Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
When Ephraim Leib became a descender, we took him in as the Shamesh in the Trisk Shtiebel.
The word descender in Ephraim Leib's case had a simple meaning, exactly what it sounds like, without embellishments. He used to drive a cart, and when he was sitting one day on the wagon, he fell down and became a Shamesh.
Ephraim Leib was not one of those wagon owners who used to compel thin, hungry horses to carry enormous loads of sand from the river, or lime, which used to be dug out from the riverbed near the falls, and housewives would use it to line their cholent ovens.
He had a couple of clean, chestnut-colored, well-groomed horses. He hung brass bells around their necks, and the cables were suspended over the entire wagon, as if to tell the world that he, Ephraim Leib, was coming - who could confuse him for someone else? He used his horses to carry goods to sell in Chelm and Zamosc. He would carry eggs in large boxes packed with spikelet and dried dung from various types of livestock.
Even on the other side of the Bug (river), he still managed to travel great distances. He drove there another kind of goods - Hasidim who were headed to Trisk for the three Jewish pilgrimage holidays to see their Rebbe.
Once he even brought the Rebbe himself, out of his own respect for him, on his wagon all the way to Hrubieszow. That time he held the reins the entire time on his own in honor of the Rabbi, as he didn't trust the coachman to do it as well. He used to also visit the surrounding shtetls with the Rebbe, such as Tishavietz, Lashchav, Krilov, etc.
He also wasn't just a shamesh like the others. He kept everything in order. He would even keep glasses from the oil lamps clean.
Often he would stand by the heater and listen to Hasidim telling stories about kind Jews and miracles of the Rebbe as he polished the oil lamps nearby.
Thursday and Friday he used to make the rounds among local businesses and write down the sum total that each Hasid donated to him, since he didn't really have any other profession. In addition, he used to have a kind of little store in the drawer from the Ark. There he kept some cake and liquor along with freshly-baked cookies. Jews who had lost family members would purchase them and offer them to a minyan after davening in honor of their loved ones, so that their souls would be given an aliyah. The wealthier schoolboys used to buy his baked goods as well.
He would gather various pieces of used candles throughout the year, from the wax Yom-Kippur candles to the soul candles that used to melt in the heat, he would sell them all to the candle-maker.
He also used to get some income from Hanukkah and Purim money, as well as from weddings and brises, and he would also collect funds among the Trisker Hasidim from the alms bowl on Erev Yom Kippur.
Since he used to be a wagon driver, he would also braid horse bridles and sell the ropes to merchants. Sometimes he used to rope in the schoolboys and they would help him with the braiding.
In the long winter nights, especially on Christmas, the schoolboys would gather in shul to play cards. Then he used to ask that they pay him for the light provided.
I would say, 'forget it,' he used to say, if you were here to learn, that would be something else, but in order to play, you have to pay. So he would often stay up to try to catch them, and when he would show up, someone would shout, friends! And the group of kids would then open the Talmud and start learning.
He used to take money for each match of cards. For each new round, he would earn interest from the sum total. Then he would loan the boys money for more games and also take interest on the loans.
Among these various strokes of good luck, he never had to have real profession.
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Hersh Leib was the tallest of all the porters, with a big and beautiful beard. With a nose like an eagle, his piercing eyes were witness to his own acts of audacity. He looked like the Biblical hero Sampson, and his wide shoulders that reminded one of the Gates of Gaza. He used to carry things all by himself, attaching a rope around his shoulders or his belly for additional support. Later he made a business for himself and had four helpers who would schlepp things for him. His word alone was enough to convince both businessmen and other porters of his ability to get a job done.
Peasants from the surrounding areas would bring their supplies of grain to the Jewish grain silo. From there, the grain was sent to the larger towns. Everything was packed into wagons, and from the wagons onto the backs of the Jewish porters.
Soon after he laid down the goods he was carrying, he would team up the horses himself. Later, when they had grown, each of his three sons would also lead a couple of horses.
The eldest son, Joel, who was a supporter of the town bundists, would ship the goods via train. Shimeon would load up the grain from the grain silos. And the third son, the dark-complexioned Shlomo, who looked like an African with his black curly hair, would travel over large distances with sensitive goods, liked furs, hog's hair, and pelts - things that merchants didn't trust to send by train.
The other two sons became tradesmen, because he couldn't fit any more horses into his barn. Even though for many years he was no longer a porter (treger), everyone still called him Hersh Leib Treger. He and his sons were not the type to sit idly by. Regarding their heroism, one could write an entirely separate chapter.
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Shiya was a gabbai and a shemesh who did not receive any payment for his services and occupied a tailor's anteroom to the synagogue. He was also a member of the burial society.'
Shiya was the pot carrier, whose job it was to carry pots during the funeral, from which one had to lay shards on the eyes of the corpse. Shiya was the one who would do that job.
He wasn't a particularly laudable tailor. He rarely produced new material to sell. People gave him articles to repair, modify, lengthen or shorten, or to narrow or widen from right to left.
In carrying out his important tasks for the day, he used to get up quite early and go to his anteroom in the shul to recite psalms and to daven. From there he would go to the market and look for some bargains on seasonal vegetables - usually half-off. He would bundle up the goods and place them in the folds of his robe to carry them home.
When he got home, he would open the folds of his robe and the all the potatoes would fall out and roll over the entire room. Then he would say in a proud voice, as if he were conducting a funeral, Chaya Pesha, peel and cook! Then he would throw down his robe and stand in his vest, which had various needles struck through it.
He looked like an old retired General who was decked out in various medals that he could not bear to part with.
Most of the time he sewed by hand - he rarely used a sewing machine. One of the bars supporting the wheel had fallen off, once the machine's needle broke, or there was some other technical problem. Every time he tried to tinker with the machine to repair it, he only made it worse.Then he would simply take a needle out of his vest, as if it were his fate, and then he would say: blessed are the hands that can work on their own. And then he would run the article of clothing through with needles from all sides.
He never measured with a measuring tape, but instead would use strips of paper, and would use them to measure width and length, around the neck and sleeve, and he would tear off a strip. During this measurement process, he would give some thread to the client and would ask him to chew on it, which was supposed to provide good luck in preserving one's powers of reasoning (a tried and true method). He would put off finishing the article of clothing which had fallen into his hands for a good year, and once it was done, it was pretty much good for nothing.
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Dovid Valkavnik's father was a rabbi, and a bit of a Rebbe in the shtetl of Valin. He raised ten sons and all of them became rabbis. And of course, he made good shidduchim (marriage matches) for them as well.
He, Dovid, was the eleventh, who was born when his father was already getting old. It seems like as such no one really paid much attention to him, and he was allowed to wander down the steps alone and follow his heart's desires.
In the summer he used to spend days laying by the river, and would make and play with toy swords and guns with his friends. Once he even rode on the back of a pig.
The last story was unbearable to his father, and once he saw that Dovid was too far gone to make a mentsch out of him, he sent him over to Chaimel Valkavnik.
Chaimel wasn't just anyone - he always carried his rabbinical ordination in his pocket wherever he went. When he gave his son Dovid over to him, he told him:
If you don't want to learn, then go work! Work will set you straight. He actually took to the work pretty quickly, and was soon considered a first-class tradesman.
Although at the time his profession seemed like a noble one, it nevertheless took a toll on his matchmaking prospects. Thus he ended up marrying Yentele the divorcee.
After the wedding, when he had to become drafted by the Russian army, he behaved like the other tradesmen. Better to go serve in the military than to maim oneself in order to avoid conscription. When others tried to help him do something to avoid serving, he said that he would rely on the merits of his forefathers. No one could make any compelling arguments against his response.
That day when he went to serve in the military, people lit candles and went to the graves of their ancestors to pray for his welfare, which was the Jewish tradition at the time. But Dovid didn't even want to fast.
They weighed him, measured him, and sent him to St. Petersburg with the tsar's regiment. To come back from such an ordeal, one really had to rely on the merit of one's forefathers.
His wife however did not take his departure mildly. She did everything she could - meaning she closed their business and went to see the Trisk Rebbe. However the gabbai didn't even let her in. She felt that the devil himself was trying to block her path, but she didn't let anyone get in her way. So she said to the gabbai:
If you don't let me in that door, then I'm going through the window. And that's exactly what happened. She went out to the street, tore open the window, and went over to stand right next to the Rebbe's table. The gabbai was very upset and tried to throw her out. Then the Rebbe himself got involved and said:
Daughter, tell me, what is weighing on your heart? She started sharing her concerns, describing how her husband had just been sent to St. Petersburg - and in the tsar's royal guard no less. And she asked him how the Rebbe - may he be blessed with good health - could stand to see a Jew eat from the army canteen. She could not leave the Rebbe without a blessing for her husband.
The Rebbe realized that this was not an easy task. Being sent to St. Petersburg as a soldier in the royal guard, that would be like pulling out a bone from one's neck - or going to war with the devil himself. But suddenly the Rebbe stood up from his chair and told her:
Go home - he won't serve out his conscription.
She went home happy and told everyone the good news, but with those words alone, she wasn't satisfied. So she traveled to St. Petersburg to personally share with Dovid the Rebbe's blessing. When she arrived at the barracks, she saw Dovid with the other soldiers on a white horse, with a gun and a sword, and a long pike in his hand, in his full soldier's regalia, and she thought he looked like the tsar himself. She approached him and gave him the Rebbe's blessing, but it did not make much of an impression on him - it appears as he was satisfied with his current situation.Shortly thereafter, the soldiers went through a series of rigorous training sessions, and David fell off of his horse. He dislocated his foot and was then freed from his military service.
When he got home, everyone finally understood the Rebbe's blessing - that he wouldn't ever complete his service.Yentele later went to the Rebbe and paid him for his blessing. All of her children and sons-in-law became Trisk Hasidim.
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
He was a simple Jew - he could hardly daven. The children used to call him Moshe the Goy. Once the shtetl's rabbinical judge (dayan) was passing by when the children were taunting Moshe, so the judge approached them and said:
I'll give you each a dollar if you call him instead 'Moshe the Jew.' And from then on, that's what we called him - Moshe the Jew.
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Noah Zelner was a former soldier who had served out his time: he was a tall and clumsy Jew who used to sell fruits and leftover vegetables. He used to hawk his goods at the top of his lungs, praising their qualities. When he was in a happy mood, he would also sing soldier marching songs. The non-Jews used to enjoy listening to his songs. When the first potatoes came to market, his voice was almost deafening:
Eight groshen for a pound! Ladies - potatoes, just eight groshen a pound - ladies! And so on.
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Yidele the Dibbuk and his father were Belz Hasidim. As is common by Hasidim, they would often travel to Belz to see their Rebbe. At that time, Belz was a part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, but Hasidim did not know much about passports. They relied on the Rebbe. After all, it's written in our sacred texts, no harm will come to those who go in pursuit of a mitzvah.
Once when they approached the border, the Hungarians ordered them to go through the woods, cross a small bridge, and then they would be in Austrian territory. Once they got to the bridge, they opened fire on the Hasidim. They all ran away, including Yidel's father.
When Yidele came back to the town, he was no longer the same person that he used to be. Of course, word got to the Rebbe, and he understood that something was off He came to the shtetl and went to the Belz shtibl, and in front of the entire community, he drove the dibbuk out of Yidele only using his left pinky. The Hasidim said that they'd seen a flame come out of his finger and afterwards, they found a small hole in the window pane of the shul. The dibbuk had departed, thank God, and no one was harmed in the process.
by Mendel Korn, Melbourne
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Azriel Finkelstein was one of the most frequently seen Jews in our shtetl. Though he had a hot temper, he was always ready to do a favor for someone. He worked at Linat ha-Tzadik and at Ezrah and also created the town's first Co-op.
Night and day he would often weigh wagons full of potatoes that were used in order to be distributed among the poor.
He also helped create the first orphanage and served as the manager there. He was also one of the first to serve on the city council of greater Hrubieszow and was a manager of the artisan's loan fund.
In the time of Grabski's rule, he was elected to serve as a delegate on the tax board, and as a result he always had to call out new decrees. He was always ready to do a favor, even to the point where he had to neglect his own businesses.
He inherited from his father a wine trade. He would often close up his shop to go to the board of taxes and intervene on someone's behalf.
He married a woman from Chelm. They had two children. None of them survived.
I worked with him in several institutions, and I know of his great sacrifices and struggle against antisemitism. He was also very sympathetic and understanding of the younger generation. Even once when we had to work hard to legalize our local library, Azriel Finkelstein would once again intervene.
We should never forget such a wonderful person!
by David Bar-Noor, Bnei Atarot, Israel
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
After the church square at the beginning of the Mitlava stood my grandfather's house next to the oil mill.
For many years, Polish farmers would come to press oil there. There was a blind horse that would move the machine which would grind the kernels. There used to always be a fire in the burner and the press would crush the warm, ground-up grains.
My grandfather Moshe was the greatest teacher in town. He was the unofficial rabbi. When Rabbi Yavetz passed away, the townspeople of Hrubieszow wanted my grandfather to officially take up the rabbinate, but he did not agree to do so.
In the evenings, my grandfather's house was full of people. Jews would come to him to seek his opinion on Jewish law, women would come to ask his opinion or receive a blessing against the evil eye, or they would seek help in marital disputes. His house was a large, warm, very Jewish home, and my grandfather served as a guide for those who had lost their way on the path of life.
He had ten children, all of whom married into good families and spread out among the surrounding area.
The eldest daughter traveled to the United States but died on the way, leaving small children who went to join their father in America. Now they are successful businessmen there.
His son Yudel and his wife died during the typhus epidemic in World War I. They were survived by their young daughter, Rukhl, who was raised by her grandfather, and who went through the seven layers of hell to survive the Holocaust. She now lives in America with her family.
In the surrounding area, his sons built up successful businesses. Chaim, the son from Grobowiec, was a trader of timber, grain, and leather. He was a wealthy Jew with a large family of seven daughters and one son.
In the village of Stefankevic, 15 kilometers from Hrubieszow, my grandfather had a daughter who had settled there with her son. The rest of her children were already married off. One of the daughter's children was Piniye Burshtein, who married Mariam, Yosel Kamashnmacher's daughter.
Itche, a second son, lived next to Hrubieszow in the village of Svinitin. Another son, Avrom, lived in the village of Manatich, 7 kilometer from Hrubieszow. The rest all stayed in Hrubieszow and had large families with lots of descendants.
For hundreds of years, the Brandel family lived and worked in Hrubieszow and its surroundings, working as both traders and producers of various goods. Hitler's murderous rampage, along with his Polish helpers, erased the family along with the rest of the Polish Jewry.
Honor to their memories!
by Yekhezkel Korn, New York, USA
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Among all the institutions for social welfare in Hrubieszow, one unique, warm-hearted woman, Chaya-Reyzl Schneider, stands out in particular. She accomplished so much that she was almost like an aid organization herself. She carried the entire burden of caring for the poor on her own shoulders. She was always busy helping the poor and the sick, and she always did it with a smile on her face. Summer and winter, rain or shine, no amount of snow or wind could stop her from aiding the sick and those in need.
Trudging through mud, she would not bring the goods that she had gathered directly into the house, but rather she would quietly open the closet in the entryway, put the things inside, and then she would murmur:
This should bring you a full recovery. She would often send for a doctor and bring people's prescriptions as well.When Kalman the Shoemaker and his wife both passed away, leaving behind twin boys, she took them into her home. The community theoretically was supposed to support the two orphaned boys, but she took on the burden herself as if it were nothing.
When her own situation took a turn for the worst and she could no longer support the boys on her own, she took them on shabbos to shul and held up the reading of the Torah until the community finally agreed to pay their share of support.
The bright memory of this unique woman and her modesty should linger in the hearts of all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who live in America and Israel.
by Nekhoma Goldberg, Tel Aviv, Israel
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Every morning, in both the heat of the summer and in the bitter cold of winter, Reyzele used to go around wearing a black shawl and a wide apron, carrying food and clothing to divide among the poor.
In Hrubieszow there were families who tried hard to hide their poverty. People were ashamed to admit the fact to other people and to their neighbors, so they simply suffered in silence.
But for Reyzl, people's needs were no secret. She knew every corner of the town and everyone's personal circumstances. She knew which families had no challah to eat on shabbos, and which houses had people who were very sick, but had no money to pay for a doctor. She also knew which children had been abandoned by their parents, which of them had to walk around without shoes, who needed a sweater, which children needed money for Hebrew School so that they would not be out on the streets - or God forbid, lose their Jewish identity entirely.
As winter approached, Reyzele would be in a great hurry. She had to find warm clothes for a great deal of people and with a few logs of wood warm up entire houses. Reyzele was well-known and greatly loved all over town, not only by those whom she helped, but also the well-to-do families that gave her the goods to distribute among them.
With a great deal of respect and discretion, she gave each needy family what they asked for. Reyzele never rejected any requests. She had a special quality of being able to go around town all day long, but nevertheless, she always looked happy and had a smile on her face.
Yes, she used to say, God is good, and there are also many good, dear Jews out there!On a particular Friday, after she brought firewood to the Nistiler Rebbe, Reyzele came home and said to her son, Getzl Schneider, that she wasn't feeling well, and asked for Leybl Becker's wife to come visit her. She needed to tell her to whom they would be distributing bread and challah later that day - since we couldn't let anyone go hungry on shabbos. She died later that very day.
After her death, she received all the honor that she deserved. Many people gathered at her funeral, and her coffin was carried through all the synagogues as a sign of respect. Regarding her loss, her eldest son Shimeon said fittingly, that she wasn't just a mother to her own children, but to many, many other people in the town.
by Dvoyra Gertl, Tel Aviv, Israel
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
My early childhood was a mixture of beauty and shadow. Down by the Hutchva (Huczwa) river and its frog-dappled rivelts that wove through Vaitavskvo Street was always the place in my young memory where I would catch a glimpse of tall, thin Moshe Kaminyar.
He used to sway when he walked, like a fish out of water. One could spot his red chin from far away. They used to say in town that he got the mark from a burner in Motel Stokerman's oil plant. A few meager hairs on his chin plus just two remaining teeth made him look like a [contemporary caricature of a] Chinese man wearing Jewish clothing.
Moshe Kaminyar walking down the street probably felt like Noah just leaving the Ark after the Flood. He jerked himself forward awkwardly, and following in his footsteps with trembling unease came his Itkele. When Moshe would mumble something with his lips, his wife would run up to him with her little legs, and like a deer - stretch out her neck towards him. She would stretch out her neck and await his command. She would then be disappointed, for he had only muttered a small prayer.
Moshe always woke up with the dawn, davened, and then went straight to Motel Stokerman's oil plant, where he worked from sunrise to sunset with a horse, which had its eyes covered with a sack and would go around and around to press a can of oil each day.
A second horse belonged to Moshe Kaminyar, but he didn't have his eyes covered.
His wife, Itkele, used to go around all day and pray for the good health of Stokerman's family. And in the event that the Kaminyar family needed a couple of coins in their pocket, Moshe had a second profession. From the Kerameslen, he used to carry two pails of water from household to household to divide among the townspeople.
He was also an honest man. In the dark he would try to measure with his hand to see if there were any drops missing from the water heater. If any of the local schoolboys crossed paths with him on the street, he could easily be provoked with the following words:
Moshe - the water heater's not full! That was enough to fill his eyes with pain and rage.Who knows how much pain was in his heart the moment he left this world?
by Meir Hoffman, Kibbutz Shefayim, Israel
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
It happened on a summer shabbos, very early. It was eerily quiet - deathly quiet. Everyone is asleep - even the Psalm-reciters and the Psalm-risers are still sweating in their beds. The handful of non-Jewish professionals who lived in the neighborhood had not yet left their houses for work. At the Lipinsky family, whose mother and daughters spoke good Yiddish, one couldn't yet hear the sound of doors opening - and their livestock and pigs were still waiting patiently in their stalls for their morning meal. And Stefa, the eldest daughter, still a virgin who sent all of her desires to church in prayer, lay bundled up in her innocent bed, her mind not yet disentangled from sweet dreams of Jesus. She sees before her the tall priest with his prominent Adam's apple, with his cross hung over his wide chest.
Not far from her lies the second-eldest sister, Stasha, who had been eaten away at by the poison of Jewish hatred, worked conveniently enough for the government, and came frequently into contact with the town's population, which was mainly made up of Jews. She was always all-business and rarely got into conversation with her Jewish clientele, asked what they wanted, glared sharply with her anti-semitic eyes, and replied to insult. Her older overgrown brother Yashek with his Aryan-pointed nose, who never wishes his Jewish neighbours a good morning, is still sunk deeply into his Old-Bachelor dreams. Only in one neighbouring house, that of Motel Raliyenek and Dovid-Moshe Yankev's, it is not quiet - it's clear from the movement there that something has happened. A couple of their neighbours have already woken and are out on the street - looking frightened in one direction.
The sudden opening and shutting of doors had also caught the attention of the childless couple, Moshe Kaminyar and his wife Itkele. Itkele pinched her husband into action and set him out on the street - making a shushing gesture with her finger. Moshe waited still half asleep and out of sorts - still not sure what was happening.
All the neighbors had already gathered and their eyes traveled to the grain silo, from which one could hear quiet footsteps and a quiet shuffling about.
Yasha Hoffman, Dovid Moshe Yankev's youngest son, had decided that as soon as he saw the first morning star, that he would go outside and greet the early dawn of summer. On his way out, he noticed that someone was fiddling around with the lock from Motel Ralink's grain silo. Not being able to make out exactly who was doing what, the figure entered the grain silo. Yasha didn't wait long to rouse himself and shuffle after him, and upon noticing that the lock had been cut, woke up the neighbors himself.
And thus the neighbors had already gathered, staring mutely at the grain silo, fearing its unearthly stillness, and not quite knowing what to do. In the midst of the uneasiness and helplessness, one of the people gathered in the crowd mustered up a bit of courage and opened up the door wide for everyone to see. There standing in the doorway, looking stunned and confused with a backwards-facing cap, stood the culprit who'd been scurrying around in the dark. Before everyone's eyes stood a well-known Jew, a family man with a beard, the town thief, Motte.
It was as though a cat had caught everyone's tongue - no one moved - and the defendant was himself frozen in place with his backwards hat and two empty sacks in his hands. The silent tension lasted for some time until my grandfather, Dovid (a Jew who knows how to give a piece of his mind), approached him and said in a loud voice:
Motte, Motte, a Jew with a wife and children - how long will you maintain your income via such means? And even worse, on a shabbos??!The tension had finally been broken and the crowd began to disperse. Motte with his two empty sacks, dejected and ashamed from the ugly experience, started shuffling away.
by Moshe Moskal
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
Avrom Gruber's father was a woodworker who taught his sons how to make a living via hard manual labor. He was a man who understood the value of life and made every effort to spend his free time learning. He used to come in just before dark into the Trisk Shul to study the Talmud and secular subjects as well. He prepared for and passed the toughest state-level High School exit exam. At that time in Hrubieszow, that was no small accomplishment.
He didn't see any future for Jewish youth in Hrubieszow, and he wanted to pull himself out of the surrounding society. He became a Labor Zionist and dedicated his heart and soul to the party. As the party secretary, he took an active role in organizing the Brenner Library and the Tel Chai School, where he also served for a time as its secretary. He took on the full burden of the movement and was involved in negotiations with the teachers so that they wouldn't go on strike.
The movement and the school were dearer to him than his own personal life. He tried to emigrate to Israel, but unfortunately he was forced to put off his aliyah as a result of his weak state of health. He was afraid that he would become a burden on society. Against his will he had to build his life in Hrubieszow. He worked at a mill as a warehouse-keeper, with the hope that he would eventually make it to Israel.
In wartime, he and his wife Yete Privner and two children went to Ludmir. When the NKVD arrested me in Ludmir to send me away, I received a comforting letter from him.
Moshe, don't worry stay strong. We'll see each other one day in the land of Israel.
When I returned after the war, I never found Avrom Gruber or his family members among the living. I was informed that he and his wife and children were killed in a shtetl near Ludmir.
Aaron Brenner was one of the most active participants in the founding of the Labor Zionist Party in Hrubieszow. He handled the negotiations with the Bundists to acquire some books from the Peretz Library. With his help, a library was founded with the title Y. H. Brenner, where party members along with Freiheit and non-party members would exchange books twice a week.
Where couldn't one find Aaron Brenner? He carried out negotiations regarding a May 1st community demonstration with the Bund and FFS, and always to great success. He negotiated the general Zionist takeover of the HaTikvah School. The building of a new building for the school, even after being able to raise the necessary funds for the project, was accomplished thanks to his participation. He neglected his own personal and professional life and suffered financially as a result he was heart and soul devoted to the movement.
He didn't manage to meet the requirements in making it to Israel. For a time, Aaron tried to get a certificate, but without any success. Aaron at that time had wanted to make aliyah during the Second Aliyah. He thought that he would leave his wife and children behind and sell his belongings. Unfortunately for him, the Second Aliyah became a disaster and he was left financially ruined and broken.
Aaron Brenner during the famous Death March was trampled by the Hitler youth. I saw him for the last time on Monday April 12th, when we were separated into different camps me to Sakal and he to Belz. We said good-bye with our eyes and never saw each other again.
The well-built, faithful party member, Yosef Lederkremer, also did not make it to Israel. We used to say about Yosef that he was like a soldier on the front lines. He always carried out every task that was handed to him, and he was the President of the organization that always had to answer to the mayor and the police, who were always looking for some kind of flaw. Yosef always had to defend the organization from their inquiries.
During every demonstration made by the league in order to assist the workers of Israel, Yosef was always the first in line and always the one who held himself accountable to make sure that everything was in order.
In Hrubieszow during a certain period, the party's activities were conducted under the auspices of less-than-qualified individuals. Yosef was the one who managed to receive permission to legitimize the organization from the city administration, he was the president of the union, the founder of the Sports' Club The Worker, and he took an active role in the management of the school.
Yosef was very active in the building of a new building for the school, which we had never even managed to renovate.
During WWII, Yosef remained in Hrubieszow. We met on several occasions. He wasn't worried about himself, but rather about the school and the library.
We went together to the registration at the wagons. That was the last time we walked down the same path. He was later released along with 40 other Jews. After that, Yosef was never seen again.
Meir Hoffman Kibbutz Shefayim, Israel
Translated by Mira Rivka Blum
The hustle and bustle of yesterday's market has become still and quiet. Some of the fair's noise just trickled away into the quiet Hutchva [River]. The morning light pouring over the two rows of shops is clear, such that standing next to Moshe Khomer's Men's Clothing & Accessories, one can always see as far as the Kosher Butcher Shops. One can watch a stray dog finish off an abandoned couple of bones. Old Yitzchak Dovid Katzev, Matte Zimet's father, is also already up and about. He opens his shop and scurries about where the women had been rushing the day before to make their last minute purchases. Yitzchak Dovid's only son, the tall and wide-chested Matte, an oft-noticed figure among the store-goers, remains at home. He is busy fussing over his beloved children. He helps his wife and his housekeeper to send the kids off to school.
Matte Zimet's character is such that he never rushes. He never walks with a quick pace, and he keeps his head a bit lowered, which is to be expected of a satisfied only child. It does bother him to get involved with a rough crowd. If he sees an injustice, he doesn't hold himself on the sidelines. On a market day or during a military recruitment day when the non-Jews especially enjoy tormenting Jews, Motte Zimet is the first to launch himself right into the heart of the action. Rubbing his hands together, he looks for the one who most deserves a good licking and people say that a punch from Motte is worth its weight in gold. He gets good use out of his well-taken-care-of hands, and woe is to the person on the receiving end of their blows. Once Motte gets going, Zundel, Yosef, and a couple other hot-tempered youths, along with both of the Brosh brothers show up to join in the fun. The younger generation doesn't need a singletree their hefty hands fly left and right without a care in the world.
Melech Priver was a Jew who could beautifully recite a page of Talmud, but couldn't sit still in one place. He always seemed ill at ease. He was always on the move, and he always had to know what was going on in the neighboring shops. Even on Friday he still seemed uneasy and would circle his shop, where he had the habit of rubbing the stump of a finger that had been cut off on his right hand.
It's already been many years since he was forced to present himself for military service, but the severed finger refuses to be at peace. He wants to be noticed from time to time, and he reminds Melech of his time in the military.
When Melech gets tired of pacing back and forth, he turns to his neighbor Vova, a tall Jew with a blond goatee, who spends his free time in the doorway with his hands tucked behind him. He stands there and stays silent he hardly ever utters a word.
Melech tries to provoke him a bit he wants him to say something, but he is unsuccessful. Vova remains silent, and he only flashes a smile in return.
We can also catch a glimpse of Long Hannah, with her shofar-like nose, whose neck always has a scarf wrapped around it. She left the housework for her daughters and was the sole breadwinner for her household, with her mini wardrobe full of ribbons. After a day at the market she has to organize the goods and prepare the new merchandise for Sunday. The non-Jewish women from the local villages are well acquainted with Hannah's little wardrobe, and where to find all the jewelry one could want for a bride-to-be. She had enchanted their hearts such that they felt that only by her could they find that which they needed to please the groom. She runs her business with an iron first. If one of the future partner's of one of her clients starts poking his nose around among the merchandise, she threatens to ruin the wedding, such that the priest will no longer offer his blessing to the couple in church.
That's how Hannah has run her business for a fair amount of time, and from her wardrobe she also puts together a dowry for her three daughters.
But on one winter's day, Hannah and her wardrobe almost had a major disaster. It was a cold day. Many of the Polish peasants stayed in their villages and didn't bother schlepping into town. Among the shops the atmosphere was completely dead. A few shoppers open a door and Hannah as usual is with her wardrobe. She found a comfy spot to set up shop and was all wrapped up such that all you could see from her face was her overgrown, reddened nose. It appears as though underneath her she had set up a stove top that was burning away. Being all wrapped up in furs along with the stove top kept her nice and warm, and so she started to take a nap. The nap turned into a deep sleep. It seems as though the flames from the stove started to lick the edges of her petticoat, such that it began to catch fire. But Hannah continues her nap, sleeps deeply, and doesn't yet feel the heat that was rising beneath her. A pillow of smoke began to form and roll out from under her dress and her tightly wrapped-up feet.
She began to feel warmer, which seemed like a dream come true, and Hannah thinks that it must be already evening when she is back in her warm little house. Her oldest daughter, Rivke, already prepared her bed for the night, but Hannah isn't ready to go to bed yet. She still wants to enjoy a homey, cozy little nap.
At this moment a miracle occurred. The neighbor, Nokhemche, who sells boots and is one of the town's comedians, just emerged from his store and noticed the blaze that had started forming under Hannah's feet.
He grabbed a hammer and started knocking on Hannah's door. The neighbors had already emerged from their houses and shops and Hannah finally roused herself. She didn't really realize what was going on, but people's screams had woken her up. The women started working to free Hannah from the petticoat that had caught fire and to help her come to her senses. Hannah is entirely confused and can't budge. She looks around with sleepy innocence and slowly starts to move her body in fits and starts.
The pot that Hannah had put underneath her lies in the corner abandoned, but Nokhemche the joker wouldn't let her be. He stayed right by her side with his hammer still in hand, telling her that she was saved by a real miracle.
Not far from Hannah's little wardrobe with the ribbons, one can find the leather store run by the well-learned, gentle widow, Rivke Schuman. She lives alone after her second husband passed away, and her good children have settled elsewhere, some of them in Warsaw and others in Israel.
Fortunately the eldest, smartest daughter, Rukhele, with her expressive blue eyes, comes over for a visit from time to time. Then her apartment becomes cozier, and one hears lively footsteps, conversation; she doesn't have to sit on her porch, lonely, watching the passers-by. During such visits, she also doesn't have to listen to the soft noises that carry over from the neighboring priests' orchard.
The presence of the dense, always-silent orchard is unsettling to Rivke. It's always quiet you can't even hear the rustling of the leaves or the swaying of the trees. It's as if the trees had been planted were already dead, so that there would be a place where people could come to make trouble, or maybe even the dead themselves come by night from the Catholic cemetery to flirt with the Polish priest?
Rivke takes pleasure in her leather business. In the bustle of the shop's activity, she finds some time for herself, and she is able to schmooze with her clients and neighbors. A frequent customer is her next-door neighbor, the respectful member of the Maskilim, Itchke Morgenstern. In the breaks between selling goods, they chat about the latest stories in the paper and gossip a bit about people in the town. Rivke shares with him the latest books that she's read. Rivke feels especially good on Friday, after Thursday's market, and on the evening before shabbos.
On Friday she leaves a bit later, because she doesn't really have any reason to hurry. She emerges fully primped up with eyes that glow with the special energy of shabbos and a radiant smile to match. She carries with her the expanded weekend newspaper, cleans her reading glasses, and starts reading with great joy. She doesn't start with the newspaper's articles, but rather scans the names of the authors maybe she'll come across a translated piece from her youngest son, Yisroel, who lives in Jerusalem and writes for the worker's newspaper Davar. She smiles to herself and says:
Who would have thought what time can do, that from all my children it should be Yisroel that should take up an interest in worker's issues, especially when it was his older brother Moshe who considered himself a Bundist, that used to pester his younger brother about why he doesn't get more interested in the working man's plight. Yisroel is close to the worker's organizations and all of his letters from Jerusalem are written in the spirit of labor-Zionism.
It's just a shame, she thinks, that his father did not live to see his son grow up into the man he is today he would have drawn a great deal of nachas from his son.
At the end of the row of shops, where the two-pronged path to the little park where one can find the market and its stalls, one can find Yoshua Waldman's store. He inherited his boot shop from his father, the famous trader and wealthy businessman, Hersh Waldman. The Waldman family had divided up their trade into two parts, though almost all of them traded in ready-to-wear boots. Yoshua also inherited from his father a tenement house. It was an enormous dwelling with many apartments and shops packed inside. The tenement house also had a wide entrance with a large yard which bordered the church square. The large yard was often used by the neighbors. They used to air out their blankets there.
Many years ago a part of the building had been taken over by Russian soldiers, who Tsar Nicholas used to send to stay in the town. The soldiers used to do their exercises in the large yard, and often one could hear before one went to sleep the well-known hymn, May God Protect the Tsar. The hymn used to make the Jews feel rather unsettled. Before their eyes they could see the enormity of Russia with the magnetic pull of Siberia, and many in the community used to shut their shutters during this time.
On the Russian holidays, Jews used to avoid the building and the yard entirely, just to avoid falling into the hands of a drunken Russian soldier. One usually didn't make it out whole from such an entanglement.
The father, Hersh Waldman, was one of the most frequently seen Hasidim of the Trisk Rebbe. The Rebbe used to stay with him. His son inherited this relationship as well, and is considered a mean counselor to the Rebbe. The younger brother, Nokhem, does not seem to have developed the same level of business acumen.
On Friday Yoshua is not as directly involved in running his store, especially since after a market day, few customers drop in. So instead he goes to take a dip in the mikvah and takes the opportunity to study a bit from the Talmud tractate Shabbos.
Last Friday Yoshua had something unusual happen. The devil seemed to interfere with his shabbos plans, and Yoshua was feeling a bit uneasy. From his house he went straight to the mikvah and got in a nice, warm bath. It was heavenly.
After his dip in the mikvah, he suddenly had a just-before-shabbos-desire overtake his thoughts, and he went to a back alley where no one would disturb him. But there you go, as if he popped up from under the earth, appeared before him Yashkele Schuster, who greeted him with a warm welcome and stretched out his meaty paw. Yoshua pretended not to see him, but Yashkele's hand only crept closer, rather than abandoning its mission, until it was almost waving right before his eyes. He didn't want either party to be shamed, so he extended his pinky finger. Yashkele was satisfied with the gesture then again, did he have a choice? But Yoshua was troubled by the incident Yashkele had disturbed his shabbos.
Hatzkel Frost was a short, broad-chested Jew with a face that seemed like it belonged to someone who was well fed. He is always very matter-of-fact and did not get involved in neighborly gossip. He doesn't slip he moves with great ease, and he organizes his goods on the table that were leftover from the market.
Those that had arranged to come that day ended up not showing up, and his wife Basha, also a talented saleswoman, and moreover someone who doesn't hesitate to do a mitzvah, had stayed at home that Friday. Hatzkel is actually glad that she's not there, because he is freed from listening to her constant advice.
It is now cool and dark in the leather shop, and the merchandise looks down on him with a friendly gaze among the shelves, and he answers them with a smile. The smile reminds him of a nigun (melody), and he starts humming to himself.
In the middle of his humming he remembered that the town purchasing agent, Yekhiel Gertner, had brought him some young oxen yesterday from Warsaw, and Friday is the best day to [process] them. Hatzkel was in the process of discarding a leftover cowhide on the table when the Litvak Benyomin Valkovnik showed up to say that he was looking for newly finished leather goods to trade.
The Litvak Benyomin Valkovnik has already been in the town for many years nobody remembers exactly when he showed up or where he came from. We only knew that the stiff Litvak, with a profession that had to deal with unpleasant smells, had dared to invite the mother Haskalah into his home. He sent his boys to the non-Jewish high school, and his home was far from being religious.
More than one of the Hassidic girls had tried to get the attention of one of his sons.
By now Benyomin had already left and Hatzkel stood satisfied by the long table and fiddled with his crooked leather knife to cut through the piece of cowhide.
Tema Shalbeinishes, who shows up on Fridays in her dry-goods store, was in a bit of a hurry this Friday. She was still upset about yesterday's market day.
She was angry at two particular individuals. She can't forgive old Moshe Khumor for raking the leaves between the shops and bringing mud into her shop as a result. And she's even more angry at her husband, Mordechai Yosef, who allows such things to happen. Why couldn't he have just got a broom and a shovel and raked away the mud back to Old Khumor? It's always up to Teme to make confrontations.
Regarding these complaints, Mordechai Yosef has the following response:
Why then doesn't the other neighbor, Tevel Cohen, say anything? Moshe Khumor rakes his muck over to him as well. But Tevel doesn't take it personally and doesn't want to make any trouble with Khumor. Also Tevel Cohen's son, Avraham, couldn't care less about the Battle of the Raked Leaves.
But Tema simply can't wrap her head around such excuses. When a rainy day comes, or there is a day with dirty snow on the ground, and she notices that old Moshe Khumor starts sweeping with a pleasant disposition. When she catches him in the act sweeping the mud right into her dry goods store, her heart just wants to explode with rage. Once, she's almost certain, as a result of such heart pain, she collapsed right in the middle of a puddle.
The shops begin to settle into their Friday stillness. Some of the neighbors are sitting outside with their hands folded, while others leaf through holy books.
The neighbor that is across the way, the widow Fayge, who keeps food on her table by selling treyf cigarettes, has not yet arrived. She is preparing the dishes for shabbos, but she's not in a hurry. Non-Jewish customers don't come on Friday, and Jews won't buy any treyf cigarettes for shabbos. She doesn't want anyone to commit a sin because of her product.
Moishele Buchtreger's blacksmith shop is already open. The large iron doors were wide open, but one couldn't hear any footsteps or the clanging of iron from within. It appears as though Moishele Buchtreger had fallen asleep for a short nap, because he was obviously tired out by yesterday's market day.
His wife, Hancha, who is always calm and modest, and who is always so kind to the clients, had stayed at home. She helps her household staff prepare for shabbos. That's also how her mother, who was the daughter-in-law from a rabbi, behaved when she wanted to fulfill a mitzvah the day before shabbos.
The blacksmith shop's window display, which was put up shortly after Moishele Buchtreger's wedding, hasn't changed a bit among all the other stores over the years. Various iron patterns lay untouched for years in the large windows, covered in iron spin webs and watch those who pass by with wide iron eyes. They see everything that comes into pay among the rows of shops.
Hannah Yochet's large leather shop is still closed, but her ringing voice can already be heard. Hannah Yochet is a woman like quicksilver and has already been a widow for many years.
Everyone knows Hannah Yochet. Even when her man was still alive, she was already known as a woman of valor. All around her are her daughters and grandchildren. Everyone has gotten involved in their mother's trade, working with leather and always in consultation with their quicksilver mother.
Her children and the large leather business kept her so occupied, that she forgot to remarry. Even on Fridays she remains heavily involved in her business, especially because many of her orders from Warsaw usually arrive on Friday.
It seems like she is more comfortable with that kind of lifestyle. There is plenty of time on Friday to pick up the new merchandise and make an inventory of the goods.
Hannah is a bit upset today. Her voice that usually rings out so clearly is trembling. She starts to get angry at her primary purchasing agent, Yekhiel Gartner.
How can this be? It's because it's already after lunchtime and the new merchandise still hasn't arrived.
Hersh Leib Treger
The hefty, wide-framed Hersh Leib Treger has also already arrived. On Friday he works for Hannah Yochet. Friday's meat broth had already been packed with a half a dozen biscuits. There was no longer any trace left of his earlier mustache. Now he's pacing back and forth outside Hannah Yochet's store, lets out a loud Treger-style cough, and alerts those around him that he is ready to get to work.
Hersh Leib Treger is already tired from pacing around and coughing, so he takes his porter's rope and starts to fiddle around with it. He likes the rope, because it is neatly bound and stiff. With such rope it is easy to unload large boxes. He stands there outside the store and smiles, waiting for the moment when Hannah Yochet asks him about his family. He will share with much pride (nachas) about, keyn-eyn-hore, his healthy sons.
Smiling there on the street he heard a familiar giddy-up! Sure enough, the dark-complexioned Shloyme was approaching with his two chestnut-colored horses harnessed up to his farm wagon. Hersh Leib slings the rope over his shoulder and prepares to meet his youngest son.
His youngest son had already passed the bridge. He drives playfully with his horses, who are strong like lions, and searches with his eyes for his wide-framed father.
Hersh Leib is already standing next to him. He looks at him warmly and with trembling hands pets the lions. He moves such that he's standing exactly in between the horses. It seems like they're sweating, so he hopes that he can make them feel better with a pet. Feeling a new hand on their backs, the horses neigh and shift their feet. The father and son don't say anything, they just look happily at one another, and the dark-complexioned Shloyme breaks the silence with a question.
Father, how do you like my chestnut-colored horses?On the 12th of December, 1578, King Stephen Bathrory grants to the Jews of Hrubieszow the right to build houses and stores and to take up any kind of trade or profession.
All is Still and Quiet in Likel
In Likel, it's especially quiet on a Friday, when it's always a bit dark and cool, and where one uses the market stalls simply as a way to pass through the other side of the fair. The widow, Hannah Sefiras, who had a little shop where she sells herring and old iron parts, stayed at home to help her older mother get ready for shabbos.
Hanna Volik, for whom the dark, narrow, Likel functions as a covert method to make some extra well-deserved income, is also not there today. On Friday he sleeps late and lies completely sprawled out, ready to inhale his mother's shabbos dishes. His mother also is glad for the fact that her son isn't hanging around among the village wagons this Friday.
Also the card players, who play the game Red wins and Black loses, and who use the shop's back alleys for their black market earnings, are also absent today. On Friday they hang out in the houses of the underworld where they bring gifts and make a name for themselves, because on the last market day they managed to fool a couple of suckers out of their money.
The first one to show up is Moshe Khumor
The first one who showed up in the Clothing Accessories Store was Moshe Khumor. The neighbors say, that yesterday's market day did not allow him to get any sleep, which led to such behavior: Friday morning, he steals into the attic house, bundles up the kerchiefs and wraps up the money in a separate shawl, counting his total earnings for the week. After finishing taking inventory and tucking away the money in some safe place, he comes down smiling to greet the neighbors with a cheerful, Good morning.
The neighbors say that Old Khumor is always in a good mood on Fridays. He is much more talkative, and he communicates clearly, though he does so less when he has a stuffy nose.
After him, Leib Klug shows up among the shops. First and foremost, he takes a good look at his primary competitor since as long as he can remember, the Buchtregers. Then he slowly takes down the iron bar and puts it quietly next to the open doors. Leib tries to stay calm, chews on the tip of his beard, and his eyes try to focus on some faraway point, above the roofs of the shops. Today, the jingle of the doorbell wouldn't remind him of the Buchtregers, since they have an invalid in the family. On Fridays, the doorbell lays unused in its box on the table.
Last but not least, the person to make the final appearance that Friday is the make-up seller, a woman from an illustrious family, Temerl. The laid-back Temerl, who measures her words like pearls, doesn't rush. Why should she hurry? She doesn't have many children to feed. On Friday she comes out just to put things in order. She makes sure that all the cans and jars of make-up that had been uncovered after a day at the market are tightly shut, and at the same time, she chats with her neighbors.
The typical behavior of Abba Finkelstein is to stay at home on Fridays. Early in the morning, the silent and gentle Abba lulls about in his opulent silk robe, gets settled in a comfortable armchair, and peruses his still unread newspapers. The next-door neighbors are already used to his Friday routine of strolling about among the quiet rooms.
Friday starts to wear out and shabbos starts drawing nearer. The shopkeepers start to get tired and yawn as they poke their heads out of the stores, awaiting the arrival of Leibush the Shamesh to come around and tell them when it's time for them to close already.
The agile Sender Licht had already brought down the latest batch of boots from the Swinitener shoemaker from their hanging places on the walls and stands ready at the door to start preparing for shabbos.
The first to come out on the street is the short seller of clothing accessories, Yenkele, the red-headed son of Leizer. He leans against the half-open door and pulls at the tips of his frayed blond beard. He always feels a little unsettled by the Shamesh's door-rattling - it takes him a couple of minutes to remember what's happening. He brusquely squints his eyes, bolts the second half of the door shut, and shrugging his shoulders, heads on home.
Gitl Weiss, the oft-seen dry-goods storekeeper, is already on the street. She says good-bye to everyone in a gentle, refined fashion, and lingers between the stores as she waits patiently for the heavy set of keys and padlocks that her second husband, Yoshua Lerer, should soon be bringing.
As if he popped out of the group, her neighbor Moshe Radamer appeared suddenly. He croaks out with his hoarse voice a good shabbos and starts to head on out.
When Mendele Kamashnik's high-framed shoulders began to sense the coming of shabbos, he quickly put away his tailor shears. Pulling out a cigarette, he heads out onto the street.
Before he managed to fill his asthma-inflicted lungs with a bit of fresh air, he saw the wealthy son-in-law, Itchele Nay, who had already waited patiently for his father-n-law, Motel Pomerantz, approaching in order to find out whether he can close up shop already. Mendele took advantage of the opportunity to ask his generous and pious son-in-law what he had read as of late in the newspapers.
The doors connecting the shops had already been shut. An eerie, hollow sound lingered in the air. Four-footed furry creatures started to pop out of the various nooks and crannies. With a squeal they started to devour the leftover food that had been thrown out. Soon the night guard will come by and tap his stick over the locks, as if to announce that those creatures remaining inside are the shop's true owners.
On the History of Jewish Trade in Hrubieszow
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