The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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The Survivors, After the Holocaust

The Heart-rending Results

As soon as the war between Poland and Germany broke out, Zambrow was cut off from the surrounding world. And so it was with all of Poland.

During the short Russian occupation a few letters from Zambrow managed to get through and here, once again, we present a letter from Israel Kossowsky and his son Aryeh Kossowsky in Israel. A variety of rumors surrounding the mistreatment of the Jews and the suffering of Polish Jewry circulated around the world – one’s heart became embittered and angered – [because] the reach of the hand was too short to extend help...

After that frightful war, the heart-rending results of what occurred to our ‘Alter Haym’ began to become visible: everything had been wiped off with fire and sword, and that which remained by some miracle fell into the hands of the [sic: gentile] Poles. Shamelessly, they took possession of assets that were openly and justly the property of Jews. They killed off those few surviving Jews (such as Beinusz Tykoczinsky, Hillel-Herschel Shiniyak, etc.) after victory had already been declared against the Germans, who had struggled with death against the Germans and managed somehow to survive – doing so, in case they will come and demand their just legacy from their Christian Zambrow neighbors.

Those Who Vanished in the Fire

A remnant of survivors from Zambrow did remain. About a minyan of Jews had managed to save themselves from the gas ovens in Auschwitz, and remained forlorn, exhausted, with no strength to continue the struggle for life any further (such as Yankl Sztupnik, Chaim Kaufman, Fyvel Slowik, etc.). A minyan of Jews hid themselves, using [sic: forged] Aryan papers, among the gentiles in the partisan groups in the forests, such as Herschel Smolar, Elazar Wilimowsky, the three partisan Sztupnik brothers. And another minyan came from Russia, those who were left from the ones who had been exiled to Siberia as either bourgeois or Zionists, such as  Zayda Piurko, the son of Moshe the Butcher, Shlomo Pekarewicz, two sons of Herschel the Tinsmith (who were in the Russian Army), David Regensburg, the Rabbi’s grandson, Israel Rabinovich, son of the Melamed Mendl Olsha, Motya’s son-in-law, Yitzhak Gorodzinsky (son of Leibl the Watchmaker) with his family, et al..


Two Central Addresses: Jerusalem - New York

The Devil himself has not created the instruments for
exacting vengeance for the spilled blood of small children.
- Ch. N. Bialik


The Precious School Children of Zambrow


                                    Survivors of Zambrow Among Other Refugees in Lodz (1946)

These very survivors did not even know of each other’s existence. They needed one central address to which they could turn, and to get back addresses from that central point, as well as news and help. And these were the two such points: In Israel, Jerusalem, with the Jewish Agency – the general – ‘Office for the Location of Relatives,’ – a facility to locate friends, and in New York, consisting of the Help Committee of the Zambrow Jews. during the time of its active existence (it has only been active until now), the ‘Office for the Location of Relatives,’ in Jerusalem found hundreds of thousands of addresses and tens of thousands of Jews who were then connected to their relatives who had been saved, it reunited families, got children returned to their parents, sisters and brothers reunited, etc. Not the least among them, were Zambrow Jews.

The Zambrow Help Committee in New York was especially active on behalf of those Zambrow Jews who had saved themselves, and survived.


The Food Packages


:        The Management of the evening classes for young workers says "good-bye" to its
active member, Mr. Moshe Eitzer, on the occasion of his departure to Argentina (1921).


A Maccabi Demonstration and Gathering in the Market Square (1918)




On the Memorial Evening Ceremony Dedicated to the
Memory of the Exterminated Jews of Zambrow (Tel-Aviv 1961)

As soon as they received the general lists of survivors in the camps and saw someone from Zambrow, they immediately sent out a food parcel with clothing and asked for an answer, and to document: who is the individual, which members of his family are living in America, where would he like to move to, and like questions. It was in this manner that the Zambrow committee sent out thousands of valuable packages of food containing, for example, canned meat, milk, honey, butter and oil, tea, sugar, cocoa, etc., and valuable packages with clothing and suits, jackets, underwear, etc. Even when the address was not sufficiently certain and precise, the committee took the risk and sent the packages. And this got the package recipients back on their feet, and if the produce or clothing was not appropriate, or didn’t fit – they either sold it or exchanged it for something else. The sick got the most expensive medicines by air mail, such as penicillin and cortisone, to be administered by injection.

Zambrow landsleit concentrated themselves in specific cities such as in Bialystok (Sztupnik, Slowik, Finkelstein, with the little boy Beinusz, etc.), in Lodz (headed by Moshe Levinsky), or in Zambrow itself.

In Milan {sic: Italy] Yankl Sztupnik, Moshe Pekarewicz, Menachem Blumstein, the Topols, with their daughters and son-in-law). One of them was designated as the Representative and Trustee, and [they] sent over tens of thousands of dollars for the Zambrow landsleit, providing for ship tickets if someone had expressed a desire to travel somewhere to take up residence, and with resources to get themselves settled even here in the current location, etc.

Moshe Eitzer and Joseph Savetzky

And let this be the place where we recall, with respect and affection, the two landsleit from Zambrow, the leading people in the Zambrow Relief Committee, who held the position of Secretary, answering hundreds of letters with brotherly warmth, and implemented the help activities: Moshe Eitzer (who introduced himself in his the letters as son of Baylkeh and Abraham the Barrel Maker, and a grandson of Shakhna the Shoemaker. His wife, Pauline, was a daughter of Mottl Shafran), and Joseph Savetzky, the son-in-law of Chaycheh Kozhol the Baker.

I had the opportunity to read over one hundred letters from Zambrow refugees to these two mentioned individuals, about what they accomplished with their letters of encouragement and rapid help. Everyone on the committee pitched in and helped with heart and soul. As is related in the letters, how R’ Yaakov Karlinsky, David Stein, Shmuel Stein, Sholom Abner Borenstein, Louis Fawv, Leibl Molitsky, Hirsch Kukowka, Moshe Borenstein, Isaac Malinowicz, Nathan Barg, Joseph Weierzhbawicz-Waxman,Yitzhak Rose, etc.

Joseph Savetzky is especially mentioned in tens of letters. This generous man of the people and honest committed activist was elevated, in these letters, by the survivors to the level of a legend. Like a father, a  generous-hearted father, he stood and helped. He answered correspondences promptly, sending many tens of letters a week. I read part of those he sent to his suffering brethren, written in his clear handwriting. He found a word of comfort for everyone, understanding what the other person felt. He would send one person only money, another only food, a third a raincoat and a pair of boots, a fourth, tea with cocoa, knowing who each of these people were, where they were, and where he was thinking of going to. We must be proud of such a brother and with this kind of devotion.

From ‘A Bintl Briv’  

These are excerpts here, from a rather large portfolio of correspondence which is in our possession, from those first years after the [Second World] War. They shed light and provide context regarding the plight of the refugees, and the many-branched relief activities of the American Help Committee.

 A Letter from Fyvel Slowik

        Zambrow, 25.7.1945

Dear Gedalia,

... it is now a couple of months since I was liberated from the German camps. I struggled with death from all manner of causes: hunger, cold, illness. Thanks to my strong body and my strong will to survive against the Germans and exact vengeance from them – I remained alive.  From the camp, I traveled home immediately. I figured that I might meet up with some of my own, my only sister, Zambrow Jews... and I wandered about, and I was alone, not sure whether I will wake up tomorrow alive. They reside, the Poles do, in Jewish houses, Jewish bakeries, Jewish factories, and if they should spy a Jew – they think that he is coming to claim what is his, and therefore he needs to be wiped off and gotten out of the way...

 Fyvel Slowik

 From a Letter, Written to Joseph Savetzky

     22/2 – 1946

...You ask: is it possible to prepare a list of those from Zambrow who are still alive? It is difficult. Because a small part of them were driven off into Russia – and we know nothing of what happened to them. Several of the Zambrow families came together in Zambrow, a few from the surrounding villages, and thought about establishing a new community, and to begin rebuilding the city anew from this.  Practical considerations showed that our lives were not safe, that the Poles are no better than the Germans, and it is dangerous to go out into the street. So everyone fled – to Lodz, to Wroclaw, etc. At this day, in Zambrow, the following are found: Shlomo Pekarewicz – returning from Russia, Itka Morozowicz with a child – a scion of Lomza, who was hidden by a Christian. The writer of these lines – Fyvel Slowik, a baker, arriving alive from the German camps, and Moshe Levinsky. This is all of Zambrow... your packages that you are sending us are keeping us alive, and in our heart, there still flickers a spark of human love: we still have brethren in America...

 Zambrow, 22.7.1946

... I am the only Jew in Zambrow. A few landsleit are holding themselves together in Bialystok and Lodz. I saw Berl Sokol in Bialystok. the Stupniks, Givner, Golombeck. I am here alone. My life here is also not secure – but my life, in any event, is broken... from time to time the feeling is awakened in me, that it is necessary to marshal the resources to rebuild everything from anew...

... after a great deal of effort, I found my brother, in Mexico City. I am waiting for exit papers to arrive from him...

  Fyvel Slowik

 Chaim Kaufman to J. Savetzky

         Lineburg, Germany, January 1946

... have you perhaps heard from, or received a letter from Yankl Sztupnik, a shoemaker? I was together with him in Auschwitz until last year. I, and many other Jews, have much to thank him for in that we are still alive. The entire time, he worked in the camp as a shoemaker and helped everyone out...

... write to Moshe Levinsky about me, that I am to be found in Germany in the British Zone. He will be happy to know this, because before we were sent off to Auschwitz, I advised him to approach the Christians he knew, in connection with being hidden by them, and he did this. I also wanted to do this, but because of my mother I did not do so; my conscience did not permit me to abandon her to be alone – so I placed my life in danger for my mother. It is for my mother’s sake that I have remained alive.

... I work in a big hospital as a pharmacist, and [I] get a hundred cigarettes a month for this, lunches, and three hundred and sixty marks, and there is nothing available to purchase with this money.

...You certainly knew Aharon Leibl Karlinsky, a very reliable person, whom I became friendly with towards the end. He worked for the Russians as an employee, and his older son also earned a wage. As soon as the Germans arrived, they dragged the first fifty men away, among which were Karlinsky and his son. His wife, Sarahkeh was left by herself, until she was taken away to Auschwitz...

  Lineburg, 10.3.1946

... In the previous week I received a letter from my friend Leibiczuk Golombeck in Israel. He wrote me that Beinusz Mikuczinsky [along] with Hillel Shiniak were murdered by Poles, six days before the arrival of the Russians. I cried very intensely when I heard this news. I had advised Beinusz that he should attempt to conceal himself among the gentiles. I was certain that he would survive the Germans. You cannot conceive of the extent to which Beinusz helped me and others in the ghetto. Together with him, I had the oversight for the sanitary conditions in the ghetto. There was no such thing as a job too difficult that Beinusz didn’t manage to see through. He was a loyal comrade for all of the Jewish people.

... I heard that Dr. Grunwald and his wife and children are in Lodz. I must tell you that he received much in the way of earnings from the last times. He was the only doctor in the ghetto.

... Yesterday, I received papers from my cousin to be able to travel to America. I immediately went off to Hamburg and registered in the American consulate. ‘Also you send me papers,’ she writes to me, which will make it easier for you to obtain an American visa. After several months, I will leave this dark ‘camp life’ forever. My friend Brenner, from Wysoka Mazowiecka, also received papers to travel to America. Think of this: we are managing to hold on her from Auschwitz and [Bergen] Belsen, and also here in the camp... the foreign hospital where I used to work has been closed up – and so, once again, I am without work and without food.

Dearest Joseph, I thank you yet again for the package and for your letter. I get a letter from my friends in Israel every other day. Also from friends from America, such as Malka Koven-Scheinkopf,  Joseph Wierzbowicz-Waxman, and others, write to me.

Please send regards to [my] friend Moshe Eitzer. I have a great deal to tell him about Freidkeh Shafran, his mother-in-law. She clung to my mother up to the last minute...

... from the family: Shlomo was taken away immediately with the first transport to Szumowo. His wife and children, as well as Basheh with the oldest of the sisters, were in the ghetto until the last day. They had a good place to live, with   Menachem Dunowicz, in a new house...

... regarding Nehemiah’s (Golombeck) family, I remember how his brother’s wife was taken away in  the first transport, meaning (Meir) Bronak’s daughter, their little girl remained alone, a very pretty little girl – who later died in the ghetto, while Bronak and his older son and his young wife,  Leibl Rosing’s daughter, also went off in the first transport...


I received the package and letter today. You are so punctual with your writing and mailing: in a week’s time, I have an answer from you, and a package takes only five weeks. All of the packages that you send to my address arrive regularly, and I divide the contents up, in accordance with your instructions, on that same day.

You did well in looking up the friends of Yossl Schmidt and made an effort with the Rutkers to help him.

... Who has returned from Russia? It is interesting to me to find out, if those who were sent there, are returning. I am imagining the multi-branched and tireless work you do in writing so many letters, so many people to reply to, to fulfill their requests, to try and locate their relatives and to help them...

... together with a partner, I have opened a wholesale pharmacy, because I received a good recommendation from the Red Cross, for the work I did at the hospital that has since been closed. It is possible that it will develop into a good business, even though I strive to flee this place. I am among the few that have abandoned the sordid life of the camps and have moved over to the city, in order to achieve some independence. I am occupied here with community work, and in the Jewish society...

... You cannot imagine the joy with which I received the letter from my elderly Rebbe, written in the style of Sholom Aleichem. It restored many memories of my first Heder, of my childhood. Give this elderly Rebbe Bercheh Sokol my heartiest regards and wishes. May he have as many years to live, in wealth and honor, as the number of smacks he laid upon his pupils, and I will write to him later on.

              Chaim Kaufman


 Chaya Kaufman writes:

    Reichenbach 10.11.1946

... I cannot find the words to express my gratitude to you for your activity. The packages of food and clothing – sustain us, as does the money...

The war has completely broken me. It took everyone and everything away from me. The worst blow for me was the loss of my best friend, my husband. With his death I feel like I have lost my life, and I no longer have any will to live.  I live only because of my two children: my daughter, who has remained behind in Russia, and a little boy that was sent off to Israel by way of a kibbutz. My daughter is studying in Russia, and chafes to get out of there to be with me together. I am now in Silesia, in Reichenbach, and am preparing to travel to Israel, and I have become a member of a kibbutz...

Could you perhaps put me in touch with my friend in New York, Alta Pakczor, and with the daughter of the Zambrow Hazzan, Wismonsky, who calls herself Adina Cantor in America.  My one desire at this point is to find young friends and immerse myself in the depths of the past....

P.S. Because of the political life of my husband – I have not changed my family name.


 The Two Kalesznik Sisters

 Paris, 2.8.1946

Dear Friend Savetzky,

 ... We have received your letter containing the gift, and we heartily thank you. We do not need the clothing as much as the foodstuffs. The matter of domicile has not yet been resolved, and we are living on a roof without a kitchen and without gas...

 ... Tomorrow is Yom Kippur Eve. We are going to buy candles for the memorial lights of those departed souls who were exterminated, and carry them off to the synagogue. We still have to locate a synagogue that should be nearby, so we will not have to say the Yizkor prayers after using the Metro... The holidays had a different look to them back in Zambrow... We remind ourselves of how, during the High Holy Days, we would run to the synagogue to our mother. Yes, we too, at one time, had parents (when that was, we no longer recall...) We went to hear the sounding of the Shofar here, and did not go to work on Rosh Hashana.  And so the local Jews here laughed at us. And so as the holidays arrive, we become even more broken, both spiritually and physically. The French Jews don’t feel this...

Heartfelt blessings for the New Year. Give our regards to Yudka and Naomi Jablonka...

         The Two Kalesznik Sisters

 Paris 28.10.1946

... Thank you for your letter and gift. We want to pass along some news: we have received visas for Australia, along with exit papers. This will spell an end to our wandering. Perhaps, once again, we will be able to live like human beings...

Paris 25.11.1946

...We are going to Australia. While still in [Bad] Waldsee, we made the acquaintance of two boys who later went off to Australia to their families. When they found out that we were in Paris, they sent us exit papers and visa, through the British consulate. They sent us ship’s tickets, which we are expecting to receive soon. Should we not receive the ship’s tickets, we ask you to permit us to borrow the costs, and we will pay you back double... only with them will we be able to be happy, and live once again...

The Kalesznik Sisters

The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee

 Moscow, 20.6.1945

Our Respected Joseph Srebrowicz,

... I remember you very well. I guard the memory of everyone and everything that has any relationship to our hometown. Foremost, I am happy at the thought that in your second letter to me I will receive regards from all of our landsleit who find themselves in Tel-Aviv, what their fate is, and their current circumstances... Only one sister has survived from my family, Esther. She is with me. My sister Sarah was killed in the shtetl of Radun, near Lida, where she was working...

...After two years of fighting with the partisans, I turned back to more satisfying work. I say ‘turned back.’ There will no longer be any satisfaction in my soul, until I draw my last breath, I have had no rest in the Byelorussian forests, where day-in and day-out, we paid the debt of blood.  I have no rest here [either], when I pay the obligation to the memory of our slain brethren through my modest literary work. This is the destiny of my generation. To tell the truth: I am applying what remains of my energies to once again restore our people. I exert myself to do what is more basic – seeing in this the sole possibility to still my raging heart...

Your Herschel

Herschel Smolar Proposes the Publication of a Zambrow Yizkor Book

Lodz, 4.11.1946

Respected Friend Savetzky,

It is now several months since I have returned to Poland. I have plenty of work... I am a member of the Presidium of the Jewish Central Committee and we are required to exert ourselves considerably, to attempt to restore, even piecewise, that which the Hitler murderers have annihilated here.

... It was a great joy for me to learn from our friend, Moshe Levinsky, about your endeavors to help all of those that were saved. I have always held that people from Zambrow, in general, are always and everywhere, very decent people... Your help today, has given the those from Zambrow a chance to get themselves together – after the difficult war years....

And now, I wish to approach you on a more general issue: Zambrow, as a Jewish city, no longer exists. However, our home city continues to live in the memory of all of us, as it once was. I am trying to say that it is our collective responsibility to place a memorial marker for our hometown, and in memory of the lost lives of our dearest. My proposal is that you should gather a specific sum for the purpose of publishing a Memorial Book about Zambrow. In my opinion, such a book this sort of a book should accept an array of articles and writings, memories about Zambrow of yore, and a greater section of material about the destruction of Zambrow during the German occupation. From my end, I am prepared to devote all my energy to help you to realize this plan. I await your reply to my proposal.

                                                                                                                                    Wroclaw, 25.12.1946

Dear landsman Savetzky,

I have received your letter and package. I want to express heartfelt thanks for your special effort in trying to locate my family: my grandfather and great-aunt. My grandfather has sent me money. I am in a Kibbutz and I am waiting for a certificate. I do not wish to travel illegally, because I have bounced around Russia for five and a half years – and that is enough for me. Now, I wish to enter Israel legally, and get right to work. Costs here are very high: a pair of boots costs twenty-five thousand zlotys... I am preparing to get married with a pretty young lady, also in the Kibbutz, solitary and poor, just like me... Shlomo Pekarewicz has already received the visas for Mexico. He is waiting for a ship’s ticket from his brother...

    Gershon D.

Salzburg, 7 Tishri 5707 (1946)

Honorable Chairman of the Zambrow Landsleit, J. Savetzky,

My name is Yitzhak Golda, and I am from Zambrow. I am sending you a bit of writing that I have done, after having spent the year in Zambrow. I am no poet or writer. I do have an inclination to document everything that has occurred. I have documented my life as a partisan in the forest, and kept a daily diary from the beginning of the liquidation of the ghetto in Zambrow up to the liberation by the Red Army. For the time being, I am sending you this fragment of writing... there are several other Zambrow landsleit in Salzburg, such as Kadish Kaplan, Sender’s brother, as well as Isaac Burstein. There are even more Zambrow landsleit in Munich, and my brother is there as well... My uncle has sent papers to me.


 ... I am from Zambrow, Dobka Wonsever, a daughter of Topol. My mother Yehudis Topol is a daughter of Kosciol. I am in Germany with my husband and child, and I am in need of help...

Buenos Aires 24.7.1949

I am from Zambrow, Hona Goldwasser, a son of Goszer the Shoemaker. I have a brother in Brooklyn, Israel Goldwasser, and a sister Golda. Her husband’s name is Hona-Yudl Katz. I would very much like it, if you would be so kind, as to locate them.   I have already written to the paper(s) and to the Union of Polish Jews, but without success.

Hona Goszer


Milan 22.4.1947

Dear Comrade Savetzky,

With thanks [we acknowledge] – receipt of your letter and packages.

... We are in Milan for four months already. Pretty soon, I will be going to Israel. The following people from Zambrow are found here: Reineh Sokol, Moshe Khanit, Yaakov Sztupnik, Abraham Kron and others.

... In 1939, I was compelled to flee from Zambrow, from the Russians, because of my Zionist activity. They seized me in Lithuania, and had me arrested. For five-and-a-half years, I served time in Siberia at hard labor, in a climate of seventy degrees below zero, wearing threadbare rags. I worked for twelve hours a day under armed guard. Our food consisted of soup made from nettles, and I was left sapped of all strength. When we were let go, I walked twenty meters and collapsed. A Jew, in the street recognized me as a fellow Jew, and took me into his house, until I came around a bit. I came back to Poland, and went off to Zambrow. I did not encounter anyone who I knew there anymore. So I began to wander from border to border, until such time that I will come to my home – in the Land of Israel. Now, we are sitting in Milan and waiting... with our eyes turned to Israel.

Elya (Zayda) Piurko
(A son of  Moshe the Butcher)

Lodz, 23.9.1947

Dear Friend Savetzky,

Today is the eve of Yom Kippur. I am moved to write and thank you for everything that you do for us. You do more than a father would. I received the tallit and tefillin, and how can I thank you?  Such a prayer shawl cannot be found in Poland, and wrapped in it, I go to worship, walking with great pride, knowing that we have such good brethren. Mrs. B. needs to receive assistance. She is a grandchild of B. who worked in Abraham Schwartzbard’s brick works. He was called Abraham Strikhar.  She is here with a small, sick child, and has a right to the help sent by the Zambrow committee. Rachel Rubin’s daughter is in Cyprus. Rachel and her son feel well. I do not know the landsman Kron. Sztupnik divided the money for all of the people from Zambrow, in my house...

      Moshe K.

Bad Reichenhall, 25.12.46

.. I am in Bad Reichenhall to be cured. In the year 1942, I was run over by an auto. For the entire time I was in the camp, I did not have any pain. However, recently, the place where I was hit had begun to hurt, and I am in Reichenhall to take the waters...

... Regarding the landsleit: In the previous week, Shlomo Lehrman received an affidavit. Sztupnik has received a national exit permit for Australia. In Facking, there is a Lifschitz and a Golombeck – Abraham Shlomki, the son of the Melamed. The Kasha Maker’s children were with me. Herschel the Tinsmith’s second son – came back from the Russian Army. He is found in Feldafing (Lower Bavaria) together with his brother. I forwarded them the letters.  Wahrszafczyk was also to see me. I have received a letter from Chaim. It is entirely possible he will come to me, in which case, I will help him get settled....


Paris, 29.12.1946
Respectfully sent to the community activist
R’ Yaakov Karlinsky

I am Israel Rabinovich, a son of R’Mendl Olsha, who was called Motya’s son-in-law. My father was a Melamed, on Bialystoker Gasse No. 3. My mother died in the year 1939. I do not know my father’s fate. As the Rabbi, the Russians exiled me in 1940, having found my credentials of rabbinic ordination and other writings in my possession.  They proceeded to torture and oppress me. It is four months since I have returned from there, destitute, and without anything, with sick children. I met up with a landsman in Lodz, a neighbor, Mr. Moshe Levinsky, and he has helped me a great deal. Now, I am in Paris. I already have papers from the Baltimore Yeshiva, named for the Chafetz Chaim, as a teacher of Talmud. My father-in-law will be traveling with me, a former shokhet, who is an elderly man. When you are able to find the address of a relative of mine, David Cohen, in Detroit, and R’ Yaakov Yellin in Buffalo...

   Rabbi Israel A.


With the Help of Hashem, Monday, Portion of Ki Tetze, 5707 [1946], France
To my dear landsman R’ Joseph Savetzky,

... I have received your letter, You have asked, who am I? I am a son of the Rabbi of Wierzbenica. As a six-year-old orphan, I came to Zambrow, to my grandfather, R’ David Menachem Regensburg. I lived with my grandfather in Zambrow for twenty years. During the war, I fled to Russia, and The One Above saved me. Now I am in France. My name is now Sivenbuch, [because] I had to change my name in order to save myself using someone else’s passport...

              David Regensburg


Brooklyn, 19.12.1947

... The Yeshiva of Lomza, where I once studied, brought me to the Yeshiva in Brooklyn from Italy. Now, I am studying at Yeshiva University. I am, however, in need of resources for support...

             Moshe Kerszanowicz


Zlota Gora 23.4.1949

... I thank you for the package that I have received. It is not effective to send clothing to Poland at this time, because the [local] factories are working, and there is now sufficient clothing [to be had]. What is worth putting in the packages are: black pepper, bitter cocoa, penicillin, streptomycin...



Bialystok, 20.10.194_

Dear Friends, Savetzky, Moshe Eitzer,

I am Khatzkel Givner from Zambrow. I am here for two years already. I have never before asked for any help or a package. Suddenly, from Golombeck’s address, I receive a package from the Zambrow Help Committee, which moved me greatly, to see that I had not been forgotten, despite the fact that I had not asked for anything... and I thank you. I am a son of Chaim-Hirsch Szatka and a brother of Aharkeh’s.

              R. G.

To the honored Zambrow Help Committee,

Thank you for the packages that you have sent me. For us, it is a wellspring of solace, that someone is still out there, thinking of us. Who is this Joseph Savetzky, whose name had become a legend among us? I was told that he is a son-in-law of the lady baker,  Chaycheh Kaziel (Kosciol???), is this correct? I went to Heder together with Chaycheh the lady baker’s son...

Please send regards to Yehudit Jakula. Her husband’s name is Chaim Tzedek. I am a brother of Sarah Rachel Yerusalimsky. If she writes to me – I have a lot of information to communicate. I fled to Russia, and thanks to that I remained alive. As soon as possible, I would like to flee this polluted soil...

             Moshe Yerusalimsky

Szczeczin, 19.4.194_

Dear Friend Savetzky,

... I am from Zambrow, and my husband is from Goworowo. We have come back from Russia broken, impoverished, and isolated. My husband was wounded in his right hand during the war. I have five children, may they live and be well, and we need much for them. My father’s name was Mendl Denenberg, and was a cousin of Abcheh Rokowsky and Abcheh Frumkin. I ask that you add us to your list of those eligible to receive assistance...

      Chaya Sh.


Sanatorium Byelokhonko, 5.4.1949

Dear Savetzky,

... I am from Zambrow, my father was Pinchas the Tinsmith, on the Bialystok Road. My mother,  – Tsirl. They were murdered. I was sent off to Russia and liberated not long ago, with lung disease. I find myself in a sanatorium in a struggle with death... coming back from Russia, I came for a visit to Zambrow....I was unable to find a single person that I knew...

           Yaakov Moshe M.


Salzburg, 26.1.1947

Dear Friend Savetzky, Yossl

President of the Zambrow Scions,

 ... I am from Zambrow,  Menachem ben Yekhiel Blumstein. We lived at the house of Gershon Jablonka, my uncle, in his yard. We had a large family – and now, I remain the only one... I spent five years in the Russian military. After the war I returned to Poland. I was too frightened to go back to Zambrow. The Poles stop the buses, and drag Jewish passengers off in order to kill them. I could no longer countenance the Poles, who were Hitler’s accomplices – so I went over to Austria. My friends in America help me a bit. Please send my regards to my cousin Judka Jablonka. Can you send me cigarettes? I smoke a great deal out of nervousness....

 Menachem B.

Giveat Brenner, 14.6.1947

[To my] best friend Savetzky,

By happenstance, I became aware that you are the one who answers all of the letters and send each and every package. I am in the Kibbutz, and I lack for nothing. I am a daughter of the tailor, Abraham Posner. My husband is still in Germany, and he is yet to arrive.

I have only one request to make of you: help to locate my brother, who has been in America for forty years already. His name is Yaakov Herschel Posner. Because of the war, I lost his address.

         Regards, Malka P.


Milan, Italy. 4.10.1947

Dear Savetzky,

I have received your letter of 19.9. and this is my one solace. I have many friends in America: Abba Sztupnik, Leib Becker, the Blumwalds, the Fyevkas, the family of Elya Weinberg. I write to them – but the letters are returned to me; the address is incorrect. The only one who gets my letters and replies is –  Joseph Savetzky. I have also received the package that you have sent to me...there are a number of people from Zambrow milling about in Italy: Moshe Pekarewicz, the Topols, with two daughters and a son-in-law, having returned from Russia, Reizkeh Sokol, Menachem Blumstein. Give regards to all the folks from Zambrow.

   Yankl Sztupnik


Wroclaw, 19.3.1949

I have received your parcel and it has sustained my soul. I haven’t written to you in a long time because my wife was seriously ill. However, thanks to my great-aunt Liebeh Pekar who sent over doses of penicillin injections to us through our Zambrow Relief Committee, my wife stayed alive. Now my child, who is six months old, has need of penicillin, and it is very difficult to procure it here. We are yearning to leave Poland and travel to the Land of Israel, but difficulties remain yet... I do not know the situation of our landsleit in Lodz. Dr. and his family are found with me in Kalina Jospa.

    Gershon R.

Zlota Gora, 23.11.1949

Dear friend Joseph,

...Until the year 1946-47 there were about six hundred Jewish families here with a Jewish aid committee. But they all moved off, and the committee no longer exists. Only five Jewish families remain, and I am among them – and we all would like to go to Israel as soon as is possible, but we have no means at our disposal... can you possibly place me in contact with my brother, Itcheh and my brother’s daughter Rana Sztupakewicz? Perhaps they will assist me in being able to go to Israel? Please, my dear friend, see to it that I do not remain here as the only Jew...

       Moshe Granica


Lodz, 12.2.1949

Honored friend Savetzky,

I thank you for your letter and the five dollars. Thank you for the packages. Should you be sending parcels for Passover, please send tea in one box, not in individual small packets, send pepper. Do not send margarine, only olive oil. Do not send borscht kosher for Passover, because there is no lack of beets in Poland. Please send some snacks for my rascal, meaning my little boy. I have managed to acquire a bit of down, and if it is not difficult for you, can you send me something to fill, because that is hard to come by here. Please send eighteen meters of material – for a down blanket and two pillows. It is very forward for me to ask this, but I have no choice. My husband is working, but he is an invalid. Send regards to everyone from Zambrow.

   Your Peshki G.


Lodz, 17.8.1949

Best friend Savetzky,

...You have forgotten me, and don’t even ask if I am well or sick.  You sent a tallit and tefillin to our friend M. which he doesn’t need them because he will not put on the tefillin. Rabbi Olsha thought he was observant, and demanded of you that you send this to him. I have remained the sole survivor of such a large family, and have need of medical help. I am selling my clothes in order to buy medicines...

         Sarah S.



... I swear by God, that I will never forget what you have done for me. The medicines are getting me back on my feet, and I get better day by day. The twenty grams that you sent me – are almost gone, and the doctors say I need a hundred grams. It is getting cold already, and I am naked and barefoot and sick. I am tranquil because you will not abandon me.

           Yaakov M. 


Lodz, 17.3.1950

I received your package only after a great deal of exertion, because the address was incorrect. You got the package to me just as Elijah the Prophet would have... I have recently hosted a circumcision ceremony. Accordingly, two people from Zambrow were invited: Rachel Rubin and Moshe Levinsky. They are set to travel to Israel soon. Regrettably – my husband is sick. As a result, my family and I must continue to suffer here... can you send us powdered milk? The little children don’t even lay eyes on any milk...

       Pessie G.

Souls that Were Saved

Beinusz Sarny  

The Boy, Beinus Sarny


Beinusz was a little boy who was born in Zambrow at the end of 1940, at the time when the Russians still ruled the city. His father, whose family name was Sarny – was from Zambrow. His mother – was Christian, who lived among the Jews, and was counted as a Jewish woman. Did she perhaps convert? Who knows? Beinusz was raised within the Covenant of Our Father Abraham, like all other Jewish children. About a year later, in 1941 – when the Germans entered the city, his father was murdered – he was one of the first victims. His mother – remained alone, and supported herself and her child in her village, close to her own relatives. In the year 1944 – the Germans shot the mother, because ‘loyal neighbors’ had told the Germans that her husband was Jewish, and she was giving the child a Jewish upbringing, so that he remain a Jew. So Christians, fearing the wrath of God, kidnapped the four-year-old boy and hid him

After the war, at the beginning of 1946, a peasant came to Zambrow from some village, that was not too far away, and scrupulously searched for Jews... he was barely able to find one, Mr. Gershon Finkelstein, and entrusted him with the information that he was sheltering a Jewish child, and wanted to be paid for this, in return for which he would continue to shelter the boy, or pay him off for his endeavor up to this point and have him take the boy away. So Gershon Finkelstein sought counsel with landsleit in Bialystok, with the  chairman of the L”L Union in America, Mr. Savetzky, and decided to redeem the child from gentile hands, and give him a Jewish upbringing.

Until this time, the little boy had been raised in an anti-Semitic environment, often saying that he hated Jews, despite the fact that he had never seen them. A little at a time, Beinusz became attached to Jews. With the assistance of the Help Committee in America – the little boy was placed in a Jewish Home in Bialystok, and in time he became a Jew, just like other Jewish children...


 Chana Kopperman


There was a young couple in Zambrow, Mendl Kopperman, a tailor, and his wife Gutsheh. In the year 1941 –the Germans murdered both of them. However, they had the presence of mind, before death, to hand over their only daughter Chana, almost five years old, to an elderly Christian woman Leszczynska who had worked for them, and this Christian woman secretly raised the child. The parents saw fit to give the Christian woman the address of the mother’s brother in America, Mr. Irving (Isaac) Robinson, in Brooklyn.

photo, left: A photo montage of a picture of the daughter and the mother – to establish resemblance.

The Christian woman hid the child for about a half year, until she no longer could. The ghetto had been liquidated, and she didn’t know what further to do. Contact with America had been cut. So she came up with a plan, that she would surreptitiously leave the little girl at an orphanage, and they would be forced to take her in.  So she rehearsed the little girl, who spoke Polish, that she should only say that she is a Christian child. She put on a crucifix around her neck and traveled with her to Lomza.

At night, in the middle of a snowstorm, when not a living soul could be seen in the street,  the elderly woman put the little girl into a sack, told her that she must keep still, and under no circumstances reveal who it was that left her there, and where she is from, and she left the sack by the door of the orphanage on the Ostrolenka Gasse. The old lady hid herself in a yard somewhere close by, and watched from a distance through a slit in the fence to see what would happen... a few minutes after this, the dog in the yard of the orphanage began to bark, and tried to tear himself from his chain. It became irritating to the Headmistress of the orphanage – a good, pious woman, who secretly worked against the Germans – and she went out onto the doorstep to see what was happening: why is the dog barking like that? She then saw the sack with the little girl in it... she immediately brought the sack into the house, and the elderly gentile woman left immediately, and on the following day she went off to the Zambrow Road late in the night...

Even before they had begun to ask her anything, the girl, out of fright, immediately began to cry and say: I am not Jewish, I am Catholic, see the crucifix around my neck... the Headmistress understood only too well, what it was she had in front of her, but she feigned ignorance, calmed the child, gave her food and drink, washed her and put her to bed. In the morning, she went with her to the municipal office to present her. First, however, she learned what to say and what not to say. She gave her the name Halina Koperska and rehearsed this name many times. The Headmistress and Governess Julia, prepared her well for her ‘examination,’ and came with her to the municipal office. A Polish-speaking German received them, and continued to shout that she was a Jewish girl, from the liquidated ghettos, and she needs to be taken away... to her parents.  The little girl, however, held her ground: I am a Christian!... soon we will know the whole truth, the employee threatened: I will call in the big dog: If you are Jewish, he will tear you to pieces, he hates Jews. So the little girl burst into tears: he will not tear me to pieces, because I am a Christian girl... the interview lasted for three hours... and she remained in the orphanage as a Christian girl until the year 1949 – seven years. The Headmistress of the orphanage was seized by the Germans, as an underground operative and shot. Halina Koperska was baptized and raised as a religious Catholic girl. She studied in a Volksschule, learned how to sew, run a business, and the secret of her origin was known only to the faithful Christian Governess, Julia.

Would that life had continued tranquilly. The elderly Christian woman, Leszczynska, was troubled by her conscience: she had promised herself to contact the uncle of the little girl in America about this.  Now is the time, and she wrote up a letter to him, and told him everything, giving the address of the orphanage and in this way assuaged her conscience.

The uncle, Irving Robinson of Brooklyn, immediately turned the matter over to the proper authorities, and the Help Committee for the Rescue of Children, the Zionist coordination for children and youth issues, ‘Beyt Aliyat Yeladim,’ in Lodz immediately intervened in the matter. Here is what the representative of the Central Committee wrote to the uncle on June 4, 1947:

‘Your letter of March 2... we have received the full authority of the consulate and immediately begun an initiative to repatriate your sister’s daughter Chana (Agnieszka) Kooperman47 from the Christian orphanage in Lomza, where she was converted and currently resides.

Lomza, and the entire surrounding region is today ‘Judenrein.’ We have sent a special emissary there, who has visited the orphanage, saw the child, and has negotiated with the leadership of the orphanage to have the child immediately released. For the moment this is not possible, because of the many formal difficulties. The reason is that the register of the orphanage counts the child under her current, Christian name, Halina Koperska. The child was taken in 1942 as abandoned, immediately after the liquidation of the ghetto. From the first moment on, whether in front of the people who found her, or in the orphanage, whether later falling into the hands of the Gestapo – the child consistently argued that her name was Halinka Kosperska. It was in this fashion that the child saved herself from the German murderers.

The inculcation of this story, that she was Christian, has remained with her to this day, and she continues to argue that she is Halina Koperska, and that she never was a Kooperman. Accordingly, the management of the orphanage cannot release the child, and the matter will have to go to court. However, in court, we have no evidence that it is she. For this reason, our emissary has carried out the following: he photographed the child, and has brought the picture to Lodz. Here, we have found three people, former residents of Zambrow 1. Moshe Levinsky, former chairman of the Zambrow Landsmanschaft in Lodz, and former employee of the Zambrow Judenrat. He knew the mother since the time she was a girl, and the child up to the age of five. 2. Rachel Rubin, and Pessia Gutfarb who verified that the child completely resembles the mother. With this kind of evidence, we will launch a legal proceeding. But since a legal process must take a long time, and it is not desirable that a Jewish child should remain for any length of time in Christian hands, in the next immediate few days, we are sending our special emissary to Lomza, to try and get the child out by more quick means.


We need an affidavit from you for the court and the lawyers. We also need a photograph of your sister, certified by the leadership of the Zambrow Landsmanschaft in New York.'

                                                                                                Signed: Leibl Karsky

                                   (Central Committee of the Zionist Children’s Coordination in Poland).

The Jewish-Polish officer, Drucker (today in Israel) and the emissary, Gerschater, exerted themselves strenuously to get her out of gentile hands. It was first in April 1949, that the girl was let go, legally, from Christendom and from the Polish orphanage. During the time of the court proceedings, she accustomed herself to the idea that she was a Jewish child, and began to long for her heretofore unknown uncle in New York. But she could not be taken out except by means of a family that would legally obligate itself to be her guardians. This is because she was still a minor of thirteen years of age. A Jewish woman in Lodz responded to this, Alice Kyle (her husband Handelson was the director of the new theater in Lodz) who took her under her protection, looking after her like her own child, and expanded her exposure to practical Jewish life. Her uncle in America sent her money and packages, and wanted to take her to him. The girl, however, made friends with other Jewish children, and understood that she had no recourse but to turn back with her whole heart to her people, from who it was attempted to tear her away. She then decided to travel to Israel, notwithstanding her love for her uncle, who was her savior, [which] was boundless.

She came to Israel in 1950, with a youth aliyah, and she was sent to Kibbutz Rukhama, in the Negev. Here she learned Hebrew and agriculture, got a general education, and devoted herself to small children. Later on, she went over to Kibbutz Noah, to her future husband Siboney. Today she is a mother and works as a child supervisor.


          The City After the Destruction

By Herschel S.

   (An Excerpt from a Letter)

... It is Shavuot of June 12, 1959.  I had come to visit our Zambrow, together with my friend, Moshe Eitzer from America – also a landsman. There are no more Jews here any longer. Zambrow is known in Poland for its large textile factory.  There is no trace of Jewish buildings – everything is burned down. If something had survived – it is in gentile hands. On the location of  Beinusz Tykoczinsky’s cinema  – a Polish Lyceum is being built. Zambrow has within it, 9500 residents. It has three schools and an orphanage.

About a week ago, it was discovered that near the village of Koloka, there is a mass grave of 1500 Jews from Zambrow and Rutki, who were murdered in August 1941. Perhaps my dear mother lies among them, and my sisters, Chana and Baylcheh, who were murdered at the beginning of the war? In the year 1944, before the retreat, the Germans set up a machine [gun] at that location, that shot for a whole day, without stopping, at Jews who were put up there.  I wanted to visit this grave, and made an effort to do so with the authorities, but I was not permitted to have access... there is an hypothesis, that close to their retreat, the Germans dug up the bones to grind them up – in order not to leave any traces... the local populace does the same – it is wiping off all the Jewish traces of the former Jewish presence in Zambrow. I made an effort to go and see the mass grave on my own, but I was not given permission... I intend to investigate this matter, when I will return to Warsaw, and demand that some sort of a memorial be erected there. A similar mass grave is near Szumowo, containing Jews from Zambrow, and yet another place – not far from the city. We went to visit the cemetery. Here, too, almost everything has gone away. All we found was the grave of Szklowin. The authorities of the government assured me they would not eradicate the cemetery. The headstones, however, are falling over out of old age. I attempted to lift a headstone – and it disintegrated. This is what our home town looks like. The city is a new city, all that is left of the old Zambrow – are only graves.


On the Ruins

 By Chaycheh Zukrowicz-Netzer

In the year 1961, as a co-worker with my husband, Zvi Netzer in the Israeli Embassy, I made a visit to Zambrow, the city of my birth.  It is difficult for me to let go of the town where I was born. I knew that, in this area, there was not even a single Jew anymore. I knew I was not going to hear the sound of my brethren, the sons of my people. And how could I restrain myself and not go, to shed a tear over the graves of fathers and mothers? Only a short time ago, it was even a life-and-death danger for a Jew to come and visit the towns surrounding the area from Zambrow to Lomza. Despite this, I went to search for my city.

To my great pain, I could not find it – it no longer existed. A new city in the direction of the Ostrower highway had sprung up, without even a single Jew in it. The little river is dried out, the bridge is new, and the Burgomaster – a joke of fate – is Jewish... he comes from somewhere far away, assimilated, with no interest in Jews or Yiddishkeit, and is a loyal party man... the only one who recognizes what was once the burgeoning Jewish Zambrow is the gentile Komorowski, the former clerk and Wójt48 of the city, who is now on the periphery, living on a pension. The barracks are still standing. The center of the city is there, and a huge textile factory operates there with approximately five hundred employees. There isn’t a Jew to be had even to save your life. The entire Jewish section, around the synagogue and the study houses is eradicated. The pitiful cemetery stands alone, vandalized, overgrown with ‘???’ and thorns. No one comes any longer to pay respect to the dead ancestors. [That is to say] apart from Polish intruders, who come to drag away the last of the headstones, those which have fallen down, which they need for paving purposes. Our Zambrow exists only in our memory.

I Write a Letter

    By Moshe Wilimowsky

      Yiddish Version

I write a letter – I don’t know to whom
I begin to enumerate names
Of father, mother, sisters, brothers.
Of all manner of branches of the family;
I enumerate an entire list;
But who of them has remained in the shtetl?

To where should I address it?
Maybe what I need to do is try
To send it to Majdanek?
Where ‘Fritz’ and ‘Janek’
Concluded an unclean pact?

And maybe send it to Buchenwald?
Where, forcibly, hordes of Jews
were driven from their homes,
Forced to dig deep pits,
And then arrayed the entire assembly?

            – – – – – – – –

And perhaps send it to ‘Treblinka?’
Where Germans of the ‘left and ‘right',
With new ‘Aryan theories’
Created crematoria,
And a huge gas chamber,
And, in front of the eyes of a watching world,
Drove Jews to death
And derived such glee from their death throes?

            – – – – – – – –

And so I light a Yahrzeit candle,
Burn the letter...cover my eyes
And say: Yisgadal v’Yiskadash
Oh God, take the ashes from this letter!
Combine it with the ash from those who are holy and pure,
Who gave their lives in Sanctification of the Name!



Hebrew Version

Let me write a letter to the members of my family,
To father, mother, brother and sister,
But there is not a person left in the Vale of Tears
There is not a single address, at the least...

I will recall names and addresses from my memory,
Relatives, friends, the names of city residents;
Oh, but they no longer exist: sons on fathers
All were put to death, without leaving a memory or trace!

And the letter is dropped, abused and orphaned
Without an address, and to nowhere.

What if I addressed it to Maidanek,
Will it thread its way there these days?
There, the Nazi Fritz, and the Pole Janek
Concluded a blood pact against us.

And perhaps to Buchenwald? – hah, to the prison,
Hordes of Jews were crammed in there,
Man, woman and child,
Forced to dig their own graves.

To Treblinka, the place of the crematoria
If I address you there, would you meekly go?
– There, lo, daughters, sons
Were asphyxiated by the light of day!

All, all of them were lost, incinerated,
There names and memories forever ended...

Without a memorial – I have lit
A candle of the soul, to my martyrs:
I whispered the ‘Kaddish’ in silent trembling
And by the light of the candle – I destroyed the letter...

And this ash as well, Merciful Lord, mix in,
With the ash of those who gave their lives
In Sanctification of the Name...


The Houses of Study, Rabbis & Other Clergy



 The Yeshiva of Zambrow

Seated: R’ Meir Zukrowicz, R’ Leib Rozing, The Yeshiva Headmaster Kovir, The Rabbi, R’ Yeshia Goruszalczany and R’ Abrahm Shlomo Dzenchill.

The Rabbi’s Melody

An old Ukrainian folk song that deals with a foolish peasant, wandering about the marketplace, buying nothing, but just making a tumult. The Chabad Hasidim changed the words and used the song to make sport of the evil inclination in Man, which wanders about among God-fearing Jews – trying to entice their souls...


Houses of Worship and Public Institutions 50 Years Ago
By Yom-Tov Levinsky

The White Bet HaMedrash

Nachman Granica,
the Shammes


That was what the older Bet HaMedrash was called, that stood diagonally across from the Fire-fighters station, in the direction of the Czeczork Forest. It was called ‘the New Bet HaMedrash’ because it was burned down and then built up again. It was stained dark on the outside, but the color was faded, as was the case with many other houses. But since the second Bet HaMedrash, which stood by the synagogue in the direction of the horse market, was built out of red brick, with its roof stained in red, and the rain runoff being red, etc., it got the name of the 'Red Bet HaMedrash' – the other was then called: the White Bet HaMedrash.

The White Bet HaMedrash was one that selected its members. It was here that the balebatim recruited one another, the disciples of the Rabbi and his people. It was here that the Blumrosens worshiped, along with the Bursteins, the Wilimowskys, the Levensons, Abba Rokowsky, the Kossowskys, Levinsky (my father), Kagans, and others. Almost all of the butchers in the shtetl worshiped here, beginning with the Pendzhukhas, who lived across from the Bet HaMedrash, with their children and sons-in-law, the Dzenchills ( their elder, Lejzor the Butcher, also lived in the neighborhood of the Bet HaMedrash). Many craftsmen worshiped here, who were indeed the living and moving part of those who prayed here. Almost all those who espoused a love of Zion congregated here. At the time that Dr. Herzl passed away, and the Rabbi ordered that all the houses of study be sealed. in order that this ‘apostate’ should not, God forbid, be eulogized, the balebatim of the White Bet HaMedrash tore open the doors and conducted a substantial memorial service (see the chapter about Abba Rokowsky).

Those craftsmen who needed to get up before dawn in order to go to work, travel to fairs in nearby towns and set up their booths there – would drop into the White Bet HaMedrash, when it was still dark, and snatch a prayer session. Also, the 'trikers of The Fifth Year' (1905) also found themselves a center here. They would meet here on the Sabbath, set up an ‘exchange’ in the Bet HaMedrash premises, which was always full of worshipers, in front of the door, on the pavement, and not under surveillance by the authorities. The important thing: it was here that the city Hazzan, R’Shlomo Wismonsky, and his choir led services regularly. He was a modern Cantor, who completed a Cantorial School in Lodz, could read [musical] notes, and would also teach the members of his choir to sing from notes.

True, the Rabbi, who carried out his role fanatically, so that God forbid, no spark of frivolous abandon penetrate the shtetl – looked askance at this modern Cantor from the outset, who by the way was religious and an observant Jew. The Rabbi could not oppose the balebatim who wanted this Cantor. It was especially the Pendzhukhas who wanted him, the butchers who were dying for a good Cantor. So the Rabbi found a way to keep him at a distance, diminishing his prestige a bit: when the Cantor went to the Rabbi to have his ‘Kabala’ (diploma as a Shokhet) certified, to permit him to perform ritual slaughter in the shtetl, as was the usual custom of being a ‘Hazzan-Shokhet,’ the Rabbi disqualified him as Shokhet: ‘His hands tremble a bit’ – despite the fact that the doctor did not confirm this... On Shabbat sheMevarkhim, Rosh Hodesh, Festivals (on the first day) the Hazzan would lead services with his choir, and the Bet HaMedrash was packed. Even the gentiles would come and stand under the windows to hear the Jewish melodies. On special Sabbath days, and on the second day of Festivals, the Hazzan was turned over to the Red Bet HaMedrash.  The choir consisted of good voices, brought in from the outside. Singers came to perform with him even from as far away as Odessa. A young singer, by the name of Binyomkeleh, earned quite a reputation. He had a beautiful alto voice, and all the girls in the shtetl would chase after him... later on, the Cantor obtained choir members from Zambrow itself, such as Myshkeh Reines, Mordechai Sokol,  Abrahamkeh Rothberg.

The Shammes of the Bet HaMedrash was R’ Nachman Granica, a handsome Jewish man, strong, tall, with a wide, white beard. He was in good, and had substantial relationships with all the worshipers, knew what sort of compliment to utter, and how to accord each person the proper respect, and would participate in all the happy celebrations that worshipers had, from a Brit Milah for a male child – to a wedding, or a housewarming for a new dwelling. He knew whom it was appropriate to invite to such an affair, and whom not to invite. He had a metal-silver disposition, and I loved to hear him, especially on the High Holy Days, how he auctioned off the Torah honors, driving up the bidding as high as he could, doing it with goodness and understanding for the good of the Bet HaMedrash. Nachman the Shammes was a baker, and that is how he made a living. The congregation allocated a residence to him, near the entrance of the Bet HaMedrash, to which a courtyard was built on. When the worshipers would leave the Bet HaMedrash before dawn, to go to work or to a fair – the fine odor of fresh baked goods was already pervading the Bet HaMedrash.  He would bake beautiful pletzl in the morning, sprinkled with onion and poppy seed or sugar.  The craftsmen and workers would grab a piece for their ‘morning slice’ to satisfy their appetite, and the mothers would buy it for their children, to take with them to Heder. A few years later, when the children of Nachman Shammes grew up a bit (all artistically gifted as artists and musicians), and the location became too crowded for him, he left and opened a bakery on the Lomza road. His former residence was given the name ‘Beyt Eytzim’  – a small premises that served the Bet HaMedrash around the year as a storage facility for wood, peat and kerosine to light up the interior, broken benches to be repaired, etc.

When the eve of Passover would arrive, or the eve of the High Holy Days – Jewish soldiers would arrive from the barracks, carrying out all of this stuff, washing, cleaning, whitewashing. and repairing it all for a minyan for the soldiers. Jewish soldiers who served in Zambrow in the two Russian divisions, Lodozhsky and Schliesburgsky, as well as those from the artillery brigade, would receive a ‘furlough leave’ during the Festival holidays, thanks to the efforts made by the Rabbi and the Gabbaim, and they would come to worship here in the hundreds. They even had their own soldier-cantors, teachers, who knew how to lead services. If it would happen that, at the end of summer, the Russians would ‘detain the regiment’ and not let the thousands of soldiers, who served in Zambrow go on leave for ‘their six weeks’ – the soldiers minyan would get crowded and take up the entire entry way and a part of the courtyard.

For many years, the Gabbai of the White Bet HaMedrash was R’ Shmulka Wilimowsky, a handsome and wise Jewish man, one of the leading balebatim of Zambrow, who was for many years also the Gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha, and discharged the duties of his position with a firm hand. When he grew older, the balebatim demanded a younger man as Gabbai, who should be a modern Jew, more representative of ‘today’s world.’ So once, on a Hol HaMoed Sukkot, R’ Itcheh Levinson, Kharlokova’s husband, was selected as  the new Gabbai. Kharlokova’s first husband was named Greenwald. Itcheh Levinson was an enlightened man, had beautiful penmanship with which to write up notices for the worshipers, both in Hebrew and in Yiddish, and knew a bit of Russian and Polish, and because of this he could be a representative to the authorities when it was required, and the central point: he was fluent in the skill of bookkeeping, and every year at Sukkot time, he would hang out an impressive annual report in the Bet HaMedrash. It would detail all of the income and expenses of the Bet HaMedrash, all pledges and contributions (everyone could be found there), money for ‘towns (???)’ for the High Holy Days, heating and lighting, outlays for the Cantor and the choir, the Shammes, etc.  This was a modern development in the shtetl. And for many years, in the competing Red Bet HaMedrash, this was not done.

So, R’ Itcheh noted that having only one Shammes was insufficient for the congregation, especially on a Sabbath, when two sets of services were conducted: a first minyan, and a second minyan. And the Bet HaMedrash needed to be kept clean. So he arranged for another Shammes, a sou-Shammes, R’ Henokh Portnowicz, the son of the old Shammes of Zambrow, and the founder of the Kuczapa’ dynasty of Shamashim. Previously, Henokh had been a Hebrew teacher in Szumowo, where he was supported by his father-in-law while he studied. A small house was built for him near the Bet HaMedrash with the same entrance, and he became the Torah Reader for the Bet HaMedrash, the collector of all pledges and donations, the scheduling of all those who would lead services for the entire week, with a special ‘honorary position’ as the town crier, because of his strong penetrating voice: at dusk on Friday, before candle-lighting, he would come out of the bath house, properly switched with branches, dressed in his black Sabbath kapote, with boots, freshly shined with ??? or tar (later he ‘became more modern’ and polished them with ‘Glinsky’s Shoe Wax.) A tall silken hat, (similar to a Russian furazha49) on his head, from which two freshly washed side locks would dangle. He would exit the bath house quickly. The sun had started to set behind the trees. The marketplace vendors had already taken their carts full of merchandise off the marketplace – vegetables, fruit, challahs, soap, kerchiefs, etc. The last contingent of laborers, tired out from their week’s work, craftsmen and small businessmen, have already gone in to the bath house, where one received a small whisk broom and a container for water. Through the small windows in the side of the bath house that face the outside, one can still hear the shouting of the Russian soldiers who are going out to the small side street leading to the brook, the shouting of the Russian soldiers who enjoy the Friday evening hot bath with us, and shout with glee: ‘paru davai, paru davai’ – meaning: pour more water on the hot stones, to make more steam, more vapor! And here, the penetrating blast of Henokh’s voice resounds, the Shammes of the White Bet HaMedrash, as he turns on the heels of his newly shined boots, and shouts to the four corners of the world: ‘I-n–t-o the synagogue!’ The throng that is running late rushes to inaugurate the Sabbath with the last of its energies. Henokh the Shammes runs to his second station: the side street that is between the synagogue and marketplace, and then to a third station – on the ‘Pasek’ in the middle of the marketplace, further up on Koszar, at the beginning and the end of the street. He would then turn about and come out on the side street between the marketplace and the Bialystok Highway, and quickly run into the White Bet HaMedrash – to welcome the Sabbath [Queen].

Municipal gatherings would take place in the White Bet HaMedrash. Not only when the fence of the cemetery was broken, and the Feldscher David Yudis’s (Rutkowsky) ‘held up the Torah reading’ and called a special meeting because of this. Not only with regard to religious issues, such as picking a Hazzan, a Shokhet, a Shammes, or a Dozor for the municipal leadership. Even political gatherings took place there. When the socialist party split in two to form the S. S. and the S. R., this split took place on a Saturday night in the Bet HaMedrash. If balebatim needed to be elected to the Duma – it was in the White Bet HaMedrash.

If new Dozors needed to be picked out, needed to discuss ‘local taxes’ needed to fond a cooperative bank,  needed to celebrate a national holiday (‘Galyubka’, or ‘Tabel’) it always took place in the White Bet HaMedrash.  The Red Bet HaMedrash was free of all these things. Every day, between afternoon and evening prayers, and a good bit after evening prayers, a full table of Jews would be sitting at the table engaged in study. These were the laboring Jews, craftsmen such as tailors, shoemakers and wagon drivers, etc. Tuvia the Lamp Lighter, Skocenadek the good-natured scholar with his soft loving eyes, would lead the study of Mishna. He had effective communication skills, and was a lost talent of being a Jewish educator for the adults. He would explain the text of the Mishna in such a good-humored and good-hearted way, with the commentary of Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura49,  and the Tosafot Yom-Tov50. It was not only once that I would take a seat at the table and enjoy participating in study with them. Apart from them, young men would be standing at lecterns, genteel young folk, sons-in-law being supported while they study, etc., and with a small candle in the hand, they would sway back and forwards over the Gemara until late into the night. 

As was mentioned, during a national holiday, the little boys would not go to Heder. The children of the municipal Russian school and the Heder children would come together with their teachers in the White Bet HaMedrash. The Cantor would sing a verse from the Psalms, recite the ‘Mi SheBerakh’ and recite ‘HaNotayn Teshua’ for the Czar and his wife, his widowed mother and heir. After that, the Hazzan would lead the children in the singing of ‘Bozha sTsarov’ – that is, the Russian hymn – ‘God Save the Czar!’  We children would love to see how the entire cohort of officials, the Pristav, the Strashi-Strozhnik and the officer from the Uchastok would snap to attention (at the proclamation: ‘To your health!’) and would perform ‘chesty’ with their right hand on their sword. This showed respect for our Torah and our Bet HaMedrash – the children would say.

Approximately in the year 1908, a renovation was carried out in the Bet HaMedrash. The walls were painted with an oil-based paint, the benches were painted, the Holy Ark was decorated with two lions rampant holding the Ten Commandments, and other forms of decoration. This turned the Bet HaMedrash into a beautiful place, which attracted worshipers. Apart from this, the Gabbai, Itcheh Levinson, installed special lighting with gasoline52, which the Shamashim, would kindle with great effort, and would too often spoil the finery. The ‘municipal engineer,’ Binyomkeh Soliarz implemented the lighting. at the beginning of the World War in 1914; the White Bet HaMedrash also became a club for periodicals and war news. The municipal newspaper distributor, Herschel Pachter, Yankl Burstein’s son-in-law, would also read Russian newspapers, and he knew what was going on between the lines, and what was being secretly discussed by the General Staff – even before Nikolai Nikolaevich53 himself knew.

Young people, who had returned from the yeshivas, and had been cut off [sic: from going back] because of the war, such as to Lomza, Volozhin, Mir, Telz, Navahardok, etc., settled here: hours were set aside for the study of the Talmud, an hour for a chapter of grammar and the Prophets, an hour to study Russian and French. A special group studied the poetry of Y. L. Gordon (called YALA”G). It was here that medical help for the refugees was organized, who had come in from the surrounding small towns: Jedwabne, Nowogród, Miszieniec, Ostrolenka, and others. Night groups were organized – to attend the sick and provide them with help. A Jewish lady doctor, a lady Feldscher, came to Zambrow, thanks to the intermediation of the union of Russian cities, and monies – to make it possible to open a kitchen for the Jewish homeless. The seat of all activities to render aid was here in the White Bet HaMedrash.  When the time of the eve of Passover arrived in the year 1915, – the ‘Beyt Eytzim’ was cleaned out, and it was made into a matzo bakery for the homeless. The Help Committee provided flour and wood, and the entire youth of Zambrow – boy and girls, would come according to their assignment, to help with the baking: some would roll the dough, make circles, put it into the oven, verify the kashrut, be someone to pour the water, or a flour mixer, packaging, distribution, etc. This was a very nice idealistic and helpful undertaking, where the young people truly enjoyed themselves, but at the same time performed an act of charity, and gave up many hours for the needy and the homeless.  This work, the expansive work to provide help to our impoverished brethren, was done in the White Bet HaMedrash.

Since the year 1915, I have not seen the White Bet HaMedrash again...




 The Yiddish spelling is different here.



  In Poland the title of Wójt was used to denote hereditary heads of towns (under the overlordship of the town's owner - the King, the Church or a nobleman). Today Wójt denotes the elected mayor of a rural commune (gmina), i.e. one consisting only of villages (mayors of towns and cities take different titles).

A Russian soldier’s peak dress cap.


Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura is recognized as the best commentator on the Mishna, and is also commonly known as ‘The Bartenura’ or Obadiah of Bertinoro. Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura was born in1445. His path commenced in Italy and ended in Jerusalem in 1488. There he died sometime between1500 and1510. The importance of the Bartenura’s commentary is illustrated by the fact that since its appearance (Venice, 1549) hardly an edition of the Mishna has been printed without it.


The second commentary typically found in the Mishna.


More likely kerosene.


The Grand Duke, and uncle of Czar Nicholas II, who was the Russian Army Chief of Staff.


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