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[Pages 541-544]

The Holy “Etz ChaimYeshivah
at the Local Study–Hall

The Book Committee

Mr Jakób Leslau's private archive contains the preserved minutes of this Yeshivah which was established in 5677 (1917). Its publication, accurately retaining its style, can contribute much to the examination of the thoughts and actions of religious youth in Poland fifty years ago.

We therefore publish the minutes verbatim.

With the help of God almighty!

In the year Ezra's[1], in the month of Iyyar [April–May], the “Etz ChaimYeshivah was established at this locality. Precisely in these evil days, at the hour that, here and there, the sword and the hunger, the scarcity and the starvation, slash to the right and left and fell victims, victims; precisely in these bitter times, at the hour that thousands of Jews roam and wander without food and sustenance and without cover in the cold… precisely when the body is tortured and bent down to the ground – has come the hour to strengthen limp arms and encourage downcast souls by raising the Torah horn: by establishing Yeshivahs and cheders to teach Torah to the infants who have not tasted the taste of sin, [a cause] which is more important than building the Temple[2], may it soon be built!

Thus, precisely now, in the hour of emergency, is the time to act for God, at the hour when the body is weakened, the heart is aching and the mind is confused, we must revive the soul of the People of the Book; precisely now, at the hour when popular “culture” clutches all the minds and hearts; high, middle and low schools multiply from day to day and the voracious lust for learning in various libraries assails the best of our sons, and who knows if they shall ever return to the study–hall? How shall the heart of the folk not ache, and take care to save the few who still remain loyal to God, His People and His Torah? One cannot deny that our leaders of the Haredim [God–fearing; religious] are involved in a hearty task of teaching Torah, the “Machzikei Hadas” Society, and they do well; for this, thanks and blessings!

However, no one takes to mind to establish a Yeshivah glorified in holiness for bachelors in need of receiving good instruction from expert teachers! Thus the bitter question pecks, unwillingly, at our brain: What will happen to those leaving these cheders, after finishing their quota of studies there? And what will happen with them later, when they mature? Therefore, in the hearts of the charming lads here, it arose to settle this question and establish a Yeshivah for these young bachelors.

And to the committee for the foundation of the Yeshivah were chosen these bachelors:

Jakób Lewenhof, Jakób Leslau, Icchok Roter, Szlojme Włodowski, Zelig Szacher [and] Leibel Wajnrajch. And they established a Yeshivah named “Tree of Lifeto them that lay hold upon her [Proverbs 3:18], and about fifty young men were admitted and it was divided into two divisions. The first division learn a lesson [from a teacher] on the tractate Beitzah [“Egg”; of the Talmud Bavli] with the Toisfes[3] commentary and by themselves study three pages per week of the tractate Kiddushin [“Betrothal”] and, in the second division, they also learn a lesson on the tractate Beitzah, with the Rashi commentary, and by themselves study three pages per week of the tractate Kiddushin, and also Tanach [Hebrew Bible] and Secular Studies. And from that committee, three managers were elected: the bachelors Jakób Leslau, Szlojme Włodowski and Leibel Wajnrajch.

And the bachelors[4], who pledged themselves to study and to supervise the Yeshivah are:

Leizer Borensztajn, Zelig Szacher, Chune Borzykowski, Szymszon–Joina Guterman, Icchok Kaufman, Icchok Roter, Szlojme Włodowski, Awrum Rusiecki, Jakób Lewenhof, Leibel Wajnrach, Jakób Leslau, Isachar Temer, Aba Bomac, Anczel Borzykowski, Józef Edelist, Zalman Bomac, Herszel Klajnman, Pinches Lenczner, Duwid Kroon, and Reb Wolwisz Borensztajn, Reb Bencion Wysokinski and Reb Jakób Wolf.

And the daily schedule is:

The Tanach studies for Class A are on the Eve of the Holy Shabbes [i.e., Friday] from 13:30 to 16:30 and on the Holy Shabbes from 13:00 to 15:00. The study of [Halachic] laws is on the Holy Shabbes from 7:30 to 9:00 for Classes A and B; from 14:00 to 16:00, Pirkei Uves [Ethics of the Fathers] for Class B; from 16:00 to 17:00, examination on the lesson for Classes A and B; from 15:00 to 16:00, Pirkei Uves for Class A. The reading examination is on the Eve of the Holy Shabbes from 11:00 to 12:30 for Class A, and from 11:00 to 14:00 for Class B.

Studies began on Sunday of the [weekly] reading of Acharei Mos–Kedoyshim [“After the Death” and “Martyrs”, respectively (Leviticus 16:1–20:27)], Iyyar 7 [Apr. 29], and the local Head of Court, Reb Nuchem Asz, may he live for many good days, and some of the city's dignitaries, were present at the inauguration and blessed us “may it please God that His Presence dwell in your handiwork, and that in merit thereof God, may He be blessed, should grant that we see the building of the Yeshivah at Yavne and its sages[6], soon in our days, Amen!”.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Ezras is “The Help of” (God) in Heb. The word's numerical value in gematria is 5677, i.e., 1917. Return
  2. See Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 119b: “One may not interrupt schoolchildren from studying Torah, even in order to build the Temple”. Return
  3. Also pronounced Tosafot (Heb. “Additions”), the Toisfes are medieval commentaries printed together with the main text of the Talmud. These commentaries are considered more difficult than the more basic Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; French medieval Rabbi) commentary, also printed on the page. Return
  4. The last 3 were obviously not bachelors but teachers. Return
  5. Unclear abbreviation ('וכב); may stand for “kibud”, i.e., refreshment. Return
  6. Famous 1st century CE rabbinical school in Judea, which, according to tradition, shall be rebuilt in the Messianic Era. Return

[Pages 543-546]

From the Memoirs of a Yeshivah Student

Moshe Ben–Dov

I was still a young lad, sixteen years of age, when I was among the pupils of my teacher and master Reb Mojsze Mordche Zicher z”l, one of the most important Radzyń Chassidim and among the greatest scholars in Piotrków Trybunalski, from whose Torah and wisdom it was my privilege to become scented for about five years, and who gave me the good advice that I should move on to a yeshivah and continue my studies there. I was also privileged with the good advice and the important recommendation of the Beacon of the Diaspora, our Master Majer Szapira ztz”l, the founder and head of the Chachmei Lublin [Sages of Lublin] Yeshive, who advised me not to travel far away, but to the “Keser Torah” [Crown of T.] Yeshivah in nearby Częstochowa, which was headed, at the time, by the rabbi Reb Moishele Rabinowicz, son of the Kromołów Rebbe and son–in–law of the Radomsko Rebbe.

And on my way to Częstochowa, my heart was pounding. I trembled, asking myself, “What is Częstochowa like? Who are its people? [Who are} the heads of its yeshivah? How will they receive me? Will they be welcoming?” And I was still pondering on my near future as the train approached the city, which I had never [before] seen – and, here I was, inside it, observing its streets, houses and people. I see before me a bustling and lively city, which welcomes all who pass through its gates and I seem to see only beaming faces, even at myself… and I feel encouraged and comforted!

I recall my first appearance before the city's Head Judge, Rabbi Wolwisz Borensztajn z”l, by whom I was to be examined before being admitted as a pupil of the yeshivah.

And here I stood, before a man with a very noble countenance, his beard flowing over his garments, his wide forehead and his smile – which did not disappear even for a moment – which truly enchanted me and encouraged me as well, as he tested me on the treatise “Rabbi anina Sgan Ha'Kohanim[1].

After the examination, Rabbi Wolwisz passed me on to the yeshivah's supervisor Reb Reuve'le, whom he instructed to tend to the technical arrangements for my reception into the yeshivah and to see to both my physical and spiritual needs.

When I heard that Rabbi Wolwisz had designated me to the advanced class of the Rabbi Reb Michal Szwarcbaum z”l, my joy was great. But when I presented myself before him and met the gaze of his piercing eyes, which gleamed from behind his bushy brows and above his patriarchal beard, I was rather fearful. But, after just a few minutes of introspection into the treatise, which he explained pleasantly and tastefully, I moved on to the state of “rejoice with trembling” [Psalm 2:11] and understood that I had been privileged to be in the personal space of a great man. This impression is preserved in my heart to this day!


In those blessed days of my life, I also had a good opportunity to become acquainted with the nature and character of the Częstochowa townspeople. I saw before me dear Jews of few words and great glory, with broad hearts and homes wide–open to accommodate and generously and kindly take the yeshivah pupils in as guests and to attend to all their needs.

I personally knew quite a few of this city's dear ones and I regard it as my pleasant obligation to mention their names and deeds.

Reb Mordche Menachem Kromołowski z”l – a true Stryków chussid – whose guest I was every Shabbes. On these days, I felt the true delight of Shabbes, because every meal I ate at his table was interlaced with words of Torah and Chassidism [and] singing and melodies from the magnificent Chassidic musical source. Reb Mordche Menachem was able to make Aliyah near the end of his days and he died in Tel–Aviv.

I was also among the visitors at the house of Reb Dov Berisz Tiberg. He, too, was among the prominent Stryków Chassidim and I still remember his elderly father, Reb Nuta z”l, who, even after losing his sight, studied Torah and his mouth literally never stopped studying!

Among the excellent younger married men whom I knew was also the ritual slaughterer Reb Nuchem Bergman, a God–fearing scholar who held the rabbis and their disciples in great esteem.

I mention, in gratitude, Reb Chunon Gotlib, who lived at ul. Warszawska 5, under whose roof I was for a long time and I was considered literally a household member in that wonderful home, which was interwoven with love and true Judaism and I learnt much from his good traits. (One of his sons remained alive, thanks God, and he lives in Bnei–Brak).

And last but not least – is my Teacher and Master Reb Avrema'le Gotlib, who came from Wolbrom to Częstochowa to serve as Head of the “Keser TorahYeshivah, succeeding Rabbi Reb Michal Szwarcbaum who, due to his illness, was unable to continue in his position at the yeshivah.

Częstochowa was beautiful on the outside and more so on the inside.

(Although many years have passed since my feet trod within its gates and there were the most heinous years – years of war, wandering and great suffering in concentration camps, through which I passed and in which I suffered, she [i.e., Częstochowa] is yet etched into my heart and I shall never forget her!

And now, when the Częstochowa townspeople have set themselves to publishing a Memorial Book for this exemplary city, I told myself that it is my duty towards the city and its martyrs to set forth in this book some of my memories, as a memorial monument to the magnificent city!

May their holy souls be entwined in the thread of life and I pray to all–merciful God that he should console us in the consolation of Zion and Jerusalem!)

Translator's footnote:

  1. Rabbi anina the deputy High Priest; treatise in the tractate Pesachim of the Talmud Bavli, from p.14a to p.15b Return

[Pages 547-550]

Częstochowa – a Source of Charity and Goodwill!

M.Ch. Badad

Just as each and every city in the Diaspora, Częstochowa, too, was blessed with men of charity and goodwill, who did much in the different areas of extending aid to the needy in all kinds of ways. We may well state that our city was among the most excellent in this field. It is by no means an exaggeration if we say that there was no one in the city who did not belong to some society, organisation, charitable institution for interest–free loans and banks, community committees, synagogues etc., whose purpose it was to help the needy in every manner. There were also some activists in our city who literally chased and sought out those in need of aid, but who were ashamed to tell [anyone] about their difficult financial situation. They would ferret them out in different manners in order to extend to them substantial aid, [such as] loans, medical care [and] the rehabilitation of collapsed businesses. They stood guard and did not relinquish the “prey” they had snared until they had stood him up on his own feet.

Those activists, who chased after deeds of charity and goodwill, doubled their efforts in the case of Torah scholars, because the essence of men of Torah, whose life is their studies – in the great majority of cases – [is to be] introspective and withdrawn inside their personal space and, therefore, a special approach must be taken in extending aid to them, so as not to injure their dignity and status. They came up with various “tricks” in order to achieve the aspired goal of “Blessed is he that considereth [i.e., ponders upon] the poor” [Psalm 41:2]. Many were assisted who did not know from whence the aid had come. It is utterly impossible to describe the respect and love for men of Torah and the needy among them in particular. And this kindly spirit did not necessarily prevail only in regards to the townspeople, but also in regards to any Torah scholar or “maggid” who came to our city. They were provided with all their necessities and, sometimes, even more. In this sense, Częstochowa was famous throughout Poland.

Study–hall students were particularly admired and esteemed. In this area, the scope was larger. A study–hall lad, who fell ill, was never left in solitude. There were men and women who nursed him in his illness and his convalescence, until he had completely recovered. There were many cases of prolonged illnesses, which continued for months and, during the entire time, loyal men and women activists did not stop extending neither physical nor emotional aid.

I recall one instance, when a young man from the yeshivah was hospitalised in the city's Jewish Hospital and lay there for a very long time. As he had a pleasant voice and loved music, he was visited on Saturdays in order to encourage him and to cheer him up. This and similar cases were not few in our city and many of those alive with us today know and remember this.

There was, in our city, a “Supporters of Bachelors Learning Torah Organisation”, which operated in an organised manner and proved itself with its numerous and elevated actions.

Yeshivah students were treated with a special deference, although there were not many yeshivot in our city, as the bulk of a religious youth's studies were carried out at the study–hall or in limited circles which studied with the city's distinct scholars. But, from 5689 (1929) onwards, when the “Keser Torahyeshivah was opened by the Chassidim of Radomsko, it was mainly pupils from other towns in Poland who studied there (Pabianice, Piotrków, Działoszyce, Będzin, Mstów and Wieluń). Some of these yeshivah students had “eating days” with the city's residents. They were treated with kindness everywhere and it was seen to that each of them should have stable “days” for every day of the week. Around 200 young men studied at this yeshiva and they were all provided for. However, this did not suffice. The boys lacked the warmth of a home and family [and] the townspeople provided this as well. Dozens of them together were invited on Shabbes and holidays to the houses of different people, where they spent the Shabbes or holiday together with the families of their hosts.


Young men from the “Keser Torahyeshivah at a Purim party at the house of Reb Berisz Tiberg in 5695 [1935], with him at the head [of the table]


One of these houses was that of Reb Berisz and Fajgele Tiberg. Every Shabbes afternoon, about 40 youths from the “Keser Torahyeshivah would gather at their house for an “Oyneg Shabbes[1], and spend the time there seated at the family table, with the homeowner at the head, for “the third [Shabbes] meal”, which included – besides refreshments of food and drink – a friendly closeness, so that the lads should feel themselves as if in their fathers' homes. Words of Torah and singing were heard. They [davened] public Mincha and Ma'ariv[2] services and remained there until after the “Havduleh”.

On the last Purim, in 5695 (1935), before the Tiberg family made Aliyah, all the pupils of the yeshivah were invited to that house for a special Purim party (as a farewell party). The youths came (some in fancy dress) and spent time in this house with singing and plays until a late hour at night. They then parted from their benefactors with feelings of gratitude and blessing.

(Thus was the Jewish city of Częstochowa, which is no more. Of it and the like it is said: “Woe to those who are gone and are no longer found [Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 111a]!)

Translator's footnotes:

  1. “Oyneg Shabbes”, literally “joy of the Sabbath” in Heb., refers here to a celebratory gathering held on Shabbes, usually with food, singing, etc. Return
  2. Minche (Offering) is the afternoon prayer and Ma'ariv (Dusk) is the evening prayer. Havduleh (or Havdalah; “Separation”) is the ritual held on Saturday night separating the Shabbes from the weekdays. Return

[Pages 549-554]

The “Machzikei Hadascheder

Noach Edelist

In the years 5662–3 (1902–3), the “cheder” was founded. It was the first school of its type and size and was for children whose parents could not pay tuition fees.

A saying of the Sages, “Be careful with regard to the education of the sons of paupers, as it is from them that the Torah will issue forth [Talmud Bavli, Nedarim 81a]” is well–known. It was precisely from amongst paupers that, sometimes, famous Torah scholars and prodigies emerged who, without this primal and basic opportunity, would have remained without Torah and without civility.

A few activists in Częstochowa, headed by Reb Dawid Icyk Edelist, J.Sz. Koblenz (the Maggid), Reb Nachman Kryman (as secretary), Reb Izrail Częstochowski and Reb Józef Silman, decided to establish a “cheder” for all children unable to pay tuition fees and to provide them with education and Torah free of charge.

They rented an apartment and began teaching a small number of children. Every semester their number grew until, in 5667–8 [1907–8], it reached four hundred. They then rented a larger locale, at the house of Reb Jakób Dawidowicz (Kohlenhandler[1]). Additional good melamdim and teachers for secular subjects were brought in.

My father, Reb Dawid Icyk Edelist, neglected his own affairs and dedicated himself, with his entire soul, to the maintenance of the institution. He was particular regarding order and cleanliness and saw to the provision of funds. He also took care that the more talented children should be able to continue their studies at yeshivot upon completing the school.

Besides the financial difficulties, he also had to overcome the resistance on part of the melamdim in the city, who feared for their livelihoods, seeing hundreds of children flocking to the cheder. He was, therefore, forced to register the school with the authorities in Piotrków Trybunalski as an official and authorised school, under the name “Machzikei Hadas”.

Each quarter of the year, when the rent was due, the entire operation was faced with closure due to a lack of funds for the teachers' fees and for other expenses. Due to the lack of space and money, it was impossible to increase the number of pupils.

On Shemini Atzeres[2] 5668 [Sep.30, 1907], my father called a board meeting and presented a stringent demand – to construct a building for the school. He announced that, if his request was not approved, he would relinquish his position as head of the committee. He proposed that the three committee members, Reb Chaskel Fiszel, Reb Szmul Goldsztajn and Reb Józef Szymon Koblenz, should donate 1,000 roubles each, with the rest of the committee members 300 roubles each. He also promised to procure a plot for free, a donation to the institution from a townsman, and he proposed that construction begin and that further funding be collected according to the project's needs. The committee approved his proposal.


The “Machzikei Hadas” Society cheder's building in Częstochowa (5671–5683 [1911–1923]), the Society's administration, the melamdim and the teachers with all the pupils.
In the picture are seen, among others, the Society's activists. Józef Silman, Szmul Goldsztajn, Dawid Icyk Edelist, Nachman Kryman, Manasza Margulis, Jakób Hersz Furman, Jakób Leslau and Majer Baum.


My father z”l turned to Reb Berl Brener (Prentki), an old tailor who lived in a wooden house at ul. Nadrzeczna 68, and asked him to give the plot as a gift to the cheder. The tailor and his wife willingly gave the plot over for this sacred cause.

In 5670 [1910], the building's cornerstone was laid, in presence of the rabbi Reb Nuchem Asz and with the attendance of multitudes of the city's Jews. A fine building was constructed, with two stories – for the school and the study–hall. Reb Icze Ferfer was appointed as custodian of the study hall. Thousands of children, who later grew up to become good and loyal Jews, received their education at the cheder. Over the course of time, additional individuals and activists joined the committee: Reb Wolwisz Borensztajn, Reb Jakób Fajerman, [and] Reb Menachem Kopinski.

A few years before the War, following the death of Reb Dawid Icyk, his son Noach Edelist and Reb Jechiel Landau joined the committee. Among the melamdim, the most renowned was Reb Aron Hersz Aronowicz.


Income and Expenditure Statement of the “Machzikei Hadas” Society
(from 1st April 1925 to 1st April 1926)

Income Type [Amount] Expenditure Type [Amount]
Membership fees 8,886.61 Debts from previous balance paid 442.55
Kehilla subsidy 3,361.60 Headmaster, melamdim, supervisor and teachers' staff 22,757.86
Pledges and contributions 3,663.71 Administration 1,167.03
Weddings and circumcisions 612.83 Collector's commission 2,655.45
Tuition fees 9,288.00 Lighting and heating 623.20
Municipal subsidy 2,000.00 Miscellaneous repairs and expenses of the building,
study–hall, chedes
Rosh Hashanah and Purim cards 1,315.28 Expenditures on quills 208.50
Men's and women's pews at the study–hall 1,032.05 Writing materials 311.37
% from Keren–Kayemeth 424.00 Insurance 50.00
Fowls' quills from the abattoir 615.90 Printing material and announcements 222.30
[Donations for?] rent 242.36 Taxes 68.63
Writing materials 43.65 Interests 8.90
From Reb Mordka Grylak z”l, via mbrs.
Horonczyk and Diament
452.00 Uncashed Kehilla subsidies, [promissory]
notes and vouchers
From Wolf Leib Zysser z”l – 50 dollars 257.05
From the Gajsler brothers. 200.00
From Mrs Landau 200.00
From Jochanan Openhajm (for coal) 84.00
From the heirs of the deceased Reb Dawid Ickowicz z”l 60.00
From Mr Krzeminski 60.00
From Mr Nuta Apelsztajn 50.00
From Mr Rapaport 36.00
From the heirs of the deceased
Reb Izrail Izaak Baran z”l
From Mr Tempel 25.00
From Mr Mendel Horowicz (for coal) 20.00
From Mr Chaskel Apelsztajn 20.00
[Total][a] 32,980.04 31,005.04


  1. The melamdim and the teachers' staff owe me 1,748.00 złotych.
  2. Of the subsidies from the Kehilla and the municipality, 500 złotych from each were given for the year 1926, but since our yearly balance ends on 01/04, these sums were included in the balance for 1925.

Original Editor's note:

  1. There is a serious mistake in the “balance”, which was not corrected at the time – It shows income of 32,980.04 złotych and expenditure of 31,005.04 złotych. Unfortunately, we are unable to clear this up and it must remain “unsolved”.
    The Editors Return

Translator's footnotes:

  1. “Coal Merchant” in Ger. and Yid. This article is in Hebrew and it is unclear whether this was Mr Dawidowicz's second surname or his nickname. Return
  2. “Eighth [day of] Assembly”; holiday immediately following the festival of Sukkos. Return

[Pages 555-560]

Cheders, Melamdim and Their Pupils
(from my memoirs)

Mojsze Chaim Tiberg

I wish to return to my youth and pluck forth noteworthy descriptions and events and, this time, concerning the Częstochowa cheders, melamdim and their pupils.

Reb Majer Krakower

I now call to mind the dawn of my childhood[1] and find myself running to Father's house, with my father convincing me to stay alone at the cheder with the “Rebbe[2]. The Rebbe was much bigger than me. He had long sidelocks and a long beard, and also wore spectacles. He sat in his chair and began explaining a large page filled with eye–opening letters – our alphabet – to me. I became rather familiar with him and his “pinches”, with which he honoured me quite often. He reiterated this on a daily basis, and, during every lesson, I would “learn and jump, jump and learn”. I didn't tell my parents about the pinching, because I was afraid of the Rebbe. But once, when my mother was bathing me, she found blue marks on my body and insisted that this Rebbe should no longer teach me. Although I was thenceforth personally spared the ordeal, this Rebbe continued using his system and found other pupils, who told their parents nothing of the events at the cheder.


Reb Leibel Landau

Reb Juda–Leib Szaul– Menachem Landau was born in Opoczno in 1861 and died in Częstochowa on Iyyar 10, 5698 [11th May 1938].


The Rebbe Leibel Landau had his own “way of teaching”. He would visit his pupils' homes and check whether his charges were already asleep. If he [i.e., the pupil] was found outside his bed, he would leave his penknife or compass with him and order him to bring it to the cheder on the following day, upon which he was either punished with strikes from the “rod”, or forced to wear the “hat” and stand at the entrance of the classroom with a broom – which was considered a great disgrace.

In his class, I started learning the Pentateuch – beginning with “Vayikru” [and He Called; Leviticus 1:1–5:26] and, as usual, I did well in my studies. The Rebbe examined me on Pentateuch during a visit to our house, in my parents' presence, and I was able to recapitulate well all that I had learnt, thus gaining the approval of both my parents and my Rebbe as one.

Reb Leibel Landau managed his cheder for decades and was renowned as a good and excellent melamed. He was fully able to control the urchins who, at this age, were very spoiled. He saw to it that, after his cheder, all were able to pray from the “Sidder” [Jewish prayer–book] and read well from the [Hebrew] Pentateuch. It may well be stated that the majority of Częstochowa's children learned at his cheder and, at the end of his days, he took pride in the fact that he had put forth a generation of Torah scholars and rabbis, as well as doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Over the course of time, he introduced changes in his cheder, by establishing “progressive rules”. The classes that learned in the cheder after the First World War could not believe that, in this cheder, there had once been different methods. Reb Leibel truly had the awareness to adapt his cheder to the spirit of the time. Nearing the end, it was relocated to the house of Kolchory on ul. Senatorska 7.

He was also a prominent public figure and was active in several religious and communal institutions. His activity was most noticeable as custodian of the old study–hall and of various charitable institutions, such as “Hachnoses Kallah[3] and “Shomrei Shabbes” [The Sabbath Keepers]. He was a very popular personage in the city. He died at the age of 73, on Iyyar 4[4], 5698.


Reb Benjamin Wierzbicki (Litwak)

Reb Benjamin Wierzbicki (Litwak) z“l


I was brought to Reb Benjamin Litwak's cheder, [which was located] on the street of the butcher shops. He was renowned for his great severity, treating me in the same manner. He beat us almost every day. At this cheder, he taught me, in addition to Hebrew and Pentateuch, Russian, and I did quite well. But when he began also teaching me Polish, I was confused in recognising the letters and the Rebbe was cross with me.

I also began learning Yiddish with him. He had a special system for teaching written Yiddish. He filled the top line of a page in the notebook only with the letter “Reish” [ר ; R], and we had to complete the whole page. In this manner, I filled various notebooks with only the letter “Reish”. He reasoned that, in [hand–written] Yiddish, many letters start with the shape ר and, if one learnt how to write “Reish” properly, he would be able to write correctly in Yiddish as well. And my handwriting indeed improved very much.


Reb Majer Zonszajn

Once, on a Shabbes in the winter of 5670 [1910], many Chassidim, whom they called “Stryków Chassidim”, came to our house after the [morning] prayer service for Kiddush [refreshments etc.]. Above them, towered a tall Jew, with some white in his beard and an open white shirt–collar, as is the Chassidic custom[5]. My father told me that he was Reb Majer Piltzer [i.e., from Pilica] and that he was to be my Rebbe. This striking Jew had opened a cheder in his house (as a rule, all the city's cheders were in the homes of the melamdim) on ul. Garncarska and I, too, became one of his pupils. He would captivate us with Chassidic tales and treated us calmly and gently. The pupils, feeling his light hand, took full advantage of this. When the Rebbe went to the “shtiebel” for prayers and left us under his wife's “supervision” who, during this time, would heat the cooker and prepare hot drinks for the pupils' breakfast, we would make mischief.


Reb Jankel Triskolaser[6] (Zombek)
(Nicknamed “Jankel the Tall”)

Studies at his cheder were systematic. We studied the tractate Kiddushin of the Talmud and, nearing the holidays, tractates pertaining to the holiday at hand, especially before Passover, when we studied the tractate Pesachim. He also taught us pshetl [Yid.; little artifice], which is a sort of Talmudic casuistry [reasoning to solve moral problems], which we were required to learn by heart. We learned one page of Talmud a week and, on Thursday, each of us was called up to the Rebbe, who required us to recite it by heart without stumbling. The Rebbe's explanations during the lessons were good and clear, so that the majority of the pupils understood and knew them, barring a few with learning difficulties. Every single day, before we began studying the Talmud in the morning (the first lesson in the morning was always Talmud), the Rebbe would give some of us the task of recapitulating the segments we had learnt so far.

During the course of the week we also studied the weekly Torah portion, a large part of it with Rashi[7] as well. On Fridays, we would read the whole section out loud, taking turns, with the cantillation [chants reading from the Torah]. We also studied the prophets – Samuel, Kings and certain parts of Jeremiah and Isaiah, and the Rebbe would sometimes examine us and make us tell the stories we learned in the Hebrew Bible from memory.

The secular–studies teacher was the young Mr Messer, who taught us Russian, German, Mathematics and also drawing. Once or twice a week – Polish as well. During the Polish lesson, one pupil would go outside to make sure a constable or the superintendent himself didn't pass by, because it was illegal to study Polish.

The Rebbe himself taught us Yiddish. He also taught us various [religious] laws and, before the holidays in particular, we studied the laws pertaining to the holiday; before the High Holidays, we also learnt the piyutim [liturgical poetry] and the definitions of their words. On Shabbes afternoons, we would gather at the cheder and, in the summer, the Rebbe taught us The Ethics of the Fathers, and, in the winter Birchi Nafshi[8] [“Bless the Lord, O my soul”, Psalm 104]. Afterwards, the Rebbe would tell us stories from books of Chassidism and morality, [then] we would pray Mincha and return to our homes.

This Rebbe had a brother, the Rebbe [i.e., melamed] from Sulmierzyce, who visited Częstochowa once or twice a year. Great preparations were made approaching his arrival, for he would test us on our studies and we properly made ready in advance. After the examination, he would discuss with us topics we had not learned.

No vacations were instituted at the cheders, barring the weekdays of the Pesach and Sukkos festivals. During those days, we were allowed to play different games which, all year round, we played without permission. The games were varied: hide–and–seek, tag, ball–games, ice–skating. We also played conkers, “classes” [?] and the like.

On Purim, we did not attend cheder. The “job” I then received at home also helped me a little with the Rebbe. It was my task to deliver the Purim baskets to those closest, and especially to the Rebbe. When I brought him the basket, he received me well. And this was worth more to me than anything else. For some time after Purim, we noted a certain radiance in the Rebbe, which we attributed to the Purim baskets.

Despite the fact that the First World War had begun, nothing changed at the cheder. The same arrangements and customs remained in place. The front was relatively far from the city. The transposition of armies, that was so common then in the region, did not affect us, because the Germans, who had entered the city the day after the onset of the War, did not leave it until the end of the War.

Reb Jankel Triskolaser had different ways of instilling fear into his pupils, especially into the mischievous among them, and the children indeed feared him very much. He had a very specific strategy for dealing with theft at the cheder, with which he would unmask the thief. This strategy was shrouded in mystery and he only used it in extreme cases. Meanwhile, we grew in years and in schooling and we had no longer room left for progress in this cheder.


Reb Herszel Wolbromer (Besserglik)

I was sent, on the day after Pesach, to Reb Herszel Wolbromer's cheder on ul. Mostowa. This cheder had two classrooms. The Rebbe himself taught in the first classroom and in the second, a gracious young married man, Reb Josel Frank. The pupils at this cheder were older and, therefore, the studies encompassed a wider scope. An atmosphere of study prevailed there and we saw ourselves becoming more serious.

At this cheder, we studied much more Talmud and it was the principal [discipline]. Every so often, I was sent on Shabbes to a Talmud “examination”. I usually went to my uncle Reb Chaskel Fiszel, on ul. Nadrzeczna, or to his son–in–law, Reb Wowczy [Wolf] Petrykowski. After the “verhÖren” [oral exam], we would receive fruits and sweets in honour of the Shabbes. After Shabbes, when my father met with the examiner, he also heard, among other things, the clever answers I had given during the “test” to the questions which I had been asked.

We liked the cheder's second Rebbe, Reb Josel Frank, very much. He captivated us with his calm and gentle way of teaching. We found in him both a Rebbe and a friend. He particularly enthralled us with the study of Joshua and Judges, in the Hebrew Bible. For this lesson, he had a special sing–song which was so uplifting and mesmerising, that we perceived nothing else around us. We could sit like that all day long, listening to him without pause. We were learning the tractate Chullin at the time. We knew many pages from it by heart and we progressed well.

Our cheder was considered among the best in the city, at the same level as the cheders of Reb Fajwisz Kurland and Reb Faywel Fajwlowicz and the like, and we were so proud of that. We enjoyed this cheder very much and also took away pleasant memories from it.

By then, we no longer did “childish things”, for we were already “grown”. On Fridays, we sometimes went to bathe in the Warta River, at the little shacks on ul. Krakowska. Occasionally, when we were a large group, we allowed ourselves to also bathe at the “Zawadzki field”, outside the city. There, the water was good for bathing and, at this place, it was also free.

(I have written these lines in order to bring to memory a very small portion of the experiences from the cheders in our city, but all this was destroyed during the Holocaust. Woe is me! How we cherished those melamdim. With what awe and fondness we treated them when we met them after we had grown up. Where are they and their tender pupils? May these words serve as an everlasting monument to them, for us and for the generations to come!)

Translator's footnotes:

  1. In the ultra–orthodox world, children start their studies at the cheder at the age of 3, so the author was an infant during this period. Return
  2. Although “Rabbi” and “Rebbe” are both transliterations of the Hebrew ר בי, i.e. “My Master”, the term “Rabbi” is used in reference to an ordained rabbi who functions as an official religious authority, whilst the term “Rebbe” applies both to a Chassidic leader and to one's first teachers in childhood at a cheder, regardless whether they were officially appointed rabbis or not. Return
  3. explained above, p.200. Return
  4. On the previous page his date of death is given as Iyyar 10. Return
  5. Those opposed to Chassidism invariably wear neckties, whilst most Chassidim consider this un–Jewish (still true in 2019). Return
  6. Native of Truskolaska. Return
  7. See above, p.278. Return
  8. This psalm is recited on Shabbes, as part of the afternoon prayer service. Return


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