Following the death of his father, Reb Józef zl, who was one of the best melamdim in the city, he was forced to take over the cheder, whilst still being quite young. He introduced a new method not using the lash on his pupils, as was the custom then, but teaching in a gentle and informative manner.
He was a devoted follower of the Aleksander Rebbe, whom he consulted in all matters.
Some years before the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined Aguda's cheder, together with the city's best melamdim, where he held a respected position as an experienced pedagogue.
(He had planned to emigrate to the Land of Israel, but was unable to accomplish this. During the Great Akcja, which took place in Częstochowa the day after Yom Kippur of 5702 [22nd September 1942], together with his wife and daughter, he was sent to Treblinka.)
My father was already a melamed in Częstochowa in the period prior to the First World War. His cheder was among the best in Częstochowa. (It was located in the Hampel house at ul. Spadek 12.) The cheder already then stood on a high level. Besides him, the melamdim Berisz Wajnberg, Eksztajn [and] Mojsze Dawid Landsman also taught there. The secular studies teachers were Messrs Leder and Awner. They also taught Hebrew and music. With the outbreak of the First World War, the cheder closed down and we moved to Praszka.
Although my father zl yearned to return to Częstochowa after the War, he was unable to do so. He therefore travelled to Kłobuck, where he was appointed headmaster of the local Yessod Ha'Torah [Foundation of the T.] cheder. However, he found it difficult to adapt to the local rabbi's methods and returned to Częstochowa to reopen his cheder and, until the years of the German occupation, he continued teaching children in Częstochowa.
He was a Torah scholar who fulfilled the precept of [This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth;] but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night [Joshua 1:8]. He also had a secular education at the level of four years in a high school.
(In the last days before the Akcja, he asked me to say the Kaddish for him [after his death] and to study chapters of the Mishna to commemorate him, as if he had foreseen that I would remain alive.)
The Book Committee
|№||Melamed & Details||Cheder Address||№||Melamed & Details||Cheder Address|
|1||Reb Jakób Ajchenhaus
(the Zureker melamed)
|ul. Rzeźnicka||18||Reb Chaim Wattenberg, Talmud||ul. Spadek|
|2||Reb Eliasz Chaim,
Talmud with Tosafot
|ul. Warszawska||19||Reb Mojsze Wolbromer,
Talmud with Tosafot
|Stary Rynek 7|
|3||Reb Zisman Aronowicz, independent
Talmud teacher (Skierniewice chassid)
|Ul. Ogrodowa||20||Over the course of the years, he also taught at
Rabbi Jszajewicz's yeshivah
|Stary Rynek, in front of the Gajsler house|
|4||Reb Aron Hersz Aronowicz,
Talmud teacher of the highest class at Machzikei Hadas
(Prominent Skierniewice chassid)
|21||Reb Berisz Wajnberg had a progressive cheder
and also taught Hebrew at Rabbi Jszajewicz's yeshivah
|ul. Warszawska 21 (at first), ul. Spadek (later)|
|5||Reb Pinches Arkusz, Talmud teacher of 3 classes
|Stary Rynek 9, at Mrs Gold's||22||Reb Mojsze Szlojme Weksler, Talmud With Tosafot||ul. Spadek|
|6||Reb Mendel Bialik (or Blas?) (before Machzikei Hadas was established)||ul. Nadrzeczna||23||Reb Majer Zonszajn (Der Piltzer)
had at first an independent cheider for Talmud and later taught at
Machzikei Hadas (Stryków chassid)
|7||Reb Mendel Blacharz, melamed at Machzikei Hadas||At the yard of Machzikei Hadas||24||Reb Chaim Hersz Tajnski||Nowy Rynek, at the Wajchselfisz house|
|8||Reb Benyumin Melamed, Talmud
(one of the old Kotzker Chassidicim)
|ul. Garncarska||25||Reb Jankel Triskolaser Zombek (Jankel The Tall),
Pentateuch and Talmud (Gerer chassid)
|9||Reb Herszel Besserglik (Wolbromer)
Talmud (Gerer chassid)
|ul. Mostowa||26||Reb Leizer Jakubowicz, 5th grade at Machzikei Hadas|
|10||Reb Szaja Ber, 2nd grade at MachzikeiHadas||27||Reb Leizer Landsman (The White Head)
taught at the Aguda cheders
|ul. Ogrodowa 9|
|11||Reb Dov Berliner, Pentateuch
|ul. Rzeźnicka 12||28||Reb Dawid Landsman, Talmud at the same cheders|
|12||Reb Szmul Graden, Pentateuch and Talmud||ul. Senatorska||29||Reb Jechiel Landsman, independent cheder
for Pentateuch with Rashi
|Stary Rynek 12|
|13||Reb (??) The Gambler, taught infants and Pentateuch||ul. Rzeźnicka 7||30||Reb Benjamin Litwak Wierzbicki, Pentateuch with Rashi.
Made Aliyah before the State of Israel was created. Died in Jerusalem
|14||Reb Jechiel Grylak, Talmud||ul. Ogrodowa||31||Reb Lajbel Landau, infants (Kromołów chassid)||Nowy Rynek (at first),
ul.Senatorska 7 (later)
|15||Reb Józef Grin, infants (Aleksander chassid)||ul. Warszawska 21||32||Reb Lajbel Melamed, 2nd grade at Keser Torah Yeshive
|16||Reb Mordka Jechiel Grin (Józef's son), Taught with his father up to Pentateuch||33||Reb Abram Szaja Lewenhof, Talmud at his own
cheder at first and later at Machzikei Hadas
|ul. Garncarska (his own cheder)|
|17||Reb Emanuel The Burnt, Talmud (the burnt melamed)||ul. Warszawska 21||34||Reb Izaak Majorek, at Machzikei Hadas (Aleksander chassid)|
First row (right to left): 1.) Erlich; 2.) Leib Zilber; 3.) Openhajm; 4.) Simche Szancer; 5.) Unknown; 6.) Bruin; 7.) Rozenblat (the son of a scribe who emigrated to the United States); 8.) Kilsztajn.
Second row (as above): 1.) Unknown; 2.) Jakób Kohn; 3.) Windman 4.) Gotlib; 5.) Zvi Kantor; 6.) Justman; 7.) Juda Zilber; 8.) Unknown; 9.) Jakubowicz
Third row: 1.) Unknown; 2.) Urbach.
The Book Committee
Riots against the Jews in Tsarist Russia, at the beginning of the 20th century, stirred Rabbis and religious Jews to protest by calling a general fast, which would double as a day of prayer and as entreaties to God, that he should protect the rest of His People in this country.
In our city Częstochowa, as well, the local rabbinate announced a day of fasting, a Little Yom Kippur, on the Monday of the weekly [Torah[ portion Toldos [Descendants, Genesis 25:19 28:9], the eve of the first of Kislev [27th November] 5666 (1905), with the option of redeeming oneself with donations [instead of fasting] for the victims of the riots throughout the land.
On the day of fasting, centres were organised at the Kehilla and at all the public offices for the collection of donations from the townspeople for this cause. Respected individuals sat in all the public places and managed the collection. In praise of the Częstochowa Jews, we should relate that they swarmed in great numbers and brought their donations generously.
As a true testimony, the announcement has remained which the Częstochowa Rabbinical Court made at the time, which we present here in its original form:
On behalf of the local Rabbi and Rabbinical Court,
a day of fasting has been decreed for Monday of the coming portion Toldos,
Cheshvan 29, which is the eve of the new month; a small Yom Kippur
for all souls, whether man or woman, above 13 years of age. Anyone
not wishing to fast, or unable to do so for some reason, is to give the redemption for
the fast to charity; no less than 18 large coins [i.e. kopeks] for each soul.
The redemption money is to be delivered to specific persons, at every minyan,
on the coming Monday morning between 9:0011:00, and between
15:0017:00 in the afternoon. The funds will be sent to the committee
which was authorised by the government to collect donations for those pillaged
in many cities during the latest riots.
The Seal of the Częstochowa Rabbinical Court
In Pilica, the rabbi of the city was Rabbi Pinches Menachem Eluzor Justman, the son of the daughter of Rebbe Icchok Majer of Ger. His predecessor, as the city rabbi, was his relative, Reb Pinches Elio Rotenberg, the Chidushei Ha'Rim's brother's son and one of the great disciples of the Sfas Emes. Reb Pinches Menachem Justman, the grandson of the Rim of Ger, grew up on his grandfather's lap and heard words of Torah from him.
Following the death of the Rim of Ger, he became a disciple of Reb ChanochHenech Lewin, the Rebbe of Aleksander and, after he too passed away, Reb Pinches Menachem became a follower of the Sfas Emes and eventually also became his brotherinlaw. He chose dealing in books as his source of income. He continued sitting and studying the Torah as well as working and had many disciples. He gained renown for his favourable personal traits. Following the death of his brotherinlaw the Sfas Emes, he acquiesced to the entreaties of his friends that he should accept the post of City Rabbi in Pilica. However, after a few years, when many followers were coming to visit him, he passed the position of City Rabbi to his youngest son Reb Chanoch Gad and contented himself with being a Chassidic Rebbe, to which he dedicated all his time.
Pilica Chassidism consolidated quickly and encompassed many thousands. From towns all over Poland, they thronged to it in order to become infused with Rebbe Pinches Menachem's Torah and Chassidism. The tzadik himself was of a sensitive character and, in his book Sifsei Tzadik [Lips of the Tz.], he attempted to also express his musical emotions. Among the Chassidim who came to Pilica to visit him on Shabbes and holidays were renowned singerscomposers, who brought with them the musical atmosphere, as well as a new crop of melodies. The new melody for Akdumes, which was a tradition in the Gerer dynasty, was inaugurated each year in both places.
The main singercomposer in Pilica was Reb Mendel Fruman, whose heart burned with true passion and dedication to music. He directed the singing at the Rebbe's court together with his two sons/helpers. When the Rebbe moved to Częstochowa, Reb Mendel would come there for the High Holidays and [the other] holidays and would lead the prayer services, animating the prayers with his sweet melodies and pleasant voice.
Rebbe Pinches Menachem Justman moved to Wieruszów in 5675  and, from there, to Częstochowa in 5678 , where he lived until his death. He made his will five times, each time adding something new. His will is filled with Torah and the fear of God and served as a guide for his household and followers.
Rebbe Pinches Menachem passed away on Shabbes, the week of [the portion] Vayishlach [And He Sent; Genesis 32:436:43], 10th Kislev 5681 [21st November 1920] and was brought to eternal rest in the Częstochowa cemetery, in the presence of tens of thousands of people. (He was succeeded by his son, Rebbe Chanoch Gad, who died in the Holocaust, together with all the House of Israel, may God avenge their blood).
Mojsze Dawid Wajcman
I was requested by those gathering material about the city of Częstochowa, its righteous men and great ones and about all those who brought it fame among the Jewry in Poland, to participate in this great mitzvah.
I thought about this and asked myself, Of whom should I write if not of my Teacher and Master in Torah and Chassidism, the great light in the lives of the Jews in Poland, which shone during his last years on Częstochowa and its residents, the Rebbe of Pilica ztzl, in whose shade I was privileged to huddle and drink in his Torah and wisdom?
This is indeed a difficult task, for if I were to set forth his genealogy and biography, I would need to compose a large book and not limit myself to this short article, in which I can only recount the smallest part of his saintly ways in matters of Torah and pious deeds that I saw and heard. I am sure that others, among his admirers, will be found to mention, in our book, his origins, the essence of his character and his propitious deeds prior to his settling in our city of Częstochowa.
I would like to present just a few incidents. I remember the following occurrence:
Early one the morning, when the worshippers at his studyhall were already wrapped in their prayer shawls and had donned their phylacteries and were awaiting the Rebbe's entrance to commence the service, four small boys and girls burst into the prayerhouse, all four weeping and uttering such cries that horrified the congregation and, from their mouths, came the heartrending pleas, Woe to us! Woe, our father!
One of the worshippers, who knew that the children were the sons of Reb Izaak Jonatan Rubinsztajn, a pious man with Torah knowledge and also a wellknown local flour merchant, ran to this man's house, which was on ul. Warszawska, in front of the Rebbe's apartment. He found him in bed, literally dying, with his wife and the rest of his children and those of his poor wife around him (I should mention the dying man's misfortune, who after losing the wife of his youth and remaining with his orphans, he married a second wife, who had children from her first husband and, over the course of time, they had other children together. He had to provide for all the three groups of children).
When the Rebbe ztzl heard the details of the affair, he ordered the children, who had burst into his prayerhouse, to open the Holy Ark and to pray to God that he should save their dying father. The Rebbe shut himself up in his room and ordered us to recite psalms and to pray for Reb Izaak Jonatan's life. When we had concluded saying psalms and saw that the Rebbe was still closeted in his chamber and had not come out to pray, we became very concerned and his shames, Reb Ezriel, knocked on the door. Receiving no response, we approached the door and listened carefully. We heard as if the Rebbe was speaking with someone. Reb Ezriel feared that, during the recitation of psalms, some follower had entered and was bothering the Rebbe. The shames opened the door and discovered that there was no one there but the Rebbe, who was prostrated on the floor and praying fervently for the dying man. Afterwards, the Rebbe raised himself up and entered the prayerhouse, crowned with phylacteries and wrapped in his prayershawl and we all prayed together for the sick man's life.
To the joy of the congregation, God heard his prayers and, after a few days, the man recovered and went on to become the father of twelve children, his own and those of his second wife. All the doctors who had treated the patient said that it was a miracle from heaven, for he had no longer any natural hope of recovery.
Another characteristic incident, which should be mentioned in our book and which inspired great wonder in its day, is the story of Dawid Windman. The repentant barbersurgeon (who is also mentioned in our book) was once called to the Rebbe, when the latter was not feeling well and they had a conversation (but nobody knew what they spoke about), after which this medic changed into a different man. He began growing a beard and observing the religious precepts assiduously. He was henceforth a repentant sinner, all due to the influence of the Rebbe of Pilica. He also became the doctor who treated the Rebbe for his illnesses.
Also, on the dreadful Shabbes (Vayishlach portion, 10th Kislev 5681) on which the Rebbe's sainted soul departed in holiness and purity, when the Rebbe felt unwell during the third meal, he called for Dawid Windman. But it had been decreed from God and his pure soul came to rest and our Master ascended into heaven by a whirlwind!
As my words draw to a close, I wish to praise the Lord for having given me the privilege to enjoy the radiance of the Rebbe's Torah and holiness, literally to his last day, for on the Thursday of Vayishlach two days before his death I was in his chamber for a lesson in Yoreh De'ah [Halachic laws] and this privilege, which I was given, will console me for the tzadik ztzl (and for the whole House of Israel in Częstochowa, who were annihilated by the relentless enemy, may his name and memory be obliterated!).
A: His Roots
Reb Chanoch Henech was born in 5644  in Ger [Góra Kalwaria], to his father Reb Pinches Eluzor Justman ztzl, the Rebbe of Pilica and author of the book Sifsei Tzadik on the Pentateuch, the grandson of the Chidushei Ha'Rim and brotherinlaw of the Gerer Rebbe, author of the book Sfas Emes, and to his mother the Rebbetzin Hendel Lea, daughter of the Rabbi Reb Awrum Mordche zl, the Chidushei Ha'Rim's only son.
Reb Chanoch Henech Gad was his parents' favourite child. From his infancy and until after his wedding, they always lived together. Already in childhood, outstanding talents were discovered in him. He had a wonderful memory, a quick perception and a comprehension of matters at an adult level. His steadfastness and diligence [in study] were wondrous. He studied day and night. He always huddled in his father the Rebbe's shade and learned much from him. Likewise, he also drew from the source of saintly inspiration of the Sfas Emes ztzl and the tens of thousands of Chassidim who thronged and streamed to Ger the largest Chassidic centre in the history of Chassidism among whom were the most distinguished and acclaimed rabbis, prodigies, Torah scholars and pious men in Poland.
In this atmosphere of Torah, Chassidism and sanctity, Reb Henech was raised and, in it, he put all his might in Torah.
At the age of sixteen, he married the daughter of Reb Mojsze Chaim Halperin zl, who was a grandson of the Chidushei Ha'Rim's brother. After his wedding, he received room and board from his fatherinlaw and, there, he continued persevering in Torah [study] and the service [of God] and was considered one of the most illustrious young married men in Łódź.
B: As Rabbi and Also Rebbe
Following the death of the Sfas Emes, when his father Reb Pinches Menachem Eluzor ztzl accepted the position of Rabbi of Pilica, in place of the Rabbi and prodigy Rabbi Pinches Rotenberg ztzl, and also became a Chassidic Rebbe, his son also moved there and, by his father's demand, they both performed the rabbinical duties. He dedicated himself fully to carrying the rabbinical yoke together with his father. At the same time, he also studied and served [God]. He literally never stopped studying the Talmud and Halacha and his persistence was boundless. When his father moved to Wieruszów in 5675  and acted there as Rebbe, despite the entreaties of the Pilica townspeople not to leave them, his son also moved there and was accepted as Rabbi of Wieruszów.
Three years later, the First World War end and the righteous Rebbetzin Mrs Hendel Lea zl died. When the town of Wieruszów became the frontline in the War and the Jews suffered greatly, and the Rebbe Reb Pinches Menachem ztzl had been literally miraculously saved from the Poles who had been searching for him specifically and wanted to hurt him, his father the Rebbe moved to Częstochowa, where he acted as Rebbe, and his son Reb Chanoch Henech remained in Wieruszów until after his father's death in 5681 .
In the circles of Chassidim, it was remarked that the Rebbe Reb Pinches Menachem ztzl had invited his son to come visit him for the Shabbes of Vayetzei  the day of his death long in advance, but due to various public troubles that he had in Wieruszów, his journey was postponed and he was not present at his father's death.
Following his father's death, Reb Chanoch Henech Gad ztzl was crowned Rebbe of Pilica and settled in Częstochowa. Many followers began swarming to him to hear words of Torah and to receive his advice and judgement. His special personality, with which he had been endowed from childhood, attracted a large number of admirers to him.
He was generous and of a good disposition. He shared the troubles of others, felt the pain of each and every Jew and there was no limit to his love for people. He was never seen angry [and] was naturally humble. The Torah addresses he delivered at his table  were very passionate and animated. In his letters to his followers, he always stressed the importance of peace and unity, of setting fixed Torah lessons and public prayer.
In his days, the yeshivah named for the Sifsei Tzadik was founded in Częstochowa, which he managed. A few dozen pupils from Częstochowa and the neighbouring towns studied Talmud and Halacha there.
In 5691  he was appointed Rabbi of Wieluń and, there too, he did much to strengthen Torah and Judaism.
C: During the Holocaust Years
(With the onset of the Second World War in 5699 , Wieluń was among the first locations bombed by the Germans. Mere minutes after the Rebbe and his family had left their home, it was bombed and burnt. After many hardships, he arrived with his entire family in Częstochowa, where they lived with the Grajcer family, at Aleja 4. During the war years, he endeavoured to strengthen and encourage the public. Conferences of Rebbes and Rabbis, who were at the time in Częstochowa, were held at his home, from which various directives and regulations emerged. He was also in contact with the rabbis and activists in other places. Despite the danger at the time, the Rebbe held tables with Torah addresses and words of encouragement, as well as public lessons on Talmud with Tosafot and on Mishna. He arose every morning at 6:00 and waited at the door of his house for the nightcurfew to end, so that he could go to the studyhall at ul. Warszawska 23. He did this to the last bitter and unexpected day Yom Kippur of 5703 [10th September 1942]. When the rumour had spread that they were about to annihilate the entire ghetto, he gathered his children and the relatives who prayed within his inner circle, bade farewell to them and ordered them to go to their homes. In the evening, after much pleading, he agreed to move to the Stary Rynek to Reb Szyja Bratt, who had prepared a good shelter in which he wished to house the Rebbe ztzl and his family. However, in the end, he refused to conceal himself because he was unable to do so, as hundreds of people had gathered around him, to be with him in his last hours. He said: As long as I'm alive, I will live both as a Jew and as a person, along with all the Jews. Even just a few hours before the Akcja, he did not stop studying and he said to his close ones, Even though everything has been done to annul the evil decree, what can we do if it has already been sealed, and the time is short, [but] to soak in as much Torah and fear of God as is possible? The Rebbe went out to the Akcja without looking at the faces of the Germans, may their name be obliterated, leaning on his son, the rabbi Reb Szyja Srul Herszel zl, who was holding his threeyearold son Icchok Majer in his arms, and with him was the Rebbetzin Dwojre Majtel and the rest of the household. People who had walked next to him later told that they heard him exclaim, We may be being punished for not doing enough for the Land of Israel!.
One man who fled Treblinka said that the Rebbe ztzl had refused to take his Tallis Kuton  off and was thus shot on the spot. May God avenge the blood of the martyrs!)
M. Sz. Geshuri
He was one of the sons of the Rebbe Reb Yankev Leibale ztzl and a descendant of the Trisker Maggid and Rebbe Nuchem of Chernobyl, who chose to settle specifically in Congress Poland, where the light of Chassidism then shone at its brightest, unlike in Wołyń, where its sun had already set. He agreed to serve both as Rabbi and Rebbe in Żarki.
The Rebbe Reb Duwid Aron put down roots and acquired a large following. He conducted his leadership with great magnificence. He was of an average stature, handsome and of noble features. All his garments were of silk. Most of the addresses he delivered at his table were built on gematria [Jewish numerology]. His voice was pleasant and many enjoyed his singing. Multitudes attended his Hakufes on Simchas Torah. He danced at the centre of the circuit with a Torah scroll in his arms and each and every circuit lasted for about a quarter of an hour . His followers accompanied him with thunderous singing and clapping. His prolonged shaking of the four species on Hoshana Rabba  was also a work of art.
The splendour and magnificence reached their peak at the Passover Seder. Separate tables were set in his study hall for the men and for the women, who were headed by the Rebbetzin. The tables were laden with many silver and gold [vessels and] utensils, and his followers felt as in a royal palace. Their soninlaw Reb Awrum Szapira also added to the very impressive ceremonies. He was tall of stature and sang well, and would sing Modzitz  melodies, especially Modzitz's famous Bemotzuei Yom Menyche [After the Day of Rest].
Prior to the First World War, the Rebbe married off his daughter Rayze'le. Her grandfather attended the wedding, together with the rest of his sons, who had, by then, settled in different locations. A great multitude then surged to town, until it could not contain them. The wedding and the festivities during the week of the Sheva Bruches [Seven Blessings] were held with great pomp. Music and jesters entertained the guests.
(The Rebbe of Żarki, as mentioned above, lived during his last years in Częstochowa and perished there with all the House of Israel, who were murdered by the cruel Nazis. May God avenge their spilt blood!)
M. Sz. Geshuri
Rebbe Awigdor Szapira was the son of Reb Szulim of Przytyk and was the grandson of Reb Jankew of Będlewo. Despite living in Częstochowa for many years, he was not known by his town of residence (as are other Rebbes), but by his own name and as Reb Awigdor'l by the common folk.
He was born in Kazanów in 5640  and was raised in Przytyk. Already in his youth, he was distinguished for his great perseverance in study, his holiness and wisdom. He was particularly goodhearted, in the full sense of the word. When he was about thirteenyearsold, he came to Kazanów to his grandfather the Rabbi, who dallied with him and sat him next to himself. Henceforth, he spent whole nights studying and serving God and gained renown as a great young prodigy.
In 5658 , he married the daughter of the Rabbi of Widoma, who was descended from the Muor Vushemesh , the Good Jew  of Neustadt [Nowy Korczyn], and other rabbis and prodigies.
The local Rabbi and Head of Court, the famous prodigy Reb Leib Charif, who was originally from Przedbórz, took to the young married man Reb Awigdor, whom he viewed as a distinct Torah scholar, and would spend time with him discussing Torah and Halacha. In 5660 , Reb Awigdor settled in Częstochowa, throughout which he immediately became famous, especially among the simple people, as an extraordinary man of exalted attributes, a true lover of the People of Israel, who was always prepared to act selflessly for the good of the public and the individual. Many flocked to him for advice and guidance and presented him with notes  and redemption money , as was the custom then among Jews. But he refused to take money from poor people. In those cases, it was quite the contrary. He would help them generously with his own money, and even above his means, although he himself lived in a state of great privation.
The Rebbe Reb Awigdor was an Agudas Yisroel affiliate and he, therefore, was opposed to Zionist activity and even to that of Ha'Mizrachi and Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi. However, knowing that the Rabbi of Częstochowa, Reb Nuchem Asz, was great in Torah and Godfearing, diligent in the observance of the lightest precepts as in that of the most severe ones, he showed him great respect, and their friendship continued for many years. Rabbi Asz also agreed that Reb Awigdor's soninlaw, Reb Józef Rubin, be appointed as one of the [rabbinical] judges in Częstochowa.
As a rule, Reb Awigdor was not a natural zealot. He understood the spirit of the times and spoke well of every Jew, saying that there were usually no evil Jews, and that Jews did not sin, and if it sometimes happened that a Jew did commit some sin, he was convinced that he would eventually repent. A Jew does not leave this world as a sinner, and every Jew repents before his death is something which the Rebbe repeated often.
He particularly excelled in his love for Jewish children the pupils at the cheders whom he called little angels. He would gather around him the children from the cheder, which he had founded, and give out sweets and treats to them. This was his greatest pleasure.
The Rebbe Reb Awigdor'l died on Shabbes, 18th Adar 18 5688 [10th March 1928], at the age of forty eight, and was laid to rest on the following day. The Częstochowa Jews, who cherished him when he was alive, showed him their respect after death as well and almost all of the city's Jewish residents participated in his funeral.
He left three sons Józef Burech, Jankew Icchok and Elimelech and three daughters Perl, Jochewed and Fajgel, who married Rebbe Joel Teitelbaum, the famous Satmar [Satu Mare] Rebbe, who lives in Brooklyn (the rest of his children were annihilated by the relentless enemy, may his name be obliterated).
M. Sz. Geshuri
Rebbe Szulim (Awrum Szulim Pinches) was the firstborn son of the Rebbe of Wolbrom, Rebbe Alter Majer Duwid Ha'Levi Rotenberg, son of Rebbe Icchok Menachem [Mendel], founder of the Wolbrom dynasty.
Rebbe Szulim was, at first, Rebbe in Zawiercie and, from there, moved to Częstochowa. Most of his followers were the simple people of the masses, who held fast by their Rebbe and loved him greatly. Reb Szulim taught them good ways and guided them to put their trust in God.
He led the prayer service on weekdays and on Shabbes. His voice was strong and pleasant. His intonation was emotional, wailing and passionate. He recited psalms in a pure outpouring of begging and pleading and, even on holidays and joyful days, he did not change his invariably sorrowful and tearful tone.
The Rebbe Reb Szulim died at the close of the Shabbes of the portion LechLechu [Get Thee Out; Genesis 12:117:27] 5690 [16th November 1929], at the age of sixty two. On Sunday, a great multitude of Chassidim came to Częstochowa and, among them, were the rabbis of the neighbouring areas and the Rebbes of Pińczów (Sosnowiec), Tomaszów and Będzin. Thousands attended his funeral. He was eulogised by his two sons, Reb Mojsze and Reb Jankew. His elder son, Reb Jankew, was crowned as his successor, by approval of the entire crowd. His son, the Rebbe Reb Jankew Icchok Chune, moved to Częstochowa from Miechów (Kielce region). He excelled in his perseverance in study, literally never stopping his studying.
The Aleksander shtiebel at ul. Krakowska 7 (at the house of Reb Zajnwel Szwiderski who, at the end of his days, made it over to their name) was considered among the largest in town. The majority of the Chassidim dealt in commerce, industry and crafts. Among them were scholars, men of deeds and those of exceptional character.
On the eastern wall, to the right of the Holy Ark, hung a letter from the Yismach Yisruel  to his followers and, by the north wall, stood two tables, around which people sat and studied on weekdays and especially on Shabbes and holidays. Their studies varied. Some studied the Talmud with its commentaries, whilst others delved into Chassidic literature. On Shabbes and holidays two prayer services  were held, the first at 8:30 am and the second at 10:30 am.
At the shtiebel, Aleksander Chassidism fully expressed itself in Torah study, good deeds, love, joy and seriousness as well. Those Chassidim avoided becoming involved in the politics of the Jewish parties in Poland. But the youth among them were involved with the parties and some of them were active within Tzeirei Ha'Mizrachi. Their path was not an easy one. They were in a difficult struggle. They were not called up to the Torah, even on Simchas Torah. It was only just before I emigrated to the Land [of Israel], that I received the privilege of being called up to the Torah.
Periodically, the Chassidim travelled to their Rebbe to Aleksander some for Shabbes and others for holidays. Upon their return, they would recapitulate the Rebbe's Torah addresses. Those who could sing would teach the new melodies that they had heard in Aleksander. Reb Ezriel Dancyger was one of the more frequent travellers. He was the Rebbe's kinsman his father Reb Mendel was the First Rebbe's second cousin. It is told of Reb Ezriel that, as a younger man, when he travelled to Aleksander, he would take a few Chassidim who could not afford a journey to the Rebbe with him, at his own cost.
I remember, from my childhood days, that at a Festival of Sukkos celebration, a number of Chassidim gathered at a private home and decided to open a separate shtiebel. Then and there, Reb Józef Grin, Reb Emanuel the Melamed and the youths Benjamin Karmazin and Józef Gonzwa were ordered to take out a Torah scroll from the shtiebel on ul. Krakowska. I also went along with them and we arranged a prayerhouse on ul. Rzeznicka. Following the death of the Yismach Yisruel, [some of] the dissidents returned to the old shtiebel. Some left and joined Biała [Rawska; a Chassidic group], and some even travelled to Stryków.
Among the prominent worshippers at this shtiebel, I remember Reb Aron Hersz Aronowicz and his sons. Among the elite, there was Reb Srul Sofer who, when leading the prayer, would pray with great passion and in a strong and pleasant voice. Reb Fajwisz Kurland, of noble features and black eyes, who was always deep in thought, as if not from this world and who eventually became a Rebbe [himself] and Reb Jankew Wolhendler, a Jew who was the embodiment of happiness, a cheerful man who brought cheer to all. On Simchas Torah, he would dance on an empty barrel with all the Chassidim around him and sing the song Yuvoy Adir Bim'hayru [May He Come Soon] (in Hebrew and Yiddish), with the Chassidim repeating each verse after him, and then he would sing Om Ani Choymu [I am a Wall; liturgical poem] (in Hebrew and Yiddish).
People said of the Aleksander Chassidim that they were drunkards. And they did indeed drink heavily on joyous religious occasions or on holidays. But, while drinking the glass and while holding it, they were bent down and immersed in discussions on Chassidic treatises from the Yismach Yisruel or the sayings from Vurke [Warka] and Peshischa [Przysucha] , and one could see in their faces that they had left the physical world well behind. The shtreimel  was slumped to one side as they burst into wordless song, filled with passion and joy. From moment to moment, the fervour and enthusiasm grew, and the feet levitated, [as is mentioned in Chassidism, that] dancing raises one a handbreadth above the ground. Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, they would go out on a Chassidic dance, in spiritual ecstasy and passion, the house filling with joy and everyone singing in Yiddish.
A great grief befell the Aleksander Chassidim, on 29th Teives 5670 [10th January 1910], with the death of the Yismach Yisruel. All felt the great loss. All eyes dimmed, as if the sun had been snuffed out in midday. All hearts were tormented by the question of how to live now? To whom should they turn after him? The study was not study, prayer was not prayer and life was not life. The Rebbe was no more, gone.
I remember the night of 29th Teives at the shtiebel candles were on the pulpit, above the Holy Ark and also in the windows. The house was filled with light. The tables were set and, on them, bottles of liquor and glasses, challes, bread, knives, spoons and forks [and] honeycakes made by Reb Józef Ber. The Chassidim sit at the table for a festive mitzvah banquet in honour of the Yismach Yisruel's yuhrzeit. From time to time, new faces arrived. The Chassidim drink a lechaim [To Life; a toast] and their souls rise up, together with the flame of the soul candles . During the banquet, they recapitulate the [Rebbe's] Torah addresses and discourses, tell of his ways and demeanour, from eyewitness accounts and hearsay, and then they all burst into ecstatic song, and Reb Ezriel tells stories and anecdotes from the Rebbe's life.
The eldest member in the group, Reb Srul, said:
We were in the Rebbe's studyhall for the High Holidays. The doors were wideopen, [people] arrived and entered from every side tens, hundreds, thousands. The studyhall was full from one end to another. A festive countenance, a congregation of followers, as if the Holiday Spirit was flapping its wings. The Holiday had been consecrated in our studyhall!
Reb Jankew Frager (the renowned singercomposer at the Aleksander court) went before the pulpit  to lead the Myself  service, and began Yisgadal , with a physical detachment of his soul, full of spiritual ecstasy. Following the silent prayer, he began the repetition. Reb Jankew sang with the voice of a nightingale, which from its throat utters forth sublime melodies, sweetly, and the melody spread over all [our] limbs, feeding the soul from the High Table, the sound of rejoicing cherubs. And the heart yearned; the spirit was pulled, pulled. And, with a strong and mighty voice, he concluded the blessing Mechaye Ha'Maisim [He who Revives the Dead], and went on to Atu Kudoish [Thou art Hallowed], but instead of saying Le'Dor Vu'Dor , he finished the blessing with Hu'Ail Ho'Kudoish . The crowd of worshippers was astonished. The [entire] studyhall was shocked an unseemly act. All eyes turned to the Yismach Yisruel. He suddenly left his place and entered his private chambers. All comprehended at once how serious the matter was. A harsh and imposing silence [ensued]. The Rebbe tarried in his Holy Sanctum. Moments passed and each moment seemed like an hour. The Rebbe eventually returned and he motioned, with his holy hand, to Reb Jankew to continue the service. But the occurrence made an impression on everyone, and became the talk of the day.
At the close of the holiday, an awefilled silence [prevailed] in the great chamber. All stood tightly crowded, with inspired hearts, and waited in line. And here the Rebbe's face appeared, his countenance like that of the sun in the heavens. His eyes flashes of fire. He stood for hours, receiving his Chassidim. They entered his room one by one, to receive his farewell blessing. When Reb Jankew's turn came, the Rebbe asked him why he was in such a rush to travel off and did not bid him farewell. This was a hint that he should remain at the court in the Rebbe's midst and not go home. Days after days passed. Reb Jankew went in, but the Rebbe stood by his refusal.
Weeks went by and Reb Jankew became uneasy. His patience surpassed its limit and he began saying that he didn't know why he was being held up and why he wasn't being allowed to go home. When his words reached the Rebbe, he stood up from his chair, raised up both hands and said, [May he] travel, traaaavel. Reb Jankew travelled, and shortly afterwards he died!
And Reb Srul continued:
He [i.e., the Rebbe] loved [the People of] Israel. His love and compassion for any Jew were limitless and they became the main component and incentive in his service [of God]. He instilled this quality in us as well. All his deeds came mostly from his great love for all Jewish souls, which filled every crevice of his heart and soul. As for ourselves how fortunate we are to have been able to huddle in his shade, to take up the dust of his feet and to receive some of his Torah and attributes.
And he concluded with:
To this, we should indeed drink le'chaim! The Chassidim poured the glasses and began drinking Le'chaim! May his merit protect us! Le'chaim! May we be redeemed and consoled!
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah at the shtiebel, the congregation gathered for the holiday prayer service while it was still daylight. The house was full from one end to another. Tables and benches were set even in the corridor. Reb Awigdor Gonzwa opened the holiday, leading the prayer with extreme fervour and reached the peak of his passion on Mizmor Le'Duvid [A Psalm of David; Psalm 29]. All fell silent to a knock on the table. The gabay announced, The Rebbe, long may he live, blesses us with a ksive vechasime toive [may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year], upon which everyone joyfully blessed each other with may you be at once inscribed and sealed for a year of good life.
On the morrow, the leader of the morning service (after the death of Reb Duwid Burech Amshinover), Reb Mojsze Mordche Klajner, who excelled with his clear and pleasant voice, went before the pulpit. On the second day, the morning service was led by Reb Duwid Tobiasz.
The Torah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashanah was carried out by Reb Jankew Józef Wajsblum, an experienced reader with an accurate pronunciation of the cantillation and vowels, all in a clear and fine voice. On the second day, the reader was Reb Herszel Skowronek (Kłobucker), who put more emphasis on the holiday [cantillation] melody.
The [shoifar]  blower, the mohel Reb Szlojme Wajcman, stood by the Holy Ark, always smiling. He read the blessings preceding the blasts with a trembling voice, stressing the words to hear the sound of a horn, who has given us life and the congregation's response of amen . All listened with awe to the sounds emanating from the horn. After the longest blast, the Torah scrolls were returned to the Holy Ark and an atmosphere of great preparation for Mysef was felt, and complete silence reigned in the prayerhouse.
Reb Awigdor approached the pulpit with awe and fear and recited, Here am I, poor in deeds . His voice was not heard, only the silent weeping of one ingratiating himself before his Creator, pleading that his prayer should be accepted. The entire congregation was deep in reflection. Here and there, a groan was heard. At the end of the prayer, he turned his face to the congregation, as if asking them to help him. Reb Awigdor began, Yisgaaadaaal passionately and his emotion increased with each subsequent word. His three sons helped him and Reb Mojsze Mordche Klajner directed those who knew how to sing, among whose voices the pleasant one of Duwid Szlojme Kaminski stood out. Following the silent prayer, he commenced the reader's repetition. Each word was sung with both sweetness and spiritual ecstasy.
He recited the [three special blessings] Sovereignty, Remembrances and Sounding of the Shofar, which made the audience quiver with great expertise. The melody, filled with yearning to the words Is Ephraim my dear son? [Jeremiah 31:19], still rings in my ears and, with song, he also explained A man's origin is from dust . Each and every word tore the heart. On May all Your Servants Come , the entire congregation enthusiastically joined in and helped with the special tune. And thus transpired all the prayers, intertwined with the traditional melodies of the Vurke court and some of Reb Jankew Frager's tunes. Today You Shall Strengthen Us and Kaddish were sung with melodies filled with joy and confidence, that we had been blessed with a good seal.
At the Mention of Souls on Yom Kippur and the Three Pilgrimage Festivals , once the congregation had finished saying Yizkor [Memorial Prayer], Reb Awigdor read a special blessing in the Rebbe's honour and, after the congregation had said El Mulai Rachamim , Reb Awigdor mentioned all the Rebbes who had passed away, from the First Rebbe of Vurke to the Tiferes Shmiel .
This Reb Awigdor was a unique character a pious and humble man, who was always content with his lot, despite the fact that he passed his whole life in suffering and pain. He always sat deeply engrossed in a book. More than one person asked, From where does such a weak body receive such strength? No one could compete with his Mysef on the High Holidays. Over thirty years have passed since I last heard his Mysef and it still rings in my ears and my heart stirs inside me.
Reb Awigdor left no one to say Kaddish after his death. He did have sons and daughters, but they all died in their youth, among them his firstborn son Józef a youth of Torah and good attributes. Reb Awigdor's spirit still hovers over those who heard his prayers. All those who prayed with him, and for whom he pleaded well, have remained loyal to his spirit and, during prayer services, they recall every prayer with the melody that emanated from his pure heart. And during the Mention of Souls for kinsmen and martyrs, they would mention his name with the proper honours.
There were several unique characters at the shtiebel whom I would like to mention here Reb Icze Pankowski, a blind man, and one of the last remaining people who had huddled in the shade of Kock; Reb Szmul Goldsztajn, a public activist and chairman of the Kehilla for many years; Reb Majer Wilczyński, a chassid filled with enthusiasm and with a sharp mind; Reb Berisz Lewi, a former ritual slaughterer, who was an expert on military strategies, which he would explain to the Chassidim; Reb Duwid Tobiasz, the leader of the morning prayer of Rosh Hashanah who, during the month of Elul [the month preceding the High Holidays], wrapped his throat in a cravat so as not to become hoarse; Reb Lewi Haberfeld, who was overly fastidious and would douse the floor with water from time to time, to prevent dust; Majtlis, a wealthy man, who was the only one in the shtiebel who wore short clothes he only came on holidays.
Of the shtiebel's members, the following made Aliyah: Reb Berisz Tiberg, Reb Duwid Aron Wolhendler, Reb Srul Kaminski, Reb Mendel Benyumin Gelberg, Reb Mordche Menachem Kromołowski, Reb Ezriel Dancyger zl, and (still alive) Reb Chaim Hersz Kohn, who is steeped in Torah study and teaches [at a yeshivah] in Holon.
In Adar 5685 [FebruaryMarch 1925], I bade the Chassidim at the shtiebel farewell and made Aliyah. But I am still full of memories from that life, and everything appears as if alive before my eyes, and I am filled with longing. (You are very, very dear to my heart; you were innocent and honest all your lives, and absorbed in dreams of the future: some dreamed of [a better] material existence, some of mitzves and good deeds, and some of the Land of Israel. At the end, on your last road, together with the Jews of Częstochowa, [you were] driven by that villain and his helpers into pits, furnaces and annihilation in the valley of death. Where are the city's men of worth, its righteous and virtuous ones and those of pure ways? How could you have been destroyed?
(In painful silence, with burning sorrow, tearfully, I have written these memories. The wound is deep in my body and, in my soul, it shall not heal!)
Tzvi Józef Kaufman
My memories are from my childhood and up to when I left Częstochowa in 1919.
The Otwock shtiebel was at the house of my grandfather, Reb Aba'le Shoichet [ritual slaughterer] (Kaufman), at ul. Targowa 8 (the meatmarket street). The members of that shtiebel were:
In later years, about 1904, my grandfather Reb Aba'le Shoichet left his flat on ul. Targowa and moved to Nowy Rynek 13 and, at approximately the same time, the shtiebel was also moved from No.8 to No.69 on the same street, to the house of Reb Mendel Pelc. Above it was the Radomsko shtiebel and there was also another minyan in the same building (at the house of the melamed Reb Benjamin Litwak).
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Czestochowa, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 15 Mar 2020 by JH