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[Pages 293-302]

My Little Shtetl of Wolomin

by Yisroel Levita

Only a few of us are left from Wolomin, so it is the duty of each of us who can still hold a pen to describe and lament the horrible abrupt ending of our near and dear, the martyrs of our shtetl. In the first chapter of Job is a passage that reads, “And behold, a wind came from across the wilderness, and it struck the four corners of the house, and it struck the young people and they died.”

This passage applies also to Wolomin. Job's troubles fell upon our shtetl. There are so many families, from which no one survived to tell about their parents. For me, it was a miracle that I survived. One of a large family, I lost my parents, four sisters, their husbands and families, and I feel the obligation to memorialize them, so that their stories, and their names and their memories should not disappear.

My father's real name was Mottl Kover, but he was called Melech the Watchmaker, on Dluga Street. My mother was called Ester'l the Watchmaker. Melech the Watchmaker was one of Wolomin's finest Jews and Chasidic citizens, an excellent and clever Jew, a member of the Shomrei Shabbos fellowship. Every Friday in the late afternoon, he, along with R. Leibush Farber and R. Shmuel–Dovid Burshteyn, would go out to announce that it was time to close up the shops, Some of the businesses liked to stay open later than others, but when they saw these fine Jews, they were quick to close up shop.

My father also belonged to the Chevra Kadisha. Aryeh the Shammos would come to my father and tell him that someone had died in the town, and my father immediately set his work aside and went to help with the preparation of the body, just for the sake of the mitzvah. He prayed at Yankl Margolis' in the prayer house on Warshavski Street. Almost every Friday night he would bring home a guest for dinner.

At Yankl Margolis' in the prayer house my father was the Torah reader. On the High Holidays, he led the Musaf service and Kol Nidrei. His prayers were always said with a broken heart, and he pleaded with the Creator of the Universe on behalf of all Israel.

As someone who cared deeply about the needs of the community, my father was also a member of charitable organizations. When someone was ill, people would call him to spend the night with the sufferer. My father would leave us and go to the sick person in order to provide some comfort.

People called my mother Esther'l the Watchmaker. She also loved to do good deeds. She would take our neighbor, Tovele Shultz, the wife of Aharon Bunem from the fur store on Dluga Street, and they would go to distribute money to poor young women so that they would have a dowry and be able to marry.

And who did not come to Melech the Watchmaker in his shop? Young and old, a schoolboy who needed a battery for his lamp, a Christian young man who needed a string for his guitar–everyone came to us. From his small business, he managed to arrange marriages for his four daughters. He never promised what he could not deliver. But fine Chasidic young men took Melech's daughters without dowries, just as they were, because Melech the Watchmaker had such a fine reputation.

 

Shabbos With the Wolomin Rabbi

The Wolomin rabbi, R. Eliezer Shoyme Taub z”l, lived all year in Warsaw at Kufietze 5. Every summer he would come to Wolomin for eight days, and he would stay with us. My father would turn the whole house over to the rabbi, while we slept in the shop.

I will never forget the joy of the week that the rabbi spent in Wolomin, especially Friday evening. Young men would arrive from Warsaw in order to spend Shabbos with the rabbi. There was such joy on Friday night when the Chasidim would begin to sing zemiros, particularly with the Modzhitzer melodies, since the Wolomin rabbi was the nephew of the Modzhitzer rabbi. Young and old, including women and girls, would come and stand beside the window of our home in order to hear those fine tunes. Even those who had long ago distanced themselves from Yiddishkeit would come to hear the singing.

The whole Shabbos was full of great music.

While the Wolomin rabbi was in Wolomin, people discussed matches between the young women of the shtetl and the young men who had come to spend Shabbos with the rabbi. Every time the rabbi came, a match was made. In this way my father made matches for his daughters without dowries, gaining fine Chasidic sons–in–law from Warsaw.

And all of this has become ruin, ash, gone with the wind. How can we find consolation for the destruction, for our dear ones cut off in their youth, the life of our dear shtetl Wolomin. If all the woods became pens and all the waters became ink, there still would not be enough to describe the destruction that befell us. Is it possible for a human hand to describe it? How can one comprehend that the whole world simply looked on as children, young people, and the elderly were murdered so cruelly and no one stopped the murderers from their killing? No one came to help us. The crematoria of Auschwitz, Maidanek, and Treblinka burned our beloved ones and no help came. As long as we live, we will remember.

 

Our Neighbors

Our neighbors, dear, good Jews–so much tenderness, love, nostalgia, and longing your memories call forth.

Alter Friedman from the sewing store–a fine, observant beis–medrash Jew, he had good children, daughters; our neighbor Markreich, a good–hearted man who would run out at night to cup the ill, often without taking any payment from the poor.

We even had a Christian neighbor, a baker, Wladerski, with whom we lived on good terms and who never showed any enmity toward Jews.

 

R. Ephraim Ivri

Ephraim Ivri lived by Yechezkelo–Yehoshua in a house at 16 Dluga Street. His dwelling consisted of two small rooms with a tiny kitchen–the rest, a shop. The merchandise in the shop was pencils, notebooks, shoelaces, and paper. Through most of the year, boys and girls seldom appeared to buy anything there, but at the beginning of the school year Ephraim Ivri did a lot of business, since the non–Jewish school was opposite his shop. From his little business, Ephraim Ivri had to support a sick wife and two sons and two daughters.

One son, Moyshe, was an idler; the other was a yeshiva student named Yiroel–Ezriel–Chaim–Yechezkel. Both daughters, Sara and Dvorah–Leah, were quiet souls. I remember when their mother suddenly died and the cries of the daughters broke my heart. Soon after, I heard their brother Yisroel–Ezriel come to them and say quietly, “Dvorah–Leah, you know, in the holy Torah is written that a Jewish child should not complain so bitterly about death. Thank God, our father is still alive.”

This little speech worked. The girls' mourning slowed down and became quieter.

Their father, R. Ephraim Ivri, did not know what to do in the store. The real storekeepers were his wife and daughters. He did not even know the price of the smallest merchandise. Rising before dawn, he would take his tallis bag and go to the large beis–medrash on Leshne Street, pray, read a book, take a nap. At noon, he would go home, wash before eating his meal, which consisted of rye bread and the head of a herring, washed down with bitter tea. Then he said the grace after meals, asking, “Dear God, don't let us be in need of sustenance” and thanked Him for the favor of a satisfying meal.

Then he studied a page of Gemara, until the time for the afternoon service. He returned to the beis–medrash for the afternoon and evening services and then he learned for two hours. Then he sat down for his big dinner, which consisted of some soup with a piece of rye bread and a little meat, accompanied by a cup of tea and with great devotion he praised and blessed God who had shown him favor for the entire day.

Despite his poverty, he brought up fine and religious children. They all behaved righteously, got married to fine men, and had grandchildren. For all of that, Ephraim every minute praised the Lord of the Universe for the great kindnesses that He had performed.

 

R. Shmuel–Eizik Flotkowski

Shmuel–Eizik Flotkowski owned a sewing goods store on Dluga Street. He had good children, daughters and sons, and was blessed with a good heart. It was tradition every Jew on Shabbos mornings hot tea. Everyone came to his kitchen, a big one, in which large kettles were set to boil water. It worked like this:

On Shabbos mornings, Jews would go from the ritual bath to Shmuel–Eizik's for a glass of tea, especially in winter when it was cold. The Jews really enjoyed their glass of tea, with milk, or hot coffee. Sugar stood in little bowls on the table. Also plates with lemon slices. R. Shmuel–Eizik went around dressed in a silk housecoat, making sure that everyone had a warm drink.

It was not only men who came to R. Shmuel–Eizik but also women with cups or jars for a little hot water. R. Shmuel–Eizik's wife stood in the kitchen with a huge ladle and distributed the hot water.

Thus it went until Havdalah.

Who could forget them?

“And tell it to your sons!” We should pass this story down through generations so that those who follow us can know from whence they came, so that they can continue the beautiful customs and pass on the good deeds of our forebears.

Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'mey raba…

 

My Grandparents

I remember when I was a small child and my grandfather, R. Leybl, was a teacher in Wolomin. He taught older students, who showed him great respect. When Friday evening arrived, my grandfather put on his silk kaftan, which was worn with age, his velvet hat, a broad belt, took his old Eyin–Yakov prayer book, and went to the large beis–medrash on Leshne Street.

My grandmother Chaya meanwhile put on her large headkerchief and her new linen dress, put on the table five large silver candlesticks with wax candles, the old silver wine cup with its saucer, put out two brown breads in the place of challas, covered them with the challa cover, and turned on a bright lamp.

Later on she stood by the lights and blessed them in a loud voice. She prayed for sustenance and health, for good fortune for her children, that they should have good futures, that they should be virtuous and observant Jews.

My grandfather stood in the beis–medrash praying the afternoon service with total devotion and then recited the Song of Songs.

R. Yisroel Mordechai the Shochet then went up to the reader's stand to welcome Shabbos. He sang L'cha Dodi with a sweet, heartfelt melody.

After the evening service, everyone wished each other “Good Shabbos,” as was the custom, then “Good Shabbos” again, and started for home.

 

The Poor

As was the case in all the little shtetls, poor people came to Wolomin. They would come to warm themselves by the oven in the beis–hamedrash. After the evening prayers on Friday nights, they would stand by the doors and wait for someone to invite them home for Shabbos dinner.

My grandfather would wait until everyone had gone home, and when he saw that there were two poor people whom no one had invited home, he would bring them home for Shabbos dinner.

When my grandmother saw the guests who came with my grandfather, she was a little sad as she contemplated what she would give them to eat. She had no challas and no fish. But she was a righteous woman. She said nothing, had no bitter words for my grandfather. She simply divided things into smaller portions so everyone could have some.

My grandfather sang “Shalom Aleichem, mal'achei hashalom,” said Kiddush over the breads, since he had no wine (for where would he have gotten money for wine, since he was only a Gemara teacher for young men, who paid very little?). After Kiddush, my grandfather and the guests washed for the brown bread, dipped it in salt, and ate. My grandmother filled the plates with fritters and pasta.

On my grandfather's face there was not the slightest sadness. His face shone with a pure spirit, and he sang “Kol m'kadesh” with a calming melody.

When it came to the meat course, my grandmother gave the guests larger portions than to my grandfather. Mostly it was less expensive meat, but we should not forget the carrot tzimmes that combined a thousand flavors.

After eating, my grandfather said the grace after meals with great devotion and when he came to the verse, “Let us not need anything from hands of flesh and blood,” a tear would appear in his eyes. He prayed that he should never have to be dependent on any man and that he should always be able to perform the mitzvah of having guests.

 

Chevra Kadisha

The members of the Chevra Kadisha performed their duties like sacred work for which there was no reward. The members were Chasidic Jews, learned people who held Heaven in awe, some of the most respected citizens of the shtetl. Among them were: R. Dovid the Shochet, Eidelsohn, R. Yankel Margolis, R. Melech Levita, R. Shmuel Burshteyn, R. Chaim Schultz, R. Shmuel–Eizik Flotkowski, R. Moyshe Graditzki, and others.

The head of the Chevra Kadisha was R. Aryeh, who was also the gravedigger. He was a simple, fine Jew. When someone died in the shtetl, he immediately contacted the membership so that they could come to perform the purification rituals in the home.

In the shtetl there was no need to send out an alarm. As soon as someone died, the whole shtetl knew. People could tell from the black wagon with two horses, covered in black cloth up to their eyes. Aryeh brought the boards on which to lay the deceased to the house.

When the funeral procession went down Dluga Street or Koshczelna Street, everyone stopped working a paid homage to the deceased.

When the procession came to the great beis–hamedrash on Leshne Street, a large crowd would be there with the Chevra Kadisha. People took the casket out of the wagon, put it on the staircase of the beis–hamedrash, and the rabbi, R. Zev Bergazin delivered a eulogy.

If the deceased was a Chasid, a learned man, he was brought into the beis–hamedrash, seven circuits were made in the sanctuary, and the rabbi eulogized him there..

From there the deceased was carried on people's shoulders to the sacred spot, which was an area two kilometers from the shtetl.

On the road, many people followed the procession, accompanying the deceased to the sacred spot.

The Chevra Kadisha took care of all the necessities and for the honor which the dead required. They also took care of placing a grave marker.

 

Righteous Women and Community Leaders

Dear and wonderful were the righteous women who dedicated their whole lives to taking care of the needy, the poor and sick, widows and orphans. I remember how selflessly they did their work:

Estherl the gabbai's wife had no children, but she devoted all her years to helping needy people. Her help was always discreet, so that no one would ever feel shame.

Estherl the watchmakers' wife, Tovele from the butter shop, Reyzl Margolis, the wives of Shmuel–Dovid Burshteyn and Shmuel Eizik Flotkowski–they were the women leaders of the shtetl.

On Friday afternoons the righteous women would take baskets to the homes of the wealthy , where they collected challas, bread, eggs, meat, cooking oil, and other items, which they then distributed to the poor.

There were numerous people in Woomin who appeared to be honored householders, but at home they lived in squalor, having nothing to feed their children and no way to heat their homes in winter. When Estherl the gabbai's wife appeared in such a home with a basket full of food, it was as though the sun suddenly shone. The children felt as though they were visited by an angel from heaven who brought them good things to eat.

The righteous women also helped poor girls who yearned to be brides.

There were in Wolomin many families where girls were being raised but who lacked money for dowries so they could get married or buy appropriate clothing. The righteous women kept watch over every poor household where daughters needed to be married, and they took care that no young woman should remain unmarried.

In the evenings they would gather together, and in the early mornings they would go to businesses and collect money for poor brides.

First they would go to the rich, to the factory owners, to Dr. Frank, to the barber–surgeon Markreich, to the Tayblums, to Mintz, and so on.

The righteous women also undertook to buy outfits for the brides, furniture and other things that were needed for the home. There were often cases when they would rent a room for the new couple and prepare the wedding so that everything would be right and the family would not be embarrassed.

At the wedding, they would act as the servers and busied themselves taking care of the guests as if they were relatives of the bride.

There was in Wolomin no lack of homes where fathers or children suffered for years with tuberculosis. The disease accompanied poverty. Tubercular fathers could bring no income to the home. Sick children were bedridden from malnourishment because they lacked the food that they needed.

There were homes in which great human tragedies were played out. The mother was the only breadwinner. She had to leave her sick husband with the children and go to the homes of the rich, where she would wash laundry, clean, cook, and in return receive a little food, a hand–me–down, or a pair of shoes for her children. Coming home after a day of hard work, she had to make a little soup for her family, though there was not always something there to cook. When a child became ill, there was no money to pay a doctor or to buy medicine.

The righteous women oversaw such poor homes, sympathized with their problems and did all they could to alleviate their woes.


[Pages 303-305]

Our Shtetl is Unforgettable

by Shimon Wishniewski (president of the Wolomin Society in America)

We first settled in Wolomin in 1925. My father had a sister in town, Sheva–Sarah Mindel, who took us in and helped us get things in order. We fit in right away and became familiar and close with the Jews in the shtetl.

Those were very pleasant years, long, sweet shtetl years, filled with dreams of great deeds, with images of a great big world; attended with Chasidic tunes, with the prayers of religious Jews, with the excited singing of young pioneers, of idealistic dreamers, who saw visions and were filled with expectation.

A small, poor shtetl, but so rich in grand moments, when even the poorest, whether materially or spiritually, felt greatness and were taken up with the possibility of realizing high ideals.

Always I see before me God–fearing Jews, scholars with deeply furrowed brows, Chasidim in religious ecstasy, and simple merchants with everyday wisdom; the teachers, who taught the children from their first aleph–beis through Gemara and Tosefos, sharpening their minds and imbuing their hearts with Jewish beauty.

 

Religious Jews

In my ears ring the old Chasidic tunes that filled the air of the shtetl, from Kabbalas Shabbos until the melaveh malkeh, the tunes of “Atkeynu Seudata” and “Kol M'kadesh,” and every time that I remember them, it occurs to me that thus sing people who are freed from their earthly worries and concern themselves with heavenly matters, with pure spirituality.

Shabbos filled the homes of Wolomin with the angels of grace [mentioned in “Shalom Aleichem”], with an extra soul, with the Shabbos Queen, with guests, who helped to fulfill the great mitzvah.

Unforgettable were the Days of Awe, and Pesach, which tasted of the four cups of wine, of sweet–and–sour Pesach borscht, of long spring nights and a sea of streaming light; Shavuos, which arrived in the shtetl with joyful greenery, with the magic of the giving of the Torah; Succos, when the streets and courtyards of Jewish poverty were adorned with green roofs and inside with the rainbow colors of paper chains and lanterns.

Oh, those Days of Awe, when the gates of mercy opened and Jews brought their please to the Master of the Universe, begging for forgiveness for their sins.

So many years have passed from that time to this, but still I see before my eyes the bent over, cherished Jews of my shtetl. For what sins did they beg forgiveness? For the whole year they had worked hard for a piece of bread–tell me, what sins did they commit? Still, the more God–fearing were the Jews, the more intense was their regret over uncommitted sins.

In the fearsome days, Wolomin was beset with fears and duties. Jews went around deep in thought, studied Torah fervently and prayed in holiness. The Creator had sent a soul, and each person had to make it pure, free from the sinful passions that troubled it.

 

The Idealistic Young People

There was so much beauty in the young people of Wolomin. Who can forget the bright faces in the heat of discussions over idealistic stances? Young people with earnest looks on their faces, on their entire being, took on themselves the burden of the people, of all humankind. Beis–hamedrash young men with beautifully trimmed sidecurls and pressed white collars secretly read secular books, strolled outside the town, listened to fiery speeches in the woods and were later caught up in the story…

Since that time I have experienced a whole world, seen huge, beautiful things, attended great theatrical performances, but be assured that nothing can compare to the performances of the Wolomin drama circle.

An overwhelming joy seizes me when I remember the Peretz Library. Such a valuable treasure of books, and how the young readers benefited from it.

The lectures, readings, and discussions in the evenings erased the grayness from the preceding and upcoming workdays. Young blood sang a great dream about a happier future–for the people, for all humankind.

Who can forget it, my dear shtetl of Wolomin?!


[Pages 306-307]

My Father's Responsibility

by Yehoshua Edelzon

People in Wolomin knew my father by the name R. Binyaminl–David Shochet. He was a great scholar and an ardent Jew. As a young man he had studied in “Yismach Yisroel,” and the Jews in the shtetl always showed him great respect. In his dealings with people he demonstrated tact and wisdom.

We, his children, from our earliest years absorbed the virtue of showing respect for people, even if they had a lower social standing than we did. If a child came out with a word that in my father's eyes seemed impertinent, my father would sit the child next to him and calmly make him understand how distasteful it is to be impudent and dignified is the man who shows respect for others, even those who are younger and poorer.

Ah, how I miss that time when I was old enough to understand what was going on in our world, when I began to know the people around me, to understand who was who, and I seemed to have such a many–branched family on both sides, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other relatives.

My grandfather on my mother's side was the rabbi in Stock. My father boarded with him for a while, sitting and learning all day, becoming industrious and showing a sharp mind. But a time came when he wanted to be independent. but he did not intend to make of the Torah an axe for chopping [e.g., he didn't want to use the Torah for monetary gain], so he travelled to Volomin, opened a shop, and went into business.

Be assured that the yoke of the business fell on my mother. She valued my father's learning and held him in honor. She strove not to disturb his learning and did everything she could to help with the business, from which they eked out a livelihood until disaster overtook the business and our household was reduced to poverty.

At that time it happened that one of the shochets in Volomin had left and people came to urge my father that he should assume the position of shochet.

My father agreed to become the shochet, but with a heavy heart, and he was always occupied with the idea that he had taken on himself a heavy responsibility.

With his idealism, his love for creatures and for simplicity, my father won the sympathy and love of the people of Volomin.

Dear Father, your great sense of responsibility became for me an example for all times and all my endeavors.

I always see before my eyes your great Jewish and humane behavior, at home and in the street, in the beis–hamedrash, which was full of people studying, young men, children and old Jews, whose whole spiritual life consisted of stiudying Torah, righteousness, and religious behavior.

I can see you entering the beis–hamedrash with slow steps, smiling at the small and the large, the smile of love of Israel and love of humanity.


[Pages 308-313]

The Kover Family

by Itta Kover

Distant, sweet shtetl years.

As I write about the Wolomin train station, which, until its downfall and destruction, pulsated with colorful Jewish life, what comes to my mind is the variety of Wolomin Jews, leaders and everyday Jews, merchants and tradesmen, who built and shaped the lost Jewish Wolomin. One of the first pioneers among those who laid the foundation for the Jewish community in Wolomin was Reb Motl Kover.

He arrived in Wolomin in 1905, when he was in his energetic years, full of initiative and energy. He was thirty–something when he learned that near Warsaw, by the Wolomin train station, the Jewish settlement was beginning. He did not think long about abandoning his prosperous merchant station, and he told his young wife, Feige–Zisl: “We're going!”

Arriving in Wolomin, he quickly befriended the local Jews who established with him a small but tightly–knit Jewish society, in which they helped each other and lightened each other's affairs, and he easily went through what we call the birth pangs of absorption.

On the first days he walked around the shtetl, looked around, observed the streets and the houses, which looked poor and needy, lacking sidewalks, lacking paved roads, though that did not surprise him; rather, his imagination was stirred, and he saw before him a bright field in which to apply his energy.

He made connections with the householders of the shtetl, the official power brokers, and laid before them his project to build up the shtetl, pave the streets and the sidewalks, and cobblestone the roads.

To come before the town magistrate at that time with such plans took a lot of boldness. Reb Motl did it with the greatest self–confidence, adding:

“I am prepared to see it through myself, to build, to bring order. From you I require only official go–ahead, permission for everything.”

It was remarkable: Here was completely new man in town, not known at all in the shtetl, and he showed so much proficiency and integrity. Everyone approved of him, both Jews and Poles.

Possibly what helped is that he used his outward appearance, his patriarchal bearing, his dignified bearing, which, from the first day, drew everyone's attention to him.

He was tall and slender. From under his wise–looking forehead looked out two clever eyes, which either glittered or bored through one, and he radiated gentleness and wisdom. His long black beard hung down as far as his heart.

In his words everyone felt the cleverness of an experienced entrepreneur who could do a lot for the shtetl, and he quickly assumed the leadership in Wolomin society. The magistrate had endorsed all of his official undertakings, promised to pave the sidewalks and the Wolomin streets, to fix and improve the old, to improve the external appearance of the shtetl.

Reb Motl eagerly applied himself to the work.

But in the shtetl there was also a subversive element. Everywhere people spoke about the Jew, who came from Kosov Podloski, who settled in the shtetl and before he even really knew the people, he had taken over the shtetl. All of the streets were full of workers, revived, spurting with building, with creating.

It wasn't long before Reb Motl Kover was a contractor building houses. They had to enlarge the station, they had to bring in more workers, more Jews to move into the city. Wherever one turned, one felt Reb Motl's young enthusiasm for building the shtetl, for building house after house. He quickly developed a reputation as an experienced entrepreneur with many plans.

New residents came, Jews and Poles. The ties with the big city of Warsaw were broadened and strengthened.

It was not Reb Motl's custom to stand still in one spot. His impulsive nature prompted him to even more buildings, houses, streets, and sidewalks, whole neighborhoods.

And suddenly there came a crisis.

One morning Reb Motl disappeared from Wolomin.

This was right after he received a letter from his family in Kosov Podoski telling him that three kilometers from them a nobleman would sell his court, a large estate and all the grounds. This was in the village of Albenovo.

He got an idea. At just that time, a Christian had offered him a good price for his house in Wolomin. He did not think long about it, and quickly concluded the transaction.

The Kover family moved to Albenova.

Reb Motll became a true prince. In the area around Kosov, everyone spoke about the new Jewish prince with his long black beard, about the Jewish princess Feige–Zisl, the daughter of an old Kotzker Chasid, who later travelled to the Sfat Emes [a famous rabbi].

The Jews in the area prided themselves in them, commented that the Prince and the Princess travelled in a coach pulled by four horses over the streets of Kosov. They excelled in uniting themselves with the Jews of the shtetl, devoting a lot of money to charitable causes. Just as in Wolomin, there dwelling was open to anyone who was in need, they gave huge donations, supported the Jewish community, and on every holiday sent around wagons filled with potatoes and grain to distribute to the poor. The goodness of the Jewish Prince was known in the entire area, and Jews prided themselves in him, seeing in him an example of a devoted Jew, who used his wealth to help those in need.

When the First World War broke out, the district, the shtetls and villages, were turned into the front lines. When the Russians abandoned the district, they destroyed and burned cities and villages. The same fate befell Albenovo. The Russians there burned everything. This severely affected the scores of homeless in the poor district who hid at the home of the Jewish Prince, having there found protection and sustenance. The Russians turned their full fury on his estate.

Reb Motl Kover took this as a heavenly decree and quickly packed up his remaining possessions and left with his whole household, his oldest daughter Chana–Golde, Chayele, Moyshe, Yehudis, Rochel, and Dovid. They all returned to Wolomin.

In Wolomin, Reb Motl Kover had another house, a remnant of his former great possessions. Now it became a necessity. He lived there with his growing family.

His long, patriarchal beard had gone silver, with snow–white hair. In the wrinkles on his forehead, one could see the experiences he had lived through, though he was still full of strength and energy and had gotten right back to work. The Jews of Wolomin welcomed him with great warmth. In addition, the Christians showed him great respect. He was back in his element. He became a contractor and started building.

It was not long before he was chosen as a member of the city council, or, as people then called it, a councilman.

 

A Celebration to Dedicate the Sefer Torah

Among the moving experiences of the Kover family was the imposing celebration to dedicate the Sefer Torah in Wolomin. This was the first such celebration in Wolomin. This took place after Reb Motl had moved to Albenovo. The whole shtetl participated in the celebration. People walked through the streets with burning torches, people sang Chasidic melodies with accompaniments. Young and old joined together in leading the Sefer Torah to the beis–hamedrash.

This was an experience that engraved itself in the memories of all the Jews of Wolomin at that time. For years and years, people spoke about that celebration.

THE FIRST PIONEER

Magnificent was the banquet that the Wolomin Jews put on for their first pioneer, Moyshe Kover, on the occasion of his leaving for Eretz Yisroel. This was in 1925, when Jews in Poland had not thought, except for a select few, of going to Israel with the purpose of building their own land. They saw the threatening clouds that were gathering in the Polish skies over the heads of the Jews.

To these select few the Kover family, with Reb Motl at its head, had paid attention. They gave earnest thought to making aliya to Eretz Yisroel.

First Reb Motl sent his son Moyshe, who was to be the vanguard, the pioneer and scout to check out whether there would be a place for his whole family.

Shortly after Moyshe, daughter Yehudis went. She now lives in Tel Aviv with her husband Avraham Rozenblit and their daughters.

Soon Reb Motl himself began preparations for going to Eretz Yisroel so he could be together with his whole family. He had not reckoned with the cautionary letter that he received from his children in which he could read between the lines that life in Eretz Yisroel was not so easy and that people had to be prepared for hard physical labor. He was not dissuaded and he decided to take the decisive step.

For him there was no question about a certificate, because he was able to travel as Capitalist who owned over a thousand pounds sterling, as the British mandate–power then required.

Jewish Wolomin decided to thrown a going–away banquet to honor the Kover family. Everyone took part in this banquet, every layer of the shtetl, all the parties, beginning with the most religious to the most extreme Zionists and all the other factions. In their orations, they all praised the great services that the Kover family had provided Wolomin, their contribution to the building of the shtetl and for supporting the various Jewish institutions, and, above all, for building the shtetl's beis–hamedrash.

The impression was overwhelming. The Kovers were the first family at that time to travel to Eretz Yisroel. They awoke both hope and longing.

For many years people in the shtetl spoke about this banquet, which was engraved on everyone's memory.

Reb Motl Kover with his wife Feige–Zisl merited arriving in Eretz Yisroel and lived their last years in Tel Aviv. At this time his daughters still live in Tel Aviv: Yehudis with her husband and her daughter Rachel with her husband. All the other children, Chana–Golde with her husband Pinye, their children and grandchildren, Chaya'le with her husband and children, and their son David were killer in the awful slaughter together with all the Jews of Wolomin.


[Pages 314-317]

Moshe Kover

by Shmuel Vinagoro

From his earliest youth was Moyshe Kover bound up with our shtetl, with its society and cultural traditions, with Zionist activities, with drama. In all of his deeds, Moyshe demonstrated his wonderful qualities and high moral character, his deep empathy for all and his warm understanding for each person's sorrow and worries.

Always energetic and full of life, he found time for everyone and never grew tired. In 1922 we were both delegates to the Keren Ha–yisod Conference in Warsaw and I had a chance to observe how he was completely absorbed, heart and soul, in the Zionist idea. I saw his respect for the Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov, which came from deep within him.

He devoted a great deal of time and toil to his Zionist work in Volomin. When the young men were away in the Polish army, he took on himself alone the responsibility for the work, for the various Zionist activities that took place in Volomin, and it demanded great selflessness to overcome all the hardships of his daily tasks.

Because he was a friend to everyone, he showed with his attitude to people and his readiness to do a favor, his social activities focused not only on the demands of Zionist party work. He also participated in other activities from all facets of Jewish life in Volomin.

When, among the Jewish immigrants from Russia there arrived also illegal refugees, he often intervened with the police and through his interventions prevented many Jews from being sent back to Russia.

Moyshe Kover was a good person and a good friend. I was one of those who was bound to him by a thousand ties. I saw in him my closest friend and when he made aliyah to Israel, I corresponded with him. His letters overflowed with deep friendship and also with great idealism, which was the chief feature of his character and which led him to the killing fields of the Spanish Civil War and later to France, where he was killed by murdering hands.

In his letters he would describe his explorations and his principles, and in my eyes he was always a mentsch who was bound with all the passion of his soul to a bright beginning in his spiritual life, which swam before his eyes always in a world which tried to extinguish that light.

I often used to ask him: Where did he get such idealism and righteous generosity.

The answer comes to me whenever I think about our destroyed shtetl, where together with hard work and the chasing after income there was so much love for other people. Material life was poor and flimsy, the streets shoddy, dusty, and muddy, the shtieblich shabby, faded, and in them dwelled men who belittled material goods and counted not on physical wealth but only on the treasures of the spirit and their greatest desire was to be a simple hard–working Jew with the glory of the Shechinah.

Moyshe Kover was a son of such Volomin Jews, the foundation of whose souls was “love that has no limit.” Moyshe had absorbed the spirit, the ideal, the belief. There had arisen his love for people, for Jews, and the sparks of that holy fire he carried with him for his whole life.

 

Moyshe Molocz–The Great Host

I left Volomin in 1932, but the Volomin Jews engraved themselves in my memory, and I remember them always with love as good and sincere Jews, simple Jews of every age and education, scholars, working people, and merchants. They prayed three times a day, and when something bad happened, they turned to the Master of the Universe through the words of King David, through his Psalms.

There were also Chasidim, who constantly told wondrous stories that they heard from their rebbe while learning and judging with love, through joy, and they rejoiced in the rebbe's teaching licked their fingers after every word.

Moyshe Molocz was a simple Jew, but gifted with a big heart, a good heart, with sympathy for every sadness, ready to give his last morsel to a hungry person or a donation to a pauper.

In those days there was no organized way of providing hospitality in Volomin, so Moyshele a special room so that a stranger who came to the shtetl could have a place to sleep and a meal. He would run among his neighbors asking for a bit of food or warm water. A poor person could have the pleasure of performing the commandment of refreshing the soul. And at his own table there was always a guest.

At the time of the First World War, bread was scarce in the shtetl, but from Moyshele's dwelling no poor person ever went away hungry and no stranger ever went without a place to sleep.

Everything has its test, through which people can prove whether it is real, just like with gold and silver. The test by which people can determine if someone is Jewish is love of Israel, because by as much as a Jew shows love for another Jew, by that much is he a real Jew.

Moyshele Molocz passed the test of love of Israel. If there were a Nobel Prize for nobility and goodness, they would have to award it to Moyshel Molocz.

Through his heart went all the sighs of the Jewish poor who somehow had arrived in Volomin. Through his eyes ran all the tears of sadness in the shtetl.

His nobility and goodness attracted the attention of the home owners in the shtetl, and they saw how important it was to create and institution for hospitality. Consequently at the beis–hamedrash they organized a hospitality committee.

When the First World War broke out, Moyshel Molocz was already old, but having seen a Russian soldier, he volunteered at the military commission, but they refused to take him because of his age.

Moyshele responded: “I wanted to help….I didn't want to shirk my duty…but if you don't want me, what can I do? Who am I and what am I that I should oppose the will of officialdom?”

During his whole life he interpreted things for the best, “gam zu l'tovah” [a Talmudic saying: “this, too, is for the best”]. Nothing he did was for a reward, but it was simply from his great goodness and sympathy for the poor and the sad–alnd for His beloved Name.


[Pages 318-321]

Lights From Hearts

by Mordechai Freedman

Each of us has in his heart a golden threat that binds us to our old home. In each of us smolders, like a fire that neither wind nor rain can extinguish, deep memories of our native shtetl, of the quiet streets, of the beis–medrash, and of all the people who prayed and learned there.

The beloved, dear beis–medrash Jews all live in my memory. Often it feels to me as if I just lost them yesterday.

Now I see a hot day in Tammuz. The air in the beis–medrash is thick, full of prayer and drawn out Gemara chants. Near a long table are sitting simple Jews who sway back and forth over their Gemaras. Over there sits R. Yakov Margulies, a fervent Ger Chasid and a distinguished scholar. He studies with everyone, explains a difficult passage and everyone listens to him with pleasure, rejoicing in his sharp intellect, in his shrewd way of disentangling a knot with probes and questions. His eyes shine with a light that seems to come from a sacred world.

When he ends the lesson and everyone has gone away, he remains sitting there, sunk in his thoughts. You can see how a passion boils in him for the highest realms. But the ladder on which he tries to climb will not hold him…

Into the beis–medrash comes R. Chaim Topol. People called him Chaim Kosover. He sits down at the same table as R. Yakov Margulies. He opens a Gemara and tries to immerse himself in a passage, begins to hum a quiet tune, but nothing comes out. His thoughts are scattered, flying off to a distance or perhaps focused on the everyday problems of earning a living.

From these thoughts he is torn away by R. Yakov Margulies. his constant adversary. Now he has raised his eyes from his Gemara, looked at R. Chaim with a thoughtful glance and said quietly, “It must be pretty hot outside.”

“Yes,” says R. Chaim curtly.

R. Yakov continues to speak, half to himself and half to R. Chaim, “In the beis–medrash you don't feel the heat so much, do you?”

R, Chaim again offers a brief “Yes,” as if he does not want to talk, but R. Yakov is not dissuaded by his reluctance and becomes more talkative: “It's already the three weeks [before Tisha b'Av]…In another week it'll be Tisha b'Av. Summer is passing and soon the days will be cooler. Soon the Holidays will be here…”

Normally R. Chaim is not so quiet. On the contrary, he would seek to respond with a witticism, a joke. He particularly enjoyed contradicting R. Yakov, with whom he would tangle in his gentle way, but on that day in Tammuz it was too hot to do so. His head hurt and his temples throbbed, and I was sitting in the beis–medrash, quiet in a corner, where I could hear the quiet conversation between these two Jews for whom I held a hidden love in my childish heart, particularly for R. Chaim, who embodied the warmth of an ordinary person and who would even behave foolishly with children, laughing and talking with them. unlike other Wolomin Jews who believed that such behavior was inappropriate. People should have respect for their elders and children should not fool around in their presence.

Totally different was R. Yakov Topol, the grandfather of the famous actor in Israel who bears the name of his Wolomin grandfather, the wise man and sharp wit, who had riches in his heart, poverty in his pockets, and squalor in his home.

I remember: I have seen him on winter nights stoking the fire in the oven. Another time I saw him recounting the Temple sacrifices with great devotion. But more than these, I remember him standing there with his gentle smile in the space between his mustache and his beard. And always he brought with him cheerfulness and joy.

When R. Yakov Margulies died, R. Chaim went to the funeral. Everyone knew that they were not fond of each other and watched R. Chaim with wonder. Some even murmured, “How can it be…?” R. Chaim could not refrain from joking, “I can't believe that he died…I have to see him buried.”

Everyone loved to hear R. Chaim's jokes. Only R. Yakov could not bear them. He would take his red handkerchief out of his pocket and noisily blow his nose as a sign that if everyone loved the joke, because everyone was a fool, he, R. Yakov, had had enough buffoonery. But on that hot day in Tammuz, it seemed as though he would gladly engage in a conversation with R. Chaim about holidays: how long was it until Pesach? Soon the beautiful holiday of Shavuos would be gone, the time of the giving of the Torah, that greatest of gifts, which the Jews received at Mt. Sinai. People had surely felt the greatest joy, which he also felt and which shone through his speech, but R. Chaim, as if he were angry, said, “Truly, the Master of the Universe went to all the peoples in the world with the Torah, asking if they would receive it, and no one wanted it. Only we yelled out, ‘We will do and we will hear.' So what makes the poor Kishinev sexton guilty? Why does he come to the shul and bang on the Holy Ark with nails? How has the poor man sinned?”

When R. Yakov heard this, he was enraged, so that he jumped up and yelled in a strange voice, as if the earth had sunk under him, and then said wildly, “Shush, shush…If you were not Chaim Kosover, I would say that you were a non–Jew, a disgrace to the Jewish people…You shame the holy Torah, the life of the universe…”

R. Yakove screamed in such a tone that everyone in the beis–medrash trembled: “He will sink to the deepest depths–he will fall to Gehenna…”

These exclamations did not excite R. Chaim, and as if he did not understand why R. Yakov was so inflamed, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “What goes? One dares not ask? Even the tanaim and amoraim [Talmudic sages] asked probing questions.”

R. Yakov made a dismissive gesture with his hand and began to sway over his Gemara. R. Chaim also became quiet, as if the dispute displeased him, since he had meant no offense. As he bent over his Gemara, his chant blended in with the other chants of the young men and boys at the neighboring tables.

Generations old Gemara chants, thin and hoarse voices, and the words came together like flames, one with the other, yearning and joyful, intense in themselves and piercing other worlds, higher, lighter, like the thoughts that travel with fluttering wings, like birds who sing songs to the Creator of all worlds.

Dear holy figures of our destroyed home. I am bound to them by a thousand cords, by blood and flesh. Their destroyed lives will be with me to the grave.


[Pages 322-327]

Our Parents' Home

by Pesse Feige Wengraver & Esther–Malkeh Borokovski–Shteinberg

Our home was always open for the hungry and the needy. They knew that in our home they would find a outstretched hand ready to help them. Our parents, Chaya and Leibl Borokovski, may their memories be a blessing, took upon themselves the yoke of making sure that in the shtetl no poor person would go without challas and meat for Shabbos. They gave on their own, and they made sure that others should not forget the needy.

In earlier years, our father had commissioned the writing of a Sefer Torah for the Wolomin synagogue. When people brought the Sefer Torah into the synagogue, it was a great holiday. Young and old rejoiced together. The whole town was lit brightly every evening, and the police walked around keeping order. Jews sang and danced along the whole path of the procession.

Great was the sadness when some time later the Sifrei Torah were stolen from the synagogue, along with other Sifrei Torah.

As an Amshinaver Chassid, our father often used to travel to the rebbe, but this did not prevent him from being an energetic and capable businessman. His guiding principle in business was “Be careful in what you say,” and he therefore kept his word in every transaction. He was well known for being true to his word. Those who knew him best knew that despite his devotion to Chassidism, he was no idler. He had mastered a number of languages.

In our courtyard could be found the Amshtinaver Chassidic prayer house, where people prayed and studied. After our father died, our mother fulfilled all the commitments he had made to the rebbe. The rebbe lived in Otvotzk, and I remember travelled with me to the rebbe in Otvotzk. It was not easy to get in to see the rebbe in Otvotzk. There were times when a person had to wait a whole day, but my mother was an exception and was quickly welcomed in, and I remember how enthusiastically she spoke about the holy rebbe, about his sparkling eyes, with which he looked so softly and mercifully at his Chassidim.

Our parents capably managed the warehouse for wood and other building materials, as well as the wine business and the brandy concession, which we had until 1937, when it was taken from us as a result of the growing anti–Semitism.

For his position as councilor in the community, and for his membership in the Chevra Kadisha, our father was beloved and honored by all who came in contact with him.

I remember one incident that involved Councilor Zitovski, who had a tannery near the cemetery. He and my father were close friends. When, after the First World War, the tannery stood idle, with no way to get it moving, Zitovski proposed to my father that he should become a partner and devote his energy to reopening the tannery. With this opportunity, the Polish councilor confirmed our father's excellence, and the partnership lasted through the final years of Father's life.

Throughout his life, our father was a fervent Zionist and thought of making aliyah to Eretz Yisroel. But he did not live to do so. But he planted his love for Israel in our hearts and raised us in the spirit of wanting to be in our sacred land.

After my marriage, in 1934, together with my sister Malkeh and her husband applied for a certificate, but we fell victim to a hoax. In 1939 we left for Argentina. There, too, we raised our child in the pioneer spirit, and when he was 22, my son went as a pioneer to Kibbutz Ayin Hashloshah.. For ten years he lived without us in the kibbutz. In 1965 we liquidated our business in Argentina and made aliyah. My older sister, too, along with her whole family, came to Israel with the full intention of being part of the Jewish state. This was the spirit of our father, who raised us with foundational love for the idea of the return to Zion.

We also had two brothers: Gedaliah and Chaim. Gedaliah was killed together with my mother in the great catastrophe that befell all of Polish Jewry. Chaim died a half year before Father, in the month of Elul. He left behind a year–old son, who lived until Hitler began the slaughter of six million Jews.

In our house lived a woman named Hinde Bartshevski, who ran a sewing goods store. She had several daughters and a son, whose name was Yidl. The oldest daughter Leah became friendly with us and borrowed books that we had checked out of the library. Yidl also liked to read books. They had to do it behind their mother's back, who was quite religious and did not want reading secular books. It happened that the mother came upon those books and angrily tore them up. Our parents knew about this, but they always showed understanding both for her and for us. Our parents were also religious and observant, but they had not forbidden us to read such books; they showed us tolerance, and they understood that we could not be backward, that we had to know what was going on in the world.

Hinde's daughters and son later became communists. They left for Paris. After the war, Yidl became co–editor of the Volksstimme in Warsaw.

I remember what we used to do in the library. I ordered the books. There were organized lectures and readings, discussions and game evenings. Melech Manne was the secretary and Yakov Zucker was the treasurer. I was the librarian. But when the communist group formed, they took over the library. They expelled members for no reason, refused to call meetings, and did whatever they felt like. Our opposition was fruitless. The communists cared nothing about feelings, although they knew how much effort and energy we had invested in the library. When there was no bench to sit on, I took a bench from the Amshinever prayer house that was in our courtyard. That turned into a scandal. When people came on Shabbos to pray, they had nowhere to sit. I did not lack problems. In the end, we had to give up on the library, which had been hijacked by the communists.

But we were not defeated and we immediately formed a Zionist organization, which was called Tarbus. There we had lively activities, and we organized classes to learn Hebrew. The teacher was Wolfawitz, the father of the actor Nathan Wolfawitz, who lives today in Israel. There were also lectures and readings on various topics. On other evenings the young people arrived full of questions that were on their minds. There were also some who spoke Hebrew without difficulty. People greedily threw at them newly learned words and rejoiced in enriching their language so that they were able to converse in Hebrew.

In order to collect funds for Keren Hayisod, Keren Kayemes, and Shekalim–Farkoyf, the young people of Tarbus conducted many activities. On Flower Day, which we organized, I used to go with Golda Salage, and it often happened that Christians, too, contributed to our cause.

Our home was also a meeting place for scholars. Chasidim, students, and ordinary Jews were often in our home. My father's best friends were: the shochet Yisroel–Mordechai Tentsche, Mandelberg, Moyshe Manne, Margulies, and many other dear and hearty Jews.

May their memories be blessed!


[Pages 328-332]

Our Home

by Zahava (Golda) Goldvasser–Veinbloom

 

My Father

We lived on Synagogue Street. Our apartment differed little from all the other rented apartments in the shtetl that were constructed in the old way. My father, R. Henech Goldvasser, a religious Jew. a Ger Hasid, had dedicated his whole life to Torah and service. Ever since I can remember, my father in the very early mornings, summer and winter, while it was still dark outside, would go to the beis–hamedrash to study, and only after davening Shacharis would her come home. Then he would undertake his hard work, studying Torah with the children of the shtetl.

My father was a teacher in the Volomin Talmud–Torah. He loved introducing children to the blessings of the Torah, and the Jews of the shtetl had great trust and confidence that their children would receive from him a good Jewish education. People showed him great respect and honor.

My father worked hard at his job, but he barely had an income, so that we lived in a rented apartment with an exemplary family life.

A warm Jewish dwelling, which exuded an atmosphere of high morality. The children were devoted and bound to their parents and particularly felt the sorrows of their mother, was a weak and ill woman who often needed our help. We consequently learned to worry about her, while our father was so involved with community matters, with mitsvos, with doing good deeds for those in need.

My father was also a trustee of the chevra kadisha. This was a job full of righteousness and truth, for which not everyone was suited. There were some who only attended the banquets that the chevra kadisha used to sponsor every year on Purim and other minor celebrations. Anyone who observed the activities of the chevra kadisha up close felt the sacredness of their work. Not everyone merited being able to do the work of the chevra kadisha. My father undertook this work with heart and soul, and he felt great responsibility both for the daily labor and for the special solemnities which often were observed in our home: the post–funeral meal, a Kiddush after the fast. Our father communicated his devotion to us, and in honor of our father we often helped him prepare and organize the solemnities. Our father saw in the activities of the chevra kadisha a great mitzvah and strictly observed all their customs. which he did not waive even in the ghetto.

In the ghetto, the Germans decreed that the dead should be buried not in burial shrouds, only wrapped in paper. My father saw in this a shameful desecration of the dead and responded that as long as he lived, he would not tolerate that people should bury the dead in paper. For that he was put in prison.

He remained true and devoted to his duties until the last minutes of his life and he merited dying in the ghetto without suffering the pain of the concentration camp and the crematorium.

 

Our Mother

People called her Reb Henech's Wife. Even when speaking directly to her, people used this honorific rather than calling her by her given name, Leah.

She was a careful Jewish woman. She davened three times a day, and she knew all the prayers by heart; but because of her devotion, she feared making an error, so she davened from the “Korban–Minchah–Siddur.” I still see her before my eyes with her glasses on, low on her nose, with tape in the broken spots. She also put on her glasses in order to knit various things for her children.

My mother was an expert in keeping house and raising children. I remember her great joy at the marriage of my older brother Hershel, who had a fine wife and who raised his children in the spirit of our household. Later my sister Esther–Gitl got married; my brother Avraham–Yitzchak attended yeshiva, , sang well, and served in the Polish military, where he became an invalid. He married Shimon–Noson–the teacher's daughter, a fine woman, with he had sweet, dear children and built a beautiful family life. Yisrolik also led such a beautiful Jewish life with his wife. All were killed, gassed and cremated by Hitler's murderers.

 

Shabbos

Unforgettable was out old Jewish home with its rich Jewish life, the customs, Shabbos and yuntuf, that filled our lives with such heartfelt warmth.

Even now I feel the holiness of Friday evenings, when my father and his sons returned from the beis–hamedrash and in our home was heard the beautiful tune of “Shalom aleichem, malachei hashalom.” Father's Kiddush sounded beautiful to our ears, which he would not say if one of the children, even one of the daughters, was not yet in the room. It used to happen that one of us, one of the girls, lingered in the street, but one she realized that the men had left their davening, she would hurriedly run home, knowing that Father would wait with his Kiddush.

Our Shabbos food, with the Shabbos tea, which had to be absolutely, perfectly kosher, had a special place in our household. From early on neighbors would come with a scoop to take tea from us, which they would carry off with friendly greetings. In addition, Father's friends would come to drink a glass of Shabbos tea, which was brewed according to the strictest laws.

 

Holidays

Similar, too, were the yuntufs with the following of all the laws. For Rosh Hashanah our father hastened to the mikveh. On Yom Kippur he went to the mikveh in the morning and in the evening after eating. Back at home, he put on his white kittle, blessed his children, and instilled us with holy awe for the Day of Judgment.

After Yom Kippur, people quickly started to build a succah, a job in which my brothers were busy. The girls helped our mother prepare good foods. My mother always worried lest she be embarrassed in front of others for not having enough food in the succah.

The first night of Succos we all went to hear our father's beautifully sung Kiddush and to have a sip of wine.

Early the next morning we had to get up early to bentsch esrog, because later our father and his sons went to the beis–hamedrash and took the esrog with them. After the prayers, women whose husbands had not bought esrogs came to us to allow them to bentsh esrog. I can still hear their questions as they arrived at our home: “Reb Henech's Wife, can we bentsch esrog here?

My mother answered, both happily and righteously: “With great honor and pleasure!”

In my memory also is the reading of the Megillah at Purim. My father used to read the Megillah at home for us, and we used to invite the neighbors so that they could hear the Megillah. As they left, they would say to us, “God willing, we should hear the reading of the Megillah again in a year.”

Especially light and beautiful was the holiday of Passover. The cleaning and scrubbing would begin, updating clothes and shoes; but the nicest part was the seder, reciting the Hagaddah. Father interpreted each verse for us and we relived the great miracle of the exodus from Egypt. We sang “Bimhayrah b'yameinu” and “Chad Gadya.”

The mood, the holiness, and the exaltedness of each day remain engraved in my memory and in my spirit to this very day.


[Pages 333-334]

The Nisnkron Family

by Shmuel Nisnkron

Reb Dovid Nisnkron died in 1937. He left four sons and two daughters and grandchildren. In the war, Hitler's forces killed the whole family, except for two sons who, by a miracle, escaped their murderous hands. Yossel today lives in Paris and Shmuel—in America.

Reb Dovid Nisnkron belonged to the distinguished homeowning families in Volomin. He was an Amshinever Hasid and he guided his children on the Hasidic path. His son Aaron was shochet. The others studies in yeshivas and his two daughters were Beis–Ya'akov students.

Reb Dovid's wife was an excellent and kind householder, welcoming to guests, and their home was open to anyone who was in need, for anyone who was travelling to do a mitzvah. Although Reb Dovid was not wealthy, he was always ready to do a kind deed and to give charity with an open hand.

Reb Dovid was an employee in the glass factory. When the glass factory closed, Reb Dovid went into business with blue dishes in the market. From this business he earned his income with dignity, and he was not stingy about spending money on education for his children. He sent them to yeshivas, one to Warsaw, to the Toras Chaim Yeshiva, and one to Baranovitch to the yeshiva of Rabbi Elkhanan Vasserman.

The daughters, students at the Beis Ya'akov School, were always part of a circle of Hasidic daughters.

He was one of those who never sought honors, remaining simple and modest. He was a baal–koreh in the Amshtinever shtiebl, undertook studying lessons in the beis–hamedrash, where each evening between minchah and ma'ariv people studied a chapter of Mishneh or a page of Gemara.

Being happy with his portion, his greatest desire was to guide his children in the paths of righteousness, and he was delighted to have a son who was a shochet in a small shtetl near Kelz.

After Rebb Dovid's death, his wife and daughters continued his business and continued to go on the path that their father had shown them.

When the war broke out , I was in Boronovitch, which was on the Russian side. I continued to study at the yeshivah, having no opportunity to travel to Volomin, even though I desperately wanted to see my mother, my sisters, and my brothers, whom I never saw again. They were murdered, just as all the Jews of Volomin were murdered in the ghetto. None of them escaped the murderous clutches. They struggled to stay alive, but the fate of all the Jews did not avoid them.

My older sister Chantshe in Paris, a married woman with three children, also did not escape the dark fate and she was killed at the savage hands of Hitler's forces. Only I and my brother Yossel remain, the survivors of that large, wonderful family.


[Pages 335-336]

The Wedding in the Ceremony

by Noach Schultz

My father Aaron–Binem was one of the earliest residents in Wolomin. My brothers Chaim the shochet and Shlomo were, together with their families, killed as martyrs. They shared the fate of all the Jews of Wolomin.

At the beginning off 1919 there was a typhus epidemic in Wolomin that claimed many victims, young and old. The first victims were: Sarah Burshtin, a beautiful young woman; the son of Henoch Hinde, Leibl Borokowski; Selig Katzav; the daughter of Yakov Czabak, a young girl.

At that time in the shtetl a conflict erupted between the rabbi and the shochets, who held that they did not earn enough and were not required to support the rabbi. The shochets contended that the householders should bear part of the obligation to support the rabbi. It went so far that the rabbi had put an interdiction on the shochets. This caused terrific unrest among the Jewish population in the shtetl. People sought ways to put an end to the typhus plague. The choice fell on Uleh the water porter, who was chosen to marry Zindl Koval's daughter and to hold the wedding in the cemetery.

The whole town helped to prepare the wedding. Everyone felt like an in–law, and all the Jews of the town came to the ceremony.

Shmuel Vingoro had suggested to the rabbi that they should do a redemption of the spirit. That is, everyone who entered the hall after the wedding should buy a ticket and the money should be given to the newly married couple.

This idea pleased the rabbi, so Shmuel Vingoro and Yitzchak Brotshtein were stationed by the door.

The gathering was truly startling. Everyone wanted to go in and take a peek at the bride, who stood near the Warsaw baker. The Jews happily contributed, for they believed that the wedding in the cemetery would bring salvation from the epidemic.

 

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