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[Page 213]

As chairman of the Building Committee, he built the current large Beit Midrash Le-Torah over a year and a half, and served as its chairman of the board. Until he passed away, Eisenstein was the finance chairman of the Beth Midrash Le-Torah on Douglas Blvd.

        Eliyahu Eisenstein was also one of the original founders of the Education Committee of the United Talmud Torahs. Through his initiative and assistance, and despite the opposition of some, the building on Wilcox Ave. was purchased and proved to be a success. Today the central offices of the Education Committee (headed by Eisenstein) are located at the building on Wilcox.

[Photo:] Standing, from right: B. Zissuk, Avraham Gratch, Shalom Gratch, Eliyahu Eisenstein, David Epstein, Menachem Averbuch, Itcha Goldman (seated) and Berele Vichnes. Lying, from right: Y. Zilberstein, Yosef Gratch, Ezra Weissman and Tevel Zbar, 1920, during Eliyahu's visit to Drohitchin.

        In 1950 Eisenstein initiated the construction of the North Lake Shore Torah Center, and he contributed more than $50,000 to that project.

Chicago Zeitshrift, October 1951.

Eliyahue Eisenstein died on December 20, 1953. He suddenly collapsed and died at a gathering at the North Lake Shore Torah Center. In his will, Eisenstein left over almost his entire estate for religious educational institutions in Chicago and elsewhere, according to the decision of the trustees. Eliyahu Eisenstein left behind his wife, Chava (Eva) Eisenstein (who came from an illustrious family – her father, R. Moshe Salk, was the long-standing custodian of the Russian Synagogue in Chicago); 4 brothers and one sister: Lipman, Yisrael Baruch, Leizer, Avraham and Reichel Eisenstein.


Chaikel Gratch was born in 1867 to his parents, R. Shimon and Beila, in Drohitchin. He studied in kheder and with private tutors, especially Rabbi Yosef Valevelsky, and was considered one of the best Talmud students. In 1890, Chaikel married Esther Yehudit, the daughter of R. Yeshayahu and Asna from Sporeva, near Khomsk. Chaikel also earned a livelihood, and did so honestly. He traveled to the United States on two occasions. The first time was to New York in 1900. The second time, when he was planning to return home, he took ill suddenly and died on January 9, 1906. He was buried in the Drohitchin Cemetery in New York.

        R. Chaikel was an all-round good person and liked by everybody. He used to teach classes to the congregation, and knew how to tell anecdotes. He led prayer services well, and was a public Torah reader. He knew Hebrew and Russian, and was a supporter of the Lovers of Zion movement. He used his character traits for the benefit of the community, both in Drohitchin and in New York, where he was an active member of the brotherhood of the Drohitchin Synagogue. R. Chaikel had two sons: Avraham and Yosef.

[Page 214]


[Photo:] Esther Yehudit Gratch

Esther Yehudit Gratch was born into a fine family in Sporeva, a village near Khomsk. Her father, R. Yeshayahu, son of R. Shalom Shachna Shapiro (died on the 8th of the second month of Adar) was involved in business. Her mother, Asna Devorah, was a daughter of Avraham Yehuda (died on 15 Elul). She received her education in Khomsk, and also learned Hebrew and Russian.

        In 1890, Esther married Chaikel Gratch, and made her home in Drohitchin, where she opened a haberdashery and helped her husband in business. Esther Yehudit excelled as a businesswoman. Through her honesty she earned the trust and faith of the people in town, and developed a clientele. After the death of her husband Chaikel in 1906, Esther became the sole breadwinner for her two wonderful children, Avraham and Yosef, who in addition to Jewish studies, received a general high school education as well. Later, when the children grew older, they helped their mother in business.

        In 1912 Esther Yehudit married Kadish Greenstein of Liebeshy, and was a devoted mother to his two young daughters, Bracha and Chana. In 1926 Esther Yehudit gave up her business activities and devoted herself to community affairs. She became the head of the visitors' hospitality organization, and co-founded and headed an orphan welfare organization called ZENTOS for many years in Drohitchin. She devoted a great deal of energy to these organizations, and hosted meetings of the organizations in her home. She collected money, food and provided assistance to the poor sick and lonely orphans. For her work with ZENTOS, Esther Yehudit acquired the title, “Mother of Orphans.”

        In 1938 Esther Yehudit came to Chicago on a visit with her children. She planned to return to Drohitchin, but the War broke out in 1939, and she remained in the United States, surviving the German murderers. Her husband and daughter Chana and family perished, may G-d avenge their blood!

        In Chicago, Esther Yehudit was also active in the Women's Auxiliary of the Kehillat Yaakov Synagogue and Talmud Torah, as well as of the Ateret Zion Synagogue. Her sons, Avraham and Yosef, [live] in Chicago. Avraham's wife, Tanya, who [is] from the eminent Goldhand family in Pinsk, practiced dentistry for many years in Drohitchin. Yosef's wife, Frieda, was born in the United States, and [is] a grandchild of R. Yosef Shochet, known as R. Yossel Cherna's, of Drohitchin.

[photo:] First row, from right: Mary Trubovitch, Chana Greenstein-Braverman, Avraham Gratch and Oska Lasovsky (grandchild). Second row, from right: Chaim (Herman) Grossman, Esther Yehudit Gratch-Greenstein, Kadish Greenstein. Third row: Zelig Grossman, Hertska Boff, Chayaka Lasovsky, Tanya Gratch, Malka Kaplan and Gedaliah Grossman.

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