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Rabbis, Halachic Authorities & Religious Life


[Pages 525-530]

Rabbis, Judges and Shamoshim[1]

Jakób Chune Plai (Filik)




A) The First Rabbi

Just as the beginnings of Jewish settlement in Częstochowa and the manifestation of a communal life are shrouded in mist, so too is it difficult to determine who was the first Rabbi and Head of [the Rabbinical] Court in our city.

According to various historians, Jewish life started there in 5560 (1800, to their reckoning), although already some years prior to this, a few Jews were found living in the city and it is unknown whether they lived there illegally or under some kind of permit. A certain record has been preserved, by which it is possible to ascertain that, in 5568 (1808), a meeting was held at which a man named “Reb Yaakov, son of Reb Eliezer Ha'Lewi” was appointed trustee of the Kehilla and Head of Court, but there are no details on the man and his origins and it is very likely that, as the small community that existed then lacked the financial means to maintain a Rabbi and Head of Court, they sufficed with a learned Jew, who apparently also possessed organisational skills and he served both as the Halachic authority on matters of prohibition and permission and as “Head of the Kehilla” as one.

The book “Bris Avrohom” [Abraham's Covenant], by Rabbi Avrohom Zvi–Hersch of Piotrków, contains a responsum to “Rabbi Moishe, member of the Rabbinical Court at the holy community of Częstochowa”, which dates from that period, but in the years 5574–5576 [1814–1816], we already find a Rabbi and Head of Court in the city. In the same book “Beis Avrohom”, there are several responsa to queries received from “the honourable, astute [and] superlative Rabbi, perfect in virtues and traits of character, the modest yet mighty Reb Duwid Icchok”. The reference is probably to the rabbi Reb Duwid Icchok, who compiled a commentary on the Pentateuch – “Beis Duwid”.

In the book “Kadishes Icchok” [Holiness of Isaac], by the Rebbe of Aleksander[2], in the biography of the Rebbe Reb Icchok, the first Rebbe of Warka [Vurke, in Yiddish], it is recounted that, when the first Warka Rebbe's father, Reb Szymon “Ba'al Rachmunes” [The Merciful] of Załusin, met at the fair in Częstochowa with a renowned merchant from Żarki named Reb Majer, and they were talking about their livelihoods and families, he told him, among other things, of his bachelor son Icchok, that he was a young prodigy and greatly assiduous in Torah studies. Then Reb Majer spoke favourably of his modest and god–fearing daughter, who was named Ruchel. And the fathers thought it good to arrange a marriage between their children and they agreed that, at the next fair, Reb Shimen would bring his son to Częstochowa, to be tested in his learning by the famous rabbi and prodigy, Reb Duwid, author of the book “Beis Duwid”, Head of Court in Częstochowa (and later Rabbi and Head of Court of Piotrków). Reb Shimen was concerned lest his modest and bashful son should become startled and not receive the approval of the prodigious Rabbi of Częstochowa, so he therefore travelled first to the tzadik [righteous man] Rebbe Duwid of Lelów, to ask his opinion on the match in general, and for him to pray that his son should have success in the examination. The tzadik granted his approval and gave his blessing to them, that his son should find favour in the prodigy's eyes and do well in the test.

I have not been able to discover the surname of our city's first rabbi – Rabbi Duwid Icchok z”l – because it is not mentioned even on the title page of his book “Beis Duwid”. What we know about him is that he served as Rabbi of Częstochowa until 5581 [1821] and that, from there, he passed to serve as Rabbi and Head of Court in Piotrków.

His book “Beis Duwid” on the Pentateuch was printed about eighty years after his death (he died on Shvat 28, 5587 [Feb. 25, 1827], in Piotrków). In the title page, the publisher writes that:

the author had been a friend of the Rebbe of Lublin[3] ztz”l; “And David executed judgment and charity [unto all his people]” [2 Samuel 8:15] – judgment to one and charity to another, in his wise trials; and the sermons he preached to the congregation on the year's Saturdays, words of uprightness to inspire the hearts of the Children of Israel to their Father in Heaven, all of which he later set in a book; and his practical Halachic teachings; and innovations on the Talmud and its commentators.

And the publisher adds that he has, in his possession, another large composition on ritual slaughter and treifes[4] in theory and in practice, and a composition on the “Choishen Mishpat[5], and innovations on the treatises of the Talmud. Also, in one of the author's manuscripts, is recorded his closeness with the Holy Rabbi Reb Jankew Icchok, the Rebbe of Lublin ztz”l: “My friend, Reb Itzik'l Łańcuter” – as the Rebbe of Lublin was known before assuming leadership – from which is seen that the rabbi Reb Duvid Icchok was a prodigy and an expert in all the facets of the Torah, and maintained a correspondence with contemporary exalted and prodigious [Torah] figures; besides the author of “Bris Avrohom”, also with the prodigy, the author of “Chemdas Shloime” [Solomon's Desire] and the rabbi Reb Majer Cilig, Head of Court in Łask and author of “Pesach HaBais” [Opening of the House].


B) His Successor

Who was his successor, [what was] his name and origin? It is unknown to us. We also lack information on the office of [Chief] Rabbi between the years 5581–5601 [1821–1841], although it cannot be that, over the course of twenty years, there was no Chief Rabbi in Częstochowa. It is possible that, during those years, one of the judges (whose name is also unknown to us) performed the duties of Chief Rabbi.


C) The Rabbi Reb Isachar [Zachariasz] Weingott ztz”l

The rabbi Reb Isachar, son of the rabbi Reb Juda Leib Weingott, was appointed Rabbi of Częstochowa in 5601 [1841]. He was born in Kalisz in 5549 [1789]. His father and his mother, Szerel [given name], the daughter of the rabbi Reb Mojżesz Parnczewer, were [both] of great lineages, descendants of the illustrious Maharshal[6], Maharsha[7], Maharam[8] of Lublin and the Shelah[9].

The rabbi Reb Isachar was a disciple of the prodigy, the author of “Rishmei She'ela” [Record of Queries] and the saintly prodigy Reb Yosef the Tzadik ztz”l, Head of Court in Poznań. When he was only a boy of twelve, he had the honour of appearing before the Magid of Kozienice[10] and holding forth a sharp analysis on one of the Talmudic treatises in his presence and, by his advice, his father sent him away to continue his studies with the renowned prodigy Reb Chaim, Head of Court in Łęczyca, where he remained and studied Torah intensively until the day of his marriage with a girl his age, Szifra Miriam, the daughter of the renowned prodigy and kabbalist Rabbi Efroim Ha'Lewi Segal ztz”l, the Rabbi of Koło.

When he lived in Koło, provided with room and board by his father–in–law, he embraced the yeshiva and constituted many disciples. After some years, he was appointed Rabbi of the town of Sompolno, and was liked by his congregation, who greatly respected him. In Sompolno, too, he taught the community's young men Torah. There, he also published his first book, “Pit ei She'arim” [Gate Openings] Volume 1, on the “Eizehu Neshech” [Which is Interest] chapter of the tractate Bava Metziah [of the Talmud]. With this book, his genius and deep Torah wisdom were revealed and he became famous as one of the great scholars of his generation.

After he realised that his preoccupation with local affairs disturbed his Torah study, he relinquished his position as rabbi and returned to Koło to dedicate himself to studying Torah with young men, as his custom had been in his first days of settling in this town. Before long, the rabbi Reb Issachar, whose financial situation was deplorable, was forced to take the rabbinical yoke (of which he was not very fond) upon himself again and, for some years, he served as Rabbi and Head of Court in the communities of Płońsk, Kowale [?] and Stryków. As mentioned already, in 5601 [1841], he was appointed Rabbi of Częstochowa. In 5611 [1851], he published the second part of his book “Pit ei She'arim” (Innovations and Annotations on the Talmud) and, in 5692 [1932], his grandson, the rabbi Reb Issachar, Head of Court in Dobry, honoured him by printing the third volume of his book “Pit ei She'arim”, with annotations on the Hebrew Bible.

Rabbi Weingott served as Rabbi of Częstochowa to the end of 5612 [1852], the year in which he was struck by a serious eye disease. He travelled to Breslau [Wrocław] for treatment and died there on Elul 8, 5612 [23rd Aug. 1852].


D) The Years 5613–5619 [1853–1859]

We again encounter ignorance regarding if and who served as Rabbi of Częstochowa during these years, in the period between the death of Rabbi Weingott ztz”l and the appointment of the rabbi Reb Icchok Rabinowicz as rabbi of the community. We may hardly say that Częstochowa remained without a rabbi then, but due to the destruction of all the city's Jewish archives, we must leave this question unanswered!


E) Rabbi Icchok Rabinowicz ztz”l

Rabbi Rabinowicz has left us a reliable source by which we may determine the exact date of his being appointed Rabbi of Częstochowa.

In his book “Nidvoys Pi” [Offerings of My Mouth], which was published in Berlin in 5623 [1863], the rabbi marked one of his sermons as “the sermon I delivered standing in evaluation before the congregation, on the Holy Sabbath, weekly reading of [Ki] Teitzei [Deut. 21:10–25:19; read in Aug. or Sep.], 5619 [1859 ]”.

He was born in Warsaw in 5583 [1823]. In his youth, he studied with the rabbi and prodigy Reb Elyohu [Eliasz] Rogaler of Kalisz and, later, with the rabbi and prodigy Reb Berisz Aszkenazy, Head of Court of Lublin. When he was only seventeen years old, he was ordained rabbi by these prodigies. Besides his greatness in Torah, he was also learned and enlightened. He corresponded with his generation's distinct Jewish scholars, Michael Sachs and Y.L. Zunz, and he was also an excellent preacher. The Rabbi of Warsaw, the prodigy Reb Dov–Berisz Meisels wrote of him that “for, besides his strength in Torah and logic, he is also able to teach the crowd knowledge.” The rabbi Reb Szyia of Skałów wrote of him that “he hits the true mark with the arrows of his rationality, by cleverly illustrating the teachings of the sages.” The famous prodigy Reb Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin wrote of him “a Biblical scholar and a Mishnah student, he seizes souls with wisdom and knowledge”. And the Rabbi of Łódź, the prodigy Rabbi Elyohu Chaim Majzel, praised him particularly extensively and referred to him as “a light of understanding in Halachic casuistry, a light of knowledge for all seekers of Truth enveloped in enlightened tales, who breathes a spirit of purity into the hearts of those searching for God.

And, indeed, this rabbi of ours distinguished himself with his welcome activities. He did not isolate himself in his personal space of Torah and Wisdom, but was an assiduous public figure and concerned himself with public necessities, as is seen from his sermons, which he published in his book “Nidvoys Pi”, the first volume of which was printed during his lifetime, in 5623 [1863] in Berlin. The second part of the book was published, after his death, by his son Juda Rabinowicz. The deceased was the brother and son– in–law of the rabbi Reb Benjamin Dawid Rabinowicz, a preacher in Warsaw, and was Rabbi of Częstochowa for a little over ten years, and died in 5629 [1869].


F) The Years 5630–5647 [1870–1887]

We, again, come upon an empty space due to a lack of information regarding the post of Rabbi of Częstochowa during these years. There are no reliable sources concerning this period and we must trace a line over it.


G) Rabbi Gerszon Rawinson ztz”l

In those days, it seems that quarrels broke out between the Chassidim and the progressive circles in the city and, this time, the latter had the upper hand and succeeded in their efforts that, as Chief Rabbi of our city, this time a Lithuanian[11] and Misnaged rabbi was chosen. Despite his greatness in Torah, he was disliked in the Chassidic circles.

The rabbi Reb Gerszon Rawinson also had a broad general education, which was rare amongst the rabbis of Poland. He was born in 5609 (1849) to his father the rabbi Reb Yosef, who was the rabbi of the small town Krasław (Witebsk region), of what is now Latvia.

Rabbi G. Rawinson was descended from the prodigy Rabbi Moishe Kremer z”l, one of the rabbinical judges in Wilna. Following the death of his father, the rabbi Reb Yosef z”l, his son was appointed his successor and gained renown as a talented Halachic authority, a brilliant preacher and a distinct public figure. After some time, he served as Rabbi of Sarpa and Połąga and, in 5647 (1887), he was appointed, as mentioned above, Rabbi of Częstochowa.

Rabbi Rawinson also distinguished himself in his Talmudic and Halachic research, which was published in the books “Oilas Icchok” [Isaac's Sacrifice] by his brother–in–law Rabbi Icchok Tzioni, the Rabbi of Rzeczyca (Witebsk region) and that of the prodigy Reb Aharon Zelig of Lucyn. He was also fluent in Russian and his speeches in this language, which he delivered on celebratory events in the presence of the representatives of the government and the army, were published in several pamphlets. In his speeches in Yiddish, too, in which he preached the love of Zion, he gained respect and affection from his many listeners who enjoyed listening to his words. Rabbi Rawinson also occasionally published his articles in the “Ha'Melitz” [The Intercessor] and “Ha'Tzfira” [The Siren]. His eulogy for the Rabbi of Kowno [Kaunas] and beacon to the Russian Jewry, Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spektor ztz”l, which he delivered at the “Ohel Moishe” [Tent of Moses] synagogue (which was popularly called “Faktor's Shul”), made a great impression and was also published in “Ha'Melitz”.

His inflexibility and his fierce war against any kind of fanatics caused his term as Rabbi of Częstochowa to last only about ten years and, in 5657 [1897], he left Częstochowa, after which he served as the Rabbi of Płock, Włocławek and Mczislaw. He eventually left Russian Poland and settled in England, where he served as rabbi of the kolel [yeshiva for married men] in Liverpool.

Towards the end of his life, he emigrated to the United States and served as Rabbi of Cleveland, where he died in 5668 (1908).


H) The last Rabbi of Częstochowa, the Prodigy Reb Nuchem Asz ztz”l

On the noble personality of this great man and his great contribution to Częstochowa's spiritual uplifting, both religiously and socially as one, much has been written in our book. A special segment – of which Rabbi Asz ztz”l was worthy – has been dedicated to him in the “Personalities” section, for this dear man was, first and foremost, renowned among all men for his greatness in Torah and his exemplary commitment to the public and to individuals.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Plural form of the Hebrew word “Shamash”, or “Shames” in Yiddish, which is usually loosely translated as “sacristan”; this occupation entitles not only the physical maintenance of a specific synagogue or prayer–room, but also keeping accurate records of the congregation's births, deaths etc., for which an official “Shames” was held responsible before the local authorities. Return
  2. Rebbe Yide Moishe (or Yehuda Moshe) Tyberg–Dancyger (1892 – 1973), 3rd Rebbe of Aleksander. Return
  3. TN: Rebbe Jankew Icchok HaLewi Horowicz, also known as “The Seer of Lublin”. He is considered one of the fathers of Chassidism. Return
  4. Treifes or treifot are specific mortal injuries or physical defects that disqualify a member of a kosher species from being kosher. Return
  5. Heb.; Breastplate of Judgement; the halachic laws pertaining to finance, torts, legal procedure, and loans and interest. Return
  6. Hebrew acronym for: Our Teacher, Rabbi Solomon Luria. Return
  7. Our Teacher, Rabbi Shmuel Eidels. Return
  8. Our Teacher, Rabbi Meir (son of Gedalia). Return
  9. Acronym for the name of the book “Shnei Luchos HaBris” (The Two Tablets of the Covenant), by Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz, who is referred to by this acronym. Return
  10. See above, p.41, where the date of his appointment is given as 1850. Return
  11. Not necessarily born in Lithuania, as seen subsequently. “Lithuanian” is (in the ultra–orthodox world) synonymous with “Misnaged”, i.e., an enemy of Chassidism. Return

[Pages 531-532]

Rabbinical Judges

Jakób Chune Plai (Filik)


The judge Reb Nachman Grinfeld z”l
The judge Reb Dobrisz Kaufman z”l


And, during the period Rabbi Nuchem Asz ztz”l was the Chief Rabbi: And also those who served with distinction as judges and Halachic authorities in the last period prior to the Holocaust:

Original Editor's note:

  1. We've been able to find the photographs of the decisors Reb Dobrisz Kaufman and Reb Nachman Grinfeld z”l, who are mentioned in Mr J.Ch. Plai's article. The photographs of the rest of our rabbis z”l, are published with the articles dedicated to their blessed activities and memory. Return

Translator's footnote:

  1. Stones of the Crown, by Rebbe Avrohom Borenstein, the Rebbe of Sochaczew Return

[Pages 531-536]


The Book Committee

Reb Aron the Shames

One of the most interesting of Częstochowa's Shamoshim was Reb Aron Shames (Aron Pelc). He was Częstochowa's “living register”, who knew the city's history from its beginning. He was on familiar terms with everyone, having participated in all their circumcisions and knowing each one from childhood. He remembered everyone's death anniversaries (yuhrzeiten) and would make the date of the yuhrzeit known to them [i.e., the mourners]. Every Shabbes at sunset, he would recount interesting things from the city's history. He was a master story–teller and, more than once, brought his audience to tears or laughter.

He could accurately demark the boundaries of the Jewish ghetto from the 18th century. According to him, the ghetto gate used to stand between the houses of Kalman Rajcher and Gwircman. Once, a tremendous fire broke out in the ghetto and, when the flames reached the house where the great Torah scholar Rabbi Iczke Soifer was sitting, the fire stopped by itself. Rabbi Iczke Soifer never left his home. He also recounted that, once, a cholera epidemic broke out in Częstochowa, may heaven protect us. A multitude of people perished as result of the terrible disease. The Cossacks, wishing to prevent the disaster, buried the sick while they were still alive.

Aron Shames sometimes liked to go before the [Holy] Ark and lead the service. Before the High Holidays, he would wrap his neck in a cravat and passionately recite the “Thirteen Attributes” of the “Sliches[1] and he would likewise lead the “Mincha” prayer [afternoon service] on Yom Kippur. Aron Shames used to announce the “Hakufes[2], because he knew everyone's name and father's name. He loved the “little bunch” which came to the service and would offer them “Kiddush[3] wine and the children liked him.

He also managed the list of the Jewish deceased and knew the exact burial location of each and every one.


Reb Kalman Szczekacz

Reb Kalman Szczekacz, the Shames at the city's study–hall, was also one of the interesting characters among the Shamoshim of Częstochowa. Nobody knew how old he was. The most elderly ones remembered him from back in their childhoods, already as an old man with a long white beard. He took upon himself the task of teaching orphans to say the “Kaddish” [prayer for the dead] and carried this mission out devotedly. He considered this action a great and sacred mitzvah and did not demand any payment for it. Shortly before the War, he taught the “Kaddish” to his 150th orphan.

Reb Kalman served as a sort of “soul” of the study–hall. In the winter season, during the long nights, the cooker was already kindled at five o'clock and all could come and warm themselves. Reb Kalman already stood there, reciting Psalms. For anyone who needed to say “Kaddish” on a yuhrzeit, Kalman would organise a minyan[4], at any hour. Services were held continuously. When one minyan concluded the prayer, another would begin immediately. Kalman saw to it that the “balebusim” [burghers; working men] should not waste much time, such that they should pray and go to their work or commerce.

Kalman Shames was also well–liked by the indigent alms–seekers. He would organise them at the door, each one according to his importance and worth, so as to maintain order, unity and peace.

Before the establishment of the “Hachnoses Orchim” institution, there was a “Beis Hekdesh” [Sacred House, i.e., poorhouse], next to the study–hall, for the homeless. The “Hekdesh” was under Reb Kalman's supervision.


Reb Herszel Frajtag

The name “Herszel Frajtag” was well–known in Częstochowa. He was the Shames of the “German Synagogue” for fifty years. Before the synagogue was established, he was Shames in a different minyan called “Rajcher's minyan”, at Aleja NMP 10, to which the entire Częstochowa aristocracy belonged, such as Rajcher, Wernik, Henig, Werde, Herc Grosman, Markusfeld, Gradsztajn, Freund and Imich. This minyan founded the New Synagogue in 1894 and Henig donated the plot for it.

Reb Herszel Frajtag died in 1935 at the age of 107. (His grandson Godl Frajtag – an active member of our organisation – is now in Israel).


Reb Majer Joina Laitman

[He] was born in Moscow to his father Reb Zajnwel, who was one of “Nikolai's Soldiers”, who was abducted as a Cantonist as a boy and served in the army for 25 years. [He] was brought to Radomsko in his youth. In 1880, he married Bajla, the daughter of Nysan Zelig Kalka and they had four boys and four girls. In 1900, he settled in Częstochowa and lived there until he emigrated to America in 1920, after the end of the World War.

From his youth, Reb Majer Joina Laitman was attracted to the Chassidic movement and was a follower of various Rebbes. In Częstochowa, he was the Shames[5] of the Rebbe Reb Awigdor Szapiro for many years. At the “Rebbe's court”, Majer Joina became the “sworn companion” of the suffering Jews, who sought his aid and condolence in times of trouble.

Also, after he emigrated with his family to America, he did not forget the multitude of “Amcho” [simple Jews] that he had left behind in Częstochowa. He did not interrupt for a moment his connection with those who required assistance. He also remained in contact with the rabbi Reb Nuchem Asz, with the “Jewish Hospital”, “Linas Tzedek”, “Beis Lechem” and the “Machzikei Hadas” [Upholders of Religion] cheder. Not only did he collect funds for all these institutions from his sons and daughters, townspeople and acquaintances, but he also awoke an interest in the hearts of other Jews for the underprivileged in his city Częstochowa. Every year, he held a concert at the synagogue and sent the proceeds to Częstochowa, for these institutions.

Until his last day, he did all within his power to help those suffering in Częstochowa and he did everything modestly, without noise and without seeking “honours”. In America as well, [at] the synagogue where he served as Shames, [he] was well–liked and respected by all. When he turned eighty years old, the synagogue management held a magnificent birthday party for him.

He passed away on 17th November 1943 at the age of 83 and, at his funeral, he was eulogised by the Rabbis Zalman Reichman, A.Y. Shuchatowitz and, by his boyhood friend, Rabbi Weintraub.


Reb Chune Gotlib

[He] was the Shames for the Jewish Kehilla. It is said that before, the elections to the Kehilla, Reb Szmul Goldsztajn, Kehilla Chairman, would call him to his room and say:

Here, you see, Chune, you're always complaining to me that you were born under an “unlucky star” and that you have to wait on myself and the rest of the Kehilla delegates, and you envy me – and here, the days have come when I fear they will not re–elect me and cast me down from my seat, while you remain securely in your position, without any fear lest someone should replace you! Your luck is better than mine!

And this naïve Jew believed that his “standing” was better than that of the President of the Kehilla!

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Lit. “Pardons” in Heb., the “Sliches” are prayers of atonement which are recited daily during the month leading up to the High Holidays. The “Thirteen Attributes” is part of this liturgy. Return
  2. Pronounced “Hakafot” in Israeli Hebrew, i.e., “circles”. At the end of the festival of Sukkos; on Simchas Torah, the custom is to take the Torah scrolls out of the Ark and to encircle the reader's platform with great joy, singing and dancing. All those present are called to the Torah for a short reading, by their name and father's name. Return
  3. Ceremony with food and drink held at the synagogue following the morning service on Shabbes and Holidays. Return
  4. Group of ten adult male Jews required for a public prayer service. Return
  5. At a Chassidic court, the Shames is the Rebbe's personal attendant, akin to a butler. Return

[Pages 535-538]

Synagogues, Study–Halls and Chassidic
(alphabetically [in Heb.])

The Book Committee

As is known, there was a great number of “houses” designated to Torah and prayer in our city. To our great sorrow, details have not been preserved on all of them.

Thanks to Mr Mojsze Chaim Tiberg's great toil, who took the trouble and wearied himself to collect details on the prayer–houses, the “Shtieblech” and minyanim that were and are no more, we are able to add to the articles and lists published in our book, this other list – albeit incomplete – (in order to immortalise, in this manner, their memory and the memory of the innocent and upright ones who worshiped there, who were burned at the stake in the days of horror), and they were these:

  • Rebbe Reb Awigdor'l Szapiro's study–hall and his minyan of followers
  • Agudas Yisroel” prayer–house at ul. Katedralna 13
  • Ahavas Achim” [Brotherly Love] Society's minyan
  • Ohavei Torah” [Torah Lovers] minyan at ul. Ogrodowa 9
  • Ohel Jankew” [Tent of Jacob] Synagogue, Aleja 4
  • Ohel Nuchem” study–hall
  • Achdus Yisroel” [Unity of Israel] Synagogue, ul. Warszawska 3 (the gabay[2] – Reb Chaim Leib Jungster)
  • the Otwock Chassidim shtiebel, on the corner of ul. Krakowska St. and the street of the butcher–shops [ul. Rzeźnicka] (the gaboim – Reb Aba'le Kaufman and Reb Ziskind)
  • Shtieblech of the Aleksander Chassidim, a.) on Rzeźnicka St., at the Szwiderski house (the gabay – Reb Mojsze Józef Szancer), b.) at the Stary Rynek 13, at the house of Reb Kalman Kromołowski (the gabay – Reb Mendel Biniumin Gelbord)
  • shtiebel of Amshinov [Mszczonów] Chassidim on ul. Ogrodowa
  • Shtieblech of Ger [Góra Kalwaria] Chassidim, a.) on ul. Nadrzeczna St. (Reb Chaskel Fiszel's shtiebel), b.) the “married men's” shtiebel at Nowy Rynek 2, c.) the shtiebel on ul. Senatorska, at the house of Reb Majer Biczner, d.) the shtiebel at Aleja 6, at the house of Reb Chaim Weksler (in memory of his father Reb Awrum Szulim Weksler);
  • Ha'Mizrachi” prayer–house at ul. Ogrodowa 14;
  • shtiebel of Zawiercie Chassidim at ul. Warszawska 17, at the house of Reb Duwid Majer Granek;
  • study–halls of the Rebbe of Żarki, a.) on ul. Nadrzeczna, at the house of Reb Chaskel Fiszel, b.) on ul. Pilsudskiego. (corner of ul. Dojazdowa);
  • the “Maggid's” [itinerant preacher] synagogue at ul. Katedralna 10;
  • Machzikei Hadas” study–hall (the gaboim – Reb Jankew Hersz Fajerman, Reb Majer Biczner, Reb Icchok Majer Krel and Reb Szmul Zelwer)
  • the “Malbish Arumim” [see above, p.199] minyan, at the Crafts School on ul. Garncarska, corner of Nadrzeczna
  • Soimech Noflim” [Supporter of the Fallen] minyan (the chairman – in 5696 [1935–36] – Reb Szulim Gwircman)
  • shtiebel of the Stryków Chassidim on ul. Garncarska, at the house of Reb Jankew Dawidowicz and, after the First World War, at ul. Mostowa 9 (the gaboim – Reb Berisz Tiberg and Reb Menachem Mendel Kromołowski)
  • shtiebel of Skierniewice Chassidim at ul. Ogrodowa 4
  • Pruszycki's synagogue at Aleja 1
  • shtiebel of Czortków Chassidim in the Stary Rynek, at the house of the Gold family
  • shtiebel of the Kraków Chassidim, at ul. Senatorska 18 (the gaboim – Reb Kalman Rozenwert, Reb Awrum Wirsztel and Reb Duwid Ruben Zajdman)
  • the Chassidic lodge at ul. Warszawska 44 (the gabay – Reb Menachem Mendel Diamant)
  • shtiebel of Kromołów Chassidim at ul Warszawska 22 (previously called “Kruk's minyan)
  • Shtieblech of Radomsko Chassidim, a.) at Stary Rynek 18 (was called “Cossacks' Shtiebel”, the gaboim – Reb Srul CzÄ™stochowski, Reb Ruben Aba Soifer, Reb Szmul Zelwer and Reb Awrum Szaja Gendelman), b.) shtiebel at ul. Rzeźnicka 9, c.) shtiebel founded by Reb Szlojme Gold
  • shtiebel of Radoszyce Chassidim (the gaboim – Reb Hendel Lenczner and Reb Szmul Altman)
  • shtiebel of Rozprza Chassidim at ul. Warszawska #17, at the house of Reb D.M. Granek (the gabay – Reb Szaja Windman)
  • the Chassidic lodges founded by Reb Kalman Rajcher: a.) at Aleja 30, at his house (the gaboim – Reb Awrum Hamburger and Reb Fiszel Wajdenfeld), b.) a second minyan at Aleja 36
  • shtiebel of Szydłów Chassidim, at Stary Rynek 17, at the house of Reb Nuta Turner
  • Shtieblech of the Rebbe Reb Szulim Rotenberg: a.) at his lodgings, b.) his followers' shtiebel at ul. Ogrodowa 14.
  • Translator's footnotes:

    1. “little houses” in Yid.; small, often one–room, prayer, study and meeting lodges for followers of a specific Chassidic Rebbe. Return
    2. Collector in Heb.; the term “gabay” is more or less synonymous with “shames”, i.e., a synagogue functionary. Return

    [Pages 537-542]

    Beis Ha'Talmud” [The Talmud House]
    at the Study–Hall

    Z.D. Koplowicz




    Poland did not distinguish itself with large yeshives[1] as did Lithuania. The study–halls in every town served as Torah centres for youth whose souls desired the pursuit of Torah [studies] and students and seekers of Torah gathered there. And if the Jews of Poland have always been considered as groups of learned and pious men, from whom stemmed famous geniuses and young prodigies, the vast majority of them came from the study–halls.

    In Częstochowa as well, the study–hall accompanied the city from its origins until its last day. Its elders yet recall the old study–hall, which was next to the Old Synagogue on ul. Nadrzeczna, with its elaborate columns on the outside and the glory and splendour on the inside, whilst the young remember this study–hall in its last reincarnations, when it was re–located to the yard of the “Machzikei Hadascheder and, later, to ul. Ogrodowa 4.

    The vestiges of the Częstochowa study–hall, which remain with us today, all speak extensively of the beautiful life, of the noble spirit that prevailed within its walls and of the congenial spirit which emanated and burst forth from this spiritual centre.

    The study–hall was crowded day and night with the tens of bachelors and married men who spent most hours of the day in it. The clamour[2] of study emerged from it and was heard from far off. The study–hall produced an entire row of erudite personalities who became famous as outstanding scholars.

    I shall attempt to recount a minuscule part of the study–hall's life, in the fifteen years leading up to the Holocaust.

    Częstochowa was renowned as a modern and progressive city. The leaders of the community and its patrons were partially–assimilated Jews, partially progressive–orthodox Jews – such as Reb Szmul Goldsztajn, Reb Chaim Weksler, Michal Leib Mindycz and others – and partially Jews more fanatical regarding religion, such as Reb Mendel Fogel, Reb Simche Dziobas, Reb Duwid Icchok Edelist and others. Despite their differences in concept and ideology, an exemplary harmony and cooperation prevailed amongst all parts of the house. We should mention the amazing fact that the majority of the city's religious institutions were cared for and developed during Markusfeld's period, who was noble of spirit, of a wide soul and generous heart and who was able to make himself liked by all members of the Jewish community.

    The study–halls in the cities were usually managed by inflexible gaboim, who did not understand the spirit of the students and there were, therefore, quarrels between the study–hall students and its custodians, the gaboim. At the time of “Machzikei Hadas”, arguments took place between the young men and the gabay of the cheder, Reb Majer Biczner. This usually happened during the cold winter days, when the gaboim, wishing to save on expenses, skimped on heating the study–hall. The young men grumbled and the gaboim exploded – but still the young men persisted: “If you don't heat the cooker, we'll heat it ourselves”. Until one bright day, in 1920, young 14–15 year–old lads gathered in the study–hall. They included Fiszel Blumenkranc, Jakób Grinbaum, Szlojme Gerzon (may God avenge their blood), Mojsze Dziobas, Mojsze Chaim Tiberg, Lipman Rajcher and the writer of these lines (all in Israel), and mounted a rebellion against the gaboim.

    It was decided to abandon the affiliation with the municipal study–hall at “Machzikei Hadas” and to establish an “independent study–hall”, without dependency on custodians of the old generation. They turned to the Kehilla and demanded direct funding for the independent study–hall. And it was precisely the assimilationists among the Kehilla councilors who were first to justify this demand and, after them, the ultra–orthodox Kehilla councilors also agreed. A special allocation was approved for this purpose and the representatives of the young men were recognised as managers of the independent study–hall. An administration was elected and the funds were given over to it. We rented four rooms in the city centre, at ul. Ogrodowa 4, next to the shtiebel of the Pilica Chassidim. Things were arranged in accordance with the spirit of the time, with a detailed set of rules. The nonspecific name “Beis Ha'Midrash” [study–hall] was changed to “Beis Ha'Talmud”. The re–location from the old study–hall to the new was accompanied by an impressive ceremony. An inauguration ceremony was held in which, apart from the 150 young men, some burghers and rabbis also participated. A male choir and musicians were specially trained, directed by the locally renowned Ba'al Teshuva [repentant sinner] Reb Dawid Windman, who was an illustrious violinist. The programme consisted of a selection of the melodies by city cantor, Ziskind Rozental.


    Standing (from right to left):L. Borzykowski [and] L. Fogel
    Sitting (as above): Sz. Horowicz, L. Koplowicz [and] L. Piotrkowski


    The customary study–hall training was according to the system of studying in pairs, meaning that each seasoned and older lad would adopt one of the younger boys and, together, they would fix joint lessons. More expansive lessons – the majority of which were at a higher level – were given by the city's Torah experts. These lessons were given to groups of regular listeners, who reached important achievements in Torah study. A lesson was given every morning by the city [rabbinical] judge Reb Józef Kira, who was renowned as a tremendous scholar. Several dozen notable young men participated in his lessons, a few of whom are now in Israel. The prodigy Reb Wolwisz Borensztajn also gave lessons from time to time and a regular lesson every Saturday, before the prayer service. Reb Wolwisz's lessons excelled in their clarity, depth and scope.

    There was also a younger class among the students at the study–hall. This class was multifaceted: the group of Maskilim, with Fiszel Blumenkranc, Leibel Horowicz [and] Szlojme Gerzon at their head; the group of Masmidim [assiduous studiers], with Jakób Grinbaum, the brothers Jakób Józef and Leibel Jakubowicz. Many of those who came to the study–hall were seized by the Zionist ideal and some were able to make Aliyah and become involved in life in Israel, such as (alphabetically [in Heb.]): Noach Edelist, Leibel Borzykowski, Lipman Berkowicz, the three motel brothers, Szaja and Mojsze Gold, the brothers Mojsze and Aron Dziobas, the brothers Jakób, Eli and Izaak Majer Horonczyk, Mojsze Chaim Wajcman, Mojsze Chaim Tiberg, Józef Żółtobrodzki, the brothers Chaim Józef z”l and (still living) Leibel Jakubowicz, the brothers Izaak and Faywel Kac, Izaak Lewit, Jakób Leslau, Chune Filik, Izaak Kaufman, the brothers Izrail–Eli and Anczel Krymolowski, Dawid Szlojme Kaminski, Chaim Ze'ev Rozen, Nechemie Rotenberg, Rusiecki A., Szlojme Zalman Shragai [and] Rabbi Isachar Tamar. Many among these are public figures, dignitaries, councillors, activists and holders of important positions in the country.

    (Life at the study–hall was comprehensive and very interesting. The atmosphere was soaked with cleverness, wisdom and the knowledge of life, with wide horizons in many, very broad fields. The joy of life and the exultation of creation from within the world of magnificence were the lot of those who came to its gates. May the bones of Amalek[3] be grinded, who terminated and destroyed this great and dear world which was and is no more. Woe over those who are gone and are no longer found [Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 111a].)

    Translator's footnotes:

    1. A “yeshive” is a large official compound with hundreds of students and a large staff dedicated to Torah study, whereas a study–hall, whilst serving the same purposes, is on a much smaller scale. Return
    2. Torah study, even individually, is always carried out in an audible sing–song manner. Return
    3. The Biblical enemy of the Israelites; a euphemism for the Nazis. Return


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