The Different Personalities of the City of Csenger
As I am coming to relate about the people in the city of Csenger, I am very sorry that I can't unfold the whole curtain which covers the lives of its martyrs. I am dedicating this chapter to the memory of those who had official positions in the religious life of the community such as: Dayanim, shochtim, teachers, educators and the heads of the community. They formed the structure of the community, and the teachers in the schools, in the Cheder and Bais Medrash would plow the roads which everyone walked on in the paths of Hashem.
May Hashem avenge his blood
The Gaon, Rav Yehoshua Shatun, was the Maggid (lecturer) of the Kehilla. I am not worthy of describing the characteristics of his glowing personality that emanated from the sources of his soul that was taken from the origins of light and glory of kindness. I will suffice with describing some aspects of his personality which are that he had fear of Heaven both inwardly and outwardly, and was a guide for his people. He was learned, and righteous and very pleasant in all his ways. He possessed very generous and exalted traits of character.
His sermons were given every Shabbos at four o'clock in the afternoon, where the whole community gathered from young to old to hear his pearls of wisdom about the weekly Parsha, and on Pirkei Ovos, spiced with many words of admonishment, which he said in a refined manner. The words that came out from his heart were absorbed by the hearts of his flock, and served as a spiritual sustenance for them for the whole week. From these words they gathered strength to carry the burden of life together with its troubles of the body and soul. In the weekdays he taught Mishnayos to a group of people, and his teachings were like pearls found in the depths of the ocean.
He owned a printing press, and he did his work faithfully and honestly, and was truthful in all his ways. He never raised his voice and always spoke softly and was respected by the whole community. Every time he walked from his house to shul or to the Bais Medrash, he always walked quietly and with much humility, all the while facing the walls of the houses.
He was a descendant of Rabbonim, and very learned people, and the
brother-in-law of the Rov, Rav Osher Anshel Halevi Yungreis, May Hashem avenge
his blood, and he was the son-in-law of the holy Gaon, Rav Avrohom Yungreis
Ztl. He returned his soul to Hashem in the Ghetto of Mátészalka in the year of
1944, before the enemies of the Jewish nation could even touch him. May Hashem
avenge his innocent blood.
May Hashem avenge his blood
Rav Chaim Peketeh served as a shochet, and a chazzan (cantor). He dressed in a beeber hat (round, flat, black hat) with black clothing as was required by the community for a man of his position. At home he wore a Shtreimel and beketche (Chassidic type of clothing) because he came from a Chassidic family. He found favor with the people of the community because of his nice personality and pleasant voice.
His davening during the Mussaf prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, together with his oldest son Moshe, and Moshe Eliash, that served as his choir will always be remembered by the people of the community. He was also a Baal Korey (one who reads from the Sefer Torah). He was very modest, and studied till the late hours of the night in his home. As he was learning, his voice could be heard from afar.
During the Holocaust, he was taken with his family to the Ghetto, and from
there to Auschwitz. May Hashem avenge his blood.
Teacher of young children
Rav Yaakov Eliash was the teacher of the children from ages 3-4 for a period of thirty four years. He was the one who taught them to read Hebrew, and ingrained in the hearts of the children the love of learning in the Cheder.
|Rav Yaakov ben Moshe Eliash
He passed away on January 2, 1941
He taught the children of Csenger for three generations, and they all learned how to read the holy letters of the Alef Bais under his tutelage. He treated them as if they were his own children. He always took an interest in their welfare even after they completed the studies in his Cheder. He would send them to higher classes, and took an interest in their progress. His feelings of responsibility toward them continued for years to come.
He was known to be a person who was very learned in Torah, and even had knowledge of secular studies. The people of the community would seek his advice regarding financial matters and business undertakings, even though he himself was occupied only with learning Torah and teaching children.
He would often help out people in need, and lend money to people that requested it from him, from his own savings. Many times people did not pay back the loans he gave them. He accepted all this with love and with satisfaction of being able to help others. He came to Csenger in 1908, and was immediately chosen to teach the children.
All the men of Csenger, in all the various countries of the world, are all his
pupils, and remember him fondly. It was from him that they acquired the love of
Hashem and the love of Torah. May his z'chus (merit) shield us. Amen.
May Hashem avenge his blood
Rav Yechiel Klein served for a period of fifteen years as a teacher in the Cheder for the children of ages 8-12. He was very diligent and possessed fear of Heaven. He was very strict and did not spare the rod when teaching. His famous saying was that there is no pupil that can't learn. There are those that don't have the desire to learn, and if they don't desire to learn, they have to be forced. Then they will know how to learn.
He began teaching at five o'clock in the morning. He instilled in his many pupils fear of Heaven, and prepared them for Avodas Hakodesh (service of Hashem).
In his youth he studied secular subjects, and was also acquainted with the modern life. After he got married he devoted himself only to religious studies, and always felt sorry about the time that was lost for secular occupations.
Both the students and parents respected him. He was greatly esteemed by the heads of the community because he was strict with the students and didn't allow for any compromises. The parents made sure that the children should arrive to his classes on time. If they were late, he not only berated the children, but also their parents. He didn't only demand that the students be punctual, but also that the parents should be punctual. He expected the parents to help the children with the homework as much as it was necessary. He felt that the parents should share the responsibility of educating the children in partnership with the teachers, so this way both together they would be able to reach their goals.
His lessons on the Parsha (weekly portion read in the Torah) and on Gemara were on a very high level, and he demanded from his students a higher degree of achievement than is usually expected from children of their ages.
Who of us can forget his lessons in Chumash on Parshas Vayechi, especially on
the pessukim Shimon and Levi are brothers (Braishis 49:5-8) and
the possuk where Yaakov Ovinu mourns the passing of Rochel, his wife. (Braishis
48-7). Rav Yechiel was killed during the Holocaust together with his large
family. May Hashem avenge their blood.
May Hashem avenge his blood
Rav Yosaif Greenfeld served as the Rosh Hakohol of Csenger for a period of fourteen years, with some short interruptions. He was a very devoted askan (public activist). He would get up in the middle of the night to learn and he was the first person to open up the Bais Medrash. Even though he had to walk two kilometers to shul, he would always arrive on time to join the people who lived nearby who learned Gemara and Mishnayos three o'clock in the morning.
Three o'clock in the morning the people who lived on the street where the train was, could hear his slow footsteps as he was walking to the Bais Medrash. Even the Gentiles would set their clocks to his footsteps, so they knew when to get up to work. He was smart and lively and alert in every way. He would sell lumber and tiles for his livelihood, and he was very prosperous. He was crowned with the crown of Torah, the crown of royalty, and the crown of wealth.
He was very respected by everyone who knew him, and until his last day didn't stop learning. He could always be heard learning or saying Mishnayos by heart.
He was killed in the Holocaust together with is family. May his merit protect
May Hashem avenge his blood
My father was a public activist and served as the Gabbai in the big shul, until the Jews of Csenger were taken to the Ghetto of Mátészalka in the year 1944.
He served in that capacity for twenty years, beginning in the year 1924. He was energetic, and creative, and besides working himself, he got other people involved in his work. He dedicated all his time for the kehilla's welfare. In the early hours of the morning when he would walk us to Cheder, he would join the people who were learning Gemara and Mishnayos in the morning.
Many people would come to our house to seek my father's advice whether in business or other areas. Aside from his wisdom, he had many contacts with the government, and he was able to fulfill the requests of the many people that came to him for help.
His work in helping out the community had no limitations. As a Gabbai he was responsible for administering all the different tasks connected to the community life, which were both those pertaining to the religious functions and to the disbursement of funds. He was very capable in carrying out these functions in all situations just like someone who rows a boat.
My father, Rav Yosaif Freedman, was taken at the age of fifty to the Ghetto of
Mátészalka together with my mother Mrs. Deena from the family of Reingvirtz, and
my sister Chaya Sorah. They were killed in the Holocaust. May Hashem avenge
May Hashem avenge his blood
When attempting to describe the radiant personality of Rav Mendel, the shochet, it is important to note that the whole community and all people who came into the city saw in him a prototype of a chazzan. The exalted traits of his character, and his colorful personality, caused all the people of the community, and the Rov, who was foremost among them, to like him. He was liked by young and old, and was involved in the day to day life of the kehilla (community), aside from his regular job. Rav Mendel took an active part in every event that transpired whether social or concerning anyone's family. He took part, not as a shochet, or chazzan, but as the main participant. In every discussion which he participated, he was always the center of attraction. He was endowed with a sense of humor and clarity of mind which came naturally to him. His honesty and faithfulness to the kehilla earned him a reputation which reached other cities.
When he davened, using his bass (soprano) type of voice, with the ancient melodies, it was extremely pleasant to listen to. The old people and young ones alike would not forego listening to his davening until the last days of the kehilla in the year 1944.
Whoever didn't hear his davening during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when he began to say the prayer of HaMelech during Shacharis, would not know what a Shacharis of olden days was.
Whenever he stood before the Aron Kodesh to beseech Hashem for those people who sent him he pronounced everything well, and with a pleasant voice, while being a very friendly person.
May his memory be blessed.
I am trembling as I write this chapter which I termed Memories, because just like my friends who are taking part in writing this chapter, I as well as them, are returning to the town we grew up in, where our holy parents and siblings lived, which is the town that no longer exists. This is the town which lost its character. The community, for us, represented the town, and the community was a corner of a miniature Bais Hamikdosh in the regular day to day life. This community has departed, and will never return, for our dear ones who made up the community, are no longer here.
For those (who were slain) I am crying, and my eyes are full of
tears (Eicha 1:16), for the Jewish people who perished by the sword.
My parents, Shlomo and Mattel Rosenberg, were residents of Csenger from the year l887 on. My father served in the capacity of a chazzan and shochet, and fulfilled his obligations with fear of Heaven and great devotion.
Our lives were occupied with learning Torah diligently, communal davening in the mornings and evenings, and the sanctity of Shabbos and Yom Tov. We remember the enthusiasm of taking part in a mitzvah, the periods of mourning which relate to the fasts and the fast of Tisha B'Av in which we remember the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh, and the seriousness which filled the Yomim Noraim (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).
Even though my parents earned their livelihood with difficulty, they still were devoted to helping others. They always welcomed all different types of guests, and if they could be of any help to them in any way, it gave them a lot of satisfaction. When the emissaries from Eretz Yisroel arrived in Csenger it was a special event for the whole community.
We are sure that the merit of these traits of kindness which were common in Csenger, plays a big part in the fact that even though there was a Holocaust, a sizable number of people of our town are in Eretz Yisroel.
Until the year 1944, we numbered ten brothers, and all their families were
alive. Yechiel had six children. Only one by the name of Shlomo survived and is
in Eretz Yisroel. Rochel did not leave any children. Avrohom, passed away this
year and lost three children in the concentration camps. Three of his children
live in America. Moshe Aryeh's family survived intact. They are all living in
Eretz Yisroel. Mordechai lives alone in Eretz Yisroel. His wife and six
children were killed. Dovid's wife and two children were killed. He and his
second wife, and his remaining two children, Helen and Shlomo, and their
families are in Eretz Yisroel. From Esther's family only one daughter survived.
She is outside of Eretz Yisroel. Shmuel Meyer is in Eretz Yisroel with his
children Tzipora, Shlomo and Esther. Yitzchok Ze'ev was killed with his whole
family. Tzvi Eliyohu is in Budapest with his two children.
The words are gone, but the handwriting remains, the Romans said. However, after the Holocaust the handwriting also went up in flames and vanished.
I will relate from my memory whatever I know about Csenger, the city of my birth. Csenger is a large town in the district of Satmar, near the river of Smush. Of the nine thousand people that resided there, ten percent were Jewish. The first time Csenger was settled was in the fourteenth century. The King Sigmund organized a country wide conference there.
The Jews settled in Csenger two hundred years ago, which is proven by the monuments on the cemetery. My brother started recording the history of the Jews of Csenger. At the time that he was recording it, I was in the labor camp, and when I returned, I found no trace of his work. The Jews of Csenger had an organized and traditional life thanks to the esteemed and beloved Rov, Rav Yungreis. The community had schools with two grades. When I was in school, the teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Kasovitz, and Mr. Gander (who was the son-in-law of the long-time teachers) and Mrs. Balag. The level of studies (secular studies) was so high that even the non-Jewish parents sent their children to that school.
The community had a Talmud Torah in which Mr. Eliash and Mr. Klein taught.
The shochtim of the community were Mendel Daskal and Chayim Peketeh. They were also chazzonim (cantors).The women in the community excelled in helping out the needy. They made parties and organized collections before every holiday etc.
From the whole community of Csenger only ten percent survived and returned home. Most of them are young people who were in the labor camps. There is no Jewish person left in Csenger. The shul was destroyed, and the Jews that returned erected a fence around the cemetery. Maybe the fence still exists.
Many of the survivors are living in Eretz Yisroel, and others are in other parts of the world.
Since all the Jews of Csenger built the beautiful community, I therefore don't want to mention certain names specifically. Since olden days, we have always been in the habit of erecting monuments on the graves of the good people of our nation. However, since we don't know where the departed ones are, these words will serve as a monument for them.
I will end with the prayer which we say every day Guardian of Israel,
guard the remnants of Israel.
For the past twenty two years I cannot free myself of the feelings of a terrifying guilt, that we, who survived the Holocaust harbor, that we who were young at that time, did not do enough to help out our dear ones in order to prevent their tragic fate. We didn't do enough to prevent them from being humiliated, and victimized, and sentenced to death. We naively believed the rumors which were spread by the government that there is nothing to fear. They told us that all the people that were taken away were taken for productive labor, in order to contribute to the war effort, just like we, the young people were conscripted for forced labor. If we had any suspicion at all about the horrors that were going to take place, and about the vicious plots that originated in the minds of the blood thirsty murderers, we believed that a higher force (more powerful than the Germans) would come and extinguish the flame that burst out of the volcano . We wanted to believe that the atrocities that we suspected could never happen in our locations.
We can never forgive this na´vetÚ! The tragedy came in a dizzying swiftness, and all the calamities came one after the other. For instance, between the time that we were concentrated in the Ghettos to the time that the people in them were taken to Auschwitz there was a mere month's time. We should have taken advantage of this short time to sabotage the German plans, and to cause obstacles for the Germans, so that they shouldn't be able to carry out the final solution with such ease. If we would have tried to prevent the discipline and order with which the German murderers reached their goals, and break their haughtiness and pride which they had, thinking they could do anything they want, by upsetting their schedules, and foiling their plans, we would know that we carried out our obligations. We didn't do all this, because we hoped that the Allies, and the higher forces would help us out.
These false hopes of ours faded too late, while the trains were already speeding to the land of Poland, and our hearts were thumping with the fear of death. We realized that no one would care for us, and we couldn't expect anyone to do for us what we ourselves didn't do.
It's because of all that we failed to do, and because we didn't carry out what
we should have, that the obligation rests on us to remember and not to forget,
and to do everything that we can to eternalize the memory of our martyrs.
In order to commemorate for eternity, our holy community of Csenger, the city of the great Gaon and tzaddik the Menuchas Osher Ztl, I first have to relate about the Ahavas Yisroel (love for fellow Jews) and the maximum generosity extended to all that came to this town, without any exceptions.
The kehilla of Csenger was an Ashkenazic community in every sense. It was an outstanding Orthodox community whose members were very meticulous in observance of all mitzvos, both those that are easy, and those that are hard to perform. The Rov of the town was a grandson of the Menuchas Osher Horav Osher Anshel Halevi Yungreis Ztl. He requested the kehilla to appoint his son, Rav Aryeh, to serve as the Rov and head of the Bais Din beside him, fulfilling the function of a Rav Hatzo'ir (young Rov). The kehilla granted his request. This son is now in America.
In the period between the two World Wars the city of Csenger became a center of commerce for the whole region due to the changes that took place in the area following World War I. The large city of Satmar that was near her was annexed to Romania, and thus Csenger turned into a central commercial point for the whole area. Every week a very large fair took place, in which the area's farmers sold the many varieties of their agricultural produce. Their main produce were field crops, fruits of the vine, chickens, and dairy products. When these farmers came to the market they would buy the industrial products from the merchants, who were mostly Jewish, and who would flock in large numbers on the day that the market took place.
One Friday each month there was a very large marketing day. At that time many types of merchants came from afar and near, and many from the farthest locations. Many of them could not come home in time for Shabbos, and the city would become filled with Jews who were total strangers. It was then that the hospitality of the Jews of this wondrous community surfaced in its full beauty. No one was ever heard saying that there was no place in Csenger for them to stay. The people of the city welcomed them all with a pleasant manner, even though they were merchants like them and they gave them competition.
There were other types of guests that came to Csenger. These were the Chassidim that came to the different Chassidic Rabbis, like Rav Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar Ztl, who at that time was at the other side of the border. They also travelled to other Chassidic Rabbis, who were already at the other side of the border, especially before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Pesach. They came to Csenger in order to be able to cross the border.
Even though the people of Csenger were Ashkenazim who were opposed to Chassidus, and they didn't travel to Chassidic Rabbis, they still demonstrated toward them feelings of brotherhood, and treated them with great respect, and love. They supplied all their necessities while they were in the city, and gave them all the help they needed to reach their goals. Over the years these guests slowly became permanent residents and married girls from the town of Csenger. Others brought their families to settle in Csenger and established themselves there.
I came to Csenger as a young married man, from the Yeshiva of Kalev, that was known as the most Chassidic Yeshiva of all the Hungarian Yeshivos in that period of time. This did not prevent the people of Csenger to treat me in the nicest way anyone possibly could, and to help me establish myself in the town, as a merchant and new citizen in the city.
The davening was in a real Ashkenazic nusach, and so were all the customs of the city. However, slowly, as more Chassidim like me came to the city, our influence became stronger, and the oldest residents of the city who were Ashkenazim came to our Bais Medrash for hakofos on Hoshana Rabba. In the course of time, we the Chassidim, organized our own small shul where we davened Nusach Sfard. This was in Csenger where for hundreds of years everyone davened Nusach Ashkenaz. Slowly, some of the long time residents joined us, and both different types of people lived side by side with peace and brotherhood. It's so sad that they are no longer here !
All those Jews, whether Ashkenazim or Chassidim, walked in the path of the righteous. If anyone was going through any hardships, they all fulfilled toward him the command of the Torah You should help him lift his burden (Devorim 22:4) and You should uphold him (Vayikrah 25:35). They all got together to help him and his family.
From this solid and unified community, the few people that are left are spread out in all four corners of the world. Its beautiful institutions no longer exist, and only the righteous who dwell in the cemetery remain. When reading the monuments in the old cemetery in Csenger it becomes evident that the kehilla in Csenger was older than the large and famous kehilla of Satmar. Among the old monuments, we found one monument of the daughter of the Kalever Rebbe who was known as the old Kalever Tzaddik, and whose yahrtzeit is on the seventh day of Adar. Upon reading the inscriptions on the monuments, we found out that before the Menuchas Osher was Rov in Csenger, there were two holy and righteous Rabbonim there.
I remember hearing this true story from the old people of Csenger. The Yismach Moshe who was the Rov of Ujhely, Hungary (an ancestor of the Satmarer Rov, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum Ztl) sent matzos for Pesach to the Rov of Csenger with a rider (probably on a horse drawn carriage). When the matzos reached the Rov of Csenger they were still hot from the baking in the oven. This is because the messenger had kefitzas haderech (The earth moved quickly beneath him thereby enabling him to get to Csenger quicker.), so that the Rov of Csenger could eat the matzos while they were still warm.
The merit of these holy people should shield us, the people who come from
Csenger, so that we should be strong in our faith, and we should be able to
live a life of Torah and Yiras Shomayim (fear of Heaven). We should merit to
see the crown of Klal Yisrael and the Torah to be uplifted, and to live to see
the Final Redemption, speedily, and in our days.
March 19, 1944 is the fateful date which is engraved deep in the memories of the Hungarian Jews. That was the day the German boots came stamping into Hungary. The triumphant voices that accompanied their conquest pierced the hearts of the Jews everywhere like a lightening, and a poisoned arrow. The lives of our brothers that were filled with suffering, humiliation, and fear of the Hungarian government turned quickly into a Gehennom on this world. The persecution of the Jews which was expressed in the newspapers and radio, and by the rabble of the streets, turned quickly into something which was practiced physically. This was all done with the backing of the government by the police who were renowned for their cruelty.
In the morning you will say, let the night come, and in the nighttime you will ask for the morning to come because of the fright of your heart and the things that your eyes will behold (Devorim 28:67).
With trembling hearts and fear of the future the Jews read the instructions that were posted by the local government, that proclaimed while banging with their drums the orders of the cruel rulers that embittered the lives of the Jews more and more. It was in this atmosphere that the Jews got ready for Pesach. During this holiday, when all Jewish children in every generation, would run happily with beautiful, new clothing, and play joyfully with boxers (a fruit that came from Eretz Yisroel), they had to hide, trembling with fear. The matzos that were lifted saying This is the bread of affliction were wet with the tears of the adults.
The last day of Pesach was on Shabbos. Again the voices of the drums were heard with the instructions that all Jews have to stay inside, and are not allowed to leave the house.
Hashem will bring on you a nation that will come from far, a brazen nation that will not be respectful to the old or gracious to the young (Devorim 28:50).
Before noon we saw from the windows of our homes how the Jews from our town were being transported from the villages around Csenger, together with their wives, children and old people, to an unknown destination. Like the time when they left Egypt (on the day after they made the Seder) they also now didn't have time to bake bread for the road. However, this time it was not for the sake of freedom.
Together with the other men my age (twenty one) I carried in my pocket the draft notice from the army. On April 16, 1944 I had to go together with thousands of other people my age to some forced labor camp. It seems that the government wanted to remove the young and strong people from among the Jews, so that they would weaken their ability to defend themselves, and be able to deal with them easily. You will bear sons and daughters, but you will not have them, because they will be taken into captivity (Devorim 48:21)
The time came in the afternoon, for us to take leave of our friends and of our childhood memories, from the Cheder where we were taught to read, and from the school where we were taught to love our friends just as we like ourselves, and from the shul wherein we cried about out bitter lot, and from the Bais Medrash that we learned in every day at five o'clock in the morning for a number of years, where our voices could be heard out loud . We had to take leave of the small Bais Medrash that absorbed so many stones that were thrown on it by the violent people of the streets. In the end we had to bid farewell to our parents that without their faith and trust in Hashem which knew no limits, it wouldn't be possible for them to bear this suffering which is above human strength.
My parents raised a daughter and six boys. I was the youngest child. Beginning with the year 1940 the enemy kept tearing off, as time went on, another limb from the tree, until only I was left. When I took leave of my parents, they were the only ones I had to take leave of. The last sentence I heard from my mother was that I am the sixth child, and that she has no one other than me.
My mother, of blessed memory, felt that she would no longer see me.
I don't want to write history. I only want to write about one of the nice childhood memories that remained with me. In my memories I see only the color white. I see the table covered with a big white, silk tablecloth, and my mother dressed in a long white dress. She is wearing a white embroidered apron and a white silk kerchief on her head, as she stands in front of the white candles. As she stands, her white hands are spread out, and she is reciting the blessings in front of the white candles.
I don't remember my mother's face any more. I only remember her hands which were spread out Heavenward. They surrounded the white candles which she lit on the eve of Kol Nidrei.
Mother, forgive me for any way in which I might have wronged you. I know my mother forgives me just like Hashem forgives the wrongs committed by people, even as far as three or four generations. (What is written in the Torah is actually the opposite of this. It says that Hashem punishes the third and fourth generations for their wrongdoing, and this is if they continue in the paths of the forefather's sins).
My father is also wearing white. He is standing in front of me clad in his white kittel tied up in a white belt like an avneyt (the belt that the Kohain Godol wore in the Bais Hamikdosh, and also the other Kohanim wore an avneyt). He is wearing a large white yarmulke, and on his feet are white sandals.
I am asking my father forgiveness for any wrong I might have done to him. I'm sure he is forgiving me, for Hashem also forgives.
Outside the moon is shining to everyone that views her. She is illuminating the darkness for the Jews who prayed then, and also for the murderers of the Jews.
I always cherish the memories of these Kol Nidrei nights. I pray to you, Hashem, not to forgive the murderers, not even the second and third generations.
|Elionora Gross from the Weiss family
from Tyukod, now living in the settlement of Bais Shayit
To my sorrow, all the documents in which the history of our holy community is recorded were destroyed in the year 1944, at the time that the whole community was exiled to the Ghetto. After that most of them were killed in Auschwitz.
Therefore, according to what my late father Kasovitz Mikshe, who was the principal of the Jewish Elementary School in Csenger between the years l896-1926, and who was also the secretary of the kehilla for many years till his passing, related to me, I will try to portray a historical picture of our community.
Mr. Kaufman Veilmush, May Hashem avenge his blood started to write a history of our kehilla, and he also discovered many old documents regarding the founding of the kehilla. However, his work was also destroyed.
The community of Csenger was founded in the eighteenth century, thanks to the fact that that the city Satmar Nemety that is adjacent to her, served as a commercial center for the whole district of Satmar. Because of this reason the government did not allow the Jews to settle in Satmar, at that time. They were also forbidden to be in Satmar at night. The Jewish merchants that came to Satmar during the day were only permitted to do business during certain hours. Once that time passed they had to leave the borders of the city. Therefore, they had to settle in the nearby villages. It was in those villages that they bought tracts of land for a high price from the wealthy people who owned land. They also paid for the right to live on these properties on a permanent basis.
Most of the Jewish merchants settled in Csenger. In a short period of time when there were one hundred and fifty Jewish families in Csenger, they founded the holy community of Csenger.
The first Jewish families were Grossman, Kaufman, Kasovits, Lichtman, Markovits, and Pinkas. The Jewish population became very large, and they settled in the villages near Csenger also. However, most of them made Csenger their home. They chose a Rov and also a permanent shochet. At first they used to daven in private homes, but once the Jewish population grew in size, around the year l820 they built the large shul. Considering the standards of those days, this shul was one of the biggest and most beautiful in the whole district of Satmar.
The rich people of the community covered the cost of building the shul, and people in the community volunteered to do the actual construction. These people did the carpentry work, and plastering, (probably painting also). My great great grandfather, who could do all types of skilled labor, built the Aron Kodesh by himself, besides building the main entrance to the shul.
In those days Rav Shpitz Ztl was the Rov of the community. There is a small tent on his grave which stands until today.
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the famous Rov, Rav Osher Anshel Yungreis, who excelled in knowledge of Torah and possessed great wisdom was chosen to be the Rov of Csenger. His fame spread far and wide thanks to his unique personality, and his ability to perform miracles and heal the sick. His knowledge in many areas and his colorful personality contributed to his knowledge of human nature and enabled him to advise people who sought his counsel. The medicines that he prescribed for people who came to him were prepared in the famous pharmacy in Budapest named Turk, and as time went on many accounts of miracles began to circulate about these cures.
I will try to relate one of these stories: The Rov of Csenger studied in the Yeshiva of Posnay, and many of his friends later became Rabbonim in famous communities. These Rabbonim were surprised that he was performing miracles, and asked him during a meeting of Rabbonim, why he was doing this. He answered them as follows, telling them how he became a Rov who performs miracles. He said that in the central square in Csenger there lived a Jewish man whose name was Weiss, and who owned a small liquor store. One winter night a poor man from the village knocked on his door and asked him for a half of liter of whiskey. He didn't have the money to pay at the time, and he told him that when he will have money he'll pay him. Mr. Weiss refused to let him in, and pushed him out. The man fell down on the snow. He remained lying there, and froze to death.
The next day when Mr. Weiss found out about this, he became alarmed and ran away to hide.
A few nights after this, he secretly visited the Rov, and asked for his advice how to escape his predicament. The clever Rov in his great wisdom knew that no one would investigate the death of this poor man, who was old and childless and known to be an alcoholic. He told Mr. Weiss that he could return home, and he can't undo the damage he did. Mr. Weiss considered the fact that he was saved from harm the result of the Rabbi's miracles. He went to the Jews who lived in the neighboring villages and told them all about this. This way, Rav Osher Anshel claimed, he became famous as a miracle worker.
After the Jewish population in Csenger grew, and with them the children, the kehilla decided to open an independent Elementary School consisting of six grades, and my parents, Miksha Kasovits, and Julia Kasovits were chosen to teach there. The first president of the parent's committee was Dr. Dyushee Adolf, who was the doctor for the district.
At first the classes were held in two separate rooms in a private home. A short time later the wealthy people of the city donated ten thousand gold coins to build the school that had three large halls. The school was built on property that was donated by a man of the community by the name of Rav Boruch, in the year 1901. In the year 1903 the school received funding from the government, till the year 1924, when there was a law passed by the name of 'The Jewish Law of the Second Number.
My hands are trembling from emotion, when I am perpetuating the memory of Mr. Miksha Kasovits and his wife Julia. These two people dedicated all the days of their lives for this purpose, and thanks to their devotion, the children of Csenger for a period of several generations studied in this school, which was an independent Jewish school. They were both excellent teachers who enjoyed their professions. Their school was considered the best, not only in Csenger, but also in the whole district. Many of the non-Jewish families from the high society sent their children to this school. The students received the best quality education, and were prepared for life in a most practical way.
The family Yungreis was made up of great and famous Rabbonim. Besides those that I mentioned, Rav Avrohom Yungreis, who had a most amazing personality, maintained a Yeshiva of fifty to sixty students when he was the Rov of Csenger. This Yeshiva added glory to the good reputation of Csenger.
In the year 1908 the kehilla built a mikva with the most modern types of fixtures. It had separate baths, etc. There were not many of that type in those days.
In the year 19l4 the kehilla of Csenger numbered eight hundred people, and in 1944 it was destroyed. Our shul which was one hundred years old was robbed. The school was made dirty. Most of the Jews in Csenger were killed in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. After the war, we refugees who numbered twenty five to thirty people returned. We tried to rebuild our kehilla, but because of the bitter memories, and the economic situation, we all spread apart in different cities. Now there is not one Jewish person in Csenger. The shul, the Rov's house, the house of the shochtim, and the mikva, were all destroyed. Only the school building is left, and is being used as a public school. There is also one wing of the Rov's house left.
For us refugees, only the Jewish cemetery remained. We, the last people who
remained in Csenger erected around the cemetery a high fence made of bricks.
This fence was also destroyed, and the monuments are left unattended. To my
sorrow, the members of the Jewish center are not doing enough to repair the
broken fences, and I am afraid that thirty years from when the last burial took
place, the cemetery will be emptied, and the holy memory of our ancestors, the
founders of this kehilla will fade away in the course of time.
by Yitachok Yungreis Tel-Aviv
With love and trembling, I am now relating about a dream my father Ztl had, according to what I heard him say when he spoke before the audience in the big shul on Shabbos Shuva in 1930, as he was standing in front of the Aron Kodesh. He said as follows:
I would like to tell you a dream that I dreamt this week. I wondered many times whether I should or shouldn't tell you about it, and in the end I found reasons why I should tell. A man who lived in Csenger and died many years ago came to me in a dream. I gave him a big Sholom Aleichem and said to him Guest, I haven't seen you for so many years. I inquired about you. I asked him how my father was faring in the Heavenly Academy, and he answered that he was doing very well. Then I asked him about my situation. He answered me that I behave like a Rov, but that I could behave even better than I do. Then I asked him how he was getting along. He burst out crying bitterly and couldn't answer me. He kept crying and crying, and I couldn't understand what was the matter. Even if he had sins that he would be punished for, after all these years, he certainly was finished with being punished. I demanded to know why he was crying, and he wouldn't answer me. I started to scold him and asked him for the reason he was crying. Maybe I could help him? He refused to answer me. I, who am unable to cry began to cry along with him. As we were both crying, he suddenly disappeared.
Then, my father continued speaking and said: Don't think that I am telling you this to arouse you to repent. You should know that just like I am standing before you today on Shabbos Teshuva, in such a holy place, in front of the Aron Hakodesh, everything I am telling you is true. Everyone burst out crying.
This dream that the kehilla heard from my father had a great effect on them, and for many days they would walk around with heavy hearts, and were very careful with everything they did. The news about the dream spread over the whole country of Hungary.
May the merit of my father, May Hashem avenge his blood, and the holy people of
our city shield us the survivors of the war who are building our land, the land
of our Fathers. Amen.
It is very hard to relate these memories, because every time we try to we our opening up wounds that will never heal. An entire generation was destroyed. How were children and old people, young people and mature adults all consumed by flames?
However, it is my obligation to give over to the coming generation my recollections of days gone by, the days prior to the Holocaust, to the young people that didn't experience this Gehennom.
I am writing about the Jews of these three villages: Nag'gatz, Kisgéc and Shima. In them were one dozen Jewish families who gathered every Shabbos and Yom Tov to daven in the shul of my grandfather, Herman Schwartz in Nag'gatz. The shul was really a small building located in the courtyard of my grandfather's house, where one room served as a shul and the other one as a dwelling for old people. During the Yomim Noraim the second room served as the women's place to daven. My grandfather was the chazzan, and blew shofar. During the Yomim Tovim the Jews of the villages walked to shul in order to glorify Hashem's name in unison.
The Jews made a living from agriculture. Some of them owned small estates or medium sized ones, or large ones. Some were farmers, or store keepers, and others owned motels.
In Csenger which was the center for the Jews in the area there was an organization of women, who in addition to their charitable undertakings, also dealt with lectures, Chanukah parties, and Purim get - togethers.
There were notes passed around every week to remind everyone when Shabbos started and stopped, which were printed in the printing business of my uncle Satun in Csenger. They were distributed by a young girl. The owner of the printing business, Uncle Satun passed away in the Ghetto of Mátészalka. My father of blessed memory, and Dr. Katonai, spoke about his passing with great respect. He was spared by Heaven not to experience the suffering that all the other Jews of the region did.
The chronicles of the kehilla of Csenger were never printed. My uncle Kaufman Wilmush collected the information, but didn't have time to print it because he was banished to the Ghetto. To our sorrow, his work disappeared. I remember him telling that Csenger was founded two hundred and fifty years ago, by the Kaufman family that were active in Csenger until the bitter end. The Jews were uprooted from their homes, and driven to the Ghetto the Sunday after Pesach.
In the village the announcements were made by a drummer, that would go around banging on the drum before reading his instructions. This same drummer announced that no one is to do business with the Jews. This was after Pesach, when in the Jewish homes there was no Chometz. No one dared to come near the Jews that were loaded onto the wagons, when suddenly the wife of the head of the village carried a sack of flour over to the Jews. Then some other people from the villages came over and accompanied the Jews to the cemetery.
On Sunday the Jews were taken to the school in Tutfalu, and the next day they were brought to the Ghetto in Mátészalka accompanied by armed guards.
When the Jews passed by Csenger, the tailor Mr. Weiss went to slaughter his
chickens. When he saw them he picked up his chickens and yelled that these were
his kapporos (were being slaughtered in his place). He felt that the end of the
world is coming. After the Jews of the villages were taken to the Ghetto in
Mátészalka, the Jews of Csenger were also rounded up.
Every person is blessed with a memory that not only returns him to his childhood but also engulfs it in a halo of radiance and bliss. The memory of a person gathers into it only the best and the choicest of what took place, when the ugly part either becomes forgotten or covered up by the imagination. When I come to relate my memories, they are standing before me without any falsehood such as the large courtyard in front of our house which was the central point of the whole village. It could be that it's because our house was built there in the midst of a beautiful garden which contained plants, grass, and trees, that it is viewed through the eyes of a child, as the most beautiful location, or because it was in reality the central location which was surrounded by all the religious institutions of the city.
The courtyard was in the shape of a ches. In one corner was the school, and behind it the Cheder. (I must stop here to mention Rav Yaakov Eliash of blessed memory, who was the teacher, who would pull our ears till they turned red, to make us keep reviewing our reading lessons of the Alef Bais). In back of the mikvah stood our house, and the house of the shammash (caretaker of the shul) and shochet. In the back of all these stood the great and beautiful shul of olden days, in its full glory. If we could only visit it now, our hearts would tremble among feelings of elation and repentance.
When I think of the shul, I visualize my father standing before the Aron Kodesh, leading the davening with his pleasant voice and special style, which was liked and understood only by the people of Csenger, who would not so easily hire a different chazzan, even though my father with his humor would mock himself and his voice. It was only himself and his voice that he would mock.
However he viewed his work of being a shochet with the utmost seriousness, and was very careful to do everything according to the Halacha. The same is true for his friend Rav Chayim Peketeh, who was also a shochet.
Rav Chaim Peketeh was a refined person with very pure character traits, as befits a person who lived in a time when the world was very different and more pure. Since we are dealing with purity, I want to mention the Rov, Rav Osher Anshel Yungreis Ztl, whose attributes and praises are beyond anyone's ability to describe. I am the only one that can be proud of the fact that his house stood opposite ours.
The next person I am describing is Rav Zalman Leib the shammash, who would sell the aliyos (when people go up to make the blessings in front of the Sefer Torah), and I would always like to listen to him calling up people to come up to the Torah. However, the shul was not only a place to daven. Near it stood a yard called the pohlish (in Yiddish) where the heads of the community, who numbered eleven people would get together to discuss the needs of the kehilla, and its expenses that were incurred and the rights it had. That room was also the place where I and my friends sat in front of gigantic Gemoros. Even more than our minds were on the Gemoros, our attention centered around the strict teacher and his long stick. The teacher Rav Yechiel Klein felt that the best way to teach was using the long stick. This was the method of teaching in those days, and Rav Yechiel Klein of blessed memory did this only for the sake of Heaven.
Our house reflected the images of the tzadikkim of our generation. My mother, Alleh, of blessed memory, dedicated all her time and energy to mitzvos and good deeds, especially the mitzvah of giving charity. There was not one day that a poor man didn't eat at our table. We had a room in our house that was set aside for poor travelers who would pass by in the city. My mother tried very hard to satisfy them. If three or more people would show up at once, she didn't refuse them. She also helped out the widows and orphans of the city by donating to them secretly, in a way that no one would find out. Many times my father gave her money for different purposes. She gave this money to the poor of the city. She devoted every Thursday night to buying food for Shabbos and bringing it to the poor people of the city. She performed many other kind deeds, at which time she would say that if we prepare ourselves in this world we will reap our rewards in the World to Come. I have no doubt that she is right.
My father, with his good character traits, was a perfect match for her. Since he was an unforgettable person, I would like to relate a few of my memories about him. He carried out with great dedication and self-sacrifice his exalted positions as a shochet, chazzan and baal - korey (one who reads from the Torah). I remember how he caused everyone to be greatly aroused and inspired by his davening on Yom Kippur, when he stood in front of the Aron Kodesh during Shacharis to daven HaMelech.
Even the non-observant people of the city cried and were motivated to repent completely, when hearing his davening. When my father came home to change his clothes they were wet from sweat and tears. His davening was so full with emotion and feeling that no one was bored when he davened for a long period of time. Do you remember how he read from the Torah? He never forgot the names of the children, grandchildren, and grandparents of all the people in the city when he went up to recite the Mi shebey'rach. This is only a small portrayal of his outstanding davening.
When he performed shechita, he would feel very bad about the loss of Jewish money when the cow of the butcher was found to have a defect that rendered in not permissible to eat. He felt bad when a goose owned by a poor family would turn out be treif (forbidden to eat according to Halacha), and it was not possible to find a way to permit it. He would happily get up in the middle of the night to slaughter a goose before it would die, and cause someone a loss of money. Even though he wasn't a chassid, he would always go to prostrate himself at the graves of the Chassidic Rabbis on the day that they passed away.
Thus, did the kehilla of Csenger merit to benefit in its last days from the glorious light of a righteous person such as my father, Rav Menachem Mendel Ztl.
We were altogether seven brothers, but very few of us were left. My older
sister Bayla, was killed with her six children and husband Michoel. My brother
Yitzchok Dov, and his wife Rivka and their four children and my sister Bluma
and her two children were killed. My brother Yekusiel lost his wife and seven
children, and my brother Meyer also lost his wife and two children. My brother
Avrohom, who resides in America lost his wife and five children. I, who was the
youngest in the family, and a child born in old age, was sent by myself to
Eretz Yisroel at a tender age. I hope that my family and the families of my
brothers will be a shining example of the remaining Jewish population of
The period of the Holocaust came to us, the residents of Csenger and its cities, and our small communities are gone. The people of Csenger have left this world. We are fortunate that we have returned to the land of our birthplace which we inherited from our parents, the land of our fathers, Eretz Yisroel.
We merited to be among those who build the country, and this way we are securing our existence as a free nation in our country.
We, the elders of the community, turn to you our dear young brothers. Continue in the path that the holy martyrs of the Holocaust walked. This path of putting your faith and hopes in Hashem, should be a guide for your children and the future generations. In this way you will eternalize the memory of the dear people of our community, forever.
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