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G. Figures

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Rabbi Isachar Berysz Graubart
(Tzadik of Blessed Memory (zatz”l))

Mordechai Hampel

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

At the end of the 19th century, Rabbi I.B. Graubart was invited by the Będzin community to serve as its rabbi. He was 48 years old when he accepted the role and had already taught Torah and had nobly influenced various communities in Poland where he had served as rabbi. He was renowned as a successful rabbi.

He was born in the town of Szreńsk , Plock district. His family was immersed in a spiritual-religious atmosphere and in fondness for the Hebrew language and values. He wrote of his parents, “My honorable father, the sharp, excellent, well versed, humble and God-fearing, R' Binyamin z”l, and my mother, the righteous and wonderfully learned Mrs. Devorah Rachel z”l, both did not avert their hearts and eyes from me.”

His small hometown of Szreńsk was a community of Torah. Szreńsk was home to the well-known Rabbi Yehoshua Trunk (zatz”l) who founded a famous yeshiva in the town where many of the generation's greats scholars studied, including the late rabbi of Będzin.

He was a man of great deeds and Torah and was highly regarded and admired by the members of his community. Even the secular residents respected him, not only due to his holy aura but also because he was tolerant of others' opinions and avoided forcing his opinions upon them. He was understanding, a careful speaker who preached lessons and appealed to one's conscience. He was kind to great and simple people and gave advice, solutions and moral-mental support to those who approached him in their time of need as he encouraged and consoled them. His facial expression and his deeds were pleasant, and that too charmed the members of his community and anyone who encountered him. His great personality, and his wonderful and noble traits charmed hearts.

After he settled in our town he worked on matters of the rabbinate and religious needs but also was devoted to teaching Torah to the community members for the sake of a mitzvah. He devoted most of his days and nights to teaching students who applied their minds to his sharp and complex opinions. Only a few survived and one of them from our town, Chaim Vilner, often fondly mentions his rabbi, from whose springs he drank and was filled.

On special Shabbat days and on holidays, he appeared in the synagogue and spoke about relevant matters to the attentive audience, who listened to his flavorful words, which were full of content and morals. He spoke words of wisdom from his treasure in every dwelling he had happened upon and when he met with the town's elders.

In 5660 (1910), he published his book Divrei Isachar (The Words of Isachar) which is a high-quality book, the reader of which must be well-versed in Torah and Halacha. The book is in the format of a correspondence between the author and rabbis and great figures concerning Halacha of what is forbidden and what is permitted. In addition to that book, he left a few manuscripts, the fruits of years of labor.

Rabbi Graubart was famous across Poland and beyond its borders for his great scholarship. The Genius of Dźwińsk , Rabbi Yosef Rosen zatz”l, who did not heap praise without good reason praises him, said “Berysz'l


[36 KB] Rabbi Yisscar Berish Graubart (Pinkas Bendin, page 323)
Rabbi Yisscar Berish Graubart 
ל ״ ז


was a good man and pure as a child, who studied well and devoted all his time to studying.”

His brother, Rabbi Yehuda Leib, wrote in his memoir, “Israel does not lack great people in their respective roles but my brother was multi-talented, a polymath with a multicolored personality, a great, sharp, and well-versed Torah scholar who studied in yeshiva since his youth to his last day and he turned many students into great Torah scholars. He was wise and understanding, a great lecturer, speaker, writer and poet. He knew numerous languages, was a thinker and an achiever in numerous areas…”

In the book “Ohel Shem [God's Tent]” of 5662 (1912), which is devoted to the histories of rabbis and great figures, the editor Shmuel Noach Gotlieb wrote: “Since childhood rabbi Graubart was gifted with heavenly talents and was renowned and dubbed “the illuy of Szreńsk [the genius of Szreńsk].” This exceptional genius, in addition to his immense greatness in the study of Torah, devoted his pure heart to the Jewish people's spiritual and physical state. He approached ministers in an attempt to prevent bad decrees more than once. He was admired and wanted by all parties and he was very influential. With all his concerns, he always set aside time to giving a lecture to great students. This genius wrote original commentary on all matters in the Talmud and a book named “Hezkat Hayad [The Strength of the Hand]” on Maimonides.

In 5660 (1910), he participated in the rabbinic conference in Saint Petersburg, which was gathered to

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deliberate important problems in the rabbinic world and aimed to glorify religion in the people's lives.

In 5662 (1912), a rabbinic conference was held in Katowice for rabbis from Germany, Austria, England and Poland, who laid the foundations for the Orthodox Jewish Union Agudath Israel. When it was founded it was not anti-nationalist, although it did not side with Zionism. Rabbi Graubart participated in the conference and was among the founders of Agudah. He was alert to the ideal of Zion and even wrote essays where he expressed his feelings, and his book “Shivat Zion [The Return to Zion]“ included his letter about the settlement of Eretz Israel. Although he was unable to openly advocate for Zionism, he served as its representative and advocate. Because of the unique conditions placed on Polish rabbis, he had to make his peace with matters that he had not approved of.

He fell sick with cancer and was transferred to the well-known Jewish hospital in Breslau, where he underwent surgery, but to no avail. The disease within him gnawed at his health and killed him. He passed away at the age of 68 on 25 Cheshvan 5674 (26/11/1913). I recall his funeral; I was 7 years old then, and I remember the procession as it passed through the alleyways on its way to the Bet Midrash where the coffin was placed, and he was eulogized. The streets were filled with people who followed the procession. Dozens of policemen on horseback and on foot were tasked with maintaining order, and ropes were stretched across both sided of the roads. Envoys from all Polish communities and their rabbis walked in this mourning procession, the size of which was testimony of how much was the late rabbi liked by the people, who mourned their beloved rabbi.

After his death, the son of the late rabbi, Yekutiel Zalman zatz”l, was chosen to succeed him. After several years, he left the town and relocated to America where he served as a rabbi until his passing in 5702 (1942).

Although nearly half a century has passed since I.B Graubart was laid to rest, many have not forgotten him.

Nahum Sokolow wrote an essay in memory of Rabbi Graubart in HaTsfira on 13/2/1914, in his regular column “From Shabbat to Shabbat,” which I quote here, with minor omissisons: “…He was a beautiful person with a face as white as snow surrounded by a black beard. His large eyes were full of life and a very kind heart was reflected in them. Like me, he was born in a small town in Poland. He gained a reputation as one of the greatest geniuses from Szreńsk . Our fathers were friends and I watched with special curiosity as father enjoyed the Rabbi's company; the two wise Jews, sons of Torah with sharp minds, full of humor, were delighted by plain words and words from the Torah. Sparks flew during those conversations. Byrsz's theories were short and sweet.

My first lesson with him dealt with house ownership and he attracted my heart with his glorious charm. He had a kind laugh, was honest, and hummed pleasant songs full of longing from an ancient world of purity. I can say that he had an emotional heart and a poetic soul.

Oh, forgotten dreams, extinguished pictures!

Many years passed and Byrsz became a rabbi, an important one full of concerns and worries. He was limited in the range of his activity; the rabbinate had already left its mark…

More years passed and I knew that he had become the genius rabbi of Będzin who was pure and God-fearing, faithful, devout and of serious and settled awareness. Of course, he was friendly with many for the sake of good manners and peace. Had he been independent and inwardly developed, without compulsion and forcing by external conditions, he could have ascended to a higher level.

I learned some things from him and so I am compelled to call him 'Rabbi.' I learned from his life more than what he had taught me directly. I devote to his memory this humble flower from the modest flowers that bloom under the mound of winter's snow.”


Memories of The Great Rabbi
Isachar Berysz Graubart zatz”l

Chaim Vilner

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

“Monuments are not erected for the righteous, their words are their memorial.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shekalim Chapter 2)

As one of his students I write some memories from the past and my meetings with my master and teacher, the rabbi of Będzin. He taught me for four years and I was his helper until his last day, may his soul rest in Paradise.

As a young man, he was renowned as a great illuy [genius], and wonderous stories are told of his around-the-clock scholarlyness. He was a rabbi and a posek [decider on Halacha matters] of complete authority among the greatest men. He devoted his mind, energy and soul to the knowledge of Torah. His clear mind and his immense diligence in studying Torah created a genius of Halacha.

I recall that when we the students or someone around his table raised a halachic question, his eyes would light up and his expression became serious as he began producing countless gems from the Bavli and Yerushalmi Talmud, Maimonides, and Shulchan Aruch, as if all were opened before him, and his words shined gloriously.

He was a wonderful speaker whose lectures charmed hearts. His method of study was aimed at practical Halacha, which was the aim of all his pleasant pilpul [a method of studying Talmud by sharp analysis] and humor. He approached teaching in all areas of Halacha in that manner. Even as a youth, he taught many people clearly and calmly. His classes also concerned practical Halacha such as rules of kashrut, rules for mixtures, etc. He also taught us the various methods of study in the Talmud such as delegation, majority opinion, and judgment. His method of studying Talmud was a probing of the writings of the Rishonim [First Authors], their commentary and their answers to questions posed by the Achronim [Last Authors (before the closing of the Talmud)]. When he gave his daily lecture and he was able to settle a difficult passage in Maimonides, his expression emanated strength and happiness and he felt a unique spiritual pleasure.

He was very lenient concerning Halacha, and when various questions were posed about kashrut he would say, “My dear students, you should know that I permit this where other rabbis are stricter,” and he would give the correct reasons for that. [Editor's Note: See footnotes 1) and 2)]

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His aim and desire were to make Torah greater. He was very saddened by the abandonment of Torah-studying and said that in a joking manner one could explain the sages saying that “The Son of David [Messiah] will not arrive until one would seek a fish for a sick person and could not find it” (Sanhedrin 98), which is a metaphor for another saying of the sages that “in the future, Israel will forget the Torah.” (Shabbat 139). Usually, there are not many questions about fish and if it is from the kosher species it is permitted. But if someone is asking a question about fish that he himself cannot answer, this is “sick.” And that is the issue, presented humorously: that in the Messianic Age, the study of Torah among Jews would decrease so much that they would be unable to rule on “questions” concerning fish.

As the rabbi of the great Jewish town of Będzin, he was tasked with caring for the holy community and its institutions like the Talmud Torah school which he led, Linat HaZedek [Guesthouse for the poor], Bikkur Holim [Medical assistance to the poor] and more. The Rabbi had an active role in the many communal institutions in our town, including every Torah educational institution and others. He participated in the deliberations alongside the town leaders and the town notables.

He was an unofficial Zionist. In his endorsement (dated Cheshvan 5659, October 1898 of Geulat Haeretz [The Redemption of the Land of Israel] by Reb Mordechai Ashkenazi of Warsaw (published 5664), he advocated for collaboration with all Zionist bodies working for the settlement of Eretz Israel. That endorsement reflects his noble and gentle spirit and his great love for Eretz Israel.

He did not approve of everything that was done within the Zionist movement and more than once, he criticized things he disapproved of. When I strolled with him in the pine forest in Z¹bkowice (Elul 5673, September 1913), where he came for rest and relaxation with his son Binyamin, he complained that Zionism was focused on cultural work and establishing schools in Israel (during the “culture war” in the Zionist congresses) and overlooked the practical work of redeeming and settling the land.

After some time, he was afflicted with a dangerous disease that prevented him from giving his wonderful lectures. Despite his weakness, he ascended the stage on Shabbat Shuvah and gave a short lecture, his last one. Among other matters, he spoke of the synagogue's shaky columns need for repairs, fencing of the cemetery, etc. He quoted the verse “The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it” (Habakkuk 2:11) and said that the cemetery was crying out to be repaired and the synagogue answered, “if I am visited every hour of every day and I am still overlooked, it is no wonder that you, whom nobody wants to visit, is in such a state.”

After that Shabbat, his illness worsened. On Hoshanah Raba 5674 (1914), he was taken to the hospital in Breslau, Germany. People prayed for him to recover In all of the synagogues but the forces of darkness prevailed and his pure and holy soul departed on Tuesday, Cheshvan 25 (25 November).


Rabbi Yekutiel Zalman Graubart z”l

M.S. Geshuri

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

Born in Siedlce in 1892 to his father, Rabbi Isachar Berysz Graubart. Since his youth, he was blessed with great learning talents and quick understanding. He learned from his great father in Będzin and for a few years and continued his studies with the Chofetz Chaim in Raduń and it is he who ordained him as a rabbi. He obtained


[22 KB] Rabbi Yekutiel Zalman Graubart (Pinkas Bendin, page 325)
Rabbi Yekutiel Zalman Graubart 
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a general education from tutors in Będzin and especially excelled in languages. He was liked by all who knew him and was considered a cultured and well-mannered man.

In 1910, he married the only daughter of rich parents from Lipno. She was not interested in rabbinate and always attempted to influence him–including through various rabbis—to abandon the rabbinate, but he saw it as a sacred legacy of his father that must be treasured like the apple of his eye, especially in a great town like Będzin.

After his father passed away in 1913, he was chosen to succeed him as the rabbi of Będzin following a harsh electoral war. His competitors were powerful figures. On December 30, 1913, the rabbinic election took place in Będzin, supervised by the Russian authorities. Two candidates were proposed: the young Rabbi Graubart and Rabbi Burnstein (of the Sochaczew dynasty) from Visegrád, who was backed by the Sochaczew Hassidim. Rabbi G. was elected with a majority of 478 to 299. After a protest by the other side that the Rabbi-elect was younger than required to fill the role, the Piotrków district governor voided the election results and scheduled new elections for June 20, 1914. A third candidate joined round 2, Rabbi Yeshaya Englard, the Rabbinical teacher of Modrzejów. The Sochtachov Hassidim waged a fierce war on behalf of their candidate, including on the pages of a Warsaw newspaper. A famed writer who was close to the Sochaczew court helped them with a series of essays in the daily paper “Der Moment.” The essays provoked public opinion in all of Jewish Poland and it seemed they would win. But a Zionist rabbi from Mizrachi circulated a sharp rebuke of the essays, the writer and the Sochaczew Hassidim. The rebuke was not printed but caused the paper to stop the campaign. The young Rabbi Graubart once again won a large majority and was approved by the government as his father's successor.

He filled his role honestly and faithfully. He was of a noble appearance like his father, dressed nicely and was naturally humble and pure. In the spirit of his father, he was devoted to the various institutions, particularly Bikur Cholim. He was a successful lecturer. He inherited from his father the fondness for the Zionist idea but hesitated to openly support the Zionists because of the Hassidic electoral war on him. He Joined Mizrachi only after the movement grew stronger in Poland, especially in Będzin, and even participated in the second Mizrachi national conference in Warsaw (28 Nissan–Iyar, 5679 (28 April to May 1919). He was liked by the Będzin community and his position strengthened.

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As WWI ended and Poland was freed from Russian and German occupation, the national movement was strengthened in the town. Ger Hassidim increased in number and a directive was received from the Ger court to conquer the rabbinate at any cost. The Zionist movement and Mizrachi backed the Rabbi. Ger Hassidim made his life miserable and one of them informed Polish authorities that he was freeing young Jewish men from military service and the Rabbi had to escape Poland and return to his birth country. After he vacated his seat, Rabbi Chanoch Zvi Levin, the brother-in-law of the Ger Rabbi (grandson of Rabbi Chanoch Levin of Aleksander), filled his place as the town's rabbi.

Rabbi Graubart left Poland and relocated to America where he served as rabbi in Chicago and Brooklyn, New York. He served in public roles in the Union of Rabbis of America and served also as chairman in various conferences. His signature is placed on kashrut certificates of the Organization, including of Manischewitz matzoh and more. He was once sent in delegation to Johannesburg, South Africa.

He became ill in 1942 and without regard to his illness continued to serve in his role in the synagogue and even gave a speech at the end of which he collapsed and passed away.


Rabbi Zvi Chanoch HaCohen Levin zatz”l

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

Rabbi Chanoch Levin was approximately 50 years old when he was chosen to serve as Będzin's rabbi. Until then he did not serve as a rabbi and instead focused on study and worship.

He was the youngest son-in-law of the [author of] Sfas Emes [The Language of Truth] of Ger. He was born on Kislev 27, 5631 (21 December 1870) in a rich Hasidic household. His father was Rabbi Pinchas Yaakov of Mielnica, son of Yechiel Fiszel son of Rabbi Chanoch Henich Hacohen Levin, the well-known [admor, the highly respected master and teacher] Rabbi of Aleksander, pupil of Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk. His father hired the best teachers and his wisdom and his knowledge of Torah grew. One of his teachers was the wise Rabbi Zvi Dov Bronspigel, who also taught Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Ger in his childhood. He inherited his good traits from his father as they were passed in the family from one generation to the next.

As a young boy he stood out with his talent and wonderful traits and even as a youth he was a pronounced public activist. At the age of 17 he married Feigle, the daughter of [the author of] Sfas Emes, and the wedding was held in Gora. After the wedding, he was supported by his father-in-law, the [author of] Sfas Emes and studied Torah and Hassidic philosophy as his father-in-law guided him on the path of Hassidut and quickly became famous in the hidden and open Torah. While he stayed with his father-in-law, he would rise at 5 in the morning and study various topics and brought to light chidushim [novel understanding] and not a day passed when he did not discover chidushim. In his will he demanded that his sons study every day “carefully, and hopefully innovate chidushim because it is immeasurably valuable to discover chidushim in the holy Torah.” He wrote insights on all issues of Torah including the Tanakh, Talmud, Maimonides and Shulchan Aruch and left behind more than 40 manuscripts. His will was published in the book Yekhahen Pe'er [Will serve with dignity]. He also studied kabbalah, mainly from a known kabbalist from Eretz Israel who had travelled to Poland.

Since his wedding in 5647 (1887) until 5665(1905) when his father-in-law passed away, he was bound to the Safas Emes with every fiber of his being and eagerly absorbed his words, sayings and comments. After his brother-in-law Avraham Mordechai became the Rabbi, in 5665 (1905), he was bound to him too and never left his side.

Even during his father-in-law's tenure, he was active among the Hassidim and made efforts


[39 KB] Rabbi Tzvi Chanoch Hacohen Levin (Pinkas Bendin, page 326)
Rabbi Tzvi Chanoch Hacohen Levin 
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to mediate various conflicts between man and wife, between a man and his friend and between a community and its holy servants. He was involved in all matters big or small among the Hassidim. He regularly wrote dozens of letters to various people on various issues and was famous for his quick reply to all letters.

In 5681 (1921) he was appointed as the Head of the Rabbinical Court of the great Jewish community of Będzin, a town full of Hassidim, God-fearing men and charitable people. The residents of the town were bonded to him in bonds of love and his home became a hub for wisemen and generational greats. People came form near and far to enjoy his advice.

He regarded hospitality highly and greeted everyone with exceptional happiness and love. He kindly greeted even his opponents and people he had not met earlier. He also hosted great Hassidic elders and great personalities like Rabbi Pinchas of Pilica, the admor Rabbi Avraham of Porisov and Rabbi Noah of Piaseczno and others.

He loved Eretz Israel dearly and lovingly greeted every delegate who came from there. All delegates were his guests throughout their stay in Poland. He did not travel to Eretz Israel for a while and traveled there for the first time in 5684 (1924) with his brother-in-law Rabbi Avraham Mordechai, who was traveling there for the second time. Rabbi Zvi Chanoch was one of three-men delegation who traveled to mediate between Rabbi A.I. Kook and Rabbi Sonnenfeld. He accompanied his brother-in-law again in 5687 (1927). He visited various cities in Eretz Israel where he preached to strengthen Torah and Hassidism. He visited Israel three times. Three loves: for the people of Israel, for the Torah, and for Eretz Israel were merged for him into one love.

After he was appointed the rabbi of Będzin, he studied Talmud from 1–11 with thirty young men, despite being busied with

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[31 KB] Rabbi Levin together with his followers (Pinkas Bendin, page 327)
Rabbi Levin sitting in the garden of one of
his “chasidim” [followers] on a summer's day


community matters.

He was very active regarding the observance of the Sabbath, and every Friday he patrolled the city streets before candle lighting to ensure that the stores would be shuttered on time. Thanks to his influence, Będzin excelled in no stores being open on Shabbat. Although he did not know Polish, he was respected by the Polish authorities, in particular by the military as he was able to organize a kosher kitchen for Jewish men serving in the Polish military. He raised funds from various people for various causes and established in his community a modern and enhanced ritual bath that served as an example for other communities.

His published work includes Yekhahen Pe'er, which contains some of the speeches he gave in Będzin and were packed with God-fearing and love of man. His comments of the Sfas Emes commentary on the tractate Yuma are also renowned.

He served as the rabbi of Będzin for 14 years and passed away after a long illness. He passed away on 6 Adar A, 5695 (9 February 1935) on Shabbat night while he sat at his table after the meal. His funeral was attended by all of the town residents. He left 9 children, who became God-fearing Hassidim and famous activists. Most of them perished in the Holocaust, including his son Mendel who had succeeded his role as the rabbi.


Rabbi Menachem Hager z”l

Mordechai Hampel

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

A loveable figure and an active man, a Holocaust survivor from the Sosnowiec community, in which he was active for many years.

A native of Bukovina and a descendant of rabbis and admorim, he was raised in an atmosphere of Torah, but he was no stranger to general culture. At a young age he was captivated by the Zionist movement and became one of its mouthpieces. He was a delegate in all Zionist Congresses starting with the 12th congress and ending in the final one in 1939.

His reputation as a rabbi and his fame as a Zionist advocate reached the leaders of the Sosnowiec community and they invited him to serve as their spiritual leader. He captivated hearts since his debut speech at the synagogue.

Opponents of Zionism undermined him and embittered his life, but he was not broken, and his light did not dim.

For 10 years he served as the rabbi of Sosnowiec, and these were years of spiritual abundance and national flourishing within the Jewish community of Zagłębie . He convinced people of Zionist ideals and many followed him thanks to his persuasive, passionate speaking.

During the War, the Nazis tried to capture him and set a prize on his head, but he miraculously managed to escape to Siberia, Russia, where he was a source of consolation for many exiles, although he was plagued by many troubles.

After the War ended, he arrived on the shores of Eretz Israel with his family, bearing pain for his nation that was slaughtered before his eyes. He expressed his feelings wonderfully during his frequent appearances at memorial services for those lost in the Holocaust and it seemed like he was conversing with his soul.

Thousands of members of the Zagłębie community in Israel came to hear the radiant and astounding lecturer, who knew how to console and encourage. Many shed tears and he will not be forgotten.

He reestablished a home in Israel and opened his home to all. He was allocated a job that was not the most comfortable for him, but he devoted his full organizational talent to an institution that he organized and methodized. He was a member of the Tel Aviv–Yafo Religious Council, a member of the administration of Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemet, a member of the World Jewish Congress, a member of council of The Union of Israelis of Polish Origin, and served as president of the Zaglembie Organization in Israel for many years and worked a lot on its behalf. I knew him for 25 years, both abroad and after his Aliyah in Israel, and I enjoyed his company. He trusted me as his secretary in our organization.

The crowning glory of his Zionist career was his tenure as chairman of the Mizrachi party in Israel and he strove for a union with Hapoel Hamizrachi. He had the special privilege of being a member of The People's Council, which declared the establishment of the State of Israel on 5 Iyar, 5708 (15 May 1948).

He was beloved by all, calm-mannered, and respectful. We never saw him angry and even when he was tormented, he calmly defused the anger of others. He was kind to his opponents and showed tolerance for their views. He was a peace lover who did charity for its own sake. He was prepared to take on any role, big or small.

He became ill. The doctors ordered him to avoid strain, but he did not heed their warnings; he paid no mind to his declining health and without tiring, despite his physical weakness, he continued serving in his roles until he fell. The life of a survivor and a glorious Polish rabbi ended.

Thousands of his friends and admirers will always remember him.


Rabbi Dan Yitzchak Lifshitz z”l


Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

Born in 1853 Piotrków. He received a Torah education and demonstrated a thorough knowledge of religious studies. He studied with the genius admor Rabbi Avraham of Sochaczew and was one of his most excellent students. Already in his youth he was crowned with a “teaching crown” by the chief rabbis of Poland under the leadership of the genius rabbi Mordechai Horowitz zatz”l of Piotrków.

After he married a local woman, he settled in Będzin and opened a store for paint and chemical products. While living with his father-in-law, who was among

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the greatest traders in our town, he studied with great persistence and became one of the town's most knowledgeable and sharp scholars. Because his mind was not concerned with business, he left it for his wife and children while he studied Torah day and night.

In 5664, the Będzin community recognized his immense scholarliness and vast wisdom he and he was appointed as a Dayan and a moreh tzedek (righteous teacher) in the town. He was loyal to the words of the Men of the Great Assembly, “be patient in justice;” he considered every important question carefully, patiently, and leniently.

In 1943, at the advanced age of 90, the cursed Nazis executed him after they found the bunker where he hid with his family. He was shot and died instantaneously a martyr's death while wearing tallit and tefillin. May his soul be linked in the chain of life.


Reb Yehoshua Telner z”l

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

[21 KB] Yoshua Telner [Pinkas Bendin, page 328]
The teacher,
Yoshua Telner  ל ״ ז


The moreh tzedek Yehoshua Telner (“Yehoshi'le the dayan”) was among the eldest dayanim in the town. He studied Torah around the clock and stopped only when people presented inquires.

He was chosen as a temporary town rabbi after Rabbi Itshe Kimmelman passed in 1893 until the election of Rabbi Graubart. He was the Chair of the Beit Din from September 1898 until his passing in December 1936.


The Moreh Tzedek Rabbi Chanoch David


Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

Born in Olkusz in 1873. He was renowned as a prodigy at a young age and was well-versed in Chumash with Rashi commentary at the age of 4, and he began studying Talmud at age 7. At the age of 11 he taught Talmud and Tosafot to others. All of the town's scholars came to his regular classes in Talmud and Poskim and enjoyed the young scholar's wide-ranging explanations.


[15 KB] Chanoch David Friedberg [Pinkas Bendin, page 328]
The teacher,
Chanoch David Friedberg


In accordance with the custom of Orthodox Jews in those days, he married at a young age. Before his 17th birthday, one of the Ger Hassidim from Będzin set his eyes on him and took him as his daughter's groom. He attempted to do business following his arrival in Będzin but he was unsuccessful. After various twists and turns, Rabbi Graubart, who valued his talents, appointed him as a dayan (judge) in his Beit Din. He was renowned for his deep knowledge of the Talmud and its commentators and many scholars from the kloyz and elsewhere came to listen to him and study with him.

In 1909, he was appointed as a dayan and joined the local rabbinate, which included a chief rabbi and four dayanim, and was among the most famous in Poland. As a member of the rabbinate he soon gained fame in the field of deliberations and became one of its main speakers. He probed each issue and solved it logically and wisely. His power of persuasion—even in complicated cases—was immense and litigants often preferred him for arbitration. He was renowned and his name reached the neighboring towns and even reached the Gentiles. In a famous instance, when two Jews brought their case to a state court, the judge asked them, “why are you not litigating with the 'Rabin' Chanoch David?”

Rabbi Chanoch David was also famous among the common folks for his regular lectures in the town's Beit Midrash on topics like the Weekly Portion, Pirkei Avot, Ein Yaakov, and his explanations, which were peppered with storytelling attracted people.

Rabbi Chanoch David, despite his being a true Hassid, did not treat the “nationalistic” circles with disdain. Contrary to the custom in Hassidic circles, one of his sons was among the founders of “Tzeirei HaMizrahi” (The Young of the Mizrahi movement) and one daughter was active in “Tzeirei Zion” (The Young of the Zionist movement). He also devoted time to charities and Torah organizations in the city, such as “Gmilut Hessed” (Charity for the poor), “Talmud Torah” (Basic Torah study) and more.

Despite his large workload he did not abandon his pupils, and he devoted time for Torah. He also authored insights on the Torah but his manuscripts were not published and the search for the manuscripts was fruitless and not a trace remained of them.

As the Nazis invaded Będzin, Rabbi Chanoch David—who was sick and burdened by private and communal troubles—fled and reached the township of Skała , where he fell ill and passed away two days later.

[Page 329]

The Dayan Reb Ytzchak Isaac Manela

Avraham M.

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

Born in Kielce 1877 to a family of great linage. His father, Reb Zelig, was a religious man, a supplier to the Czar's army, like many merchants in those days. He excelled in his studies since childhood and gained a reputation of a prodigy at a young age. Because of his sharp mind and his tendency for Torah studies, the family decided to allow him to become an educator and a dayan, as he wished. Before his 20th birthday, the rabbi of Kielce ordained him as a rabbi.

He married Tzviya Blumenfrucht, daughter of Reb Moshe Ovadia from a family of dayanim in Będzin. His father-in-law was the owner of a large printing house and a bookstore who wanted him to join the business, but he continued to study Torah. Before long he attracted many pupils, youths and adults who came to hear the young scholar's lectures.


[28 KB] Rabbi Levin together with his followers (Pinkas Bendin, page 329)
The “dayan” [judge], Yitzhak Isaac Menele


He was accepted as a halachic teacher in the Będzin community and was placed on the rabbinic court in town. He excelled in that role and became the head of the Bet Din and substituted the chief Rabbi in representation to the authorities.

He was blessed with special qualities as a judge and arbitrator; he was unbiased, perceptive and had great judgment. He was a pursuer of peace and bringer of peace.

His pleasant and tall figure stood out in Będzin during the first quarter of the 20th century. A national-traditional atmosphere enveloped his home and his children were educated in the spirit of Zionism, and they occupied an important role in community life. He was taken too soon at the age of 49 after he suffered for many years from an incurable cancer. When his illness worsened, his eldest son, Moshe, was summoned to return from Eretz Israel where he had lived for a period as a pioneer (Rabbi Isaac was brave to permit his son to make Aliyah at the time like one of the “secularists”). When he arrived in Będzin, he found his family already mourning the death of their father.

His memory remains in the hearts of the few remnants of Będzin from those days and he is worthy of rememberance as a man of Torah and great deeds within his community.


Rabbi Yosef Engel

M.S. Geshuri

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

Rabbi Yosef Engel was a Talmudic genius who was famous throughout the Jewish world. He was the author of Talmudic and Halachic books that were accepted by all factions of yeshiva scholars.

Born in Tarnow in 5619 (1859) and passed away in Vienna on Cheshvan 3, 5680 (1920). Since he left Będzin, where he had resided for many years, he served as the Head of the Beit Din in Krakow until 1914. As WWI began, he relocated to Vienna where he stayed until his passing and he is buried there.

He authored 101 books on various topics including a 3-volume Talmudic encyclopedia, 28 essays on Kabbalah, eight on Shabbat and the 39 activities prohibited on Shabbat, a book on the laws of Eruv, five responsa, two books of commentary on Shulchan Aruch, six books on concepts in the Jerusalem Talmud, eight volumes of collected lectures and 11 books of commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud.

We mention here only the books that deal with Talmudic research, edits, and gap-fillers of the Jerusalem Talmud and Babylonian Talmud, responsa, Kabbalah writings and lectures. His primary and novel aim in his Kabbalistic commentary was to prove the close ties between Jewish mysticism and the rational and popular part of Talmud, Halacha, Aggadah, and Midrash in later literature.

20 of his books were published in his lifetime. 90 books remained as manuscripts and are gradually published with the help of generous donors and researchers of Torah literature. His grandson, Reb Moshe Baruch Morgenstern, who was a pupil of the great scholar (and the grandson of Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk) facilitates the publication.

The great scholar's study field, which is nearly unapparelled, included the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud and Halacha derived from them, Sifre Sifra, Tosefta, Mekhilta, Rishonim, Achronim and Kabbalah according to Talmudic sources.

Of his works we will mention only the following. 70 Panim LaTorah [70 faces of Torah], Shav De'nekhamata, Lekach Tov, Etvan D'Oraiyta, Tziunim LaTorah, Gevurat Shmonim, Questions and Answers, Ben Porat (2 volumes), Otzrot Yosef (5 volumes), Gilyonei HaShas, commentary and gap-fillers of great scholarly value to Seder Zera'im, and Gilyonei HaShas on Seder Mo'ed. His aforementioned grandson published the following, New York, 1949: Gilyonei HaShas on Nashim and Nezikin in Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, in addition a wide-ranging Talmudic Encyclopedia, Kelalim LaShas, Yesodot Ve'Shitot [Rules for the Talmud, Foundation and Methods]. The first two volumes of the Talmudic Encyclopedia, which includes all 32 volumes of the Talmud, were published. The additional volumes remain unpublished.

After he passed away, a group of friends of the genius named “Ohavei Torah” formed in Vienna that intended to publish his manuscripts, which serve as a treasure for Talmudic scholars.


Reb Mendel Shapira

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

He stands among the wonderous figures of the kind that is increasingly diminishing in our generation. He was a was a Hassid and a God-fearing scholar of Torah. He was a kind-hearted wise man whose face shined with a loving smile.

He was a member of a family of rabbis and notable Hassidim. His father, Reb Yankele, was the son of Rabbi Itzele of Będzin, zatz”l.

[Page 330]

Reb Mendel's home was a center for Hassidim. Many great men, mainly Hassidim of Ger, gathered in his home, usually on Friday nights, and spent hours studying Torah and Hasidism.

Famous Rabbis who visited Będzin stayed with him, including the Ger Rabbi. He was renowned by all classes of people. Even non-Jews respected him.

As Orthodox Judaism began to organize after WWI, a branch of Agudath Israel was founded in Będzin with Mendel was its chairman. He led the Agudah wisely and influenced enlistment by Hasidic members including Rabbis and working men from all classes. Agudath Israel of Będzin was famous in Poland as a fortress of Orthodox Judaism.

He often settled misunderstands in our community and wisely and honestly influenced the disputants. He was blessed with upright offspring, sons, daughters, children-in-law, grandchildren, almost all of whom perished in the Holocaust. Only a few remained and settled around the world.


Reb Berysz Prager

Dr. Gur-Aryeh (Tarlo)

Translated by Meir Bulman

Edited by Dr. Rafael Manory

In the spring of 1924 the president of the World Zionist Organization, Nahum Sokolow, visited Poland. Keren Hayesod announced a fundraising event that Sokolow would attend, and several activists were enlisted for that purpose. I was offered a choice to either join Sokolow's journey or to go to a Polish town for unaccompanied activism. I chose the second option and travelled to Będzin.

I reached the industry capital of Zagłębie and I first went to the most senior Zionist there, Reb Berysz Prager z”l. He was a righteous man, one of the “36 Tzaddikim [expression meaning that the person is extremely righteous] and one of the most righteous Zionists in our world. He was very ill, and his doctors forbade him to even talk. Still, he greeted me on his sickbed, and we conversed for an hour using notes that he wrote in response to my questions. I explained to him the purpose of my presence and he immediately contacted in writing the great brothers Yaakov and Solomon Guttman and the brothers Shein, among the town's wealthy activists and asked them to assist me in whatever I needed. Mr. Prager asked me, “Why is Rutenberg's electricity concession (which began its operation in those days) operating with coal instead of utilizing the waters of the Jordan and Yarmouk?” That was a very typical question although he was on his death bed. I spent a month in the town. I had managed to enlist many activists and Berrish wondrously led their efforts from his bed.


[19 KB] Berish Prager (Pinkas Bendin, page 330)
Berysz Prager


He was a Hassid and not a plain one but one close to the Rabbi of Ger, author of Sfas Emes, zatz”l. Some say that Reb Berrish once traveled to mediate between Theodor Herzl and the Ger Rabbi.

He was an active and devoted Zionist for decades, despite the disapproval of the Ger court, which itself later came closer to Eretz Israel.

It is told that during the Shavuot holiday of the year that I met the late great man, Reb Berysz used the opportunity of his wife being at a memorial service at the synagogue, and with much difficulty he arose from his bed, got dressed and came to the synagogue and gave his final speech for the sake of Zion. He passed away a short while after that.

I was called to his funeral from the neighboring town of Sosnowiec, where I was visiting on behalf of Keren Hayesod. I was very fortunate to eulogize the deceased following the eulogy given by the rabbi of Będzin.

May his memory be etched in the plaque of honor of the State of Israel, the establishment of which he lived and died for.


[Page 330]

Cwi Natan Wiloga

by A. S. G.

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

He was born in 1864, in Jędrzejów and died in New York in 1922.

He was of a family of Jalubzhag (Jarosław?), Hassidim, studied in the Cheder and Yeshiva and in the Bet Hamidrash. Was very knowledgeable in Jewish studies and educated in general studies as well. From the time of his youth, he was a loyal Zionist. In 1916, he moved to Będzin. He lived in the house of his father-in-law, tried to be a merchant but finally he gave up commerce and became an entertainer [badchan = jester] at weddings. In that occupation he excelled and became famous in the entire region as the most gifted wedding entertainer. He was known as a “flowing source” of folk humor and clever jokes, and was invited to every religious festivity.

He was also active in community work. In particular, he devoted his time and energy to the Mizrachi movement in Będzin. He was one of the first “underground Mizrachi” members in 1917, and contributed to it his talents. He was the secretary of the Committee, a talented speaker, and teacher of the weekly Torah Portion. He combined his entertaining with love for Zion and settlement of Eretz Israel, as well as longing for a homeland and a life devoted to tilling the soil. He was well-known in the religious as well as the non-religious circles.

[Page 331]

By the request of his son, who lived in America, he left Poland by the end of the summer of 1921 and settled in New York. There he also became active in the Mizrachi movement and corresponded with the Mizrachi members in Będzin. Was appointed teacher of Jewish studies, assembled and led meetings in New York and was elected delegate for the eighth annual congress of the Mizrachi Movement in America, under the presidency of Rabbi Meir Berlin. He was active in the Harlem neighborhood and helped to increase the number of Mizrachi members and Mizrachi influence in the city. He welcomed visitors from Europe, among them the Mizrachi ADMOR Rabbi Mendel Landau of Zabrze, was in touch with Rabbi Berlin and with the Mizrachi leaders in America, made speeches in synagogues and won fame as a popular speaker. In all his letters he stressed his longing for Zion.

He became suddenly ill and was operated on. He died in the summer of 1922.


Reb Chaim Szajn

M. Hampel

Translated by Meir Bulman

I met him when I was a child before WWI when I accompanied my father at to the synagogue. the synagogue was in the home of Reb Szlomo Szajn, Chaim's father, in the old market facing the church. In the early 20s, as Chaim was building his mansion on the busy Małachowskiego Street, our kloyz was in his new home and he funded its maintenance. The congregants gave him his due respect; I will never forget the festivities when he was called every Simchat Torah to the bima as they sang and danced before honoring him with Ata Hareita. He was also designated Chatan Bereshit and read the first portion of the Torah.

Everyone who met him was impressed by his majestic appearance and elegant clothes. The thick cigar in his mouth (at the time, it was rare in Poland and was custom-ordered from Katowice, Upper Silesia), his kind traits, his tolerant relationships with others and his love for children always charmed us. Only those who knew him well knew how special that humble and beloved man was.

Chaim was the first of three brothers, only of whom, Reb Motelle, survived and is with us in Israel. Reb Itshele, the youngest brother, was jailed with his only son as foreign subjects (according to forged documents) in the internment camp in Vittel (alongside the poet Itzhak Katzenelson). They were later sent to the Auschwitz death camp.

He was among the town's notables and wealthy men, and among the most important industrialists in Poland in the field of metal production. Despite his many worries and his business success, he did not seclude himself like other rich men in the town, and he found a way and time to devote to communal life. His home was open to all in need and served as a gathering place for envoys from Eretz Israel. Bialik, Leib Yaffe, Yitzhak Gruenbaum and others like them were hosted in his home during their stay in Będzin. He loved Eretz Israel and generously contributed to its needs. I recall that once, decades ago, I visited him to fundraise for Keren Poale Eretz Israel, and although he was not very fond of the Zionist labor movement he gave me a generous donation. I left his home encouraged and continued my fundraising efforts, which succeeded more than I had expected.

There was no philanthropic institution in the town that he had not joined as an active or honorary member. When a financial crisis impacted the Będzin community, Zionist leaders approached him and asked him to accept to restore the Jewish community market. The people of Agudath Israel also approached him because they recognized him as the person fitting for rescuing the community from crisis. He agreed to the role and succeeded.

He and his wife Chana loved children very much but they did not have any. They adopted an orphaned girl, Sarah, whom they raised, educated and married off (today in the United States). They donated the bottom floor of their house to HaShomer HaLeumi, which managed to recruit many youths who participated in scouts-like activities and Zionist activism.

When WWII began, Chaim Szajn was able to escape Poland with his wife, leaving all of their riches to be plundered by the Nazis. They reached Eretz Israel with almost no financial resources. Few of his friends remembered his past kindness, and he complained to me about their ingratitude several times.

He passed away in Tel Aviv (1948) and years later, his wife passed away at a very old age. They were buried in the old Nachalat Yitzhak Cemetery in the Zagłębie section near the grave of the elderly Zajonc from Sosnowiec, the late Ms. Singer and my parents Avraham and Gittel Hampel, may they rest in peace. When I visit my parents' graves, I also visit the graves of the Szajn family members and commune with their beloved memories.


Szalom Klajner

Zew Landau

Translated by Meir Bulman

He was a unique figure. He was among the first members of Mizrachi, to which he devoted a large part of his life.

His love of Zion was limitless. Every happy event in Eretz Israel lifted his spirits and all bad news saddened him. He was a Torah scholar who devoted time to study of Torah and teaching Talmud at the Mizrachi club. He made his living with the fruits of his labor as a watchmaker and he always connected with common people, and he used that connection to enlist people for the Zionist cause, especially for Mizrachi.

One event attracted much attention from the Jewish community in Będzin and its environs: once, the Rabbi of Sokołów, who was a central figure in Agudath Israel, visited Będzin. Reb Szalom also visited him, and as they discussed Zionism, he asked, “Rabbi, how does your honor see the Ge'ulah arriving without Zionism?” The Rabbi answered, “I do not know.” When Szalom heard that, he bravely stood up and said, “a Rabbi who does not know the people of Israel will be redeemed must not be a spiritual leader of his community.” Those daring words, of course, caused a stir and upset the Rabbi's Hassidim and Szalom had to leave immediately.

Reb Szalom had a very pleasant voice and when he led prayers on Shabbat and holidays the audience was spiritually elated, especially during the High Holy Days.

In the last days he resided in Będzin as an elderly man, he devoted all his time to Torah, charity and Zionism.

In 1924 the members of Mizrachi purchased a large plot of land in Eretz Israel from the Menucha Ve'Nachala company, and Reb Szalom devoted his full attention in enlisting members and planning settlements. His dream was to found a sort of a cooperative village, as he said, “grinden a shtetel,” but his dream did not come true; for some reason, the land transfer was not titled in the names of the members. Reb Szalom's “shtetel” plan, as the members called it for many years, was removed from the agenda, and he was deeply disappointed.

[Page 332]

In 1930, his source of income dried up. After many deliberations, he decided to leave Będzin, which he was so attached to, and travlled to his sons in the United States. He continued his interest in the fate of our country and studied Torah while hoping that he would live his final years in Eretz Israel, but he passed away in a strange land during WWII. He will not be forgotten by his friends in the movement and by his many pupils, wherever they may be.


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