[Page 234]

There Were Two Brothers

(from “Those Who Deviated From the Group”)

by M. Spergel

They arrived in town one day; they came from somewhere and appeared in Lizhensk. They were two older lads, orphans, wearing tattered and worn out clothing. Nobody knew anything about them, or from where they came.

One morning, frightful screams were heard in the town. We gathered together and saw that the two lads were bruised badly, and the younger one was shouting loudly “God boga! God boga!”[6].

From that time, he had the nickname Bogatz (which has a double meaning of god and a rich man). The older of the two was tall, strong, with wide shoulders. His eyes exuded evil and his mouth spouted out a stream of invective as the gates of hell. Everyone was afraid of him as if he were some demon. He was illiterate, and he made his living as a porter. I remember him constantly wearing a thick rope around his waist, and always dirty with flour from the sacks that he used to unload from the wagons and carry to the bakeries. He was unwashed and his hair uncombed. He slept and ate amongst the gentiles. During the day he would go to their stalls and purchase some ham or thick sausage, which he would swallow down quickly, taking alternate bites from the sausage and the whole loaf of bread that was in his hand.

We kept our distance from him as much as possible, out of fear of his wildness and his great strength.

The Jews did not consider him as a Jew and the gentiles did not consider him as a gentile. They called him Ivan, however nobody knew his real name. It is very strange that on Yom Kippur, Ivan would lie on the lawn in the synagogue courtyard, alone, silent and forlorn for the entire day.

I was a young child and it was a festival. I do not remember which festival it was, but it was not Yom Kippur. I was about to enter the synagogue and behold, Ivan was lying down in the synagogue lawn. I was surprised, since it was not Yom Kippur, and I did not know why Ivan was there that day. I thought that perhaps he had thoughts of repentance. My small heart was that of a Jewish child, full of thoughts of reward and punishment, hell (Gehinnom) and the Garden of Eden. My heart was pained for him, my mercy was aroused, and I wished to comfort him, to relieve his depression and to help him along the path to repentance. I did not wish him to be thrown into the cauldrons of burning pitch in Gehinnom. I approached him, with my heart pounding. I did not know how to start, how to express my feelings of mercy toward him and my wish to help him. I coughed and said:

“Reb Ivan…”

I could not continue. For at that moment, he burst out with a storm, and thunderclouds gathered from above. Ivan rose up in a hurry from his place… I succeeded in fleeing. He did not touch me, however the half brick that he threw at me flew just past my head. I was lucky to have been saved from a disaster.

From that time onward, he was a topic of my childhood nightmares.

I remember that for many years, Ivan lived alone and forlorn in Lizhensk, separated also from his “brother” as if he never knew him.

Once, when I entered the Beis Midrash in the morning, I saw him lying face up on a bench, behind the stove. He was surrounded by children and adults, and he was bloated all over and unconscious.

Three days later, Ivan died and was buried behind the gate of the cemetery.

On that day, dozens of dogs gathered in the yard of the cemetery near his grave, howling and barking endlessly. The Jews of Lizhensk said:

“The dogs are lamenting the death of Ivan, may peace be upon him. The other brother, knows as Reb Mordechai Bogatz, then became part of the Jewish landscape of Lizhensk. He grew a beard and peyos, and wore a black hat and kapote. On the Sabbath, he wore a streimel and black bekishe (Hassidic hat and cloak), and came to the synagogue to worship along with the rest of the Jews.

He got married according to the laws of Moses, raised a family and ate kosher food. For his livelihood, he acted as a small-scale middleman, particularly among the gentiles in the horse trade. I don't know if he earned enough to make ends meat, however I always saw him on the days of the fair spurring on horses, slapping their flanks and praising his “merchandise” to his buyers. After the fairs, he would come to my father's tavern and drink together with the gentiles as one of them.

He did not have to worry about his livelihood anymore, for his wife, the “Bogatzka”, concerned herself with that. She was a professional beggar from her youth. On weekdays she would stand at the entrance to the grave of Rebbe Elimelech of holy blessed memory, and would not permit anyone to enter the gravesite unless they gave her requested dues. People were afraid of her strength, and gave her what she requested. On Sabbath and festival mornings, she would go to the doors of the rich people with a large sack on her back and collect cakes and strudel. She would not accept chala. She would bestow various blessings upon her benefactors, each according to the situation. Woe to a person who would offer her only a chala, for then her blessing would be turned into a stream of invective which was worse than a curse.

Mordechai Bogatz died and left a widow and orphans.

Death came to them by means of the demonical German murderers.

[Page 236]

Motteleh – The Fool of Lizhensk

by Matityahu Spergel

(from “Those Who Deviated From the Group”)

{Photo page 236 – uncaptioned, seemingly the fool of Lizhensk}

We also had our own fool.

One's lot in life is not something predicable. It depends on comparison with the lot of others, for better or for worse. Therefore it was good for everyone in a town to be able to compare himself to someone who is less intelligent, less successful, less adept at interpersonal relations, etc. This was the role of the “town fool” in every town. It was impossible for a Jewish town to not have someone like this with whom one could “pride oneself in the disgrace of the fool”.

The name of our fool was Mottel or Mottenu.

He was born into a poor and forsaken household. He was an orphan from his childhood; he did not know his parents; and he did not know any form of childhood.

His mother died while she was still nursing him, and his father roved from town to town to solicit donations. He returned to his “family” only on very rare occasions.

Mottele grew up without a steady supply of food and without appropriate and well fitting clothing. In the summer he would borrow a hat that was too large for his head. It would rest upon his ears and hide his eyes. His body was covered with rags that were never washed or aired out. His swollen feet were shod in shoes that were too large and worn out. In the winter, he wore a hat that was so big that it covered his face up to his nose, and his head was pointed forward. He wandered about town aimlessly and nonsensical utterances issued forth from his mouth. He spent his days in the Beis Midrash near the oven, and at night he slept between the oven and the sink. The Beis Midrash was his home, and its worshippers were his parents. To his good fortune, among these “parents” there was one person who sincerely cared for him, Reb Yossel the teacher. He was a believing Jew, upright and good hearted, and he tended to him with an understanding and forgiving smile. He would provide him with food and clothing to the best of his ability.

To us children, Mottenu was the source of constant amusement. We would spend time with him and be amused by his antics, and in this manner we also came to value Reb Yossel the teacher and his deeds.

At one point the news spread that Mottele had reached his thirteenth birthday and attained the age of Bar Mitzvah. Shortly, it was rumored, Reb Yossel would arrive with a pair of tefillin and arrange a ceremony whereby Mottele would put on tefillin. It was as if a strange occurrence was about to occur, mixed up and wondrous. How could someone who does not know the form of a letter put on tefillin? How could he pray? How could he recite a blessing?

We stood in the Beis Midrash from the morning waiting for the event. In the meantime we surrounded Mottenu, we mocked him, played tricks on him and amused ourselves. He stood in the center, nodding his head like a large ox, his mouth uttering moans on occasion, and his lips with the smile of an incoherent person. He did not pay attention to our mocking. He was absorbed within himself.

In the meantime Reb Yossel the teacher arrived, glowing with the joy of the mitzvah, as the true host of the event who knew how great the mitzvah was that awaited him as he brought Mottenu into the yoke of commandments and Judaism.

He took out a new pair of tefillin from the festive sack, lifted the left sleeve of the celebrant, and tied up the tefillin straps as he recited the blessing in a loud voice. Mottele groaned something incoherent, and we children answered Amen in a loud voice, accompanied by thunders of laughter and joy. This happy event did not take place for only one day, for Reb Yossel tried to repeat this for several days, and we … absorbed everything.

There was a second amusing event in out life that was tied up with our dear fool Mottenu.

The town of Lizhensk merited to have its only guesthouse. With the help of well to do people and other donors in our town, a guesthouse was established, so that guests, charity collectors, lecturers and other travelers from various Jewish communities would not have to sleep in the synagogue and on the streets. Every beggar and guest would be able to have a prepared bed to sleep in, replete with proper bedding. The beggars of the town had bedrooms with minimal but adequate furniture.

What did Reb Yossel do? He took his adopted son Yossel, brought him to the guesthouse, showed him to a room that was set aside for him, made up his bed, and put him to sleep there. He glowed with happiness that his protégé merited to have his own bed like a normal person. This was a glorious and holy moment for all of us. We all were full participants in the joy of the great mitzvah and the fine moment of Reb Yossel.

The following morning, when the first worshippers arrived at the Beis Midrash, they were surprised to see their Mottenu sleeping on the floor between the oven and the sink, as he was accustomed. When we asked him why he continued to sleep there, he said: "I cannot sleep in a bed".

Thus, Mottenu remained the only “privileged” one who was permitted to sleep in the Beis Midrash, until..

Until the terrible destruction of Lizhensk arrived. The Nazis included Mottenu with the rest of the community, as one of them. He was killed on a calamitous day along with the rest of the residents of Lizhensk.

[Page 239]

Memorials – Noted Figures

My Brother Moshe Greisman of blessed memory

by Mina Miller

One of the original chalutzim of Lizhensk

{Photo page 239 – Moshe Greisman of blessed memory.}

He was happy, full of energy, blessed with strength, quiet and deep. He had an eternal smile on his face, and he was goodhearted. These were his traits and mannerisms – everyone who crossed paths with him in life became his friend.

He made aliya to the Land in 1930 with the first group of “Hanoar Hatzioni Akiva”, and from that time until his tragic death, during his short time in Israel, he was filled with optimism, happiness and boundless love of all who surrounded him. He did not know weariness and despair, for he was diligent and did not request much out of life. He satisfied himself with little and whoever knew how to read his glowing and eternally happy face could not but be jealous of him.

I remember my first visit with him the day after I arrived in Israel. At that time, he already had left the Kibbutz. Naturally, for ideological reasons, when he worked as a worker in Petach Tikva, he lived in a small room in a hut, with a metal bed, and a half-meter long trunk with all of his belongings. The floor was covered with scattered newspapers. I stood in surprise, and he laughed as usual in response to the question that I did not yet have a chance to ask: “Thus is life in the Land, I do not need more”. He did not require much in order to be happy. At that time, I began to understand the adage: “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.”[7]. He was happy with his lot under any circumstance. He only saw the good and beautiful in everything, and in situations that were not particularly beautiful, he used his imagination to see things in a positive light.

I cannot remember Moshe ever being in a bad mood. Under any condition and circumstance he had laughter on his very pleasant face, and his laughter exuded optimism to all around him. He was pleasant in the home to his family, and he was pleasant to his many friends in his various workplaces in Israel. He loved people, and he loved the land. With every brick that was laid in the building up of the Land, he rejoiced and jubilated as if it was his own personal accomplishment.

Life was beautiful in his eyes, and he loved life. However, luck was unfavorable to him, and when he went to work for the final time he did not realize, and neither did we his closest relatives, that such a beautiful life, filled with sunshine and happiness, was not to be for him, and that in the wide world, there was not even to be a tiny place for him.

It was in the month of Av 5711 (1951), when he went to work for the final time, and did not return. A fatal work accident cut off the flame of his young and beautiful life when he was only 41 years old.

{Photo page 240 – The parents of Moshe of blessed memory, along with his brother and sisters.}

[Page 241]

Mordechai Arum of blessed memory

by Dvora Arom

{Photo page 241 – Mordechai Arum of blessed memory en route to making aliya.}

I met Mordechai while he was still in the Diaspora. I was on an aliya preparation program (hachshara) in Slowikow, and he was on hachshara in Bielsko. He visited us in our wooden bunks, and I visited his hachshara camp. By coincidence, we made aliya together and we were together on hachshara in Kfar Pines.

We got married two years before we came to live in Kfar Etzion, and I got to know him from up close.

Mordechai was dedicated to his parents, and he honored them. He never argued with them or contradicted them. However, he stood for what he believed in, and did not hide his progressive outlook from them. He behaved properly toward them whether they opposed him or not.

He was a man of the book, and whenever he had a chance, he would read. His thirst for knowledge knew no bounds. His reading was ravenous and thoughtful, as if he united himself with the book. His quest for knowledge was thwarted by his parents, and was limited to religious studies. However through his own efforts, and with his thirst for practical knowledge, he registered for business school without the knowledge of his parents, and he studied there despite their disapproval. This school was to him a route to practicality, and a source of general knowledge.

On hachshara, he decided not to engage in clerkship, bur rather to become the shoemaker of the kibbutz. This was a form of opposition to everything that was acceptable to the older generation – a Jew was required to learn not only any trade, but even a denigrated trade that contains the route to freedom.

He went to a gentile in Bielsko, who was the shoemaker of that town, and studied the trade there. Mordechai did not continue with this for much time, since aliya interrupted his professional training.

Prior to his aliya to the Land, his mother took ill. Her illness was grave, and Mordechai was troubled. He was the youngest child, who supported his mother in her old age. How can he leave her on her sickbed? He almost decided to forego his aliya, but his mother called him to her bedside and commanded him to go.

On the day he arrived in the Land, a telegram arrived with the news of the death of his mother. On his first day in the Land, Mordechai began to sit Shiva.

When he arrived in Kfar Pines, he took over the position of accountant of the group. At the same time, he would go daily to Karkur to apprentice in the trade of shoemaking.

The shoemaker in Karkur was the son of shoemakers, and knew his trade from his childhood. He did not know Hebrew, but only spoke Yiddish. Mordechai taught him Hebrew in return for his teaching him shoemaking. Thus, while he was learning his trade, he was engaged in cultural activities with his fellow.

He worked in shoemaking and cultural activities simultaneously also in Kfar Etzion. He engaged in very serious matters, affairs of defense and life and death. He was responsible for the local ammunition supply. He controlled the weapons cache, and took courses in military supply. There was nothing in the place that was done without his effort, dedication, or actual participation.

Mordechai was blessed with straightforward and logical decision making abilities. People placed their faith in him and relied upon him. Mordechai was quiet, strong, and always spoke to the truth to people.

As a family man, he was very patient with children. He was a dedicated father and trained them with his natural calmness. He was a good family man, and deliberate in his actions.

On May 14, 1948, during the massive attack upon Gush Etzion and our village, Mordechai fell in the losing battle before the order to surrender was issued.

[Page 243]

Mordechai Feldman

From the newspaper, Davar
Killed on Sunday night, 26 Tishrei, 5697 (1938)

{Photo page 243 – Motek Feldman of blessed memory.}

He fell in the defense of Geda from a shot that was fired by the ambush. He was a member of the Yagur farm. He was 23 years old. He made aliya two years previously as a university student. He left his studied in March 1935, and joined the Yagur farm. In the Diaspora, he was a member of the “Hitachdut” group, and a student of the University of Lvov. He studied chemistry and philosophy. He enlisted as a special guard, one of the seven special guards who enlisted from the Yagur farm.
(Copied from the newspaper report)

[Page 244]

Aryeh Reichental of blessed memory

by Shlomo Tamir

(From speeches in his memory on the occasion of his yahrzeit commemoration,
and printed in pamphlet 1432 of Tel Yosef farm, December 10, 1965.)

He left us when he was full with suffering, but according to the situation today, not full of years. He was only 68. He was fully conscious until the day of his death. He talked to his children, his grandchildren, and anyone who came to visit him. There were days when he suffered from pains, when he was writhing with suffering, when he was sustained by intravenous, pills, and fatigue inducing medications, etc. Despite all this, there were days when he got out of bed, walked around the room, ate and drank, talked to people, laughed when he heard jokes, and took interest in the affairs of the farm. In accordance with his request, he was taken to ballot box on the day of Knesset elections.

He was born in Lizhensk in Galicia. During the time of the First World War, he lived in Vienna, and served in the army of the Austrian Kaiser Franz Josef. He made aliya in 1920. During his first years in the land, he worked in street maintenance and building. He got married in 1922. In 1923, he traveled with his wife to visit Lizhensk. They stayed there for three years. After that, his family returned to the Land and he traveled to Argentina. He also spent some time in Brazil. He lived in South America for a year and then returned with his family to the Land.

He worked hard for his entire life. He wandered from place to place. He lived with his family in Jerusalem, Raanana, Tel Aviv (in a hut in the Nordia district), and he came to us 17 years ago (in 1951), to his daughter Miriam and her husband Mordechai Tamir. For most of his years in the Diaspora and in the Land he worked as a chef, in the army camps, in the workers kitchens of Solel Boneh, in the British Army camps, and for private individuals (such as the chief justice Gad Frumkin and others). For many years, he spent the weekdays in camps far from his family, in bunks and tents. He came home for the Sabbath.

There were long periods when his family lived in difficult conditions. Even when he owned a private restaurant he would often give food to the hungry and to those who were out of work. The list of people who owed him money was long enough to fill a book. For the most part, he was not repaid, but nevertheless he did not refuse to give food to anyone. He was naturally good hearted, upright, and tended to answer positively any request for donations.

When he arrived at Tel Yosef, he brought in a sum of money in return for the small dwelling which he received[8]. Until the day of his death he lived with his wife Rachel (may she live long), in a small room literally 4 by 3. In the latter years, it had a corner for a washroom (but not for a kitchen). Not infrequently, his daughter Miriam, with Mottel and their five children stayed over at his place. On occasion, his son Tzvi and his family of four children from Kibbutz Maayan Baruch in the Galilee also came, as did his son Amnon from Beit Shean along with his three children. He never said that the place was too small.

For his entire time on the Kibbutz he worked in the kitchen. He was not always satisfied with his work in the kitchen, with the behavior of the members to him, with the routines and customs. He was used to working in institutions where he was the boss, the head of the kitchen. Here he had to be satisfied with being a cog in the wheel, to be dependent on the goodwill and willing to take barbs from those who were many years his junior and who were less intelligent than he was. He accepted everything with love.

In the later years, he had much pleasure from his children and twelve grandchildren. He was hoping to merit to see the marriage of a grandchild, and to become a great grandfather. Until his last days, he hoped that he would regain his strength and is able to return to work.

Whenever I visited him in the hospital or in his room, I found him interested in the issues of the movement, what was going on in Tel Yosef, and the situation of his children and grandchildren. He was cared for faithfully by his wife, children, and grandchildren. Miriam stayed with him day and night, as did his sons from Maayan Baruch and Beit Shean. Bluma was with him on his final evening, and she gave him a shot and pills. He and those around him never ceased to praise the dedication and good work of Bluma and Dr. Barta, who came to visit him often even when they were not called. He was writhing in pain that night. They called Dr. Barta, and while he was being examined and being prepared for an injection, he passed away.

A large group of members of the farm, his children, grandchildren, other relatives, and people from all parts of the country came to participate in his funeral. His casket was placed in the synagogue of the parents and in their dining hall. His requests were filled, a tahara[9] was performed, he was wrapped in a tallis (prayer shawl), his children and grandchildren recited the Kaddish prayer, and daily prayer services took place in his room during the Shiva period. During the Shiva, no movie was shown on the farm, and the party that was planned to take place on Friday night in the dining hall to mark the end of the olive harvest was cancelled.

During the fifteen years in which he lived among us, we were accustomed to see him at every celebration and every event that took place in the farm, along with his children and grandchildren. He loved them and they returned his love. They wailed publicly at the time of his death and during the funeral. This was unusual for Sabras (native Israelis).

There is nothing we can do.

He left us. He left behind a legacy full of dedication, work, experiences, wanderings, adventures, and help for his fellowman.

He left a large family behind, a family of workers. We hope that his children, his grandchildren, and all of us will preserve his memory. His family will grow up, they will make sure to name a grandchild or great grandchild after him, and his memory will be perpetuated. May his family be comforted, and may all those who knew him and were close to him be comforted.

[Page 246]

Reb Asher Zelig Miller of blessed memory

by Dov A.

{Photo page 246 – Reb Asher Zelig Miller and his family.}

He was born in 1891 in Belzec[10]. He spent his childhood in that town, near the Russian border, under Austrian rule. After the First World War he got married and settled in Lizhensk. He quickly began to take part in the vibrant Jewish life of the town.

He served as the prayer leader on the High Holydays in the Kloiz of Aguda, and with his sweet and pleasant voice, and expertise, he would pour out supplications to the Creator of the World.

He was a proud Jew, and it was difficult for him to bear the exile. In 1925, he made aliya to the Land as a pioneer from his family, and for half a year he made efforts to bring his family over. He did not find work, he did not succeed in acclimatizing here, and he was forced to return to Lizhensk. There, he continued to live in the town from the toil of his hands, and he maintained his desire for the land of the patriarchs. At the outbreak of the Second World War he wandered from our town, and the trials and tribulations began, which caused him unspeakable suffering. During his wandering upon the face of the earth he suffered from the indignity of hunger, and he lost his son. Our sages say about this (Tractate Berachot, folio 5): “Whoever occupied himself with Torah and good deeds and buries his children will have all of his sins forgiven.”

With Reb Asher Zelig Miller, all three of these conditions were fulfilled. He occupied himself with Torah and good deeds, and his son David of blessed memory died during his lifetime, and he did not merit to bury him, for he died as a soldier fighting against the Germans, and his burial place is unknown.

His heart was pained by all of this. When he finally merited to arrive in Israel in 1949, he was full of suffering and weariness, however his Jewish pride was not damaged. It grew and became stronger, and he rejoiced in seeing the children in Israel studying Torah and serving in the Israel Defense Forces. He continued with his cantorial activities on the High Holydays, and the residents of Kiriat Motzkin enjoyed his services and the fullness of his Judaism.

In Israel he also occupied himself with Torah and good deeds. He shared the little that he had with others. However his heart was not able to take everything that happened to him, and all the suffering that he endured.

His heart ceased beating on the 11th of Tevet 5714 (1954) in Kiryat Motzkin.

May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

[Page 248]

Fishel Spergel of blessed memory

The word “Zionism” was an exalted ideal for us, and everyone actualized it in his own way: one would prepare himself for a productive life in the Land, another would gather money for the funds for the Land of Israel, and there were those who took positions of honor in various representative capacities. Fishel Spergel was of the latter, who was engaged in arduous work. Quietly, as if in stealth, he came to our clubhouse on cold winter nights – for the most part, our clubhouse was not heated – leaving at home a beautiful wife and son. He would come after a difficult day of work in his store, and he would read to us poems of Bialik.

We studied Hebrew from various professional teachers, however we loved in particular those poems of Bialik. We learned to read and to love literature only due to him, for he had a special way of teaching, and he had a special charm in the way he explained and brought to life the poems, their content and ideas.

Every evening of reading of that sort was like a holiday. He was one of a kind, who came constantly to teach us to read and understand the poems of Bialik. There were other adult Zionists who were able to give over much to the youth groups, however they did not find the free time for that purpose. Fishel Spergel found the time and the will to teach us, and his dedication to this difficult task was perhaps one of the reason for the breakup of his family life, and finally their tragic separation. Let his short section be a thankful memorial to his life.
M. H.

[Page 249]

David Miller of blessed memory

by Dov Ausubel

{Photo page 249 – David Miller}

David studied in the cheder and in the public school, like the rest of the children of Lizhensk. From an early age, he spent his entire day at school, in the morning in the public school and in the afternoon in the Talmud Torah.

When he was still a child, he displayed exceptional talent in his studies and in arts and crafts. I still remember the illustrated sign on the wall of the Talmud Torah, which was the work of his hands. His name was signed in the lower left corner. This sign was written in large Hebrew letters, which caused joy to the hearts of the children. The large prominent Hebrew letters, which were noticed also by the adults, proclaimed the continuity of Judaism in the midst of a hostile gentile environment.

It is possible to state that if he would have been raised and educated in a different city, he would have developed his talents fully and attained greatness. Lizhensk was tiny, and it was impossible to find the appropriate schools in the area that would have been necessary to develop his rich potential.

David did not leave our small town. Despite this, his soul was interested in the wide world. From an early age, David had to forgo his own desires and the needs of his youth in order to help sustain his parents. His faithfulness to his parents was particularly prominent during the time of the war and the many wandering which came at that time. He did not abandon them, and worked hard in order to support their hungering souls.

When the time came that he was enlisted to the Red Army, he went out to the front with a heavy hart. His parents were left behind with nobody to care for them. This weighed upon him heavily, however he took comfort that on the front he would be able to help destroy the enemy of our people, the demon of our generation.

David merited to pursue the retreating Nazis, who were retreating in fear of revenge. As he was pursuing them during their retreat, he arrived in the destroyed Lizhensk, however he did not merit witnessing the final victory over him.

On the 4th of Shvat 5704 (1944), he was shot by an enemy bullet, and he fell in battle.

May we guard his memory forever.

[Page 250]

My Father-In-Law Moshe Naftali (Monia) Teicher
of blessed memory

As I Remembered Him

Above everything, Reb Moshe Naftali Teicher loved chazzanut (cantorial arts). He loved to sing, and was able to do so well. When he sang, his soul was so stirred within himself as he scaled the heights of music, until it seemed that he was able to penetrate the celestial gate of melody.

It is not in vain that it is stated that the gate of melody is found next to the gate of mercy, for also the compassion of Reb Moshe Naftali of blessed memory was without bound. He had a heart that did not and was not able to turn away from the tribulations of his fellow. When he still lived in Lizhensk, surrounded by the comforts of his home, he regularly invited poor people into his home and fed them. Even during the years of wandering the breadths of Siberia, during the time of war and famine, he never hesitated in sharing his scanty bread with someone who was in need. Not only this, but when he heard that a Jew had come out of prison and was ill, forlorn, and infested with lice, he would take him into his house, wash him with his own hands, clothe him and support him until he was able to fend for himself. Even here, when he arrived in the Land of Israel, his hand was open to anyone who was in need. Anyone who inquired knew that for matters of loans and charitable deeds, one could turn to Reb Moshe Naftali, and one would always be answered positively.

Despite the fact that his pedigree was prestigious, and his family tree could be traced generation after generation to the holy sage Rashi, I never heard him boasting about this. I never even heard him mention this. Reb Moshe Naftali (Monia) Teicher of blessed memory was so modest and discreet.

Signed by his son-in-law N. Engelberg

[Page 251]

{Photos on page 251 – Monia Teicher and his daughters of blessed memory.}

[Page 252]

The Father of my Grandmother Dov (Ber) Strauch

The father of my grandmother was a G-d fearing Jew, as were most of the Jews of Lizhensk at that time. He was a communal activist from his young days, and he spent most of his time serving the Jewish community. After the great fire that broke out in the town, he was one of those who put effort into rebuilding the synagogue. He frequented the home of the rabbi and the communal leadership. If there was a dispute, they would turn to him as an arbiter, since he was known for his sharpness and honesty.

This was the father of my grandmother, whose name I bear.

My grandmother related the facts above to me.

Dov Engelberg, a student in Grade 7 of the Moria school

[Page 255]

The Ups and Downs of Fate

by M. Spergel

Memorial Candles to Two Friends

They were friends from childhood, from grade one in the elementary school. Later they studied together in the Hebrew school. Together they dreamed of aliya and actualizing their dreams. Together they joined the “Akiva Hebrew Youth” youth movement. It seemed that they would continue along the paths of their lives together, and their strong bonds of friendship, which had withstood several tests, would continue.

With the coming of the time of disaster, their orderly lives were separated. Life broke out into tortuous paths in the forest of the tribulations of the Second World War.

The two of them remained inseparable as long as was possible – Riva Roitman and Henia Spergel.

When the Germans entered Lizhensk, the order was given to leave the town, to cross the San, and never to return to Lizhensk. Riva went immediately to Henia to discuss with her about what was to come. During the course of the conversation, Riva asked Henia if she knew the whereabouts of the jewelry of her late mother, and advised her to remove it from its hiding place in the wall and take it with her on her journey, for during the dark days, life would be ransomed for silver and gold.

Henia listened to her, and she had deep fears in her heart. For a moment it seemed as if it would be best to leave everything in its place for when life would return to what it was, and she would return to the town. However the advice of her friend weighed upon her and she took the “mementos of mother”, bundled them up in a bundle and kept them close to her heart for the flight.

When they arrived at the San, the Germans commanded them to leave all valuables and jewelry behind on a blanket that was spread out for that purpose, and whoever would disobey this command would be shot on the spot.

Her previous fears came back. She was disgruntled in her heart with the advice of her best friend, and for a moment it seemed that she would lose the last connection to her former life when normal life would begin again. However she knew that Riva's advice was made with the best of intentions, and she accepted the situation calmly and with forgiveness. She took out the bundle from its hiding place, ready to hand it over when her turn came.

That moment, a German came to her, and with a serious expression uttered the command: “hide that”. She was confused, for she did not know what was the intention of this enemy. She hesitated, however he repeated his command, and she returned the bundle to its hiding place. Then, the Nazi removed from the line, and placed her at the side. Henia knew that her fate had been sealed. The Nazi would be able to prove that he found a violator of the command, and her death would be certain. The German looked around from side to side and when he saw that none of his colleagues were looking, he took a handful of gold coins from the pile of gold that was at his feet, gave it to Henia, brought her by force to the bridge, and commanded her not to return.

The Jews who were around did not understand what transpired here. Nobody expected such a deep display of humanity from the Germans.

The paths of the friends, remnants of a group of beloved friends, also separated.

Riva Roitman remained in western Ukraine. The Germans chased her as a hunted animal. She was lost trace of and nobody knows what became of her.

Henia endured the tribulations of the war in the forests of Russia. Her life was filled with suffering, travails, disasters, and hunger. The event at the San strengthened her in her belief in life and her will to stay alive. She endured everything and arrived in Israel.

Her in Israel, she hoped that she would have a peaceful life, however the remnants of her struggle for life left their mark. She was stricken with a terrible disease and her life ended.


Chaitzi Diamond

by Mina

Chaya Diamond was one of the founders of the “Akiva Youth Organization” in our town. With her sure and steady direction, and her healthy laughter, she instilled security and strength into all of us, even though she was the same age as us.

She was one of the first volunteers for any activity of the group. She always found the free time and the positive desire, whether it was to collect charity boxes of the Jewish National Fund in the homes, to prepare a festive event, or to go out to a meeting with branches from neighboring towns. She was not hesitant to wear a large white band and march along the streets of the town at the head of a parade. She was always one of the first to go out to a summer moshava program, and from her, we would also gain the strength to be able to stand up to the demands of our parents.

Chaitzi was the strongest and most powerful of all of our friends. She was very fortunate in that she made aliya together with her parents and his sisters, and she did not have to deal with separation and longing for her parents' home. Her constant, infectious smile stayed with her.

When I arrived in Israel, I hurried to visit Jerusalem, and went to visit her in her parents' home. Her heartwarming laughter that I was familiar with from the past greeted me once again. In every encounter with her, I remember her smile, literally from ear to ear, pasted upon her face.

During the final time that I saw her, we were visiting together in Ramat Rachel, and she talked a great deal about the headaches that she had been suffering from. After that time, I never heard her deep laughter again. This was the beginning of the “end', and it was most unfortunate. It is unfortunate about her loss.

Chaitzi Diamond went to her rest so young and full of desire for life.

[Page 261]

The Last Days in Lizhensk

by Yitzak Tantzman

translated by Zygmunt Frankel
Wellington, New Zealand

Lizhensk. Sunday 27th August 1939. In the warm Elul days the Jews of all Poland in general and Lizhensk in particular used to come to the Rebbe Elimelech's grave expressing repentance. Yamin Noraim (days of awe) were already in sight and we felt the heavy paces of the Second World War approaching.

Jews from Lizhensk used to meet in small groups in the street and discuss how the Polish State would be able to stand up against the aggression of the Germans. At that time we didn't know that a great tragedy awaited the Polish Jewry in general and, of course, the Lizhensk Jews amongst them.

Everyone had their own point of view, but one thing was understood – that the Jews would suffer greatly. But we couldn't predict how great the troubles would be.

Days passed quickly and then troubles came to Lizhensk. Thursday night 31st August Germany declared war against Poland and sent Nazi murderers into our midst to ruin our European culture. Friday 1st September we felt the war already in our town. The first aeroplanes had shown themselves in Lizhensk and just flew past. We felt that this was only the beginning. The same Friday night Jews in the synagogues of Lizhensk prayed with great devotion. In the meantime we received various pieces of news. That the German Nazis were moving forward with great force and occupying the cities and town of Poland. The rumor was that wherever they went they took all men prisoners. This created a great panic in our little shtetl. The men hurriedly started to organize and plan how to leave town.

The Germans then bombarded our shtetl and destroyed the railway line. That was the only communication with external life for our shtetl. Lizhensk self-defense organized a group who started to repair the railway line. I myself was in this group, but the German aeroplanes showed themselves over us and started to shoot at us with machine guns and so disturbed our work. Black clouds began to gather over our shtetl and from far away one could hear the heavy footsteps of the Nazi murderers. Men of Lizhensk, young and old, prepared themselves to flee the city a week after the outbreak of war.

Friday night the shtetl Lizhensk compared to a cooking vessel. There was bustle and noise everywhere as the men prepared to leave the city. That Friday night, the men of Lizhensk ate their Sabbath meal in great haste. Like a swarm of locusts the streets were filled with men leaving the town. People headed off in different directions. Some to Urzohow and some to Kurylovka. Everyone tried to get to the San River. There were some who tried to go to Greater Poland or to reach the border of Romania and in this way avoid falling into the hands of the Germans.

The days in Lizhensk were black and sad, very sad, after the men left. Two days later the German murderers entered in and proceeded to ruin the town. They burnt the synagogues and terrorized the women and children who were left behind.

Within a few days the Germans had occupied all the territories where the men had run away to and a few of them started to return to Lizhensk.

Rosh Hashannah, and the city was almost without men. Only the men who had no strength to go were left in the city on Rosh Hashannah. While we were praying, the Germans expelled everyone from the synagogues and destroyed them with explosives. By Yom Kippur almost all the men had returned home. The eve of Yom Kippur was disastrous. Jews could no longer go praying at the synagogues. Many went to nearby villages because there one could still pray with a minyan (quorum). Mostly people just stayed at home and everyone found themselves a corner and prayed, fasting and asking God to be redeemed from the German murderers.

On Yom Kippur night various rumors circulated about the Germans expelling the whole population from the city. The following evening (Sunday) Jews asked one another, what will happen, will the Germans really expel us from our town? The majority did not believe that such a thing could happen. One tried in such a way to hide oneself from the reality, until the infamous Tuesday came. That evening the city policeman, Peterkevich, with his known drum came to inform us that tomorrow, Wednesday 20th September, at 8.00 am in the morning all the Jews who lived in Lizhensk should gather in the market place to leave Lizhensk, carrying only hand baggage.

That was the main blow to our shtetl. That very night people started running in a panic. Many people ran straight to the nearby villages, brought horses and carts and packed them with what they could and went to the far shore of the river San. A few waited for a miracle, possibly that the order would be revoked. Tuesday night dragged on like the exile, until the early morning came and hope faded into oblivion. The German Gestapo came, together with the Volksdeutschen[1]. They went house to house through the town expelling the people from their rooms. Everyone had his pitiful parcel in hand, crying eyes and a heavy heart. All gathered in the market place, all the remaining Jews of Lizhensk, and waited for their bitter fate. At 10 o'clock in the morning we received the command from the Gestapo and then the sad march of Lizhensk Jews, who were rooted in hundreds of years of history, started. Thus proceeded the traditional march of the Jewish people, known as wanderers for 2000 years of exile.

We were surrounded by hundreds of German Gestapo murderers. We were marched out of our hometown, some with a parcel in hand and some carrying a small child. That was the last road from our dear holy shtetl, the shtetl of the holy Rebbe Elimelech of blessed memory.

They led us to the river San and there they brought us over through a temporary bridge to Kurilovka. It was just on the eve of Sukkot when we came to Kurilovka. The Russians were already there. We fulfilled the commandment of sitting in the Sukkah, and thus ended the chapter of Lizhensk Jewry.

Now, 27 years after the beginning of the war and 21 years after it has finished, there is only one Jew left in Lizhensk. He returned from Russia and now occupies himself with gathering Jewish memorabilia and holy books. His name is Baruch Safir. That is the summary of Lizhensk.

[Page 265]

A Rescued Child

see page 72

Previous Page | Table of Contents

  1. This statement was made by the matriarch Rachel to her husband Jacob when her sister Leah had already given birth to four children, but she was still childless. The second verse “Am I in G-d's stead” is the next verse, where Jacob retorts to Rachel that it is not within his power to grant children. Back

  2. This verse was stated by the matriarch Rebecca when her twin children were fighting within her womb. Back

  3. Chumash refers to any one of the five books of the Pentateuch (Torah). The word itself is a variation of the word
    Chamesh (five). Back

  4. Jacob is here describing on his deathbed the death of his wife Rachel. Back

  5. A gentile who is paid or commissioned to do acts on the Sabbath that are forbidden to Jews, such as turning on lights
    and heat. Back

  6. Boga is the Polish word for god. Back

  7. A quote from the Mishnaic tractate of Pirke Avot, which is replete with ethical adages. Back

  8. An Israeli Kibbutz works on a collective socialist basis, where every member gives over a sum of money in return for receiving a place of residence, furniture, meals, etc. Back

  9. Tahara is the ritual washing and preparation of a body for burial that is mandated by Jewish law. Apparently, the Kibbutz was secular, and Jewish religious tradition was generally not observed, but according to his request, in his case, the traditional Jewish burial and mourning practices were observed. The 'synagogue of the parents' may refer to a synagogue built on the Kibbutz for the use of the elderly members, or the parents of the members, who were still interested in Jewish practice. Back

  10. Belzec, a Polish town near the present day border with Ukraine, was later to become the infamous site of one of the most notorious Nazi death camps. Back

  1. Usually Poles of German Ethnic origin. Back

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