Torah and Hassidism
by M. Sh. Geshuri
Translated by Jerrold Landau
At the beginning of the 19th century, when there were already large or small Jewish settlements in the surrounding villages, there was not yet a stable Jewish settlement in Radom. Later, Jews began to come from those surrounding villages, and the Jewish community of Radom was created.
There were already communities in the surrounding villages, which were known for their great rabbis and Gaonim, for example: the Kozienicer Maggid; the Holy Jew, and Rabbi Bunim of Przysucha; Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu of Zwoleń ; Rabbi Shaga Yair of Białobrzeg; as well as in Ostrowiec and Przytyk.
Immediately after the fire of Białobrzeg, Radom merited to have Rabbi Shraga Yair live there from 1907 to 1911.
Even though Radom did not have any world-famous Hassidic courts, the Jews who came in from the surrounding towns brought Hassidism and scholarship with them.
Also the fact that Radom was situated on a major road that was a crossroads of many roads, and Rebbes and Hassidim would stop over there during their travels had its influence on the city, and it became a center of Hassidim, with followers of all the famous Hassidic courts. Thus, a Gerrer Shtibel, an Aleksanderer Shtibel, and shtibels of all other famous Admorim were set up there.
Every group of Hassidim held their Rebbe as holy, and believed that only he had the power to strengthen hem in their faith and belief in G-d. They considered it a great merit to be in his proximity. They would travel to the Rebbe for festivals, and at times, also for a Sabbath. As they greeted him, they would mention all the members of the household. They would confide all their worries and difficulties to the Rebbe, request livelihood and contentment from the children, request a speedy recovery, ease of life, a proper match, redemption from the hands of gentiles, advice regarding business, and the like.
Prior to and during the First World War, grandchildren of famous Hassidic dynasties settled in Radom, and they conducted Hassidic courts in a small scale. Barely any Hassidim from outside came to them, and they recruited Hassidim from the locals. Approaching such a Rebbe was simple and easy: They would go to Mincha-Maariv or to hear his teaching, they would come after the Sabbath meal or for the third Sabbath meal to hear the singing of the hymns. They would also come with a heavy mood to talk from the heart and to receive a blessing from the Rebbe. He would help anybody. It was mainly wives who came to such a Rebbe. He patiently heard them and blessed them. The simple folks people believed that in the merit of his great, holy ancestors, the Rebbe could ask for any help for suffering Jews.
These Rebbes were:
The Modzitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Taub
During the time that he lived in Radom (during the First World War), the city was full of singing. The Rebbe's residence (61 Lubliner Street) was crowded with Hassidim and music lovers who came to hear the sounds and melodies that the Rebbe created. The Modzitzer Rebbe's melodies were no small thing! Who did not sing them, and who did not hear them?
However, the crown of his creations, the Melody of the Homeless that was so popular and beloved by Jews in Poland and by Hassidim throughout the world, came to us in Radom, where the Rebbe himself, as well as many of His Hassidim and thousands of other Jews who were driven out of their villages, were indeed homeless refugees in Radom. Many legends stemmed from that melody, and it had many names. Some called it the Melody of War and Peace, and others called it Mizmor
LeDavid. The Rebbe himself used to sing Mizmor LeDavid with that melody at the third Sabbath meal. In that melody, the Rebbe expressed his pain and sorrow for the Jewish tribulations. This turned into a folk song that klezmer groups played at Jewish celebrations. Its musical score was published in newspapers in Poland, Germany, Argentina, and America.
When the war ended, the Rebbe moved to Warsaw, where he became sick. However, he created melodies even from his sick bed. The musical muse did not depart from him until his last hours.
The Rebbe died in Warsaw in the month of Kislev, 5681 .
The Rebbe Rabbi Yaakov Yerchamiel Taub
He was a grandson of the Kuzmerer Rebbe, Rabbi Yechezkel; a son of the Zwolener Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu; and a brother of the Modzitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael, who was a great musician and was famous for his Modzitzer melodies.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Yankele settled on #3 Lubliner Street in Radom. No large groups of Hassidim came to him, for, despite his pedigree and splendor of countenance, he was a taciturn, modest, person. However, since the Rebbe Rabbi Yankele had a fine, heartwarming voice like all from the Modzitzer dynasty, many regular Jews came to his minyan to hear his melodious, tasteful prayers. It is surmised that the Rebbe, Rabbi Yankele, also composed his own melodies, but he did not let on that they were his own due to his great modesty.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Yankele, died at the age of 60.
The Białobrzeger Rebbe, Rabbi Shraga Yair
He stemmed from his grandfather's, the Holy Jew's, Beis Midrash in Przysucha. However, he was a unique personality and had his own path in Hassidism.
When he settled in Radom in his older years, he still bubbling with spirit and energy. He had many Hassidim there, and his house was full on Friday nights. The Rebbe talked about Torah, and our Radomer, Rabbi Shmuel Shmerel Goldberg, wrote, collected, and prepared a book about this, that was later published in two volumes. The name of the book is Aron Haedut [Ark of Testimony] and was well accepted in the Hassidic world.
Reb Shmuel Shmerel Goldberg tells that the Rebbe told him the following at the time of the coronation of the last Czar, Nikolai:
Outside is a celebration, but Jews are not licking honey from this. He will exceed his father in wickedness. Nobody has not yet figured out what he will tell the world, but he is not ashamed regarding his wickedness.
The Rebbe's words were later confirmed. The Rebbe helped many Jewish youth free themselves from the military.
The Rebbe died at the age of 72 on 13 Sivan, 5671 . Hassidim accompanied him four miles to Szydłowiecka. Rabbis came to the funeral from afar, and he was buried in his fathers ohel [burial canopy], in accordance with his will.
To this day, Radomers in Israel talk about the greatness of the Rebbe, Rabbi Shraga Yair Rabinowicz, may the memory of the holy be blessed, about his Torah and his portents.
After the Rebbe's death, his only son, Rabbi Nathan-David, took over his father's place as Rebbe.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Nathan David
He came to Radom together with his father after the great fire of Białobrzeg. He was a great scholar, and had great influence. He was also accepted as the rabbi in Szydłowiecka, and his bother-in-law, the Muncaczer Rebbe, coronated him with the title The holy Rabbi and Gaon, a Sinai and Uprooter of Mountains, known in the gates. The Rebbe, Rabbi Nathan David published Torah novellae, and wrote the introduction to his father's book Aron Edut. He also gave approbations for books of other authors. He became blind in his old age, and studied by heart. He died eight years after his father's death, in the year 5679  in Szydłowiecka.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Eliezer Rabinowicz
He was a grandson of the Holy Jew, a son of the Konsker Rebbe, Rabbi Pinchas, and a son-in-law of his uncle, the Rebbe Rabbi Shraga Yair of Białobrzeg.
Previously, the Rebbe Rabbi Yosele, was the rabbi in Wierzbnik. His dwelling and Beis Midrash in Radom was on Witolda Street, at the corner of Lubliner. Several minyanim worshipped there on the Sabbath, and there was no lack of worshippers in the middle of the week. People would come to his table on Sabbaths and festivals to hear Torah and stories about good Jews.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Yosele, had three sons. One, Rabbi Ben-Zion, was the rabbi in Wierzbnik. A second son lived in Warsaw, and the third, Rabbi Yedidya, was with his father and
helped him conduct his Rebbeship. (Rabbi Yedidya's daughter and her husband, Yona Zukerman, live in Lod, Israel).
Until the large aktion (August 1942), the Rebbe Rabbi Yosele succeeded in evading the murderous hands. However, at that time, they captured him together with a group of Jews, and took them to Pence's garden. The Nazi bandits noted there that the Rebbe was hiding something in his bosom, probably a treasury of gold and diamonds. They ordered him to give over what he was hiding there, but the Rebbe refused, and struggled with the last strength of an 80-year-old elderly man, until the heroes overcame him.
As became clear, the treasure that he did not want to give up was a shofar passed down as a legacy for generations.
The Nazi murderers then killed the Rebbe together with the group of Jews. A song was composed in the ghetto, The Story with a Shofar that was told about the Rebbe's, Rabbi Yosele's, sanctification of the Divine Name.
The Rebbe Rabbi Moshe Elyakum Bria Frimer
He was called, the Rebbe, Rabbi Moshele. He was a grandson of the Lipsker Rebbe and a son of the Ostrowcer Rebbe, Rabbi Yerachmiel. The Rebbetzin also had her pedigree as a granddaughter of the Kozienicer Maggid.
It is not known why Rabbi Moshele did not remain as rabbi in Ostrowiec, in the place of his father. It is possible that it was because the great Tzadik, Rabbi Meir Yechiel HaLevi, lived in Ostrowiec at that time.
In 1902, Rabbi Moshele settled in Radom, on 12 Stara-Krakowska. That was his residence and his large Beis Midrash, where several minyanim of people worshipped on the Sabbaths. He conducted his Rebbeship for a coarse crowd, and he was a sort of populist Rebbe, allowing in any person. He especially drew near workers, tradespeople, and commonfolk. He would chat with anyone and wanted to know all details, even regarding the new winds that began to blow through the Jewish street. A sizable crowd would always come to his table to hear his words of Torah. He would speak for everyone, meaning clearly and straightforwardly, so that everyone could understand. Simultaneously however, his words of Torah were deep and full of wisdom and morality.
Rabbi Moshele was greatly beloved by the people. His home was pervaded by an atmosphere where everyone felt at home. His permissiveness encouraged the simple folk and was attractive to the poor with their difficulties and illnesses. He drove away the melancholy from the embittered and desperate. He strengthened their faith and instilled Hassidic enthusiasm in them.
Many wives came to Rabbi Moshele with their heavy moods. He blessed them, gave them remedies and cures, and they left comforted. Therefore, he was called Der Veibishe Rebbe [The Rebbe of the wives] in the city.
During the latter years, his son-in-law, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Goldberg, helped him. He also wrote approbation to rabbinic and Hassidic books in his father-in-law's name.
One son died at the age of 19. A second sone, Rabbi Yisrael Elimelech, became a son-in-law of the son of the Aleksanderer Rebbe.
The entire family was murdered on the frightful days of August 1942.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Elimelech Rokach
He was a grandson of the Belzer Rebbe and the Kozienicer Maggid. Together with the refugees of Kozieniece (at the beginning of the First World War), and he came with his father, Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke, to Radom, where he was called The Kozienicer Rebbe.
Abraham Lipa and Reizel they gave him a dwelling in their house on Szpitalna, and they helped him get settled.
With his great love of people, he quicky gained many followers. People always worshipped and studied in his Beis Midrash. He himself was a great Torah scholar. He drew near studies, and especially the Beis Midrash youths, to whom he imparted desire and consistency.
Hassidim of other Rebbes were among those who were close with him. He conducted the table celebrations and always had a large crowd. His demeanor was simple and modest. His refined countenance radiated with light and goodness. He hosted many guests. Even though he did not have very much himself, he always shared what he had with the poor, and encouraged and comforted them.
His father, Rabbi Shmelke, died soon after. A canopy was then erected in the Radom cemetery, the first one there. The canopy quickly became filled with petitions [kvitlach]from Hassidim who came to recall his memory.
The Rebbe died before the Second world War (his only son died earlier). The entire city participated in the Rebbe's funeral. All the Jewish businesses were closed. Hassidim carried the coffin to the cemetery, a distance of approximately four kilometers.
His son-in-law Reb Moshele took his place. During the war, he escaped to Russia, where he was arrested and perished.
by M. Sh. Geshuri
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The majority of the Hassidim had their shtibels that bore the name of the cities where their Rebbes lived. A friendly camaraderie, literally a sense of familiarity, pervaded in the shtibels. Poor and rich, young and old, manufacturers and businessmen, laborers and merchants all said du and felt a familial closeness to each other. On Sabbaths and festivals, all wore atlas or silk or velvet kapotes with gartels, and velvet hats or streimels. There, the services took longer than in the Beis Midrash. People chatted pleasantly between Mincha and Maariv. On Saturday evening, the third Sabbath meal continued with singing until late at night. Every shtibel had a different tune for prayers, and different melodies. Melave Malkas [meal after the conclusion of the Sabbath], other festive meals, and toasts were celebrated. A toast would take place especially on Rosh Chodesh, or on the occasion of a yahrzeit of a good Jew. The adage was known: That which a Hassid can rectify with a drink of liquor, a Misnaged cannot rectify with an entire day of Psalms.. Therefore, Hassidim did not forgo any opportunity, whether in the shtibel or at the home of an esteemed Hassid, to make a kiddush if not with liquor, then with wine or beer, with a snack. Then, they would discuss Torah and Hassidism, tell stories and portents about good Jews, sing a melody, and dance enthusiastically .
Hassidim would travel regularly to the Rebbe. It also happened that the Rebbe would travel to his Hassidim. It would be a great event and joyous occasion for the Hassidim in the city when a Rebbe would come to Radom. He would be hosted by an esteemed Hassid who was close to him and had a comfortable home. All the Hassidim would come to greet the Rebbe. All of his Hassidim as well as followers of other Rebbes would come to his table celebration, to hear words of Torah and partake of shirayim. Every Hassid considered it a great merit to be in close proximity to the Rebbe.
There are no more Hassidim and Hassidic shtibels in Radom or throughout the country of Poland. There are no more. They were all burnt and destroyed in the general destruction of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Let us therefore recall the names of the shtibels and (to the extent that there are people who remember still alive) the pious and folksy warm-hearted Hassidim who died in sanctification of the Divine Name.
The Gerrer Shtibel
The Gerrer Shtibel was the largest in the city according to the number of Hassidim. The founder of Gerrer Hassidism was the Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the Chidushei Harim, who died in the year 5656 . Following him was the Sfas Emes (the Rebbe, Rabbi Aryeh Leib), whose name is currently borne by the Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He died in the year 5665 . The last Rebbe in Ger [Góra Kalwaria], Rabbi Avraham Mordechai, was in the Land of Israel several times. He was an opponent of Zionism, but he was involved in the upbuilding of the land in his way. He succeeded in coming here during the years of destruction, and he died in Jerusalem.
The first Gerrer Shtibel in Radom was on Shuster-Gasse, in the home of Tobele Itche's. Later, there were several shtibels: on 15 Rynek, on the Piekli (4 Mariacka-Gorki), and 3 Lubliner. Shlomo Margolis was the gabbai [trustee] there for 14 years. The fine prayer leaders there were Henech Wajntraub, Yechiel Moshe Hirszberg, and Henech Herc (Shochet). The Torah reader was the shochet [ritual slaughterer] Kopel Feiwiszewicz. From among the prominent Hassidim, I remember: Reb Aharon Zawichoster, Chaim Najman, Itchel Szydlowski, Yoel Reichman, Reb Chaim Leibish Shochet [Herc], Reb Mendel Dancyger, Reb Yaakov Leib Szajnfeld, Reb Kalman Rojal, and his son Itche Meir, Shlomo Yudel Chmeliosz, Kopel Precelman, Itche-Meir Semiaticz, Eliahu Gotlib, David Mendel Perl (son-in-law of the Rebbe's brother), Motel Frajdman, Mendel Horowicz, Yechezkel Ferster, Noach Rozenberg, Pinchas Grynblat, Itche-Meir Leslow, Rabbi Mendel Bosziner (Wajngarten), Rabbi Mendel Kestenberg.
On the Sabbath, many Hassidim worshipped early in the morning, and then sat and learned.
The majority of the Gerrer Hassidim belonged to the Aguda, and thus were opponents of Zionism. There were also Zionists and Mizrachi supporters among them. When it came to choosing a rabbi, a rabbinical judge., or a shochet, they always had their own candidate, submitted by the Gerrer court, and supported strongly by them. Of course, at such times, there were disputes with other Hassidim, especially with the Aleksanderers.
The Aleksander Shtibel
The Aleksanderer court was the second largest by number of Hassidim, and one of the oldest courts that had already been operating from the times of the elder Rebbe, Rabbi Yechiel Dancyger. Succeeding him was his son Yisrael Yitzchak, the Yismach Yisroel. After his death in 5670 , some of the Hassidim transfered over to Biala, to Rabbi Aharon Landau and after his death, to his brother Rabbi Mendele of Strykow, who founded Strykower Hassidism. The vast majority of the Hassidim, however, remained faithful to Aleksander, where the Rebbe was Rabbi Shmuel Hirsch, who used to visit his family in Radom. After his death, his son took over. He was in hiding when the Germans took over Poland. In 1941, the possibility arose to move the Rebbe from Poland to the Land of Israel for a large sum of money. However, the
Rebbe did not want to save himself alone, when Jewry was being killed. He was killed in sanctification of the Divine Name in Treblinka. Even though they were in two separate shtibels, the Aleksanderer and Strykower Hassidim considered themselves as a unified Hassidic family, and there were no disputes between them.
Let me mention here, to the extent that I recall, the worshippers of both shtibels:
The Aleksander Shtibel was in the house of Moshe Drezner on 31 Woel. The first gabbai [trustee] was Hirsch Ber Gomulkis, and the last gabbai was Moshe Chaim, the son-in-law of Mordechai Jozefowski. The prayer leaders were Ziskind Sokolowski, Mordechai Eybeszic, Moshe Binem Richtman, and Shmuel Ajzman. The Torah readers were the brothers Berish and Yechezkel Lewin, and Mottel Ajzman. Aside from the aforementioned, I recall the following Hassidim: Rabbi Aharon Mildman and his son Feivel, who was the regular shofar blower, as well as his sons-in-law Itche Leib and Leizer; the Krywer Rabbi Rabbi Pintche Dancyger, his son Yaakov Hirsh, and brother-in-law Berish; Avraham Itche Wyrgin and his grandson Chaim; the communal head Hersh-Mendel Tenenbaum, his son Yehoshele, his brothers Aharon Yeshayahu, and Yosel, and his brothers-in-law Henech Rechtman and Leibush Hendel; Hirsh-Morechai Dancyger; Yisrael Yankel Eybeszyc and his son Meir; the Rebbe's brother-in-law and in-law Meir-Yechiel Rotenberg, his sons Eliahu, Avraham and Yankele (the son-in-law of the Kaluszer rabbi, Rabbi Lipszyc) and his sons-in-law Reb Feivele Dancyger and Hirsh-Mordechai Sankewicz, who the Russians hanged during the First World War, his grandson Reb Yosele Dancyger and who later became the rabbi in Zelów near Łódź; Meir-Yechiel's brother Yehoshale Rotenberg (Reb Itcheka Landau's son-in-law), their brothers-in-law Berish Ajzman and Hershel Zisman; Ajzman's sons Mottel, Pinchas, and Itche; the children of Sarale Sawa: David, Berish, and Yankel; the Cuker family of shochtim [ritual slaughterers]; Simcha Baumzecer; Noach Kampel; Fishel Zylberberg; Avraham Yaakov Landau; Avrahamcha Steinharc; Aharon-Yosel Lewin and his son Leibka, who died young; the melamdim [teachers] Chaim Siedlowcer and Mordechai Wolf Blumsztajn; David Leib Fiszman and his son Mendel; Efraim Gutman and his son Chaim; Yechiel Glat (Kielcer); Avracha Perl the in-law of Reb Shlomole Alter, the brother of the Sfas Emes; Yisrael Lescz; Sendel Moszewski, Yekutiel Cwajgbaum; Eliezer Hirsch Rozenblum; Godl Szener; Yechezkel Tajchman and his son Pinchas; Chaim Yona Gertner. The following people also worshiped in the shtibel: Yedidya and Avrahamele Goldberg with his sons Kalman and Yitzchak, even though they used to travel to the Radoszycer Rebbe. Even though the Aleksanderer Hassidim were not as sharp as the Gerrers, they also had the ambition to support their candidate for rabbi, rabbinical judge, and shochet when such an opportunity arose in the city.
The Amshinover [Msczonower] Shtibel
The Amshinover Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef was the son of the Worker Rebbe Rabbi Yitzchak, and a grandson of Rabbi Yaakov-David. He would come often to Radom and would stay with the elder Hassid Reb Hirsch Leib Baum.
The Amshinover Shtibel was formerly in the house of Moshe Banker on Bernardinska Street, and later in the house of Itche Fishman on the Rynek. There were about 50 worshippers there, including the renowned prayer leaders: the shochet Yisrael Yitzchak Najdik, Yaakov David Teitelbaum, and Shlomo Hendel. The Hassidim Shmuel Yankel Baum, Yankel Waga and his son Natan, Yitzchak Rubin, Moshe Baum, Yaakov Simcha Hendel were there. Other Hassidim also came to the Amshinover Shtibel to enjoy the refined Amshinover Hassidism.
There, they were older Hassidim, who had still traveled to the old Warka Rebbe, Rabbi Mendel, may the memory of the holy be blessed. The Rebbe, Rabbi Shimon, came several times to visit his Hassidim in Radom, who were for the most part merchants of means and important householders. Among them I recall: Pinia Rozenblum, who was the prayer leader and shofar blower; the prayer leader Reb Itche Skariszewer; Shmuel Bakman; Aharon Sofer; the shochet Binimel Librach; Mendel Blas; Berish Wajnacjt; Mendel and David Oszpiz; Chaim Goldberg; Moshele Frajdman; Moshe Janowski; Mendel Szczeranski. After the death of the Modzitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Mendel Taub may the memory of the holy be blessed, the two fine prayer leaders Chaim Hochglober and Pinchas Baum moved to the Skerniewicer Shtibel. From that shtibel, Reb Menachem Dov Wertheit and his son Alter Zev, and the shochet Mendel Bakman are currently with us in Israel.
The Kozienicer Shtibel
The Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Yechiel, conducted his Rebbeship for twenty years, until the German occupation. He then moved to Warsaw, and, despite the bitter Nazi hell, he taught his class every day. Once, while sitting with his Gemara, he suddenly said:
I do not want it anymore!And his soul ascended.
The Kozienicer Shtibel in Radom was one of the oldest, and was located in the home of Chaim Yoske Rozenbaum on 13 Woel. When the Rebbe would come to Radom, he would stay with Moshe Fiszman-Zwolener, and later, with Shmerl Korman the tanner. Zelig Goldfarb was the gabbai of the shtibel, and the worshippers included: Ben Zion Mincberg, Yerachmel Miler, David Koper, the shochet Eliezer Engelhart, Meirl Mloch, Itchel Luksenburg, the shochet Yisrael Yitzchak Hirszman, Yosel Kac, the son of the teacher Nathan Alter, and Moshe Garfinkel.
They would also sing Karliner, Stoliner, and Modzitzer melodies in the Kozienicer Shtibel, which were beloved and holy.
The Grodzisker Shtibel
The Grodzisker Rebbe, Rabbi Elimelech Szapira, may the memory of the holy be blessed, was from the Kozniecer dynasty. After his death, his grandson, Rabbi Yisrael Szapira, became the Grodzisker Rebbe. Rabbi Yisrael was a great scholar and activist. He wrote a book about the meaning of tunes.
The Grodzisker Shtibel in Radom stood out from among all the Grodzisker Shtibels in Poland because every Hassid there was a unique personality. This included Yisrael Frenkel, who was a Grodzisker Hassid before he became a Maskil. The Grodzisker Hassid Reb Fishel Moshe (from Przedbórz) slept for 14 years on a stone (his wife was the provider of the livelihood). His son-in-law Kirszenbaum always sat with the Rebbe and used to come here only twice a year. Avner Binental had already been the Torah reader at the Rebbe's for 18 years, when he made aliya to Jerusalem in the year 5694 . He then read a Torah at the Western Wall. Today, he lives in the Even-Yehoshua neighborhood, where he is occupied with performing commandments and good deeds. The worshippers of the Grodzisk Shtibel included Avraham the son of Reb Itche (Kirszenbaum), Yoelish Bominger, Avigdor Tzemach and his son, Reb Mendel Kirszenbaum and his children, Yitzchak Koper, Yaakov Wajnrib, Pinchas Margolis, Yisrael Shlomo, Leizer the son of Reb Moshele.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Zelig Morgensztern (the son of the Pilewer Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Yisrael from Kocker stock) was one of the Aguda leaders in Poland.
The shtibel in Radom was the year-round residence of Hershel Pilewer (Hershel Zwajgenberg, the father of Yisrael Ben-Tzvi), who as the gabbai and prayer leader. From among the Hassidim, I recall Yona Meir Dancyger, Yisrael Avraham Zylberberg and his son Daniel and grandson Yona Rotman, who was the final communal head of Radom; Shmuel Ostrowcer, Hershel Szajnkind, Daviid Sztotkoowski, and Shlomo Grinec. The Hassidim would observe the yahrzeits of the Kocker Tzadikim, and they would sing Kocker melodies.
The Modzitzer Shtibel
The first Modzitzer Shtibel, in 1913, was in Koper's home on the Rynek. However, during the First World War, when the Rebbe came to Radom with other Jews who were driven out of Modrzyce, and settled on 61 Lubliner, the shtibel moved there. In 1921, it moved again to 29 Lubliner, to the Rebbe, Rabbi Yankele. The prayer leaders there were Eliezer Diamant and Isamar Sztreimel-Macherl. I remember the Hassidim: Izik Frajdman, Yechiel Knobel (currently in Tel Aviv), Yosef Binyamin Rozenblum, Yechezkel Hochglaber, Mordechai and Yudel Tajtelbaum, and Shaul Wajsman. Michael Richtman was an exceptional prayer leader there.
After the death of the Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael (in 5681 ), his son Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Eliezer became the Rebbe. He would often come to Radom, and large crowds would come to hear his hymns and melodies, to learn them from him. The Rebbe died in Israel.
The founder of Radzyner Hassidism was the famous Gaon and Rebbe, Rabbi Gershon Henech Radzyner, the author of the book Sidrei Tahara, and the discoverer of techelet. He would bring the chilazon fish from Italy and gather a quorum of Hassidim, whom he taught how to extract the techelet from the chilazon fish and use it to dye the tzitzit. Each of those Hassidim has to teacher younger ones, and transmit the secret from generation to generation. It is hard to know if any of those Hassidim who knew the secret of the chilazon techelet survived the war.
After Gershon Henech, his son Rabbi Mordechai Yosef, the author of the book Tiferet Yosef became the Rebbe. He excelled in his exquisite life wisdom and wit. Following him, his son Reb Shlomole (Rabbi Shlomo Leiner) became the Rebbe. He had many thousands of Hassidim. During the Nazi hell, the Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomole, was one of those heroes who called for resistance against the Germans. He tried to organize a Hassidic partisan Otriad, which would fight in the forests. However, he was arrested and shot in Włodawa.
The Radzyner Hassidim were great scholars, and also were a wholesome and jolly group. A Radzyner Hassid would be immediately recognized on the street by his blue techelet tzitzit that he used to wear.
The Radzyner Shtibel in Radom was on 4 Bernardinska. Matityahu Pines was the Rebbe's in-law. He and his son Yankel, the teacher Eli Kozanower, Yaakov Szapir, Shlomo Leib Hochman, and Moshe Klepfisz were prominent Radzyner Hassidim.
Aside from the aforementioned, there were other shtibels in our city, such as the Ostrowcer, Parisower, Piaseczner, Radzymyner, Kuzmirer, and Gostininer. There were also Hassidim who did not have their own shtibel. They would worship in other shtibels or in Beis Midrashes.
There were Umaner-Breslover Hassidim. After Rabbi Nachman
of Breslov's death (approximately 150 years ago), there was no heir, and the Hassidic group existed without a Rebbe.
In 1918, Ben-Tzion Apter (Arbetsman, today in Bnei Brak) came to Radom. He began to spread Breslov Hassidism among Beis Midrash lads. At first, they gathered in Den's Beis Midrash on 2 Szpitalna. Later, when the number of Hassidim increased, they moved to Rotenberg's Beis Midrash on Mleczna Street. There, on the banks of the river, on the green meadows, they had an area for self-seclusion. They would begin their day very early with study and worship, which took several hours. They, they began to discuss and tell the wonderful and meaningful stories of Rabbi Nachman Breslover. The enthusiasm advanced to the point where they began to sing and dance.
A. Z. Wertheim relates that Ben-Zion Apter had an exquisite personality with a deep power of influence. He earned his meager livelihood by selling Breslover books. He acquired Hassidim through his wonderful stories about Rabbi Nachman. He was able to understand the significance of every word of the prayers, secrets of creation, and the foundations of faith.
The third Sabbath meals at the Hirszenhorn brothers were especially lively. There, they would sing Breslover melodies, which were a blend of sadness and great joy. Every Thursday, they studied an entire night and then went to immerse in the cool river. Then, they returned to the Beis Midrash purified, singing I thank with all my heart as I search. As dawn was noticed through the windows of the Beis Midrash, they began the services. Anyone who spent an entire night and early morning with the Breslover Hassidim would not forget it through his entire life.
From among those lads, I recall Eliezer Lipa Gelibter, the Hirszenhorn brothers, Yechezkel Erlich, Moshe Rozenberg, Yaakov Brikman, Ahron Herschenboim, Yehoushe Rotenberg(Ita Chava's grandson) Moshe Eliezer Baum, and Avraham Lipa Wertheim.
by Leizer Fishman
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The only source of information about the very first rabbis and rabbinical judges in Radom is from the civil records books, which exist to this day in good condition in the archives of the Radom city court.
Of course, we do not find biographical details from that source. They tell us nothing about the roots of these rabbis and rabbinical judges, about their life and creativity, and about their influence on the young Jewish settlement. And a rabbi, at that time, was a person of authority with a domineering influence. Of course, this was dependent on his mentality, wisdom, scholarship, and strength of character.
What we can discover from the civil records is the chronology of rabbis, rabbinical judges, and their deputies from the time when civil records of the Jews in Radom were maintained. From the signatures on the documents of that time we can derive from when and until when such and such a rabbi held office.
The civil records of the Jews were maintained in Radom from the beginning of 1826. The first document, a death certificate, was registered on January 11. However, were there not any rabbis in Radom before that time? Based on the statistical data, we can deduce that there was no official rabbi in Radom until then. The statistical numbers show that in 1815, there were 413 people in Radom, and the number grew to 1,000 within 12 years. However, we must consider that when the city grew, it often merged with suburbs and nearby villages, which changed the number of the general population, including of the Jews. The Jews then were then conducting a difficult struggle for their living rights and means of existence. Communal life was not yet established, and they did not yet even possess the elementary institutions for a community: a synagogue and a cemetery. Engaging an official rabbi became necessary when the civil records started to be kept, for a member of the clergy was required to supervise and take responsibility for the civil registry.
Radom did not have its own rabbi until June 28, 1826. The fact that the first wedding record of Ludwika Bestel-Chaimowicz and Michael Lewi was inscribed that day and signed by the rabbi of Wladow, Rabbi Leib Noach Kohen, gives testimony to that date. We must therefore deduce that the first rabbi in Radom (or the one who first performed the functions of a rabbi in Radom) started from August 1826, and was Rabbi Chaim Lebendiker of Szydłowiec. For on August 31, 1826 a wedding was registered (of the groom Hirsch Wajsburg and the bride Rachel
Rozenblat) with the signature of: Chaim Lebendiker, local rabbi (rabin tutajsi). However, next to the signature, the following was written in Yiddish letters: Signed by Chaim Lebendiker of Szydłowiec, who lives in Radom. This says nothing about his rabbinical title, but only stresses that he is a Szydłowiecer and lives in Radom.
It seems that Rabbi Chaim Lebendiker did not remain in Radom for long, because in the years 1831-1832, during the time of the plague, a notation [in the registry book] states that no marriages took place amongst the Jews. Along with the city president, the signatories were: Aharon Himelblau the clergyman [duchowny]. The signature of Aharon Himelblau also appears on documents until the year 1835. From then, they were signed by Shlomo Lichtensztajn, with a title: In lieu of the rabbi. We find Lichtensztajn's signature ten years later as well. This all indicates that there was no official rabbi in Radom throughout all those years.
Without doubt, the first official rabbi in Radom was Rabbi Yehoshua Landau. Rabbi Landau signed the first document on December 2, 1845. In that marriage registration, he was called Rabin tutajieszi synagogi Rabbi of the local synagogue. His final signature was on a document from December 27, 1855. That means that Rabbi Landau occupied the rabbinical seat for an entire decade. From then, until 1868, there was again no official, fully certified rabbi in Radom. The rabbinical seat remained empty for thirteen years.
During that time, documents were signed by Rabbi Meier Cederbaum substitute clergyman for the rabbi of the Radom synagogue (from 1856 to 1857); and Rabbi Gabriel Dancyger substitute of the rabbi (from 1857 to 1868).
The signatures were in Yiddish letters. However, on March 27, 1862, Rabbi Gabriel Dancyger signed in Polish. Even then, when the civil registry was maintained in the Russian language, he continued to sign in Polish.
After Rabbi Dancyger, Rabbi Mendel Frajdman signed from April to July 1868, as substitute clergyman for the rabbi.
Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer signed in the registry for the first time, for a wedding registration on October 27, 1868. He signed in Russian. His final signature was on February 1, 1883. Rabbi Mohilewer would often be away, and he would travel on missions for the Chovevei Zion movement. At such times, documents in the civil registry would be instead signed by Rabbi Leizer Wajnzaft with the title: podrabin [deputy rabbi]. We find Rabbi Wajnzaft's signatures from 1877 to 1885.
In August 1885, Rabbi Aharon Mildman signed for the first time as clergyman of the city of Radom. From time to time, we find his signature when other rabbis were in office (such as Rabbi Perlmutter and Rabbi Treistman), and also after Rabbi Treistman left Radom in 1913.
The first signature of Rabbi Perlmutter in the civil registry was in August 1886, and the last one was in April 1902. Then, for a brief time, Rabbi Aharon Mildman signed as a substitute, as well as Rabbi Moshe Michael Kohen.
In 1904, Rabbi Mendel Kestenberg signed for the first time, often replacing Rabbi Aharon Mildman.
Rabbi Eliezer Leib Treistman signed for the first time in August 1904, and for the last time in October 1903.
After the outbreak of the First World War, on December 11, 1914, we already find the signature of Yechiel Kestenberg, with the Russian title: performing the duties of a rabbi. (Oisfalnioviszti dolgnasti ravina)
Yechiel Kestenberg, like his father Rabbi Mendel signed the civil registry documents until 1927. Based on the frequent intervention of the community organs (over a series of years), higher Polish regime officials ordered that Yechiel Kestenberg's rights to maintain the civil records be removed. From then on, Rabbi Shmuel Tajtelbaum signed as the representative rabbi. However, we again find the signature of Yechiel Kestenberg in the last days of the Jewish community in 1940.
From the above chronological list, we see that Rabbi Chaim Lebendiker began signing the civil records as the rabbi of Radom in 1826. There was no official rabbi in Radom between 1831 and 1845. Then Rabbi Yehoshua Landau arrived as the official rabbi (1845-1855). Radom then went through a thirteen-year period without a rabbi until Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer was chosen. When Rabbi Mohilewer took over the rabbinical seat of Białystok in 1883, there was a three-year period until Rabbi Perlmutter was chosen. When Rabbi Perlmutter went to Warsaw in 1902, there was a two-year period until Rabbi Treistman was chosen as the rabbi in 1904. When Rabbi Treistman moved to Łódź in 1913, Radom did not have a legally selected rabbi until the destruction of the holy community.
What was the cause of the long breaks between one rabbi and another? Especially from Rabbi Landau until Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer? And why was there no official rabbi in Radom until Rabbi Landau? We cannot give a firm answer regarding this. We can only surmise that there were differences of opinion between the city householders in the young community.
We already know more details from the time that Rabbi Mohilewer moved to Białystok. Then, a graduate of the rabbinical seminary of Zhitomir, Yosef Dreizin, attempted to become the rabbi of Radom with the help of the local Russian police chief. This
brought great embarrassment to the Radom community, which went through a difficult period. However this also eliminated all the differences of opinion between the householders, and led to the selection of Rabbi Perlmutter in 1866.
Incidentally, it is it interesting to note that that selfsame Dreizin, who caused sufficient problems for the Jews of Radom, later became an apostate and joined the Pravoslavic religion.
The period between Rabbi Perlmutter and Rabbi Treistman was relatively less stormy, even though there were two opposing sides in the issue of the rabbinate: the Hassidim and the Maskilim. Radom was an important Jewish city at that time, with a population of over 10,000. However, the so-called Jewish community taxpayers did not have voting rights.
With the election of Rabbi Treistman, community life stabilized and developed in accordance with the spirit of the times. The communal council consisted of dozors (a Polish expression, meaning overseers), and parnasim [administrators] selected by the community for a one-year period. Aside from collecting communal dues, they had to concern themselves with maintaining the clergy and holy institutions: rabbis, shamashim [sextons], the city synagogue, the large Beis Midrash, and the cemetery. That means that in fact, they were restricted in their activity to religious affairs.
Until the First World War, the entire communal headquarters consisted of one room in Pal's house on 2 Warsawer Street. Only one officer was employed the communal secretary. From those years, I recall the hoary-grey haired Reb BenZion Flomenbaum, who was called BenZion the communal secretary.
From the beginning of the 20th century until the First World War, three rabbinical judges (Moreh Horaa) served together with the rabbi. They were selected by the dozor boznicy [synagogue overseers], who mainly were privileged individuals who inherited the rights. Their activities were restricted to matters of kashruth, deciding religious questions, mediating small-scale monetary disputes (din Torahs Torah based adjudications).
During the time of Rabbi Treistman, the elder rabbinical judge was Rabbi Aharon Mildman, the son-in-law of Rabbi Gavriel Dancyger. Rabbi Aharon continued in office until the 1880s. He died at a very old age in 1916. He had fine traits, and was very much respected by everybody.
As it seems, Moshe Michael Kohen was then a Morah Horaa [a rabbi, but not the official rabbi of the city]. He must have held the office for a very brief period, and I do not recall anything about him.
During that same time, Rabbi Mendel Kestenberg, or as he was called, Reb Mendel Skariszewer, was accepted as rabbinical judge. He was from the well-known Margolis family. He was a scholarly Jew. He was murdered during the Holocaust.
The third Moreh Horaa at that time was Rabbi Mendel Borzszyner Wajngarten. He was previously involved in business, even though he was a great scholar. When there was a recession, he accepted the position of Moreh Horaa. Reb Mendel Borzszyner (Bereziner) wrote and published several Talmudic books. He died in 1926 at the age of 66.
At the beginning of the First World War, when the Russian military authorities drove out the Jews from the surrounding villages, rabbis and rebbes were also among the refugees. Some of them remained in Radom, among them were: the Klwówer Rabbi, an prominent Aleksanderer Hassid; the Kazanówere Rabbi, the Drildzer Rabbi; Rabbi Nachman Perkal, son-in-law of the Drildzer Rabbi.
After the first World War, Rabbi Shmuel Tajtelbaum, son of the Skariszewer Rabbi, was accepted as rabbinical judge. At first, he was designated as a Moreh Horaa for the Glinicer area, which had grown greatly on account of the large number of factories. Later, he moved to the center of the city. In 1927, when the authorities when the authorities removed Kestenberg's functions as rabbi, Tajtelbaum became the sole More Horaa, and became the deputy rabbi.
Rabbi Tajtelbaum's place in Glinice was later taken by Yisraelke Lindenbaum, who was very popular in Hassidic and scholarly circles. He was murdered in the Treblinka death camp.
After Rabbi Treistman left the rabbinical seat, stormy and difficulty times came upon Radom communal life. However, this forms a separate chapter, that will include later. That chapter is called Rabbi Yechiel Kestenberg and his Personal Tragedy.
Rabbi Yehoshua Landau
The city sufficed itself with a rabbinical judge for some time, but when the settlement grew, it had to have a rabbi. Rabbi Landau was accepted, and was officially called The Rabbi of the Local Synagogue. He was a grandson of the Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the Noda BiYehuda of Prague. Throughout generations, the Hassidic Landau family gave forth great personalities, rabbis, and parnassim [administrators] in the Council of the Four Lands.
Rabbi Landau was the rabbi in Radom for more than twelve years, and we find his signature on official documents until 1857. He was very active in many areas of Jewish societal life, as an activist with a great deal of initiative. He was among the founders of the Jewish Hospital, and of a loan fund with pledges. He did this together with Reb Netanel, Reuven and Itcha Bekerman, Hirsch and David Rozenblat, and Eliahu Rotman.
When Rabbi Landau was occupied with communal affairs, the rabbinical judge Rabbi Mordechai Cederbaum signed wedding registrations and other documents in the city hall.
Rabbi Gavriel Dancyger
The Dancyger family was among the oldest and most famous in Poland, starting with Rabbi Shraga Feivel, the head of the rabbinical court of the cities of Sierpc, Gąbin, Grise [Grójec], and Maków, where he was the rabbi. His son, Rabbi Yechiel Dancyger, was the founder of the Aleksanderer rabbinical dynasty. Rabbi Hirsch from Warsaw selected the name Dancyger. Our rabbi, Rabbi Gavriel, was his third son. He maintained a correspondence with his nephew Rabbi Yechiel, the Aleksanderer Rebbe, during his youth, from which was culled a book of responsa on issues of gittin [divorce documents], marriage, chalitza [release from the obligation of levirate marriage], and first-born animals. The Aleksanderer Rebbe greatly esteemed and loved his uncle, the Gaon Rabbi Gavriel. He wrote about him as follows: The world of my uncle, the Gaon of Torah, should live. They are brief and sharp. They are small in quantity but great in quality. And I delve deeply into them, as I do with the books of our great predecessors. Etc.
Rabbi Gavriel was a student of the Warker Rebbe. He was the rabbi in Radom from 1857 until 1868. His son, Mendel, was a householder in Radom, a scholar with a sharp mind, one of the most important Gerrer Hassidim. Rabbi Gavriel's daughter was the wife of Rabbi Aharon Mildman.
Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer
He was born in Glubokie, near Vilna, on 27 Nissan, 5584 . He was the scion of 22 generations of Torah giants. He married at the age of 15, and was supported by his father-in-law for three years. Then he went to study in the Yeshiva of Volozhin, where he became known as Der Gluboker Ilui [The Genius from Glubokie]. He received rabbinical ordination after a half a year, but he became involved in business, and spent five years in the flax trade. He became the rabbi in his hometown of Glubokie at the age of 24 and remained there for six years. Then, he spent six years as the rabbi in Szaki [Šakiai], and eight years as the rabbi of Suwałki. Then, in the year 5628 , he became the rabbi of Radom, and he remained with us for 15 years. He was active in many areas, and was beloved by the entire population. Rabi Mohilewer was involved here with all communal matters, and he broadened the Torah circles. Rabbi Mohilewer also amazed everyone with his expertise in astronomy, Jewish history, and other subjects. The city revered the rabbi's great intelligence and many other fine traits. He wrote many articles in newspapers, which he signed as: Shmuel Mohilewer, head of the rabbinical court of Radom and the area.
Rabbi Mohilewer's activism broadened in Radom, and he began to become active not only in the city, but also for the entire Jewish people. He was known as one of the greatest activist in our national life, and as one of the founders of religious Zionism.
He was one of the personalities invited to many large and important conventions, where he influenced the settling of Jews in the Land of Israel. In the year 5642 , he founded the first Chovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] organization. He was the first to influence Baron Edmond Rothschild to help bring a number of Jewish families to settle in the Land of Israel. The first settlement of Ekron was then created.
During his publicity trips for Zionism, Rabbi Mohilewer also visited Białystok, where he was strongly received by the local communal leaders. They made efforts over a long period, until in the year 5644  Rabbi Mohilewer left Radom and was accepted as the Białystoker Rabbi.
Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Perlmutter
Of course, it was difficult for Radom to come to terms with a new rabbi after Rabbi Mohilewer. The searched for three years until the authorities became involved and designated Yosef Dreizin as the official rabbi. The community invalidated him (he later became an apostate). Then, the appropriate candidate, the Pabianicer Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Perlmutter, arrived. He was renowned as a genius, and he knew Russian. He was accepted as the rabbi of Radom in 1886.
Rabbi Perlmutter represented himself well. He had good command of language, tact, intelligence, and a great deal of knowledge. He was greatly respected in government circles, which served him well when he made efforts to cancel or lighten various decrees. He worked on behalf of various institutions in the city, especially the Talmud Torah. In 1901, he was a founder of a savings and loan fund for Jews and Christians. When Alexander III traveled through Poland, Rabbi Perlmutter received a gold medal from him. Rabbi Perlmutter delivered a sermon on the occasion of the coronation of Czar Nikolai II, which was later published in Gubernskija Wiadomości [Government News]. He received a silver medal for this. During that period, he made a trip to the Land of Israel, where he delivered sermons in the old Hurva Synagogue of Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid and other places. He was accepted as head of the rabbinical court of Warsaw in 1902, in the place of Rabbi Zeinwil Klepfisz, may the memory of the holy be blessed.
Rabbi Perlmutter authored the books Damesek Eiezer, Eretz Hatzvi, and others. His son, Mr. Perlmutter, published a special biography of his father in Antwerp, published in 1933, titled: Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Perlmutter His Life and Works.
Rabbi Eliezer Leib Treistman
Radom was a comfortable host for its rabbis on their path to further, larger rabbinical careers.
Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer's departure from the small, not yet developed community of Radom to the significantly larger community of Białystok was a great achievement for him.
Rabbi Perlmutter's move from Radom to Warsaw in 1902 was an advancement to greatness for him. He became the head of the rabbinical court of Warsaw.
Rabbi Treistman also had such an advancement to greatness when he left our city in 1913. He was accepted as the rabbi of Łódź, the Polish Manchester.
They amassed powers and life experiences while in Radom, which they took with them along their way to the larger cities. Therefore, when we describe the greatness of our rabbinical personalities, we must also tell about their influence in those cities to which they took what they gained from Radom. We cannot present a full picture of Rabbi Mohilewer if we fail to describe his Białystok period, about the final 14 years of his life when the name of the great rabbi and leader resonated in rabbinical circles. Rabbi Perlmutter's 16 years in Radom were years of fruitful rabbinical activity and ascent for him. From there, his name spread to Warsaw and prepared him for the position of head of the rabbinical court. Our provisions gave him powers and set him on the broad paths as representative to government councils, and later deputy of the constitutional Polish Sejm. When we portray Rabbi Treistman, we must accompany him to Łódź.
At the time of his tenure in Radom (1904-1913), Rabbi Treistman already gathered his spiritual powers in the rabbinical world, having convened the rabbinical convention in 1907. However, those powers first came to expression when he took over the rabbinical seat following the great Rabbi Eliahu Chaim Meizel. He then conducted a difficult correspondence battle with the Kaluszer rabbi, Rabbi Yechezkel Lypszyc, and thereby gained greater popularity.
He displayed unusual heroism due to a special circumstance. The first years of the war were fatefully momentous for Łódź Jewry. This was a historical coincidence for Rabbi Treistman, giving him the opportunity to demonstrate his might and resoluteness. During their attacks on the fronts around Łódź, the Czarisrt satraps prepared to drive the Jews out of the city, accusing them of interfering with military objects: the telephone and telegraph communications. At that time, when the existence of Jewish Łódź was threatened, Rabbi Treistman took the entire burden of responsibility upon himself to avert the decree. He took upon himself the responsibility of protecting the telegraph communication in the Łódź region, and created a Jewish telegraph militia of several hundred people, which he led. Thereby he avoided the deportation from Łódź and the brutal attacks on Jews by the Kalmykian hoards.
Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Leib Treistman was born in 5624 (1864) in the town of Janowa. His father, Rabbi Baruch Mordechai, the author of the book Birchat Mordechai, was a descendant of the author of Pri Megadim. Already during his childhood, Eliezer Yehuda Leib was known as a genius, with a phenomenal memory and sharpness. At the age of 15, he got married to the daughter of a wealthy merchant in Austria. His father-in-law assured him of support for years. However, shortly after the wedding the father-in-law wanted to make him into a merchant. The young son-in-law felt bad in the role of a textile merchant, and felt it was better to go away to the Yeshiva of Volozhin, where he excelled in scholarship and diligence, and earned the name The Great Eliezer. After his ordination, he went to Warsaw, where Rabbi Zeinwil Klepfisz drew him close and gave him a spot on the Warsaw rabbinical court. He served as the rabbi of Zelechów for 24 years, which was significant since Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev had once served as the rabbi there. Rabbi Treistman came to us in 1904. Radom accepted him in the place of Rabbi Perlmutter, extended to him appropriate honor, provided him with an appropriate dwelling, and gave him a respectable salary.
Already from the outset, Rabbi Treistman earned the appreciation of the Jewish population, as well as of the local municipal and administrative authorities, for his good relations and for his command of the Russian language. There was also complete harmony in his collaboration with the three rabbinical judges who were also great scholars. His Torah adjudications became well-known, and people turned to him also from outside Radom. This improved his financial prospects, and he set himself up in a typical dwelling on the central street. He was close to government circles, where he worked for the benefit of the public and also for the benefit of the private individual. He intervened on behalf of innocent Jews who they were trying to drag in to criminal and political trials.
In 1907, he organized the conference of rabbis and Admorim of the district. The conference took place in the nearby country village of Garbatka. The Ostrowiecer rabbi, Rabbi Meir Yechiel HaLevi and a series of other famous rabbinical personalities were among the participants. The conference had a positive resonance in the rabbinical world.
Rabbi Treistman sat on the rabbinical seat of Radom for approximately ten years.
Rabbi Avraham Tenenbaum-Arzi describes Rabbi Treistman's years in Łódź (1914-1920), which were the epilogue of his life, in his book Łódź and its Jews (Published in Buenos Aires in 1956):
Regarding the activity of Rabbi Treistman of blessed memory, we can state that, despite the fact that his term of office as the rabbi of Łódź was relatively short, when we precisely consider everything that the rabbi had accomplished, we must admit that only such a tireless communal activist as Rabbi Treistman of blessed memory would have been able to accomplish such vitally important matters for the benefit of his community in such a short time.
We will not deal here with all of his activities for the benefit of the community of Łódź. It is worthwhile, however, for the benefit of the history of the Jews of Poland, to note, that aside from his other accomplishments, it was the four war years of 1914 to 1918 that perpetuated his name among the dedicated rabbis of Poland.
During the course of two days, Rabbi Treistman concerned himself with the thousands of Jewish refugees who were driven out of the nearby border cities by the Russians. Thanks to Rabbi Treistman's serious intervention with the high military authorities, he prevented the bestial attack against the Jews by the Cossack Heidamaks and other military formations. Rabbi Treistman was also the one who succeeded in having repealed Nikolai's decree to drive all the Jews out of Łódz, on the pretext that they had destroying the military telegraph. Rabbi Treistman was the one who succeeded in procuring from the Dutch government cheap products for the Jewish population during the entire period of the German occupation. He set up in various points in the city free kitchens and distribution depots for the thousands of needy Jews of Łódź.
The war ended and Rabbi Treistman prepared to dedicate himself to the benefit of Jewish Łódź under normal circumstances. He would have certainly and with ease utilized the broad field of his activity to smooth over the contrasts in the city: wealthy Jews in Poland against the large-scale Jewish poverty; the assimilation taking root against the resoluteness of Orthodoxy. However, fate had it differently: tuberculosis of the lungs weakened his body. He died in 1920 at the age of 56 after two years of suffering. His funeral turned into a great manifestation of sorrow. Masses of Jews of Łódź mourned the great deceased man, who had done so much for his community during the few years that he served as their chief rabbi.
by Leizer Fishman
Translated by Jerrold Landau
|Neglecting the Kestenberg issue in the Book of Radom would mean passing over a chapter of history during a quarter century of Jewish communal life in Radom.
This would be unforgivable because, on top of everything, the issue went beyond the local arena and grew to a general Jewish issue in pre-war Poland.
In truth, this was a painful chapter that brought no honor to our community. However most of those involved in that dispute went through the way of tribulations in the Nazi hell. They are among the martyrs of our destroyed community, for whom this book is an eternal light.
Now, 20 years after our great destruction, which covered over all errors, travesties, and mistakes with the blood of our holy community there is no more concern over hurt feelings, and we can describe and specify the facts in this chapter with the greatest objectivity.
Yechiel Kestenberg, the son of the Moreh Horaa Rabbi Mendel, stems from the wide-branched Margolis family. In 1905, during the stormy days of revolution and Jewish-national renaissance, seventeen-year-old Yechiel Kestenberg was, to a significant degree, torn from all sides with the stream of the times. He modernized externally to some degree: trimming his sprouting beard, being careful with his dress, and joining the circles of those lads who had left the Beis Midrash bench and had begun to discuss the new realities… There, he read aloud his own poetry, which he attempted to compose at the time. He walked in the streets with a book under his arm, thereby demonstrating his route toward worldliness.
However, he lacked the power to oppose the will of his father, who married him off at a young age to a daughter of a wealthy householder from Zamość.
Yechiel Kestenberg then left Radom and fell into a new, strange environment. Apparently, he was not successful with his wealthy match, for he soon had to become involved in business. He entered the fish business, which did not suite his character and mentality. He quickly gave up the fish business, left his father-in-law's house, and returned to his father.
Difficult times then began for him. He had to concern himself with livelihood for his wife and child. Having no choice, he decided to part from the worldly path and to continue with the rabbinic tradition of his father. He sought a rabbinical position in one
of the surrounding towns. He became the rabbi of Wierzbnik, but he did not find favor with the local householders. There were great disputes in the town, causing him to leave his position and return to Radom.
He returned at the time when Rabbi Treistman was accepted as the rabbi of Łódź, and the Radom rabbinic seat was vacant. Soon it became known that the head of the community, Yitzchak Bialski, a confidante of the gubernator, made efforts to obtain from him a nomination for the young Yechiel Kestenberg, who was temporarily filling in for an outside rabbi.
That was the beginning, and that was is how Kestenberg's first steps in the Radomer arena appeared.
At first, barely any attention was paid to this, for the chief interest was to select a new rabbi. Suggestions came from rabbinical authorities throughout Poland as well as from outside its borders. For everyone, it would be a merit to follow after such great ones as Rabbi Yehoshua Landau, Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer, Rabbi Perlmutter, and Rabbi Treistman. When the candidacy of Rabbi Tsirelson of Kishinev arrived, all circles, including Hassidim, Misnagdim, and progressives, united to accept him as rabbi.
In those times, a rabbi was not chosen by the parnassim [communal administrators], but rather directly by a communal election. There were 654 people with voting rights in Radom at that time, who had paid their dues to the community. 599 communal voters participated, and 596 voted for the candidacy of Rabbi Tsirelson. That is, only three voted for any of the other candidates. There was great joy in the city as a result of the election of Rabbi Tsirelson, and people wished each other mazel tov. A rabbinical contract was prepared in [proper] format, with the signature of all the Radom householders. (That rabbinic contract can now be found in the possession of the Organization of Radom Natives in Israel.) A delegation of twelve prominent householders of the city traveled to Kishinev to present the rabbinical contract to Rabbi Tsirelson.
The city was already prepared for an impressive reception for the new rabbi. However, a letter suddenly arrived from Rabbi Tsirelson that he was declining the Radom rabbinical office.
That news made a shocking impression on the entire community of Radom. The shock was greater due to the knowledge that Rabbi Tsirelson's decision came as a result of an intrigue. It became known that Rabbi Tsirelson had received a threatening letter from Radom, written in Rashi script. At the same time, there was a libel that Rabbi Tsirelson was involved in anti-Russian activity, and, as a result, a severe investigation was being conducted against him. The young Kestenberg was suspected in all these things.
This was a difficult blow, affecting the morale of the Jews of Radom. It would be difficult to have all sides unite once again for a new candidate. However, with the suspicion that the young Kestenberg was preparing to lead the community into a new entanglement, an election for a new rabbi took place.
Even though there was no unity, Rabbi Tsirelson made certain efforts on Kestenberg's behalf. The election took place, and Rabbi Landau of Zawiercie was elected with a large majority.
Rabbi Landau was also a known and authoritative personality in the rabbinical world. However, the same intrigue that had taken place regarding Rabbi Tsirelson took place once again. Radom prepared a write of rabbinate for Rabbi Landau, and prepared to receive the new rabbi with honor and joy. However, Rabbi Landau could not decide, given all the obstacles that Kestenberg was placing, this time almost in the open.
The matter continued on. In the meantime, the First World War broke out. Jewish life became wanton. Cossack hoards murdered, robbed, and acted wildly. Entire Jewish communities were driven out of their towns, and thousands came to seek refuge in Radom. Hundreds of Radom residents were mobilized and sent to the front. Three Jews were hanged in Radom on the 12th of Elul.
During those tumultuous days, the young Kestenberg succeeded in obtaining the nomination from the Russian authorities as executive of the duties of the Radom rabbi.
Of course, during those sad days, nobody could figure out how to react against that nomination. There were large-scale arrests at that time, and the Russian authorities also took hostages, whom they sent to Russia. Among those arrested was the well-known Maskil Shalom Diament, student of Reb Yisrael Frenkel; as well as Noach Rozenberg, one of the greatest Gerrer Hassidim.
Diament's son Yisrael approached the stationed general Pevtzov with an intervention to free his father. However the response was negative. The general said that he could not free Diament because he was arrested in accordance with Kestenberg's instructions.
(Ten years later, at the time of the Kestenberg-Fogelman trial, the aforementioned Yisrael Diament gave a declaration of testimony with the same point.)
The city was taken over by the Austrian occupation authorities, and life normalized. Rabbi Kestenberg then had his position as the rabbi of Radom officially confirmed, as he also received the nomination from the occupation authorities in Lublin.
Also, at that time, there was nobody to oppose it. It was wartime, and everyone had their own concerns.
Kestenberg entered the role of rabbi of Radom, and he acquired a circle of followers. He especially brought people with a
strong fist into his circle of followers. He had handworkers, a few assimilationists, and a number of middle-class people around him. Thus passed the occupation years and the first unsettled years after the rise of the Polish regime, until life returned to normal.
During the first six or seven years of his disastrous tenure as rabbi, Kestenberg also established relations and earned the friendship of gentile, official personalities in the city. That gave him the opportunity, from time to time, to serve as the Jewish representative at special events of a patriotic character.
When Jewish life in Poland began to stabilize, the societal institutions, such as the Sejm, the senate, and the city council began to arise. The Jewish independent committee, the communal council, also arose.
The new committees of the Jewish communities expanded their frames of activity and influences. The voting rights restrictions were also annulled. The official Jewish parties and economic organizations (such as the handworkers club) took part in the election… as did a group of Kestenbergovches. That group, however, received only three mandates out of 22 city council positions.
It was expected that the elected communal representatives would make it a top priority to solve the awkward question of the rabbinate. The date of the rabbinical election was set for November 1, 1924.
Suggestions came from well-known rabbis in Poland, including Rabbi Sztejnberg, the Jaroslawer rabbi, who had every chance to be elected. (According to the new communal constitution, a rabbi was to be elected by the parnasim, and most of the parnasim were united regarding that question.)
The decision of the community was confirmed by the supervisory authorities with all formalities. It was taken care of in the appropriate institutions. Therefore, the decision of the administrative tribunal to temporarily defer the elections for a rabbi, based on Kestenberg's complaint, was met with a self-evident sense of bitterness.
The city council and the Jewish community met for a special consultation regarding this matter on November 9, 1924. In the name of the elected Zionist representatives, Mizrachi, and Aguda, the parnas Moshe Rotenberg read a declaration, which stated, among other things:
We protest against the destructive methods of Mr. Kestenberg, who, through his complaint, dared to sully the Jewish population, and to accuse them of disloyalty. We write that the communal council is interested in fresh rabbinical elections. For he assembled factional groups at the time when he, Kestenberg, did not want to belong to any political party. We especially protest against the confusion, for the result of such elections will lead to anarchy and demoralization of Radom communal life. We, the legal representatives, consider this a destructive action on Kestenberg's side, which will permit him to utilize such terrible arguments against a legally elected communal council.
At the same meeting, the decision was taken (with two opposing votes) to appeal to the highest tribunal against Kestenberg's accusation. This would take care of the purely formal side, but would not solve the matter itself. At this stage, it would be impossible to solve the problem. Even the Jewish representative to the Sejm had to suspend his intervention regarding the various factors until the decision of the highest tribunal.
However, the reaction of the Jewish communal institution was strong. An entire series of leading personalities and dedicated journalists spoke out about the destructive consequences of Kestenbaum's methods. Deputy Yitzchak Grynbaum made an interpolation in the Sejm, approaching the education minister and supported an article in the Radomer Zeitung. He portrayed Kestenberg as a collaborator with the Czarist Okhrana, and later, with the Austrian occupation authorities.
Kestenberg could not remain silent regarding such charges, which would decide his fate. He accused the editor of the Radomer Zeitung, Mr. Pinchas Fogelman, in the district court. The trial was an open one. Both sides were represented by five lawyers and tens of witnesses and communal activists from Radom, as well as personalities from the city leadership, such as Professor Balaban. Kestenberg also had a series of gentiles as witnesses. The progress of the trial was followed by Jews and Christians throughout the entire country.
Desiring to clear himself of the harsh accusation (which was his holy right), Kestenberg made a new series of unforgivable errors. First, he claimed at the trial that he was persecuted by the Jewish representatives on account of his patriotism toward the Polish people. Second, he specifically chose the distinguished leaders of the anti-Semitic movement in Poland as his lawyer, including the zoologist from Poznan who was a persecutor of Jews, the lawyer Chmurski, and the leader of the Rozowy of Radom the lawyer Niedzwiecki.
It is entirely possible that Kestenberg himself did not take to heart both this tactic and the thesis proposed by the anti-Semitic lawyers. However, the error was made and later accompanied him like a specter throughout his entire life.
Even though Kestenberg formally achieved a victory, and the editor of the Radomer Zeitung Pinchas Fogelman was recognized as guilty by the district court Kestenberg earned no respect or contentment.
It is already no longer important to describe the process of the trial in the second court session, which turned into a general Jewish trial, even though various witty leaders, such as Dr. Yehoshua Tahon, deputy Dr. Rotensztrajch, and the lawyer Bernzon appeared before the court. The later decision of the highest administrative tribunal that the Radom community has the right to conduct free elections and elect a rabbi in accordance with their desires (even though in 1926, Rabbi Sztejnberg was elected as the rabbi of Radom but could not take office due to Kestenberg) is also not important. The dance of demons around the Jewish community, the dismissal of the communal authorities, their involvement with the nomination from Kestenberg's side (which repeated several times) each of these details is a similar link in the long chain that impinged upon communal life and the free will of the tens of thousands of Jewish residents.
The most tragic thing was that Rabbi Kestenberg had extended himself so far that it was no longer possible to find a way back. This was his personal tragedy.
Kestenberg, the Radomer, the son of the Radomer Moreh Horaa Rabbi Mendel, who had sufficient intelligence and more than enough might and energy, ruined a fine and honorable position in the city, where he could have held office and lived and set out in such a manner during tumultuous times, which was painful to the hearts of his fellow townsfolk. However, he felt that this was the easiest way to the crown of becoming the rabbi of Radom.
He followed that path of vexation for two years, and he never attained the crown of the rabbi of Radom.
He did not accomplish this until the day of our great destruction.
However, we must state here, in Rabbi Kestenberg's praise: During the difficult, dangerous time, he found sufficient energy to not let himself be used by the Nazi authorities, and his name was not sullied. He must certainly have endured a great test when he was locked into his own four ells, immersed in silence and thoughts.
Perhaps, he was taking stock in his soul during that time for all the unsuccessful years?
One did not see or hear of Kestenberg until the dark day of August 16, 1942, when he was prodded through the streets of Radom together with the 18,000 Jews on the march to the gas chambers of Treblinka.
by Nachum Sokolow, Yisrael Frenkel, and
(From Professor Muskatblit in Radomer Zeitung)
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The informer Dreizin terrorized the Jewish population of Radom for three years, during which time he wanted to impose himself as the rabbi and master over the community. Yisrael Frenkel then wrote a sharp article in Hatzefira under the pseudonym of Makri Dardaki [The Reader to Young Children], in which he mentioned Dreizin and the regime. Hatzefira was forced to close at that time, and Nachum Sokolow came to Radom at that time to influence Dreizin, and to make peace between him and Frenkel. Sokolow accomplished the first aim: he stopped the conspiracy of the censored books, which had the stamp of the censor. However, Frenkel did not want to make peace with Dreizin. Sokolow then traveled to Petersburg, where the permit to publish Hatzefira was returned to him. The informer Dreizin, who got drunk and took bribes, received Haman's ending. He was removed from the position of overseer of the schools. After he became an apostate, he was given the position of director of the Terespol railway station. He was given the name Pawel, and wrote a book: The Messiah has already Come. He died from consumption, alone and forlorn.
Chometz, Beard, and Shirayim [Leftovers]
Motia Muflag (Reb Mordechai Wajsman) tells in Radomer Kielcer Lebn about the enthusiasm with which they first received Rabbi Mohilewer, and the cool relation to him later, when he supported the school of the Maskil Y. L. Liberman, with whom the melamdim [traditional cheder teachers] were fighting.
The fanatics then began to pursue the rabbi and embitter his life. A rumor spread on the eve of Passover that the Jews of Radom would be eating chometz. The rabbi was quickly sent to check the kashruth of the wheat and the flour, and he clarified that everything was in accordance with the law. Netanel Bekerman and other
city notables supported the side of the rabbi. It was difficult to console him, however. On Shabbat HaGadol, the rabbi delivered a fiery sermon in the synagogue against the hypocrites who wish to instigate a Korach-style dispute. From that time on, he conducted the rabbinate with a firm hand.
Wajsman further tells about the decree from the general gubernator of Warsaw (in the 1870s) that all Polish Jews must shave off their beards. The Radom gubernator then requested from Rabbi Mohilewer that he should serve as an example for the entire community and be the first to shave off his beard. Rabbi Mohilewer then traveled to the general gubernator of Warsaw. First, he went to Rabbi Gezuntheit, from who he found out that the decree had been repealed. The Amshinower [Mszczonówer] Rebbe had also come to Warsaw to intervene with the general gubernator, who did not receive him. On the other hand, he did receive Rabbi Mohilewer the next day and gave him the paper about the annulling of the decree. Rabbi Mohilewer was quite amazed when he heard that Jews were saying that the decree was repealed with the help of the Amshinower Rebbe. Rabbi Mohilewer then recited a verse from Kohelet [Ecclesiastes]: For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, and with knowledge, and with skill; yet to a man that hath not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion 
In his book Sarei Meah, Rabbi Y. L. Maimon tells that the Hassidim of Radom strongly supported Rabbi Mohilewer, and wanted to make him their Rebbe. They would come to his table for the third Sabbath meal, and ask him to tell them words of Torah. They would even try to get shirayim. The Lithuanian Gaon found this distasteful, and called out to his wife: Rebbetzin, come to the table and sit near me. Having no choice, the Hassidim had to move back
Rabbi Tsirelson and the Torah Adjudication Between the Communities of Radom and Kishinev
Shami'r writes in Hatzefira on 28 Shevat 5674 (1914), among other things, that Radom is a calm city, where the factions are not ripping things apart. Even though one can accuse it of many errors, such as neglecting education, a shortage of libraries, and the fact that the community leadership was in the hands of the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society] peace was not disturbed in the city. Even the cantor of the synagogue and the head of the rabbinical court were elected without difficulties or battles.
When Rabbi Treistman left Radom and became the rabbi of Łódź, our city was inundated with operettas of rabbinical candidates. However, when the candidacy of the Gaon Rabbi Tsirelson from Kishinev came through, all other candidates withdrew. Everyone, from Hassidim to assimilationists, united to take on Rabbi Tsirelson in the place of Rabbi Treistman. Out of 598 votes, 596 were for Rabbi Tsirelson, and the electors wished each other mazel tov.
In an edition of Hatzefira we read:
The day came for a rabbinical adjudication between the Radom and Kishinev communities, with the rabbi and Rabbi Shmerl Noach Schneerson from Bobruisk. Neither community wanted to give up on Rabbi Tsirelson. The Radom community forced a rabbinical adjudication, but the Kishinev delegation informed them that they would not accept the verdict.A second correspondent in Hatzefira notes that Rabbi Tsirelson would not be coming to Radom. He declined the rabbinate in our city because he received a warning letter from Radom, written in Rashi script, that he dare not come. According to the ensuing situation, a younger person (i.e. Kestenberg) was accepted as provisional rabbi.
Regarding the Rabbi Kestenberg Episode
Yosef Heftman writes in the Warsaw Moment from April 1931:
It is especially worthwhile to mention the period of the previous head of the community, Yechiel Frenkel, whose name was deleted from the election list of the Jewish community due to his apparent anti-religious attitude. Frenkel served as the head of the community in Radom for over seven years. It is clear that a man who was elected for a high post cannot be suspected of negative attitudes to Judaism. Not only that Frenkel's name was not deleted due to the initiative of the Agudas Yisroel or other religious elements, but rather through private individuals who were involved in the dispute regarding the rabbinate. This was the start of a new chapter, that showed all the characteristics of middle-age.And further:
A new type of informer arose on the Jewish street. An informer who adorned himself as a so-to-speak defender of the national interests, and collaborated with the regime. However, he often went about without a head covering, and drank tea that was brewed on the Sabbath. Thus, legitimate representatives of the Jewish community were suddenly placed outside the camp, and driven out of the Jewish community council. This was a curiosity that resonated like a joke in other countries. However, for us Polish Jews, this thing could be a tragedy.Hillel Ceitlin writes in Moment:
The editors received a denial from the provisional community council that they had deleted Frenkel's name. However, they did admit that they were forced to do so in accordance with the recommendations from the voters, who demanded that Frenkel be struck from the list because he transgresses the religion. Here lies the entire danger of paragraph 20, which serves as ammunition in the hands of[Page 57]
various 'sides' who lock out their opponents from the communal council with the assistance of the regime.Dr. Yehoshua Tahon touches on the theme in the Krakower Nowy Dziennik and attacks the regime for conducting such a system , which brings shame and mockery to the regime in the eyes of the world. He asks: Is the case of Frenkel from Radom not sufficient to see abyss that is encircling us?!
* * *
The solemn meeting of the community took place on September 14, 1924, at which the general elections were conducted. The chairman of the council, Yechiel Frenkel, opened the meeting with the following words:
The community in Radom is still young. It has been in existence for about a total of a hundred years. Furthermore, it already recorded fine pages in its chronicles. The Rozenblum, Dytman, Landau, Bekerman families laid the foundations for various social and religious institutions, for example: the hospitals, schools, philanthropic funds, etc. Several great rabbis, such as Yehoshua Landau, Gavriel Dancyger, and Shmuel Mohilewer helped deepen the religious feeling, broaden Jewish wisdom, and awaken our nationalist consciousness. Within the Radom intelligentsia, which was spiritually connected to the folks culture, schools and Talmud Torahs were established that educated people who are now active in the realms of culture and economy. We also come across those who had the desire to further extend the traditional thread and work in collaboration for their ideals.Yosef Kenigsberg, the chairman of the communal leadership, states:
As we take the communal leadership into our hands, we are imbued with the feeling of responsibility that we must immediately become active in deeds that will turn into promises and actuality. The fact that I am able to speak in the name of the entire community, which is comprised of all streams of our camp, gives testimony to the responsibility that pervades among us with respect to the chief problems that demand their solutions.
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