by Leah Radomska
Translated by Janie Respitz
The writer of these memoirs is the youngest daughter of Reb Bunem Tzuker. Her husband was the Talmudist and language specialist, journalist and playwright Yehuda Leyb Volman. Their eldest daughter is the well known writer Miriam Shir. Their sons are: the famous pathologist Dr. Moshe Volman, Professor Bunem Volman, the engineers Eliyahu and Yoel; and 3 more daughters: the agronomist Esther Sharoni, the teacher Khana Yezhersky and the pharmacist Nina Tzuker, the wife of the painter Jacques Tzuker. Leah Radomska has been living in the Land of Israel for many years.
Summer mornings were wonderful in our calm, beautiful Polish Jewish hometown Radom.
The city was surrounded by large dense forests, fruitful fields and aromatic orchards.
In the city proper there were magnificent parks. The old garden stretched from far away until the Zamlineh.
Lublin Street with its news houses stretched along all the way to the new magnificent flower garden with its magical paths which occupied the area until Skarshiv Street. Skarshiv was bordered by the suburb Dzhershkov where the dense Jewish population lived. However, the largest purely Jewish section was called The Voel which was also the Jewish business centre. The Voel spread to the back of Reb Saneh Bekerman's orchard which spread its aromas throughout the area.
A snakelike canal with running water winded through the orchard. It cut through many streets beginning with Synagogue Street and ending at Hospital Street. In the mornings women would wash their laundry and on the eve of Passover they would scour, rinse and purify dishes.
The waters of the canal which cut through Reb Saneh's orchard watered the vegetable garden and the fruit trees which had a reputation. The fruit crop was always leased by a Jew and the vegetables, by a Christian.
There were benches around the fence of the orchard where elderly people would sit in the evening chatting and enjoying the pleasant scents.
In the afternoon Jewish daughters would sit on the benches listening attentively to the sweet melodies of the nice teacher in the House of Study. They blushed modestly, knit and embroidered, some tefilin (phylacteries) bags, others Torah covers. But Saturday after the Sabbath stew[cholent] they would walk along Hospital Street whose length was covered with flowers and grass.
Radom was a provincial town and a business centre. The train left from here to the Dombrov line and many tanneries. This helped make the town lucrative. At the same time it was a town of Torah, Hasidism and new movements.
One of the wealthiest families in town were the Bekermans. They say the elder Reb Saneh had been in his youth a wagon driver for nobleman. However he had a good head for business and began to deal in grain and was very successful. Luck entered his home through the doors and windows until he became the richest man in Radom. The conduct of this honest, good simple man remained simple. The Almighty provided for him with an open hand and he was not stingy. In order to build a large synagogue and a House of Study in Radom he donated a large sum. His orchard was open for pious Jews to walk and rest and his Christian gardeners had to be nice to them. Reb Saneh Bekerman's two sons, Ruven and Itchele were highly educated with a European education. Itchele owned fields and forests, the good Firlay where he
built the largest steam mill in the entire region. Ruven owned forests and real estate and many houses in town. All year Itchele would give poor people large quantities of flour, beans, buckwheat. He would also give them flour on Passover to bake matzah. Ruven supplied wood for the House of Study and ritual bath for heating all winter as well as planks of wood for the poor or ruined men to heat their homes. Around 25% of all houses in Radom were owned by the Bekermans which evoked respect. When the Bekermans rode through town in their in coach drawn by four horses young and old would stop to look with curiosity and respect. Even when it was just the coach and livery people stopped to look with amazement…
When Itele, Ruven's wife would come to synagogue on holidays with her daughters all the women admired their dresses, jewellery and poise. People were particularly impressed by their hairdos with their own hair and the parasols they held in their hands…women talked about the Bekerman's laundress who washed and ironed regularly because they never wore the same thing twice…about their kosher home and two separate cooks, one for dairy and one for meat…
Fresh winds began to blow and Jewish youth began to yearn for education and knowledge. They eagerly studied Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, German and French. Original people emerged such as Shmuel Vineberg. People said he knew all the works of Shiller, Goethe and Heine by heart. He had three sons: one was the well known professor Izak Vineberg, the second a well known communist activist, Ozhe Vineberg who had to early on escape from Poland, and the third son, a man of erudition, married the sister in law of the writer Sholem Asch.
The Bekermans befriended and supported enlighteners. Reb Yisroel Frenkel taught their children Yiddish, Hebrew, bible and Jewish history. Among the enlighteners were the lawyer Muler, the distinguished scholar Adolf Tzuker who kept his library open on the Sabbath and others.
My father, Reb Bunem Tzuker was already a Lover of Zion before the Balfour declaration. Together with his best friend Rabbi Shmuel Mohliver he planned on coming to the Land of Israel with his family. A serious illness unfortunately disrupted his plan and he died in Radom. His children realized his dream and after his death almost all of them settled in the Land of Israel. There are already four generations of pioneers and builders of the Land.
My mother Asnat was known for her good character. She would get up early in the morning and make sweet coffee for Jews learning Torah. No one left her house hungry. She always provided a piece of chicken or a plate of soup or a bit of jam for the sick, weak, and pregnant women…our home was always filled with people and heated discussion. They talked politics and had clever advice for silly government leaders, or generals on how they should carry out war strategies…they told of the miracles of Rebbes and displayed proficiency in world literature. They dabbled in communal affairs and the noise continued until midnight.
I was the youngest child and there were grandchildren older than me…I went to the school where the director was the daughter of the Tzener, the town's president. He was also a friend of the Jews and befriended the Jewish enlighteners. The following studied with me: Reb Yisroel Frenkel's daughter Memel (Yisroel Yakov Diamant's wife. Their children are in Israel), the lawyer Muler's daughter and a grandchild of Rabbi Mohliver. The school director treated us with love. She invited us to her birthday and introduced us to her father as her best Polish students. Meanwhile she broke into tears. She was a passionate Polish patriot and in those years the Russians did not allow the teaching of Polish. I was also a soloist in our school choir. She would stand me up on a bench so people could see me better…I graduated with distinction and received prizes. But my father did not allow me to go to gymnasia because there we had to learn on the Sabbath…my father taught me Yiddish and Hebrew and he hired the well known teacher Pomerantz to teach me other languages.
by Alter Wolf Wertheim
Translated by Janie Respitz
A sign came form the distant city,
Regards from a loving friend
Old familiar scents pained me
With spring days of green and sunshine.
The old garden suddenly appeared:
The trees, gigantic, swaying deep in thought.
The water trickled quietly, as if as before
Confided a secret to the bushes in an evening.
It is still in the old garden. And at dusk
The trees are covered in flames.
The old trunks stand lonely and look abandoned,
Winds blow wildly over the empty paths.
We used to hear laughter and singing here
Where our worry free youth spent their evenings.
Dreams were woven here, matured and desired
Now it is empty in the old park, its beauty damned.
by Yehoshua Perle
Translated by Janie Respitz
A year ago a trade school opened in town. As it was difficult for Jewish boys to be accepted to the Russian gymnasia, the trade school accepted everyone who wanted to attend. Young men began to arrive from all over Lithuania and Belorussia and immediately put on the uniforms with the copper buttons and the caps with the gold frill. This opened a source of livelihood in town. These new students, old and young, brought from home curly heads of hair, Rs rolling off their tongues, books and money. Many Jewish homes, especially ones that had daughters took in these students and provided them with room and board. The town took on a different appearance and a different scent. In the evenings the promenade was filled with young men in uniforms with shiny buttons and the town's girls who stopped speaking Yiddish and began romances in Russian.
A summer of blue skies set in. Shayndl, for the second time rented the Yanishev's orchard. The previous year she made a profit and hoped this year, He who lives eternally, would help. Finer people began to come to Shayndl's orchard. Actually they did not come right into the orchard but gathered in the nearby forest.
They came one by one. It seemed like they were growing out from under the rye, from behind the poplar trees. With restless eyes they shuffled under the hot sky and disappeared into the darkness of the forest.
Messengers were placed on the highway. They lay among the wheat, sat under trees, allegedly doing nothing. But every boy and girl that went into Yanishev's forest had to give the messengers a password so they were able to know they were one of us, from the brothers and sisters as we used to call them.
Before the brothers and sisters arrived, after the Sabbath meal, husbands and wives, children and engaged couples would walk along the highway. They would bring Challah, bottles of tea and enjoy themselves until the sun set and had to return home for Havdalah (the ceremony to end the Sabbath and usher in the new week).
However, since the town's journeymen chose the highway which leads to Yanishev's forest, married couples stopped going there. Many of the engaged couples, who in previous years would gather at Tall Leyzer's Bavaria or in someone's house enjoying some tickling and a beer, later stood up to these journeymen and a few of them became messengers showing them where the Skhodke was taking place.
In town people avoided this gang. They knew this smelled of prison, being sent to Siberia, hanging and shooting. This plague came from deep in Russia, Moscow, St. Petersburg and even Warsaw. It arrived slowly with leisurely steps. They spoke about something that took place in the House of Study, on Shoemaker's Street, in an artisan's workshop or in the beer house but we never knew exactly what and when.
However, as if over night, on Lublin Street, youngsters began to appear with sticks, the majority, poor folks, simple girls, seamstresses, knitters or even servant girls. This all occurred in small groups, speaking quietly, from time to time dispersing, then regathering and once again dispersing. In the Voel on Warsaw Street, in the round marketplace, where the artisan workshops were situated, they sang a song about work and hardship and To the Hammer. These songs tore into Lublin Street, pulled on the coattails of long Jewish gabardines and even forced the shops to close.
The town policemen did not know what to do and a new police superintendent arrived, a black-haired man with a beard with a Jewish wife who converted to Christianity, a wicked woman. He took it upon himself to burn out and get rid of this plague. He ran through the streets like a wild pig and Jews began to realize what God only knew would happen.
This all began actually when the trade school opened. The students with the curly hair brought the plague wearing their beautiful uniforms, rolling their Rs, and speaking Russian language which they spoke so well. Jews actually earned a living from these young students. They were already contemplating Lithuanian sons in law, but they would have been happier if none of this ever would have begun. The black haired superintendent and the town policemen and the gendarmes pulled people from their beds at night, not only the students but also our local boys. They removed Ozer the wine merchant's son; they came at night to the Tzimberkovitch's and asked about their eldest son, Yantche, who seemed to be a calm
boy who would not bother a fly on the wall. That same week they banged on the door of Hirsh Leyb Grin and spent all night searching the Hebrew teacher and the Lithuanian students. They took a few to the town hall. They thought these boys would serve as an example. But the more the superintendent and the gendarmes searched, the more this gang grew. Children from well off families joined as well as the educated and those betrothed. Non Jewish boys, giants who we once feared, also joined.
Well off fathers and mothers in wigs were ashamed and turned grey prematurely. They shouted and punished and locked up their children's belongings in the closet. But even without shoes the plague went from house to house and knocked as if, we should not say, death
Lublin Street, the round marketplace and Promenade Street were already too crowded for the gang. The tailor and shoemaker apprentices, the seamstresses and hairdressers, together with Mendl Firsht's little daughter, together with the gentile and Jewish gymnasia students took over the entire beautiful avenue lined with cherry trees which leads to the train. It settled comfortably in the new garden. A year before they crawled into the Kopt forest but since the black-haired superintendent arrived the gang made their hiding place in Yanishev forest.
Girls and boys lay spread out among the trees, quiet, occupied, listening to what the Litvak (Lithuanian Jew) had to say. His plain talk, his beautiful voice ran through the forest and hung on the branches and no one tired of listening to him. Because he was correct. It was so. One has so much while another has nothing. Poor people die from hunger while rich men browse their bellies.
It smelled of pine resin and haystacks in the meadow. Birds flew quietly overhead. The squirrel quickly slid from one tree to another, stopped, looked around with glittering eyes and listened
Shloymele the tailor snuck into the forest, lay down on the grass holding his breath and later, ran to Shayndl with a frightened face: it is not good in Yanishev forest. He does not like what's going on. Boys and girls are laying stretched out on the grass and a Litvak sits on a tree stump and talks. Shloymele did not clearly understand what the Litvak was saying. He did catch that he was talking about the black- haired superintendent, the gendarmes, the rich men in town and just between him and Shayndl, he spoke about the Czar as well. From such talk, one can waste away in prison. He did not understand how they were not afraid of searches. And why have they chosen Yanishev forest? Do they want to make him unhappy?
He found no pleasure in the orchard, nor from the money he had earned from Shayndl. He did not return to the forest.
The forest now stood cut down and brushed. The sun rose later and set earlier. Plums were blooming and children had tummy aches. Shayndl was also busy with the children.
They still continued to go to Yanishev forest. They hid better, spoke quieter and the messengers on the road stood closer. This is because the superintendent learned the gangs were meeting behind the town. He invaded the Kopt forest but did not find anyone. He did this with a sense of honour as he was promised he would be made chief of police. He knew the leaders were Abrasha and Yantche (Leo Finkelshteyn's brother). He actually arrived unexpectedly at Abrasha's in the middle of the night, turned his house upside down. Although he found nothing he kept him under guard for twenty four hours. He did not go to Yantche's so quickly because when he buys sugar from his parent's store he often forgets to pay.
However one person, a young guy with pockmarks, Hersh Leybele, who lived in the same courtyard as Yantche, took it upon himself to catch Yantche and the whole gang. Hersh Leybele had wanted to buy into the gang, but since he liked taking from other people's pockets and since people said he sold Dobrele the maid to Buenos Aires, no one wanted to be friends with him. People in town said he was paid by the police. How else could have he afforded to dress to well and marry off the cake baker's maid?
It was a Saturday in late summer. The apples and pears were ripe and falling on their own from the trees. Many workers and intelligentsia gathered in Yanishev forest. A representative came from Warsaw to give a speech which was to be followed by a discussion. This time they did not wait until after lunch. They began to assemble in the morning. It was a clear and cool Saturday. It had rained at night and now the fields smelled of camomile and mint.
Shayndl, who was still busy with the children's tummies went out of the gate and saw Abrasha and Rukhtche coming, embracing like a bride and groom. Yantche passed by. Everyone wished Shayndl a good Sabbath and invited her to come to the forest. A noise came from the forest and Sahyndl was uneasy. She knew the Yanishev region
like her ten fingers, nevertheless she felt strange. Was it because a flock of ravens flying by cawing, or that the clouds were getting larger, or because, a few times she noticed faces peering out from behind a poplar? A cloud of dust appeared on the highway. In the middle of the field a person ran as if he was being chased.
Shayndl came out in a cold sweat. Large shadows were appearing across the field on both sides of the highway. She ran into the forest shouting: Friends! Save yourselves! They're coming!
The forest shook with confusion. The cloud burst did not come from the sky but rather from the earth. They ran to the field, trampled over people, hid behind fences, behind bales of hay, behind farmer's barns. Yantche's and Abrahsa's yelling did not help:
Friends, don't run away! Stay calm!
A shot was heard which echoed. Another resonated three times. Spurting fire was coming from and going into the forest. The farmers quickly chased their chickens into the barns and crossed themselves.
The superintendent shot at Yantche and Abrasha himself. The bullets flew by their heads and got stuck in the trees. Yantche and Abrasha fell, picked themselves up, and dragged themselves crawling on all fours. Farmers emerged from behind a fence with pitchforks, greeted the escapees and detained them.
They took Yantche and Abrasha and tied them together with a rope. They also took a few students and seamstresses. Rukhtche walked between Elke Firsht and Zelda the seamstress. Elke and Zelda were silent, holding their heads high. Rukhtche cried. She did not know what was going on! She argued she did not know anyone. What did they want from her?
A few ran for cover in Shayndl's orchard. Others lay in ditches until nightfall and no one knew where they were. They also did not know where Shayndl was.
Shloymele ran to the forest with Sholem. One called out Shayndl! while the other shouted Mother! The trees did not respond. Here and there were pieces of Challah, paper, a girl's slipper, a collar with a tie and they also found Shayndl. She was lying in a ditch, spread out, and face up. Her wig appeared combed as if nothing happened. She was still holding her hands on her stomach. Actually there were no hands, only two bloody pieces. All of Shayndl was bathed in blood.
Shloymele's therapeutic screams did not help. Sholem's wails did not help either. Shayndl no longer had anything to do with them. Not with them and not with the rest of the world.
The same with Itche the tailor who was lying at the other end of the forest face down, his hands and feet bound. Both Sahyndl and Itche were taken for autopsies. They found a bullet in Shayndl's stomach and one in Itche's shoulder. There was no funeral. At night they carried out the two murder victims on a wagon to the cemetery, passing the Yanishev orchard. ----
Rukhtche saw Abrasha for the last time during the winter on a white snowy day. He was led out of jail together with Yantche and Bernard the bookkeeper (Bernard Birenboym) as well as Zelda the seamstress. They were being sent to Siberia. A Russian revolutionary song could be heard from the closed train car.
The superintendent always walked down the street with two gendarmes by his side. He never stopped searching, beating and killing. However he still was not made chief of police. Perhaps he was waiting for this high rank but a fateful sentence awaited him.
The Purim sun shone. As difficult as times were, Jews still sent each other Purim gifts. Wicked Haman, actually the superintendent with the black hair, walked in broad daylight with his wife the convert. Shmuel the red headed Broker, walked with them. He knew the superintendent was to become chief of police. He brokered a new home for him. The superintendent loved the broker with his poor Russian, his great stupidity, and that he laughed with his wide mouth and healthy teeth and with his entire black beard.
Two boys passed by, nicely dressed with fur collars. They motioned to Shmuel to run away. Shmuel either did not see or understand. Then two more guys showed up, also well dressed. They moved toward Shmuel and said to one another in Yiddish that allegedly something terrible happened at Shmuel the Broker's house. The red head broker stalled. He wanted to see who was speaking but the two talkers disappeared.
The superintendent and his wife stopped at Yankl Shleyser's
store, (Yankl Ayfer's Clothing Store). The broker began to wave his hands and run home. Two droshkies came down the street. They were too noisy. The superintendent was annoyed by the noise and he called out to the droshkies to stop. But suddenly at that moment, there was a shot of fire and smoke which echoed, tearing off shutters and signs. It rang through all the windows and balconies. Doors slammed. Where Yankl Shleyser's store stood were now two large dark holes. Where the superintendent and his wife stood, there was now nothing. There was an abandoned uniform, a sleeve, a lacquered boot with a torn bootleg, and a woman's hat. A piece of unrecognizable hand or foot fell from the pharmacist's large balcony. Looking up from the gutter was the superintendent's beard and white teeth.
It smelled of sulfur, of flesh, and there was no longer the black haired superintendent and there was no longer his converted wife.
by Moishe Stashevsky
Translated by Janie Respitz
Reb Feyvele's Faith
During the First World War a dead soldier was found at the Shidlovetz city gates. The Poles turned this into a false accusation blaming Jews for the murder. Russian soldiers surrounded Rotenberg's house and dragged out three Jews to be hanged in Kopt forest. Wives and children of the men sentenced to death surrounded the wagon with their cries reaching all the way to heaven. However, Reb Fyvele who was one of the three sentenced remained brave and said calmly and stoically:
Everything comes from above. Even a bird does not challenge God's will.
A Cow's Scholarship and a Calf's Wisdom
He dealt in cattle in the village Gostevitz and would lead a calf to town to sell. The calves provided him with a livelihood and a house in Radom and the cows showed him respect and made him an elected member if the Jewish communal council.
And the day came when the Jewish communal council negotiated with the Rabbi of Kishinev to become chief rabbi of Radom. They received letters and wrote letters but our new elected member did not like the correspondence:
What good is this writing? he asked. How can we negotiate something we know nothing about? A few men must go there and on the spot, the whole thing, how do you say it?...
Examine, thoroughly and investigate?
Uh, ya, extirpate it at the root! (Translator's note: this loses in translation. The Yiddish is a play on words, showing the man speaking does not know what he's talking about).
He Does Not Know Any Yiddish
The lawyer Mulyer was one of the nationalist Jews who did not know any Yiddish. He was a lawyer and was worthy of becoming the vice president of the Radom Jewish Council. At the first meeting every representative read a political declaration from his party's standpoint. After listening to all the standpoints the chairman said: (In Polish)
You are fine people but your standpoints are killing you!Polish Yes and Russian, No?
The strike committees in 1905 placed a tax on the factory owners. When the strikers arrived at Reb Godel's shoe factory he did not put his hand in his pocket, but shouted: (In Russian)
Slaughter and shoot, I will not give you any money!
We Must Make Kiddush (The blessing over wine)
How can one be pious if business does not allow it? They want things done quickly right before the Sabbath. The wife and children of the leather manufacturer were used to past traditions and did not want to sit down to eat at the Sabbath table without the Kiddush being recited. The manufacturer knew this but could not tear himself away from his business. He grabbed the telephone,
dialed his home number, called his wife and children and said:
Good Sabbath to all of you recited the Kiddush, the blessing over the wine and told them the may begin to eat
For the Czar Tailor is Worse Than Down with the Czar
When the teacher Yosl Kodolos (Korman) learned the Russian school inspector would be visiting his Heder he began to teach his pupils a few Russian words: Stol means table, Knishka is a booklet, Czar Nikolai is the king, stena is a wall and portnoy is a tailor.
The rabbi's wife washed the floor, the teacher and his pupils put on their best Sabbath clothes and before they knew it, the school inspector was there!...
Yosl Kodolos welcomed the tall guest and began to test the students with a melody:
What do you call this? and he pointed to the table.They remembered that word well because it sounds like knishes, something they love to eat
Stol the children sang out.
Very good said the inspector.
What is this? and he pointed to a booklet.
Knishka shouted the pupils.
Very good said the inspector quite pleased.He was used to hearing people say down with the Czar, but this was the first time he heard the Czar referred to as a tailor
And what is this? the teacher pointed to the portrait of Czar Nikolai.
A tailor rang out the voices of the children.
What?! Shameful! shouted the angry inspector and ran out slamming the door behind him.
As a punishment the Heder was closed for two weeks. The teacher sighed and moaned but the children celebrated.
The Sweet Corpse
Two men came to the head of the Jewish community and the chairman of the burial society carrying a casket. True, not a large casket for an adult, but a small casket for a child. The chairman understood his opponents were pulling a prank and he became very angry: What does this mean? Bringing a casket and a corpse to my house? And when? Purim! To disturb the celebrations! Has the whole world gone mad?
But the two guys carried the little corpse into his house and actually placed it on his holiday table and laughingly said:
The burial society sent you a Purim gift They opened the casket, and instead of a dead child there was a live fruit filled cake, baked in the shape of a casket. This was the Purim gift the burial society sent its deserving chairman for his Purim feast.
A sweet little corpse take a look and taste it
And the chairman really enjoyed the corpse.
What Rascals Know!
Seated at the third Sabbath meal every professional boasted about his trade. The cake baker did not lag behind and chewing Challah with herring and sipping beer from a glass he spoke about his outstanding fruit layer cake (flodn) which he baked on Friday. An amazing cake
Some rascals heard him, ran to the baker's wife and told her, her husband said she should give them the cake.
What do you mean, give you the cake? We have guests! His wife went crazy and began to curse her husband.The boys gave her signs as to what type of filled cake it was and where it was. Realizing she had no choice, the baker's wife gave them the cake.
These rascals brought the cake to the Hasidic prayer house and said to the beadle:
The baker's wife brought a gift for the third Sabbath meal.When the beadle placed the cake on the table the baker jumped up fearfully:
Where is she?
She did not want to come in. She brought it and left.
What's this? This is my fruit cake!The baker ran home furious to let out his anger on his wife, but his wife let go her anger on him and there was great excitement
Yes said the beadle, your wife brought it for our third Sabbath meal.
In the prayer house everyone was happy and were convinced it had been a long time since they tasted such a cake
by Kh. Taykhman
Translated by Janie Respitz
The old master tailor Yankl Ayfer died and the Scissor and Iron Society from the artisan's club organized a lovely funeral. It was decided that one of the members, Moishe Rubinshteyn would deliver the eulogy at the open grave in the name of all his professional colleagues. Moishe Rubinshteyn listed all of the deceased's attributes and good deeds. At first he spoke very movingly but after he got carried away and called out with pathos:
Friends! See these pants! Who do you think invented the back pocket? Our own Yankl Ayfer, and here he lies!
A black cat ran between the two wealthy men that pray in the Skorishev prayer house, Yekhezkl Taykhman and Yerakhmiel Bialsky. They had been very good friends until one Sabbath one of them received a greater honour in synagogue. From that day on their hatred grew and each one tried to get even with the other.
One Sunday the military were marching to the church, led by an orchestra banging drums and brass cymbals. Yekhezkl Taykhman went out on the balcony to watch the orchestra but right in front of his nose, the conductor gave a sign and the orchestra stopped playing. Everything became quiet and all you could hear were the steps of the soldier's shoes.
Yekhezkl Taykhman went back into his house ashamed and resentful: this was a prank arranged by the military purveyor Yerakhmiel Bialsky: if you take the honours in the synagogue from me, my military orchestra will not play in front of your house!...
The Radom Saint in the Rich Man from Radzimin's Fur Escapes With Stolen Boots
(From the press of the day)
One bright day two honourable men appeared in the town of Radzimin: one who was competent to decide matters of rabbinical law and the other was his assistant. Before the local rich man Mr. Rozenblum, the rabbinical legal expert introduced himself as the father of the Radom rabbi, Rabbi Kestenberg, who was chased by his enemies and opponents for so long, they ruined him. Ruined is putting it mildly. They brought him to such a state that he, the old father and rabbinical legal expert now has to travel from town to town, to important rich men, compassionate men, and collect enough money for him to live and carry out his sentences with his enemies, the evil ones, God help us.
Why do they persecute him so much? the rich man asked.The rich man was moved by this great injustice which was perpetrated on the rabbi of Radom and was filled with mercifulness for the unjustified treatment of the rabbi. He immediately invited the expert on rabbinic law to his house and gave him and his assistant their own room and refreshments to calm their hearts. The rich man took a kerchief and together with a few other rich men went through town collecting money.
Unjustified and for no reason. Pure hatred. However, this is not the end of it. There is religious law and a judge. His son will still teach them a harsh lesson and show them who the rabbi is.
All of Radzimin was shocked by the story and people opened their hearts and wallets. They gave generously and the kerchief became full and heavy with great joy the rich men gave the large fortune they collected to the rabbinic legal expert and his assistant, bid them farewell and wished for truth and justice to prevail.
Later, when the rabbinic legal expert and his assistant were already far from town, on the other side of the city gates, the rich man looked around and noticed his honoured guests must have made a mistake: only by mistake could they have taken his expensive fur coat, his satin gabardine and a pair of new boots.
The rich man quickly sat down to write a letter to Rabbi Kestenberg in Radom, with the appropriate titles of course and flowery language in a pearly calligraphy handwriting, of course. He did not go straight to the point, of course, but began with half a letter of biblical passages and parables so the rabbi would see he was not just a rich man, but scholarly as well. Only then did he inform him about the mistake that of course the rabbinic legal expert did not make, but his assistant, of course. And he was certain that as soon as the rabbi would read the letter he would investigate and return all the mistakenly taken items.
That same Friday, as soon as he received this bizarre letter, they said, Rabbi Kestenberg immediately responded to the rich scholarly man in Radzimin telling him unfortunately he was fooled and was a victim of swindlers. His father, the expert in rabbinic law had not even left town. If the rich man wants to take the trouble and come to Radom to meet his father,
the expert in rabbinic law personally, Mr. Kestenberg would be prepared to return to him (not the fur coat , satin gaberdine and boots) but his travel expenses.
Radom, which always liked sensations heard the news and there was great excitement in town
People said, that fine man was actually from Radom, did not want to be a sucker and suck the fat bones of the rabbinic battles. He thought it out and succeeded at his job.
From all the trials and religious tribunals this particular fake rabbinic legal expert and his assistant were the only winners in the Kestengberg affair
When you Lose Against Jews
In the Radom Kielce Life of July 7th 1939 the following description of a football (soccer) match appeared, which was won by the Jewish team Yutchniya:
Last Sunday two sports clubs played a football match in the old garden: our worker's team Yutchniya played the Blizhin team Kordion. Both teams put up an ambitious fight as this game was a competition to conquer the championship of B class in the Radom region.
From the start there was an exciting atmosphere in the sports field in the old garden. Many supporters of Kordion from Radom and Blizhin wanted Yutchniya to lose to Kordion. It was not particularly pleasant for the Jewish spectators to be there. First of all, non Jewish rascals attacked Jewish boys and beat them up. After, when the game began, you could hear these gentle people shout out to the Polish players: Break their legs!
By they they meant the Jewish players on Yutchniya. The players did not let this affect them and with great courage and determination scored one goal after another. They already scored 4 goals and so far the result was: 4-0. This angered the anti Semitic gang who were clenching their teeth.
Yutchniya played fairly and despite the provocative atmosphere they did not lose and showed the crowd of spectators that you cannot defeat Jewish athletes by means of hooliganism.
At the last minute the Kordion team managed to score two goals and the final score was 4-2 for Yutchniya.
As a result, to take revenge for the Jewish victory, a band of hooligans threw large rocks at the Jewish spectators, wounding several.
by Meylekh Guthertz
Translated by Janie Respitz
At dawn, when the rest of the town still slept sweetly, the residents of Synagogue Street were already waking up. You could already hear the sounds of the iron wheels of the bread wagons rolling over the stone bridge, the clanging of the tin milk cans and women's voices calling out Milk! Sour cream! I buy peels!
Bare feet descended the high twisted stairs and wrinkled women with white kerchiefs and young women with tousled hair slink down. They carry out boxes and baskets of potato peels to sell and take some milk for pale children or weak men who cough and have to go to work.
Iron stakes echo and you can hear the banging of the opening of the shutters and doors of the workshops. A woman runs with wringing her hands and wailing bitterly into the House of Study, to shout into the Holy Ark and ask for pity for a sick person in crisis or a daughter who is experiencing difficulties in childbirth.
Synagogue Street becomes crowded and noisy. Women with baskets of cherries, strawberries and other fruits, a man with haberdashery items hanging from head to toe, a man with potatoes and women with carrots and parsley. Everyone shouts in various harsh tones. And there go some Jews with damp side locks and a turned up collars who are returning from the ritual bath. They look like charity cases from Jerusalem in the streets neighbouring the Western Wall. It is especially crowded and noisy in front of the synagogue where there are huts and street stalls. On the right side, between the low wooden houses you can hear female screams, clouds of feathers and the wheezing cries of geese and chickens. This is the poultry slaughter house and this is where the noisy pluckers work.
It is an extremely hot day,
people are sweating and thirsting for the lemonade in the large blue pails, where a few slices of lemon swim around and you scoop up the drink in a tin cup: two groshn a glass! Nice and cold! Two groshn a glass!
Hoarse voices diminish with the day. Instead of cool and refreshing the evening brings a weakened fatigue. The merchants who shouted all day are now sitting on benches, or on the stoops in front of their doors. They sit alongside the gutter steaming with a nauseating smell. Half asleep they calculate their day's earnings and worry about the prices which continue to rise.
Such a high cost of living! Soon it will be impossible to afford a piece of bread.Then they begin to talk about their children who write letters from across the ocean.
In Palestine, another Jew was murdered.
Things are even worse in Germany. Hitler has come to power. He is worse than the evil Haman!
Night falls and the crowd disperses. Women go home to cook supper and barefoot children frolic and climb over fences and chatter about what their parents said about an oncoming war. Workers still stand outside, catching a bit of fresh air. They don't feel like going into their stifling homes which smelled of dampness and bed bugs. Others prepared beds in the yards and slept under the open sky.
Quiet, Synagogue Street sleeps. Somewhere a wagon still squeaks. You can still hear panicking chickens waiting for their slaughter the next day. Awake baker apprentices whistle and call out to each other. Lastly, the tones of the sighs of the Synagogue Street orchestra are cut off
by Yehuda Leybush Tzuker
Translated by Janie Respitz
1. Self Defence
In the first days of Poland's independence the Jews of Radom anticipated a pogrom. Among others, Yekhiel Frenkel received confidential information from P.P.S members of city council.
Although at the time a friendship between the Jewish and Polish worker's parties was still blossoming (for the first time in the town's history, the Bund and Labour Zionists took part in the funeral of a member of the P.P.S, the house guard comrade Martzin, marching with flags and an orchestra ); and although the authorities to whom we turned had promised to protect the Jewish population, we did not want to rely on them and decided to organize our own self defence.
It was practically impossible for Jews to obtain weapons. The little we found buried at the Glinitze, in the tannery which belonged to Tentzer Adler, was rusty. We received a few weapons from an Austrian Jewish officer. We also receive some from Mr. Tzingiser and Mr. Sandler from Firley. Moishe Yishayahu Burshteyn, a member of the Labour Zionist youth group managed to get his hands on a few rifles and revolvers. However all of these were not enough to stand up to a group of peasant Pogromchiks and we needed to organize the women to boil pots of water to pour from the top floor onto the heads of the attacking bands
The meeting where we received information and instructions took place in the premises of the Zionist organization on Warsaw Street and was led by Yehuda Goldshteyn (now in Haifa). Besides the members of the Labour Zionists and other movements, students also took part, especially those from the trade school. Weapon exercises took place in the large, locked market building and in Kopt forest.
On Thursday, market day, when the pogrom was supposed to take place, we all took our positions, two men in every court yard and we did not allow anyone to leave their houses. The defenders walked around with rusty swords and the woman boiled hot water. Then we received information that the pogromchiks postponed their attack to the following Sunday.
On Sunday I patrolled Nosn Nayman's court yard with Shmuel Eli Margolis, which had two entrances: from Voel and from Rynek. We knew that one of our commanders, Dovid Vayntroyb, was arrested and
they confiscated his revolver. Moishe Zayfman was also arrested and badly beaten by the police. (Zayfman died a few years ago in Haifa). Dispirited, we guarded the whole night. At dawn we received an order to leave our positions.
The Pogromchiks were afraid of the organized Jewish self defence and the organizers received an order from above not to allow a blood bath.
This is how our town was saved from a planned pogrom.
2. Jewish Train Workers
During the Austrian occupation the railway administration was situated in the building of the girl's gymnasia in Rynek. The main warehouses were in Cohen's furniture factory across from the train station. The administration renovated and left the workshops and offices. They hired workers and employees, men and women of all nationalities. They treated everyone with respect. The clerks had to know German. We clearly remembered the Czarist rule Except Jews and all other restrictions, so now it seemed to us a new era had arrived, the Spring of Nations
However, when the Polish parties called for a three day strike, demanding to free the country from occupation, and the Jewish worker's party displayed solidarity, we, the Jewish train workers also went on strike. We participated in the mass demonstration of the P.P.S, on the corner of Marinske and Visoke, across from Kashchutchko Park, where I gave a speech in Yiddish and Polish and the Christian masses applauded I was also part of the delegation with our Polish comrade Stankievitch, to deliver the political declaration to General Sahybler. And as soon as Poland was freed, so were we, the Jewish train workers and employees were all freed from our jobs. We helped to fight for a free Poland with new restrictions and fresh anti Semitism. We did not even receive the compensation owed to us and which they had explicitly promised when they fired us from our jobs.
This is how the nice chapter of Jewish train workers in Radom during the occupation years 1915- 1918 ended. The following who worked on the railroad are living today in Israel: Yehuda Goldshteyn, Moshe Shoshani Rozenzveyg, Mrs. Helena Kelervorm, Yosef Kirshteyn, Feyvl Riba and Yehuda Leybush Tzuker.
3. Sholem Aleichem
On a hot summer day in 1912 happy news spread very quickly that the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem was coming to our town. At the time I was a fourteen year old boy, a member of Kadima, loved to read, had a weakness for books and great respect for writers. However I was particularly excited by Sholem Aleichem whose works made me laugh so hard I cried. I actually dreamed of having the opportunity to see him now that opportunity had arrived.
Sholem Aleichem was taken to Khaim Viner's hotel at 18 Lublin Street where all the important businessmen and guests stayed. Khaim Viner himself was a gentle man and a book lover. Sholem Aleichem's reading took place, if I am not mistaken, at in the hall at Rozmatatchi. The hall was packed and masses of people stood outside. I was overjoyed that I could be inside and had the privilege to see and listen to this incomparable artist of Yiddish humour.
Sholem Aleichem appeared on stage and the audience received him with so much admiration, one could feel the love of the people to their great folk writer. The ovation lasted very long until Sholem Aleichem actually began to speak.
At that time there were no microphones. But when Sholem Aleichem began to read from one of his works, it was so quiet in the crammed hall he could be heard in the back row. The silence did not last long as every once in a while everybody broke out in a hearty laugh. The audience actually were holding their sides they were laughing so hard, and wiping tears from their eyes.
It was a rarity to see so many Jews laughing. The reason did not only lie in the masterful humour, but in the actual masterful reading. Sholem Aleichem was the best reader and interpreter of his work. He read like an actor, playing the roles of his heroes and changing tonality during dialogues. Rarely does one see a writer read his works as masterfully as Sholem Aleichem did that evening.
The audience could not get enough and demanded more and more. Sholem Aleichem did not show his audience any less love than what they showed him. He gladly accommodated them and read more and more.
It was already late at night. The audience was demanding more and did not want to leave the hall. Sholem Aleichem would have continued to read until morning if not for his wife who sat beside him and protected his health. She asked him to stop and that put an end to the magical evening
I was an apprentice engraver with the artist Moishe Huberman. When I heard the next day at noon that Sholem Aleichem was leaving, I threw down my work and went to see him again. I was far from the only one: apprentices, workers and employees ran; women ran from their homes, merchants from their shops and students from the House of Study and the gymnasia. There was a sea of people in front of the hotel. Sholem Aleichem and his wife sat in the droshky moved by the love and respect displayed by the people. He sat with his head held high with his beautiful long hair windblown. He laughed and motioned with his hand to the crowd who were saying goodbye with heartfelt gratitude. The droshky began to move. The crowd shouted travel in good health! and other good wishes. Many ran after the droshky until it disappeared
Forty eight years have passed with many impressions and experiences, but until today, it has remained fresh as if it occurred yesterday. I close my eyes and see Sholem Aleichem. I hear his warm colourful voice as he stands and reads his work
My father was the only breadwinner of our family with nine children. He was an employee in the Shtelman - Goldblum iron factory. Understandably, our material situation was difficult. There was no money for tuition and by 12 years of age I had to learn a trade. However I was attracted to books and began to go the library of The Society Subjects and Small Merchants at 30 Lublin Street where my father was a member. They had books in Polish, Russian, German and Hebrew, but mostly in Yiddish. All the readers there were older people, members of the society, and me, the 12 year old boy, at first did not feel comfortable among them. Even to me it appeared strange that a young boy would get tangled among these older, serious people.
The librarian then was Shmuel Kestenbaum (his son is a doctor today in Israel). When he saw me go to the catalogue and make a list of books that interested me, he asked me if I wanted to help him distribute books. His suggestion made me smile: I loved the atmosphere of the library, I loved to hold books in my hand, I would have the opportunity to leaf through books and read as much as my heart desired Besides that, it made me proud: Me, a young boy, will be the assistant librarian giving out books to adults
I gladly accepted his suggestion and worked with him for two years handing out books. By the third year I worked there independently like a professional librarian. For two hours every evening I exchanged books for the readers and after, did the internal work of the library. There were about 5,000 books, more than half in Yiddish. These books were my gymnasia (high school), my university, my teachers and friends with whom I truly enjoyed myself
We had hundreds of readers. Later when the Hazamir library closed, our library was the only one in town until the First World War.
In 1915 or 1916 the Jewish Worker's Library was founded under the direction of members of the Labour Zionists, which was the largest communal library in town.
In those years, another library opened. This was the library at Kultura, a section of the Zionist organization.
The desire for knowledge, culture and high literature was so great in those years that all the libraries had many members thirsting for Yiddish books.
5. Poland's Liberation and the Season of our Freedom
One Saturday morning in 1918 when our youth strolled along Lublin Street as usual, from Rembikovsky's candy store to Goldshmid Goldfeyn's store) we saw Polish boys in civilian clothes marching with guns in their hands. There were a few Jewish boys marching with them singing Polish military songs. It was soon clear to us that these were groups from a Polish organization which emerged from underground. Within minutes, news was spreading through town that Poland was now independent, Poland was free
The former director from the division for social matters in the regional command, Captain Borteh, like all other Austrian officers, was now walking without a weapon and wearing a red white bow, the colours of the Polish flag Every Austrian soldier was stopped and disarmed by Polish boys.
A few months later the first mobilization to the Polish army began calling up people born in 1898, the year I was born. They took me right away to the barracks and gave me a uniform and a gun, a cap with a crown and I was doing military exercises under Polish commandos.
There were hundreds of Jewish soldiers in the barracks, the majority not from here. It was the eve of Passover, the Season of our Freedom, and we began to think: what should we do? Can we celebrate the traditions of the holiday with real Passover Seders? We deliberated and given that I was a local, I was chosen as the representative of the Jewish soldiers to go to the Jewish community council and Rabbi Kestenberg. When I called upon them I categorically declared we were against the old custom of dividing up the soldiers as guests in Jewish homes. We did not want to be someone's guest, we wanted to have our own Seder. Our Jewish representatives understood and promised to do everything that was possible. The Jewish community council gave the task to Yakov Adler (Itamar Adler's son in law), to run the whole venture. The military authority gave some money and produce. The Seders and other meals took place in Khvat's hall. The cooking was done in the kosher Jewish kitchen with their service. The tables were served by the members of Hashomer Hatzair who also created an appropriate atmosphere. The soldiers forgot they were among strangers, very far from their homes and families. There was a holiday spirit in the hall and in our souls
The holiday ended with a celebratory banquet, photographs of the soldiers and servers and singing and warm parting words.
A thank you letter was sent to the Jewish community council from the military commando with an accompanying letter from the Jewish soldiers which was signed by each and every one of us.
If there are still Jews alive somewhere today who served with us in 1919 in Radom, they must certainly remember the happy, joyful, military holiday of Passover, the Season of our Freedom in recently liberated Poland
by Yehuda Leyb Tzuker
Translated by Janie Respitz
Our town possessed a rich gallery of interesting types and personalities, but Mordkhai Beynish Gershteyn was one of the most original. Through his communal work he gained the respect of the Jewish community council in Radom.
He was born in 1876 to Yosef and Bas Sheva. In 1896, as a young man of 20, Mordkhai Beynish the house painter presented himself to the chief of the volunteer fire department, Mr. Tchibinsky and asked to be accepted as a member.
At that time the fire department was purely Christian, like all Polish organizations which were nationally patriotic and Catholic. No Jewish foot ever dared to cross their threshold. The Jewish youth were not yet thinking about getting closer to those circles. Mordkhai Beynish was the first who understood and the first who dared
Now, more than sixty years later, it is very difficult to describe the atmosphere of anti Semitism at the fire department. Mordkhai Beynish's request led to long heated discussions. There were bitter opponents who claimed it did not suit their Polish honour to admit a Jew into their organization and stand in a row with him. It is hard to know what tipped the scale toward Mordkhai Beynish, the young Jewish house painter's side, but the answer was positive: he was accepted into the firemen's organization as a member with equal rights and duties. For many years he was the only Jewish fire fighter and he tried hard with boldness and bravery to raise Jewish honour in the eyes of touchy anti Semites.
Later, Mordkhai Beynish recommended more Jews and thanks to him, they were accepted. Among them were: Pinkhas Verber and Gavriel Ayzman (now in America and active in our townsfolk society). They also displayed courage, boldness and worked together for many years.
For 35 years (20 as the only Jew), Mordkhai Beynish served as a fire fighter giving his finest years and energy to the organization where he excelled. Throughout his many years of service he earned honours, medals and letters of thanks.
This did not prevent Mordkhai Beynish from serving as Gabbai (manager) of Reb Fishl Shoykhet's, of blessed memory, House of Study in Dzhiershkov. It happened more than once that a fire broke out on the Sabbath when Mordkhai Beynish was in the midst of praying. He would quickly remove his prayer shawl and his Sabbath clothes and run to save people and their possessions. The other people praying would wish him good luck and a safe return. Everyone in the House of Study was proud of him.
I remember the beautiful parades of the fire fighters with their large horn orchestra. As kids we would count the rows of marchers until we were able to see Mordkhai Beynish, dressed up in his nice uniform with shiny buttons and medals. This made us happy and proud.
Not only Jews, but his Christian friends as well treated him with respect and on various occasions they praised him and stressed his devotion to his work and unlimited dedication to the organization and its goals during his many years of service.
Mordkhai Beynish was the father of six children. Except for one son who lived in the Land of Israel and now in America, the rest were unfortunately murdered by the Germans.
Mordkhai Beynish died in 1932 at the age of 56 and the fire brigade partook in his funeral. They marched in rows led by the orchestra which played a funeral march. It was the first time in Radom an orchestra and marching Christians participated in a Jewish funeral accompanying a Jewish comrade to his eternal rest.
by Avrom Shtorkh
Translated by Janie Respitz
My life's journey was the same as thousands and tens of thousands of poor Jews like me. A poverty that later generations will never believe or be able to comprehend.
The life of a Jewish artisan was dark and bitter in Poland and the life of an apprentice was even darker and bitterer. However, the unluckiest of all were the shoemaker's apprentices. Shoemaking in general was a job people were ashamed of. They were berated and insulted. The Poles would say tailors and shoemakers were not even people, and I was, from my earliest days, an apprentice shoemaker.
We were eight people at home: our parents and six children, one smaller than the next. The house was a small room on an abandoned little street where during the summer we roasted in the heat and winter we froze between the damp walls. And every day of the year we respectfully starved. My father was a tailor, a mender who also worked in the orchards. Many jobs, but few blessings And in this comfort my mother died in childbirth and I was orphaned and the age of six. My father remarried right away, and to my great fortune, I received a step mother
There was no money to pay tuition. I wandered around idly, hungry and growing like yeast. That is when my father brought me to a shoemaker to give me a purpose. The shoemaker did not take a teaching fee from this orphan, but as a result I had to chop wood, carry water, empty the slop pail, rock the baby, bang nails and starve. My aunt, my mother's sister, took pity on and took me in. Her husband was a shoemaker and made a contract with my father that I would work for him for four years for food but no pay.
After two years of work the First World War broke out. My father was sent to the front. The hunger in town increased. I worked hard, barely ate and did not receive a cent. The only comfort I found was in reading. I liked to read the women's Yiddish bible, then I began to read story books and later the forbidden brochures and proclamations. I opened my eyes and saw my fate was not yet sealed. There were people in the world talking about rights and social justice. And when I began to read about exploitation and blood suckers I saw my uncle before my eyes
This was a monster who beat me sadistically, without any reason. He said only through beatings could he turn me into a good artisan and a good person. But I felt, before I become a person I will have mu lungs cut off and I ran away, before the four year term ended, to the nearby town of Pulov.
There they already had a Bundist professional union which showed interest in me and sent me to a master with better conditions: I had to work only 12 hours a day, from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening. It was the first time in my life a felt
like a member of a good family, from the world proletariat, with whom I celebrated the First of May.
Truth be told, on that day that I did not work, the master did not give me food and I fasted all day. But I felt nourished by the meeting in the forest, with revolutionary songs and the red flag.
It was actually at that time that the revolution broke out in Russia and Poland became independent. The worker's parties in Poland prepared to take over, like the workforce in Russia
However, the war broke out between Poland and the Soviet Union.
As I did not have a birth certificate they estimated I was two years older and took me to the military in General Haller's army. This was the 18th Polish Division under Kroyevsky's leadership where I served three years, until I was freed in Radom.
At that time Radom was an alert and mature Jewish proletarian centre. Because Radom was also an industrial centre mainly for its leather factories, leather businesses, shoe factories (and making ready to wear clothes), Radom did business with the whole world and competed at the expense of the exploited worker.
I was leased by Hershl Tzimerman (Dzhershkov), with food, board and ten Polish marks a week. I had to start working at 6 o'clock in the morning, but since I slept in the kitchen, on benches, my provider would wake up at dawn and start pushing and bumping the benches so much it felt like an earthquake and I would fall off. There was no reason to walk around idle so I began to work until 7-8 in the evening. It was agreed that on the nights before Thursday market day I would work all night. The ten marks a week would have been sufficient for a haircut and a shave, however Reb Hershl paid me quarterly and after three months I couldn't even buy a pack of matches for 120 mark.
The leather union was under the influence of the communists and I became a member in the movement. Among the active members were Itche Meir Meduza and Asher Sheynholtz from Lentch who later turned out to be provocateurs and messengers for the infamous Bakhner.
I met a seamstress named Soreh Teltz and we had a proletarian wedding. Our best friends from the committee attended including those who made revolutionary toasts. A little later the arrests began. The well know Labour Zionist workers, Moishe Zayfman, Khaim Birnboym and Shmuel Tzuker ran away to the Land of Israel. I also left, to sit in jail leaving behind a pregnant wife. At my trial they brought up the toasts that were made at our wedding. I received three years (besides the 10 months already served). Volf Itche Birnboym received four years, Khane Abramovitch, 6 years, Hinde Goldfarb, 2 years, both Tzuker sisters, 2 years and Feygnboym (a Bundist), 2 years.
I was released in 1928 and found my wife alone and lonely. The child that was born after my arrest lived barely six months. Unable to find work with someone else I set up a workshop in our one room and also threw myself into professional and political work.
We received directives to participate in all Jewish communal organizations and even took part in elections for the Jewish communal council. Comrade Beynish was elected as chainman from the United Worker's list. He only served 24 hours. The election was declared invalid and the authorities nominated the industrialist Mr. Mordkhai Den as chairman.
To me, as a conscientious worker, I must admit Mr. Den was a warm hearted man. He was one of the kindest men in Radom. He understood the opposing groups and did not differentiate between political movements. He provided wagons of coal for the aid committees of all the political worker's parties and so on. A football (soccer) match took place on the field of the 72nd regiment on a Saturday between Radom's Bar Kochba and the Endek's team Tcharni. The Endeks (members of the fascist anti Semitic National Democratic Party of Poland) provoked and a fight broke out between Christians and Jews. The Endek student Montursky was killed in this fight. The person responsible, Monyek Hansberg ran away. Pogrom agitation began in town. Women and children walking in the park were beaten up as well as Jews walking in the streets. A gang of hooligans attacked our friend Litvak near his house on Glinitze and beat him to death.
The Labour Zionists organized a grandiose funeral for him and all the communists attended. The councilman Gavriel Vaysman (today in Israel) gave a passionate protest speech which left a lasting impression.
At that time the anti Semitic hooligans also killed Sinai Den, a nephew of Avrom Lipe. This is when the Jewish self defence was re-established, from all the socialist parties. The porters from Voel were well organized, led by Zeltche Banker.
We should also mention here two young comrades: Khaim Tzuker (the son of Yitzkhak Mendl the ritual slaughterer) and Moishe Noyman (from Staro-Krakovska) who went to fight in the Spanish civil war and fell in battle.
By then I was a father of two small sons and struggled to earn a living until the outbreak of the Second World War when all Jews struggled for their lives.
I will never forget the year 1939: the last year for Jews in Poland, the last year of Jewish Radom, the last year of my dearest and beloved. Who of us foresaw what was going to happen to us? Why did we not foresee this? Even animals feel when they are being taken to the slaughterhouse. They feel it from miles away and don't want go! Animals and birds hide before the storm and feel the end is coming and we felt nothing. Noooothing! We carried on with our normal lives, with party squabbles and political discussions. Hasidim travelled to their Rebbe who looked ahead and knew everything that happened in the afterlife, but what would happen to us within the next few months he did not know. They sang religious songs and ate the bits of food he blessed. Even the Zionists who ranted in the streets about immigrating to the Land of Israel and Hebrew, spoke Polish at home with their children and did not think about moving from this spot. During those days we squabbled about the election for city council
The Germans occupied Radom and that was the beginning of the end. They sent me and a few other young men to shine German trucks. After working one day we were surrounded by Germans and Polish gentiles who beat us with whips over our heads, on our faces until we bled. This is your reward for your work they explained. Barely making it home alive I decided I wasn't staying any longer.
My wife however could not set out wandering with the children and I also decided to remain. The party informed me I was in great danger as the Gestapo had taken over the archive of the police and jail.
Just like everyone else, my wife was sure no harm would come to women and children but I must run away.
I headed east toward the Soviet border. With me were: Hershl Zelker, Volf Itche Birnboym, Yisroel Blat (from Tchiptchet) Shnayderman from the Bund and Meir Kaplan the councilman.
The result was: Hershl Zelker died in Russia from a lung infection. (His wife and daughter are now in Paris and another daughter lives on a kibbutz in Israel). Volf Itche Birnboym also died there. Yisroel Blat is stuck today in Poland. Shnayderman and the Bundist councilman Meir Kaplan died in the Soviet Union. Death chased the rootless Jews in the farthest regions of their wandering.
I actually had the honour of coming to the Land of Israel with Anders' army.
I no longer belong to any political party. Today my party is the Radom society.
Like so many lonely Jews who survived the war I began a new life here. I am a proud citizen of our own little state, our free Land of Israel. I am among friends from our hometown Radom and we get together often. I work hard and have not become a rich man but children do not know from my former want and hunger years. I live on one of the main streets in Tel Aviv in a comfortable, bright airy apartment. My children are studying and are being raised as free Jews with equal rights.
It is a pity, that we, the conscientious proletariat did not understand things years ago and did not come here beforehand! ----
by Kh. L. Khuberman
Translated by Janie Respitz
How Can We Forget?
|From all the weekly twenty four hour periods
How can we forget the Synagogue Street
On Friday, the Sabbath eve?
The stands with fish, meat and Challahs
And onions and carrots
With sweetened and dried fruits.
Until evening there was a lot of noise
The earth shook, the sky trembled.
And suddenly there is a clamour,
A rush, a mad run:
They grabbed baskets with apples and pears
As the rabbi, Reb Aron appears.
He is a Kohen and an angry man
No one wants to quarrel with him.
His walking to synagogue with the pious
This reminds us we are Jews and not peasant grandmothers.
Business is done, the merchandise is packed
The shops are bolted and locked.
A tardy woman peddler hides behind her basket
When she sees the Rebbe Reb Moishele coming from the ritual bath
With his son, son in law, beadle and synagogue manager;
She will sin and lose her chance of the afterlife!
The street fell silent:
The men were leaving for synagogue.
It was light and tidy in the Jewish homes:
The guest has arrived, the beloved Sabbath.
Jewish mothers bless the candles,
Can you forget your mother's face? ----
|In noisy Paris I sometimes remember
A Thursday market day in our town on the Voel:
Peasants, wagons near the shops,
Are loaded with poultry and bound calves.
There by the state of ritual impurity
Is quite the stamped:
Ready made clothes, shoes and fabric,
A Jew and a peasant clasp hands.
The peasants looks for of a glass
Of pure whisky,
The Jew looks to earn enough
For a dowry for his daughters.
Measured and bargained,
Paid, have a drink.
Is this a market day? More like a fair!
It's noisy and loud, they cook and boil
by N. D Korman, Philadelphia
Translated by Janie Respitz
|Every Sabbath after the meal
Our neighbours come to us:
The younger women in wigs
The old ladies in headdresses.
Instead of the beautiful Rachel
For another seven years
by Feyge Rokhl Benet, Australia
Translated by Janie Respitz
On Fridays, just after noon, my father, Reb Shmuel the ritual slaughterer already began to prepare for the holy Sabbath. My mother already began to prepare her trough of Challahs Thursday evening and baked them. Friday morning she would make a large pot of barley soup for the poor, with spleen and intestines. She would give them a few groshen and say: Eat a bit of barley soup, it will give you energy to go on.
Father would go to greet the Sabbath with his sons and sons in law. There were always a few sons in law living with us.
When the candles were lit our home looked like a holy place: eight candle sticks, four silver, and four brass. The table was large and covered with good things. As father would say: if we do things well on the Sabbath we will have a good week.
Sabbath in our home really looked royal. My mother wore a headdress with pearls, a beautiful dressing gown with a white apron and a shawl. They called her Hodesl the Rabbi's wife and in my eyes she was as a beautiful as a princess. My father wore slippers with white socks, a long fringed garment with tassels that reached the ground.
In our home there were eight daughters and two sons who later also became ritual slaughterers. Father would return from prayers with his sons, sons in and two guests. Father and all the men made the blessing over the wine from their own cups, but all the daughters drank from mother's cup. We sang along with the Sabbath songs and had to follow the meal happily lasted until late at night.
On Saturday morning father would go to the ritual bath on Voel and when he returned he would sit and study. They did not begin prayers at the Kotsk Hasidic prayer house until father arrived with his children.
He would invite a few Jews over to eat and they praised mother's challahs. When strangers came they set up separate tables for men and women. Father gave everyone the opportunity to bless the food and mother served gefilte fish.
During the day she wore another headdress. She had a trunk with a variety of headdresses which she wore for various occasions and matched her dresses.
She also had eight strands of Orliansky pearls which were to be divided between her eight daughters.
The table was run as a rabbi's table: Quotes from the Torah, singing of Sabbath songs, and sharing his food. Mother would place the cholent (Sabbath stew) in our own oven where she baked the challahs.
This feast lasted almost until the third Sabbath meal. They prayed the afternoon and evening prayers in our home.
After Havdallah (the ceremony to welcome in the new week) guests would begin to arrive. Mother would prepare to escort out the Sabbath and we would sing all night.
This is what our Sabbaths were like.
On Purim, father would bring spleen, intestines, tripe and feet. Mother would use it all to prepare Purim gifts.
Until noon father was busy in the slaughter house. He would come home, wash, put on his satin coat and his fur hat, let out his side curls from behind his ears and sat down for the festive meal.
He prepared bundles of coins as Purim gifts, especially for the rabbis, teachers and honourable people who had to be payed secretly. He also gave to the teacher's assistants and the Purim actors who performed The Sale of Joseph.
Wealthy Jews would came to take what they needed to provide necessities for Passover for the poor. Mother would serve them flodn (cake), Challah with jelly and they drank the finest wine rich people had given us for Purim.
This all ended with a fiery Hasidic dance
We baked our own matzahs for Passover. The first Saturday night after Purim we filled a large barrel with water, covered it so it remained our water. Sunday morning father woke us up. We bathed and dressed neatly. Each of us took a towel in one hand and pieces of glass in the other. While baking matzah we were not allowed to talk. From time to time we gave the kneaders, rollers and perforators our towels to wash their hands and pieces of glass to scrape down their rolling pins. Everyone who participated received a decent amount of coins and a respectable glass of whisky.
Mother served beet borsht, and father, pure, clear wine. On Passover we all received new shoes and clothes and were overjoyed with the arrival of the holiday, our time of liberation remembering our exodus from Egypt
On the eve of Passover the ritual slaughterers had a lot of work, more than others. The whole day they would slaughter large portions of chickens, calves and cows. They worked so hard all day, when the Seder arrived they were exhausted. My father wore his white robe with an embroidered gold crown and a skullcap woven with silver.
When it was time to welcome Elijah the Prophet, my sister Tova Gitl (later Morgolis) and I went to open the door. One time, when we opened the door someone was standing there wrapped in a prayer shawl and called out to us: I am Elijah the Prophet! We were petrified and ran back screaming. There was chaos in the house. It turned out this was Mordkhai Mendl Naydik. He himself got scared from our screaming and turned as white as the wall. He just wanted to make a joke and did not think we would be so scared and make a big tragedy out of it
My father punished him for such a lighthearted joke poking fun at Judaism.
The next morning the entire town was talking about the story of Elijah the Prophet coming to our house. Even a journalist came to ask details and later wrote about it the Warsaw newspaper. That is when we laughed and joked about it
by Yekhiel Popielnik - Popper, Canada
Translated by Janie Respitz
He was called Yosele the Hayven's (Yeast). He was the midwife's only son. A 16-17 year old boy, but courageous and bold. He was a member of the Bund, whose goals for him were sacred and he worked to carry out various tasks. The Bund knew they could count on Yosele the Hayven's.
This was during the years 1905-1908. Cossacks and police kept a watch over the political movements in town. But the movements in town watched every twist and turn of the Cossacks and police. The Bund decided to call a demonstration through appeals written in Yiddish and Polish. These appeals had to be hung on the walls and fences in town. Who will do this? Yosele the Hayven's was the first to respond. He took this task upon himself.
It was a quiet autumn evening. Yosele snuck up to the walls and hung the appeals. He had a pail and a brush and worked skillfully, independently and quickly. In the morning the whole town would be pasted over and everyone will know his heart was filled with joy.
However the little policeman noticed him and tried to catch the bird. The authorities would appreciate this and he would be rewarded
He began to chase Yosele, but Yosele was quicker. When he caught him the little devil escaped from his hands. Yosele ran, and the policeman ran after him. The police remained behind and resentment was growing: the boy runs like a swift deer and soon he will lose him totally from sight. Stop! he shouted. When Yosele did not obey and did not stand still, he took out his revolver and began to shoot.
The revolver's shots rang through the stillness of the autumn evening on Lublin Street. There was soon chaos. They are shooting! And shopkeepers on Voel began to close their stores.
Curiosity brought me toward the direction the shots were coming from. On the corner of Voel and Lublin streets I already saw a lot of people making a racket at Avrom Yidl's house at 3 Lublin Street. I ran to the gate and saw a boy lying on the ground, covered with a coat from under which I saw pool of blood. Beside him were the pail, the brush and scattered flyers, like slaughtered chickens.
Who is that? people were asking.And people who were agitated answered hoarsely:
Yosele the Hayven's. An only child. Woe to his mother! The little policeman caught him pasting flyers, chased him until here, in front of his house, and with a few bullets cut down, this very young tree! Just a boy, not yet 17 years old.The horrible news spread through town as fast as lightening. The Bund and the entire working class, with no differentiation of affiliation were bursting from pain and sorrow. The Bund swore to take revenge on the policeman who in the meantime disappeared from the lit street. We knew he was hiding in the provincial building but how long could he sit there in hiding? He will have to come out eventually and a revolutionary death sentence awaited him.
The Bund called a conference of all the worker's parties and it was decided to have a conspicuous funeral with flags and slogans. The police only forbid the carrying of red flags. Instead of red, we carried black flags with slogans written in gold.
Yosele's body was brought to the old House of Study which was packed with workers and common folk. There were passionate revolutionary speeches with grief and rage which denounced the cruel authority of the Czarist tyrants and their satraps. The crowd was extremely moved with tears in their eyes.
The small policeman received his reward. As soon as he emerged from his hiding place the punishing hand of the worker's movement reached out to him and carried out the death sentence.
The following day the entire city knew the little policeman had been shot.
by Yekhiel Popielnik - Popper
Translated by Janie Respitz
It was the anniversary of my mothers death, may she rest in peace. It was a Friday morning and I and my older brother ran the House of Study to say Kaddish (the memorial prayer). On our way home we met Cossacks and Kalmyks who attacked the Jewish quarter. Even though we were just boys, I was 12, the Cossacks beat us up. I managed to run to Soreleh Saveh's yard but they caught my brother. When he returned home that evening he was seriously beaten. He suffered from these injuries the rest of his life.
The underground movement was not indebted to these persecutions and carried out acts of terror.
One day, for example, a bomb exploded near Holtz's store and the Black Policeman and his lover were blown to pieces. After the assassination attempt, of course, arrests began.
Among those arrested was Yakov Hershele who belonged to the P.P.S, however he was freed and very quickly we were convinced he worked with the secret police.
Yakov Hershele knew the addresses of his revolutionary comrades and many active worker activists which he arrested. Many fell victim because of him and many succeeded in escaping abroad. It is quite possible that
Shiye Grosfeld (now in New York), the tall A.M. Kirshneboym and the deceased Menashe Kayler were also victims of Yakov Hershele's informing.
However, Yakov Hershele ended his life as a hero risking his life for Jews and Judaism.
It was a Christian holiday when there was a Christian procession to lay wreaths. A Jewish girl was also in this procession as she wanted to convert to marry a Christian boy. Her father, a village Jew, came to the Radom community to ask for help to get his daughter out of Christian hands. The community could not do anything and advised him to go to the Good Boys. They can deliver a blow and everyone is afraid of them. The father went to them and poured out his heavy heart to the Strong Leybish Poldvanastik , the tall Shimon, Moishe Vudke, Itche Krutke, Gershon Smotchke and others. These guys went to work.
Across from Tchiptches house there was a sewer which stretched to Synagogue Street. The gang waited there for the procession. When they saw the Jewish girl arm in arm with her boyfriend, walking with his family, Leybish tore into the crowd, shoved the boyfriend, flung his parents, grabbed the girl over his shoulder and before they knew it, ran with her to Tchapele the con artist on Kamashnmakher Street.
The angry crowds followed and with outrage stormed Tchapele's house. There was soon an atmosphere of a pogrom, which smelled of blood and destruction. At that moment Yakov Hershele was at his girlfriend Etele's,
the cake baker's daughter. Hearing what was going on Kamashnmakher Street, he grabbed his revolver and ran there. He ran through the crowd ordering them to disperse. The angry crowd of peasants attacked him and began to trample him. He shot and one peasant was killed. The police arrived, chased away the mob and took Yakov Hershele to the prison hospital.
Yakov Hershel never recovered. He was sick for a year and died in a sanatorium. His father, a pious Jew, a Torah scholar, renounced him and did not even go to his funeral.
However in heaven, where there is bookkeeping of good deeds and sins, Yakov Hershele's self -sacrifice was evaluated. He risked his life for the entire community and perhaps his sacrifice atoned for his sin.
by Sh. Margolis
Translated by Janie Respitz
A boy, a jewel, a golden head, we will not have to ask Yidl Fliker to come to you
This thin little boy with the long side curls and a little head shuddered. Yidl Fliker was feared by all the Jewish boys in Radom. Just hearing his name they allowed themselves to be washed, shampooed and combed. If a little boy had an unclean head he was taken to be healed to Yidl Fliker, who smeared his head with resin leaving it to dry and harden for three days like the shell of a turtle, and then he would rip it off together with the skin. When it healed and new smooth skin grew all the other children would call him: Rat! No, this child would be better off going on Friday with his father to the ritual bath and allow them to soap him with the suds which burnt his eyes and rinse him with inky bath water. Just don't take him to that loser, Fliker.
Before going to the ritual bath you had to let them cut your nails with a small scissors. The cut nails would be gathered in a small piece of paper together with two witnesses, two chips of wood cut from the table or bench, and thrown into the fire in the oven. They said if you threw the cut nails on the floor, after you die they will have to come search for them. Later the children had horrible dreams: Yidl Fliker chasing them wanting to catch them. They run away but then corpses in shrouds come to look for their lost nails. They cry and scream in their sleep until their parents wake them up and take them into their beds
Among the angry phantoms in my horrible childhood dreams was the King, a Jew from Synagogue Street who had two holes in his face where his nose should have been. We were also afraid of Bazhele the Hunchback, who in summer and winter slept on the steps where she lit her Sabbath candles in two potato halves. She was disheveled like
a witch and was involved with the not good. If she would caress a child, he would get a fever
Children were petrified of Elye Bozhni, a tall thin man whose torn black fabric coat waved like the wings of a demon. Without saying a word to anyone he would wander around looking for magical formulas. Where ever he would find a bit of paper with Hebrew letters, he would kiss it and run with it to the House of Study where he would throw it in a box which would later be buried in the cemetery. Children would say that Elye Bozhni was the reincarnation of a man who used to stomp on fragments of torn religious texts without stopping. He was sent back to the world to correct this wrong doing. He no longer belongs here, but there there, beyond the three trees
The children also had joy and joked: when they would see Shliml the Hunchback running with his dainty steps, his hunchback was bigger than the rest of him. His beard would wave as his wife chased him. She was as tall as a giant. Yude Leyb Zhivyot ran after them. His name was written in chalk on his cap: Yude Leyb Zhivyot. He was welcomed by Mordkhai Hokeh who marched along dressed like a soldier and ran after all the parades. And there goes Yekhezkl Fleshele (Little Bottle) with his little wife who looked like a little girl in a sleeping cap. This Lilliputian couple went from house to house. No one understood anything they said, but listened to their stories and rolled with laughter When the beadle Shmuelikhl Koter walked around Friday evenings and in his drawn out melody cried out: Jews! Go to synagogue! A children's chorus responded with: Jews! Go to the bathhouse! When we saw Leyzer the Head Spinner whose head was always turning back and forth, like a pendulum of a clock, children would ask him if he also turned his head at night when he slept. He would answer: I don't know, I'm asleep. When someone asked him what he was he would say A Kohen (of priestly descent).
The best of all was a Galevka. We did not go to Heder. The Jewish streets were nicer, cleaner and lit. A Russian flag waved on all the Jewish homes. There was a parade in the round marketplace led by marching soldiers accompanied by an orchestra and a bandleader. At night the streets were illuminated by kerosene lamps which the janitors placed in front of every house in Rinshtok. These lamps in Rinshtok shone brighter than the stars in the sky
Avrom Yitzkhak was considered the best teacher of little children. His Heder was on Synagogue Street in the home of Maliye the tavern keeper. The walls and ceiling were black as mud. Some children sat on benches while others sat on the floor. Reb Avrom Yitzkhak was one big beard with a pair of eyes sticking out. He sat at a wide table with the alphabet on a board and a pointer in his hand and taught like this:
What is this my dear little Jewish children? It looks like a water carrier with two buckets. It is an Alef. And this? It looks like a pouch with money. That is a Gimel. The smallest is the letter Yud. You are all little Jews, may you be wellIt was noisy in the Heder. Children laughed, shouted, shrieked and cried. Others shouted to the teacher's assistant: In the yard! And the assistant went with each one separately. The assistant also had to bring each child, who did not want to go to Heder, inside.
When my mother brought me to Heder for the first time everyone blessed her: Dishke, you should live so long to accompany him to the wedding canopy! the rabbi welcomed us saying What a surprise! Look whose here?
How old is this young man? Already three and a half? Let go of your mother's apron and sit down and study Torah .Reb Avrom Yitzkhak showed me the small letter Yud in the alphabet and showed me how it walks down the Voel shouting Handi Handi! But I already knew the little Yuds (translator's note: there is a play on words here as Yud is the letter and also means Jew), and many other letters that my brother taught me at home. Suddenly a coin fell from the sky. Mother I shouted, an angel threw me a But then I suddenly noticed my mother was not beside me. The apron I was tightly hanging on to was the hunchbacked assistant's
I'll only sit here with my mother.
What? the rabbi reprimanded. You are not ashamed? A female together with these men? Where dose this happen?
So let my mother stand beside me I said as I held on tightly to her apron.
At Reb Avrom Yitzkhak's we learned up until the beginning of the Pentateuch. When we left his Heder we were able to pray with fluidity, recite the blessings and recite the morning prayers. On the Sabbath there was a great celebration in our home: the teacher would stand his pupil up on a chair, hold him by the chin and ask: Little boy, little boy, what are you learning? The little boy responded: I am no longer a little boy, I am a fine young man. Everyone threw nuts and candies and they served food.
When one became a little older and studied the Pentateuch they made him a long coat although he still wore pants with a split. We received our own prayer books and a little book of blessings and became perfect Jews. On the Sabbath and holidays we went to pray with the adults. After we ate the teacher would come test us. In the winter, on Saturday afternoons we would go to Heder to say Blessings of the Soul and in the summer we would study a chapter.
My first teacher of Pentateuch and Rashi was a mean, angry man because he could not support his wife
and children. He let his frustrations out on his students. He beat us so much the neighbours often wanted to call the police. I remember how he would teach us the chapter about the ten miracles which occurred in the Holy Temple. One miracle was that they never saw a single fly there when slaughtering the sacrifices. Then the rabbi asked: where are there more flies, in your house or in the slaughter house? None of us had ever been to a slaughter house, not even me, the grandson of a ritual slaughterer. However, there were millions of flies both at home and in the Heder so we all answered: At home!
Idiots! Ignoramuses! he shouted and began punching us. If there are more flies in the house, what is the miracle?The miracle was that we emerged from his Heder in one piece. At age six they sent me to a Talmud teacher. This is where our childhood ended.
2. The First Jewish House on Voel
The first householder died in a mysterious way on the threshold of his house; and not far from that house, during the Nazi era the last householder was killed who had the same name as the first: Reb Eliezer Margolis.
The first Eliezer Margolis came from Kozhenitz where his family was the most respected and wealthiest in town. His father had a large lumber business with the surrounding peasants. He would also travel to Germany on business where he was a bit influenced by the Haskala (The Jewish Enlightenment). He educated his son in Torah and secular subjects. He knew foreign languages, rode a horse, read books and everyone in town feared he would go down the wrong path. However, after his wedding, he actually became a Hasid and following his Rebbe, settled in Radom.
At that time, Radom was still a small town, literally a village. The community began to grow when Reb Eliezer settled there. He helped many Jews settle there and served as head of the Jewish community for many years.
Reb Eliezer was a tall, handsome, presentable man and a great businessman. He had a vast amount of knowledge. He knew history, he was clever and loved to argue. When attending fairs in other countries, people said he would meet with Jewish and non-Jewish scholars, with whom he would discuss, argue and always win.
He was also admired by the town's president who gave him permission to build the first brick house on Voel, near the church.
The house was beside the priests' house. The guard and the coachman lived on the first floor and Reb Eliezer and his family lived on the upper floor. Later, his children and children's children lived in the apartments in this house, until the last Reb Eliezer.
This house was always noisy as it was filled with guests, travellers who would spend the night. Among them were rabbis, righteous men and businessmen. All day long they cooked and served.
People recounted that when a holy man came to visit he blessed the house so that no fire would destroy it. In fact, the house never burned until the Nazis destroyed it.
The third floor served religious needs: that is where the synagogue was. At one time it also housed Reb Leybele Ovadia's Heder. There was learning day and night on the third floor. At night there was light in every window which lit up the street.
There was also a large Sukkah. Reb Eliezer would say that his main concern was the Sukkah and not the house: he had to build the first and second floors in order to build the third for a Sukkah
The sloping tin roof would open during the festival of Sukkot like two wings. The whole family and guests would spend time in the Sukkah. They prayed and ate in the Sukkah and there was a special sky bed where Reb Eliezer would sleep. That bed was used by his children and grandchildren for 100 years, until it fell apart. His great grandchild Reb Ovadia Moishe would sleep in the bed after Sukkot. The entire house stood below the Sukkah as it is written: Spread over us your shelter of peace.
Reb Eliezer lived with great joy and satisfaction his entire life. He was privileged to learn Torah and be well off as well as acquire honourable in laws. Reb Arye Leyb Tzuntz from Plotck was his son in law.
Reb Eliezer loved his horses. He would choose which horse to travel with on his own. He loved to take the coachman's place and hold the reigns. He was also a good rider and could control the wildest horse. However his last horse ride cost him his life.
This is how the story was told: Reb Eliezer was a lover and collector of books. He had a cupboard filled with books about Torah and a cupboard filled with scientific books. When he learned from his book dealer that he had a leather bound volume of Maimonides' The Strong Hand, he ordered the book and rode his horse to Warsaw to buy the new book. There he celebrated and ate with Hasidim and scholars in honour of the publication of The Strong Hand. On his way home he stopped in his birthplace Kozhenitz to visit his ancestors' graves. Upon leaving the cemetery he washes his hands and refreshed himself with some refreshments he took for the journey: a honey cake and a bottle of whisky. Taking a sip from the bottle
(and with no live Hasidim with him) he called out: L'Chaim corpses! The merit of Maimonides upholds us and we will live to see the coming of the Messiah. All the corpses will arise from their graves. L'Chaim! To Life!
Having refreshed himself he got back on his horse and continued his journey. After riding a short while he suddenly heard galloping coming from behind, as if he was being chased. He looked around and saw no one. The road was empty. This seemed strange to him and left him feeling uneasy: he did not see anyone but heard the galloping behind him. Not only did he hear this and was afraid, but his horse as well. He began to run wildly until a sweat and steam emerged from his skin. It was now clear to him that no one alive was chasing him, rather the corpses from the Kozhenitz cemetery whose honour he offended. Why did he drink a toast to them?
He began to recite Hear O Israel but the corpses chasing him would not stop and galloped behind him. His horse moved like a bow and arrow until it arrived in town at the house where it threw off his rider.
They found Reb Eliezer unconscious at the threshold of his house. They brought him inside, put him in bed and called the doctors. Reb Eliezer asked to be buried in Kozhenitz, to be near his parents and a few days later he breathed his last breath. A great sadness befell the community who carried out his last will and accompanied him to Kozhenitz.
3. A Trial
This was one year after my return from the Land of Israel during the First World War. It was as if I fell into Radom from light to darkness, from bravery and cheer to depression and despair. The Jews in town walked in the shadow of the gallows of the three martyrs. Later there was the execution of the innocent victims Goldberg and Kaddish. It was a pointless life and a pointless death. I longed for the sunny land where we would wake up with the morning star and leave to do our difficult work in the fields, orchards or vineyards. Everything in us sang out with joy that we were pioneers, builders. Who even felt tired after such a day of work?
At the common table there would be discussions followed by a Hora until we fell from our feet and now I am back in exile.
My mood did not change when the Austrians arrived. Over night, wealthy Jews became impoverished boors, boors became rich men. The youth walked around idle, the intelligentsia assimilated, Zionists spoke Polish among themselves, bought a shekel and threw a few groshn into the Yom Kippur collection plate When the doctor, the apostate, came into a Jewish house all the men would remove their hats and stood at attention until he left
On a winter morning we learned Dr. Fidler died of a heart attack. Jews mourned him and said even though he was baptized, he was still a good Jew and even a Zionist. He bought stock in the Colonial Fund and subscribed to the Yiddish newspaper Di Velt (The World). Apparently, this is why it was decided a Zionist delegation should participate in his funeral and they should carry the Zionist flag to the Catholic cemetery. Neither me nor my friend Nokhem Plotzky (with whom I emigrated and returned with) wanted to believe this and we went to the funeral in disguise to see
Yes, we disguised ourselves and we were shocked: after the icons of the holy mother and the cross, after the priests and the golden crosses, walked honourable Jews with bowed heads and a young man from the Zionist organization carried the blue and white flag!
A few days later I was invited to participate in a Live Newspaper which was organized by Kadima on Friday nights. I accepted the invitation and prepared a lecture called The Stained Zionist Flag. That Friday night the hall was packed. My lecture was the last and I read from my paper: An apostate died and they gave him a Catholic funeral. His coffin was decorated with crosses and his was accompanied by clergy who preach Christian love and pity and are penetrated with hatred toward Jews. In all periods and generations they tortured and murdered us in the name of the cross. With a cross in hand they carried out death sentences, pogroms and inquisitions. Now, at the cemetery of this apostate, with the crosses, with the ringing of church bells which frighten experienced Jews, they carried our white and blue flag! Toadying bootlickers, with their lowly decadence, lowered Jewish honour and dishonored our national flag!
I read with pathos until I sensed a commotion and saw everyone looking at the door. I also looked and saw standing there
a couple of chickens, Austrian gendarmes with feathers in their hats.
What's going on here? they asked. A secret meeting?We barely managed to explain that it was not secret or forbidden, nor a clandestine meeting, but rather a cultural evening, a Live Newspaper. Nevertheless, they came to the table and took all the papers including my lecture.
We anticipated something unpleasant, but months passed, the holidays of Purim, Passover, my honey moon, and everything remained quiet. We all calmed down and forgot about the incident.
One day I received an invitation from my teacher and friend Reb Yekhiel Frenkel to meet with him on an urgent matter. When I arrived I immediately saw on his face he had bad news for me. He stared at me in silence for a long time, shaking his head. Then he told me what was going on: as a translator for the security service he received my lecture to translate from Yiddish into German.
You understand Reb Frenkel said to me, I tore out as much of the wild grass as possible. But nevertheless, enough had remained to accuse you of insulting the Catholic religion. You obviously thought you were still in the Land of Israel under Turkish Muslim rule. Did you forget we are here in exile, in the hands of the Austrians? And did you forget that during a war every accusation can be compared to a court martial?He saw how pale I turned and quickly changed his tone:
Well, don't fall apart. I will do all I can to drag you out of this mess. Among the high ranking Austrian officers there are Jews and good Zionists. I'll talk to them. Do not despair. The Almighty will help. You just have to know what to say and how to answer Difficult days began for me. Every Monday and Thursday I was called to an investigation. I insisted it was a lecture about life and work in the Land of Israel, after the outbreak of the war, and the papers they took from me were notes and quotes from various books and newspaper articles. My witnesses said the same thing. Everyone sang the same song except Yekhezkl Roytman, the chairman of Kadima who was frightened and confused and told the truth The court consequently based everything on one witness against me.
When I received a notice to come before the Austro Hungarian military court (in the building of the Regional Court at 10 Lubelska Street), my world turned black. I was sure I would receive a harsh sentence and I moralized and chastised myself: Serves me right! How could I leave the Land of Israel in such times?
There was no possibility to escape or flee. My friends did everything, exerting mediation and distributing bribes. I had to find good lawyers from Krakow and Prague.
The trial lasted three days. Reading the charges took hours. When the accuser underlined my expressions against the priests and Christianity the judges clenched their teeth. The head judge, in a red suit coat, an old Hungarian general, was drawing caricatures of the witnesses. He looked at me and dragged his finger across his neck. This meant he would demand the death sentence for me. Nothing more and nothing less!...
However all the witnesses spoke favourably on my behalf and did not get confused by the cross examination. Even the chickens gave witness and said while standing at the door they saw I was not reading from the paper and they did not hear me mention Jesus, priests or crosses. Roytman also retracted his earlier statement during the investigation and was arrested for bearing false witness
And due to an advantage stemming from prestigious ancestry or charity, we were helped. The bad decree was ripped up. I was sentenced only to six weeks with the right to appeal. Two weeks later, the Court of Appeal decreased the sentence to three weeks of arrest.
How I spent these three weeks in a jail cell with the most hardened criminals is a chapter unto itself.
I emerged from the trial clean of everything I possessed. From then on I hated apostates even more, as well as crosses and priests. I run from Jesus where black pepper grows and I even run from the Holy Virgin
by Gitl Rozentzveyg Farber
Translated by Janie Respitz
What I am about to tell you is unbelievable, however a fact.
If I myself had not personally known the heroine of this story I would have said it was an old wives tale, a legend
A couple in Radom had a daughter who was sadly born a cripple. When she grew up they took her around town in a wagon. She was gorgeous. She had two dazzling eyes. With such a face and eyes she could go to a palace and princes would fall in love with her and fall at her feet
However, I believe, she did not have any feet and no one fell at them. Instead of feet she sat in a wagon with wheels. Her hands, which we could see were twisted with crooked palms and fingers.
If she would not have been so beautiful, perhaps the sorrow her father felt would not have been so great. But because her face shone like the sun he felt the tragedy even sharper and could not overcome the pain, especially when she matured and was of marriageable age and all the other girls her age were hearing the musicians play
Her father did not sleep entire nights due to pity and sorrow until a bizarre idea got into his head.
It was after Sukkot when young men were being conscripted and the barracks were filled with recruits. Her father woke up early in the morning, prayed, dressed his daughter beautifully, sat her in the wagon and took her to the recruiting office.
He saw how the recruits were lined up and the Jewish boys swore before the rabbi to serve the Czar loyally.
What do you need here, Jew? asked an officer. People bring their sons here, not daughters This was a bizarre request. If not for the tears shed by this Jew, the official would have laughed heartily.
I must speak to the chief, the highest ranking official her father replied.
I am the highest ranked official, what do you need?
Nobleman! said the father as he fell to his feet, help an unfortunate father. Only you can make my unfortunate child happy.
What can I do for you? asked the official who was moved.
There are so many young Jewish boys under your supervision. Grant me one as a husband for my daughter.
It is difficult to know if the official was joking, or wanted to calm the Jew down and show him he really wanted to help but couldn't, or he actually want to test his recruits.
Attention! he shouted out to a group of boys who were standing at attention. If one of you is prepared to marry this young lady, you will be released from military service. Take a look at this beauty! Whoever wants her as a wife instead of military service, step forward.Everyone remained silent for along time. Some of the boys blushed, smiled and winked at one another, but no one budged.
Suddenly, a slim boy stepped out of his line, went to the official and stood at attention.
Are you prepared to marry this one? the official gaped, looking at the handsome, healthy slim boy who could get the most beautiful bride.Everyone saw how the young man went, took the wagon from the father's hands and together with his father in law and bride left the recruiting office.
Yes, I am ready, if I am freed from military service.
You are free.
The young man was an honest person and kept his word. There was a beautiful wedding and the young couple lived very well together. She gave birth to six children, all normal, healthy, slim and talented. A beautiful generation with healthy hands and feet
The cripple lived longer than her healthy, handsome husband. She lived to a ripe old age and took pride in her children and many grandchildren.
When her husband died she continued to run the business. It was a large shop of buckwheat, barley, millet and chaff. The merchandise stood outside in dozens of sacks with tucked up brims. The children worked in the store. Their mother sat outside, in her wagon which was covered by an open umbrella. She took money and payed close attention to the customers, peasants with greedy fingers
As a young girl, I worked for Drayzl Krakovsky the hairdresser, and I remember once, on the eve of Passover,
she sent me to deliver a wig to the cripple. I gave her the wig in an elegant box and watched how she touched it with her twisted hands and gnarled fingers. On her lap, in her apron, were many coins, silver and copper. She payed me 20 kopeks for the combing of the wig and three kopeks as a tip. It was rare for someone to tip for such a small thing. However she was a good and very courteous woman. Although she was already an old woman, she was still beautiful and still had rosy cheeks.
The people in town called all of her children, grandchildren, sons and daughters in law, cripple. Even her son in law Khaim, who was a respected individual and did business with the nobility was called Khaim the Cripple
by Mordkahi Tzuker
Translated by Janie Respitz
In 1899, when I came to visit my parents, my father told me an unbelievable story:
The butcher Blind Itche's mother in law died a year earlier, leaving behind her youngest daughter, a twenty year old girl. A few weeks ago the girl woke up screaming that her mother came and dragged her back with her to the world to come. The mother's voice emerged from the girl. Everyone in the house woke up and blind Itche asked what she wanted. She responded that her orphan is too poor to get a proper match and in any case she would live the life of an old maid or go down the wrong path. That is why she wanted to take her daughter with her. How dare she do such a thing? She replied: call Reb Fishl the ritual slaughterer. I will do whatever he says.
This was on a Friday night. As soon as my father walked in she recognized him and expressed her grievance. She also said, in the stall under a rock there is a solid ruble. She said father can do with it whatever he wants. Father told her, if he actually finds the money he will buy candles for the synagogue with which she agreed. He also told her she is doing an injustice. Nobody, not even a mother, can control someone else's life. In addition, my father asked if she met over there his mother, my grandmother. She said no, but she would look the following week and she will give him an answer.
That is all my father told me. It was Friday night and he asked me if I wanted to go with him. Of course I did. It was a large house lit by hanging kerosene lamps. Lying on the bed was a motionless figure covered with a blanket. We sat and waited. As the clock struck midnight the figure kicked its foot and turned its face to us. I saw a young girl, sleeping normally with closed eyes and a somewhat open mouth. Good Sabbath children, good Sabbath Reb Fishl said a voice that came directly from inside, not moving its mouth. I observed that neither the lips, tongue nor teeth moved. I saw your young mother she continued, but she was too high up and I couldn't get to her. In one more week I will speak to her and bring you regards.
This scene left a shocking impression, nevertheless I returned the following Friday. At exactly twelve o'clock she flung her foot, turned around and said: Good Sabbath Reb Fishl. Your mother sends greetings. She gave me a sign that she died holding you to her breast. She said your two eldest sons will be freed and the two younger ones will not even serve. You and your wife will live a long life. Now, what shall I do with my daughter?
My father advised we go to the Radishitzer Rebbe. She agreed. The Rebbe told my father that he does not have to see her, she will not come any more. And if yes? A quorum of ten Jews should go to her grave and excommunicate her. They went home and the following Friday the evil spirit returned. My father asked: What does this mean? How did you transgress the Rebbe's ban? She replied that she does not ask anyone. However, now she will let the girl rest as she sees a possibility of marriage.
From then things were quiet. The evil spirit did not come again. The girl got married and had two children and the whole story about the evil spirit was forgotten.
Translated by Janie Respitz
Rabbi Yakov Menakhem Tchepler
He was born in Radom in 1874. His father, Reb Avrom Abba was a scholar, a Hasid and a member of the Vorker(Warka) entourage. Yakov Menakhem studied with the righteous Alexander Hasid Reb Yekhiel and in the Study House of the Skernievitzer Rebbe. In 1904 he was hired as rabbi in the Tfirat Yisrael synagogue in Passaic New Jersey. He passed away there at age 44 on the 18th of Av, 1948.
Rabbi Yakov Menakhem Tchepler is the author of Chidushei Torah. Until his last day he was active in various Torah and religious institutions. He was very involved in the society to discretely provide aid to the needy and was highly respected.
His wife who was active in the Societies to Visit the Sick and Receiving Guests passed away during the interim days of Passover 1941. They left behind three sons and a daughter, whose husband is Yosef Rudl, a well known lawyer in New York.
Rabbi Eliezer Shotland
He was born in Radom in 1885. His father's name was Reb Pinkhas. He was the son in law of Rabbi Avrom Zvi Perlmuter. At a very young age he was hired as rabbi for the orthodox community in Paterson, in America. He had a dynamic personality and had an eye on all communal matters. He was loved by all for his accomplishments. He was a good speaker and educator, a gentle man and a pleasant conversationalist.
He died before his time at age 44 and the entire local Jewish community attended his funeral.
Rabbi Moishe Yitzkhak Alfasi
He was one of the shining personalities of Radom. A descendent of generations of rabbis and personalities of the Jewish people.
His father, Reb Avrom Alfasi was the well known rabbi of Dzhevitze, in the Radom region. His grandfather, Reb Moishe Simkha Alfasi was the famous rabbi of Opotchne. His grandmother was the famous Temerl (Tamarl Bergson, the wife of Prager Berko), who did a lot for Jewry in general and particularly for Hasidim in Poland.
Moishe Yitzkhak's wife Naomi, the daughter of Reb Dovid Vayntroyb, was well known in town.
When he was hired as rabbi, he had to pass an exam in Russian, which he could not do. The Governor, who knew Jewish history heard the name Alfasi and asked in amazement:
Do you belong to the famous Alfasi family from Morocco, descendants of the Rif, Isaac Alfasi?Reb Moishe Yitzkhak replied:
We are 26 generations of rabbis dating back to the Rif until today.Rabbi Alfasi lived at 14 Rvaynske Street and the house of Kopl Zeliger. He prayed in the Ger small prayer house where he would blow the shofar. He passed away in 1916 in Otvotzk where he had gone to recuperate.
You have been rabbis for 26 generations without knowing any Russian?... asked the governor.
So be it. Let there be a 27th generation rabbi that does not know Russian And he granted him a permit.
Form his entire family only one grandchild remains in Israel.
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