Antwerpener Letz [Antwerp Clown] in Antwerp in 1906 and became a co-founder of Der Mayrev [The West], the Jewish newspaper in Belgium. In 1913 he settled in America where he worked at Hebrew and other periodicals and in the editorial group of the Zionist weekly, Dos Yidishe Folk [The Jewish People].

He later devoted himself exclusively to the Hebrew press. He was an editor-member of Hatoren [The Mast] and HaIvri [The Hebrew], editor of the second volume of Luakh Akhieber [a miscellany of short stories, poetry and essays] (1921). He also founded (1921) the Hebrew daily newspaper, HaDoar [The Post] in America, which became a weekly shortly thereafter and which still exists today with a different editor.

Since 1931, he has lived in Israel where he is co-editor of Bustani [Gardener]. He translated Flag of Knut Hamson into Hebrew (New York, 1919); [Joseph] OPATOSHU's Faloirene Mentschn [Lost People] (New York, 1918) and Poylish Velder [Polish Forest](baYa-aranut Polin, there, 1921). His Hebrew style was exemplary, direct, juicy, which shows a great erudition in Hebrew. His Hebraic writing, MiDor laDor [From Generation to Generation] (there, 1929) had folkloric content. He has the book, Di Velt Dertseilt [The Work Tells], (there, 1928). He also has a book for the young (Tel Aviv 1927). The three volumes of MiDor laDor is an admirable exemplary work of Jewish folklore.[9]

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Yisroel LIPSKI. He published Mikhtavim vaHaruzim [Letters and Rhymes] (Warsaw, 5662 [1901]); Ezrat Yisroel [Help of Israel] (Bialystok, 5690 [1929]); Drushim [Discourses].

Moshe LEWIN – Moshe LEWIN was a teacher here and director of studies at Beis-Sefer Evri Rishon [First Hebrew School]; in Bialystok he compiled and published a geography teaching book in Hebrew.

Josef MELNIK – He was born in Bialystok; the youngest brother of Noakh MELNIK. He was a translator of Count [Serge] WITTE's (who was the Russian finance minister) biography into German. Because of this he became close to the political sphere and then became a political journalist in Berlin. However, he had no contact at all with Jews.

Noakh MELNIK – He was born in Bialystok; he was a correspondent for Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers.

Roza NEWODOWSKI – She was born in Bialystok; she was a writer for Undzer Lebn [Our Life], later for American newspapers. She published a book of poems named Azoy Vi Ikh Bin [As I Am].

Yisroel Moshe MARGOLIUS – Yisroel Moshe MARGOLIUS, the writer and dramaturg was a Bialystoker (more correct from Wasilkow). He wrote about Jewish life for Russian newspapers. He wrote mainly for Voskhod [Sunrise], the Russian-Yiddish journal in Petersburg.

Jakob SAPHIRSTEIN – Jakob SAPHIRSTEIN is a son of Reb Welwl the khazan [cantor]. He is a member of the Enlightenment here. For a time, he published small, cheap brochures in Hebrew with Shafar [acronym of Shaul Pinkhas RABINOVITCH]. He is busy with commissions.

He left for America where he became a great publisher of Yiddish books and in 1901, he founded the great Yiddish newspaper, Morgn Zhurnal [Morning Journal], in New York, which was one of the most widespread Yiddish newspapers. He became a very celebrated person in America and a community worker and became very rich. The then American President Taft sent his wife a telegram of condolence when he died on the 7th of Sivan 5674 [1st of June 1914].[*] He died childless. His heir was his brother-in-law, [Joseph Loeb] FREIDKIN, a Bialystok and later a Warsaw Hebrew teacher, the author of Mayseh Nes [Miracle Story] – a critique of Nahum SOKOLOW.

Eliyahu SLONIMSKI was born in Bialystok, a nephew of Ch. Z. SLONIMSKI. He was the Bialystok correspondent for HaTzfira [The Dawn]. He also signed his name as Avi Suka.

Sigman SEGALOWICZ – the great Jewish writer was born in Bialystok. He writes poems, short stories, novels,

[Page 421]

thumbnail sketches; they are published in various newspapers – in Heynt [Today], Moment. He has already published over 20 volumes of poetry and prose.

Mordekhai Yitzhak EDELMAN – the son of a well-known Orthodox writer, Simkha-Ruwin EDELMAN (Hasar Ha'adulami [The Adulam Leader]). Mordekhai Yitzhak EDELMAN was a resident of Bialystok. He published his subsequent books Yadot Hamidot [The Measure of Good Qualities], Hashakafot HaTalmud Ba'olan [The Points of View of the Talmud in the World], Milon Hashtaym [The Dictionary of the Two Letters], Hacham Vesar [Wise and Leader], Doresh Reshumont [Commentaries on Writings], Homer Letoldot HaTalmud [Material on the History of the Talmud], He'akov Lemishor [The Crooked Shall Be Made Straight], Pitgemei HaTalmud [Proverbs from the Talmud], Ha'osher Vehan'oni [Wealth and Poverty], Hayayin HaSharoni [Wine from the Sharon Region], Ma'arekhet Hamitzvot [The Set of Commandments], Mishlei HaTalmud [The Fables of the Talmud]in Bialystok and began to publish a book Talmud Hamitzvot [Learning the Commandments] in three parts.

Avraham Shlomo EMIAL – a journalist who writes on literary-political themes in Yiddish newspapers. He is now in Eretz-Yisroel.

Yakov PAT – born in Bialystok to a working family. He was a yeshiva-bukher [a young man attending a religious school]. He later became a Zionist-Socialist, wrote children's stories in various newspapers. His fame was as a speaker. He later joined the Bund, became one of its leaders and a fighter for the Jewish religion, Zionism and Hebrew. His monograph about the Bund is called Oyf di Wegn fun Baginen [On the Roads of Dawn], in three parts, an enthusiastic description of the heroes of the Bund. In it he provides a satirical description in passing of the Bialystok fine, moral Jewish manufacturers.

Moshe[**] PANICZ – [known as] Bar Adon or Aziz Effendi. He was a Bialystok resident. While still in Bialystok, he published jokes in Dos Neye Lebn [The New Life]. He arrived in Eretz-Yisroel in about 1922, where he became a guardian, an idealist. He settled in the Jordan Valley with several comrades. He learned Arabic, lived as a Bedouin and became beloved by the Bedouin tribes. He studied Oriental sciences at Hebrew University. He became a roai wala – a very close friend of the Bedouin tribe. He tended sheep with all of the other shepherds in the tribe, far from the Jordan. He lived in their tents with the camels and sheep. Bar Adon today is considered the best expert on Bedouin life. The Bedouin tribe with which he spent approximately 10 years crowned him with the name Aziz Effendi, that is, courageous one, strong one. When Aziz Efendi left the Bedouins, the sheik of the tribe swore to him that the tribe thought of him as their own brother and were ready to protect him like an eye in their own heads.

He published stories about Bedouin life in the Eretz-Yisroel press from time to time. A Hebrew book, Bordin Beoholei Hamidbar [Bordin in the Tents of the Desert], stories with seven pictures, was published by Shtibl's publishing company.

[Page 422]

Leon PAPERIN – born in Bialystok, he published a weekly Zionist newspaper, Écho de Paris [Echo of Paris] in Paris in 1899-1900 and in Bialystok, a Russian Territorialist newspaper, Yeveyskiy Golos [A Jewish Voice] (1906) and then it was published in Odessa.

Shmuel PONIANSKI – born in Bialystok. He graduated from the local Hebrew gymnazie. He was active as a journalist in London from 1928; he then became editor of the London daily newspaper, Di Post [The Post].

Eliezer Yitzhak FAJGIN - born in Bialystok, former co-worker and correspondent in various Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers.

Herman FRANK – born in Bialystok; a well-rounded, educated man, statistician and journalist in the Yiddish, American-English, German and Russian newspapers. He published the brochure Drei Yor Bialystoker-Kansas-Cooperatsia [Three Years of Bialystok-Kansas Cooperation] (1915-1918) in Bialystok in 1918 and also wrote (with Mrs. Sh. BLANKSZTAJN) the work, Statistik fun der Yidisher Bafelkurung in Bialystok far 10 Yor [Ten Years of Statistics about the Jewish Population in Bialystok]1909-1918), which was published by the kehile [organized Jewish population] managing committee in Bialystok in 1920. In 1922, he founded the Pardes publishing company in Berlin, which published his small, illustrated book for young people, Grikhishe Khakhomin [Greek Sages]. He emigrated from Germany to New York in 1923.

Shimeon KABACZNIK – wrote from here [Bialystok] for Hatzfira [The Siren].

Avraham KOTIK – a son of Yehezkiel KOTIK, the well-known author of Mein Zikhrones [My Memories]. Avraham KOTIK was trained as a pharmacist. He was a private teacher from the start. He married and lived for most of his years here in Bialystok. He was a dentist (his main employment). Later, he was here to spread education and knowledge among the proletariat through lectures and Yiddish popular books and brochures. He also founded a folks-bibliotek [people's library] to lend Russian and Yiddish books at Sosnowa 5, with the support of the Zionist, Dovid SUCHOWALSKI. In 1900 he founded a publishing house here [in Bialystok] under the name folks-bibliotek [people's library], whose leader was Avrom REYZEN. He was in Russia during the war, where he worked in cooperatives; in 1918, returning to Bialystok with monetary means, he worked in the school of the “Youth Union” as a teacher and a director for a time. He also founded the Folksgezunt [People's Health [scientific journal for the Jewish public] in Vilna with Dr. Zamakh SHOBARD.

[Page 423]

After this he left for America; there in 1925 he published his book Memoarin fun a Yidishn Inteligent [Memoirs of a Jewish Intellectual], covering the period from 1880 until the war [First World War]. In 1926 he settled in Russia where he worked in the local literary institutions. He died of cancer in Kharkov on the 20th of May 1934 at the age of 67.[10]

Pesakh KAPLAN was a nephew of Khasrial KAPLAN and a son-in-law of M.M. MIRLINSKI. He was a comrade of Y. BERSZADSKI.

Pesakh KAPLAN developed as a Hebrew teacher in his Kheder Metukan [Improved Religious School] He was also at various times the owner of a beginner's school for Russian and Hebrew. He was the Hebrew teacher in WISOCKI's Talmud Torah [religious school for poor boys], a Hebrew and, later, mainly a Yiddish writer, correspondent and editor. He translated [works by] Yosef ha-Nasi [a Jewish-Portuguese converso], Le-yad ha-Mahareshah [Behind the Plow], Sefer haZmirot [Book of Songs], Sefer haShirim [Anthology of Liturgical Hymns] from German into Hebrew with notes for schools, Mikra vaLimmud [Reading and Instruction] (a Chrestomathy [passages from an author or a group of authors with which to help learn a language]). Pesakh KAPLAN translated KRYLOV's Moshelim [KRYLOV's Fables] into Yiddish. He also published a songbook for singing. He wrote for many periodical newspapers. He published a number of brochures. He knew music and was a conductor of orchestras and concerts of “Jewish Art.”

After the [First World War], Pesakh KAPLAN became the publisher and editor of the daily newspaper, Dos Neie Lebn [The New Life] and later, Undzer Lebn [Our Life]. He developed into a good journalist.

Ahron Yakov, son of the Rabbi Dovid KLEMENTINOWSKI. Ahron Yakov KLEMENTINOWSKI was a Hebrew teacher. In 1893 in Warsaw, he published a study book for arithmetic in two parts – Ma'ase Hakheshbon [Calculation] and Asupat She'elot Hakheshbon [A Collection of Calculation Questions]. His books were taught in the first Hebrew language schools here and in Eretz-Yisroel. He also left a manuscript of Dikduk Leson Hakodesh [Grammar of the Holy Language] in Yiddish – Sara Berura [Clear Language]. He died in the old-age home in 5674 [1914] (born in the year 5590 [1830]).

Chaim Yakov KREMER – a Hebrew teacher in Bialystok, wrote a book, (Warsaw, 5646), sermons from Khibes-Tzion [first Jewish movement favoring the return to Palestine], which he gave at the local Ohel Moshe [Tent of Moses]society. Still earlier, he published his Share Tzion [Towers of Zion] (Vilna 1877) on the main issues of the Talmud.

Litman ROZENTAL – born in Bialystok; writer in Hebrew newspapers and of his memories of [Theodor] HERZL, to whom he was close, and of the Zionist giants in HERZL's sphere.

[Page 424]

Rabbi Gedalya, Dr. ROZENMAN. Dr. ROZENMAN was the certified Bialystok chief rabbi. He was a Jew, a great scholar and a learned man. A pious Jew; he published good scientific work in the Polish language under the name, Zagadnienie Uboju Rytualnego [The Issue of Ritual Slaughter], Bialystok, 1936, 88 pages. With this work, he sanctified the name of God, because the Polish anti-Semitic deputies, with Mrs. Pristor at the head, intervened with the Polish Sejm to forbid the Jewish ritual slaughter of meat because they, ostensibly, had compassion for living things. They relied upon the false evidence of ignorant priests and the anti-Semitic priest, Dr. Stanislaw Czeczak. In his book, Rabbi ROZENMAN shows the falseness and ignorance of the other one's ostensible proof and, on the other hand, he shows on a scientific basis that through Jewish slaughter the anxiety of the cow is diminished. While it is killed, its flesh is the healthiest.

This work was sent to all Polish deputies and senators before the question was considered in the Sejm [entire Polish parliament] and in the Senat [the upper house of parliament] and it made a great impression.

Yosef RUBINLICHT – born in Bialystok; belle-letters, reporter for Undzer Lebn [Our Life].

Yisroel Leib SZACKI writes short stories, scenes and skits in Bialystok and Warsaw Yiddish newspapers. Recently, he published a short book entitled, Korn-Blumen [Rye Flowers], a collection of his works.

Chaim Kheykl SZASZKES – Chaim Kheykl SZASZKES, who today writes his impressions of travel in Heynt [Today], which he has also published in book form, was born in Bialystok.

Yisroel Gedalia SZTAJNSAFIR – born in Bialystok. He began to write feature articles in the Bialystoker Togeblat [Bialystok Daily Newspaper], which excelled in their humor and wit; correspondent for Heynt and publisher of short-lived daily Jewish newspapers in Bialystok.

Noakh SZAJNBRUN (pseudonym Mikolaj WADIAS) – Polish teacher, journalist, art critic, writer and editor. Publisher of Dziœ [Today], editor of the Warsaw monthly journal Oyfn Sheydven [At the Crossroads].

Yakov SZPIRA – He was born in Bialystok; an active Esperantist, correspondent at the Krakow Polish Kurier [Courier] and at the local newspaper Dziennik [Journal]. He also wrote in various other Polish and foreign newspapers. He was chairman of the local journalist syndicate.

[Page 425]

Moshe Shmuel SZPERLING – He was a German teacher. He translated the story False Accustations from German to Hebrew.


Translator's Footnotes

    * Taft's term in office actually ended on the 4th of March 1913. Return
    ** References to this author that appear elsewhere give his first name as Pesakh Return


Footnote

  1. See his biography that I published in “Gilayon Sifruti” [“Literary Issue”] of HaTzfira [The Dawn], 5664 [1904], 86,93; and the biography that was put together by Rabbi Yisroel Barnet FAJWELZON of Baisogole, in Happeles [The Scales], 5665 [1905]. Return
  2. See Haasif [The Harvest], 5649 [1889]. Return
  3. See [the entry] about him in Zalman REISEN's Leksikon fun Yidisher Literatur, Prese un Filology [Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, Press and Philology], vol. II, 125, and Encyclopædia Judaica vol. X, p. 1012. Return
  4. See Undzer Lebn, 1939, no. 33. Return


ג    C

Bialystok Residents
Who Excelled in Various Fields of Talent

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

JULIUS ADLER – born in Bialystok, into a poor baker family. He later became one of the pioneers of better theater among the Jews. He acted in America, Argentina and other Jewish communities for many years.

ZOSHE BARAJNIN – born in Bialystok. A descendent of Meir CHAHAN. The wealthy aristocrat's son-in-law (see above [previous article]). Was a well known Polish singer.[1*]

ROZA BURSZTAJN (Pseudonym: Roza RAISA) – born in Bialystok, from a poor family. Educated here and trained in Italy. Today is a world famous opera singer in America and Italy.

YAKOV BERMAN – Choir director in the Choral Synagogue, composer and singing teacher in all of the Jewish schools over a span of 45 years. The text of his headstone:

A dear man and a warmhearted Jew, had a pleasant singing voice, composed beautiful melodies to the Jewish prayers, 45 years he served in the synagogue and was the director of the choir in the Choral Synagogue, Yakov son of Josef BERMAN, of blessed memory, died 15 Cheshvan 5692 [26 October 1931]. May his memory be blessed.

CHAYA GROBER – born in Bialystok. Today she is a well known singer of Yiddish and Hebrew songs.

MIKHAL DUNIEC – born in Bialystok. A young painter-artist. Has already had exhibitions in Bialystok, Vilna, Warsaw. Continues his studies in the Soviet Union.

NORA NEY (SONYE NAJMAN) – born in Bialystok. Today is one of the most distinguished Polish film artists.

S. SEGALI [Simon SEGAL] – a son of Maks SEGAL in Bialystok. A painter, artist, studied and worked in Berlin and there acquired a reputation as an original artist. Today he is in Paris. During the last season (January 1937) he exhibited 30 pictures in a salon there that represented the dread of the coming war. The exhibition made a strong impression. An American collector of pictures arrived and bought all of the 30 exhibits in the show for a large sum.[11]

[Page 426]

HENEKH PRES – Born in Bialystok. He graduated from the art school in Warsaw. He took part in art exhibitions in Bialystok and Warsaw for a number of years. He was a teacher of drawing in the Bialystoker Jewish Gymnazie [secondary school].

NAKHUM TSEMAKH – a Bialystok Hebrew teacher. Was the original founder of Habima [theater group]. He presented the first troupe here. From here he went out into the world until he settled in Eretz-Yisroel.

BEN-TZION RABINOWICZ (Pseudonym: Ben) – an artist born in Bialystok. Studied in the Vilna Art School, developed [his artistry] in Paris. He promises to have magnificent prospects.

YEHOSHAYA ROZONIECKI – born in Bialystok, studied painting in Vilna and Odessa. After that, in Berlin at the Art Academy with Professor M. NIKEL, later in Paris. Had exhibitions of his pictures in Warsaw, Bialystok, Grodno, Vilna, Lodz, Czenstochow. Had good reviews.

 


[Page 426]

ד    D

Bialystoker Who
Aquired a Reputation in Various Realms

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

PROFESSOR, DOCTOR LEON WINER. Leon WINER was born in Bialystok to the earlier mentioned Bialystoker German teacher WINER. In America, he became a great philologist, professor at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He is named Leon after his mother's father, Leibl KRINKER (RABINOWICZ).

DR. LEON ZAMENHOF. The famous author of Esperanto is a Bialystoker. He is the oldest son of Markus ZAMENHOF. He was born in Bialystok in December 1856 on Jatke Street, which now is called Zamenhof Street. He studied medicine in Warsaw, Moscow, graduated in 1884. Practiced as an oculist in Kherson, Grodno, Warsaw where he died on the 15th of April, 1917 at the age of 58.

Earlier, he was a Hovevei Zion [Lover of Zion] and, later, a Zionist. Founded the first Zionist group, “the Friends of Zion,” in Warsaw. He published a brochure in Russian about Hellenism and Jewry.

All portray him as a very refined and ideal man. Several years ago, his admirers around the world attached a marble tablet

[Page 427]

to the house where he was born on Jatke Street in Bialystok. In Skver, a foundation was also laid for a monument at the edge of the forest.

DR. AHRON-HERSH ZOBELMAN. Dr. Ahron-Hersh Zobelman was born and educated in Bialystok on Grachowe (Nowalipe) alley. He was known as a prodigy during his youth. He had a phenomenal memory. He did not visit any synagogue. In 1881, he entered the Paris Medical Faculty as a baccalaureate [candidate], where he studied the so-called colonial medicine and assisted Professor Sharke, to whom he delivered a work about nerve and physical illnesses. The professor predicted that he would be very important in treating the illnesses and gave him a separate ward in his hospital. Dr. Zobelman did not want to take up a private practice.

He studied the Laws of Moses. However, he was not satisfied with only medicine and was a diligent person and had a yearning to study everything and to know everything. It was also said of him that he knew 16 languages and their literature and all the disciplines of the exact sciences.

When he would come to Bialystok in the later years, he would visit me because he was also very interested in my Biblical-Talmudic research. I would be amazed when I found that he was also familiar with the area. Speaking about various attitudes in Talmud, he would recite them aloud. He wrote very many medical articles in the French and Russian trade journals. He also took part in the Russian-Jewish Encyclopedia about Talmudic medicine and about Jewish doctors. I believe, however, that his intuition, his strength in Torah was not so great.

He lived withdrawn and frugally, far from matters of the world. He did not get married. He would use his earnings to buy books. He had a large library. In 1906 he came to Petersburg. He was counting on being given a university chair of a professor by the liberation movement, but he did not receive it. He entered a university for experimental medicine and received a paid position to translate all of the medical reports from all of the world medical faculties.

In his way of life, he was typical of an old Jewish tzadek [a righteous man] and gaon [sage]in the modern sense. It can be said of him that he was religious.

[Page 428]

While here during the Days of Awe he would pray at the Choral Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

He was mobilized as a doctor on the battlefield of Serbia at the beginning of the First World War. At the beginning of 1915, he became ill there and went to Kiev and died there in the Jewish hospital at the age of 56. He promised his library of 10,000 volumes to scientific institutions.

MAXIM LITVINOV, or MEIR HENEKH WALACH. The now world known Foreign Minister of Soviet Russia, MAXIM LITVINOV, was born in Bialystok on the 17th of July, 1876. He is a son of the Bialystoker, MOSHE WALACH who was the brother of the Rabbi, Reb SHABTAI WALACH, the great Ruzhany Rabbi who died several years ago and a great grandson of DOVID WALACH who was the Jewish diplomat at the Russian regime in Bialystok in 1812.

MEIR HENEKH WALACH was brought up on Nowolipier (Grocower) alley with his father, who was the bookkeeper for ELIHU MALOCH, the great Jewish Bialystoker banker.

He received his upbringing in the ancient khederim [primary religious schools], beis-medrashim [houses of study or prayer] and Hasidic shtelblekh [one room prayer houses]. He received his first education in the four classes of the gymnazie [secondary school] to which one went in order to avoid military service, through this becoming a volnoopredelyayushchisya [volunteer rather than be conscripted].

At first, he entered as an employee of a manufacturing business, but he immediately entered the revolutionary movement.

He was arrested for the first time in 1896. Later, he escaped abroad and was active there in the revolutionary circles and he developed with them. Today he lives in Moscow with a wife of English nobility and a son and a daughter. He is completely estranged from the Jewish people, as this is the nature of everyone who runs across from one extreme to the other.

Dr. LEON PINES. – Bialystok had Jewish diplomatic intelligentsia who were Enlightened-Zionists, such as Dr. EPSZTAJN, Professor at the Jewish hospital, his aide, Dr. ZIMAN, Dr. SH. GUTMAN, private attorney, LEON TRAJWUSZ and the like.

[Page 429]

There was also a group of young intelligent Zionists found in the city then, with LEON PAPERIN at the head, who spread and deepened Zionism in Bialystok and in the area through various informational means.

At the head of the young, diplomatic intelligentsia stood Dr. LEON PINES, a nephew of the well known Hebrew writer, YEHIEL MIKHAL PINES of Ruzhany.

In 1899 Dr. LEON PINES settled in Bialystok as an oculist and opened his own independent clinic for eye illnesses here. From here he became widely known as a great oculist. Hundreds of the sick were drawn to him from the farthest places. He demonstrated wonders with his operations. In 1925 he was recognized as an honorary member by the Vilna University.

Dr. LEON PINES was active in Zionist-Hebraistic-National circles in Bialystok. He was chosen as a viborshtshik [representative] to the second Duma. In 1928 he moved to Warsaw and in his place left his son, his assistant, as an oculist.

At this opportunity it is worthwhile to mention that there was already an oculist-specialist in the period 1850-1888 in Bialystok, a certain Reb MEIR SHOYKHET (ritual slaughterer) BRUMER, to whom those with eye illnesses from the entire area and also farther places were drawn. His sanatorium was the red house near the synagogue. It was said that once the Grodner governor called him to heal his sick eyes. He did so; he did not want to take any payment, but asked that Bialystoker Jews, who were innocent but sat in prison, should be freed from the Grodner jail and the governor honored his request.

AKIVA RUBINSZTAJN, who is considered a world chess champion, is a step-son of the local Pinsker child prodigy and was raised here.


Footnote

  1. See Undzer Lebn [Our Life], 1937, no. 13. Return


Translator's Footnote

  1. The Yiddish word used here for singer is in the female form, but the person is described as a son-in-law. Return

 


[Page 429]

ה    E

Personalities who excelled with character and good deeds

Translated by David Horowitz-Larochette

We bring here in the following just some of the names of the great number of fine men and fine businessmen that Bialystok had.

 

Abraham Tropp

Abraham Tropp was a simple watchmaker by trade who always busied himself with his work. He was responsible for the regulation of the town clock. But apart from that he was a good mathematician, an expert in the old Jewish philosophy and an educated man. He was much esteemed both by Jews and Christians who used to come to him not only to repair their watches but also to converse with him on different topics. He was a typical old-fashioned Jewish intellectual.

 

Gershon Stein

Gershon Stein was a very clever and practical man. We used to consult him on all difficult matters. He was also a great humorist. His jokes were all around town. At one time he had been the overseer at Halberstam's factory. He died in Adar 5654 [Feb 1894], an elder of ninety. Halberstam wrote of him in his [book] Alei Higaion VeKinor [ title from Psalms 92, upon the harp with a solemn sound] (p.100): “The triple thread of Torah, knowledge and understanding was united in him till ninety years. Sought good for every person, pure of heart and uncorrupted, loved by all his brethren, one in a thousand [rhymes in Hebrew].” He gives him the titles: “The outstanding Torah scholar, wise in all his ways, respected and loved by all”.

 

Yerucham Mowshowitz

Reb Yerucham Mowshowitz was from Krink. He and his father Reb Chaim Yaakov Mowshowitz had been big wool merchants in the town. Yerucham used to dedicate most of his time to maintain not only the poor and sick but also yordim, oppressed families. A simple, modest, pious Jew he was always going around worried and overwhelmed by the bundle of troubles that he carried on his shoulders.

We only needed to whisper in Yerucham's ear about an oppressed family. He already took it to mind, it was his thing already that he had to attend to. He also knew already all the sympathetic donors from whom he had received support when necessary. Usually, as in the organization ''Linas HaTzedek” [Lodgings of Righteousness], he was his own hand [director], there he received at all times members who helped him with his work, the same in [the organization] ''Linas Cholim” [Lodgings for the Sick].

 

Moshe Mordechai Manisewicz

Reb Moshe Mordechai Manisewicz, a rich manufacturer-merchant, was an old-fashioned pious Jew and childless. His philanthropy wasn't an emotional thing like with his friend Yerucham, but a Mitzvah [commandment, good deed] thing. He wanted to do blessed God's will, thus filling with his good deeds the place of the children. For this purpose, he later became involved with communal work and with his friend Reb Eisik Horodishtsh built the Talmud Torah [boys' primary school] on the Breite Pyaskes [ Wide Sands, “Piaski” (sands) was the Polish name for a group of three streets in Bialystok because of the sand that was there, and this name became “Pyaskes” in Yiddish.] [He also] Improved the poorhouse and re-walled the bathhouse and the Mikves [ritual bath] in the town. But at the beginning his activity was limited to helping Yerucham Mowshowitz with his work.

 

Reb Abraham Cohen (Avreml Pariser [Parisian])

Reb Abraham Cohen was a very simple man. He was a [hired] weaver who later worked his way up to [becoming] a freelance weaver. He didn't leave another like him in Bialystok. He was one of the finest moralistic types, a model of an exceptional man, that in life we find so few alike.

When others did charity with their money, Reb Abraham did charity with his body, meaning that he helped the needy with his own body, with his own work. It is difficult to imagine such an extraordinary man, he knew no difference of gender, age, class or of religion and ethnicity- he helped whomever needed his help, especially the sick. When he was called to someone seriously ill, he gave himself completely. Never mind the business! Never mind the factory! He would suddenly disappear from home for weeks on end but his wife was calm, she only had to ask about who was terribly sick in town and she knew his address.

Upon arrival to a sickbed he would first of all settle the [invalid's] soul, giving him hope and with sweet and pleasant conversation made him not feel his situation. He was an artist at making an invalid's bed, he carried him from one place to another and took care of all his necessities: washed him and cleaned him- tasks which even a hired man wouldn't have done, and he was by the sickbed day and night for weeks on end. If it was necessary to take the invalid to Warsaw, to Königsberg [Kaliningrad], he would carry him in his arms onto the train and from the train and even the heaviest people. His energy in this matter is unwritable [indescribable].

In calmer times Reb Abraham Cohen used to do the bookkeeping for “Mishmeres Cholim” [Sick Guard] and we must say that in this he was very skilled. Not a single Kopek was unaccounted for. Apart from that, he never gave his opinions on anything. He was a strongly disciplined man. We [the townspeople] later used him for all communal works, especially in tragic events. With the great fires in Brisk, Grodno he provided the victims with food and clothing. Reb Abraham Cohen or, as we used to call him, Avreml Pariser (because he was once in Paris) would go around the town with a wagon and gather food, clothing and money and then personally travel to the place [of the tragedy] and distribute everything.

Later, after the Pogrom, he became the father of all the Pogrom-orphans and provided for all their needs, including insurance policies. Now consider how much work he had, with the accounting and control which lay in his hands! Even the tombstones and the monument for the martyrs was also his work.

Thus he was always busy. In circumstances like these he would leave all the work with his factory completely to his wife. Apart from all this, he never sought respect. He did everything in such a naturally modest and simple way, that we could've thought that everywhere he was a paid laborer, who has no ideals, no emotions and who isn't fulfilling a commandment, but just doing his job. He died in the year 5672 [1911] (I was among his eulogizers).

 

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