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Moshe Jakubowicz (1880-1943)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

One of the first, –
Of the “dreamers of the ghetto” who did not witness the redemption,
A Zionist in all of the 248 and 365[1],
Faithful and strongly dedicated, active and inspired others to action,
Upright in his manner and pure of heart,
Humble and possessing a refined soul,
Well read and pleasant at song.
One of the dear ones of the community of Sochaczew
In the period between the wars.
Went along with those going to their deaths
As his soul pined for Zion…

Y. Jakubowicz


Reb Alexander Zisha Frydman

by Dr. Hillel Zeidman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Environment

Reb Alexander Zisha Frydman, the general secretary of Agudas Yisrael in Poland, was a central personality in Orthodox Judaism not only because of his official position, but also because of his personal strengths, his abilities, activities, and accomplishments.

He was the nurturer of the Polish style of Agudas Yisrael. He nurtured the movement and grew with it; he influenced it and was influenced by it. He was an inseparable part of it. Therefore, anyone who wishes to evaluate the man must peer into the movement and the environment in which he lived and worked, into the Polish style of Agudas Yisrael.

What is meant by “the Polish style”? Just as Orthodox Judaism in the lands of the west took upon the motto of Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch “Torah with the way of the world”, which refers to Judaism that is faithful to the Torah according to the exact definitions of the code of Jewish Law, while at the same time – being knowledgeable in the vernacular, in culture, in the way of life, and the culture of Western Europe – in the same manner, the way of the Aguda in Poland, just as the way of Orthodox Judaism in general in that country, was Torah alone without any mixture, not only exacting in the fulfillment of the commandments, but encompassing all expressions of life, all the manners of man, all its manifestations, with all 365 sinews and 248 bones[1].

The “Polish style” – as strange as it sounds – was different from Poland, from the nation in which the Jews dwelled. It was completely different, with no compromise. “In their ways you shall not go”[2] encompasses all facets of life. It was sufficient for a Pole to do something – even something that was permitted by Jewish law – and the stamp of “goy” (gentile) was placed upon the deed, and it became completely invalidated.

What was the difference between Orthodox Judaism in Western Europe and in Eastern Europe? The Judaism in the west restricted its orthodoxy to a narrow sector, and placed a still narrow boundary on its “Aguda”. However in Poland, Orthodox Judaism was quite widespread, and the Aguda bore its crown and its manner of conducting itself in the world. An Orthodox Jew refers to everything: education; and political activity, whether worldwide, national or local – therefore, there were Orthodox representatives in the legal systems of the towns and communities; in economy – and therefore cooperatives, banks and economic institutions of various types were established; in propaganda and public relations – and therefore there were factional newspapers, daily, weekly, and periodical; and especially with regards to the settlement of the Land of Israel, in that it should be built up in accordance with Torah and tradition. In reality, there was not one area in which the Aguda did not exert its power, in which it did not try to penetrate and exert the influence of its spirit.

Therefore, the Polish Aguda was active in the midst of the Jewish community at the time in which the Judaism of the west was straddling two paths, so to speak, separating the Jewish path from the general path.

Zisha Frydman gained his prominence in this environment, and became the spokesman of Agudas Yisrael. He reached that position directly from the Beis Midrash and the Hassidic Shtibel. He absorbed full influence from both the Beis Midrash and the Shtibel. He was not a dry scholar, and not a fanatical Hassid. His soul bore the successful mixtures of both influences, of scholarship and Hassidism. He was complete in everything. He probed to the depth of maters and did not satisfy himself with superficial discussion. Everyone who knew him knew his depth.

His Roots

Alexander Zisha Frydman was born in Sochaczew, Poland on the 11th of Av, 5657 (1897). One of his sisters, who was a teacher in the Beis Yaakov school, is today the wife of Reb Avraham Mokotowski of Jerusalem. His parents, like most of the Jews of Poland, earned their livelihood through the sweat of their brow, but did not hesitate in denying food to their mouths in order to give their son a fitting Torah education. They did not resist even the most expensive teacher, as long as their son would draw Torah from his well.

Reb Alexander Zisha's father, Reb Aharon Yehoshua Frydman, was the Shamash in the synagogue of Sochaczew, and earned his livelihood with great difficulty. His wife assisted him in his livelihood. He traveled to various fairs with his merchandise. When Zisha was three years old, he knew the entire book of Genesis off by heart. He moved from teacher to teacher for several years. When he was nine years old, the teacher came to his father and said: “There is nothing more your son can learn from me. I advise you to enroll him in the Yeshiva of the Admor of Sochaczew.” His father did not want to do so out of fear of the evil eye. He heard that three of the rich men of the city, fathers of good children of Bar Mitzvah age, hired a teacher who was an erudite sage from a different town, and paid him generously at the rate of three rubles per week, a large sum in those days, with the condition that he would only teach those three children. Reb Zisha's father went to one of them and said to him: “It is my desire that my son shall also learn with your children”. He was happy with the request, and said, “Certainly, certainly”. However Reb Yehoshua Aharon would not agree unless they would accept the complete tuition from him, at the rate they were paying. They said to him “No! If you wish, we will pay you three rubles a week so that your son will join up with our children. It is given to you!” He answered: “I will pay one ruble a week, for this is the entire amount that I earn from being a Shamash.” From then on, he earned his livelihood only from the meager earnings of his wife (Reb Zisha's parents merited to live at the end of their lives in Jerusalem, and died there).

At his Bar Mitzvah feast, Reb Zisha gave a lecture that was wondrous in its depth and breadth. All of the residents of the town stood at the doors and windows of his house, since there was no room inside. The Rebbe of Sochaczew and other great rabbis participated in the Bar Mitzvah celebrations of that genius. Reb Zisha studied in the Yeshiva of Sochaczew until the outbreak of the First World War. In the year 5674 (1914) the entire family fled to Warsaw.

In the summer of 5674, he became engaged to a girl from a small town near Sochaczew called Jalowa. His bride was the only daughter of her father, who was a simple man without wealth. However, the mother of the bride was known in the entire area as one of the great righteous people, with regard to her fear of heaven and generosity. This righteous woman would give all that her husband earned to the poor and scholars. Her daughter of blessed memory became the wife of Reb Zisha.

In Warsaw, Reb Zisha became close to Rabbi Baruch Gelbart, a great scholar, and author of books. He wished to benefit all of his students with his munificence. However, Reb Zisha refused to derive any benefit except from his Torah knowledge. There, he also became close to Dr. Emanuel Carlebach, who lived in Warsaw during the German occupation and organized classes in Jewish wisdom for the best students. Reb Zisha also studied with him and excelled in his studies.

Reb Zisha's father was a Chasid of Amshenov[3]. So was his son. However, later when he studied in the Yeshiva of Sochaczew, he became close to the Rebbe. The youth was very diligent and caught on to his subjects very deeply and quickly. He became known as a genius. However his personality was very discreet. Calm and refinement exuded from his face, and anyone who saw him and knew him was jealous of his parents, that they produced such a splendid offspring. He was a refined and wholesome young man. He was an excellent Torah reader, and a fitting prayer leader with a sweet voice. On the High Holy Days as he led services, he moved the worshippers with the feeling of his prayers and the sweetness of his melodies.

There used to be a well-to-do and scholarly merchant in Warsaw, Meir Yoel Swarcsztejn. He was a clock merchant, and he loved to test the young men who studied Torah. Anyone who knew 50 pages of Talmud off by heart won a prize from Reb Meir Yoel – a valuable watch. Zisha Frydman won this prize when he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah. He carefully guarded this watch until his last day.

Zisha Frydman was young when he became active in the Aguda. It was natural, due to his young age, that he turned his attention to the Agudas Yisrael Youth. He had three important traits that were all of great benefit to Aguda: he was a speaker, a writer, and an organizer. He gave over all his skills to the movement. It is no wonder that he moved up in the organizational ladder with the speed of lightning. He established the Agudas Yisrael Youth organization, which to a large degree bore the main yoke of its parent organization, the Aguda. There were no finer days for Agudas Yisrael Youth as the days at the beginning of his activity. However, after he spread his wings to other endeavors and was no longer able to restrict himself to the four ells of this organization, he remained the captain and leader in the eyes of the myriads of youth, who took pride in him. The years of his activity in Agudas Yisrael Youth were years of unusual flourishing and growth of that organization. All high thinkers, idealists, people of action, dreamers and strugglers gathered around it. Its publication “Digleinu” overflowed with ideas like a volcano. It was full of thrill, strong influence and power. It influenced the thoughts of the Orthodox youth and watered the treasuries of their minds. Alexander Zisha Frydman was the editor of the publication, and he astounded his readers with the clarity of his language, the fertility of his style and his lightning-like ideas. He educated activists and counselors of Agudas Yisrael Youth and prepared them for activity. Through this, he extended his influence upon the Agudas Yisrael Youth for a long time after he moved to another section of the front – to Agudas Yisrael, to the adults.

He appeared in the year 5679 (1919) in the first national convention of the Aguda and inspired his audience with his speech. At that time, he was asked to serve as the secretary of the central Aguda organization, then called “Shlomei Emunei Yisrael” (“Those at Peace with the Faith of Israel”).

The leaders of Agudas Yisrael removed him completely from Agudas Yisrael Youth. They had long awaited a man such as him. In 5685 (1925) he was appointed as the general secretary of Agudas Yisrael in Poland, a position that he held until his last day. In the central offices of Aguda, Zisha Frydman was like a river of water in an arid desert. He introduced an organized administration, for prior to that time, they did not relate to that idea with proper seriousness. He conducted steady and organized correspondence. He established contact with hundreds of branches throughout the country, and with the sister Aguda organizations in other countries. He established protocols for meetings, introduced orderly record keeping, set up a schedule for meetings, and his own schedule – all with wonderful exactness, order, and regimen. He did this without negligence, and without accepting the “I don't care” that was often the manner of the masses, even of honorable people, who concern themselves only with large and important matters and ignore the small details and the day to day order. Reb Zisha Frydman was concerned with the larger matters, while not neglecting the small matters. Even though he was the leader, he was not repulsed by the task of administrator, and he was an exemplary record keeper. The former Senator Refael Szereszawski, the well-known banker from Warsaw, praised him greatly as a record keeper and accountant.

Even though he was an expert factional activist, faithful to the official line, diplomacy and propaganda – he was not afflicted with the typical empty factional formality. He was a scholar, full of understanding. He behaved as a scholar in his manners, traits, words, way of thinking and way of life. He was seriously, and dedicated and straightforward in his actions. He did not carry himself haughtily. He was always “one of us”. He was a friend to all Hassidic youth, to every Yeshiva student. He understood their needs, aspirations, requests and concerns.

The Communal Administrator

Reb Zisha Frydman was a revolutionary by nature. He was quiet and modest, he had no desire to shake up the existing institutions and he did not aspire to an uncalled for revolution. Nevertheless, the essence of his appearance in the national arena in the communal council of Warsaw, which served as a sort of miniature Jewish parliament, introduced a spirit of popular Judaism, a stormy and lively spirit, into the Jewish community of Warsaw. Prior to that time, there was almost no place for such a spirit in that prestigious institution.

From the days of Shmuel Zawitkower, the rich Aguda person at the time of Reb Shlomo Eiger, the son of the Gaon Rabbi Akiva Eiger the Rabbi of Poznan, until Gavriel Eizenman the owner of the metal works and son-in-law of the wealthy Hassid Reb Yishayahu Priwes and son of Reb Elazar, the leaders of the Orthodox community came from the elders of the well-to-do people, who looked after large estates, owned successful businesses whose dealings were spread all over the world, great scholars who had a place among the patrons and important men of the city, relatives and in-laws of rabbis and Gaonim. All of them were administrators, and many families were dependent on their works and good graces. They gave charity both secretly and publicly. The Rebbes' courtyards, public institutions, and charity for the poor were conducted upon their shoulders and with their money. They ruled over the entire holy community, which was borne by them. Even their external features demonstrated their special importance. They had a patriarchal visage, and serious expression of strength blended with somberness. They had wise eyes, full grown beards. On Sabbaths and festivals, they were attired in silk kapotes (cloaks), expensive streimels. On weekdays, they wore special bekishes (long jackets) known as “Privisovkes”. There was always a festive air about them, exuding honor. All were connected with each other through family connections and common business interests, even though there were disputes on occasion. This was to protect their governance and rights from an invasion of “foreigners”. Such was the way of the “dozors” (members of the communal council) from Warsaw.

In the period between the two world wars, the splendor of the well placed lessened significantly, the situation of the masses worsened, and their position declined on the street. When the first democratic elections for the Warsaw community took place in 1926, the traditional leaders were no longer the only ones fit for leadership. Nevertheless, a few of the remnants of such well placed people still honored themselves with the front places in the lists of those standing for election in the Agudas Yisrael party (except for Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Lewin, who, as the chairman of Agudas Yisrael, and the son-in-law of the Rebbe of Gur, took first place in the list). Reb Zisha Frydman, even though he was already well-known throughout Poland, was pushed to the sixteenth place – after the honorable people who held their customary positions.. However the Aguda won the elections and gained fifteen mandates. After three of the administrators were appointed to the governing council – Frydman also came in as a member of the council or an administrator.

Then the revolution began. This young man, who did not have a fancy house, who was not rich nor the son of rich people, who was not well connected, was not from a well connected family, and did not have business with the “leviathans” – suddenly reached the highest rung of the Orthodox administrators, after Reb Yitzchak Meir Lewin who was the official leader. All of well-to-do leaders and scholars gave way to him and became “backbenchers”, who applauded the brilliant speeches of that young man, who had no connections and no wealth.

The communal council was always a battle arena between the various factions. Since no faction had an absolute majority, no group was able to impose its way upon other groups. There were two main factions – the Aguda and the Zionists – to which the smaller groups joined up. The first communal council of new Poland, which was elected in Warsaw in 1926, was divided up as follows: Aguda – 15 seats, the Zionist umbrella – 11, Mizrachi – 5, Bund – 5, the Aguda from the Praga suburb of Warsaw – 2 (one of them was Rabbi Menachem Zemba, the Torah sage who was also an iron merchant, and later was appointed as a rabbi in Warsaw), the Folkists (the populist party) – 3, the Hassidim of Grodzisk – 1. Through various maneuvers, an agreement was reached that Mr. Heshel Farbsztejn, the head of Mizrachi, be the head of the communal government, and Mr. Eliahu Kirszbraun of Agudas Yisrael be the chairman of the communal council. The representative to the Sejm was determined in accordance with this agreement[4]. In the elections of 1930, Reb Eliahu Mazur was chosen as the head of the communal government, and Reb Yaakov Trukenheim as the chairman of the communal council.

The communal council was the public arena where various factions disputed their ideas. Even though the jurisdiction of the Warsaw community was restricted by the government, and the community was only responsible to adjudicate in religious affairs of the community, all issues of Jewish life, and indeed many issues outside of Jewish life, were deliberated upon by the representatives of the various factions at the communal council. Even “an advisory against General Franco of Spain, and support for his opponents”, was brought before the council by Bund and the left leaning Poale Zion[5]. Reb Zisha Frydman was the prime spokesman of the Orthodox coalition for all problems of the era. Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Lewin outlined the sphere of activity, and used to request the right to speak on fundamental and pragmatic problems. Reb Zisha Frydman was the spokesman of Aguda in all other matters. He was chosen as a communal administrator (Parnas) also in all other subsequent elections (in 1930 and in 1936). His renown as one of the best spokesman of the Jews of Poland spread very quickly.

{Photo page 679 – Alexander Zisha Frydman and his family.}

The Orator

Reb Zisha Frydman was a wonderful orator. His voice was sweet and strong, simultaneously preachy and stormy. He was not an improviser, and he did not speak everything that came to his mind. He felt that he was fulfilling a mission when he appeared in the name of Orthodox Judaism, and therefore he prepared himself with all his power. He prepared his speeches in advance, line by line and thought by thought, every idea in its correct place. When he stood on the podium, he did not intermingle one idea with another, and he did not speak in flowery language. He concerned himself with the content no less than the form. He always spoke about the heart of the topic, concisely and briefly. In the community, he did not attempt to be “lustrous”, but rather to be decisive and topical. He did not deliberate on a point for a length of time, but rather he quickly came to the heart of the point. He consciously curbed his talents as an orator.

On the other hand, at meetings of the masses, he permitted himself to digress from the dry, factual style. Even there, he did not sacrifice the content, but he did not refrain from using a pleasing rhetorical style, and he would spice his lecture with side points, words of our sages or Hassidic sayings, for the most part based upon a verse of the Torah, specifically a verse from the current weekly Torah portion[6]. His methodology was so successful, so smooth, so pleasing, that is seemed as if the weekly Torah portion was directly related to the issue that was being discussed at the time. His words made a deep impression, and his enthusiastic audience would go over his words for weeks or months after the speech, deriving enjoyment and absorbing them. There were occasions when his words were remembered after many years. He was blessed with the ability of explaining his ideas in the simplest fashion, so that they would be understandable to the majority of people. He never spoke about “the ideology of Aguda”. He never spoke about the mounds of minutia of the “program”. He drew from the well. His words were based on the Torah, and were based upon reality, the day to day lives of the masses of Jews, their burdens, needs, problems, and concerns. His speeches at the central Aguda conventions, from the first one in Vienna until the final one in Marienbad prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, where works of art in their content and style, and left an unforgettable impression upon the audience. He inspired the masses and even the Orthodox leaders, not because of the magic of his speaking style, but rather because everyone who heard him felt that the words were coming out from a pure soul, from the warm heart of a Hassidic Jew, a scholar, and a fearer of Heaven. They felt that “These words are like the heavens”.

The Educator

Reb Zisha was an educator by nature, and he dedicated the best of his efforts and time to education. Even as he was serving as a captain, he saw it as an educational endeavor. When the Aguda won a victory in the Sejm elections, Reb Zisha said: “Even more than I am happy with the number of mandates we received, I am even more happy with the educational influence that will be the result of the elections. A boy student of Yesodei Hatorah or a girl student of Beis Yaakov will feel that they are not alone, they will feel that a quarter of a million Jews affiliate with Aguda and give their voice to it. What an educational influence!” When a meeting of the action committee of Agudas Yisrael was deliberating about the representation of Aguda to the parliament (Sejm), and weighted the appropriateness of every candidate for the task, Zisha Frydman found a completely different line of reasoning from the accepted one. He said: “We require a representative who will appear before the parliament in the style of the rabbis, with a bear, peyos, a kippa on his head and a waistband[7] around his waist, so that we ourselves can see who is fitting for honor in the Jewish community. When the youth see that the representative who appears before ministers and presents himself before the statesmen is a Torah scholar, an author of Halachic and Aggadaic works (he was speaking about Rabbi Aharon Lewin of Rzeszow, may G-d avenge his blood), what a great educational example this will be!”

He was the life spirit in all areas of educational and religious life in Poland. He was the general principal of Chorev, of the Yesodei Hatorah school network, of Talmud Torah, of cheders and elementary schools. He stood at the helm of Keren Hatorah, the financial institution that supported religious Jewish education. He was a member of the board of directors of Beis Yaakov and the Beis Yaakov Seminary in Krakow. He was the founder of a seminary for Orthodox educators in Warsaw located on 6 Twarda St.. This institution raised the status and honor of Jewish educators, raising them up from their poor status. From that time, they were referred to as “educators”, which was a term more fitting to their task. He was not satisfied with administration, for he also involved himself directly with education. He lectured at the “Teacher's Seminary “ of Warsaw, and gave summer courses for Beis Yaakov teachers near Krakow. He authored books on teaching, such as a book on the Shmoneh Esrei[8], a book on education called “Kesef Mezukak” (“Refined Silver”), and others. Even when he was involved in political activity as the general secretary of Agudas Yisrael, the prime purpose of all these activities – spreading Torah – never left his mind.

In Agudas Yisrael

Reb Zisha Frydman was one of the founders of all branches of the movement which sprouted from the large tree of Agudas Yisrael: Agudas Yisrael Youth, Poale Agudas Yisrael, Agudas Yisrael Girls, Beis Yaakov, Yesodei Hatorah, various newspapers, etc. As was mentioned above, he started by founding Agudas Yisrael Youth. When the Orthodox workers stumbled upon difficulties in obtaining work even in the factories and businesses that were owned by Orthodox people, and the realities dictated the need for the founding of an organization to protect the rights of the Orthodox workers, Reb Zisha Frydman was numbered among the ideologues and founders of Poale Aguda[9]. Along with Yehuda Leib Orlian, Leibel Frum, Falik Lendenberg, Avraham Mordechai Rogowi may his blood be avenged, and others, he set up the foundation of this movement, which was based on the social justice of the prophets, with the aim to oppose the improper behavior of the rich Orthodox business owners against their workers, behavior which was directly opposed to the laws of the Torah and Jewish ethics.

However when the youth and the workers desired to stand on their own and no longer be dependent on the table of Aguda, Reb Zisha dissociated himself and dedicated himself completely to his work in the Aguda center and in the centers of education. He was dedicated and faithful to the line of the mother movement, and he labored to strengthen this line. However, when the youths struggled to strengthen the connection to the Land of Israel, and desired activities in the realm of hachsharah and aliya, Reb Zisha supported them, for he valued greatly setting up connections in the Land of Israel. His opinion crystallized further after his visit to the Land in the year 5684 (1924), as part of an Aguda mission headed by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Lewin. He had words of criticism against some of the things that were taking place in the Holy Land. “Light and darkness are intermingled there” – he said as he expressed his opinions – “However the shadows do not darken the light”. He turned to the Orthodox masses in Poland and called for a strengthening of hachsharah activities, aliya, and concrete assistance for the building of the Land.

According to his brother-in-law Reb Avraham Mokotowski, Reb Zisha desired to settle in the Land, however he was forced to return to Poland on account of the many duties where were waiting for him regarding Diaspora Judaism.

This was his relationship toward Poale Agudas Yisrael, even though he had no organizational connections with it and on occasion had differences of opinion with its leadership, they found support from him when then needed it. He extended a great deal of assistance to the Agudas Yisrael Girls' organization, which was mainly concerned with educational and cultural matters. He worked together with Rabbi Eliezer Gershon Friedenson, the editor of “Beis Yaakov”; Yehuda Leib Orlian, the main principal; Nota Yerucham Berliner of Lodz, the principal of the Beis Yaakov Seminary; Senator Moshe Deutscher of Krakow; Asher Shapira; Meir Heinter; and others. He gave of his energies and organizational prowess to develop this organization, whose members were for the most part alumnae of Beis Yaakov.

The Writer

Reb Zisha founded and edited the first Hebrew language Aguda publication, “Digleinu”, which served as a guide for the young members of Aguda, and raised a generation of young writers. “Digleinu” was published in the years 1919-1924, and again in 1930-1931. In the years 1936-1938, Reb Zisha Frydman published a weekly “Darcheinu”. This served as the main periodical of the Polish Aguda. He displayed wisdom and expertise as an editor.

However, journalism was not his profession, but served only as an educational tool. He did not write for the sake of writing, but rather to influence, explain and educate. He only wrote when he had something to say, as the “occasional scholar”, that is to say: the scholar who is only a scholar when he wishes to be a scholar, and is not compelled to be a scholar, thus, he was not compelled to write[10]. Indeed, he always said his piece in a clear, bright, orderly fashion, and his pieces were filled with logical and convincing ideas. His writing, as his oration, expressed his personal traits: clearness of intellect, straightforward logic, seriousness, and speaking on the topic. He expressed these traits also in battles, not with anger but rather with calm. “The words of the wise are heard with calm”[11]. He did not struggle to be the victor, but rather to convince, not to make an impression, but rather to explain and educate, not to hurt the disputant with harsh language, but rather to set the matter straight. He weighed his words with the scales of his thoughts and with the influence of the Torah with which he was infused, since he never ceased his study. Even when he was very busy with organizational and political affairs, he set aside at least three hours each day to study Talmud, Halachic decisions and Bible. He never made use of political jargon, but rather well-understood words. Everything that he said was drawn from the well, from the never failing spring of the words of our sages of blessed memory.

Despite the flurry of political activity with which he was involved, he conducted his studies not merely to fulfill his obligation, but also to produce novel commentaries on the tractates of Gittin, Kiddushin, and Yoma[12], along with commentaries on various topics.

He worked quietly on a commentary on the prayer book (Siddur). He also published a collection of Halachic responsa, which contained an exchange of views with the Gaon Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may his blood be avenged. The Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Meir Biderman of holy blessed memory greatly praised the novellae of Reb Zisha.

He edited and published a collection of commentaries and ideas on the Chumash in Yiddish, called “Der Tora Kval” (“The Well of Torah”). This was one of the more successful compendiums. He also authored several practical books for religious schools, such as “Kesef Mezukak”, “Yiddish Loshen” (“The Yiddish Language”), a textbook on the Shmoneh Esrei prayer, and he published pedagogic ideas and articles in the “Beis Yaakov” monthly. People are surprised to hear that he also authored poems in the Hebrew language, one of them “Bnei Papunia”, was his first poem which was published in 1919 in “Yid”, the Yiddish weekly of Warsaw. It received wide acclaim from the public, and was enthusiastically received in all circles.

He wrote the books: “A Call to the Jewish Woman” (5681 – 1921), and “Kesef Mezukak” on Talmudic principles (5683 –1923).

In 1939, he was about to publish a book on his Torah novellae, which he complied in the fortieth year of his life (5697 – 1937). However he was not able to complete this task, for the German enemy put an end to all dreams and plans.

His dedication to work and diligence were literally phenomenal. He worked on all sorts of political, organizational, and literary activities. He was diligent in Torah and work. He edited and wrote. This diligent man, who spent almost all of his time in practical, dry matters, also found some quiet time for poetry, a time of melody for his beautiful soul.

During the Holocaust

The days of storm and destruction, which came like a thief upon Polish Jewry at the time of the German conquest, brought up from the treasure chest of the soul of Reb Zisha strong powers, and placed him as the leader of Orthodox Judaism in Poland. There are people who are broken from tribulations, and there are others who strengthen themselves and raise themselves through difficulties. Reb Zisha Frydman was of the second type. He was raised up in tribulation, and he reached the heights of humanity and Judaism.

On November 20, 1939, he was imprisoned along with 21 other activists as “guarantors”. They were imprisoned in jail for one week, and then freed. I still remember that I waited for Zisha Frydman at the entrance to the jail on Danilowiczoska Street. He was freed toward evening, and ran as quick as an arrow to his home in order to fulfill the commandment of tefillin before nightfall[13]. He did not have tefillin in jail, and this fact literally tortured him. He told me that he never experienced such joy in putting on the tefillin as he did the day that he left prison.

During the early days of occupation, in 1940, when the Joint[14] began its activities, and the chairman of the Judenrat, Adam Czernikow worked zealously to ease the situation of the Jews, Frydman served as the representative attorney and solicitor for Orthodox Jewry, who fell as the first victim to the tragic circumstances. Rabbis, scholars, Yeshiva students, teachers of Beis Yaakov, religious teachers, and Orthodox Jews in general, suffered in a disproportionate manner from the Germans, and were also deprived by the Jewish assistance organizations, which were headed only by secular Jewish activists. Reb Zisha Frydman was the only representative of Agudas Yisrael, or Orthodox Judaism, on the communal council that worked with the Joint, and he solicited, and demanded with steadfastness and strength of heart. He called into the ears of the directors of the assistance organizations: “Woe to humanity for the disgrace of Torah”[15]. Thanks to his efforts and diligence, the denial was somewhat rectified. With the assistance of his friends Eliezer Gershon Friedenson, Avraham Mordechai Rogowi, Yoel Ungar, Avraham Meir Krongard, David Shafran, and Yosef Moshe Haber, the head of the community of Kalisz who lived in Warsaw at that time, he set up a network of soup kitchens and assistance organizations for religious Jews. In November 1939, he founded, along with Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Lewin, a large public soup kitchen in the hall of Beis Yaakov on 37 Banlawki St., which was directed by the teachers Bochner-Szteiner, Erlich, and Rabicz. Later, other soup kitchens were added, which were directed by Aguda activists, including the young activists. There, Aguda writers found refuge and sustenance (they were also assisted by the Writers' Union on 13 Tlumacza St.). Thanks to the assistance of David Gozik, the director of the Joint, Reb Zisha received specific sums from a special fund to support men of spirit, which made it possible to maintain soup kitchens in order to ease the straits of the Orthodox needy, especially rabbis, Orthodox activists, clergy, heads of Yeshivas, and scholars.

Even in the darkness of the ghetto, the prime aim of Reb Zisha – education – was not removed from his sight. With the support money that was given by the Joint to scholars and religious teachers, Reb Zisha organized large network of underground Orthodox schools. These were Yesodei Hatorah for boys, Beis Yaakov for girls, elementary Yeshivas, and three advanced Yeshivas. Thousands of students and hundreds of teachers found refuge in these educational institutions, which were conducted under the guise of “soup kitchens” (the schools did indeed provide meals to the children), playgroups, or health organizations. When the Germans permitted the Judenrat to conduct schools in 1941, the Orthodox educational schools rose from the underground to the light of day and were strengthened by Adam Czernikow, the head of the Warsaw community, who behaved with gratitude and deep reverence toward Frydman. In February 1942, Czernikow established an independent religious council to deal with the religious needs of the population. The Judenrat, which was a staunchly secular organization, did not deal with such matters. Reb Zisha Frydman was appointed as the chairman of the religious council, and was recognized as the head of religious Judaism not only because of his position, but also thanks to his personality and activities, which inspired respect and support.


Until July 22, 1942, the eve of Tisha Beov 5702, the day of the beginning of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Jews of Warsaw displayed a wondrous life force despite the oppression, torture, suffering, tribulations, epidemics, death, and fear. The Germans did not defeat the Jews with their oppression, and the Jewish community displayed great powers of adaptivity to the bitter conditions. The belief in a better future and the faith that the sun will yet shine for them strengthened and supported them in their distress. However on July 1942, when the expulsions to the death camps began, the Germans liquidated the Jewish assistance organizations and closed the schools. The ground was pulled from under Zisha Frydman's feet. The only remaining places of refuge for the remnants of the Jewish community in Warsaw were the workshops, called “shop”, where they were able to work under German supervision. However, for the Orthodox Jews without any means, it was as difficult as splitting the Red Sea to enter such a workshop. Frydman turned to the “shop” of Schultz, on 44-46 Nowolipia St., which was directed by Mr. Avraham Hendel, a religious Jew who lives today in Tel Aviv. In this “shop”, many Orthodox Jews found work, including well known rabbis and rebbes, such as Reb Moshe Betzalel Alter the brother of the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Kalonymus Szapira the rabbi of Piaseczno and author of “Chovat Hatalmidim”, Rabbi David Halberstam the rabbi of Sosnowiec and the brother-in-law of the rabbi of Radomsk, Rabbi Avraham Alter the rabbi of Pawianiec, Rabbi Y. Sender of Poznan (Posen), the brothers Simcha and Aharon Rappaport who were industrialists from Bielec, Yaakov Radzinski one of the Mizrachi activists, and others. Frydman was accepted after many pleas to the director of the Schultz “shop”. In those days, this was considered to be a means of saving one's life. Finally, the director honored him and invited him to eat at his table on Sabbaths and festivals. Reb Zisha Frydman worked twelve hours a day fixing boots and shoes. During work hours, he studied chapters of Mishnah, Midrash and bible off by heart with his co-workers.

He remained alone and bereaved in his life. His wife and only daughter, who was thirteen years old and had been born after eighteen years of marriage, an intelligent and darling girl, who was educated by her father, as well as his father-in-law and mother-in-law who had been with him at that time, were all sent off to be exterminated. The woeful poem that Frydman wrote about the loss of his families still rings in my ears.

The study of Torah was his source of strength during those days of destruction.

Frydman obtained a Paraguayan passport in 1943 through the efforts of Reb Chaim Yisrael Eiz, of Zurich, Switzerland. However the passport did him no good. Frydman was sent along with the Senator Yaakov Trukenheim to the Trawniki death camp in the Lublin region. He was murdered by the German murderers in November 1943.


1. According to rabbinic tradition, a human body has 248 bones and 365 sinews. Return

2. A reference from the Torah enjoining the Jewish people not to follow the path of idol worshippers. Return

3. The Amshenover Hassidic group exists today, and is centered in Jerusalem. Return

4. This statement is a somewhat cryptic, but I would guess that these two people were chosen to be the official Jewish representatives to the Sejm (Polish parliament). Return

5. Generalissimo Francisco Franco was, of course, an extreme right wing fascist who ruled Spain from the 1930s, through the war, until his death in the late 1970s. The Bund is an extreme left wing, secular, non-Zionist faction, and Poale Zion was a left leaning Zionist faction. Return

6. The Torah is divided into 54 portions, one of which is read each Sabbath. A Jewish year has anywhere either 50/51 or 54/55 Sabbaths, depending upon whether the year is a leap year (which occurs seven times in nineteen years, and is intercalated with an additional lunar month). In addition, if a Sabbath coincides with a major festival (and this must happen at least twice a year due to Passover and Sukkot, but can occur as much as five times in a year depending on how the calendar falls out), the regular portion is not read. Thus, there are certain portions, which are doubled up to insure that the Torah reading cycle finishes at the appropriate time, on Simchat Torah. Return

7. A 'gartel' or 'avnet' is a waistband worn primarily by Hassidic Jews at religious occasions. Return

8. The Shmoneh Esrei (literally 'eighteen', referring to eighteen benedictions), is the central part of all prayer services. It actually consists of nineteen benedictions on weekdays, as an extra benediction was added in the first century C.E. On Sabbaths and festivals, it consists of seven benedictions, however it retains the name 'Shmoneh Esrei'. It is also referred to as the 'Amida' (i.e. 'standing' – standing prayer). Return

9. Agudas Yisrael Worker's faction. This movement still exists, and has often had a small representation in the Israeli Knesset. It tends to have a somewhat more worldly outlook, and is more Zionistically inclined than its parent organization, and is more. Two Kibbutzim in Israel, Chafetz Chaim and Shaalvim, are affiliated with Poale Agudas Yisrael. Return

10. “An occasional scholar”, is literally “a scholar when he wants to be”. It is an idiomatic expression that is not directly translatable into English. Return

11. A quote from the Book of Proverbs. Return

12. These are three tractates of the Talmud: Gittin dealing with the laws of divorce, Kiddushin dealing with the laws of marriage, and Yoma dealing with the laws of Yom Kippur. Return

13. Tefillin (phylacteries) are two black boxes containing sections of the Torah, which are bound to the arms of a Jewish male during morning prayers, in fulfillment of a biblical injunction. The commandment is generally fulfilled during the time of the morning prayers, but if that was not possible, it can be fulfilled at all times of the day, but not after nightfall. Return

14. The Joint Distribution Committee. Return

15. A quote from the Mishnaic tractate Pirke Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”), dealing with moral adages. Return

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