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[Page 237]

Figures, People, and Personalities

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This is a memorial!

And you, Mizochian, while looking through this section:

Remember!

Pass before the eyes of your soul the images of the precious names
of those who are of your own flesh and blood.
They will return and live before you and their memories will be etched in your heart.
The horrific crime of their destruction, themselves having committed no sin, shall be remembered.
God will avenge their blood, and their spirits
will be bound in the bond of life. Amen.



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Memorial for Mizoch

by Yoseph Koppelman

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

I will remember Mizoch and mourn with a bitter soul
The great tragedy and burning pain that
Depleted us so very much Woe, woe to us
Woe, woe to all of us. Wicked strangers destroyed
The lives of our parents, brothers, sisters
Better were the deaths by sword than deaths by hunger
Their defiled, bloodstained hands knew no mercy
Every teenager, old person, and infant
None escaped from the claws of the predator
What was their sin and what was their crime
Saintly souls, virtuous and pure
They were put in squalor and filth
While they were still fluttering between life and death, their tombs were covered
Terror gripped every Jew who heard it
I screamed a scream like a shofar regarding why
Such a terrible tragedy happened?! Gentiles saw and became quiet
A silent quiet

May the souls of all the villains who drank the blood of our holy martyrs be obliterated from the face of the earth.

May their souls be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

“They will rest peacefully in their graves and arise to their destinies at the end of days.”


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The Holy Rabeinu Natan Netta Lerner,
May God Avenge his Blood

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

Rabbi Natan Netta inherited the seat of the rabbinate of Mizoch from his father-in-law, the rabbi Michael Lerner of blessed memory, not because he was a family member and married to the late Rabbi's daughter, but rather by virtue of his greatness with regards to Torah and mitzvot.

 

 

The rabbi had a hunched back from the constant sitting he did with the Talmud and his fingers were raised slightly from excessive page-turning of the books which he studied.

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Not once was he seen engaging in small talk; if he was not praying, he was busy with his studies or if not studying, he was writing books.

In the world of scholars in Poland, he was considered an authority for his great eruditeness in Talmud and for his expertise in rabbinic literature. His love of Zion knew no bounds, and at almost every memorial conducted during his time on the 20th of Tamuz in the memory of Dr. Herzel, he would appear wrapped in a tallit, sermonizing on the great deceased man.

In one of these sermons, he declared enthusiastically, “Herzl's not dead! Herzl lives! The righteous in their deaths are called living.”

I remember his emphasis when praying the Shema “so that you will remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt”. That means from slavery to freedom, from a life of exile to a life of sovereignty, and my life breath grew faint within me." He was always ruminating on how to reach the land of Israel; he loved Israel and his soul longed for her. However, the impure hand brought forward his death and he reached his end in the proximity of his community in the mass grave in the Sosenki forest.


The Teacher David Koppelman
of Blessed Memory

by Reuven Melamed

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

From far away Warsaw, he was brought to Mizoch by the rich Tekser family, and with his arrival came a revolution in the education of the younger generation in the town. In Mizoch, like in every town in the Pale of Settlement those days, the children were educated in “chederim” [rooms], where they received Torah from the mouths of educators and small children. The learning of Tanakh, Hebrew, or grammar was forbidden and only a few select youths would read secretly from the literature of the haskalah [Jewish enlightenment] and learn Hebrew and grammar on their own.

The office of the teacher Shmuel David Koppelman of blessed memory was called “Cheder HaMetukan” [modernized cheder] and was completely different in its appearance, structure, and design, from all of the other “chederim” that were established in the town. Koppelman himself was also different from the rest of the educators in the area, not only in his job description, (Moreh, and not Melamed) but also in his character and behavior. He was an ultra-orthodox Jew who kept mitzvot both mild and severe, refined in his dress, respectable, and amicable. He had a broad, general education, well-versed in Judaic studies, his knowledge of Tanakh was great and he was superior in Talmudic study. Beyond that, he was knowledgeable in pedagogy and was a gifted educator. Every resident of the town -- including his teaching competitors -- treated him with respect and sought his company. To be Koppelman's student was considered a great honor, and all the

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parents worked hard to have their children be educated by him, as the tuition for studying with Koppelman was much higher than tuition for the other “chederim”.

Koppelman's students stood out not only in their knowledge but also in their conduct. Belonging to the group of Koppelman's students entailed good behavior and meant that the student willingly took upon himself quite a few obligations.

 

 

His lessons were heard with great interest and attention, as the man understood the soul of the child and knew how to draw his attention with adequate explanation appropriate for the child's level of understanding. Therefore, the lessons were not a burden on the children but, rather, the children went with great desire to Koppelman's classes.

It was no wonder then that all his students excelled in their knowledge in both religious studies and secular studies. Many were jealous of him, and some among the town's scholars tried more than once to ensnare him, setting traps of one type or another for him in Talmud, Tanakh, or in Midrashim, but they always failed in their efforts. I remember how angry I was at my grandfather, Reb Velvl Melamed of blessed memory -- who was an erudite man, very smart, knowledgeable, and clever -- at his efforts to thwart my teacher. To my great joy and the heartfelt joy of all his students, however, our teacher Koppelman always had the upper hand.

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One time, two young men from the land of Israel came to our town to stay with their aunt Hinda from the village of Spasov. They were graduates of the Hebrew high school “Herzliya”, and of course spoke fluent Sephardi Hebrew. There was no dearth of Jews knowledgeable in Hebrew in the town. But Sephardi pronunciation, however -- ‘where does that come from’? Those who were envious of Koppelman spoke of the hearts of the youths who were brought to him in order to test his knowledge and to cause him to fail.

They entered the “cheder” in the middle of studies and promptly started to perform the task assigned to them. To their astonishment, however, they immediately switched from being the testers to the tested. Kopelman, in all his cleverness, understood that they were sent by his opposers to test him, and he embarrassed the arrogant young men. Instead of a failing and ignorant “educator”, they stood before an intelligent teacher, a man of extensive knowledge and with good information on the happenings both in the land of Israel and the Diaspora. With difficulty and great embarrassment, they quickly walked out of the “cheder” and acknowledged their failure.

I was at the time a student in the lower grade, and I did not properly understand the debate being conducted amongst them that was conducted entirely in Sephardi Hebrew, but I do remember the joy that overcame the students of the upper grades in seeing the victory of their beloved teacher.

Kopelman was agitated and tired after this encounter, and only a faint smile of satisfaction hovered over his face. His wise and educated wife brought him a cup of tea and said complainingly: “Why did you insult two young men from the land of Israel?”. He answered her question with another: “How dare two brats like them come and try to insult me in front of my students with questions that it seemed to them I would not withstand?”. She looked at him for an extended period with obvious affection and then left. She had been convinced.

To me Reb David Koppelman was not only a teacher, but also a mentor, guide, and father figure. Since my father traveled to America when I was a child, I learned not only the Torah from him but also how to behave and how to think, as I was a frequent visitor in his household and friends with his son Solomon who was the same age as me.

He was perfect in my eyes, and my dream was to be like him when I grew up…

I excelled in school, as I always managed to turn in my homework on time and in order so that I would not lose the favor of my teacher who I loved and respected more than anything else.

In 1917, when the revolution broke out and the tyrannical rule of the Romanovs was overthrown, great happiness overcame the entire Jewish community. The participation of the Jews in the demonstrations of joy was large and sincere, and the enthusiasm transcended every boundary. Everyone believed that

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better days were really coming for the entire world and for the Jewish people residing in it. Unfortunately, Koppelman did not share in this happiness. On the contrary, quiet grief spread across his face, and his heart worried for what was to come. In hints he would tell us, his students, that this happiness is alien to us and that the results of the revolution remain unknown. “Rejoice not, Israel, as other nations do,” he would say to us when he saw how enthused we were by the revolution and its instigators.

Only now in hindsight do I see and appreciate the hesitations of this wise man. On the other hand, he received news of the Balfour Declaration with unimaginable joy. He then gathered his students and sermonized to them on the great value of this declaration for our people. He could not control his spirit while speaking, he was excited, he performed the Shehecheyanu blessing and declared that this was a day of hope for him, and that we should rejoice and be happy for it. In the early days of the new Polish government, he fell ill and died young, during what were still the best of his years. His memory will be kept in the hearts of all his students until their last breaths.

 

The Kopelman family takes leave of their son Yosef on his departure for Israel

 

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Shmuel Gentzberg
of Blessed Memory

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

 

 

Shmuel Gentzberg was the glory of the town. Short of stature, skinny and weak-bodied, but still attracting attention with his appearance that bore marks of nobility. He established in the area the first Zionist party, the “Hitachadut” [Union] party, and organized the best local youth within the Zionist movement.

He received his post-secondary education in Odessa, knew languages and was very broadly educated. With the establishment of the Yiddish press in Rivne, he started writing in the newspapers of the provincial towns and was considered among the best journalists in the provincial towns. He also taught for a while in Rivne and was active in the “Tarbut” movement in Poland.

He lived in Mizoch with his parents, his brother, and also his sisters in the ghetto, and he met his demise along with the people of the city for whom he labored, whom he guided, and whom he prepared for Zion. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life.


Shlomo Kopelman
of Blessed Memory

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

He was one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in Mizoch. As son of the teacher Kopelman, from his childhood he suckled along with his mother's milk love for his people and for the homeland, and from his youth he was active in the Zionist movement.

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From the establishment of the JNF in Mizoch up until the bitter end of the Zionist activity, he served as the power of attorney for the JNF's board, was a board member of the “Hitachadut” party and was among the prominent figures in the movement in general.

 

 

He educated the future generation of activists and in his devotion served as an example to all.

According to reliable information, he successfully saved himself on the day of the destruction of the ghetto and fled into the forests. However, a short time later he was caught by Ukrainian rioters and was executed in the cruelest of ways. His corpse served as food for birds of prey and for the animals of the forest, and a few townspeople managed to bury his remains. May these words be a memorial on his unknown grave and his soul shall be bound up in the bond of life.


Reb Yitzhak Berez

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

He came to Mizoch from the city of Alexandria along with the industrialization of the town, in the last decade of the nineteenth century. He built a big, beautiful house outside of what was at the time the center of the town and next to the house he erected his factory for the production of wool and coarse woolen fabrics for the farmers.

His appearance stood out, his wisdom, knowledge, and connections, amid the backward area; although

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he grew a long beard, kept tradition, and was among the permanent worshippers at the Beit Midrash, he was tolerant of the winds that began to blow in the area of the Jewish moshav; he advocated for general education, explained the value of modern life and made an effort to provide his children with a general education together with their traditional Jewish education.

 

Miz247a.jpg
 
Miz247b.jpg
Yitzchak Berez and his wife Chasya

 

The man loved life and lived it to the fullest. His mischievousness and pranks were famous throughout the area. His sayings and jokes earned him a reputation and many years after his death, the Mizochians still got joy out of them.

Because of his public status, his intelligence, and his generosity, everyone loved him, and they forgave his antics to which they fell victim, even the most distinguished community members.

After his death, his sons inherited leadership of the factory. They brought to it changes in the spirit of the times and made decent livings. The Shoah befell even the Berez family. Only the son Tovyah remained after it, as he had gone up to Israel before the war, along with some grandchildren who had miraculously survived.


Reb Yechiel the Butcher of Blessed Memory

by A”BA

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

The slaughterer, mohel, hazzan, engraver, embroider, and inventor Reb Yechiel the butcher, of blessed memory, was born before his time. There is no doubt that this man was born to greatness, and were he to receive

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a proper education, train in the academy of arts or study medicine, he would have achieved remarkable things and became world-famous.

He had a poetic soul, a natural instinct for beauty, and a tendency to explore the unknown.

 

 

When he noticed in a Jewish house, or even in a house of a foreign nobility, a beautiful rug and specially embroidered or interestingly knitted curtains, he would spend hours upon hours there in order to copy the patterns, imitate them, or at least feast his eyes on items.

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As a mohel he was an artist in his profession, and doctors would marvel at his agility, his understanding of hygiene, and his ability. They would say that had he studied medicine, he would have been an outstanding surgeon. When he was embroidering a parochet for the Torah ark, sculpting a tombstone, or painting “Know before whom you stand”, it was impossible not to be impressed by the beauty of his craftsmanship.

He never learned how to read sheet music and never received a musical education, but he had a strong and pleasant voice, a natural understanding, and a fondness for popular melodies and religious tunes. He knew cantorial passages and learned each new rendition with amazing ease. When necessary, he also created melodies of his own.

The lions that he would embroider onto the carpets also decorated the walls of the Christian nobility, and his works even attracted many interested customers from outside of Mizoch.

Reb Yechiel was known for his tight-fistedness, however when it came to an expensive chisel, a special pocketknife, a necessary saw, or tools for his experiments, he spared no expense.

He worked in silver and gold, combining and mixing different materials without having any knowledge of chemical formulas or theoretical physics.

He had perfect manners. He was always clean and polished, cheerful and agile, witty with eyes wide-open. Many were jealous of him, plotted against him, and suspected him of not following religion, but he just went on living how he lived. An appreciator of art, he continued chasing after beauty and loving life.

Some years before the Holocaust, Reb Yechiel Reznick the butcher fell ill and never recovered. Only then were those against him and those who fought him quiet; only then did they learn to value and to admire the man. The whole town attended his funeral, and everyone mourned his loss, and they understood that the town had lost an asset of great value.


The Grandmother Leah Reznick

by Chaya

Translated from Hebrew by Corey Feuer

I never once saw my grandmother, Leah Reznick, idle. Her hands were always occupied with work. After finishing regular housework, she loved to embroider and knit. She had hands of gold, and her embroidery was renowned. In the summer, it was customary of her to weave warm socks and winter sweaters for all her grandchildren. And in the winter, she would embroider napkins, tablecloths, scarves, and other gems. In the last two decades of her life, she abstained from certain foods. Nowadays we refer to this lifestyle as dieting. Be that as it may, she always worked because she never fell ill; she was always healthy and full of life.

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In addition to her family, she also cared for the needs of the general public. She especially loved the mitzvah of “anonymous giving”. She used me and my brother Yaakov for distributing necessities among the needy, and following her instructions, we would without being seen bring aid and relief to the houses of the needy.

 

 

Each and every Sabbath, in the afternoon, she would sit for hours and hours and read tales of the weekly parsha from “Tseno Ureno”. She oftentimes would also tell me the stories of the Torah. She cherished her grandchildren above all else, and I spent more time with her then I did at my parents' house.

The message from the Ministry of Immigration in Poland came to me incidentally on Saturday. The next day, I had to leave Poland. I immediately started packing my belongings with haste. Grandma also came in to participate in the packing. I remarked to her that she should not help me, as she needed to maintain the sanctity of the Sabbath. She responded to me, however, that the land of Israel was not any less holy than Shabbat, and she continued to help.

When it was time for us to part, I saw for the first time in my life twinkling tears in the eyes of Grandma and Grandpa. They sensed that we would not see each other again. Grandpa was privileged and died in his bed, in his house, of natural causes. However, my precious grandmother, humble and God-fearing, met her end in the mass grave of the saints of Mizoch at the hands of those savage animals -- the Germans and the Ukrainians.

May God avenge her blood and may her soul be bound in the bond of life.

 

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