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Religious Life

Translated by Eszter Andor and finished by Judie Goldstein

Torah and Traditional Devotion in Krynki

“In previous generations,” wrote Henoch Suraski. “Krynki was known as an aristocratic shtetl with a proud tradition of rabbis and righteous torah scholars and of a community of Jews occupied with religion and Torah knowledge – that lived to the end in religious law and good deeds.

“In the old city cemetery there were gravestones on the graves of the Krynki great men, among them Rabbi Reb Yosef – Reb Yosele the Righteous and Reb Chaim Tsvi, a Slonimer Hasid who decided on rabbinical law and who was also a miracle worker. The writing on the gravestone says a lot about the changes in the community and the world.

“As known, there existed in Krynki before the First World War a great yeshiva “Anaf Eitz Chaim” [The Branch of the Tree of Life] where there were many students from the entire region.

“But later a new yeshiva existed in Krynki for young men, 'Beit Yosef' – a branch of the Navaredok [Novogrudek] muser [morals and ethics] yeshiva that was founded by Reb Yosef Yusel Hurvits. The yeshiva was in 'Chai-Odem' on Garbarska Street.”

“There, in the synagogue, writes Abraham Soifer, “sat fifty youngsters who studied diligently the beautiful pages of gemore [part of the Talmud]. The songs, coming from deep in their hearts, never frightened Christians passing by.

“Young men with ear locks wound around their ears would eat with dozens of Krynki families. It was considered a great and good yeshiva. The head trustee, Reb Naftali was mainly busy with recruiting yeshiva students from the entire area. But dialects from a lot Galitzianer and Polish youngster were also heard. They came to study in the Krynki yeshiva because it was considered one of the best and also graduated several rabbis.”

“In the Krynki streets,” finishes Henoch Suraski, “the voice of Torah was heard, G-d's living words – by Jews whose lives were intertwined and thoroughly imbued with divine service, prayer and good deeds. 'It used to be…'”

[p. 163]

David Mishkovski: Rabbi Reb Khizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovski

After the First World War and until the outbreak of the second, the prominent Reb Khizkihau Yosef Mishkovski sat in the rabbi's chair in Krynki. He was the last rabbi in the shtetl. He was a great Torah scholar, a dedicated social worker and a lover of Israel, heart and soul. He was born in 1885 in Stavisk, Lomza District, to a religious rabbinical family.

He studied in a number of yeshivas such as Maltch, Radun and Navaredok and was already described as a genius while he was studying. In 1904 at the age of twenty, he immigrated with his father-in-law to Israel and settled in Jerusalem where he studied at the “Ets Chaim” yeshiva. He published his father-in-law's book “Pri Yitzhak” [Fruit of Yitzhak] as well as his own work.

Reb Khizkiyahu also took part in community work in Jerusalem and was a member of the first “Vaad-ha'ir leYehudi Yerushalayim” (community council).

In 1914 he returned to Poland where he was invited to be the rabbi in Zsheludok. In 1922 he became the rabbi in Krinik (after Reb Zelman Sender who left during the First World War and later went to Israel, and after Rabbi Weintraub who was the rabbi in Krinik a short time during the German occupation. Because of a betrayal he had to leave the shtetl).

After the First World War Krinik experienced a difficult economic situation. Rabbi Mishkovski was committed to helping the many needy and expended a lot of effort on the Jewish community institutions especially in the field of religious education. He founded the “Heder HaKlali” [the Public grade school for boys] from what used to be the Talmud Torah [free grade school for poor boys] and it became a model of a well-organized school for Jews and also secular education.

Rabbi Mishkovski was also busy caring for “Linat HaZedek” [a society whose volunteers stayed overnight with patients so their families could get some rest, provided doctors and medicine for the poor] and gemiles khesed [loans without interest]. (He initiated the founding of such funds with the help of the “Joint” [Joint Distribution Committee of the USA, charity to help poor European Jews] in all the large cities of Poland). He was also active in the orphanage, in the “Women's Committee” and wherever help was needed.

The activities of Rabbi Mishkovski surpassed by far the limits of Krynki. When the prohibition against Jewish ritual slaughter started in Poland, Rabbi Mishkovski – then vice-president of the “Agudas HaRabonim” [Federation of Rabbis] in the country – he stood at the head of the struggle against the evil decree.

With the outbreak of the World War in 1939, he traveled to Vilna where he was invited to be the chairman of the Union of Refugee Rabbis from Poland and with the initiative of the “Joint” developed a broad relief and rescue operation that also crossed over the border. In the spring of 1941 he went to Israel where he was invited to become the director of the “Vaad HaYeshivas” [the Council of the yeshivas] in the country.

kry163.jpg - A class in'Heder HaKlal' 1934
A class in “Heder HaKlali” 1934

[p. 164]

kry164.jpg - Society for the Sake of Orphans, with the support of School for Tailors/Seamsters and its teachers and its students
Society for the Sake of Orphans, with the support of School
for Tailors/Seamsters and its teachers and its students

But basically he gave himself body and soul to saving Jewish refugees and especially those wandering far from home deep in Russia.

He searched for addresses, especially of Krinkers, and moved heaven and earth to contact them so that they would send packages to save the unfortunate refugees from hunger and cold and to give them courage during this perilous time.

Selected as a member of the Israeli Relief Committee by the Jewish Agency, Rabbi Mishkovski left for Europe (in poor health) to help save the surviving Jewish souls, especially Jewish children who had been hidden in monasteries and to bring them to Israel. He was a fervent leader of the Relief Committee in Europe and in the United States.

He returned to Israel on the eve of the Jewish New Year in 1947, a man broken by the great sorrow for our murdered people. But his weak heart could go on no longer. The day following Rosh Hashanah he died. Over ten thousand people attended his funeral and he was laid to rest in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.

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