The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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The Red Bet HaMedrash

It was here that the Rabbi worshiped, and around him were gathered the Golombeks, who were the Rabbi’s ‘Cossacks’ and protected him in all of the disputes and incidents that occurred in the city. The gabbai was R’ Binyomkeh Golombek. He was a different type of person than R’ Itcheh Levinson of the White Bet HaMedrash – a contractor, a more practical Jewish man. At some location or another, Binyomkeh Golombek saw a beautifully carved Holy Ark, which caught his fancy, and he did not rest until he brought the Jewish craftsman, a carver, a diminutive Jew with crooked feet like the musical notes ‘Mercha-Tipkha54’, and a clean-shaven chin, slanting eyes, more suitable to a Japanese than a Jew, who loved a good drink – but was a real artisan, a drawer, carver, a man of great imagination. In the course of six to eight weeks, he made the beautiful Holy Ark, carved out all the animals, and covered them in fine gold and silver leaf. Binyomkeh Golombek did everything he could to assure the Holy Ark would be finished on schedule. He paid the carver out of his own pocket, and also for the materials. At the time he was elected to be gabbai for an additional term, on Shemini Atzeret, Binyomkeh sent for apples. It was a sack of beautiful red apples, from his own garden, and they were distributed among the children and the worshipers.

The elderly shammes was R’ Israel David Zibelman, the municipal sexton who recorded the [social] events of the Jewish population for the authorities, such as weddings, births, and, God forbid, instances of death. His assistant was Shmulkeh Soliarz. However, they were the official municipal sextons. The community was served by the son of the previously mentioned elderly shammes – Ely’ Kuczapa. He was a clever little Jewish man, but naive. I remember once when he was holding forth to a clutch of Jews in the Bet HaMedrash saying: the Messiah would have come a long time ago, but seeing how the Jews go about dressed in ‘German’ clothing (short coats) he spat upon us, and does not want to come... to this R’ Zalman the Dayan, a smart Jewish Litvak replied with a smile: R’ Elyeh, if the only sin of our Jewish people was to go around dressed in short coats, the Messiah would have come a long time ago. Regrettably, there are much more serious sins...

By contrast with the White Bet HaMedrash that often was like a beehive, the ‘Red Bet HaMedrash’ was a quiet refuge. In the morning, after prayers, young people would be quietly looking over their page of the Gemara in study, until someone would arrive and call out: ‘Let’s go to eat.’ It was here that the two brothers-in-law, who were dayanim, studied, these being Zalman the Dayan and Shepsel the Dayan, the sons-in-law of Yisroelkeh Shitzalel. It was here that the elderly Shokhet, R’ Nahum Lejzor Ciwiak would sit and study until noon. His sons-in-law would sit near him and study. Here, prayer was conducted quietly, silently, and at an easy pace, without hurrying one’s self to go to the market fair. It was here that rabbinical courts took place, and arbitration among the balebatim. It was to here that children were taken to the ‘Jewish’ teacher in school, and couples were taken to the wedding canopy, and it was here that a cortege would pause as the deceased was being taken to burial. The board on which the deceased were purified often was stood by the door... it was here that the more observant Jews would pray – this was well-known, and therefore, when it was necessary for Psalms to be recited on behalf of someone who was sick, or when women would have to disrupt the Holy Ark in the middle of prayer, or after prayer, in order to pray themselves and cry out for succor on behalf of a Jewish woman, having a particularly difficult labor and delivery, or just someone who was plain sick.

Between afternoon and evening prayers, Yitzhak-Velvel Monusz’s (Golombek) would learn Gemara with a coterie of Jews, by the light of an electric lamp. It was here also that the Mishna was studied, the Shulkhan Arukh, Pentateuch with Rashi commentary, and even ‘Sefer Yosefon’ – that wondrous book, written in the Holy Tongue, using Rashi script, that tells Jewish history with folklore mixed in. There was a little old man, a paver, who during the day would repair pavement, plastering stones, and in the evenings, he would surround himself with about ten to fifteen Jews, working people, porters, wagon drivers, and under the balustrade, by the light of a little lamp or a small candle, he would read them stories from the Yosefon, in the Holy Tongue and then translate it into a very rich understandable Yiddish. Not only once would I drop into the Red Bet HaMedrash at evening time, despite that my regular place was at the White Bet HaMedrash, to hear these little tales from the Yosefon. I have, long ago, forgotten his name. At that time, he was already a man in his eighties, but he stands before my eyes, and his stories resonate in my ear to this day. Eliakim-Getzel the rigorously observant maggid of Mussar would also appear in the Red Bet HaMedrash.

Prayer was conducted there, just as in the White Bet HaMedrash, in accordance with the Ashkenazic tradition. Hasidim prayed according to the Sephardic tradition, but only in their own Hasidic shtibl. On the night of Shemini Atzeret – after eating, a few tens of the balebatim, Hasidim and Mitnagdim would get together and arrange for Hakafot. This was actually a night before the official Hakafot conducted on Simchat Torah. This was done out of respect for the Land of Israel, where Simchat Torah is celebrated simultaneously with Shemini Atzeret. R’ Berl Niegovtzer, R’ Leib Aryeh Rozing (who was called ‘Sefer Torah’ because of his piety and fanaticism), Alter the Maggid (the son-in-law of the artisan) and several of the prominent personalities among the working people, like Abraham the Tailor, Moshl the Carpenter, Shlomo Szerzug and just plain young sons-in-law, from small Hasidic towns, who had to be counted here for the entire year, in the camp of the Mitnagdim, under the aegis of their father-in-law at whose table they depended on, for their sustenance. All of these, indulged themselves in a bit of a dance, a kazatsky, or a komarinka, holding the Torah scroll in their hands. On the High Holy Days, straw would be spread on the floor, so that it be easier to stand on one’s feet. This was done away with, in later years, because it made too much dust.

The Women’s Prayer House also served as a premises for an elementary level yeshiva. One always found teachers learning together with children there. At night, women paupers would sleep here. At the entrance to the Women’s Prayer House, there was a corner with remnants of holy books (shamos): if someone had a worn out copy of the Gemara, a torn prayer book, loose pages from a small book, it was cast there (at the White Bet HaMedrash this was inside, under the Holy Ark). Worms and mice would be drawn thee, and goats would come there to sleep at night. Across from the entrance to the Bet HaMedrash, was a special room, which was called the ‘Kahal-Shtibl.’ Community meetings would take place here. It was here that donations were distributed, and Maot Khittim – on the eve of Passover. It was here that Yankl Tross, a Hasid with a yellow beard, a clever and shrewd man, would arrange a large community tub, during the most severe cold times, where one could come and get warmed up, and get a free glass of tea, or take a teapot full of warm water home. The Yeshiva boys would hole up in this ‘Kahal-Shtibl,’ together with the Rabbi’s children, and would rehearse a Purim play: ‘The Selling of Joseph’ or ‘David and Goliath.’ Also the meetings of the Chevra Kadisha and their gatherings would take place here.

On the last day of Passover, and on Shemini Atzeret, when the Yizkor prayers were recited, all the members of the Chevra Kadisha would come together there to pray. In their honor, the cantor would sing for them, and the gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha, R’ Yaakov Moshe Blumrosen, or Binyomkeh Golombek, would sponsor a Kiddush for all the Chevra members.

The sadness and the quiet increased in the Red Bet HaMedrash, when the synagogue beside it that had burned down was rebuilt. In the final thirteen years of the community, the Rabbi and the Golombeks had a falling out. The Rabbi went off to worship at the White Bet HaMedrash, and threw in his lot with the progressive balebatim and the Zionists – even if he was not a Zionist sympathizer.

The Synagogue

The Synagogue

The Zambrow Synagogue burned down in the First Great Fire in the year 1895. The burned down edifice stood that way for thirteen years: four tall walls, with holes for windows and doors. Inside, tall trees grew of their own accord, wild trees and fruit trees. Goats found this place to be their home all day long. The poor, and those who were down on their luck, would spend the day sitting there, and doze off a bit. At night, the place became frightening: the residents, especially children, would be afraid to traverse the street by themselves, because it was bruited about that ‘the dead’ circulate there during the night, praying, reading a Sefer Torah, reciting Psalms, etc. And woe betide anyone passing through the burned out synagogue at night, and hearing his name called to come up to the Torah. No one would emerge from that place again alive. And there were instances...

R’ Shlomo Szerzug


After long meetings and fund-raising, it was decided that each homeowner who had any ‘standing’ in the synagogue at some point in time before it burned down, is obligated to re-purchase that ‘franchise’ in cash – and if not he will forfeit his claim, and someone else may be permitted to buy it. In a short amount of time, a couple of thousand rubles were collected. A committee was selected to direct the reconstruction of the synagogue: the Rabbi R’ Regensberg, Berl Golombek, Shlomo Szerzug, the clever tailor, Moshe-Aaron the Builder, my grandfather, R’ Nachman Yaakov Rothberg (he donated one hundred and fifty rubles for the balustrade with its supports all around, and his donation was indeed etched into the brass plate, on the Bima) etc. The plan, it is understood, was made out by the government engineer from Lomza. R’ Moshe-Aaron the Builder (Biednowicz) was responsible for the construction. His right-hand man, and for practical purposes the principal project manager, was Jozef the Builder – a comical gentile, who spoke Yiddish like a Jew, and wagging tongues had it that he was a mamzer, sired by a Jewish father and born to a gentile woman...

In knocking down the old, burned out walls, the balebatim came upon a stratagem: instead of breaking them down brick by brick, which would entail a great deal of time and cost – it would be better to dig under the foundation, and by using balls, strike the walls, causing them to collapse. In this way, it will be easy to take away the debris and clean the site. Tens of balebatim, and workers, would give of their time at no charge as a donation to the synagogue. When a wall was brought down this way, and the street became full of debris – a group of Jews would set themselves to it, make a ‘chain’, clean up the street, and pile up the bricks. Wagons full of bricks were carted in, and a ‘chain’ was formed again, and one would hand bricks to the next, until the bricks were laid out in a straight line, in order, ready for the building process. Then lime needed to be applied – so the Jews attacked this, poured water, mixed the calx with a special powder, and saved the city several tens of rubles. But there were also, you understand, salaried workers. And here, I recall a sad incident: one person, a poor boy, whose name was Fyvkeh, with sick reddened eyes, worked illegally. On the eve of Shavuot, he was late to work. The rabbi who would register the workers early, did not want to take him on: it was the eve of a festival, and the workday would be short and on top of it, he was late. So he burst out crying: Rebbe, I need the money for holiday expenses for my mother... so the Rabbi took him on. That day a wall was undermined, and was made to fall. Fyvkeh was one of those who were undermining the foundation. However, he was not quick in getting out of the way, and the wall fell on top of him. This was the first and only victim of the new synagogue. His funeral took place towards that evening, until such time that the police gave permission for him to be interred. His death made a very moving and emotional impression on us children. In the city, it was said that Fyvkeh was a sacrifice to expiate the sins of the city: the trees in the synagogue were cut down – and this was forbidden – they were to be uprooted and replanted elsewhere.

We, the children, organized ourselves to carry bricks on a carrier on our backs, each according to their strength: five to ten bricks at a time. It was dangerous for small children to go about with heavy carriers up so many flights, above the gutters. Jozef the builder arranged it for us, and permitted for us to go up and survey the entire vista from that height, reaching all the way to Breznica, and the entire Ostrow road and the river.

Jews would constantly be sitting on a bench near the synagogue, together with the Rabbi, holding the engineer’s plan in hand, and trying to understand it in simple terms: what does the engineer mean by putting this box here, with this circle, with this underline, etc. All of these Jews, scholars with good heads, with and without eyeglasses, would discourse among themselves for so long, that the little tailor, Shlomo Szerzug, a lean little Jewish man, not particularly tall, constantly smiling, with a pair of all-knowing eyes in his head, and a short pointed beard, would go over to them. Everyone would fall silent: Nu, R’ Shlomo, what do you say? And he, R’ Shlomo Szerzug would put on his sewing spectacles. One earpiece was missing, and a thin strand tied the glasses to an ear. And R’ Shlomo takes a stand, and explains to this gathering of scholars and intellectuals, what the plan means, measuring each line with his finger, and clarifies it for everyone. Now, it is as clear as day. And Berl Golombek who had a quick mind, immediately grasped it, and immediately relayed the explanation to the Rabbi and the others. ‘Reb Sleima’ the Rabbi says to the little tailor, you have the mind of a minister, and you should have been a Rabbi, not a ‘shneyder.’55 So R’ Shlomo smiles and says: a tailor is also a human being56... and then Moshe-Aharon the Builder took the plan and went off to consult with his builder, Jozef.

The synagogue was being built with deliberate speed, for the entire summer. In the end, Friday, on the Erev Shabbat of Nachamu, Jozef the builder nailed in a rod to the zdromb (meaning: the joint where the walls meet the roof), covered it with leaves and flowers, and on the tip of the rod --a large Star of David-- banged together from strips of molding. This was a sign that the synagogue was complete on the outside, and it will be possible to worship within during the [upcoming] High Holy Days.

Binyomekeh Schuster57 was designated as the first shammes of the synagogue (see a separate article about him). The synagogue attracted intelligent Jews from all over the city, and both of the Batei Medrashim, and became the official house of worship of the Zambrow community. The interior remained half-finished for a few more years, without a proper Holy Ark, simple benches and poor lighting. A little at a time, step by step, the synagogue became improved, and took its [proper] place in the city. It was here that gatherings were arranged, it was here that a kitchen for the needy was created, and during the First World War, it was here that the representatives of the powers that be, came to show their respect for the Jewish religion, and it was here that the sermons of the famous Maggidim would be given. In the final years before the Holocaust, the synagogue fell increasingly into disuse. The young people had moved away, and the elderly were afraid to go there at night. It was one of the first buildings to be burned down, that will never again be rebuilt...

The Shas Study Group

A Bet HaMedrash of scholars was established on the Koszarer Gasse, that also included some of the ‘modern-world’ balebatim, called Chevra Shas. It was a progressive Bet HaMedrash, a small one – in a private house. Prayers were seldom said there, as was the case in the other Batei Medrashim. The Rabbi would not step over the threshold there. Here is what Mr. Leib Dunowicz writes about the Chevra Shas:

‘I remember the Chevra Shas, which was founded by my father, the late Menachem Dunowicz, of blessed memory, together with other balebatim who studied the Shas.

Despite the fact that this Chevra carries such an explicitly religious name, it was a progressive institution, and its members were even freethinkers, such as the pharmacist, Szklowin, the photographer Gordon, and several of the leaders of the Zambrow labor community.

However, the dominating element in the Chevra was the religious one, among which could be found renown scholars. Here, I will mention only a few of them: Mordechai Yerusalimsky, Abba Frumkin, David Smolar, Yitzhak Greenberg (later on a cantor in America), Joseph Frumkin (Abba’s son, who was beloved by all of us for his gentleness, and his knowledge of Torah and wisdom, most recently, a rabbi in America), etc. Up to the First World War, my father was the gabbai in this Chevra, but when he went off to do military service, this position was taken over by Yudl Ausman.

I can still recall those halcyon days of celebration, that we would arrange in the Chevra Shas, with all of the pomp and circumstance, and full ardor, We would make these celebrations fit for royalty, with drink, fruit, baked goods. I do not know how it was that Jews suddenly became ‘artisans’ and made fully colored lanterns, that spun cleverly, along with other fine decorations. It was with a special gusto that the holiday of all holidays – Simchat Torah – was celebrated. On that day, joy reached its zenith: Jews went and searched out – from whence I do not know – outsized hats, which they would wear sideways, tying up their beards with red kerchiefs, and in a feigned drunkenness, they would dance in the middle of the street. We, the little children, their junior partners, would hold onto their gartels58, and dance along with them – regardless of how much we did not want to irritate them, it was not a deterrent – this was our and their festival.

An entirely separate story were the High Holy Days. Along with my father, I would go to Selichot services at midnight. It was still all around. A gentle rain would often be falling. The awe, before the High Holy Days, before the Day of Judgment, coursed over everything. It seemed that even the fish in the water trembled before that awesome day. And here, we arrive at the Chevra Shas. Jews are standing about already, and waiting. R’ Motl Melsheinker, who conducts the Musaf service, also recites the Selichot prayers, each word accompanied by an ‘Oy!’ and a groan. And, before you know it, we are at Yom Kippur. R’ Motl Melsheinker has already recited the Hineni prayer – and the walls about us shuddered. The Yom Kippur candles, and the boxes of sand also trembled, and shed tears, hot tears. And we, the children, frightened, repentant, would turn the pages of the Mahzor, praying with conviction, with a broken heart before our Master of the Universe...’

One of the nicest people in Zambrow in general, and in the Chevra Shas in particular, was R’ Yaakov Kukowka, the Shoemaker (see the special write-up about him). He was a truly well-learned Jew, wise, progressive, at ease among the finest of the balebatim and the intelligentsia of the town, and was the right hand of Abba Rokowsky in community affairs, and was the main pillar of the Chevra Shas. The Chevra Shas met in a rented premises. Later on, the righteous woman, the chaste, elderly Mrs. Sokol, made a pledge that when she would build her own house, she will allocate space there, in perpetuity, to the Chevra Shas... and she fulfilled her pledge. It was not only the premises– she also assumed responsibility for its cleanliness. On the eve of every Sabbath and festival holiday, she and her daughters would ‘invade’ the Chevra Shas, washing the floors, cleaning the walls, the benches, the candelabras, and lamps, and everything glistened under her hands.

In the Chevra Shas, mutual aid was also organized: in the event that one of the worshipers was occasionally in need for a helping hand, or other forms of assistance – he got it.

The Hasidim Shtibl

There were no lack of Hasidim in Zambrow. The ritual slaughterers Yudl Yismakh and Benjamin Rosenbaum were Hasidim. Most of the more prominent balebatim, mostly those who had come here to live from elsewhere, or were sons-in-law from Hasidic towns, worshiped in the Hasidic shtibl. There were Hasidic ‘dynasties’ in the town, like the shoemaker from Gosz, along with his sons and sons-in-law, each and everyone a zealous and fanatic Hasid, and had strong opinions. R’ Herschel Czeszliar and his fine sons, among them R’ Yehoshua the Melamed, were Hasidim. The ??? Maker, and his children – fanatic Hasidim. And so were the millers and kasha makers, old man David Shlomo Bronack (Sokherzug), R’ Moshe Aharon Mulyar, R’ Itcheh Mulyar, R’ David Itch’eizeh’s with his sons, R’ Yankl Trum, R’ Yossl Konopiateh, the Zarembskis, the Bojmkolers, Sendaks, Pszisuskers, and many others. Previously, there were small Hasidic shtiblakh, split up and divided according to the rebbe they followed: Amszinow, Geer, Alexander, Tomaszow, and here and there a Hasid from Kotzk, Radzymin, etc.


The large Hasidic shtibl was finished being built in 1908, which took in all of the Hasidim in the shtetl, and unified all the followers of the rebbes, and this created a sort of center for the Hasidim in Zambrow. The Hasidim shtibl, built out of wood, on a side street neat the White Bet HaMedrash, became a magnet for many of the lively and observant Jews. The little street resonated with the chants of the Hasidim on a Friday night, both in solo and in group singing. At twilight on Saturday, at Shaleshudes time, the walls of the surrounding houses literally shook: there was dancing and singing,

The Teachers and the Committee of the Jewish-Polish Volksschule.
R’ Menachem Dunowicz, the Municipal Dozor, sits in the center.

 Torah lessons were given, there was drinking and eating, and people let themselves have a good time. The Saturday evening Melave Malkeh would stretch late into the night. Were a rebbe to visit, or a rebbe’s grandson, or just a plain ordinary member of the rebbe’s immediate court, – the celebration in the shtetl that Sabbath was akin to that on Simchat Torah. Often, the Hasidim, while still wearing their prayer shawls and gartels, would go over to R’ Shlomo Sokherzug (Bronack) for Kiddush, or sometimes to someone else. The entire shtetl rocked with them. On Simchat Torah, the Hasidim would dine together at a collective feast. In a designated house, of one of the Hasidim, between four to five barrels would be set up, from the businesses with the boards. Each family would bring food, and pour [contents] into the general barrel: here fish, there soup, here tzimmes, and there meat. The Hasidim would eat from a common pot: all as equals, the important people, poor-rich, accomplished and simple, all prayed together from one prayer book to one God – and ate from one pot...

Occasionally a ‘rebbe’ would come in connection with ‘business matters.’ He would lodge somewhere or another for the Sabbath – and there, he would set out his ‘tisch’ for a large audience. This was also done by the ‘agents’ who would sell ship tickets to America, and would smuggle tens of immigrants over the border. They were called ‘Yendikehs,’ in a coded form of slang. Abraham Aharon Brizman, as it turns out, not a Hasid, had an ‘office’ with a large ship on a sign. Occasionally a ‘rebbe’ would would come for the Sabbath, and there would be much merriment. But the ‘rebbe’ was more business man, and carried on business with ship companies...and in the Hasidim shtibl, weddings would sometime take place – either paid for or not.

Fundamentally, the city was a city of Mitnagdim, and the opinion of the Hasidim did not carry much weight. If it did – it was on account of the individual’s standing, and not because he was specifically a Hasid.

However, contrary to what was the case in other towns, there was not a great divide between the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim. The young people were of both schools of thought: Hasidim and Mitnagdim. But in this respect, the Hasidic youth was more distinguished.

The Rabbi's Handwriting



                A Facsimile of a Letter, from Rabbi Dov-Menachem Regensberg of Zambrow to the
              Relief Committee in Chicago, in which he refutes the false rumors concerning ‘Centos.’

The Rabbis

The First Rabbi of Zambrow (?)

Older people (R’ Meir Zuckerowicz) related to me that the first rabbi in Zambrow was Rabbi Zundl. There is no longer anyone who knows, however, who he was, from whence he came, and how long he held his seat.

It was additionally told that: When R’ Lipa Chaim became the Rabbi of Lomza, the balebatim did not want to bring in a rabbi from a strange place. They approached R’ Abraham Zarembski, a wine merchant, proposing that he become the rabbi. R’ Abraham was a formidable scholar, was much loved in the shtetl, and had an ordination from distinguished rabbis. But he did not want to make a living from his Torah knowledge. When he was intensely lobbied, he finally agreed, but only on condition that he receive no salary from the city...

When R’ Lipa Chaim was not certified by the government to become the Rabbi of Lomza, he returned to Zambrow, and R’ Abraham immediately relinquished the rabbinical chair to him.

R’ Lipa Chaim

R’ Lipa Chaim, who strictly speaking, was the second rabbi of Zambrow, was a personality – in Torah, wisdom, and good deeds. He was born in Tykocin. His father was the Rabbi of Krynki, and was descended from rabbis and Gaonim. At first, he was a merchant in Tykocin. [However] he devoted himself more to Torah study than to commerce. Accordingly, his businesses did not do so well, and he sought another way to make a living. The offer of the rabbinical seat in Zambrow was made to him. At that time, he was forty-five years old. He was a substantial open-hearted donor to charity. He would concern himself about the welfare of the poor, and would personally go to find places for food and lodging on the Sabbath, for itinerant paupers and clergy. When, on one occasion, he put pressure on one wealthy man in Zambrow to take in a guest for the Sabbath, that rich man replied: Rebbe, I am not a scholar like you. When your business didn’t go so well – you became a rabbi, and what will I become, should my businesses not succeed?

When R’ Elyeh Chaim Maisel, the Rabbi of Lomza , became the Rabbi of Lodz, the balebatim of Lomza sent an offer letter for the rabbinate in their city to R’ Lipa Chaim. R’ Lipa Chaim was, however, the Rabbi in Lomza for only a short while: the Russian régime did not grant him certification to be the Rabbi, because he knew no Russian. R’ Lipa Chaim then returned to Zambrow. The Zambrow balebatim were happy with his return, and took him back with open arms. In his last years, when he had already become old and weak, he spent his time in devising innovative interpretations of the Torah, and effectively groomed his son-in-law Rabbi Regensberg, who actually became the Rabbi of Zambrow after his death.

R’ Israel Salanter – In Zambrow

By Sholom-Abner Bernstein

(New York)

The Remains of the Grave site of the Pharmacist Szklovin in the Zambrow Cemetery

The Workingmen of Zambrow, taking their leave of R’ Alter the Maggid, on the occasion of his departure for the United States of America. The Maggid can be seen at the center of the picture.

It was a Thursday, before daybreak, some time ago, in the year 1883. The Jews were beginning to gather in the market place, to buy bargains for the Sabbath. A fishmonger had already opened his fish stand, and women and men had already gathered around him. A wagon drives up, from Tyszowce, and an elderly Jew, of imposing appearance, dressed well and enchantingly, like a Lithuanian rabbi, with shined boots, holding a small valise in his hand, instructs the wagon driver to take the larger trunk into Mordechai-Aharon’s inn, and asks for the Bet HaMedrash, where the Zambrow Rabbi, R’ Lipa Chaim worships:

'During the week, he does not pray in the Bet HaMedrash,’ someone says to him, but rather in the community shtibl, where the ‘ten idlers’ pray, that is, the balebatim who learn a page of Gemara with the rabbi before dawn, before prayers, and then another page of Gemara after prayers.

And so the guest smiled and replied: Good, let it be the community shtibl then! And so, a clutch of Jews gathered around the guest, greeted him with ‘Sholom Aleichem,’ and did not have the temerity to ask, ‘From where do you hail?’ This because they trembled before the imposing appearance of the man. He was then led off to the rabbi, followed by a crowd of curious onlookers. When he came into the community shtibl, the elderly rabbi, R’ Lipa Chaim, rose like a soldier in front of an officer, and offered the blessing: ‘Blessed be he that has offered from his wisdom to those who respect him.!’ [He] offered him the greeting ‘Sholom Aleichem, Rabbi Israel Wolf Salanter!’ Then all the other worshipers rose to their feet, and each, in turn, offered their greetings to the great guest. Not much was said, and they took to recitation of their prayers. When it came time to read the Torah, R’ Lipa Chaim went up to my father, R’ Israel-Zalman ShD"R, ??? may he rest in peace, and said: ‘You are a Levite, and today you are due to have the second aliyah, because tomorrow, Friday, there is going to be a brit [milah] at your house. However, we must honor this great guest with this aliyah, because he too, is a Levite. But because of this, God willing, tomorrow, R’ Israel Salanter will be the Sandak for your youngest son..’ The newborn Jew, at his ritual circumcision, was given the name Sholom-Abner, and that was me...

R’ Israel Salanter, the founder of the renown ‘Mussar’ yeshivas in Lithuania – had planned to bring the Mussar movement also to Lomza, where he planned to found a large yeshiva. He traveled to Lomza about this, to his student, R’ Lejzor Szuliowicz, the future headmaster. Along the way, he stopped at Zambrow, took counsel about this with the wise old rabbi, R’ Lipa Chaim, who knew the area very well, and was himself a disciple of the Mussar movement, in opposition to the Hasidim.

The Holy Rabbi R’ Dov Menachem Regensberg 59

R’ Dov Menachem Regensberg

He was born in Lithuania into a rabbinical family in the year 5612 (1852).

As a wife, he took the daughter of the Rabbi R’ Lipa Chaim, in Zambrow, in the year 5632 (1872).

He assumed the rabbinical chair in Zambrow after the passing of his father-in-law, in the year 5642 (1882). He died a martyr’s death at the hand of the Nazis, on 3 Elul, 5701 – 26.8.1941.

During a period of fifty-nine years, he was the central figure of the Jewish community, set its boundaries, and personally injected himself into its troubles.

He represented that golden chain of Polish and Lithuanian rabbis, was a student of the Torah and a doer of good, practiced respectfulness, and offered good deeds, was a staunch guardian in assuring that the glowing coal of Judaism not be extinguished and be permitted to expire.

He stood at the center of the community’s troubles, and its celebrations, took part in its suffering and celebration.

He was a living witness to its rise, and also, unfortunately, of its fall.

With his tragic death, the fall of the [Jewish] Zambrow community is ushered in. May their blood be avenged.

A Small City With A Great Rabbi

Here is what a pupil of his, today a rabbi in America, writes about the Rabbi:

Zambrow was a small shtetl, and had a great rabbi, one of the best and most outstanding rabbis in all of Poland. While Zambrow still existed as a city, we did not recognize him as such. Now, after the destruction of that community, we see how great his personality really was, and what sort of scholar and tzadik he really was.

While still a Talmud Torah student, I already recognized his great love of Torah, and his devotion to Jewish children. In the class that I was supposed to complete, and then transfer to the Lomza Yeshiva, the Rabbi ordered us to learn twenty pages of the Gemara by heart, beginning with ‘Shnayim Okhazin,’ in ‘Baba Metzia.’ He listened to us, like a loving father, and picked out six students to go to the yeshiva. I was one of them. He rewarded us with a piece of honey cake and wine, and gave each of us three zlotys. When we traveled to Lomza, he accompanied us to our hansom cab, giving us parcels of food, chocolate, and letters of recommendation to the headmaster of the yeshiva – that he should take good care of us, as good students.

We came home for the holidays. The first order of business was to pay a call on the rabbi. He was happy to see us, as if we were his own children. Approximately two quorums worth of yeshiva students would gather to pray with him at his home. When the shammes would come to call him to worship, because the congregation was waiting on him, he would try to get out of going, and remain here among his own. After prayers, on the Sabbath and festivals, he would make Kiddush, treat us to a piece of honey cake, wine and fruit, and ask us to rehearse Torah for him, and then engage with us in a – a bit of a Torah dance.

The Rabbi was a very substantial student, and by five o’clock in the morning, he was already sitting in the White Bet HaMedrash learning. After worship, he would study until twelve noon, or longer. He would then grab a bit of kichl to eat, and drink a bit of warm milk that he would bring with him in a thermos bottle. After the noon hour, he would sleep a bit, and again sit down to learn some more. At dusk, he would learn a page of Gemara in the shtibl of the Ger Hasidim, despite the fact that he, personally, was a Mitnagid.

When the ‘Committee of the Yeshivas’ was established to raise money in the towns for the yeshivas, the rabbi was one of the first [of its members]. Paying no mind to his advanced age, he traveled from city to city: he held forth with lectures, and collected money for the poor yeshiva students. On one occasion, a rather significant rabbinical court was empanelled in Lomza. The Rebbetzin did not want to permit him to travel there, because he was weak. All the rabbis were beside themselves: such an elderly man is to travel so late at night? He had been told that R’ Elyeh the shammes had hit a yeshiva student, because the latter had broken a window in the Red Bet HaMedrash. Accordingly, the rabbi had the shammes summoned, levied a monetary fine on him, and prohibited him from ascending the Bimah for two weeks. ‘When a yeshiva student causes damage, first come and tell me, and I will pay for it’ – he admonished the shammes.

About a year before the Second World War, I came to receive my ordination from him. He drew me near and showed me how he adjudicates questions that have been posed, how he concerns himself with the city, works to further Judaism, and maintains oversight to assure that the ‘Talmud Torah’ building is erected as quickly as possible at his expense: he had won five thousand zlotys in the lottery, and had given it all to build the new Talmud Torah.

Once, he came to Lomza, in connection with business for the Talmud Torah, and he encountered me at the home of the rabbi, where I was ruling on a particularly difficult matter. The Lomza Rabbi had deferred to me, according me the honor of issuing the ruling, and the Zambrow Rabbi was very happy to see his student receive such a consideration. The losing side in the case attacked me: Is the young rabbi putting himself up opposite the elderly arbitrator R’ Naphtali Garbarsky? The Zambrow Rabbi quickly rose to his feet and said: You have insulted a formidable scholar – you must apologize to him, and pay a monetary fine in favor of the Zambrow Talmud Torah. The remaining Rabbis lowered their heads – because they did not react the same way he did.

Simchat Torah in Zambrow. I never saw the Rabbi so lively and full of joy. He danced around us, a group of young students, and shouted with all his might: you are, after all, living Torah scrolls!

One time, he fell sick, and the doctors forbade him to exert himself and speak. When he spied me, he demanded that I give a Torah talk on his behalf, No excuse helped – and I had to do it. A week later, when I came again to see him, the Rebbetzin bemoaned to me that: she had stepped out to buy something at midday – and in his weakened condition went off to Lomza, for a major case between the Nowogród Rabbi and Shokhet...

He was told that a new teacher had come to the city who was a freethinker, who was teaching the children, boys and girls together, to mock Judaism. The Rabbi burst into tears. A couple of days later, Abraham’l Golombek brought the Rabbi a torn mezuzah that a young yeshiva student had torn out of the teacher’s hands. The teacher wanted to burn the mezuzah. The Rabbi immediately called for a gathering in the White Bet HaMedrash, and excommunicated the teacher as well as those who send their children to him. So one woman stood to oppose him – so her daughter became ill and died, and the Rabbi was moved to tears: why is the child guilty, if her mother is the one who sinned? The teacher left the shtetl, and went to Ostrolenka and died there.

A vigorous battle was had with the owner of the movie theatres that were open on the Sabbath. They wanted to beat him, blocked his way, and for a week’s time did not let him into his own house. However, the Rabbi ultimately prevailed.

Hanukkah 1940, in the heat of the war, I came to take my leave of him, before my trip to Vilna. The shtetl was half-ruined and burned down. The synagogue and the Batei Medrashim were incinerated, as well as the new Talmud Torah, etc. I met with the Rabbi and the Rebbetzin in a tiny room, where they lived after their house and the entire library had been burned down. With tears in his eyes, the Rabbi told me how the bomb exploded in his house, and the Rebbetzin had to force him out of the house, literally seconds before the explosion. He was only able to save his Tallit and Tefillin and one small book. I went with him, to collect bread for the poor. He asked me to help him reconstitute the mikvah. Accordingly, I said to him: ‘At a time like this, Rebbe?’ So he says: ‘The house is on fire, and the clock is ticking’...

I was compelled to leave the city and flee to Vilna, from which I was able to save myself. I said farewell to the Rabbi for the last time.

His Grandchildren Tell

Here is what his two grandsons write about their grandfather, the Rabbi, these being the brothers David and Heschel Klepfish, the children of Sotshe.

David Writes:

'My grandfather, Rabbi David Menachem Regensberg, occupied the rabbinical seat in Zambrow for nearly sixty years, from the year 1882, when he was barely thirty years old, to the year 1941. When he became ninety years old – he was still completely alert, he could still see with his eyes, and he was still fresh. However, the Nazis forced him to dig his own grave.

When he became the Rabbi in Zambrow, it was still a small shtetl, with three hundred families, approximately. But since the Russian authorities decided to build barracks in Zambrow – the city began to prosper and grow. In a short time, the population tripled in size, up to fifteen hundred Jewish families. There were approximately as many non-Jews. Together with the city, the functions of the Rabbi also grew. And the Rabbi loved his shtetl, and loved his position. And it didn’t come to him so easily. For many long years, he conducted a battle with the balebatim, with the government, and with the Kozioner Rabbiner. Rabbi Regensberg took over the position of his father-in-law, R’ Yom-Tov Lipman Chaim Kahana-Shapiro. The Rabbi was born in the year 1852, into a family of Lithuanian scholars. His father, R’ David was the rabbi in a number of small Lithuanian towns, and was a descendant of prominent rabbis, both on his father’s side, and his mother’s side.

I know little about his youth. However, my grandfather once told me that he studied in the yeshiva at Eishyshok, together with his brother Ely’-Sholom, who later became the Rabbi in London. They studied their under-deprived conditions, and sustained themselves for an entire week on bread and cheese – except for the Sabbath, when they would eat at the table of one of the balebatim.

He arrived in Zambrow in 1872, approximately. After being subsidized for a few years by his father-in-law, the Rabbi opened up a small food store, and for a number of years, he was a storekeeper. That went on, until R’ Lipa Chaim, the old Rabbi, attracted him to his profession, and that he should help conduct the business of the rabbinate, and adjudicate community issues, resolving questions, and preside over rabbinical courts.

The End of the Past Century

In the year 1884, they began the building of the barracks, and as it was in those years, in Russia, the contractors were Jewish. They brought a new stream of life into the city, and exerted a very strong influence on the Jewish way of life. In those years, ‘Zionism’ also appeared on one side, and the Socialist Labor Movement, exemplified by the ‘Bund,’ the S. S., the S. R., and ‘Poalei Tzion', on the other side. The shtetl seethed and boiled. And the Rabbi opposed this, and, as you can understand, fought all of them, as elements that were harmful to the spirit of Judaism and the study of Torah. Consequently, he made a lot of enemies. He had a second war going on with the government. The authorities insisted that the Rabbi be able to transact in Russian, and lead in Jewish civil matters. This was difficult for the Rabbi, who was actually quite fluent and knew Russian very well, but he had no heart for it, and for him, it represented an inexcusable waste of time, to be taken away from Torah study in this manner. And at that time, he already had four children. When the authorities remained adamant in their demand – the decision was taken to emulate the practice that had arisen in other towns, in such an instance: they retained another rabbi, a ‘government rabbi’ (Kozioner Rabbiner) that would speak Russian and manage municipal affairs. To do this, they brought in Rabbi Moshe David Gold, for this purpose, who was also a recognized scholar, and a fully ordained Rabbi, a son-in-law to the Rabbi of Kopczewa. Now the real battle began: The Rabbi wanted to have control of weddings and ritual circumcisions. The Government rabbi argued that this belonged to him. The balebatim divided up into parties: one for the Rabbi, the other for the Kozioner Rabbiner. His supporters were the ones who worshiped at the Red Bet HaMedrash, with the Golombeks and the craftsmen. The opposition in the White Bet HaMedrash. This dispute between the rabbis reached the court in Lomza. The Lomza rabbinate involved itself in this, fearing that if the Government rabbi would win – then all the ‘spiritual rabbis’ would suffer a loss of prestige. This went on until Rabbi Gold was nominated to be the Rabbi of Nowogród, near Lomza, at which point peace returned to the shtetl. One way or another, Rabbi Regensberg got through the examination, studying a bit, offering a bit of bribery, and the government left him alone.

In His Later Years

When the Rabbi became an old man, he became weak and traveled to Germany to ‘take the waters’ at the spas. My grandmother would travel with him, and occasionally, one of his supporters, R’ Abraham Shlomo Dzenchill, who was called ‘Pracht’ (because of his use of German words, and especially for using the word ‘Pracht60’ often). On occasion, he would also take along a grandchild. He loved his grandchildren immensely. When his oldest son R’ Yaakov-Aharon, the Rabbi of Wierzbnik passed away, he raised his children, two grandchildren. My grandfather told me about a frightening night that he lived through, at the time when the Russians retreated, in the year 1920, and the Poles came back. A group of Polish soldiers, who were beating and robbing Jews, came to the Rabbi, with the intent to ‘make merry.’ And at the Rabbi’s home, a number of Jewish men had gathered to discuss municipal matters. They broke in the door from the street side, but were overcome by fear on the steps, and the soldiers drew back.

His Scholarship

My grandfather learned day and night. He had a large library. During the winter on a late Friday afternoon, he would study at the Red Bet HaMedrash, by the light of a gas lamp, until late at night. Once, when the lamp had begun to go out, he got up on the table, and placed the Gemara up close to the lamp and finished his studying this way. Also, in his own home, in his court shtibl, he would study until later into the night, either alone, or with a companion, Zalman the Dayan, and others.

In the year 1903, he founded a yeshiva in Zambrow. However, in the year 1905, the year of the Russian revolution, it was closed until the year 1917, when his son-in-law, my father, R’ Aharon-Yaakov Klepfish k"z reopened it.

In the year 1930, the Rabbi won a large prize in the Polish lottery. However, he donated all of the money for the construction of a new Talmud Torah, across from the Red Bet HaMedrash where the guest house formerly stood, and was the old house of the Rabbi. At the same time, he completed his two books: ‘Divrei Menachem,’ and ‘Minchat Menachem,’ which were his solace during his older years.

His Activities

The Rabbi involved himself in all community affairs: in the ritual slaughter, charity, etc. He loved to do everything by himself, and not through any intermediary or representative. He personally would commit himself on the eve of Passover, to go out and collect support for the poor – ‘maot khitim’, and he would personally volunteer himself on behalf of the city after the fires. Incidentally, during both of the great city fires, his house was spared. During the First Fire – it is told – that the Rabbi ascended to the roof of his house, and gesturing with his hands, recited a sacred incantation from the Kabala, and his house was spared. In the years of peace, the Rabbi was always the representative of the city to the authorities. He concerned himself to see that Jewish soldiers were given furlough during the Jewish holidays, and receive kosher meals at a Jewish table. Year in and year out he would swear in Jewish soldiers ‘on the spot,’ obtaining their oath to serve the Czar loyally, and later the Polish State. When the First World War broke out, at the end of the summer of 1914 – the Rabbi was in [Bad] Kissingen, Germany, at a sanatorium. The Germans interned him as a Russian citizen. Nine months later, he was released and permitted to travel home by way of Sweden.

The Front got closer to the city, and the harassment of Jewish citizens as spies, grew in intensity. Jews were whipped, beaten, arrested, and exiled into faraway Russia.

The Rabbi needed to put up with a great deal, and had to be constantly on guard. When the city filled up with the homeless, the Rabbi concerned himself with their plight, sought food, clothing, a place for them to live, and employment. The Rabbi and his ‘cossacks’ such as R’ Leibl Rosing, R’ Abraham Shlomo Pracht, R’ Shia the Melamed, Yaakov-David the Shoemaker from Gosz, Sholom Yaakov the Fruit Storekeeper , etc. , set down a discipline that it should be a requirement to study, and not violate the Sabbath. Even when the ‘Agudah’ brought down its agitators, the Rabbi was very watchful, and watched with both eyes open, lest their intent be to do something else.

His Relationship to the Land of Israel

Even though he was a member of the Agudah, he was always interested in the Land of Israel. On Tisha B’Av he would mourn intensely over the destruction of Jerusalem. He would receive fruit from the Land of Israel with great joy, on Tu B’Shevat, or olive oil, etc. In a like manner, his entire family was suffused with a ‘love of Zion.’ His brother took up residence in Jerusalem. The Rabbi, himself, looked after the fund-raising and allocation Kollel of Suwalki-Lomza in the entire area, and would do a great deal for those who would travel to live out their final years in the Land of Israel. The Rabbi worked in this way, for all of his Jewish flock, until his last day.

In the year 1936, when I was on a pleasure trip in Poland – I met my grandfather, when he was already eighty-five years of age, in Warsaw, together with Mr. Gottleib. They had both come to raise support for the city. My grandfather had been Rabbi of the city, uninterrupted, for nearly sixty years. He went through everything with the Jews of his city, until his last day.

The Second Grandson Tells, Heschel:

My grandfather stood at the head of the Zambrow community for a full fifty-nine years. Actually, he was acting in this capacity even a few years prior to this, when his father-in-law, R’ Lipa Chaim, had grown old, and his son-in-law carried out the duties of his office. I would wonder when my grandfather would use the familiar ‘du’ in speaking to an elderly Jew, with a gray beard. When I thought about this, and realized that the Rabbi knew him when he was still a little boy, I understood it better. I recall the time when I had just become a Bar-Mitzvah. My grandfather is sitting in the Bet HaMedrash, in his tallit and tefillin, and he is studying. I had already finished my prayers, and was removing my tefillin. My grandfather says to me: Come, let us study a page of the Gemara together! I say: Grandpa, I am hungry. My grandfather says, in a stern voice: Why, am I not hungry?

The balebatim knew my grandfather as a fanatic and someone who had a temper. Few, however, knew his gentleness, his good-heartedness, his naïveté and folksy nature. When the yeshiva boys would gather about him on festival days, my grandfather would dance with them, and sing his particularly favored little song:

Oh, you evil inclination,

Keep on going,

Turn and come back

Go to your most beloved brethren!

They will heed you

they will hear you

Whatever it is you

Will want of them!

Dear Hasidim, dear Mitnagdim,

Dear Yerushalim students, Dear Bavli Students,

They will not heed you

And will not hear you,

Whatever it is you

Will want of them!

My soul yearns for you,

My flesh thirsts for you

Yearns, yearns, yearns, yearns,

Thirsts, thirsts, thirsts, thirsts,

My soul yearns for you,

My flesh thirsts for you!

This is just an excerpt of the song, and possibly inaccurately rendered – but this is how I remember it! Perhaps someone will complete it, and turn it over to a collector of folklore? (See above page 130).

My grandfather was a man of the people, and suffused with the ideals of the rabbis of his generation. It was not only once, that he would burst into tears during one of his sermons, when he would speak about the bad conditions of the faith. In the year 1939, summer, he spoke before a Rabbinical Assembly in Vilna. He was the oldest Rabbi at that assembly, and shook everyone up with his words about the desecration of the Sabbath. The entire Assembly wept along with him.

He studied constantly. I was so used to seeing his house full of books, like my grandfather’s, that when I would travel somewhere else and did not find any books, I would wonder, how can this be? During the Second World War, a bomb exploded in his house and destroyed it, burning all of his books. It was only by a miracle that he personally was saved, but it did him no good. The Nazis murdered him. It is with his death, that the annihilation of Zambrow [Jewry] commenced.

The Rabbi’s House

A group of active members of ‘Poalei Tzion’ from the Lomza circle, in honor of Riva,
the Rabbi’s daughter (center), with her husband (to the left), Moshe Erem.

It is the eve of Passover 1929 – two days before the Seder, and everything is almost finished, the angelka is ??? and the beet borscht is strained. The Rebbetzin Mindl has come in immediately in the morning, and presented herself to my mother with her borscht, like ‘nice wine,’ and stood to recite the morning prayer. And suddenly, something happened, we found her unconscious – having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. On the following morning, we laid the Rebbetzin Mindl, daughter of R’ Lipa Chaim k"mz to her eternal rest, She was a quiet person, constantly busy. She would avoid entering the shtibl of the Rabbinical court. In her old age, she was the one who raise two orphans: Lipa Chaim, and David-cheh – the children of her son Yaakov, who had died as a young man – the Rabbi of Wierzbnika.

The holiday served to mitigate the bereavement, On the eve of Passover, the Rabbi dressed in his holiday finery and rode off to get the soldiers released for Passover. Surrounded by the family of his daughter Sotshe, he got through the first time.

As was always his habit, shortly before Lag B’Omer, the Rabbi began to make preparations to travel to his vacation place in Dlugoszodla. On the eve of Lag B’Omer, the shammes, Nachman, escorted him to Dlugoszodla, and on the following morning, returned quite early, to inform us that the Rabbi had married a cousin of his, Rachel, a sister to Molya Cohen. She was a widow, a mother of two daughters (her older daughter Sarah’leh was the teacher in the Bet Yaakov School, and later married Molya).

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, they returned from Dlugoszodla. The Rebbetzin Rachel was a middle-aged woman, very refined and intelligent, and highly suitable [to her position]. She applied herself to getting accustomed to her new home and established relationships with her neighbors. Shortly after Sukkot, on Friday morning, in getting ready for the Sabbath, she fell down and had a cerebral hemorrhage. On Sunday, she was laid to her final rest... this event left a very profound impression on the shtetl.

On the eve of Purim, the Rabbi called me in and asked me to fill out checks for large sums, without dates. We immediately understood that this was connected with assuring widow’s pensions with the community. That same night, after reading the Megillah, the Rabbi entered into marriage with a woman from Kolno, a relative of R’ Mordechai Yerusalimsky, her name was Eiga.

On the following day, she sat in the Rabbinical court shtibl, wearing a wide apron, and listened to the questions posed, and other community issues.

Eiga was killed together with the Rabbi.

From the Spark, Emerged a Flame

By Israel Levinsky

(From my recollections about the dispute between the Kozioner Rabbiner, and the ‘Spiritual Leader’ in Zambrow.)

After the death of R’ Lipa Chaim – his son-in-law, R’ David-Menachem Regensberg k"z became the Rabbi, who came from Lithuania, from a prominent rabbinical family. The new, young Rabbi, was not so easily accepted in Zambrow, The old Rabbi, R’ Lipa Chaim was, apart from his formidable erudition, a loveable man, a great sage, and showed affection for Jews even if they were not observant, and drew them near to him, and in general was very strongly committed to his flock.

The young Rabbi, by contrast, was a formidable zealot, very observant and a fanatic. In his early years, he could not find that balance, and began to stubbornly harass the irreligious, meaning all those who were going along with progress. You can appreciate that an opposition to the Rabbi formed immediately: all the balebatim, sympathetic to Zionism, and people who generally were enlightened, did not want him as a rabbi. The city therefore divided itself into two camps: one consisted of the Rabbi’s opposition, who worshiped in the new (later called the ‘White’) Bet HaMedrash, and the second, were the Rabbi’s supporters, who worshiped in what later came to be called the ‘Red Bet HaMedrash.’ His opponents in the White Bet HaMedrash were: Abcheh Rokowsky, a well-known writer, a great scholar and a Zionist, Benjamin Kagan, a son of the Rabbi of Zabludów, also a scholar and ardent Zionist, Shlom’keh Blumrosen, the Burcziniaks, the writer of these columns, etc. In the second (Red) Bet HaMedrash, the aristocratic Jewish establishment family presided, the Golombeks, and they took the young Rabbi under their aegis.

Since the young Zambrow Rabbi did not know Russian, the language of the land, the government could not designate him as the ‘rabbi of record. – according to the law – but only as the rabbi as a ‘spiritual leader, who must confine his duties to internal matters of Jewish religion, such as adjudicating religious questions, and such. Civil matters pertaining to the Jewish community, such as managing the books of the community (recording Jewish births, weddings and deaths, matters pertaining to taxes, etc.) needed to be given over to a second rabbi, who was called the Kozioner Rabbiner. He did not have to be a scholar, and even did not have to be observant. All he needed was to be literate in Russian. His work was to conduct all Jewish administrative functions.

In this connection, the opponents of the Rabbi made every effort to assure that the Kozioner Rabbiner was also a bona fide ordained Rabbi, a scholar, in order that they be able to mount a contest with the spiritual Rabbi. And, indeed, it happened just this way. The community selected one R’ Moshe Gold, the son-in-law of the Rabbi of Kopczewa. He was a scholar, had a rabbinical ordination, and knew Russian well. So, it became rather lively in the shtetl. At first, there was peace between the two Rabbis, and they even studied together. But then, Rabbi Gold took note of the fact, that he had the right, according to the law, to conduct ritual circumcisions, and especially to officiate at a wedding ceremony. However, Rabbi Regensberg did not want to accept this.: after all, from time immemorial, the Rabbi was the sandak at a Brit Milah, as well as the officiant at weddings, and is recognized in this capacity everywhere. But Rabbi Gold didn’t want to concede this. Better said: the ‘White Bet HaMedrash’ didn’t want to concede this. So, if someone invited Rabbi Regensberg to a Brit Milah, then Rabbi Gold would refuse to record the details about the child in the books, and did not prepare a birth certificate on his behalf. If someone requested the Rabbi to officiate at a wedding – the Kozioner Rabbiner didn’t want to recognize the wedding, and did not issue a marriage certificate. If the Kozioner Rabbiner wanted to meet him halfway – give the Rabbi the honor at a Brit Milah or a wedding, but to retain the official side of the transaction, Rabbi Regensberg would, under no circumstances, agree to this, because this would have created a breach of rabbinical authority. Should someone want to invite both Rabbis to the wedding of a son or daughter, it was impossible: ‘Two rabbis under the wedding canopy!’ There were instances, that after a wedding ceremony, the newlyweds had to appear before Rabbi Gold, and the groom needed to repeat the ritual formulation anew.

After a Brit Milah, it was necessary for the mohel, and two witnesses, and the father of the child, to come to get a certificate. Binyomkeh the Shoemaker’s eldest son, Abraham k"z, was not properly recorded for his entire life, had no birth certificate, and was never called for military service, etc. This was because Binyomkeh was one of the Rabbi’s men, and did not want to offer recognition to the Kozioner Rabbiner. Accordingly, he didn’t get the birth of his son recorded.... The following incident happened to me, personally: my father-in-law. R’ Nachman Yaakov Rothberg, was a very close friend of R’ Lipa Chaim k"z, and therefore also with his son-in-law, Rabbi Regensberg. He wanted to invite both rabbis to the wedding of his only daughter Tzipa, my wife k"z, to accord each of them proper respect. So each did not want to attend because the other would be there, and my father-in-law did not want the wedding to remain illegal. Also, I did not want to lower myself by having to repeat the wedding ritual twice. Attempts at sending intermediaries did not help – the Rabbis would not give in. So one night, late in the evening, when the guests were hungry and impatient, a way out: I will perform my own wedding ceremony ( before the setting of the wedding contract conditions, the Zambrow scholars examined me, and found that I was properly schooled and therefore qualified) and in the presence of two witnesses, that Rabbi Gold will send. And that is the way it was... this ‘stroke of genius’ was subsequently emulated also by others...

So a worse matter takes place in the shtetl, that involves a desecration as well. Herschel Burstein (Herschkeh) had no children. He wanted to leave behind a memorial to himself, and wrote a fine Torah scroll. He was a supporter of Rabbi Gold. When the writing of the Torah scroll was finished by the elderly Zambrow scribe R’ Zelik’l, a festive occasion was arranged, and the Torah was taken to the White Bet HaMedrash under a wedding canopy. It is understood, that Rabbi Gold led this event, and gave the sermon in honor of the new scroll. After him, Abcheh Rokowsky spoke. A military orchestra played [music]. Everyone made merry. On the following morning, when Nachman the Shammes came to open the Bet HaMedrash, he noticed that the Holy Ark was open, and the new Torah scroll was missing... the supporters of Rabbi Regensburg had stolen it, and tossed it somewhere, possibly into the water... the whole city was abuzz: such a scandalous act and desecration was unheard of. The Rabbi himself, Rabbi Regensberg, decried it, but nothing was of any avail: the opponents of the Kozioner Rabbiner were mad. It was possible for the Rabbi to excommunicate the thieves, if he had wanted to, and they would have brought the scroll back. But he did not do so, and the matter was turned over to the police. So the Zambrow and Lomza police searched for the scroll in the area synagogues and where prayer quorums gathered, going so far as to violate sacred places, but they did not find it...

The tumult in the city became even greater. Observant Jews, held with certainty, that such an act of desecration must surely bring misfortune to the city. Rabbi Gold’s father-in-law, the elderly Rabbi of Kopczewa, who in his old age was living with his daughter in Zambrow, demanded that the city bring a sacrifice to expiate the sin, and if not, the entire city will suffer. So, together with the help of children, he captured some young birds, and incinerated them in the oven of the White Bet HaMedrash, as a burnt offering to be entirely consumed61... but this did not help. The misfortune was visited upon the city, in the middle of a clear day. This was on a hot Friday summer’s day, at the beginning of the month of Ab 5655 (1895). The sun was burning hot, and there were few people in the streets, most of the men having got to the baths in anticipation of the Sabbath. The womenfolk were occupied with preparing food and getting their cholent ready to be cooked. Suddenly, shouts were heard: Fire, help! The fire broke out in a smithy, near the river. It appears that there were also hot ashes. Accordingly, the straw-thatched roofs would catch fire, and burst into flames, baked by the sun, and they immediately became ignited by the sparks, and the city was engulfed in flames on all sides. There were no organized firefighters, and the few vessels that were available to extinguish fire, were not in proper condition to be used. Until the fire-fighters arrived from Lomza and Ostrowa, two hundred and seventy-five houses had been burned down, in the course of three to four hours. The synagogue and the Bet HaMedrash were also consumed. Among the discarded sacred documents in the attic of the Red Bet HaMedrash, the stolen Torah scroll was spotted, but it was no longer possible to save it, and it too, was consumed...

At the Rabbi’s Table

In the Zambrow Batei Medrashim, there were enough tables at which Jews would sit in groups and learn.

Such a table was set up by the Rabbi himself, by himself and for himself, in the Red Bet HaMedrash. Every evening, after Maariv, Jews who were studious, would seat themselves at this table, such as Shammai-Lejzor the Messenger, Shlomo-Pracht, who was the Rabbi’s adjutant, Yitzhak the Dyer, Nahum-Hersch the Dyer, Cibuliak the Tailor, Abraham Shlomo the Tailor, Moshe-Leib, the Miller’s son, Meir-Shlomka, Blumrosen’s son-in-law, Lejzor the Smith, and other individuals whose names I can no longer recall. The Rabbi would learn with them. It was during the occupation, in the years 1916-17. I had gotten ‘illegal work’ with the Germans – cleaning out the barracks and carrying water for the laundry, for 2.50 marks a day. Tired, I would drop in, at night, into the Red Bet HaMedrash, to participate in the Maariv prayers. The dulcet tones of the study of Gemara, the light in the faces of those who were studying, who forget everything else at such a time, when there is not enough to eat, when there is no work to be had, and the political situation is not clear, and find their solace in a page of the Gemara – drew me to them. But I also studied the Gemara in Heder and enjoyed the reputation of being a good student. Accordingly, I would sit to the side and listen in. I did not have the nerve to go directly up to the table. Until, on one occasion, R’ Shammai-Lejzor said to me, with is affable smile: Pinchas, why are you sitting over there like a stranger, take a Gemara, sit beside the table and learn along with us! So I worked up my nerve, took a Gemara and learned along with them with satisfaction. From that time on, I studied every evening at the Rabbi’s table. I was the only one of the younger boys who did this.

Many years have passed since then. The times have changes, the Bet HaMedrash was destroyed, as was the entire Jewish component of the city. Nevertheless, the sing-song tune of the Gemara study, from that time, continues to echo in my ears to this day.

His Energy

Itcheh Mailer’s son, tells of the Rabbi’s heroism and energy:

Near the Red Bet HaMedrash, there was a small house that blocked the rays of the sun into the Bet HaMedrash. When the owner wanted to add a stable, the Rabbi did not permit it, since it would block the light of day even more, within the Bet HaMedrash. Every time they began to build the stall, the Rabbi’s supporters knocked down the boards and stones. Some time later, a wagon driver bought the property, and for any price, he wanted to construct a stable, and so he retained Christian workers to prepare to erect the stable immediately. And this is the way it was. But the Rabbi sent his men to knock the building down. The wagon driver angrily came running to the Rabbi. The Rabbi says: You didn’t have to start the construction, because you knew what the outcome would be. And so the wagon driver went out and organized a wing, with Israelkeh the Glazier’s son at its head, to go and make a case to the Rabbi, on the premise that he would not consent to the construction. When Israelkeh entered the Rabbi’s premises forcibly, the Rabbi delivered two brisk slaps to both his cheeks, drove him out of the house, and the entire band dissolved. Israelkeh had to answer for these young upstarts: to start up with the Rabbi, and to raise a hand to him, will the entire city curse me for this?

When it became known that the barbers were working on the Sabbath, the Rabbi went into the barbershop, sat down on a stool and said: I also want a haircut! All of the customers then fled the scene. He did this for a number of Fridays, in all the barbershops, until they were compelled to close up their shops on Friday, all at the same time. The same was true of the cinema, when it was opened on the Sabbath too early.

The butchers trembled before him, and did everything that he said.

One time, he was told that one of the balebatim, S. had slapped the Shokhet Y., because he declined to slaughter his fowl on the first day of a festival holiday. The Rabbi summoned him immediately and levied a punishment: to pay a fine and to call out loudly during prayers every Monday and Thursday: I beg the forgiveness of the Shokhet for raising my hand to him. Despite the fact that he was from ‘Agudat Israel’ – he gave me his blessing before I made aliyah to the Land of Israel, and even gave me a letter of recommendation to great Rabbis in Jerusalem, asking them to extend their help to me in getting settled.

The Rabbi’s Prophecy

Mr. Joseph Krolewietzki (Buenos Aires) tells:

During the first years of the Polish régime, the President, Wojciechowski made a tour of the cities and towns of his country, and he also came to Zambrow – a city with a large military garrison. The city went all out. The Christians, on one side, the Jews on the other side, made preparations to receive the President of the country.

It is understood that the Rabbi stood at the head of the Jewish delegation. All dressed up in his splendid Rabbinical attire, the elderly Rabbi. in a shtrymel and white gloves, carried a Torah scroll in his arms, while standing underneath a canopy. Beside him stood the most senior representative of the community, R’ Shlomkeh Blumrosen. When the President approached the Rabbi, the Rabbi became confused, and instead of saying ‘Witam Pana Prezydenta’! (I greet Mr. President), he said: ‘Witam Pana Referenta’! (I greet Mr. Clerk). The President, who was not friendly to the Jews, smiled sarcastically. The Rabbi immediately corrected himself: ‘Herr President!’ But his prophecy quickly came to pass. Not waiting very long, Pilsudski the Prime Minister, removed President Wojciechowski62 and made him a clerk, in a university, somewhere in Posen.

And the Rabbi of Zambrow Spoke...

By Chaim Grade

Rabbi Dov Menachem Regensberg, k"z

At the Rabbinical Assembly in Vilna

Close to the time of the Second World War, a Rabbinical Assembly took place in Vilna, at the initiative of the ‘Chafetz Chaim,’ a gathering of Rabbis, from Lithuania and Poland, which was attended by the elderly Rabbi of Zambrow.

Despite the fact that Zambrow was not in Lithuania, the Rabbi was accorded considerable deference, because he was numbered among the oldest of the rabbis in Poland.

The talented Vilna writer and poet, Chaim Grade – who had married the Rabbi’s granddaughter Fruma-Libcheh, the daughter of R’ Aharon Yaakov Klepfish k"z, and Sotshe the Rabbi’s [daughter] – describes in his landmark work, ‘Der schulhof’ this very rabbinical conference, and the appearance of the Zambrow Rabbi:

The Zambrow Rabbi spoke as one of the greats, who sat close to the front, an old man, approaching ninety, with a broad spread out beard, a bared chest, with his fringed garment tied on over his overcoat. He read without quoting references, or the Great Sages, but rather tore sighs out from within him, along with hunks of flesh, at the same time, groaning out his pain, and condemnation of the city, where he was the tabbi for over fifty years:

Over a jubilee of years, he looked out of the window from his house, and saw how Jewish children went to Heder, and how, when they were grown, they would go to prayers. He saw how the younger generations were led to the wedding canopy, and the older generations to the cemetery. He knew the grandfathers, the fathers, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren. But on one wintry Sabbath morning, he looked out from his house, and the Rabbi no longer recognized Zambrow. He saw – woe unto his eyes, what he saw! – How an autobus, packed full of Jews from the surrounding towns, drove through Zambrow on the Sabbath. He was frozen in place beside his window, and also the elderly balebatim outside, who were on their way to worship, were also frozen in their places, remaining stuck in the snow up to their knees. So he began to rail against the desecration of the Sabbath in the Bet HaMedrash, in the marketplace, and at meetings, crying and pleading that Zambrow not permit these buses, that operate on the Sabbath, to pass through its streets, packed full of Jews. It came to the point where the youth of Zambrow also began to ride on the Sabbath, using the same bus, but to go to Bialystok, Sniadowo, to Lomza, and to all of the surrounding towns, along the banks of the Bug and the Narew [Rivers]. Even the older Zambrow balebatim, the very ones who originally were shaken by the frightful desecration of the Sabbath, got used to this a little bit at a time. So he stopped looking out of the window. He had looked out the window for more than a jubilee of years, and now, no he no longer looks...

Holy Jews – the old Rabbi gestured with both of his trembling hands – none of us, who occupied a Rabbinical Seat will have any explanation for The One who occupies the Throne of Glory, when He will ask us: Why were you silent? We, the Rabbis, were obligated to lay ourselves down in front of the wheels of the buses, so that they would not be able to ride through our cities on the Sabbath – the Old Man carries on in a loud and bitter weeping. The tears run down his face and beard, and over the gray hair of his revealed chest. His body trembles, his hands shake, and as if he was cut down, he slumps back into his seat...




 A Russian soldier’s peak dress cap.

50   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 in 1445. His path commenced in Italy and ended in Jerusalem in 1488. There he died sometime between 1500 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.
51   The second commentary typically found in the Mishna.
52   More likely kerosine.
53   The Grand Duke, and uncle of Czar Nicholas II, who was the Russian Army Chief of Staff.
54   Suggestive of being bow-legged
55   We reproduce the writer’s original intent to mimic the Litvak accent of the Rabbi, where the ‘sh’ sound is pronounced ‘s.’
56   Reminiscent of the line from ‘Fiddler on the Roof!’
57   At this juncture, we do not know if this was a formal last name, or a trade-related descriptor because he was a shoemaker.
58   A ritual waist sash used by the ultra-Orthodox to separate the lower [sic: impure] parts of the body, from the upper [sic: spiritual] part.
59   We note here that Rabbi Regensberg is referred to as both ‘R’ Dov Menachem’ and ‘R’ David Menachem.’ It is not clear which is the ‘proper name.’ Furthermore, ‘Dov’ is not conventionally used as a shortened version of ‘David,’ since it is a standalone Hebrew name in its own right, meaning ‘Bear.’
60   German for ‘magnificent, splendid.’
61   Called an ‘olah’ in the Book of Leviticus
62   Stanislaw Wojciechowski served as President from 1922-1926. In 1926, after disputes over the direction of the government (Wojciechowski favoring a continuation of parliamentary democracy over increased authoritarianism), his old friend Józef Piłsudski staged a coup d’’etat and Wojciechowski resigned from office. Stanislaw Wojciechowski retired to private life and died in Golobki in 1953, at the age of eighty-four.


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