The late R' David Topel
by Shoshana Topel-Yisraeli
Translated by Anonymous
My brother, the late David Topel, his wife Batya, and their seven children immigrated to Israel in 1935.
David's first job was in construction, lugging buckets of cement up scaffolding. This work proved too hard for David, as he was no longer very young, and so he was forced to leave it. He approached the newspaper Davar and accepted the job of distributing the paper's afternoon edition, which then came out in two daily editions. For an Ostrovtser Jew who happened into Tel Aviv in those days, it certainly must have been very strange to meet David in the streets, shouting, Davar - evening paper! He established himself in that business and eventually leased a small corner on Achad Ha'am Street. After a while, the Yediot Achronot newspaper approached him and gave him distribution rights for the entire city of Tel Aviv. With the founding of the newspaper Maariv, the newspaper's founder, the late Azriel Carlebach, offered him to join the cooperative and take on the distribution of Maariv throughout the country. Thanks to this, Topel & Sons became the largest company in the country distributing newspapers and magazines.
Once established financially, he devoted himself as well to charity as his home was open to anyone in need. In 1945, when the first survivors from our city began arriving, David's store on Achad Ha'am became their first address. The townspeople who had arrived before the war would also assemble there to discuss and solicit advice on how to help the remnant of their community who were arriving in the country bereft of all. The first result of those meetings was the establishment of the Society for Former Ostrovtsers in the Land of Israel, of which David was the first chairman.
David was the son of Rabbi Chaim Nachum and Channah Reitzis Topel. On his father's side, David was the grandson of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Topel, the rabbi of Solec. His mother, Channah Reitzis, was the granddaughter of the late R. David Rapoport Hacohen, who served as rabbi of Ostrowiec prior to the Gaon Rabbi Meir Yechiel Halstock. Rabbi David Rapoport had five sons and a daughter. Four of his sons served as rabbis in towns throughout Poland, while his daughter Mali was the wife of the Ostrovtser moreh tzedek (decisor of Jewish law), R. Tuvia Guttman. Our father R. Chaim Nahum was called to serve as rabbi of Solec after the death of his father, but he refused to leave the Ostrowiec community to which he was very attached. There he served as both the supervisor of kosher meat and the head of the burial society. He also gave a Torah class for the town's laymen, served as cantor during the High Holidays, and blew shofar on Rosh Hashanah in the Great Synagogue.
Under the influence of his second son Moshe Yankel, who at first was a Chassidic artist
|R' Chaim Nahum Topel and his wife, Channah Deitzis [Reitzis/Rachel?]
and then became a Zionist, my father considered immigrating to Israel and even inquired about it, but then in 1935 he fell ill. Before his death he requested that I move to Eretz Yisrael and wrote a letter to David, who was then in Venezuela, asking him to leave that Gentile country and join me in the land of the Jews. So it was: A month after father died, I immigrated to Eretz Yisrael and David, together with his family, joined me a few months later.
On the day after the establishment of the State, the 6th of Iyar 5708, David lost his youngest son Mordechai, who was very devoted to both his parents and his homeland. Initially a member of the underground, he enlisted in the newly established Israel Defense Force just before the establishment of the State. Joining the Air Force, he helped to transfer water and equipment to isolated settlements in the Negev. During the first Egyptian bombing of Tel Aviv, he was killed while standing guard at the Sde Dov air field.
From then on David would walk about in a state of depression, as the zest for life was taken from him. He became indifferent to everything, and then a serious illness began to gnaw at his body. He died on the 25th of Sivan 5733 (July 17, 1963) and was buried in Nachalat Yitzchak, near the military section where his holy son was interred.
|A party of the Organization of Former Ostrovtsers in Israel held at the home of the late David Topel
by his son: Abraham Friedental
Translated by Avi Borenstein
Israel Aharon Friedental was born in 1904 in the city of Lipsk, Poland. Already in his childhood he excelled with his sharp thinking and rare talents. At the age of 18, he was ordained a rabbi by Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzenski ztl, with whom he studied in his youth. Among his teachers in Ekaterinoslav, Russia, was also the poet Haim Bialik, from whom he received his Zionist education, to whom he remained loyal all his life. The prodigy also acquired a broad general education and was a treasure trove of knowledge in the field of Judaism and general studies.
Rabbi Shmuel Gringlas, who was one of the dignitaries of the city of Ostrowiec, greatly valued Israel Aharon as a rare man and took him as a groom for his daughter. He was very proud of this soninlaw and often said: If I was punished from heaven that only daughters would be born to me, then I received compensation for being rich and able to get a groom for my daughter like Israel Aharon. He added that no man can choose his sons for himself, while his sonsinlaw can be chosen according to the degree of his ability and understanding …
His activity in the Zionist movement
He headed the Revisionist movement in Ostrowiec. He did a lot to spread the idea of Zionism in an environment that was still far from the Zionist idea. He shaped the character of a diligent public activist loyal to the needs of the community. He had the knowledge of the secret of conversation, spiced with witty sayings and sparkling ideas. Thanks to the kindness of his demeanor, he acquired many souls for the revisionist movement in the city. He was also accepted by his opponents in the Zionist movement, and he served as chairman of the Zionist Federation in the city.
In view of the great distress that prevailed in the city during the war, and in the house of the late Great Rabbi Meir Yechiel Halstock, Israel Aharon Friedental (who served as accountant at Prince Ponitowski's flour station) supported the Rabbi and other needy people by delivering bread and flour to their homes. In this act, he received much help from his wife Feiga nee Gringlas, who stood by his side for all his public acts. During the Holocaust, this generous family was destroyed and all of the family members, only he and one son survived; his wife, son and daughter, his parents and his brotherinlaw the Rabbi of Lipsk and his family, and others, found their death in the Holocaust. He never recovered from this terrible tragedy, and bore the pain in his heart until the day of his death. He never revealed it to the masses, and preached a renunciation of memories of the past, so that the people of Israel might rebuild their home.
The people of Ostrowiec, who mourned all that was dear to them, turned to him, hoping to hear from him a word of consolation for their great tragedy. He always had a sympathetic ear and to the best of his ability reached out a helping and supportive hand to anyone who needed it.
After the Holocaust
After the Holocaust, when the remnants of Ostrowiec's Jews returned from the extermination camps and concentration camps, they began to gather in Ostrowiec, finding neither their loved ones left there nor shelter. He organized an organization to help this unhappy community and provide housing relief and meet their first needs. He made the first contacts with people from Ostrowiec in Israel and in the Diaspora and harnessed them for relief work for the DPs in the city. At the same time, he resumed his Zionist activities in the city and in the district. He gathered young men and women and opened two kibbutzim, where they prepared themselves for immigration to Eretz Israel.
He led the search for the criminals who led
the extermination of the Jews of Ostrowiec. For this purpose, he set up a historical committee, which collected evidence and photographic material on the extermination of the Jews of Ostrowiec.
After disturbances broke out against the Jews of Kielce, he feared that this evidence would fall into the hands of the Poles, who feared revelations about their part in the extermination of the Jews during the Nazi occupation. He handed over all the materials to a citydweller, Motel Zickerfein, who left Poland, on condition that all the material would be submitted to the Jews of Ostrowiec organization that was to be established in Israel.
In the Kielce riots, the Poles intended to destroy the remaining survivors, thus completing the work of the Nazis. Israel Aharon Friedental turned to the Zionist institutions that were then established in Warsaw, and thanks to this, Soviet soldiers in uniform were sent to Kielce, who at the last minute prevented the certain extermination of the remaining of the Jews. Among the survivors were also members of the two kibbutzim which were established by him.
After the Kielce events, there was great tumult among the returning community, who had previously hoped to rebuild their lives on the ruins of the city. Israel Aharon Friedental began preaching to leave the Valley of Killing and immigrate to Israel. At the Joint and the Zionist movement, he obtained the necessary assistance to enable those who wished to do so to immigrate to Israel. Those who did not want to immigrate were transferred to other cities, where centers of Holocaust survivors were established.
Israel Aharon moved to Warsaw, where he enlisted in the aliyah and escape operations. He was chairman of the Ichud Party, worked in an escape institution, and was arrested several times and imprisoned for this activity. After authorities banned Zionist activity, he was not allowed to immigrate to Israel. He was forced to remain there until 1951 and during that time served as secretary of the Jewish Congregation in Poland. In this role, he worked hard to save Jewish children, who were handed over to Polish families during the Holocaust, and in one case even paid a sum of money to extricate a Jewish boy from the Poles that adopted him.
He also worked to rescue Torah scrolls and Jewish books and sent them to Israel. In 1951, he immigrated to Israel. He was one of the organizers of Mifal Hapayis , was once of its senior employees and contributed to the newspaper Letzteh Nias, the latest news. At an advanced age, he enrolled in the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University and completed his law studies as an outstanding student. In 1964, he was licensed to practice law as a lawyer, and to appear before Rabbinical courts. In 1967, he received the Medal of Merit for his Zionist activities and for being a Prisoner of Zion.
In addition to being an activist and a public figure, he was an interesting man, with an original way of thinking, a sensitive conscience, true to his principles, was boundlessly thirsty and diligent and one of few individuals of virtue.
He died on the 21st of Adar 5735 in the middle of his work on the composition Laws and Judgements of a Hebrew Source. He was 65 years old. His sudden death fell like a heavy blow to his family, his many friends and loved ones.
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