THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY presents

 The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Klepfish z"l, the Rabbi’s Son-in-Law
By Y. Meshuli
 

 

R’ Aharon Yaakov Klepfish, the Rabbi’s Son-in-Law and his wife, Sotshe

R’ Aharon Yaakov, the Rabbi’s son-in-law, came from a large, well-branched and prominent family in Warsaw (his father was a cousin of the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw, R’ Shmuel Zeinvill). He was born in Szczuczyn in the year 1880. He was raised in the home of his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel Shapiro, the Rabbi of Szczuczyn. When he was seven years old, his father became a shokhet in Warsaw, and the family moved to Warsaw. Aharon Yaakov studied well at the yeshiva there, and had a special teacher who instructed him in Russian, Polish, Hebrew and Arithmetic.

When he was eighteen years old, a marriage contract was drawn up between him and Sotshe, the oldest daughter of the Rabbi of Zambrow. That Rabbi was also his uncle. Two-and-a half years after this contract was drawn up, the actual wedding took place. In the interim, the prospective bridegroom studied at the yeshiva in Mir and obtained his rabbinical ordination. After this he stood for military conscription and was let go. It was only at that time that he got married and was supported by his father-in-law for five years. Later on he opened a business in Zambrow, selling glassware, porcelain and ‘blue’ ware, that is to say, it was as if ‘he opened the business.’ In reality, it was his wife, Sotshe, who ran the business– he would be sitting in the study house and be learning or assisting the Rabbi in dealing with his issues. Someone asked him: Well, R’ Aharon Yaakov, how is it that you opened up a business selling glassware? The Gemara says that he who wishes to lose his money should buy glassware, to which R’ Aharon Yaakov replied: The Gemara says ‘who buys glassware,’ not ‘who sells glassware – and I am selling!’ When he told his rabbi, the headmaster of the Mir Yeshiva, R’ Eliyahu Baruch Kamai, that he had opened this business to sell glassware, he said to him that this was not for him and it would not succeed. And that is how it was. In the large fire of 1910 his entire store burned down, and R’ Aharon Yaakov was left with nothing and was burdened with a great deal of debt. When he reestablished the store later there still was insufficient income from it, and a few years afterwards he was forced to liquidate it.

In the year 1913, he became the headmaster of the yeshiva in Slonim. He was very successful in this capacity, and earned a very great name; however, the First World War broke out, and he was compelled to return to Zambrow.

He did not rest. Together with his brother-in-law, the Rabbi’s son, Chaim David (today a rabbi in Chicago), he rejuvenated the yeshiva in Zambrow and invested the best of his energies for four years to its development in Torah study. He looked after paying the mashgiach and others, arranged for the yeshiva boys from faraway places to have a place to take ‘daily meals’ and lodging, while he personally earned nothing from doing this.

In 1919, he became the Rabbi of Sniadowo – one of the oldest communities in the entire area, which had become impoverished over a period of time. He did not lack for tribulation here. The town was completely burned down at the beginning of the First World War by the Germans – but, a little at a time, the Jews began to return and to rebuild the ruined structures [of the town]. Rabbi Klepfish did a great deal for his congregation, seeing to it that it would receive foodstuffs from the Joint, as well as money, and he helped to found a credit bank, obtaining the means to re-build the Bet HaMedrash (the famous ancient wooden synagogue of Sniadowo had been burned down during the war), and to found a Talmud Torah.

In the year 1935, he and his wife arrive in the Land of Israel. For one year, he held the pulpit at Kfar Saba and was outside of the country for purposes of taking a cure. After that he traveled as an emissary to America, to raise money for the yeshiva at Lomza, which had relocated itself to the Land of Israel in Petakh Tikva.

In the year 1943, he took up residence in Jerusalem. Here, he received a very honored position: he was nominated – at the recommendation of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Herzog z"l – as an expert colleague for the work on the: ‘Questions and Responses’ Encyclopedia. Approximately eighteen distinguished rabbis and scholars were to be selected from the great treasure of rabbinic writings, all of the rulings of law, during the span of approximately one thousand years. Such a work could only be carried out by a truly distinguished scholar, who was thoroughly grounded in Shas and its commentators.  And this was R’ Aharon Yaakov. He was counted among the senior editors, and he dedicated eighteen years of work and knowledge into it. His name became exceedingly well-known in rabbinical circles. He would also set aside time for his own personal study. He would rise each day before dawn for study. He would often engage in fasting. He would help others with a full heart. Not a few people benefitted from his personal largesse. He was a very modest, self-effacing man, and was possessed of a genteel character. Everyone held him in great esteem. When he lay ill in hospital, he was visited by Chief Rabbi Herzog, the Rabbi of Ger, and other great rabbis. He worked up to the last day of his life.

On Friday, 22 Adar 5721 (March 10, 1961) as he was preparing to go to synagogue to welcome the Sabbath – he fell and passed away early that Saturday morning in the hospital. The funeral took place that Saturday evening, as is the custom in Jerusalem, and it attracted thousands of people.

His daughter, Fruma Liebcheh, was the wife of the renown Yiddish writer and poet, Chaim Grade (in America). She was killed in Treblinka by the Nazis. His son, Moshe, was active in the Hagana, and served in the Jewish Brigade and fell as a hero in the War of Independence at the battle near ‘Bet Keshet,’ in the Lower Galilee. His wife and three sons live in Israel.
 

 

Translation of the Text:

To the respected members of the Organization of Zambrow Émigrés in Israel,

 Your sacred undertaking, and the sacred objective that you have set for yourselves, to memorialize Jewish Zambrow and its martyrs, is lofty indeed; it is the right thing, and good, and I wish you success in your undertaking.

In this connection, I am sending along a few words about my father-in-law, may his memory be for a blessing, the last Rabbi of Zambrow, which was written by my son, Yehoshua (Heshl).

The wonderful picture of the Rabbi is with us, and I will send it to you, when you  require it. With great pleasure, I will answer all questions that you may need to ask me about Zambrow.

I will also contribute to underwriting the expenses for the book, to the extent that you ask of me.

With great respect, Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Klepfish.

Three sons of the Rabbi live in Chicago. I am sending you two addresses, and the address of the third, Israelcheh, is in the possession of Mr. Joseph Srebrowicz

Above: Letter sent to the Zambrow Society in Israel by R’ Aharon Yaakov Klepfish, now residing in Jerusalem, expressing his warm feelings towards the idea of publishing the present Memorial Book and his readiness to help in the enterprise.


The Dayans
63

R’ Zalman Kaplan

Reb Zalman Kaplan,
of blessed memory

  He was the son-in-law of Israelkeh Shia-‘Tzaleleh’s and Liebeh [Rosenthal]. He came from a distinguished family, counting the Chafetz Chaim64, and R’ Yehuda HaLevi Epstein as his uncles. He was a formidable scholar, a Litvak, and one of the best of the young men from the yeshiva at Volozhin. His father, R’ Nahum Maggid, the author of ‘Nahamot Israel,’ made aliyah to Jerusalem in the year 1877.

It was to avoid military service that he came to Zambrow. He came to Zambrow as a twenty-one year-old young man, with a recommendation from his uncle, the ‘Chafetz Chaim.’ The [sic: Zambrow] Rabbi was very much taken by his knowledge of Torah, his wisdom and his resplendent appearance. He then called on Israelkeh Shia-‘Tzaleleh’s and said: I have here, a son-in-law, suitable for your daughter Mashkeh, he is a rare find, and you should grab him!' He pleased everyone, including his prospective father-in-law and prospective bride, because he was handsome, robust, tall, and possessed a pleasant demeanor.

At first, he was the Rabbi of Tyszowce. Because of a dispute that arose between the balebatim and the local clergy, he gave up the rabbinical seat and came back to Zambrow to become a dayan. He was a gentle man, never mixing into the community debates, was one who loved peace and did not follow in the direction of fanatics. He was a liberal man and would read newspapers and books. When his children grew somewhat older, and his salary proved insufficient, he was given a monopoly to sell candles for sacramental purposes. He died in the year 1937. He left a daughter in Argentina, and a son and daughter in Israel.

The Dayan, R’ Zalman Kaplan, with his wife, Mashkeh k”z, his son Pinchas, and his two daughters.


 

The Dayan, Shabtai (Shepsl) Kramarski

 

A handsome Jewish man, with a ‘Herzl beard’ and large, dreamy eyes. He came from a family of merchants from the Prussian border. He studied at yeshivas and clandestinely obtained a secular education. He married Rachel, the granddaughter of Shia-‘Tzaleleh’s and Liebeh Rosenthal. Together with his brother-in-law Zalman, they were the two dayanim of the community, and at the disposal of the Rabbi. He was a quiet and tranquil man from whom no one ever heard a loud word, and he would never get mixed up in municipal disputes. He would spend the entire day studying the Torah beside his father-in-law’s table. He was in harmony with his environment. He enjoyed reading the books of the Enlightenment, and as Dayan, you will understand, he did not do so publicly. In later years, when his compensation proved to be inadequate, he would learn the Gemara with older students and even worked to prepare younger students to be candidates for ordination.

He has children in Israel.


Reb Shepsl Kramarski, of blessed memory.


Rabbi Abraham Goronczyk (Goren) zts"l
 

Rabbi Abraham Goronczyk-Goren, of blessed memory

 

He was the son-in-law of the senior shokhet, R’ Nahum Lejzor Tziviak. He was born in Ruzhany, Poland in 1888 and studied at the Greater Yeshiva of Makowa, later on at the yeshiva for young people in Warsaw where R’ Abraham Gruzhinsky was the headmaster. He received his ordination from R’ Chaim [sic: Soloveitchik] Brisker.

He married at the age of twenty to the daughter of the shokhet in Zambrow and became a Zambrow resident. At first, he became a teacher of Gemara for older boys.

 During the First World War, he committed himself to provide a substantial amount of assistance to the homeless. Two years after the end of the war, he and his family moved to Warsaw. Immediately after the Balfour Declaration, he joined the ‘Jablon Chasidim’ to make aliyah to the Land of Israel, and to build up the village of ‘Nakhalat Yaakov’ using their own personal energies, in the Jezereel Valley (today, it is called Kfar Chasidim).

He made aliyah in 1924, along with the first who went, and he settled temporarily in Sheikh Avreik. A proposal was made to him to become the local rabbi. He accepted it under the condition that he not be paid any salary, and otherwise to count him as another member of the community. He then proposed to give his own hard pioneering work to drying out the swamps that were a deterrent to the development of the village. With all the ardor of a Chasidic and pioneering spirit, he personally drained about seventeen kilometers of swamp. However, he fell sick from the tropical malaria, and together with his family was compelled to move to Jerusalem. At first, he became Headmaster of the ‘Torat Chaim’ Yeshiva. After this, he took up residence in a park near Rehovot, because he was drawn to working the land and did not want to make his living from the study of Torah. During the unrest of 1929 – he took up residence in Rehovot, and afterwards returned to Jerusalem, and opened up an institute to prepare students for rabbinical ordination. Rabbi Kook drew him close, and in more or less all his correspondence, encouraged him and praised him for his work and the tens of his students who assumed rabbinical pulpits in the larger world.

In his final years, he dedicated himself to rabbinic literature and prepared the book, ‘Explanations Offered by the Vilna Gaon and the Rambam.’

He passed away after considerable suffering, on 14 Kislev 5720 (1959).


Rabbi Shlomo Goren,
shlit'a Chief Rabbi of the IDF

He was born in Zambrow on 21 Shevat 5675, July 2, 1918 to his father, Rabbi Abraham Goronczyk-Goren (see above), and was the grandson of the eldest and beloved shokhet, R’ Nahum-Lejzor Tziviak. He came to Israel with his family in 1925 as an eight-year-old boy, first to ‘Kfar Chasidim,’ and afterwards to Jerusalem, first at the ‘Etz Chaim’ Yeshiva, and then finishing at the ‘Hebron’ Yeshiva, obtaining his rabbinical ordination at the age of seventeen. He pursued Jewish studies at the Jerusalem University. He pursued research in Talmudic studies, and made significant contributions to research in the Jerusalem Talmud, and at his initiative, a scientifically well-edited version of the Jerusalem Talmud was published. He was the recipient of the first ever Rabbi Kook Prize, awarded by the Tel-Aviv municipal administration (1943). He served in the ‘Haganah’ and the Israeli military, and was a role model for many young rabbis, and immediately upon the founding of the Israeli Army he was nominated as the first Chief Rabbi, which he occupies to this day with esteem and substance. Rabbi Goren is the most serious candidate to become the Chief Rabbi of Israel, after the passing of Rabbi Herzog z"l .  


















Rabbi Shlomo Goren


R’ Yudl Shokhet,
hi”d
By Joseph Yismakh

R’ Yudl shokhet

 

Let us first pen several lines to serve as a memorial to a small corner of our little town which is our house.

We were five neighbors. We were five working neighbors, laborers, from whom light emanated, along with tranquility and a love for work.

Yankl the Hat Maker with his five little children, worked hard from before dawn to well after dusk, and it was not only once that those little children went to bed hungry. Nevertheless, he was a man you could count on. He always worked while singing, singing while he worked – all manner of folk songs, bits of cantorial liturgy, and he hoped for better days.

Yaakov the Barrel Maker, a quiet and good Jewish man, worked from dawn until late into the night. His wife, Chaya Sarah, always helped the poor and was always at the ready to do a favor for someone else. They had fine children, a son, Sholom, and a daughter, Sarahcheh.

Moshe’l the Carpenter – This third neighbor had golden hands. Much of the youth of Zambrow, among them not a few who went on to become Chalutzim, were trained by him.

And another neighbor was David the Painter.

And the fifth neighbor was our family – Yudl the Shokhet. His family name was Yismakh.

They were five residents there. They were all exterminated....

However, let me stop here about one of these neighbors, who was the closest and most beloved by me. This is my father, Yudl the shokhet z"l.

In reality it would be appropriate to write about all of those who were shokhets in Zambrow, who made no small contribution to our town and were fine balebatim and prominent members of the clergy, such as R’ Nahum Lejzor Tziviak, the eldest of these shokhets among us, and the grandfather of our military Chief Rabbi, Major General Rabbi Shlomo Goren. After that came R’ Benjamin Shokhet (Rosenbaum). And my father Yudl shokhet. Further, there are R’ Abraham Shmuel Fiontak, R’ Moshe Aharon Amsterdamsky, etc. To my sorrow, I possess only minimal facts about them, and I can only pen a few lines about my father.

As was the case in many small towns, my father carried out those functions that had a connection to his calling: a mohel, a leader of prayer services on the High Holy Days, blowing the shofar and also a Torah reader. It is understood that he did not receive any extra compensation for doing these things. He did this out of a sense of duty, in performing a mitzvah. Performing these mitzvot bound him and tied him to the other clergy in the town, the Rabbi and the dayanim, the gabbaim and the laity serving as parnass. My father was a Chasid and worshiped at the Chasidic shtibl all year-round. He made it his business to assure that his children abided by Chasidic standards in dress and in habit. I recall the instance when my brother Herschel z"l was studying at the yeshiva in Lomza, at which time word reached us that he had begun to favor the wearing of a white tie in the aristocratic fashion. This irritated my father, who immediately traveled to Lomza to determine if it was true and see if he could influence his son.

My father was one of the prominent balebatim in the Chasidic shtibl. A long beard added to his resplendent appearance. He was always an inspired teacher of the Chasidim. He was versed in Chasidic lore, and was always telling historic episodes of the Chasidic movement. Because of this, he was loved everywhere and sought after. He was quite renown for his deft touch in performing ritual circumcisions on newborn Jewish male babies. He was well-versed in all the laws pertaining to treiboring65, and the examination of slaughtered animals, and not only once would he be called to Lomza and other cities to offer a ruling on a difficult question in this area. He was an accomplished leader of prayer services. The various houses of study competed fiercely, with each other, to have him officiate as a cantor for the High Holy Days, until a compromise was reached: the first day of Rosh Hashanah – at the White Synagogue, and the second day – in the Red one. In the latter, he also blew the shofar. On Yom Kippur, he would conduct the Kol Nidre services, the Musaf and Ne‘ila services. After Kol Nidre services on Yom Kippur [sic: Eve], he would spend the entire night at the Chasidic shtibl, standing up on his feet, reciting Tehillim, and learning until the morning.

My mother, may she have a bright, illuminated Garden of Eden, was always there to help him, being occupied with receiving guests, and to be available to help out the needy. If the need arose to spend the night and tend the indigent sick, she would cook soups for them. When she would get the ‘kashrut’ from the butchers, as was the town custom (the viscera from a slaughtered animal), she would first send packages to those who were keeping their needs secret, and afterwards to the indigent Jewish women.

My father was a shokhet in Zambrow for a little under sixty years. In his old age, he was bereft of energy. After he married off his daughter Chaycheh to R’ Benjamin Musicant – he permitted his son-in-law to come in and be his assistant and to take over the business, with the consent of the rabbi. My dear sister and her husband regrettably were killed by the murdering Nazis, together with the Rabbi and other balebatim. May their memory remain for the good.
 

R’ Berel Nigubcer zts"l

He was a formidable scholar with few who were in the entire area like him. He was a self-effacing and honest man, without any personal pride, and did not want to assume the mantle of the rabbinate notwithstanding the fact that he was repeatedly offered such. He was a scion of the family of R’ Leibeleh Kovner, and the root of his family was in Karlin, near Pinsk, and he came to Zambrow from the village of Nigubcy. His wife, Genendel, a Woman of Valor, ran a store of woven goods in the city square, and he was the headmaster of the yeshiva at Lodz. He invested the money he earned as a Rabbi in woven goods in Lodz, and was an intermediator for his wife. He then moved to
Zambrow and helped his wife in the business. He took part in the religious life of the city, and was a confidante of the Rabbi’s. He was fanatic in matters of faith, but also perceptive and knew how to weigh a matter, and not to impose anything on the community that would be unbearable. He was a joyous person, and his dancing on Simchat Torah tugged at the sympathies of the heart. He studied day and night, arising at one in the morning in order to study Torah.

His oldest son, Yeshaya, was a scholar and a rabbi in one of the towns of the Minsk Province, and was a son-in-law to the Rabbi of Myszinowka. He immigrated to the United States and was one of the leaders of the Rabbinical Council, appointed to oversee ‘kashrut’ in a number of large institutions that served food. He had the same insight as his father and was active in Torah institutions.

Regarding his second son, Aharon-Leib and Yaakov – see further on, in the list of the Berl Mark, regarding three families. In his youth, R’ Yaakov was one of the heads of the Zionist movement in Zambrow, and the first leader of Keren Kayemet, when the ‘blue box’ reached the city. He is today in the United States and is a secretary to the Rabbinical Council.

Rabbi Leib Rosing


R' Leibl Rosing z"l

 

He was the son-in-law to Breineh-Pearl Finkelstein, born in Russia. He studied at the Slobodka Yeshiva, and received his rabbinic ordination there. After his marriage he returned there for further study, for some additional time. His mother-in-law, Breineh-Pearl took great pride in him: "I bought a ‘Torah scroll’ for my daughter, because he is a holy man." And this nickname stayed with him, He was one of the great Torah scholars in the city, responding to the needs of the community, establishing a Gemilut Chasadim organization. For all his days, he was the right-hand man of the Rabbi, and assisted him in leading the city in his zealous struggles against outbreaks of opposition to the faith and its tradition. He served as a member of the Rabbinic Court of Justice, and because of this he was elected to the municipal council. He was beloved by all who knew him, for his honesty and the goodness of his heart. In the ghetto – when the Rabbi succumbed to weakness and exhaustion – he served in his place as the rabbi of the community. He was cremated in Auschwitz with his wife, Elkeh, four of his daughters, and two sons-in-law.


Cantors

 

We have no recollection of the first cantors of the city. The older folks still speak about R’ Pinchas who was a cantor and a shokhet. He came from Lithuania and was a good friend to, or perhaps altogether, a son-in-law to R’ Israel Szkoder, the renown cantor in Lithuania. Also, his wife, Shifra, was also musically talented. It is told that, the famous cantor, Yossele Rosenblatt, was a student of her father, and being in America at a very advanced age he would confer with her on matters pertaining to cantorial liturgy.

R’ Pinchas died before his time. It is told that he fell off the top seat in the bath house, was injured and died. The balebatim took care of the widow as follows: each week, she received a portion of the animal fat that the butchers took out of the slaughtered cattle. From this, she made a living. At an advanced age she immigrated to America, to her children and grandchildren.

One of her sons, Yitzhak (Itzik) was also a cantor.

The Cantor’s wife, Shifra, and her son, Yitzhak, the Cantor.

 

The second cantor in Zambrow, was R’ Shlomo Wismonsky, from the Lithuanian shtetl of Dieveniskes66. He was a handsome man, and well-dressed, who wore a top hat and a black overcoat. He had a formal musical education and could read musical notation. He mastered all musical compositions and led a fine choir that consisted of the best voices in the city. In the first period, he would even import singers from faraway places, and the city financed the choir. He was a student of the cantorial school in Czestochowa that was founded by Abraham-Ber Birnbaum. The cantor was also a shokhet. Only the Rabbi was concerned about his slaughtering, because he had doubts about his piety. His permanent position was in the White Bet HaMedrash, and he would from time-to-time arrange a visit to the Red Bet HaMedrash and to the synagogue. Many, especially the craftsmen, would come to the Bet HaMedrash to hear how he led prayers and to listen to his music.

                                   

            
                                                                                         
Reb Shlomo Wismonski.
 

He lacked for food in his last years, because the city had become so impoverished that, together with his wife, he was compelled to take up doing business in the marketplace. Later on, he went off to America, to his children.

He was the last cantor of the city. For a short time, Leib-Herschel, the youngest son of the melamed, Israel-Chaim, served in a cantorial capacity. He was mainly a hat maker, but he also had a pleasant tenor voice, and had a bit of book-learning. Accordingly, he taught himself to be a shokhet and had been a singer for a while in the cantor’s choir, where he grasped the essence of what was needed, and later on became a cantor somewhere in a small town not far from Zambrow.

Preachers

As was the case in all towns, from time-to-time an itinerant preacher [sic: a maggid] would come through and preach. The rabbi would preach twice a year: on Shabbat HaGadol and on Shabbat Shuva. On all other Sabbath days and quite often in the hours between Mincha and Maariv services, itinerant preachers, who would often go on foot from one location to the next, would fill in with their own sermons. They would ascend the pulpit and leave a collection plate at the door into which each person would throw in a few kopecks. It was from these funds that such itinerant preachers would derive the funds to marry off daughters, build themselves a small house, and make a living. They were called ‘Piekhotna Maggidim’ – those who were pedestrians. A renown preacher would be invited to a repast with the gabbai or the rabbi, where he was given some pointers on what to include in his message. His words would be filled with the legends of the Sages of old, parables, all delivered in a sweet, traditional sing-song, which would leave an impression on the city.


R’ Eliakim-Getzel Levitan

R’ Eliakim-Getzel Levitan

 

For a time, Zambrow had its own stable of preachers who were paid a weekly salary from the community treasury. R’ Eliakim-Getzel was one of the most renown of the preachers in all of Russia and Poland. He was a powerful orator, a fanatic, who mesmerized his listeners with his words. He would always use his voice to thunder, with eyes closed, and accuse the people of transgressions and malign intentions. He came from Zaslow. His father was a renown teacher of the Gemara in Kaidanov, at the courtyard of the Rabbis, and later on in Stiubic. One of his students is the current President of Israel, Mr. Zalman Shazar, as he describes in his book, ‘The Star at Dawn.’ The father exacted a vow from his son, Eliakim-Getzel, that he would not become a preacher because it would tear him away from study. However, the Rabbis saw that the [sic: younger] generation was falling away from Yiddishkeit and there was a need for an effective preacher that will awaken the flock to fulfillment of mitzvot, and to do good deeds – and so, they sent him to the tzadik of Grodno, R’ Nahumcheh, to annul the vow, and Eliakim-Getzel became a maggid.

When his father heard this, he said: ‘He will now no longer be able to learn!’ In Zambrow, Eliakim-Getzel founded a youth group, ‘Tiferet Bakhurim,’ where the young workers and craftsmen could study Pentateuch with Rashi commentary in the evening, recite psalms, and become ‘Jews.’ Because of his fanaticism and his sharp tongue, the less observant element in the city hated him. During the dispute between the two shokhets, he took the same side as the Rabbi and excoriated those who ate the meat that came from the second shokhet, saying that it is ‘as if they were eating the flesh of swine.’ It was then conveyed to the provincial seat in Lomza, that Eliakim-Getzel is awakening unrest in the city, and is inciting the citizenry to conflict, one with another. The chairman of the provincial government then insisted that the Dozors of the city vote on this. A vote was taken, with the majority finding against the maggid. Accordingly, he was compelled to leave Zambrow. On his last Sabbath, he saw fit to appear and curse the city: ‘A fire burns, and the city will be consumed by it.’ And indeed, shortly thereafter, in the year 1895, the city burned down.

As previously indicated, he was a great orator and had great influence among the uneducated masses. He would move men and women to tears, speaking of sins and about the punishment that awaited sinners in Hell. Later on, he was the maggid of Bialystok, Minsk, etc., and his name was famous throughout all of Russia and Poland.

In the year 1908, his son, a reverend from America, gave a sermon in the White Bet HaMedrash, not at all like the father. He was dressed in the short [sic: modern] style, and spoke like a modern orator, not using his father’s sing-song style, and was a Zionist... accordingly, the listeners in the White Bet HaMedrash were disappointed.

The ruins of he cemetery in Zambrow
 

R’ Akiva Rabinovich (Poltaver)

R’ Akiva was a son-in-law of R’ Elyeh Rosenberg. He was raised in Piotnica, where his father was the rabbi. However, he would often come to Zambrow, where he loved to preach.

When, later on, he became the rabbi in Piotnica, after his father had passed away, he joined the Zionist movement and was one of the first rabbis who was a ‘Lover of Zion.’ Thanks to the initiative of the Rabbi of Bialystok, R’ Shmuel Mohilever, Akiva became the Rabbi of Poltava.

Because of an incident, in which he was insulted, he became a great opponent of Zionism: at a ‘Hovevei-Zion’ conference in Warsaw, and a Rabbi Rabinovich was elected President. He thought that they meant it was him, and when he saw that he had made a mistake, he was deeply offended and became a protagonist. Once, after the second Zionist Congress, he was on a visit to Zambrow at his father-in-law Chona Tanenbaum, and appeared according to his father-in-law to manifest a desire to preach. The Zionists then organized themselves and would not permit this under any circumstances, because he would speak out against Zionism. This persisted, until he promised that he would not speak out against Zionism and the Land of Israel. A tumult ensued: Well, (they said), you mean that you won’t? He answered: Let me give you a parable: a person had to go to Lomza. He encounters a horse on the way. So he says: Little horse, little horse, take me to Lomza! So the horse replies: But I am going in the opposite direction, to Tyszowce! So he says: It doesn’t matter, take me on board, and I will ride to Tyszowce. When he already was sitting on the horse, he pulled on the reins, and turned the horse around to Lomza, where he wanted to go... the analogy is: if I am already standing on the bimah, I can say what I please... and said: I will offer you yet another parable: a king had a beautiful daughter, and God forbid, not on you, she fell ill. No doctor or professor was able to save her. A pauper came along. dressed in torn clothing, and offered that he could save the sick princess. The king saw that he had nothing to lose, because his daughter was in dire straits – so he agreed to let the pauper try and heal his daughter. When the sick princess saw the pauper standing beside her bed, she understood how great the misfortune was, and how dangerously ill she was, and that it was all the same as far as her father was concerned... the same is true with the sick ‘Mother, Zion.:’, when she sees who it is that is coming to cure her of her illness, she weeps and says: 'Zion- Zion, our Holy Land, how great is your misfortune, who will heal you... these Zionists?'... You can appreciate that Akiva Poltaver never again preached in Zambrow, even though he had friends here, and was later on to become famous as the editor of the anti-Zionist journal, ‘HaPeless.’ R’ Alter Maggid (R’ Moshe Zalman Urwicz) (son-in-law of the Lady Dyer) Alter the Maggid, or as he was called, the ‘Son-in-Law of the Lady Dyer,’ because he married the widow’s daughter, from the house of Wierzba. He was a comely Jewish man, with a wide black beard, attractive blue eyes, and would always dress neatly, wearing a wide Chasidic cap. He would speak softly, smilingly, exhibiting no sternness, even to those who opposed him, and would even try to be helpful in responding to those who abjured their faith. Nevertheless, he was a zealot, and he did what the Rabbi directed him to do, in fighting every new thing that intruded on Jewish life. He would weave in all of the shortcomings of life in the city into his sermons, and he would severely reprove all those who did not adhere to the old ways. He abhorred the Zionists whom he would call ‘Tzio-nisht-en67.’ He could not countenance the socialists, and fought against the modern school for children, the parties, the library, etc.

His faithful listeners, and students were the simple people, workers, craftsmen, and small-scale businessmen. The more urbane balebatim and youth would fight back against his preaching – but always respected him personally because of his good character. When the economic conditions worsened – the Zambrow Society in America assumed the burden of supporting him. In about 1924, he came to New York. All of his adherents escorted him with tears in their eyes, and said their goodbyes to him. Zambrow, they said, will never again see such a maggid.... (see above page 244).

In America, as well, he was a maggid. He would ‘preach’ in the other synagogues, but his chief means of support was from the Zambrow society, which greatly respected him. Later on, he became a rabbi in the 'United Zembrover-Jedwabner Synagogue.’ He mellowed in America, and understood that it was necessary to go with the flow rather than against it, yet he felt alone here and defeated. He no longer had his one-time ambience, his learning coterie, and the observant Jews.

He passed away on 9 Shevat 5713 (1953) and the entire [sic: Zambrow] society attended his funeral, according him this last final measure of respect.

A very substantial memorial service was also arranged by the society on February 21, and he was eulogized by Rabbi Yaakov Karlinsky and others. In the invitation to the service, it was written: "He was beloved by all for his good Jewish heart."
 

Shammai Lejzor

He was a big-boned strong man, and good-nature. He was a scholar, and God-fearing, and he would derive his sustenance from his small bakery, where his wife and daughters would bake bread, challahs, and put up cholent [sic: on Friday nights, to be kept warm for the Saturday main meal]. Shammai-Lejzor would assist in this, and quite often engage in the putting in and taking out the bread from the oven.

What was special, however, is that he was something of a preacher. He would travel among the various cities and towns, collecting money for the ‘kessel kosher,’ this being the kitchen for the Jewish soldiers who did not want to eat from the ‘unkosher pot,’ as it were. He would hold forth on the virtues and the great mitzvah of observing the rules for a kosher kitchen. When he would stay in Zambrow, and he would study a page of the Gemara with the rabbi. Occasionally, he would assemble a coterie of young people and study with them. After the war, when Poland became independent, he became an emissary, and he would travel to raise money for the yeshiva. He never preached in
Zambrow itself.

He was a man of the people, mixing easily with the erudite and the simple folk. He two sons-in-law, Mones Burakewicz and Yankl Provda, were active ‘strikers’ in the year 1905.
 

Chaim Velvel Pav

R’ Chaim Velvel Pav

 

He was a special kind of a preacher to the masses. He was really a man of the people, living modestly, as if he were a lamed-vovnik, and would comment in a rather soft manner with regard to those who did not conduct themselves in a manner that was appropriate.

He was born in Ostrow Mazowiecka, and took up residence in Jablonka, and as a young man, he studied in the yeshivas and knew how to learn well. However, he did not want to derive his sustenance from Torah study, and took to a trade, as a hat maker, working very hard and often dozing off while at work because late into the night he would sit and be studying from the Gemara. On one occasion, a large fire broke out in the shtetl. His house and all of his possessions were consumed. When he went up into the attic to rescue his furs, the fire enveloped the ladder. It was necessary for him to jump down, as a result of which he was all banged up and his face was burned. The burn scars remained with him for the rest of his life.

Without a groschen to his name, and without bread for his children, he came to Zambrow but was no longer able to practice his trade. He took the advice his good friend, Alter the Maggid, and mastered a number of sermons because he knew how to learn, and he became a Maggid himself. He would travel and go from town to town, and always obtained a couple of groschen for his sermon. He would never ‘orate’ in Zambrow. When his children gave him some help, and his son, R’ Louis Pav sent him the first twenty-five dollars from America, – Chaim Velvel immediately abandoned his oratory, and again began to live off of his own work: He leased an orchard with a partner, and from this, more or less, he made a living. He would lie in the orchard for the entire summer, with his Gemara in his hand.

During the German Occupation of the First World War, he went to break stones to avoid having to approach people for charity. Everyone respected him, as a decent and good Jewish man. Shortly before the Second World War, in the year 1938, he died in Zambrow and was privileged to be interred in the Holy Land.

Page 294: A Group of Teachers and Pupils


Women of Scholarly Repute

Zambrow Women Who Possessed Scholarly Expertise in Depth

In the past couple of decades, Jewish daughters, in Zambrow studied: Pentateuch, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, and learned to write ‘Shura Gruss’, with the more skilled among them taught the writing of addresses in English, in the event that they should marry husbands that would emigrate to America, so they not be disadvantaged, and be able to write out a mailing address without recourse to an ‘expert.’ They were taught by special teachers, such as the ‘Fly-Doctor’ Nosskeh the Melamed, Bercheh the Melamed, etc. Such [sic: girl pupils] sat on separate benches, and were not intermixed with the boys. Later on, the ‘Szkola’ came along: [with them] the Russian-Yiddish teachers like Swiersky, Szczynko, Friedberg, Lev, and others, who would teach girls mostly, in the Russian language. Afterwards, close to the time of the First World War, and later – a modernized [sic: reformed] school came along, and the schools of Fyvel Zukrowicz, Zerakh Kagan, [Yaakov] Tobiasz, the Yiddish school of N. Smoliar, Y. Domb, Lola Gordon, the Polish Volksschule and others. It was here, that the Jewish daughters obtained their education.

However, in the days of yore, until the beginning of the twentieth century girls were not educated. Accordingly, it was by a miracle that there developed Jewish women who were righteous, who took upon themselves as a sacred mission, to teach girls ‘Ivri,’ to read the ‘Teitch-Chumash'68, teach then how to properly kosher meat, to be able to recite a prayer of request to the Almighty, and to be able to participate in prayer at the women’s synagogue.

I am desirous of writing about a number of these ‘educated women,’ to the extent that I can recall them, now nearly sixty years ago.

1. Chashkeh the Lady Carpenter

The first among these women was Chashkeh, the wife of Moshe’l the Carpenter, who was a tiny shrunken old Jewish lady, with weak eyes (who became blind in her old age). She knew how to read and write, and how to recite incantations to ward off the ‘evil eye.’ She knew all of the prayers of beseeching the Almighty by heart, as well as all the weekly Torah portions – as they appeared in the Teitch-Chumash. She would take no fee from poor girls whom she taught. Her home was in the horse market, at the adjacent corner of the Lomza Street. In the city, she was characterized as a Righteous Woman. From time-to-time, she would walk through the streets, visiting all of the houses with a red handkerchief in her hand – to collect small coins for charity, and the mitzvah of dowering a bride who might be poor and orphaned, or for widows, for a woman whose husband had abandoned her to go to America, or for just plain people in need – there was Chashkeh. She was always respected and donations were given gracefully.

If it happened that a woman bore a child with a great deal of difficulty, which compelled everyone to engage in the ritual of ‘tearing open the graves,’ that is to tear open the Holy Ark, and to compel the Master of the Universe – to bring this sick person back to health, and if it was necessary to inform a young woman of the rules pertaining to how she must now conduct her ablutions, etc. – one came to Chashkeh. She knew everything. Today, to conjure a ‘good eye,’ or to recite complete esoteric passages, and to then spit seven times, in order to drive a disease away – this was Chaskeh.

In her old age, she located a virtuous young girl, who was an eldest daughter, and the eldest granddaughter of an eldest daughter, to whom she transmitted her secret incantations, teaching her all the right words to say, to thwart the ‘Evil Eye,’ and other such stratagems.


 2. Fat Baylah

‘Die Grobbeh Bayl’tseh,’ as she was called [sic: in Yiddish] , was the director of the girl’s division of the cheders of Israel Chaim Fleischer – or as he was called: ‘Srol Chaim of the big backside’ He was my first good rebbe, who taught me Hebrew, and I have much to be thankful to him, for my understanding of Yiddishkeit. I recall: At noontime, the girls would start to arrive in cheders, mostly six to nine years of age (I was, at that time, barely five years old). They would mill around the door, helping the Rebbetzin to peel potatoes, and together carrying out the scoop pail full of peelings and pouring it out onto the side street that was behind the burned-down synagogue, helping to wash groats, making a herring, etc., until a tall stout Jewish lady would walk in, with a stern smile on her lips, her head covered in a colored babushka, girded around with a broad blue-checkered apron, over a brown cotton and linen or velvet skirt, with a green-striped and a chintz-flowered little blouse. She would exclaim: ‘Children, go grab a bite!’ and then nothing would avail. R’ Israel Chaim was compelled to leave the student in the middle of poring over the siddur, smooth out his bunched-up fringed garment, scratch his beard on the right and left, take a deeply inhaled pinch of snuff, look at the side of stout Bayl’tseh and say: ‘Indeed, go grab a bite!”

When the young boys left, came the time for the girls. Israel Chaim would then sit down to eat some radishes with sour cream, a green scallion, with bread dipped in salt. A plate of potatoes and kasha – with milk, and would occasionally wash this down with red borscht, together with the keg, or with a green shchav, whitened wither with the yolk or the white of an egg, and in the meantime, Baylah would don her metal-rimmed glasses, and study Hebrew with the girls, holding a pointer in her hand. Later on, she would teach them how to recite a blessing. In taking the ritual portion of challah in preparing to bake challahs for the Sabbath, or bread, lighting candles – with the movement of her hands, showed them how to shut their eyes, and how the blessing was to be recited, etc. Not only once was she compelled to shoo me away: Go home, little boy, it is not nice to stare at girls while they are learning...

The Rebbe would look askance at her – that she should take account of who I was: Nachman-Yankl’s grandson, and a son of the teacher...

This was something of an affront to the Rebbe’s sister, or sister-in-law, because she would act as if she were in her own home. The girls would bring money for the new month, and occasionally a special gift: a rogovka, a piece of white-blue soap, sometimes small red turnips, or sometimes green ‘tshiftchukh.’

On the Sabbath, and on Festival holidays, especially on the High Holy Days – she served as a ‘zogerkeh’ in the Women’s synagogue: with a clutch of women around her, with the ‘Korban- Mincha’ prayer books in hand, or the Shas supplications, repeating after her, word for word, using her melody and intonation. Mend’keh, Israel Shia-Tsale’leh’s and other wags, would mimic her and tell jokes about the women who would recite after her, who didn’t know what they were saying, and often making errors that were laughable. Yet, this is the way it was in many towns.


3. Henny Itkeh

Henny Itkeh was a widow, the mother of Abraham-Herschel and Shlomo Burakewicz (the father of Shmuel-Lejzor’s son-in-law, the mailman during the German Occupation of the First World War). She would read the portion of the week in front of the women every Saturday, after the noon hour, from Tzena u’Re’ena, and would add her own commentaries and stories that related to the portion. She was called ‘The Lady Rabbi.’ It was told that she possessed the capacity for study just like a man, and had at one time studied the Gemara – something that, at that time was barely believable.... she would take no money for her learning with the women, so the women would send her gifts: a liver, a fish, a challah, eggs and honey for the High Holy Days. She was a ‘reciter’ in the White Bet HaMedrash. I remember how the people joked about her: ‘And Noah was a righteous man for his generations,’ she would translate as ‘Noah was an observant man (frumer mann) in his generation.’ The naive women would repeat, and say ‘fur mann’ instead of ‘frumer mann’[sic: a wagon driver] with instead of in, his ‘tzoris’ ‘instead of ‘doyress.’
 

 4. Bluma the Blind Lady

I did not know her. She lived at the Koszaren and was blind in one eye, and she was a teacher. She was a tall Jewish lady, and healthy. She would teach girls the aleph-bet. She was a ‘reciter’ in the synagogue of the Chevra Shas.
 

5. Pesha Golombeck

She was the wife of Berl Velvel and the daughter-in-law of Manusz Golombeck, was totally fluent in the Mahzor, and knew all of the prayers of beseeching by heart. It was told that she even created her own prayers of beseeching. On Yom Kippur Eve, she would assemble the women about her, many who were indigent, in the Red Bet HaMedrash, and read the prayers to them. She would also got to the homes of the poor to read confession with the sick, and to give them courage and not to be afraid: ‘One does not die from making confession,’ – [ she would say], and the righteous recite such a confession every night before they go to sleep. She would visit the poor women who lay ill – recite Tehilim and when necessary: would recite confession. ‘One does not die from reciting confession’ – she would raise the spirits of dying and bewildered women, the righteous recite confession every day... The time when she shone was during the High Holy Days. The prayer hall of the Red Bet HaMedrash would be packed with women. They came to pour out their hearts before the Master of the Universe, and their command of Hebrew is tenuous, and they can’t follow, repeating after the Hazzan... so she would sit herself on an elevated stool, and direct the tens of women: now, my dear children, show your hearts, we are getting ready to say u’Nesaneh Tokef...’ You understand, of course, that she took no remuneration for this.
 

6. My Grandmother, Rivka Gittl

My grandmother was also an ‘educated woman’ according to what that meant in those days. She had her own separate shelf with her books: a Teitch-Chumash, with many illustrations, a ‘Korban- Mincha’ siddur, a book of prayers for beseeching, Mahzors containing translations from Hebrew [sic: into Yiddish], booklets containing blessings for after meals, books on Mussar in Yiddish, a calendar with candlelighting times, a ‘Ma’aneh Lashon,’ etc. Women would be constantly coming to her with questions about the appropriate action and what should be prepared for the ‘First Seder,’ and what for the ‘Other Seder,’ what should be included in the cholent for ‘Shabbat Shira,’ or ‘Shabbat HaGadol,’ which may have come out on the eve of Passover itself. I remember very well, her ‘cultural work’ among the women, after the Saturday afternoon nap, during the day, and especially at Tisha b’Av at night. In the summer months, on Saturday after the nap, the lady neighbors would come to my grandmother, her daughter, and daughter-in-law, to recite ‘Perek69’ with Yiddish translation from the Hebrew, and to read the weekly portion in Tzena u’Re’ena. My grandmother would serve Jalowcowa beer as a refreshment, which she would make herself, or with a drink of cold water, which one of her sons, or grandsons would bring from the brook. An elderly woman would come to my grandmother every Friday, would smear her head full of a mild soap, and shave her entire head with a straight razor. Immediately afterwards, she would don her Sabbath wig, woven from nice black hair, adorned with pins, that were decorated with colored beads and flowers. Dressed in a black silk dress, with jewelry around her neck, on her breast and hands (part of her gold jewelry is under my care to this day), with a thin, woven Turkish shawl thrown about her shoulders, she would sit, with her feet on a footstool, and read to the women – from the portion of the week, or the appropriate section of Perek for that Sabbath.

On the night of Tisha b’Av, she ‘observed mourning the destruction [of the Temple]:’ Sitting on kerchiefs, spread out on the floor, women would listen to how my grandmother would read from The Book of Lamentations in her Teitch-Chumash. In the house – it was dark, except by my grandmother’s side there stood a brass candlestick (the Sabbath candlesticks were silver) with a large candle in it. My grandmother is reading, and the women weep and wail over the destruction [of the Temple]...

Once, on Shabbat Shuva,70 after reading the Haftorah in Yiddish, my grandmother said a few words about the Day of Judgment which was drawing nigh, and the need to engage in repentance. Suddenly, she sang out:

"HaYom, HaYom HaYom71, vos helft dir dyn gevayn, Today, today, today, what good is your weeping, Az der Boyreh Oylem ruft, mooz men dokh gayn... If the Creator of the World beckons, one must go..."

This ditty, with its melody, echoes in my ears to this day....
 

7. Chaya Zuckrowicz

She was the widow of Nahum-Leib Zukrowicz, who was the uncle of Yankl and Meir Zukrowicz, and father to the teacher Fyvel Zukrowicz. She was a clever, witty woman, who would make sport of the balebatim and unlettered people who tried to pass themselves off as scholars. On the little bridge before nightfall on Friday, she would tell stories abut the righteous, and by contrast about devils and spirits. She would serve as the master of ceremonies at large weddings. No one made a move without her. She would put together the menu, and where to have the reception, where the groom should stand, and where the bride should sit during the badeken, etc. She knew all the little details and would also serve as a reciter in the women’s synagogue of the White Bet HaMedrash. She would laugh at the women who had no facility with Hebrew, and all they could do was repeat.

She was an alert woman, loving to tell stories and jokes, and would prepare menus for lavish weddings, and would recite prayers and beseeching verses before the women. Not once would I subsequently overhear her joking with a Polish woman about how she would deliberately make errors and switch around lines in the prayer text. She once told the story of how a certain woman, wanting to demonstrate her fluency in prayer in reciting before the women, began the introduction to the ‘Shema’ as ‘El Melekh...’ and continued with ‘Katckeh Drelekh’ – which is nothing more than a child’s song.

8. Women Who Received a Pension

Every Thursday, Shifra, the elderly wife of the Hazzan, would receive the ‘leavings’ from the slaughter, a portion of the ??? fat – as a pension, because her husband, Pinchas the Hazzan and shokhet, died before his time. She would bring this fat to her granddaughter, ‘Chana the Busy Body’ – Broder, and both of them would cut up onions, melt the fat [mix it together,] and sell it. She made a living from this, because the community was not able to pay her a special pension (see above p. 286).

A second one was Malkunyeh. She was a heavy-set woman, with perpetually red and sickly eyes. Her husband was ‘Abraham Berl Klinn’, the village idiot. She was well-regarded by the women, a member of the Chevra Kadisha, and at one time, she was a functionary at the mikvah. She, or her former husband, had some kind of relationship with the butchers, and they would always give her the ???? at no cost, or at a nominally low price. So she would go to the river to wash the ??? and temporarily dirty up all of the water, The boys, who would go there to swim, would curse her for this, and sing after her: Malkunyeh with the lungs jumped into the garden...

One time, when I was learning at Berszteh, who had his cheders near Yossl the oil maker at the edge of the river, we -planned to accost her, and insist that she wash the ??? at the pond near Pfeiffer’s burned out-mill. Well, Berszteh the teacher butted in, and it became evident that she was a relative of his, his aunt’s daughter, or a sister-in-law...
 

9. Malka Tzimbel

She was a fiery sort of Jewish woman, whose husband was a porter for the Rothberg family, if I am not mistaken. She was a happy sort of woman, and would cheer up the men and women at weddings and other happy occasions, singing folk songs, reciting jokes, etc. It was told that once, when she was younger, she would dance at weddings and sing with a cymbal in hand, like Miriam the Prophetess had done when the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea, and for this reason she was called Malka ‘Tzimbel.’ She had talented sons, one like the other: Elyeh, Abraham’keh and Itzl. Abraham’keh was the Zambrow songbird, singing for the Hazzan, and would sing beautifully along the promenade on the evenings when folk songs were sung.
 

10. Shayna Mindl

She was the oldest daughter-in-law of Israel David Shammes. Her husband, Herschel, was a Jewish man of scholarly repute. He went off to America and caused his wife to wait for a long number of years. Together with her gifted daughter, Chana-Gittl (her husband was also in America), she made a living by selling illegal whiskey (okwiat). After prayers (she lived across the street from the synagogue), the Jews would stop in at her place for a quick snort and a bite of egg kichel or a piece of sugar. Not only once did the police come to perform a search to find whiskey. However, she was a very clever woman (she came from Goworowo), and when the police would discover that she had a flask of liquor, she would pour out large glasses of the stuff, set it up in front of these officers and say: good, first drink, and freshen yourselves up, afterwards, you can carry out your procedures.... and so they would drink themselves full, wipe off their moustaches, and go away.

On one occasion, a new, and unfamiliar police guard came along, so she grabbed the flask of whiskey and said: see what is here – this is after all only water – and poured it all out right in front of his eyes... and so he became verbally abusive for these ‘Jew tricks’ and was unable to do anything... She was a wit, and would tell spicy jokes for men from time to time, and would order the children to leave in those cases. She read ‘modern-day books’ and was thoroughly conversant with the novels of Shomer and Blastein, always being cheerful and full of humor.

During Passover, Jewish soldiers would always get together and eat a good holiday meal at her place, and the house would be gay, and people from all over the city would come to stand under the windows, to hear the singing and small talk. She died in America.

Scribes
By Eliezer Pav

Zambrow also had its own scribes. The creation of a Torah scroll was usually done in some other large city. However, smaller tasks, such as Torah scroll repair, preparing a set of phylacteries, a mezuzah – this would be done locally in the city here. We had an elderly scribe, a diminutive Jewish man – Zelikl the Scribe. He derived insufficient income from this, and accordingly sought a different craft: he would make cotton blankets, together with his wife. He had an only son – Isaac who was called Meizl. He wasn’t very capable, with crooked feet, and he was a conversation piece in the city.

Fishl was a second scribe. He was somewhat hard of hearing, middling height and broad-boned. He was a good scribe and worked out the formats personally: He bought leather from a kosher animal, personally scratched off the fur, straightened it, whitened it and powdered it, and afterwards wrote on it.

When economic conditions worsened, he opened a private little library and would deal in modern Hebrew and Yiddish books. He would astonish everyone with his knowledge of books and their authors. One could get a good book to read from him at a cost of a kopeck a week, and he would always consult with Benjamin Cohen, who was the principal representative of the books put out by ‘Toshia.’

R’ Fishl was the last scribe in the city. After him, no scribe was able to find a way to make a living in the city. Accordingly, mezuzahs, phylacteries, and handwritten Torah scrolls were purchased from outside sources...

Education & Culture


The Long-Serving Rebbe and Teacher, Bercheh Sokol, with Pupils


Yeshiva

Zambrow supported a yeshiva for all its years. This means that it was concerned with ensuring that older boys who wish to continue their studies beyond cheders wo0uld be afforded the opportunity to sit and learn. Good Jews, for the most part, craftsmen, would see to it that all the yeshiva boys from outside of the city would be allocated ‘days’ to take their meals, free lodging, and they also looked after ensuring that the various headmasters received their wages. When the Lomza Yeshiva was founded as an institute of higher learning for Talmud, its leadership decided that it would found small yeshivas in the smaller towns such as Makowa, Zambrow, Ostrowa, Stawysk, etc. – that would prepare students for the more advanced yeshiva in Lomza. The yeshiva at Zambrow was counted as one of the best, and even received support from Lomza.

After the fire, R’ Yehuda Adaszko was Headmaster (he was killed by a lightning bolt), and then R’ Joshua Gorzholczany. The Rabbi directed the yeshiva and concerned himself for its survival, and under him – the entire city... among the first of the inspectors who provided oversight of the curriculum, and how the young students were being directed, was R’ Mishe-Michael, the son-in-law of Shmuel the Butcher: a tall and stern Jewish man, who limped on one foot, and before whose walking stick, the young little boys cringed. He would also run a lesson. A second such inspector was R’ Moshe Yaakov Slodek from Wysoko, etc.

In the year 1916, during the German Occupation, the Rabbi’s son-in-law, R’ Aharon Yaakov Klepfish, returned from Slonim, where, for a period of time he had served as a yeshiva headmaster. Together with his brother-in-law, R’ Chaim-David, he planned to open a large yeshiva and make Zambrow a center for Torah study. At that time, the Lomza Yeshiva was in distress. The leader, R’ Lejzor, and his sons-in-law, went off to Russia by way of Semiatice and remained there. The sources of money were tapped out, and the severe years of hunger tore away many young boys from pursuing learning. It would be somewhat easier to support a yeshiva in a small shtetl. And indeed, in Radun, Volozhin, Novardok, Telz – you had small towns with large yeshivas. As an inspector, they attracted to themselves the son of the inspector of the Slobodka Yeshiva, R’ Shmuel Finkel, who by chance, happened to be located in Lomza. Accordingly, Zambrow became a locus for Torah study. Apart from the children of Zambrow, talented children from all of the surrounding towns came, even from [as far away as] Bialystok, and among them, a few scholars who could not travel back to the Lithuanian yeshivas. In time, additional resources arrived, such as the son-in-law of the Vizner Rabbi, Rabbi R’ Yehuda. A scholar from Bialystok, R’ Eisenstadt, and others. All of the Zambrow balebatim and craftsmen donated ‘days’ and also paid in a weekly stipend. R’ Shammai-Lejzor became an emissary and traveled to gather funds for the yeshiva from other cities.

During the time of Polish sovereignty, the yeshiva again was sapped of its strength: part of the students went off to the military, or had to emigrate, R’ Aharon-Yaakov became the Rabbi in Sniadowo, R’ Chaim-David married the daughter of the Rabbi of Lomza, and the yeshiva nearly fell apart.

The Rabbi and the balebatim, such as Meir Zukrowicz, Abraham Shlomo Dzenchil, Leibl Rosing, etc., did not rest, and they restored a small yeshiva. The Rabbi and R’ Joshua gave lessons, and R’ Yankl-David the Shoemaker, the son of the shoemaker from Gosz, stood at the head of those who looked after arranging ‘days’ and lodging for the young scholars. The yeshiva existed until the city went under (see above, page 218).
 

Cheders

As was the case in all other small towns, there existed in Zambrow three types of schools for children:

1. The cheders – Run by melamdim.
2. The cheders Metukan – The reformed cheders, which served as a transition to the third sort of educational institution. 3. The school.

Of the chederss, let us here recollect three of the outstanding chederss which were close to me: [sic: those of] Bercheh Sokol, Fishl Danielewicz, and Joshua Gorzholczany.

There were many melamdim in the shtetl whose names continue to reverberate in my ear to this day, such as Chaim Reuven the elementary level teacher, Israel Chaim Fleischer with his son, Pesach the Melamed, Elyeh the Melamed, Shimon the Melamed, Pinia, Shepsl Kwiatek, Motya’s son-in-law – Mendl Alsheh, ‘Tzenerl’ the Melamed, Abba-Leib, Chaim Melamed, Avi-Ezer, Lipman, Fyvel Branever. Itzeleh Abraham’l the Melamed from Kuliaw, the one from Jablonka, Khamiszoszka’s son-in-law, Herschel Kooker, Chaim Hirsch Tzinowicz (a Gemara melamed), Shlomo Tzinowicz – his son. Meir Fyvel, Abraham Moshe, and others.

However, the previously mentioned were the best in the city.

Bercheh Sokol, a short person with a broad back, was the son of a prominent Jewish man, who held the office of the gentry house, and was a Kohen, and because of this was called ‘The High Priest.’ Bercheh was a smart man, and a first class pedagogue, even though he would hit the children (he was a Kohen, with a bad temper...). He always had a large cheders, of up to sixty children of various ages. He would divide them up so that the older and better students would learn with the younger ones, and quiz them, so that Bercheh himself would just have to maintain control and oversight.

 


Invitation to the Memorial Meeting for the Late R’ Bercheh Sokol

 These ‘assistants’ would keep track of which lines the students did not know, on a note, which they would turn over to Bercheh, and afterwards he would quiz them on exactly those sentences. Despite the fact that he did not teach Hebrew in Hebrew (Ivrit b’Ivrit), his students knew the Tanakh and Hebrew well. They wrote compositions in Hebrew, descriptions, letters, etc. He subscribed to a weekly paper: ‘Olam Katan,’ and afterward ‘HaChaim v’HaTeva,’ ‘Perakhim,’ and others. He organized a small library in the cheders, and every Friday each student would receive a book to read at home. He also taught songs and sports. At his place, young boys and girls studied together. In the summertime, the children would enjoy the benefit of fresh air, by going outside to study or taking a stroll in the forest, and not only on Lag B’Omer. He would go with the children to swim in the river, would do gymnastics, etc. Religious parents would not send their children to be taught by him.

Bercheh was not any kind of observant individual, and would involve himself in partisan politics and was a socialist, who once was a Bundist,’ and in his last years a member of ‘Poaeli Zion.’ His student knew the Poaeli Zion ‘oath’ by heart, in both Yiddish and Hebrew. As far back as 1905, he had organized evening courses for male and female working people, and was a Yiddishist more than an Hebraist. He was a melamed for over thirty years, until he went over to America, to his children: Ruvkeh, Myshkeh, Shimon, and a daughter, approximately in the year 1918. There, his children set him up in an old age home, and he lived there to the marvelous old age of one hundred. He passed away in 1961, and his New York landsleit accorded him great honor.


Fishl the Melamed

Fishl the Melamed came from Sniadowo, married Zisl in Zambrow, who was a sister of Yirmiyahu Syeta. He was a good Hebraist and earned a reputation as an outstanding pedagogue. He taught Tanakh and Gemara. He taught a great deal of Hebrew and loved to read every day in class, in front of the students, chapters from the Hebrew literature. He read stories from ‘Memories of the House of David,’ and would excite the imagination of the students, and encourage them to do independent reading. He taught the laws and customs from the abridged ‘Shulkhan Arukh’ for students, prepared by Rabbi Y. B. Lavner (the editor of ‘Perakhim’ and the editor of the book ‘All the Folklore of Israel.’). He was disinclined to take on many students, as did Bercheh Sokol. He had two classes, which he would integrate frequently. He gave his students a very impressive national education. He was a genteel man, of mild manner, a Zionist and a lover of the Hebrew language.

 

He was one of the first Zionists of the shtetl. When Keren Kayemet L’Israel was established in 1902, and before the blue boxes reached Zambrow – Fishl the Melamed pre-empted the process, and together with is friend and comrade Rabbi Israel Levinsky ordered one hundred boxes from Leibusz the metalworker on their own account, with the Star of David etched on them, and they distributed them among the Zionist households, going so far as to nail them on doors as charity collection boxes, until the official blue boxes reached us from Berlin a year later.

 In his old age, he went to America, to his children, after spending about forty years in the inculcation of Torah in Zambrow. His eldest son Peretz is a rabbi in New York.
 

R’ Joshua (Yeshea) Gorzholczany  


R’ Joshua Gorzholczany (Marmori)

 

A pleasant Jewish man with a black beard and black piercing eyes, a son of Herschel Tscheshliar – an alert man, full of zest. This Joshua taught only Gemara, and at infrequent intervals, also Tanakh.. From time-to-time, he served as a headmaster at a small yeshiva. His students had nodifficulty in gaining admission to the yeshiva at Lomza.

An intelligent and fine-looking Jewish man, he was well-loved in the city, was both a Dozor and a Vice-Burgomaster for a time. He spoke Polish beautifully, and a bit of Russian. He had some knowledge of medicine, and even permitted himself the freedom to write ‘prescriptions,’ and visit sick people just like a doctor – understandably, without charging a fee. Women would come to him for blessings, and incantations to ward off plagues – as if they were coming to some holy man and rabbi. During the partisan struggle in Zambrow, R’ Joshua sided with ‘Agudat Israel,’ and even expressed his ardor for it.

He made aliyah in 1936, from Kirov, and settled in Petakh Tikva. There again he earned his reputation and the affection of the Haredim and the scholars. He would teach a ‘page’ of Gemara to the balebatim and even continued to give a lesson at the Lomza Yeshiva branch of Petakh Tikva. He died in Petakh Tikva, in Israel, in the year 1959, and was extensively honored at his passing. He was eulogized by Rabbi Katz, R’ Yekhiel Gordon – the Headmaster of the Lomza Yeshiva branch of Petakh Tikva, and others.



All that Remains of the Jewish Community, of Blessed Memory, in Zambrow

 

Struck by a Lightning Bolt
By Israel Levinsky

On the early evening of a summer Friday, a consultation took place between four teachers and myself at the home of the Gemara melamed R’ Yehuda Adaszko: R’ Yehuda, Yeshea [sic: Joshua] Gorzholczany, Fishl Danielewicz, and Bercheh Sokol. They decided that I should study Russian and arithmetic in their chederss – instead of being instructed by the municipal Russian teacher Szczinka. Coming home, it suddenly became dark: a downpour ensued, accompanied by loud thunder and terrifying lightning. A loud clap of thunder, accompanied by a frightening bolt of
lightning elicited a shudder from the entire town. It then became apparent that R’ Yehuda had been struck – together with his son. R’ Yehuda was standing on a table and was pouring oil into the hanging lamp – and the lightning bolt passed through the wire and entered R’ Yehuda’s body. The son was saved – but R’ Yehuda was dead. All manner of things were tried [to revive him] but to no avail. A gentile advised that he should be buried in a standing position, and to surround him with ewers of sour milk. Accordingly, on Friday towards nightfall, a pit was dug. With the consent of the Rabbi, and for the entire Sabbath, containers of sour milk were set out – Tehillim was recited without
interruption – and none of this helped.

The Holy Sabbath had already been disrupted in the shtetl. Traditional songs were not being sung. For the entire night, everyone stood at the pit that had been dug out and recited Tehillim. Two Jewish men were sent to Lomza to fetch a doctor, a specialist – but he was not effective... On Saturday night, he was taken out of the pit, the right thing was done by him, and a substantial funeral was arranged for him on Sunday, which included many eulogies.

Before the funeral, the teachers decided among themselves how to deal with the sustenance of the unfortunate [surviving] family. It was decided that the widow would receive her share of the tuition paid by the students, that the teachers would earn, in taking the place of her husband. A specified sum of money was added to this, and many of the respected women of the town assumed the obligation to buy their necessities from the widow in the store that she would open.

The funeral was attended by a large throng. The crying and wailing of the bereaved were heartrending. His friends eulogized him, and his grave site was considered one of the important ones in the town.

A Group of Yeshiva Scholars in Zambrow

From the right: Zvi Ben-Joseph, Berl Paciner z”l, Menachem Wismonsky, and Shmuel, son of Rabbi Klepfish.


R’ Meir Fyvel Melamed

By Chaim Bendor

I was five years old when I arrived to learn at [the cheders of] R’ Meir Fyvel Zarembsky the Melamed. Before that, I had studied with Herschel the Melamed.

It was a small cheders, with a low tuition fee. The breadwinner was his wife, Szprinza, who would bake honey cake and cookies, a lot of which she sold to children for small coins. On Friday nights she would bank the fires in her oven and take in the pots of cholent from the town to be kept warm. Immediately after Purim, the cheders room became transformed into a matzoh bakery. We, the children, helped the Rabbi oversee the Kashrut and would sometimes be ‘flour shakers’ and ‘water pourers.’

His eldest and only son Alter was a culture activist in town, but sickly, suffering from tuberculosis. There is no doubt that this is the reason why he never married. He died during the First World War from his illness. I can still see in my mind’s eye, and hear in my ears, the bitter ‘weeping’ of all the family members when this beloved son was taken into the Russian army despite his ailment, but was immediately discharged.

The Rebbe, Meir Fyvel, was constantly in good humor, with a smile on his lips, having no complaints to tender to anyone, despite the fact that he had no small amount of family troubles. Apart from his three daughters, he raised two other orphan girls, and held them as if they were his own children. He was a Ger Chasid. He would lead services from the pulpit, he would call worshipers up to the Torah reading, would allocate Hakafot, and his fiery festive voice would bring in light and joy to everyone.

About ten years ago, I undertook a trip with a daughter of Zambrow to visit other landsleit. On the way, we talked about the past personalities of the town, who were no longer with us. How elated I was, to encounter in the ‘subway,’ two ladies from Zambrow, my teacher, Meir Fyvel’s daughters...The elder of the two, widowed and without family, lived with the younger and her family.

This encounter made an extraordinary impression on me. Since that time, I have met with them more times and concluded that they were in fact going in their father’s ways and display his good traits.

Chaim ben David [Chaim Bendor] (center) To his Right, Baumkoler, and To his Left, Yekhiel Prawda


R’ Israel Levinsky

 

He was born in the village of Kozhidlo, near Ostrolenka, in the year 1871. He studied at the LomzaYeshiva, and from there went off to the Lithuanian yeshivas in Skidel, Orany, and came to Vilna, against the will of his parents – because they feared that in Vilna he would become ‘spoiled.’

He befriended a poor yeshiva student, Chaim Helfant, who later on became renown as the leader of the Bund. Levinsky was eager for a general education and did not content himself with the Gemara.

Like other yeshiva students without means, he would go to the municipal gymnasium, wait for when the gymnasium students would be going home, and try to spot a Jewish student in their ranks, to consummate a friendship, and ask for ‘help’ – that he, or one of his friends, teach him Russian...

In this manner, he acquired the education of six classes of gymnasium in the span of two years.
 

He married in Zambrow and became a prominent citizen. Here is how he describes, in his memoir ‘Thorns and Flowers,’ how he became a teacher (see below):

He was one of the most active of the Zionist workers, one of the first who carried on with the work of Keren Kayemet, of selling ??? from the Jewish Colontal Bank, and shepherded the introduction of the teaching of Hebrew in many of the chederss, and undertook leadership in the culture circles for the young people. In 1905, he drew closer to the work of the socialists and believed that a socialist Russia would give the Jews rights and their freedom.

In 1909, he was engaged by Jedwabne to establish a Hebrew school there. As a good pedagogue and organizer, it was possible for him to establish this school and place it on a high level. However, the authorities did not grant him permission to be the director for the school, because the teachers there informed on him, accusing him of being a revolutionary. He was compelled to leave Jedwabne. A year later, he established such a school in Lomza, called ‘Torah VoDa’ath,’ and he stayed at its helm for twenty-five years until 1935, when he turned it over to his comrades, and made aliyah to the Land of Israel. In Lomza, he was also active in the area of national education, and in working tirelessly for Keren Kayemet, HeHalutz, and other Zionist endeavors, and was in the leadership of those caring for orphans, was also a gabbai of the Great Synagogue, etc.

In Israel, he was the Honorary Chairman of the Lomza Society, devoting himself to literature, translating a number of scientific works in astronomy. He published more memoirs and children’s stories in the literature for the young, and in journals, and lastly produced a story ‘Gideon Travels to Cyprus’ – which enjoyed a great deal of success. He was lucid up to the last moment, reading, and taking an interest in everything that had a bearing on his people and humanity at large. He was survived by three sons, and one daughter in Israel. His last son, Yitzhak, was drowned in the Bug [River] in the year 1934, during an autobus accident. His son, Meir, who was an active member in HeHalutz, died in Israel.


 

From My Diary
By R’ Israel Levinsky
(From His Book, ‘Thorns and Flowers’)
 

 

After being discharged from the Russian military in Moscow, I returned home to my parents in the village of Kozhidlo, which lies between Miszinec and Ostrolenka. I very strongly wanted to travel back to Vilna, and advance my general education as far as the university. However, my parents stubbornly resisted: A young man, discharged from the military, must get married... and so, I was compelled to accept their proposal. I was married in Zambrow.

My father-in-law, R’ Nachman Yankl Rothberg, the owner of wagons, promised me support to whatever extent I wanted. Accordingly, I took to study. My wife, Tzipa-Rachel, a beautiful woman and also educated – in accordance with the sense of this term in those times, could read and write Yiddish, read Russian and Polish (only the alphabet), knew a bit of arithmetic, agreed with my course of action.

I obtained a good comrade with whom to learn: Benjamin Tanenbaum, son of Chona, and Mashkeh, the owner of the carriages. He was capable, knew how to learn languages and was prepared to graduate according to Russian standards. He had no friends in the Zambrow of that time, so we studied together.

Above: The Teaching Certificate given to R’ Israel Levinsky by the Russian Pro-Gymnasium in Pultusk, in the year 1901.

The first Great Fire broke out, and my house, along with the houses owned by my father-in-law were burned down, and I had to seek some way to make a living. I cashed in my wedding endowment, which was on deposit in Lomza, earning interest – and loaned it out to my father-in-law, to enable him to build himself back up.

As good fortune would have it, a wealthy Jew came to Zambrow, Yankelewsky, who was a building contractor for roads and bridges for the government. His daughter was a daughter-in-law to Grajewsky the Miller. He was looking for a teacher for his three sons in Vonkhotsk, of the Radom Province, and I had been recommended there for this position. I became a teacher, a profession that I never left.

The Cheders Metukan of Fyvel Zukrowicz

The desire to give a Jewish child a traditional Jewish education, and along the way also inculcate general knowledge, and the central point: a knowledge of the Hebrew language and general Jewish history – gave birth to the ‘Cheders Metukan,’ which did not evolve out of the traditional cheder, and the more formal schools had not yet attained.

  The concept of the Cheders Metukan, was an attempt to reform the [classic] cheders, and raise it to the level of a volksschule. In addition to learning Hebrew there, as well as Pentateuch with Rashi commentaries, arithmetic, history, geography, Tanakh and Hebrew, were also taught, along with the language of the country, etc. Fyvel Zukrowicz opened such a cheder, approximately in the year 1911.

His cheder developed a little at a time, and later on became a religious Jewish volksschule. He was a well-informed man in many fields, (educated at the higher yeshivas in Lithuania), and in general Haskalah. He was influential among the enlightened circles in the city, and was redolent with a love of Zion.


Reb Fyvel Zukrowicz

Fyvel Zukrowicz instituted a Zionist leaning in his school, despite the fact that the fanatically religious were opposed to it. For many years, his school was a bastion of Zionism, and a place for support of Keren Kayemet, a place where Zionist committees met, and a place for worship by Zionists on the Sabbath and Festival days, which had moved over there from the home of Shlomo Blumrosen, and became a center of all manner of national endeavor.

He surrounded himself with good teachers from the local intelligentsia, and from there he spread the use of the living Hebrew language into the city.

R’ Zerakh Kagan opened a second Cheder Metukan, the son-in-law of Meiram and Miriam the ‘Wig Maker’ (Bursztein). Kagan instituted the teaching of Hebrew as the appropriate means of oral communication, and was punctilious in his observation of correct grammar.

The two assistants to Fyvel Zukrowicz, Shmulkeh Golombeck, and Berel Kawior (the husband of Rachel, the daughter of Michael’ke Finkelstein) from Sniadowo, later on opened their own schools of this kind in Zambrow.

In 1923, in Kirov, the Cheders Metukan of Mr. [Yaakov] Tobiasz of Novgorod was added. Tobiasz was active in the Tze‘irei Zion movement, one of the leading activists of the burgeoning Hebrew culture, and was a man of considerable influence in literary circles and an intensely loved and respected teacher.

As regards the teacher Zukrowicz, his son, Chaim (a member of kibbutz ‘Ramat HaKoveysh’) tells:

My father was the youngest son of Nahum and Chaya, who were among the enlightened folk of the city, and of the venerable educators of the prior generation. They raised a generation of scholars, of study, education, and set hundreds of students on the path of the study of Torah, knowledge, Judaism and personal character. He received his education in the yeshivas of Lithuania. There, he ‘strayed’ and began assiduously to study the Hebrew language, its literature, the national language, and general [sic: secular] knowledge. He opened the Cheders Metukan in Zambrow in 1910, in Kirov. He was subverted by fierce opposition from the Rabbi and several of the fanatic balebatim. The fanatics ripped off the notices from the walls of the synagogues that announced the establishment of his school, doing so even on a Festival holiday. And as soon as he opened the school, the foundations of the building were damaged. The Rabbi and the fanatics threatened the parents who would send their children to a place like this with excommunication. However, he was not intimidated by them. His approach to education, his attitude towards the children and the Torah that he taught them, helped him develop an admirable reputation in the city, and his school was always full of students, with no vacancies. He was a teacher and educator to parents [as well]. By being an ardent Zionist, being active and a worker in the Hovevei Zion movement, he would speak from time-to-time, at Zionist gatherings in the city that took place, as you can appreciate in secret – out of the maligned view of the constabulary. He instilled his ardor for Zionism in his students, and over time many of them made aliyah to the Land of Israel as Halutzim and pioneers. He gave his students a national [sic: sectarian] education, teaching them to walk erect, with a straight back, and to take pride in their Jewishness. He also conducted plays and sports at the school, and supplemented them with promenades during the summer months, to the surrounding forests, Wondolk, Czyczurok, and even to Czorny Bor. And the students would frequently lead such walks with a blue and white flag at its head. On one occasion, a policeman wanted to seize the flag and tear it up, but Zukrowicz took the flag out of the boy’s hands and did not permit the policeman to touch him. Because of this, he was taken to court, and paid a fine of several zlotys for disobedience and resistance shown to a policeman. He paid the fine willingly, but didn’t let the policeman touch our national flag.

Every important event in the Jewish world, and especially the Zionist world and in the Land of Israel, was recognized and recorded in his school. On the day of the Balfour Declaration, he hung a large sign in school, proclaiming ‘Come, awaken, for your light has arrived,’ and on the day that the [sic: Hebrew] University opened in Jerusalem, he drew a huge sign saying: ‘For from Zion the Torah Shall Come Forth.’

During the Sabbath and Festival days, his school served as a gathering place, in which the Zionists entered to worship, in their own special minyan. They spoke Hebrew among themselves, donating to Keren Kayemet if they were called to the Torah, or to Keren HaYesod, HeHalutz, and like causes. How his heart was pained, when in the second half of the 1930's he saw the spiritual decline among the ranks of the young. The general Polish school, the ‘Szkola Powszecna,’ sunk its talons deeply into the young people and even a Polish gymnasium came into being in the city. These non-Jewish schools [ironically] became filled with Jewish students, from the ranks of the balebatim. The students there attended class even on the Sabbath, and in doing so not only desecrated the sanctity of the day, but any number of them grew apart from the Jewish experience, and for this reason, their soul silently wept. In the last years before the Holocaust, his school declined, together with the rest of these Jewish schools in the city. Many parents adopted the custom of sending their children from their early childhood training directly to the Polish school, and retained a melamed at home for several hours a week, to teach them Pentateuch with Rashi commentaries and a little bit of Gemara.

At that time, my father was preparing to shut his school down and make aliyah in order to realize there all of his dreams from early on, and that he cherished forever. However, he delayed the schedule. On 27 Av 5699 (August 12, 1939), he passed away – after having served as an educator in Zambrow for about thirty years. He was privileged to see his two daughters and son Chaim, the writer of these lines, make aliyah and settle in the Holy Land.
 

A Teacher and Educator
By Yaakov Tobiasz
(Tzfat)
(Memories)

 

Yaakov Tobiasz with his pupils

I have faint recollections about Zambrow from my early childhood – but it was only in 1915 when we arrived in Zambrow, being homeless, after the expulsion from Novgorod, where I was born, by the Russian army, at the peak of the First World War. Since that time, I have tied my life to Zambrow. We took up residence on the Uchastek. I studied Gemara with the Kolno Teacher and Director R’ Yaakov-Avigdor Brizman, also homeless (later on the Rabbi of Jedwabne). He once introduced me to the Zambrow Rabbi, R’ Regensberg z"l, who gave me a pinch on the cheek, and wished for me that I not be ruined [sic: lose your way into secular culture]. I began to investigate the contents of Enlightenment books. One neighbor, a Russian surveyor, began to teach me arithmetic, and ‘Khezki Mark, our neighbor who was a student, drew me nearer to the Enlightenment literature. My father died that very year, during the intermediate days of Passover, in the Zambrow military hospital. The Kolno Rabbi and Director came to comfort us as the bereaved. I gave myself over to the study of the Talmud at the Bet HaMedrash, and even established a chapter of the youth group ‘Tiferet Bakhurim’ there – for ??? study, and to maintain oversight of the books: their order, binding, and even acquisition..

The pupils in the school of Yaakov Tobiasz


A Class in Public School with the teacher, Lola Gordon

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It was first only six years later, in 1921, that I returned as a teacher and director of a Hebrew school. I was recommended by the balebatim: Menachem Donowicz, Avcheh Frumkin, and Israel Kossowsky, as well as the members of ‘Tze‘irei Zion, whom I knew from my time in the area, such as David Rosenthal, Yaakov Jakbowsky, who persuaded me to come to Zambrow. The Rabbi’s ‘Cossacks’ fought me vigorously. The owner of my school building, Prawda, became frightened, and wanted to break the contract with me. However, the balebatim stood up for me, parents of my students such as: Fyvel Rosenthal, Leibl Karlinsky, and others, At first, only boys were students, the girls going to the local Polish government school, but little-by-little, the girls also captured a place on the benches. My school earned a good name, with its curriculum, presentations, children evenings, trips, a children’s journal, a children’s library, etc. The children loved me a great deal.

The School of Fyvel Zukrowicz
In the middle, seated, are the teachers, Sh. Golombeck, F. Zukrowicz, and Joshua Domb

On Shavuot, in 1922, when my mother came to me for a visit – she suddenly died. This upset me terribly. She was buried in Zambrow, beside my father – and this tied me to the city forever. As a mourner, I would lead services in the White Bet HaMedrash. One time, when the Rabbi returned, extremely agitated with zealotry from the Agudat Israel conference in Vienna, he communicated an order from the conference, suddenly, between afternoon and evening services at the White Bet HaMedrash, bursting into tears, saying: Brothers, do you hear that in the Land of Israel there is a Dr. Mosensohn, let him be cursed, may his name be eradicated, who teaches his pupils to violate the Sabbath, and to write on the Sabbath, let us excommunicate him. Let us all say, ‘curse Dr. Mosensohn, and everyone answer, Amen! I took this as an insult, and I shouted out: ‘Enough, do you know what you are doing?’ And a tumult ensued about me, and when it died down, I approached the pulpit, to lead the evening service – the Rabbi shoved me aside and said: ‘Shaygetz, I hereby remove you from the pulpit, and you will get a slap in the face in short order... I left the pulpit, without reaction, out of respect for the Rabbi, who was a great Torah scholar, a tzadik and honest man. The Rabbi personally went to lead prayer from the pulpit [in my place].

On the following day, members of Tze‘irei Zion, on whose head tefillin hadn’t lain for quite some time --accompanied me, in the chance that the Rabbi would once again not permit me to lead services. The Rabbi enveloped himself in his prayer shawl and let out a groan. I began to pray from the pulpit.... In a short while, he sends someone to summon me to him: he wants me to teach Hebrew to his grandchild, Fruma-Liebcheh, the daughter of the Rabbi of Sniadowo, R’ A”Y Klepfish. I taught her for several months, Her husband later became the author, and renown Yiddish writer in Vilna, Chaim Grade. She was exterminated.72

In that same year, my sister died, and I remained solitary and depressed. It is only thanks to my students, the dear children of Zambrow, that I was able to maintain my composure and continue with my work, and also thanks to the balebatim the parents of the children and my neighbors who kept an eye on me maintaining concern and seeing to my welfare. Among them was the family of A. Greenberg, the owner of an ironmongery, and especially his genteel wife, who were my good neighbors, looked after me. Not once did I hear her calling to her eldest daughter: Rachel, I think he hasn’t eaten anything yet today, he hasn’t drunk any milk, etc. And they would hurry, bursting in on me, and taking care of all my needs.

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I remained connected to Zambrow, even after I left it. At every opportunity, I would come for a visit. The Jews of the city were unique in their kind: all diligent, working people, people of action, and taking things into their own hands, far removed from assimilation. Zambrow, which lay on the crossroads between Ostrow and Bialystok – was suffused more that ‘Litvak’ Bialystok [with that tradition] and was a far distance from Ostrow, the Chasidic city. Before my eyes they stand and speak to my heart: Leah Zukrowicz, Dina Golombeck, with her literary excerpts. Bracha Zukrowicz, Paula Wiezhbowicz, with her smile, who along with her father, Chona, the one who intoned ‘Mekhalkel Chaim’ so engagingly during the high Holy Day prayers at the White Bet HaMedrash, the hearty laugh of the ‘I don’t care’ Moshe’keh Gottlieb, in the library hall (in New York, he met me and asked me in a questioning and merry tone, ???: And we never had a library!), the constantly questioning eyes of Abraham Krupinsky, and the juridical voice of David Rosenthal, Simcha Rosenbaum, always so sure of himself; Yaakov Donowicz, the pessimist – who saw everything collapsing before him. Fishman, who would roll on the white snow after noon in the marketplace; Nathan Smoliar, the speedy one, with the good, and smiling, eyes; the young midwife, Bikhubowska, so delicate and gentle; the young folk, Slodownik, and Matityahu Gorzholczany, and others — all these, the dear sons and daughters of Zambrow, who will remain in my memory forever for a blessing. And from among the shining balebatim of the city there were: R’ Abba Rakowsky, the eminent scholar, from whom I was privileged to receive his lore, and to enjoy his illumination, when, late in his life, he returned from Russia, an exhausted wanderer, without anything to his name. Avcheh Frumkin, the perceptive man with the broad heart, Moshe Blumrosen, with the appearance of a Tolstoy, who worked in the municipal administration, an enlightened man who loved to listen and refrained from making others listen to him. R’ Shlomo Blumrosen, his brother, with his magnificent carriage, like the well known generous soul he was, knowing not to step on even a worm while waking, a man of great generosity when it came to Zionist undertakings, never seeking to avoid responsibility or make excuses; R’ Yaakov Zukrowicz, fluid in his step and dressed magnificently who followed the young generation and did not seek the spoils of following the fanatics, even though they held him in high esteem. Menachem Donowicz, the punctilious one, one step ahead, and two steps back, the Gabbai of the Chevra Shas, peering into books from the outside world, and pursuing only the enlightenment of the daughters of the city. Mordechai Rivkov, who constantly dreamt of the Zionist Party first, and was the first to buy a raffle ticket from each and every endeavor. And there were many others – whom it is difficult for me to recall after forty years and more.

It is [now] more than forty years [that have gone by]. Zambrow, its youth, its fine library, into which I invested so much energy, its balebatim – scholars, ordinary workers, decent Jews – they all stand before my eyes alive, and I will never forget them.

Before I left Poland for the Land of Israel in the year 1946, I also went back to Zambrow. I did not recognize it. Only the cemetery, with the sporadically visibly inscription of Po Nikbar [here lies buried].. Remain as witnesses, struck dumb, yet shout and scream to the heavens about what was done to the six million Jews, and the sacred community of Zambrow among them.

From the Words of Students
 

Naomi Blumrosen

...and the studies were interesting. The students were drawn to the curriculum. We spent most of the day between the walls of the school, because even after noon we returned for additional tasks: changing books at the school library, preparations for celebrations and promenades and like things. The many strolls we took in the nearby forests, arranged by the school were interesting, each previously designed from the beginning to cover some subject in nature, or having to do with literature about Israel. The plays put on during Hanukkah, 20 Tammuz, and others – that the teacher Tobiasz wrote himself – met with success, and the revenues were dedicated to the school library.

And here is a small episode that indicates the great commitment of the teacher to his school: One time, on Tu B’Shevat, we were occupied in making preparations for the celebration. The tables had been spread with fruits from the Holy Land, when a telegraph notice came to the teacher: his sister had fallen very ill and asks that he come to Warsaw immediately. The teacher lowered his head into the palms of his hands, was lost in thought and decided: he did not want to abort the joy of the children, nor did he want to put a stop to their creativity. He will travel the following day. The celebration went off successfully, and with joie de vivre. The Land of Israel stood before us that day, in the fullness of its splendor: in the fruit from there, and with the magical spirit found in the heart of a Jew. The teacher did not find his sister alive, and we mourned her together with him.
 

Aryeh Kosssowsky

I entered Y. Tobiasz’s school for study at the age of ten. I immediately felt a great change that had come into my life: the approach of the teacher to the student as a friend, no recourse to a switch or whip. And the course of study – Hebrew, taught in Hebrew. We also studied manners and etiquette: how to hold a spoon, fork and knife during eating, to say ‘Thank You Very Much’ to our parents after a meal, to rise before someone older than you, to give alms to the poor, even if we have no extra money – to then share our piece of bread with them. The room was always well ventilated. The walls were covered in pictures about geographic subjects, nature, and the Homeland. After each hour, there was a brief recess – to catch one’s breath. We even once surprised our teacher: on the third day of Chanukah, which was his birthday, we secretly organized a celebration that involved a play with songs and palm trees.... from time-to-time, he would read to us from the literature of the Land of Israel, from fairy tales for the young, news from the newspaper, etc. We learned many chapters of the Tanakh by heart, and thanks to that the Tanakh remains on my lips to this day. On once occasion, the writer Yakir Warshawsky visited us during class hours. He tested us in writing and orally, and found us instructed, knowledgeable in Torah and fluent in the grammar of the language, and also being attracted to the threshold of the Land of Israel.

Years passed, and to this day in the Land of Israel, when I follow the plow or work in the barn, in the garden, or storehouse, I feel and value the Hebrew and national education that I absorbed in his school. As to my preparation for the Land of Israel, I received it directly from his mouth.
 

The Russian Public School

At the end of the previous [sic: 19th] century, the Russian government founded a public school in Poland for Jewish children, in which the language of instruction was Russian. The objective was aimed more towards the Russification of Jewish masses, and to distance them from Polish culture, rather than to inculcate culture and knowledge into Jewish children. The agenda consisted of one high school class, at the border of a gymnasium class. The course of study – three years. However, by and large, most of the graduates of this school did not even get to the level of the first grade in a gymnasium.

One teacher taught all three of the classes. The dominant number of the students were girls. Boys were few and far between, mostly from among those who saw no ‘boon’ in attending cheder. There were also few that studied at the Russian school in the morning, and after noon – went to cheder. The teachers placed emphasis on knowledge of the ‘Motherland.’ When the ‘Inspector’ would arrive from Lomza – the beginning of his examination was: Do the children know the ‘title,’ that is: the proper honorific with which to address the Czar, his Queen, his widowed mother, the Crown Prince, his heir, and his uncle, the Grand Duke. [They needed to know] when do the holidays of the kingdom fall (the Galiubka, or Prazdnik); the day of the coronation of the Czar, his birthday, the date of birth of the Crown Prince and Heir, etc. It was this knowledge that the Inspector looked for at the outset, even from the students that attended cheder, whom he came to test for their knowledge of the Russian language. During the Sabbath and Jewish Festival Holidays – the school was not open. Teachers, with some feeling of spirit, would sneak in a bit of ‘Zakon Buzhi’ – religious instruction in the school, and would tell the older students stories from scripture and about the portion for the holiday.

From among the teachers, I recall the following: Shapiro (an urbane Jew, and knowledgeable in Hebrew – who didn’t think much of my work), Sawirsky (from Vilna), Szaczynko (from Rygrod) – an Enlightened man, drawn to Zionism, beloved by the city, but not the régime, because of his progressive ideas. His oldest son, Leib, was the pride of the Russian gymnasium in Lomza, and his young son, Yitzhak, studied in Germany at a agricultural school for purposes of preparing to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. After him – the teacher Friedberg, a negative sort of person, who did not become endeared to the people because of his love of money. He worshiped at the White Bet HaMedrash, and on once occasion, on a Sabbath, after Passover, he ascended the Bimah, and announced: If Russian lessons were not given in the cheders – he will begin to eat bareheaded, and without washing his hands... The threat succeeded on his part, because the melamdim were afraid of him, fearing that he would send the Inspector to them, and disqualify their cheder. After him came Leib, the son of a bookseller from Lomza: lean, tall, and blond, he was more of a Russian official than an educator of Jewish children. With the outbreak of the war – he went over to Russia, as was the case with all appointees of the crown. From that time on, the Russian school ceased to operate, and in its place, as we shall see, came a Yiddish school, and after that, under government pressure, a Polish ‘Szkola Powszecna.’

The Yiddish Public School

In the year 1916, during the time of the German occupation, a network of Yiddish schools began to be opened in Poland. The German authorities viewed this with favor because they saw ‘Yiddish’ as being close to German and also a barrier against Polish assimilation on one side, and against the influence of Zionism on the other. In Zambrow, those who stood at the head of the battle for such a school, namely, that Yiddish be the language of instruction, and a firm national tendency toward it, were: Joshua Domb, and Nathan Smoliar. Domb was an idealist and a gentle soul, possessing a very broad amount of Russian Enlightenment, which he had acquired in Odessa, and was also educated in Judaism and Hebrew culture. He was fluent in Hebrew. He was drawn to Poaeli Zion, and had a leftist outlook. His comrade in this was Nathan Smoliar, a pedagogue from Dolfuss, and educated in the Zambrow cheder [system], a graduate of the municipal school in Czechanowczy, and the Teachers’ Institute in Vilna, and was also an ardent member of Poaeli Zion, to the left. Together with Lola Gordon – a graduate of the Russian gymnasium in Lomza, who was drawn to the ordinary Jewish folk, even though she was distant from them [sic: in outlook] since the time of her education.

It was these who successfully opened the Yiddish public school in the city. Rachel Mark, a teacher by good fortune (???) also joined up with them afterwards to teach general studies. The school was set up in premises within the house of Sziniak, on the Bialystok road, and its principal was Nathan Smoliar, to who other teachers were added and changed. among them: Nadler, [and] Gutman.

  After a while, in which the Poles rotated in their government, they changed this school into a government school but – the language of teaching was Polish instead of Yiddish. Nathan Smoliar did not agree to remain on as principal in this school, and establishes a new Yiddish school, called ‘Borokhov,’ as an extension of TzYShO (Tzentrale Yiddishe Shul Organizatzia, Warsaw). His place, as the principal of the previously mentioned school, that was transformed by the ‘benefactors’ of the régime, into a ‘Szkola Powszecna,’ was taken by Lola Gordon – a teacher of tradition to the Jewish children, a good and talented educator – but subordinated

A Class in Public School with the teacher, Lola Gordon

to the demands for Polonization by the régime. After her, her sister led the Polish school – Niuta Gordon-Wilimowsky (today in Israel). After a while, when the reputation of Nathan Smoliar spread as a successful teacher and an experienced pedagogue, a trained principal, and a talented organizer – he was taken away honorably to Warsaw, to be the principal of a ‘Borokhov’ school there, also by the left-leaning Poaeli Zion, and here too -- he was outstandingly successful, to the point that he was considered as one of the best of the Jewish pedagogical resources in Warsaw.
 

The Volksschule Named for Borokhov in Zambrow


The "Borokhov" School

The Yiddish Volksschule, named for Ber Borokhov, was founded with great difficulty in the year 1921 by the Poaeli Zion, with the help of parents and friends: The school was located on the ‘Platz’ (going to the Koszaren), at the house of Moshe-Lejzor Sokol. It opened with only two classes. Most of the students (boys and girls) were the children of working-class parents, and even though they should have paid tuition, which they only were able to obtain with difficulty, nevertheless they sent their children to the school with a great deal of commitment. The school provided a Jewish-worldly education. Much room was made there for Jewish literature, for the classic Jewish history, etc. A love for Jewish traditions was also implanted into the children. At each Jewish Festival Holiday, the teachers and the children prepared their lovely presentations, using scenery created by themselves, including recitations, song and dance. These presentations, in which the children were transformed into birds, angels, little trees, and snowflakes, had a great success in the shtetl. The Firefighters hall, where these presentations were held, would be filled to overflowing. Primarily, the school had a reputation for its children’s choir, which would sing many beautiful children’s songs, in three or four voices, and also pieces from classical music, Beethoven, Chopin, Haydn, and excerpts from operas.

The Yiddish Volksschule was a second home for the children, and for others – literally their only home; because this was where they were able to forget all of the troubles and worries that beset their real homes. The relationship of the teachers to the children was extraordinarily of a full heart. The teachers worked under their difficult material circumstances, barely making a living, but despite this they were dedicated to their work with all of their heart. They were paid with the love and loyalty of the children.

The teachers used to be engaged with the students even after classes; they would lead discussions, explain matters to them about social life, about the struggle between classes. During the summer and on Saturday mornings when the weather was good, they would organize expeditions to places in the vicinity of the city. An important event was the publication of a journal by the children, written and edited by the children themselves, containing poems, stories, characteristically about educated people, and reviews of books by Yiddish writers.

Those circles, comprised of religious fanatics, looked with disfavor on the Yiddish Volksschule. They held that the children were being give too liberal an education. They went so far as to have one of the teachers excommunicated.

The Volksschule existed for barely six years. During that time, it demonstrated the capacity to rally all the progressive elements of the shtetl around itself. In the school, there also existed evening courses for workers. Speakers came from Warsaw, who gave interesting lectures. But this was not in accordance with what the official authorities wanted. And so, on a nice day in May 1927, a policeman entered the school and advised that the school was being closed. This was a terrible blow to the children. They were being deprived of the very thing that they valued and treasured the most.

Those few students, who are still alive, recall with sorrow, their dear school and their teachers who are etched into their memory forever. Let us show respect to our exterminated teachers and fellow students.

Kindergarten

Here is a group of former girl students, who are living in Paris today: Chana Sokol-Zilberberg, Faygl Stupnik-Astrinsky, Zlatkeh Sosnowiec-Rothstein, Esther Smoliar-Szlewin, Belcheh Stupnik-Kwiat.
 

The Yiddish-Polish Volksschule


 Class in the Yiddish-Polish School - I

The Polish authorities laid an eye on the Yiddish Volksschule, which in its view was a revolutionary fortress, and on one fine morning closed the school that had been in existence for six years, and in its place opened a Polish-Yiddish Volksschule. Its objective was to polonize the Jewish children, tear them away from Jewish culture, and implant a love of Polish into them. At the beginning, a special teacher taught them ‘Jewish religion’ two to three times a week. Later on, this too was discontinued. The ‘Szkola Powszecna.’ openly applauded assimilation, and an opposition to oppose a Jewish national upbringing. In its ranks, there worked not a few clandestine communists who held themselves equal to the Poles, with their hatred for Yiddishkeit and national education.

Of the twenty cheders in Zambrow during the time of the Russians – barely three to four remained in those last years before the Holocaust. This is because the ‘Szkola Powszecna’ swallowed up the children after the authorities compelled the children to attend this school, and a little at a time closed the cheders. Also, the Yiddish-Hebrew schools could not continue to exist because of harassment by the authorities, and also because of the bad economic circumstances of the Jews in the city. The Polish school was free of charge, depending on taxes, while the rest of the schools required that tuition be paid.

A small part of the parents would send the small boys from the Polish school to an afternoon cheders, or an evening cheder...
 

Before the Holocaust


A Class in the Yiddish-Polish School - II

In those last years, a religious school for girls was also founded, ‘Bais Yaakov,’ under the aegis of the Rabbi. The head teacher was the Rabbi’s step-daughter. The school was in the ‘wood house’ of the White Bet HaMedrash. The ‘Centoz,’ which was concerned with the welfare of the poor and weak children, turned over the food allocations for the schools and the cheders to ‘Bais Yaakov.’

The fanatic Jews, who a half-generation before fought every reform in national-religious school and harassed the teachers for their ‘liberal’ view of education – now bowed their heads for the assimilated-gentile school...

During the short Russian occupation in the last [sic: Second World] War, a sort of permission was granted to found a Yiddish Volksschule in Zambrow along with a Jewish gymnasium. But in a short time, the Russians pulled back and left the city to the Germans.

The Spinoza of Zambrow

 

A Class in the Yiddish-Polish School - III

In 1938, there was a frightful winter. There were immense frosts, couples with childhood illnesses. Accordingly, a search began for transgressions in the city: who is it that is the cause of such intense suffering in the city? And they discovered that the teacher of the Yiddish school, from the TzYShO network (the Central Jewish School Organization) – was teaching the children to be against Yiddishkeit, telling them they should write on the Sabbath. People observed how he would tear off the mezuzahs that were on doorposts and trample on them with his feet... and it was then left to the Rabbi and his followers to make an end to these troubles and place the teacher in excommunication. So Binyomkeh the Shammes ran, and brought the sinning teacher to the Rabbi: a skinny and tall young man, pale, dressed in a thin coat, shivering from the cold.

The doors were sealed. The Rabbi lit two black candles. and one person blew the Shofar: Tekia, Shevarim, Teruah. And the Rabbi turned to him, asking him nothing: ‘Be advised that we are excising you from the body of the Jewish people! May you be cursed both in your coming and going! And may he be cursed, who will come in contact with you, or have anything to do with you!....’

And so the Rabbi finished, and the door was pried open, and the accursed Jewish teacher, as pale as the wall, even scrawnier than before and taller than before, silently shuffled out, barely able to stand on his feet...
 

The Polish Gymnasium in Zambrow
By Zvi Zamir (Herschel Slowik)


Zvi Zamir – Herschel Slowik
 

In 1918, with the new independence of Poland, a Polish gymnasium was established in Zambrow. Quite a number of Jewish children were students there. They had to put up with anti-Semitism, and having their parents harassed by the Rabbi z”l and several of the balebatim who looked at the school where the children were compelled to write on Saturday, as if it were an apostasy. And so, a few of the parents became fearful of the Rabbi’s threats and took their children out of there. The Rabbi especially took issue with Berl Golombeck, who was a prominent member of the balebatim, among his people in the Red Bet HaMedrash -- threatening to excommunicate him if he does not take his daughter out of the gymnasium. All the Golombecks were upset by this, and came out against the Rabbi. The Rabbi was compelled to transfer over to the White Bet HaMedrash.

Studies at the gymnasium were on a high level. The director, Mayewsky, a well-known pedagogue and an educated man, did not like Jews and referred to the Jewish students as ‘foreigners who speak Polish only in school’ – yet, despite this, he would often hold up Jewish students as role models in contrast to the gentile ones, noting their understanding and style, understanding and diligence. As to the Jewish students, part of them were inclined to assimilation and saw their future in the new Poland. The larger portion however, was Zionist in its orientation, from all parts of the spectrum. For example: M. Baumkolar, a talented and outstanding student in school, was an ardent Marxist outside of school and was a member of the leftist Poaeli Zion Youth and founded a student group for the laboring classes in the Land of Israel.

He invested a great deal of his strength and energy into this group, and thanks to him many Jewish students who were diligent in their study of Polish literature, were saved from a spiritual assimilation and gave themselves over to the concept of our national rebirth, studying Jewish history, reading Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and taking an interest in everything that transpired in the Land of Israel. As a result, no small number of them ended up coming to Israel, some sooner, others later.

Apart from the Polish gymnasium in Zambrow, no small number attended the Yiddish-Polish gymnasium of Dr. Sh. Goldlust in Lomza. Others pursued study in Bialystok and Warsaw. Of these, some did so in the ‘Takhkemoni’ middle school and in other schools. Together, they brought credit to Zambrow youth and brought culture into its ranks.

The gymnasium, even though it was anti-Semitic in its cast, was for us, the children of cheder and Gemara, a ray of light and education.
 

Alter Rothberg

Alter Rothberg

  He was a gifted child, the only son of his father, R’ David, the Wagon Driver (born in the year 1896). The melamdim constantly spoke highly of him. At the age of about thirteen, he traveled off to study at the yeshiva in Lomza. He studied there for about three years and then transferred to study at the yeshiva in Telz, which enjoyed a high reputation for its scholars. There he ‘went astray:’ He began to diligently study subjects outside the Gemara, Tanakh, grammar and Russian, read pamphlets by Enlightenment authors, and became active in Zionist endeavors. When the First World War broke out – he returned to Zambrow but he was a different person by then. His father had already given up on the idea that his son might become a rabbi. He continued to acquire an education. He made his debut as a teacher in his uncle’s school, his mother’s brother, Fyvel Zukrowicz. During the establishment of the Polish Republic, he became a teacher in Bialystok. There, he married a genteel woman, Rivka Halle, and built a Jewish national house and relentlessly taught himself worldly subject matter.

Later on he became a teacher in the Jewish gymnasium in Suwalk and became one of the principal intellectual forces there. He then returned to Bialystok, settled down there, and later on became a teacher in the Yiddish-Polish gymnasium. During the vacation months, he sat for the government examinations and earned a Polish diploma, as a Polish gymnasium teacher, preparing himself for an academic title, and afterwards – to go to the Land of Israel. In this time, his three children grew up. For this entire time, Alter was active in Bialystok on the National-Cultural front. He was beloved by everyone for his merriment and joie de vivre. He was reckoned as one of the best pedagogues in the city, and he was killed with his entire family in the Bialystok ghetto on that Black Friday (August 20, 1943).



Kindergarten in Zambrow
 

The Teachers’ Committee of the Borokhov School
Standing: Moshe Eitzer, Lindenheim, Shimon Rubinstein
Sitting: G. Fishman, (Rachel) Mark, N. Smoliar, Sarniewicz, Yudl Rubinstein


Evening courses for workmen
10 June 1921


A Class in the Volksschule - I
 

A Class in the Volksschule -II

A Class in the Volksschule - III
 



A Class in the Volksschule - IV,
Nathan Smoliar, Head Teacher (center)




A Class in the Volksschule - V, Lindenheim, the Teacher (center)


The Library

Before the First World War, Zambrow has a small Zionist library, consisting of Hebrew and Yiddish books, and it was called ‘Toshia,’ named after the prominent publishing house in Warsaw, whose agent in Zambrow and its vicinity was Benjamin Kagan. The library was located in the house of Yochanan Feinzilber, a member of the Zionist organization. All three of the brothers, Yochanan, Chaim and Joseph, along with their sister Rachel (now Lewanda, in Israel) committed themselves to the library and would trade books. You understand that this was done on a voluntary basis.

A second library, of Yiddish books, could be found at the home of Meir-Fyvel the Melamed and baker of honey cake. His son, Alter Zorembsky, a very aware older boy, an old-time labor activist, committed himself to this library with heart and soul. Alter had spent some time in Bialystok, and there, familiarized himself with labor doctrine, and brought it back with him to Zambrow. He would be able to attract working young people to the book, explain to them what they should read, introduce the author and his work, and later after reading carry on discussions with them. He was sickly, suffering from a lung disorder, but despite this, he committed himself to the education of workers and encouraged them to read. The library later was transferred to Mr. Pszysusker – a gentle and educated young man from Pultusk, who, together with his well-educated wife from the Kuppermintz family, ran a paper business, ??? the Kosciolna Gasse.

A Workers’ Education Group
Sitting: Chana Wiezhbowicz, Alter Garfinkel, Pinia Baumkuler

The circle of readers grew larger – despite the fact that the Rabbi and his fanatic accomplices, engaged in attempts to place the library under excommunication. An attempt was even made to set it on fire. The library eventually acquired its own premises, expanded the number of books, with Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish books. When the circle of readers was large, and the reading room unused – the library management would arrange literary evenings, putting on informative lectures, discussion evenings, etc.

During the German occupation, in the First World War, the library was under the influence of the ‘Bund.’ When the ‘Poalei Zion,’ and the Tze‘irei Zion grew strong, they undertook to spread their wings and obtain control over the library. After lengthy discussions and fights, the library passed over to the control of the Zionist workers. It was formally decided that the library should be non-partisan. Elyeh-Mottl, the son of Yaakov Schaja (today in Argentina), was nominated as a neutral party to be the librarian, and let us remember him here for that, favorably. He was very much committed to his position (you understand, without financial compensation), and even during the fairs held on market days, he would leave his store full of gentiles and run off to fulfill his obligation in the library, exchanging books, and advising the young people on what to read. While the library was neutral [sic: non-partisan], the friction did not cease. Each side suspected the other of a biased approach to the acquisition of books. This continued until a certain evening, in which a referendum was passed with a large majority, deciding that the library should pass to the control of the Zionists under the name of ‘HaTekhiya.’ This name, which came from legal Zionist societies, protected the library from undue suspicion that there were communist elements within. The government attempted to close the library more than once, thinking that here is a nest of ant-government parties. The library struggled and existed for close to three decades, spreading knowledge and culture among the masses until the Nazi fire consumed it.

In speaking of the library in each Bet HaMedrash, in the Chevra Shas, and the Hasidim shtibl, a ‘library of religious books’ could be found. Small groups of ‘book-buyers’ were organized in each house of worship. People would pledge sums of money, donate their own books, or books they inherited from their father. Children would often commit to saving a set sum of money from their pocket change they used to buy candy, in order to buy a set of the Shas for the Bet HaMedrash, a set of the Pentateuch, haggadic (The Prophets and Ketubim) and similar initiatives. These religious libraries also were consumed and went up in the smoke, together with those who were the ones who perused their books.
 

Drama Circles
 

The Keren Kayemet L’ Israel Drama Circle


The ‘Bund’ Drama Circle

Even before the first Great Fire, a theatre was set up in Zambrow. The interested young people of that time had put on the play, ‘The Selling of Joseph’ on Purim in the Women’s Synagogue, with the female parts also being played by men... Despite this [accommodation], the local actors were roundly cursed.

On Purim, the yeshiva students would often ‘perform’ [the play of] ‘David and Goliath,’ ‘the Selling of Joseph,’ etc. Fyvkeh the Shoemaker with others of his friends, poor working people, with good Jewish hearts, once put on a Purim ‘spiel,’ an Ahasuerus spiel, for the benefit of raising dowry funds for indigent brides. In the last seven to eight years before the First World War, the young people would get together and study a [sic: theatrical] piece, such as ‘Shulamis’ by Goldfaden, ‘The Binding of Isaac’ and would prepare to put on a performance at the Firefighters’ headquarters, on a Saturday night, or after a Festival holiday, for the benefit of some worthwhile cause. From time-to-time, they would have to put up with a great deal of trouble from the Rabbi and his adherents. And not once, did they have to deal with intervention by the Russian authorities which took a certain amount of glee in disrupting an evening arranged by Jewish youth...

In the final years before the First World War, in the year 1912 approximately, the Zambrow amateurs put on ‘Tze zayt un tze shprayt’, a drama in three acts, by Sholom Aleichem, which portrays the conflict between children and their parents. Outstanding performances were turned in by Ephraim Wiliamowsky, Abraham’keh Rothberg, and others.

[There was] a drama circle in Zambrow, that put on 'Chasia the Orphan Girl’ – for the benefit of the ‘Ladies Society,’ This was a non-partisan circle, including Bundists and Zionists together. However, in 1919, party loyalists emerged victorious, and in 1919 the Bund created its own drama circle, and the Tze‘irei Zion its own drama circle... Theatrical pieces were often performed in Zambrow, with fragmented resources and with minimal revenues. In the year 1924, Feinzilber’s son-in-law, Lewando (today in Israel) returned from Russia, who was formerly a professional artist, and he was able to set up a non-partisan drama studio in Zambrow. [He advertised that] anyone who demonstrated any talent for the stage, whether from the right or left, Bund or Poaeli Zion, should present themselves. With great success, and with appropriate artistic talent, they produced the operetta, ‘Liovka Molodets’ two times. And so, they got themselves ready to put on added pieces... the drama circle of the Poaeli Zion put on the ‘Village Youth,’ which was successful.

Small drama circles also existed in the synagogues. From time-to-time, Chanukah and Purim, at the end of the school year, these small artistic groups would invigorate the audience and hope was placed in that little boy or that little girl, that they will grow up to be ‘stars’ of the Zambrow theatre. The teachers encouraged the children, feeding them high hopes for when they would grow older...
 

 

 

63   A Dayan is a Judge (the Hebrew word). It was a title accorded to an ordained Rabbi, known of scholarly repute, but who, for any number of reasons, did not choose to occupy a pulpit. The quality of his expertise caused him to be called upon, in those events, where it was necessary to empanel a Rabbinical Court [sic: a Bet Din]. Since a Bet Din required a minimum of three sitting Judges, having access to such capable people within a community was an asset, since it meant the town would not have to send to nearby Jewish settlements for a Rabbi, thereby sparing them both time, expense and inconvenience. In view of the overwhelming choice, in those times, to educate Jewish boys at a Yeshiva, receiving ordination was not uncommon. Accordingly, there was usually some number of this type of individual available to the Mara D’Asra [sitting Rabbi of the community] for the legal purposes described.
64   Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohen (1838-1933) one of the greatest figures in modern Jewish history. He was recognized as both an outstanding scholar and an extraordinarily righteous man. His impact on Judaism was phenomenal. It is interesting to note that, despite his great stature, he refused to accept any rabbinical position and supported himself from a small grocery run by his saintly wife in the town of Radin where they lived. Rabbi Yisroel Meir devoted himself to the study and teaching of Torah.
65   A ritual specialty that entails the removal of the blood vessels and sinews from the hindquarters of a slaughtered animal, so that the meat of that part of the animal would be kosher for consumption. not all those who qualified as a Shokhet necessarily also had this skill.
66   Called Dievenishok by Yiddish speaking Jews.
67   ‘Nisht’ being the Yiddish word for ‘not,’ and implying their unwillingness to abide by ‘the old ways.’
68   Renown among Jewish literati as the Yiddish translation of the Pentateuch, also called by its Hebrew name, Tzena u’Re’ena.
69   A short name for Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of the Fathers
70   The Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
71   A play on the word HaYom, which is the start of the concluding prayer of the High Holy Day Musaf Service
72   Chaim Grade’s biography suggests that his wife, Fruma-Liebeh, was the daughter of the “Rabbi of Glebokie.”


 

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