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[Page 161]

Mordechai Goldberg

by Zev Weinstock

Translated by Sara Mages

I was fifteen when I came from Płock, from school, for a vacation. By chance I met Mordechai Goldberg. He invited me to lecture on Polish literature. My Yiddish was rather minimal. I was afraid to appear in public. Mordecai encouraged me with warm words. Already in my first conversation with him I realized that a leader was standing before me. A short time later we became very close friends. Every day we met at his home. Then, I learned from his father that most of his time, and the money he received from his father as wages for his work (baking), he allocated to Poalei Zion party. Under his influence I became a member of the party. At the board meetings it became clear to me that he had covered, to the best of his ability, every deficit created in the budget. Years later, Goldberg founded a kindergarten in our town next to Poalei Zion. The whole financial burden was placed upon him.

Mordechai was my soul mate. Loyal and very devoted to me. One day, when I applied to go to Hakhshara in the village, my request was turned down by HeHalutz center on the grounds that HeHalutz branch in Raciaz needs me the most. However, thanks to the intervention of

 

Mordechai Goldberg z”l

[Page 162]

Mordechai Goldberg, they agreed to send me to the Ripin area where I united four groups into one kibbutz named “Izraela.” I served as chairman of the kibbutz which numbered about one hundred and twenty members. Obviously, as chairman of the aforementioned kibbutz, I participated in the meetings of HeHalutz center. In the meetings we discussed each member's request, whether he deserved to immigrate or not. When members of the kibbutz, who were not approved for immigration, returned home from Hakhshara, they came to me with complaints and resentments and I was in great distress. Before I immigrated to Israel I had a serious conversation with Mordecai Goldberg. He was eager to immigrate to Israel. However, he explained to me: since he was not qualified for physical work (due to a defect in his hand, he had two fingers missing and the rest were paralyzed), he would like to receive, with my help, a certificate [visa] directly from Israel to ensure himself a suitable workplace there. In Israel, I went together with Shmuel Katchanovski to the Histadrut labor committee with letters of recommendation on behalf of Poalei Zion center in Warsaw. However, all our explanations and arguments were of no avail. Their answer was: “first of all immigration, don't ask questions and don't set conditions regarding work.” I informed Goldberg. He replied in a letter full of bitterness. Nonetheless, I heard that he did not despair and did not resign from his activities in the party, in the community committee and the municipality of Raciaz. He was also active in all other institutions. In this manner he continued until the bitter and tragic end. He perished among the martyrs of our town. May his memory be blessed!

 

The heroism of children

During the First World War, before the Russian army left Raciaz, Jews of all ages were kidnapped for digging trenches in the front.

R' Yitzchak Mordechai Zlutnik and my Uncle Yona Biranbaum z”l, turned to the army commander in the area and suggested that they would recruit Jews and be responsible for the diggers. It was agreed between them that every three days another group would leave for the excavations.

Yona Biranbaum, a community activist, volunteered for the first group. Four days had passed and Yona and his friends had not returned from the trenches. The families were filled with great concern. Meanwhile, we received a note written by Yona that his group was suffering from hunger and asked us to send bread urgently.

My mother, Hannah Rose z”l (sister of Yona Biranbaum) collected large quantities of food and looked for a cart and a driver to transport it to the group. But, none of the cart drivers wanted to take the risk for these reasons: there were explosives beneath the bridge. It was an unruly time. All the Russian soldiers had already moved out the area and only one patrol remained.

At the same time Sara Goldstein, a girl about thirteen, I, a boy about twelve, and two others appeared, and with great courage decided to walk to the group. We loaded the packages onto our shoulders and set out without paying attention to the danger.

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When we arrived at the site of the excavations I talked to my uncle, Yona Biranbaum, and told him about the situation in the town, that the shops were locked and the entire Russian army had already left. At that moment it became clear to them that no Russian soldier was watching them but only one Pole we knew. We also told him about the situation in town, asked him to release the Jews and he fulfilled our request. Immediately, Yona, Klopman and I, walked back to the town and arrived ahead of the tired adults. We did not walk down the main road for fear that the Russians would catch us. We took a shortcut through the fields and two hours later arrived safely home. When it became known in town that we returned safely, the wives came and began to ask for the safety of their husbands who had been recruited to work. I told them that they were unharmed and that they were already on their way. They hugged me with tears and thanked me – in short, I was the hero of the day in Raciaz.

 

My mother z”l

I remember the good deeds of my mother, Hannah Rose z”l, in the days of the First World War. At that time the typhus epidemic raged in town. People avoided visiting the sick for fear of contracting the disease. I remember how my mother announced, day and night, to neighbors and acquaintances, that cleanliness and good nutrition are the guarantee to prevent the spread of typhus. And indeed, every day my mother cooked large quantities of soups and distributed it among the needy – to anyone who was hungry.

Luckily for us, our house was one of the few that the damn disease passed over it. My mother drew a conclusion and published it. at every opportunity. among her friends:

 

Hannah Rose Weinstock

[Page 164]

“See, cleanliness and good nutrition served as a shield against sickness and ailment …”

When the war ended my mother kept in touch with her brother, Meir Biranbaum z”l, in Chicago who also served as chairman of the Association of Raciaz in the United States. In her letters she described to him the dire situation of the Jews in Raciaz. My uncle immediately responded to my mother's letters and began to supply large quantities of food from the United States, such as canned milk, flour, etc. My mother stored bags and crates filled with food and with the help of my father, Shmuel Meir z”l, established a committee that its members were Isaac Kashchanovsky and others. The committee set up a communal kitchen for the town's children with the support of the Joint Distribution Committee. From our home daily quantities of supplies were sent to the communal kitchen.

My mother was an educated woman and knew languages, German, fluent Polish, and Russian. She prepared me for the exams at the gymnasium. On the day of the holiday of the Balfour Declaration my mother collected jewelry for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael [JNF]. In our home were representatives of various parties, my brother, Natan (Nuske), was General Zionist, the representatives of the left were my brother Moshe and I – members of

 

Farewell party of HeHalutz in Raciaz in honor of Aharon Pianko's (Aharoni) departure for Israel

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Poalei Zion. Not a day went by at home without stormy debates. The stormiest and the sharpest in the debates was Nathan. He was also active in the central office of his party “Et Livnot” in Warsaw, and was very active during the split between “Et Livnot” and “Al HaMishmar.” He strongly opposed the split and especially attacked Yitzhak Gruenbaum who headed “Al HaMishmar.” Yet, Gruenbaum had no feelings of revenge against him. When Agudat Yisrael in Raciaz accused Nathan of malice in the election to the Sejm [lower house of the Polish parliament] in our town – Gruenbaum sent a lawyer to defend him in the trial.

 

Poalei Zion Orchestra

In principle, it was apolitical, and the goal was that it would serve as an instrument for raising funds for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, the settlement in Eretz Yisrael, etc. We made sure that the orchestra was not stamped with the official seal of any party. That way we were also able to include affluent people in the fundraising and the establishment of the orchestra. We brought Dr. Blum and Lichtensztul, the dentist, to the orchestra's committee. Apart from us, Mordecai Goldberg was the most active spirit in the orchestra's committee. One Lag BaOmer we held

 

Poalei Zion Orchestra

[Page 166]

a raffle in the forest outside of the town and the money was dedicated to the orchestra. We also appealed to the affluent to donate. Indeed, in this campaign we acquired most of the orchestra's instruments. When the orchestra was fully organized we came to the conclusion that the time had come to reduce the influence of Dr. Blum and Lichtensztul. It was a very stormy meeting. Eventually, we managed to remove those who were not members of the party from the meeting and turned the orchestra into an integral part of “Poalei Zion Yemin” [the right wing of Poalei Zion].

At the end of the meeting Dr. Blum harshly attacked the Weinstock family. When I told about Dr. Blum's attack at the meeting, my mother decided to write him a letter in which she asked him to refrain from visiting our home. Then, I greatly admired my mother for understanding our spirit and justifying our position.

 

An invitation from the Poalei Zion center

One day we received an invitation from Poalei Zion center in Warsaw. Since they did not have an orchestra like ours in all of Poland, they asked us to perform in the May Day parade in Warsaw together with the parties of non–Jewish workers. After consulting with Mordechai Goldberg, I agreed to travel as a representative of our orchestra to Warsaw. We arrived in Warsaw and participated in the general socialist procession. After the procession three members of our orchestra were arrested! One of them was Yeshaya Miller. When I learned of the arrest I immediately turned to Poalei Zion center in Warsaw and, with the help of the member Funt (today chairman of the Association of Cinema Owners in Israel), I called every police station in Warsaw to find them. A few hours later we finally managed to free them. It turned out that the suspicion that they were communists had fallen on them because of their hats. Those, who were released, barely managed to participate in the concert that was held that evening on behalf of Poalei Zion in the center's hall.

 

My father Shmuel Meir z”l

Once I traveled from Warsaw to Raciaz. I had with me two small bags full of coins. Since I could not sit still in the same place, I left the bags with Mrs. Esther Zemelman (my mother–in–law z”l) who traveled with me in the same car. When Mrs. Ester Zemelman returned home she told her husband: “I think the youngest Weinstock is courting one of my daughters” (and, as is well known, one of the young women, Sara, may she lives, is now my wife).

Until his marriage my father, Shmuel Meir z”l, was a Hassid and diligently studied Gemara and Poskim. His groomsman under the chuppah was his Hassidic rabbi, the renowned scholar of Ciechanów. Later, my father changed his view and acted secular. On the occasion of his business he always lived in Russia.

[Page 167]

Shmuel Meir Weinstock z”l

[Page 168]

In the attic of our house stood crates full of Holy Scriptures. For a long time I did not know their nature. From time to time, R' Newfeld and R' Yitzchak Zlotnik (Efraim Tzoref's father), came to our house and rummaged through the crates. Once, during one of these visits, I dared to ask R' Yitzchak Mordechai.

– Excuse me, what are you always looking for in these crates?

He answered me: Holy Scriptures, your father was a scholar and only a knowledgeable person like himself knew to purchase rare Rashi's commentary on the Talmud such as those in the crates. And here we find them, and it's a shame that they are lying unwanted.

 

The end of my mother Hannah Rose z”l

My mother, together with my brother Naftali (Tula), received permission to leave Raciaz before the arrival of the Gestapo. In Warsaw, my brother managed to hide our mother on the Arian side with Christians and every month paid them in gold jewelry. When the connection ceased after my brother fled to the partisans (where he was killed) and he stopped paying, the Christians turned her over to the Germans and they killed her there.

May her soul be bound in the bond of all the righteous holy souls.

 

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