« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

The Jews of My Generation (cont.)

It was at the time when commerce was developing in Brzezin, and the town became the place to make a living, not only for the locals but also for the mishpokhes [families] that came from surrounding towns and villages—and even from deep Russia—who began to settle in Brzezin. Brzezin conducted a lot of business in deep Russia, and the intermediaries were Jewish komisyonerin [agents on commission]. Several komisyonerin actually came with their families from distant Russian towns and became Brzeziner residents.

These new arrivals brought with them a way of life that carried with it a certain foreign flavor. I remember several of their names—Gracz, Aron Kiszenower [from Kishenev?], Nikolajewski, Szechtman, Raczkowski, Jamalut. They dressed differently, behaved differently. Also, their harsh-sounding Russian Yiddish sounded strange to us. And although they exercised no particular influence on our own way of life, they brought color to our everyday existence. Their Yiddish and Russian songs, which rang out so beautifully through the open windows of their apartments, made an impression on us. Through them, we heard for the first time Warszawski's song “Oyfn Pripetchik” [At the Hearth], which our young people enjoyed very much.

Two families that settled in Brzezin in the early nineties of the last century [19th] are sharply engraved in my memory. First of all, the yikhesdike [distinguished] family of Reb Szolem Maliniak Waynshenker [wine tavernkeeper], who came to us from Warsaw. Reb Szolem was a Gerer Hasid. He opened a wine shop, modernly equipped for that time, in the house [apartment building] of Malya Fuks, who was a neighbor of my father's stationery shop in Golda Chazen's house.

This Maliniak family brought some kind of big city style to our Brzezin, both with their bearing and with their way of life. Even their shop itself was different from all the other shops in Brzezin. Reb Szolem sold not only raisin wine for benedictions—from the shelves of his shop shone down the more profane multicolored wines from foreign lands, adorned with all sorts of colored labels. His wife, Fajgele, wore a sheytl [wig] and was always beautifully and neatly dressed. She gave the impression of being an aristocratic Hasidic woman. They had four daughters and four sons. The daughters were named Chawecia, Chajele, Symele, and Bruche. Chajele died in Israel. Symele lives in the State of Israel. Their sons were named Wowcie [Vovche], Szlama, Josel, and Icek.

Next door to Reb Szolem Maliniak's wine shop was the large grocery store of the Grodzisker Hasid Tojwen Luzer Krongrad. Reb Szolem Maliniak's son married Reb Luzer's daughter, Sura. Reb Josel is actually the father of our Fiszel Maliniak in New York.

Luzer Krongrad had three brothers—Jehuda, Jakub-Hersz, and Szymele. Of them Jehuda and Szymele were excellent scholars. Szymele also was a Zionist activist. Jehuda Krongrad's son Fiszel lives in Israel.

To this day, I also remember very well a second family that aroused great interest in the town in those days. After expulsion from Moscow, a family of three appeared in Brzezin—a man, wife, and daughter. He, the husband, was a tall, sturdily built Jew, and his dark brown face was adorned with a beautiful beard, woven through with silver threads. We called him “the Moskwer” [Muscovite]. His wife impressed us as a woman with a particularly Russian face. Their daughter, Chanele, was a lovely, refined child. This family created the impression in town as if they had come from another planet. With their bearing on the one hand, and on the other, with the figure they cut in their attire, they completely stood out from our Polish Jews. The man opened a large tailoring accessories store, and, although it somehow sounds strange, this particular Jew, who came from a very different area, from a remote place, quickly got used to living among us and became close to the Hasidic crowd. He later prayed in the Grodzisker shtibl.

I also want to recall the widow Malya Fuks; her husband was Majeriche. He was called this because he came from the Kalisz area. He died young. Six sons and a daughter were left. Her sons were Lajbus, Lipman, Herszel, Icie, Syna, and Abraham. The very beautiful daughter married Szolem Winter. Two sons, Syna and Abraham, live in America.

The widow boasted about her sons. The eldest, Lajbus, excelled with his self-taught education. He taught himself the Russian language and used to write petitions, which at that time was a very important matter. Of the entire family only Syna and Abraham Fuks, who are deeply beloved by our landsleyt, remain.

The family Szeps was well-known—Luzer Szeps and his sons. One of them was called Wolf. Wolf's son-in-law is our landsman, Jechiel Erlich, who now lives in Israel. Jechiel's shviger [mother-in-law] is also in Israel.

The family of Dan-Aszer Beker [baker] had two sons—Symche-Binem and Aron. The younger, Aron Kujawski, emigrated to America. He was much loved by the landsmanshaft [Brzeziner Society] of which he was the president for many years.

His son-in-law, Benjamin Beker, had six sons who carried the names according to the order of the Patriarchs—Abraham, Izaak, Jakub, Mojsze, Aron, and Melech. One from this large family, Jakub Fogel, is now in California. Mojsze died in Israel.

Let me also recall Icie Baron, the only teacher in our town who taught how to write in Yiddish. His son Jozef Hersz was almost an attorney and wrote petitions; Charlie, his second son, was one of the first Brzeziner youngsters who emigrated to America. He was a founder of the Brzeziner Society.

The Tuszynski family. Abramele Tuszynski's coaches carried passengers to Koluszki and Rogow, our railroad stations. He came from a very fine family. His patriarchal appearance did not fit in at all with his trade as a wagon driver. He conducted his transport business with a sense of importance—and with the growth of business in Brzezin, his enterprise grew into a large transportation firm.

A fine type among us was Zalman Furman. His only son, Abraham-Aron, was my schoolmate. Zalman Furman had a mark burned on his neck. The mark came from his difficult experience when, as a youth during the time of the Cantonists [conscription of Jews into the Czarist Army], he was seized to serve in the Russian Army for twenty-five years. They tried to force him to convert, but he resisted. The burn mark remained from that torment. That is what was said about him in the town. He was a fine person and an observant Jew.


brz052.jpg - Chaim-Icek
Chaim-Icek “Ajnbinder” [bookbinder],
Jacob-David Berg's father


Jozef Efroim Herszenberg, or as we called him in Brzezin, Jozef Makhels, was a person of stately appearance, a truly patriarchal figure. His wife, Perla, in her hob or kupke [bonnet worn by pious women], with satin and silk ribbons, also looked like a queen, and she was such a beautiful woman that they called her “Beautiful Perla.” They had eight children—four sons and four daughters. Jozef Makhels was a Grodzisker Hasid, and since he was a sincere bal tfile [leader of prayers], the rebbe Reb Elimelech made him the bal musef [leader of the extension of the morning prayer] for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. His oldest son, Szmuel, lived his entire life in Pabianice.

His second son, Benjamin-Icek, the author of the seyfer [religious book] Pardes Dovid [Paradise of David], married Sura, from the aristocratic Joskowicz family. After the death of Benjamin-Icek, she became the wife of Harov [the city rabbi] Perlmuter of Warsaw, the father of our landsman Arje Dawid. The third son, Eliezer, lived in Jezow, where he was considered one of the outstanding residents.

The fourth son was Jekiel [Jankiel], the magaziner. He married Rechel Gotlib, a sister of Jechiel Mojsze Gotlib. Ruchel was the eldest daughter—who gave out food to the poor at her stand in the middle of the market square—and everyone called her “Ciocia Ruchel” [Aunt Ruchel]. Even her very observant husband was known as “Reb Mordchele Ciocia Ruchel's.” The second daughter was called Kajla-Riva. She was the wife of the Kotsker [from Kock] Hasid Herszel Ledershniter [leather cutter]. The third daughter was called Laja. She was the wife of the wealthy Mordechai Ikka. The youngest daughter was called Ester, and her husband was Berl Gurt, the cotton [padding] maker. A son of theirs lives in Australia and is a university professor. Another son of theirs, a pianist, lives in New York.

The family of Reb Lajbele Hendrikowski was known in our town. He was short in stature, his face ringed with a fine Herzl-like beard. He was an honorable, noble man, from the old-time maskilim. His store, a kind of modern “tchayne” [teahouse], was in the market square at the corner of Court Street. It was a gathering place for intellectual young men and women.

Reb Lajb was an ardent Zionist, and it was said that he had attended the First Zionist Congress in Basel. He had even corresponded with the founder of political Zionism, and we include here a photostat of a letter to him in 1898 from Dr. Herzl.

Our landsman Jechiel Erlich is from a fine family. The Erlich line extends back from his mother's side until the rebbe Reb Fiszele from Strykow, Reb Fiszele Szpiro. Jechiel Erlich's mother, Malka-Chana, was a daughter of Reb Abraham Froman, who the Brzeziner Jews called Reb Abraham Warszawer. He also had a son, Reb Icek Froman.

Reb Abraham Froman was a son-in-law of Reb Mojsze Szpiro. Brzeziner Jews called him Mojsze Reb Jankiel's [Mojsze, son of Reb Jankiel]. Reb Jankiel Szpiro was the one-and-only son of Reb Fiszele Szpiro—the Strykower rebbe. Jechiel Erlich's father was named Szymszon Michal. He was a son of Reb Icek-Eliezer Erlich, who Zdunska-Woler Jews called Ajzykl Brzeznicer (Brzeznica lies near Radomsko). Reb Ajzykl Brzeznicer was a son of the Zhatatsiner [Dzialoszyner?] rov—Reb Izrael Erlich, author of a seyfer with droshim [interpretations] on Psalms. He came from fourteen generations of rabbis.

A fine family of ours was the Rozenberg family. Elija Rozenberg, a harvest merchant, better known as Elija Cypora Ruchel's, was an Aleksanderer Hasid his entire life. His aunt, Cypora Ruchel, raised the early-orphaned Elija, a descendant from rabbinical lineage. That is certainly how he got the name. Together with his wife, Dwojre, better known as the Elijeta, he brought up a large family. Their two sons were well known among our landsleyt in America. Fajwel, the eldest son, lived and died in New York. The youngest son, Michal, died in California. Most of Elija Rozenberg's grandchildren are in Israel and America. One of them, Abraham Rozenberg, is very active in the Brzeziner Society in New York and played a large part in the preparation of our Yizkor Book.

Fajgele, the baker, was the only daughter of the well-to-do Ruta Laja, the baker. Chaskel Najman was one of her brothers. Her husband, Herszel Fogel, an artisan, was a Jew, a Hasid, a fine person, and one of the few, at that time, into whose home a daily newspaper came. Their children received a good Jewish and secular education. Their grandchildren are in America and Israel. One of them is the well-known community leader Aron Fogel in Israel.

I see before me the fine figure of Eliezer Szeps, son of a rabbi. He ran a tavern on Pharmacy Street. He was of tall stature, distinguished by his yellowish white beard. He was an Aleksanderer Hasid. He had two sons, Jozef and Wolf. His son Wolf was the father-in-law of our well-known Brzeziner landsman, Jechiel Erlich, who participated in this Yizkor Book.


brz053.jpg - A Photostat of Herzl's letter to Herr. L. Hendrikowski
A Photostat of Herzl's letter to Herr. L. Hendrikowski


The two brothers Abraham Icek and Jakub Jozef Garber were well known. Of Abraham Icek's six sons, three were rabbis in neighboring towns. His youngest son, Aron Zelin, is a respected member of our Brzeziner landsmanshaft.

I see before me the family of Mojsze Aron Szwab. I remember his sons; the older, Jechezkiel, was my schoolmate, whom I took with me to the yeshiva in Lomza [Womzha]. But he missed his warm home badly and returned home in mid-semester.

I still remember the gabaim [trustees] of our Khevre Kadishe [Burial Society]—Abraham Jeszaja Grosman, a tall, proud man, Judel Meler, who had a flour business, Abraham-Pesach, Aba-Hersz Watemacher [cotton padding maker], and Zacharia Tandejter.

Abraham Jeszaja Grosman was a Rozprzer [follower of Rozprza rebbe] Hasid. His sons were well known—Hersz, Emanuel-Ajzyk, Icie, and Jeremia. Among them, Emanuel-Ajzyk was distinctive; he was one of the largest magaziners in Brzezin. He later emigrated to America with his family. His son Dawid is well known among our landsleyt.

We had a fine Khevre Khayotim [Tailors' Society], where the observant artisans, the tailors of our town assembled. At the head of the Khevre Khayotim stood Zacharia Tandejter. I remember that the Khevre Khayotim commisioned a sefer Torah [Torah scroll] to be written and celebrated on a great yontov [holiday]. I remember from my youngest days the way they carried the sefer Torah with a great parade through the streets of the town and brought it into the synagogue. It was a march with torches and with music. The entire town took part in the simkhe [joyful celebration].

The distinguished families Dymant, Funt, and Gotlib had multiple branches.

I also remember our klezmorim [musicians]. Jankiel Kurdelas, the klezmer, had a gantse geshikhte [whole story]. He had participated in the Polish Uprising of 1863, and because of that, the Poles took very good care of him. He used to tell an awe-inspiring story. The Russians were already taking him to the gallows after they had caught him as an insurgent. He begged them at the last minute to let him play his fiddle before he would have to take leave of his young life. They granted it. He began to play on his fiddle such sweet heartfelt tfiles [prayers] that even the brutal Cossack, the officer, was deeply moved and therefore spared his life. All his life Jankiel Kurdelas told this story to everyone. Among the Poles he was listed as an insurgent from 1863, and when he died after World War I, high-level military representatives came from Lodz to his funeral. They placed a wreath on his grave. At the open grave the Poles delivered patriotic speeches and showed respect for Jankiel the klezmer.


brz054.jpg - Mojszl Chazen [Szterns]
Mojszl Chazen [Szterns]

who was renowned throughout Poland
for his negine [vocal music].
(This picture was taken when Mojszl
was a guest in America in 1925.)


In our town, Fiszele was another well-known klezmer. He left for the Russian Army and became a kapelmayster [conductor] there. I remember how Fiszele Klezmer came to our town as a visitor and wore an officer's uniform with great pride.

A third klezmer was called Dawid Hersz. He played the bass. There was a fourth klezmer whose name I no longer remember. There were four in our town's kapelye [band].

I want to recall the Froman family. One of them—Icek Ajlszleger they called him—had a son, Ezriel. The family occupied a prominent place in our town.

In addition, I remember Mojsze-Majer Gutkind and his wife, the dark Sura, and their sons Abraham-Icek and Icie-Majer, well-known Gerer Hasidim.

Well-known in our town was the family of Aszerl Garber. He had two sons, Aron and Dawid Melech. Two of Dawid Melech's children were rescued from Nazi concentration camps. His daughter Regina is now in Israel, and his son Aszer lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

I remember the family of Abraham-Nachum Piotrkowski and his son Tuwia. A son of Tuwia's, Harry Peters, was secretary of our Brzeziner Society and passed away not long ago.

I want to recall Jozef Aszer Kornblum, the son-in-law of the widow Gela, whose brother left Brzezin for far away places and transformed himself into a Turkish pasha. (A separate article about him is published in our Yizkor Book.) Jozef-Aszer Kornblum's children died in California. Two grandchildren remain alive; one lives in Israel, and one lives in Australia.

The family of Dawidl Garber and his sons Mendel and Noech were known in the town. Noech's son Herszel is now in America.

Among the prominent families were included Zalman Rosenberg and his sons Abraham, Aron, Mojsze, and my friend in kheder, Jozef. Jozef's daughter was rescued from the Nazi gehenem [hell] and is now in America.

Judel Sojfer [scribe], a Gerer Hasid, was an esteemed Jew in the town. We considered him to be one of the most distinguished Jews.


brz055a.jpg - Josip Lukekhbeker [pastry baker]
Josip Lukekhbeker [pastry baker]
who immigrated to Palestine and died there


I recall the magaziners of my generation. The most important and extremely exalted, who were in the most prominent position, were the two brothers-in-law Mojsze-Aron Szotenberg and Emanuel Zygmantowicz, both former tailor apprentices. When I was a kheder-yingl [schoolboy] and studied with Jankele Melamed [teacher], I used to go through the courtyard where Szotenberg's father—his name, I believe, was Icie-Ber—had his workshop. At that time Emanuel Zygmantowicz worked for him. Subsequently, these two tailor apprentices worked their way up to such an extent that their names as great magaziners and fine people became well known in all of Poland and Russia. They helped a great deal in financing other smaller magaziners. Although they were very rich men, they behaved democratically and were friendly with everyone. During World War I they transferred a portion of their business to Russia. Both were murdered during the civil war in Russia after World War I. They played an important role in community life.


brz055b.jpg - Old Fuks would make the entire shtetl laugh with his jokes 
and tricks
Old Fuks would make the entire shtetl
laugh with his jokes and tricks


When the tailoring industry in our town grew, names began to appear such as Jechiel-Mojsze Gotlib, Chaim-Ber Dymant, Peretz Jakubowicz, Roman Winter and his brothers, and also smaller magaziners—Majer Horn, Pesach Grynszpan, Dawid Benkel, the brothers Sulkowicz, and Peretz Mizes (Izroelke Sulkowicz's son-in-law). Majer Horn's sons were Luzer and Lemel. Luzer Horn was the secretary of our relief committee for many years. He died in New York several years ago. Lemel Horn, who had settled in Eretz Israel, was the president of the assistance committee there for Brzeziner landsleyt and expended considerable effort and money helping the landsleyt in Eretz Israel. He died several years ago. His wife Blume and her three daughters and one son live in Israel.

The custom tailors occupied a separate place. They made very fine clothing. Among them, Szmuel Benkower and his son Jechezkiel excelled; the two brothers Suseks and the Gritser [from Gritse {Grojec}] tailor. They maintained a distance from the other tailors. They considered themselves artists in their vocation.

A new phenomenon in Brzezin was the modern “big city-like” haberdashery store with fine men's shirts, hats, and ties that the recent arrivals from Russia began to wear.

Finally I would like to say that I have written about all those I remember, and it is possible that I have left out several important families. I want to apologize here. My intention was to recall everyone and immortalize all the Jews of my generation whom I knew in the town of my birth and whose sacred memory I carry in my heart to this day.

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Brzeziny, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 31 Mar 2008 by LA