The Book Committee
A tale is told of two Jews who once met on a train and each asked each other in what city they lived. When one answered, I'm a Kowno [Kaunas] man!, the other inquired, And why is your city named Kowno? Did you not know that the Goen [prodigy] Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor serves as Chief Rabbi there?, he replied, surprised. And what has that to do with it?, the other continued, to which he retorted, Is it not clear to you yet that if the Chief Rabbi is the Kovner Goen, then that the city has to be named after him?
We do not know how much truth there is behind these questions and answers but, what is clear and apparent to us all is that, in the years when things were as they should be, when two Jews met, be they Torah scholars, Chassidim or men of action industrialists, merchants and even simple craftsmen when they became acquainted with each other, as soon as the name of Częstochowa was mentioned, you could immediately hear, Yes, yes! I know it, your rabbi is Rabbi Nuchem Asz, long may he live!
A great privilege was bestowed upon our city that an eminent rabbi served there for nearly fifty years.
If our townspeople excelled in civility, charity and goodwill, magnificent public institutions, and above all, Torah study and strengthening the religious tradition, this was, in great part, thanks to our revered Teacher's actions. Besides his genius and expertise in all Torah subjects, from the earliest sources to the very latest works, he was also a Sage [which is considered] greater than a prophet [Talmud Bavli, Baba Batra, 12a], who, in his great wisdom, knew how to influence all circles of society (and our city was blessed with various circles great scholars and true Chassidim, Jewish Maskilim endowed with [both] Hebrew and general enlightenment, those with a European education and simple Godfearing folks). [He approached] each group according to its ways and understanding and his words were always heeded, whether to fulfil the precept of obeying the words of Sages or through admiration and affection for his personality and speech, which was always gentle, as was the custom of the Great Ones among the Jews in all generations.
The rabbi Reb Nuchem Asz was born in 5624 (164) in Grodzisk (Warsaw region) to his father Reb Dawid Zvi [Hersz] zl, who was among the great scholars and a fervent Kotzker chassid, as well as the owner of large businesses. On his mother's side, he was a descendant of the prodigy Reb Juda Leib Landau, [and his son Rabbi Yechezkel Landau,] author of Noda Biyhudah [Known in Judah], and also a descendant of Rabbi Nathan Nata Spira, author of Megale Amukos [Discoverer of the Depths].
Already in his youth, it was apparent that he was destined for greatness. He studied at the acclaimed yeshivah of the famous prodigy Reb Awigdor Leibisz Lewental, the Rabbi of Koło, where he gained fame as a young prodigy.
When he was still very young, the renowned prodigy Rabbi Szymszon Arensztajn, author of Tiferes Shimshon [The Glory of Samson], took him as a husband for his daughter and, after he had studied at his studyhall for several years, ordained him as a rabbi to instruct and to judge according to the laws of the Torah.
Still a very young man, he was chosen as Rabbi and Head of Court in Nieszawa, a position he held for only a few years because, already in 5649 , when he was only 25 years old, he became Rabbi of Częstochowa.
The Częstochowa community was well aware that, in the future, its young rabbi would bring glory to his congregation and would acquire a prominent place for it among the most important communities in Poland. And this is no wonder, for who else had the privilege, being so very young, to have his annotations on Maimonides' entire Mishneh Torah [Repetition of the Torah; an encyclopaedic work in 14 volumes] published as an addition to these books, under the name Tziyunei Moharan [Notes of Our Teacher Rabbi Nuchem]?
Rabbi Asz did not just stay secluded within the confines of his personal scholarly space, for his heart was awake and his mind pondered on the demands and necessities of life, and he was able to find a way to understand and adapt, without hurting, and without forgoing even the smallest Halachic requirement.
Our Teacher zl was always the first to act personally and urge others to action in all public affairs and, thanks to his great influence over all the townsfolk in general and the wealthy and the philanthropists in particular, we were privileged with the establishment of important public institutions in Częstochowa, which were famous throughout Poland and even abroad.
Rabbi Asz did not limit himself to only Częstochowa affairs. He was also actively involved in general public matters, as one of the greatest rabbis and Jewish public figures in Poland, and his words were heard and accepted by all participants in general Jewish conferences in Poland and [in meetings] of the country's rabbis.
When antisemitic factions in the Polish Sejm suddenly became concerned for the suffering of animals due to cruel Jewish ritual slaughter and there was a danger that Jewish ritual slaughter would be made completely illegal, Our Teacher zl composed a booklet, in Polish, in which he proved that Jewish ritual slaughter did not bring the animals any additional suffering and should not be banned, and his words which were widely published had a great influence on all those who did not intend to torment the Jews.
Rabbi Asz was among the first rabbis in Poland to join Ha'Mizrachi and was very active in this religiousnationalist organisation.
With great influence, he also aided fundraisers for Keren Ha'Yesod and Keren Kayemeth and always participated in their announcements, arousing those assembled with his words to give generously for the redemption and building of the Land [of Israel].
Our Teacher's prolific activity, during his time as Chief Rabbi of Częstochowa, constituted a long chain of good deeds, which our townspeople fully appreciated.
Our city's leaders proved their great affection for their eminent rabbi and teacher, when they decided at their meeting, which took place on 25th Adar 5694 [12th March 1934], that the new studyhall which was to be built, to mark onehundred years since the first studyhall was founded in Częstochowa, would be named Ohel Nuchem after Rabbi Asz, as a sign of the esteem and admiration in which he was held by all the city's Jews.
On 21st Iyyar 5696 (13th May 1936), at the memorial ceremony of the first anniversary of the death of the Marshal Józef Pilsudski, Our Teacher delivered his last public address. That same night, he suffered a heartattack, which brought an end to his glorious and very active life.
The Częstochowa community was orphaned and, with it, the rabbi's family his son Reb Szmul Józef, who was among the greatest scholars and public figures in Ozorków; his son Reb Mojsze [Chil], who was also a great Torah scholar, and who published words of Torah and wisdom every week in Częstochower Zeitung; his son Mendel [Menachem Ber], who was a talented journalist; his son Dawid [Hersz], and his youngest son, the lawyer Aryje Leon [Leib] Asz, who was a public activist and a staunch Zionist. The rabbi also had four daughters Dora, Tonya [Taube], Blima [Estera] and Fela [Fajge].
All his sons and daughters were annihilated, except for his granddaughter (Dora's daughter), who was saved and lives in Israel, married to Dr Lunski.
The pain and bereavement for our dear Teacher's sudden death were great, although he was elderly and had lived a long life of good deeds, and almost all the residents of our city and the vicinity paid him their last respects and the most prominent rabbis eulogised him fittingly.
(Just twoandaquarter years passed after the death of Our Teacher and all the solid institutions that had been established by his initiative and with his aid were shattered to pieces by the enemy, may his name be obliterated, and the magnificent Częstochowa community was annihilated. But the Częstochowa survivors, who mourn its destruction, will respectfully remember and remind others of their last Teacher and Rabbi the prodigy, Rabbi Nuchem Asz zl).
The Book Committee
Rabbi Meier Henoch, son of Reb Pejsach Iszajewicz, who was from the town of Wola near Warsaw, settled in Częstochowa after his marriage to the Rebbetzin Sara Rabbi Nuchem Asz's sister. With his arrival in Częstochowa, and after he had been appointed as rabbi and head of a rabbinical court there, he established a yeshivah, which was called The Yeshive of the Rabbi from Wola.
The yeshivah admitted, as pupils, children above ten years of age, who already had some knowledge of the Talmud. At this yeshivah, besides the Talmud with its interpretations, pupils were also taught the Hebrew Bible [and] the Hebrew language with its grammar. They also learnt Polish and mathematics. Rabbi Iszajewicz chose the best melamdim and teachers for his yeshivah Reb Mojsze Wolbromer, Reb Icchok Rozenberg and Reb Fajwisz Fajwlowicz, who taught Hebrew Bible and Hebrew. He was later replaced by Reb Berisz Wajnberg. Among the teachers at the yeshivah were also Edelist, Awner and Messer.
At the end of the year, examinations were held in Rabbi Asz's room at the rabbinical court. The examiners were Rabbi Asz and Rabbi Meier Henoch Iszajewicz, who were joined by a public examining council of the city's best scholars Reb Menasze Margulies, Reb Duwid Icchok Edelist [and] Reb Icze Majer Krel. The pupils, who excelled in their examinations, were given prizes by the examining body.
After a few years, the yeshivah closed due to financial difficulties. Rabbi Iszajewicz was unable to relinquish his good pupils, especially the poor ones from whom Torah will emerge and he chose a few of his best pupils and taught them Torah in his home free of charge, of course. Although Rabbi Iszajewicz was distinguished for his kindheartedness and courtesy towards people, he was very strict in his study with these pupils, in whom he endeavoured to develop independent thought, in order to quicken their scholastic progress.
We should mention that one of his pupils, Szaje Kozłowski, was the son of a simple porter and one of his best students. The Rabbi paid him special attention, thanks to which he became a renowned scholar, thus bringing glory to his forefathers.
During his time as rabbi and Head of Court in Częstochowa, he was wellliked by our townsfolk, many of whom came to him for advice and guidance, both in heavenly and earthly matters.
In 1925, Rabbi Iszajewicz made Aliyah, together with his family, after changing his surname to the Hebrew BenIshai [Son of Isaiah].
Rabbi Iszajewicz published a book, which included a thousandyear calendar.
Upon his arrival in the Land [of Israel], he was immediately appointed as rabbi in the NeveSha'anan [TelAviv] neighbourhood and became one of the country's prominent rabbis.
He died in TelAviv in 5700 , after serving 15 years as rabbi there. He was shown as much respect in death as in life, and was well eulogised. May his soul be entwined in the thread of eternal life.
[Rabbi Halter was] one of the prominent figures of the religious nationalist movement in Częstochowa. He was a disciple of the prodigy, Rabbi Majer Jechiel HaLevi ztzl, the Rabbi of Ostrowiec, and of the prodigy Rabbi Szaul Mojsze ztzl, the Rabbi of Wieruszów and, later, in TelAviv. He was one of the best public speakers and a fine interpreter of Halacha and Aggadah [Jewish Babylonian Aramaic tales; lore]. He did as he preached. He was wellrespected and people heeded his words attentively. Many attended his lectures and Torah lessons, for he explained well and, in his special way, made his words pleasant, be it at an Oyneg Shabbes at Machzikei Hadas or in a lecture to the Ha'Mizrachi circles, his words were sensible and measured, and built on solid foundations.
He was respected by our townspeople, both for his merits as a great scholar and as a Godfearing man and as well as for his brotherinlaw Our Teacher Rabbi Nuchem Asz zl.
He visited the Land [of Israel] with the intention of settling there, but was unable to do so, which he always regretted. In all his speeches and appearances, he would stress the obligation of every true Zionloving Jew to visit, at least once during his lifetime, the Land of Israel, to see its beauty and magnificence and favour the dust thereof [Psalm 102:14].
In 5680  he published his first book, Nofach Misheli [A Touch of my Own], which contains all the sermons which he preached on Saturdays and holidays in Częstochowa.
In 5689 , he published a eulogy for his teacher, the prodigy Rabbi Majer Jechiel HaLevi ztzl, the Rabbi of Ostrowiec, named Amudei Sheish [Pillars of Marble], which also included two of his sermons.
In 5696 , he published the booklet Areylim Umetzukim [Angels and Righteous Men] a eulogy for his brotherinlaw Rabbi Asz zl, and, in 5698 , he published Tziun LeTziyunei Moharan [A Tombstone for the Tziyunei Moharan] the eulogy he delivered for his brotherinlaw on the day his tombstone was erected.
(He left many Torah innovations in manuscript form, but they shared his own bitter destiny; the accursed enemy put an end to his glorious and praiseworthy life.)
The Book Committee
He was born in White Russia [Belarus]. In his early childhood, it was already apparent that he was destined for greatness, for his teachers marveled at his sharp perception and exemplary studiousness. He literally never stopped studying and put great might into Torah study.
Additionally, he was also handsome and well favoured, and many regarded him as blessed and foretold a brilliant future for him.
When his time came to be drafted into the army, his father, the rabbi and maggid Rabbi Mordechai zl, feared that his fruitful son would be enlisted and be forced to discontinue his study of the Talmud and its interpreters. Following the advice of the local rabbi, who instructed him in the ways of the Torah and the fear of God, he changed his surname from Kagan and turned into a different person, becoming Józef Szymon Koblenz!
At that same period, he married Rywka Poloniecki and, together with his elderly father, the rabbi and maggid Reb Mordechai, they wandered to Poland and settled, at first, in Piotrków Trybunalski, where he dealt in dairy products. However, he was unsuccessful in his business and moved to Częstochowa.
Having been endowed with great talents as a public speaker, he was asked to travel to the cities of Russia to make souls for the Zionist cause and for settlement in the Land of Israel, on behalf of the Odessabased Hovevei Zion [Lovers of Z.] council, whose official name was The Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and the Land of Israel.
Very soon, he became famous throughout the country and was invited everywhere to preach for Zion.
Then, when he arrived in Humań [Uman], Ukraine, multitudes thronged to the synagogue to hear his speech. This swarming of the masses aroused the suspicion of the local Chief of Police, who thought that he was going to agitate against the government.
Although he saw before him a rabbi with a fine beard, wrapped in his prayershawl, and not a revolutionary, he arrested him nevertheless and only released him after community leaders had paid a large bail.
Following this incident, the Maggid (thus all referred to him) stopped wandering far afield and became the Lifeforce behind all religiousnationalist activities in Częstochowa and was, first and foremost, in all public endeavours.
He was one of the founders of the Machzikei Hadas cheder, a member of the Jewish Hospital council, the Hebrew high school and a gabay for the Chevra Kadisha. All the city's public institutions also sought his advice and guidance, for he was very insightful and weighed each matter with wisdom and knowledge.
He also established his own synagogue, in which he taught lessons and held lectures, to which all seekers of Torah and wisdom in our city swarmed. He was elected as a representative of Ha'Mizrachi on the Kehilla Council and as a member of Ha'Mizrachi's central council. He made a respectable livelihood from his dairy products business and was one of the most generous philanthropists in all matters of charity.
He was dear to God and mankind as well and was among the designers of the correct character of Jews who are both religious and true lovers of Zion as well, who acted personally and urged others to action for the National Funds.
He passed away in Kislev 5698 [November 1937] and, although he was already old and had lived a long life over eighty years of age great was the bereavement for the loss of such an active man, and thousands attended his funeral. All his eulogisers stressed the great loss to Częstochowa, for which he had done so much!
The Book Committee
He was born in Galicia in 1872 and was brought to Częstochowa by the renowned magnate Reb Nuta Pankowski, to teach Torah to his sons and sonsinlaw. Once he became wellliked in the city, he married the daughter of Reb Hersz Józef Amstower and, in due course, was appointed as a Halachic authority in our city.
He propagated Torah study, especially among the religious youth, who all cheerfully rushed to his door. He strived to bring them up and educate them to Torah and good deeds and, above all, to humility which was literally the foundation of his whole life.
He was loved by the community and, with his great sensibility and powers of persuasion, he was able to bring enemies to full reconciliation and to wisely resolve conflicts between people.
Our Teacher, the prodigy Reb Nuchem Asz, also respected him greatly and would often pass time with him, delving in Torah and the depths of Halacha.
The deceased was a shining figure, one which only appears on the Jewish horizon once in many generations. One of the greatest magnates of his generation, he was still a simple, humble Jew, such as was difficult to find in his times. He was a man with an outstanding sense of hearing the quietest groan of a suffering person, coming from the depths, a still small voice [1 Kings, 19:12] immediately reached his ear. It mattered nothing to him from whom the groan came, whether from a Jew or a Christian, old or young he immediately opened his purse. And, with the feelings of a man who senses a Godly mission, he generously administered his assistance.
He always endeavoured to carry out his Godly mission in such a manner that the one in need should not perceive it, should not be shamed. He also always accompanied his financial aid with moral support. He encouraged the beneficiary and strengthened his faith in a better future which was to come as quickly as possible for the sufferer. And it was not only individuals that he treated in this manner.
He was first and foremost among the philanthropists for all the communal institutions. He always contributed handsomely and became an example for other donors. If Częstochowa possessed fine and essential institutions, this was mainly due to the fact that it had the great privilege of having, among its townspeople we may say that as its most prominent resident Henryk Markusfeld, the son of Adolf and Ernestina zl.
Henryk Markusfeld could, by the way, also take pride in his lineage.
Professor Majer Bałaban, in his historical essay regarding the participation of Jews in the Polish uprising of 1863 (in his article, published in Nasz Przegląd [Our Review], dated 26th January 1937), that in the delegation which travelled to Vienna in 1861 to conduct negotiations with the Austrian minister [Anton von] Schmerling concerning Polish affairs, there were three representatives of the Jewish city (thus was Kraków referred to at the time) among whom was Henryk Markusfeld the magnate's greatgrandfather who was already then a great industrialist and a renowned public activist. At the head of the Jewish delegation stood Abram Gumplowicz, the father of Prof. Ludwig G. and grandfather of Prof. Władysław G. and of the prematurely deceased historian, Dr Maksymilian G., as well as of Dr Józef Ettinger (for whom the Austrian authorities in Vienna made difficulties in securing a scientific position at the Jagiellońian University in Kraków, at which he was only appointed as assistant professor in 1867).
The Jewish delegates just as the Polish ones appeared before the Minister in their Polish attire, to publicly display their Polish patriotism. Emperor Franz Joseph was unable to pardon them this sin, especially the Jewish delegates.
Henryk Markusfeld was born in 1852, and, almost 69 years later on a Friday in October 1921, when the sun rose and people found out that Henryk Markusfeld had suddenly died, the Częstochowa sky was truly darkened.
All Częstochowa Jews, from all classes, were stunned by the tearful news of his sudden death and not only the Jews even the entire Christian population felt the great loss for the whole city, for the deceased had helped everyone, regardless of religion or political tendencies.
On Sunday, 9th October 1921, a unified, funerary committee of all the Jewish communal institutions published a flier in Yiddish and Polish expressing the deep sorrow of the entire Jewish population for the sudden demise of this great philanthropist, public figure and friend of the people.
We reprint, below, verbatim, the two articles in Yiddish:
In Memory of Henryk Markusfeld zl
On Friday 7th October, at dawn, with lightning speed, the teary news spread of the sudden death of Henryk Markusfeld zl, who was beloved by our entire population without exception, in all its strata. [This news] touched all hearts exceptionally and almost broke them with sorrow.
He was a humanitarian in the full sense of the word a person to whom none in our society, not even the most complicated of currents and tendencies in our lives, were foreign.
Endowed with an unheardof energy and a clear intellect, as well as true altruism, he brought creative influence to all fields of life, regardless of status and views, religion and nationality, which served only the cause of mankind.
Very seldom does destiny grant society such a person; we may state with complete certainty that he, alone, did much more than any individual before him for our city and its cultural social development and, by himself, achieved more than an entire generation before him.
But he was not only the spirit of our city's development. He not only supported the institutions he created, he not only served all with his counsel and deeds, but with his unlimited unselfishness was able to pull the entire population with him on the quest to create institutions of an appropriate level, which is impossible for an individual person to achieve.
He held all the population's spiritual as well as physical needs dear. He saw to the creation and development of schools for general education, such as the Jewish gymnasia, and musical societies for Jewish youth and, at the same time, also the crafts and horticultural schools for professional training.
Acknowledging the youth's physical development as a nonnegotiable condition for human health, he founded a Jewish sports and gymnastics union and inspired the youth to establish a Jewish scouting organisation.
There is no institution in our city, be it communal, financial or charitable, of which he was not the leading force and whose activities he did not enliven with his thoughts and unheardof energy.
He granted exemplary support to the poor and the neglected ones and no one left him without receiving aid.
By his direct charitable deeds and by encouraging the hearts of the desperate and fallen, he gained the extraordinary respect and popularity for which he will forever be remembered among our residents.
Henryk Markusfeld's culturalsocial activity was on an unprecedented scale. He was Prezes of the Jewish Kehilla.; past longstanding Prezes and last honorary Prezes of the Jewish Dobroczynność [see earlier article]; founder of the Jewish Hospital; founder and administrationPrezes of the Crafts School and cheder; founder and Prezes of the Horticultural Farm; founder and Board of Management member of the Jewish high school; honorary member and treasurer of the firefighters; honorary Prezes of the Jewish GymnasticsSporting Association; founder and patron of the Shomrim [Guards] scouting organisation; cofounder and director of the Częstochowa Credit Association; cofounder and council member of the opposing Częstochowa credit association; founder and honorary Prezes of the Jewish Merchants and Manufacturers Union; founder and honorary Prezes of the New Synagogue; founder of the New Mikvah; past longstanding Prezes and last honorary Prezes of Linas Ha'Tzedek [see earlier article]; honorary Prezes of the Jewish Retailers' Union; honorary Prezes of the Jewish Craftsmen's Club; honorary member of the Trade and Industry Institute's society; honorary member of the Machzikei Hadas cheder; honorary Prezes of the Częstochowa Zionist Organisation; honorary Prezes of Hachnoses Orchim [see earlier article]; honorary Prezes of the women's association Ezrah [see earlier sarticle]; honorary Prezes and patron of the Herzliya [see earlier article] youth organisation and honorary Prezes of the central Jewish GymnasticsSporting Federation in Poland.
The loss of this man is an inconceivable misfortune for our entire society.
May his memory be honoured! May his soul be entwined in the thread of life.
He was a unique character
Poor and rich, young and old, manufacturer and worker, man and woman, Jew and Christian all were acquainted with him and knew about him, because he, too, was acquainted with everyone and knew about them.
He did not come to them with empty hands. If Henryk Markusfeld discovered that preparations were being made to establish a new association in our city, or to build a new institution, he came at once and, with his large donation, lay the cornerstone for the institution and also saw to its further maintenance.
And he gave regardless of what sort of institution it was and to which faction it belonged.
Henryk Markusfeld gave to all. He donated to institutions which aided the healthy and also to those who succored the sick. He stood at the head of two rival credit associations. He founded and helped build the Jewish Hospital. He gave to the Merchants and Manufacturers Unions and, at the same time, did not refrain from supporting the workers' institutions. On a large scale, he contributed to the establishment of the New Synagogue. He made every possible effort to build the large mikvah and, simultaneously, donated all sorts of equipment to the firefighters, as well as much money to the Christian Lutania [?].
For years, numerous orphans ate at Henryk Markusfeld's table. He took an interest in many respectable poor families. He would periodically send donations to the women's associations and gave a place under his roof to the Jewish scouts. As Prezes of the Kehilla for many years, he was involved in all municipal Jewish affairs. He cofounded the Jewish high school and held up its pillars. he saw to the development of the Jewish Sporting Union. He helped maintain the musical and literary societies, strengthened the coffers of the horticultural farm, of the Crafts School, and on, and on, and on to such an extent, that there is practically no institution or institute that did not feel Markusfeld's generous hand.
Henryk Markusfeld was at the front, everywhere and always. Almost all the associations and institutions elected him as honorary Prezes or administrationPrezes and he was, therefore, crowned with the title Prezes Prezesów [President of Presidents].
With that, Henryk Markusfeld was unsophisticated and humble. He was not proud. He did not look down at anyone from above, but spoke with everyone affectionately and simply, as with an equal.
Hence, it is no wonder that Henryk Markusfeld's name is so beloved, not only in Częstochowa, but also in other cities of Poland, and that they therefore envy Częstochowa with our Markusfeld.
Alas, this great public activist and philanthropist has parted from us forever and has left us, the entire Częstochowa Jewish populace, as orphans.
But although Henryk Markusfeld, the man, for us has died, Henryk Markusfeld, the benefactor and humanitarian, the creator and builder of various institutions and institutes, shall forever live among us!
May his memory be honoured!
All the Jewish institutions published heartfelt condolences in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish in the flyer, and expressed their sorrow for his death and sympathy for his family.
It should be mentioned that, in the funeral announcements from the rabbi and his rabbinical court, the management of the Kehilla and also from Machzikei Hadas, the illustrious deceased one was given the title of Reb Zvi Aryje Ha'Cohen, known as Henryk Markusfeld.
(Both Henryk Markusfeld zl and the leaders of the important institutions he had created did not think that, twenty years after his death, his great social and private legacy would be torn from Jewish hands, together with their lives, and that his good deeds would only be immortalised in the Memorial Book of his Częstochowa, for which he dedicated his whole life).
May his memory be blessed forever!
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