The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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The Aliyah of R’ Joshua Benjamin Baumkuler

(Recorded by Israel Levinsky from the description given by his son)

When my father, R’ Joshua Benjamin Baumkuler ז״ל, decided to go to the Land of Israel – he came to the Bet HaMedrash on the Sabbath, ascended the bima, and announced: I am taking my leave of you, after the forty years during which I have lived amongst you. I will be traveling to take up residence in the Land of Israel. If I owe anyone anything, let him come to me, and I will pay him off. He made this same announcement in all the houses of study and the synagogue.

On the following day, in the morning, Nachman the Shammes came and called my father to the Rabbi. What is the matter? Abcheh Frumkin has a complaint: He helped my father to sell his house – and he is owed a commission, even though he was not present at the sale. The Rabbi made a compromise – and my father made the payment [required]. Other small claims materialized. One person came and claimed: it was because of my father that he had to pay a fine because of unsanitary conditions. The Rabbi ruled: if you want to travel to the Land of Israel, without any encumbrances – pay! And so forth. My mother then mixed herself in: what are you doing, you will be left without so much as a groschen to make a journey to such a faraway place! However, he did not heed her. On once occasion, he deposited his golden watch with the Rabbi. When he did not have the ready resources to make a payment, and one time he even came back from the Rabbi, on a cold day without his fur coat – he had left it with the Rabbi as security.

In the end, he paid out all the people to whom he owed money, and everyone went along to escort my father and mother on their journey to the Land of Israel. He would say, it is better to be in Jerusalem on a Festival Day, when he radiated out of joy, than to be in Zambrow – in a formidable building, with a store full of clothing merchandise.

Benjamin Kagan

He was the son of the Rabbi of Zabludow who married Shlomo Tuvia Sziniak’s sister in Zambrow, and took up residence in Zambrow. He was a refined young man, a scholar, and knowledgeable in worldly education. He was an ardent Zionist, and illegal Zionist meetings would take place in his house, and he would fight against the fanaticism of the Rabbi and the Hasidim. He was a salt merchant.

He immigrated to America in 1924, to Brooklyn, to his children, Hona, Yankl-David, and Michael. His family – was exterminated.

His granddaughter Penina Hildebrand saved herself and came to the Land of Israel, this being the daughter of Esther Abkewicz,who had left Warsaw in 1939 and arrived in Israel after extensive wandering, being in Bet-Shemen, and then moving together with her husband to Kibbutz Kiryat-Yearim, in the Jerusalem corridor.


Benjamin Kagan

Yaakov Shyeh Cohen

 A scion of Tiktin, enlightened, and a man of broad acquaintance with the Talmud, knowing the Tanakh, grammar and the language, also knowing Russian, and a man of good deeds. He ran his own business – an ironmongery, in a sensible way, and successfully. His wife – Malya from Courland, was a relative of the Rabbi, and she too, was enlightened, to the extent that it was difficult to find a peer to her in the entire area. She was fluent in German literature, read books of poetry and song her entire life, floating in aristocratic circles, and could not acclimate herself to the provincials in the town. Yaakov Shyeh was respected in the community, his words were heeded, and he was even selected more than once to serve as the head of the community.

He had two sons: Eli-Mott’l and Asher. Eli-Mott’l was a philanthropic man, studied in yeshivas, and also absorbed the precepts of Enlightenment, helped his father in the store, the ironmongery, but  he also worked with the progressive element of the young people. He was dedicated with his entire heart to the public library, which made available the concepts of the Enlightenment to the masses. He was its librarian for a number of years, and it was not to receive any prize, and everyone praised him. He married a woman who was the daughter of his uncle, and immigrated to Argentina. Asher – died in Poland, before his time.


The Cynowicz Family

By Rachel Salutsky-Rosenblum

My father’s grandfather, R’ Chaim-Hirsch Cynowicz ז״ל, was a righteous man and a scholar. He was engaged in Torah study day and night. After several hours of study in the morning, when he was enfolded in his tallis and tefillin, he would take out shards of pottery from a crack in the ceiling, and put them over his eyes – in order to bring one’s day of death to mind. He fasted for intervals, and ate usually after the afternoon prayer. For a while, he studied at the yeshiva in Zambrow. From much stress, his body was broken, and he died before his time. His wife assumed the burden of making a living for all her life in the business of manufacturing.

He had four sons: (A.) R’ Shlomo, a wondrous scholar, who spent all his days in Torah study. His son Nachman, who was taken in the bloom of life, was intellectually exceptional, and one of the best of the students at the Lomza Yeshiva. (B.) R’ Joseph-Abraham, who was the headmaster in Ostrow for twenty years, and for the next thirty-five years – in Lomza, a rabbi, well-schooled, wise and good-hearted, one of the first of the Zionist rabbis in Poland, devoted to constant study, enlightened and progressive. (C.) Noah – A merchant and creator of bleach for washing, lived in Brok and then returned to Zambrow. (D.) Mott’l – An enlightened scholarly individual, energetic and lively, a writer of ‘requests’ and an expert in the law. The farmers of the vicinity would throng to his door and ask his advice, as if he were a lawyer. He liked to tell the legends of Rabbi Bar Bar-Hana, and was a man of humor.


Lipman Slowik

By Kh. B.

Six- and seven-year-old boys, and even older ones, studied in the cheder of Meir Fyvel. From all of the children that were members of this class, one image stands out in my memory, like a contrast to a dark cloud, a boy always chosen by all of the children to be ‘the king’ of the class. He was a pale, tall boy, who stood straight. His name was Lipman Slowik, the son of David Rokaczer. In remembering him, and talking about him, the power of his influence over all of his classmates rises in my mind. It never occurred to anyone to contest his orders, much less what he had to say. It never occurred to anyone to propose anyone else to be ‘the king.’ I do not recall the source of his influence: his penetrating eyes, his age, his height? – No, and no! It was precisely children of this type who they liked to ostracize and call names. But not Lipman: he did not intimidate with his frail body, and he did not instill fear with a strong hand. His voice was low, and he spoke gently. He was moderate and composed. A pernicious disease subverted his health from early childhood onwards, and it was as if he sensed that he had no time for the distractions of childhood, and therefore behaved like an adult. When he grew up, he learned the art of photography from Gordon. However, death claimed him in the bloom of youth.


Baruch Sorawicz

[He was the] son of Ephraim and Fradl, a grandson of Mikhul’keh Finkelstein. He was enlightened, and a modest, taciturn man, son of R’ Baruch of Tiktin, who gave his children a secular education, in generous quantity. Baruch studied in a number of cheders, and afterwards, in 1912 approximately, entered the high school of  M. Krinsky in Warsaw. He did not see any reward from his studies, even though he was an intelligent person. He returned to Zambrow and was one of the leaders of the progressive young people. He possessed a good mood, was alert and prone to action. He had a family home that was exemplary. At the time that all the Jews were taken to Auschwitz, he could have escaped and remained alive, but he went after his child, who had been taken from him to be killed, and he too was lost. He was forty-two years old when he died.


Abraham Rosen

He owned a store of woven goods and a house on the marketplace of the city. His origins were from the vicinity of Ostrolenka, because he was called ‘Krup,’ this being the name of the farmers who are there. He was the son-in-law of Shlomo Tuvia Sziniak, and brother-in-law of Benjamin Kagan, He had three, enlightened daughters. He was a loner and tended to keep hidden, and he didn’t pay much attention, leading to him being branded as a miser. But people erred in this assessment. He was a wondrous scholar, enlightened, completely fluent in modern literature, astronomy and mathematics – but he didn’t want to be visible, and only few of his closest relatives knew his real worth. The books that he had in his bookcase, among the volumes of the Shas and Poskim, among the books of the Enlightenment and science – could be found to be full of ideas and explanations and references to other sources. And all this became known.... after he died. His young daughter, Sarah, being of good intellect and also enlightened, was active in Tze‘irei Tzion, a member of its Committee, and dreamt of going to Israel her entire life.


Elyeh Rudniker-Goren

No personal community initiative ever took place in which he did not have a hand, and in which he wasn’t one of those putting in an effort. He came from the Rudnik territory, where his father Ber’cheh came from, who was the land agent. Elyeh was tall, handsome, an enlightened man and a man of ideas. If a dispute erupted between partners, of a family quarrel that came to light, or like matters –  Elyeh Rudniker was the one who intervened and restored the peace. He was the only arbitrator in court cases and disputes, and was successful in finding a compromise, and a way of preserving the honor and tranquility of the opposing parties. He loved to visit the sick, and fill them with good tidings, and occasionally with deeds. When the cholera epidemic erupted in the city, and the flour mill of Moshe Schribner was configured to be a hospital for those infected with the disease – Elyeh Rudniker was among the leading organizers of first aid. He was among the excellent masseurs, who took his life into his hands in order to perform massages, and the delivery of all manner of help to the sick, paying no mind to the possibility that he might personally contract the disease and be laid low. He was the firstborn son of a firstborn, and he know the secret of ‘whispering,’ and because of this, he was summoned to the ill, especially children who appeared to have been struck by the "evil eye" – to remove all sickness from them. He had a difficult time making a living, in a partnership in a factory that produced soda water and kvass, and he was an agent for ship tickets to the United States, for those traveling illegally, meaning those who were compelled to leave the borders of Russia because of political harassment, compulsory military service, etc.  Because of this, he was once seized and was punished by the régime by being ‘exiled’ to the town of Sokolov. But even there, he didn’t hide his hand, and he engaged faithfully in community affairs.  After the First World War, he returned to Zambrow, and during the time of Polish hegemony, once again immersed himself in community affairs. There was a Gemilut Hasadim Bank in Zambrow, which supported the granting of small loans to small-scale merchants, craftsmen, in order to enable them to buy merchandise or work materials, and to sell their goods on fair days and in the markets. However, the bank was perpetually short of funds, because of the plethora of loans that the needy required, and Elyeh Rudniker would literally pass over all of the doors of those that had the means to gather donations, both small and large, for the benefit of the Gemilut Hasadim Bank. And on Saturday night, once again, the needy would enter his home, to begin with the wish for ‘a good week,’ and Elyeh would allocate the small loans, take in notes, and turn a blind eye on those occasions when their were loans due according to their notes, ??? ‘aid to the poor.’ And he had yet another endearing quality: he was concerned about the Jewish soldiers, and arranged to have them accepted into Jewish homes during Festivals, or to organize a separate kitchen for them.

He was assisted in this work by Yankl-David the Hasid, the son of the Gatch shoemaker.

He was a lover of Zion and a member of ‘Mizrahi.’ He urged the young people to make aliyah to the Land. He did not permit his son, David, to travel to his brothers in Argentina. He waited and said to him, Your time will come to make aliyah to the Land of Israel, and you will build there, and make aliyah with me. In the last years, his fortunes declined. He was one of those who worked on automotive transportation between Ostrow and Bialystok, by way of Zambrow, Rutki, or by way of Wysokie Mazowieckie, Sokoly. However, the Polish authorities confiscated the rolling stock and transferred it to the P.K.P. (the railroad authority), and Elyeh and his partners were left with no way to earn a living. His son, Dov, made aliyah to the Land of Israel during Aliyah Bet. However, he was unable to get his father there along with him. Together with the holy Rabbi, he too was taken, at a time when he was over seventy, and taken away to an unknown place in a freight truck, from which he never returned...  He was killed in the aktion near Szumowo together with the Rabbi.


                                                Dr. Joseph Feinzilber



He was the youngest of the three brothers: Yochanan, Chaim and Joseph. He ran away from home, with the help of his teacher, R’ Israel Levinsky ז״ל, to Odessa, and he worked and studied there.

He was not particularly gifted, but he had a strong will to learn. He struggled in Odessa for many years, until he got his diploma in university study of medicine. He completed his studies during the First World War, at the time that the Germans occupied the Ukraine – returning to Zambrow, and practiced there as a Doctor of Medicine.

He fell ill with typhus, and his weakened body succumbed.

Berl Ptaszewicz, and his wife, who were buried alive by the Nazis in the village of Szumowo, in August 1941.


 Lighting Candles of the Spirit

By Chaya Kossowsky

At this time, let me light several candles of the spirit for my parents, my sister, also my brother and friends, all who dreamed of reaching the Land, whether living at home, or in the process of training, some in the military and others in battle along with the partisans. They dreamed and fought, dreamed and fought, about the enchanted land that they did not reach. They dreamed, and are no more....

My grandfather Zalman Kossowsky, was one of the founding elders of the city. His building, made of concrete – in the center of the square, contained the police station, stores, and residences. His manufacturing store was known in the entire area.

My father Israel, his firstborn son, was not drawn to commerce. Rather, he showed talent for the law and was expert in the law and its regulations. People would come from near and far to seek his counsel, to clarify issues concerning inheritance, commercial transactions, matters of distress, overstepping, etc., etc. In a number of instances, when there were land disputes between villagers, my father would travel, do measurements and set boundaries, and all the interested parties heeded him, and accepted his judgment. People streamed to him for the preparation of applications on their behalf to the ruling official, or the head of government, the supreme court and the like, and in many cases for lack of ability – he did not want to take a fee for his effort. His penmanship was exemplary in its beauty, and he was a Zionist – but did not believe in the concept of a Halutz. He was opposed to my brother Aryeh, making aliyah to the Land. He found it difficult when I left, the daughter he loved most. ‘If you are making aliyah to The Land,’ he said – ‘it is a sign that I also will follow you there.’ My father was beloved by all of the people in the city – no one dared to challenge my father: they accorded him the respect due to a learned Jewish man. During the last Russian occupation – he worked as a financial auditor.

My mother, Esther, was a scion of Lithuania, the daughter of a wealthy family, aristocratic, a refined soul, and indulged. She acclimated herself to her constrained life, and educated me to be independent and to be oriented towards work. She was knowledgeable in Hebrew and urge me to affiliate with a youth movement.

I am indebted to my brother Yitzhak for being able to make aliyah to the Land. It was he who influenced my father to send his little sister to receive training and then make aliyah. He was both active and alert to the concerns of the kibbutz, and worked a lot for HeHalutz. He studied a lot of Hebrew and also general knowledge, and was a living, walking encyclopedia – to the point that the Polish students and officers would stand amazed and unmoving – before his extensive knowledge. He wanted to make aliyah but could not because of military treasons. The movement itself also detained him: they needed him.

At the outbreak of the war, he was in the Polish army. From the time he returned home, after the retreat of the army – he too worked in the accounting administration, under the oversight of the Russian authorities. After this, he went over to the partisans... and was lost.

My brother Moshe, was a revolutionary in his ways. He studied at the Polish gymnasium and excelled. However, as a consequence of the open anti-Semitism – he decided to abandon hi studies, to study carpentry. My father objected with all his might and wanted him to complete his gymnasium studies, but he held his ground. He joined ‘HeHalutz HaTza‘ir’ and he was the light of the group. He moved to Warsaw. He wanted to travel to Bolivia, and from there to the Land of Israel. The household members opposed him, and he remained in Poland. He entered the Polish army, suffered for being a Jew, and was severely punished for his resistance and rebellion against anti-Semitism. Despite all this – he excelled in the army, and even received promotions. He attempted to leave Poland, my uncle in America undertook to send him an invitation – but the war broke out, and he remained stuck in the ghetto. He fled that location, and hid himself as a Christian. Riding on a horse, and having grown a mustache, he would steal into the ghetto and bring sacks of food for his relatives. However, it appears he was killed by Poles...

My sister Yenta was the oldest in the house. She assisted my mother and us. She was educated and loved to do community work. She loved literature, music, and dreamed of making aliyah to the Land, and to change her name....

My brother Zalman belonged to HeHalutz HaTza‘ir. He studied a trade at a place that was considered enlightened, which our father had already consented to – times had changed. In the year 1938, he wanted to make aliyah as part of Aliyah Bet. It is perhaps my fault that he did not come at that time: I wrote home – to shed some light on the difficult events that had overtaken me and my brother Aryeh at Bet-Shemen – indicating that this younger brother should continue to stay with parents and concentrate on his studies, and then the war broke out. During the way, he was among the partisans, and rose to be the head of a division. He knew no fear, and not once put his life in danger, and prevailed. He was full of confidence that he would stay alive. When the city and its environs were destroyed, he saw himself as the last of the Jews. He was able to joke, even while being in the shadow of death: After the war, ??? in a museum – a survivor. He was captured and taken to Auschwitz. He died of dysentery – because of malnutrition and unsanitary food. Koszczawa, a scion of our city, was with him to the last minute, and he even was able to convey his last words to me...

Let me put a limit to what I have to day... this concluded the tribute to our family. Let me now light a number of candles to the memory of friends.

Male and female friends. Who will count them?

My female friends of the neighborhood: Feiga Sosnowiec, Lieb’cheh Granica, Zvi Tykoczinsky, Chaya-Faygl Dzenchill, others, and others...

My male and female friends of the movement: Kanowicz, Litewka, Raszutszewicz, Lakhovar, Sztupnik, Ukrainczyk, Zisk, Krulik, Chaimson, others and others...

My male and female classmates: Peszka Furmanowicz, Rothberg, Kozacky, Gittl Zisk, Shayn’tzeh, others and others.... young and good, pursuers of what is good and just, [taken] before they could taste life, enveloped in hope for the future.

Chaya-Faygl Dzenchill – was planning to make aliyah after training in Czestochowa. Peszka Furmanowicz, came of age in the Bialystok kibbutz and was among the first of the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto.

All held out much promise to their people, their families, They were exemplars of a budding younger generation, who pass by the camp and offer a salute. All were prematurely cut down...

May my words serve as a Memorial Candle to glorify their souls.


Work & Industry

Small-Scale Industry in Zambrow



Isaac Koziol the baker   Moshe-Aharon Biednowitch the builder

Abraham Moshe, the mortician, with wife and grandchildren, Chaim ben-Dor

Today [after the Holocaust] the Poles pride themselves on the level of industrialization in Zambrow. The barracks have been transformed into a large kerchief factory.  It was here that hundreds of kerchief-weaving machines were dragged from the Jewish kerchief industry in Bialystok, and in bringing them built up an enormous kerchief factory employing hundreds of workers. The new train line, Czernowy-Bor – Zambrow conveys raw materials and takes away finished goods.

At one time, without the involvement of the government, and with their own primitive methods often with the resistance of the authorities, a small-scale Jewish industry grew in Zambrow.

The Jewish steam mills purchased grain from the peasantry and distributed sacks of flour to the surrounding cities.

Jewish windmills on both borders of the city, on the Ostrow Road (Moshe Schribner) and on the Bialystok-Czeczark Road (Leib’keh Millner, Abraham Schwartzbord,), would turn in the wind and grind the grain for the peasants.

Jewish kasha mills, smaller ones, larger ones, would bang away in the early morning hours grinding kasha, griczenie, hoberna, orkusowa ????. etc. The kasha would go from Moshe Kashemakher. from Abraham Tzedek, to the train, to Tyszowce and from there further on.

Jewish oil makers pressed and squeezed oil from flax seeds for the entire vicinity. Shmulkeh Cohn squeezed oil, Hona Wierzbowicz fabricated oil, as did Joel Gerszunowicz, Meir Yankl’s son-in-law, and Yossl Cohen. 

Yoss’l Cohen would also ‘burn’ pitch. Every summer, gypsy caravans would come from Hungary and buy up the pitch.

Kvass and soda-water were fabricated by Chaim Velvel Tyszkewicz with Dov’cheheh Smoliar, Leibusz, and later Leibusz’icheh Levinsky, and others.

Years ago, the Jews distilled whiskey and dealt with the spirit merchants of Czeczork and other nearby villages.

Jews of Zambrow fabricated bricks, and to this end, Shlomkeh Blumrosen and Danziger built a large brick works in Gardlin on the road to Bialystok. Abraham Schwartzbord also built himself a brick kiln on the Czeczork Road. Everyone around then built their houses out of these Jewish bricks.

The dyeing plants in Zambrow were a substantial undertaking. It was the Jewish dyeing houses who would do the dyeing for the peasants.

And so, Jews, with Berish Kreda at their head, built a dyeing plant – the Polusz, beside the river, not far from the bridge. There, machines clanked away, and there was a constant stream of raw materials coming in with wool, etc. Gershon Srebrowicz, Koczak from Jablonka and others [were involved].  After the First World War, it passed to the Prawda brothers – these were nouveau riches and very diligent people. The gentiles from all sides would bring their skeins of linen to be combed and dyed.

The Zambrow shoemakers would provide between seventy to eighty percent of the boots for the entire area. More than twenty shoemakers would sew cheap and military grade boots. The same was true of tailors and hat makers.

Chaim Yagoda, the Smith, with his brother Chone-Leibel
and sisters Frume and Rachel, over mother's tombstone


                                               The Three Flour Mills


 A. Meir Zelig Grajewsky

Grajewsky was one of the ones who enabled the expansion of the limits of the city, and the growth of the Jewish community. R’ Meir Zelig hailed from Grajewo. He came to Zambrow full of vigor and ambition. He surveyed the market days and the fairs in the city, and he found that the farmers bring a surfeit of grain, wheat and ???, and that there is a way to exploit this it the best of all ways: to built a modern flour mill near the city, which will accept this surfeit of grains to be milled, and to then supply the entire vicinity with flour. Flour came here from far distances, and there was the potential for a local flour mill to capture the flour market. Windmills, called ‘wietraken’, ground small amounts of flour, and it was coarse, and not particularly well suited to ???? When the notion of the construction of such a steam-driven flour mill ripened in his mind, Grajewsky looked around the area and found the Ostrowo Road, on the right, over the river, suitable to his purpose.

A man of action, imbued with a good commercial sense, he succeeded in organizing funds that were derived from cash on hand, and the remainder through loans of varying tenor, and he constructed a steam-driven mill  that was pleasant in appearance and whose millstones pounded away day and night. The farmers inundated the market with grains, and tens of Jews, family men, found a handsome living from this: they bought sacks of grain from the farmer, returned, and brought them at a small profit to the flour mill, and Grajewsky paid them handsomely in cash, and notes, and from a number of merchants he even did this on contingent payment.

B. Ze’ev Goldin

When the Jews saw that Grajewsky had created a gold mine – they grew jealous of him. And one, Ze’ev Goldin, from Ostrow-Mazowiecki or some other city, came to Zambrow with a sum of money in hand, and he set up a mill right across from Grajewsky, on the left side of the road, this being a steam-driven flour mill that was even more modern, with newer machinery imported from Germany, with an electrical transformer, etc., etc. The competition was great. The number of grain merchants in the city grew, and their income became even more secure: whatever Grajewsky would not buy, Goldin would, and vice versa. Farmers from quite a distance, close to Lomza or Ostrow – planned to delay their travel to reach the Zambrow market day, because they knew they could sell their grain easily and for a good price. Grajewsky and his three sons: Shaul (Saul), Noah and Abba. could not withstand the competition, and the shortfalls grew and debts got larger. Grajewsky married off his eldest son Shaul to the daughter of a very rich man from Radom, R’ Yankelewsky, who invested his large and substantial dowry into the business. but it didn’t help much. This persisted until one day on a Friday toward sunset, when Grajewsky was out of the city, a fire broke out and his mill was entirely consumed in flames. Grajewsky got the insurance money from two Russian companies and from a third French company and emerged unscathed from the business, and he was left with yet a substantial sum of money...

Goldin’s flour mill stayed in business for some time. ‘Goldin’s Mill’ had quite a reputation in the city. From time to time, Goldin expanded his facilities: he put up one building after another, improved and renovated, and lived well in the residence that he constructed beside the mill. Tens of families made their living thanks to the flour mill, and about twenty Jewish employees worked inside it.

For a while, a competitive shadow, in the form of a German gentile whose name was Pfeiffer, stood in his way as we shall see later on. But Pfeiffer’s mill burned down one night at the end of the summer, and once again, Goldin remained again as the only one in business, and he dominated it with force.

As Goldin grew old, and his sons did not want to continue in his business, he sold the mill to Meir ben Mordechai Aharon Meizner. Meizner, a handsome Jewish man of good disposition, progressive, even though he was no big expert – sold off his clothing store, which he had owned on the corner of  the ‘Wadna’ gasse, beside the marketplace of Mr. Gottlieb.  He took on several junior partners, and among them one of the managers of the workplace, the son-in-law of Alter Somowicz, and they made some renovations and improvements to the mill, paved the road that connects the mill to the Royal Highway, and the flour – developed quite a reputation throughout the length and breadth of Poland. During the course of several years, the mill passed through a number of hands, and its partners changed. However, the revenue stream from it was very steady, and it was always a source of income to residents of the city.

C. Pfeiffer’s Mill

Pfeiffer was a German gentile, who, it appears, was sent here by his government as a spy. He started out – with a modern Prussian bakery, run by machinery, which he first put up on [ulica] Kosciolna  beside the house of R’ Mendl Rubin. When the revenues and the farmers increased, during market days, the number of people coming to buy bread from him would grow as well – as a result of this, he set up a large flour mill, run by water. To accomplish this, he was able to acquire a parcel of land outside the city for quite cheap near the horse market, where the Zambrow River comes to an end. He brought in an engineer and an expert from Germany, and that one planned to raise the level of the river and put a large and wide dam across it. The surplus of water trapped behind the dam would course through the channels of the dam, and noisily descend like a waterfall, and their force would turn the millstones. The dam was called ‘Der Stav.’ Using water power, Pfeiffer was able to eliminate the costs of oil, and he was able to compete in the market in the sale of flour. His operation was also a clean one, and his flour – of the finest. Pfeiffer was an old bachelor, and enjoyed wiling his time away in pleasures, keeping company with the Jews, and he had an open hand when it came to assisting the indigent. In several fund-raising initiatives by the community, he too would participate, and not only once did he donate sacks of flour to charitable institutions.

The business manager was one named Kaspar. He also was a German by birth, handsome, tall, and he had the face of a Teutonic Knight. Kaspar ran the flour mill and also led the bakery and the sale of bread. He took part in the general community life and was the Vice Chairman of the Fire Fighters (the Chairman was his neighbor, Skarzynsi, the Polish pharmacist). Since Pfeiffer had no heirs, the flour mill and the bakery passed into the hands of Kaspar. A short time later, on one of the nights of Tishri or Heshvan, a fire broke out, and even though the flour mill stood beside water, it was totally consumed. The dam continued to do its work for many years afterwards – beside the burned and destroyed flour mill – and the water continued to flow and fall with force and loud sound. When the First World War broke out, Kaspar was suspected of espionage on behalf of Germany, and together with a number of other German families in the vicinity, like Kaufman, the Dog Killer (Koyfman der Rocker) and others, were exiled to the interior of Russia.

D. The Windmills (Wietraken)

For many years, several windmills turned on the Ostrowo and Bialystok Roads, whose four huge sails, in the form of a cross, would move for periods of time. They were owned by Jews, and they were: Moshe Schribner, on the Ostrowo Road, and Zelig Miller on the Bialystok Road. These mills served for decades in providing flour and ??? to the farmers, and also served as weigh stations, and as a place of shade to strollers on the Sabbath, we went out of the city to get a breath of fresh air. During the time of the cholera epidemic, the mill of Moshe Schribner was converted to a first aid station. The sick were brought there, and here they got help, and from here the dead were brought to their burial.



It is interesting to note the place occupied by craftsmen starting from the beginning of the city. Among the gabbaim in the synagogue was Chaim the Tailor, from the Kosziuszko gasse. Among the prominent gabbaim of the Chevra Kadisha was Mendl Rubin, the Hatmaker, and Moshe-Zelik the Hatmaker. The Torah reader in the synagogue was Binyom’keh Schuster. Later on, his son Alter performed this role. Among those who led services were: in the synagogue, Alter the Smith; in the White Bet HaMedrash – David the Wagon Driver, Moshe Zelik the Hatmaker, and Chaim Kalman the Butcher; in the Red Bet HaMedrash –  Fyv’keh the Shoemaker, Abraham Schneider.

Among the cantor’s choir singers – tailors and shoemakers. Yudl Shokhet has two such singers on the High Holy Days: Yankl Hittlmakher, and Jekuthiel Katzav. The Shoemaker from Gatch and his sons, all shoemakers, were the leaders of the Hasidim of Sokolov. One of them, Yankl David the Shoemaker, was the ombudsman and provider for all the yeshiva students. On the Yatkowa gasse, was Ber’cheh’s wooden house, where the Schuster Rabbi R’ Abraham Shlomo lived. He was a shoemaker for his entire life, a scholar and an observant Jew. Among the gabbaim in the Hasidim-shtibl were Herschel Tscheslior, the father of  Yeshea the Melamed, Moshe Aharon Mulyar, Mysh’keh Fischer, and others. In charitable institutions, and later on in political parties, the craftsmen took the lead.

Opinions about the cantor, an interpretation of a preacher’s sermon, an idea about the study that took place in the Bet HaMedrash, was offered only by the working class Jews, the craftsmen. Every day, you could hear the stirring in the street: the rising of these decent manual laborers to say their morning prayers, to get in a ‘day’s worth’ of Psalms, and sometimes also a page of the Gemara. Between afternoon and evening prayers, they would fill up the long tables in the Bet HaMedrash and engage in study.


     The Jewish Proletariat in Zambrow

                                                                By Lejzor Pav (New York)


Meeting of the Zembrow Society in New York. In the center -- Mr. Louis Pav, President.


Zambrow had no factories. There was only one steam-driven flour mill in operation, and it employed about ten Jewish and gentile workers, and later on the dyeing plant. From time-to-time, a small oil processing facility would arise, from which a blind horse and an oil worker and a couple of workers would derive their sustenance. There were several small kvass and soda water factories, where an owner and his wife and children, together with a couple of relatively cheap extra hired hands, worked during the season in the hot summer months.

Despite this, Zambrow had a fine working class. On Saturday, before nightfall, the ‘Pasek’ was full – this was the center of promenade in Zambrow – the Ostrowo Road, this way, until the iron bridge on one side, and the Bialystok Road – literally as far as the brick works on the other side: Jewish workers, the mature and students, masters and apprentices, dressed in their Sabbath finery with their wives and children, with their loved ones and friends, walked about in a pleasant manner and inhaled the fresh air of the Sabbath day of rest.

There was no lack of women workers: tailors and seamstresses, stocking makers, wig makers, ‘salesladies’ in the stores, cooks, servant girls who would meet with their young men, who were makers of galoshes, apprentice tailors and shoemakers, drivers and smiths, bakers and cabinetmakers, and they would get together to heartily pass the time together on the nice and one free day of the week.

In time, all of these ‘proletarians’ and ‘lamplighters’ united and organized themselves into professional unions, strengthened their economic positions, declared themselves to be professional and socially oriented, with each affiliating with a political party, began to read books, a newspaper, signed up for workers education courses and participating in partisan discussions.

It was in this manner that a nice Jewish proletarian class lived and developed, in the little shtetl of Zambrow – which had no factories and didn’t mass produce anything. If a speaker arrived from somewhere or another – the hall was packed with hangers on, with party members on one side, and the opposition on the other side. In the shtetl, there was roiling and tumult – by Jewish Zambrow it was tranquil...

The communists, in Poland today, boast of the fact that Zambrow is an industrial center, where thousands of workers are employed in textile factories, which had been liquidated in the former Jewish towns around Bialystok, and their machinery was transplanted in Zambrow. Machines clank away on the grounds of the former barracks, with smoke and soot belching from factory chimneys, and the song of workers are carried – but not ours! The voice of the Jewish workers from the quiet, not-industrialized Zambrow was cut off, and permanently silenced. Their heirs, not local people, often times with blood on their hands, now make a living in Zambrow.


                      R’ Tuvia Skocandek (The Candle Maker)

A scion of Jedwabne – he married the daughter of  R’ Moshe Hersh Cohn Slowo. He inherited the name ‘Candle Maker’ from his father-in-law who engaged in candle making, especially ‘soul’ candles ??? from inedible fat. He was short in stature, self-effacing in his demeanor, entirely holy, being always at one with his Creator. He did not engage in making a living – this was the work of his wife. He sunk his entire being into the study of Torah, and was not distracted into conversations about secular matters. He was a handsome man, with curly side locks and sunk in his own thoughts. The synagogue was his steady place to be. Early in the morning, upon arising, he would study at home. His sweet voice captivated souls. The sing-song of Gemara study broke from his house into the heart of the night, and carried for distances. His second station was the synagogue itself. Prayer went on for hours, and when he returned, he would eat a piece of bread in the manner of a Righteous Saint. Those who were ill would turn to him to remove ‘the evil eye’ from them. In the evenings at the White Bet HaMedrash, he would sit with tens of the balebatim and craftsmen at the side of a table, with a copy of the Mishna in their hands, and he would teach them and explain a chapter, utilizing all the commentaries.  Complete silence reigned around the table. His explanations enchanted the soul, and attracted listeners. He was held in esteem by all his students, by virtue of his integrity, the goodness of his heart, and the faith that was attached to it. He did not engage in politics. It was even difficult to engage him within his own family. It was only the give-and-take of Talmudic casuistry and argument, which would bring him out of his reverie.  He was fastidious in all his manners. In the wintertime, he would go to the river, and in the most extreme cold, he would immerse his body and bathe in the water. In the year 1930, when I came home for a visit from the Land of Israel, the entire family gathered in my grandfather’s home. I sang songs from the Land, and he sat for the entire time, focused and listening, and his entire being was suffused with joy, and his face shone. He communicated his desire to make aliyah, and took an interest in the condition of religious observance there. He joined the supporters of the Mizrahi, and contributed to them.

However, the righteous R’ Tuvia, the man of integrity and modesty, was not privileged to achieve the ambit of his desire. He even did not have the privilege of dying a natural death. He was one of the first of the martyrs of Zambrow.




Elinka was one of the more attractive personalities who became endeared to the community. He originally came from Jablonka. He dressed as one of the simple folk, with a large tallis katan under his kaftan, and a broad hat of velvet on his head. He constantly had a small sack thrown over his shoulder. He was of average height, a split white beard, with pleasant, dreamy eyes. I never once saw him get angry, and never once saw him idle. He would cover all of the villages on a daily basis, to sell needles. The farmers saw his countenance as that of a man of God, and they would entreat him: Rabbin Elinka, go and tread on our fields and may you leave God’s blessing there, because every place that you walk becomes a holy place! He would always walk alone, lost in his own thoughts, with his lips whispering from the Psalms which he knew by heart. He would rise early, pray ‘Vatikin’ ???, study a chapter of the Mishna, come home for a morning repast, and set out to the villages. Periodically, he would return from there with a quarter of corn grain over his shoulder that one of the farmers would have sold to him cheaply, or compensated him in kind for his merchandise. In the city, he was regarded as one of the ‘Lamed-Vov’ righteous men.

It would be said of him – ‘He is a secret Righteous Man.’ He would fast at intervals during the Ten Days of Repentance – sitting in fast until evening. He was a reliable man, and once his wife made an error and poured fuel oil into a plate of potatoes that was on the table, instead of edible oil. ‘There is nothing bad in this,’ he said: ‘whoever said that edible oil is to impart a good taste, he will also say this to the fuel oil, and if The Holy One, Blessed Be He wants it to be so – I most certainly will not come to any harm! He then proceeded to eat it, and nothing happened to him. He educated his sons in Torah, to work, and to perform acts of charity. In old age, he resided with his son-in-law, Abraham’l ben David Velvel Golombek. His daughter, Chaya Elinka, looked after him with great love, and his son-in-law showed him great respect. So long as Elinka will be with us – the simple folk would say – no evil will befall us.


My Father R’ Moshe Aharon the Builder (Mulyar/Bednowicz)

                                                                   By Chaim Bender

It is appropriate, in my view, to begin with a few lines concerning the origins and childhood of my father ז״ל, not only as a firmament for describing his personality, but also as an extension to the description of the life of Jews in the towns of that time.

My father ז״ל, was born – according to my calculation – in the year 1850, in Wysokie Mazowieckie – close to Zambrow, or in its vicinity – in a village or on an estate – to his father Baruch Yitzhak, who was leased a brick works, from which he derived only a meager living. My father was the youngest of the family. I knew of two of my father’s brothers, the older – Israel Hirsch, who also lived in Zambrow during my days there, and was the overseer of the firing of the bricks at the brick works of R’ Shlomo Blumrosen; the second – Issachar, who was a ritual slaughterer and meat inspector in Wysokie, an ardent Jew of pleasant disposition; and a sister, Miriam Mindl, who it seems was the oldest. I know only a little about the childhood and youth of my father,


Chaim Bender

and even this little I happened to overhear by chance and garnered from snippets of conversation. It was in this way that I once heard from him that his brother-in-law used to carry him as a child to the city, to cheder, in a sack thrown over his shoulder, especially on the cold winter days. This was an indication that his father did not have the means to send him in a separate wagon, from the village where they lived to the city. On one Saturday night, a conversation ensued among us about birdcalls. My father told me about the various birdcalls that he heard while walking through the thick forest all night. He came to this forest after his bar mitzvah year, when he had left the home of his parents and ‘exiled himself’ to a place of Torah study (I think it was Biala). With one shirt, and one meal in his left hand, and a staff he carved by himself in his right, he went the entire long distance on foot, a walk that took several days, to reach the destination of his choosing. How many years did he spend in this Torah study pace, and in other such Torah study places? How did he support himself there, and when did he return home? – I do not know.

He took a wife from a good family in Sokolov, near Siedlce, she being my mother ע״ה Sima (in his letters to her, when he was outside of the city, he wrote her name as Sima, but also sometimes as Cima) of the Tanenbaum family (she died on 11 Tevet 5692 [December 21, 1931], after having a life of sixty-two years with my father). My mother’s father –  Shimon Tanenbaum – leased a fish pond. Also regarding this family, all I know is that it was related to the Rebbe, R’ Elimelech of Sokolov. Both my mother’s brother in Sokolov and her brother in Wysokie have sons named Elimelech (Melech). It is possible that among the four brothers I had, who died before I was born, there was also one with this name, but it was not the custom to speak of those whose lives ended before their time (of the twelve children that my mother bore for my father, my mother ע״ה, would occasionally recollect her son ‘Berish’l,’ her favorite, who died in his Bar Mitzvah year. At times like this, my father would look into her face with his soft eyes, both threatening and pleading at the same time. as of to say: ‘Don’t you know that one does not speak of sons that God has given and God has taken away, and do not open your mouth...’ Immediately, my mother would fall silent, with a deep sigh).

After they married, my parents lived in ‘Wysokie’ and my father attempted to engage in commerce. On one occasion, he lost all that he possessed as a result of a bad event. He had invested his capital in goods that were transported to him in a hired wagon. On the way, the wagon-driver was ‘attacked’ and they ‘took’ all the merchandise from him, without leaving so much as a trace. When this bad news reached him, he traveled to Lomza – the provincial capital, to see if it might be possible to salvage ‘something,’ but he returned empty-handed just as he had come there. On his return by way of the Wysokie-Zambrow road, the wagon driver stopped to rest and feed his horse. This pause took place on the street of the synagogue that leads to the way to get to the horse market. Across from them – near the place where, in our time, stood the house of Czybulkin (that is, after the First Great Fire in the town), a large wooden house that was built at that time. Mt father, ז״ל stood there – with a heavy heart, looking at the house being built there. The owner walked over to him, this being one of the founders of the city, R’ Shmuel Wilimowsky, faced him [and said]: 'Why are you standing and just looking, are you perhaps a brick maker, and you are thinking of setting up your ovens here?’ ‘Yes’ the answer fell from the mouth of my father, as if it was forced out of him against his will, and he immediately regretted it. The homeowner would not let him go and worked on him over and over again to quote his price, and my father was embarrassed to reveal the truth and attempted to change the subject, but to no avail – having no way out, my father quoted him a price, by prevailing standards, and the latter immediately consented (it later became evident that the price drove my father to this goal). In the meantime, the wagon-driver came up to them and started to bug my father, because the hour of departure had arrived. And so, my father parted company from the homeowner, and the latter reminds him that in a few more weeks the house will become the center for the work of ovens. When he returned to his city, he told his father that he did not have any luck in trying to salvage anything of his assets, and he continued by adding: ‘I really don’t know what’s going on with me. As I went through Zambrow, I fell victim to a ???, and I am ashamed of it even for myself,’ and my father went on to explain the incident in Zambrow. My grandfather proceeded to comfort him: ‘What’s all the worry? Did you cause anyone harm, God forbid? On the contrary – maybe something will come of it?’ On the following day, once again, his talk returned to this issue, and to the issue of making a living in general: ‘If I had any idea of some sort about building, I would return to Zambrow and ‘set up’ such ovens there.’ Grandfather opened by saying: ‘And what are your thoughts about this? That you think this is so sort of profound skill! Involving esoteric concepts? Take up a hammer in your hand, and a little at a time, take apart the oven in my house – after all, it is summer now – and you will gain an understanding of this great wisdom.’ Together, they began to dismantle the oven, one brick after another, and my father learned and understood what went on in the interior, and began to restore it to its original condition. In the proper time, he returned to Zambrow and completed his work with great success. Immediately, his reputation as a consummate craftsmen spread, and work was offered to him from all sides. And it was in this way that he came to take up permanent residence in Zambrow. It is known that after the First Great Fire, they re-built the entire city almost entirely out of brick, in contrast to the remaining towns in the vicinity where homes were largely constructed of wood. Several times I heard my mother add to my father’s words: that her father in Sokolov did not know about this ‘transformation’ for a long time. One time, he came to visit them. Immediately upon entering, he said: ‘It is almost an hour that I am looking for your house. Every Jewish person I encountered said: ‘We do not know any Moshe Aharon, a merchant, but we do know Moshe Aharon the Builder,” and showed me his residence, and my eyes now tell me they were right.' Upon hearing this, my mother burst into intense weeping, and he (her father) calmed her with the words: ‘Why are you crying, my daughter? Had I heard them refer to Moshe Aharon the Thief, of Moshe Aharon the Swindler, you would then have cause to be ashamed and cry, but Moshe Aharon is making a living from the work of his own hands, and he is therefore an honor and not an object of shame.”

His reputation as a ‘master builder’ also spread outside of our town. He received from the government – I don’t know exactly when, or on what basis – this previously mentioned ‘title’ and all that comes with it. He was invited not only to build government buildings, but also to pave bridges with brick stones. I remember the construction of a large bridge of this kind, and the work got delayed to such an extent that it did not stop even during the cold winter days. The mortar that used to warm him was frozen in his hands. More difficult than this was provision of kosher food for the Jewish workers, who worked with him and were received as guests in the homes of the farmers in the nearby village. I remember my oldest brother, Nachman Ze’ev – one of my father’s sons who learned the building trade from him– would oversee the food provisioning, me and the hosting. They would come home every Friday. In the construction of one bridge, my father and the supervising architect who was overseeing the work  had a difference of opinion over reading the plans for the bridge. On the plans that had come to them from the Ministry of Railroads in Petersburg, the two overpasses of the bridge, relative to the two roads it was supposed to go over, had not been specifically marked. My father refused to accept the opinion of the architect until the chief engineer arrived, who was responsible for the drawings, and he ruled as my father had indicated.

In general, all of the architects in the provincial capitol (as his workers of the same faith, and not the same faith, all his acquaintances and friends), treated him with great respect ( his patriarchal appearance also commanded respect. I recall those days, when my father would come to visit me during those days when I was studying at the Yeshiva of ‘Breinsk’, and my classmates would ask me after seeing us walking together outside: ‘Who was that Jewish man of such height and magnificent appearance that we saw outside?’). The architects would depend on him and would always carry out his notations and modifications that he would enter on their plans. When they came to our city, they would visit at our house, sit with my father, and immerse themselves in details, and at the same time, would enjoy the ‘repast’ provided them. As a testament to my father’s expertise – and the respect that was accorded him by his peers – let me cite an additional fact and conclude with that. During the days of the First World War, almost all construction work came to a standstill: new buildings were not built at all, and the builders, as was the case with the members of other trades, suffered from lack of work. My father suffered from the lack of work more than his employees who had learned their craft from him, because those were generally invited to do repair work, rather than my father, because no one had the nerve to offer him such petty jobs to do.

During these ‘difficult’ times, we received a visit from the Chief Builder –  Kablan from Czyzew, near our city. Because of the ‘war’ and the various ‘fires’ that ensued in its wake, many houses were burned down and ruined, among them also the ‘Bet HaMedrash.’ Having no alternative, the balebatim decided to minimally re-build their house of study, and gave the contract to this builder. The good fortune was indescribable. Here, the Chief Builder comes to us, and proposes to my father that he consent to be a partner in this construction project. On one occasion, I asked the builder to explain to me the reason and thinking behind his offer to take on my father ז״ל as a partner, at a time when work was so hard to come by. That very builder, Kablan, replied and said: ‘How can I explain this to you? Believe me that from my part, I could have done without R’ Moshe Aharon touching a brick or a building tool, because it would be sufficient for him to show up once or twice a day, for less than an hour, to the construction site, and simply cast a eye about, to share his opinion, because what R’ Moshe Aharon can grasp in one glance, other distinguished experts couldn’t fathom in many days.”

As I mentioned previously, my father ז״ל, was not in the habit of saying much about his family and origins, only at infrequent intervals, mostly during the nights after the Sabbath when his relatives in the city would come to our house, like his oldest brother R’ Israel Hirsch, his sons and grandchildren, Nathan the Dyer and his family, and others. A number of workers from Wysokie would sometimes come to our city to work for my father, and they would live in our house (at our location they learned the building trade, and he educated a ‘generation’ of Jewish brick makers).  They started as unskilled laborers, and those among them who acquired the skills were gradually selected for the skilled work with, understandably, my father’s encouragement.  These too, would come and join the Saturday night festivities, and it then fell to these ‘guests’ to preserved stories that he told about his origins... And a number of details became known to me also from the tales told by these previously mentioned working men: it was not only the art of building, but all that he had learned he had done on his own.  One time, during the years I studied the Gemara, he reproached me for neglecting my studies of Holy Writing. I tried to defend myself by saying that in the cheder they minimize the study of Tanakh (and in the two years before my Bar Mitzvah, they didn’t cover it at all).  He said to me: And you have to wait for your teacher’s instruction and depend on him? At your age, I would regularly read ten to fifteen chapters of Tanakh before morning repast, yes – even before morning prayers... but, as I said, he did not spend much time talking about himself, and during my youth I did not have to temerity to approach him with questions of this sort. It appeared to me, at that time, that this was not the proper thing to do and did not constitute respect. When I went off to centers of Torah scholarship – the yeshivas ‘Breinsk’ and ‘Slobodka’ – and we would be frequently exchanging correspondence,  I refrained from being bold enough to ask such questions. After I had grown up, I once made a request of him, in a letter, that he make an effort to put down in writing some of his origins and past, about his forbears and their predecessors. In his answer, he replied to me: ‘As it happens right now, it is hard for me to write because my hands tremble and spasm from old age,’ and after this, I did not have the temerity to remind him of this, or attempt to persuade him, and I lost the hour. In the process, I missed out on asking him why it is that he does not read from the Torah, notwithstanding the fact that he had a ‘franchise’ to read from the Torah, in the prayer house, only after the morning service of Rosh Hashanah.

When he was free of his business activities on Sabbaths, Festivals, etc., or on winter days during which building activity came to a halt, he would always sit down to study the Gemara. In the bookcase that was in our house, apart from the Babylonian Shas (as well as a Shas in a miniature format with small print, in a heavy binding, and suitable for use when going on a trip), there were many other books: The Zohar, Commentaries, the books of God-fearing men, and of ‘Hasidim,’ etc. Ponderous prayer books of various kinds (such as the prayer book of the AR”I, of the YAAV”TZ [R’ Yaakov Emden]), and others, and he would look into these while eating, upon retiring to bed, and at whatever opportune hour. Ordinary study for him was restricted to the Gemara and its Commentators. It is understood that every Friday, he would read through the portion of the week ‘twice in Hebrew, once in Targum (Onkelos).’ Before each festival holiday, he would set time aside to review the rules and regulations of that holiday festival, especially in the ‘Shulkhan Arukh,’ of the ‘Rav’ (R’ Schneur Zalman Schneerson, the progenitor of Chabad Hasidism). Mostly – when there were no people in the house to disturb him – he would study at home. However, before dawn, and even in the dark of the night, in the long winter nights, he would arrive early at the Bet HaMedrash (the Red one), to study there. When he would wake up, in order to get out of bed before the doors of the Bet HaMedrash would be opened, he would read the ‘day’s worth’ of Psalms and various chant verses, sotto voce, and occasionally when I was awake in bed I would listen to the pleading voice of his. I especially remember the impression made upon me on one occasion, when I was listening to him ‘sing’ in his plaintive voice, as if he were imposing himself on his Father in Heaven: ‘Yedid Nefesh, Av HaRakhaman....’ returning again, and again to the opening refrain of this famous chant, which had been included into a number of prayer books, to be recited before the start of the morning service.

He prayed in accordance with the Sephardic tradition. On Sabbaths and Festival holidays, when the time of morning prayer arrived for the ‘Ger Hasidim,’ he would leave the Bet HaMedrash, and go to their prayer house (the Ger shtibl), to pray, because he was one of the Ger Hasidim. By and large, he did not travel to Ger, as was the custom of the Hasidim. In my days, I did not hear anyone ask him why this was the case, and he himself did not speak of it. When the Rebbe of Ger passed away, Yehuda Aryeh Leib, who was called ‘Sfat-Emet’ after the name of the book he wrote, my father would look into the book on occasions between the afternoon and evening prayers, and during other periods of recess in the Ger shtibl. On one occasion of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, when the Hasidim would gather to go to Tashlikh, he was reading this very book, as was his custom. On the way to the river, he would say to those walking alongside him: Our Sages, of Blessed Memory, were correct when they said: The righteous become greater in death than they were in life. When they looked at him with questioning eyes, asking for an explanation of what he said, he added: ‘It is now possible to recognize, through his book more than through his life, the Rebbe, of blessed memory, because he could grasp what it was that his soul relied on!’ He would go to see nearly every Rebbe of Hasidim who would come as guests to our city, taking me as well, to hear the lore they dispensed at their Sabbath repasts, and after the Sabbath I would escort him to the Rebbe ‘to receive a blessing’ from him. I remember the Rebbe from Novo-Minsk, and especially the many visits we made to the Rebbe Nahum of Bialystok, who was the Sandak when I was entered into the Covenant of our Father, Abraham. Always, as I was taking leave of him, he would slip me a coin, in order that it bestow a blessing on me from him. On one summer day, when my father was busy and could not go see him during work days, he sent me to receive a blessing on his behalf. The Rebbe gave me wine to drink from his cup, asked about my studies in cheder, gave me a coin, blessed me, and then expounded effusively to his Gabbai in praise of my father.

During periods of recess, the Hasidim in their prayer house would engage in conversation about worldly matters, and not in ‘Hasidic talk.’ The house buzzed like a hive especially on later Friday afternoon between the afternoon service and the evening service to welcome the Sabbath. At this time, amidst a deafening noise, my father would sit and immerse himself in a book. His fellow group members, and people who knew him were accustomed to this ‘peculiarity’ and did not pay him any attention. Never did he complain about the secular din before the welcoming prayers for the Sabbath, and he never criticized anyone because of the common discourse taking place in a sanctuary on a holy day. And even on the evenings of Simchas Torah, before the concluding evening prayer ending the Festival when the dancing ‘burned’ with passionate fire, he would sit and peer into his book. From time-to-time, he was pulled into a circle dance, and he would go around for a few minutes, get out of the way and immediately return to his book; ‘after all,’ he was no big dancer and singer, it would seem for all of his days, but why did he refrained from participating in the secular discourses during recesses? Was it only because of his ‘thirst’ for the book? Many times, on the second night of a Festival, and especially before the Hakafot on the nights of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, on the night of Simchas Torah, my heart went out to the fortunate members of the shtibl, to their dances, the ??? of the inflamed Hasidim, and there I would sit practically expiring, waiting for my father to shut his Gemara and to go with me to the Maariv service because where would I find the nerve to urge him to do so? ‘Why is he different from all his Hasidic friends?’ – I would ask myself, and the thought of not waiting for him, and going by myself never entered my mind at all at that time. On one occasion, when I reminded him that it was time to go, instead of saying: ‘Immediately, right now, in a little bit, we will go,’ he said to me: it will be good to wait about another hour, because it isn’t proper to leave your mother at home alone in the house, and it was in this way that yet another facet of his behavior was revealed to me, a facet that would not have come to my attention in the normal ambience of our day-to-day living.


His Conduct Toward His Sons

I am only able to tell about his conduct towards me when I was the youngest in the family, and younger by many years than my two brothers, Nachman-Ze’ev and Eliyahu, who went off to America when I was six, and he practically never hollered at me and never raised a hand to me, much less rebuke me in public, as most fathers would do during prayer, Torah reading, and similar situations. And he never even criticized me in front of members of his household because – as I came to understand, as I grew up – that in everything that he did, and intrinsic to his conduct, there was a reason and this included sparing the rod.  Apparently, he did not believe in the utility of hollering, rebuking, striking and hitting, and throughout my childhood and youth he would often speak to me on intimate terms. He made an attempt to influence and leave an impression, but refrained from explicit moralizing, and to this end he constantly strove to inculcate me in the mitzvot, without providing an apparent reason, in order that I not attribute to specific an intent in the matter. From childhood onward, even before I began to attend Cheder, ( I began to study at age 3 ½) he would turn to me – mostly during our feasting on the Sabbath or on a Festival – asking me to hand him one book or another that was on the table, giving me a sign as to which one or tell me where in the bookcase they were (in the same room, adjacent to the table where we sat), and if I made a mistake – he identified my error, despite the fact that the bookcase was beside the table. And I recollect on one night when he was sitting in the sukkah, which literally stood abutting our house, and was engaged in a discussion about Halakhah with a young scholar, I nearly collapsed under the weight of the large Gemara volumes, whose names I was able to read only by a sheer miracle, and by signs that he had given me to look for (their thickness, their order in sequence, etc.) that I would bring and convey from the house to the sukkah, and from the sukkah back to the house. He had a special affection for young scholars and the ‘bachelors’, with whom he would socialize at every opportune hour, and it appeared that they in turn reciprocated this search for friendship with him.   

Before Passover and before Sukkos, I would, at his order, take all the books outside, to clean the dust off of them and to air them out. Afterwards he would direct me to order them and arrange them on the shelves of the bookcase: those that he had more frequent use for, were put in a place that could be easily accessed, and after that – the others, in accordance with a set arrangement, in order that he could remember the location of each and every book.

On the Eve of Passover, I would accompany him – as was the custom – to burn the leavened bread, to stand beside him as he koshered the ‘vessels’ [and utensils], etc. After the noon hour, I would go with him to the wine seller, and he would ask me to taste all of the wines, and offer my opinion on their taste.

Our sukkah was built under the roof of our house, with an opening into the foyer. From the day that I could think for myself, I helped open up the heavy roof (the edge to the sukkah), and to remove the ‘skhakh’ that had been resting on the sukkah for all year, to shake off the dust that was on it, and to cover it anew in accordance with proscribed ritual. Understandably, there was a bit of danger in climbing up on top of the sukkah, especially for a little boy, but more than helping him I disturbed his tranquility, and at his work, but my father did not ‘pass up’ my ‘assistance.’ After I grew up a bit, it happened that I had gone off to the edge of the river to play, and because of the over-enthusiasm of the players I was late in getting home. I will not forget his keening voice, simultaneously being self-justifying, with which he greeted me, and his soft look (maybe he was concerned for my well-being): You are late today my son, and here I was waiting in anticipation that you would come to help me in the preparation of the sukkah, and in the end I was compelled to go ahead and do it myself. Oh, dear, what a shame that you were late.’ From that time on, there was never an instance when I was late, until I learned to do the work by myself, and there was no longer a need for my father to leave a construction site, since a significant loss was tied up in his absence from the workplace.

Customs pertaining to education such as these, I suspect, were carried out in many Jewish homes.  Most of all, I want to underscore especially two such fundamental customs, two tasks that were allocated to me for each Friday evening when I was a very little boy, before my cheder years (when I had ‘grown up’ and was six years old, I would go out to play with my friends, and I began to neglect these tasks until they were forgotten), and these were: a) to clean my father’s Sabbath shoes, and b) to sharpen the knife that my father used to slice the Sabbath challah. Understandably, at that tender age, I was not able to carry put those two  tasks properly.  On short days, my sisters who were occupied with preparations for the Sabbath, would sometimes want to relieve me of my tasks, and I would steadfastly resist them regarding my ‘franchise:’ ‘these are my tasks,’ I would argue. I was not terribly aware at that tender age, as to how these two customs came into being, and to this day I have not heard of such a custom in other Jewish homes. Because of this, my heart tells me that my father’s hand was in this as well: to inculcate in me two fundamental mitzvot, that of honoring one’s father and showing respect for the sanctity of the Sabbath. When I grew to be a youth, I began to suspect that my participation on local tasks was not because my father needed the help. but because of a need to ‘educate a lad.’ [Here is] another example: In my Bar Mitzvah year, or slightly before then, I was studying Torah with the Baumkuler brothers, Pinchas הי״ד, and Abraham, of the first of those of our city who made aliyah at the end of the First World War, from the mouth of R’ Abraham Shmuel – the son-in-law of R’ Nahum Lejzor the Shokhet who was a very learned man, having received rabbinic ordination, and took over the duties of Shokhet in place of his father-in-law. We learned together in the prayer house of the Ger Hasidim, and as was the custom at that time, kinfolk would be taken in as guests that were knocking about, had been burned out, and for like reasons. The worshipers there, in the middle of the week, would collect a sum of money, and these guests would then be on their way. The matter was dependent on the donor who was willing to accept the obligation of the mitzvah, and on the number of such worshipers, and regarding the amount in respect to the capacity of the participants. And here, the idea took root of introducing some sort of order and protocol to the process. Accordingly: all the worshipers will contribute a number of pennies per week, according to their means, and this would go into a ‘box’ prepared for this purpose, to be available at an hour of need. They turned to me to be the ‘Gabbai’ of the box. And why ‘me’ – the youngest of the three pupils? This question entered my mind, because all that happens is natural and simple to a boy and youth, and there are no questions. Because of this, it never occurred to me to say anything about this responsibility at home, and because during the week my father did not go to the shtibl to pray, I didn’t ask him to donate his share, just as we did not solicit such donations from all those who came there only to worship on Sabbaths (those that could, and wanted to, donated their funds in a lump sum once).  And it happened that one of the ‘Hasidim’ fell ill with a lingering disease (from which he eventually died), and in a short period of time was left without food or medicines. It was decided that all the donor would add something special for this purpose only, for the benefit of the sick one, until he could get up from his sickbed. Understandably, it happened that a number of the donors did not provide their part of the donation they were obligated to give. I asked among the worshipers what to do about these laggards, and they responded by saying that it was up to me to remind, and return and remind again, those who were obligated. ‘And what if this doesn’t help?’ [They answered] ‘Well hide their prayer shawls – that they were in the habit of leaving behind in the ‘shtibl,’ and you will delay their prayers.’ I took this advice seriously, and I hid the prayer shawl of one of these laggards. He wanted to don a borrowed prayer shawl, and I began to argue with him. The latter did not get angry, God forbid, but rather the opposite, it appears that he took some pleasure in how serious I was, and began to complain for others to hear: ‘ Look at this, he is not permitting me to pray. Would you not permit a Jew to say his prayers? Here, I have a good proposal, give me my prayer shawl, and immediately after the service I will return it to you. And we will continue to do this each day until I pay off my obligation.’ This idea found favor in my eyes, and I related the incident at home, and when I left the house in order to return to my studies my father told me to wait a minute, and we left together. Once outside, he began to inquire about the status of the sick person – because of the extent to which he was busy during the days of summer, he knew nothing about it – and afterwards, he took out a sum from his pocket that to me looked large, and requested that I take it to the home of the sick person and to turn over the money to his wife. And I, despite the fact that I frequently made trips to the home of the sick person with funds from the ‘kupa,’ was embarrassed to be a bearer of ‘charity’ offered by a single individual, and I demurred. ‘What shall I say to her? – I asked. ‘Nothing,’ he replied. ‘Say: my father offers his blessing to the sick person for a complete recovery, and give her the money.’ When I refused, he said in a plaintive and soft voice: ‘Why would you be embarrassed? Don’t you see that I am very busy, and that I simply do not have the opportunity to visit the sick in person!’ I continued to attempt to evade the task: ‘Perhaps you should send the money, not in one lump sum, but rather to the ‘kupa?’ He replied: ‘Why are you acting this way? Better that it does not become public knowledge, and the sick one will have an added sum of money.’ After many years, it became clear to me that my father really didn’t need my help, but rather he wanted to give me a lesson in ‘Tzedakah’ and in anonymous giving.

While his own father was still alive (he passed away when I was about eight), my father would travel to Wysokie several times a year to see him. Always, almost without exception, he took me along to receive a blessing from him. This was especially for a blessing for long life, since my grandfather was then a frail man, and I always found him bedridden because of advanced age. It is clear to me now that it was not for this blessing that he took me out of cheder for a full day (excepting Hol HaMoed), but rather to inculcate me with the commandment ‘Honor thy Father and Mother.’ And I recall one occasion, when he went out from my grandfather’s house, tears began to fall from his eyes. I was taken aback to see my father cry on a time other than Yom Kippur. And when his brothers asked him to explain his crying, he answered while sighing: ‘It is for my sins that I have been exiled from the city of my birth, and I fulfill the mitzvah of honoring my father, as it should be done. And I have transgressed against The Lord all the days (in his idiom – ich farzindik zik myneh yorn).   The impact of his words will not ever be erased from my memory for my entire life.

 My Father, Itcheh Mulyar

 (Recorded by R’ Israel Levinsky ז״ל, as told by his son, Sender)

My father, R’ Yitzhak Szickowicky (known by the name Itcheh Mulyar), was a simple working man. He was noted for his integrity, his generous heart, his love for performing acts of charity, and helping those needy who approached him. For his entire life he worked, and earned his living with the effort of his own hands, and when he succeeded in his endeavors, and with his manual skills earned a formidable reputation among his craft peers, these same would come to solicit his advice and assistance.

My father learned his trade from Moshe-Aharon the Builder after he returned from the army. He grasped the skill, and went on to round out his capability in his profession, and his reputation went before him, and he became renown in the entire area as a great expert in the construction of baking ovens, which he would construct in the barracks of the army located in our city, and also in its summer encampments. And who was it that effected repairs at the bathhouse, upgraded the transient lodging, put a fence around the cemetery, and other communal construction projects, if not Itcheh Mulyar, the Builder?   As regarding his fee, they arrived at an agreement easily. He would pay laborers out of his own pocket. He would say: Zvi and Yitzhak Ze’ev Golombek, respectable people of standing, come each and every day and put in effort on behalf of the community, they bring bricks, and mortar, and clay, not for purposes of receiving remuneration, so it is therefore permissible for Itcheh the Builder to work together with his sons, without pay. If a landlord was being perverse and did not want to repair a broken oven on behalf of his less well-off neighbor, and he and his family are getting frozen by the cold, my father ז״ל would run and do the repair and arrange for peace to be made between the landlord and his neighbor. Because, who was it that wanted to start up a quarrel with R’ Itcheh? For this reason, all the city residents loved him, and when he fell sick, all would come to inquire as to his well-being and to pray on his behalf. – a dear man such as this – , they would argue, must continue to live, in order that he continue to do his good deeds on behalf of everyone.

Over time, he managed to accumulate a sum of money, and to buy in partnership with Israel Sokol, a parcel on the ulica Kosciolna that had previously been entirely in Christian hands, and the Jews purchased one parcel after another from them and built houses on them. The parcel that my father bought remained vacant for many years: its Christian owner did not want to sell it, however, once ???? himself, a large ??? that was brought from the forest killed, his widow sold the parcel at a not very dear price. My father himself planned the building himself, which was built with the help of Jewish builders from Wysokie. It was a stone house that was beautiful, not particularly large, but well-appointed. It was then that he left the street with the synagogue and the transient lodging facility, his previous residence, and moved over to live in the new building. Whomever had need of R’ Itcheh was able to find him there as well. However, on the Sabbath he would go to worship at his regular place in the Red Bet HaMedrash, where the Rabbi worshiped. After the second Great Fire, when he upgraded the house, he set aside a place there for the Chevra Shas, without charging rent, which became a place of prayer and study. He also served as its Shammes, and took care of the oven there, together with Yudl Husman and Menachem Dunowicz. Thanks to them, important balebatim came to worship with the Chevra Shas. On the High Holy Days, R’ Yitzhak Greenberg led the Musaf services, and after him, R’ Mott’l the Miller.

My father operated in the following way: He stood by every man in his hour of need, and if someone needed a person to vouch for them, they came to R’ Itcheh, and he never turned anyone away empty-handed.  He would lend money without charging interest or taking security. My complaints to him were of no avail: ‘How can you do this?’ He could not resist tears or sighing. I remember once, his neighbor, Abraham the Tailor, a diligent and honest man, but one who was poor and impoverished, burdened with children and unable to pay rent, took in a village lad from Szumowo for the purpose of teaching him how to sew a pair of trousers over the course of three months, and for this the lad received fifteen rubles from my father. But the young fellow was not talented in this respect and could not acquire the skill in so short a time.  The Jew from the village, an arrogant man, didn’t want to accept this and took him to court for twenty rubles and other court costs. However, my father ז״ל implored the village Jew to relent, because the tailor was a poor man, and he, personally, gets no rent from him – but it was in vain. They came to a public sale of the tailor’s furniture. This was on a Friday. The wife of the tailor and his children sat and wept, because they expected that very shortly the entire contents of their house would be emptied out. And she had brothers in the city, Zvi the Dairyman and Mottl the Smith, but they did not come to help her. Nevertheless, my father arrived with a packet of money in hand, and bought all of the furniture and left them in place for the tailor. All of the Christians there left bewildered: they thought they would get a bargain at the expense of a Jewish family. They paid off the rich man from the village his money, with the addition of curses from the neighbors.

I could not understand my father’s deeds: how is it that a person spreads around his money at a time when he has little sons at home, and the previously mentioned tailor never ever settled his debt. 

He never took security, because he lent without such security. He would give away his last penny, leaving himself with nothing, giving the excuse: I receive ??? and the public – does not. During the winter, when there was no [construction] work going on, we would scrimp and deny ourselves, but in the summer when the work would start up he would pay off all of his debts. There was an instance when people came from a nearby city to ask for a favor, because whatever Itcheh the Builder gives, succeeds, and they paid him with counterfeit gold coins – my father hushed the matter up and did not seek legal redress.

After the Second Great Fire, a dispute arose between my father and another man, involving a sum of one hundred rubles. The Rabbi ruled that my father needed to take an oath and then receive the sum, but my father did not wish to swear, even if it was the truth, and lost the loan. 

He had a substantial income, because there was always work to do, and he would be paid the amount he requested because they feared that otherwise, he might not want to take on the job. When my brother ???, who lived in Jerusalem, sent him a proposal to come and live there, many balebatim rushed to break their ovens in order to give my father the work to build them anew, out of a suspicion that they would not be able to find a skilled builder like him should he choose to leave the city.

Abba Frumkin was the contractor for providing flour to the barracks, and my father did the building of the large bakery ovens in Zambrow and afterwards at the summer camps in Gunsirowa. When the provisioning franchise was turned over to a certain ethnic Russian who had rented a residence from Moshe Finkelstein, he also turned to my father, ז״ל. When he saw that my father had hired himself out for a hundred rubles one week, it aroused envy in him, and when he was obliged to set up an additional oven at a summer camp, he came to my father and said that he would not pay the previously set fee, but rather quite a bit less. My father said: ‘On the contrary, I want more, because on the outside I have larger expenses. The Russian ‘katzap’ became incensed, uttered a Russian oath, slammed the door and fled. He gave to work to a gentile builder. It turned out that the work was quite lucrative, and there was a requirement to do work on public facilities: In the bathhouse, the transient inn, etc., as usual without compensation. When I asked him why he had demanded more money, he replied to me that he was certain the ‘katzap’ would revert to him, because he will not be able to find a craftsman comparable to him. And as it happened, after three weeks, the Russian returned with a smile on his lips and said: ‘So, do you still want the set price that you quoted, so much money? – ‘Well, have you done the work already?’ my father asks, – ‘No, I have not done it, and I am compelled to give you what you want, and I will convey you (myself and my father) on my wagon, and all your room and board will be at my expense.’ Astonished at this miraculous change in attitude, we came to Gunsirowa during the night, the summer military camp. He brought us to a Jewish lodging facility and ordered that we receive the best of everything of what we asked for. We arose to pray, and the Russian departed. I heard the children talking among themselves and saying to their mother that we were Jews, and that it was necessary to tell us what is going on here. The woman begins to tell us what had happened, and implores us to leave and not to work because the builder who had constructed the oven, a well-known Christian craftsman, was killed in an attempt to take out the internal support boards that served as a sort of closing, and nobody wants to work there – because demon spirits abide, it was said. This mater had already cost the Russian a considerable amount of money, and she advised my father to leave the place. I whispered to my father that we should get out of here. But my father said: ‘I have to see this demon for myself first.’ In the meantime, the Russian came back and says: 'So, let’s get to work!’ With a pounding heart I followed my father, and we saw the broken oven, with blood stains on the bricks. ‘What is this?’ – my father asked – ‘Why did you deceive me?’ The Russian said: ‘You refused, demanding a large sum, and it was on me to build this oven. Now you are getting more, so just do it.’ To my amazement, I saw my father go over to begin working, bringing workers to clear away the debris, and he finished the oven in the course of two days time because the foundation of the oven had remained from the part that had fallen. People came from all over town to watch how my father was going to take out the support boards. The Russian advised that they be burned out, in order not to ruin the oven, and the boards were brand new. My father sent him out of the house. and I remained to help my father while my heart pounded inside of me out of fear and terror. My father pulled the boards out intact, and in good condition, and I hauled them outside with glee. The Russian entered. He saw that all of the support boards had been removed from the oven, and he fell upon my father’s neck and began to kiss him and paid him twenty rubles for the boards. They came from all sides to see this magician of a Jew, who miraculously can drive out demons, My father was an expert at this. It was for this reason that my father hired himself out at a handsome rate, and others also derived satisfaction and learned from him.


    R’ Nachman Yaakov (Rothberg) – The Wagon Driver

 By Israel Levinsky

The town of Zambrow sits in the middle of paved road that lies between Lomza and the Warsaw-Petersburg railroad station at Czyzew. The rail network, during the time of the Czar was limited and did not have branches. On almost the entire right side region of the Vistula, there were practically no other rail lines except for the one I just mentioned. Connections were haphazard and not orderly. The merchants, storekeepers and just plain ordinary folks in need of transportation to Warsaw were exposed to all of the difficult vicissitudes of travel associated with the large freight trains that served as the means of connection between the cities. Zambrow, sitting between the two cities of Lomza and Czyzew, served at that time as a sort of transfer station for passengers and freight, from Warsaw to Lomza and its surrounding towns, and from Lomza and its environs to Warsaw. The result of this was a proliferation of wagon drivers in this town who found a means of making a living this way, and in better cases among the more successful, they even became wealthy. There appeared to be a sort of agreement among them, to divide up the day driving and the night driving. The day drivers had the mission to convey passengers and freight that arrived early on the morning train from Czyzew – from Zambrow to Lomza, and the night drivers would transport the passengers who came at night from Lomza to Zambrow – and further on to Czyzew. In Zambrow the travelers would transfer from wagon to wagon, stretch out and straighten their limbs from having sat in cramped quarters in the train car. They would pray, eat a quickly snatched meal in a restaurant, and transfer to a new wagon, that would convey them to the district to which they were going. Each of the day drivers had a designated night driver to whom he turned over his ‘people,’ and not to any other. This was also the case the other way: the same night driver would turn over his ‘people’ to his [designated] day driver. This custom was set and kept properly, and no man sought to disturb it or have the nerve to undermine it. Even in regard to the time of day, this was carefully monitored, observing each individual franchise, meaning that a day driver would be careful to drive during the day and not at night. And the night driver knew that it was his place to drive at night, and not to compete with the day drivers.

The Zambrow wagon drivers were not better than all the other drivers in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia. There means, conduct, and relationship to passengers are well-documented in the works of our great literary personae, like Mendele, YALA”G[1], and others. They too, would cram in their ‘people’ like salted fish in a barrel, one on top of the other, and if the sitting board was knocked out of its place by pushing and shoving – one fell on top of the other. Also, in the way they spoke there was no great difference in their mode of speech: it was laced with cursing, awful imprecations, insults, shameful remarks, and quite gross and salty expressions. The renown among them were:  Ziskind-Itzi Malicky, Chaim Shmuel Levinsky, Berl Levinsky, Mordechai Lifschitz, Leibusz Levinsky, Issachar Jablonka, and Nachman Yaakov Rothberg and his sons, about whom I am devoting special attention, because if he was indeed a wagon driver, he was not an adherent to their customs and behavior. On the contrary, he could easily serve as a wonderful example to others and to fulfill the expression, that it is not the occupation that debases the man, but the opposite, it is the man who debases the occupation. Shoemaking and wagon driving became stained with a bad reputation and thought of poorly because, in the main, it attracted boors, people of no substance and flighty types.

R’ Nachman Yaakov Rothberg (earned the honorific R’) was a respected and worthy man, well-attuned to his surroundings, loyal and honest, and a competent businessman. R’ Nachman Yaakov was short in stature with broad shoulders. He came from a well-connected family in Sniadowo, an  enlightened man, a respected businessman, a doer of good deeds and an official of the town. Also, his son, R’ Nachman Yaakov, was a Torah scholar and would study Mishnah and Ein Yaakov on a daily basis with the ‘Torah Scholars,’ and he would look into the books of the pious, such as ‘Sheyvet Musar,’ ‘Menorot HaMaor,’ and others. He had a not insubstantial Torah-oriented library of his own, and he would guard these beautifully bound books with great care.

Nachman Yaakov was orphaned while still young, and because of this, he was unable to attend a yeshiva and was compelled to find himself an occupation. When he was seventeen years old he married Rivka Gittl Levinsky of Zambrow, the daughter of a respected and important man who had given a beautiful education to his daughter in the spirit of those times, and she knew how to read the Teitch-Chumash, prayers and tekhines[2] and the like. As it evolved, R’ Yaakov had no profession, and by chance after the wedding, he became a wagon driver in Zambrow. He bought a wagon and horses, and he hired a person to drive them and traveled from Zambrow to Lomza. Quickly he acquired the reputation of an honest man of loyal spirit, and he earned the trust of the merchants and storekeepers of Lomza, and they would exclusively give only him their loads to be conveyed from the railroad station at Czyzew. It was in his hands that they would transfer substantial amounts of money in order to release goods that had been received on security, and the Zambrow storekeepers would send money with him to pay off their notes at private and government banks, or to receive a bill for new goods and the like. His honesty was renown. On one occasion, a package of valuable knitted goods was either lost or stolen from his wagon – and he did not wait to be summoned to a religious trial or a court of law, rather out of his own good will he approached the merchant and persuaded him to allow him to pay for all the damages in question. And yet on another occasion, one of his sons found a large package of money that had been lost by a Christian passenger upon transferring from one wagon to another that was traveling to Czyzew. When the Christian returned the next day to inquire if the package of money had been found in the wagon, he did not tarry an instant and returned the lost item to its owner, not swayed by the temptations of one’s inclination, refusing even to accept a reward from the person who had lost the package. The Christian, who was a wealthy merchant, donated a sum of money to a Jewish charity – in recognition for the loss that was returned to him.

Because of his loyalty and honesty, the rebels of the 1863 Polish uprising also placed their trust in him. He served as a liaison and communications vehicle between them and would provide food and provisions to their soldiers who would be hidden in the think forests between Lomza and Zambrow, such as the ‘Red Forest,’ which was well known.  He was once seized, according to what he told me, by Cossacks because his wagon was full of food, casks of strong drink and other supplies. The Cossacks detained him, and cast suspicion on him, that he had some connection to the rebels, and they brought him to their command. There, they buffeted him about and beat him cruelly, to get him to reveal the place where the rebels were hiding out, but he took the beating and told them nothing. He argued that he was innocent of any wrongdoing and was simply conveying merchandise to Lomza. He fell sick from the beating he received and was bedridden for about a month. The nobility knew to value his loyalty and supported him during his illness, and they also gave him a set amount of money with which to feed his family. As he then continued to tell, only he, who was hale and strong, survived the beating by his torturers – from where no one else emerged alive.

All of the balebatim in the city respected him and welcomed him.  He would come and go to the residence of R’ Lipa Chaim kז״, and also the home of his son-in-law, the young rabbi, R’ David Menachem Regensberg ז״ל.

As to his four sons: David, Yehoshua, Yitzhak and Berl, he gave a traditional education and did not spare any money in putting them into the hands of good teachers. All of them committed themselves to the same occupation as their father. All were loyal and honest like their father. Sums of money were turned over to them that had not been counted – and never did they ever put their hand to assets that did not belong to them.

R’ Nachman Yaakov invested all of his love into his only daughter, Zippora, who was pretty, and as was not usual in those times was literate, and had studies Hebrew with the well-known teacher Ber’cheh Sokol, read Yiddish literature, knew how to read a little Russian and Polish, and excelled in handicrafts, sewing and weaving.

When the time came for her to marry, R’ Nachman Yaakov sought a yeshiva student for her hand from a prominent family, promising a substantial dowry, food and lodging in one of his houses. When the author of these lines was proposed to him as a potential groom, he took the two sons-in-law of his sister from Sniadowo and traveled to assess me. It was only after such an assessment that he decided to engage the parents of the groom in regards to a union, and the conditions attached.

He passed away at a ripe old age, with a good name, in the year 1915.


Goldwasser, the Shoemaker from Gatch

[He was] one of the unique personality types in Zambrow, and among Polish Jewry in general.  A father with sons, a dynasty of shoemakers, used merchandise sellers, that fabricate simple, crude shoes for the peasantry and would travel to market fairs to sell them.

The father, however, was an educated Jewish person and stood at the head of the fanatics of the city. He was a Hasid – who set the tone for the Hasidic world. The sons worked for the father, and later went on their own – were, like their father, very ardent Hasidim, living from their craft. They were all poor, barely able to make a living, but – full-hearted Jews with a warm heart inclined to help the other person, and they served God with their entire heart and soul. But they were intense fanatics: they fought against every new development, believing that they were doing this for their God and His Torah. If someone opened a school: whether he was an observant teacher or not, whether he taught Hebrew or Yiddish, boys and girls together, or separately– it was not satisfactory to them: they immediately went off to the Rabbi, raised a fuss, and mobilized forces to combat the school, to threaten parents that send their children there, etc. If a speaker would come to town, a group would make an evening event out of it, with a presentation, or if a library was opened – The Shoemaker from Gatch and his sons no longer rested, as if the entire fault for this had fallen on their heads. Also, the Shoemaker from Gatch was among the daily contributors in the ranks of the Hasidim, and his opinion was taken into account. Few cities could take pride in having this type of an individual. Frequently, he would be called ‘The Rabbi’s Hetman,’ meaning: an officer of the Rabbi’s ‘Cossacks,’ referring to all the fanatics who grouped themselves around the Rabbi.

The entire family -- this means the sons and grandchildren -- were decent, honest people, loved to do a favor, engage in a charitable act, involved themselves in community affairs with a good and pure intention. He married his only daughter to a poor scion of a shoemaking family who worked for him, a son of the ‘City’s daughter-in-law’ (see the write-up of Meir Zukrowicz), despite the fact that he could have done a ‘good’ match, because of what the Gemara says, he would say: When your daughter comes of age – set your servant free and giver her to him as a wife.

This fervent and multi-branched family was entirely wiped out... only one remained.


                                           Kukawka The Shoemaker

Yaakov Shlomo ben Moshe-Leib Kukawka, a shoemaker by trade, was a tall, strongly built person and was typical of the community activists of the city. In his youth, he studied in yeshivas, and knew how to learn a page of the Gemara. He was a Jew who had awareness, was enlightened and progressive. He made his living from shoes, and like the other shoemakers he would make up cheap boots, fit for ‘second-hand’ sale, travel to fairs in the nearby towns to market them, unlike his older brother Abraham Zvi, who was a master craftsman at shoemaking. He was of quiet temperament, contenting himself with less, and did not overindulge when it came to food and drink. One time, it is told, he had returned from a fair and was hungry and tired, at an hour late at night. His wife had prepared food for him – something cooked in a pot, in the oven, and laid down to sleep. However, in the darkness, he made a mistake and took out the wrong pot, in which water was being warmed to wash out the burned residue of a cholent, in which there were twigs for seasoning. Mistaking this for food, he drank these fatty waters, chewed on the twigs – until he ate it up, satisfying his hunger, and nearly choked himself.... he had access to the houses of the enlightened and the revered of the city. He was a member of Abba Rakowsky’s household and learned much from him. He was a Zionist and partook in the work of Zionist gatherings that, in those days, took place at the home of Benjamin Kagan, or Shlomkeh Blumrosen. Once a year, he had the job of amusing the children on Simchas Torah. Perennially, he would, on that day, dress up in rabbinical garb, put on a broad rabbinical hat, put a belt on his trousers, and canvass the houses of the wealthy to gather candy, apples, nuts and the like – on behalf of the children – Jewish children from all over the city.

He would traverse the streets of the Jewish section and attract tens of children about him. Suddenly, he would shout out in a weird voice, half-hoarse: ‘Holy Flock.’ And the children would respond to him: ‘Mehh, mehh!’ And then he would take out all manner of goodies from his trouser pockets that he had gathered for the children, and rain it down upon them. The children would fall on the candy and the fruit, and he would stand there and smile, stand there, and derive pleasure from watching them. He was among the first to establish the secured lending bank, which was under the presidency of Abba Rakowsky. He would come to the bank frequently, check the accounts, arrange notes, and even direct the younger people in doing the calculations in accordance with the ??? table. Everyone loved him and trusted him. He was one of the outstanding members of the fire brigade, and even the gentiles accorded him respect – because when a fire would break out in the villages, he would be the first one to put his own life in danger to rescue others, with all the gentiles after him.


Binyomkeh Schuster, the Shoemaker

He was a good shoemaker, literally an orthopedist. However, you had to tear up two pairs of shoes running to get to him because he was constantly involved in doing community work. He came from Goniadz, beside the German border. He served in Zambrow as a musician, fell in love with a Zambrow girl, Shayna, and subsequently remained here after his military service. He lived across from the Red Bet HaMedrash, where the Rabbi had once lived. He was the Shammes, and the overseer of Hakhnasat Orkhim, which came along with his residence, and he was a Torah Reader in the Red Bet HaMedrash, and later became the Shammes and Torah Reader at the synagogue. He would look after poor people and arrange plates on the Sabbath for poor folks and ‘days’ for yeshiva students. There was not a community issue that Binyomkeh Schuster (his family name was also Schuster) would not be involved in. In his last years, he also was a gravedigger for the Chevra Kadisha. Today, it is possible to understand the fate of a pair of shoes that someone left with him. He had two talented sons. The older, Abraham, studied at the Yeshiva in Lomza and received rabbinic ordination, and for a short while he was a secretary to the Rabbi and went off to Berlin to study with R’ Chaim Heller. Later on, he was the Rabbiner of Zopot, a community near Danzig. He was killed by the Nazis, who had, at first, extended him privileges. His second son, Alter – today is found in South America.

Moshe Joseph The Street Paver

By Sender Seczkowsky

(As Transcribed by Israel Levinsky)

He was a powerful Jewish man who himself did not know the extent of his own strength. He paved the streets of the city and its environs – to the satisfaction of the régime. He was a taciturn Jewish man, sitting in the Bet HaMedrash during evenings – studying a chapter of the Mishna and reading Psalms.

Yet, a strange and unusual thing happened to him once. A nobleman from one of the villages who had been born in Zambrow, took him to his estate to pave the roads. He received a fee for each square foot and also food: dairy products, eggs, bread, vegetables and fruit. Being the only Jew in that location – after work he would walk a distance of several kilometers on foot to a Jewish inn that stood beside the road, turn over the foodstuffs to the woman there for her to cook him his supper, and he would lodge there. One time on an autumn day, after a hard day’s work before the rains came, he came back to the inn exhausted and laid down to sleep. At that same time, two Russian soldiers came into the tavern asking for food and drink. The lady tavern keeper brought it to them. They asked for more and then more, and at the end of the matter having stuffed themselves and drunk to excess, they did not want to pay. Being suitably confused, they even started a ruckus – capsizing tables, breaking vessels, and began to curse the Jews as suckers of Christian blood, and they had the nerve to even physically assault the woman. She raised a hue and cry because her husband was not in the house, and even the children began to cry. The paver was awakened from his sleep in the adjacent room, and he entered the place where the noise was coming from, grabbed one of the soldiers who had raised his hand to the woman and punched him a number of times with his fists. The soldier collapsed onto the floor, with no sign of life in him. The second fled as if fleeing from death itself. The paver ran after him in the dark, but his spoor vanished. To his great fear, and the fear of the lady tavern keeper, the fallen soldier did not rise again because his soul had departed. What to do? If this became known – he would be arrested, along with the lady tavern keeper, and who knows what will be done with them? But the paver remained in control, and he ordered the woman to keep silent, not to ask too many questions, and he grabbed the body of the soldier, put it on his shoulders and vanished into the darkness of the night. The paver carried him, not on the usual footways as you understand, for about eight kilometers, until he reached the railroad lines in the vicinity of Czorny-Bor, and he laid the soldier down on the tracks... harassed and spent, he then returned to the tavern. However, he could not lie down and go back to sleep – fearing that the matter would be discovered. Early in the morning, the woman found the soldier’s cap in the hallway, in which his name was inscribed, and his division number. The paver was quick to throw the hat into the flames of the oven. The woman returned trembling to her work, and the paver arose to say his prayers. After some time, a detachment of military police arrived to look for the soldier, and with them was the drunken second soldier. The paver explained: yes, indeed, he was here, did not want to pay for what he ate, and even had begun to hit the lady of the house and me. When I returned the blow – he fled along with his drunken comrade, and we locked the door after them. They looked around and found nothing suspicious, and even the second soldier – did not deny that they ate without paying, and that they had even begun to hit the lady of the house, and he was the first to flee... the police searched other nearby houses and then went out to search the forest. The paver was uncomfortable to remain here, and even to return to his work for the nobleman. He forfeited the money he had earned for his work to date, in the courtyard of the nobleman, and returned empty-handed to Zambrow.

After a few weeks, he returned to the nobleman – but by then the work had been completed by a different paver, and the nobleman did not want to pay him, because he had abandoned his work in the middle, and as a punishment he sicced his dogs on him. After a quarrel and exchange of words, in which the paver justified his action by claiming that he had suddenly taken sick and was compelled to return home and take to a sick bed – the nobleman paid his share. And from that time on – the paver said, I swore not to raise a hand against anyone, or to test my strength...


Nosskeh (Nathan) The Painter

On the Lomza Road, opposite Munkasz’s smithy, there was to be found a large wooden house with a large courtyard belonging to Nosskeh Wiezba. Nosskeh enjoyed a reputation in the area as a good painter, and more importantly – as a painter of carriages. He had very beautiful daughters, all committed to one another, and diligent workers. His only son, Israel’keh, left for Argentina years back. Several of his daughters also got out to America and Argentina. In the Holocaust, Nosskeh Wiezba and his wife Liebeh were killed, along with their beautiful and talented daughters: Dvorakeh, Faygl, Laytcheh and Sheva.

Here is a short excerpt from Faygl’s last letter to her brothers and sisters in Argentina:

                                                                                                                                                           Zambrow. 22 August 1939

...we received your letter today, and I will indeed immediately respond because we simply do not know what tomorrow will bring. We are like guests at a wedding, waiting for the groom. Every minute is decreed, and we anticipate being made homeless. The important thing  is that the situation is so tense that one does not know what is happening to the other. Please do not be confused, because whatever will happen to all Jews will also happen to us. If our fate is to remain alive, then we will remain alive. At this point I am so indifferent, because having survived one war, it is no big deal for me to face a second war, so let what will be, be. It is not possible to think about America, no papers are being issued, and one has no idea of which world one is living in. May God help so that things will change for the good, and that we will have only suffered a fright, in which case, we will sell the house and all three of us will set out into the larger world, but in what direction we do not know: [we assume] it will be in the direction that is easiest to procure papers. Sheva is asking me to come to her for Sukkos. Who knows where we might yet end up before Sukkos. People rush about as if they knew what was going to happen... Zambrow has become like a ghost town. I hope for it to remain still, and that we will be here to receive an answer to my letter. We cook, and mother is good, she does not hear... she does not understand, all she does is ask why we are engaged in so much conversation? Father sits constantly at the home of Domek Proszensky listening to the radio. If you go out into our yard, it looks like after a war – the shire has disintegrated and the roof has fallen down. But who, at this time, is concerned abut such things?


Israel’keh Poyker (The Drummer)

By Yaakov Grabs


He was a short Jewish man with a small gray beard, perpetually self-confident and good-humored. He lived on the Kosciuszko Street and dealt in fruits and vegetables.: he had a table [for this] at the marketplace. On Hol HaMoed Passover and Sukkos, he would place himself at the marketplace, near the pump, with a sack of nuts. Children would put in a kopeck, and take out a number. One out of five or ten would win a plate of nuts with which to play.

By trade he was a ‘musician,’ a drummer. He learned this skill from the drafted soldiers when he did military service. At every wedding, whether musicians were brought from Tiktin or Lomza, or if a local ensemble played – it was Israel’keh who was the drummer, and strode with pride to the wedding canopy beside Gurfinkel the barber, who was the fiddler, or Goldeh’chkeh’s son with the viola.

On Friday, if there was a wedding ceremony in town, Israel’keh Poyker would hurriedly liquidate the merchandise on his table at the market, run to the baths, wash himself,  put on his Sabbath finery, and go off to escort the bride and groom to the wedding canopy.

During the time of the Russian régime, Israel’keh Poyker also played an important role in the shtetl. During the time of fairs, and market days, important official announcements were read out loud for the merchants and peasants: information concerning someone who had lost a piglet, or a calf, someone who had found something, government notices about ???, the senior military, etc. At that time, Israel’keh would place himself in the middle of the market and drum. When a crowd would assemble, the appointed individual would then call out what he had to, and Israel’keh would add a ‘bombardment’ on his drum, and then move on to the next corner.

At one time, he was also in the orchestra of the fire brigade, and also at May Day celebrations and other musical undertakings in which Israel’keh would participate with his drum, dressed in a black worn cap.


                                                           Oneg Shabbes’

The name given to a merry Jewish man with a small yellow beard, who had only one eye. He was called ‘Eyn oyg Shabbes,[3]’ which sounded like ‘Oneg Shabbes.’ He was not a particularly observant Jew. He was dressed like a pauper, but was always full of life and never complained. He never had any time.

Even on the Sabbath, he would come to pray at the first minyan, and then run off home. During the summer, he would deal with orchards and gardens. He would take hold of all the good orchards in the vicinity, and every summer he would occupy such an orchard with his children in a booth. In the winter, he dealt in whatever he could: fish for the Sabbath, a small keg of herring, eggs, fruit – so long as he could make a living from it.


Baylah the Dairy Lady

By Aryeh Kossowsky

She was tall and lean, and there were always two pitchers of milk in her hands. For many years, she delivered milk to the houses. Early in the morning she would distribute milk, and so as not to awaken anyone in the house – she would enter by a rear door and quietly would take out the milk container in the kitchen, fill it with milk. and quietly steal out like a cat, [being careful] not to awaken the children who were still asleep. Poor families, who no longer had the means to pay would ask her to stop bringing milk, to which she said with a smile: and is it because of this that small children shall be left without milk?... when you get any [money] then you will pay me.

One time she didn’t come, and so my grandmother sent me to inquire as to what might have happened. I found her in bed. She had over-exerted herself carrying the heavy cans for a whole day. In her house, hungry pale children loitered about without a drop of milk. [I asked] why do your children not drink any milk, they are not worse than any of our other children?... [She replied] if I give them milk. who will give me money for bread? My children can make do without milk as well....


 Shlomkeh-Zerakh and Zundl

Shlomkeh-Zerakh – was short, with one foot shorter than the other, and he walked as if he were dancing. He had wise, sharp eyes, and a goatee of a beard, and downward Russian-curled mustaches. His deaf wife would ‘speak’ with him with special sorts of sounds, and he could understand her and would answer her in mameloshn, and she would understand. He was a sort of ‘Fishkeh the Storekeeper’, one of Mendele’s characters. He would call on all the houses, and everywhere was treated like a member of the family. He would recount news, tell jokes. If someone in town died, he would be asked: who, god forbid, was it? With a broken-hearted voice, he would then convey the identity of the deceased, and when the funeral would take place. On the Eve of Passover – he would clean kitchens in Jewish homes, and thereby earn money for holiday expenses.

'Crazy’ Zundl – Actually was quite sane. However, he was constantly lost in thought and plagued by misfortune. He lived in the White Bet HaMedrash. He was always dressed in torn clothing and would sustain himself from those groschen he could gather from charity. He was talkative. Both children and adults would listen to his stories and always get a laugh.

These are isolated personalities from our town whose memory I have been able to dredge up. Indeed, it is a sorrow that so many of them went on to be exterminated – without leaving behind any name or trace of memory.

May their memory be for a blessing.


And These, I Recall

Zvi Khanit

A. R’ Yehuda Honya’s, my father and mentor, returned from the First World War, as a worn-out Russian soldier, spent, and unable to recover his strength. He died in 1921. He left a widow, my mother Heni-Rachel, and three orphans: Shayna, ten years old, me – age seven, and a little brother, Moshe, aged three. An uncle in America supported us. I studied at the yeshiva in Zambrow and afterwards in Lomza. In 1933, I entered the Mizrahi Halutz training program. In 1936, I made aliyah to the Land. My brother Moshe, after random wanderings, returned from the Red Army and made aliyah in a shipload of refugees.

B. R’ Alter Dobrowicz, the master of the mikva. He was an honest, loyal Jewish man to his Maker and his people. He suffered a great deal in his life: His three sons: Moshe, Chaim, and another were plucked in the bloom of life, and he accepted it with grace, saying: God had trusted these precious pearls into my hands and has taken them back – let His Name be blessed....

C. Eli Portnowicz and his family. He was a shammes and a gravedigger for the Red Bet HaMedrash. He was a simple Jewish man, dedicated to his people. He wept at all funerals, and his heart never hardened in all the years of his life, being a gravedigger. Each Rosh Hashanah, he was deeply moved during the recitation of ‘u’Nesaneh Tokef’ – ‘Who shall live, and who shall die,’ because every death touched his heart.

D. Chaim Stalmokh and his family. A man of ‘the people.’ He observed the commandments and gave of his money to charity. He was attentive in listening to each sermon giver, and he also donated to these from his own funds. He was a lover of Zion and supported the Keren Kayemet L’Israel.

E. Myshel Stoliar (The Carpenter). He worked to a remarkable old age and did not want to derive anything from others. He donated benches and tables, his own handiwork, to the Bet HaMedrash. He permitted his wife, Chashkeh, to engage in community endeavors, in charity work, and in dealing with the needs of the poor and the sick.

F. The family of Kawior the Melamed. An honest and upright man, involved in Torah study, and led young people into doing the right sorts of things. He was a warm-hearted Jew, committed to doing God’s work. His son, Joel, spent a number of years in Halutz training camp, and waited for a certificate [to emigrate]... until he was lost in the Holocaust. He has one surviving son in the Land.

G. R’ Yudl – the Headmaster. He was immersed in his Talmud day and night. He withdrew in an ascetic manner and distanced himself from the everyday world. No event in the town could take him away from his study. He died with his Talmud in his hands.

H. Yitzhak Rothstein the Tailor. He would traverse the villages and return with work: the sewing of garments for farmers. He was paid with village produce. He was an honest and wholesome Jewish man. He was lost, along with his entire family [sic: in the Holocaust].

I. The Family of  Levitan the Smith. These were smiths who had a reputation [for their work]. Honest and straight. They made their living by the labor of their hands, and gave to the poor from their own bread and also to charitable causes.

J. Zundl the Pauper. He would go over to all door entrances to gather donations. However, all of his neighbors knew that he lived in strained circumstances, ever hungry for bread, and the money that he gathered he divided to charitable institutions, and sent food and money to poor people and the sick, crippled people who were unable to provide for themselves.

K. Yankl David the Shoemaker[4], son of the Shoemaker from Gatch. He retained a journeyman to do the work, while he personally went about days on end, to gather money for the Yeshiva, ‘days’ for the students, and lodging places to spend the night. He would spend his evenings in study.


                                                   My Zambrow People

By Mendl Zibelman

Approximately in the year 1900, a watchmaker named Yudl Cossack lived on the Kosciolna gasse in the building of Berl Leibl Finkelstein, across from the drugstore. He repaired watches and occasionally would sell a watch as well, a finger ring, or just plain jewelry for a bride. He went off to America because he didn’t make much of a living, and he settled in Chicago. Here too, he opened a small kiosk for repairing watches. Knowing that in America, there was no great love for Cossacks, he changed his family name to Ritholtz. When he had saved a couple of thousand dollars and learned the native language and the mindset of American business people – he fell upon the idea of how to become rich: many people need to wear glasses, but they don’t change their reading glasses because of the time and expense, or just plain laziness in taking the time to find an optician after work. So he went and presented himself to a variety of large newspaper publishers who have millions of readers, indicating that he would mail reading glasses for a rather minimal price. All that is required is to send him the number, or to send the prescription from the doctor. Tens of thousands of requests began to arrive. He joined up with a factory that provided him with the reading glasses for a very low price, because it was worth their while for the thousands of orders. Orders grew to the extent that the factory no longer could keep up, because it could not produce at that level. So our Yudl opened his own factory for reading glasses,,,, and he became a millionaire. Today, his five sons run this well-branched company all over the country, and no one is able to compete with them...


B. Herman Yagoda

Yankl Yagoda, a Jew from Zambrow, took up his wandering staff, after the First Great Fire, and went off to America. He was constantly missing his family in Zambrow, and he traveled back six times.  This went on until the year 1914. He understood that there was no longer any purpose in staying in Zambrow – and in the end, he decided to take over his family to America, and permanently remain there. In the very week that the war broke out, he arrived in New York with his family: a wife and four children. One of his children, five year-old Herschel, or Herman, came to school a year later and excelled there, and he also completed middle school. His father did not have the financial resources to enable him to attend university. Accordingly, Herman worked during the day, in a shoo, and during the evening – studied, until he completed the course of study to become an engineer. He threw himself into researching what was current in this sphere. As a man of science with in the American Air Force, where he has already served for fifteen years, it was his privilege to be able to participate in important discoveries in this area, the latest being the successful launch of a military-based ‘satellite’ into the stratosphere, and its successful return to earth, full of much data about the upper atmosphere, which are very important. Yagoda today is the pride of the American scientists, and most recently, was sent to Russia to give lectures about his findings in the stratosphere.


Herman Yagoda

C. Senior Justice Markowitz


He was born in Zambrow with the family name Markhevka and came to America as a nine year-old boy and changed his name to Markowitz. He studied for, and completed preparation as a lawyer, excelled as a judge and became a judge in the highest court of New York City.

He was close to his kinfolk. Immediately after the First World War, he organized a committee of landslayt to help needy brethren in the ‘alter heym.’  To this end, the Zambrow Help Committee bought a thousand tickets to a theater performance, and sold them to landslayt and relatives for a higher price.  During the performance, when the hall was full of people from Zambrow, Justice Markowitz went up to the stage, who had just returned from a visit to Europe, and especially his home city of Zambrow. In a very emotional way, he portrayed the plight of our kinfolk, the burgeoning anti-Semitism, the incident of how the Poles had cruelly murdered the pharmacist Szklovin, and other Jews. His words had the intended effect, and awakened hearts, prompting them to offer help...

 D. Bezalel

He was as gifted as the first Bezalel in the Pentateuch. Whatever he undertook to do with his hands resulted in a success. He was a natural-born carpenter, having acquired the skill without instruction, he could repair watches, etch writings, carve flowers out of wood, make a Holy Ark, carve creatures, arabesques; he could draw, outline with dyes and pens and could sculpt. And all of this, he never saw at the home of his observant father, nor could he learn this from the artisans of Zambrow. His parents never took any joy from him and constantly expressed their consternation: he has no head for the study of the Gemara, and they could not grasp how a young man like this could play around like this for days on end: drawing, making statues from clay and gypsum, taking apart and putting watches back together again, mechanical things, in short, does everything in order not to study. If his parents would have understood him, or if the good community or a wealthy patron discovered his talents, he would have become a world-class artist. However, he was not given any encouragement. On one occasion, a director of the Wahlberg Technical Institute in Warsaw took an interest in him, and it required Bezalel to learn some additional mathematics, physics and chemistry. They wanted to admit him to the Technical Institute without taking an [entrance] examination, and without any recommendation for six gymnasium classes as was required. But his observant father and other good and religious people butted in, that is to say: Bezalel will go about without a head covering among gentiles? Many Jews studied in Wahlberg’s school, and it had been founded by the very rich Jewish man, Wahlberg, with the objective of uncovering and developing technical skills and talents among Jews and non-Jews alike. Later on, Bezalel could have, for a nominal price, purchased the machines and equipment for the liquidated manual trades school in Lomza, which had been run by the Jewish-Russian Society to propagate manual craftsmanship among Jews – but he lacked the requisite money...

And so Bezalel was left with his dreams and artistic striving to become a master artist... he married, and then divorced... embittered and disappointed in life, resigned from human ideals, he immigrated to America after long bitter years, became a peddler, ‘found himself,’ and together with is Negro wife, got a place somewhere to set up a kiosk in a market to sell small combs, pins, thread, socks and handkerchiefs. For a long time, he broke off contact with his family in Zambrow, and with landslayt in America.  His aging, fanatic father constantly mourned his talented eldest son, and nobody knew if he was alive or dead. This writer once ran into him in the market after a long, long search in a variety of address bureaus of the populace, beginning with his first address of many years back.

He was dressed simply and somewhat disheveled. He tried not to be recognized, and replied that he was not a Jew, and not the person that was being sought, even when told that his father lay on his deathbed and would like to hear something from him, as to whether he was still alive...

It was first only later, when his black wife walked away, that he broke out in tears and revealed himself...

After that, he vanished yet again, along with his kiosk – apparently traveling away to some other town, on the marketplace...


                                      Community Social Assistance

By L. Yom Tov

In writing about the institutions that offered community social assistance in Zambrow, it is not possible to pass over mentioning the institutions and people such as: Bikur Kholim, Linat HaTzedek, Gemilut Hasadim, and Hakhnasat Orkhim.

At the head of Hakhnasat Orkhim stood Zvi Tukhman (Herschel Fokczar), from the Yatkowa gasse, who had a dairy store and who fulfilled this mitzvah with his entire person and his money. He dedicated over fifty years to Hakhnasat Orkhim. He would look after poor people, assuring that they would have a place to lodge and would allocate ‘plates’ for the Sabbath, making sure everyone had a place to eat for the day. All itinerant paupers could find a place under his roof. An important guest, such as an itinerant preacher or a rabbi – he would billet in his own home. If a half-groschen for a pauper could not be had, he would give out a paper half-groschen with the stamp of Hakhnasat Orkhim on one side, and the words ‘half a big one’ on the other side.

Mones’keh was the most active worker on behalf of the indigent sick. He was the Gabbai of Linat Tzedek and Bikur Kholim. His house on the Yatkowa gasse was full of poor people who had come to beg for assistance. He would personally run about to find people who could stay up nights with the sick.

Bunim Domb, a Hasidic Jew,  was the head of the Gemilut Hasadim. The office was in his house on the Szwetokszyska gasse, and he would be directing its efforts for days at a time, taking no compensation for his effort in doing so. Whether there was money in the treasury or not – every needy person left his presence comforted and encouraged.


Hakhnasat Orkhim

This was a venerable municipal institution, and at one time shared the Rabbi’s residence. The Rabbi lived upstairs, across from the Red Bet HaMedrash, and Hakhnasat Orkhim – was downstairs, together with the residence and workplace of Binyomkeh Schuster. Binyomkeh was the Shammes of Hakhnasat Orkhim. It consisted of two large rooms, with about six to eight sleeping beds and tables, with ??? and blankets. Poor people, itinerant preachers, and ordinary guests who were poor, would be able to get a place to sleep there. Every guest passing through would receive a note from the Gabbai,  Herschel Tukhman, or someone else, and was given a place to lodge on the strength of it.

Cleanliness was less than ideal since this was not a consideration in those times. The important thing was, a guest was passing through, or an itinerant preacher was coming – he then gets a bed on which to sleep when he brings a pass from the Gabbai, Herschel Tukhman. Binyomkeh Schuster occupied the two lower rooms, one which was for sleeping, and the other for his work.

Hakhnasat Orkhim often served as a ‘second home’ for worship. On the High Holy Days, Simchas Torah, and regular Festivals or special Sabbaths. the Hakhnasat Orkhim was cleaned up, arranged for the guests to go to a host house early on, put the large table in the center of the room, covering it with a white tablecloth and – presto – a minyan.

We, the young folk, had our eye on something else there: there was a special closet there kept under lock and key, in which hung the colored uniforms of ‘officials,’ such as Hussars, Cossacks, generals and admirals, with blue trousers, and red stripes; with French Hussar Caps, swords, and boot spurs, and a drawer full of masquerade paraphernalia, meaning masks, woven from a fine fabric, with beards, with outsize noses and red cheeks.

When a wedding would take place in the city, and the bride and groom were escorted through the streets to the synagogue – designated people, dressed in these costumes would be stationed to amuse the passers-by.  The young people who masqueraded in this way, did it to fulfill the mitzvah of gladdening the bride and groom. Yet, the parents would pay the group that did this a fee, called ‘Hakhnasat Kallah,’ which was set aside for brides without means [or dowry]. Those so designated would proudly march in front of the bride, clanging their spurs, and waving their swords like real generals. They would never speak, so that they could not readily be recognized. They would signal each other by codes, which they would whistle to one another. This was why they were also called the ‘pranksters.’ The costumes and masks, however, belonged to ‘Hakhnasat Orkhim,’ and  Binyomkeh Schuster was the one responsible for their safekeeping. These costumes were borrowed from Hakhnasat Orkhim for a variety of festive occasions for a fee that was applied to other charitable purposes.

Purim was the day for these appointed young folks, special workers, who would come to act, to traverse the houses with a gabbai or two gabbaim, to gather donations for charity: Hakhnasat Kallah, Hakhnasat Orkhim, poor mothers, lying in confinement, orphans, and the like. For this purpose, the costumes would be rented from Hakhnasat Orkhim, for a fee which was then applied for other charitable purposes.

            [1]              Hebrew acronym of the writer I. L. Gordon.

            [2]              Yiddish prayers of beseeching and entreaty.

            [3]           One-eye Sabbath.

            [4]           Omitted in the Hebrew text, and sixth in order in the Yiddish text.



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