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[Page 257]

Shalom ASZ and Motke

by Zvi ASZ, Nahariya

Translated from the Hebrew by Eli Rubinstein

Every year, in late summer, the writer Shalom Asz came from Paris to visit his elderly mother, who lived at his brother Wolf's house. The great writer's visit became a special experience for all the city's residents, Jews and Christians alike. First, his visit was dedicated to his mother, spending time with her and giving her the respect she deserved. But his mother was also proud of her beloved son and famous writer. While at his mother's house, he greatly enjoyed the large library he had dedicated to his mother. Indeed, when the son returned to his permanent residence, to Paris, his library was a faithful reflection of the spirit and greatness of the son, Shalom.

However, already on the evening of the first day of his visit to Kutno, the writer was impatient. He found no rest for himself. His associates knew the reason — he had not yet met his protagonist, Motke, who was already eagerly awaiting the writer's arrival. And before he could handle addressing his family, acquaintances and fans — he inevitably felt like seeing Motke first.

The meeting of the creator and his protagonist was free, cordial and short. Routine greetings, fragmented, tasteless and senseless words were exchanged. And there was one and only reason in their meeting on Podrzeczna Street — while Motke rubbed with his fingers the thousand-złotys banknote “the present owed” by the writer to the archetype of his famous work. The meeting was over and completed until next year, when the two would meet again, and the writer would once again stick into his hands the note so longed for by Motke. But once — so my father z”l told me — Motke resented the writer for calling him “Motke the thief” in his book. “I'm not a thief,” Motke claimed. “I make a decent living by my profession”… Indeed, in Shalom Asz's view, Motke did not steal the property of others.

Motke scared all the haters of Israel, who harassed “the common Jews.” The Gentiles feared Motke boys like death. A knife, an ax, a hammer, a cleaver, a stone, etc. — these were the weapons of the butchers, porters, bakers and other “common people” who knew how to preserve the dignity of the Jewish people, their lives and property. They had Motke as the head and leader.

When Shalom Asz compared Motke to the “Golem” of Prague or to “Noah Pandre” (by Z. Schneur[1]), Motke did not understand the intent of his friend. But in his heart and in his senses, he understood and said to him: “Shalom, do you hear, Jewish blood will not be free in Kutno!” And between his teeth he hissed “We will not stretch our necks for slaughter” and fell silent.

Quiet and peaceful, without saying “goodbye”, as if his tongue stuck to his palate, the writer turned away.

He knew very well that his choice was not in vain — and that was his reward.

Translator's footnote

  1. Zalman Schneour (1887, Shklov, Belarus 1959, New York), Hebrew and Yiddish poet and novelist. A descendant of the founder of the Chassidic Lubavitch movement. Return

[Page 259]

The House of Szalom Asz in Bat Yam

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz

Although, in the year 1995 Szalom Asz was determined to settle in Israel, he had not decided which place he would live in. The current mayor of the amazingly growing town, Bat Yam, David Ben-Ari, invited him. The great author was invited to this fine town, with its splendid Mediterranean coast, to build, as he wished, the most up to date and best home. After the death of Szalom Asz this house, with its entire contents, pictures and antique collections, was given by Mrs. Asz to the municipality of Bat-Yam, to be used as an Asz museum and cultural centre – Szalom Asz's House.


House of Szalom Asz in Bat Yam


A collection of personalities stand at the head of the initiators of Szalom Asz's house and Szalom Asz in Bat-Yam, with David Ben-Ari, as director.

In the house, all has remained unchanged – the salon with the valuable paintings' collection by famous artists; Chanukah lamps and other Jewish antiquities, also a bust of Szalom Asz, created by Jakob Epsztajn; Szalom Asz's work room with his famous work table, pens, glasses, pictures and diplomas. There the collected works of Szalom Asz can be found, note books, documents, photographs, books from his library and various works in several languages, press cuttings (about Szalom Asz and his works), antiques from Szalom Asz's collection which were recent gifts to the house. Szalom Asz's Scroll of the Law, childhood works by him, books from a collection “Szalom Asz in the Theatre”, and so on.

Friends of Szalom Asz's house from all over the world constantly send material to enrich the house. The most valuable items were sent by YIVO [Yiddish Research Organisation] in New York, IKUF [Yiddish Cultural Association] in New York, “Congress for Jewish Culture” in New York, Mark Turko from Argentina, Majlech Rawicz (from Montreal, Canada), Nachman Majzel (of blessed memory).

People come often to Szalom Asz's house for courses, cultural events held together with the municipality, which often is the real cultural centre for Bat-Yam and an art centre for visitors from all over and tourists. In the visitor's book you can find many thousand signatures and also dedications in many languages from tourists from the four corners of the world, from all continents.

Szalom Asz's house, serving as a town museum, requires a larger building next door, for concerts, lectures, cultural events and exhibitions. The corner stone was already laid years ago. The plans were completed but the building work has not yet happened. There is no money.

The program of school children's outings to Szalom Asz's house developed very well, which was very important for increasing the popularity of the name of the famous writer Szalom Asz and his work. The visitor receives an education about Szalom Asz and his life and creativity from the director of Szalom Asz's house, Icchak Turkow.

[Page 265]

Mr. Jonathan Majranc

by Yitzhak MAJRANC

I would like these few lines to be a memorial to the figure of my father z”l, who was one of the well–known figures in Jewish Kutno who perished under the Nazi oppressor.

My father, R. Yonathan Majranc z”l, received his education in his youth in the city of Kalisz, with Rabbi Chaim Wax ztz”l, and after his marriage he moved his residence to Kutno, where he was a follower of the late Rabbi Yehoshua Trunk. Dad told me a lot about the genius Rabbi Yehoshua Trunk: the main area of activity of my father z”l was in “Bikur Cholim[1], where he served as chief gabbai. Who will not remember the blessed actions of this institution during the First World War in 1914? After the Russian government, in those days, abandoned Kutno, a committee of dignitaries of the city was established for local authority. Among the 12 members of the committee elected was also my father z”l, who was appointed deputy mayor and served in this post until the establishment of independent Poland. But more than once, father z”l filled the place of the German mayor when he was absent from the city, during the German occupation in that war, and this not in order to receive a reward. Dad was also a judge in the court established by the Germans in our city. And I remember the instructive case of a priest

[Page 266]

brought before the court on a charge of espionage in favor of the Russians. The German judge sentenced the priest to death but Dad, who was sitting at the trial with other public figures, refused to sign this deadly verdict and thus the priest survived death.

When community institutions began to be established in German times, father was the chairman of the community. Dad continued working in public affairs even after the establishment of independent Poland. Although his private business suffered greatly from it, Dad did not stop devoting himself to public affairs. After the war, under Polish rule, father z”l was a member of the city administration for a long time, and won not only the sympathy of the Jewish public but the sympathy of all the citizens of the city knowing that he was dealing with public needs with faith. Only his illness forced him to cease his occupations, as instructed by the doctors.

Father z”l also devoted himself to Zionist activity, before the #&147;Mizrahi” [2] was established in our city, but when the political parties began to organize, father turned away from the activity. Despite this, he continued to contribute to the Zionist funds, buying the Zionist shekel [3] and in the elections for the Polish “Seim[4] he conducted vigorous propaganda for the Zionist list.

Interesting detail: a year before his death, elections were held for the Zionist Congress and for father who was already ill, it was difficult for him to climb the stairs, so the election committee responded and came down to him, to allow him to vote.

The appreciation and respect that the entire Jewish public in Kutno felt for him was also expressed with his passing. Since there were two “Chevrot Kadisha[5] in our city, one of which did not want to accept the authority of the community committee, father z”l tried during his lifetime to make peace between them. But he failed. And when father died on Saturday night, the two burial societies came to our house on Saturday night to take care of his burial and began to quarrel over which of them would get to take care of the deceased. We, the family members, when we saw what was happening, called the rabbi of the city and he ruled that the quarrel between the two companies must end once and for all. And thanks to the deceased, peace was made between them and since then there has been only one burial society. In his obituary for father z”l, the rabbi noted that thanks to the honorable deceased, a long–standing dispute was put to an end.

Dad was a public activist who was always looking for the common good; he was attached to his people in every fiber of his soul.

May his soul be bound in the bundle of eternal life

Translator's footnotes

  1. Visiting the sick. Return
  2. Orthodox Zionist movement established in 1902. Return
  3. Symbolic currency giving the right to vote in Zionist Congress elections Return
  4. Polish parliament Return
  5. Burial societies Return


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