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[Page 232]

Hospitality

by Zev Nadvorni

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The former residents of Wolomin remember with love and longing their shtetl. It was a small and simple Jewish shtetl, with low houses, where a mixture of people lived: merchants and shopkeepers, artists and artisans, not unlike so many other towns in prewar Poland. The members of the community of Wolomin were not different from other communities in their dress, in their customs and not even in the education of their children; their lives were intensive, they included a large intelligentsia and their way of life was full of ideology and spirituality. True, they did not have old synagogues, palaces or large houses built of precious stone; it was a town of working people – builders, ironsmiths and other craftsmen, but great was their thirst for knowledge and Torah and their readiness to do good deeds.

The town had another precious quality: it was the town of my childhood. A man has only one homeland in his life – only one town of birth, and even when one is in a distant place one feels its existence. Even if you ignore your past, it lives inside of you, and for many years it remains part of your being. As a child I have walked on the soil of my shtetl, and with a child's eyes I have seen it and have grown up in it. I accepted it as it was, with its market place and narrow alleys, its streets and its beauty. I absorbed its taste and its style – and we became one.

The town and its people were marked by their simplicity, but one of their particular fine qualities was their hospitality, which was so special that they were called “voyle men” which means “good people.” Indeed they were good people and acted toward guests in a polite, helpful and welcoming way, and fought for the privilege to be their hosts and share with them their bread. Not far from the synagogue there was an inn, where every guest could find a place to spend the night without having to pay. No guest from out of town would remain without a warm meal; the guests were divided among

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the residents of the town and every head of family was proud to bring home a guest. On Friday night, every Jew came home from the synagogue with a guest for the Sabbath.

On Fridays, when in every home they prepared for the Sabbath – cooked, baked, cleaned and set the tables – a place was reserved for the guest. The poorest house would become a holy palace where one could rest and rightfully recite the blessing “To make the seventh day a holy time,” as it deserves.

The Sabbath nights became etched in our hearts, as the weekday work in every corner in honor of the “Queen Sabbath” was finished. On the table, covered with a spotless tablecloth white as snow, two halot (special Sabbath bread) were ready. Mother, wearing a Sabbath dress, stood near the table and fixed the candles in the two silver candlesticks. She prepared an extra cup of wine for the guest who surely will come. To this day I can hear her soft voice welcoming him with “a Gut Shabes” (a good Sabbath) – two words that were enough to make the guest feel at home, part of the family.

Some of the “guest–receivers” in our town have become famous in the entire neighborhood, among them the family of Chaim Yakov Nadvorni, whom they called “the miller” since

 

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The Nadvorni Family

 

he owned a flour mill and in the shtetl people were called by their profession rather than by their surname; this was how the name Chaim Yakov “the miller” persisted.

Chaim Yakov the miller's house was always open to any guest or passer–by – a person on the road, with the sun beating on his head, stones hurting his feet, dust blinding his eyes and his whole body being tired; he was thinking only of the distance to the house of R'Chaim–Yakov “the miller” knowing that he will find there a place to rest, to wash up and to eat – and he praised

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the one who opened his home for him and prepared all that he needed. R'Chaim–Yakov's house was indeed open to anyone who needed help in food or dress, in money or advice – to eat breakfast and continue on the road or to stay a few days. R'Chaim–Yakov was modest and would speak to the guest as to a friend, and if he came home late and the guests were already asleep he would walk on the tips of his toes in order not to wake them.

R'Chaim–Yakov's house was an example to others. How pleasant were the Sabbath evenings, when the synagogue was full of people and the children surrounded the cantor saying Amen after him; I was seeking with my eyes the guests – the handsome old man whose eyes followed me tenderly, and was hoping that he would be our guest, feeling that he would have much to tell about his adventures, as did all those who kept wandering from town to town. The Shabat guests in our house were simple people but had sharp tongues and knew how to tell stories and legends. They had tender souls, some of them had daughters waiting to be married off, but they didn't have the means to do that and grooms could not be found; so they went from town to town trying to collect money for this purpose, waiting for a good match. Our guests would tell all kinds of strange stories, which I do not intend to repeat; but I shall tell just one story about hospitality.

There was once a very wealthy man, who always managed to avoid taking a guest to his house for Shabat, and if he was forced by the Gabay of the synagogue to take one, he would do it with an angry face and would not respect him. The guests would complain that while the host was receiving fine food, they would be given only meager leftovers. Once, one of the guests, who was smart, decided to “fix” the miser rich man when the latter was served a rich soup while he was served a plate of hot water, he began to tell a story about the earth and other stars, about the sun and the moon and showed the host how the stars were moving, by using the soup plates as examples. He moved the plates around and around, until the plate full of good soup rested in front of the guest and the plate of hot water in front of the host. As he started eating, he became angry with his wife and began shouting at her and reprimanding her, arguing that the food was fit for dogs. She was offended and a strong argument broke out, which continued during the entire Shabat. Since then, they stopped the discrimination between the host and the guest. This is only one of the stories about hospitality in our town Wolomin,

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where the guests were an integral part of the way of life, especially on Shabat. Our sages say that the Sabbath protected the people of Israel more than the people kept the Sabbath. All week long people talked about the Sabbath and on Thursday the preparations began – for the people of the town and for the guests who were expected for Shabat. A special atmosphere reigned in town. The residents who were away all week – to the villages, to the fairs or to various exhibitions – returned to their homes to prepare for the Holy Sabbath. I saw my mother lighting the candles, and it seemed to me that her eyes shone like the candles as she covered them with her hands and recited the blessing in a clear and sweet voice.

Her entire face was shining through her fingers and a tear, like a pearl, fell from her eyes. After lighting the candles her eyes filled with light and her eyelashes trembled in the glow of the Queen Sabbath. These images and many similar ones will never fade, and for me they are an unending source of reminders of good things – holy feelings that I am keeping deep in my heart since the days of my youth. My eyes are weeping for the loss of our shtetl Wolomin and for the holy Jews who were murdered during the terrible tragedy, among them our parents, brothers and sisters. We shall always keep alive the holy memory of the people of our shtetl.

The “Gut Shabes” will never be heard in our shtetl again, neither will the voices from the Bet Midrash [house of learning] or the voices of the little children from the Heder. No more stories about receiving guests…

The shtetl is empty of its Jews and its Jewish character – only the mute walls are crying the cry of mourning for the town which had lost its sons.

May these lines serve as an eternal light to the memory of the holy and pure people, who have sanctified the Holy Name, in their life and in their death.


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This is how we became Wolomin Citizens

by Arie Brisker

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

My parents were born in Ukraine; however, after the Bolshevik revolution they did not want to remain in Russia. They sold all their belongings, bought a horse and wagon and left with a convoy for Kiev.

We were a family with seven children, five boys and two girls. On the way, a little orphan girl joined us. Our parents adopted her and we all treated her with much love. She stayed with us until she was eighteen.

We traveled during the day, and at night we “parked” in the open field until we reached Warsaw and from there we went to Wolomin.

The Wolomin Jews welcomed us warmly and helped us settle. My father obtained work in a glass factory.

This was how we became citizens of Wolomin.

 

Sabbath Evenings

Together with all the other Jews of the town, we were happy with our way of life. My home was a traditional one, and I remember in particular the Sabbath evenings, when Father would sing the special Sabbath songs and we would join him in loud voices, happy that the Holy Blessed One has given us such a big and holy day.

We were sitting at the table listening to Father's voice:

“Come and see – Father would say – the fine qualities of the Holy Sabbath: a person lights a Sabbath light, it sheds light on both his worlds. A person prepares a beautiful meal for the Sabbath, the Sabbath provides him with all his needs. A person keeps the Sabbath in the present world, his body is not only preserved in the other world but he is also protected from all troubles”.

Once he told us about a very poor Jew who did not have the privilege to keep the Sabbath in a proper way, because he did not earn enough money for his sustenance, and when Sabbath Eve arrived he did not have enough money to buy

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what he needed for the Sabbath. His candlesticks would stand without candles and his plates without meat or fish or any other food for Sabbath.

His wife, with a sad face, said: “Woe is to us, we have nothing for Sabbath”.

The man went into the other room and came back with seven pieces of copper in his hand. He bent them here and there (he was a goldsmith), and created seven coins, and nobody could have seen a difference between them and real Empire coins. But somebody informed the authorities and soon he was chained and arrested and taken to prison. However, a miracle happened and the same day a royal order was received and he was released and engaged to work at the royal palace as a great artist.

To end the story, Father added:

“He who keeps one Sabbath in poverty, merits to keep many Sabbaths in richness.”

Father would sometimes lead the prayers (serve as cantor) and we, the children, would help him with our choir.

All his life he hoped to make Aliya to Eretz Israel and he would say that Aliya to Eretz Israel is equal to all the other mitzvoth (commandments) together. But he did not achieve that.

These were the Jews of Wolomin and this was our town, where we were born and raised, where our beloved have lived and which was destroyed among the other Jewish communities in the European galut (exile).

My parents, my elder sister and her family were murdered in Treblinka.

My brother and his family were murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto. The other four brothers and one sister are living now in Israel.

 

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Near the Memorial Stone
Standing: Noah Brisker, Tchortak, Mordechai Silberstein

[Page 238]

The Grodzhitzki Family

by Miriam Feigenboim

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In 1900, my parents Moshe and Shifra Grodzhitzki were among the first settlers in Wolomin. At the time they had three sons. In time, three more sons and three daughters were born. I was the youngest.

From the stories my parents told, I know that they had a difficult time, in particular during the First World War; the children were young, the economic situation was bad and calamity followed calamity. But they did not despair, and courageously they fought the war of sustenance.

In time, their economic situation improved. They founded a factory of soda-water and lemonade, but work was primitive and difficult and they worked hard from dawn to night, all week. But as the Sabbath came, came the much awaited rest. I loved the reception of the Sabbath in our house and in the street. I loved watching the street on Sabbath eve at dusk and feel how the Sabbath took the place of the weekdays – slowly but insistently, until it got full control.

At dusk, the people began to walk toward the synagogue. They walked slowly, in order to keep the Sabbath commandment “do not walk fast on the Sabbath”.

I remember my father and my brothers wearing their Sabbath clothes and going to the synagogue. All were tall and handsome, and the townspeople would look at them and say about my father: “This is one of our people who have a pure heart”. My father was proud of his sons, although he was very modest.

In the shining light of the Queen Sabbath, Mother would greet us with a holy feeling and say: “A Good Sabbath”. These two words, of a sad sound, are echoed in my memory to this day and will not leave it forever.

In our home, we used to bake matzot for Pesach. Moshe Grodzhitzki's matzot were famous in all neighboring towns, for their taste and their Kosher quality. Jews would come to us to buy matzot even from Warsaw. And in addition to all their work, my father and my brothers found time to study Gemara (Talmud). The sweet melody of their learning, early in the morning before they went to work, is still sounding in my ears.

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When primary schools were established, my father was one of the first to send his daughters to school; he was always interested to know how his daughters were doing in school.

Almost in every class there was a Grodzhitzki girl from our family; in some classes there were two or three Grodzhitzki daughters or granddaughters.

My parents' home was always full of guests and friends, some coming to see them and ask how they were, some to ask for advice and some just for a regular friendly visit.

My mother, a short woman, was of a good nature, always ready to help, always busy cooking and baking.

Years passed, and we grew up and became adults, and I still remember the days of Sabbath and Holiday, as the sons and their wives and children gathered in our home. All were sitting around the table; although it was not large enough, all felt comfortable. The conversation was around matters of Torah and also regular chat. My mother would serve her delicacies and smile her sad and pleasant smile.

Oh, dear Mother, how much you loved us!

The noise that the children made did not bother anyone. Father would say: I do not hear the noise; to my ears the voices sound like music.

 

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R'Moshe Grodzhitzki and his sons

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Chaya Gitl, R'Moshe Grodzhitzki's daughter

 

With the eyes of my mind I see my father working happily for the Community; he helped founding the “Talmud Torah” school and the “Bet Ya'akov” school for girls and helped with the needs of the synagogue.

He would always avoid honors, but he would honor others as one would honor a king. He was asked once:

- Is not honor one of the three things that end a person's life?
He replied:
-This was meant when one seeks honor for himself; but you should honor others as much as you can, since this is what we were ordered to do: to honor our fellows.
My father was in touch with many people and had many friends. He felt close to every Jew, as if he were a member of his family. He was gentle in his relationship with his fellows, but very strict in his behavior concerning matters of commandments from heaven; he had no fear, and spoke the truth in front of any person; therefore his opponents treated him with respect and honor.

During my childhood, as well as an adult I heard many times people praising Father's good heart and deep understanding. He knew how to grasp the situation of any person and understood his needs; he always tried to help as much as he could, in body and in spirit.

My father died in 1934 after a grave illness. He was taken to his eternal resting place by his wife, his nine children, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law, grandchildren, friends and admirers.

My mother was murdered by the Germans in the ghetto, the day after it was destroyed.

The others perished in the concentration camps and in the gas chambers. Of all my brothers only Yakov survived, since he made Aliya before the war.

I managed to sneak out of the ghetto the night before its destruction and to obtain “Arian papers.”

The little daughter of my brother Yakov was hidden during the war by a Christian family. In 1946 she arrived in Eretz Israel and here she fell in the War of Independence.

 

Zlata's Sabbath Tea

Every shtetl had its characteristic figures, so had Wolomin. One of these figures was Zlata, the wife of Shmuel-Aizik Pletkovski. She was a quiet woman, religious and the symbol of a good heart.

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She was always busy. She had a large family: 8 children and a sickly husband. She managed a store selling textiles. When there were no buyers in the store, she would hold in her hand a siddur [prayer book] and pray.

Zlata remembered all the people who were in need. She knew in what house there was nothing to eat and she would take some food to that house. During the cold winter days she would remember the women in the neighboring shops and bring them hot tea, to keep warm.

The “guests” who came to town – Jewish poor people – were directed to Jewish families, where they would receive a hot meal. In case there were more guests than host families, the solution was simple: they sent the people to Zlata, where there was always room during weekdays. Whoever came in hungry left content.

This was during weekdays. When Sabbath came, Zlata's home turned into a Tea House. In Poland in those times, they did not have “warming plates” (that don't cook, but keep the food hot), and the custom was that every Sabbath morning a Christian woman would come to the Jewish houses and light the stoves; but not everybody could afford that, therefore they went to Zlata to have hot tea.

On Wednesday the preparations for the Sabbath tea began. They had to prepare a certain number of cans of water – and the water was brought from afar, from a well with tasty water, since Zlata would not serve just plain tea, but only the finest tea, with sugar.

Every Sabbath, starting early in the morning, people would flock to Zlata's house to drink tea. There were some, who were not happy with one glass, and would sometimes drink up to five cups. With the patience of an angel, Zlata would serve the tea, finding room for all the visitors.

People would take home full kettles of boiling water – at Zlata's home tea was abundant. Thus, the drinking of tea would continue until the end of Sabbath.

When all good Jewish people rested or slept the Sabbath sleep, Zlata had no time to rest, because people came to her house all day long. With every cup of tea she served, she welcomed the guest friendly and politely. This was Zlata, all pure and gentle, and her Sabbath tea became a drink of hope and spirituality.

From my entire family only two sisters remained: Rachel Grossinger, who fled to Russia and Hendel, who remained in Poland and hid in the attic of a grain storehouse. Both are now in America.


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My home

by Altke Grinszpan–Tamari

Translated by Sara Mages

My father' Dovid–Tzvi (Hirsh) Grinszpan was a descended of the Aleksander Hassidic family. He was born in the town of Wegrow. His father, Yehudah–Leib Grinszpan, a Strykower Hassid, was a God–fearing scholar. In his last years of his life he lived in Wolomin and served as a teacher.

He had six sons, my father was his firstborn.

My father was short, skinny, had big blue eyes, his face was alert, immersed in spirituality and adorned with a long beard and high forehead. He was a scholar, a righteous and innocent man, a scribe.

He woke up early in the morning and went to the “shtiebel” to pray Tefillat Shacharit. Then, he returned home and strengthened his weak body a little with a light meal and sat down at his table, his working table.

For whole days he held duck feathers in his hand and wrote Torah Scrolls, tefillin and mezozot, in holiness and purity, in his elegant and rhythmic handwriting.

 

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The Grinszpan family

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The Torah scrolls written by him were famous throughout Poland, and well–known wealthy families (like Prywes in Warsaw and Poznanski in Lodz) ordered Torah scrolls from him.

Countless Torah scrolls were left after his death.

My father was quiet by nature, focused, introvert and humble. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a warm heart, was hospitable and greeted every person with kindhearted smile.

Every day he brought home many guests from the “shtiebel” and took care of their needs.

He was also a well known reader of the Torah in the city, and when he read the Torah in the synagogue before the community, he brought great pleasure to all his listeners. His pleasant voice, which came from the heart, entered the heart and evoked soul–stirring emotions. On Purim, the neighbors gathered to hear the reading of the Book of Esther. Great enthusiasm and inner peace merged within him.

My father had a deep rooted faith, and when he was debating a certain crisis, he traveled to the Aleksander Rebbe to consult with him. He believed, wholeheartedly, that only the Rebbe, as the messenger of hakadosh baruch hu could bring him salvation.

His opinion was, that only by the power of deep and sincere faith there is meaning to life, and without faith life is empty and lacks any content and meaning.

He brought an uplifting mood to our home. On the Sabbath and holidays he sang the hymns in his pleasant and emotional voice and shared it with the whole family.

On the Sabbath and holidays he wore a silk capote, black and shiny, and on Simchat Torah he wore a shtreimel on his head. He invited all the men of his “shtiebel” and they danced in circles and on the tables.

We kept the tradition at home in its original form, warm, rooted and touching the depths of the heart. My father, in his usual manner, was humble and righteous, loved truth, pursued peace, and was imbued with love for the Jewish people. He carried in his heart the kindness of a man who knows how to instill his love in everyone who comes in contact with him. He behaved humbly with God and with people, cultivated in his heart respect for every person, even the simplest.

He fulfilled the mitzvoth of the joy of life: eating: drinking, singing, dancing and everything allowed to him and his body to enjoy in this world, out of the refinement of joy and seeing it as a reflection of the Supreme joy.

This joy did not come just for the sake of material joy, but the joy of the spirit, joy in the inwardness of life in their holiness. He lived and enjoyed this world and, at the same time, prepared himself for the spiritual life in the next world, embodied the simple, natural, and innocent Judaism, which protects its hidden light secretly and quietly.

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My mother

My mother, Sheina–Feiga, was the daughter of Matityahu Blumenkrantz from Kosów Lacki near Sokołów, a lessee of a flour mill and a power station who was known by his nickname “Matis the Miller” (Matis der Milner). He was a descended of the Aleksander Hasidic family and initially served as a ritual slaughterer. He was handsome, wise and accepted by all and therefore often served as an arbitrator in merchant disputes. For years served as chairman of the community committee in Kosów.

A diligent woman, short with black hair, brown eyes, gifted with a wonderful and juicy sense of humor, a strong character and inexhaustible vigor. She was very sociable, imbued with the love of people, was interested in everything that was happening in the world, ran businesses to contribute to the family's livelihood since the income my father brought as a scribe was not enough to cover the many household needs.

Her desire was to give her children an excellent education. She woke up early every morning to make breakfast for the family and get the kids ready for school. She especially got up early on the eve of the Sabbath and holidays to bake challot and cakes. On the Sabbath and holidays she dressed in her best dresses and knew to create a sweet warm atmosphere throughout the house. She lit the candles in the elegant silver candlesticks. Her face glowed through her spread fingers in a supreme glow, a teardrop fell from her eyes, and she uttered the pure blessing in a clear voice: “Lehadlik ner shel Shabbat.”

My brother, Avraham, chose his way of life according to our parents' values. He studied at yeshivot in Bialystok, Lubawicze and Mesivta in Warsaw, and was among the outstanding students. He was a member of “Agudat Yisrael” and a fan of HaRav Yitzhak Meir Levin. For 36 years he served as a rabbi in the city of Halifax, Canada.

The eldest daughter, Alteka, was always active in the field of culture among the local youth. She regularly attended meetings, lectures, parties and conferences. She immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1935 as the pioneer of the family so that she could organize their aliya, but the plan did not materialize because of the Holocaust.

For the past twenty years she has been working as a coordinator of the Working Mothers Organization, at first in Bnei Brak and later in Kiryat Ono. Her main role is the management of children's institutions and care for low–income and disadvantaged families. She married Tzvi Tamari, a lawyer, a legal aid officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

The second daughter, Fraida, had big blue eyes and golden hair. She was kind hearted, gentle, quite, and active in the socialist movement. She always cared for others, for justice and honesty.

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The daughters of the Grinszpan family: Hanna, Sara and Alteka

 

The third daughter, Sara, had a strong character and a lot of energy. On her own she graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Warsaw, married an engineer and at the beginning of the Second World War served as a teacher in a gymnasium in Kletsk.

Hanna was beautiful, full of grace, humor, wisdom and intelligence. She graduated from a trade school in Warsaw and worked as a bank clerk in Wolomin. She was very sociable and involved with people.

The last daughter, Gittel, was active in “Gordonia” and aspired to immigrate to Israel. She was very popular and well–liked in the youth circles.

Our home was like a public institution. There was always a big commotion in it. Friends, from school and youth organizations, came in and out at all hours of the day. Among them were Zionists, socialists, revolutionaries of all kinds, and there was no end to the heated debates that took place between them. Things often led to outbursts of emotion even among the family members.

In this turmoil and quarrel of opinions, my mother's opinion was always accepted by everyone, no matter what their view was. Although she kept the mitzvot, prayed every Sabbath and holiday at the synagogue, she was very patient with others.

Of all the family members, who perished in the Holocaust, only the son Avraham and the daughter Alteka survived.


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The Tepper family

by Penina Tepper-Grossman

Translated by Sara Mages

Of the whole family I am the only one left.

I was not yet five months old when my father passed away, and I only knew a stepfather whose love to me was not less than the love of a true father. In daily life he was known in the town by the name Gudel. He had a good soul, was not angry at anyone, and was God-fearing and observant. He worked hard all his days to please God and people, asking only for the wages he earned from his hard work for his existence.

My mother, Chaya-Beila, was a loving and working mother. I had three brothers and a sister, and she gave us all the feeling that we were her whole life.

All days of the week she was busy, from early morning until evening, in the poultry and dairy trade and the customers loved her for her honesty. Her moral principles were deeply, deeply rooted, and she was careful not to offend a person's dignity.

Jews and Christians visited our store, and there were times when my mother noticed that someone put something in his basket and did not pay, but my mother did not respond so as not to cause shame to the person.

Many people owed my mother money, she never reminded them and did not demand repayment of the debt out of concern that they could not pay.

I remember the case when Shiye the butcher demanded from my mother a debt of ten zloty for a chicken that I myself paid him, therefore I claimed that we did not owe him anything. But, he swore on the lives of his children that I did not pay. My mother immediately gave him the money, and gave me a slap in the face and said that I made a Jew swear by his children's lives.

 

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Members of the Tepper family

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All days of the week they worked hard and made do with crumbs of subsistence, all so they could provide for their family honestly and fulfill the mitzvot they received from their ancestors, as stated: a man is born to work, work for a living, and work for the fulfillment of the mitzvah of helping others, and so she used to help by giving charity in secret to the needy, to the poor and the sick.

Sabbath came, rest came.

The preparation for the Sabbath began on Thursday evening. Thursday evening was devoted, among others, to the washing of the children's hair and the kitchen. My mother started early so there wouldn't be too much to do on Friday, on a long day in the summer and, of course, on a short day in winter.

My mother was active and agile, a symbol of boundless devotion, devotion that knew no bounds of fatigue and health, and taught us the basic rules of obligation and human purity.

 

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Avraham Tepper

 

Shmuel David Wilenski and his public activity

In Wolomin everyone knew Shmuel David Wilenski, or as he was simply called with affection: Shmuel David. He was of medium height, had a small black beard and two wise eyes which radiated kindness and love for others. His face expressed nobility and his appearance was orderly. He respected every person and treated even the simplest Jew with affection.

Shmuel David engaged in carpentry all his life. There were many Jewish carpenters in Wolomin. Almost all of them were learned, polite and sociable and Shmuel David was their loyal representative. He has done his work out of the joy of life and, at all times, received the divine judgment with love.

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Zipora Wilenski, Chaya Lustigman-Schneiderman

 

He was imbued with the belief that God directs human life down to the smallest detail and distributes, in justice and mercy, joy and sorrow. He saw the Torah as the most important thing.

He had nimble hands and knew how to help the townspeople even in areas outside of his professional work. The reference is mainly to the medical field because there was no one better than him for assembling cupping, a cure that was very common then in the town.

The local doctor, Dr. Chaplizki, appreciated the knowledge and virtues of Shmuel David, and sought his help in performing serious and complicated treatments.

By the way, the doctor's work in his town was quite complicated and difficult and he had to know all the pains and diseases. Among others he was also called to deliver a baby, and the matter was not easy considering his working conditions and the living conditions of the town's Jews. Women gave birth in their homes where there was no electricity, gas and sewage. Water had to be brought from a well or a pump, sometimes from a considerable distance. Shmuel David performed his medical activity with astonishing simplicity and without pay, out of love for people and for the sake of a mitzvah.

The townspeople returned love and respect, appreciated his sincerity, his willingness to help and the wisdom of his life, and sought his advice.

He was pleasant and affable, spoke quietly and in inner peace, and loved to quotes the words of Hazal [our Sages of blessed memory].

His most notable virtues were his gentle soul and noble approach towards people. These virtues paved the way to the hearts of the townspeople and also to the people of the Polish authority, including the judge and the head of the council.

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Shmuel David Wilenski

 

And here he had ample opportunities to help the town's Jews in their distress. The Polish officials, who ruled in the town, listened to him, admired his loyalty and showed understanding for his requests which were always related to the concern for others. We saw him walking from office to office in order to expedite the help to the needy. Shmuel David has done good deeds to the inhabitants of the town.

Many were his concerns for those who needed help, and he provided it with a full heart, with special devotion, and in his home he was a good husband and a devoted father. The love of the family, which illuminated his eyes, was full of softness and tenderness.

Although he always had a job and did not know poverty, he aspired, in his heart and soul, to immigrate to Israel, and was privileged to fulfill his aspiration and also bring here part of his family.

In Israel he was surrounded by many friends and admirers, his circle of acquaintances was wide and he got to see his grandchildren.

Shmuel David belonged to the type of people we see in public activity, in providing material and moral relief.

His son Mordechai relates: “In Wolomin there was a poor family whose daughter had reached the age of marriage but they lacked a dowry of one thousand zloty. The rabbi called Shmuel David and instructed him to collect the dowry. He made a list of the ten richest men of the town and each was asked to donate one hundred zloty. My father was successful in his action, in every house his request was granted, and along with the donation he also received their blessing that a groom will be found and the couple will get to see an honest generation from him. Shmuel David answered Amen, and said: may we be privileged to hear comfort and salvation with all the Jewish people, Amen, and may we be privileged to see the Redeemer who will soon be revealed, Amen.

But, in one house, which was known for its stinginess, the rich man set a condition before my father: he must know where the groom is from. My father answered: from Wyszków. And the rich man immediately said: I do not agree that a girl from Wolomin will marry a man from Wyszków.


[Page 250]

In the glow of our ancestors

by Malka Carmeli

Translated by Sara Mages

My father, Yitzchak Dancziger, was called in the town: “Itchele from the beer,” because he engaged in the production of black beer, a profession he studied in addition to the production of paper bags for packing goods in the shops. In his youth he studied in yeshivot and excelled in his studies, but his talents were not utilized because the paths to development were blocked for the Jews of Poland.

We, the parents and their eight children, lived in one room. The kitchen also served as a factory, and despite the great overcrowding my mother never complained about her bitter fate, and thanks to her diligence there was an atmosphere of security and hope for a better future at home.

My mother deprived herself of anything that seemed to her a luxury and waste. She knew how to live modestly, but at the same time in good taste, in appreciation of pleasant and fine.

Wol250.jpg
Yitzchak Dancziger, his wife, their son and daughters

[Page 251]

There was something sober and practical in her, and in tense moments of fatigue and exhaustion she found peace in the book “Tz'enah Ur'enah” [the Women's Bible], which gave her the understanding of the human soul, while having great love for him.

Yes, the book and the Sidur brought her rest and relaxation, enriched and filled her soul and gave her strength, confidence and faith.

Who will measure the strength of her faith along with her concern for the well-being of her children?

 

Wol251.jpg
Ester Dancziger

 

The love for grace and beauty merged in her with the kindness of our mothers from all generations, who knew how to inspire out their love on everyone who came in contact with them.

My father was affable and pleasant, people fully trusted him and when he needed money there was always someone to lend him the amount he needed. Once it was R' Avraham Goldwasser and once someone else. Everyone knew that my father would repay the debt on time and on the due date.

His favorite topic of conversation was politics. In this area few could compete with him. In turbulent and peaceful times, people came to him to ask his opinion on matters of the utmost importance in politics between the countries.

He had a pure and gentle soul and listened to others. As a committee member of “Kupat Gemilut Hasadim” [Interest-Free Loan Fund] he invested a lot of effort into expanding and increasing the assistance to the needy. When he came to know about a Jew in need of help, he went out to collect donations for “secret giving,” and secretly offered the help to the needy so as not to embarrass him.

On Sabbath eve he brought a guest to eat at his table and was kind to him all the time. There were guests who told interesting stories, and we, the children, listened to their stories and took pity on their families who remained in their far away homes.

And here it's worth noting my father's work at Chevra Kadisha, in which he was a member and cared for the honor of the dead. He was agile in his work because from the day of his adulthood showed his willingness to make an effort and never had an hour of rest.

I was the only one from the family to survive. My brother's son miraculously survived and lives in France.


[Page 252]

My mother

by Alter Carmeli

Translated by Sara Mages

My beloved mother, my light, was diligent, kind-hearted, innocence and righteous. All her days she shone with the purity of her anguish, the anguish of a widow who was left alone with her three children, orphans without a father, and on her own she made her way through the surges of life, which were cruel to her when they took her husband from her.

I was twelve years old when my father passed away and felt that the light of day was taken away, that the light in the sky was damaged. My mother was left without any assets, without profession, and so that the children would not starve for bread, she got up at four in the morning, walked to the nearby villages, bought fresh milk from the farmers and delivered it to the townspeople.

She has done this work in summer and winter, in autumn and spring, every day, in the rain and in the snow. She left the town with empty jugs, and on the way back carried jugs full of milk.

Her legs got used to walking, but the income was too meager. She did not eat enough, her body weakened until her legs barely carried her.

My mother also learned to produce dairy products and sold them to the stores, when that was not enough to support her children, she found herself another job. She chopped wood into thin sticks, packed them in bundles and sold them to her customers.

Despite the difficult conditions she knew how to provide help to anyone who approached her, and did so stubbornly with efforts to the end.

The neighbors testified: to come to her with a request, was like coming to a good and kind sister.

Her payment was, when she saw her children grow up to be honest and decent people.

She died at the age of 48 of typhus that often afflicted the town.

May her memory be blessed!


[Page 253]

Early days

by Tzvi Silberstein

Translated by Sara Mages

 

Wol253.jpg

 

I was born in 1892, one of the first to be born in Wolomin. At that time the number of Jewish residents in Wolomin was small. They did not have a cemetery. According to my father, R' Yitzchak Silberstein, there was time when the Jews led their dead for a Jewish burial in the city of Stanislawow [Ivano-Frankivsk], a distance 35km from Wolomin. At that time the whole settlement was owned by Wojciechowski.

Wolomin started to be built after the paving of the railroad track from Warsaw to St. Petersburg (today Leningrad), because Wolomin was the first stop near Warsaw.

Wolomin's proximity to a big city aided its development. People began to settle in Wolomin because of the density of housing in Warsaw.

Great help in the development of the town was its proximity to the summer resorts in the great forests in the south, and Czarna in the north.

However, at that time the tram was harnessed to horses who took the passengers to the trains, from there to the town, and to the resorts which served as a source of livelihood for the townspeople.

Immediately after its founding, the town began to develop at an accelerated pace. Many houses were built. The first to engage in construction was Lipshitz, and after him R' Herschel Kut who excelled in his vigor.

It's impossible to say that there was a kind of economic paradise in the town, but there were opportunities for people with initiative to make a living and also to get rich.

A few lines should be devoted to the description of the atmosphere in the first days when the rabbi, R' Wolf Bergzin, was appointed to the rabbinate of Wolomin where he lived until its destruction.

At first he had opponents because of matters of no importance. The unsatisfied turned to the Rabbi of Szmulowizna and asked him to settle in Wolomin. Indeed, he did not want to get into the conflict, but a special delegation managed to convince and reassure him on the grounds that the conflict would end upon his arrival.

The rabbi complied with their request and agreed to accept the rabbinate. It did not take long and the controversy erupted with greater vigor. The quarrels between the supporters of Rabbi Bergzin and the supporters of the rabbi from Szmulowizna, even reached a scuffle.

When the rabbi from Szmulowizna passed away, the residents of Wolomin decided not to invite a new rabbi. HaRav, R' Wolf Bergzin, served as the town's rabbi to his last day and was loved by the townspeople.

As I mentioned, Wolomin was built at an accelerated pace. The lots were purchased from Wojciechowski at a price of five kopecks per cubit, but later he raised the price to three rubles. The closer the lot was to the train station, the price was higher.

[Page 254]

Haim, Tzvi Silberstein's son, was a soldier in the US Army and fell in the invasion of Normandy, and so lies the deep connection between his heroism and the sanctity of the silent heroism of Wolomin's Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Like them, he knew fear and moments of weakness, but he knew how to take the decisive step at the right moment. Haim had a well-developed sense of responsibility and willpower, and was capable of risking his life to live heroically.

Such was Haim, whose father, Tzvi Silberstein, is one of the first to be born in Wolomin. He absorbed within him the atmosphere of the sanctification of God's name out of love for the people, love for Land of Israel, for which he was willing to sacrifice his young life. Haim knew how to live and die heroically.


[Page 255]

The blessing after a meal
at my grandfather's in the town

by Rachel

Translated by Sara Mages

My grandfather, Yisrael Mordechai Tencza, was the “Shochet” in the town of Wolomin, Poland. As I remember him, he was an upright and handsome man with an elegant beard, and a proud and friendly Jew whose face always smiled with kindness and love of humanity.

His home was open and warm for all the townspeople, and there were ten children in it that my grandmother Leah, his humble and pious wife, gave birth to and raised.

My mother, Dvora, recounts memories from her family home:

Our house was full with people, laughter and joy of life, all days of the week, but was at its peak when Shabbat HaMalka arrived. The men returned from the synagogue, the candles were lit in the silver candlesticks, and the set table shone from the whiteness of the tablecloth and the luster of the dishes. Father sat at the head of the table like a king and around him his children, like a crown to the heads of those gathered for the Sabbath meal. And my mother, small and nimble, a Shabbat wig on her head and a festive apron around her waist, served noodle soup, fish, and the rest of the delicious Shabbat dishes she had prepared the day before on the large porcelain stove in the kitchen.

They ate and blessed, and then came the great moment of Shabbat songs. They broke out in songs, songs of thanksgiving to God, songs for welcoming the Shabbat and songs for the uplifting of the soul. Grandfather led in his loud voice, his sons and daughters accompanied him in their pleasant voices which burst into the town's streets and stopped people who listened to their jubilant voices.

And I, his granddaughter, remember: I came with my mother, and my sister Yehudit, for a visit after a stay of a few years in Israel. I was about eight years old and, of course, I already spoke the sacred language. The big house was empty. All of them got married and scattered here and there. Only their youngest daughter, Rachel, remained to live with them. The encounter with tradition, the problems of kosher slaughtering, anti-Semitism, the strictness to maintain uniqueness - it is forbidden to speak Hebrew on weekdays, and forbidden to speak Polish on the Sabbath - revealed to me a new and foreign world of Jews in the Diaspora which, despite my eight years, left a strong impression on me.

But I remember one Sabbath: in the morning grandfather went to the synagogue, and grandmother sat and read chapters in Tz'enah Ur'enah, her good face was immersed in the book, she read the words in a soft melody and

[Page 256]

occasionally wiped a tear from her eye. For me it was time to go to the baker to bring the good cholent.

Grandfather came and we sat down to eat, at the end of the meal I asked permission to say the blessing. With the Sidur in my hand I read the blessing after the meal in simple and clear Hebrew, there was silence and only my voice was heard.

I finished and raised my head, grandfather sat excited and tears welled up in his eyes, and grandmother ran to the kitchen and back as she was giving me plenty of kisses, nuts, almonds and candies.

I thought a lot about those days. It was so strange to see him in his weakness, as it was strange to someone, who did not know him well, to see him in his strength. The same Jew, who conquered the love of us all, had supreme courage and was able to gathered strength in time of disaster. When I grew up I thought a lot: where did he get such peace and such strength?

I did not understand then what the special excitement was about, but many times, for many years, I remembered this event and thought that they were tears of happiness, that his granddaughter, who was only eight years old, read before him in the sacred language, in a language that for him was a language of longing for something far away, a dream for the land of the forefathers.

It is a pity that my grandfather and grandmother, their sons and grandchildren, were not able to reach a state of rest in our country. They were not able to because they were annihilated together with the rest of the Jewish martyrs in the great Holocaust. Only a few survived from this large and beautiful family. May their memory be blessed.

 

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