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[Page 186]

 

My Father z”l[1]

by Zvi Lask

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The Lask family founded the Jewish community in Raciaz – this is what I was told by my aunt Chava Lask, the wife of R'Yosef-Chaim Lask of London, both deceased (lit. “in the world of truth”). She visited Israel in 1950; she was then 90 years of age. She related that over 200 years ago, great-grandfather R'Itzik Lask came with his 10 sons and were the first Jews to settle in Raciaz. They dealt in leather. He had a secular library in Yiddish.

I remember Friday nights at home. We sang the Shabat songs [zemirot Shabat] and also songs of Zion in Yiddish and Hebrew. On Shabat day, between Mincha and Ma'riv [the afternoon prayer and the evening prayer] he would always sing the Yiddish song “Di zun fergeit in flamen” [the sun sets in flames].

On the holiday of Chanuka he would place on the window a large picture of the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) and left it there all day, so that the “Miracle of Chanuka” would be publicized during the day as well, not only at night (by the Chanuka lights). After lighting the Chanuka lights, he would sing with the children the Yiddish song “Oh, you little lights.”

When War broke out, he wrote to his friend in Eretz Israel Yechezkel Bet-Halachmi z”l that he planned that year to conclude all his business in the diaspora and make Aliya to Eretz Israel with his family. May his memory be blessed!

Translator's footnote

  1. of blessed memory Return


[Page 187]

 

Our Home

by Esther Broida (Lampkovitz)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

We arrived in Eretz Israel on the ship Tiger-Hill on the day WWII broke out, and with it the War of Annihilation by the Nazi animals.

Twenty four years have passed, and the tears are still choking me as I remember the house, the family and the town, standing alive in front of my eyes.

A rich and warm Jewish cultural life has developed in Raciaz, in spite of the anti-Semitic environment, which was full of hate and dominated by hooligans. On Friday night, candle light was shining through every window and holiness was felt in the air. Father R'Yosef would return from the synagogue singing and accompanied by a guest for Shabat, who would join the family at the table.

The weekdays were suddenly erased, with all their tumult and running after a livelihood. Father would recite the blessing over the wine and Mother z”l, Chana Gitel, who during the week helped with the sustenance of the house and also gave charity baseter [lit. “in secret”, in order not to embarrass the receivers] felt like a queen.

After the festive dinner, father would read and explain the “weekly portion” of the Torah, mother would listen and we, the children went out to take part in our new social and cultural life.

Although the town was small and poor, the cultural life was well developed: political parties, youth movements, charity societies, a library, various courses, a drama club and an orchestra of wind instruments, the only one in the entire region.

The young men and women would take walks through the streets; on Friday nights we would go to the clubs of our parties. I would go to the Po'alei Zion club, where a session of “Questions and answers” would be held every Friday night.

We had a permanent group of lecturers – on topics of politics or questions of culture and literature. Among the lecturers were my brother Gedalia, Mordechai Goldberg z”l and others. After the lecture, an interesting discussion would take place. On Saturday night, the Drama Club would perform sometimes, a drama or a comedy, the money devoted to cultural or organizational purposes. Some of the actors live now with us in our country. The entire shtetl would come to see the performances. The performance would begin close to

[Page 188]

midnight, and if there was no electricity it continued at the light of a petrol-lamp, sometimes until dawn, and when we went home we would meet the cows that went out to pasture.

Jewish life went on calmly, but the gentiles would remind us, from time to time and by various means (among them by frightening us) that we lived in exile. In the Polish school where I learned, I felt the blind hatred, from the fellow students as well as from the teachers.

As a child, I did not yet understand the meaning of Anti-Semitism, but I felt the hate and did not understand why and wherefore…

 

The Lampkovitz Family

I remember once I went out with a bucket to bring water from the pump, not far from our house. Several young gentiles passed, took the bucket from my hands and poured the water over my head. I caught the empty bucket, hit one of the boys and ran home shouting and crying.

When I grew up a little I loved flowers and walks in the field. On Saturday afternoon I would go with my girlfriends outside of town, for walks in the fields. Sometimes one of the hooligans would approach and annoy us, and since I was still naïve I would fight back. Once I received a hard slap on my face. We ran away. But the hooligans would attack the adults as well; I remember especially Vaytchik, a butcher, who was supposed to be one of the “good people” – he was a member of the official party, and when the member of the Sejm visited our town he was in the group that welcomed him. Yet he would boast before his friends: “When I want to have some fun, I have a drink and send all Jews to sleep.” He would appear on the street like a demon, drunk, wavig a stick and shouting: “Shoo! Shoo!” as if chasing away some chickens, and everybody would run home.

Once, a group of people decided that he should be taught a lesson: they caught him in a dark corner while drunk, and beat him up severely. Wounded and bleeding, he ran home, took an axe and went to the Po'alei Zion Club, menacing with the weapon (he knew that the people who had beaten him came from the club). He shouted: “All women go home, and I will break the heads of the men!”

I remember the fear. Nobody dared to move. Only my brother Gedalia and Mordechai Goldberg z”l, whom he respected a little (he called them “friend”) slowly crawled near the wall, came close to him and with nice words persuaded him to hand them his axe while outside an entire band waited for him.

Meanwhile, I and my friend managed to go out and we went to the police, told them about the imminent pogrom in the club and asked them to come. They promised that they will come, but, as usual, they did not.

But how unimportant these incidents seem now, compared to the great destruction and massacre of all our relatives and dear ones!

[Page 190]

My mother z”l, before she was taken to Auschwitz, quietly and with tears said farewell to each of her children and kissed each of them. With her perished in Auschwitz my elder sister and her family. My brother Gedalia and my younger sister and their families were murdered in Stolin, where they had fled to escape from the Nazis.

My nephew Simcha, one of the Auschwitz survivors told me, that my father z”l died in the Plonsk Ghetto and that he had seen him before his death. Father told him: Go take revenge on the damned murderers! I am old and sick, but I was a soldier in the Russian Army and if they now gave me a gun I'd shoot them. You are still young, take revenge. Take revenge! You will overcome them.

My sister Feiga with her husband and children perished as well; my brother Gedalia and his family; Sara and her family. – May God avenge their blood.

 

The Lampkowitz and Navra Families

 

[Page 191]

 

My Parents

by Efraim Goldberg

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

My father was a teacher, like my grandfather R'Chaim Moshe z”l, and later in his life he was a sign painter and a house painter. All his life he strived to go to Eretz Israel and help building it. He was a religious Jew, and studied Torah whenever he had a possibility. I would like to mention his brother too, Efraim the son of Chaim Moshe who was a baker. My uncle Efraim, any needy man who entered his shop – and this was very often – went out with money and bread. And so was the entire family: aunt Liba and Mordechai, who were always in the shop.

Families with many children would come from distant places and live in the Bet Hamidrash Street. My uncle was also a religious man, and whenever he had a chance he would go to study in the Dvorki Shtibel together with my father z”l. I remember he studied the Tractate Zera'im [Seeds] and the margins were full of calculations and remarks – what they should do and how they should behave when they would come to Eretz Israel. His son Mordechai was devoted to the community; he was one of the organizers of Po'alei Zion in Raciaz, was a member of the Jewish Community and of the Municipal Council, and helped every Jew who came to him with his problems. And what I am telling here is only a very small part of Mordechai Goldberg's deeds.

We lived in the house owned by R'Moshe Yona Katchenovski. He had two sons, Hezhe and Yechiel. Both were strong men. They were not members of any party, but were always together with our young men and women.

We would take walks through town, and the Christian young men did not like that and would beat us up. So the two brothers mentioned above organized self-defense. Sometimes they came home with a wounded head, but they had saved the Jewish honor and all the other Jews awakened – especially when they received the news about Jewish defense organization in Eretz Israel – and they showed that Jewish blood was not cheap.

When I was young, a new Cheder was founded, and the “Aguda” people, some of them rich, helped with donations. One of them was R”Yitzhak Mordechai Zlotnik z”l. Although he was a busy merchant, he would sometimes come on a weekday to the Cheder to supervise and help. He prayed in the Gerer Shtibel and I think that he was not involved with the various political parties; he took care of the cheder, making sure that the Jewish children whould study Torah and not remain ignorant. On Shabat, the parents would come to hear

[Page 192]

what the children had learned during the week. The pupils were happy to “pass the test” with R'Yitzhak Mordechai, because he was a good teacher and helped. At the end he would lovingly pinch their cheeks and say: “You know, children, just go on learning more and more.” He was of an endless good heart and possessed knowledge and wisdom.

I would like to mention also R'Motel Perlmutter, may God revenge his blood, with whom I prayed together in the Wolomin Shtibel. He studied whenever he had a free moment, but his most important purpose in life was to help build Eretz Israel. In Raciaz he would lecture and arouse in the listeners enthusiasm for Aliya; in every lecture he gave – no matter what subject – he would mention Eretz Israel and its needs; he was annoyed with the groups who did not agree with him. In his opinion, money should be donated only to Keren Kayemet [JNF] and Keren Hayesod, and he was angry when people contributed to other funds.

When I tell about the Zionist activity of our groups, I cannot forget my friend R'Isser Kirstein, may God revenge his blood. He was devoted, with body and soul, to the Mizrahi, and tried to convince the youngsters of Raciaz to make Aliya, in spite of the fact that it was a time of riots in Eretz Israel and parents were reluctant to let their children go. We are all indebted to him, although he did not make it himself, because he became ill. Against his will, he parted from his entire family, who made Aliya, the first being his brother R'David Kirstein z”l.

I would like to mention also my teacher R'Yeshayahu Kamin z”l, a member of the Mizrahi. He acted for the organization of the religious Jews in town, trying to persuade them to make Aliya to Eretz Israel. He knew how to explain that the Torah itself commands this, since he was a great scholar, virtuous and of a pure heart. He was a ritual slaughterer [SHO”V] but was not employed by our Community because he could not abandon his pure thoughts about the settlement and building of the Holy Land. May his memory be blessed!

 

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