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[Page 157]

Part III



The Zionist Organization Axhvah in Boiberke in 1931-32

First row, from the right: Munik Shtrum, Tzilah Shtrum, Tzilah Ehrlich, Feine Beller, Shtrum, Breintze Kattor, Eizik Shliffer, Avraham Ruk (in Russia), Kukah Eizin, Leibish Eizin, Shtrum, Dr. Tvai Eizin, Shimshon Katter, Yoel Kriss, Shimon Shtiker, Yitzchak Hochberg (in Rehovoth), Shtiker, Lippa Lutringer (in Ra'anana), Yinta Gass, Breintze Safron, Katter, Feige Hochberg, Sarna Bergman, Chantzi Shpeyer


R. Lippa Fenster
(Memories of our Old Home)

Hirsh Safron (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

In 5689 (1929), soon after Passover, the Boiberker rabbi, Rabbi Binyamin Goller, z”l, departed. He was not very old, but he was called to the Heavenly Tribunal early.

It would seem that it was enough that the beloved rabbi died so suddenly, but his death brought a new affliction to the shtetl. There was controversy over who would sit in the rabbinical seat after R. Binyamin.

The shtetl was divided into two camps. One camp of big shots, led by the Belz Chasidim, wanted the position to go to the son-in-law of the deceased rabbi, R. Shion Holoch, z”l, who was the head of the rabbinical court of the holy congregation of Dolina. Their main argument was: What? Be strong! If Rabbi Binyamin Goller had had a son who was a rabbi, prominent among rabbis, he certainly would have been taken to fill the position of his deceased father. So why should they not take his son-in-law?

The other side was the camp of the Hasidim, particularly the Stretin Chasidim, who wanted as rabbi R. Uri'le Eizin, z”l, the former rabbi of Swirsz, who after the war lived in Boiberke and presided over a Chasidic tisch, had his own prayer house, had many Chasidic followers, and who taught Torah. He belonged to the dynasty of Stretin, a grandson of the “Angel's” student, whose name he bore–Rabbi Uri'le.

Rabbi Uri'le also had many followers, and the conflict was enormous

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and caused divisions in families. One group favored the Belzer and the other the Stretiner. The division was so great that men did not speak to their wives and threatened divorces, because the husband was a Belzer Hasid and his wife was partial to the Stretiners rabbi R. Uri'le (because her father was a Stretiner Chasid.).

This is not the place to discuss the rabbi question in the shtetl. God helped. The quarrel was brought to a Torah court of the greatest rabbis in Galicia, and the beis-din ruled that the rabbinical seat in Boiberke belonged to the rabbi R. Holoch. But this was a ruling without teeth. A ruling is one thing, and what people do is another. R. Holoch withdrew from the rabbinical position because he had too many opponents.

But the fire in the two camps was not wholly extinguished, since the Belz Chasidim decided to build a Belz study house in order to avoid conflict. How could people pray in one shul alongside the adherents of the other camp?

The initiative in this matter was attributed to R. Lippa Fenster. R. Lippa was Belz Chasid, but he was not wealthy. He earned a living from a small ironworks, a business in which there was much competition. But he devoted himself to the matter with all his soul and all his might. He himself donated a nice sum as a gift. When the study house was completed and stood there beautifully, R. Lippa was chosen to be the gabbai. He was also the unpaid sexton, and he carried out his duties with enthusiasm and love for the house of study and for those who prayed there.

In summer and winter he would rise early and enter the house of study, clean it up (and in winter warm it up) while he said a few chapters of Psalms, since he knew them by heart and did not need a book. His clear, warm voice echoed in the empty street. When the congregants later came to the study house, they found it clean and warm, and they could sit and study. R. Lippa kvelled from pleasure and his heart was filled with joy that Jews could sit and study there.

R. Lippa Fenster was also a famous prayer leader. He had a warm, soft baritone voice. His praying was known throughout the region. Whoever had not heard R. Lippa Fenster lead the prayers on the Days of Awe never really heard those prayers. And he led the prayers gratis, without taking pay, even though he had been asked to go to Lemberg and lead the prayers in the Great Synagogue for quite a sum. But he did not go. “I will pray in my study house, for no pay,” he maintained.

Someone who jumped from the moving train related: The last time R. Lippa Fenster led the prayers was with his people who were being led to their deaths, in the wagon of the trains that was taking Jewish victims to Belzec in 1942. Whoever did not hear R. Lippa Fenster's prayers there has never really heard the prayers.

“Oh, earth, do not cover their blood!” [Job 16:18]. May their memory be for good and may the blood they shed be avenged, and may all the wicked disappear.

[Page 159]

Chaim Klinetor

Yisroel Gimpel

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

His name was Chaim Gross, but in the city no one knew him by that name. Only the postman knew who that was. We in the shtetl called him Chaim Klinetor. It seems that no one could tell why he was called that. We only knew that no wedding could take place without him, not only for us in the shtetl but in the whole area. Chaim had a whole klezmer band, but mainly he played the clarinet, although when he played for the bride at a Jewish wedding, he used a violin.

Chaim and his wife had fine children, and many of them. All of their children survived, a rare phenomenon. Many people wished for such a thing. This was a sign of particular merit, because for other Jews, every second child died at around a year of age. When Jews who had no children did have a child, they would quickly give a couple of kreutzer to Chaim Klinetor's wife as a charm, and the child would survive.

Chaim Klinetor, with no evil eye, had a home and also, with no evil eye, was quite poor, although he did have an income.

When the time came to arrange a match for his oldest daughter and she had no dowry, they sent her to America. That was a blessed country, where one could marry without a dowry.

The second daughter made a good match. She married a barber from Brozdowicz, Fishl Ehrnzweig, a very fine young man, but still a barber. Do not forget how a working man was regarded at that time. Simma, the young woman, also had a good trade. She was a midwife. They had, thank God, an income, but they had, may it not afflict us, no children such as her mother had had. She did raise the youngest child, Hershel. He had lived through all seven stages of Gehenna, survived the Nazis, merited coming to the Golden Land, to America, but fate was not good to him or to his wife. What does a Jewish family want? Children. But, may it not happen to us, they had no children.

Hersh Gross, Chaim Klinetor's son, was a very successful young man. He could play all instruments, excelling at the violin, and he was also a good barber. The Gross family was proud of their son Hersh. He was a good speaker. He had a mouth fit for talking and could have been a minister. In addition, he was quite handsome. So what does God do? He loved a girl, Machlah Shtein. And it seems that however much he loved her, she loved him back. But her mother disapproved of the match. What? Should her daughter marry a musician, a hairdresser who lived in Jewish Wilica?

But the love was so great that the young woman devised a trick, and Dr. Rot gradually rescued her. Understand that the mother had to agree that her daughter would marry the handsome Hersh Klezmer.

But the marriage was not a success. When poverty comes in through the door, love goes out the window. People murmured that no children were forthcoming. They went to Vienna, twice to America, formed there an original Boiberke band, but they had no happiness.

Another daughter of Chaim Klinetor married a Russian young man whom fate had brought to our shtetl. He was a craftsman, a maker of shoes. That was also not so hot. With no income, they went to America. After being there a little while, they returned to Boiberke, only to increase the number of Hitler's victims.

Another of Chaim Klinetor's daughters now lives in New York.

Another son, Ana Gross, was the opposite of his brother Hersh. He resembled his mother.

He learned to be a barber on my head. I remember that my mother, a”h, gave me two kreutzer to get a haircut from Fishl Ehrnzweig, who had a barbershop in the market, near Lipali Yagot. Fishl himself was not there, but I ran into Ana Gross and his younger brother Yekl. Ana was spending his first day there as a student. Yekl said to Ana, “Cut his hair. He has two kreutzer, so I'll be able to buy cherries.” Yekl ran off to buy cherries, while Ana got to work.

[Page 160]

The razor jumped along, cut my hair, and I cried. He pulled out half of my hair with his machine and left half behind. But I got a reward: they gave me a couple of cherries. When I got home from the barber, my mother was shocked. “I could have done it better,” she said. I was embarrassed to tell her that he had learned on my head.

When Ana grew up, he also went to America. Barbering did not appeal to him. He wanted to be more worldly and was interested in politics. But nothing came of that. It did not turn out as he wanted. He married twice. He buried his first wife, and his second wife buried him.

Chaim Klinetor had a large family. A fine Jewish man with a beautiful beard, he was prominent in his shul, but he never merited gaining a bit of nachas.

Ancestor's Graves

Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

My grandfather Zisha Mordechai's grave has lain open
A whole seven years. Fat, shiny flies
Have settled on his bones
And died. His older son, Vulf,
Lies near him, with shards on his eyes
And decays: what a person can become.

That rich man did not believe that twenty
Years after his father's death he would lie near him
And through the shards see a rotting skull—
He did not reckon that he himself would die.

On the other side lies his younger son, Shimon,
His shrouds as clean as thirty-three years ago,
With a clean fade and a childlike look
That says: Nu, nu, now we are all here.
Of the grandmother nothing remains.
But all three know that she was there, too.
But the grandmother played them a trick:
Raised herself up and rolled away
To her son Avram'tche, who lies buried
Far, far away—somewhere on Long Island.

[Page 161]

Rabbi Feivel Melamed

Translated by Myra Rothenberg and Melvin Schmier

His students were all one of a kind, very dedicated children.  Feivel Melamed took no more than twenty young ones, and only those who already knew something. He was also very expensive, taking not less than fifteen zlotys for a term. With Feivel Melamed, one learned all day, from early morning till eight o'clock at night, with a break to eat meals, and a small break between minkha and ma'ariv.

Feivel Melamed was a handsome Jew with a full yellow beard. But he wasn't seen as a hearty healthy man because he was always hoarse. His big, angry eyes peered out from under his thick bushy eyebrows. His neck was always bound by a kerchief. He didn't make a move without a little stick in his hand. . The cane(stick) was used to give a little whack to someone who wasn't listening or not understanding the lesson in the Talmud. He also used the cane to give himself a little scratch between the shoulder blades, deep down through the collar of his shirt, or to help wipe the smoky lamp glass with a kerchief.

Feivel Melamed was also in the habit of constantly demanding of the rebbetzin- Peniah was her name- a glass of warm tea. And if G-d forbid she forgot and didn't immediately bring the tea, he would cry out to his daughter, Zipporah: where is the tea? What's taking so long, Zippor-AH? And when she finally brought the tea, he grabbed it from her in anger, laid down the stick on the table, scratched his left ear and standing thus with his left foot up on the bench, he drank and listened to what the students were reading in the gemmorah. (Every minute was precious.)

At 1:30 they went to eat lunch. On the way back form lunch, the children brought back with them something to eat between minkha and ma'ariv [the afternoon and evening prayers] - two pieces of bread with schmaltz, or prune jam or herring. There were children who were not embarrassed to bring something cooked in a pot. Only after davenning [praying] minkha and ma'ariv and after eating, did the real learning begin.

A hanging lamp was let down from the ceiling, in the middle of the long table. And the students on both sides of the table began to chant together in harmony at the top of their voices in the traditional religious melody, the parsha from the chumash [portion of the week from the Five Books of Moses] or the lesson from the gemorrah. All this they did without stopping until eight o'clock at night. The students were happy to hear the big old wooden wall clock with its two heavy weights (one of them was bound with an exquisite covering). Clang clang: boom boom, eight times. The religious books were closed, the hanging lamp extinguished, the children put on their jackets, the lanterns were lit and all together they went down the street - home.

It is easy to say “home”. But the night was dark, the mud or the snow was deep, (only in winter did they learn at night) and home was very far away. The school was on the Zamlinieh, beyond the mill, and they had to go carefully so that no one would encounter a shagetz [a non-Jew] or the crazy one, “Heniele”. Their greatest dread was going past the Polish Cloister. They stayed close together, and crept as though blind. They were afraid to lift their eyes up to give a look there, where the devils and “the no-good ones” played inside, the whole night.  But as if to spite us, our eyes were drawn there, as if by a magic spell.  Little by little we finally arrived at the right path, not far from where Mother sat and warmed up dinner.

With Feivel Melamed students learned three or four terms until they could learn for themselves in the Beit Midrash, that is, until they became Beit Midrash bokhers [young men].

When Feivel Melamed died, he was accorded the greatest of honors.  He was carried to the mikvah, washed with the water, and as it is said, it was as though he had immersed himself. The Hevrah Kedisha (burial society) quickly performed his rites. Purified, they wrapped him in his shrouds, put on his tallis and laid him in a coffin. Six of his closest friends from the Stretiner Hasidim carried him on their shoulders into the little shul and there they marched with him around the Bimah carrying the Torah scrolls in procession and said the prayer,“Ma'avar Yabbok”** [Yabbok Pass. This is a pass across the River Jordan, mentioned in the story of Jacob preparing to meet his brother Essau, Genesis 32 Verse 23]. The rabbi delivered the eulogy and the whole town, Belzer and Stretiner Hasidim alike, followed the procession all the way to the cemetery. Almost every one of his students stood by the grave and each one sprinkled a little bit of earth on the coffin , while shedding a tear.

For a long time after that, the children couldn't stop telling the story of Rabbi Feivel Melamed's death. They spent a lot of tearful and sleepless nights.

** [Editor's Note: “Maavar Yabok” is the place where Jacob's family crossed the Jordan River to visit his brother Esau (Genesis 32:23). It is also where Jacob struggled with the angel and where his name was changed from Jacob to Israel when he prevailed. He fought with the angel for his very life, as we all do at one time or another.

There was a book written in Hebrew by the name of “Maavar Yabok” in the year 5386 (1625) in Montova, Italy, by Aharon Brachia son of Rav Moshe of Modna. “Maavar Yabok” is a collection of mitzvahs related to 'bikur holim' (visiting the sick), all that one must do for a sick person while he is incapacitated, and everything having to do with the dead until burial. In other words, the mitzvahs we are required to perform while a person is struggling with the angel and until he is laid to rest.]

[Page 162]


Yisroel Gimpel (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

We, the current generation, do not remember him from his younger years. But, as the older generation relates, Yisroelik was a porter in his youth. His main work was carrying sacks of flour.

Yisroelik had altogether one and a half senses: a very healthy sense of work and a half sense, or more accurately, an instinct, for eating, which his body required: eating, eating. Mockers said that his sense of work was also the origin of his instinct for eating, because he knew that people work in order to eat. He could eat a whole day, and anything that came to hand, that people gave him. People said that he did not eat, that he chewed his cud like a cow. So he would chew and work without interruption.

As people tell it, Yisroelik had a married sister in Romania. She asked him to come to Romania and there he worked in an oil facility. He only worked in order to eat, because the couple of groschen that he earned his sister took. He worked without interruption until he, may it not happen to us, became blind. After that, his “faithful” sister sent him back home, that is, to us in the shtetl. He could no longer work, because he was blind. He was no longer young and he was broken. But he had not forgotten how to eat. On the contrary, he had to eat more, because he had nothing else to do. We children used to tell him stories and sing him various songs in Yiddish and Romanian. On Fridays he would go from house to house to get pieces of bread and challah. He had a long jacket and a bundle. There he gathered the pieces of bread and in this way he went a whole week and ate and drank water from the water barrel at the beis-medresh. His home was in the beis-medresh by the oven. His favorite food was varenikes [Ukrainian dumplings]. He not only loved to eat varenikes, which were seldom to be found, but he also loved to tell us children, and also the housewives, how to cook varenikes. First one takes the noodle board and puts it on the table. One spreads over it a kilo of flour and makes a hole in the flour. One sprinkles it with a little water and many eggs--the more the better–and one rolls it around slowly until the flower becomes a dough; one boils potatoes in a pot and one takes cheese--the more the better. One takes a little pan with three feet and stirs around onions in oil--the more the better--until the onions sizzle. Now take the potatoes mashed up and fold them into the dough and throw them into boiling water. The head of the household gets 12, his wife gets 10, each child gets 6, and Yisroelik gets the rest.

If someone asked Yisroelik how many varenikes he could eat, he answered: if in the passes between Boiberke and Strelisk there would be on one side varenikes and on the other side sour cream, I would go from Boiberke to Strelisk dunking and eating, dunking and eating.

The Bankrupt Man

Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

The fly that buzzes on the ceiling
Is like a full band
In my brain. I have nowhere to put my hands,
And in the dirty mirror I see: hatred and mockery
And twisted mouths, hissing; bankrupt.
Is it the ash of promissory notes, wiped out, burned up,
That now lands in my eyes, on my hair?
The chest stands sealed with my forty years
Of toil and unslaked thirst to buy and sell.
Should I blow my voice into it?
The neighbors know better, because they know well
That at daybreak I will flee the city.

[Page 163]

The Teachers of our Town in 1900-1920

Avraham Fisher (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

For the young generation, I do not know if these names will have any significance, but for an earlier generation the names have a lot to say.

Moyshe Leib (elementary teacher)
Berl Shpritzer (elementary teacher)
Eli Moyshe (died in 1903)
Chana Meir (Buntz)
Yossl Haber (Yossl Borsht)
Yehuda Haber (Yudah the Teacher)
R. Feivel Shamir (teacher of Gemara and Tosafos for adults)
R. Yehezkel Auerbach (Hezkeli the Teacher, teacher of Gemara and Tosafos for adults)
R. Zalke Kessler (Zalke the Teacher, teacher of Gemara and Tosafos for adults)
Chana's Leibush (toward the end of his life went to Eretz Yisroel to Chonan Ephrah)
Chana's Duvid (teacher of Talmud and Torah)
The Heevneev Teacher (The Teacher from Heevneev)
Nataniel (Tani) the Teacher, brother-in-law of Feivel the Teacher
Ephraim Fisher (women's teacher)
Ezra's Uri
Pineli Lineal's son-in-law, who was considered a modern teacher
Naftali Altman
Shloyme Rut (From Romanow)
Moyshe Kiotzion (teacher during the First World War)
Nachum Katz (Na hum Mazer)
Mordechai Yossl (went to America and returned)
The Goatee

There was a Talmud Torah in Boiberke, and people took care that poor children had a place to learn. Who looked after the institution in the old days I do not know. In later years, 1915-1933, my father, R. Michal Shamir, a”h, was active. He hired the teachers and was the inspector. He checked that people were learning. He examined the children and worried over the budget. More than once I went on Friday to get the week's money for the Talmud Torah. (The Editor)

Sextons in Shul, in Beis-Medresh, and in other Synagogues

Duvid Plager (Dudye the Sexton), the chief sexton of the shul.
Shmuel Yuzip Brandywine, the second sexton in the shul
Chaim Abba'le, sexton in the beis-medresh
Yisroel the Sexton, Chaim Abba'le's son
Hirsch Melech Krauthammer, sexton in the little shul. He would announce the new month on Shabbos when people blessed the new moon.
Chana's Duvid, sexton in the “united”
Yitzchak Pepitz, sexton in the Czartkever prayer house. (He also tried his luck at business. Every year he bought onions and held on to them until the price increased, but he always lost because he had to throw the onions away.)
Meir Danziker, sexton in the Belz prayer house.

The sextons usually had other “sacred duties.” Thus, Dudya the Sexton was a monument carver. Meir Danziker was the town's undertaker. He was also an expert in kneading the dough for matzo. He did not mind the bitter drops. He would say, “When I buy a bottle of whiskey late on Friday, I have enough until…ha ha, after the fish.”

The Shochets [Ritual Slaughterers] of Boiberke

R. Hershel Shochet
R. Moyshe Nas (Moyshe the Shochet)
R. Michal Shochet (Hershel's son)
R. Kalman Shochet (R. Michal's son, but he was prevented from being a shochet because of a report that went around)
R. Moyshe Avraham Mann (Moyshe Avram the Shochet)
R. Shloyme Pelz (Shloyme the Shochet)
R. Aharon Fruchter (Moyshe the Shochet's son-in-law)
R. Abramtzi the Shochet (Moyshe the Shochet's son)
Moyshe the Shochet (Moyshe Nas) had a sweet voice. He would lead prayers at shul, especially the Mussaf on the High Holidays. He would also lead the “Mi Sheberachs” and sing at weddings and brises and, Heaven forbid, eulogize and sing “El Maleh Rachamim” at a funeral in a tragic voice. In the month of Elul he would earn money by singing “El Maleh Rachamim” at the cemetery for women who visited the graves of their ancestors.

A special source of income for the slaughterers was the right to take a piece of lung or intestine from the slaughtered animal. During the months of Tevet and Shevat they had the right to take a leg from every slaughtered goose.


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