THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY presents

The Rabbis and their Prayer Houses
The Rabbis of Zambrów, Poland

Zambrów is part
of the Museum's World Jewish Communities program

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As a matter of fact Rabbi Lippa Haim was the second Rabbi of Zambrów. He bore the palm and shone as a prominent Torah scholar and famous Sage and benefactor of mankind. He was born at Tiktin, his father being Krinker Rabbi belonging to a large family of illustrious Rabbis and men of acumen and wisdom. At the beginning of his career Rabbi Lippa Haim was not a Rabbi, but a merchant. He failed in his trader business and therefore he accepted the Rabbi's office offered him by the Zambrów Community. He was forty-five years old when he became Rabbi of Zambrów. He was a kindhearted, charitable, humane man, considerate, beneficent and generous, always caring for the poor, supplying them with Sabbath meals and accommodation. Once he approached a rich man insisting that the latter should give board to a poor man on every Sabbath. The rich man remonstrated that he could not afford to do so. The Rabbi--he argued--became Rabbi after failing in his merchandise business but he (i.e. the rich man) was not a learned man and upon his failure in business could by no means become a Rabbi ...

Rabbi Lippa Haim was offered the Rabbi's office at Lomzha, when that office became vacant (after Rabbi Elijah Haim Meisel became Rabbi of Lodz). Rabbi Lippa Haim was however only a short time Rabbi in Lomzha, because the Tsarist authorities declined to endorse his nomination owing to the fact that Reb Lippa Haim did not know the Russian language. Rabbi Lippa Haim resumed his Rabbinical office at Zambrów.

The last years of his life were mainly dedicated to Torah studies, the practical Rabbinic duties being carried out by his eminent son-in-law Rabbi Regensberg, who became official Rabbi of Zambrów after the death of his father-in-law.
 

Shalom Avner Bernstein
RABBI ISRAEL SALANTER AT Zambrów

This happened on a certain Thursday early in the morning, in the year 1883. Zambrów Jews started to purchase their necessities for the Sabbath when a coach arrived from Tschizhev. An old dignified Jew descended from the coach and asked where is situated the Rabbi's Beth Hamidrash. He was led to the Rabbi's House of Study where Rabbi Lippa Haim used to study Torah and pray. As soon as the guest entered R. Lippa Haim greeted him with much respect, esteem and affection. He was none other but the celebrated Gaon, Founder of the Mussar Movement, Rabbi Israel Salanter. He was on his way to Lomzha where he intended to establish a Mussar Yeshivah. On that Sabbath he stopped in Zambrów, and was Sandek (Godfather) at the Circumcision Ceremony of a boy named Shalom Avner (i.e. author of this article).
 

THE SAINTLY RABBI
DOV MENAHEM REGENSBERG

  He was born in Lithuania in 1852. He descended from a family in which there were many prominent Rabbis. Rabbi Menahem Dov married the daughter of the Zambrów Rabbi, Reb Lippa Haim, in 1872. He became the Chief Rabbi of Zambrów after the demise of his father-in-law, in 1882. He was put to death by the Nazis and died the death of a Martyr on the 26th of August 1941.

For fifty-nine years he had been the focus and the central pillar of the Zambrów Jewish community, its vital guarding spirit and protector, continuing the golden chain of the most eminent Polish and Lithuanian Rabbis, popularizing and teaching Torah, righteousness, moral integrity and nobleness. He was particularly anxious to keep and guard the embers of Jewishness, that they should not be extinguished, that religious Jewry should prosper and flourish.

He participated in the Community's joys and sorrows, delights and sufferings, witnessing both the rise and decay, the prosperity and ruin of Zambrów Jewry. His martyrdom and tragic death mark the beginning of the annihilation and extermination of Zambrów Jews.


Reb Menahem Dov Regensberg
of Blessed Memory

A SMALL TOWN AND A GREAT RABBI

A former disciple (at present a Rabbi in the United States) writes about the Zambrów Rabbi as follows: "That was a little town, but its Rabbi was a great man, one of the most eminent Rabbis of Poland. Only now, after the ruin, decline and fall of the town, we are able to realize the magnitude of our loss."

When still a child, I studied Torah at the Zambrów Talmud-Torah, together with a group of children destined to pass to the Yeshivah. The Rabbi imposed upon us twenty pages of Gemarah (Talmud), to be prepared: We had to undergo an examination. Only six children passed the rather difficult examination (and I was among them). We had got from the Rabbi many presents before we left for Lomzha to study in the Yeshivah there. The Rabbi treated us as a father treats his own son. During vacation, when we returned to Zambrów, the Rabbi invited us to his house and conferred upon us many honors.

The Rabbi of Zambrów was a man of learning. He devoted all his time to the study of Torah. Day and night he used to sit and learn. He also collected much money for the Yeshivot, because he adored Yeshiva "students".

A year before the outbreak of the Second World War I came to him in order to get Semikha or Rabbinical Ordination. He devoted much time to me, explaining the intricate ways of Rabbinical duties with regard to the issue of decisions, especially bearing on ritual problems (Kasher and Trepha). The public and social functions of Rabbi were also expounded by the excellent Rabbi of Zambrów. He was a lover of Torah-learning land personally watched the building work of the new Talmud-Torah which was erected by his donation of five thousand Zlotys which he had won in the local lottery. He was a marvelous defender of the orthodox ways of Judaism and a lover of mankind.
 

The Rabbi's Grandsons give the following portrayal of their Grandfather

David Pales writes: For sixty years Rabbi Dov Menahem had occupied the Rabbinical Office at Zambrów, from 1882 up to the year 1941. When he was about ninety years old "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated". Then came the tragic epilogue of his life. The Nazi murderers emerged and ordered him to dig his own grave.....

When Rabbi Dov Menahem started his job as Rabbi Zambrów was a thinly populated, a small town consisting of about 300 families. Later on the Tsarist authorities built (in the whole environment) military barracks. They brought about an enormous growth and development of Zambrów whose population consisted now of 1500 Jewish families and 1500 gentile families. With the development of Zambrów grew its Rabbinical office too. Rabbi Regensberg loved Zambrów and its population. His task was not an easy one. He had to struggle with the Tsarist authorities, with the official "Rabbi" nominated by the Government and with some unorthodox sections of the local population. He was born in 1852. His father R. David Regensberg was a well-known Rabbi in various Lithuanian towns. On his mother's side he was the nephew of the famous Gaon R. Elijah Ragold (1794-1849) Rabbi of Slobodka, and later Rabbi of Kalish. Rabbi Menahem Dov, when a young boy, studied at the famous Ishishok Yeshivah near Lida and Radin. He came to Zambrów in the year 1872 when he married the daughter of Rabbi Lippa Haim. A few years after his marriage R. Menahem Dov opened a grocery and became a merchant for a short time. His father-in-law soon asked him to carry out the Rabbinical duties and to replace him as Rabbi. Later on R. Menahem Dov had had to suffer a lot because the Government nominated an "official" Rabbi who was well versed in the Russian language whereas R. Menahem Dov did not know Russian. The inteIIigentsia and the rich people supported the new official Rabbi, whereas the religious and poorer classes of people were strong adherents of R. Menahem Dov.

The struggle continued up to the year 1896, when the "official" Rabbi was transferred to Novogrod near Lomzha, and Rabbi Menahem Dov passed the Government examinations in the Russian language and was recognized as Official Government Rabbi, serving also as Military Rabbi.

When Rabbi Menahem Dov became old he used to travel to Germany for health purposes. He used to take with him some members of his family and some of his grandchildren.

fRabbi Menahem Dov was a faithful Shepherd of his Community especially during the tragic years of the First World War, when the Jewish populace suffered very much, both physically and economically. The Rabbi cared for all the homeless people. He intervened on the Community's behalf with the Authorities in order to alleviate the deplorable plight of the population. He was also very active in the spiritual and religious life of the Community. His love for Zion was also very strong and although he was a member of the Agudat Israel Organization, nevertheless he was vitally interested in what was going on in the Holy Land, and cared very much for the Lomzha-Suvalk Kollel, to satisfy the needs of poor Palestine Jews hailing from this region.

It is a rare phenomenon that a Rabbi should be attached to a Rabbinical seat for the duration of over sixty years.

His erudition was vast. He compiled two works dealing with Halakha and Aggadah entitled Divre Menahem and Minhat Menahem. He was an indefatigable Torah scholar, unremitting in effort and labor for the benefit of his beloved Community.

Heshel, another grandson, gives the following description of his grandfather Rabbi Menahem Dov Regensberg:

"I still remember, when I was a child, that my grandfather R. Menahem Dov, used to accost old citizens of Zambrów per "thou" as if he spoke to youngsters. This was quite natural because my grandfather knew these old people from childhood. It is impossible to describe the Jewish town Zambrów during the last fifty years without its veteran Rabbi being given the most detailed portrayal, just as it is inconceivable to portray the venerable Rabbi without his beloved Zambrów Community".

The author further gives some more details of his grandfather's nobility, goodness, great faith and devotion to Orthodox Jewry, his love of common people and his simplicity and meekness. He also cites a favorite popular song in Yiddish sung by him on holidays.


Israel Lewinski
 

THE DISCORD BETWEEN THE OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT RABBI AND THE REAL RABBI OF Zambrów

After the demise of the famous Rabbi of Zambrów R. Lippa Haim, his son-in-law R. Menahem Dov became Rabbi of Zambrów. The young Rabbi was awfully pious, devout and fanatical, opposed to any innovation and modernization in Jewish life. He had, therefore, many opponents and antagonists, mainly among the members of the new Synagogue, (termed the White Beth Hamidrash headed by A.A. Rakovsky, Shlomo Bloomrosen, Benjamin Ha-Cohen (Cagan). The adherents of the ultraorthodox Rabbi were the members of the old Synagogue (called the Red Bet Hamidrash), mainly artisans and workmen as well as the family of Golombek. The whole Jewish community of Zambrów was thus divided into two antagonist factions and groups: The Red people and the White people.

The new regulations and rules of the Tzarist Government provided only for the appointment of such official Rabbis as had graduated from the Rabbinical Seminaries extant in Vilna and Zhitomir, or enabled also a Candidate to pass a proper examination by Government Committees established in each region or district for that purpose. In our case, R. Menahem Dov has not fulfilled these requisites and he was thus not recognized as Official Government Rabbi, becoming only a sort of spiritual shepherd of the community. The Jews of Zambrów (like those of other Jewish communities in Russia) had appointed another Rabbi in conformity with the Governmental Regulations. This situation, i.e. the appointment of two Rabbis (an Authorized one and an Unconfirmed one) led to inner discord and strife within most of the Jewish communities of Tzarist Russia. This emulation or rivalry between the two Rabbis gave rise to much contention and noisy wrangle. In Zambrów, the officially authorized Rabbi, R. Moshe Gold, was a man of letters, well versed both in Judaistic and general studies, as well as in several European languages. He insisted on carrying out his Rabbinical duties (e.g. marriages and circumcisions, etc.) in full, whereas the unofficial R. Menahem Dov demanded the exclusive right to perform all Rabbinical tasks. This created much inner tension and even was the cause of such ludicrous phenomena as twofold performances of Marriage Ceremonials (once before the unofficial Rabbi, and again repeated in the presence of the Authorized Rabbi), and many other paradoxical situations described by the author in detail. The author himself, when about to marry the daughter of R. Nahman Jacob Rotberg of Zambrów had recourse to some ingenious design in order to avoid the farcical double marriage ceremony. He got permission from the rival Rabbis to perform the ritual and ceremonial himself (with the participation of witnesses endorsed by the two Rabbis).

The author also describes the tragic aftermath of a big Torah Celebration (in connection with the completion of the writing of a new Torah-Scroll, on the initiative of an adherent of the Authorized Rabbi, Mr. Zvi Burstein).

The Scroll was purloined and filched by the unofficial Rabbi's adherents. It could not be found. This caused much odium and hatred, resentment and umbrage. The father of the Authorized Rabbi warned the Community of the approaching divine retaliation and vengeance. Soon there broke out a vast conflagration consuming all the Jewish houses of Zambrów, causing much suffering and affliction, distress and grief to the Zambrów Jews. During the Holocaust, the stolen Torah Scroll was discovered (among the Genizah at the Red Beth Hamidrash), but it was unfortunately impossible to rescue the precious Torah Scroll from the blazing wildfire.

R. Sender Seitchkovsky recounts the following incidents testifying to the Zambrów Rabbi's courage, boldness, intrepidity and audacity.

1) Near the Red Beth Hamidrash, on its eastern side, opposite the Synagogue, there stood a house hindering the sun’s rays from penetrating into the Beth Hamidrash. The owner of the house tried several times to build an additional shed or storehouse for wood but in vain, the Rabbi's adherents destroyed the building, because of barring the sunshine from entering the darkened Beth Hamidrash. The owner of the house sent a group of terrorists headed by Srolka the son of L., the Glaziers, to the Rabbi, with a view to intimidate the Rabbi. When the impudent fellow tried to bully the Rabbi, the latter gave him a nice thrashing and threw him out of his house. Srolke was at a loss what to do. He told his group of terrorists that he was afraid to oppose the Rabbi, as the whole town would curse him on that account. The Rabbi's courage was much commended by all the citizens of Zambrów,

2) The Rabbi was extremely devout and pious. When he saw that some people violated the sanctity of the Sabbath, especially on Friday evening, when people go to the barber's, cutting their hair and shaving late in the evening thus profaning the Sabbath. The Rabbi used to go to these barbers' shops and occupy a place, as if he was waiting for his turn... All the clients, of course, left the shop. The barbers were thus careful in future, to evade Sabbath violation.

3) Once it occurred that one of the dignified Baale Batim (citizens) of Zambrów slapped or boxed the Shochet's cheek because the latter refused to slaughter a fowl on a holiday. The Rabbi called the impudent citizen and imposed upon him a pecuniary fine as well as a public apology.

4) The butchers very much respected the Rabbi and accepted all the strict and severe ritual regulations and Kasher and Trefa rules imposed on them by the Rabbi. They knew that the Rabbi is too bold and intrepid to be afraid of them.

5) When the author of this article intended to leave for Eretz Israel, the Rabbi who was a member of Agudat Israel congratulated him and gave him some letters of recommendation to several Rabbis of Jerusalem.

Pinhas Broder

AT THE RABBI'S TABLE

 There had been several tables in the Zambrów Synagogues (or "Houses of Study" = Beth Midrashim) at which the Jewish burghers and artisans, as well as workmen of Zambrów used to sit every day studying a Talmudic "page" in accordance with old Jewish usage. Such a “table" was also in the Red Beth Hamidrash belonging to the Rabbi. The students of the Gemarah at that table were: Shammai Leizer the Meshullah; R. Abraham Shelomo Dzientshol; Itzhak and Nahum Hirsh, the dyers (or painters); Zybuliak the tailor; Abraham Shelomo, the tailor; Moshe Leibko, the son of the miller; Meir, the son-in-law of Shelomo Bloomrosen; Leiser the smith, etc., etc. The Rabbi interpreted and elucidated the intricate Gemarah discourses.

The author remembers the ordeal of the Zambrów Jews during the German Occupation in 1916-1917, and the refreshing atmosphere prevailing at the Red Beth Hamidrash where every participant of Gemarah studies forgot his troubles, adversities, mishaps, calamities, failures and disasters. After the barbarous annihilation of Zambrów, the sweet Gemarah melody still vibrates in the author's ears.

THE RABBI'S PROPHECY

lJoseph Krulevitzky (Buenos Aires) relates: The President of the Independent Polish Republic, Woytshekhovsky, undertook a tour of all the regions of his Republic. Inter alia he paid a visit to Zambrów, where there was a big military barrack. Preparations for the forthcoming visit were in full swing. Both Christians and Jews prepared for the festive reception. The Rabbi, of course, headed the Jewish Delegation. He was clothed in a beautiful Rabbinic tunic, with a nice Shtreimel on his head. In his hands he took hold of a marvelous Torah Scroll over which there was a nice canopy. Near the Rabbi there stood the Community President R. Solomon Bloomrosen. The Rabbi was not conversant with the Polish language. When the Polish President Woitshekhowsky approached the Rabbi the latter became somewhat perplexed and instead of greeting the President with the words "I salute or pay homage to you, Mr. President" " he uttered the phrase: "I pay homage to you, Mr. Reader" (in Polish: "Mr. Referent"). Although the Rabbi soon corrected his lapsus linguae ("slip of the tongue"), nevertheless the Rabbi's prophecy was soon fulfilled: soon after that event Woytshekhovsky was forced to tender his resignation by Joseph Pilsudski. In conformity with the Rabbi's prophecy Woytshekhovsky became a Reader (Polish: “Referent”) at the University of Poznan (Posen).

Chaim Grade
 

THE ZEMBROV RABBI SPOKE AT THE RABBINICAL CONFERENCE IN VILNA

The famous Hafetz Haim took the initiative (prior to the outbreak of the Second World War) to organize a Rabbinical Conference in Vilna. The grey­headed venerable Rabbi of Zambrów also participated in that conference. He was received with much respect because he was one of the most eminent and oldest Rabbis of Poland.

The talented writer and poet from Vilna, Chaim Grade, who had married the Rabbi's granddaughter Fruma Libtsha (i.e. the daughter of the late Rabbi Aaron Jacob Klepfish), describes that Rabbinical Conference as follows (see Grade's literary masterpice, Der Shulhoif): The greatest Rabbi spoke at the Conference, an old man (about ninety), i.e. the Rabbi of Zambrów  spoke with much pathos and fervour, effusion and ardour about the scandalous attempts at the violation of the Sabbath and other infringements and trespasses practiced by the younger generation. He spoke in a woeful, depressive, comfortless manner about the decline and extenuation of traditional orthodox ways of Judaism. He spoke and bitterly wept on account of the spiritual ruin of Jewry. "Holy Jews!" the Rabbi emotionally applied to the Rabbis of the Conference. "None of us, occupying Rabbinical seats, will be able to answer the Almighty's query: "Why have you been so taciturn, close tongued and reticent? We Rabbis, should put ourselves under the wheels of the buses functioning on the Sabbath!" -- concluded the Zambrów Rabbi, wringing his hands and bursting into tears... Many participants of that Conference heaved a sigh and sobbed together with the Patriarchal Nestor of Polish and Lithuanian Rabbi...
 

RABBI AARON JACOB KLEPFISH
(the Zambrów Rabbi's Son-in-Law)
 

 

 

Reb Aharon Jacob Klepfish, the Rew's Son-in-Law, and his wife Sotshe.

R. Aaron Jacob hails from a well­known family in Warsaw, his father being the cousin of the famous Chief Rabbi of Warsaw, R. Shmuel Zanvil Klepfish.

Reb Aaron Jacob was born at Shtshutshin in 1880. He was brought up by his grandfather (the father of his mother), Rabbi Shapiro. When he was seven years old his father became Shochet in Warsaw, and the whole family settled in Warsaw. There R. Aaron Jacob studied at a Yeshivah. A special teacher taught him Russian and Polish, Hebrew and Mathematics, He had a fine Hebrew diction and an excellent handwriting. When eighteen years old he became betrothed to the Zambrów Rabbi's eldest daugther, Sotshe. Two and a half years after the engagement, the marriage and wedding ceremonial took place. He got five years board with his father-in-law. Later on he opened a glass business, but he was not a succesful businessman, being mainly devoted to Torah studies. Once he was asked: "Why do you trade in glass? The Gemara strictly emphasizes that if one wishes to lose his money let him purchase glass tools and utensils!" He replied: "The Gemara stresses the purchase of glass utensils but not their sale".

In 1910, during the big Zambrów Conflagration, his shop was also consumed entirely and he became utterly destitute. When he tried, later on, to resume business, he was again ill-starred and unsuccessful. In 1913 he became head of the well-known Slonim Yeshivah. Here he got on well and his educational work was crowned with much success, but the First World War soon broke out, and he was obliged to return to Zambrów. Here he together with his brother-in-law R. Haim David, at present Rabbi in Chicago, devoted four years to the development of the local Yeshivah which prospered under his able guidance. In 1919 he became Rabbi of Shniadov one of the oldest Jewish communities in that District. Here he worked very much for the benefit of the impoverished Jewish community. In 1935 he came to Eretz Israel. For one year he was Rabbi at Kfar Saba, later on he went to the United States as Representative of the Lomzha Yeshivah situated in Petah­Tiqvah, with a view to collecting funds for that Yeshivah. In 1943 he settled in Jerusalem for good. Here he became a member of the scholarly staff preparing the Comprehensive Responsa Encyclopedia. He was asked by Chief Rabbi Herzog to accept this job which called for much Rabbinic erudition and scholarship. He became the greatest authority on Responsa literature, acting as one of the chief editors of the magnificent Encyclopedia. He spent 18 years on this work. He was a tender­hearted man, and helped many people. He was an assiduous Talmud student, very devoted to his Torah studies.

He died on the 10th March 1961.

His daughter, Frume-Libtsha, was the wife of the famous poet, Haim Grade (now in U. S. A.). She perished at Tremblinki, by the Nazi murderers. His son, Moshe, was very active in the Haganah and fell, as a hero, in the Israel War of Independence at the Bet Keshet Battle (Lower Galilee) survived by a wife and three children living in Israel.
 

REB SHLOMO GOREN, THE CHIEF RABBI OF THE ISRAEL ARMY (ZAHAL)
 

 

The Chief Chaplain of the Israel Military Forces (=Zahal) was born at Zambrów on the 7th of February 1918. His father was R. Abraham Gorontchik (dealt with above), and his grandfather was one of the oldest Shochetim Reb Nahum Leizer Ziviak.  

In 1925 R. Shlomo reached Eretz Israel together with his parents, who joined the Aliyah (Migration) of the Hassidim from Poland, those Hassidim who founded the agricultural settlement Kefar Hassidim, draining and exavating the marches and preparing the soil for agricultural cultivation.

At first Shlomo studied at the Kefar Hassidim school. Later on he passed to Jerusalem together with his parents. In Jerusalem he continued his studies at the Ez Haim and Hebron Yeshivot.
photo: Rabbi Abraham Gorontchik-Goren, of Blessed Memory.

 When 17 years old he was ordained as Rabbi (and got Semikha = "Ordination"). He continued his Talmudic and Judaic studies at the Hebrew Univer­sity. He devoted much time to Talmudic research, especially to the investigation of the Jerusalem Talmud. In 1940 the new project of pubblishing a scholarly edition of the Jerusalem Talmud was launched (first by the "Bezalel Institute", anod later by the Rabbi Cook Foundation). Rabbi Goren assembled all the Talmudic items bearing on Mikvaot
(= Ritual Baths of Purfication), and
published them in the form of a new "Mikvaot Treatise", together with his Commentary
Shaare Taharah ("Gates of Purity"),
Jerusalem 1940. For this excellent work he got the first prize from the Tel Aviv Municipality.

Rabbi Goren published many essays, scholarly articles and pieces of research in various periodicals (Hazofeh, Mahnaim, Nerot Shabat, etc.).                 photo: Rabbi Shlomo Goren.

 

He served as an example for many young Rabbis with regard to his devotion to the Haganah in Jerusalem during the Mandatory regime. He was a voluntary "Ghaffir" (special policeman) in the old city of Jerusalem and a regular soldier during the War for Israel Independence. He was a first­class fighter and parachutist. He was appointed (in 1948) as Chief Rabbi of Israel's Army (with the rank of Aloof Mishneh). His vast erudition in the immense Halakhic literature helped him to renew and utilize many old Halakhot bearing on military life and the military profession.

Rabbi Goren worked very much for the amalgamation of the various Jewish ethic groups in Israel, for the establishment of a united corpus of Jewish ritual, customs, usages and religious rites accepted by the Israel Army consisting, of course, of members of all the numerous "tribes" and communities of Israel. After the demise of the illustrious Chief Rabbi of Eretz Israel, Rabbi Herzog, he became one of the most eminent candidates for the position of Israel's Chief Rabbi. His wife Zofia, is the daughter of the well­known R. David Cohen, one of the spiritual leaders of Rabbi Cook's Yeshivat Merkaz Harav of Jerusalem.

DAYANIM AND HASANIM

Dayanim (Judges). During. the last decades the community of Zambrów had been "ruled" by a pair of Dayanim (Judges), who together made up the Court House of the Rabbinate, both of them having been the sons-in-law of Israel Shiezalel -- one, Reb Zalman Kaplan; the other, Reb Shebsl Kramovsky.

The Dayan Zalman was of Latvian descent, a scion of a distinguished family, of noble countenance, high stature, sharp-witted, of enlightened views. Passed away in 1937.

The Dayan Shebsl, of aristocratic appearance, face adorned by a Herzlian growth of beard, accomplished talmudic Scholar, read sub rosa modern Hebrew books, of quiet nature, humble and modest. Taught Talmud to people of age. Murdered by the Nazis.

Cantors. The first cantor was Reb Pinchas, of Latvian descent, related to the cantor of Shkodi. The families Zaremobsky and Broder were also of close relation to Reb Pinchas.

The second cantor was Reb Slomo Wismonsky, graduate of the School for Cantors, founded by A. B. Birnboim in Chenstochov. Erudite, competent musicologist. Of refined gentle demeanor.

                                                                               MAGGIDIM
                                                                          (Itinerant Preachers)
 

As in all the "shtetlakh" or little towns of Eastern Europe so in Zambrów, too, it was customary for the "Maggid", or "Wandering Orator" to preach in the Beth Hamidrash. The Rabbi was accustomed to deliver a sermon only twice in the year, namely on Shabbath Haggadol (before Passover) and on Shabbath Shuva (before the Day of Atonement). All the other Sabbaths as well as ordinary weekdays (especially the afternoon or evening hours between Mincha and Maariv) were utilized by the itinerant Maggidim winding and plodding along from shtetl to shtetl, where they ascended the Bimah or Pulpit of the Beth Hamidrash and started their homilies and exhortations. They used to place a plate at the door of the Beth Hamidrash, and everybody put some money for the Maggid. This was the only means of sustenance and the livelibod source of the Maggidim, who were also termed Piekhotne Maggidim.
 

I. R. ELIYAKIM GETZL

Zambrów, however, had her own permanent Maggidim who were paid by the Community Council.

R. Eliyakim Getzl was one of the most famous Maggidim in Russia and Poland. He was an extraordinary
orator, captivating and enchanting his audiences. He used to thunder with his voice shutting his eyes, upbraiding and rebuking the people for their vices and sins.

He hailed from Zaslav. His father was a well-known teacher of Gemarah (Talmud) at Kaydanov at the saintly Rabbi's Court, and later at Stoibtz. The president of Israel Mr. Zalman Shezar, who was one of his disciples, portrays his teacher in the book entitled "The Morning Stars".

Eliyakim Getzl pledged his word (on the insistence of his father) that he will not be Maggid, as this will inter­rupt him in his Torah studies, but the Rabbis perceived the decay of "Jewishness" and the need for an adequate Maggid to urge the Jewish masses to pious deeds and good works. They have thus sent Eliyakim Getzl to the Grodner Zaddik (or Saint of Grodno), Reb Noch'imtshe to release him from the vow and from his pledge (or oath) and in this manner Eliyakim Getzl became a Maggid. He foundet the Tiferet Bahurim Society at Zambrów whose aim was the cultivation of Torah study among young people, artisans and workmen, the recital of Psalms etc. 

Owing to Eliyakim Getzl's fanaticism and extreme bigotry, he was much dis­liked by the progressive circles of the population, When a strife broke out at Zambrów between the two Shohetim or "Ritual Slaughterers", he sided with the pro-Rabbinic Shohet) and declared that those people who eat the meat of the other (contra Rabbinic) Shohet are thereby eating "Treif" meat. The eternal strife and Eiyakim Getzl's incitement and instigation caused his banishment from Zambrów. Before he left, on the last Sabbath he had cursed the community and said in his Homily: "A Conflagration rages in the town which will bring about the total destruction of Zambrów". As a matter of fact it soon happened (in the year 1895).

Eliyakim Getzl was a marvelous orator and had exerted much influence on common people moving them to tears. Later he became Maggid at Bia­lystok, Minsk etc., and was very famous in Russia and Poland.

His son preached at Zambrów in 1908, at the White Beth Hamidrash. He was as American "Reverend", a Zionist, but not so much talented as his father.
 

II. R. AKIVAH POLTAVER RABINOVITCH

R. Akivah was a brother-in-law of Mashke of Koritki (see above), a son­in-law of Reb Elijah Rosenberg. He was brought up at Piontnitze where his father was Rabbi: He used to come to Zambrów and deliver sermons and homilies. Later when he became Rabbi of Piontnitze, after his father's death, he joined the Zionist Movement, and was one of the first Rabbis belonging to the Hoveve Zion Organization. Owing to Rabbi Shmuel Mohilover's intervention, R. Akiba was appointed as Rabbi of Poltava. Owing to the fact that he was humiliated at a Hoveve Zion Conference at Warsaw, he became an anti­Zionist. Once whilst visiting his brother-in-law, Hone Tenenbaum, at Zambrów, he wanted to deliver a sermon, but the Zionists declined to permit him to speak until he promised to avoid any reference or allusion to Zionism and Eretz Izrael, but he did not keep his promise and he was no longer permitted to preach at Zambrów. Later he became the editor of the Anti-Zionist journal "Ha-Peles".
 

III. ALTER THE MAGGID
(Reb Moshe Zalman Horovitch)

Alter the Maggid (the Malierke's son-in-law), was a "handsome" Jew, with a thick black beard, beautiful blue eyes. He was nicely clothed, and wore a broad, Hassidic hat. He used to speak slowly, was tender-hearted, amiable, accomodating, on friendly terms even with his opponents. He was, however, a bigot and always acted in accordance with the wishes of the ultra-orthodox Rabbi of Zambrów. He was opposed to any innovation in Jewish life, and used to point to the religious failures of the Zambrów people, exhorting the "sinners". He hated the Zionists and Socialists and fought the modern school for children, the Library, etc.
 

 

Workingmen of Zambrow taking leave of Reb Alter, the Magid, at his departure
to the United States of America. The Magid is seen in the center of the picture.

In 1924 he was invited by the Zambrów Society in the United States to come to America. He went there, and when he left, his adherents said that Zambrów will never get such an excellent Maggid... In the States he continued to preach, although his anti­Zionist tirades and declamation became more and more rare. He felt that one should understand the new times and new "winds"...Later he was Rabbi of the United Synagogue of Zambrów­Yedvabna. He died in the U.S.A. in 1953.
 

IV. SHAMMAI-LEISER

Was a learned man, strongly-built and physically robust. He was always in an amiable mood. He made a living from a little bakery, where his wife and his daughters used to bake bread, Hallot, (and Tsholent for Saturdays). Shammai-Leiser used to help his family in their work at the bakery, but his main calling was that of a Preacher. He used to travel from shtetl to shtetl, collecting money for Kesl-Kosher, i.e. for a Kosher kitchen for Jewish soldiers. In his sermons he used to discourse about the vast importance of a ritually Kosher kitchen. When at Zambrów he used to study Gemarah with the Rabbi and some young people.

In Independent Poland, after the termination of the First World War, he became a
"Meshulakh" (an "Emissary"), collecting money for the Yeshivah.
 

V. HAIM VELVEL PAV
 

Haim Velvel Pav constitutes a singular type of a folk-preacher. He considered himself as one of the common folks and lived in the manner of a Lamed-Vov-nik (i.e. one of the thirty-six saintly people living in privacy and reclusion, in solitude and estrangement from the world). He used to remonstrate with people who did not behave in conformity with religious precepts, but he did it in an amiable, friendly fashion. He was born at Ostrov Mazovietzk, and settled in Yablonka. He studied (whilst a youth) in many Yeshivot and became conversant with Torah and Talmud. However he did not want to make a living out of his Torah erudition, he therefore became a fur-coat maker. He used to work hard, falling often asleep amidst his work because he used to spend the whole nights on Torah studies. A big conflagration devastated his home and all his property, and he became utterly destitute. Then he went to Zambrów, where he studied to become a Maggid, of which profession he availed himself in other towns, but not in Zambrów itself. When he got some money from his son, Louis Pav, (in the U.S.A.) he returned to productive labor in a fruit grove.               photo: Haim Velvel Pav

 


ELIEZER PAV

TORAH SCROLL SCRIBES (SOFERIM)

It was customary to purchase or to order Torah scrolls in a big town. The Torah scroll should be written by a first-class scribe of scrolls and Mezuzoth. At Zambrów itself there were some fine expert Scribes. I still remember one of them, a low-stature little Jew named R. Zelikl. As Scribe he, however, could not make ends meet and could not make a living. Therefore, he added some other "job", namely the manufacturing of blankets or coverlets upholstered with cotton. This job was carried out by him with the collaboration of his wife. He was also engaged in preparing parchments for Mezuzot and Phylacteries (Tefillin). He had a crook-legged son, Izik (nick­named "Meizel"), who was rather awkward and queer.

Another Scribe was R. Fishel. He was a really excellent scribe, preparing the parchment skins by himself. He himself used to buy hides hailing from a pure animal. He used to dry them and cleanse and purge them until he got a thoroughly white parchment, adequate for Torah scrolls. He was conversant not only with Rabbinic literature but with modern European and modern Hebrew literature too. Afterwards he became a bookseller. In this capacity he soon proved himself to be an expert in the domain of modern Hebrew letters. He knew exactly what books to recommend for educational purposes. He has also established a lending library where one could get books on loan (for a small fee). His literary adviser was R. Benjamin Cohen, the agent of "Tushia" Publishers.

 
The Rabbis of Lida, Belarus ►►
 

Zambrów 3
 


 



 

 


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