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[Page 187]

Yiddish Section

[Pages 188-189]

R' Leybush Halshtok of Blessed Memory

by Iser Boymfeld, Rio de Janerio

Translated by Tina Lunson

R' Leybush Halshtok z”l of Ostrovtse was my faithful friend, from whom I learned a great deal. In the last days of the year 1916 I left the Ger prayer–room where I had prayed and engaged in serious study for a long time. Having separated from the Ger shtibl, I was in search of a new subject in life.

During that time we founded the “Mizrakhi” in Ostrovtse. R' Leybush may he rest in peace threw himself heart and soul into that work. It was thanks

[Page 189]

to him the “Mizrakhi” in Ostrovtse grew day by day and was admired by all levels of the Jewish population in town.

In the summer months, R' Leybush z”l taught “Pirkey oves” [Ethics of the Fathers] on shabes afternoons with a large group in the local “Mizrakhi” venue, and later also “Ayn yakov” and every Wednesday evening he taught a chapter of Mishne [commentaries]. It turned out, however, that the local “Mizrakhi” was too small and could not accommodate the large crowd that streamed in to hear the lectures.

Without another alternative we had to transfer the lectures to the new bes–medresh [study–house]. But the “Agudas shlomey emuney yisroel” could not tolerate that , and they did everything possible to disrupt his work. They attacked him at every opportunity, everywhere, whenever possible.

R' Leybush z”l was head of the rabbinic court in Ostrovtse – his only bit of livelihood, from which he could barely support his household. Because of the attacks he was forced to resign from his office at the rabbinic court. A few months later they came to beg him to take the post again, and with that they ensured him that the lectures under his leadership, through “Mizrakhi”, could again take place in the new bes–medresh without disruption. And only then was he willing to take up the post as head of the court.

R' Leybush Halshtok was born in Kalish in 1884 and studied for many years in the kheyders and yeshives there. Later he married [a woman from] Ostrovtse and settled there. He was a close relative of the Ostrovtse Rebi, R' Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi Halshtok z”l. He was known as a great Talmud sage and was called on for difficult decisions. He was secretary of the “Mizrakhi” for a long time and was the head of Jewish education. For a certain time he was also active as a member of the community council as a representative of the religious Jews. He was a social activist, beloved by all levels of the Jewish population and even his political opponents from various camps had great respect for him. He took care to see that his children were educated in the national–traditional spirit.

He was taken away with the first deportation in 1943 and went the last way with all the murdered Ostrovtse Jews.

Honor his memory!


[Pages 189-190]

Ruben and Khay'ele Shpilman of Blessed Memory

by Yehude and Mordkhe Rozenberg

Translated by Tina Lunson

Rubele Shpilman was a personality in Ostrovtse and the surrounding area. Everyone who knew him respected him greatly and he was beloved by all, both Jews and Christians.

 

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Besides being a talented musician Rubele was also a very successful music teacher – among his pupils were great musicians who played in the Warszawa and Lodz philharmonic orchestras. A few of this students were later well–known in other fields in public life, like Minister Berner for example.

On the anniversary of Poland's liberation, Rubele conducted his orchestra along with the cantor and his choir in the great shul, in a performance attended by highly–placed government officials and all were inspired by it.

It was a great honor, really an experience, to be able to have Rubele Shpilman and his sons and grandchildren play for a simkhe.

Although Rubele was beloved in the Christian circles he strictly observed yiddishkayt. It happened more than once that a Christian group waited respectfully for the end of shabes, for the appearance of the stars, for Rubele and his orchestra because they knew that Rubele would not begin playing before then. Sometimes it happened that he interrupted his playing and went to a far corner where he stood praying minkhe or mayrev.

Rubele Shpilman and his wife Khay'ele lived well and modestly until the outbreak of the war and the Nazi murderers marched into the shtetl.

His wife Khay'ele had died before the war. For years before her death she had been secretary of the local women's union, which had very much helped the needy. She was clever and many people went to her to consult her about problems in the family and other of life's questions. With her great wisdom and deep understanding of human life dilemmas, she would help to properly evaluate the situation and so comprehend the background of their problems and somehow find a solution to them.

Here is one of many cases in which Khay'ele Shpilman solved the problems of the needy: On the tree–lived boulevard, near the bridge by the Greletskes, lived a poor and sick tailor, Meyshele, with his whole family in a wooden shack. This was in 1928 during the terrible freezes, and Khay'ele Rubele's – as we lovingly called her – found out about that family's unfortunate situation, and that they were hungry and sat through those freezes in the cold wooden shack. She sent her daughters Rokhtshe and Khantshe to give them fur coats and other warm clothing and told them to bring the children and the whole family to her home. She settled the family in her large salon, fed them and clothed them until after the freezes.

With that gesture of virtuous humanity Khay'ele aroused the pity of a group of people who donated and collected a certain sum of money and rented an apartment for that poor family from Erlikh the photographer. The inspiration was so large that they did not have to hire a wagon to move the family's belongings but carried their few poor possessions on their own backs to their new home.

On the first transport from the shtetl to the gas chambers, Rubele Shpilman and other Jews from the town passed by his fine house on the boulevard; under his arm he carried the violin that had accompanied him his whole life and created so much joy and happiness, and much honor and esteem.

Now that violin is silenced and its player has walked his last path…

May their memory be sanctified!


[Pages 196-198]

Ostrovtse Barber–Surgeons

by Mayer Blankman

Translated by Tina Lunson

The Beynerman Dynasty

The first Jewish barber–surgeon in Ostrovtse that I remember, was Alter Beynerman. I do not know why, but in town we used to call him, “Alter Buliok”.

A robust, broad–shouldered Jew, fleshy and with a fine trimmed beard, and always with a fat cigar in his mouth. And he spoke with a thick bass voice. That's how he remains in my memory. The Jews in Ostrovtse trusted him greatly and he was no less popular with the Christian population.

As Alter said, so people did and nothing other. Even when a Jew in town was so sick that he had to go Doctor Malinger, people still first asked the advice of Alter as to whether they should take the medicine that Dr. Malinger had prescribed. And there were cases in which Alter advised, “I say you do not take this medicine. I will prescribe something else.” And people did put aside the medicine that the doctor had prescribed and took the one that Alter Beynerman had prescribed. That is how great the trust was in him among the Jewish masses in Ostrovtse and especially among the Jewish women.

And to whom did people go when they had a tooth–ache and a swollen cheek if not to Alter Buliok? At that time in Ostrovtse they did not know about dentists and filling a pitted tooth. With a swollen cheek one ran immediately to Alter and he did not any hesitate before he gave the order, “Open your mouth.” He took the tongs in hand and tore out the offending tooth on the spot.

I remember to this day how I laid at home with my face swollen like a mountain, tossing in agony. Mister Alter came to our house, came up to me and ordered strictly, “You should open your mouth now!” He took the little pliers and with one blow ripped out two teeth. I really saw stars. And to this day it makes me shudder went I recall the terrible pain in pulling those teeth out, although it did not last for long.

Alter was very popular with the town peasants and those of the surrounding areas.

There were fairs twice a week in Ostrovtse – Monday and Thursday – and many peasants traveled into town those days from the villages, and brought the products of their agriculture.

On those two days Alter and his sons had work up to their necks. Each peasant man and woman used the opportunity to go to Alter the barber–surgeon – one with an upset stomach, one with a cheek swollen from a tooth–ache and one with a stiff shoulder.

Peasants lay about on the floor in his barber shop in a narrow lane. Alter and his sons stood with rolled–up sleeves and pulled teeth, salved shoulders, placed cupping glasses and leeches and gave enemas one after another.

[Page 197]

Mr. Alter had a system for healing the sick. He believed strongly in the enema. If someone came to him with an injured finger he would first recommend giving an enema. “Because all trouble and pain,” he maintained, “comes from a poor digestion.”

After Alter died the same trust of the town was invested in his oldest son Avromtshe. And the Ostrovtse Jews believed more in him that in all the doctors. As Avromtshe said to a sick Jew, “I tell you, it won't come to anything”, that is, he would soon recover on his own.

It often happened that there was an epidemic in town: children coughed, got red throats and loose bowels. He would literally not be able to walk down the street in peace. From every side women kept shouting at him, “Mr. Avromtshe, have mercy, my child is fading away, heaven forbid!” In that case Avromtshe mobilized all his brothers: Shamay, Ayzik, Eyver and Naftoli. All of them went to the Jewish houses and painted throats, placed cupping glasses, applied compresses, ordered people to drink hot tea and take a powder a few times a day.

Exactly like his father Avromtshe did not believe in the medicines that Dr. Malinger prescribed. He told people to put such medicines aside and to take what he prescribed. “If you want to get better,” he used to say to patients, “then do what I tell you, and don't let the doctors mix up your head because they know an illness.” And they obeyed.

Avromtshe was also active at the poor house where he donated much of his time and energy. He sat there and took in poor Jews and women with sick children who benefitted from the free medical help. All knew him well, because he allowed conversations and in Yiddish. He was a true folks–mentsh, and man of the people in the full sense of the word.

Besides that Avromtshe was a social activist. He was the leader of the Left Poaley Tsion in Ostrovtse, supporting that organization with a broad hand and maintaining it as his expense.

In the old Ostrovtse shul, they used to hand a splendid silk curtain over the ark of the Torah for every holiday. That curtain was a gift to the shul from Avromtshe Beynerman and stitched into the curtain in big gold letters was “Donated by Avrom Beynerman son of Alter of blessed memory”.

I last met Avromtshe Beynerman during the German occupation of Ostrovtse. The German soldiers had captured us, a large group of Jews, for work and had taken us outside the town. There they forced us to clean military toilets with our bare hands and we were forbidden to use rags and pails, which were available there. Later they took us to a large place that was filthy with horse manure and we had to clean it up in a short period of time. Avromtshe was wearing a big, tall fur hat, and they forced him to take off the hat and fill it with horse manure and so carry it there and back again. And they, our Nazi overseers, were standing at a distance, quacking with laughter and beaming at the spectacle, which they dubbed the “shitty Jew”.

I also recall the old Mendl, a barber–surgeon with his eyeglasses tied on with string behind his ears. His barbary was on Kunover Street near Ayzik Mendl the slaughterer. He also lived from placing cupping glasses, painting throats and giving enemas. In his later years an adult son helped him in his business.

And who of the older generation of Ostrovtse Jews does not remember Malia the healer? How she used to go through the town on the cold winter nights with a lantern in her hand and seek out sick Jewish women. She was a big specialist in her “trade” and she could say exactly when one should call Feyge Mindl the midwife, who birthed all the children of Jewish women in Ostrovtse.

I remember Moyshe Beynerman too – also a barber–surgeon. He had a barber establishment across from the church. One had to go up several steps to get into his “barbery”. The little I remember is that he was tall, slender, and solidly–built man.

Later there arrived in Ostrovtse from Tarle

[Page 198]

one Nakhum Alan [sp. sic] – a grandchild of Alter Beynerman. He was also involved with the barber–surgeon trade and became very quickly popular in town with Jews and Christians. He would go around with a satchel in which lay his instruments and several salves for making inhalants and oral potions. In Ostrovtse and in the surrounding areas there was never a lack of sick people and there was enough work for all the Jewish barber–surgeons.

Interestingly, all the members of the Beynerman dynasty were both barber–surgeons and hairdressers. Those two trades were paired with them and the one complemented the other.

After Mr. Alter died the work in the shop in the small lane was taken over by Shamay and Eyver and later, Naftoli.

Nakhum Alman [sp. sic] had his shop on Staro–Kunovske Street, not far from the market and on the other side bordered by the GUZSHUSTE, not far from the river. I went there for years for haircuts and I remember that shop well. Later, when Ayzik Beynerman opened a shop near us on Drildzsher Street at the corner of Sheroke – I moved over to him and became a steady client.

In those barber shops in Ostrovtse they did not just cut and shave, but also had debates about everything and everyone. Passionate discussions took place there among the young people from every direction, who came in for a cut or a shave. They discussed Zionism, communism, the Bund, Poaley–Tsion, religion – what was not discussed? Each person defended his party and his conviction with fire and heat and did not let anyone tread on a single hair. And more than once one was late home for lunch because of those very discussions.

*

With the tragic murder of Jewish Ostrovtse by the Nazi hangmen, the barber–surgeons were also killed, the members of the large Beynerman dynasty with their wives and children, who were tortured in a hideous way in the death camps of Hitler's gehena.

 

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