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He was born in Mława (Warsaw Province) in 1883 and came to Częstochowa in 1902, when he married the granddaughter of Reb Nut'l Pankowski, who was among the city's prominent residents and the owner of an iron foundry on ulica Krótka.
The young Goldsztajn, who was endowed with great organisational talent, immediately became involved in the factory's affairs and greatly expanded it.
Following the grandfather's death, the foundry passed to the ownership of Reb Szmul Goldsztajn and his brotherinlaw Reb Dawid Berlinerblau. They merged with the Wulkan ironworks and operated jointly under the name Metalurgia, which became very famous, even outside Poland, for the quality of its products.
Despite being very busy with the factory's affairs, Goldsztajn did not confine himself just to this, but was first and foremost involved in every useful public works.
For many years, starting in 1914, he was the leader of the Częstochowa Kehilla and, later, also a Patron of the Jewish Hospital, a City Council member on behalf of Ha'Mizrachi, Chairman of the Central Cooperative Bank [and] a member of the Hebrew high school's administration. Being from a Chassidic family, he continued to pray at the shtieblech of the Aleksander and Stryków Chassidim.
There were no public institutions at all in our city which did not enjoy his material aid and his good advice in all current affairs.
He visited the Land [of Israel] for the first time in 1913, and a second time in 1920, as part of a delegation that comprised, besides himself, Messrs M.L. Mindycz and M. Sudowicz, in order to purchase land on behalf of Ha'Mizrachi.
With the onset of the Second World War, he secluded himself at home and avoided cooperating with those who naively thought that, through the Judenräte, they would be able to improve the situation of the Jews. On the contrary, he once voiced his opinion, before his confidantes, that had he been still young, he would have joined the partisans to fight the accursed Nazis.
(In one of the extermination operations that were carried out in Częstochowa, he was killed together with the residents of his city, to which he had dedicated all his might and energy).
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Chaim Weksler was born in Częstochowa in 5653 (1893) to a respected family of Gerer Chassidim. He received a religious education and also trained himself in economics. He was endowed with a developed sense of commerce and, in his youth, became an expert on finance and banking.
Early on, he became a staunch Zionist and dedicated much of his time to activism, although he did not distinguish himself as a public speaker. But his energetic character and wakefulness helped him to convert people to his views and prompted them to act for his cause. He was one of the city's central figures. He served as President of the Kehilla council and was recognised as a sensitive man who sacrificed himself for the public good. He was elected Prezes of the Kehilla after Szmul Goldsztajn left that position.
Chaim Weksler was also active as a leader of the city's Ha'Mizrachi and was the driving force in the activities of the movement's local branch. He was among its council members. He was a member of the City Council for many years. He was affiliated with the rightwing faction of Ha'Mizrachi and opposed the youth's desire for independence. He maintained that the only difference between old and young in Mizrachi was that of age, thus making separate youth groups redundant and unnecessary.
By his way of thinking and his persistent readiness and willingness for the movement's work, he became the prototype of an excellent, Zionistreligious activist, and was also cherished in town as a kindhearted and charitable man.
During the Nazi regime, he contracted meningitis, thus becoming privileged with a natural death.
The Judenrat paid the illustrious, former president his last respects and his funeral was finely conducted, as befitted the deceased.
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He was the last to hold the important position of President of the Kehilla until the outbreak of the Second World War. He was born in Łódź and came to Częstochowa from Warsaw as a worker for the Wulkan ironworks, which employed many Jews.
He was affiliated to the Bund at the time and was an activist for this party. He then left the Bund and, together with a few other members of the intelligentsia of Yiddishist views, he created a local party named Demokratische Partei [Democratic Party] and was able to broaden the scope of its activities, until it became a popular party. Thanks to Rozenberg's organisational skills, it was able to compete during the elections for the Kehilla with the other large parties and win a decisive victory, which brought him to the position of President of the Częstochowa Jewish community.
In Rozenberg's praise, it should be said that he did not achieve this prominent position without action. He invested the best of his strength and time to public matters and, although in the meantime he also did well in his private business, he did not skimp on his energy and time and dedicated them to the public good.
Rozenberg was popular and respected by all our townspeople, for he made a great impression with his gentle appearance crowned with a fine head of white hair, his courtesy (even towards his rivals), his restraint and his kindness.
(He had the luck to die a natural death, just as the Nazis entered Częstochowa, and was thus spared from seeing its disgrace and destruction!)
The Book Committee
Bronisław Huberman, one of the world's best violinists, was born in Częstochowa on 13th December 1882 to parents Jakób and Aleksandra. His father was a lawyer, whose livelihood, from this profession, was very meagre, and his parents' goal was to ensure better living conditions for their son than their own. It is interesting to mention that, even before his wonderful musical talents were discovered, they had always dreamed of a great musical career for him.
In his autobiography, Huberman himself tells of an event which occurred with another child prodigy and the Shah of Persia, which brought about his own study of music and rise to fame. But it is beyond doubt that, even without this occurrence, Huberman would not have remained in obscurity, and that his extraordinary talents would have opened the way for him to the fame and glory which he attained during his life.
Huberman wrote about this and his talents in his booklet From the Workshop of the Virtuoso, which was published back in 1912, and from which we derive our information about him, but we leave the reader to reach his own conclusions regarding this matter.
Huberman's first teachers were the famous Mieczysław Michałowicz and Izydor Lotto of the Warsaw Conservatory. (The former was born in 1851 and died in 1938 and, from 1906 to his death, was a teacher at the Warsaw Conservatory. He was also the teacher of Joseph Achron, among others. The latter was born in 1840 and died in 1937. He was a famous Polish violinist and composer, who was likened to Paganini. He studied in Paris, but most of his professional work was conducted in Warsaw).
At the age of seven, Huberman appeared at a charity function and, after being properly prepared by his teacher Michałowicz, scored a complete victory there, playing [Pierre] Rode's Seventh Violin Concerto. We must mention that this little boy learnt that concerto to perfection, which is currently studied as part of the curriculum of the seventh grade in primary [music] schools, after only six months of study!
A very influential event in Huberman's life occurred in 1892. During a visit to Berlin with his parents, he was introduced to Joseph Joachim who, after hearing the young boy's performance, immediately took him on as a pupil in his department.
Although he attended Joachim's school for only about six months, his study with the musical genius had a huge influence on the course of his studies and his musical development in the future. Huberman himself mentioned this many times and attested that his path in music had originated in the inspiration he had received from Joachim during his time with him.
Joachim assisted him greatly and made his first appearances abroad possible.
As early as 1893, he already performed in public concerts at the famous spa towns of Marienbad [Mariánské Lázně], Karlsbad [Karlovy Vary] and [Bad] Isch. A short time afterwards, he appeared in Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, Brussels and London.
In 1894, in London, he was acquainted with the famed singer Adelina Patti. A year later, he performed together with her in Vienna, which constituted a great victory for the acclaimed young violinist.
He had several encouraging successes in that period. The aging Brahms, when he heard the twelve yearold Huberman play his Violin Concerto in D Major, expressed his opinion that this incredible boy was destined for great success in the future. The Queen of Romania bestowed upon him the title of Royal Violinist.
Count [Władysław] Zamoyski bought a Stradivarius for him. He was presented with another of this Italian master's violins by the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.
After a short while, he travelled for the first time to the U.S. Thus Huberman gained worldwide recognition as one of the greatest violinists of his generation. He performed many concerts and aroused admiration with his unparalleled physical and spiritual strength.
In 1902, in Munich, he performed eighteen violin concertos in sixteen evenings.
When he was in Berlin in 1906, he met with Joachim for the last time. The death of this musical genius his former teacher in 1907, made him depressed. For some time, he stopped appearing in concerts and dedicated himself entirely to the theory of his profession. As a result of his focus on his studies, a compilation of his lectures was published in 1912, named From the Workshop of the Virtuoso. This book not only includes practical conclusions, but also the essence of the virtuoso's thoughts, which were delivered with an admirable literary talent, and are of value for future generations.
1912 may be marked as the end of his training period. Although training never ends, especially for a virtuoso like Huberman, we may state that it was then that he achieved complete independence as regards the style and content of his musical performances.
In that same period, Huberman also became interested in Chamber music.
In the 1920's, the Huberman, Friedman and Casals trio gained fame in the musical world and their joint performance in Vienna in 1927 was the peak of that year's musical season.
In 1929, Huberman visited the Land of Israel for the first time. In that period, he also began giving lessons in music and among his pupils albeit for only a short time was Irena Dubiska. He also tutored several violinists who are, to this day, connected in their work with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in TelAviv the fruit of Huberman's creation, and which is named for him.
Huberman was not only a worldclass violinist, but was also a multifaceted intellectual with extensive knowledge in various fields. He was interested in questions of medicine, biology and musicology, as prove the many articles he wrote and, although these articles supposedly only deal with musical questions, from them may be seen the depth of his knowledge in all these subjects. This may also be seen from the collection of his writings in From the Workshop of the Virtuoso.
The political questions were one theme which occupied Huberman's mind in particular. In his bold conception, he envisioned something that seemed like a dream the unification of Europe, such as that of the U.S.A. Huberman viewed this unification as the foundation of everlasting peace and true love of mankind, to which, as an international humanist, he aspired.
In 1932, Huberman published his book Vaterland Europa [Fatherland Europe], which was especially of great value then, when dark clouds covered its skies. This idea of his is further proof of how well he understood the political situation and sought to find a fitting solution to the impending Holocaust.
We should also mention some facts regarding the political situation prevailing in March 1933.
At that point in time, the Director of the Municipal Opera of Berlin [Carl] Ebert was dismissed by Goebbels' orders for not being a pure Aryan.
The famous musicians who were living then in the U.S, among them Toscanini, Koussevitzky, Goldmark and Damrosch, appealed in a letter to Adolf Hitler, demanding he issue orders to stop the racial persecutions. Their petition, of course, was a voice crying in the wilderness and the persecutions continued. In May 1933, Arnold Schönberg was dismissed from his position at the Prussian Academy of Sciences. There was no end to the provocations, riots and criminal acts that were carried out in broad daylight and in front of the entire world's eyes, under the charming slogan to introduce the spirit of music into the lives of the people.
The tragic events of the musical deportations in Poland were also described in this manner.
In this period, Huberman was nevertheless invited to come to Germany to hold his concerts. He, of course, refused and a few segments of his letter to [Dr Wilhelm] Furtwängler (who was one of the opponents of Hitler's methods regarding Jewish artists) from September 1933 should be published.
Huberman, first of all, expresses his admiration for the fearlessness with which he had conducted his campaign for rescuing the concert stage from threatening destruction by racial purifiers and mentions the prominent associates he had in this mission, such as Toscanini (who refused to appear in Bayreuth), [Ignacy Jan] Paderewski (who cancelled his concert in Paris) and the brothers Adolf and Fritz Busch (who left Germany following Hitler's rise to power). He also adds that, in light of the circumstances, he was proud of having the honour to be counted among the musicians who joined this stance[a].
And Huberman continues:
Precisely these models of high sense of duty, however, must prevent all our colleagues from accepting any compromise that might endanger the final goal. Although the government's declarations, which owe their origin to you, may present the maximum of what may presently be attained, yet, unfortunately, I cannot accept them as sufficient for my reparticipation in German concert life.
Huberman explains his rejection of this solution in detail, and expresses his confidence that Furtwängler, too, shared the same opinion, which was that of the greatest artists in Germany.
Subsequently, Huberman dwells on the humanistic and ethical aspects of the issue, and asks,
Can you expect this process of sublimation, which presupposes complete abandonment of one's self to one's art, of the musician who feels his human dignity trodden upon and who is officially degraded to the rank of a pariah? Can you expect it of the musician, to whom the guardians of German culture deny because of his race, the ability to understand pure German music? At the same time, they deliberately keep silent, on the one hand, concerning the halfJewish origin of Richard Wagner, which has now been proved beyond peradventure of doubt, and, on the other hand, concerning the historic role played by Mendelssohn, Anton Rubinstein, Hermann Levi, Joseph Joachim and so forth.
You try to convince me by writing, Someone must make the beginning to break down the wall that keeps us apart. Yes, if it were only a wall in the concert hall! But the question of a more or less than authoritative interpretation of a violin concerto is but one of numerous aspects and God knows, not the most important one behind which the real problem is hidden. In reality it is not a question of violin concertos nor even merely of the Jews; the issue is the retention of those things that our fathers achieved by blood and sacrifice, of the elementary preconditions of our European culture, the freedom of personality and its unconditional selfresponsibility unhampered by fetters of caste or race. Whether these achievements shall again be recognized depends not upon the readiness of the individual who is the first to break through the wall that separates, but, as in the past, upon the urge of the conscience of artists collectively, which, once aroused, will crash through sources of resistance with the impulse of a force of nature, breaking them as it would a paper wall.
In closing his letter, Huberman sends his good wishes to his friends in Germany and expresses his emotional turmoil for being forced to renounce Germany.
Huberman did not suffice with just this he was very active in his systematic war against Nazism.
In March 1936, he published his Open Letter to the German Intellectuals in the Manchester Guardian. Huberman's protest as an artist and public figure was not limited to just writing articles. He made it his goal in life to express his resistance against the deceptions of the Nazis by creating the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in TelAviv.
In August 1936, Huberman left Vienna and settled in the Swiss town of CorsiersurVevey. From there, he travelled to the Land of Israel, in order to organise the orchestra there, and met with great success in his exploits.
The first concert of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in TelAviv, on 26th December 1936, was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The orchestra consisted mainly of musicians who were victims of Hitler's regime.
The concert's programme comprised two overtures by Weber and Rossini, Brahms' 2nd Symphony, Schubert's 8th Symphony and the overture to Mendelsohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The New York Times, in its issue dated 27th December 1936, wrote of this great event which was mainly due to Huberman's efforts:
Mr Huberman conceived the idea of creating the orchestra on his visit to Palestine a year ago, and promised his aid to German exiles and Jewish musicians many of whom are famous worldwide. He persisted in his relentless efforts, during almost a whole year, to achieve this goal and, yesterday, they achieved their great victory!
Huberman also gained great fame in many cities in Africa and Asia, with his numerous appearances.
On one of his journeys to Sumatra, he was injured in both hands in an aeroplane accident. Although his injuries were not dangerous, the virtuoso was unable to hold his violin for two years.
In 1940, he performed in Johannesburg, South Africa and, due to the onset of the Second World War, was unable to return to his home in Switzerland. He travelled to the U.S., where he remained to the War's end. Huberman was unable to adapt to the hectic, commercial life in America and did not feel well there. In 1945, he hurried back to his home in Switzerland.
In 1946, he was received with great enthusiasm by his audience in Brussels. Shortly afterwards, he broke his leg. The bone would not heal and had to be realigned twice. This seriously undermined Huberman's overall health and he was also extremely exhausted by the great deal of travelling and the concerts he performed during this period.
In May 1947, he was still making his plans for the future. However, on 16th June of that same year, he was no longer among the living! He died in his villa at Vevey (Switzerland).
The deceased received great honours, both as an artist being among the best violinists in the world and as a public activist.
During his Vienna period, Huberman was chosen as Honorary Member of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna [Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien] and was awarded the Orders of King Leopold, and the[French] Legion of Honour [Légion d'Honneur]. The Jewish Institute of Religion in New York conferred an honorary doctorate upon him.
The illustrious deceased one was indeed worthy of all this honour, for he had dedicated his entire life, not just to his fruitful artistic career, but also to public necessities in all political and social fields, as a brave warrior for justice and rectitude.
All his manuscripts, comments and annotations on sheet music, which include fingering, bowing, punctuation, dynamics etc., the awards he received from countries, presidents and kings, and the collection of his private correspondence, which includes letters from the greatest men of Huberman's generation he bequeathed to the Central Library of Music in Israel, which is at Heichal Ha'Tarbut [Culture Palace] in TelAviv, and all this is under the special care of his trusted secretary Mrs Ida Ibbeken, who has settled in Israel.
His name was always mentioned with awe and respect in his hometown of Częstochowa and it is with the same sentiments of admiration and affection that we immortalise his great name in our Sefer Częstochowa!
In 1945 (two years before his untimely demise), the worldfamous virtuoso Huberman was still travelling around the whole world, delighting musiclovers with his Godgiven talent. I was in Italy then, as a Jewish soldier serving in the British army, to which I had volunteered in response to the call of the Jewish Agency our government on the run.
I suddenly discovered that our townsman Huberman was coming to Milan, where he would give a concert.
Naturally, I was determined (and for a Jewish soldier this entailed superhuman efforts) to would attend the concert to me it was a lifeanddeath question! This was not only for my love of music, but mainly due to my local patriotism no insignificant matter our townsman, who had brought such honour and glory to our Częstochowa throughout the entire world, our Huberman who had created the TelAviv Philharmonic was coming to Milan and I would not see him and hear him?
So I remembered the words of our Reb Menachem Mendel Ussishkin zl, who used to say, Nothing stands in the way of willpower. Torah scholars say that Ussishkin appropriated this saying from the Sages of the Talmud but, be that as it may, I was able to acquire a ticket to the concert!
Over twenty years have passed since that extraordinary evening but, when I remember it, I can still hear the heavenly sounds of we may certainly say a superhuman talent. Bewitched, I pushed my way to the great virtuoso and murmured quietly, I am a Częstochower and, as a fellow townsman, I would like to shake your hand! He extended his hand to me, saying, Although I left Częstochowa as a child when my parents moved to Łódź, they never lost contact with the city, and he went on to mention by name a few Częstochowa families that he remembered, after which he remarked, I don't know why, but I have a certain sentiment for my birthtown. And often, he added, when I call to mind that Częstochowa is the city where I began studying music and in which I took, as a child, the first steps in my musical career, a sympathy is awakened in me, not just for the city itself, but for its residents as well.
When I told him I was living in the Land of Israel and that I was serving in the British army in response to the call of the Jewish Agency, he said to me, The Land of Israel is very dear to me. Indeed, I created the philharmonic orchestra there, and it gladdens me that it is developing so well. I have the hope that someday it will be in one of the first places of the musical world.
Sadly, he never did see how his hopes were fulfilled, for just two years later, in 1947, the brilliant life of one of the greatest musicians of his generation came to its end.
I am proud to have had the privilege to speak with him and to hear of his sympathy for Częstochowa and his warm love for the Land of Israel and its symphonic orchestra, which he created with such efforts and devotedness!
A great light shone upon Częstochowa the day a simple Jew came to its gates came, to settle there a Jew of the sort commonly called in Yiddish A Yid fin a gantz yuhr [an allyearround Jew; i.e., weekday, commonplace], with no distinctive features or specific expertise in anything, but just to seek his livelihood in our growing and developing city, in which the chances of earning an honourable living were higher than in the small town of Pilica, from whence his family came.
This Jew's name was Moszek Rzezak.
He would have probably remained in obscurity, in his personal space, and no one would have known anything about him or mentioned his name and his father's name, except for when he was called to the Torah or received a hakufe on Simchas Torah.
But a fortune, the likes of which is seen only once in many generations, befell our Reb Moszek a precious son, a prodigy among the Jews, and known to the nations as one of the greatest experts in all fields of the Jewish Torah and the wisdom of the Gentiles, who had nothing in his world but to learn and to teach.
This son of his whose name, in the beginning, was Jakób Szmul Rzezak was born in Pilica in 5644 . He was later to become the greatest scholar and crowning jewel among the experts on archaic Hebraic law Rabbi Jacob Samuel Zuri. His exceptional talent was already apparent in his childhood. He astonished all his teachers with his quick comprehension, wonderful memory and immense diligence, which was unparalleled.
While still in his adolescence, he travelled to Sochaczew to learn Torah from the mouth of that prince among the prodigies of Poland, Rebbe Awrum Borensztajn, author of Avnei Nezer [Stones of the Crown] and Iglei Tal [Dewdrops], and had the honour of being ordained by him as a Rabbi when he was only 18.
Below, we subsequently an article of appreciation which was published about him in the compilation on existential questions, science and literature Metsudah [Fortress], printed by Ararat in London in Kislev 5704 [December 1943], under editorship of Dr Simon Rawidowicz. It was written by Samuel Landman, whom the editor Dr S. Rawidowicz denotes as being, one of a small inner circle that stood by Zuri, who rejoiced in his lot and made do with little and enabled him to sit and study Torah in London.
From Mr Landsman's article, we may glean a concept of the illustrious man's greatness, which did not only apply scholasticism of the Torah, but also drew forth his Torah and poured it out to others. Happily, there are those amongst us, now in Israel, who still remember him and the wonderful lectures he gave during his visits to Częstochowa, returning from the Land of Israel or his wanderings in the lands of Europe, to which he migrated, to quench his thirst in their centres of wisdom and knowledge.
Jacob Samuel Zuri was born in Pilica, near Częstochowa.
In his youth, he spent some years in Sochaczew (Warsaw district), where his knowledge of Torah and Talmud deepened and widened. He gained renown as a young prodigy. Rabbis, who were greater than him in years and in wisdom, showed the young scholar great respect.
After leaving Sochaczew, he heard Torah from other greats, among them Rabbi Joel, the rabbi of the Kraków community.
Częstochowa's beautiful natural surroundings instilled a great love for nature and art, such as music and painting, in the young man's soul. He did not limit his studies exclusively to Judaism, but also engaged a little in secular studies botany and zoology.
Already in his youth, Zuri saw no contradiction between secular and religious studies. In this, too, he followed in the footsteps of some of our great Sages of past generations.
Feeling no inclination to serve as a rabbi, he continued his studies in Western Europe in Germany, Switzerland and France. The more he saw of the wide world, the more the value and originality of the Jewish Sages in which he delved day and night grew in his eyes, and he came to identify with them. He lived in these lands for about ten years, acquiring knowledge of German and French in addition to the Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and Russian that he had absorbed in his homeland, all of which he fully mastered. The main subjects he studied at the time were philosophy, linguistics, sociology, history and law.
The years leading up to the First World War were a period of massmigration for our people, from Eastern Europe to the West and to America. At the same time, a small group of émigrés did not allow themselves to be swept up by this current and made their way to the Land of Our Forefathers, where Hovevei Zion and the first Zionists lay the foundations for the New Yishuv [Settlement]. The young Zuri naturally joined this minority and emigrated to the Land [of Israel] in 1912, where he was engaged as a teacher at Ezrah's (Hilfsverein [der Deutschen Juden; Aid Society of German Jews]) Teachers' Seminary, under directorship of Ephraim Cohen [Reiss].
In Palestine, he was filled with the joy of life and creative exultation. His memories of the Land of Israel [always] lifted up his spirits. In Eliezer Ben Yehuda and the other members of the Committee of the Hebrew Language, he found kindred spirits, and he cooperated energetically and enthusiastically with them in reviving the Hebrew language and culture.
During these years of his settling for the first time in Palestine, he became interested in [ancient] Hebraic Law, with the clear purpose of understanding Hebraic Law methodically and in an orderly fashion, to be used in the future Kingdom of Israel.
In order to accomplish this task, he needed to deepen his knowledge of the laws of other peoples the ancient and the modern and, whilst still vacillating on whether he should leave the Land of Israel and wander to Europe to study law, the War broke out and he was forced to leave anyway. He lived in Europe until the end of the War and returned to Palestine in 1920.
During these years in Europe, Zuri began preparing his books on Hebraic Law. Upon his return, he was appointed lecturer at the British Law School in Jerusalem. In the seven or eight years that he worked in Palestine, he contributed to Torah [knowledge] and also published several highly important original works.
His reason for leaving Palestine a second time is unknown to me. Perhaps he could not adapt to the atmosphere that prevailed then in the country, or perhaps there was another reason.
Following his second departure from the Land of Israel, he stayed a few years in Egypt, where he became the governmental advisor on Hebraic Law (in the Near East, Hebraic Law has legal validity in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance etc.).
His health declined in Egypt and he was forced to travel to Europe to recuperate. He came to Paris, where he lived for several years, continuing his scholarly work.
In the summer of 1931, he arrived in London, where he remained until the end of his life (barring the last two years, which he spent in Oxford, due to the bombing of London).
At Oxford, he found the books he had yearned for, in which he found the joy of his life and contentment of his soul, as well as some of his friends who had also left the capital. When these started returning to London, he decided to do so too. Moving from Oxford was doubtlessly a great physical effort and possibly also caused him much agitation, for the very day he moved to London (12th February 1943) he died suddenly.
Zuri's first book in Hebrew was Toldot Darkei HaLimud [History of Study Methods], published in Jerusalem before the Second World War. In it, he compares the methods of Torah instruction implemented in the yeshives in the south of the Land of Israel with those of Galilee and Babylonia (Sura and Nehardea). In this work, we are introduced to the author's novel approach to Talmudic science, which is both historical and sociological. His prodigious expertise and vast memory enabled him to reconstruct based on the Talmudic material the daily life in the different academies, to reveal before us the ideologies of the most prominent teachers, each teacher with his distinct views and daytoday occupation, as well as to inform us on life in society in general. Zuri was able to bring the world of the Mishna and Talmud Sages back to life, based on their teachings, which are scattered throughout the Talmud.
His second book, Mishpat Ha'Talmud [Talmudic Law], was printed in Warsaw in 192122. This was his first work in the field of the research of Hebraic Law, which was to become his life's work. In it, he succeeded in bringing the foundations of the Hebraic Law in the Talmud to light (Prof A. Golack and the Chief Rabbi in the Land of Israel, Dr Herzog, also studied this important matter).
In his book Tarbut Ha'Dromi'im [Culture of the Southerners], also printed in Warsaw in 1924, Zuri returns temporarily to the research of his favourite era the period of the Second Temple. In it, he differentiates between the cultures of the Jews from the south of the Land of Israel and those of Galilee and the north, here too putting great emphasis on the legal side of things. In the years he served as lecturer at the British Law School in Jerusalem, he wrote four large biographical works on Rav, Rabbi Yossi bar Chanina of Caesarea, Rav Ashi and Rabbi Akiva, which were published in Jerusalem in 192426. His book on Rav is the most famous. It was praised by great Jewish scholars of our generation (this book is now rare, and should be reprinted). The author's originality in his approach to the subject, his fluency, his great passion for research and the deep knowledge of the Talmud he displays in this book, guarantee it a special place in our libraries.
It seems that he began describing the life of Rav when he was in Europe during the First World War because, in 1918, he published an illustrated booklet on Rav and a short book about Rav Jochanan, written in German. These are his only writings as far as I know which were not in Hebrew. He had the deep conviction that only books written in our language are the possessions of the Hebrew People. Despite the many entreaties that he write in the languages of Europe English, French and German he always remained loyal to Hebrew.
In 1931, his books on History of Hebrew Public Laws began to appear, which were intended to serve as a basis for the legal system of the future Hebrew State. The first three volumes were published in Paris in 1931. The fourth and fifth were printed in London in 193334, and the sixth in Jerusalem, in 1939. All these volumes deal with the periods of the Roman occupation and the Dark Ages. The first serves as an introduction; the second is on the times of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi [Judah the Prince, c.135217 CE]; the third, on the yeshiva at Sepphoris; the fourth, on Rabban Gamliel Ha'Nasi; the fifth, on Rabbi Chanina bar Chama [died c.250 CE] of Sepphoris, in Galilee, and the sixth, on Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak [d. 356 CE], the chief lecturer and dean of the yeshiva [at Pumbedita, Babylonia].
Between 19341942, he dedicated himself to compiling the Hebraic Law and published five volumes on civil law: Claims, Appeals, Damages, Partnerships and Chok Ha'Mitasek Shelo Birshut, in Latin and English [?].
Before his death, he completed the sixth volume on the subject, Liens and Collaterals, which deals in mortgages and such. He intended to codify the Hebraic Law, in a Codex Hebraicus.
He managed to interest a few of the friends who stood by him in this important idea. Shortly before the current [i.e., Second] World War, he founded the Society for the Research and Codification of the Hebraic Law. Zuri hoped to continue his great project with this society's aid, but never does a man die, having attained even half his desires [Midrash Kohelet Rabbah on Ecclesiastes, Ch. 1:13].
The central idea, which runs like a common thread through all of Zuri's works, is that the characteristic foundation of the skills of the Jews as a nation, is not only the religious sentiments as expressed by the prophets and in Psalms, or in philosophy and ethics, as in Pirkei Avot and Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, but also in Hebraic Law.
Zuri believed, and also proved, that the Hebraic legal concepts are of very special value, and that the humanistic, social and international values contained in Hebraic Law should be revealed to the world. His starting point was the widely accepted idea that the Ten Commandments and the Hebrew Bible constitute the foundation of foundations of education and law, on which are based the pillars of human culture and social life in most parts of the world. Thus far towards the outside, and towards the inside our Torah and the principles of Hebraic Law served as a defensive wall against all enemies who sought our destruction. Zuri's main article of faith was that our people are eternal and will never be destroyed, exclusively due to our elemental aspiration to justice and fair trials, set as the basis of social life. He therefore considered it his obligation as a Jew and a member of human society to bring these foundations of the law out to the light of the world, and to reveal their glory and might, once the dust of generations upon generations of ignorance and disdain had been shaken off. In the course of his research, he found a copious amount of material written by the Gentiles on Roman and Greek Law, the laws of Islam and of other ancient peoples, but Hebraic Law occupied no position at all in Europe's scientific world.
He believed that a modern redaction of the Hebraic legal system would reveal the brilliance of our laws to Europe, thus his goal in life became to discover the foundations of Hebraic Law from among the sources scattered throughout the Talmud, to clarify them [and] to trace their evolution in modern law, in light of the newest research. He was not drawn to work in this field only due to his analytical inclinations, but also because he was a Hebrew throughandthrough, who yearned for a Hebrewspeaking Land of Israel, whose law would be the Hebraic Law a bastion for Jews and a model for Gentiles, based on the cornerstones laid by our ancient predecessors a project which could only be accomplished by our people.
Zuri attributed particular importance to the fact that in 70 CE when the Second Temple was destroyed and our political rule came to an end the country remained in its public governmental role as the fiscal centre of the Jewish communities. He also collected and revealed ancient sources, which proved that the Sanhedrin and its leaders continued serving as the highest legislative institution for the management of the people in the Land of Israel for many years to come. He would often repeat the Talmudic saying, Any judge who judges a true judgment truthfully [the verse ascribes to him as if] he became a partner in the act of Creation [Talmud Bavli, Shabbat, 10a], and he would also say that the Sages had found no better expression signifying anarchy and social lawlessness than there is no law and there is no judge [various sources].
Zuri excelled in his vast Hebraic acumen, like the disciples of the Haskala movement and the Russian intelligentsia prior to the First World War. His world view was based on the principle that the Hebrew foundation is an inseparable part of the evolution of human culture. He believed that the course of human evolution, which had been halted by the spread of Christianity, must progress forwards with the force of pure Judaism until reaching the lofty heights our prophets prophesised: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).
It was clear to him that the most productive period in Hebraic Law was the Talmudic era. He regarded Talmudic Law as the fruits of the flowers which blossomed in Scripture which he knew by heart to the finest detail and studied all his life. His prowess was great, whether expounding on a chapter of the Hebrew Bible, or a chapter of the Ethics of the Fathers.
He found it difficult to constrict himself, to control the myriad of forces brewing inside him. This lack of constriction is also apparent in his books, the majority of which will become sources for research and not textbooks.
What was Zuri likened to? A mighty waterfall with a limitless flow. Sadly, no one was found to harness this current and there was no one to draw from within this colossal torrent of wisdom the great bountifulness it contained. It is a pity we were unable to take proper advantage of this treasurechest of Torah and its great wealth for the benefit of the nation and the Hebraic legal code.
The man Zuri was never deterred by great difficulties. His troubles and disappointments turned him into a harsh person who lashed out at others. [But] he was always full of hope, brimming with the joy of life and creativity. He shall not be forgotten among the Jews, and his project in the field of Hebraic Law shall serve as a source of plenty for future generations.
This mighty tree, whose branches were so abundant, first sprouted up in our city happy are we that such honour befell us!
(With appreciation and affection, we commemorate his name and memory in the Memorial Book to our destroyed community, from which arose the fighter for the glory and merit of the Hebraic Law!
May his memory be blessed!)
For many years, Professor Perec Willenberg taught painting and drawing at our Hebrew high school and was much loved by his pupils and the teaching staff. He was not only known in Częstochowa, but also to any Polish Jews who admired the artwork that he painted in 1930 for Częstochowa's Old Synagogue on ulica Nadrzeczna, next to the studyhall.
Professor Willenberg showed what a Jewish painter could achieve when endowed with Jewish knowledge and feelings and being aware of the specific character of genuine Jewish artwork, especially in a sanctified precinct such as a synagogue or studyhall.
We quote [below] from the periodical Letzte Nayes [Yid.; Latest News] an excerpt from an article about him by J. Guterman, who was one of his pupils, and who had also helped him to paint the Częstochowa synagogue which, sadly, was [later] burnt down by the Nazi vandals.
This is what he writes:
Professor Perec Willenberg was born in 1874 in the shtetl of Maków. His father was a personal friend of Nahum Sokołow, who would often come to their house. Perec Willenberg already showed an inclination to drawing at the earliest age. When he was only fourteen, Sokołow dedicated an article to him in the Ha'Tzfira [The Siren], as a child prodigy. After finishing school in Warsaw, Willenberg travelled to study in [St.] Petersburg. Afterwards, he returned to Poland, where he became involved in a whole series of fields in the art of painting. He had a special inclination towards ancient Jewish art, historical and Biblical imagery, which was markedly expressed in his creations. He was commissioned by a long list of cities in Poland to decorate their synagogues and the walls of the synagogues of Częstochowa, Piotrków and Opatów were adorned with his masterly frescoes.
Professor Willenberg was also closely befriended with Y.L. Peretz, who showed great interest in the artist's works.
Besides his artwork, he also conducted wide socialpedagogical activity in the field of art. In Częstochowa, he opened an Art School, which he personally directed. For long years, he held lectures on drawing at the Peretz School in Częstochowa, at the high school and at the Horticultural School. The Częstochowa branch of the Jewish Colonization Association, recognising the great benefits the artist could bring them, subsidised his journey abroad, where he met with the most accomplished Western European artists. In Częstochowa, he was awarded a golden badge in recognition of his artistic work and a silver medal for his pedagogical activity. He also gained renown outside the Jewish street with his works and his pictures found a place in the exhibitions alongside the canvases of painters such as Wyspiański, Kramsztyk, Malczewski, Wyczółkowski, Hirszenberg and the Dutch masters Noprée [?], Urban [?] and Metzelaar.
(Prof Willenberg lived through the years of the occupation on the Aryan side, [posing] as deafanddumb. It befell this Jew, with his artistic and sensitive soul, which was filled with the Jewish spirit, to see with his own eyes how Jewish achievements were obliterated. The Germans seized his two daughters from under his own hands and, within 24 hours, they were no longer among the living. The only thing that gave him the fortitude to endure all this was his conviction that no nation can be [utterly] exterminated.
Following Liberation, arriving in Łódź at the age of more than seventy, he felt a strong personal obligation towards the further existence of Jewish art in Poland. He painted and drew tirelessly. He worked on scenes from ancient Jewish history, as well as from the contemporary Jewish tragedy.)
In Łódź, too, Professor Willenberg returned to his social activities. When the Painters' Cooperative was founded, he was unanimously elected as an honorary member of the auditing committee.
(Below are some of his engravings)
The talented Jewish painter, Professor Perec Willenberg, died in Łódź.
With his death, contemporary Jewish society has lost one of the most [intrinsically] Jewish artists. Looking at his works, one may clearly perceive what his Jewishartistic soul breathed and with what it was filled. Just looking at the walls of his room is enough for one to appreciate the artistic world in which he lived. One picture there is Talmudists. A group of religious Jews sit in a studyhall, engrossed in books; a simple Jew comes in to say Kaddish and, seeing the Torah students, stands aside motionless, listening to their study and waiting respectfully for them to end. A second painting shows us the Eastern Wall of the Old Synagogue in Łódź. When Professor Willenberg came to Łódź following Liberation, he had the insight to commemorate what was left standing of one of the most original synagogues in Poland. In another picture, we see a fragment of the Tłomacker Synagogue in Warsaw, on the background of the ruins made there by the vandals.
Even just these three paintings sufficiently demonstrate Professor Willenberg's artistic essence.
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