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[Page 170]

Figures from My Childhood

Kalman Kuligowski (Buenos Aires)

Translated by Pamela Russ

As an orphan at three-and-a-half years old, I started saying Kaddish (Mourner's Prayer) for my young, deceased father, may he rest in peace, who was torn away from us at such a young age. I began to go to the Beis Medrash twice a day where they stood me on the bench near the Bimah (Torah stand; podium). The face of Reb Mendel Bobek shines before me, with his white beard, as he took care of me making sure I would recite kaddish, and also the wonderful big Jew, Reb Khaim Shlomo Shokhet (the ritual slaughterer) with his good heart, who even during prayers would smile at everyone. I started going to kheder (religious school for young boys): for some time to Reb Khaim Leyb, a teacher from the old times. After that, for a few weeks I went to Reb Khaim Yoine, may he rest in peace, and also to Reb Efraim Sandler, of whom the children were very frightened. But he taught me in a more modern fashion. Also, Reb Yehuda Leyb Gutkowski planted in me a little Jewishness, even though sometimes he would give me a smear with a belt that had a button (buckle). Also, Reb Hersh-Efraim Bugoslowski was my teacher. But my beloved mother Rokhel Laya was my best teacher. She knocked into my head the first letters of the Alef Bais (Hebrew alphabet), not thinking about the constant worries of earning money for bread.

[Page 171]

Still as a young boy, I joined Beitar that was set up in the mill of Berl Izkowicz and Motl Melnik. From that time on I began to think about a Jewish state. That's how we grew up with many who today are living in Israel. Even in difficult times, we would gather and have discussions. One tried to outdo the other and show him how to build a better world, a better future, and most important, a Jewish state. They had already begun attacking the Jews, especially in the marketplaces and fairs. They would attack the Jewish storekeepers. Jewish life had become tense. The dark news from Germany worried us in Serock. It's a good place now to remember the Jewish heroes from that time. Two heroic Jews struggling against a huge mob supported by the Polish police gave significant blows to the thugs. I remember them respectfully: Motl Bornshtayn (the son of Shalke the shoemaker) and Herhshel Pnjewski - even with one hand (his other hand was not well at the time) he beat them over their heads with sticks.

Today there are no more Jews in Poland. There are no Jews of Torah and wisdom, no Yeshivas (religious schools), no little shuls, no khasidim (pious Jews), no merchants or craftsmen.

There remains an eternal wound.


Kalman Koligowski's Beitar certificate


[Page 172]

The Serock Self-Education League And Her Activities

Shmuel Brukhanski (New York)

Translated by Pamela Russ

The Serock library under the name Self-Educational League had a great influence on the cultural evolution and intellectual design of the majority of the Serock youth.

A group of pioneers established the library at the beginning of the 1920s. The town was beginning to recover after the damage of the First World War and the Bolshevik invasion. Those youth were already more seasoned in culture understood and felt the need to establish a “culture corner” where the working youth could assemble and receive an intellectual, cultural education. The initiators were energetic young men, enthusiasts, and they threw themselves - body and soul - into this initiative. The founders of the library were: Khaim Kopetch (today in Argentina), Yekhiel Meyer Zakharek, Avrohom Gutkowski (Growski), Yosef Feinboym (today in America), Wolf Gerwer, Shloime Ostrowski, Hershel Mendzelewski, and Soro Sandler.

The first activity was organized and it was to raise a little money and to receive from the authorities a legal status for this type of organization. They met with the well-known Jewish writer and community activist Noakh Prilutzki, at that time the leader of the Jewish “People's Party,” and the library received legitimate status under the name “Self-Education League.” They managed to acquire a few books from a library that had existed earlier under the name “Progres” - founded by Shmerl Ashenmil (today in Argentina) and Shmuel Doner (today in New York). They collected a certain amount of money and bought more books, rented a location in the town's marketplace, and began to recruit members. With time, the number of members grew, and the activities were extended. Friends Khaim Kopetch, Yosef Feinboym, and others, began to manage a multi-faceted literary job.

[Page 173]

They organized several evenings during the week “kestel oventn” (evenings of free [open] debates), discussing actual questions of literary, social, and political topics. They discussed various party programs, local events, and so on. Also, many self-educational circles were established. They studied literature and history. There was also a speaker's circle, where they openly presented speakers. From time to time, we would bring as speakers, our lecturers: writers, editors, journalists, or literary critics. There was also a drama circle under the directorship of a very capable and gifted artist Shloime Ostrowski who was an actor in the youth theater for some time in Warsaw under the management of Yosef Rotboym.

Shloime Ostrowski threw himself into this work with all his soul, and the drama circle was our pride. The drama circle grew steadily with renewed energies - and among them, one of them was me. Many talented youth had an opportunity to display their talent. We presented the best pieces of the Jewish classics, for example: Peretz Hirshbayn's “Der Iberiker Mench” (The Extra Person), “Der Inteligent” (The Intellectual), “Miryam” (Miriam); Gordon's “Di Shekhita” (The Slaughter), “Gott, Mench, un Teivel”, (God, Man, and the Devil); Sholom Aleichem's “Dos Groyse Gevins” (The Great Lottery), “Menchen” (People); Bergelson's “Der Toyber” (The Deaf Person); Leyvik's “Hirsh Lekert” (Hirsh Lekert), and many other pieces and one-act plays from the best of the Yiddish repertoire.

Our performances had great success, and the room was always crowded. There were both the intellectuals and the working class Jews and their families in attendance, and everyone greatly enjoyed the Yiddish shows. The town became vibrant. Also from the neighboring towns: Pultusk, Wyskow, Nashelsk, Radzimyn, and Jablonna, the youth would come to our performances. On several occasions we were invited to the neighboring towns to perform, and we had great success. The profits went towards buying new books. After each performance we were able to buy several hundred new books. The library already owned several thousand books.

But the profits were not the main thing. The drama circle …

[Page 174]

… brought a lot of life to the organization. The rehearsals, the readings, and the managing of the works stirred up an interest in literature and art.

I would like now to mention some of the participants in the drama circle: Shloime Ostrowski (stage manager), Avrohom Jazombek, Feivel Borow, Moishe Bresler, Feige Bresler, Hershel Zalcman, Shmuelke Brukhanski, Moishe Gutkowski, Moshke Wrubel, Maleh Mendzelewski, Yidel Mendzelewski, Feivel Gal, Dvoire Kreda, Soro Bayle Gzhebjeniazh, Moishe Yosel Ubagi, Yakov Brukhanski, Hershel Rosenfeld, Feivel Pshikorski, Itche Leyb Shteinski. The artwork was painted by my talented brother Shepsel Brukhanski. He also painted portraits from the Jewish classics that decorated the walls of the library. Fishel Sterdiner was the technical person. After Shloime Ostrowski left for Warsaw, we hired a stage committee consisting of Avrohom Jazhamberk, Moishe Yosel Ubagi, and a script writer.

The League was not only occupied with cultural and intellectual work for the youth, but also occupied with their physical development. We ran diverse sport activities, such as: ping pong, basketball, and later a football team made of several groups. A special paid instructor trained the members. We would organize matches with other teams. Our sportsmen were outstanding with their excellent playing. Every time when there was such a match, the town came alive. The Jewish band would march through the streets with two groups, and the crowd gathered at the sports place, to the competition. This brought some cheer to the gray lives of our town.

That's how the work of the Self-Education League went on until Hitler, may his name be erased, destroyed our town.

[Page 175]

The Beginning of the Modern Cultural-Social Activity

Yosef Feynboim (America)

Translated by Pamela Russ

Serock, as one of the several towns during the Czarist rule, belonged to the typical Jewish settlements in their social and economic life - frozen and conserved in survival of life. The Jews in the small town of Serock had no outlook for a better future.

The small group of individuals with their various theories had no power and did not have the opportunity to change anything in the direction of stirring up the society to an intensive cultural-social life.

Only in 1915-1918, during the First World War, did the social and cultural life of the youth and the small Jewish settlements expand. The youth began to search for answers to the problems and …


A Youth Group at the Narew
From right to left: Rokhel Izkowitz-Czesner (in Israel), Yosef Feinboym (in North America), Feivel Borow, Khana Broyde, Yisroel Wolinski, Rifke Kuperboym


[Page 176]

… the first modern culture institution was established in Serock - the library and culture club by the name of “Progres.”

It is important to mention a list of people who did the following work with the deepest commitment: the Ashenmil brothers, the family Shtelang, Grosbard, Kopetch, Doner, Kleinman, Blumberg; and the younger ones: Ostrowski, Feinboym, Grosbard, Gerwer, Gal, Jurkowicz, Zakharek, Yekhiel Meyer Warsawski, Faskowicz, Tikulski, Friedman, Czesner, Rosenberg, and so on. The great movement to raise the level of culture began by the youth. This “Progres” institution developed many parts of the cultural-social work, such as: the library, evenings of debate, holiday entertainment, lectures, discussion evenings, literary trials, drama circles, choirs, etc., and to that end, there was a list of appropriate institutions. Also, individuals from the older generation were drawn into the new life. It was becoming lighter and brighter in the dark surroundings. There existed the organization Hechalutz, professional unions, educational leagues, Hashomer Hatzair, Mizrachi, and so on. There began long and earnest disagreements about national and social freedom, art, literature, sculpture, music. In this detail, all the Jewish differences were set aside among those involved in culture activities: literary evenings and discussion evenings were done in partnerships.

Our small town Serock baked itself deeply into our hearts, where we were raised, and the Bug-Narew rocked us with their waves, where that “steaming well” with the Napoleon mountains listened quietly to our songs, to our loves and our confusions, where our grandfathers and great-grandfathers lived for hundreds of years, gave life to and raised new generations. From all of that, nothing remains.

I was in Serock in September 1964, and went across the town in its length and width. I looked for traces and signs of our hundred-year life in Serock…

Tragically: empty and dark. I had the feeling that the entire nature there, together with the Bug-Narew, was orphaned. The entire beauty around her is saddened and troubled, because the most beautiful and the best of her fortune were cut off: the Jewish surroundings and her dream-laden youth from my town Serock.

[Page 177]

Jewish Serock

by Zwi Apelboim (Beit Shemesh)

Translated by Pamela Russ

Serock is a city that grew out of a town after many years of being on the dirt roads of Warsaw, Zegzhe, Pultusk, Makow. The town began building itself at the end of the 14th century on the shores of the rivers that ran together: the Bug and the Narew, and they called it “Serock on the Narew.” With time, when the town started to grow, they began to build houses on the nearby mountains where the Warsaw-Pultusk highway ran.

It was built as all the other towns of that time: on both sides of the highway, single level houses were built on the ground. Across the highway, in the direction of the market, a large street was built, named Kosciuszko Street, with houses that were almost all single level, and there were many stores and a Jewish public school. Parallel to that street there was the so-called synagogue street where the large, tall city synagogue was built, along with a bais medrash, ordinary houses, and a grain mill that belonged to the Nowogrodski family. Higher up on the highway, a Jewish blacksmith shop was built belonging to Aba-Leyb Fridman.

There were other streets, sparse with houses, such as the mikve (ritualarium) street, where the Rav of the town lived, and where the Yakov Aryeh, the carpenter, had his workshop. Off the mikve street, there were a few little streets with a few built up paths, where there were several hardworking Jewish families living, up until the Catholic Church [on that road].

The market was a large square: from all sides were single level houses built on the ground. Near the main street, there was a well, and in the large area of the market, every Tuesday and Friday, the farmers from the nearby villages would come and sell their home grown produce.

When market day had ended, the farmers allowed the Jewish storeowners to buy whatever they needed.

[Page 178]

Serock - A Long Time Ago

by Refoel Fridman (Kholon)

Translated by Pamela Russ

The Jewish settlement of Serock lasted about 250 years, until its end. Before the town was established, on the other side of the Narew, there was already the solid, longtime established village of Orczekhowa, where a few Jewish families lived. The Serocker elders would discuss among themselves that this happened because the Polish rule at that time declared that Jews were not allowed to settle in Serock, which at that time was a village of only non-Jewish residents. The town was in need of Jewish business. The elders also said that the village of Popowa, that was situated on the road to Wyskow, was a settlement established earlier than Serock. When the Serock Jewish settlement was already a large one, they still buried their dead in the Jewish cemetery in Popowa. Years later, when the decree that Jews were not permitted to work in agriculture (or anything to do with the fields) was passed by the cruel Polish, the majority of Popowa Jews were also forced to leave their village and settle…


A street in Serock


[Page 179]

… in Serock. In that way, the Jews of both villages combined to establish the town of Serock.

Even years ago, they used to call some of the Serock Jews by other names, for example, “the Popowa Jew.” One such Jew was called “the Popowa baker.” I also remember once, when I was with my grandfather Reb Khaim Shlomo the Shokhet, that we went to Popowa. The Shokhet went there to slaughter ducks. My grandfather told me that many Popowa Jews settled in the new town of Serock for the abovementioned reasons.

Until the outbreak of World War One, there were about 3,000 Jewish souls living in Serock. And because Jews there were a majority, the local non-Jews decided to add on a few neighboring villages so that for all those around a Christian mayor would be chosen.

The Serock Jews were occupied primarily with business and handwork. All the blacksmiths were Jewish. Other than my grandfather, there was one other shokhet - Reb Refoel. Because of arguments that lasted years, an additional two shokhtim (plural) were taken in from other parts - Reb Mendel from Popowa and Reb Eliyohu from Ostrow-Mazowieck.

The elderly Rav always had a quorum (minyan - ten men) in his home for prayers. The men of the Khevra Kadisha (burial society) and the regular people prayed there. While the Rav was still alive, the city took on another Rav - the son of the Wyskow Rav.


In Serock, on the way to the cemetery, there was a well that was called “the boiling little well.” The Jews of Serock would draw water from there and wash their sick eyes. Jews who were sick believed that water from this well would give them a full recovery.

There was one Jew with a black little beard who was called “Nokhum'ke.” During the days of slikhos (days before Rosh Hashona), he would knock on people's closed shutters before daybreak and call out: “Get to shul!” On Fridays before candle lighting time, Nokhum'ke would blow his trumpet so that the shopkeepers would lock up their….

[Page 180]

… stores. I remember Avrohom Yankel, the smith, who ran into the bais medrash every day with a fiery intensity. Avrohom Yankel was always the first one to be with the first minyan.


Serock Jewish soldiers in the Czar's army


These were the Serock Jewish teachers: Khaim Yoine, Refoel Minkes, Dovid Itziks, Khaim Yehoshua, and Avrohom Leyb. The school aged children were not eager to go to all of these teachers. They did not want to go to Khaim Yoine, Refoel Minkes, and “Palgei Nizka” (the “streams of damages”) because these teachers used to beat the children and the others didn't.

There was also a teacher in Serock that had come from Radzimyn in order to learn Talmud and commentaries (Gemara and Tosefos) with the older boys.

[Page 181]

In the year 1922, near the old pharmacy, the Kheder Yesoidei Hatorah (name of boy's school) was established under the supervision of the Agudas Yisroel (Orthodox Rabbinic Council) directorship of Reb Itche Swarc and others. Other than Talmud and its commentaries, twice a week they also studied secular subjects such as mathematics, the Polish language, and history. These subjects were taught by the Jewish teacher Khaim Jurkewicz from Pultusk.

In order to learn more about worldly subjects than was taught in Yesoidei Hatorah, those who could afford it, would also study with the “enlightened” Jew from Serock, Eliyohu Aron Rosental. They also studied Hebrew with Khaim Hersh Klaynman, the son of the glazier.

At the time of the First World War, the German occupying rule prohibited food from being brought in from the villages. Because of that, there was a hunger in the town. Jews and Poles smuggled in food products for big amounts of money, but the majority of the Jews in the town did not have the money to buy any of these foods. The result of this was that there were outbreaks of typhus and cholera epidemics - and there were many victims.


In 1920, the Bolsheviks moved in to Serock. During a major shootout behind the town, a bomb was thrown and two Jews were killed - a grandfather and grandson. Shortly after that, a second bomb went off near the house of Khaim Shloime the Shokhet, and this one killed Minke the chicken dealer, also Khaim Dovid's wife, and two other Jews were wounded.

After that, when the Bolshevik army retreated from Serock, the “Halertchikes[1] moved in and began to make trouble for the Jews. They began robbing from the Jews, beating them, and tearing out their beards. This went on for three days.

In the year 1922, there was a terrible economic crisis in Serock, and not having anything to do, there began an immigration to Argentina.


[Page 182]

At the beginning of the 1920s, Zionist parties began to form in Serock: Algemeineh Zionisten, and Mizrakhi. A short while later, Hekhalutz was established with the writer of the “Shuros Be'rosh.”[2] After that, the communist League was started that did conspiratorial work under the mantle of Jewish cultural activities. By the end of the 1920s, the Shomer Hatzair was established by Yekhezkel Fridman who perished, of blessed memory, and Lianka Goldman (today is Israel), and also the group Ha'oved Ha'Zioni (the “working Zionist”) under the directorship of my unforgettable brother Shakhne Fridman, of blessed memory.


A Serock Jewish soldier in the Polish army


The Zionist parties raised the youth with a Zionist spirit. Every week there were lectures of local and …

[Page 183]

… foreign Zionist speakers. Henokh Warsawski (today Khanokh Vardi) from the Shomer Hatzair was an exceptional lecturer. Also, Yosef Tikulski had a great influence on our Zionist youth.

When the university opened in Jerusalem, there was a great celebration in Serock. Almost all the Jews in the entire city gathered in the city's shul. There was singing and dancing all night, and they collected money for Israel.

The youth began to prepare themselves for Aliyah (immigration to Israel). Some participated in what was called Hakhshara (training for aliyah) in Grokhow and in Szeczyn near Byalistok. Some of these people actually received certificates and did make Aliyah.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. These were soldiers under the command of General Jozek Haller during and after the First World War. Return
  2. Lit.: “Headlines.” This may have been the name of a newspaper published by the Hekhalutz group in Serock. Return

[Page 184]

The first buds of Hebrew education in Serock

Shlomo Rabinowicz/Rabinowitz (Haifa)

Translated by Sara Mages

Serock was a town in Poland where many Jews lived. Most of the Jews gave their children a religious education. Hebrew schools didn't exist. The children studied in the “Kheder” (the name of the Jewish school at that time), the teachers were “Melamdim,” or as they were called “Rabbi.” A child, who didn't listen to him, or refused to learn as the Rabbi demanded, received an unpleasant punishment in the form of whipping in front of all the children in the room. The hours of study were from eight in the morning to six in the evening. The children sat crowded on benches at a long table facing each other, and in that manner they studied. The study in the “Kheder” lasted up to the age of 14-15. Many continued to study in the Yeshiva and others went to work, some to their parents' shop, some to find a new craft, and all of this without the possibility to progress.

At the same time, many parents wanted to give their children a modern education. A number of parents gathered together and decided to establish a Hebrew School where the education will be modern.


Chaim Jorckowicz, the state Elementary School teacher, with a group of students

Standing in the first row from right to left: Shmuel Margolis, Sheindil Bernstein, Chava Barab, Shlomo Rabinowitz.
Sitting: Rivka Wolinski, Rivka Barab, Chaim Jorckowicz, Gitele Grinberg, unidentified female


[Page 185]

They traveled to Warsaw, found a well-educated Hebrew teacher by the name of Halperin, and brought him to our town. Thus, the first Hebrew School was opened in Serock under the direction of the teacher Halperin. The classroom seating arrangement was changed: the students didn't sit facing each other, but all sat facing the teacher. Another innovation that was introduced to the school is teaching boys and girls together. There were thirty boys and girls in the school. The students studied Hebrew, arithmetic and Polish. The students were very successful in their studies because the teacher was excellent.


The first Elementary School in Serock
In the center: the teacher-principal Halperin


[Page 186]

Also, great was their desire to learn and the parents had great satisfaction from their children. Then the troubles started: When it became known in the city that the students were studying the holy language and the Bible without a hat on their head, and boys and girls study together, the religious extremists boiled with anger - one night, they broke into the school, smashed the windows and damaged the furniture. The next day when the students came to school they were stunned at the sight of the frightening image. But the desire to learn was great: in a short time everything was repaired, the studies continued to operate as usual, but the bad impression remained. The matter became known to the city's rabbi, an 80 years old Jew, a wise scholar. He invited the teacher Halperin to see him, apologized for what happened, but at the same time asked our teacher not to teach Hebrew without a hat, and to separate the boys and the girls. After a two hour argument it was finally agreed that the boys will wear a hat during Hebrew and Bible studies, but the teacher didn't give up on the matter of schooling boys and girls together. The studies with the teacher Halperin lasted for around two years and everyone was satisfied, but to the great sorrow of the parents and the students, he emigrated to his family in the United States and the school was left without a teacher. The search for a new teacher lasted a long time, and with difficulties another one was found. Unfortunately, it turned out that the students knew Hebrew better than him. After the exam that the new teacher gave during his first class, he corrected spelling mistakes that weren't mistakes at all. Of course, the parents immediately dismissed this teacher. The search for another teacher came to nothing, and the school closed. Some of the students continued their education in the state's Elementary School, and in the afternoon they studied Hebrew with the teacher Zvi Kleinman, who was the only one able to teach the children, myself included.

One thing is certain: those who received the foundation of their education in the school where the teacher Halperin was teaching, will know, and will remember, the teacher who introduced us to the good atmosphere of the Hebrew language that inspired the youth who grew up in our city. Unfortunately, only a few of them were left after the last World War.

[Page 187]

The Modern Kheder (Jewish School)

by Melekh Mendzelewski (Bat Yam)

Translated by Pamela Russ

Among all the Serock Jewish schools in the 1920s, the most respected was the kheder of Reb Elye Aron Rosental, of blessed memory. He prayed in the Mizrachi minyan (shul), and he partook in helping Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund). His school used two rooms with long benches for sitting, a blackboard where the teacher translated his lectures for his students, and even a bell to ring for break as in a shkola, or a modern school.

In kheder, they learned Hebrew, Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, Writings), religious studies, and worldly subjects such as: mathematics, Yiddish, history, Polish, and even geography.

Many of the survivors received their first bit of knowledge - history and love of Israel - here in this school. Who of them does not remember the first Hebrew song, Al Hakhalon, al hakhalon amdah zipor yafe (A beautiful bird is on the windowsill), Shaon metakteik tak-tak (The clock is ticking, tick-tock), Kukurikoo, Koreh Ha'tarnegolet (cukoorikoo, says the hen), or “Di Sokhe” (The Plow) sang in Yiddish, and many more such songs were sung by these students.

For younger children, a young, engaged woman was hired for the “Frebluvka[1] or the “Okhranka[1] girls. Each child had a small blackboard with a piece of chalk to write, and each received a cup of cocoa and a roll each day.

When the children went for a walk with their teacher, they were all dressed in blue and white aprons with white and blue braided hats made from crepe paper, since there was no money for material and there were no subsidies in those days for schools or for Frebluvkas. The school existed from tuition that was paid, and not all parents had the possibility to make uniforms for their children for the Frebluvka.

The morah - that's what the students called their teacher - learned with his students with a lot of patience and dedication, and tried to help his students understand the material with allegories from the Bible, and stories…

[Page 188]

… in order to learn and know, to raise their morals and love for their friends, and not to be overpowering at the cost of weaker ones. And when he discovered a student that was talented and wanted to learn, but didn't have any money, he would tactfully (so as not to embarrass him, God forbid) bring the child back into school or give him separate classes, even on the Sabbath. He never thought about himself, that he had to rest. He could not remain indifferent to talented children, but hoped that the fathers would pay when they would have the means. He already brought in an orphan, almost forcing him to learn. “Jewish children must study with anyone's help, it doesn't matter who, as long as they are learning. He who is intelligent will manage to develop himself later on.” This is what the teacher always said.

He didn't earn much as the teacher in the kheder anyway, and he lived in real poverty. There were parents who paid regularly for their children, but there were also those who didn't care that they had to pay, and the teacher did not have the heart to remind the child. In general, he felt it was beneath his dignity to beg for tuition payment because it had to be the parents' moral obligation and they had to know that this was how the teacher earned his living. And when his need became too great, he would give his wife a list of names of those who owed him money, but she would always come home embarrassed, without a cent, complaining about her fate and her children's fate.

Reb Elye Aron, of blessed memory, also had a group of students, older boys and girls, who had completed school. He gave them lectures in Hebrew and bookkeeping, and many of these worked later on as bookkeepers. For a certain period of time he also worked as a bookkeeper for Moishe Rosenberg in the mill, and gave lectures on the Sabbath for free to intelligent, poor children, because by that time, he already had some earnings. He also was involved with community activities such as Mizrachi, Linat Hazedek (charity for the sick), and generally helping others discreetly, in whichever way he could.

When the mill burned down, he went back to teaching children, which again became his main source of income. He was always a believer and hoped that things would get better.

Of course, because there was always tsores (problems) in Serock, the depressed and confused would always come to him for all kinds of help. Reb Elye…

[Page 189]

… “the master” would write letters for women to their husbands in America, and the letters were almost always successful. The men would respond from across the ocean and immediately send money and with time, brought over their wives and children to them. He would also write requests in Polish for unfortunate people who found themselves in difficult situations. He was always ready to make it easier for someone. His letters and requests were able to move even stone. And those who suffered felt relieved. He would celebrate with them as if he himself would have been helped.

In the beginning of the 1930s, when it became impossible to earn a living from teaching, and the children had grown up, he left Serock and moved to Warsaw where he worked as a bookkeeper and taught Hebrew. He died in the year 1938 on Shavuos. His wife, Dvoire Rosental, died in the Warsaw ghetto. May their memories be blessed.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Both of these words are obsolete Polish terms for a kindergarten. One is “okhronka,” which usually denoted a kindergarten ran by a religious institution, and the other is “freblowka,” denoting a more modern and lay approach (after F. Frobl, a German pedagogue). [Thank you to the many translators who assisted with these definitions.] Return

[Page 190]

Our Town …

by Yosel Grosbard, of blessed memory

Translated by Pamela Russ

Quiet, calm, and modest, our town lies between wide, spread out fields and meadows, between mountains and waters, as if God had the intention of giving it all good things, as a father to its only child; it actually smiles to him who sees that the sun should not be stingy with her warm rays.

Our town lives as a world, modest unto herself; among God's big worlds, she calmly takes her place. Our waters, the Narew and the Bug flow by unnoticed in their shores, as if they do not want to disturb the calmness of the town.

And beautiful, as if childishly na´ve, our town appears in her yellow gray spring dawn, when the morning is still wrapped in the dew, and transforms herself in the rays of dawn's light. Then, it appears, as if a loving, compassionate child and a mother's soft lap have awoken from a quiet, sweet dream. And in the evenings, when the sun's last, dark copper …


A Serock Landscape


[Page 191]


… brown rays die off in the river, our town falls asleep, dreaming with the hopes of a fresh tomorrow…


And thus, in a fluid calmness, we live in our town, day after day, summer after spring … as if here time had no power, and so it never gets old - and the sky here is never cloudy - noisily, here the birds are always singing, and the fields are always green!

The water, the mountains, the fields have much to tell about young girls' dreams and young men's longings. So many, scattered all over you - how many songs, tender from girls' hearts, broken from unfulfilled longings, lie secretly within you!

Yes, my town! Yes, her waters, fields, mountains, and valleys, you are rich without bound.

Whole worlds of magic lie within you! And still, so not haughty; so calm and modest…

[Page 192]

My beloved town! You have to have partly grown up with you, part of you has bathed in your waters, warmed in your sunrays. It's a piece of magic that comes from you alone – to be able to recognize you, to be able to feel you! … And because I am a child born in your lap, and raised in your arms, and my heart flamed like a rose because of you; and because, my most beautiful, youthfully spun dreams are sown over your meadows and waters; and in minutes, sweetly intoxicated, I have drunk until delirium (?) from your magical nectar juices; therefore, no matter what life will throw me, no matter what will knock at my door; my ideals will change, dreams will disappear and become forgotten, but my small beloved town – I will always, always remember you …

(“Unzer Vort” [Our Word] 1, Pultusk, 1928)


At the Narew River


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