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[Page 437]

In Memory

 

Jews of the Former Nowy Dwor

by Dov Berish First

Translated by Pamela Russ

I, at the dust and ashes of your lives, beg of you forgiveness, as I come to remember your holy souls; a complete forgiveness for disturbing your rest in all the foreign places in Polish fields that have become sated with your innocent spilled blood, and where your bones are tossed and spread out.

My few meagre pages – only for you, dear souls, are in your honor, you, who did not even merit to be buried in the Land of Israel – these words of memorial are for you.

For you, beautiful Jews – scholars, sharp minds, fiery chassidim, Jews of the eastern wall [wall in synagogue facing east, direction of Jerusalem, reserved for the rabbi and other dignitaries]; for you, compassionate Jews who recite Psalms regularly [Tehilim Jews] from the hallways [of the synagogue], poor tradesmen, laborers, who after a full week of hard work, your earnings hardly managed to pay for a rye bread with herring for the Holy Shabbath; for you, Jewish youth, who with such zeal and passion threw yourselves into the struggle for justice and righteousness, and your hopes were so brutally deceived; for you, my small, Jewish town, holy community of Nowy Dwor – may these lines be a kaddish [prayer for the deceased] from the greatest depths of orphanhood. I wish to light a small flame with my words and the glow should be from the Eternal Flame – to perpetuate for generations, you, my dear city, and you, innocent, murdered Jews.

May your souls be bound up in the bond of Eternal Life.

[Hebrew text on this page is direct translation of Yiddish at the top of the page.]

[Page 438]

Reb Meyer Lichtenstein

 

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He was born in Pultusk. He married in Nowy Dwor, into a long–time Nowy Dwor family, the chassidic home of Avrohom Tosimowycz (Avrohom Loss). His brother–in–law was the refined scholar, Reb Yekusiel (Kesil) Tosimowycz, the beadle for many years of the Gerer shtiebel [small, informal house of prayer]. Reb Meyer was also a fiery Gerer chassid and a great Torah scholar.

From his father–in–law, he inherited a dry goods store in the father–in–law's house that was located right in the middle of Zakroczyner Street. The Jews in the city called it: “Czypele's courtyard.” In that courtyard was the Gerer shtiebel.

Reb Meyer was one of the most vigorous social activists among the religious Jews. For many years he was an inspector in the city, and of the first leaders of the Agudah. Together with Avrohom Zalczman, he also founded the “Linat Hatzedek” [a charity organization that cared for the sick].

Reb Meyer was very fastidious about Jewish law. For his three daughters, he selected three very chassidic sons–in–law. One of these later became the great shoe salesman Berl Czynamon, also a Gerer chassid.

Of his entire family, only his two sons remained in distant Montevideo. One was Yosef, who died there not long ago, and whose heartfelt memories about the cheders [schools for young children] are recorded in the Pinkus [record book], and the other, Yitzchok – may he live long – is very active among our Nowy Dwor compatriots in Montevideo.

 

Reb Moshe Nowodworski

 

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A beloved, quiet and hardworking person, was Reb Moshe, and of the first Chovevei Tzion [“Lovers of Israel”] early party that fostered recognition of Israel] and Mizrachi [religious Zionist party] in Nowy Dwor.

He died on the road, in the year 1917, coming home for Shabbath to Nowy Dwor from the village of Kosuwka, where he worked as secretary in the mill of his brother–in–law, Reb Binyomin Pinker. He was attacked not far from Pomiechowo and murdered there.

Fate brought the same tragic death to his parents. Reb Moshe's mother and father, two elderly people, on a late Thursday night, were murdered in their home at the same time by two bandits.

These two gruesome events upset the entire town at that time.

[Page 439]

Reb Hershel Jerozolimski

 

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Reb Hershel Jerozolimski, known as “the dead Hershel,” was one of the first maskilim [individual that identified with the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment movement)] in Nowy Dwor who left the Bais Medrash [study hall] learning of Torah and became an Apikores [heretic]. Under his influence, some men were directed off the Torah path and went on the road to the Haskalah and knowledge.

He was a terrifying image within the chassidic spheres in Nowy Dwor.

He was among the first ones of the Chovevei Tzion [“Lovers of Zion”] in the town. He was a great scholar of the Talmud and the rabbinic literature. His home was among the first of the modern – Zionist–Hebraist in the city.

He raised his children in this spirit. His youngest daughter, Rivtche Jerozolomski (later the wife of Yitzkhok Griner, of blessed memory), was one of the founders of the Bnos Zion [“Daughters of Zion”] in Nowy Dwor, and for many years was also the devoted librarian of the “Sholom Aleichem Library” in Nowy Dwor.

 

Reb Itche Meyer Mundlak

 

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Reb Itche Meyer, the son of Matis Shlomo and Yehudis Mundlak, was one of the first Zionists in Nowy Dwor, and after that, for many years, the leader of the Mizrachi movement in the city.

The ideology of religious Zionism – the roots of Judaism, and tight ties with the new Land of Israel, made up his essence. He lived and dreamed with it, and he worked for these causes with the Jewish community of Nowy Dwor.

His home was the center for all the Chovevei Tzion in Nowy Dwor. The Zionist spirit in the house also affected his children, as they grew up with the love of the Land of Israel. The best known of them was the youngest son Lipa, the most dynamic Zionist activist in Nowy Dwor, and later a well–known activist for the Histadrut [organization that looked after the workers; trade unions] in Israel, where he died as a young man.

[Page 440]

Reb Binyomin Pinker

 

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In his early youth, Reb Binyomin, the son of the old Nowy Dwor Shochet [ritual slaughterer] Reb Shmuel Zanwil, was an outstanding student of the Nowy Dwor Rav, Reb Moshe Teumim, where he absorbed the spirit of the sharpness of Gerer chassidus. After that, he was the student of righteous teacher Avremele Hersh Bers, where he studied with passion, and where he became a strong Torah student with a sharp mind.

He was one of the most respected chassidim in the Gerer shtiebel. He was a member of that community for a long time, and a spokesperson for the Agudas Israel [organized to strengthen and respond to needs of the Orthodox, Torah observant community, under auspices of rabbinic leaders].

He was a frequent visitor of the Nowy Dwor Rav, Reb Neufeld, and often Reb Binyomin Pinker helped him unravel the puzzles of the twists and turns in the Jewish courts.

Reb Binyomin Pinker was dealt the same fate as all the Nowy Dwor Jews. He died by the hands of the Hitler murderers.

 

Reb Avremele Kokhalski

He was born in nearby Zakroczyn, married in Nowy Dwor to Yisroel the baker's (Berman) daughter Razce. He was a very quiet and modest person, a fiery Gerer chassid, and a great Torah scholar. He was a good student and talented when he was with his father, the hard working Moshe Kashemacher [grain producer], or as he was called “Moshe Hulyak [merry fellow],” because he was a jolly and carefree Jew, filled with a faith that “let God worry about tomorrow…”

His son Avremele, was the exact opposite type – quiet, always pensive, with a smile of good spirits on his glowing face.

Even though he was the baker in his own bakery, the management of the bakery went to his wife, “Racze the baker,” because she was the apprentice and had stripped herself of any worldly things.

When he was over thirty years old, he was already known in the Gerer shtiebel as a “wealthy Jew.” He was very hospitable to guest, and on Shabbat and holidays, he would be the last to leave the synagogue, in case someone would remain after everyone else had left and would not have been invited to someone's home – then he would take him home, among the other guests that the beadle had already sent home with him.

Reb Avremele died before his time, in his middle years, during the first German occupation of Poland. Lived quietly, and died quietly. He was a rare chassidic type of the older generation.

[Page 441]

Reb Zekhariah Karcowycz

 

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With Jews and non–Jews alike, in the city and in the Modlin Fortress, Reb Zechariah was known as “Skhariah the baker.” The name alone aroused an appetite, and was a reminder of tasty Kaiser rolls, well–baked, brown breads, beautiful challos [special braided breads for Sabbath], braided and sprinkled with poppy seeds. No other bakery in the entire city could compare to his. His baked goods had a delicious taste and appearance, the secret to which only he knew, Reb Zechariah himself, “ Skhariah the baker.”

On market days, the farmers wouldn't leave until they bought food for their travels, the delicious baked goods from “Scharjego,” and on the wagons, they fulfilled the mitzvah [good deed] of eating food, and they fed the horses some oats, and they themselves had great pleasure from Zekhariah's rolls. The farmers trusted Zekhariah more than they did the millers and flour merchants. They would go to him with confidence: “We have brought some sacks, so take…” Zekhariah took a pinch of flour between his fingers, ground it up, determined the color, scrunched up his eyes, as if he was thinking about diamonds, and if he nodded his head with a “yes,” the farmer felt as if a stone was lifted off his heart.

But despite his good name, Reb Zekhariah did not connect with his essence, in that he worried all the time about how to grow and improve his business. He was the first to implement a machine run bakery in the city. Reb Zekhariah worried not only about himself, but all his days he also was the chairman of the bakery owners and took care of their financial interests.

Nowy Dwor Jews tell of a certain incident when officers' wives went on strike in the Modlin Fortress during the time that, because of the boycotts against Jews, they were forbidden from bringing Zekhariah's bread into the fortress. The officers' wives did not want to forgo Zekhariah's baked goods, and they won their case. And so, Reb Zekhariah “stood on feathers” [was delighted] and the business carried on, and so his wonderful wife Raizel and his seven daughters and only son Gershon had what to do and provided help.

But one cannot live by bread alone, so Reb Zekhariah also put in a lot of energy and diligence into active work for the benefit of the community. He was one of the founders and long–time vice presidents of the “Bank for Small Merchants and Hand Laborers.” Aside from that, he also had his own non–profit charity fund. The artisans were able to get a loan from him during hard times to prepare merchandise for the sale [at the markets]. With gratitude, the needy accepted the quiet favors that were a great help in their struggle for a livelihood.

Reb Zekhariah died before the war in his own, wealthy home. The Nazi gangs robbed all of his possessions and murdered his entire family. Only one of them, his son Gershon, remained alive and is now in Israel.

[Page 442]

Yakov Hildenbrand

 

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Yakov Hildenbrand, the owner of the pharmacy in Yehoshua Boim's house, was not only involved in medical and medicinal issues as a merchant, but also showed great concern for the medical status of the poorer population. After the years of the first German occupation, he and Yakov Jures, dedicated themselves to the poorer class and tried to get the initial support from the Joint organization. For many years, Yakov Hildenbrand was a member and the treasurer of the renewed Jewish community of Nowy Dwor.

The social activist Yakov Hildenbrand ended his days like all others from Nowy Dwor. He and all his family were murdered by the Nazis.

 

Mordekhai (Motel) Rozenstajn

In Nowy Dwor, he belonged to the enthusiastic Bundist youth, given over to it with all his belief, with his heart and soul. And that is how he remained until the final days of his life. He was a quiet and calm person, kept to himself, read a lot and searched through the entangled labyrinth of life. Several years before the war, he was the administrator of the Medem Sanatorium in Miedzeszhyn near Warsaw. He was the right person to be in a circle of children and with flowers that the children planted and took care of in their beautiful orphanage. There he met and married a nurse in the sanatorium; she was born in Swenciany, Chaike Flekser. Both of them, with their dedicated work, earned much respect for themselves.

About Chaike Flekser, the pedagogues of the Medem Sanatorium, Sh. Galinsky and Yosef Bromberg (in the Teacher's Yizkor Book of the murdered teachers of the CJSZO [“Tzisha” – Central Organization of Yiddish Schools] tell about what a talented and intelligent educator she was, someone whom the children really “worshipped.”

Motel saved himself in the Soviet Union. Later – with the Anders Army [1] he moved on to Israel, but didn't acclimate there, and then went to Australia to his eldest brother Chaim Rozenstajn, the husband of the famous Yiddish wordsmith, Rochel Holczer. There he tried to start his life all over. But his untimely death ripped through his quiet, modest life.

 

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Mordechai Rozenstajn, may his memory be blessed,
and the talented wordsmith Rochel Holczer in Melbourne (Australia).

 

[Page 443]

HaRav Elimelekh Neufeld

 

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The townspeople called him “Meilekh, the Rav's.” The Rav's oldest son was simply called “Nakhum.” He no longer needed the support of his father's prestigious lineage; he already had his own support. But Elimelekh, this Meilekh, whom the city, and likely even the Rav himself, saw as the most talented of all the sons, specifically enjoyed using his father's lineage for himself.

Many years later, when Elimelekh became a well–known name in Warsaw in the Mizrachi circles as a Zionist orator and writer in the religious Zionist press – he still made use of the unassuming initials, BHR”B (son of the Rav, Ben HaRav). He still saw more in the lineage of “Ben HaRav” than in himself as the Rav, to which he had the rights and rabbinic ordination after his studies for years. Could this be a father complex – and in this case – to go in his father's ways, and to measure up to him in his diligence and in the ways of Torah? Yes, of course!

From his very young years onwards, he showed great acuity for learning; he was very studious, involved in himself and in his own thoughts. Even socially with his friends he was more so the listener rather than the speaker, even though he always had something to say. This became even more glaring in his later years. He loved constraint. Whatever he uttered was weighed and measured, had substance, and was to the point. He was very neat, an esthete, a pedant, and by nature small in size, so that his deep thoughtful eyes showed even more so, along with his high, learned forehead, and his yellow ascetic face. He drew attention to himself, and in his public appearances, everyone gave him respect…

He learned Torah and fine character from his great father, and later – under the influence of “Uncle Pintche, one of the Radzymin court people – then left to study in the Radzymin yeshiva. His later rabbinic studies were completed in Germany in the famous Rabbinical Seminar of Altona [one of the former united Jewish communities, that is A., H., V., referring to Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek] and in Berlin.

Soon before the outbreak of World War One, he returned from Germany to Nowy Dwor, almost a “Rabbiner” [German: “Rabbi”], with German expressions in his beautiful formal Yiddish. Then he went back to the small area of his rabbinic home, and there, day and night, he studied Torah and its wisdom. When the directors of the Agudah in Germany, rabbis Cohen and Carlbach, in the years of the first German occupation, came to Poland and founded the Agudas Israel, and the religious youth organization Hatvunah, Elimelekh Neufeld, who was well connected in these circles, also founded a Hatvunah organization in Nowy Dwor.

I still remember how, as a young boy, I was present at the peaceful, modest gathering at the founders'

[Page 444]

… gathering at the bakery of Paula the baker, whose two sons, Abba and Elimelekh, were among the organizers. Some of the young men of the dissolved Tiferes Bakhurim were in attendance, and Elimelekh Neufeld explained the objectives and the program of the organization to them. With constraint and deliberation he explained his conclusions about the need for a religious youth union. A committee was selected at this meeting, with Elimelekh Neufeld as the chairman, and “I the little one,” actually the youngest of all of them, as secretary as well. In a short time, we rented a location in a nearby house right across from Rabinowycz's room. There were two big rooms. We set up an ark for the Torah right away in the second room, borrowed two Torah scroll from the Bais Medrash [study hall], and established a minyan [quorum of ten men for prayers]. Our boys would undertake leading the prayers in an amateurish fashion, boys such as Yosef Baranek, etc. The one to read from the Torah was the youngest son of Yosef Yeshiye Segalowycz, and here, in this young minyan, for ten odd congregants, Elimelekh Neufeld made his first inroads as orator.

His brief 15–20 minute speeches were exceptional for his group, and also attracted outside visitors who greatly enjoyed his well thought out ideas and strong Zion–lover emphasis.

I would like to mention some of the members and congregants who have remained in my memory: Yosef Baranek, the two brothers Abba and Elimelekh Sikora, the two brothers Nota and Yekhiel Zalczman, the two brothers Segalowycz, Shlomo Finker, Moshe Shmukler, Lipe Mundlak, the later Bund activist Dudek Zilbertal, Yekhiel Rozenboim's two sons, Itche Finkelstajn, Aron Gotlieb, and also those, may they have long years, who are in Israel today – Avigdor Korn, Yosef Simkowycz, Khaim Yoel Kohn, and myself.

Several weeks after our founding, we organized a large opening celebration in Rabinowycz's hall. For the first time, the hall – in order to maintain modesty – was set up with separate entrances for men and women. The main speaker was – to a packed full hall – the Nowy Dwor Rav, of blessed memory. His talented son, Reb Elimelekh, gave a fiery speech about the social laws according to the laws of the Torah. His father thanked him on behalf of everyone in front of all those witnesses, with a kiss to his head. The cantor, Reb Leizer, along with a rehearsed choir, sang several chapters from the Book of Psalms, and concluded with the Germanized Hatvuna hymn, whose last stanza and refrain is worthwhile to mention:

May God bless
All the people,
Who are here
And also those
Who proudly bear
The flag of
Tvunah.

In the eternal God
We believe
And his Torah scroll
We all love.
The Jews are loyal
We believe.

Ho! Ho! Tvunah!

The song was composed by the first editor of the Orthodox newspaper “The Jewish Word,” the well–known Reb Nokhum Leyb Weingot. At the meeting were also present as a guest of the Nowy Dwor Rav, the publisher Moshe Justman, of blessed memory (popularly known as B. Jeuszon – Itchele), who was still at that time dressed as a chassid, with a “traditional long coat” and a round hat. He was not a speaker, but he was already then beloved because of his “political letters” in the Sabbath evening newspapers, so his presence already added importance to the evening. After that visit, Justman published in “The Moment” his enthusiastic article about the Nowy Dwor Rav: “The Small Town and the Great Rabbi.”

[Page 445]

The life of Rav Elimelekh Neufeld can be divided into three periods: Nowy Dwor, Warsaw, and Israel. I have already discussed Nowy Dwor here. At the end of the first German occupation, Elimelekh left Nowy Dwor and settled in Warsaw. There he developed fruitful work in the offices of the “Hapoel Hamizrachi” [religious labour party]. He was their spokesperson, worked along with the religious Zionist press, was very close to the leading personalities in the Mizrachi organization, primarily with the fiery Mizrachi speaker the Rav, Reb Yitzkhok Nisenboim, of blessed memory, with whom he collaborated and became like his right hand. He was taken on as Rav and orator in the known Mizrachi synagogue in Warsaw, “Sinai,” which was founded between the huge walls of “Simon's Passage” on the Nalewki. As a leader of the “Tzeirei Mizrachi” in Poland, and of the world organization of “Torah ve'Avodah” [“Torah and Labor”; religious Zionist party], he was very well known among the religious masses with his self–sacrifice in his work. Later, for many years, he was head of the community in Warsaw. He also represented this movement at the Zionist Congress. He earned everyone's respect everywhere, even from his opponents.

In the year 1934, he moved to Israel and was immediately pulled into the multi–faceted party work of Mizrachi. As member of the Mizrachi World Organization, he was at the head of the unit for religious issues. He was also part of the executive of the Zionist Actions Committee, and he was very loved in the Sokhnut [Jewish Agency for Israel] circles for his appearances and conducting of meetings with tact and order, where he assuaged those who did not like one another and appeased unnecessary discussions and arguments.

From time to time, he would also publish his most interesting articles in the Israeli Mizrachi paper “Hatzofe” [“The Observer,” Hebrew language daily published in Israel]. At the time when the news arrived of the bestial actions against the Polish Jews, for these Jews, that he knew so well and worshipped heart and soul – he threw himself completely into the work of rescuing them. Together with Yitzkhok Grinboim, Anshel Reis, and Yitzkhok Lew, of blessed memory, he set out to service the refugees in the German DP camps – a very difficult task that cost him a lot of health. He would come away from the memorial services for the murdered Polish Jews completely depressed and broken.

When I came to Israel right after the war of destruction, my first visit was to him. Deathly pale, he sat – my teacher, my Rebbe [spiritual leader], and listened to my recollections of the Nazi hell. He threw in a question here and there, and was completely absorbed in the narration. He commiserated deeply with the pain of the decimated Polish Jewry.

All these years that he had lived in Tel Aviv, he participated in the memorials for the decimated Nowy–Dwor community where his great father was the last and long–time [for many years] Rav of the city.

On the 9th of Kheshvan, 5714 – October 14, 1956, he, after many years of illness, breathed out his pure soul in the capital city of Jerusalem. On the “evening of grief” by the “Irgun Yotzei Nowy Dwor be'Yisroel” [Organization of the People from Nowy Dwor in Israel], a memorial for those who died, the honorable chairman of the Irgun, HaRav [“the esteemed Rav”] Neufeld described to his long–time friend HaRav Tkhurzh, may he have long years, a characteristic moment of the deceased:

A few hours before his death, he called over his wife and told her to polish beautifully the silver candelabrum that would be put out after his death.

That's how his life went – clean, neat, until the final moment. That's who the man was…

[Page 446]

Reb Berish Zilberman

 

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Reb Berish was the son of Reb Ezra Zilberman. Reb Berish's sister adopted his name by inheritance, as she was called Brocho Ezra's. The women in the city felt it very meritorious to wear a wig done up by Brocho Ezra's. And also, Reb Berish's uncle, Reb Shmuel Zilberman was known for his conduct and his standing; as a religious Jew, with his beard and peyos [sidelocks], and with his Jewish thought, all his days, from the Czar's times and later also in the years of the independent Poland, he was the only Jewish official in the Nowy Dwor magistrate. He managed the civilian books [records] of the Jewish population, marking down the weddings, birthdays, and deaths.

Reb Berish, the son of Ezra and the brother's son of Reb Shmuel, was a Gerer chassid, a God–fearing man, stripped from worldly things, absorbed deeply in a page of Gemara [Talmud] and in discussions of chassidus. He was already like that in his young years. Reb Berish came to Israel in 1934 along with his wife Pelke–Tzirel and a daughter. Their son Nosson and his wife Baye–Rokhel (Zajdenberg), who had already been in Israel for many years, brought them over.

It was not fated for Reb Berish to have much joy in this land [of Israel]. In 1939, Reb Berish's wife Pelke–Tzirel traveled to Poland to visit her family, and then ended up staying there. The German executioners killed her along with all the Jews. This incident was very instrumental in the early aging of Reb Berish. Soon after the war, Reb Berish was one of the first to make connections with the survivors of Nowy Dwor through the arrangements of the Nowy Dwor magistrate, where his father Reb Shmuel had worked for many years.

Reb Berish died filled with tragedy and pain, and was brought to burial – as per his will – in Jerusalem.

Dov Berish First

[Page 447]

Reb Shimshon Note Srebernik

Translated by Pamela Russ

 

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My first meeting with Reb Sh. N. Srebernik was in the years of the German occupation, at the end of the First World War. At that time, I joined him with his Zionist education work with the Agudah youth, under the guidance of the “Agudah” [Orthodox political movement].

Thanks to his tireless work, the entire Agudah youth organization “Hatenuvah,” became Zionist and changed their name to “Zionist Youth Union,” “Hatichiya,” that did a lot of work, and developed a generation of Zionist askanim [working men who support the cause].

With great love, Srebernik drew himself to the youth. He personally and warmly brought each young individual closer, gave him a book to read, and pulled him into the setting where he could listen to Srebernik's richly spirited merriment and Torah prose.

Srebernik was devoted to Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] without end. For many years he was the deputy–manager of Keren Kayemet, and as such, despite his frailty, attended all their gatherings. After each of these events, he shone with joy.

He participated as a delegate at each of the Zionist assemblies. Even as he got older, when he was very frail, he did not desist from going to Zionist conferences.

With his unending youthfulness, his affiliation to the democratic ways of the Zionist movement was characteristic of him, that is to the “Al Hamishmar” group [“On Guard”; Polish Zionist Organization]. He fought for its principles and was a spirited supporter of Yitzkhok Grinboim.

We used to call him, Sh. N. Srebernik, “Rebbe.” He earned that name. His house was always a meeting place and the Nowy Dwor youth drew great wisdom and knowledge from him about Zionism.

How greatly Sh. N. Srebernik was beloved by us all – was indicated at two banquets that we organized in honor of his 60th and 70th year jubilee. The best of the Nowy Dwor social activists, as well as outside important guests, participated, and the spirit was extraordinary.

In the years 1938–1939, he spoke about how he wanted to make Aliyah [move to Israel] to his children. But sadly, his wishes were not fulfilled. As I heard, he merited to die in his own bed in the year 1940, in Warsaw. May these words of his student memorialize him and be as a tombstone on his grave.

Yitzkhok Griner


Translator's note

  1. The Anders Army was the informal yet common name of the Polish Armed Forces in the East in the period 1941–42, in recognition of its commander Wladyslaw Anders. (Wikipedia) return

 

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