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[Page 266]

Jehuda RIFTIN
(of blessed memory)


Jehuda Riftin, of blessed memory

 

In his time Jehuda Riftin was a teacher of Bible studies at our school. I remember that he used to ask his students about expressions and sentences that they had learnt, where they could also find them in the prayer book. And the student who got the right answer was praised. This way, he gave his children the desire to pray and it was indeed his intention. Mr. Jehuda Riftin was a religious and observant Jew and requested that his students also followed his way, but as a noble person he did not try to force them, but looked for a pleasant way to influence them.

Mosze Majzels, Tivon

 

He came to Kutno from Pulawy, near Lublin, although he was born in Bielorussia. He became the private secretary and personal assistant of the famous wealthy Jew from St. Petersburg, Kopelman. As Kopelman was determined to establish a malt house (where barley is transformed into malt for beer) in Kutno, he appointed Jehuda Riftin as his representative and business head; he then became a Kutno resident. The Kutno Jews Timkowski and Turbowicz worked in Kopelman's company as accountants – reliable people.

Jehuda became a good scholar, a fervent Zionist and an intellectual. He became proficient in the Mishna [the six books of Jewish law] and interpretation. For some time, he studied in a yeshiva [religious school] in Volchin [now in Belarus], along with Chaim Nachman Bialik.

About his integrity, there was once the following story in town: as a teacher of Jewish religion in the “Podrzeczna” school, he also managed the kitchen, which survived thanks to the products sent by the American “Joint” [US Jewish charitable organisation]. A former priest was in charge of the foodstuffs, appointed by the Polish authorities. It is said that Jehuda Riftin once took some bag of products, brought it to the kitchen, and realised that in the bag there was... sugar! Jehuda didn't think for long, carried back the goods because the priest had thought it was rice. Not only was the priest astonished, but the staff were too, since in those times sugar was worth its weight in gold! The whole world laughed at this action, seen as ineffectiveness. This prompted Jehuda to resign from managing the kitchen.

A. Mendelewicz


In Memory of Abraham Riftin

by Jakob RIFTIN, Ein Shemer

Translated from the Hebrew by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz

In memory of my brother, Avraham, who was murdered by the Nazis.

On the snow-clad wilderness, next to black thorns,
Death found you, Avraham.
You wanted your heart to call out a bit more – to beat
And it, your heart, was silent, slumbering.

Your body is all that is left in the endless fields,
A human speck on the snowy horizon.
From up above an eagle spied you.
He flew to the battle field
And defiled your body.

What is the value of your body, one poor white thing,
Compared to the masses of human bodies?
They crushed you, like an ant,
When they stormed, those divisions of iron!
Avraham, they trampled all over you.

Maybe from one burning village to the next,
You called your brother's name,
While your life blood flowed out –
“You forgot my life ! You abandoned my blood.
You threw my body away, to die unlamented!”

Maybe you cursed my name as you writhed dying.
Maybe you murmured a last goodbye.
I will never know
The path you took to the desolate pit.

Crying, I hold your loose clothes.
On the cold path I warm myself in them –
These clothes are all I have left from my brother
And I cradle them in my arms, like the holy Scroll of the Law


[Page 267]

The FALC Family

by Y. ELBAUM

Alexander FALC

Alexander Falc was a descendant of a family established for many generations in Kutno. He was born in 1889 to his father Samuel and his mother Yocheved née Schlajfer. His parents, like most of the town's Jews, were religious and kept the family's traditional chain going. As was customary with such families, Alexander studied in a Cheder and later in the Beit Midrash of the town, from which he first drew from the cultural sources of our people.

At the end of the last century, echoes of Western European education began to reach our town as well, and the young Sender's parents realized that the time had come for a good Jew to receive a general education in order to survive the war of existence as a person, and especially as a Jew. So, Sender was sent to study secular studies at one of the gymnasiums in the city. But Sender Falc was destined for lofty roles in his life. Sender did not abandon the sources of our Jewish people; he had a strong desire to expand and deepen them. To this end, he acquired for himself the language of his ancestors ––– Hebrew, with the help of which he hoped to penetrate the sources of Judaism. From them, he also drew encouragement and courage to stand at the gate in time of need.

In 1911, he married Dwora née Berkowitz. He was an accountant by profession. But this work did not satisfy his spirit and soul. From a young age, he devoted himself to public activism in all fields. His house was a kind of labor bureau for all who needed it. He took care of bread and work and supported the needy secretly, from his own pocket.

Alexander was one of the founders of the Zionist Organization in his city and influenced relatives near and far to follow in his footsteps and work for the Zionist idea. He helped establish kindergartens, the Am–HaSefer Hebrew school, of which he was chairman for many years, and the Ahad Ha'am library. During the years of the First World War, when the famine in the Polish state spread, he extended his help to children who were in great distress, set up kitchens and took care of their education.

Thanks to his good name, he won a government franchise for the sale of liquor, which a Jew almost inevitably won in Poland in those days. But despite the policy of expropriation pursued by the Polish government against the Jewish population, Alexander Falc was elected, after the establishment of independent Poland, to the Kutno City Council on behalf of the Zionist Organization along with Mandelewicz, Wolf Asz, Dr. Finkelstein and others. He served in this position until the outbreak of the war, in 1939. By virtue of this position, he had influence in many institutions and worked extensively for the community, the synagogue and the Hebrew school in Kutno. He was able to obtain certain allowances for these institutions, but he did not spare money from his own pocket to help the various institutions.

With the Nazi occupation, he was appointed by the German occupiers together with Bernard Holcman and others to the Judenrat. Today we know very well what roles the Nazis assigned to the Judenrat and why they were established. But to the credit of Sender Falc it must be said that he immediately stood up to the plot of the hawkish murderers and vehemently opposed accepting this post.

One day, the Nazis demanded that the Judenrat hand over fifty Jewish girls, but refused to return the Jewish girls who had been given to them earlier. Sender, who was imbued with the love of Israel and the pain of his people, withstood the test that fate had given him. In his boldness and over–firmness, he objected to handing over more Jewish girls, if the girls taken by them were not returned. And with heroic decisiveness, refused to sign the degrading order of the Nazis and would erase their name on the handing over of the required women. Holcman also agreed with him, and he also refused to sign the low German order.

Sender Falc and his friend Holcman were taken to the Jewish cemetery and shot dead by the Nazi murderers in light of their alleged refusal. Thus, they gave their souls for the purity of our people and the holiness of G–d.

May their memory be exemplary for the whole house of Israel for generations to come.

Sender Falc had two sons and a daughter. His daughter Nacha died in 1938 and Shmuel perished in the Holocaust along with the entire Kutno Jewish community. Only his son Abraham immigrated to Israel and lives there, with us.

 

Yaakov FALC

Yaakov Falc was born in 1892 and married Paula née Berkowitz in 1916. He was a well–to–do and kind–hearted man, active in a charity fund. He was a wealthy merchant and had two sons, Shraga (Felek) and Shmuel (Samek). These two boys were active in youth movements and sports organizations in the city. Shmuel survived the Holocaust and his name in Israel today is Laron.

 

Yehoshua FALC

Yehoshua Falc was born in 1895, married Rosa née Fuks. He was a wealthy merchant, a partner in a flour mill in Kutno, and a member of the “Guild” in Warsaw. From an early age, he was active in the Zionist movement and was one of its founders and already at this age served as chairman of the community committee in Kutno until 1939, when World War II broke out. During his tenure he made various changes in community life. The burial society, which until those days was a kind of “sovereign kingdom”, independent of any authority and having its own bookkeeping. It was placed under the supervision of the community committee. He was one of the founders of the Jewish Commercial Bank in Kutno.

During the Nazi occupation, all his property was confiscated and he was taken hostage along with all the heads of the community and only after payment of a large sum for the “redemption of the captives”, they were released from the hands of the murderers, beaten, tortured and wounded in all parts of their bodies, until it was difficult to recognize them, for indeed these were the people who were uninjured when they were taken from their homes.

His relatives decided that he should flee to Warsaw with her family but Shia did not find him a place in Warsaw as he was cut off from his city and relatives. Nevertheless, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the public action that was so necessary in those days and under the conditions in which the Jewish people in the whole of Poland were. He worked at the JDC [1], assisting in the construction of public kitchens for the needy and in any act that might have eased even a little bit the bitterest fate of the masses of Jews under the Nazi boot. When he was offered to flee Poland and save his life, he vehemently rejected the offer because a man like him should not run away, and he said he would not save his life and leave his brother to their bitter fate.

[Page 268]

Indeed, one day the Germans abducted Jews in the streets, and among them his most precious children were abducted. He appealed to the Germans, as a JDC employee, to release his sons. The Germans did not even want to hear his words and threatened that he too might join them. Shia Falc, the father and husband did not hesitate much and immediately joined his wife and children. Only his son Yechiel, who immigrated to Israel in 1935, is alive today in Israel. His son Nachman, who was known as “Pnuel,” [2] fell in the War of Independence during the Battle of Yehudiya.

Translator's footnotes

  1. US Joint Distribution Committee. Return
  2. see on page 315 of this book. Return


The Rabbi Abraham Borenstein

by Anker ALEXANDER

Rabbi Avraham Borenstein (h”yd[1]), a young and energetic student, was received in the year of 5695[2] (?) as a adjudicator in Kutno. Acute, smart and witty — liked in all circles. His honesty, great understanding and pleasant demeanor brought him many friends in all circles of the public and even beyond the Chassidim from whom he grew up and of which he was one.

Descendants of the famous Rabbis — son of the Rabbi of Sochaczew R. Shmuel ztz”l (famous for his book “Shem Mishmuel[3]) and grandson of the Gaon R. Avraham ztz”l (author of “Avnei Nezer[4]), he inherited from them their sharpness of mind and depth of thought, along with the chassidic devotion. He endured with a lot of perseverance and despite his young age he acquired an extensive and deep knowledge of the Torah, and he even managed to 'perfume' himself with the Jewish occult.

Born in Sochaczew in Heshvan 5761 (1910[5]) and educated on his Admor father's lap, from whom he sucked the teachings, he was one of the distinguished students of the Gaon Rabbi Avraham ztz”l Weinberg, one of the rabbis of Warsaw. He married Roisa[6]-Mindel, daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Binem Danciger z”l, son of the Admor R. Shmuel Zvi ztz”l of Alexander (author of “Tiferet-Shmuel”) and as was the custom in those days he was near his father-in-law's table at Alexander[7] for many years. Sank in the Sea of Torah.

Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk z”l was his brother-in-law (his wife Mrs. Frumet was the daughter of the Rabbi of Sochaczew) and guided him in his first steps in the rabbinate. After his death (in the year 5699[8]), Rabbi Avraham succeeded him, at only thirty years old. However, the peaceful days that R. Avraham won, which so many promised, unfolded and bore fruit, did not last long. The deluge of blood flooded the land and also swept the Kutno community within them Rabbi Avraham and his family. It is rumored that he was hit by the murderers' hand in Otwocz, near Warsaw, where he had fled with his family in 5702[9]. Together with his wife and two children, they died in Kiddush HaShem, and nothing of them remains. hy”d.


Translator's footnotes

  1. Hebrew abbreviation, “May HaShem avenge his blood” usually applied to those who died as a result of antisemitism. Return
  2. 1934-1935. Return
  3. wrongly mentioned as “Shem Shmuel” in original text. Return
  4. wrongly mentioned as “Avi Nezer” in original text. Return
  5. November-December 1910. Return
  6. wrongly mentioned as “Poisa” in original text. Return
  7. Aleksandrów Łódzki. Return
  8. 1939. Return
  9. 1941-1942. Return


[Page 270]

Israel Yehoshua TRUNK

by Chaim Lajb FUKS

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Yisrael Yehoshua Trunk: pseudonym - Y.Y. Trunk. Born in Kutno on 22nd of November 1901. Literary critic, teacher and psychologist; son of the rabbi of Kutno.

He studied in the Cheder [infants' school], Bet Hamidrash [religious school] and graduated from the seminary for Jewish religion teachers in Warsaw. During the years 1925-1929 he was a teacher of Hebrew and Bible at the “Am Hasefer” high school in Kutno and also at Mrs. Iberal's* private high school for girls. During the years 1932-1939, he was a Bible and Hebrew teacher at the high school of Icchak Kacnelson in Lodz. He was a member of the Lodz literary association, paid a salary to lecture in the “Jewish Intellectuals' Club” on psychological and educational subjects.

He started writing for the Yiddish literary periodical “Globus” with the dissertation “A psychological study of Szalom Asc's book The Mother” which was included among literary criticism works in the journal “Literary Papers”, and “School Ways” which were published in Warsaw. He was editor of the scientific section of the journal “Ot” (Lodz-Warsaw) and he also wrote for the Lodz paper “Najer Volksblatt”, and in other magazines.

One of his greatest written works was on the psychological method of Sigmund Freud. A part of this was printed in the “Literary Papers” of the 29th of May, 1936, when it was published by the same printer in the book “Alfred Adler, the man and his teaching” Warsaw 1938, pp. 194.

At the beginning of the war he fled to Bialystok and in June 1940 was a teacher at the Jewish secondary school in Grodek, near Bialystok. Following the compulsory order [to take up Soviet citizenship and receive a Soviet passport[which was carried out by the occupying Soviet rule, together with thousands of refugees he was arrested in Bialystok and together with his brother sent to the Comi region of the Soviet Union., in the northeast. There he worked in the forests, suffering distress and starvation. In September 1941 at the time of the amnesty of Polish citizens, he arrived in Syktivkar the capital of the region and was sentenced to hard physical labour. By mistake, he was sent to a punishment camp where he was ill. He was sent back to Syktivkar and at the age of 42 died of hunger on the 29th of April 1943.

His wife, Sarah (nee Goldsztein) from Zgierz and their young son Raphael (7 or 8 years old) died in the accursed ghetto in Poddebice on 14th April 1942.

* Note (1) from D. Sherman - “Iberal” is the most correct spelling in English.


[Page 271]

Yeszayahu TRUNK

by Chaim Lajb FUKS

(There, pp. 128-130)

Born in Kutno, the son of Kutner Rabbi, Mr. Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk. Up to 15 years teaching in classrooms and with private tutors. 1923 Completed the Hebrew-Polish Humanist Gymnasium in Łódź. 1924-1929 studies history at Warsaw University. He graduated with a master's degree and devoted himself to researching the Jewish past in Poland. Been active in the student circles of “Bund”. Teacher of history and Latin at the “TSYSHO”[1] schools, a Jewish middle school in Białystok and Warsaw. Member of the YIVO[2] Historical Circle in Warsaw.

At the beginning of the German occupation of Poland (1939) he fled to Białystok. In 1946, he returned to Poland. Until 1950, he was active in Jewish social life in Warsaw. Board member of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland. He lived in the State of Israel from 1951 to 1953, where he worked at the Yitzhak Katznelson Kibbutz Lohamei HaGhetaot[3]. He came to Canada in 1953, and was the director of the Peretz School in Calgary. Since 1954 — in New York. Member of the Scientific College of YIVO. Started in “YIVO Pages” (1931) with a review on R. Mahler's and E. Ringelblum's “Selected Sources for the History of Jews in Poland and Eastern Europe (Medieval)” and has since published historical and pedagogical research papers and reviews in: “Ivo-Pages”, Vilnius; “Historical Writings” (vol. 2, 1937, “Study of the History of the Jews in Mazovia in the 15th Century”), “Pages for History” (1934-1937), “Land Survey”, “Literary Pages”, “Weekly Writing”, “School Ways”, “Popular Newspaper”, “Yiddish Writings” “The New Life” (a series of articles about Jews in the 1848 revolution) — all in Warsaw; “The Book of Lublin”, Paris, 1952 (“History of Jews in Lublin from the Earliest Times to the End of the 18th Century”); “Encyclopedia of Diaspora communities”, vol. 5 (Lublin) and vol. 6 (Warsaw), Jerusalem - Tel Aviv, 1957, 1959: “Pages for the Study of the Holocaust and the Rebellion” (vol. 2), and “Yediot” by Beit Lohamei HaGhetaot, “Questions of Life”, “Golden Chain” — State of Israel; “Future”, “Our Time” — New-York; “Kenneder Adler”[4], Montreal, and others. Distinguishes itself with research on the Holocaust era, such as: “Study of the History of Jews in Warteland, in the Age of Destruction”; “Jewish Labor Camps in Warteland” in “Pages for History”, Warsaw, pp. 1 and 2, 1948, 1950; “Western European Jews in Eastern European Ghettos” (“Golden Chain”, Tel Aviv, January-April, 1953); “War Against Jews by Spreading Diseases” (“YIVO Pages”, vol. 37, New York, 1953); “The Problem of Resistance in Our Holocaust Literature,” “Why Did the Nazis Kill Six Million Jews?” and “Problems of the Lesser Ghetto Life”, “Polish-Jewish Relations in the Period of World War II”, in “Future”, May-June, 1953, April, 1955, April, 1960, April 1964 and others. In book form: “A Jewish Community in Poland at the End of the 18th Century”, Warsaw, 1934, 50 pages; “History of Jews in Płock”, vol. 1 (1237-1651), YIVO, Warsaw, 1939, 174 pages; “Textbook of Jewish History” (Systematic Course for Sixth Grade), Warsaw, 1947, 116 pages. “Figures and Events” (Historical Essays), Buenos Aires, 1962, 274 pages; “Lodz Ghetto — A Historical and Sociological Study”, Yad Vashem and YIVO, New York, 1962, 528 pages; “Studies of Jewish History in Poland”, Buenos Aires, 1963, 328 pages. Co-editor of “Pages for History” and “Pages for the Study of the Holocaust and the Rebellion”. He also participated in the collections: “The Book of the Ghetto War”, Tel Aviv, 1950 (on the uprisings in the extermination camps); “Vitebsk Once”, New York, 1956 (“History of Jews in Witebsk”,14th-16th centuries); “History of the Bund”, vol. 1, New York, 1960 (“The Beginnings of the Jewish Labor Movement”); “Книга о русском еврействе”[5] (Russian), New York, 1960 (“On Russian-Jewish Historiography”); In the Yizkor-Pinkasim (Włocławek, Piotrków, Vitebsk, Plock, Sochachew, Lublin and others). Was involved in the joint Holocaust projects of YIVO and Yad Vashem.

Translator's footnotes

  1. TSYSHO, Yiddish acronym for “TSentrale Yidishe SHul-Organizatsye.” Return
  2. acronym of “Yidisher Wisenshaftlecher Institut”, (“Yiddish Scientific Institute”) Return
  3. Hebrew, “Kibbutz Fighters of the Ghettos”, a Kibbutz north of Acre. Return
  4. “Canadian Eagle”, a Yiddish newspaper. Return
  5. Russian, literally: “Book on Russian Jewry”. Return

 


[Page 273]

Lipman COMBER

by Prof. Rafael MAHLER,
taken from his book “Historians and Guides”, Yisrael Buch Press 1967.

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Lipman Comber was born in Kutno and was the eldest among the members of the group [Note: see ABOVE for starred comment]. A pupil of Prof. Handelsman, he completed his studies for doctor of philosophy at the age of more than 40 years. He was a member of the “Bund party”, and was active in the “Culture League”, the organization for the cultural activities of the party. He was employed as a teacher in the school of the central Jewish school organization, used in the summer vacations as an area rest house for the Warsaw region. He was already involved in the first collection [of literary articles] of the league with an article about the burial society in Kutno at the beginning of the 19th century [NOTE: see ABOVE for starred comment], which was the start of the documentation that he found. His doctoral dissertation was about the Jews in Poland in the area under Prussian rule in the years 1795-1805, two chapters of which the culture league published in two and three volumes. In the Warsaw ghetto he set up and managed a shelter in connection with the “Centos” - the Central Organization for Orphan Care, an asylum for children from the streets. He was deported to Treblinka during the first “action” in the summer of 1942 in especially tragic circumstances: while he was there his daughter was carried away to the “Umschlagplatz” - the special train station in Warsaw used for deporting Jews to the death camps. He ran into the “Centos” to get money to bribe the Jewish police but he himself was caught by them. His daughter had already been taken away.

Ringelblum [the famous Jewish Polish historian] wrote a very warm eulogy, which appears in “Writings from the Ghetto”, volume 2, chapter 9, pages 175-176.


[Page 273]

Baynish ZYLBERSHTEIN

by Marek RAKOVSKI

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Bajnisz Zylbersztajn has been known to me for some years, from that time on, when he had sent me a few poems and I had them published. His current book, a novel entitled “A Life Sentence”, was about a new topic which had not yet been written about in our world. At that time, I was familiar with the romance novel titled “Food” but, in my opinion, this is an artistically more mature novel than his previous novels. I am convinced that Bajnisz Zylbersztajn does not stand still in one place but steadily develops and improves.

“A Life Sentence” portrays life in a hospital. The well-known content of the novel is illness, which is a difficult subject to deal with. On every page you can feel the breath of death and its dread, hanging over the heads of all those being tortured, together with the powerful drive to live, and the longing for the home town and the existence of the spiritual world, which is an analysis of physical and mental suffering. The author delves into the soul of the sick person and describes different types: Those who have given up, the angry, the patient, the amazed. A whole gallery of doctors, would-be medics and officials pass before our eyes. In one word: reading this novel gives me the true definition about people, who are damned for ever. Bajnisz Zylbersztajn has successfully captured the character of his hero and has a talent for describing him.

(from the foreword of Bajnisz Zylbersztajn's book “A Life Sentence”, published in Warsaw, 1928, by Bibliotek Mark Rakowski).


Yaakov OSOWSKI and His Family

by Ruth HOLANDER-OSOWSKI, Jerusalem

The late Yaakov Osowski left his hometown — Kutno — on his way to Jerusalem, to study in a yeshiva there, but instead of reaching his destination, he got stuck in Germany and studied political economy from Prof. Werner Zumbert in Berlin. He earned his living as a carpenter in a factory. During his stay in Germany, Yaakow Osowski joined the left-wing organization Spartacus until he was imprisoned in 1918. After a while, my father managed to escape to the Soviet Union, joining the Communist Party there and working as an economist. At that time our financial situation did not improve (Mom and I got there three years after Dad's arrival).

Dad became very involved in the life of the Soviet Communist Party and took an active part in the heated debates that took place in the party at the time. But in an argument in 1929, Dad came out against Stalin's opinion and as a result was forced to leave the party. I have in my possession another pamphlet expressing my father's opinion on the management of the economy and a fatal critical answer against him on behalf of the party.

After leaving the party and the death of Mother z”l in 1929, our material condition greatly improved. He was appointed a lecturer in economics at the Superior School of Economics and we knew no more shortage. At that time, Dad became interested in Jewish problems and devoted himself to the study of Jewish sociology. Then the decision came to his mind that we, his daughters, must leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to Israel. Thanks to the intervention of Prof. Harold Laski, to whom Dad turned for help to allow us to leave the Soviet Union, and after much effort — we finally arrived in Palestine in 1924. (We were three girls aged ten, twelve and sixteen). The authorities did not allow our father to leave Russia, although the certificate was registered in his name, and we, his three daughters, made aliyah in his place. Here in Israel, our grandfather received us and we also lived in his house. For a long time, Father did not stop his efforts to join us and even addressed the President of the Soviet Union of those days, Kalinin, who signed his name on the recommendation — but to no avail. Dad stayed in Russia. We kept in touch with him for four years, until we learned that Dad had passed away.

Until his death, Dad wrote many studies on the world economy,

[Page 274]

including a study on the development of American industry (this article was translated into English and appeared at the time in English journals).

Father z”l had a multifaceted education and his areas of interest were very numerous — worldwide — general and social, as well as in Jewish areas of life. Recognizing the trends of development within the Soviet Union, he made every effort so that his daughters could live within their people lest they be assimilated into a people not theirs and thanks to his understanding I am a resident and citizen of the State of Israel.

Michael Ostrovsky (David Misza) was wounded in World War I and suffered a profound mental shock, but he recovered from his illness

 

Yaakov OSOWSKI

 

and devoted himself to studying mathematics, physics and mechanics. He authored a book on a special type of tractor and in 1927 was sent for further training to the United States, where he worked in a Ford factory. On his return to the Soviet Union, he served as a lecturer in the military academy, even though the Russian language was familiar to him. He married a woman in Russia and they had a son, who now lives in Moscow, but we have no contact with him.

Uncle Misza also fell victim to trials that took place in Russia in those days and was executed in a trial against Soviet army officers in 1937.

Aunt Lifsza came to Russia in 1932. She worked as a seamstress in a dress factory. It seems that she was not satisfied with work alone and approached the Jewish writers in Moscow. We, the little girls, could not speak to her, because we did not know Polish — and she did not know Russian.

During the years of World War II, she fled to Kazan[1] and a few years later the connection with her was renewed, which we maintain to this day.

Uncle Mosze — Dad's youngest brother. He came to Israel in 1935 and worked in his profession as a baker. According to my impression, he was most engrossed in the signs of the disintegration of the family that had existed since his childhood. In the last years of his life he worked as a porter in the port where he was killed in one of the airstrikes in the War of Independence. He left a wife, son and daughter.

I would not be complete if I did not express my gratitude to all the people of Kutno who assisted Grandpa at the time, in his efforts to bring us to Israel. Our grandfather living in Jerusalem spared no effort to get us — father and daughters — out of the borders of the Soviet Union where our father saw, in the days of his freedom the land in which all his dreams of a more just human society would come true. But as is well known, he was not the only one to be disappointed.

The Kutners who assisted my grandfather are: Dr. Bromberg, the director of Hadassah at the time, his sister and her husband Mr. and Mrs. Turbowicz, Mr. Elberg; we will also remember the good Yosef Wolsztein z”l and Franz Wolsztein, may he live a long life, who encouraged and assisted us in our first steps in the Land of Israel and who opened their home to us wide open — our first home in our new land.

On this occasion, our heartfelt and most sincere thanks are extended to all the families who received us so cordially in their homes. We also extend our gratitude to Mosze, Avraham and Bella Lustigman and the Kolski family for their pleasant and cordial treatment of us. It was pleasant and handsome to meet these people of the city who knew my father and knew how to tell about him and revive his image before our eyes. Congratulations and thanks to everyone!

Translator's footnote

  1. Capital city of Tatarstan, Russia. Return

 


Tea ARCISZEWSKA
— The Stage Artist and Writer

by Henech SZLAJFER, Paris

She came from the well-known Lipski family in Kutno. Her father and grandfather were of lovely pedigree, pious and preserving traditional traditions. The old Lipski, the devout Chassid, even believed that this would last forever. His daughters, however, began to look at the world differently.

The eldest left her husband, came to Paris, settled in Montparnasse bohème neighborhood and completely broke with her parents' ways. The second was attracted to the dance-art. She dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer. Her third daughter, Tea (or by her nickname — Totshe), wanted to become an actress. Ever since she was a child, she had been attracted to the stage. As a child, she dreamed of her roles, posing in front of a mirror. And so, dreamy and stubborn, she approached artistic perfection.

 

 

When Y. L. Peretz discovered her, he saw in her the soul of the rising Jewish theater. She did not return to the shtetl anymore, even left it far behind — but did not seek to forget the old home, did not want to tear herself away from her past.

I do not know by what means the Muses arrived at the strictly orthodox home of the Lipskis, the merchant of glassware on the broad street in Kutno, or at the other humble homes of the Trunks, Aszs, Glicksmans, Erdbergs, and others — where they appeared unexpectedly. One thing is certain, however: all of our esteemed members of the city have been inspired by the great spirit of the well-known Rabbi Shie'le Kutner.

She clung to Jewish history, to the ancient Jewish traditions and customs, symbols and wonders, thus showing all this authentic Jewish, deep beauty. She considered herself as a branch of the five-hundred-year-old Kutner-Jewish tribe. And she was one of its prodigal [page 275] children. She spoke Yiddish with Kutner's taste, as our Shalom Asz spoke, as our fathers and mothers spoke and as the surviving Kutners still speak today. She loved meeting and chatting with her peers, feeling at home in the Kutner family. It was good for us to know that we had such a good friend here --- and she really wanted us to keep her as our own.

The Jewish Kutno will no longer rise from its catastrophe, such beauties as Tea Arciszewska will no longer grow up with us. Later generations will take over part of the great spiritual heritage, from the accumulated treasures — and of course meet Arciszewska's immortal work “Miryaml[1], with which she got inscribed in golden letters in Yiddish literature.

Kutner Jews are proud of their spiritual personalities and we will bow our heads in awe at the glorious memory of Tea Arciszewska.

Translator's footnote

  1. "Little Miryam", a dramatic cycle in fifteen scenes. Return

 


[Page 277]

Some Scholars and Businessmen

by Aryeh ORNER, Haifa

With reverence, I take the pen in hand to bring out on paper some precious figures of Kutner Jewry, our holy and pure.

 

Mr. Shlomo HOCHGELERNTER

More commonly known as the Piątek shochet[1]. He settled in Kutno in the early 1930s. Due to his ancestry in the town of Piątek, the nickname stuck. A Jewish scholar, he lived in the house of Yaakov Bromberg z”l. Day and night he studied in the Skierniewicer's shtiebel[2] — individually and also with a group of his young followers, with whom he had breakfast and, in the evening, was consolidating a lesson. His five sons — Joseph, Bajrech, Zisze, Baruch and Israel — were known in town as his great followers. Zyshe later went to study at the famous Yeshiva of the Sages of Lublin.

Mr. Shlomo's house was open to those who wanted to study Torah. As it was to those who needed help. His authority and influence in the Jewish community was great. Mr. Shlomo, together with Mr. Yitzchak Kowic and the shamash Mordechai Welcman, had the privilege of studying with the Kutner rabbi, Mr. Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk et al.

The previously mentioned Mr. Yitzchak Kowic, thanks to his great scholarship, was the overseer of kashrut in the slaughterhouse, and known as a devout Alexander Chassid.[3] His son Abraham was a well-known as a gifted student.

The slaughterers also included Mr. Mordechai Welcman, the oldest one. His son Herschel inherited the property from his father. The other sons studied at the Yeshiva of the Sages of Lublin.

Of the Kutner scholars, I remember Mr. Leibel Mamlok and Shlomo-Meir Lieberman. Even today it is difficult for me to understand how the two Jews were able to lead and maintain a room.

The watchmaker Mendel Mamlok belonged to the dear, noble souls about whom it is possible to write only good things. The scholar Mosze-Pinchas Kleczewski was studying the Gemara during a whole day, while his wife, a real woman of valor, led a shop in a cellar. Mr. Mosze-Pinchas also studied in Jewish homes and did not hesitate to go and raise money for needy families.

The well-known Ger Chassid Avraham Boms carried milk in the houses. His son died from shrapnel at the beginning of the war.

The manufacturing-merchant David Metal and his wife Sarah were great benefactors, always fulfilling the mitzvah of charity. Their son Aharon-Shlomo (my childhood friend) excelled with his successful painting. Their two daughters and son Chaim-Yosef live in Israel, in Dimona.

Lajbisz Finkler once belonged to the great merchants, he was called the broker. A respected prayer leader. Hundreds of Jews gathered, for musaf prayer during the Holocaust, outside the Skierniewice shtiebel. They wanted to hear the good cantor.

I will always remember the great donor with aristocratic appearance, Mr. Simcha Zelechowski. I owe him my survival. In November 1939, he forcibly evicted me from my home, ordered me to leave Kutno and avoid the Germans. Thus, I managed to escape to Russia and survive.

Among the gallery of figures, my grandfather, Mr. Hersz-Ber Strykowski, known as the mirror-maker, occupies a special place. After a day of hard work, he spent the evening away in the Beit Midrash and sat for long hours by the light of an oil lamp, studying. On Rosh Hashanah, he was the master of ceremonies — and when he took the shofar in his hand, he trembled with joy and awe. He used to send me to collect the debts of the Jews to whom

[Page 278]

he had lent money. I have never seen him get angry at those who did not give me the debt. He has always had teacher-privilege on such Jews.

My father (RIP) Abraham Orner, was a well-known social worker in town. He became an orphan prematurely and was raised in Żychlin by an aunt. Still a young man, he learned the laws of land and engaged in trade. First it went not bad, then — things got worse... We were 12 children (11 sons and one daughter). I remember my father spending his whole life dealing with “Jewish troubles”: he was secretary of the Jewish Merchants' Union in Kutno. For hours he would disappear from his own business and help the shopkeepers and retailers in their open affairs with the tax office, in the magistrate, in the banks. He was especially active when the sequester went to a Jewish merchant in Kutno and wanted to take the last bit of merchandise because of unpaid taxes.

I remember such an event: coming into our attic right from my room, I see a lot of customers there. My mother (RIP), being in the last months of pregnancy, she could not give any advice to the customers. She sends me to call Dad, but I do not know where he is. She says that before, the teenager Anszel Blank came — and Dad is certainly somewhere with him. I went to the Kozak's house in the Old Market and met my father, who was arguing with the sequester that he should leave the poor teenager alone. Finally, he turns to Anszel and asks him: “How much do you have to give, now?” I don't remember what was the answer. I just remember my dad taking out 6 zlotys, giving them to the sequester as “deposit” — and the clerk left, not taking anything from Mr. Anszel's home furniture. Only then my father went to care about us.

And one more fact I remember from my father: one time he came from Warsaw and brought with him a guest, an unknown Jew. When asked by his mother and children, the father said that he met the Jew at the French Consulate in Warsaw — in despair because he had been denied a visa. The Jew intended to take this own life. My father brought him to Kutno, kept him over until Saturday. On Monday, my father went to Warsaw again and our guest stayed, waiting all day and night by the phone. And the good news came. My father succeeded in obtaining a visa for the Jew and fulfilling the promise he had made him: that he would leave for France.

Such scholars, businessmen, and kind-hearted people our Jewish Kutno had...

Translator's footnotes

  1. ritual slaughterer. Return
  2. small prayer room. Return
  3. it was second largest Chassidic group in Poland, after Gur. Return


[Page 278]

Our Cantors

by Moshe WIGDOROWICZ, Tel Aviv

Kutno sang with her good cantors and her prayer leaders. I want to bring out some of their characters in our book of remembrance.

At the beginning of this century, the famous cantor Mosze Opeler prayed in the city and around. Mostly, in the Great Synagogue, which was famous in Poland for its eastern wall, a masterpiece of architecture and painting. The well-known journalist of “Today”, M. Naiman z”l described the Kutno synagogue in detail.

 

The cantor POLAKEWICZ

 

After Mosze Opeler, the cantorship in the Great Synagogue was taken over by the young Maroko, a talented singer, who composed melodies himself. He lived on Main Street[1], near the house of the Falc. Maroko had its own choir, that was conducted by Sokolowski, also a music teacher. A tall man, with long hands, who came close to him while conducting.

The first singer in the choir was Fiszel Fogelman, with a fine tenor voice. I remember that, from the cheder of Mr. Ozer Bilowski, a Jewish Torah scholar and good educator, where I studied with my older brother, the cantor and the conductor selected children's voices for their choir.

Together with me, in that cheder, studied the younger pupils N. Moszkowicz, M. Elbaum, Z. Elberg, A. Goldstein, Z. Kowalski, and others. A. Sz. Elberg was the patron of the cheder and every Friday the children came to hear the section of the Torah. My brother Yehuda-Yaakov z”l (who died with my mother and two sisters in the ghetto) was the best student and that is why Mr. Elberg recommended that he be accepted into the Hebrew gymnasium, where he was one of the founders and board members.

Thanks to my high voice, I was happily accepted into different choirs. After a while, Maroko emigrated to South America and Sokolowski moved to Łódź, where he attended the local city synagogue. After they left Kutno, the city was

[Page 279]

a long time without a cantor, as the new candidates for the office demanded an excessive allowance, according to the ideas and possibilities of the community. There were some landlords, scholars and lovers of cantorial singing, although not such ardent Chassidim, who rewarded the cantors out of their own pockets (such as the Kozak family).

In Maroko times, there was a conflict between the frum and advanced worshipers. Maroko wanted to modernize the choir, each wearing a special hat and small tallit. The treasurers finally agreed, although this involved a large spending. But how great was the disappointment and bitterness when, on the first Sunday morning after the Sabbath prayer during which the choir appeared in the new attire – the hats and the small tallits had disappeared. The room (on the right at the entrance to the synagogue) was broken into. On the left was the “Psalm Society”. The incident made a very bad impression on everyone, but fortunately there were no serious clashes, the police investigated, discovered nothing – and in time the matter was forgotten.

At a time when no municipal cantor was in the Great Synagogue, the Kutno landlords who were proficient in the traditional texts and the music, prayed in front of Amud[2] on Saturdays and holidays. Yonathan Majranc, the father of Keren Kayemet's later legatee, Yitzhak Majranc, said the Kol Nidrei. Among the volunteer cantors were: Lajbisz Finkler, a Skierniewice Chassid, a first-class prayer leader. He was involved in bringing various goods from Warsaw and Lodz (shpiliter[3]) to Kutner merchants. He rewarded the singers with certain articles that he traded. However, he did not want any reward for his cantorship.

Slichot in the Great Synagogue were said by the well-known landlord Laznowski. A handsome Jew, managing a soap-factory near the train-station.

 

The prayer leader — Chaim TYBER

 

In the Skierniewice shtiebel, where I was davening, there were prayer leaders, Mr. 'Henech Menke and the Piątker shochet, Mr. Shlomo Hochgelernter.

 

 

Of the prayer leaders in the Beit Midrash: Mr. Mordechai Shochet (Welcman), who besides doing the slaughtering and cantorship, was also a mohel. Well-known for his politeness and seriousness. The tall Abraham Shamash, with his long hands and feet, was also a cantor in the Beit Midrash. Standing on the porch, he saw everything and everyone that was going on around him.

In recent years, until the outbreak of war, the cantor in the Great Synagogue was Polakewicz, who excelled with his heartfelt singing. He perished in Kutner ghetto.

Also, the Great Gerrer shtiebel on Main Street (in Kopel's house) and the various Chassidic shtiebels and midrashim had their own prayer leaders.

 

The cantor's son, POLAKEWICZ

 

The cantor's son, Polakewicz, as a 15-year-old boy, showed extraordinary abilities and talent in modeling and drawing (see the above picture). He was also socially active among the Jewish youth in Kutno. He perished at the hands of the Nazi murderers.


Translator's footnote

  1. Krolewska St. Return
  2. Hebrew, the cantor's stand. Return
  3. Yiddish, purchasing agent. Return


Chaim TYBER

From the book “Deceased Jewish Artists” by Joseph Sandler

Chaim Tyber came from a town that had a reputation in the history of Jewish culture. The old synagogue alone, built in the Renaissance style — could tell a lot about the centuries-long history of the Jews in this town. Not just one great scholar came from Kutno. From Kutno also stems

[Page 280]

the great Jewish writer Szalom Asz. The uniqueness of the cultural atmosphere has left its mark on the people of literature and art who hail from this city.

Chaim Tyber was a young painter and graphic artist who was deeply involved in the specific way of life of the Jews of Kutno. He had to break through various difficulties, and also fighting the various ingrained traditions and superstitions, cost the artist quite a bit of strength. Chaim Tyber inherited his passion for drawing from his father, who did not have the strength to excel as an artist.

He loved to read a lot and enjoyed listening to the discussions that the adults had, but most of all he was attracted to the old books with the beautiful title pages. He spent hours thinking about these drawings. He therefore valued these books more than the contemporary books with their usual covers, which seemed to him poor with regard to the books with their decorations and ornaments already as a young boy, he happily imitated these lovely covers and dreamed of creating similar intricate ornaments.

 

Chaim TYBER

 

When he was very young, Chaim left his hometown and arrived in Lodz. From Lodz he moved to Warsaw, where he was admitted to the local art academy. There, he was mainly interested in drawing, he only dealt with painting by chance.

Tyber was both a draftsman and a pointillist. His line is easy and thin. When one gets to know his works more closely, one feels how strongly they affect the audience, thanks to the great ability of the artist to elicit the expression of the given motif. The creation of Tyber reflects in a kaleidoscope the life of the Jews in the small town in all its forms and in its hardened conservatism. Tyber takes people as they are. He looks at them with a magnifying glass and tries to bring them out as he saw them in the given second. The images of his childhood have remained in the artist's memory and remained so fresh that he enjoyed the treasure extensively while creating his compositions. He was probably born a year or two before the outbreak of World War I[1], and his first couple of years were very difficult. Some motives of his work are connected with the memories of that time.

 

Cheder youngsters — Chaim TYBER

 

At the Jubilee Exhibition of the Jewish Association of Plastic Arts in Warsaw in 1939, there was a long frieze containing many drawings of Tyber, with a Jewish theme. It was a rich gallery of Jewish provincial types. There, we saw old Jews with beards and long capotes and hats on their heads. Others wear black hats with caps, from which they look out of their eyes. It feels like the difficult living conditions have ruined the people. Obviously, these figures breathe with something of a particular weirdness. The failure of Tyber's work is conducive to stronger naturalism. In addition, the artist has too narrowly narrowed the theme. He did not even go so far as to show the circles of the youth, who were already struggling with the growing fascism and national oppression. Tyber was the painter who possessed all possibilities to become the expressor of the Jewish manner-theme in a wide scope.

At the Jubilee Exhibition of the Jewish Association of Plastics in Warsaw in 1939, there was a long frieze containing many drawings of Tyber, with a Jewish theme. This was a rich gallery of Jewish provincial types. There, we see old Jews with beards and long capotes and hats on their heads. Others wear black hats with caps, from which they look out of their eyes. It feels like the difficult living conditions have collapsed these

People. Obviously, these figures breathe with something a particular weirdness. The failure of Tyber's work is conducive to stronger naturalism. In addition, the artist has too narrowly narrowed the theme. He did not even go so far as to show the circles of the youth, who were already struggling with the growing fascism and national oppression. Tyber was the painter who possessed all possibilities to become the expressor of the Jewish manner-theme in a wide scope.

 

Going to cheder — Chaim TYBER

 

[Page 281]

In September 1939, Chaim Tyber fled to Bialystok. Here he began a new life, which opened up new perspectives for him. He first developed as a painter in Bialystok. It started for him to work well. He sold his drawings and pieces. There, he also married. In 1940 he participated in exhibitions in Minsk and Moscow. One of Tyber's works was reproduced in a book published in Moscow and Leningrad. entitled “Оцерки по хистори исасдацителнаво искуство Беларусь” (Essays on the Plastic Arts of Belarus).

But not long did Tyber's success last. He failed to evacuate to the depths of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the German attack on the Soviet Union struck him in Bialystok. He was sent to the ghetto, there. Along with many Jewish artists, he worked in Stephens' workshop, where he copied images from the world's famous masters. In his spare time, he dynamically captured scenes of the nightmare of life in the Bialystok ghetto. Tyber died along with his wife and child during the second “action” in the ghetto, in 1943.

Tyber's graphics are unique images that are painted using the graphic technique. They possess a great deal of light and shadow, a great deal of expression, and are fully formed. No vacant area is noticed in his drawings.

(From the book “Deceased Jewish Artists” by Joseph Sandler.
Publisher “Yiddish-Book”, Warsaw, 1958. Submitted by H. Szlajfer, Paris).


Translator's footnote

  1. Chaim Tyber, born in Kutno, 1912 - died in Białystok ghetto, 1943. Return


From Kutno to Moscow

by Chaim GRYNBAUM, Holon

On the young painter Chaim Tyber

I grew up together with the young painter-artist Chaim Tyber, one might say – in one house, playing in the same yard, tidying up the sukkah...

Haim inherited his passion for painting from his father, Zelik Tyber, who possessed a little talent but did not spend time for it. He forbade his son to paint. But the strong will of Chaim Tyber prevailed. He secretly painted in his grandmother's house, later renting a room to priests and turning it into a studio – until his father had to come to terms with the fact that Chaim Nisnen could not be broken (that's how he called himself).

He would come to my room, where he took interest and pleasure in reviewing my books. And at the same time, he wondered why I was reading more sociology than fiction. For many evenings he enjoyed discussing with me, even though he was several years younger. He showed great interest in my album, which was embellished with a sea of pictures.

*

In Bialystok, in an attic room... Clean, beautiful, tidy – his wife received me in 1939, told me to wait. “He'll come up right away,” said the sympathetic Lithuanian with a smile. “You are a Kutner! He will be so happy to see a neighbor.”

Carrying baskets and packages, the good-natured Chaim entered a little phlegmatically. “We will both live,” he said. – “Your name is Chaim and so is mine.”

He did not, however. We kissed and tears poured down from his eyes. He did not let me speak. He wanted to know everything at once, been told about everything. The home, the father, the mother, who else came? Why don't people come to rejoice with me?

“Look, Chaim, who I am. See the articles that people write about me! Here I can show what I know! It is an open world. I won the first prize in Minsk, at the exhibition of Belarusian young painters. I was told that I was going to make an exhibition in Moscow”...

Everything was told to him in one breath.
The musician — Chaim TYBER

 

When me and my family had already been sent to the woods in the Komi Republic in USSR, he told me about a rare career. Settling in Moscow, he was awarded a large cash prize.

I received from him some groceries and some money. On one condition: my wife's parents had to help his parents in the Kutno ghetto, because Aaron Fuks, my father-in-law owned a restaurant and moved to the ghetto earlier. His last wish was fulfilled. We received a letter from the ghetto stating that the agreement had been upheld.

Contact with him was lost in July 1941.

Honor his memory!


The Painter Shimon Avny

by Arbeter Vort, Paris

Shimon Avny is the son of Mordechai Sztajn and Rywka Buksztajn, both from Kutno. He was born in Paris in 1932. His father was one of the survivors of the Auschwitz hell. His mother and brother went[1] with the smoke of the crematoria. Simon was rescued by miracle: when they came to arrest his mother, he was in bed. She managed to cover

[Page 282]

him up so that the hijackers would not notice him. An uncle later took him to an orphanage, that entrusted him to a farmer.

After the war, the family found him and brought him to Paris, later he found himself in Jewish orphanage named “Nahum Aronson” in Les Andelys (Normandy), where he, for the first time, received a Jewish education. He arrived in Israel with the organization Aliyat HaNoar[2], took part in the Independence War and fought bravely for the establishment of the State of Israel.

Already as a young child he had an inclination for drawing: for the peasants in the village he drew their houses and animals, the peasant's faces and silhouettes.

In Paris, the desire to paint continuously increased. In Israel, he is well-known as a talented artist. He studied painting at the Academy of Arts in Rome and at the “Ecole des Beaux-Arts” in Paris. His only aspiration in life is art and painting.
Shimon Avny has exhibited many times in Paris and in Israel, and the critics responded warmly to his paintings.

Some excerpts from the press about Shimon Avny:

“Returning from Israel, Shimon Avny begins to exhibit in various galleries and becomes known in the country as one of the most talented young artists, no longer looking in the dark; he found his way and his poetic soul found salvation in the painting.”
“Shimon's painting is abstract, but with all his being he remains attached to nature. He paints the crumbling raw earth in a kibbutz, the sunset where light and shadow play.”

“Such is Shimon Avny — young, full of enthusiasm and belief in the mission of artists.”

Translator's footnotes

  1. They were arrested by French police in the Vel d'Hiv' roundup. The father was arrested one year before, also by French police in the "Billet Vert" roundup. Return
  2. Hebrew: organization for the emigration of Jewish youths to Israel Return


Kutner Figures

by Yaakov FERNBACH, Nahariya

Katriel AYZIK — The Jewish Well-Owner

Outside the city lived Katriel Ayzik, the owner of a farm. (A Jewish well-owner was a rare phenomenon in Poland). Katriel Ayzik was a unique man. I remember how he used to go every Sunday morning in his sleigh to pick up the mail.

He had a training-kibbutz for Jewish youths who were preparing them to immigrate to Israel.

Katriel Ayzik's specialty was flower-growing.

He was a patron of Jewish culture and art. He is said to have planted the garden at the YIVO House in Vilnius. I met Ayzik at a party dedicated to the founder of YIVO in Vilnius, Dr. Max Weinreich, when he was a member of the YIVO Society in Kutno. I remember how Katriel bought a book, which YIVO had reprinted from a very old edition.

It was rumored among the youth that Katriel Ayzik was striving to find a black flower, especially for funeral wreaths.

A strange story happened to him. In the Teachers' Remembrance Book, he was included in the list of those who died during World War II, when Ayzik lived in the Land of Israel after the war. His brother Aharon is also mentioned as a martyr. Katriel Ayzik died in Israel from an illness he contracted during his wandering in Russia.

Here in Israel, he again tried to engage in flower-growing. His wife, a daughter of the Russian people, worked hard to make his life easier and to accompany him as a true life-partner.

Katriel Ayzik was very hospitable, a devoted Jew and patriot. Despite receiving a new farm and land from the new Polish government, he left everything and came to the Land of Israel to begin anew.

His brother Aharon lives today in Kutno. He lives in their old apartment.

There are Kutner residents in Israel today, who received their training thanks to Ayzik, outside Kutno.

 

Yaakov-Shalom the Clockmaker

Among the worshipers, where my father was davening, was a clockmaker - Yaakov-Shalom Haller. He used to love attacking those religious elements who fought against the new Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. He was never tired of waging a fierce war to Orthodox Jewry.

Years later, I met his son, when we worked together in the pioneering movement, especially at the Keren Kayemet. I learned that his father was the overseer of the city clock, and he, Yaakov-Shalom, was rewinding it. In the evening, his son and I used to visit the train station clock, according to which he used to set the city clock, which was found on the City Hall building.

Once, I went up to the clock tower with him and looked from there at my hometown of Kutno. My heart told me that I was absorbing the feeling -- forever...

 

Mosze LUBINSKI

Every Passover, he would organize a Seder night in his private home for the Jewish soldiers of the 37th regiment who, for various reasons, had to stay kosher. For this, the rabbi used to visit the colonel before the holiday and ask him a leave for the Jewish soldiers.

After their Seder at home, people used to visit the Seder at Mosze Lubinski's, where they could see Jewish soldiers, with cheerful, festive faces, who were feeling at home and well, with their parents. Mosze Lubinski and his wife were especially pleased that they had the privilege of fulfilling the mitzvah of “All who are hungry, come and eat”.

I remember how he once rebuked the people for the fact that some Jews are ashamed to speak Yiddish.

[Page 283]

The Last Kutno Rabbi

Shortly before my emigration to Israel, the Kutno Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk z”l, passed away. With his death, about six months before the Second World War, the crown of the Jewish community of Kutno, to which it gave so much splendor and beauty, was taken from it. The Kutner rabbi had not only a prestigious pedigree from his father and great-grandfather, Rabbi Yehosze'le Kutner, but also had one by himself. The last years of his life he devoted to publishing the writings of his great-grandfather.

 

Drawing of Chaim Tiber z”l for the library near the great synagogue in Warsaw, Tlomacka 13. The competition (“Ex-Libris”) awarded him 50 złotys

 

A large funeral was organized for the Kutno Rabbi, as befits such a personality. At the funeral, eulogies were said, which lasted a long time. Circles were made around the deceased, in the Beit Midrash, covered with a cloak of his great-grandfather. The funeral lasted until late at night.

 

Israel Yehoszua TRUNK

I remember reading his articles on psychology in the Warsaw “literary pages”. I made efforts to meet him. He left an extraordinary impression on me. We met in Lodz, at the residence of his uncle, the father of Yechiel Yeshayahu Trunk, the author of the 7-volumes “Poyln”.

Then, his first Yiddish book about the psychologist Alfred Adler was published. As a sign of friendship, I distributed this booklet among the Jewish intelligentsia.

In Kutno, there was a lung-sufferer, a certain Frenkel. Israel Yehoszua Trunk gave lectures on scientific topics, and the proceeds were set aside for the benefit of the sick Frenkel.

 

My Grandfather and Parents

My grandfather, Mr. Mosze-Aharon, passed away in 9 Elul 5677[1]. He used to study with plain Jews, simple artisans in Ein-Yaakov, a synagogue named after Rabbi Lajbish. The grandfather visited the Land of Israel when the Turks still ruled the country.

With the most sacred feelings, I remember my father Mr. Avraham-Dov-Berish and my mother Chana-Miryam (née Wisniewska), as well as my sisters Tzipora Fernbach-Bauman and Chaya Fernbach and my brother-in-law Chaim-Israel Bauman.


Translator's footnote

  1. August 27, 1917 Return


[Page 286]

The “Litvak of Kutno”

by Rivka GWIRCMAN

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Honest and fair were the ways of Mordechai Gwircman, a believer in God, and a good person, always loyal and hopeful. His gentle, pale face said what was in his heart. His eyes looked out good and quiet.

He came to Kutno at the beginning of the First World War. The children were sent to the Cheder [infants' school]. His home was strictly religious - he was generous towards everyone. There was a bag of flour for everyone from his own pantry.

No one knew who he was or where he had come from. Altogether from a great Torah learned family from Brisk, in Lituania, in his youth he had studied with the father of Rabbi Unterman, who today is the chief rabbi of Israel. In our little town he was called “the Litwak”. All the Jews in Kutno knew him as the Litwak who did good deeds.

He requested his children to take part in the rebuilding of Israel and worked to send them all to the Holy Land. One son was away on training to emigrate to Israel. Unfortunately he never returned - that turned out because of a tragedy. The second son went to Israel in 1925 and worked there, and the whole family emigrated. And so, the dream of Mordecai Gwircman came true.

When the first Jews from Kutno appeared in Israel, he was there with his smiling face, saying: “Don't worry, we are in Israel now“, and he secretly slipped them a small sum of money. His daily life was divided into two, between the first half of the day in working because he had to make his own living, and the other half of the day he spent teaching the Torah in the Bet Midrarash [bible study hall] to the other Jews. He used to say: “Good deeds and the Torah are the best merchandise”. He always knew who needed help. Everyone who was close to him used to call him “One of the 36 righteous men, on whose worthiness the world existed”*. When he was in the hospital dying, visitors requested his “blessing”. His same fine stature with his lovely face and white beard made him look like a saint. He did not disturb any one. He went with such peacefulness.

This was one of the population of Kutno - the “Litwak”. A reader from the Torah, a prayer leader, whose prayer book was sacred.

* According to Jewish tradition, life will continue as long as there are 36 righteous men in the world.

 

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