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[Page 175]

A Friend's Wife Who is no More
(In memory of the modest woman Mrs. Etil Lavie, may her soul rest in Paradise)

by Shimshon–Dov Yerushalmi

Translated by Selwyn Rose

We were happy, my wife – May she live long – and I, when we received the information that our long–standing friend Rabbi Eliezer Lavie, may he live long, and his wife, are planning to spend Passover in Tel–Aviv.

We had it in mind to host them in our home on one of the intervening days of the festival and to exploit the opportunity for a friendly chat on days gone by that are no more, and on mutual activities that we had shared and – especially – to fulfil the commandment: “…be joyful in your festivals”.

The Eve of Passover arrived and I try to make telephone contact with my friends in order to bid them welcome and a happy Passover and confirm a day and hour for our meeting in our house. To my great surprise I heard the telephone ringing and no one answered…it was difficult to comprehend…I tried again and again and still no reply; I tried throughout the day with no success! As soon as the festival ended the following evening, I began calling again a few times and again early the following morning; it was as if the whole world was silent – no reply from the house of my friend's son–in–law Simcha Schaffrier(?)! In my heart worries began to arise…

I wrote to my friend and asked what the reason was and he hurried to explain that his wife's sudden illness had caused their plans to be cancelled. His son and his daughters and members of the family had all gone up to Jerusalem on Passover Eve to spend the Seder there, out of concern for her condition because she had been taken to hospital. He told me that according to the doctors her condition didn't give rise to concern but for all that he asked me to pray for her well–being – which I did with all my heart and soul. On Sunday, the last of the intermediate days of Passover, I spoke on the telephone with their son Alexander and what I heard from him that the patient had been transferred –not by their request but on the instructions of the doctor – to intensive care. My heart filled with worry and fear because I felt that her life was in danger. I kept my feelings to myself and prayed again for her full recovery.

Only the following day with the end of the prohibitions of the festival, I was informed that on the seventh night of Passover, the thread of her life was broken and she was brought to her rest when the festival ended (as is the custom in Jerusalem).

Our sorrow at her passing and our loss was great and the desolation of the Lavie family and our pain was that much greater that we were prevented from accompanying her and granting her our last respects at her interment!

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I see a holy obligation before me to bring forth from the treasury of my memories the way of life of this modest woman and to place them on record in “The Memorial Book of the Jews of Miechów”, the town in which she was born and lived until her immigration to Palestine.

 

First Acquaintance

Although I had constant contact for many years with my friend Rabbi Eliezer Lavie in public matters (until I left Charsznica and settled in Warsaw in 1925 and also until I immigrated to Palestine from Warsaw in 1835), I knew his family – his late wife (may she rest in Paradise), and their children (may they be spared for a long life), only from just before their immigration to Palestine (the day after Yom Kippur 1934).

We see before us a most modest woman, a woman from the generation before Hitler (Y.S), from the towns of Jewish Poland, a continuation of the generations of true Jewish life, built on the foundations of the Torah and tradition from those who absorbed within themselves the excellent attributes that blessed the daughters of Israel from generation to generation whose natural slogan was the laws of the Torah defined by their mothers and their mothers' mothers. In addition there was Jewish grace on her face and with her, her three daughters and her only son – all of them in infant school. Conspicuous among the daughters was the eldest one – Zahava (Z”L) – in her intelligent glowing eyes shone great courage and the will to perform good deeds.

When I looked upon the wife of my friend and their infant children who are now leaving their home and their family and walking “…on a land not sown” (for they had no established livelihood waiting for them), I said in my heart: “Behold a fit and good woman who does the bidding of her husband” I am reminded of the words of Jeremiah the Prophet that my friend Lipa felt obliged he had to say to the wife of his youth: “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.”[1] From the depths of our hearts we blessed them for a “successful voyage” and “a prosperous life”

 

Their first steps in Palestine

The “agonies” of immigrant absorption, the difficulties of very new immigrant were sevenfold for them. To our wonderment and the sadness of our heart, the history of his decades of public service and Zionist activity, the whole of his life's service of political activism were as if they had never been, as if they fell into the sea on the journey to Palestine and no memory remained of all his deeds and actions from his life in Poland. These activists are nourished with “promises” of delegates with their conventional cries “Come quickly!” and thus were fed my friends with different promises until he found for himself a source of sustenance – in his eyes disgusting and uncouth – and opened a restaurant “Hapo'el Ha–Mizrachi” in Ramat–Gan, for the workers who were working on construction sites in the neighbourhood.

In December 1933 my friend opened the restaurant in Ramat–Gan and his wife with her young daughters put their “shoulders to the wheel” in helping with the work – and work was not lacking…and there were plenty of needy people came to eat but unfortunately among them were many unemployed and with no money to pay. Mrs Jaskirewicz (Z”L) could not come to terms with the idea of not giving food to the hungry. She recalled the behaviour of her mother whose house was open to all the needy. She also recalled the saying: “It is a greater blessing to welcome guests than to receive the Divine Presence Himself”. Therefore she followed her mother's path and with a generous heart fed the hungry without payment. Clearly the debts began to grow and before Passover the restaurant was liquidated and they went to live in the Florentin area of Jaffa.

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The Measure of Her Hospitality

More than thirty years have passed and I still cannot free myself from the emotions she created in me that rise up when I think of her wonderful behaviour and the measure of her welcome and hospitality, the late, noble–spirited woman, and I have a heart–felt obligation to talk about it at length. When I immigrated in the spring of 1935 I had no idea where I would find a living. I lived for more than two months in Magdiel. Because Tel–Aviv was even then the center of the main institutions and the people that could help me with my arrangements were there, I would visit there a couple of times a week and sometimes sleep over. My friend Lipa (may he live long), would not let me go to any other place but insisted that I stay there with him, in his home.

I will never forget how I was received in that house or the warm welcome I received from her (may her soul rest in Paradise). How she insisted on knowing what are the dishes most tasteful to my palate and how sad she was if – heaven forbid – I should leave some of the food on my plate from the enormous quantities she piled on it: and on the days that I remained overnight in their home she provided me with the best of her daughters' beds and checked “seven times” the pillows and covers. And when I got up in the morning, she made sure that I had a cup of tea before the prayers and when I had finished the prayer everything was prepared for breakfast and thus also for the rest of the meals. More than once I thought to myself that if by chance there was a woman like her whoever it was who said: “Her eyes were not for her guests”, would most certainly change his opinion about women!..

 

The Tragic Days

I saw the grieving parents, miserable in their mourning after the loss of the “apple of their eye”, Zahava Shen–Scheinbaum (HY”D) on the premature, bitter day of 27th July 1955 when a murderous hand struck at an EL–AL aircraft and killed 58 Israeli souls from Israel and among them the excellent Daughter of Zion, Zahava, the golden–hearted, crowned with good–deeds.

The grief of these parents, whose world suddenly and cruelly became dark for them, was unlike the grief of parents. They didn't see their great tragedy as a private tragedy, a tragedy of parents who lost their first–born daughter in an air accident but they felt instinctively that on that same bitter and premature day a fit and good Daughter of Israel was sacrificed on an altar and fell victim to the hatred of Israel.

Everyone who looked at them felt what was in their heart. And thus I also saw them at the funeral and burial in Kiryat Shaul.

The mother of the deceased, may she rest in Paradise, carries in her heart in grief and sorrow the feeling that “My Zahava is one of the sacrificial martyrs of the People of Israel from before its redemption.”

 

Donation to the “Book of Remembrance”

We all know how she cared for the health and well–being of her husband, the ‘champion’ of her girlhood years, may he live long, but for all that not only could she not prevent him from working on this “Memorial Book” of the communities of Miechów Charsznica and Kshoynzh, but she encouraged him to work faster and assisted him in recalling events that occurred in his home town.

The dear modest woman, Mrs. Etil daughter of Kaila (née Mlinarski) Lavie was taken from us in an untimely fashion and very suddenly. She didn't live to see the publication of the book on which she toiled.

May these few lines serve as a memorial light to her memory, as words of encouragement and support for her husband, her son and daughters and their daughters and a source of information and knowledge to her friends esteem for her modest life and many deeds.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Jeremiah 2:ii Return


[Page 178]

Zahava Shen (HY”D)

by Dov Mokri

Translated by Selwyn Rose

I saw you Goldele Jaskirewicz

I saw you, Goldele, three years old, amusing your grandfather Menahem while sitting on his knees and clapping your little hands while singing together the song: “Patsh'n, Patsh'n, Kichelach.”[1]

When you were only four it was already impossible to cheat with you on your knowledge of the “Aleph–Bet”. I remember how it amused him – grandfather – from unfettered love for his beloved granddaughter – to “try it on” by pointing at the large letter ‘M’: on the cover of his big prayer book and saying to you: “Here is the letter ‘B’:, Goldele and his pleasure was doubled and his happiness complete when you said in contradiction: “That's the letter ‘M’: grandpa, because that's what daddy taught me!” and…Grandfather surrendered…

I saw you, Goldele with your school report at the end of each year. Even ‘good’: wasn't seen – only ‘very good’: or ‘excellent’: all the way down the page – from top to bottom. Always the most loved and the first in class.

 

I saw you, Zahava Jaskirewicz

I saw you, Zahava, as an excellent pupil in the gymnasium in Tel–Aviv; as an honor counsellor in “B'nei Akiva” and as an active member of the “Hagana”, a person of responsibility and obligation.

I saw you at your dedicated work for new immigrants as an exemplary worker in the Jewish Agency. I saw you, Zahava, arranging medical documentation for new immigrants needing special treatments. You received them while still at sea and had not yet put their feet on the Homeland. I saw you listen hard to new immigrants who knocked on your office door – each one with his own story and each story a world unto itself. With love for man and fit for the task, you assisted these needy people.

 

I saw you, Zahava Shen

I saw you, Zahava Shen, in 1949 in the arrivals lounge in New York Harbor while you waited for a couple of hours for me to arrive until it was my turn to walk off the ship. How happy you were to receive the personal greetings I brought from your parents (my uncle) from the Homeland.

I saw you in America for a few years, in the Jewish Agency. In the beginning in a modest junior position but you quickly rose up to the post of General Secretary of the Histadrut Ha–Clalit in the United States.

Your house in New York was a meeting place for writers, poets, publishers, artists and public officials for whom Hebrew was the desire of their hearts and a place to meet Israelis who were visiting the United States.

Like your father, may he be spared for a long and good life – so for you, your work hours were long and your organizing skills exceptional.

With your appearance, the Histadrut in the United States won a person whom they didn't expect, during many years, with a personality to turn the wheels of a many–branched machine.

I saw you at your daily work in your office, dealing with issues of importance and lesser importance. Nothing was left without a solution, you were realistic, and you didn't beat about the bush with those who came to you. If by chance you came up against a difficult and complicated problem, you spoke to specialists on the topic by telephone – who were registered in your phone book – and made an appointment to discuss and arrange a solution.

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Zahava Shen (Jaskirewicz)

 

You introduced order into all the branches and departments, you cleared all the dust–laden desks, both figuratively and literally and the Movement – like a machine – began to work.

All those who surrounded you took pleasure in your native “Tsabarit” Hebrew. In your company they felt as if they were actually in the State of Israel. Your personal grace, elegant and modest dress, your quiet appearance, intelligence and attentiveness charmed them all and saw you as a polished crystal shining in all directions.

I saw you in your Zionist meetings, in presentations by Israeli artists, at different congresses supporting Israel that were sometimes held in luxurious halls, in different large towns of the United State, sometimes as the organizer of the event or project; you even worried about the little pit–falls, like how many chairs on the stage and who sits where, the back–drop, flowers, the readers and musicians, the violinists and…whoever; the old veteran Zionist, who has to be brought personally and seated on the stage and so on…In your organization nothing was forgotten, everything had to work without break–downs or hitches according to the plan you had prepared – from beginning to end.

With initiative and much toil with the quivering of a saint you programmed the second “World Jewish Congress” in Jerusalem and on your flight there – in the skies above Bulgaria – they deprived you of your life and you left behind you a gaping empty void.

On the 27th July 1955 – in the skies above Bulgaria – a Socialist State, the terrible slaughter took place on an El–Al aircraft killing fifty–eight people, among them Zahava Shen, who wove for herself a wonderful life.

With the death of Zahava, adorned with a halo on her head, the crown fell from the afflicted Lavie family (Jaskirewicz).


Translator's Footnote

  1. A children's Yiddish song : “Clap hands, Clap hands, making cookies” Return


[Page 180]

In Memory of my Parents

by Eta Sherman (Née Horowitz)

Translated by Selwyn Rose

After the terror of the Holocaust, I returned to the square in our town Miechów. The tree still stood, the bench was also there. I sat there, looking round me and I saw that Nature stayed the same as it was. But our people, the Jews, were not there. If only nature could speak there is no doubt she would have much to tell. I flew in my memories to the time before the Second World War. I recalled my parents' house and all the family members who had perished.

My parents' house was a warm home. My father, Baynish Horowitz and my mother, Sarah Malka, cared much for the education of their children and their future. But at the same time they didn't forget the rest of humanity. Our home was an open house for guests and the needy, on Shabbatot and festivals, and students from the Seminary found food and shelter there. My father found his livelihood in the labor of his hands. He had a factory for knitting sweaters. In his little factory he gave help to all who needed it. Many young men learnt the work in his factory and afterwards became proficient and began to work independently. It could be said of my father that he gave help to many “An axe to grind” – a trade that gave an honest and respectable livelihood.

We were a united family. Close to each other and also we were witness to the respect and understanding between our parents.

My grandfather was also a resident of Miechów. My grandfather (my mother's father), Fishl Koplewicz, was a wealthy man trading in textiles. His house was double–storied with two yards. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. I discovered that on the day of his death, I was only small but I remember because at the time of the funeral all the Jewish factories and workshops were closed, children stopped their lessons and took part in the funeral.

Before the war my family left Miechów and moved to Łódź but with the outbreak of the Holocaust where everyone sought shelter, the family returned to Miechów. From there, together with all their friends and families, they went along that terrible road from which they didn't return.

May their memories be for a blessing.

 

The Names of the Family Members:

Father of the family, Baynish Horowitz; the mother, Sarah Malka; the children: Kayla, Baler Hinda, Yitzhak (living in New York), Sheyndil, Eta (Sherman, Ramat–Gan), Esther, Anszel.


Yona Friedrich (Z”L)
Thirty days after his death

by Moshe Spiegel

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Yona (Z”L) came from a special breed, whose mission in life is to help the weak, who cannot find the strength within themselves the basis on which to build their future.

He displayed a blessed initiative and resourcefulness of helping the needy. He encouraged them, showed them ways of how to get out of their difficult situations, and worried endlessly without reward to raise them up, both spiritually and materially.

[Page 181]

Yona (Z”L) didn't worry about the money that he had amassed during the years from his excellent and healthy business sense – even in the worst years – in order to help the needy. In that, he walked in the way of his father, Abramke (Z”L) who was known for the generosity of his donations.

Yona (Z”L) was conspicuously known and famous during the Hitler days when he was seen as the savior of the Miechów Jews in the Second World War, in the labor and concentration camps through which he passed and acted. Płaszów, Auschwitz and Mauthausen were the stations where his name was mentioned in awed respect by those who received help, support and sustenance from him in different ways; he dedicated all his time to helping humanity over a broad range of activities and in doing so, endangered his own life more than once.

On a few occasions he was sentenced to death by the S.S. and commandants of the German camps and only by a miracle did he manage to evade falling into the Arms of Death. But all his strength and connections couldn't help him when at a defining moment he was unable to save his own distinguished parents and sister Mania from the clutches of death and they were sent to the extermination camp of Bełżec where they perished.

It remains to us to declare in respectful and decisive awe on this thirtieth day of his death: Here is buried an important branch from the ancient trunk of the Friedrich–Spiegel family that understood that the aim of Man's life is the traditional Jewish precept: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

May he rest in peace.


Moshe Sabotka (Z”L)

by Arieh Sheintal

Translated by Selwyn Rose

My first encounter with Moshe Sabotka (Z”L) was when I was still a youth. It was in his home town of Nasiechowice, near Miechów, where my father (Z”L) worked for a while as a forestry scribe in the area where the forests were rented out by my grandfather (Z”L).

On one of the mornings of the Succoth festival – a beautiful end of summer morning – my big brother and I accompanied our father to a near–by village for a public prayer service. The fruit orchards around us were ripening and the dark forests filled our hearts, city youths that we were, with limitless joy, and while we were still walking on the paths through the ripening wheat and on fields of stubble, I picked up the sound of festival prayers coming on the air. To my amazement my father smiled broadly and told us to hurry up and we immediately saw in front of us a group of singers – Shlomo–Yosef Sabotka and his sons – sitting and waiting for us at the side of the path. Apparently Shlomo–Yosef who acted as prayer–reader in the village prayer quorum, used the time while waiting for us to practice his prayer–rendering and his children accompanied him full–voice…that meeting is etched firmly in my memory because of the powerful impression the “choir” made on us. The father was a dignified–featured man, his white beard flowing down to his chest, but the general effect of his face, his sparkling eyes like the eyes of a young boy and his sons – three tall youths – amazed us with their happiness and their glowing faces.

Later it became clear to us that Shlomo–Yosef, whose livelihood came from a small village shop, was head and shoulders above the rest of the Jews in the surrounding villages in his knowledge of the Talmud and Torah, and more than once we were amazed how a Jew like him became rooted in such a small out–of–the–way village. Our hearts – the hearts of youths – trained by the education within the gloomy walls of the “Heder”, took to Shlomo–Yosef with

[Page 182]

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Moshe Sabotka

 

his good nature and especially his proverbs and legendary stories and homilies that come out of his mouth. And indeed a man of homilies he really was and when, later, I came up against the writings of H.N. Bialik and his “Enlightenment” and “Legends” the image of Shlomo–Yosef as a symbol of the illuminating side of the Talmud appeared before me.

His bright face and pleasant temperament he bequeathed to his eldest son – to Moshe. Moshe was then a young man of about 19, shy in older company but open and free among his contemporaries and those younger than himself, he displayed friendship, spread over us his patronage and protected us from the ruffians of the village who used to stick out their tongue at us.

We didn't remain in the village for a long time, but all the time we were with Moshe and his brother. These two, for whom the ways of nature and her secrets were clear, wanted with all their might to introduce us to her secrets. With the urgent desire they spread her secrets before us, on the number of species, and their treasures as if they were their creation. Knee injuries, clothes torn we walked after them for long days in fields and forests. We waded through cold pools and streams, ran after rabbits, climbed trees looking for birds' nests and went down valleys to the dens of wolves and foxes. We gorged ourselves on fruit from gardens and forest and slaked our thirst to the full – the thirst of city boys caged all the year round – from drinking the nature that appeared before us to such an unexpected degree.

It was no wonder that we quickly became attached to Moshe with all our heart – the heart of a youth yearning for love – not only because his extensive knowledge of the treasures of garden and forest and not because of his good temperament but essentially because his fortitude and courage in confronting the ruffians of the village. They feared him but mostly liked him and befriended him and us, although we weren't used to it we were surprised at the display of friendship from the side of Christians from the village towards him. Wherever we

[Page 183]

went we were received in friendship because of his gaiety which overflowed, In spite of our youthful wonderment, it was not difficult for us to discern in the longing looks the girls in the village threw in the direction of the tall Jewish youth.

About two or three weeks after Succoth we returned home to town and that short period remained engraved in my memory as one of the nicest times in my life and not only because of the pleasures I had but because of the wonderful friendship I had with Moshe which captured my heart in such an illuminating fashion – and not only me: when I visited my elder brother a few years ago in one of the south American countries he told me he frequently thinks of those same wonderful weeks in Nasiechowice and reminds himself of Moshe with much affection as a hero of his youth.

My second meeting with Moshe Sabotka (Z”L) was about 20 years later. One Shabbat he appeared at my apartment in Hadar Ha–Carmel in Haifa with his wife and two sons. The years and the woes of life had taken their toll – he was no longer the shy young man running after rabbits. Before me stood a man at the peak of his power, his face furrowed, the gaiety of his youth dimmed but still evident in him was his good humor and bright face and we quickly reestablished the friendship that lasted until the day of his death.

His adaptation to the conditions in Palestine was astonishing in spite of the difficulties that faced him. These were the ‘Thirties’:, the years of bloody disturbances and work was not easy to find. He made do with little and his physical strength stood him in good stead in the first years of his absorption during which he earned a bare living digging drainage ditches and foundations for buildings. Compressors were not yet seen in the country and the diggers were forced to pierce the rock–laden earth and stand bent over in the ditches for long hot hours. He worked for quite a long period at that arduous toil without a hint of bitterness or anger. To his wife, who was a worry for him, he answered with a laugh and assured her that he was happy with his lot and he accepted with love all the hardships he had to endure to integrate into the Homeland.

Later he left the digging work; he managed to acquire a horse and cart and transported various loads through “the ups and downs” of Haifa. That work was not easy either. The blood–riots concentrated in those times in the lanes and alleys of Haifa where he lived, but Moshe was happy with his lot, he never disclosed his fear and did his work throughout the bombings and shootings that went on around him.

With the improvement of the economic situation in the country he was able to free himself of the work and acquired a truck, at first with a partner, afterwards alone and became a road–haulage contractor for which there was a plentitude of work opportunities.

It was now that the full extent of his kindness and good–heartedness found its full expression. He answered every request, whether for charity or to lend assistance with a loan and was a guarantor for many. To the shy and hesitant to ask, he would encourage by saying: “You, the new immigrants, they won't give loans because they don't know you, but me, they know.” His home was open to everyone and many came and found shelter until they found something and even though his own apartment was modest – just two rooms, a family of three souls stayed with him for about a year until they found something. With the increase in immigration, that also brought some of his own family, he would supply them with kitchen and cooking utensils and with his simplistic goodness of heart would say: “First of all a man must employ his wife in cooking so that there will be something for him to eat; when he eats, happiness will spread round him in his home; the Holy radiance will not shine on a man when sadness rules him.”

These were the nature of the man and his deeds and everything in modesty and a happy face.

During this entire period I met with him and knew that his good temperament was now hidden behind the experiences and wisdom taught by life that the expressions were moderate and patient and characteristic and because of which he was loved by all who knew him or dealt with him through his work.

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His pride was his two sons – tall youths, like him – who turned out to be fine intelligent scholars and, as it seemed to me, improved for him his lot in life.

He said once – at the beginning of his driving career – on his lack of driving experience on the roads: If I were alone on the roads I wouldn't worry – the problem is that I'm not alone there are others on the road as well, it's getting hit by them that bothers me. And in saying that, he was prophesying without knowing it – being hit by “one of the others”. At the end of 1947, disaster struck him with all its force. His young son, Elimelech, a youth nearing 17 years of age, fell victim to a traitorous murderer at the Haifa oil refinery.

From that day, when his beloved son died, the man began to decline. Although he didn't lose his good temperament and in time his cheerful spirits revived but his soul within him wept secretly. On passing the cemetery on the way in to Haifa he would leave the driver's cab and unite with the grave of his son. It was not difficult to notice this was not the same bright, Moshe.

Thus passed seven years in which he succeeded materially. He also left the transport industry and opened an ice–making factory with a partner but his heart wasn't in it, until his illness struck him down and within a few days he left us distraught.

Moshe Sabotka (Z”L) was a gentle person, having natural nobility and transcendental simplicity. His good nature, street–sense and moderation blended together in his personality and made him an exemplary friend.

He passed away when only fifty–five years old.


Elimelech Sabotka (HY”D)

by Arieh Sheintal

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Moshe and Hadassah's son (May she be spared for a long and good life), Elimelech, was born in October 1931. After finishing school at “Netzach Yisrael” he continued to complete his education at the Haifa Technion.

He was a member of the Scout Movement for many years and a leader in it. A few months before his death he became an apprentice in the Haifa Oil Refineries and in spite of his young age fulfilled competently his functions there in security issues.

He perished in the terrible slaughter that took place there, perpetrated by Arab workers on 30th December 1947. He was among those who valiantly stood their ground at the cost of their lives.

I knew him, I saw his growth.

I saw the child, the character of the young lad, how it changed and flowered in all its glorious youthful grace. I recall the steadfast erect growth, his sunburned face illuminated by his blue eyes. I followed his spiritual development and knew the hope growing in his parents' heart for their eldest son.

While he was still a young lad one could sense the excellent qualities – energy, discipline, responsibility and especially – love: of his parents, the Homeland for his people and for all mankind.

He paid with his body and soul, life enchanted him and his spirit longed for the future and on the threshold of it all, it was curtailed by villains.


[Page 185]

Childhood Memories

by Reuven Getzel (Levitt)

Translated by Selwyn Rose

I grew up in a traditional religious but not strictly Haredi home. My mother was orthodox and strictly guarded all the laws of Kashrut and festivals in her management of the home – in all their precise details. She fasted on all the fast–days without exception but was liberal and tolerant in her attitude towards others. She often quoted her favorite maxim: “It is not my world, and therefore I am obliged to ensure that order triumphs.” In that she excelled in her attitude towards her children. “I must try to give them instruction and teach them the correct way in which to walk, but they are also individuals in their own right and have the right to decide for themselves how to behave.” Each of us tried not, Heaven forbid, to hurt our mother. If we did something that was against her world view, we tried to ensure she was not made aware of it. Not out of fear but only to save her pain and disappointment. Father was the opposite; he demanded from us complete submission and to the laws and customs. He reacted severely and with a heavy hand and not with ears like our mother. He sometimes demanded and sometimes shouted and our mother cried and defended us. With the passage of time may father was also influenced by my mother and her ways and became more tolerant.

When my brother and I grew and matured our home became something of a club–house for the best of the town's youth: Manik Katzengold, Simcha Zibenburg, Wolf Blady, Itzik Scheinfrucht, and all the Bursteins took part in it. There were stormy arguments on all the problems facing the world. Every new book that appeared in the world, every new movement, every interesting phenomenon, social or cultural, from every corner of the world – earned a reaction from us.

For a short period I studied under Abele Malamud. Later on I transferred to the “Heder” of Yesheyahu–Shmuel Hirschenhorn who in spite of his orthodoxy excelled in his broad horizons and peeked also in books on Haskala and learning. His attitude to the Hebrew language was also positive. From his class I moved to the “Heder” of Yechiel, a righteous man but orthodox and conformist.

After I had spent a short time studying Gemara and Parshanut[1] I began to dream about a general education. I was joined by two others of about my age: Mordecai Rafaelowicz and Itcha Kornfeld, and we began studying. We received full value for our money from the teachers of the Government Gymnasium for the lessons we had in all the subjects. They prepared all three of us for examination to the sixth grade of the gymnasium. The nights turned into days: we studied between 20–22 hours a day. From the three of us I was the only one to pass and I was accepted by the gymnasium. I remember my father's great pleasure when he heard that I had passed the examinations, His face beamed with happiness and pride. An interesting and typical fact: all my life I dressed in the traditional clothing; a caftan, and kippa. When I attended the examinations I made an agreement with the building's guard: I went in dressed in my usual clothes and left them with him in the cellar changing into a normal jacket and went upstairs for the examinations. When I was finished, I went downstairs and changed my clothes and went home dressed as Jew.

After the gymnasium I registered with the High School for Commercial Studies in Krakow on Szpitalna Street but I think I stopped almost as soon as I started owing to the death of my mother.

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In 1947 I immigrated to Palestine from Italy. I had received an immigration certificate from my brother, Yantshe, in Italy, under a fictitious name.

My father took an active part in the social life of the town. He was a member of the Municipal Council, and I think also for a time a “Labnik”. He belonged to the advisory council of a Polish bank and later was a member of the management of a Jewish bank, served for many years as a member on the board of the Jewish Community and for several years was the chairman of it.

My mother, although she took no part in the social life of the town, was very welcome at all their activities because of her pleasant personality and easy friendly greeting to everyone she met. She supported everyone in need to the utmost of her ability. I recall that at her funeral there were many local Christians. It was a very rare phenomenon. From an economic point of view my parents were considered to be “middle–class” and sometimes even “upper–class”. There were ups and downs which were fairly drastic. More than once father felt the vise closing in on him but managed somehow to hang on. But throughout all the crises that hit them their spirits never fell and they always behaved and acted honorably.

From the days after the First World War several events are etched in my memory: The end of hostilities and the Polish army groups that took over the Government, The appearance of the Sztrelcy[2] and snipers who arrived from Krakow under the leadership of Józef Piłsudski, riding a small horse and in the middle of “The Rink” delivering his speech calling to the youth to join the “Sokolim” and fight shoulder to shoulder for the liberation of Poland; the laying down of arms by the Polish military organizations at the end of the war against the soldiers and officers of the Austrian army and their Allies their hasty retreat.

An important event is deeply etched on my memory and my heart from that period – the riots against the Jews that took place from the 1st–3rd May, 1919 (see the monograph in this book commencing at p. 115).

When the terrible days had passed a feeling that we had not earlier expected took hold, grew and became strengthened. We did not at that time feel any immediate and real threat to our lives, but that dark acute feeling, and the pain in the heart! Why? Why are we condemned to live like dogs? And why can't we and why don't we want to change our lives, that they should be more human? Will we be forever beaten and humiliated and grateful to those who hold the whip–hand but don't use it on our backs? Will we never wake up, rise up and build our Homeland and not be abandoned by every evil wind that blows? Is this really us? And by what right do we protest that we are “The Chosen People”? Insulted, burnt, sinning for which there is no discernable atonement.

The following day we began to leave our hiding places. We kept close to the walls of the houses like beaten dogs, daring to escape the whips of their masters, with shame and ignominy in our hearts. When we met our Christian neighbors we dropped our gaze as if it were we who were guilty while they faced us with a derisive smirk on their lips and mockery in their eyes.

Master of the Universe, Until when?

But that was just a foretaste of the Holocaust itself; a forewarning of the great pogrom to come that was perpetrated during World War Two in which my family perished.

And these are the members of my family who perished and died the death of Holy Martyrs:

  1. My sister Faygle Goldsobel of Lublin: Her husband was a member of the Judenrat. He was known as being guiltless and innocent with a G–d–fearing heart. The Gestapo at first demanded from him 400 listed Jews for labor at the beginning of his membership. He gave them what they demanded. After a week they came to him again with the same demand.
[Page 187]
    He asked them: “Where are the 400 Jews I gave you last week?” the reply: “That's none of your business.” To which he replied: “I will not give you any more people until the first group is returned.” As a reply to that “Chutzpah”, he was taken out the following morning into the town center and shot by a firing squad. My sister was unable to overcome the tremendous shock and lost her reason. She died in her madness on the streets of Lublin.
  1. My brother, Ephraim–Yosef from Kielce didn't want to go for resettlement and was shot in his house together with his wife who joined him. The children a son and daughter, were taken to one of the camps where they perished.
  2. My sister, Bluma–Rachel from Bialystok together with her husband Avraham Grossfeld was taken to the camps with their young son, Haim, and there they all perished. Their son, Yosef, jumped from the cattle–truck on the way to the camp and was shot and killed by one of the German guards. Their third son died the death of a hero during the Bialystok ghetto uprising.
  3. My wife, Tsila with my daughter, Miriam–Hadassah, was taken to Auschwitz together with many Jews from Bialystok. There, the Germans wanted to take the children from the mothers on the pretext that they were creating a kindergarten for the children. The mothers refused with all their might because they knew what awaited them, so the Germans took the 700 mothers and the children straight to the crematoria where, fully conscious they were all consigned to the flames.
  4. My brother, Moshe was taken to a labor camp. There he became a “Musselman”, was transferred to an extermination camp in Upper Silesia, Ustzyca, where he died a short while before the liberation.
  5. My brothers, Yechiel and Avraham, hid in a bunker on the land of a Christian in Działoszyce. When their money ran out the Christian stopped providing them with food. When the hunger began to trouble them too much, the younger one, Avraham, decided to go out looking for something. He was seen by a “sheygetz” who followed him stealthily until he returned to the hiding–place and then. informed the Nazi authorities. They came and fell upon the fugitives, taking them both for execution before a cheering mob witnessing the event in Działoszyce.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Holy writ interpretations Return
  2. Riflemen Return


Shimshon Dov Yerushalmi

by Shmuel Berger [1]

Translated by Selwyn Rose

On 18th July 1967 our dear president, Mr. Shimshon Dov Yerushalmi (Z”L) died quite suddenly. We lost at that moment a very dear man, a man, who for 23 years from the day of the founding of the association, dedicated his whole being and energies to, and for the sake of, his friends. He left us suddenly in the midst of the very days he was deeply involved in preparing this memorial book for publication to which he devoted his last days and the best of his strength and energy. Not only did he work on the material himself but he hastened all of us along as well: “It's a pity for each lost day without advancing. We have to get it finished. We can't take our time. Who knows what is waiting for us?” We didn't know, although we well knew that he was ill and prayed for his wellbeing constantly and hoped that he would yet live many days and continue in his blessed work for years. But Fate decided otherwise.

Shimshon Dov Yerushalmi was born in Kaminka, Ukraine (Kiev County) in 1882 to his father, Moshe Nahum Yerushalmi (Father of the Beit–Din) Dakmona Osstrolonka and Kielce and his mother Rivka the daughter of Yona Rosenblum Makrilow (Volhyn County). He received his general education from excellent teachers well–versed in Hebrew and traditional Judaism, from his father who was a genius in his knowledge of Judaism and Torah. His house was a meeting place for the intelligentsia.

[Page 188]

mie188.jpg
Shimshon Dov Yerushalmi (Z”L)

 

In 1913 he married Tovar the daughter of Mordecai Ha–Levi Greitzer from Miechów–Charsznica, a family well–known to us all. Even at that early date, he was interested in what was happening in Palestine and in 1925 he acquired, in the name of “The Miechów Group” a plot of land of 500 dunams in Afula from the “American Zionist Community”. In 1910 he accompanied his father on a journey to a rabbinical Council in St. Petersburg in which the greatest of the Rabbis of the era took part. At that Council, and at the age of only 18 years, he was given the post of secretary to the Polish Rabbinical faction. At that council too, he took his very first steps in public activity. He was a member of the Jewish Community Council in Miechów. Later he became one of the Board of Trustees of the Hebrew School in Warsaw. He was a member of the Zionist Organization, a member of the editorial board of the Zionistische Blätter, founded by Yitzhak Gruenbaum, the representative of the Foundation Fund in Poland, in the central Palestine Office, a member of the Central Election Committee for the Zionist Congresses, and manager of the information department of the Foundation Fund. He immigrated in 1935. He took part in the foundation of the Association of Zionist Activists, “Brit Harishonim”, and elected as honorary member of its internal court. He acted as manager of the “Society of ex–Students” of the Hebrew University and managed its social activities until the end of 1948. He was a member of the Cultural Committee of the General Zionist Organization and a member of its Civilian Guard from its founding; He also worked in the State Comptroller's Office. When he retired he busied himself writing on the different branches public service until the day of his death. To all these activities, in which he took part, whether private, public or cultural he dedicated his entire being, strength and energies.

He was meticulous by nature and everything he did he performed faithfully. If he accepted any mission or task it would be carried through meticulously with amazing perfection.

[Page 189]

I knew the man for about 5–6 years, from active work in the Association. Every single meeting and encounter with the departed – and they were not many – was for me an experience in itself. From the moment I crossed the threshold of his home, I felt homely warmth that I hadn't felt in the days of my youth. With the opening of the door I was received with heart–warming sincerity by my host and his wife Tova, May she be spared for a long and good life, and you are immediately asked about your welfare and your family members. They always sympathized with you and gave good advice. That welcome and the personal interest in everything concerning you, is most touching; at those moments I stood my own home – the home of my parents. The furniture of their home reminded me of the furniture of a typical Jewish home that has gone and exists no more. From this point onwards you enter into a conversation of event of today – and that meant the topic of the Memorial Book committee. On reading the material I was astounded at his analytical ability and his healthy reasoning, his to–the–point observations ( in spite of the fact that I not always agreed with them). But above all he showed himself to be a noble person, warm–hearted and glad to be of help to everyone. He was, in effect, the “father of the organization”, the father of his comrades – the Holocaust–survivors. Whoever turned to him received good advice and he, himself, helped his fellow citizens by way of his many connections with the military and government personalities. For every problem that arose in the organization, he it was that decided and to him we turned with every argument. All the correspondence in the organization was, in practice, under his supervision and in the composition of letters he had no competitors. In the early years of the work he wondered a bit and had a little doubt as to whether we would really succeed in publishing the book. But with time, when the project began to gather flesh on the skeleton and the material for the book began to flow – articles, memoirs, photographs and documents – and especially that same day when the contract was signed between us and Yad Va–Shem, Mr. Yerushalmi became harnessed to the project and during the last period of his life he worked on the preparation of the book indefatigably and we had many conversations on all the problems connected with it. More than once I withstood significant criticism and a lively argument developed – sometimes he accepted my view and admitted I was right. Since I knew his expertise in the material was excellent and the experience he had acquired in editing many books of a similar nature, I insisted with him that he write a few of the main articles for the book, among them on Charsznica, on the activities of the council and others.

As I indicated above, Mr. Yerushalmi never did things by halves and if he became attached to a project he followed through with every part of his being and invested all his energies. He read all the articles and monographs and corrected their style. Made observations and comments, and returned several time to specific articles, such as that of Eliezer Lavie to which he added a number of details which he had himself researched the sources. It was not easy for him and several times he was forced to stop his work through weakness. In the middle of the article on the activities of the Council, a topic on which he had amassed considerable material from official minutes and the exchange of letters, he was taken from us.

From his public work one can see a characteristically clear line that was special to him and was his guiding principle: he always connected his public work with his cultural activities. That line, in his activities for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is clearly conspicuous for on that same day in 1925 he was appointed President of the Committee organizing the official dedication ceremony in Miechów for the opening of the University. During the following years his connections with the Hebrew college never ceased. He well knew the value of Hebrew culture and wanted with all his might to forward the development of the University and its growth. As mentioned, the Jews of Miechów celebrated the consecration and opening of the Hebrew University in the town's synagogue in April 1925. That same day all work ceased in town and all the Jews in Miechów and Charsznica and representatives of the Polish authorities gathered together in the synagogue. There was a moment during that ceremony that I will never forget – the late Mr. Yerushalmi, President of the Committee for Organizing the Ceremony for the opening of the University took the dais in front of the Ark held his gold watch in his hand announced in a raised and emotional voice: “Gentlemen, the time is now twelve noon and they are declaring open The Hebrew University of Jerusalem at this time on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem. Long live the Hebrew University and let it be to the glory and splendor of our people for all the generations.” To his credit we must also record the presence, in Jerusalem of a delegation from Miechów, bearing in their hands a vellum parchment signed by all the representatives of the town and when the

[Page 190]

time comes to write the Memorial Book we will remember the late gentleman in the scroll and turn to the archivists of the University in Jerusalem and request a photograph of the document as a symbol of perpetuating his memory in the Memorial Book.

He had the privilege to see his son Yesheyahu study at the university and with him a number of other students from Miechów who graduated with academic degrees.

On 24th July 1970 a gala festival was held celebrating the 50th year since the laying of the foundation stone of the University in the presence of the President, members of the Knesset, professors and Mr. Arthur Goldberg who received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy. While sitting in the amphitheater on Mount Scopus together with my wife, I was reminded of the multitudinous activities on behalf of the university by the departed. At that moment, standing before me, I saw the image of the man who did not live to take part in this commemoration of the University to which he had contributed the best years of his life.

In Israel he functioned for an extended period as manager of the Society of the Hebrew University Alumni in Tel–Aviv and as I indicated he combined the collection of funds for its development with cultural work among the citizens of the town. Similarly he arranged for University lessons in the national University. This was only one example of his public work that is known to me and we all know the extent of all his other activities. There was no project or institution in the context of rebuilding the Homeland in which he did not play some active role. Similarly he had a hand in all fields of activity in the World Zionist Organization. His connections with the leaders of Polish Jewry – Yitzhak Gruenbaum and other leaders, were firm and deep up until his last moments.

With the death of Mr. Yerushalmi a distinguished leader of our organization has been taken from us, a spiritual and practical leader, noble–spirited, loved by all of us and loving every man, happy to help wherever and whenever he could with unflagging vigor, pleasant to talk with, good–hearted, his home open to all. He sought after justice all his life and was uncompromising. Intelligent and infused with the Jewish spirit, broadly educated, a writer and journalist, he published many articles and monographs and conducted serious research into the history of the Holocaust and wrote much on the topic.

Lost to us is a man head and shoulders above his fellows. We will never forget him. His extensive, diverse blessed activities, endless infinite deeds, within and without our organization he illuminated our path as an exemplary symbol to every one of us and will be an example to us and to our children for all generations.

May his memory be blessed.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Eulogy delivered on the annual anniversary of the Association 15th Elul 5728 Return


Miechów Types

By Shmuel Khazan

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Even though he never had a good voice, he was unique as a preacher. His way of reciting the prayers was easy, as he simply talked with God. In his later years he prayed with such ecstasy that even the non–pious eagerly listened to him. With his ecstatic praying during the Days of Awe, reciting Kol Nidre [opening Yom Kippur prayer] and especially Neilah [closing Yom Kippur prayer] when everyone already was tired from fasting the entire day, when few people really understood the exact sense of the prayers, he so heartily conversed with the loving God that by stretching the point he wanted to give the ruffians an understanding of the prayer.

[Page 191]

Shmuel Khazan [cantor] was the first Khazan in the only synagogue located in the shtetl [town]; the second Khazan was the new shoykhet [ritual slaughterer]. By the way, he was called “the new shoykhet” when he already had been the shoykhet for many years. The name remained until, alas, he perished at the hands of the German murderers.

The new shoykhet always prayed Shakhres [morning prayers] and Shmuel Khazan the musofim [supplemental prayers on the Sabbath and holidays]. All his life, Shmuel Khazan had a poor, small shop on Krakower Street. He also was an extremely poor man for his entire life, but despite this he always was satisfied because according to him this was the will of the dear God. His naïveté was so great that when someone entered his store and asked for an article that he actually did not have – the store was almost always empty – he told a customer, “Wait a little, I will run to Działoszyce and I will bring it to you.” Działoszyce was 20 kilometers from Miechów.

 

Shmuel Pravda

He was really named Shmuel Fridenberg. He was a grain merchant, one of the largest in the shtetl. After the First World War, he and his son–in–law and partner, Shmuel Almer, bought Shmelke Kacengold's house where he built his own large warehouse in the courtyard in which he also had machines to clean the grains and seeds. At the time this was great progress.

His nickname Pravda came from this: when he had travelled to Działoszyce every Sunday to the fair to buy grains and seeds, he would arrive there very early when everyone must look for a [bathroom] and earlier there was only one such institution for the entire shtetl in Działoszyce. It was near the synagogue and when Shmuel Pravda emptied himself there, the first minyon [10 men required for prayer] already was reciting a loud Shemoneh Esrei [central prayer recited three times a day] and, when it was time to say “amen,” each time he said a loud “Pravda” which is vor, truth, in the Polish language. He was such a naïve man that in his understanding one had to say “amen” and one must not use the holy language in such an unclean place, so he used the word in Polish. The people who were also there then heard this and from this he remained with the nickname Pravda for his entire life. Few people in the shtetl know that his real name was Fridenberg.

 

Chaim Lewit

There were two men in Miechów who by chance were named Chaim Lewit. The two Lewits were not from the same family. Chaim Lewit from Działoszice Street was known as Chaim Shel Osher [Chaim of Wealth] and the second Chaim Lewit from Shul Street was named Chaim Shel Khovod [Chaim of Honor].

The two names were based on the fact that one of them was well–to–do, but a boor, and the other one

[Page 192]

was more educated and raised very genteel, successful and intelligent children.

Chaim Shel Osher would always ask me: “How can the Polish newspaper Kurier Codzienny na Jutro [Daily Courier for Tomorrow] know what will happen tomorrow to print today? The Polish words “na Jutro,” mean “for tomorrow” and after all my explanations, he did not under this.

 

Alter Warszawki

He was the richest man in the shtetl, but a miser who was not beloved. He owned the large mechanized mill in partnership with Avraham Sercacz and Henech Kajzer. It was called “Marimont.” Alter Warszawski's mentality was such that when he was satisfied with an official he would always rebuke him saying that he was a bad official, untrustworthy and that he would like to be rid of him. He did this especially so that the official would not feel important. And on the contrary, when he had a bad official, he always praised him, saying that he is a very successful and reliable person so that he would be rid of him quickly.


The Lazar Family

by Rafael Mlinarski

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

a. The Father

The Jewish community perished along with their doctor, Moshe (Maurici) Lazar. He was born in 1895; graduated from his studies in 1926. He practiced as an internist and gynecologist in Charsznica and Miechów; he committed suicide in Kielce in 1942.

 

b. The Son

Friday, September 4, 1942. Total deportation of our town. We gather near the synagogue and march to the train station. I will not forget the joy of the Poles while we were led to the train station by the Nazis; and I will not forget the Poles who found an 8-year-old boy in the town and brought him to the train station too. This boy was the son of the physician Dr. Lazar who, together with his wife, had committed suicide on the deportation day. Women, children, old people – sent to who-knows-where…

 

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