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[Page 338]

Dawid Szapira (Juda Yafet)

by Dawid

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

He was born in 5665 (1905) to father Rabbi Jechiel Majer Szapira, who was a respected righteous man and was admired by the people, and organized “tables” in the rabbinical way.

Dawid received a Torah education, studying in a “cheder”. At the age of 12 he moved to a yeshiva where he studied amongst hundreds of boys and rose higher and higher, prominent in his great talents and wonderful memory, and everyone saw him as being blessed. In accordance with the custom of rabbis, he married a wife at an early age. He moved to live in Warsaw at the beginning of the nineteen thirties, and immediately became at home in Jewish writer's circles, and attained a respected status in Yiddish and Hebrew literature, and in a short time earned himself a name and fame with the literary name of Juda Yafet.

As a result of his literary activities, a rift broke out in his family, his father the rabbi saw this as a sort of a diversion from the straight line that was the custom of his forefathers for generations, and many years passed till almost the break out of war in which Rabbi Jechiel Majer didn't want to see and speak with his son.

As the Jewish public quickly appreciated his broad talents and knowledge in all in Jewish history and thought, he began to publish many articles and pieces in the daily Jewish press. His novels and historical stories achieved great publicity. These were published in a series of daily articles and captured a large reading public. He was a regular participant in the “Moment” newspaper and the daily evening newspaper “Radio Nayes”. He also published many anthologies about the weekly portion [read from the bible on Sabbath] that included reflections from Chassidic literature and folklore, and Juda Yafet's home was a meeting place for intellectuals.

Many veteran and young writers required his help and guidance in all that was related to Jewish wisdom, Chassidism and Jewish folklore.

From the outset of his settling in Warsaw Juda Yafet became closer to the “Torah Ve'avoda” [Torah and Labor] and “Mizrachi” movements. Here he found an extensive pasture for educational and cultural activity with a Zionist spirit, the activity to which he was connected to. Through all of the years that he lived in Warsaw, Juda was an active member in the higher institutions of the “Torah Ve'avoda” movement and even was a delegate to the Zionist Congress in Geneva before the outbreak of war (5699) [1939] and the international conventions of the “Mizrachi” organization.

Juda Yafet was also chief editor of the “Di Yiddishe Shtime” weekly and the “Masof Haivri” [Hebrew supplement] that was included in it. He raised the standard of the weekly and turned it into a publicist's and a most respected literary journal. Yafet publicized hundreds of articles in this weekly, with reactions to current issues, debates with Chassidic circles who opposed the Zionist movement, problems of culture and education and stories. Juda Yafet excelled in both Hebrew and Yiddish in his clear, comprehensible, and pleasant popular writing style.

He produced a great literary yield. He was a regular participant in the Hebrew newspapers “Hayom” [Today] and “Hatzfira” [The siren] and various supplements. He was a writer of “Hatzofe” [The observer] in Eretz Yisrael and edited the “Gojlin” journal for “Torah Ve'avoda” on Torah philosophy that appeared in Warsaw in 5696 (1936) on behalf of “Hashomer hadati” [The Jewish guard]. He participated in the “Deglenu” [Our flag] newspaper and published a complete series of booklets and many articles. He would even sign with various pseudonyms: D. Szapir, Achiszem, D. J. Chajan, Jedida and others.

Juda Yafet dreamed all his life of settling in Eretz Yisrael and whilst in the last Zionist Congress in Geneva, he clarified with his friends about an actual plan to work in the country. He returned to Warsaw with an absolute decision to make aliyah soon, however the terrible war broke out and his plans were not realized. Juda Yafet rose up together with all his brothers with pure and blessed virtues.


[Page 339]

Dawid Szapira (Juda Yafet)

by M. S. G.

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

He was born in 5665 (1905) in Pokrzywnica-Lublin, he died in 5702 (1942) in Treblinka. He was from the dynasty of a family of veteran admorim – Szapira – in Poland. And this is the history of Juda Yafet: He was the son of Rabbi Jechiel-Majer Szapira the admor from Będzin, whose brother was Chaim Szapira, May God revenge his blood, the tzadik [righteous] from Plock, who was murdered by the Polish government and the The “Endekes” (“Endecja” – “Narodowa Demokraczja”) [extreme right wing Polish political party] in 5680 (1920) for the crime of “spying” for the Soviet Army, son of Rabbi Szalom from Przytyk, son of Rabbi Jakob the tzadik from Blendów (brother of the tzadik Rabbi Elimelech from Grodzisk), son of Rabbi Chaim Majer Jechiel the “Seraph” [angel] from Mogielnica, son of the rabbi's wife Perla renowned as the daughter of Rabbi Israel the “Maggid” [the preacher] from Kozienice and the wife of Rabbi Avi Ezra Zelig Szapira the judge in Granica. His father, the admor from Będzin, was called “Berkiwer Rabbi” by the townspeople because he lived nearby the bridge over the Przemsza River that passed through the town. On his mother's side he was the great grandson of Rabbi Chaim the tzadik from Sącz and related to all the greatest righteous men in Poland and Galicia.

Even in his youth he translated the “Tenja” into Yiddish. In Będzin he would send articles to newspapers like “Hatzfira”, under the pseudonym of Juda Yafet. And under this name he published a series of articles on various subjects. His first compositions were on the subject of Chassidism that appeared in the Hebrew daily newspaper “Hayom” [Today] (Warsaw, 1925), in “Hadoar” [The mail] in New York and others and arose interest in his exceptional style. Amongst his most successful compositions in the series “Conversations and legends of Rabbi Simcha Bonim from Przysucha”, historical essays on the famous Chassidic tzadikim, like Rabbi Icchak Ajzyk from Kalov [Nagykálló] in Hungary, and about Rabbi Chaim Dawid Bernard the doctor from Piotrków who was an admor and others.

In 1924 he published the historical novel in “Haynt” [Today] about “Don Joseph Nasi”, and from there became a regular participant in “Moment”, in which he published historical stories, like the “Dream of a Jewish kingdom”, “Jerusalem in flames” and others. In 5693-5694 [1933-1934] he published in the “Di Yiddishe Shtime” movement newspaper a historical story “Bruria”.

At the third convention of “Tzirei Mizrachi” [Young Mizrachi] in Poland (Warsaw, August 5692 [1932]) he lectured on cultural work in the movement and preached the idea of education in the spirit of the Torah and Jewish holy and literary sources, and was then elected as a member of the movement administration and the central cultural committee. His lecture on the task of the movement newspaper still rings in the ears of the members who reached Eretz Yisrael: “The newspaper can become an anvil for the clear idea of Torah and labor, and in the meager situation of movement literature the newspaper has the great task of developing the idea and totally expanding and fulfilling”. He showed that it's possible to achieve a daily newspaper in the movement. When Rabbi Elimelech Najfeld left Poland and made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, Yafet was appointed in his place as editor of the movement weekly “Di Yiddishe Shtime” in 1932 and against his will entered into the field of politics. Apart from the editorials that he wrote in each edition about the problems on the agenda and about his membership in the main leadership of “Mizrachi” and “Torah Ve'advoda”, he also entered in as a member of the main administration of “Yavne”, the founder of the popular library next to “Yavne” and was very active in editing a series of books and pamphlets by this publisher and material that was appropriate to the movement.

His home at 55 Nowolifia Street was open to religious writers, and discussions, meetings and lectures were held in his home on literary and Jewish subjects. The large library he had in his house was considered to be one of the largest libraries in the town. His home was generally opened to everyone – a warm Jewish home, full of congeniality, friendship and culture, a house of Chassidic and cultural values, of the love of man and the people.

The situation in the movement during the period of his activity in Warsaw was always difficult from various aspects, but he was always optimistic by nature, supported the continuation of Zionist activity and preached for unification of the factions, of a wide horizon of activities, of life full of vigor at work, of pioneering and aliyah and to join with the builders of the country, standing at the forefront against the separatists who preached “independence” or were drawn to “Agudat Yisrael” (Revisionists). In view of the heavy work load he had in the movement he transferred the editing of the newspaper to J. Radzinski. He considered visiting in Eretz Yisrael and obtained an impression of the rejuvenation activities and the building where the activists were, and his letters he always stressed this ambition. However he didn't manage to do this because in the meantime, the war erupted.

Following the Nazi occupation of Poland Yafet continued in his business and educational activities whilst risking his life together with his brothers with a realization of the current need. He acquired a high position within the Warsaw Ghetto in the “Mizrachi” circles that gathered around Rabbi Icchak Nisenbaum, continuing to live in the ghetto in his apartment with his rich library, active in social assistance and underground religious education, active in “Takuma” [revival] (a literary center) and lectured there from time to time.

During the period of the council of Jewish representatives in Poland, more material and news arrived in Eretz Yisrael in the form of reports and bulletins in which the names of active “Mizrachi” members were mentioned from time to time, and Yafet's name was not absent. From underground documents we learn that Yafet together with Rozenbaum (Manager of the Orthodox department in K.K.L in Poland) ran a public city kitchen. He was the main activist in the renewal activity of schools for children in the Warsaw Underground, and he organized the “Yavneh” schools, and precisely during this most difficult period in the ghetto, the abduction of activists for the “deportation” by Nazi police, he endangered his life on a daily basis in this essential activity. After the Jewish council in the ghetto received permission from the Nazi regime to open schools for children, the Council President Czernikow called for representatives of all the school organizations for consultation on how to implement the permit. Yafet managed all practical matters on behalf of “Yavneh”. He was amongst the political activists who endeavored to stress the public character of independent Jewish assistance, as against the Jewish Council, and he was dedicated to every issue he dealt in.

In 1952 the Religious Committee was founded together with the kehila in which the party representatives participated, and Yafet was also amongst them. The committee oversaw that the Shabbat was a rest day and other matters. On the 19th July of 1942 Yafet participated in a conference of activists and people for a consultation in regards the coming deportation of ghetto Jews, in which admorim, rabbis and newspaper representatives participated. At a reception in the same year to celebrate Josef Jaszunski's seventieth birthday, a conscientious and most loyal leader, the President of the Professional Education department, Yafet also participated, and even spoke in honor of the celebrant.

And then he was suddenly abducted in the street and included in a “dispatch”, without us knowing the date and details of his tragic death. According to the testimony of Dr. Hilel Zajdman, he was sent to Treblinka during the mass deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto in the summer of 1942. In an article accompanying the last book that he edited “Schools in a conflagration of generations” (Warsaw, 1939), Yafet wrote: “We count the tears of the martyrs in a large wineskin of Jewish history – from Nebuchadnezzar to Hitler”.

[Page 340]

Liwer's sons

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The Liwer family in Będzin was more than a family – it was a tribe (more than 200 souls), renowned far away from the town's borders. They took an active part in the political, social and financial life of Będzin.

The father of the family, Ruwen Liwer, was born in 1832. He was known as “Big Ruwen”, since he was tall, broad shouldered, and in town there was a joke, that Ruwen Liwer's boot had enough leather to supply a store… Thanks to his drive he became wealthy, one of the pioneers of the fur branch in Zagłębie;.

He was a simple Jew, and the town had faith in him. He gave charity generously, and was one of the two town leaders who headed the kehila at the same time. And when the need came to rebuild the synagogue, or to fence off the cemetery, the two leaders, Ruwen Liwer and Hendel Nunberg, covered all the costs. In his home, near the “Schlossberg”, he built a Bet Midrash in which he had a lesson every day till his death with the gaon [genius in Torah] Reb Awremele Hendles.

Countless stories were told about him in the town, characteristic of his personality.

– Once there was the road between Będzin and Sosnowiec which was full of mud and it was difficult to travel on. There was no railway, and a road – a private road, good quality and short, belonged to the German Count Szajn. Jews were frightened to travel along it. However Ruwen Liwer didn't know what fear was, and used the road till it happened one day that the German count, seeing a Jew openly traveling on his road, stopped him, and asked him who had given him permission, and without waiting for a reply, lashed him with his whip. Ruwen Liwer didn't say anything, and ordered his wagon driver to continue on.

He traveled directly to the courthouse, and served a writ against the count. When the count learnt about this, he tried by every means, like bribery and so on, to annul the writ. However, Ruwen Liwer had a close connection to the higher authorities, and stood by his claim. With no way out of it, the count sent his lawyer to Liwer and offered him a large sum of money, in exchange for canceling the writ, however he refused to come to an agreement with him. Likewise, he didn't heed the advice of his friends, who advised him not to quarrel with aggressive non-Jews.

The count also tried during the court case, through the judges, to persuade Ruewen Liwer to cancel his claims, however he replied: – “I don't need the count's money, and I don't want to take money from a man who struck a fellow man. And if the judge is inclined, it he can give the money to charity, as he sees fit.” He was willing to cancel his claim on one condition, that the count would sign an obligation in court, that from that time on, his sons and their children would be permitted to use this road.

Thus, from then on the road was open to everyone, since who would check if Liwer's sons were the travelers?

And it was related:

Once traveling along the road he met up with his wagon, loaded with furs, and its front wheels were sunk in the mud. The wagon driver cruelly whipped the horses, however the wagon didn't move from where it was. Ruwen Liwer said to the wagon driver: – Why are you beating the horses, it would be better to help the horses and push the wagon, and he himself stood and helped push the wagon. Suddenly he crouched on the ground and called out to the wagon driver: – Mosze, can you see what's lying here? And he lifted up a gold ten ruble coin from under the wagon. “Had you not beat the horses and helped them, you would have found the gold coin…” In time they said in Będzin, that Liwer makes gold from mud.

For as long as he lived all his sons and grandchildren lived in his house. Only after his death did the sons build houses for themselves, and moved to a new part of Będzin.

He was survived by four sons: Abram, Kalman, Chaim and Meszulem and one daughter. Before his death he ordered his sons to refrain from communal work. And though the sons endeavored to carry out his will for quite a time, the situation arose – against their wills – and they were caught up into communal work and were amongst the important leaders of the town. They were also Chassidim – Abram and Kalman were Gur Chassidim, Chaim and Meszulem were Radomsk Chassidim. And when the Rabbi ordered, they took an active part in the community, and where didn't they? And though Ruwen left them much property, each one of his sons was dedicated to their businesses, without it interfering in their communal work and not in order to receive reward.

Bed-340a.jpg [18 KB] - Reb Abram Liwer
Reb Abram Liwer

Reb Abram was born in 1865, married a young woman and ran a trading store in groceries, foodstuffs, flour, rice and dried fruits. He was later partner in the large “Markora” flour mill. When the First World War broke out he prepared a plan to prevent hunger amongst the population. The town council approved his plan to provide food for the town, he managed purchasing and the distribution of foodstuffs.

When the committee for helping the poor was founded, he was the driving spirit behind it, and was concerned – honestly – with distributing bread to everyone. At 4 in the morning he would wake and go to the bread distribution outlets and supervise them. Later he would spend half a day in the committee office, and take care of all activity details. He was amongst the founders of “Agudat Yisrael”, and when Dr. Karlibach visited in Będzin, he stayed in his home.

In 1925 he was elected as a kehila leader. Up until 1931 was president of the kehila administration. He died in 1938.

The second brother, Kalman, was born in 1868, and he was the richest of the brothers.

Bed-340b.jpg [15 KB] - Reb Kalman Liwer
Reb Kalman Liwer

[Page 341]

He was the owner of a store selling furs that he inherited from his father, and later on was one of the owners of the flourmill on Małachowska Street. He was also one of the founders of “Agudat Yisrael”, and according to a decree by the Rabbi from Gur, he was also a kehila leader.

He was also amongst the founders of the commercial bank, and for a long time was chairman of the board.

He was an honest man and a noble spirit. His words could be counted upon. He gave generously to charity, including donating surreptitiously. He knew Russia, German and Polish, a rare thing in his time. Even though he was orthodox, he endowed his children with an education, maintained private teachers for them – and the daughters studied in a Polish gymnasium.

He died in the ghetto, at Purim [in March] 1942, May the Lord revenge his death.

Bed-341b.jpg [15 KB] - Reb Chaim Liwer
Reb Chaim Liwer

Chaim Liwer, was the only brother who acted in accordance with his father's last testament and was not involved in communal work. When asked for an explanation of this, he replied: – My sons are already involved in communal activity in their localities – Abraham Liwer the “White”, chairman of the Zionist organization, and Szmul Liwer – chairman of “Eretz Yisrael Ovedet”.

He was a pleasant person, he knew how to cleverly relate old folk legends, and was familiar with all the Jewish families in Będzin in recent generations.

On Sabbath eves, after the meal, there were those would come to his home, for a cup of tea – veteran Radomsk Chassidim, like Icek Gold, S. Prawer, Rechnic and others, singing pleasantly and telling stories about the Rabbi.

In 1943, with the final deportation, he was murdered by the Germans whilst sleeping in his bed, May the Lord revenge his death.

The youngest of the brothers, Reb Meszulem, was a noble spirit, and the very appearance of him in the street inspired respect. He was tall, with a long beard, handsome, his clothing spotless, even with his activities in the brick furnace and a large wholesale fur store.

Bed-341a.jpg [16 KB] - Reb Meszulem Liwer
Reb Meszulem Liwer

He was always involved in public activity. He was president of “Mizrachi”, a kehila leader, and in 1924 was elected as president of the kehila. He was a board member of the Jewish discount bank and of the traders' union. Till his last day he was the representative of the Jewish traders in the tax office, in which he defended their rights and concerns.


Icchak Majer Szenberg

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

He was amongst the eminent members of the Będzin kehila, a Gur Chassid, an activist in “Agudat Yisrael” and one of its founders in Będzin. He was pleasant and popular amongst the people.

He was the owner of large businesses, and even so, dedicated much of his time and energy to communal work. He was educated and a scholar.

Bed-341c.jpg [15 KB] - Reb Icchak Majer Liwer
Reb Icchak Majer Liwer

In 5684 [1924], he was elected as a kehila leader. He was active in charity and public aid societies, particularly in “Linat Cholim” [accommodation for the sick], of which he was one of its founders and a loyal activist till his last day.

Even during the war period, and in the ghetto, he acted to help the poor and the needy sick in the social department of the ghetto.

He was killed with all the Jews of Będzin. May the Lord revenge his death.

Four of sons and his daughter with their families are in Israel.

Editorial note:
In the “Personalities” section it would have been appropriate, of course, to include more people, who stove for the Jews in Będzin, however because of a shortage of space we confined ourselves to intellectuals, public activists and community leaders.

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