YISRAEL BARUCH EISENSTEIN
[Photo:] Yisrael Baruch and Esther Eisenstein
Yisrael Baruch Eisenstein was born in Drohitchin on July 15, 1885. His father, R. David, was a religious Jew who traveled to the United States four times and returned to Drohitichin each time. He died on 16 Kislev [Nov. 10], 1938. Yisrael's mother, Chaya Gittel, was a modest women who died on 26 Tammuz [July 22], 1930, was a descendant of the kabbalist, R. Dovidel Yaffe.
Until he was 13 years old, Yisrael Baruch studied under the religious teachers and secular teachers in Drohitchin. Aside from religious subjects and Hebrew, he also diligently studied Russian. He then attended the Pinsk yeshiva, later transferring to study under R. Zalman Sender in Maltsh. Finally, he studied at the Mir Yeshiva, where the head of yeshiva was Rabbi Eliyahu Baruch Kamai. He remained at Mir until 1898, and then studied in the House of Study in Drohitchin and taught Hebrew to earn some money.
With the rise of Herzl's political Zionism, R. Yisrael Baruch became attracted to the Zionist movement. Together with others, he established a group of Zionist youth affiliated with the Enlightenment. They became involved with selling Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] stamps and shares in the Zionist Colonial Bank. They also gave classes in Bible, Hebrew, history, etc. At the age of 23, Yisrael Baruch married the attractive Freidel (a granddaughter of Yizchak Kravetz). With the help of his wife, who was a real Hebraist, Yisrael Baruch opened a kheder and devoted himself to teaching.
In December, 1912, Yisrael Baruch moved to the United States and settled in Chicago, where he ran a Hebrew-speaking Jewish School. He actually intended to make some money and return to Drohitchin, but in the meantime World War I broke out in 1914 and Yisrael Baruch was cut off from his family.
Immediately after the war Yisrael Baruch undertook all possible efforts to save his wife and children. Before help became available, his wife Freidel succumbed to typhus and died a couple of days before Shavuot, 1919, leaving behind two children. In the aftermath of the upheavals that made sending money to the suffering Jews of Drohitchin difficult, Yisrael Baruch convinced his brother R. Eliyahu Eisenstein to travel to Drohitchin to learn about the situation of the family in Drohitchin. At Yisrael Baruch's initiative, an extraordinary meeting of Drohitchin Jews was held in Chicago, where he was able to collect five thousand dollars for the war victims in Drohitchin. Eliyahu Eisenstein was the one who distributed the money in Drohitchin, and when he returned to Chicago, he brought back with him Yisrael Baruch's two small children as well as other Jews from Drohitchin.
In 1920 Yisrael Baruch found a partner and a mother to his children in his second wife, Esther (a cousin of his first wife), with whom he had two additional children. He then got involved in the clothing business and did well financially. Due to health problems, twelve years later he was forced to sell his business and move to Phoenix, Arizona, where he remained for 7 years before returning to Chicago. Unfortunately, his asthma did not improve, and his great worry about his three sons who were serving in the US army on the battlefront. In addition, he had lost his youngest son, a lieutenant in the Air Force. This also had a negative effect on his health, forcing him to stop his community activity. In 1948 he moved with his wife to Miami, Florida.
R. Yisrael Baruch was renown for his work on behalf of the community. He served as secretary of the Beit Avraham Synagogue for eight years. He was a member and strong supporter of the Anshei Drohitchin Synagogue, the Beit Midrash for Torah [House of Study for Torah], the Education Committee and the Parochial School in Chicago. Eisenstein was also a co-founder and first custodian of the Knesset Yisrael Synagogue in Miami Beach, as well as a member of the Miami Board of Education in addition to other activities.
Yisrael Baruch was one of the co-founders and leaders of the Drohitchin Relief Fund in Chicago that dispatched large sums of money to Drohitchin for the needy. He collected money to rebuild the burned-down Houses of Study in Drohitchin, and influenced R. Yitzchak Avigdor Telekhansky (Chicago) to contribute $2,000 to rebuild the Talmud Torah School in Drohitchin, and collected $3,000 for a charity fund in Drohitchin.
In April 1951 the Chicago Zeitshrift wrote the following about R. Yisrael Baruch Eisenstein:
R. Yisrael Baruch Eisenstein is, as many people know, a religiously-devoted person, dedicated to practical good deeds, and has wonderful character traits. He has a good personality and is a friend to all. When he was healthy, he was always running to help and support the needy any way he could. People say that Yisrael Baruch did favors for them anonymously. The best example of his goodness and honesty was that he provided assistance to his relatives (what honor does one expect from helping one's own relatives?). R. Yisrael Baruch's dedication for those in need derived from his good heart and from Jewish law, which states that aiding those of one's one community and family is as big a mitzvah as aiding others, and possibly even bigger. Yisrael Baruch can serve as an example to many other community leaders.
Yisrael Baruch's wife, Esther Eisenstein, was born in Drohitchin and received a religious nationalist upbringing. She studied Hebrew and literature, and was proficient in the Bible. As soon as she arrived in Chicago she followed her husband's example, and threw herself into community service. She worked extensively for the Kehilat Yaakov Talmud Torah School; she was very active in the Parochial School and brought aid to the Beit Midrash for Torah, and was a member of the Chevra Mikra Synagogue and others. In 1948 Esther continued hear work in Miami Beach, Florida when she and her husband moved there. In 1949 she was elected president of the sisterhood of Knesset Yisrael Synagogue, and in 1950 was re-elected. Esther was also a leading figure in the Mizrachi Organization, the Hebrew Academy, Pioneer Club No. 2, and belonged to Hadassah, the Geriatric Center and the Jewish Hospital.
[photo:] Aharon Krivitsky
Aharon Krivitsky, known as the Lechovich Teacher, was born in Motele. His father, Shmerel Yonah, sent him to both kheder and yeshiva. Aharon then began thinking about his future, and decided that the best option was to go into teaching. For many years he was a teacher in Sarny, Dombrovitz and Berezhnitz in the Volhyn region.
After he married Yitzchak Lechovitcher's daughter, Kunya, in 1907, Aharon settled in Drohitchin and sought a teaching position, but since he was a newcomer, he faced many obstacles. Finally he managed to open a modernized kheder and continued in this work until the outbreak of World War I. Aharon and his family lived through the war at the Lechovitch Estate, where he worked in agriculture.
In 19420, when the Balakhov gangs rampaged around Drohitchin, Aharon and his wife lived through very fearful times. A gentile denounced them as communists to the Balakhov gangs, and terrorists then started looking for him. Miraculously, however, Aharon and his family were saved from certain death.
After these dreadful experiences, the Krivitskys didn't want to remain in the village, and returned to Drohitchin. On August 1, 1921 they arrived in the United States. Aharon, his wife and children settled in Hartford, Connecticut, where he administered a Talmud Torah School.
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