Translated by Jerrold Landau
Radom, Radom! A city of scholarship and Hassidism, of intelligence, and heartfelt, honest folksy people.
You are a beautiful link in the golden chain of Jewish communities of Poland.
The chain is torn and the links broken!
Destroyed and desolate is Jewish Radom. The destroyed synagogue, our pride, was pillaged and burnt, wiped off the face of the earth. The same thing happened to the Beis Midrash and all of our holy places. The Torah scrolls torn and burnt. Even the cemetery was disgraced. They built a factory with the bricks of the dismantled fence. The gravestones were laid on the sidewalks. One can no longer visit the ancestral graves. Today, cattle pasture over the holy graves, and other indignities take place.
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!
No communal ledger, monograph, historical notices, or any records regarding societal life remain from this major Jewish city. We collected worn out holy pages, fragments, and crumbled documents. We also relied on the memories of people who were active in societal life and still remember the institutions and their activists, the houses of worship with their students and worshippers, the rabbis, scholars and good Jews, the schools and yeshivas, organizations and movements, writers and teachers, rabbinical judges and ritual slaughterers, cantors and teachers of young children. As long as the memory is fresh and before everything is locked into forgetfulness, let us remember the noble personalities, the holy souls. In this merit may their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life.
Let the book serve as an eternal light for our pure martyrs.
And let us remember,
What the Nazi Amalek did to us!
The Organization of Radom Natives in Israel
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The survivors of Eastern European Jewry create and publish Yizkor Books in memory of the annihilated communities. Every year, several such books appear, expanding our Holocaust literature, which no other people in the world possess.
Those Yizkor Books were not written by professional writers or gifted scribes, but rather by simple, daytoday Jews. The people write. The remnants of the People of the Book write, the children of the martyrs, who themselves survived miraculously, write the history of their towns: the rise, the wonderful essence, the blessed creativity of their generations, until the tragic destruction of their communities.
This was undertaken by the ordinary, sincere townsfolk. They referred to these Yizkor Books as
gravestones. That means that every landsmanshaft that published a Yizkor Book thereby erects a gravestone for their dearest beloved for the entire holy community of the destroyed hometown, who did not merit to receive a Jewish burial.
What is a gravestone, however? And what does a gravestone tell us?
A gravestone merely says: Here is buried soandso the son of soandso, died on such and such a day. Gravestones only tell of death, and not about the life and creativity of the deceased.
In our Holocaust literature, there is indeed more than exists in rows of stone monuments with etched names and dates. The Yizkor Books tell about a variegated, impulsive, ebullient life throughout centuries. They tell about tradition and ways of life, about struggles and conflicts, about the unique Jewish fate that carried us through all our generations, until the terrible destruction of the settlement.
First and foremost, the Holocaust literature is for us the history of the great, fine, unique, Polish Jewry, that was the pure source of Judaism for Jews throughout the entire world.
In Polish Jewry, the wonderful sources of Hassidism, Yiddish literature, love of Zion and Jewish Socialist consciousness battled it out.
Poland was the greatest center of Torah and Torah scholars, of numerous great Yeshivas, of famous courts of Hassidic Rebbes, of widebranched Zionist organizations, Socialists movements, professional unions, and centers of Yiddish literature and press, theater, and art. Where else is there such a wide network of Yiddish and Hebrew folk schools?
Polish Jewry delivered to the Jewish world talent and genius in all areas: Rabbis and Torah giants, thinkers and leaders, writers and orators, actors and artists, pioneering
strugglers and builders of the State of Israel, and revolutionaries who languished in prisons and labor camps and gave their lives at barricades and in battlefields, fighting for a better tomorrow, for a just world order.
And Radom was indeed a pearl in the golden crown of Polish Jewry
The Book of Radom is, first of all, our book of lineage.
Anyone who did not know our fine PolishJewish city will become familiar here with its rise, its history, its legends, its greatness, and its variegated beauty of Jewish life that was spread out. Our children will find out hear about the place from where their parents originated, where they lived, and what they created.
Radom is situated in the very center of Poland, a hundred kilometers south of the capital city, on the WarsawKrakow railway line, on the crossroads of highways, roadways and Polish roads to Lublin, Kielce, Piotrków, Częstochowa, and tens of other places. The city was surrounded by thick forests, large fruit orchards, and bountiful fields that are watered by the Radomka and Mleczna rivers the gentle extended arms of the proud Polish Wisła.
From the railway station, one moves in the direction of the city, through a splendid avenue decorated with chestnut trees. Fresh, delightful aromas waft over the city from the large, beautiful parks and orchards, from the old and the new gardens, where youth play, romance, and sing out the desires of the restless soul.
This was indeed a romantic city, that wove together all the legends about the poor Jewish girl who had been the uncrowned queen of Poland: about Esterke, the beloved of King Kazimierz, who built a palace for her and named it Rad Dom house of joy, from which the name of the city stems.
Esterke's house stands today at #5 Rynek, as a testimony to the great love in the distant past.
The fortress city is known for its fortresslike palace from the 12th century and for its Sejm sessions for landowners in the later middle ages.
Wars, fires, and floods changed the appearance of the city on more than one occasion, especially by moving the center from one place to another. Finally, the city grew, engulfing suburbs. New streets, new houses, businesses and factories sprouted up. It became a large, lovely, modern city.
The first information about Jews in Radom comes from the year 1568. From that point, a chain of Jewish tribulations, decrees, persecutions, and expulsions began. Despite everything, the children of the stiffnecked people sprouted up. Beginning from 1613, they were warmed and encouraged by emissaries of the Council of the Four Lands, who used to come for the tribunal of the treasury. The struggle for rights of residency in the settlement succeeded, and it became a Jewish center, an important Jewish city.
In the final years before the Holocaust, Radom already had a Jewish population of approximately 30,000 individuals. According to that number, it was the eighth largest of the large Jewish communities of Poland, after Warsaw, Łódź, Lemberg, Krakow, Vilna, Białystok, and Lublin.
If there is no flour, there is no Torah Jews played a great role in all existing economic sectors, and were themselves pioneers in creating new ones. Radom transformed into one of the most important industrial centers in Poland. More than half of the Jewish population were employed in industry and hand working. After Warsaw, Radom had the largest number of tanneries, and exported its products to the entire Czarist empire, all the way to Harbin. The pioneers of the leather industry were almost exclusively Jews, and they owned approximately 70% of all the tanneries. It was the same situation with the shoe business, which exported shoes throughout Poland, especially to Galicia, Pomerania, and the Kressen. Jewish built up and developed the iron industry there, and worked in the iron foundries, and the
lumber industry. They founded sawmills factories for plywood and veneer, shoe hooves, wood stuffing, and furniture arches that were sent express to the four corners of the world. There were factories for crockery, enamel dishes, chemical materials, curtains and rods, chicory, chocolate, confectionary, lights, and soap. There were mills, sundry shops, brick kilns, and countless small businesses and workshops, in which thousands of Jewish workers and journeymen worked. Hundreds of tailors worked in men's and women's fashion, which was an exclusively Jewish sector. It was the same with: shoemakers, cutters, gaiter makers, furriers, tinsmiths, saddlers, painters, masons, glassmakers, butchers, bakers, shearers, porters, and wagon drivers. There were also free professionals: doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers and melamdim [teachers of religious subjects to young children], bookkeepers and officers, brokers, wood engravers, and musicians.
A large proportion of the Jewish population was occupied in commerce. The leather sector was dominant and there was wholesale business throughout all of Poland, trade with raw hides, chemicals, and prepared leather. People also did business with grain and with forest products. Radom became a business center. Workers organized themselves into professional unions and handworker clubs. Merchants had a commercial union and a small business union. Jews owned the greatest number of houses in the city. Loan funds, banks, and credit cooperatives were formed.
The community conducted widebranched activity. The hospital, orphanage, senior's residence, cemetery, schools Beis Midrashes, mikvaot [ritual baths], and kosher slaughter were under its supervision. The hired rabbinic personalities, who at first were the pride of the city, and later, of all Poland. These included Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, Rabbi Perlmuter, and Rabbi Treistman. Were there not side causes, Rabbi Cirilson would have also become a rabbi in Radom.
During the years of the First World War, the following settled there: The Kozienice Rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Melech Rokach; the Vonchotzker [Wąchocker] Rebbe, Rabbi Yosele Rabinovitch; the Modzhtzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yankele Taub; the Ostrowiecer Rebbe, Reb Moshele; The Kozienicer Reb Moshele who was the soninlaw of Rabbi EliezerMelech and the grandson of the Białobrzeger Rabbi Yair. The had many Hassidim and various shtibels there. Youths learned diligently in the Beis Midrashes and shtibels, and the sounds of Torah wafted over the Jewish streets. There were tens of cheders and two Talmud Torahs.
Together with the economic growth, there was also the growth of cultural and societal life. The dispute between Hassidism and Haskalah worked in favor of the Jewish renaissance movement.
The first Haskalah pioneer was Yehuda Leon Liberman, but the greatest influencers were Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever and Rabbi Yisrael Frenkel. After the death of Rabbi Yisrael Frenkel, his spiritual legacy transferred to his son Yechiel and soninlaw Shalom Diament, who stood at the center of Jewish national life in Radom.
The thirst for education and knowledge was great. A portion of the Jewish youth studied in Polish primary and middle schools, technical and business schools. Jozef Temerson was the founder of the first Jewish gymnasja called Chovevei Daat, which was also a folks school. There was a Jewish school from ShulKult, a Beis Yaakov School for religious girls, the Yavneh Mizrachi school, evening courses and trade courses. There were also public schools for Jewish children, in which the language of instruction was Polish. There was also a Jewish music school, which graduated talented musicians. Jewish students from Radom studied in the upper schools in Poland and abroad. A folks university existed there for a period of time, in which there were lectures in history, literature, and political economy. Tens of Jewish libraries with tens of thousands of books were opened.
Radom did not satisfy itself with merely the Warsaw press, and it published on its own the Radomer Newspaper, the RadomerKielcer Lebn, the Radomer Shtime, a Trybuna in Polish, and notebooks for literature and folklore. Aside from touring groups, there was an entire series of Radom drama clubs which put on fine performances. The Jewish youth loved sports, and the Hakoach, Bar Kochba, Maccai, Chashmonai, Hashachar, Stern, Morgenstern, Hapoel, and other sports groups were formed.
Radom was proud of its writers, journalists, and scholars that they gave to the Jewish world. Over and above the authors of important religious and Torah books, Radom gave forth such famous writers as: Yehoshua Perla, Leib Malach, David Gisser, Leo Finkelsztajn, Y. L. Wolman, Professor Elchanan Szicer, Rabi Yeshayahu Zlotnik, Izak Wajnberg, and Judge Jozef Bekerman. The publishing house of our Yehoshua Cuker was known among the Warsaw book publishers.
Radom also was proud of its cantors. The elder cantor Rubinsztajn was especially popular.
Along with the cultural boom, the Zionist and Socialists movements sprouted in Radom: The General Zionist Organization (Group A and B), the Women's WIZO organization, Mizrachi, the Aguda, Hechalutz, and the youth organizations: Hashomer Hatzair, Hashomer Hadati, Akiba, and Massada. The role of the Freiheit organization within the Jewish workers community was great. It was very active and conducted strikes, demonstrations, and street battles. The great, famous Jewish poet David Eynhorn was among the organizers of the Jewish workers community in Radom. After the First World War, the workers organizations conducted great political and economic activities. These organizations include the Bund, the right and left Poalei Zion, and the Communists. The Zionist movement sent legal and illegal pioneers to the Land of Israel (from the First to the Fifth Aliya). Labor activists languished in prisons, were sent to Siberia, and gave their young lives in the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War.
Radom had fine, sincere Jews philanthropists and generous individuals. The Bekerman family was among the greatest philanthropists. Aside from large monetary donations, they donated building lots for communal and philanthropic purposes, including the lots for the Jewish hospital the senior's home, and the orphanage.
The Bekermans also donated a lot for Mariacki [Virgin Mary] Church, upon which a sign was later posted: Entry only to Christians…
However, we must state that until the poison winds blew in from Nazi Germany, the relationship between the Jewish and Christian population in Radom was one of tolerance.
The Jewish population built and ran its philanthropic institutions, such as Ezra, the orphanage, the senior's home, the organization for helping mothers in childbirth, Hachnasat Kalla [for helping poor brides], Hachnasat Orchim [for tending to wayfarers], the charitable funds, the Chevra Kadisha [burial society], the Jewish hospital, Toz [Health promotion society], and Linat Tzedek. This was over and above the great number of philanthropists and righteous women who were always ready to help, given, and run to action in cases of need or trouble.
Radom Jewry had fine, honorable, and good communal activists worthy communal representation in the communal leadership, in the city council, and the magistrate, to which they were sent as honorable representatives, both by the bourgeoise and the working class, to stand on guard for Jewish interests.
Indeed, our Radom was a dynamic Jewish city of industry and commerce, Torah and Hassidism, love of Zion and ideals of freedom; a city with fine wealthy philanthropists and honorable toilers; intelligentsia and folksy, daytoday Jews, Jews with such sincerity and Jews with such great souls, that even as they were going to martyrdom, they were able to say, like Reb Feivele, Everything is from heaven, even a bird is not caught without Gd's will.
We wish to portray the noble personalities and their glorious deeds in our Book of Radom our lineage book.
About them all: about the Jews of the Synagogue Street and the Round Market, of Lubliner Street and Woel, of Glinice and Warszawer Street. We want to tell about our dear youth of the schools and cheders, of the workshops and factories, of the clubs, libraries, organizations;
and about their strolls in the parks, in Janiszewer and Kafter forests; about the youth who dreamt, died, and sang Bialik's song:
On the top of the hill, on the green grass
I dreamt my happiness in my childlike voice.
What did I want? I myself do not know,
I know only that it will never return .
It will never return because: Radom is situated in the heart of the country of Poland, and Poland is situated in the heart of Europe, where the greatest, most bestial genocide of all generations, since the world was created, was perpetrated.
Under the green trees,
They slaughtered our Mosheles and our Shlomeles
Now, we are far from our stephomeland Poland; we are far from our native city, which turned into a gruesome city of slaughter; we are far from the source of information for a precise and full monograph about the close to 400 years of Jewish life in Radom. We collected and examined anything that we could. For anything further, we had to rely on the memory of our fellow townsfolk.
The idea of publishing the Book of Radom as a monument to the martyrs and as a book of lineage for those alive already came to mind immediately after the liberation, when our survivors gathered in Stuttgart. That that end, an editorial committee was formed consisting of: Y. M. Gutman, L. Richtman, G. Korman, Magistrate Y. Rotenberg, Y. Zhobner, R. Rotenberg, and D. Greisdorf. With reverence and responsibility, they set out to collect material and to listen to testimonies. They conducted a great and important work, the fruit of which was the memorial book Jewish Radom in its Destruction. This book was published in 1948 in Stuttgart, with the help of the camp committee and the Radom Landsmanshaft in New York. However, this was only the beginning and preparatory work for the large Book of Radom which now lies before you.
At the same time that the Holocaust survivors in Stuttgart were carrying out their work, a book committee was set up in Tel Aviv headed by Yechiel Frenkel of blessed memory, whose work we must specially note. He was the dedicated activist, the enthusiastic personification of Jewish societal life in Radom. For years, he would write and record facts, events and descriptions of personalities and their activities. His rich archive served as a cornerstone for the book, which would have been fuller and more colorful had it not been for his untimely death.
Unfortunately, we received little material about certain movements, societies, and circles, and, with our best will and responsible efforts, we have blank or pale passages. The same can be said regarding individuals and their deeds. We made efforts to include as many families, personalities, characters, and images as our memory allowed. Unfortunately, we did not recall everything that is worthy to be mentioned in the Book of Radom, and we beg forgiveness from the memory of those whose names we left out.
It must be noted that, in America as well, Dr. Yaakov Shatzki and Magistrate Rotenberg undertook serious effort for the books. The work was interrupted with the death of Dr. Shatzki. However, the American society did everything possible to ensure that the book would be published in Israel. They helped both with material, and materially.
The majority of our townsfolk appropriately appreciated the importance of such a memorial with words. Let all those who participated in publishing our Book of Radom be blessed.
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The birth of the Book of Radom is a story of its own. That story will be told in brief in the Our Lineage Book foreword. In fact, the book that was first published now in 1961 (after hundreds of landsmanshafts already published Yizkor Books in memory of their specific communities) was already envisaged immediately after the liberation, and the Radom natives who took responsibility for the task placed stringent demands upon themselves, and therefore did not succeed in publishing.
The proper step was made in 1957, when the Organization of Radom Natives created a special book committee, which would work over the material already collected and collect new material. They would gather testimonies and memoirs, and translate various works into our languages.
When the foundation was laid, the writer A. Sh. Stein was selected as editor.
A. Sh. Stein of blessed memory was a YiddishHebrew writer, essayist, and publicist. Over and above his original novels and stories, he translated a great deal from Yiddish to Hebrew. He was a man with knowledge and familiarity in world literature, as well as a researcher of Jewish history and Hassidim. He was a contributor to Davar, and, later on, was involved with editing Yizkor Books. He died suddenly at the height of his period of creativity. Let this serve as a memorial to him.
A. Sh. Stein of blessed memory did not succeed in completing the Hebrew portion. The rest of the material was edited by Leibel Richtman.
When I was given the privilege of editing the Yiddish section of the Book of Radom, the Hebrew section was almost ready for print.
With time, much new and important material arrived, which was not in the Hebrew section. Furthermore, most of the items that were included in Hebrew were already edited for the Yiddish section. The time gave us the possibility of supplementing and expanding. On the other hand, during the planning of the Yiddish section, we wanted to allocate an appropriate proportion. We had to condense certain material which was dealt with at length in the Hebrew section. This means that the Yiddish section is not simply a translation of the Hebrew, and that the reader who understands both languages will find new material and a new interest.
It is appropriate to stress two characteristic sections of the book (over and above the important historical documentary material , and over and above the writings about religious life, culture, education, commerce, trade, organization and institutions, communal council
and city council; and aside from the terrible story of destruction that was examined especially powerfully) they are of a unique significance, the sections A city with Jews and Writers and Works.
In A City with Jews a rich gallery of homey personalities, known by kith and kin, are brought down. Memories of the city, its warm environs, beloved corners, streets and alleyways, houses and courtyards, parks, orchards, and forests, which were baked into the hearts of every Radomer Jew are told; as well as events and legends, episodes and curiosities, songs, folklore and sentimental writing about local Jewish ways of life. This all gives color and voice, and helps create the atmosphere of Radom, thereby completing the general picture of Jewish life in the former home city.
Writers and Works is a section with which the Book of Radom has a special relationship. In truth, almost the entire Yiddish literature stems from the provincial areas. All of our classic and distinguished writers did not come from metropolises, but rather from provincial cities and towns. Therefore, the shtetl motif dominates Yiddish literature, in which every significant writer (beginning with Sholem Asch, Y. M. Weissenberger, David Bergelson, Zalman Shneur, Yosef Optatoshu, Yehoshua Perla, until our young generation) brought to his shtetl.
However, it is rare when a city gives out an entire Pleiades of famous writers, such as Yehoshua Perla, Leib Malach, Moshe David Gisser, Leo Finkelstajn, Dr. Yitzchak Wajnberg, Y. L. Wolman, Chaim Mordechai Fligelman, and many more. This is over and above scientists, artists, musicians, and actors.
A lone tree can even grow on a rock. A lone bush can grow among stones and in the desert sands. However, for such a harvest of writers, there must be prepared, plowed, fruitful ground. Radom possessed that spiritual terrain. The succulent, fat czarnoziem (humus) of Polish Jewry was ready to give out such blessed fruit. The Radom Jewish way of life also had the appropriate climate in which the ideal plants could develop and endure.
Biographical and bibliographical notices and critiques of our writers (taken from the lexicons and literary periodicals), as well as examples of their works, are included in the Writers and Works section. It must be noted, however, that the examples and selections are not always from the best creations of the writers. Rather, they were chosen for their thematic and natural connection to Radom. It must be noted that not all of the Radom writers were included in that section. The reason for this will become clear in the following lines.
When Radom natives throughout the world read the excerpts, biographies, and critiques about the actionfilled personalities they will discover new ideas and questions: And where are the biographies and critiques about such and such other personalities? Of parnasim [communal administrators] and council members, of active party doers, of writers and journalists the editors of our local newspapers, of them all who stood at the helm of our societal life for decades? Many of them are still active to this day in the countries in which they live, in movements, landsmanshaft organizations, in the Organization of Radom Natives in Israel, and even in the editorial committee of the Book of Radom itself. How could it be that they specifically were wronged?
And the answer is: It was their own decision.
The Organization of Radom natives and the editorial committee, the members of which were indeed in this category referred to in the aforementioned question, decided unanimously that only memoirs, biographies, and critiques of those no longer alive will be published.
And those, who merited to survive the destruction and continue their societal activities should be granted strength until 120…
Therefore, they are included in the book with the work of others: regarding societal activity and service with their contemporaries who are no longer alive. Each of them attempted diligently, intelligently, and objectively to write about a unique fragment of Radom life: a movement, a district, a circle, an educational institution, a union, or a philanthropic institution. Each of them carried a small brick, and all together built the grandiose structure that is called: The Book of Radom
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