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Portrait of the town
at the beginning of the 20th century

by Shlomo Krakowski

Translated by Hadas Eyal

For the few survivors of our sacred Radomsk community in Israel who only remember Jewish public life between the first and the second world wars, I write down some memories about the cultural-spiritual life in the preceding years between the end of the 19th century and WWI.

By today's standards of public life, we had nothing of the sort not in Radomsk nor did any other town in Congressional Poland with the exception of large cities such as Warsaw and Lodz. We knew nothing then about any movement other than the Chasidut. We did not know what a political party was back then and there were not many parties anyway.

The Jewish street was static, frozen in time, one day after the other without any difference between yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Jew in those days, although busy with family and livelihood difficulties, enjoyed hearing news of world events such as politics and wars. Information arrived through special pipelines – in the larger beit-midrash between noon and evening prayers, in the smaller shtibel synagogue, at the mikveh etc and that would be good enough for him.

Not even one Yiddish newspaper was published in all of gigantic Russia for its three million Jews (Congressional Poland was one of the Russia's states at the time). There were two newspapers in Hebrew: “HaTsfira” in Warsaw and “HaMelitz” in St. Petersburg. We didn't know yet how to buy a newspaper. Anyone who wanted to read a paper had to sign up in advance and if I remember correctly only five copies of “HaTsfira” and one or two of “HaMelitz” would arrive in town a day late on Tuesday and sometimes on Wednesday. These few copies were read by all Hebrew speakers in town, each copy was shared by two-three partners. To be a single subscriber was a luxury not every person could afford in those days.

My father z”l was of the few who read “HaTsfira” and always had a partner or two. After the partners finished reading I would take the newspaper to my beit-midrash where it passed from hand to hand until everyone who could read Hebrew consumed every sentence. But that was only on the days I was the first to receive the newspaper. Some days I received it last or not at all because some Jews calculated it worth their money to drop a few coins from time to time into the hand of Lansky the Goy mailman who had a big mustache and loved alcohol in order to get the newspaper from him before it reached its owner rather than sending the subscription fee to Warsaw every three months. My threats to report him to the post office manager did not deter Lansky so I too shoved coins in his hand from time to time so he won't give the paper to others but that lasted only a short time. I finally found a better solution: every day I walked from our apartment at the end of Pashdbuska Street to the post office on Kaliska Street to collect the paper myself.

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Several “modern” homes in town preferred a Polish newspaper using the excuse that although the fathers knew Hebrew the rest of the family did not. There were even households in Radomsk who read the “Kurier Warszawski”, the most popular in those days, a newspaper with an overt scent of antisemitism even though its publisher Lowenthal was himself a doomed Jew or maybe because of that. These few families were the town's Jewish intelligentsia and its “bourgeois”. The fathers were not much different than the rest of the Radomsk Jews. Some were fairly known as Bnei-Torah who spent their youth on the benches of the beit-midrash. Others were even former Hasidim who travelled several times a year to the Rabbi until curiosity took them off track…although not all of them strayed equal distances and some “progressed” without leaving the camp.

Brisch Freshter, Layzer Richtmann or Layzer Flebner and his son Israelkeh, for example, were among the wealthiest people in town, partners in a so-called “bank” and the maintenance contractors of the Warsaw-Vienna railroad track, in charge of all work and repairs on the entire length of the track by concession they held from the railroad authorities. They were orthodox Jews who observed Torah and Mitsvot and conducted their daily lives in the spirit of the Torah and tradition. On Shabbat they came to pray at the Rabbi's beit-midrash. Later, Brisch Freshter built his own synagogue in his big house on Kaliska street corner of Jabia street (the one that eventually passed to the hands of David Bugaiski). This synagogue housed the first Zionist Society before the first World War and “Beit-Yacov” after that. Freshter, Reichtmann and his wife Kayla were well known for their vast generosity. They raised their children to both Torah and secular education. As there were still no Jewish schools in Poland at that time, Freshtner and Reichtmann sent their sons to a high school in Frankfurt Germany where they also taught Jewish studies.

There were several other “educated” Jews in town who wore European clothes, read external books and sent their sons to Fabian's secondary school. They fulfilled their religious study requirements at Yoel Shtatler's Cheder. Yoel 's father, Brisch, was their Hebrew teacher but few of the town Jews dared risk their reputation by sending their children to him because he was considered a heretic.

Radomsk Environs (the Warta River)

I remember Herschel Benkir, a former Chassid, very wealthy, who owned a house with a large garden and a hotel on the corner of Poviatova and Kalsika streets (across from the home of Gavriel Goldberg). He was a regular supporter of the community. He sat by the Rabbi on the eastern kotel [wall] every Shabbat.

Layzer Reichmann and Avraham Epshtein were both forest merchants (and in-laws). Along with Pulman, Dunski, Hassenberg and others, these Jews experienced Europe and had connections with the Polish estate owners in the area but they remained active in the community.

On the other hand, some Jews, not many, ventured far and avoided contact with the town Jews. Among them Haim Bahm and his son Daniel as well as Yishayahu Rojevitch, who owned two factories and about whom it was said that the more his wealth expanded - his religiousness shrunk; until nothing was left of it except a brief appearance in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. He was punished from above when his son Leon fell from grace to the Zionistic idea and became the right-hand man for Moshe Leibovitch, head of the Radomski Zionist movement at the time.

Others who left the religious way of life included old Mitelman, a sickly insurance agent who rarely left his house, and his sons Dr. Mitelman, Henrik & Kobe; brothers Zinval Levy & Herschel Levy; and families Scheffer, Shperber and Raffal. These and other Jews constituted the town intelligentsia but they were only a small handful.

Most of the town Jews were Chasidim: Radomsk, Gur, Sochatov, Alexander and more and more. Bnei Torah, scholars, God-fearing. Of those who were head-and-shoulders above the crowd and of great stature were the three sons-in-law of Tiferet Shlomo z”l -Yechiel Landaw, Israel Kron, & Lipman Litmanovitch and his son Mendil; Shmuel HaDayan [a rabbinical judge]; Michael Shochat; Avraham Itshak, Hirsch Yosef; Pinchas Wolf; Noach Shochat; Raphael Rapoport; and Avremaleh Zilber.

Community leaders were elected every three years. Elections were held in the Synagogue or the Beit-Midrash in the presence of the county minister or clerk who usually influenced the process and its outcome. Results were sometimes swayed by a handful of boisterous laymen commoners campaigning for a candidate and tipping the scale. The candidates were almost always the same people and the same people won time after time. Everyone knew that the leaders can only be Avraham Lobelski, Hirschel Benkir, Yosef Hirsch-Shatz, Layzer Tentser, Feishel Donski, Gavriel Goldberg and several others.

The leadership committee was responsible for community taxation, a periodical audit, liaison with the local authorities, appointing 'Gabaim' [managers/collectors] and decision making.

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The “Chevra Kadisha” was managed by Nechemia Orbach, Mordechai Gliksman (Skalka) and Bril Kamlagren (one of my uncles). The was also a “Bikur Cholim” [visiting the sick] organization but other than its minyan I don't remember any real activity of theirs.

The “Talmud Torah” in town was led by Herschel Kortsava, the father of the notorious Mordechai Zelig but I prefer not to talk about this institution. It is known the type of scholars that came out of these places in Polish towns in those days and our Radomsk was no different in that regard.

In the years before the period I'm writing about, there was in Radomsk as in other towns, a well-known institution called “Hekdesh” which was a hospitality place for beggars and drifters to sleep. I remember the first one was in a ruin with no doors, windows or roof. It later moved to the Cheder of Avraham the Melamed. Almost half of the young children in town received their first school lessons in his Cheder. The benches were always cramped to the limit by youngsters. Rabbi Avraham suffered from severe asthma which caused him to cough constantly. The other room in the apartment was where Avraham the Melamed lived with his family, the room in which they cooked, ate, slept and his wife did her craft of embellishing women's head coverings ('shavis') and saw clients. There was also a large boiling water tank for “tea” they sold to the neighbors. I myself spent most of my childhood in this yard.

When the youngsters went home at the end of the day, the school room remained empty. Avraham the Melamed knew how to make the best use of it, giving him great pleasure in this world and much good for the next world. He spread a dozen mattresses the children played on during the day and turned the room into a hospitality “Hekdesh” for the poor, charging only 2 cents a night.

An additional “hospitality company” in Radomsk was for visitors of the Beit-Midrash. It was one of three companies in the Beit-Midrash: a “book acquisition” company through which to buy new books every so often; a “book repair” company to fix books that were torn from repeated use; and the “hospitality company” intended for the lucky few penniless Jewish scholars visiting the Beit-Midrash from other towns.

These were honest Jews, respected scholars, who usually had mature daughters at home with no dowry. They travelled between Jewish towns to gather the necessary amount through charity and returned home. Panhandling was a permanent profession for some of them, but they had not yet reached as low as to need to sleep on the floor of Avraham the Melamed.

When a poverty-stricken Jew arrived at the Beit Midrash he immediately looked for the Gabai - the company manager - who knew how to evaluate each person and give them a known sum according to their worth. There were needy people who in addition to the money gift from the till also received a list of important landlords from whom they received larger donations and from then forth used only the list instead of knocking on random doors. These “distinguished” poor sometimes found a place to sleep on the Beit-Midrash benches, using their sack as a pillow.

Income for the various companies came mostly from donations by grooms just before their wedding and from membership fees. Every groom was traditionally sent several young men from the Beit-Midrash to sit with him until the ceremony, to happily cheer him, and to request a donation. The Beit-Midrash was not the only company there; weddings were a source of income for all companies in town.

Other than the above mentioned institutions, I do not remember others in town. There were no other education institutions, other than the Talmud Torah and 15-20 private Cheders in which all the children were taught. The Cheders I studied in were: Avraham the Melamed mentioned earlier; Moshe Kroza; Yehezkel Zinval (son-in-law of Eli-Azra Shochat) who later moved to Lodz; Yoel HaCharash (siblings who are his 4th generation are here in Israel, Mr. Strovinski son of Tuvia-Layzer Strovinski and his sister who is the daughter-in-law of the town's last Rabbi. She now lives in Haifa); Avraham Issac the Dayan [a rabbinical judge]; and Hirsch Yosef, also a Dayan [a rabbinical judge].

Of the people around us who were not teachers there were reb Yehoshua, reb Lipman, Yankil the lame; Henich from Pesh Dobrova (who made Aliya to Israel in 1913), Moshe Lapians, Pinchas Wolf, Mordechai Yosef, Yoske Landau my brother-in-law, Bril Vitenberg also a relative; and Aharon Hirsch from Dzialowsk.

Families who could afford continued education sent the children from the Cheder to the Beit-Midrash. Yeshivas such as Volozhin, Kovna-Solodovka/Vilijampole, Mir, and Tlez/Telsiai were not part of Congressional Poland. The two that were, Lomza and Makow, were on the other side of the country and I do not remember any of the Radomsk children traveling that far away. We knew of them only because their representatives came twice a year to collect donations in town.

Children from poor families became apprentices of the few craftsmen in town: tailors, shoemakers, bakers, milliners/hatters, watchmakers, carpenters etc. There was no light industry in town and the few furniture factories (the Tahunt Brother, the Cohen Brothers, Rojevitch) would not employ Jewish laborers nor would any Jewish boys be willing to do such work.

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The girls however did work in these factories, even daughters of landlords, but they worked in their homes, not on-site. They trained to work as cane-weavers. Families blessed with several daughters made their entire living from this work, it was the only work available to them. Girls from very poor families worked as house maids. There were no female hat makers or seamstresses because there was no use for them – dresses were tailored by men.

The youth at that time were know nothing about our special culture or general culture. Moshe the Bookbinder travelled to Warsaw several times a year to bring books the adolescents asked for, mostly religious books and very rarely a book of Yiddish tales. Paying library members would pass the book from hand to hand until they became so tattered they couldn't be picked up. He absolutely refused to bring books in Hebrew because he did not want to risk the anger of the zealous Charedi parents who would most likely rip him like a fish if they found out he was supplying their sons with anything in the prohibited Hebrew language.

A small Hebrew library was run by two brothers whose names I've forgotten - one was hunchbacked and the other lame - who lived with their widowed mother on Kaliska Street. With limited resources, the Hebrew library did not satisfy the demand for Hebrew books. To openly buy a Hebrew book was impossible. Only one way was actually accessible for beit-midrash students to directly purchase Hebrew books: the travelling booksellers who came to town. Religious books and accessories would be displayed on long tables but the big sacks under the tables had forbidden merchandise for special customers who appeared when the regular buyers were not present. One student would buy a book and all the others read it. I once bought George Elliot's “Daniel Deronda”, translated by David Frishman. After finishing, I lent it to a friend. It took two years to make the round and return to me… Under the condition that we pass it from one to the other until returned to the fellow who paid for it is how I was able to read about two dozen books that my friends bought.

The same was done with the newspapers. “HaTsfira” was delivered daily to my house and I traded it for “HaMelitz” and other Polish and Russian newspapers. All my friends did the same. We were so thirsty for news we didn't care which paper we read. By “we” I mean only the intelligent top of the Beit-Midrash students. We even got hold of the anti-Semitic Polish newspaper “Rola” from a Goy neighbor and the dry Russian “Petrovska Governakia Vedomosti” [collection of official press releases] from our neighbor Wolf Birenzweig who had a subscription without even knowing Russian. Passing from hand to hand, these newspapers too became worn and torn.

Not only did the general town youth not feel the need for a book or a newspaper – there was also no time for it. Work days were long and the craftsmen and shop owners used the Shabbat for resting, dancing with girls or promenading the streets. Few also found their “Oneg Shabbat” in sexual activities. Such were the Jewish youth in general in those days. In Radomsk as in the majority of Polish cities.

We were a small group of youngsters searching for something new in our grey mundane lives. We talked and talked but were unable to change our reality because none of us had the energy or resourcefulness to do so. Thus we withered without hope for better days.

There was one attempt that failed even before it started. A group assembled in Warsaw to emulate the activities of the St. Petersburg branch of “The Society for the Advancement of Haskala [Enlightenment] in Israel”. The objective was to build schools and libraries for the children of Israel and to support impoverished adolescents who aspire to study. These activities however did not reach Polish towns; I don't know why. So several people in Warsaw decided to create an identical society in Polish towns. Concurrently, Hirsch-David Nomberg was forced to leave Radomsk after losing the entire dowry he received from his father-in-law Mordechai Shapira in a failed grocery store. He moved to Warsaw. Upon hearing about the new society he successfully lobbied for us Radomskans. The plan was to advance our general studies to the level of qualifying for university in Geneva, Switzerland. Unfortunately, the society was short lived, dissolving before it even started to work. When the father of the university student chosen to teach us heard of the society, he shook heaven and earth to close the project before we even had our first class…

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One day, an interesting news article was published in “HaTsfira” about a Jew named Theodor Herzl in Vienna, an editor at the newspaper “Neue Freie Presse”, who came up with an idea to buy Eretz-Israel from the Turkish ruler Abdul Hamid for the purpose of founding a safe haven for Jews through agreement and assistance from all governments around the world. To execute this plan, he called upon all Jews everywhere to lend a hand in establishing a bank through which to finance the operation. Each city and town were to immediately open a Zionist Society and recruit members.

The sensational idea did not prompt the reaction it should have from the Radomski audience. The vast majority was indifferent. The masses who did not read newspapers never even saw the article. Some who read or heard about it didn't believe it was true. Others dismissed the idea saying nothing will come out of it – even if the Jews agree, the Goyim will not. The Charedi Jews promptly declared war against anyone who favored Zionism. The few who were impressed were several young Beit-Midrash students who were already sold on the earlier idea of “Chibat Zion” [affection for Zion]. It was time for practical action but it soon became evident this was not going to be easy. The most enthusiastic young men were quickly deterred by their parents' adamant opposition.

Only three of us could organize and operate freely without resistance from our parents: me and two of my relatives. My Beit-Midrash peers did not dare reveal their secret of being Zionists even though they were indeed faithful Zionists. My father z”l was both a Charedi Hassid and a businessman. He held the rope on both ends without losing his identity. Every decision was approved by the Rabbi. A God-fearing man in every sense of the word, he also enjoyed reading secular books in Hebrew and Polish and wrote Hebrew beautifully which was rare at the time. He was also one of the few “Hovevei Zion” and did not restrict my Zionist activity in any way.

My relatives Azriel Parjrovski, son of the textile merchant Ichi Parjrovski, and my brother-in-law Avrahamchi Minski were also free to take part in the Zionist projects. Avrahamchi was of great service to the first founders of the Zionist Society. His step-father Bril Vitenberg was the first Mohel of the town and kept lists of the those he circumcised (a few thousand by then). Avrahamchi enjoyed organizing the lists and adding relevant information such as the parent's names, occupation and dates of birth. These upgraded lists eventually became a living encyclopedia of town natives. So much so that the municipality began using it when necessary. Over time, the municipality established a special “Jewish Desk” for all Jewish matters and Avrahamchi was hired as its manager. When Moshe Lefkowitz set out to establish the first Zionist Society in town, Avrahamchi's lists were very useful.

Like I said, I don't remember any Beit-Midrash boys other than the three of us who had the courage to openly declare they were Zionists. If Avraham-Moshe Kalka, one of the most intelligent students were to tell his zealous Amshinov Chasid father Tuvia Kalka that he is a Zionist, he would probably be banished from the house. Same was true for dedicated Zionists Moshe Luria the son of Yoskeh Luria and for Yankil Sofer the son of Leib-Fischel Sofer who would have loved to cooperate with the Zionists but feared their fathers.

I must truthfully add, that the objection in Radomsk to Zionism in the early days did not come only from the zealous Chasidim. Even the Jewish intelligentsia that were close to the masses were reserved. Most of the educated people of the town kept their distance and did not openly join the new society.

Surprisingly, the founders of the Zionist Society were Jews that no one ever imagined would like the idea. Moshe Lefkowitz for example, the first and only chairman of the Radomsk Zionists, who recently returned to Radomsk from Lodz where he lived for several years and was unknown in town. An ordinary Jew, not very close to our origins. He didn't know Hebrew at all. We agreed I would teach him Hebrew in return for him teaching me to play the violin but for some reason that never happened. It was this man, of all the others, who devoted himself whole-heartedly to Zionistic work to the point of neglecting his laborious livelihood. He was a wonderful conversation partner; one could sit with him for hours in pleasant discussion. His influence upon the few Zionists in town was tremendous.

Another example was Leon Rojevitch. His family assimilated and cut off all ties with the town Jews. His father and older brother distanced themselves as far as possible from any contact with them. This man, who never received any Jewish education, was of the first to join the Zionist Society and one of its most active members.

Others among the early members were polar opposites from Leon Rojevitch: Avraham David Bril, Avraham Moshe Vaxman, Meirl Shitenberg, and Reuven Lieberman for example. There were also those who did not sign up as members but were known in town as avid Zionists. Jews like Koppel Glidman the son of Avraham-Leib Glidman who served the Tiferet Shlomo was on the one hand a Chasid to the core and on the other a poverty-stricken suppressed community worker dependent on the collective opinion. As the Beit-Midrash Shamash [janitor], he dedicated himself heart and soul to the Zionist idea without hesitating to fearlessly campaign in its favor.

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As I mention the names of some of the first Zionists in Radomsk, I feel it is my duty to also say something about a totally different type of “Zionist”. This is Michael who pumped water. He was a layman who probably didn't recognize written letters and I am sure he didn't know where Zion is and what is going to be done in this Zion…This Jew was always of the first to bring the few pennies he earned with the sweat of his brow to pay his membership fees or towards the purchase of a stock share from the Colonial Bank.

And so, the Zionist Society of Radomsk was established by a few individuals from each of the groups in the community. The vast majority of the Jewish residents remained static spectators even though it was known many held favorable attitudes towards Zionism but were afraid of publically joining.

What was the scope of the Zionist Society's activity in Radomsk after it was founded? As I remember it – very limited. The work was mainly selling shekels and Moshe Lefkowitz reading “The Letters” by Zionist publicity director Dr. Bernstein-Cohen. As opposed to other places, there was no strong opposition to Zionism in Radomsk not by Chasidim and not by workers (of which there were very few in town) and not even by the Rabbi. The objection was passive: no reaction at all.

The Radomsk Chasidut always stood aside and maintained this strategy up to WWII. High politics of the Radomsk Chasidut was decided upon in my brother's house in Lodz and I know that every time a war broke out between the Chasidim and the National camp or between Gur Chasidim and Alexander Chasidim – something that happened frequently especially during elections – there were persistent attempts by one side to pull the Radomsk Chasidim into the fight, but to no avail.

Sadly, Zionism did not last long in Radomsk or across great Russia. It ceased to exist after a few years. The Czar authorities waged a massive war on Jewish and socialist worker's movements that also crushed Zionism whether it did not understand the differences between these movements or out of spite…After a short period of Zionist activity, the movement was banned across Russia, became illegal and had to go underground. The best of the Zionists did not surrender to the decree and used many types of disguises to continue the work despite the official ban. Obviously, the work was not as efficient as in previous years. By the outbreak of WWI, the presence of the Zionist Movement was felt in Jewish communities as it was in its first years.

When WWI erupted, the forefathers of the damned Nazis decided to loosen the reins and allow Zionist work to resume. Whether this shift was a planned political strategy to win Jewish public opinion or for other reasons, the Jewish response was swift. An awakening of Zionist activity and societies swept across the large Polish cities followed by the smaller towns. The Radomsk revival was slow and sluggish.

I returned to Radomsk as a refugee at the end of the first year of the war. Every Shabbat I would pray at Koppel's Beit-Midrash by the table along the right side of the Eastern Wall with my old friends, all of us Zionists: Brisch Shtetler, Mendil Feinzilber, Issac Petsnovski, Hillel Zombek (who was the Gabai [manager] at that time), Brisch Shtitski, and the Gold brothers Nachman and David. All we could talk about every Shabbat for the entire prayer was how to resurrect the ruins of the town's Zionist Society to its past glory. But we did nothing. We were missing a driving force to invigorate our old bones…Luckily, it appeared one day on the morning of a wintery Friday during the second year of the war.

A stranger stood in my brother-in-law Yankil Vitenberg's store. Vitenberg turned his attention to me and said: “Here is a Zionist Jew that you Sir can beat to a pulp if you like, because it is entirely his fault we still do not have a Zionist Society in Radomsk today”. The stranger was Dr. Meir Klumel, chairman of the Central Committee of Polish Zionists that was recently established in Warsaw. Dr. Klumel was one of the greatest Polish Zionist leaders. A scholar who graduated from Lithuanian yeshivas, a Dr. of Philosophy and most importantly – a heart and soul Zionist. In his personal life he was a paper merchant and he had customers in Radomsk such as Vitenberg, Feinski, Gelbard and others. Their business ties were severed during the war and he came to renew them.

Dr. Klumel bombarded me with questions about how a community such as Radomsk is unashamed of remaining indifferent and frozen in stagnation while the all Jews across diaspora were already resurrected? With fire in his eyes, he lectured at length about morals and ethics. Eventually, we agreed that because he must spend Shabbat in Radomsk (he was an orthodox Jew who did not travel on Shabbat) he will give a public awakening sermon on Zionism.

The sermon was very interesting and made a strong impression on the audience. Because it ended at six o'clock and the train to Warsaw left at eleven, Mendil Feinzilber, David Kalai and myself hosted Dr. Klumel at the home of Moshe Lefkowitz who for some reason did not attend the public speech. Dr. Klumel's lecture resumed with such force, that we decided then and there to establish a new Zionist Society in town.

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The problem was finding a vacant apartment in Radomsk; not an easy task. Luckily, this obstacle was swiftly overcome when Moshe Bugaiski (David Bugaiski's son) came around that evening to visit his former teacher Lefkowitz. Moshe told them his father plans to evict a community company that failed to pay the rent over many months for the same old synagogue in his house that was leased by the Zionists years ago. Returning the synagogue to the Zionists will calm his father's worry about what people might say regarding the eviction and he will happily agree. David Bugaiski agreed the next day to the offer from our delegation: Mendil Feinzilber, Yankil Vitenberg and Moshe Richterman. “Beit Yaakov” was founded.

These are memories of our town Radomsk from the last five years of the 19th century. With the exception of the last sentences on the founding of the Beit Yaakov Society that I was privileged to have been among its founders and managers, some details of these memories may not be as accurate as they should be. There may have been important people of the town that should have been mentioned here and were not due to poor memory. And vice versa: some things that I emphasized may seem to others less important or not important at all. I did not intend to write “history”. I wanted only to contribute my small share, among the others, in presenting “Zion” in memory of our sacred and pure who were preyed upon and exterminated by the Nazi carnivorous animals may their names and their memory be obliterated.

The Holy and the Pure

by Rabbi Yechiel Veintroyb

Translated by Hadas Eyal

May God remember our holy community – men, women and children – and bind them in the bundle of life for being incinerated for no fault of their own by immoral world-destructing people. May the God of Israel forever embrace the memory of this holy and pure community.

A. Rabbinical Judges and Kosher-Slaughter Butchers

Reb Yoel Dayan

Reb Yoel was a rabbinical court judge in Radomsk and one of the closest confidants of Shlomo HaCohen. He was the most prominent Torah scholar among the grandsons of reb Yoel Sirkish who wrote the Bayit Hadash (therefore known by the acronym HaBa”ch).

Avraham Sofer

Was and excellent author and very smart. The sayings he coined were used by all for many years after he passed away. People paid a high price for his books. He had one daughter whom the Tiferet Shlomo Rabbi ordered everyone to call 'buballeh' until she enters the chupah and 'Frymeta' afterwards. She was the wife of Rabbi Yaakov-David z”l.

Reb Shmuel Zellwer

Reb Shmuel became a Radomsk rabbinical judge at an old age, in the days of reb Zvi-Meir HaChohen. A Torah scholar, he left a hand written manuscript titled “Shem MiShmuel”. He passed way in 1901 when he was 74 years old.

Reb Israel Zellwer

Reb Israel Zellwer, the son of the above mentioned Dayan Shmuel, became a dayan in the days of his father in 1891-2. Reb Israel was a Torah scholar who was certified as a teacher by the genius Reb Avraham Borstein from Częstochowa who wrote “Eglei Tal” and by the genius Reb Yoav Yehoshua from Kintsk/Koński who wrote “Helkat Yoav”.

Reb Israel was a diligent Torah scholar and always busy with G-d's work. He was an impressive man, studying Torah and wisdom with everyone in his prayer house. Reb Israel was of the most prominent figures among the Sochaczew Hasidim, leading high-holiday prayers for the Sochaczew rabbi. I remember an incident when the building that housed the synagogue for many years was sold to a person who wanted to close it. They arrived one morning to find the synagogue desecrated: Torah books and all items on the dirty floor, the walls also dirty. Reb Israel then said that everyone involved will not live long and his words transpired. Within six months two of the men that took part in the desecration died and the family of the new landlord experienced great tragedy.

Dayan Reb Israel Zellwer

Reb Yosef-Eliezer Buki
Reb Yosef-Eliezer was accepted into the rabbinate thanks to his fervent studying and verbatim knowledge of all rules and laws. He taught scriptures of the sages in the prayer house of “Chevra Kadisha” and was a righteous and humble man. Accepting every person cordially, he kept distance from politics. Everyone respected and loved him, many came to him with questions that required excellent knowledge of Halacha. His son served on the Radomsk Rabbinate after he passed away.

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Reb Tuvia Buki
As an adolescent, Reb Tuvia was an educated young man who wished to follow the idea of “love work, hate rabbanut”. He wasn't satisfied with his deep knowledge of the Torah, investing himself in present affairs among people. Only after his father Reb Yosef-Eliezer passed away leaving a widow and orphans without income and in response to his friends did he agree to join the rabbinate. Like his father, Reb Tuvia was humble and loved by all. Both of them showed kindness and did good for the sake of good.

Unlike his father who was engulfed in Halacha and not involved in civic matters, Reb Tuvia was immersed in every civic issue and first for everything. His smart intelligent words were heard; his kind face and noble heart won everyone's affection. His total commitment to the town was such that he even delayed his plan to make Aliya to Jerusalem probably because he did not want to leave Radomsk without a leader and teacher. I may not be well informed because I was not in Radomsk in its last days. But I have been told about him and his benevolent activity.

Reb Tuvia perished in the Holocaust along with the entire holy community of our city. When I think of the holy of our town, tens of thousands of Israel, young, old, men, women and children whose blood was poured like water, my soul mourns and weeps. How did the forest hog manage to break the fence, enter the beautiful orchard, destroy and chew it. Uprooting the cedars of Lebanon. People of Radomsk, may the memory of our brothers be etched in our hearts until G-d avenges the Amalek of our time for everything they did to us.

House of the Kosher Butchers

Unfortunately, few Radomskians who knew the town's past survived. It is therefore important to document its history. A hundred years ago or so, a large poor labor family lived in Slostowice, a village near Radomsk. Villagers who passed by noticed the shutters closed in the middle of the day. They knocked on the door. When no response was heard, they broke in and found everyone cruelly murdered except one baby hidden under the bed.

The baby was taken to the nearby town Plawno where a tailor took him in. When the boy turned eight years old he began working, sewing buttons. For a certain amount of buttons, he was given one Kopek coin. The boy, Yaakov Urlich, added coin to coin until he had enough money to buy big houses.

Yaakov Urlich's house on 9 Krakowski Street was known as a community in itself. All the kosher butchers gathered in this courtyard as well as most of the town teachers, the rabbi, the doctor, the tailor and cobbler, the baker – everyone gathered in the courtyard of Yacov Urlich's house.

Butcher Reb Noah Rubinstein

At the time, he was of the famous righteous people in town. A student of the Lublin Rabbi. From his first wife who died young, he had one son, reb Chanoch Hanech, who also became a butcher. From his second wife he had four sons and a daughter. His sons Tuvia and Mendel succeeded in making Aliya to Israel. Reb Noah was the gabai of the Gur house when the hospital was still in Aharon-Wolf's courtyard on Częstochowa Street.

Reb Noah was a prominent kosher butcher in Radomsk. When he passed away at a ripe old age and with a good reputation, his son reb Chanoch Hanech replaced him. Reb Chanoch was a good natured and friendly butcher in the spirit of the Mishna: “greeted every person kindly”. He earned well but was burdened with raising many sons. He passed away at a young age and the town deeply mourned him. Although his son Hirsch was still young and not married, Hirsch was accepted a kosher butcher.

Butcher Reb Noah Rubinstein

Butcher Reb Hirsch Meir
Was a very nice young man and he provided for the entire household of widow and children left after his father died. The community urged him to marry and he took a wife from Lodz.

Butcher Reb Michael Poznanski

A Vurka-Amshinov Hasid, Reb Michael Poznanski was and outstanding butcher. A righteous and dignified man who wrote well respected books on kosher butchery. He liked to use “expressions”. Loved by people and impeccable in his work. He was the liveliest spirit among the Radomsk butchers. He passed away with a good reputation at a ripe old age. He was replaced by his son reb Yechzkel.

Butcher Reb Yechzkel Poznanski

He had the qualities of his father. Involved in community life and a good butcher. He helped the poor and orphans. Two of his sons became butchers in his lifetime. Son Yitzhak Poznanski was a butcher in a spa city in Czechoslovakia and reb Yechiel Poznanski lived in France. Reb Yechiel married the daughter of reb Yosef Bar Gelbard who had a watch shop in the market.

Butcher Reb Yechzkel Poznanski

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Butcher Reb Avraham-Yitzhak Butchen
Had a good reputation. Like all the kosher butchers he and his wife welcomed guests and were benevolent and generous with charity. Before Reb Avraham Yitzhak was accepted as a kosher butcher, many yeshivas in town could not come to an agreement on who to choose for the job. The "Knesset Israel" Hasidic Rebbe/Admor asked to be in charge of appointing a butcher. No one could refuse the request, everyone agreed. The Rebbe paid Rabbi Yaakov David to travel to several places and choose a butcher from outside Radomsk which is how the honorable Rebbe avoided community conflict and Avraham-Yitzhak arrived.

Butcher Reb Abaleh Tamar

Born in Częstochowa to a Torah scholar. His brother is a highly esteemed Torah scholar who is a member of the Tel-Aviv Rabbinate.

B. Inside the Strikov Hasdisut

At the center of the large courtyard of Reb Aba Shvartz, separated from the rest of the houses, stood the synagogue of Hassidei Strikov. Following are the eminent synagogue patrons.

First and foremost was the rabbi – Rabbi Yacov David. His followers included the entire congregation of “Bikur Holim” synagogue, almost 400 landlords, honest and simple people who loved their rabbi very much.

Reb Israel Tiberg was a humble Hassid known for interesting stories he told about righteousness and for his emotional tearful prayer. He was devoted to Torah and Avoda.

Reb Mendel Lakhman was a pillar of the synagogue community. Fueled by holy enthusiasm, he collected significant tzedaka and gemach charity for which he was well known throughout the town.

Reb Mordechai Mendel Hirschberg was a Radomsk dignitary. I remember his excitement when the cantor of the big Beit Midrash announced the traditional Yom Kippur Katan at the head of each month. If he was on his way and worried about being late to Mincha prayer minyan – he would hire a carriage to bring him there on time.

Reb Livky Donski's work was holy Torah study which he did day and night. He was master of the Torah reading at the big synagogue and of the morning prayer on the High Holidays. He blew the shofar well. In between he prayed with everyone at the Beit Hassidim. A nice man, endearing, gentle soul. Honest and modest.

Reb Yitzchok Shaya son-in-law of Reb Bril Shenkar. It is impossible to forget this gentle soul who was liked by everyone who knew him. His brother-in-law Reb Meir Lebenreikh is memorable for proudly controlling his anger despite everything he went through.

Reb Chaim Vargon was an honest man, righteous and humble. He was among the poets who helped Shlomo Chazan and even knew how to read musical notes.

Reb Brishel Yorkevitch was one of the Hassidim elderly. He handed out schnapps to everyone on study days to fulfill his Talmudic obligations.

May we also remember these G-d fearing Hassidim: Reb Meir Naftali Ianovski; Reb Yeshaya Greichter son of David Greichter who earned two tables and was a gentle Hassidic soul; Reb David Meirl and Reb Gershon Kaminski righteous and humble; Reb Leibel Nordman honest and decent; Reb Israel Tiberg devoted to the Torah; Reb David Rapaport son-in-law of butcher Reb Henich, son of the Rabbi Chaim Rapaport who helped the poor; Reb Hirschel son-in-law of Reb Zvi Vitsentovski an excellent man loved by many; Reb Israel-Aharon Landoy and Reb Jeszajahu Zylberszac and more.

It is impossible to mention the names of all those who came to pray at this synagogue that had an honorable circle of patrons, all Hassidim and excellent men of action in Radomsk.

It is a pity for those who are gone and no longer to be found. The woodcutter rose, cut the tree with the root, chopped the branches that were the women and children. There are no words left to cry over the huge loss to Beit Israel.

The toddler teachers were an integral part of the town's way of life. Every 3-year-old boy was sent to either reb Yehoshua Pachter, reb Michael Melamed or reb Yosef Ber. In order to avoid a situation where the boy looks at something impure, his parents would wrap him in a tallit and carry him to the Cheder where he studied the Hebrew alphabet. This is how the children of Israel began to learn the Torah.

Every teacher had his unique approach and teaching system. Each tried to solve the problem of planting the information in the toddler's heads in a different way.

The Cheder often lacked basic comfort conditions. The kitchen was used both as a dining room and a bed room. The children-students would usually spend the entire day at the rabbi's house and were involved in the household activities. The income from teaching toddlers was not sufficient to support a family and other forms of livelihood were necessary. Some wives sold salted fish in the market and daughters sewed and mended cloths until midnight. Although even the additional income was not enough to lift them from poverty, the teachers were honest and worked hard to provide the toddlers with sufficient Torah knowledge and they were cared for when they were in need.

The teachers of the older boys were worse off. The older boys pestered the teachers, played cards under the table, pulled pranks, and ignored the rabbi. The teachers of the older boys risked their health trying to drill some Torah into these boys' heads. Income was always threatened by the boys leaving in favor of another teacher despite the best of efforts.

During holiday seasons each teacher would go from one landlord's house to another to beg they send their boys to him by making various promises about their teaching methods. Every Shabbat the teacher would come to the boy's house to test him in front of his parents. If the boy knew the Talmud page or the Torah section read that week at the synagogue – he received Shabbat fruit and an affectionate pinch of his cheek. And if G-D forbid he didn't – it was the teacher's fault even if the boy was retarded or stupid.

Reb Yehoshua Pachter

Reb Yehoshua was a teacher of toddlers. He lived in the courtyard of Yaakov Urlich (Pyontek) where many teachers lived. He was the oldest of them. Reb Yehoshua who had a big white beard was a good natured man, kind to his young students and always very patient with them. His daughter Sarah helped him, teaching girls to read and write, especially inscribing Jewish marriage contracts (known as Ktubot).

The toddler teachers were an integral part of the town's way of life. Every 3-year-old boy was sent to either reb Yehoshua Pachter, reb Michael Melamed or reb Yosef Ber. In order to avoid a situation where the boy looks at something impure, his parents would wrap him in a tallit and carry him to the Cheder where he studied the Hebrew alphabet. This is how the children of Israel began to learn the Torah.

Every teacher had his unique approach and teaching system. Each tried to solve the problem of planting the information in the toddler's heads in a different way.

The Cheder often lacked basic comfort conditions. The kitchen was used both as a dining room and a bed room. The children-students would usually spend the entire day at the rabbi's house and were involved in the household activities. The income from teaching toddlers was not sufficient to support a family and other forms of livelihood were necessary. Some wives sold salted fish in the market and daughters sewed and mended cloths until midnight. Although even the additional income was not enough to lift them from poverty, the teachers were honest and worked hard to provide the toddlers with sufficient Torah knowledge and they were cared for when they were in need.

The teachers of the older boys were worse off. The older boys pestered the teachers, played cards under the table, pulled pranks, and ignored the rabbi. The teachers of the older boys risked their health trying to drill some Torah into these boys' heads. Income was always threatened by the boys leaving in favor of another teacher despite the best of efforts.

During holiday seasons each teacher would go from one landlord's house to another to beg they send their boys to him by making various promises about their teaching methods. Every Shabbat the teacher would come to the boy's house to test him in front of his parents. If the boy knew the Talmud page or the Torah section read that week at the synagogue – he received Shabbat fruit and an affectionate pinch of his cheek. And if G-D forbid he didn't – it was the teacher's fault even if the boy was retarded or stupid.

Reb Yehoshua Pachter

Reb Yehoshua was a teacher of toddlers. He lived in the courtyard of Yaakov Urlich (Pyontek) where many teachers lived. He was the oldest of them. Reb Yehoshua who had a big white beard was a good natured man, kind to his young students and always very patient with them. His daughter Sarah helped him, teaching girls to read and write, especially inscribing Jewish marriage contracts (known as Ktubot).

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Reb Gershon Kaminski

Himself a praised disciple of the renowned Rabbi of Kaminski, reb Gershon taught Gemara and served as an arbitrator at the Yeshiva. He could have continued his studies but was devoted to the toddlers at his Cheder and did not have time. The pupils loved him for the wonderful stories he told them after their Torah studies. He was a good man and a virtuous Hassid. His wife was the granddaughter of reb Avraham Sofer. Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen of Tiferet Shlomo ordered she be called 'buballeh' until her wedding day and so it was – under the chupah she was given the name Frymeta.

Reb Pinchas Wolf

Reb Pinchas was a Kotzk Hassid, and old respected man. He had few pupils but his wife Malka'le had a successful fabric business. Their only daughter married Mordechai Markovitch and moved to Belgium.

Reb Yosef Ber

Reb Yosef was a toddler teacher who lived in the house of reb Shabtai Fairman. Once the young boys got used to his scary tallness and dark skin, they loved his good nature.

Reb Mordechai-Yosef Jakubowicz

Reb Mordechai was a Vurka and Alexander Hassid. Those who did not study at Reb Mordechai's never experienced the true sense of a Cheder. He was very strict. The unfortunate child caught day dreaming or playing during a lesson would be properly spanked. The parents were pleased because the content penetrated and stuck with the children. A scholar himself, reb Mordechai studied Gemara, Rashi commentary and the Tosafot with the students. His son, Rabbi Yehezkel Jakubowicz, who was a rabbi in the Polish town Ryki had the good fortune of making Aliya. Their large family and its branches all perished in the hands of the hateful person.

Reb Chaim-David Dudkevitch

Reb Chaim-David's father was called “doctor” because he won the hearts of his pupils with his noble qualities and because although a tailor by trade he knew some medicine. Reb Chaim-David was also good natured. Everyone loved and respected him, he never pestered a child. A more G-d fearing man than most, he instilled a good measure of this piety in this pupils. He diligently studied Gemara, Rashi commentary and the Tosafot. His daughters helped with livelihood by sewing undergarments. When they sang while working he reprimanded them that the voice of a singing woman reduces income.

Reb Reuven Vargon

Reb Reuven was a Vurka and Alexander Hassid, a virtuous man, intelligent and an excellent reader. He lived in the market at Ozer Goldkorn's. He had no sons but did have daughters who's help with income was critical. Reb Reuven was the son of reb Shmuel Vargon who was the son-in-law of reb Moshe Freiman grandson of Reb Feishly from Strykow.

Reb Yitzchak Fajner

Reb Yitzchak was a Vurka Hassid, the son-in-law of reb Mordechai-Yosef Jakubowicz married to Esther. He was an insightful pedagogue who taught the Chumash and Rashi. A good and helpful man.

Reb Fishel Opman

Reb Fishel taught Chumash, Rashi and some Gemara. He was a good cantor at the synagogue of the Amshinov Rabbi. In old age when he was blind he recited all the high holiday prayers by heart.

Reb Yankel Melamed

Reb Yankel supervised all the Cheders in Radomsk for a short while until he turned to trade, travelling with a small stall of several cloth items to town fairs in the district. Although the income was insufficient for an honorable existence, he preferred it to teaching toddlers. He was an intelligent Jew and Torah scholar and above all else a truthful honest man.

Reb Aharon-Zvi Aronowich

Reb Aharon-Zvi of the Vurka Hassidim managed a yeshiva in the Rabbi's synagogue in Radomsk. He studied Gemara, Rashi commentary and the Tosafot with the yeshiva men. An excellent scholar, he was also accomplished in geometry and algebra. He had three daughters and two sons. One of the daughters married the son of reb Tuvia Kalka. She passed away during a crisis and the city mourned her dearly.

Reb Chaim Rapaport told me that his father reb Rafael Rapaport had a tobacco store where eminent people came to shop. Reb Aharon-Zvi arrived one day at the same time the French manager of a large steel factory was there. The Frenchman was also an accomplished mathematician. Reb Rafael turned to the Frenchman and said: “You boast that you know mathematics but I tell you this Jew probably knows mathematics better than you even though he never went to university”. The Frenchman angrily suggested a math problem for reb Aharon-Zvi to solve. Reb Aharon-Zvi promised to solve it in one day and indeed he handed the Frenchman his solution the next day. The Frenchman was astonished – for his own solution to this problem he received a prize and excellence certificate and if he had not seen it with his own eyes he would not have believed it could be solved without formal education.

Reb Yitzhak B”R Gershon

Reb Yitzhak was the son-in-law of reb Meir Ber, a student of the Lublin Rabbi.

I will favorably add mention here of the following people: Reb Avraham Melamed brother-in-law of Shmulevitz; reb Yodel Melamed; reb Lifa Melamed; reb Hirsch-Leib Melamed (“the yellow”); reb. Hanich-Fishel (“cats”); reb Zainwel Melamed (“teacher”); reb Yaakov-Yosef Melamed; reb Berish Chechura Melamed; and all of the spiritual, faithful, altruistic, hardworking people who taught toddlers of Israel the Torah so that they be G-d fearing and whole.


Among the town institutions was a school for the poor where hundreds studied reading, writing, Chumash and Rashi for free. There were times in which the Radomsk Talmud Torah was a very high quality school with graduates who knew Gemara and Tosafot. But usually the goal of the parents was to provide their children with only basic knowledge in Torah and Judaism then send them to work.

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The Talmud Torah was an important institution, headed for many years by the town Rabbi Israel Pinchas HaCohen who eventually passed the position on to others. Among the successors were: reb Moshe Mendel Rosenblatt; Mr. Shlomo Gliksman; Mr. Yaakov Rozenbaum; Eli Grundman; Aharon Volf Schvartz; Berish Gansherovicz; Mrs. Dora Rosenbaum; Mrs. Manya Markovitz; and reb Yehuda Margolevski. The latter was very devoted to the Talmud Torah an assisted numerous students and teachers.

The Talmud Torah teachers were: reb Henoch Bornstein; reb Yitzhak Mendel Yurkevich; reb Yosef Ber; Shamai Melamed and his son Avraham; reb Shlomo Koss; and reb Yeshayahu Frisch.

The Talmud Torah did not have a place of its own. Studies were held in the connecting corridors of the Synagogue. Occasionally, when a wealthy landlord passed way, the children would join at the head of the funeral procession blessing the deceased.

The Beginning of the Labor Movement

by Yitzhak Grosman

Translated by Hadas Eyal

Up to WWI

Radomsk was an industrial city. When you entered the town by train you immediately saw two furniture factories – Thanet and Yaakov-Yosef Cohen – as well as a large metal casting French factory that employed hundreds of Christian workers. Industrial businesses provided employment and income to the majority of the Radomsk population.

Russian and Jewish workers were already organized under separate organizations in 1905 when the first Russian revolution began. Jewish labor activities were held by the Bond, Poalei Zion, and the Socialist Society. Leaders of the Bond were: Yakov Rosenblat, Eli Barda & Zakin Shreiber. At Poali Zion: Melech Grossman, Tiberg Zusman, Yaakov Vitenberg, Avraham Beser, David Krause, Mordecai-Zelig Rozenblat, and Leah'le Valonski. The Socialist Society was led by Hershel Krause, Simcha Kalka, Hershel Epstein and Shlomo Bugaiski.

Strikes in work places owned by Jews were usually organized by the Jewish labor parties together but there were exceptions such as the sock-workers strike that was organized by Poalei-Zion because most of them were Poalei-Zion members. The walkout of the Jewish female cooks that included the cooks who worked in the Rabbi's house was also unique. Rabbi Yehezkel z”l called a meeting and demanded that Jewish homes not employ the cooks because they were influenced by the young Jews of “Achdut” and cannot be trusted with Kashrut issues. But the strike ended with a victory for the cooks who were all returned to work, even in the Rabbi's house.

In 1904/5, the year of the war between Russia and Japan, Radomsk was a recruitment center for new soldiers from western Poland. On the one hand, the army presence in town provided livelihood for the Jewish population. On the other, the newly recruited soldiers often looted Jewish stores and attacked pedestrians. In response, the Jewish labor movements set up self-defense teams. The wealthy Jews were pressured into purchasing the weapons for these groups. Those who initially refused had to eventually donate double. Dloviak the policeman was paid to inform of weapon searches ahead of time, which helped avoid them being discovered and confiscated. The self-defense teams were very well organized, showing up to restore order at the first signs of provocation from the young soldiers. Soon, the new recruits no longer dared hurt Jews.

Jewish wheeler-dealers known as “maachers” were hired to release Jews from the Polish Army: Hananya Lefkowitz, Yosef Bohm, and Leizer Rozanski.

Members of the Jewish labor parties would meet at teahouses while large assemblies took place on Shabbat afternoons at the Beit-Midrash so that if the police arrived the assembled would be engaged in the “business” of prayer and studying Gmarah. Poalei-Zion had a small synagogue at Mindl Lipshitz's house where they met every Shabbat to pray along with members of the Bond and the Socialist Society. The house had a library that they used to discuss the distribution of money to the Jewish congresses. I remember one meeting that hosted a Bond speaker from Czestochowa. Among the hecklings were objections such as: “tell us why you don't like Zion when it is to Zion we pray from the Siddur - to the return to Zion with mercy. It is your choice to be with the Goyim but don't hinder others making Aliya to Zion”.

Assemblies that women attended took place in Gunther's garden and behind the Christian cemetery.

When the anti-Jewish persecution expanded and some of the labor activists left Radomsk, Melech Grossman, Tiberg Zusman, Yaakov Vitenberg and Mordecai-Zelig Rozenblat established a public library for workers.

In 1909, S. Wiener opened a factory that manufactured wooden buttons and hired Jews. Despite the Rabbi's objection to Jews doing work that goes against the Jewish law (Halacha) 'thou shall not damage' which includes cutting down forest trees to make buttons – the Jews continued to work at the factory and with time more button factories were opened.

Like other towns in Poland at the time, a Radomski lawyer named Haim Zaken founded a Nightingale Group in response to the ban imposed by the Russian regime on any political activity by parties or associations. The famous musician H. Bansman and the conductor Gelbard were invited to serve as artistic managers. The group was active for two years between 1910-1912 then dwindled and closed because a large portion of the Radomsk youth migrated far and wide.

Public activity came to a halt. Only several loyal members were left in each political party: Mordecai-Zelig Rozenblat, David Krause, Reuven Okrent, and M. Numberg from Poalei Zion; Hershel Krause from the Socialist Society. Not a single person remained from the Bond. Everyone including the zealous such as Zaken and Shreiber covered themselves in Talitot and returned to the ancient Beit-Midrash. Every so often an activist such as Valdfogel from Poalei-Zion - one the few associations left in Czestochowa - would visit Radomsk to lecture at illegal assemblies.

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In 1911 I travelled to Krakow, that belonged to Austria at the time. My purpose was to make Aliya to Eretz Israel. Political activity was free in Krakow and I was relieved. I met the Poalei-Zion leaders S. Sagan, Jacob Katzner and Dr. Wahrhaftig. I also ran into a Radomsk group: Shlomo Rodelsan, Ruwen Najkron and others. Thanks to these friends I reached Vienna and from there to Israel where I stayed for three years.

In 1914 I returned to Radomsk where my grandmother Hinda Grosman lived. I was welcomed as honored guest. Even the Rabbi Reb Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen invited me to his house to tell him details of events in the Holy Land (he and his family were later shot and killed by the Germans in Warsaw). I was also invited by my Poalei-Zion friends to travel to Czestochowa, Bendin and Sosnovitch to lecture about life in Israel.

The frozen Jewish social-political life in Radomsk thawed and awoke only after the Austrians conquered the city during WWI. In the first months of the war Radomsk was conquered back and forth by Russian and Austrian forces. There were periods with no local government during which a city police force as formed that Jews could also join, but with the return of the Russians to Radomsk it was dissolved and the Jews suffered greatly. On December 14, 1914 Austria finally kept hold and the city was liberated from the frequent exchange of rule. The economic situation of the Jews was so bad that most were only able to survive from selling tea and cakes to soldiers or from smuggling food products from villages to cities and from Austrian territories to German territories. The city of Radomsk was under Austrian rule but its train was conquered by the Germans. There were many Jewish soldiers in the Austrian army, among them Zionist activists that helped the local Jewish population as best they could.

End of 1914: The Youth Movement

As I emphasized, there was no organized political activity in Radomsk when I returned from Eretz Israel. Even those who were interested didn't believe it was possible to operate under Austrian occupation. Nonetheless, I was restless and saw it as my duty to keep the promise I gave my Poalei-Zion friends in Israel. So I began to work. I offered the youth meetings at my grandmother's house. Hinda Grosman who was known as Hinda Israel-Yakles lived with her son-in-law Shloymaleh and her daughter Gruna in a house with a wrap-around garden. With the gate closed, the house was like a fortress.

After the prayer one Shabbat, I invited the young people Jacob Aronowich, Fishel Feldberg, Fisher Paris, and Matl Feldberg. I presented an action plan and we agreed to meet once a week. Jacob Aronowich suggested we meet at his place in a small room above a store in the “Crazy Salt” building in the new market. Everyone had to bring an additional friend. We also had to prepare lectures on certain topics. I spoke about my memories of Eretz Israel. At a later stage we were joined by new members: David Krause, Avraham Lipschitz and others. Our role and responsibility was to manage public activity. Obviously, all our work was done secretly for fear of the Austrian Gendarmerie (armed forces).

Our circle grew with time and we rented an attic from Aharon-Volf Shvartz on Minchelena Street (above the soda factory) in a house that was shared with Beit-Chasidim Dagur and the community-department that distributed donations to the poor. We did not attract special attention; there was always noise and commotion in the yard thanks to a water stream that many people came to drink from.

A group of young people came to me with a request to train them in agriculture. We decided the best place to do this was the yard of the Big Synagogue that could be cultivated into a roaming-garden. The community elder Reb Leizer Tanzer set two conditions: a). The community will not pay for this work. b). It is forbidden for young men and young women to roam together. A letter of recommendation from the Rabbi Shlomo Chanoch Hakohen helped expedite the agreement with the community and the work began. Landlords lent us work tools and some donated small amounts. Many applied for the training and we had to divide them into shifts. This surprised everyone in town: Jews working the land! Jews, Pols, and even Austrians came to watch us work. Among them a Jewish officer in the Austrian army who was from Budapest whose name was Shubert. When he heard I was from Eretz Israel we became good friends. He supplied us with Army trucks and machinery to clear trash; to transport wood from Daniel Rosenboim's forest and fence planks from Moshe Reichterman's sawmill; to spread sand over the garden paths; etc. The gardening was done with joy and high spirits.

When the garden was completed we held a celebration assembly. Among the presenters: The Zionist musician Moshe Lewkowicz, Zanvil Goldman, Shtatler, Finezilber, Nachman & David Gold, David & Herschel Krause, and myself. A party was held at the synagogue honoring the Jewish officer Shubert who was gifted a bible. The town cantor sang; Moshe Lewkowicz conducted over a choir; David Krause gave a speech; and I opened the ceremony. The Keren Kayemet (NJF) 'Flower Day' fundraiser was also held in town that day by our friends Ester Shternfeld, Sara Feldman, Davshe Gold, and Chava Engelhard.

The celebrations were a great success. People from all Jewish life and political ideologies attended. The garden was beautiful. All the paths were covered with sand, there were benches, and the visitors were proud of the youth that prepared and cultivated it. A water well was soon added to irrigate the plants.

We opened a library in our rented attic space above the soda factory. Each of us donated our books. We also organized our own cultural activities there but when the number of our followers reached 30 we had to move to a larger venue made possible by a special permit from the authorities to use the house of H. Shpolten. “The Youth Organization” was the chosen name.

Thanks to an official letter from officer Shubert that stated he is employing me and three of my friends, we were able to free local Jews who were kidnapped by the Austrians to work as forced labor. We met with representatives of “The Committee for the Protection of Eastern Jews” Dr. Bodenheimer and Prof. Majer Balaban who visited Radomsk. I travelled to Vienna and handed a memorandum I wrote on the persecution and discrimination against Jews in Radomsk to the representatives of the Zionist movement: Adolf Shtand, Engineer Robert Stricker, and Dr. Nathan Birnbaum.

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In Vienna – and back to Radomsk

The Jewish labor parties in Radomsk prevailed thanks to veteran members Reuven Okrent, Mordecai-Zelig Rozenblat, Fishel Feldberg, Matl Feldberg, Fisher Paris, Gitel Birnbaum and others from Poalei-Zion; Hershel Krause, Pinkhas Kolka and Luzer Baigelman from the Socialist Society; and from the Bond: Eliyahu Barda and Zakin Shreiber.

Years later, when I was in Vienna, I met Shlomo Vaxman, David Buchman and his uncle Shlomo Ben Kofer from Radomsk who updated me on the branched social-political activity after I left. Everyone in Radomsk knew my address and found me if they were in Vienna for business, health or any other reason. Friend Shlomo Vaxman helped with this as well as Michael Cohen and other party members.

Through “The Committee for the Protection of Eastern Jews” I was able to release many of the Jews from Radomsk and its vicinity who were brought as prisoners of war to the camp in Vienna by securing proof of employment for them. Dr. Birnbaum's niece who managed a shoe factory was my right hand for this purpose. She provided me letters for the number of workers she 'needed'. One of the released prisoners was the son of the Radomski Melamed Aharon-Hirsh Aronowitch.

Prof. Majer Balaban visited Radomsk in his position as advisor on Jewish Affairs of the main office of the Lublin region. He granted the thriving youth movement Cultura legal authorization and rights to organize cultural activities. He also certified the political activity of Poalei-Zion and the Socialist Society under the provision that they prepare and submit an organized work plan to the government institutions for inspection. The photographer Ludwig Weinberg was chosen as chairman of Cultura, a mainly representational role. Everyone respected and appreciated his contribution to many achievements. Moshe Lewkowicz, a distinguished Ramdomskian, provided important assistance to the success of Cultura through his connections with local authorities. Upon my return from Vienna to Radomsk I too was honored for my help in advancing the political public activities.

On the threshold of the 1920s

The best public speakers visited Radomsk in those days. Yitzkhak Lau, Schurek, Nir, Leiser Levin, Einroll Levinsky and others from Poalei-Zion; Krok, Mendelson, Federman, Frank and others from the Socialist Society; and from the Bond people such as Aronowitch, Wahl and Medem.

Given the rapid development of political movements in Radomsk, the Cultura hall was too small to serve as a general assembly place. In order to avoid friction and disagreement, Poalei-Zion rented the wedding hall from Shlomo Chazan's widow and turned it into a workers'-house.

I kept in touch with movement members in Vienna. Vaxman sent us the Yiddish language Jewish Workers Newspaper (יידישער ארבעטער). The Radomsk Poali-Zion branch had a good reputation in central Warsaw which is why the most distinguished movement leaders visited us. When Yitzkhak Lau arrived to give a lecture about “Erez Israel as a Jewish settlement” the district advisor of political affairs Tamerl demanded he speak German but we overrode him and the talk was given in Yiddish.

In the days of the 1918 revolution, I travelled to Budapest and returned to Radomsk in May 1919. The army of General Jozef Haller caused great trouble for Polish Jews and especially for the Jews in Radomsk. But those were the last Polish reactionary events. The Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) and the Jewish workers' movements gained strength and won the first democratic municipal elections. The political Left in Radomsk received the majority of votes.

I married my girlfriend Chaya-Rivka Pashko in 1920. She was a very active member of Poalei-Zion in the cities of Bedzin and Sosnowiec. I moved to Sosnowiec where we helped our activists steal the boarder to leave Poland.

In 1923 we returned to Israel where we live to this day.

City Hall (on the left) and the Catholic Church (on the right)

[Page 42]

The argument between the communities
of Radomsk and Piotrków (1827)

Translated by Sara Mages

In the 20s of the previous century (1822-1826), a lengthy negotiation took place between the government institutions and the community of Piotrków, regarding debts imposed on the community from the period of the Polish Republic before 1795. The authorities claimed that at the time the community received loans from churches and monasteries in the vicinity and that the community did not pay the debts. After lengthy inquiries - a total sum of about 2500 zloty was set, the authorities demanded to pay it and the prosecutor's office demanded, for its part, to hasten the end of the affair. It was proposed to impose the payment of the above amount on all the communities and settlements, which were affiliated to Piotrków during the period of the Polish Republic, according to the distribution below:

The Jewish Settlements Number of families once belong to Piotrków The equal ratio they must pay on account of the annual interest Payment for 5 years from 1 January 1822 to the end of 1827
Groszy Zloty Groszy Zloty
1. Belchatow 98 - 38 - 100
2. Tuszyn 97 18 37 - 188
3. Piotrków592 14 50 - 254
4. Rozprza 131 24 27 15 139
5. Kamieńsk 72 27 50 - 250
6. Wadow 129 - 11 5 56
7. Radomsk 29 7 442 30 56
Total 1148 90 129 10 1147


In order to finally settle the matter, a meeting to was held on August 7, 1826, at the office of the Commissar of the district of Piotrków. The participants in the discussion were: the community leaders of Piotrków - Feivel-Avraham Dessau, Yona-Avraham Platto and Shmuel Zerach; the community leaders of Rozprza - Asher Tzvalinsky and Moshe Kaminsky; the community leaders of Kamieńsk - Lebak Yohkowits and Zalman; the community leaders of Tuszyn - Bezalel Hochberg and Lebak Fisher; the community leaders of Radomsk - Meir Brandeis and Shlomo Friedman; the community leaders of Belchatow - Herzl Weiss and Feive Tsvilich.

The community leaders of Rozprza announced that they have never paid a similar tax to the community of Piotrków, and therefore they are not obliged to pay the amount of 254 zlotys for 5 years without the consent of their community members. A similar statement was made by the community leaders of Kamieńsk on the grounds that they never benefited from these loans. The representatives of Tuszyn declared that they never belonged to Piotrków and even now they do not wish to belong to it (they were an independent community and paid for the poll tax in and in Wieluń and Wieruszów, as they had proved in the receipt they submitted at this meeting).

The community leaders of Radomsk announced that only part of Radomsk was affiliated to Piotrków. If Piotrków will be authorized to do so by the authorities - it will be entitled to collect part of the payment. The leaders of Belchatow announced that their community did not belong to Piotrków, and therefore asked to release them from these debts.

(According to “Piotrków Book”)


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