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[Page 173]
Szymon Fürstenberg

by M. Hampel

Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)

Born in Opatov (province of Kelce), his occupation was accountancy and writing “requests” for the Russian powers that were. He met his future wife (née Goldminc), whose parents were looking for a practical purpose for their daughter, opposing this marriage, which they figured was mismatched. Their daughter, who came from a well-to-do family, should not marry to a writer, a bohemian! They didn't want to believe that this disorganized man, their future son-in-law, would with time, be blessed with wealth and that he would play an important role as a man amongst the people and would be looked upon by everyone.

At the beginning of the 20th century, he settled with his wife in Bedzin, where he was bookkeeper to the beer factory of Tropauer & Schweitzer. During the First World War, he opened a store for furniture and gramophones, starting a novelty for those times in this branch; selling furniture on credit with installments over a longer period of time; he was indeed a good businessman, was successful, and was very lucky in this commerce. Acquiring a personal fortune, he opened his own brewery. Luck stood by his side again, so that in a short time, he built a second larger beer factory in Zdunska Wola, near Lodz.

[Page 174]

After the First World War, he bought a factory for metal production in Königshütten (upper Silesia), which prospered greatly. At this point, his fame began, and thanks to his untiring energy, organizational ability and initiative, he reached a very high level in Polish industry, as owner of the large zinc factory in Bedzin (Czeladzka Street) of which its production (zinc kalsomine, metal sheets, pails, etc.) was exported to foreign countries.

Bed-174.jpg [15 KB] - Szymon Fürstenberg
Szymon Fürstenberg

His enterprise employed more than a thousand people of which many were Jews, especially in the management and executive, of which some survived: the technician Goldminc, Beniek Fogelewicz, (both in Israel); Hendel Ratner (USA); Hela Szajer (Belgium); the brothers Borzykowski (Switzerland); and others. In the factory there worked chalutzim of the Bendiner Kibbutz for whom Fürstenberg did a lot. He took care that his employees should have good social conditions, building for them special living accommodations near the factory. He bought the building that was the Bank of Commerce on Saczewskiego Street, lived there, and established his main offices of his large enterprise there.

Fürstenberg was not only concerned with things of this world, but also with the world to come. He was a philanthropist and social worker with a capital P. His accomplishments were weighty. He devoted much time and much money for the Jewish society and for Israel. There was no society in our city - not counting philanthropic institutions – where he was not represented. He was president of the sport club “Hakoach” for several years; leader of the Talmud Torah; a social worker (as was his wife) in the “Benevolent Society”; a past-president of the City Council in the years 1927-1930, where he excelled as representative of city affairs; past president of the Jewish Community; president of the Association of the Jerusalem University; member of the board of the Jewish Agency; and many more.

When a special campaign was launched in the city for Keren Kayemeth for Israel, he always led the respectable contributors, paying 10% (tithes) of the collected monies. He also contributed to non-Zionistic funds: for yeshivas, various cultural institutions (YIVO, TARBUT), Hachshara needs, and sports activities. He never refused anyone who turned to him, which is why he was so esteemed by all.

I remember an interesting detail: when the general Zionists were celebrating the opening of their new hall on Kollataja Street, in the twenties, he promised in his festive welcome speech, that he would always carry the burden of the administrative costs of the hall (rent, maintenance, electricity, taxes), conditional that the bosses should be totally involved with the spiritual of the cause and Zionism… he kept his promise.

The crown of his charities was the spectacular building of the Yavne High School, which he built and in which he invested hundreds of thousands of zloty. Tel Aviv would have been proud of such a cultural asset, which was built in a prestigious style, in the latest style of architectural design and school requirements. Let's not forget that this was in the 1920's and very avant-garde for the times.

There were times when Fürstenberg was financially strapped and construction was sometimes halted through his inability to continue. He never despaired though, borrowed money on interest and continued the construction.

When the Bendiner patron and big lumber industrialist, Eliezer Borzykowski wanted to help Fürstenberg out, he suggested to the Yavne school committee, that he, too, would like to be part of the new building, and was willing to spend a substantial amount of money for that. Fürstenberg was not overwhelmed by this offer; on the contrary – he felt insulted, saying: “thank you for your generosity, but I do not need help, and surely no partners…”

The Yavne School, which graduated thousands of candidates (many of them prominent people: authors, writers, doctors, university professors, artists, thinkers), carried the name of the patron “Shimon Fürstenberg and wife”. This naming of the school solicited objection, anger and discussion by a certain number of members of the society who saw in this naming a sacrilege of the earlier historical and symbolic name of Yavne.

Fürstenberg justified this desire emotionally, which truthfully was a weak convincing argument, but with a sort of confession, as if he would have really foreseen the bitter future which became reality. He said: “Since I have no joy (naches) nor control over my children, who are distancing themselves from Judaism, from national education, from both spoken and cultural Jewish tendencies, I, should, at least, be destined to have some spiritual joy from strange Jewish children for whom I have built a school, which will radiate its blessed influence on the students, who will receive an education in light of Jewish national ideals and awareness. Let them remember me well, that I contributed to their well-being and to their love of Israel.”

[Page 175]

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he fled with his household to Lemberg. Filled with horror, shock and terror, he hid somewhere, afraid of the Russian powers, which could send him to Siberia for being a capitalist and industrialist. In 1941 he succeeded to come to Warsaw and from there he was sent to Bergen Belsen, in a special camp for foreigners, with false foreign identity papers. The Jewish Agency in Israel took interest in him and wanted to save him, but to no avail. From Bergen Belsen, the Germans transported him “elsewhere”, sending him and his wife to an unknown destination and to their death.

Icchak Wygodzki

by A. Liwer

Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)

He came to Bedzin from Zawierce before World War I and immediately became active socially. Since political activity was unauthorized back then in those years, he, therefore, concentrated his social activities in the cultural association called “Hazamir”, which served as a front for camouflaging political gatherings. He was active in Hazamir in all senses.

Bed-175.jpg [15 KB] - Icchak Wygodzki
Icchak Wygodzki

With the establishing of the Hebrew organization called “Ivriah” he put himself at their disposal and became one of their main activists.

When political activities were legalized by the Germans during World War I, wide horizons were then opened for him in Zionistic activities and there was no branch in which he was not active. He organized lectures, meetings for city council and community elections, declaration assemblies for “Shekel”, “Keren Kayemeth”, “Keren Hayesod”, “Tarbut”, and others. He played the lead everywhere showing the example of devoted worker and loyal activist. Even his opponents respected him, knowing that he did his work with conviction and honesty.

Even though his economic situation was always a difficult one, he still did not abandon his public work. He excelled specifically as propagandist by various elections, city and general elections, as well as, to the Polish parliament, the Sejm. He visited the surrounding towns and stepped forward at meetings, often several times a day. When we, Zionists, were terrorized by the Polish powers during the Sejm elections, when the Polish police force harassed us at every moment, when non-Jews broke into our assemblies and threatened us with sticks and iron rods – he never got scared, and behaved freely and normally from the stage.

An interesting incident involves the Bedzin Jewish community. In that respect, he always profiled himself as a representative, on the front with his fighting nature, because in that situation, we, Zionists, had to fight the Agudah, which was a very large factor in the city and the Agudah wanted that the community should be religiously oriented – thus, a religious institution.

Wygodzki was also active in educational work. For many years he was a benevolent supervisor of the Jewish studies in the orphanage. The high level of Jewish studies in that institution was his doing.

He was one of the founders of the High School “Yavneh” and until the last days he was an active member in the supervisor's council of the school. The development and progress of the high school was also one of his accomplishments.

A permanent co-worker with the “Zagliember Newspaper”, he wrote about current events. He was particularly known for his articles concerning Jewish holidays, in which he explained their meaning from a nationalistic traditional standpoint (versus a religious viewpoint). People enjoyed reading him, because he had a light pen and could write in a clear and exact manner about some of the deepest problems.

He cooperated in many philanthropic organizations, and he received attention and was respected everywhere.

For 30 years I worked daily – day in, day out – with my dear friend Wygodzki, until the outbreak of the gruesome war. On the second day of the war I said good-bye to him because I prepared to leave Bedzin with my family and seek safety far from the Nazi murderers, and I was, indeed, successful. I did not know, then, that it was my last handshake and the last goodbye of my close and dear friend. May his memory be honored.

Mosze Kaminer

by Icchak Tencer

Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)

He was born in 1898 in Bedzin to one of the most respected families in the city; his father Reb Lipa Kaminer, was a great learner with a very keen mind. He was often invited to assist at the rabbinic council in the event of a complicated Din Torah (a religious court). He knew all of the Talmud by heart. His mother, Leah, was known in the city for her good deeds, her activity in “Bikur Cholim”, “Linat Hatzedek”, and she helped particularly in clothing the poor Talmud Torah children.

Mosze received a traditional Jewish education, went to 'cheder'; as he became older he was influenced by books of enlightenment. From his youngest days, he manifested a love of reading, read a lot in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish. His dream was to be able to study, but family ties and commitments bound him to his Chassidic home. He loved his parents and couldn't hurt them, so he studied on his own, and learned languages from the most intelligent young men in the city.

Mosze Kaminer began his community activities with the outbreak of World War I.

[Page 176]

When the German army marched through the city and threw fear into the population, it totally upset the economic picture, and hunger reigned in the city – then Mosze came into the picture with a call for help to relieve the need. Thanks to his initiative an organization was established under the name of “Ezra”(literally means 'help'), which undertook collecting money in the city and opened a municipal kitchen, which dealt out daily free lunches.

It is especially worthy to mention his work as founder of the first Jewish folk school in the Talmud Torah of Bedzin. He took upon himself a very difficult work, that of establishing a benevolent teaching staff under the leadership of Dr. Chaim Perl. He brought textbooks from Vilna; bought notebooks and writing material and distributed them for free among the students.

The school acquired great interest in the city, and was strongly supported by some of the most respected social workers, such as Dr. Weinziher, Aronowicz and Pejsachson; one of the special assistants was Mrs. Zysfeld who arranged clothing for the students. It was no easy task for this young man, who still had to withstand a battle with the Chassidic crowd who didn't want to allow the children to learn Yiddish, fearing that they would turn toward a bad culture, and the Chassidim attacked the secretarial office of the school and tore up the books.

From a young age, Mosze Kaminer was drawn into the political arena of Bedzin. The liberal wind present in Poland drew him towards it, and he became a member of the Poalei Zion (a liberal worker's party). I remember the first illegal meeting held in a home without any lights on, on the Saczewskiego Street in the home of the Rozens, where the orators were Fajner, and Hamburger and Mosze Kaminer himself impressed those present with his beautiful Yiddish.

Later on when the party moved to the large 'hall' in the Wiener house, Mosze held there readings. But he couldn't come to terms with the Poalei Zion, and during party discussions, he requested a more positive attitude towards Israel and to the Hebrew language. He was already a member of “Ivriah”, which had the purpose of teaching youth Hebrew. He left Poalei Zion and founded the folk party called “Tzeirei Zion” (the youth of Zion). His influence on the city's youth was very strong. With his beautiful presence, his fiery black eyes, electrifying speeches, he always succeeded in impressing his listeners.

And that is how he was often seen standing on the hill where the castle stood, surrounded by young people drinking in his words thirstily. Quite often, in the early summer evenings, he would sit alone, dreamily, and make plans about going to Israel. He was the president of the Tzeirei Zion party to which he devoted much time and efforts. He founded the Folk University where he lectured in Yiddish literature and his lectures drew a large number of listeners.

His 'Castle Evenings' which he organized on Friday evenings also drew visitors from all different parties. He also visited the whole province where he held lectures concerning “Tzeirei Zion”.

He was not destined to see the realization of his ideal. After a short and very serious illness, he died, in his bloom, at the age of 24 in the city of Bedzin.

Tewel Klajnman

by Abram Liwer

Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)

Actually, Tewel's name was David Klajnman. However, if anyone in Bedzin had inquired after that name, then no one, with exception perhaps to a couple of friends would have known to whom they were referring.

Whether Tewel was born in Bedzin, or whether he came later to Bedzin is not clear – it was known, however, that in 1904 he was already in Bedzin. He worked all his life as a tailor by Joel Sznajder in the Beth Hamidrash Street. But tailoring was secondary for him, – his life revolved around Zionism and Hebrew culture. Tewel spoke Hebrew fluently and was a reader and buyer of Hebrew newspapers and books. He was very popular. A gentle, calm person; he was everyone's friend; he never had any disputes with anyone. One can say about him that he was a Zionistic encyclopedia. Information, numbers and data about Colonial-Bank, Keren Kayemeth, Hachsharat Hayishuv, etc. were all to be had by Tewel.

With his substantial income, he became a steady buyer of all Zionistic and Palestinian stocks that appeared at those times on the Jewish street. He carried on his shoulders personally the internal work for the Zionistic and Hebraic organizations.

He was secretary of “Tarbut”, of the Zionistic organization, Palestine-office, shekels campaign, and all this was benevolent work, nor did he ask for recognition or respect for his work.

If one came to a meeting, then Tewel was already present with the minutes, ready for work. In general, he didn't say much, he might even have had a slight speech impediment. He almost never participated in discussions. He was a man of deeds and devotion.

Aside from meeting with friends in the Zionistic organization halls, he was a retired person – a loner. He didn't have much to do with people privately. The writer of these words thinks he might even have been the only one, whom Tewel would occasionally visit, and that only because we were long-standing friends of many years.

On a Saturday afternoon, a light knock on the door. Tewel waddles in with his distinctive walk. Such a visit lasted several hours. Along with his humility, he was critical about many problems that were around in those days; not only Zionistic issues interested him; he was also very informed about world politics and he would make his perceptions known very clearly.

He carried on with his work for Zionism for many years with much success and with much profit.

Suddenly, several years prior to the outbreak of World War II, Tewel disappeared. He stopped appearing – no more secretary – no more minutes. It was only known that he traveled every day to Upper Silesia. No one knew what his activities were about. In that respect he remained as closed a person as always. “What will be already if you would know” was his usual answer. It became known that Tewel, the old bachelor, had married. For all the requests that he should again come to us, only to meet again as old friends, he always answered “We'll see”.

[Page 177]

It was never known what it was that had distanced Tewel from his former capable Zionistic work. Only a short time before the outbreak of the war, Tewel appeared again in the Zionistic Club, not as a co-worker, not as a member or a secretary – just as a guest. Leafed through newspapers, said little, came quietly, left quietly. For him, the turbulent life in the Zionistic Club was a bit strange. But we were happy to see him from time to time by us. We welcomed him very warmly tried to show him a lot of friendship.

The outbreak of the war brought his life to an end. May these couple of words be considered as a gravestone of a good old friend that helped considerably spread Zionistic ideas in that “pre-historic” development era.

Pride to his memory.

Icchak Mordechai Pejsachson

by M. Hampel

translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)

There was no Jew in Bedzin who did know the ex-secretary of the local community, the generally respected union activist who served loyally for half a century the Jewish settlement and the socialistic ideal.

He was born in Russia, in Shklow on the Dnieper River in the year 1876. He received a religious education in his father's house and despite the fact that he stems from Rabbinic roots and grew up religiously, as a youth already he was drawn to the radical movements.

As a young man he came to Warsaw and became active socially and socialistically. He connected to I. L. Peretz and came to him regularly, because he was knowledgeable in Jewish literature and took up the pen from time to time in different literary publications and in the party press.

In 1893 he helped publish a pamphlet for the First of May, which was spread and dispersed around the suburbs and factories. In the year 1897, with the establishment of Bund (Union), he immediately joined their ranks and was one of the most prominent activists until his last day, when the Nazi bullet cut short his life.

He was arrested several times for illegal activities, and sat for lengthy periods in prison. In 1903 he settled in Switzerland (in Geneva), where he was active in the foreign international committee of the Union. He returned to Pinsk, Vilna and when his first wife passed away, leaving as survivors her husband and a son, he came in 1909 to Bedzin where he remained for 35 years until his death.

He met his second wife with whom he had three daughters, all three later active in the unionist organization of Hashomer Hatzair; distinguished themselves in the clandestine activities during the Nazi occupation and died like heroes in the line of duty; especially Edzia, who was tortured when she was caught with weapons which she was transporting as an Aryan in the ghetto of Bedzin.

After World War I, Pejsachson became secretary of the Jewish community and in 1917 he was elected as a delegate on the Union list in the Bedzin city council.

In the weekly “Lebensfragen” (Questions of Life) and in the daily “Volkszeitung” [Folk's paper], he produced articles, sketches and memoirs in a masterly fashion and beautifully expressed under the pseudonym “Wagner” or “An old friend”.

For many years he was a member of the central committee of the Union in Poland and he was the soul of the unionist organization in Bedzin. He was active in different ways in the city, and especially stressed the Yiddish language and its culture, working very actively for YIVO.

Bed-177.jpg [14 KB] - Icchak Mordechai Pejsachson
Icchak Mordechai

Notwithstanding his radical anti-Zionistic position and Yiddish difference of opinion, he was valued, esteemed and respected because of his honesty and humane behavior to everyone; even in his opponents' circles, they appreciated his idealism and devotion for everything Jewish.

In the last war he again became active in the clandestine operations against the Nazi bandits and murderers.

In the book “Generations of Unionists” (publisher – Our Times (Unzer Zeit) – NY 1956), we read the following:” In February 1940, the representative of the central committee of the Union, Artur Nunberg, brought illegal literature and money to Pejsachson's residence, and held a meeting of the Bedziner committee, with the participation of Pejsachson, Stopnicer, Dr. Perl, Frajlich and Korenfeld. Among other things, it was decided that unionists should not take part in the Jewish kehila [council].

He reached the pinnacle of morality with his heroic death, when, during the last deportation in 1943, he did not allow himself to be dragged into the train, yelling to the Germans that were proceeding with the exile: “You brown animals, you have lost the war anyhow! The battle against helpless Jews will not help you. We will outlive you!”

A Nazi executor immediately shot him, thus extinguishing his pure soul.

Honor to his memory!

[Page 178]

Roze Jacubowicz

by Dawid Liwer

Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)

She was born in 1889 in a little town called Przasnysz, in the province of Plock, in Poland, where her father, Reb Isachar Berisz Graubart was a Rabbi. Notwithstanding her traditional education in a rabbinic home, Roze went to a Russian school in Siedlce, and later on when the whole family moved to Bedzin in 1893, where her father became the Rabbi, she also attended a Polish school. Through her teacher of Hebrew, Jakob Ber Zajonc, Roze came in contact with the cultural educated youth of the city, began to read Yiddish books, and became acquainted with the classic Yiddish writers like Mendele, Peretz and Shalom Alejchem. It was particularly Peretz who brought to life in his novels the romantic beauty of past Jewish life, who influenced and had a great effect on the young Yiddish poetess. Peretz described a world in which she had lived.

Roze Jacubowicz found herself all of a sudden between two worlds. On one side the patriarchal rabbinic home of her father, who between one page of Gemara and the other would occupy himself with his children, and in long conversations with them, he would tell of the history of their people, of everything that the Jewish people lived through in their life in the Diaspora, and under her father's influence she learned at a young age to think on her own and to have feelings; and on the other side, she found in Yiddish literature a large new world, in which she took her first steps with respect to poetry. Thus she wrote her first poem: “For My Father”, which was published in Peretz's anthology “Yiddish”, in Warsaw 1910. Therein she praises her father's grandeur, a man who sits in deep thought in “Torah loneliness”, “in the still grey fog of early morning”.

“A flaming world shines magnificently in your eye
Wrapped in the early morning fog, bent over G-d's image,
How large you are! My father! Now taking Moshe's place”
(excerpt from “For My Father”)

Roze kicked into her new world, into Yiddish literature, discovering a new beauty, and this brings her to a quiet rebellion against the old world of her parents. In her poem “The Siddur of the Bride” she says:

“I tore open the ring
Of my father and mother's door
And lightly as if on a fly
I fly out to you”

Notwithstanding the fact that she had torn away from her father's house, that she had distanced herself from “Father's and Mother's World”, she is drawn back to her source, to the house of her grand father image, as she recounts in a later poem:

“Your sad glance that told me
Stories of two thousand years ago,
Death robbed me of all this
But not of my belief in you”.
(excerpt from “Going to Forefathers Graves”)

Her biblical motives carry a special beauty. She is the first Jewish poetess, who included these motifs in Yiddish poetry. She brings to life before us the old-new images, especially the biblical women, such as Rachel, Ruth, Miriam, Shulamit, Ester, and what beautiful and quiet lyricism is carried in each poem:

“Wake up my quiet dove, come with
To the field where our garden flowers
The turtledove with her song
Is already in our land”.
(excerpt from “Shulamith”)

Or in a second poem:

“So what if my mistress sent me away
I still feel the holy stillness
When the master of Abraham's ancestors
Woke me to a sunny awakening
Among sunny bushes and gardens”
(excerpt from “Hagar”)

In those days the feeling of love in Jewish literature was not very strongly expressed, especially among the few women writers. Roze comes on with her wonderful gentle love in lyrical songs and poems which are beautiful, full of charm and modesty, which a Jewish woman in Poland at that time could express. Her love and biblical poems brought in new motifs into Jewish poetry.

In 1924 her first collection of poetry was published “Songs”. She also ended a second book “Songs to G-d”, which never came to light because of the outbreak of the war.

In later years she lived in Kalisz and later in Warsaw and during the war she worked together with Professor Balaban in the Historical Commission. In 1943 she was deported to Treblinka.

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