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[Page 217]

Writers and their Works


The Pleiad of Radom Writers

Translated by Janie Respitz

Radom belongs to small group of towns in Poland that delivered a pleiad of writers such as: Yehoshua Perle, Leyb Malakh, Dovid Gisser, Leo Finkelshteyn, Dr. Yitzkhak Vaynberg, Y.L Volman, Kh. M. Fliglman, A. Lerman and others who enriched our literature and press.

The forward from the editor reads:

---“A single tree can grow in a field, a single shrub can grow among stones and in the desert sand. However, for such an abundance of literary talent there had to be fruitful soil, a favourable atmosphere.

In this section we bring you biographic notes and critiques of these writers and samples of their work which had, for the most part, a connection to Radom”.

These writers are gone for eternity but their work has remained.

Fortunately, some Radom writers were saved and continued with their blessed creativity. These writer are:

Rabbi Dr. Sh. Traystman – contributor to “Letzte Nayes” (The Latest News), which collected pearls from our old treasure.

Dr. Avrom Arzi – Tenenboym – author of text books. Often spoke on radio “The Voice of Israel” on Talmudic topics. Contributor to “Ha Boker” (The Morning).

Dr. Yehoshua Grintz – Contributor to the Hebrew Encyclopedia. Laureate of the Tchernikovsky Prize for translations (from English to Hebrew). Author of books on the biblical themes. Lecturer at Bar – Ilan University.

Dr. Yitzkhak Grosfeld – Medical researcher.

Gavriel Vaysman – Poet, essayist, folklorist. He was privileged to receive a literary prize from the Radom Jewish community for his book. Gavrile Vaysman wrote stories and poems for children. His poems were sung and recited by well known actors.

Lotti Fidler – Malakh – story teller and teacher. She lives in Los Angeles, California. She published a volume of stories and reportages called “Shtile Trit” (Quiet Steps).

Binyomin Elis – Prose writer who published a few books and short stories. He lives in New York where he is a contributor to the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Miriam Shir – Publicist. Works for various newspapers and journals. She writes in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish. She also writes dictionaries in three languages. She appears on radio “The Voice of Israel”.

Leyzer Fishman – Historian, whose important work about the Jews of Radom is included in this book.

Itamar Benet – Journalist, correspondent for the Hebrew daily “Ha Boker” (The Morning).

Uri, Roberto (Borukh) and Tamr Gisser (the children of Moishe Dovid Gisser) write songs, dramatic poems, essays and prose.

Except for Binyomin Elis and Lotti Malakh, they all live in Israel, the liveliest Jewish literary centre.

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Yehoshua Perle
(From Reisin's Lexicon and Other Sources)

Translated by Janie Respitz

Yehoshua Perle was born in Radom in 1888. His father Leyzer was a village Jew and it was from him that Perle inherited his love for the Polish village, the Polish landscape. The fact that he grew up with step brothers and sisters from his father's first wife and his mother's first husband had an impact on him. Until the age of 12 he went to Heder but then he had to help his father support the family and worked as an assistant in a shop and an apprentice in a workshop. Thanks to his mother he had the opportunity to learn as an external student and completed four years of gymnasia. In 1905 he had to leave home and worked as a bank employee in Warsaw.

Perle began to write at age 16. He wrote poems in Russian with Jewish national motifs. His first Yiddish short story with which he debuted in Noyekh Prilutzky's “Der Nayer Gayst” (The New Spirit) in 1908 was called “Shabbes” (The Sabbath). Since that time he was very productive and regularly published in various publications skits, short stories, novellas and greater novels which made him one of the most respected representatives of new Yiddish prose in Poland. He premiered in the newspaper “Tog” (Day) with his stories “Numbers” and “An Honest Woman”.

Erotic moments play an important role in Perle's creativity as he describes a woman with her longings and love, with her flirtations and simplicity. He was very knowledgeable about the Polish Jewish woman, the common folksy types, the bourgeois and the assimilated. He artistically illustrates the people from the big cities with their weaknesses and tragedies displaying a sharp eye and a sense for plastic images. Perle's style is calm, his language is succulent and direct.

He created the following works: “Mirl”, a novel, published in Warsaw in 1920. The novel is dedicated to his wife Soreh who later, in 1926, committed suicide. “In the Land of the Vistula” a poem in prose form (published in 1921), where he describes how a girl from Polish nobility leads Jewish girls to conversion. “Under the Sun” is a collection of novellas. “Sin” is a volume of novellas published by “Bzhozeh” Publishing House in 1923. “Ruta” is a novel written in rhythmic prose published in the collections “Khoydesh” and “Ringen”. “Dust” is a volume of short stories. “Nine O'clock in the Morning” is a volume of short stories about official life in the big city. “Everyday Jews” is a novel which describes childhood and youth in Radom. The last three books made a great impression of Yiddish literature and his name rang throughout the Yiddish world where he was one of the most beloved and widely read Yiddish writers.

Yehoshual Perle also wrote literary criticism mainly in “Literarishe Bleter” and the New York “Tzukunft”. He translated from Polish the story “Moyshelekh, Yoselsekh and Yisroliklekh” by Janusz Korczka, “Man and Wife” by Votzlav Shieroshevsky, “Barenholmer Legends” by the Danish writer Svendsen and others. His first novel “Mirl” was translated into Hebrew by M. Indelman who later changed her name to “Bat – Khaya”.

Perle was a regular contributor to “Moment” in Warsaw where he also wrote under a pseudonym. Among other things he published suspenseful novels which increased the circulation of the newspaper. Throughout the cities and towns of Poland people waited impatiently for the next issue of “Moment” and swallowed each episode with bated breath. In literary circles there were heated discussions about whether or not this talented writer should busy himself with these newspaper novels which he signed “Three Stars”. However in these popular newspaper novels, “Down From the Mountain”, “Jewish Blood” and “Humiliated”, there were some very artistic chapters and had they been written in English or French they would have been best sellers and Hollywood would have certainly made films from them. Yehoshua Perle also published in “Folks – Tzaytung”, “Globus”, “Shriftn” and the New York “Tzukunft”.

Perle, the Artist of the Polish Landscape

by Yehoshua Lender

Translated by Janie Respitz

It was an honour for our hometown of Radom, and we were very proud that Yehoshua Perle was one of our own. He was born near “the little mill” in a small wooden house, where the clay floor was covered from Friday to Friday with fresh sand from Khane – Bayle's shop on Synagogue Street. His father, Leyzer was a village Jew with a black beard with an expertise in hay. He had two children from his first wife and four with his second wife and with a heavy heart barely earned a living. His entire life he sighed into his rented orchards and haystacks. However, Yehoshua discovered a world of beauty and richness in his father's world of poverty. He inhaled the aromas of the orchards and fields and his eye thirstily drank the colours of the Polish landscape.

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These colours and aromas were later felt is all his works.

At the age of sixteen Yehoshua Perle left Radom and went to find his luck in the capitol. This is where he made his first literary attempts. Noyekh Prilutsky discovered him and brought him into Yiddish literature.

In Warsaw, Perle began to dress in a more modern short jacket, worked as a bookkeeper and came into contact with the bourgeois and half assimilated Jewish circles. He observed this environment and described it in his novels. Yehoshua Perle is very creative. With every work he rose higher in literature. His most famous works are “Everyday Jews” and “The Golden Peacock” for which he received prizes from the Yiddish Pen Club in Poland and the literary prize of the “Bund”.

When Yehoshua Perle grew to be tall and strong, like an oak tree in Yiddish literature, the Second World War broke out. He escaped the Nazis and wandered as a refugee with his only son and daughter in law to Lemberg. The Bolsheviks were already there. The Soviet writers who did not pay much attention to the arrogant little writers from the “proletarian group” who believed that political themes were more important than talent… actually befriended Perle and invited him participate in their publications and published his work which was resented by the entire group of left wing writers. However, Yehoshua Perle does not want to sign up. It was war time and no one knew how the war would end. He wants to come to a free world with his head held high and with a clear conscience. The Ukrainian Writer's Union did not give him the financial support they gave others. Perle wandered through the streets of Lemberg as a foreigner, outside the camp…it was a miracle that his son and daughter in law got jobs. They worked and brought him money, and he, the famous Yiddish writer had to play the role of housewife and go with a basket to shop at the market…

When the German – Soviet war broke out the Germans occupied Lemberg and Perle returned to Warsaw. Together with Yitzkhak Katzenelson he gets involved in cultural social life and Jewish communal work until, together with his son was deported to Bergen – Belsen.

As someone who returned from that hell recounted, when they met Yehoshua Perle in Bergen – Belsen he was a broken tearful man.

Yehoshua Perle was murdered at the height of his creativity, when great things were expected of him which would have enriched our literature. However, Perle was no longer thinking about literature when he saw how every day Jews were being slaughtered.

Yehoshua Perle was a kind hearted man of his people. He wrote for his people and met his martyr's death with his people.

Everyday Jews
(Fragments from the twice awarded work)

by Yehoshua Perle

Translated by Janie Respitz

One might ask, how did my mother, who with her first husband, the doctor, had brass hinges on the doors, and lived in “chambers”, how did she get to my father, to the Jew from the “New Little Mill” who was an expert in hay, who ate soured milk and sour cream from a large earthen bowl and loved to bathe in the village river and sleep in the forest? How did she go from one to the other?

This is what people said:

Before father and mother were married neither one knew how many children remained from their first husband and wife. When they pledged to one another they forgot to mention the names of all their orphans. They talked about each having a few children, but all were grown and did not need anything from their mother or father.

The wedding took place, a meal was served to a quorum of Jews. Then mother packed up all of her belongings in a trunk, the bit of jewelry she left with Aunt Miriam and left to the “New Little Mill” where father lived after the death of his first wife. When mother arrived there, she saw a large dark room with a clay floor, many earthen pots scattered in the corners, two broken window panes covered with pillows and four black haired disheveled young women in loose fustian blouses, who were hiding

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between the bed posts and looking with large, astonished eyes at the new wife their father brought from the city.

When mother saw this, her young face sunk like a fig. Without removing her overcoat she stood there and asked:

“This is the farm you told me you had?”

“Yes, this is the farm” father replied.

“And who are these young women, who?”

“My daughters”.

“All four?”

“All four, let them be well”.

“Didn't you say you had two?”

“Who cares what I said”.

Mother's heart felt squeezed. She couldn't speak. How would speaking help? If she wasn't embarrassed she would have fainted.

She opened the door again and said:

“No, Reb Leyzer! I never agreed to this. Keep your daughters in good health, but I will not be your wife!”

“What exactly do you mean? What about our marriage ceremony?”

“We'll get a divorce, Reb Leyzer!”

And mother took her trunk and returned to the city.

She went to Aunt Miriam, her younger sister crying and lamenting:

“Miriam my dear, what did you want from me? Why did you talk me into this match? He's a pauper! He has four grown daughters at home, like oak trees! What will I do with these four women, what?”
Aunt Miriam knew father had four grown daughters at home. She also knew Reb Leyzer was very poor. The farm that was included in the dowry is nothing more than a house with clay floors and earthen pots for soured milk. But mother was also a widow and Reb Leyzer was not demanding any money. And mother also had children from her first husband, may they be protected. So what's the big deal? What is she complaining about?
“How could I not complain?” mother replied. “Coming from such “chambers” I had with my first husband, I now will now have to live in a dark house with clay floors!”
This also broke Aunt Miriam's heart. Who ever heard this had to pity the pretty young Frimet. But it was too late. How could complaining help? They made an effort. Aunt Miriam and Reyzele Itche Bik's and father's sister, Aunt Noymi, with the delicate lips, helped her to understand that a person's luck is in God's hands. No one knows what will be. Who knows, with mother's merits, father will get back on his feet and will able to buy his wife “chambers” with brass hinges on the doors.

What could mother do? She did not want to be the laughing stock. She cried and complained and then let them convince her. However she did not want to return to “New Little Mill”, let him come to the city she said, if he is a pauper, let him be a pauper in town.

So father bid farewell to the earthen pots, the meadows, the forest and his four black haired disheveled daughters. These four disheveled young women cannot sit on their poor father's shoulders forever. Something has to come of them. Mother slowly began to make arrangements.

Ite, the youngest, cooked in rich homes in Warsaw. One time, she came home for the holidays and brought her father a gift.

Khane – Soreh, the eldest, was a maiden with black hair, tall with wide strong hands. Mother married her off to a butcher in a small town. Khane – Soreh had nothing to complain about. Things went well for her. Volf, her husband, was short with a drawn, blackened face and loved his wife. In time, she brought three daughters and a son into this world, let them be well. All, with black hair, green eyes, brown skin, hairy and quiet, just like their mother.

Khane – Soreh would come to once in a blue moon, to buy something for her daughters and at the same time visit father and at the same time – be silent. Father and his eldest daughter were both tall, disheveled and over grown, like old rooted poplars. They sat across from one another, looked into each others' eyes…and remained silent. Form time to time this would occur:

“How are you father?”

“How should I be doing?”

“Like this”.

“How's Volf?”

“Not bad”.

“And the children?”

“Praise God”.

That's it. They looked at each other in silence and then she left for another year or two or five.

Father delighted in his eldest daughter. She was a wealthy woman. They had the largest butcher shop in their town.

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She was happily married, made parties at circumcisions, and invited her father to all her celebrations. He would return well fed and well rested and told about the feasts they prepared, about his grandchildren who are growing, may they be spared the evil eye. He spoke a lot about his son in law Volf, that even though he is short with a thin beard, he could nevertheless find the solutions for a wild ox or the surrounding peasants who were big anti – Semites.

But Khane – Soreh was his only daughter he married off. After her was Bayle, also tall with broad shoulders, long narrow hands and a wide chin. Bayle did not possess the calmness of her sister Khane – Soreh. Her words were chopped and short and every small things would make blotches appear on her chin and cheeks. She looked at the world with bitter anxious eyes. Strangers could easily think she was a shrew. However in reality, Bayle would give you the shirt off her back. Everyone knew her by her deeds. You could not find such a great housekeeper with a torch.

Bayle had one fault: she had no patience. She could not remain in one place for long. She was swept away by the wind to Warsaw, Lodz, sometimes to a small town as long as she did not remain in one place. Once and a while she would arrive at an inn to warm up. If she liked the place and the people she would stay.

At the inn she would milk cows, cook large iron pots for Jewish travellers coming and going and deliver pots of bran and potatoes to the cattle. She was able to spin wool, knit, mend, sew and even chat with noblemen's sons who passed through the inn on their decorated horses. Bayle was able to do so much for others but not for herself. Years passed. Bayle began to grow wider and she never found a match. However, the time came when Bayle did marry according to the laws of Moses and Israel. She chose this man on her own. He was a widower, a strong man with a big blond beard like the Russian Tsar Alexander III. Bayle's husband did not have money like the Tsar and his name was not royal either. His name was Volf, just like father's first son in law. He did however have his own horse and wagon.

Bayle live with her husband outside of town, far away near the Skarshev city gates. At night winds blew over Bayle's roof. Wagons rode in and out of town. Wagon driver shouted behind the windows. Bayle cooked large pots of grits for them. On the Sabbath she served Cholent with Kishke (a stew with entrails). Volf, her husband, travelled with his horse and wagon to fairs and markets. When he was not travelling he made horse shoes. They got by. Every year in the middle of the night you would hear the cry of a new life that Bayle brought into the world. - - -

Things were different for the third, Toybe. Toybe was completely different from all of her sisters. She was taller than all her sisters. Her shoulders were as broad as were her hips with an open face to the sun and wind. She looked like rich girls who eat chicken in broth and sew phylacteries bags for their husbands to be.

Toybe's eyes were so big she looked as if she was astonished about everything. During the day they were blue and at night they looked black. Her hair was also black, curly and on sunny days looked like garnet. When Toybe walked the window panes rang and the floors creaked. And although she worked in a wealthy home where she washed dishes, scraped carrots and peeled potatoes, her hands were narrow, delicate with long clean fingers.

On the Sabbath, after they ate, Toybe would come to visit us. She gladly listened to what mother recounted about Warsaw. She loved to reminisce about mother's son Moishe who was taken from this world so young. She listened to her stories about the brass hinges in the “chambers” which mother once had. She was patient and took in everything with a smile.

She also had stories to tell about the “New Little Mill” where she was born and about her mother who was able to carry two bushels of potatoes on her back. She told us about the small water mill where her father had once been the miller. Toybe said that there, at that mill, ghosts would hide at night. She herself said she would hear, in the middle of the night, how the mill would start turning on its own. Father would run out to look but did not see anything. He would only hear whistling and running.

Once, it was around Shavues, Toybe recounted, the mill began to turn. Father had to wake up the head miller who lived there with his wife and child. They lit a lamp, the miller crossed himself and they went inside. As soon as they entered they suddenly heard running. The miller was a strong gentile. He chased them until he fell upon a labourer and his own wife. His wife was young and beautiful. Why she went to the mill in the middle of the night,

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no one knew. But when her husband saw her, he grabbed her by her hair and flung her to the ground, then threw her once again onto the stones. The stones turned, water began to flow and the miller's wife turned with the stones until she was broken and bleeding. The entire mill and the flour were covered in blood.

The miller was then sent to Siberia, put in shackles and father no longer wanted to work in that mill.

This was a very long time ago when Toybe was a little girl. She remembers she ran to the forest and spent a day and a night. Her mother went to look for her and found her unconscious behind a tree.

Toybe was the prettiest of father's daughters. She worked in the wealthy home where a bizarre and tragic event occurred. - - -

I grabbed my coat, not buttoned, not fastened and also went outside. I hid in a corner of the German church. It appeared to me that mother turned around and looked to see if I was following. On Warsaw Street I hid again behind a gate. Mother and Reyzele entered Synagogue Street. I followed. Synagogue Street was narrow, bent like a hoop and dark. The white synagogue with its round blue windows reaches toward the low House of Study which sticks out a bit into the street. The other small houses lean on each other. If a strong wind would blow they would bend and would not be able to straighten out.

It appears something must have happen. All the men and women in town abandoned their Sabbath nap and came running here with a hostile sense of wonder. People were pushing and shoving. They raised their faces, stuck out their necks, stood on their tippy – toes to see over everyone's head. I push myself through the men's cold long coats and women's warm dresses. Through strange feet and elbows I want to crawl to the place that everyone is struggling to see. Turns out, they don't know who I am. They pay no attention to me. Otherwise, they would not have spoken with such harsh words:

“Yes, Leyzer hay dealer”

“Of course, when you have a step mother!”

“Why is the step mother guilty?”

“Who else is guilty, Uncle Grunem?”

“If one is not a respectable person, even their own mother can't help”.

I tear myself through the coats and dresses and suddenly over everyone's head there is a scream combined with and wail:
“Dear God in heaven, let me die, I just want to die!”
The crowd is chaotic. The screaming stops for a second. It's as if it shrinks. But soon it tears through the air again with an echo:
“Merciful Father! What did he want from me?!”
People turn their faces. An old Jewish woman in a headdress struggles with a collapsed mouth:
“Men, get away form here, men!”
Boots and shoes begin to shuffle. I emerge to the front where everyone was poking their heads and noses.

Then I saw, where everyone was pushing, the snow was red. The sun had not yet set, the window panes of the synagogue were blue. Then why was the snow red?

Someone moved and suddenly I was able to see a piece of a person sticking out of the snow. It was Toybe! Our Toybe! She was lying in the red snow, torn in two, exposed, both legs naked upright like planks, with blood dripping from her feet and stomach.

Toybe looked at me but I did not know if she recognized me or knew who I was. Her face was red and swollen. She looked at me with large, round turned over eyes, like a calf. Suddenly, she raised her naked legs in the bloody snow and screamed with a piercing melody:

“People, give me poison! Have pity!”
A long peasant sleigh rode down Bath Street that leads to the city canal. Two gentiles lifted Toybe from the snow, covered her and lay her down on the straw. The sleigh moved. Pieces of red snow settled on ground. A black cloud poured over the synagogue, as if from gushing blood. - - -

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About Leyb Malakh
(From Reisin's lexicon and other sources)

Translated by Janie Respitz

Leyb Malakh was born in Zwolen, Radom province in 1894. His mother died when he was ten. His father remarried immediately and did not want to have anything to do with his son. Leyb was raised by his maternal grandfather, Reb Hershl Teneboym, the rabbinic judge. By the age of ten he was the teacher's assistant at a Heder in Zwolen and later in Radom. At age thirteen he left for Warsaw where he was a mirror polisher, an apprentice baker, a painter and wallpaper hanger. He taught himself to read and write and devoted himself to self education. He returned to Radom from 1914 – 1922 where he gave lectures and was cofounder and contributor to the weekly newspaper “Radom Vokhnblat”.

Malakh debuted in H. N. Nomberg's “Warshever Togblat” in 1915 with a ballad entitled “Three”. Since then he published poems, ballads, epic poems and legends in various dailies in Warsaw and throughout the province. In 1922 he wandered to Argentina where he developed intensive literary and cultural communal activities. He participated in the Yiddish press of all Latin America and helped found libraries. For a short time he edited the weekly journal “For Old and Young” and the anthologies “Almanac”. Among his first significant creations was the trilogy “Dregs”, a naturalist drama about the Warsaw underworld, the poem “Rasina” and the four act drama “Overflow”, where he describes the abyss of the brothels of Buenos Aires. The Yiddish theatre in Buenos Aires did not want to produce this play as they did not want to start a fight with local underworld. This began a societal struggle in the entire Yiddish press until the play was finally produced by Yakov Botoshansky in New York, in the Bronx Prospect Theatre starring Rudolph Zaslovsky. The same actor performed Malakh's “Leybele Tentzer” in three acts.

Leyb Malakh dramatized the legend about “The Maiden from Ludmir”. He wrote a play called “The Card Game” and many one act plays. He wrote short stories and poems, articles and reviews. His following works appeared in book form: “In Poland”- a Poem, “Once, Once” – Ballads and legends, “Dregs” – a dialogue in verse, “The Dead Wedding Canopy” – a ballad, “A Girl's Dream”, a poem, “The Frog King” – a short story in 2 acts, “The Prince of Vilna” – a performance, “Short Poems and Short Stories”, and “A Story of Three Brothers” – an adaptation in rhyme of the Brothers Grimm.

Malakh's greatest success was his play “Mississippi”, performed by the Warsaw “Youth Theatre” directed by Dr. Mikhl Vaykhert. Also performing with them was Shamai Vaks from Radom.

In 1930 the B. Kletzkin Publishing House in Vilna published Malakh's 600 page novel “Don Domingo's Crossroads”, dedicated to his mother who he never knew. This novel was translated into Polish by Moishe Shimel and was published at Lemberg's “Khvila”. In 1934 his book “Alter's Childhood” was published, a play for children “The Workshop” and a volume of Reports from Palestine.

Malakh travelled extensively around the world. He visited The Land of Israel where he dreamed of settling. At the age of forty something, and the height of his creativity, and at the eve of new literary – dramatic challenges, he got sick and had to undergo an operation in Paris. Unfortunately the operation was not successful. Malakh, who experienced a similar childhood to Maxim Gorky and attended similar “universities”, died on the same day as the great Russian writer in 1936.

The Yiddish Literary and Journalist Club in the Land of Israel published a beautiful, dignified publication:

“Pages in Memory of M. Malakh”.

Malakh's wife, also from Radom, is the teacher and writer Lottie Malakh who lives today in Los Angeles. She published a volume of short stories and reports called “Quiet Steps”. She is in possession of Leyb Malakh's unpublished manuscripts.

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The Road Back
(A Short Story)

by Leyb Malakh

Translated by Janie Respitz

The small government boat “Lincoln” which just sailed from Battery Park to Ellis Island plunged into the water ten times deeper than usual.

The extra weight was due to more than two hundred and thirty people plus a dog, besides the luggage that some of them had.

These people were not all the boat was carrying. To the contrary, they were not even taken into account. These were already “numbers” in the protocols of the immigration inspectors. In the eyes of the immigration police these were “packages” with addresses, to send somewhere, to hand over.

The “packages” were hugging the iron rusty poles of crates. The boat was the “alley” through which prisoners poured in from 26 prisons and the immigrant jail, which greeted them from across with a red wall and round dome on the nearby island, Ellis Island.

Most of the passengers on this boat were part of a delegation of community workers who abandoned their issues and, one simple evening, had to put on their smoking jackets, white stiff shirts, which banged with every step as if unfurling thick scrolls. It cannot be said these gentlemen felt extremely comfortable in their gala clothes, considering the sad penetrating eyes peering out from the crates. Not only the gentlemen, but the ladies tried to wrap their coats around themselves so their fancy clothes would not be seen. There was a painful silence from both sides. The high society people did not take such a meeting into account. Both the immigration officials, who stood fully armed around the crates like a circus servant around an erected cage in the middle of an arena guarding wild animals, and the captain who was gasping like an Indian machine, as if he wanted to draw in and spit out the hot steam, felt responsible. But what could they do, there was no other boat to taxi between New York and Ellis Island.

Among the high society there were a few journalist – photographers and two “talents”: a male and a female singer from a second rate opera, who accepted the invitation to perform a few numbers at the prison on Ellis Island to improve the moods of the immigrant prisoners on this night of Passover.

From the high walls on the other side of the gates night was sweeping in, as if from narrow streets which looked like streams filled with darkness. But just as the boat left its spot, the two rocking wooden fences with hanging stones paled on the mouth of the river.

The sun was already slaughtered and dripped red drops from the sky into the sea. It must have had enough light from somewhere because the giant buildings so close on New York and New Jersey shores sunk into a reflex shine. The thousands of window panes on the highest floors, the dome and prison peaks looked like lit copper plates throwing back knitted gold thread.

Usually, the trip from the shore to the island takes around fifteen minutes. Now the boat was sliding under the weight of the crowd stride after stride. Everyone was silent. Those behind the crates clung on and wrapped their fingers around the iron bars like imprisoned lions. Not all were able to press up against the bars and everyone wanted to see New York for the last time. The buildings swaying in the distance looked like a group of tombstones diverse in style.

Not everyone behind the bars knew each other or met before. They felt like a pack of dogs the dog catcher collected throughout the land, in cities and on roads, and now, are imprisoned being taken to their end. The majority were men, speaking various languages and with various idiosyncrasies. The majority were Italian. The last shine of the sun shone on their black eyes and poured a concealed reddish light on their pale cheeks. There were also Poles and Finns, Turks and Jews. The open sea returned the nervousness of the passengers, and the nerves opened their mouths in all sorts of languages, cursing, shouting and even singing.

The small family that was snuggling in the corner of the boat was comprised of three people all together, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Saks and their daughter Miss Lori. This group felt uncomfortable and ashamed with their poor bit of help they were bringing to the forgotten imprisoned immigrants on Ellis Island. The holiday “gifts” consisted of the Russian singer Leonid Orlov, who was proud of his performances in the Royal Opera in St. Petersburg and therefore carries the title “Chamber Singer” and disregarding his right eye was from glass,

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wore a monocle on his left eye. The woman travelling with Chamber Singer was not known to the Saks family. They could not know if Orlov (no one in the Saks family fussed over the singer or addressed him with a title. Orlov and that's it!) had brought her before. In general the singer had a tendency, at every opportunity to accompany himself with a different woman, disregarding the fact that he was flirting with the young Miss Lori.

Now this young brunette woman was authorized to travel on this boat of the federal government. In the list Mr. Saks provided to the immigration director, he was listed as the opera singer and she as his pianist.

This bit of “charity” that Benjamin Saks, the president of the Immigrant Aid Society was offering must have seemed amusing: a singer to sing moans before immigrants who were not being permitted to enter and were being sent back. At the moment other help was not necessary. The kosher kitchen on Ellis Island had been cleaned all day. The immigrants were given a choice. They could eat in the general kitchen or wait for the Passover Seder which was to begin at exactly eight o'clock in the evening.

Lori, for whom the whole idea of charity and aid was an abstract notion (and although she organized card games at her home to collect money from other girls like herself for the immigrants whose fate her father was so interested in ) she could not imagine she would join them face to face between the sky and the sea. Her father and mother and others from their society were dressed up as if going to a dance, a celebration. As it was her first time, she asked her mother which dress she should wear to the immigrant Seder? Her mother replied with a devout expression:

“The most beautiful my daughter. Bring a bit of holiday joy to the sad lives of these unfortunate immigrants, such a pity…”
Lori listened and wore a violet half – ball dress, with wide short sleeves like closed sun umbrellas. In addition, her smooth combed blond hair, which looked like a bundle of locked up poles was gathered with a blue ribbon, the same colour as her shoes and hand bag.

She did not strongly believe in the sincerity of her father who was busy with communal support, as well as her mother's interceding for the “common folk” and afflicted. If it was real, her mother's attitude toward her servants and her own poor sister, Auntie Rokhl, would have been completely different, milder.

It was clear to young Lori that the whole philanthropic pot which often cooked in their house, was a matter of pastime, a regular faucet pouring out honour. As long as Lori could remember her father's community activity, there had been a long chain of banquets, farewells and welcomes. He went to Europe (with her mother) and just returned. Their departure and arrival had remained engraved in her memory like this:

…large white columns in the “Astor” hotel, long tables displaying fine food. Dazzling lights, baskets of flowers, steel champagne buckets, bald spots and bare shoulders and lightning flashes from one diamond to the other. Stiff shirts, tails, silent obedient waiters, lackeys and a band. Speeches and praise, prominent guests. Always a telegrammed greeting from the president with practically the same text:

“I regret my absence. Important government work has detained me. I wish you success in your aid work for immigrants. My compliments to Mr. Saks”. As always the same stormy applause and immediately followed by the singing of the national anthem and Hatikva.

She knows that all of this is done for that unknown figure called an immigrant. Truth be told, she never really wanted to see the figure of this legendary person who was the object of so many celebrations, conferences, trips for her father and other fathers like hers. She accepted her father's suggestion to go with them to Ellis Island, to the Seder fro immigrants who were being sent back to where they came from. It was exotic. A topic for conversation in society. Especially since the famous opera tenor, Orlov, who accepted the invitation on condition, the young lady, Miss Lori, will also go. After the first minute this oppressive mood passed she asked her father for an answer:
“Who are these people father? Criminals?”

“Not definite. However, if they were arrested for deportation, there is something here against them”.

“Are there Jews among them?”

Mr. Saks was ready to intervene on behalf of the few possible Jews. He moved closer to the crates. He sharpened his eyes in order to look though the slats. It was impossible to find a Jewish face. He perked up his ears to try and hear a familiar sound, a Yiddish word. It was after all Passover. Something should be done for them.

But it was impossible to find them. In addition, the night hid all the faces in the darkness and the heaviness of the ship – waltz on the foamy waves swallowed their talk.

Ellis Island stuck out in the middle of the sea like a fabulous castle. A chain of red buildings silhouetted by domes like a group of mosque towers. The shadows descended on the pale pink water and shook off the waves. The light in the barred windows

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weakly lit and swayed like ladders made from golden string. Suddenly someone shouted:

Everybody ran to the grates of their cage. Hands wrapped around the bars and heads turned the opposite way. Some climbed on the shoulders of others.

The boat sailed past the Statue of Liberty. The giant dark bronze figure grew out of a shadow of the dark phantom. The pale sky and the reddish waves inserted their colours in the creases of the figure, wrapped in a sort of transparent blueness, like a veil woven from smoke. Only the tasteless torch, lit like a congealed flame in the raised arm disturbed the illusion that a mythological goddess had suddenly arisen to defend and protect lonely people being turned back.

The boat sailed very close to the base of the statue. It even seemed that the edges rubbed off the granite and bronze.

“The Statue of Liberty” shouted one of the guys.

“Turn your backside to us” another replied.

Those who pressed their faces against the bars spit, and the others, behind them burst out laughing.

The ship entered Ellis Island like in a special dug out half circle. The blueish electric light fell from high steal poles on green, straight cut grass.

A bunch of guards stood on both sides taking deep restricted breaths. An elder greeted the important guests and his assistants led them down the wide tree lined path to main entrance of the office.

Then, the guards let loose, like cats when you open a cage of mice for them. The prisoners were taken through back roads, straight to the red wing, the immigrant prison.

Moishe Dovid Gisser

Translated by Janie Respitz

Moishe Dovid Gisser was born in Radom in 1893. His father was a brass pourer. At a young age Moishe Dovid had to help his father at the crucible and melt metal. There was frightening deprivation in his home which would leave a mark on his later works. He worked in Konsk and Warsaw, in Lodz – everywhere he went he worked hard and was hungry. He was a boy lost in dreams and had a great thirst for learning and obtaining knowledge. He taught himself to read and write from street signs and pieces of newspapers. During the First World War he applied to work in Germany. He worked there as an iron turner in the metal workshops of the Humbold Company.

His first poem, which was called “Mephistopheles' Call” was published in the journal “The Jewish Worker” in Vienna. “The Fair” was a poem published in “Rings” which was edited by Alter Kaczizne and Mikhal Vaykhert.

In 1924, the “Khaliastre” (The Gang) in Warsaw made him a farewell evening when he left for Argentina. However, even there life did not smile upon him. He had to struggle bitterly to earn a living to support his wife and small children. His writings from that period are filled with bitterness and resentment.

Very disappointed he left Argentina and in 1933 wandered through Chile, where he worked as co editor of the monthly “Zid America” and as the editor of “Pacific”.

After 12 years he returned to Argentina where he was warmly received by colleagues.

He continued to write regularly. Every few years he published a collection of poetry.

In 1950 he visited New York, but his desire was to immigrate with his small family to Israel.

He returned to Santiago, Chile where a difficult illness ruined his plans.

Moishe Dovid Gisser underwent an operation and unfortunately did not recover.

He passed away on April 19th 1952 and the age of 59.

In his lifetime, Moishe Dovid Gisser published the following books:

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Flames and Fire – 1929.
At the Fires – 1930
Epic Poems and Ballads -1931
Poems and Epic Poems – 1933
Poems and Countries – 1945
Julius and Mary – 1950

At the first anniversary of his death a special honorary committee in Chile published a seventh book by Moishe Dovid Gisser called “the Song of Life”, which he himself prepared for publication before he died.

In his “Lexicon” Meylekh Ravitch characterized Moishe Dovid with these words:

“Moishe Dovid Gisser is a gentle poet, with full form, with language and juicy Polish Jewishness, with a lot of naivety and a lot of pathos from someone who, if he had wings would have flown like a bird”.

Moishe Dovid had wings, but his hard working life and the bitter suffering did not provide his wings with the power to fly. In they end, they broke.


by Moishe Dovid Gisser

Translated by Janie Respitz

To my Father

Fervor and suffering on my wounds,
Somewhere I still have a father,
Who I am attached to
And his work was betrayed.

He is still a link locksmith
In the chain of many generations
Father, Peysakh, brass pourer,
Magic arrows from candelabras.

My life has been cursed
I'm ashamed before other people;
Whose candlesticks should I pour
When no one wants to bless the candles?

I carry poems with me
Like the tablet of Ten Commandments. My heart aches.
I search for my sisters and brothers
To take these tablets from me.


My Mother Rivka

Far away across the sea
There is a city.
City oh city, so far away
Tell me about my mother.

My dear mother!
Over deserted roads
Your love comes quietly to me
Always reciprocal.

Above me, the stars,
Thorns underneath.
Mother, your tears –
Blood from my songs.

I bring you my poems mother
Over white seas.
If you come across a grave
Send regards to my mother!



From Frankfurt Am Main,
Generations ago,
Our grandfather came to Poland
With a wife and child –
And entire factory
With crucibles and lathes,
With hammers and beams,
His goods and luck
Driven in wagons.
And this is how he wandered
To Poland.
Arrived after weeks
Through dense forests
Through swamps and pits

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And suddenly saw sunshine: Lublin…
With fortresses and castles
And stone houses.

Grandfather said to
His wife and son:
This is where we'll build
Our loving home…

From copper and bronze
He settled and poured
Candelabras and candle sticks
Rosettes and buttons
And hinges for doors.
Until the Cossacks arrived from the steppe
When grandfather once again
Harnessed the wagons
And travelled deeper
Into Poland…

And this is how grandfathers
From past generations
Settled and spread out.
They hammered and forged
The song of their work
Like iron and steel.
And now in these towns
There are no longer any Jews ---
But our grandfather's
Sacred song will continue
To soar through Poland.



What is Rodem? –
A city.
I come from there.
Tell me about Rodem,
Don't quiver, word…

Let it rise like a dream!
An alley, a street,
A synagogue, a mill,
A bottle of kvass,
A Catholic Church with bells,
That ring: Bim – Bom!

Oh Rodem! –
Your name is worse than

Where is the melody
And caress from the wind?
From Jewish mothers
Rocking their child?
The banging of hammers
The song of the blacksmith?
The “Voel” of the Jews
In the heat of the fair?
The youth who sing
Fluttering and free
With red flags
In golden May?
Have you led these Jews
Into the abyss?
Rodem! – Your name
Is worse than Sodom!

What is Rodem?
A city? –
A slaughter house of murder!
Tell me about Rodem,
Don't quiver, word…
With gun powder
Destroy the town
Of my suffering.
Oh Rodem!
You will not be forgiven
For Jewish martyrs –
For the bloody stream!
Oh Rodem! – Your name
Is worse than Sodom!



There was once a small religious community
In Rodem, with Greeks, Arabs
Who lived apart
With their children and wives.

We called them “Turks”
We thought they believed in the Golden Calf.
They baked cookies
And Challahs like giant birds.

Once when one of their children died,
His father came to us:
We are from Abraham's seed,
Children of the grandfather Ishmael.

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Isaac was his brother,
They were of the same blood,
Give us a plot in your cemetery
For our loss.
We have one God, one Father
Praised be His Name
Who fated us to live together
With the illustrious sons of Abraham.

Then he suddenly fell silent,
Wiped a tear with his sleeve.
The sound of his bloody words
Tugged at our Jewish hearts.

The Rodem Rabbi stopped
And spoke to the Turk with compassion: -
We have a forest of green pine trees
Growing in our cemetery.

You can dig a grave there,
Not far, near the fence,
You can bury your deceased there
And God will provide comfort and strength.

This is how graves grew
Of people we did not know.
Covered with erected tombstones
From giant blocks of stone.

Moishe Dovid's Continuity

The editor

Translated by Janie Respitz

It is rare, that a town like Radom should deliver a pleiad of writers. It is also rare that three children of one writer would all inherit their father's talent and continue with his literary output.

It is possible that Moishe Dovid's other children were talented in certain artistic fields, but the three, which were involved with literature are: Uri, Roberto (Borukh) and the youngest daughter, Tamar.

Uri Gisser (born in Argentina in 1925) is a poet who has already published a book of poetry with positive reviews in the foreign press. He writes in Spanish and Hebrew.

Roberto (Borukh) Gisser was born in 1927, also in Argentina. He graduated from university in Chile and devoted himself to literature. He writes poetry and dramas in Spanish. Among others, he wrote the dramatic poems “David and Absalom” and “The Uprising of Tupak Amaru”, an epic poem dedicated to the uprising of the Indians in Peru.

Tamar, Moishe Dovid Gisser's youngest daughter is today barely 17 years old. She writes in Hebrew: poems, ambiance scenes in prose and literary essays. She had not yet published, but here, in our Radom Book she is fortunately making her debut.

Familiarizing myself with the works of young Tamar Gisser, I am convinced we have before us a promising talent. She is making her debut here with a Hebrew poem which we are presenting here in translation, however most probably, her field is drama or prose.

Moishe Dovid Gisser's family, his widow and children live in Israel and almost all of them are members of Kibbutz Ramot Mensahe.

Here is a poem by Gisser's eldest son Uri, and the debut poem of his youngest daughter Tamar.

A Safe Harbour

by Uri Gisser

Translated by Janie Respitz

Safe harbour –
My heart is suffering.
Ships arrive in the quiet dawn,
Ships leave with longing ballads –
Raise me like a flag!

Safe harbour –
Winds are blowing, punished by fate
And are devoured in endless Hallels,
Rest on the beaches, the waves are embracing,
Tired from wandering to the bottom of the shores.

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An arm raised up toward the sky
A proud high pole
In the blue of the dawn.
I want to be your flag!

Eyes – dreamy, quiet desires.
Lips humming a sad melody.
Hands that carry a heavy load.
Nerves – reinforced by a difficult battle.
I want to be your flag!

Safe harbour –
A mix of languages.
Lips are joined in eternal kisses.
Taverns that beckon you
To drown your sorrows
With strong drink and love.
I want to be your flag!

Safe harbour –
Nights waiting
For ships to arrive
And for ships to depart –
Take me as your flag!

Translated from Spanish by Yoyne Obodovsky

The Mirror and Me

bt Tamar Gisser / Ramot Menashe

Translated by Janie Respitz

In the room, near the window
Standing across from each other –
The mirror and me.

The mirror and me
And the abyss of hatred
The Gypsy curse
And tears and hatred.

This is where my youth was extinguished
This is where my hope departed,
This is where I lost all the suns
Of all my days.

And glancing with anguish
It stands across
The picture of my suffering
Naked, without a dress.

And suddenly
I fling my hands wildly:
For all my shame –
Revenge, destroy!

Revenge and destruction,
Until blood and tears
Until my ear will no longer hear
The screams.

And in the room, near the window,
We remain –
My blood and me.

Yiddish: Y. Perlov

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Leo Finkelshteyn

Translated by Janie Respitz

Leo Finkelshteyn was born in Radom in 1895 to a commercial – learned family. His mother was a talented woman with higher education. Leo studied at schools in Radom, Kielce and Krakow and later at Jagiellonian University, where for four years he studied Exact Philosophy and Polonistics. He began his literary activity in 1916 in Polish with two dramas: “Broken Wings” and “Conscience” which were performed in Kielce by a Polish troupe and they were warmly received by the local Polish press.

Leo Finkelshteyn debuted in Yiddish in “Moment” in 1919 with an article about the recently deceased Wilhelm Feldman. Later he published in “Dos Folk” a series of articles under the title “Symbols and Allegories in Yiddish Literature”, and a series of articles “Our Paths” where he explains the philosophy of folkism. Leo Finkelshteyn wrote spirited essays about Peretz, Bergelson and other great Yiddish writers, published articles and critical dissertations. He contributed to “Literarishe Bleter” and “Nash Pshegland” where he mainly wrote about Yiddish, Polish and European literature. The following works made a special impression: “Shpengler and the Jews”, “Mania and Mystic”, “Problems in Modern Polish Poetry”, “About Critique and Critics”, “On the Border Between Old and New”, and about the writers: Stefan Jeromsky, Vatslav Berent, St. Vispiansky, Yuzef Vitlin, Vl. Raymont, Wilhelm Feldman, Yan Kasprovitch, Yulyush Slovatsky, Moshe Hess, Heinrich Heine. His critique of Shimon Hornchik's novel “Swamp” resulted in a great literary scandal.

Among his greatest works are “Between the Lines of H. Leivik's Golem”, “On the Path of Yiddish Realism”, “Hegel, Marx, Spinoza”, “Fundamental Characteristics of Jewish Philosophy”, “The Scroll of Poland”, “Here and There”, “The Yiddish Language and Jewish Survival”.

Leo Finkelshteyn was a beloved and talented speaker who always attracted large audiences, especially at the Writer's and Journalist's Club at 13 Tlomatsky Street in Warsaw where he was a member of the board. He often gave lectures on literary – philosophical topics at the Jewish People's University at the Cultural League and People's Education League.

As a leading personality in the Folks Party he was elected to the Warsaw Jewish communal council. He began a struggle for a Yiddish school and culture. After the split in the party he joined the Democratic – Folk Party and contributed to “Free Thought”. In his last years he belonged to the “Bund”.

During the war years, Leo Finkelshtyen wandered to Russia where he suffered greatly, returning to the destroyed Poland broken and sick. He succeeded in going to America where he was warmly received by Yiddish writers and the press. With his last bit of energy he wrote and published his large work “The Scroll of Poland”, (published at “Polish Jewry Press” in Buenos Aires) and edited the anthology “Yiddish Prose in Poland Between the Two World Wars”. He had great plans to continue writing however the years in exile in the Soviet Union did not leave him with much life. He lost his strength.

Leo Finkelshteyn died in New York on July 29th, 1950.

The Atmosphere in Poland…
(A fragment from the book “The Scrolls of Poland”)

by Leo Finkelshteyn

Translated by Janie Respitz

In the State of Poland the Jewish way of life possessed a different nuance. Of course, with time its own style crystalized. However, meanwhile we will talk only about variant. At first glance it appears that variants and style have grown together, like the flame from a coal. In truth, style is something completely different. The variant is the collective rhythm which is static and is formed naturally according to the stream of life. Style means the inner most direction – a result of spiritual organization which brings to expression special nuances, subtle anxieties and finer pulsations. They appear like an inspiration from the nuance foundation, like a reflection of authentic originality.

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Meanwhile, the drop lies on the general rhythm and its general evolution – transformations.

First of all, as for the outward appearance of Polish Jews, it is said, in the olden days, Jews dressed like the Polish petty bourgeois and by the 14th century like the nobility and in the 15th century again like the petty bourgeois. Finally, when the Poles changed their long robes to European dress, Jews were forbidden to do the same and remained in the old fashioned clothing. With time, the robe was sanctified as pure Jewish clothing. In recent times we have seen the conservative Polish Jew bearded with curled side locks in a long Kapote (long black coat) and a cloth cap. In Little Poland, in a long fur lined coat and a fedora. In front he wore a fringed garment under his shirt. The Poles would laugh at this strange way of dressing. The Jews of Poland spoke a “strange” language the Pole did not understand. They “bastardized” German. Even the Maharshal (Simon Luria) spoke of Yiddish as a “crude Ashkenazi language”.

In reality, the Polish surroundings were a blessing for Yiddish. In Germany, where Yiddish originated, there was danger. Yiddish had to be assimilated into the national language while in Poland, the language had the opportunity to evolve, enrich and develop a character of its own. With time this language became a great nationalistic factor.

When did Jews come to Poland? This is difficult to affirm exactly. There is a story that in the grey dawning days of Polish history, when everything was hidden in the foggy veil of Piast legends:

In the Genesis period of Poland, even before the merging of the neighbouring tribes – Polians, Lechs, Mazurs, Pomeranians, and Silesians, all the significant regional events were connected to Jewish industry and effort.

There is even a hypothesis, that a significant amount of Jews came to Poland from the east. They descended from the Khazars and earned a living as land workers. Their previous homeland excelled in high agricultural culture. The names of the villages: “Zhidvu”, Zhidovo”, “Shidovo” “Kazara” Zhidovsk Vola” all designate Jewish villages in Poland which are mentioned in documents from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Things were different on the western side of Poland which upheld privileges and iron protection letters from Boleslav Kalisky, Kazimierz the Great, Kazimierz Yagelontchik and others. For centuries the Jews managed to force their way through the hatred of the Polish petty bourgeois.

Jews from Krakow, Kalisz and Poznan did extensive business in the east and west: through the port in Danzig Jews connected Poland with the rest of the world. Jews in Poland built highways, erected cities, founded industry and created and developed business.

Cordial travellers with moving brown eyes, bronze complexions and thick beards, dressed in long fur coats strode down Polish highways, transporting grain great distances, lumber and flax and later minted Polish coins with inscriptions in Hebrew letters.

In old Poland, besides the Jewish entrepreneur there were the masses of Jewish artisans and shopkeepers who provided the Polish market with clothing, shoes, furniture, household objects and baked goods; Jews made windows, sewed fur pelts, repaired watches and more. However, they lived a miserable life of hunger in the hunched small Jewish streets with only one bright day in the week – the Sabbath.

On the Sabbath the Jewish streets filled with Jewish pure souls who felt like royalty in their satin long coats. During the twenty four hours of the holy Sabbath they threw off the yoke of earning a living which was tied to submissiveness to the Polish nobility. In principle they were overjoyed with the Sabbath day of rest. Disregarding the common Jew lacking bread, Jews in general felt safer in Poland then in neighbouring lands where anti – Semitism was worse. The Ramah (Moses Isserles) said: “better a dry piece of bread and a calm life than the so called abundance in Germany”. Not considering the expression: “Without Poland there is no blessing” Jews had a crucial relationship with the Polish economy. People would say: “In Poland everything is crooked, but the stairs are straight”.

Jews socially lived alone. Initially they did not come into contact with the Polish intelligentsia, they did not attend Polish schools, did not read Polish books, did not go to Polish theatre, and did not study in Polish universities. The Jewish artisan, shopkeeper, market vendor, orchard keeper, mediator, dairy man, inn keeper and seller of farm produce only came into contact with the Polish common folk, mainly, with famers in the villages and at fairs. The Jewish wealthy man, meaning the lessee of a mill, a contractor or a money lender, would from time to time, for business purposes meet a Polish landowner. When they would meet the distance between them was always like the distance between the “nobleman” and “the humble Jew”. In general however, the broad Jewish social classes only came into contact with the Polish common folk given that the Polish peasant was deeply spiritually rooted, culturally removed, completely illiterate. In spiritual matters there was no common language between the Jews who were knowledgeable in Jewish law and the Polish peasant.

The Jew consequently,

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was attracted to the Heder (elementary religious education), Yeshiva and the House of Study where he derived great pleasure from spirituality. In time, the internal Jewish life was completely sealed off in accordance with belief, customs, clothing, language and lifestyle. Because of this, throughout the generations, a unique life rhythm emerged which actually sealed off the Polish Jew. If they were strangers on the Sabbath, during the week there was contact between the Jews and Polish villagers. Six days a week they did business, travelled, transported cattle, chopped wood, milled grain, gathered in the taverns and the like.

The daily life together was brotherly; until the priest began to provoke, the peasant was rarely anti – Semitic. The influence was shared. The peasant learned how to do business from the Jew and the Jew learned how to work. They shared expressions, incantations and sayings. When the peasant Valenty had issues with his household he would turn to Yoineh his neighbour for advice. When a Jew was far from home doing business with a peasant he would complain to him that he couldn't make it home for the Sabbath. The peasant would give the Jews advice in Polish sprinkled with Yiddish words.

Yiddish expression were also infused with a lot of Polish words, sometimes very humorous.

Polish fairs and annual markets were woven with stories, such as the legend about Elijah the Prophet who disguised himself as a peasant and others.

Nevertheless, from the beginning of Jewish life in Poland until its bloody destruction the Jews remained a constant riddle for the Poles. In their eyes, the Jew was smart, talented, and fanatically religious, with his bizarre Sabbath laws and kosher precautions. The Jew led a solid lifestyle and was grotesquely comical according to his dress, pronunciation and gesticulations. The wild nobleman and the slightly drunk city man were impressed by the Jew's lawfulness, sober intelligence and sharpness. They would even use the expression “he has a Jewish head”. On the other hand, city dwellers considered the Jewish businessmen to be swindlers, cheapskates and exploiters. He does not take any friendship into account when he does business.

The inner most Jewish world nevertheless remained for the Pole a sealed book which never stopped intriguing them with the exotic.

Even in the final years when Jews played a visible role in pure Polish culture, the Polish writer, Wanda Meltzer published a series of reportages of Jewish life in the capitol and called them “From the Black Continent”. The refined Polish literary and theatre critic Boy – Zhelensky, in a review of the Polish production of Sh. Ansky's The Dybbuk, could not calm his enthusiasm about the Jewish “exotic”. Throughout the generations, he said, we have been living with a people in close proximity and we do not have the faintest notion about their spiritual world.

Poles did not only wonder about Jews from the outside. They also tried to penetrate the inner most Jewish world

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trying to understand the Jewish faith. This was in the 16th century during the reformation, around which time the Judaizing Movement was created in Poland. Polish magnates, the Radziwills and others, due to their anti – Catholicism, drew closer to the sacred writings and as a result, to the Jews. This Judaizing Movement has not yet been properly investigated and until today we cannot affirm the amount of converts to Judaism. However, it is a fact, in 1539 a Polish woman in Krakow. Katazhina Veygl, was sentenced to death for converting to Judaism.

There is a legend from the 18th century about a count who converted, Valenty Pototsky.

Poles considered a Jew who converted a careerist. They did not believe him. There is an expression: “A converted Jew, a trained wolf and a reconciled friend cannot be trusted”…

Khaim Mordkhai Fligelman

by Y. L Tzuker

Translated by Janie Respitz

He was born in the village Dobrovik, in a rural environment with its flora and fauna which left a lasting impression on his gentle and poetic spirit. His talent looked for means of expression and he began by painting and carving Mezuzah cases, and decorating the synagogue lectern at the eastern wall with lions, eagles and angels. He married Rokhele, Yidl Kokhonover's daughter and settled in Radom in 1895. He was immediately loved by the enlighteners who were amazed by his mastery of Jewish sources as well as Russian, Polish and German classic literature. He knew Hebrew and Yiddish very well and wrote prose and poetry in both those languages as well as Polish. He was one of the founders of “Hazamir” and a devoted Zionist. His son Meir was in the group “105” that immigrated to the Land of Israel and was one of the founders of Degania Gimmel. He died there and his grave is beside A.D. Gordon.

Kh. M. Fligelman dedicated his great novel set in the time of the Hasmoneans, entitled “The Heroes” to this son.

The novel was published in 1925 by the “Old Yiddish” publishing house of Yehoshua Tzuker in Warsaw (the son of Fishl Shub from Radom). The second son lives in Israel.

Kh. M. Fligelman worked as a forest writer which gave him time to read, study and work. The following is a characteristic episode from that time: the lumber from the Polish forests was exported out of the country and representatives from international businesses would come examine the merchandise. On one occasion one representative ordered a map with exact information of the quality and quantity of the hundreds and thousands of trees in this giant size forest. There were no engineering specialists and Fligelman himself, over a short period of time prepared the requested map, basing it on his own intuition and knowledge of the forest. The map was the size of an entire wall. His efforts were certified by those knowledgeable in the field.

In 1919 Fligelman was elected councilman on city council and proved to be very helpful to the residents of his district, Glinitze.

Unfortunately his writings were not looked after and the only work which remains in “The Heroes” which is filled with love for The Land of Israel, like Mapu's “Love of Zion”.

Yehuda and Tamar
(A chapter from his historical novel “Heroes”, of the Hasmonean Era)

by Kh. M. Fligelman

Translated by Janie Respitz

There where the hills of Naftali end, in the lower Galilee, not far from the Kishon River on the west side: The sun had just risen in the pinkish – blue clear horizon covering the region with its golden beaming rays. Over the mountains, far away the fog is lifting and many of them are still covered with a light transparent veil. The nighttime dew still lies on the plants and the field flowers are glimmering on the fields against the pure sky with all sorts of colours. Thick drops of dew pour from the trees and fall on the damp grass like large Indian pearls.

The air is cool and fragrant. A magical stillness prevails.

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Only the birds jump around and fill the air with various sweet sounds and melodies. The wonderful tones of the turtledove are carried from the nearby forest.

Over the paths which turn through the valleys between the mountains two riders appear. They are riding slowly and with effort, holding back their well rested horses who want to run and jump gracefully: however, when they feel the powerful hands of their riders, they bow their graceful necks, lift their feet and bang their hoofs. Lagging behind them, a camel loaded with various packages. A twenty year old black Bedouin sits on the camel's hump. His black wild eyes are covered by a djellaba (hooded coat) with black stripes, and he hurries the camel with a long thin stick.

The riders are dressed as travellers, wrapped in linen coats, with white hoods on their heads to protect them from the burning sun. Everything is dusty from the road. At first glance they look like wandering merchants with their packs of good on the camel. But when you look closely you see they are soldiers because they are carrying weapons: at their sides, short swords, and on their backs, bows with leather bags of arrows “quivers”. The first one looks like a young man of about thirty years old, tall, well built with a handsome aristocratic face. Satiny black curls appear from under his dusty hood. His fiery black eyes shoot terrifying glances around the area. His jet black horse with the long mane also looks scary.

The second, a bit shorter, is about forty years old. He has a wide, majestic black beard where you can already see some silver strands. He too has wide shoulders and powerful hands and sits broadly in his saddle. They ride silently on this magnificent morning to the side of the sea which is closer to Mount Carmel. From time to time they throw suspicious glances around the area as if they were watching out for an attack. In any event we can see they would like to avoid meeting strangers.

The younger one breaks the silence and calls out to the older one:

“Antigonus Ben Ezri, why are you so quiet today? It is not your nature…Are you thinking about Homer's Iliad you read in Athens?”

“I'm asking you, Yehuda Ben Matityahu, not to mock me about Athens. You yourself have learned Greek and know the language well. I believe, if you want to defeat the enemy, you must get to know them well, as well as their customs, traditions and language.

“Joking aside” answered Yehuda with a smile, “I'm bored riding like this, disguised as thieves. I would gladly do something already”.

“Patience my son” replied Anitigonus and slapped him on the back, “your blood is too hot. You and hundreds more hot blooded like you will not do anything on your own. The soil must be ready and the entire nation must be ready”.

“And when will this blessed time arrive?”

“The time is near. The evil Antiochus who is never satiated with blood is at war now with Philometer from Alexandria. It appears Rome won't allow the tiger to grow too big and will come help Egypt. When Antiochus suffers a defeat there we will gather all of our power and overthrow the tyrannical yoke from our necks. The head council in Jerusalem headed by the wise Yosi Ben Yoazar from Tsrida, is doing everything to save this oppressed nation. Your distinguished father, together with the entire Hasmonean family are not sitting in Modi'in with folded arms. They sent us out to encourage disappointed hearts. If the entire nation stands with us, with God's help, our beloved land will be freed and the Temple will be rebuilt in its former size and magnificence”.

“When will that be?”

“Be patient my son, the Almighty who took us out of Egypt and Babylonia will help us here as well with His strong arm.

“On the other side of Carmel, in the port, they are loading the ships with prisoners and stolen goods to send to Antioch. We must be careful. Jackals are lying in wait. They are sly foxes. I know them well.

“And when I remember the shameful stories of our traitors, the Hellenists, my heart explodes from resentment. The “High Priest”, Memelaus and his gang desecrate and rob our sacred objects and help our oppressors!

Just be patient. We cannot catch anything before its time.

The sun is starting to burn. It will be a hot day. We should think about resting and breakfast. My childhood friend, Yanai Ben Alexander lives in the village Gefenim. We will go to him and rest and at noon we will rush to the sea shore. The old fisherman Eliezer will be waiting for us with exact information about the entire coast and inform us if the young fishermen are ready.

Suddenly, there was a desperate cry for help from Gefenim. Yehuda, without thinking, turned his horse around and raced through the hills and valleys like a storm wind. He arrived at a young olive forest and saw a man with a silver helmet on his head, a sign he was a high ranking Greek military man, struggling with a young girl who was crying for help. Yehuda jumped down from his horse, and with a bare double edged sword jumped toward this unknown man. He called out with anger:

“Protect yourself, pig head, because I'll stab through your insolent heart!”
[Page 236]

Antigonus also arrived and when he saw the scene he grabbed Yehuda by the hand:

“Calm down. Don't kill anyone who can't protect himself”.
The Greek calmed down and called out with a smile:
“I don't understand your language noble knights. I have the honour to introduce myself: Demetaus the transport commander of the great King Antiochus. I know this young lady, Tamar, Yanai's daughter from Gefenim very well. I was only flirting with her and she started to make noise…”

“You could be the King himself” shouted Yehuda in Greek. “You are just lucky that since you are unarmed and defenceless us Hebrews are not permitted to kill you”.

“Not so tempestuous, noble knights” replied Demetaus coldly, “my friends are camping on the other side of the forest. Be careful, noble knights…”

“We are not knights” replied Antigonus, “we are spice merchants from Jericho. Perhaps we can sell something to your camp?”

“We do not buy anything. Adieu!” replied Demetaus abruptly and disappeared among the trees.

The girl was standing still stunned, leaning on a tree like a motionless statue, embarrassed, clutching at her torn tunic trying to cover her breast. Yehuda was amazed by her rare beauty. She looked to be seventeen years old, with a slim body and lovely nape and neck, fresh brownish face and disheveled blond curls.

The Bedouin on the camel rode up and Yehuda commanded him:

“Bring me the package of fabrics from Damascus!'
The Bedouin unpacked it and gave it to him. Yehuda took out a piece of fabric and gave it to the girl:
“Take this and cover your limbs, you beautiful flower of Carmel..”
Tamar took it shyly and wrapped herself. Then she asked:
“Who are you, gracious gentlemen? Whoever you may be, you are my saviours. Come and rest in my father's house. It's not far from here. There is also place and feed for your horses”.

“Is it true pretty girl”, asked Antigonus, “that you are the daughter of Yanai from Gefenim?”

“Yes, it is true”.

“What a coincidence!...Your father is my childhood friend. How is he? I will gladly go to him!”

Yehuda had the Bedouin take his horse and he walked beside Tamar. She told him the story about the Greek Demetaus and that a young man, Yokhanan the Galilean comes to them often. Yokhanan is a passionate Hellenist and brought Demetaus to their house. That morning she went with their servant to bring food to their shepherds in the hills. On the way back they met Demetaus and… she blushed up to her ears… then she told him that on the other side of the Carmel there is a camp with Greek military tents. They ship all the stolen goods from the land: people, animals, valuable items and all sorts of produce. They carry out murders and other horrible crimes. And then she called out:
“Great God of Israel! Send your powerful thunder to our oppressors!”
Yehuda sighed and said:
“The time is not far off. God of revenge watches and sees everything”.
They continued walking in silence. From time to time their glances met and their eyes spoke…

Yehuda Leyb Vohlman

by L. Tz.

Translated by Janie Respitz

He was born in the month of Kislev 1880 in Konske – Voleh. His father, Mendl Vohlman is the writer of a series of historical articles and essays in Hebrew journals. Yehuda Leyb obtained rabbinical ordination but he chose a different path. He settled in Warsaw and worked as a bookkeeper for a manufacturer and began to write and publish feature articles and short stories in the Yiddish and Hebrew press. He wrote a few dramatic works such as “The Last Hasmoneans”, “The Burning House” and the musical comedy “The Straw Widower”, which was performed only in Warsaw over 300 times. He wrote a mystery play in verse called “Eliyahu” and other shows. In 1925 he left for the Land of Israel where he was a regular correspondent for “Moment” in Warsaw. His wife Leah is the writer Radomska and their eldest daughter is the writer Miriam Shir. Later he wrote the works “Ruth”, Birinika”,

[Page 237]

“The Foothills of Gilboa”, “The Storm” and a novel “Polish Jews”. During his lifetime his work “Letters from Genshe Street” left a great impression.

Y. L. Vohlman's home always had an open door, where colleagues would gladly come and feel welcome. Among the regular visitors in Tel Aviv were: Haim Nachman Bialik and his wife Mania, Ravnitsky and his son, Tchernikhovsky, Dr. Tzafroni, Dr. Yehuda Koyfman, Shmuel Tchernovitch and Dr. A. D. Fridman.

While in the Land of Israel Y. L Vohlman, besides contributing to “Moment”, he also contributed to the press in America, Argentina, Canada, South Africa and Lithuania where he published skits, short stories, reports and theatre reviews.

A separate large and important chapter in the life of Y. L. Vohlman is his Zionist activity to which he dedicated all his years.

Dr. Yitzkhak Veynberg

Translated by Janie Respitz

He was born in Kozhenitz [Kozienice] in 1878. He graduated high school in Radom where he also studied Jewish studies with Yisroel Frenkel. Later he studied Oriental Studies at Warsaw and other foreign universities. He studied Indo – Germanic languages and later, Arabic, Assyrian, Abyssinian, both the grammar and dialects.

From 1907 – 1911 he sat in jail in Warsaw for his participation in the Polish socialist movement. He was sentenced to forced labour but it was decided he should claim to be psychologically ill and at the request of his defence lawyer Sorboneh, he was pardoned by Nicholas II.

He received his doctorate in Breslau and from 1915 he was a docent at “Vshekhnitze” in Warsaw and later on, a member of the Oriental Commission of the Polish Research Academy in Krakow. In 1916 he was invited to the Royal Library in Berlin where he put together the catalogue for Oriental manuscripts.

Dr. Yitzkhak Veynberg published great research papers like “The Explanation of Jesus Christ” according to an Ethiopian handwritten text, with Russian and Latin translation and critical discourse; “The Testament of Christ”, an Ethiopian – Coptic text with a German translation and commentary and similar works. Dr. Veynberg also published Polish popular scholarly brochures on the science of language and about Greek and Roman literature. He translated Y.S Prarer's work into Polish about comparative religions and wrote popular scholarly articles for Polish, Yiddish and German journals.

Dr. Veynberg translated stories by Oscar Wilde into Yiddish and contributed to the Yiddish Folk Newspaper of Hurvitz and Spector, and to Peretz's “Jewish Library”, “News” in Warsaw and the “Forward” and “Tsukunft” in New York.

He died on July 19th 1941 in Warsaw. He was eulogized by the chairman engineer Tcherniyakov and Professor Dr. Meir Balaban.

A. Lerman

Translated by Janie Respitz

He was the son of a well respected family in Radom. His belletristic and journalistic aspirations pushed him to leave home for Warsaw where he was quickly accepted in the family of writers. He was a regular contributor to “Express” where he worked as a journalist and published his successful novels. He wrote for the theatre, especially for variety shows, or review theatre. He was a member of the Writer's Union (13 Tlomatsky) where he was loved by his colleagues. He wrote a screen play “The Sage” which was bought by a Warsaw film company and made into a film.

Lerman wrote many scenes and memoirs about his hometown Radom which he also published in our newspaper.

[Page 238]

At the outbreak of the war in 1939, Lerman with other writers from Warsaw ran to Bialystok where he became the commander of the Writer's House. He arranged for beds for all the homeless refugee writers who crossed the border. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union all the writers were evacuated deeper into the country but Lerman remained at his post not having anyone to hand over the Writer's House to and not having permission to leave the city where he was lacking nothing…

This is how he remained in German hands and his fate that followed is unknown. We can only say he shared the same fate as the six million holy martyrs.

Tuviya Rutman

Translated by Janie Respitz

He was born and raised in a Hasidic religious home but at a young age embraced the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment).

He was very modest, but smart, with a broad knowledge of Jewish and secular subjects and endowed with literary talent.

In the weekly “Tribune” from April 12th 1937 we read the following praise:

“Tuviya Rutman, the initiator and director of the “Living Newspaper” presents himself as rare literary type. He is the creator of true poetic pearls in Yiddish and Hebrew and at the same time is the author of many satiric poems and fine humorous stories.

If you have not read or heard his creations, which explode with healthy humour and sharp satire, you would not believe, this modest man had the talent to create such literary works.

It is a pity that such a person, with such extraordinary talent did not emerge in time from his modesty compared to others like him”.

Here is a fragment of his poem called “Not by Force, Not by Strength” dedicated to the celebratory opening of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Thin bones on you
Skin and flesh: -
On Mt. Scopus
A torch had been lit.

It will illuminate the roads of Israel
With its glow
And will be a light
For all nations.

Not by force and not by strength –
Not your sword,
But your spirit will strengthen
Your future on your soil.

Look my people, toward Mt. Scopus
Now upward: -
Deserted mountains and deserted valleys
Come alive!...


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