The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

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A Chronicle of Three Families

By Berl Mark
(From “An Oak in the Storm”)

A. Between Radzilowo and Zambrow





Professor Berl Mark


I was born in Lomza, as well as my older brother Aharon. My oldest brother Yitzhak (Itchkeh), had seen the world’s in Zambrow, where my mother Rachel-Leah came from, as well as my father Hirsch, who spent his initial years there, while he was being supported.

There were two traditions in our Lomza family: one was derived from Radzilowo, a ‘puddle’ of a shtetl amidst a sea of peasantry; the second was – from Zambrow. My father was born in a settlement outside of Radzilowo. Thanks to that, I had my old Russian documents recorded: ‘ ’ – of peasant stock. This ‘privilege’ stood me in good stead in a variety of circumstances.

The Radzilowo tradition was a weak one, hanging in the air. My grandfather, Isser-Azriel, came from very far away, almost from Courland, . He was an orphan, and married in a settlement outside of Radzilowo, transporting goods to Danzig, and not far from the little shtetl, he had a small works with fields, cows and horses. He was half a merchant, a quarter landed gentleman, and a quarter estate manager. He had some sort of connection with the Polish Uprising of 1863-1864. A nobleman from the rebels hid out in his barn, and my grandfather misdirected the Cossacks , in order to save the life of the revolutionary. After this, my grandmother was killed with a daughter in a fire. The number of Jews in this settlement dwindled, and there was a pull to have a Bet HaMedrash, upon which R’ Isser-Azriel Mark picked himself up, and with the entire family, two sons, and two daughters, went off to the city that had a substantial Jewish population – Lomza.

When he would weigh these two traditions, even while I was still a boy, I would see: The family on my father’s side goes back to, but abruptly ends, with my grandfather, and earlier than that is a blank, having never heard of a Mark that was a great-grandfather. And R’ Isser-Azriel himself was an admixture of strict observance and a good-natured humanity. However, on the outside, he was very, very traditional, always wearing a long kapote, always with a gartl, and a colored, usually red handkerchief, observant to the highest degree, and in his time, managed to survive the inevitable conflict of fathers and sons, when his two sons, Alter and Herschel, would hide Russian, German and Haskalah books in the lecterns on which they studied Gemara. Over the two rooms of my Lomza grandfather’s residence, there hovered the spirit of a strict Mitnaged, with a modest amount of Lubavitch Hasid mixed in. On his shelves, he had only Talmudic and Hasidic literary works.

B. My Grandfather Abraham Moshe Blumrosen & My Grandmother Brein’cheh  

Our Zambrow family looked entirely different, especially my grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side. First of all, this was a broad set of roots, with rich, intertwined roots and branches. The Radzilowo-Lomza tradition was much like a frail only child. The Zambrow tradition – like an oak, that stands up strong and fast among the people, and reaches deeply into the past. It was first here, in Zambrow, that I would sense my connectedness to the multi-generational extent of Polish Jewry. There was a R’ Abraham-Moshe and R’ Shmuel and a R’ Aharon, a Mrs. Brein’cheh and a R’ Mosh’keh and a R’ Shmulieh-Ber – there was a grandfather and grandmother, A a great-grandfather, and a great-great-grandfather, and a great-grandmother Ziss’l and so forth, going back further, and deeper – I personally, having once counted back ten generations. Today – the side branches, the Sholo’kehs, Mordechai-Aharons, Abraham-Elyehs, the side branches to the left and right. And these were earthy Jewish people, substantial and folksy, with a lively manner of speech, speaking Polish to the peasants, observant but not


R’ Abraham-Moshe Blumrosen

fanatically so, strictly religious but also progressive in an enlightened manner. Tthe very start of the row of books in my grandfather Abraham-Moshe Blumrosen’s book armoire was taken up by a set of Graetz, and a good novel by Sholem Asch was a welcome guest.

In the center, stood my diminutive, beautiful grandmother, Brein’cheh– with black burning eyes, and humorous eyes. A remarkably active person despite her various infirmities, clean, and well-dressed, even if in her decency and goodness alone. By contrast to her, my grandfather was tall and straight, like a pine tree, with blond hair, clean to a fault and perfect in detail, tranquil and at peace. a A typical synthesis of genuine observance and Enlightenment, a mixture of the forest Jew and someone who had book knowledge. someone Someone who knew languages and was skilled in bookkeeping. and an admirer of the finer Polish people in the shtetl, and in the corridors of the local municipal building. His Polish penmanship enjoyed a reputation in the area. Between the two of them – Abraham-Moshe and Brein’cheh – and arduous love affair was carried on for their entire lives. They would eat from the same plate, drink tea (and the Zambrow folk could drink tea!) uUsing the same piece of hard sugar, not God Forbid, out of some want or deprivation, but rather out of a sense of physical and spiritual closeness.

My grandfather was chronically ill for a long time, and passed away. He accepted the decree of death tranquilly and under control, in the same tranquility that he conducted his life. After this blow, my grandmother stayed with us for a while. Her weeping seemed to have no end. One time, she swept me a secret: ‘Ber’eleh’ oy, oh was I in love with him. and And I cannot forget him.’

My grandmother was not privileged to have so tranquil a death. She needed to survive a war with all of its tribulations. She was surrounded with love and care from those of her children who remained in Zambrow – the Blumrosens and Karlinskys. Her son Yitzhak and Chaya‘cheh and her son-in-law Aharon-Leib and Sarah’keh. Her son Yitzhak, and son-in-law Aharon Leib, carried her frail and sickly form on their backs, carrying her through fire and bomb explosions, . For the time being, she was saved. Were it not for the war,. even with all her problems, she would have lived a long time, In a certain sense, she was a victim of the cruel war. She went out like a candle. surrounded by her daughter, son, and son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and grandchild. that who she was not privileged to see live for much longer. Those of her children, who went off to America, Chaya-Freida, Yankl, and Velvel. and her youngest, David, who made aliyah to the Land of Israel. she no longer saw.

C. A Visit to Zambrow


The thread to Radzilow was sundered quickly. Two relatives of my father’s mother remained there, two Milkewiczs, one a prosperous manufacturer-merchant, and the second a man without means.

At the same time, the base of our family in Zambrow broadened itself. My father’s older brother, R’ Alter took up residence there, together with his family. The took up residence on the ‘aristocratic’ Uczastek, opening a store and a ‘hotel.’ My mother’s cousin, Abraham-Ely’eh Meisner, lived across from him, a portly and good-natured Jewish man, possessed of sympathy, along with his daughter. In short: when we, the young folk, would come as guests to Zambrow, we were literally torn apart between the market, where the Blumrosens, Karlinskys and Meisners lived (all from my mother’s family), and the Uczastek.

photo, left: R’ Shlomo Blumrosen

Snatching a breather in Zambrow, for us children from Lomza, was revitalizing, a bit of present escape along with the real world pleasures that were connected with it.

First of all was the ride itself. We would ride in a wagon or a coach. The air is fresh, and it is either Hol HaMoed Passover or summertime. Field stretch away all around us. and the Zambrow wagon driver is totally different from those that come from Lomza. The latter is a crude oaf, but the one from Zambrow – is better mannered, friendlier. He is tied into all of our family issues, loves a good conversation, speaks Hebrew, knows Scripture, and remembers my mother when she was still a girl. Apart from this, he is a sort of Jewish post office, bringing letters from grandmother every other day, conveying prescriptions, and dropping in to grab a glass of tea with us.

And secondly – the ride to Zambrow is tied up with extraordinary events. Here, on the one hand, we have to get off the wagon and have to go on foot. There is the forest of Czorny Bor, and a Gypsy wagon is passing by. And then, here is the elderly Rabbi of Zambrow, traveling with us, and we have to interrupt the ride because he has to recite the Mincha prayer service. And lo, a deer runs by, and freight slabs, driven by wagon drivers are moving along, with whom a word is exchanged in passing, with a witticism, a whip across the horses – it is a whole world, it is invigorating.

When you enter the shtetl, you get the first ‘Sholom Aleichem’ from great-uncle R’ Mordechai-Aharon Meisner, who sits on the ‘little bridge,’ in front of his saloon, sniffing tobacco snuff, and smiling at you through his good and handsome cherry-like eyes. This is the brother of grandmother Brein’cheh, and they are very close to one another. Further on, in the doorway, stand great-aunt Sarah’keh, and uncle Aharon-Leibl (the son of Ber’l Niegowcer), with their daughters, Zisseh’leh and Rachel’eh, and son, Shmulik (the youngest, Ber’eleh had not yet been born) – all as beautiful as gold, happy and full of life; on the second side of the marketplace – Uncle Yitzhak, great-aunt Chaya’cheh and the daughters, like pine trees – Zlat’keh, Ziss’eleh, and Dina – with their only son, and youngest, Mordechai. And here, grandmother is already busying herself, setting out something to eat, and Grandfather is humming a contented tune. Wherever one goes or stands – there are relatives, and relatives of relatives, and phrases like, ‘how is your father?’ and ‘how is your mother?’ and ‘Katyn ayin horreh, you have grown into a fine young man,’ abound in the air.’

To us, Zambrow meant a sort of rural respite, as well as an opportunity for a lively get-together with young boys and girls. The entire shtetl emanated a sense of being an island of liveliness, enlightenment and warmth.

D. My Mother, Rachel-Leah

This was the kind of family one could truly love from the heart. There was warmth and full -heartedness – this was its principal characteristic.

It was these traits that my mother, Rachel-Leah, brought along with her, coming from Zambrow to Lomza. My mother had a dreamy nature, and was prone to pouring out her soul, expressing in the singing of songs.

The songs were redolent with the air of Zambrow.

She would sing in Yiddish, in Russian and in Polish.

She would sing about nature, work, spring, and the swallow. She knew all the songs of a Jewish national character. She also sang songs of a ‘moral’ character, about the human condition, and the journey from cradle to grave.

She would sing quietly, mostly in the twilight hours, when no one except myself was in the house. She would hold my head in her lap, curling my hair, and sang.

In this way, she would find a path by which to return to her own girlhood years, to the roads of Zambrow, where a row of girls would promenade, in poverty, in those romantic evenings, and sang in the choir, those popular songs that had such a strong emotional social content.

What I remember best of all, is her song about the bomb that was thrown at the Czarist Starop Plewe:

Let not the katzap think
That this is the last blow,
Yet another bomb will be thrown at him.

Plewe the anti-Semite
Hated the Jew,
His body was blown to smithereens.
He held himself greater than the world,
Japan then stood to oppose him,
Against Fonyeh , that ‘Great Hero,’
Did the entire sympathy of the world stand.

How such a terrorist song came to my delicate and sensitive mother, I do not know to this day. However, it came from Zambrow, where the stormy events of 1905 also had strong reverberations.

When our Zambrow great-aunt Sarah’keh or uncle Yitzhak, would come to be our guests, it was also possible that they would sit down with my mother and sing songs together.

In our home on the old marketplace, there would be a strong echo off the walls of the melodic verses:

Chto ti spisz muzhichok,
Or: ‘Srulik’l, wake up!

My mother’s soprano voice would blend in with great-aunt Sarah’keh’s alto and uncle Yitzhak’s tenor, and when my brother Aaron’s strong lyrical tenor voice was joined with them – it became a genuine choir, from which not only one of our neighbors derived pleasure.

All three of those siblings, along with their personas, went off in their late youth. However, such moments were, regrettably, very few. Only my mother maintained this singing tradition well into advanced old age.

E. Great-Aunt Sarah’keh and Uncle Aharon-Leib

We children, were very proud of our great-aunt Sarah’keh – first and foremost about her extraordinary beauty. ‘I was a lad, and also grew old, ’ and I have traveled many lands – and I have not ever seen such an harmonious beauty as in our Sarah’keh. She combined physical beauty with an unbounded goodness and gentleness, which was poured out all over her visage. A sort of magical grace, that was not disturbing, but rather it drew you to it – that was my great-aunt Sarah’keh. And no taint of coquetry, not a trace of haughtiness, but rather the opposite – a hard-working, and faithful individual exceeding the bounds of her heart, a loyal and good soul, ready to make every sacrifice for her near ones. If I am portraying an ideal of a Jewish woman, ‘from the depths of our people, – this is Sarah’keh. She was very close to my mother, who was the oldest of her siblings, to the point that they were literally one soul. This sort of love and dedication could only arise between two people of boundless good will.

Her husband, Aharon-Leibl Karlinsky, was the very embodiment of masculine handsomeness. Were he a gentile, he would have been a great one to capture and break the hearts of women, or a Hollywood actor, and most certainly a senior officer – that is the way I perceived him through my childhood eyes as a young boy. I loved to hear his stories of The First World War – he was a Russian soldier, and during the course of several years, wandered through fronts and faraway cities. Even if, from time-to-time, he would put on the appearance of being severe, it was evident that it was only a show, because this was the body of a strong man, with the heart of a dove. He traced his ancestry to a scholarly and learned family, but he personally was a democratic man through and through, with a great interest in practical political problems, and an ardent and active Zionist. Like the rest of our family, such as my grandfather, my father, uncle Yitzhak, he was not good in mercantile commerce. And as I recall him, I remember him always to have difficulties in making a living. Despite this, he held himself with pride. I think that he had a romantic nature, and in this way, he was much like many of the Blumrosens. With his imagination, he entered into the stormy past, and often floated along in dreams and plans. And it was because of this, in later life, when I became more aware, and encountered him under other circumstances, in Warsaw and Bialystok, I was especially close to him. I do not like people with dry spirits, and he had about him what is called – a pleasant sort of human fantasy.

Sarah’keh and Aharon-Leib were a couple blessed by God – if only for they physical beauty and spiritual warmth, which radiated from them.

They fanatically loved their children, taking great pride in them, and dreamed of a good future outcome for them. And the children would anticipate coming to be guests in Lomza. In my parents, they felt these were the people closest to them.

We, the Lomza children, had great respect for Aharon-Leibl’s brother R’ Yaakov Karlinsky (today a Rabbi in America). I must note here, that our home in Lomza, was the central point for the entire Zambrow family, and within that, also Yaakov Karlinsky. We, young people, were impressed by his knowledge of foreign languages. He would go to bed holding a French dictionary on one side, and a German one on the other side. I would sit up, until a late hour of the night, and watch how he turned a page in the French book, peered into the dictionary, and then page on further. This was a refined, up-to-date, and well-raised young man. He exercised better self-control than his older brother, but was also a dreamer of dreams.

F. My Uncle Yitzhak Blumrosen

I believe that the greatest dreamer, in the best sense of that word, was my uncle, Yitzhak Blumrosen. But his principal characteristic was – goodness. This was a man ‘without a gall bladder [so to speak],’ being decent all the way down to the deepest corner of his soul. A man possessed of formidable inner warmth, a man with whom you were compelled to draw close and become familiar with, after your first discourse with him.

Despite the bitter tribulations of life, he was always of good temper, effusive with witticisms and novel ideas, possessing an unfathomable repository of stories about the war years, when he was flung off into the faraway depths of Russia, in Kozlow or Tambou. Stories that we children listened to with great curiosity, just like the heroic memories of the Nikolaevski soldier , Aharon-Leib.

His fate was shared to the end by great-Aunt Chaya’cheh, who descended from a well-known wealthy family. Uncle Yitzhak and great-Aunt Chaya’cheh were not engaged in political issues, but the task of sending off all their children to the Land of Israel was carried out with quiet pride, despite the fact that the sundering of bonds was painful. They personally dreamed of being reunited with their children. This dream, just like with many others, regrettably did not come to pass.

Great-Aunt Chaya’cheh once said to my mother: ‘when I lie down in bed, wanting to go to sleep, I think of the children, then I fall asleep peacefully.’

G. My Uncle Alter Mark

And when we entered the house of my Uncle Alter Mark on the Uczastek, we fell into a completely other world.

My uncle Alter belonged to the cream of the Zambrow community. Why – I have no idea myself. Perhaps this showed the influence of great-Aunt Sarah-Feiga, who descended from the well-connected Drozdowsky family. And perhaps – the ‘big’ business on the uczastek, where there were resonating bells at the entrance, like in the best of the stores in big cities; the clientele consisted of prominent Christians and officers. Or perhaps – the two-room very tidy little hotel, which they maintained on the upstairs of their stone constructed little house. In the factory of the blonde Sarah-Feiga, R’ Alter’s wife, an air of nobility exuded: it was redolent with the smell of the village, in the small but well-kept little orchard, with fresh milk from the red heifer (???) in the tidy little stall, while simultaneously manifesting a festive air of holiday time, which was reflected from the silver-looking, grand and ever-present....cold samovar in the dining room.

It was here that – my brothers Yitzhak (Itchkeh) and Aharon and I – would come from Lomza in the summertime, or during Hol HaMoed, as guests, eating fresh apples, and drinking bubbly-warm milk right from the milk-pot. But that time – during the decade of the twenties – a peculiarly distressed mood reigned at Alter’s and Sarah-Feiga’s, as well as a quiet somberness. Not one of their children had remained in the shtetl. The little bird, of their own volition, had flown from the nest. The oldest daughter, Etya, married early, with a prosperous lumber merchant from Riga, Max Meisel (they have been living for many years now in London). Their second daughter, Rachel, studied to be a teacher in Warsaw. The oldest son, Chaim, went off to Bialystok, and married there. And the youngest, Khezki...

It is here that the family tragedy starts, with my deeply religious uncle, R’ Alter.

Yekhezkiel (Khezki) Mark was stuck in Russia during the Russian March and October Revolution. He was a student at the Polytechnicum, and as a result of the war, could not come home. And, it is also possible, that he no longer wanted to do so.

In my father’s house – close to the decidedly Yiddish-Hebrew culture and Gemara intonations – as was the case in many houses, a second culture was present – the Polish one (in the decade of the twenties). At the home of my uncle and great-aunt, this second culture remained the Russian one – even during the Polish era. The second language of the eldest daughter remained Russian. And Khezki was studying at a Russian high school. To this day, I cannot understand how my uncle, who was in general a traditional Jew, and less of a maskil than my father, and my great-Aunt, who was a practical woman – did not impel their children to such income producing professions such as medicine or pharmacy, but rather permitted Rachel’eh to study to be a teacher, and Khezki – to be an engineer, a profession that, in those days was not particularly well-favored among Jews. Because of this, I think, that even as far back as childhood, the four children divided themselves up in accordance with their character and concept: the oldest daughter and Chaim, despite both being educated and intelligent, went off in practical-entrepreneurial directions, during the time when Rachel and Khezki were idealists, inspired by social ideals and striving, both romantic and revolutionary personalities, and it was strictly the circumstances that caused one of them to be led onto the path of revolution, while the second, ultimately capitulated, and remained a wife and mother, as happened with many of her kind.

H. Khezki Mark

Rachel and Khezki had untrammeled characters, with a surfeit of soul. He – a typical revolutionary student, a typical member of the Russian intelligentsia of the period on the Eve of the Revolution; she – a typical taker of courses, and both – the very essence of goodness. They were very much tied up with the Russian democratic culture – despite the fact that both knew Hebrew perfectly – they also adopted the additional names: he assuming the name Emanuel, and she – Rekhil.

As a student, Khezki joined the Russian revolutionary movement, became a Social-Democrat of the Bolshevist variety, and took an active role in the revolution. Into my childhood memory, a image was etched – of Khezki in the uniform of a student. In later fantasies, I saw him on the Kharkov barricades. Fragmentary news about Khezki in the revolution, about Khezki as a Chairman of the revolutionary tribunal, I think in Yekaterinoslav (Dnepopetrovsk), of Khezki the loyal servant of the revolution – would be brought back by Zambrow and Lomza Jews who returned from those places. The greetings they brought were both sad and uplifting. they They were sad because ??? said what sort of a future can he have;’ and uplifting – ‘That’s no small thing, a son of Alter Mark, has become a real big shot.’ These messages caused my uncle’s face to become more lined, and my great-aunt’s back to bend over even more. But we, young people, my brother Aharon, Rachel and her friends, being sympathetic to the revolution, in our case, our faces lit up – our family too, has a part in this great social upheaval.

During the substantial interregnum between the two world wars, one oppressive, and all-encompassing pall, hung over the Mark residence on the uczastek: Khezki. From the side of the eldest daughter and the oldest son, there were no worries. Things proceeded normally as was expected in the home of balebatim: making a living, grandchildren, good news. Great-Aunt Sarah-Feiga did not make a big to-do about the inner world of the finely sensitive Rachel. With a firm dictatorial hand, she tore Rachel away from her studies, nailed her down to the shtetl, tore our the feelings for friends from her heart and mind, of which not only one sought her hand in marriage; she did not permit herself to be moved by her girl’s tears, forcibly marrying her to a former small-town Yeshiva student, Yehuda Koczor, who subsequently revealed himself to be a Zionist activist, a good speaker, and instructor for Keren HaYesod. Pure Rachel then committed her entire warm heart to her own children, and the little Moshes and Rachel’ehs of the Zambrow school. and remained in their grateful memories as ‘Teacher Mark.’

The one unrest that gnawed at Sarah-Feiga’s soul was Khezki. And the further he was distanced, because of hermetically sealed borders, the more hopeless the prospect became for family reunification, and this caused the fanatical love of the mother for her son to become that much more inflamed, the chronic yearning became as holes of pain. All corners of the now vacated house called out: Khezki! And the tears with which R’ Alter moistened the pages of his Gemara, and the sighing at night – all of this came to pass because of the son that had gone away.

His name was not always brought up. After the year 1920, Khezki became a name to be feared among the police of the Polish government. It is not know where the whispered rumors originated, that he was actually here in Poland, that he secretly visits Zambrow, that he is on a secret mission here. We children, were forbidden to mention his name.

In the meantime, Khezki rose there. Here, he was already called to Moscow. Here, he was working in a senior position in Energy. Here, he becomes Ordzhonikidze’s right-hand man, and he makes an official trip out of the country. He travels through Poland, and cannot contain himself (because he too is lonesome), and one night, incognito, he sneaks off to see his parents in the shtetl. For a while, a completely different spirit seems to imbue the elderly couple. But the joy is merely a small crumb, that is blown away by the slightest breeze. A Christian neighbor noticed something, and immediately informs those who need to be informed. In the middle of the night, Khezki must leap from a window, and flee that ‘Dark Egypt’ thanks to the sedulous watchfulness of his brother Chaim.

And once again, they are separated and torn apart. And once again, there is boundless sorrow and hopeless longing.

Khezki is drafted into the Red Army. Emanuel Mark becomes a Kompolk, Okombrig, a Brigadier General. I see his photograph as a general standing before me, with medals across his chest. He is honest, committed without any limits, active and skilled. As a general, he participates in military engineering in the famous battles with the Japanese, and he distinguishes himself at Khalin-Gol. Under his directions, fortifications are built in the Far East. He is loyal to the party, and he participates in the fight against Trotsky and other factions. He also begins to build a home. At a festive get-together in Moscow, he makes the acquaintance of a Russian girl. She is a member of the Komsomol, from a venerable family of the Russian intelligentsia. They get married. He lets the family in Poland know. Our great-Aunt is somewhat shaken. It was not this sort of wedding, and the implied relationship that she had dreamed of for her youngest child. Our uncle was beside himself, retreating even further into religious observance. And the vigilant brother, Chaim, waves it off with his hand – well, so what if it is a shiksa. This too shall pass.

But a son is born to the Mark’s family in Moscow. Khezki shares the glad news about the new grandson with his parents. R’ Alter demands that he circumcise the child. For this, he will forgive him for all of his transgressions. Khezki answers in gentle, but firm words: he will not violate the precepts of his ideology.

A sorrow descended on the house at the Zambrow uczastek. R’ Alter rent his garments in mourning, and sat Shiva, there no longer being a son, torn out from his heart, God having given him, and the Devil having taken him.

This was my uncle’s first and greatest grudge against his wife and Chaim, who did not wish to recognize his rending of garments and sitting of shiva. And here, in this tiny Zambrow house, a drama of Shakespearean quality played itself out. With one of the residents, Khezki was dead – but behind his back, Sarah-Feiga and Chaim conspired with Khezki, and later on, even met with him. My father, despite his own pious observance – as I understand it – reached deeper that his older brother, and in this case was in solidarity with Sarah-Feiga. A Jewish soul is not refuse, and it is forbidden to resign one’s self from it. And we, the young people – Khezki grew into a hero, to a legend, and how fortunate we were, when we briefly were able to see our hero for a short quarter of an hour with our own eyes.

I. Khezki Is Sent to the Far East

I no longer remember which year it was, perhaps 1935, perhaps 1936, on an autumn day – I had already been living in Warsaw for about ten years, and my brother Aharon in Vilna – we obtain a quiet notification that Khezki has to travel through Bialystok on his way to Berlin, where he has been designated as a member of a delegation representing the Soviet Union. Without the knowledge of uncle Alter, all of us gathered at the Bialystok train station. Khezki jumped down from the train, wearing a heavy, unpleasing overcoat, meeting with everyone, exchanging kisses and snatching a brief conversation. I recall how dissatisfied we are with a question that was posed by Chaim. Touching Khezki’s overcoat (Chaim was a manufacturer-Merchant), he said: ‘Is it worth giving up everything for this sort of impoverished life? Or are you, actually, quite fortunate?’ – I recollect how the tranquil and feeling fortunate because of the encounter, Khezki, was ignited: ‘People like you cannot grasp this. The good fortune of people cannot be found in fine clothing. I am fortunate in being able to do my part in freeing humanity from oppression and obloquy. I am ten times more fortunate than you with you possessions.’

A different person stood before me. Not that mild, soft Khezki, but rather a revolutionary, that had become hardened through the revolution and civil war, an altruist of the highest order.

A ball of dust blown away – the meeting was over in the blink of an eye. The train went off, and left the bent-over Sarah-Feiga with her hot tears.

We never saw Khezki again.

The storm of war hurled me, my wife, my mother Rachel-Leah and my brother Itchkeh to Bialystok in October 1939. Together, with Chaim, we began to try and find some trace of Khezki. His last letter to Chaim was at the beginning of 1937. After that, the mails remained silent and uncommunicative.

Fragmentary rumors reached us that were not favorable. Emanuel Mark had been sent somewhere. Why, where, when – was hard to find out.

The trying war years, with their tribulations and hopes, diverted my eye and ear to other [sic: more pressing] problems. We managed to survive treks that took us over distances of more than a thousand kilometers, through ravines and steppes, until reaching Kuybishev and Moscow, to the Jewish anti-Fascist Committee, and the union of Polish patriots, sinking heart and soul into help for the front, for victory over the malevolent Hitlerian Beast, for the Jewish-Polish refugees, those scattered over this huge land, chained to the ever-present freezing iminenceimminence of mass extermination and heroic struggle of our nearest and dearest in occupied Poland – in such a roiling and disturbed atmosphere of day-to-day existence, the concern for our cousin Khezki was pushed to into the shadows, and his image even faded away, which before this had lived in the depths of our heart.

J. On Khezki’s Trail

In the year 1944,when the victory over Hitler Germany was a certain thing, and cadres of the future People’s Republic of Poland were being put together in Moscow – at the intervention of the Polish author Wanda Wasilewska – an initiate was started to gradually liberate Polish communists, who were exiled by Yezhov and his minions, in the years of 1937 and 1938. Those who were liberated were required to travel back to Poland. In the year 1945, the number of people so liberated, increased. They were at the gates of Warsaw – and it was there that they quickly traveled to.

Among those set free, was an elderly Jewish-communist activist, Julek Majsky (Zimmerman), with whom I was friendly. Because of his frail health situation, he detained himself in Moscow somewhat longer.

And so, we were sitting one evening at my hotel, and suddenly he leaps up. – Mark... Mark.... Oh, my! For several years, I was interred together with a certain Emanuel Mark.

Majsky had been exiled to Magadan, near Bukhta Nagayeva, at the furthest point in the Far East. He shared the same barracks with Khezki, sleeping in one bunk bed beside the other, having conversed for hundreds of nights. sharing thoughts and bread. Emanuel’s ‘Srok’ (time of arrest) – Majsky says – has ended, but he is not permitted to travel out of Magadan.

My joyful dispatch immediately went off to the Magadan camp. And immediately a telegram came back from him, from Khezki, and afterwards long, and very moving, letters.

My food packages, especially those rich in vitamins, helped him a great deal. My efforts, through Wanda Wasilewska, attempted to get him recognition as a Polish communist, so he could benefit from the right to be liberated and to come to Poland.

It was possible to see, from his letters, that he placed great hope on our efforts, but at the same time, he lodged a request with the Soviet régime. that he be mobilized for the front. He wanted to personally participate in the battle against the fascist enemy. And, at that time, he was well over fifty years of age.

One fine day, I receive a dispatch from him: at such-and-such a street in Moscow, Number so-and-so, is my wife’s sister.

I immediately went off there. There, I encountered an elderly woman, in the uniform of a railroad employee. I showed her the telegram and my documents. She called together the family, and both heart and mouth opened up. and a fresh tragedy unfolded before me:

The blow was unanticipated, when Khezki enjoyed the highest degree of confidence in the Ministry of Energy. Despite the fact that he had no connection to Polish communists, he was swept up in the wave. Maligning informers were to be found, who began spreading rumors: Emanuel Mark had secretly been in Poland,. carried on correspondence with relatives. in this land of fascists, and he had been to Berlin, and also, were the fortifications he had built in the Far East any good?

And Yezhov’s extermination machine, as later was the case with that of Beria , operated pitilessly against the loyal innocent people, and pitilessly against its own country.

One day, Khezki noticed that less and less people were around him, even friends keeping their distance from him. His put off his normal mood, his smile, and his patience. He fell into a black fear.

His fate was sealed.

On a certain night, he was taken away.

He was so badly broken, that he did not even attempt to defend himself. The broken-voiced telling of his sister-in-law falls into the tone of a complaint. Why did he not want to say even a word in his own defense? When his wife saw him for the first and only time after his arrest, she came back in a completely shaken state: this is not the same Khezki! But her love for him did not diminish even by a hair.

She, and their child, remained in Moscow. She obtained work in a factory. She was not bothered. It was only in the second year of the war, that Beria’s agents first sent her off to a camp, as they did with other wives of people sent away, also in the Far East. It was on the pretense that she had expressed dissatisfaction with the factory. Her request, that she be sent to Magadan, where her husband was, was summarily ignored. Their only son was mobilized [sic: into the army] and he was killed in battle.

And Khezki has no knowledge of his wife’s plight, and she knows nothing of him.

With a spasmodic weeping, the discussion with Khezki’s sister-in-law came to an end. I took the photographs, and I went off to my redoubled efforts to free Khezki.

Everything was already lined up, and suddenly, the laconic notification came from the camp in Magadan, that hit me like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky:

Emanuel Mark had fallen ill with typhus, and had died.

He died on the threshold of freedom.

My Khezki had died, the one I had longed for.

Only one trace of him remained: the photograph of the Brigadier, that smiling portrait of the fallen son, with the clear eyes of the Marks of Zambrow, the photograph of the young Moscow girl, the wife and mother. Where is she? What has happened to her? Having coursed away over endless snows together with her broken spirit.

When Khezki died in the camp hospital,. his father and mother were no longer alive. nor his dear Rachel with her husband and children, not that wise and perceptive Chaim, with his wife and two little sons.

My mother, Rachel-Leah, had already given up the ghost of her tender soul, during the great expulsion from Bialystok in August 1943. My eternally vibrant brother Itchkeh, with his wife Rachel and two children (Isser and Ruth) were no longer alive. My Vilna sister-in-law, Fanya, Aharon’s wife, had already been cut down, in the death camp of Schtuthof, and their young lives having been sacrificed in Estonia (my father, R’ Zvi-Hirsch, and my brother Aharon died before the war).

It was by the brutal Nazis, and their accomplices, that the many-branched families of the Blumrosens, Karlinskys, and Meisners of Zambrow were exterminated.

From these three, through the golden threads of families bound together in life – Mark, Blumrosen, Karlinsky – a new large root remained from the latter towtwo, in the newly erected State of Israel. With their own ten fingers, with hard labor and expenditure of energy, they constructed new homes, and put down new roots.

But out of the Mark family – whether from Lomza or Zambrow – I am the only one left that carries that [family] name.

There was no heir that remained, no one to act as a redeemer to Yitzhak, Aharon, Chaim and Khezki. It is in a cruel way that the root of a family is cut off.

Good Jewish People and People of the Field???

By Yehoshua Golombek

On the surface – it was a city like all other cities. But anyone who recognizes Zambrow, in its glory, did not once get the unforgettable impression within the ambience of Polish Jewry: a broadly-branched family of Jewish agriculture. We are not speaking here of those people who managed a fruit orchard, that wither the nobleman or the priest chose to cultivate, or a vegetable garden that the Polish owner of a land parcel sowed and grew, and the Jew was at the ready: harvesting the crop and selling it, picking the fruit, and plucked the vegetables for business and profit. There were [Jews] of this type in Zambrow as well, as was the case in every city and town. Rather, here, we are speaking of genuine farmers. In Zambrow, there were families upon families, that coalesced into one large family... that owned fields and gardens. The people of these families went out on a daily basis to work their fields, just like the Christian farmers, from the morning, until the stars came out. But these [Jews] did not comport themselves like the gentiles. With the rising of the sun, with a minyan of the elderly, the Jewish farmers would come to pray, and from there, they parted, each to his own field, that bordered on an array of villages, such as: Wandolok, Czyczurak, Dloguboroz, Pruntnik, and the like. These were sturdy Jews, with straight backs, sunburned and broad-shouldered. The Golombek family of the city stood out in this respect, these being the scions of an extensive family that was among the founders of the city from its inception. Who did not know Getzel Golombek, Eli, Berl (my father and mentor), Yossl, Meir-Yankl, Chaim-Pinchas, Leibacz, Binyom’keh, Abraham’keh, Leibl. Gedalia Tykoczinsky, Beinusz and Yudl Tykoczinsky, others, and others. Who was not familiar with Shimsh’eleh the vegetable grower, and other Jewish farmers of his ilk. Early in the morning, after prayers, these men would go out into the fields, following their wagons, to work at plowing, with a scythe and sickle. in its planting and harvesting. All day they would be in the fields, . towards evening – back to the house of worship for afternoon and evening prayers, to study a page of the Gemara, and a chapter of the Mishna. During the hot summer days, when harvest time would begin in the fields, the entire family would go out into the field. , including the children. Some cut, others bound sheaves, and others yet, gathered the bound sheaves up, one by one for the pile. Their work was hard even in the other days of the year: to fertilize, to plow, to make rows, and to plant. After the harvest – threshing and winnowing, ensiling the grain, guarding the produce, and selling it off to grain merchants – all of this required energy and alertness. Agricultural machinery had not yet appeared in the country, and all of this work was literally done by hand, and in a primitive fashion. Despite this – these people were not blessed with riches. All year long, they would make a living off of their potatoes, that had been gathered from the fields and put into special underground caches out in the fields, for this purpose, and from the sacks of grain that they would personally bring to be ground into flour. Left overs from their earnings were unknown to them. They dressed simply, as was the case with all those who worked the land. They raised fowl at home, had a cow for milk, most of which was sold off to their neighbors, and a bit of vegetables that they permitted themselves in a corner of the field. they They baked their own bread, and they did so at home, every week, this being a loaf of Kibber ??? They lived in wooden houses, withing the town. In instances, the floor was not paved over – it was dirt,. and on the Sabbath and Festival Holidays, was decorated with a yellow sand to make it look festive. And these people lived among their folk, among the rest of the town residents – diligent merchants, craftsmen, middlemen on market days, and the like.

Today, it is difficult to believe that Jewish farm families like this lived in towns in Poland: they were Jewish in every respect, taking positions in the municipality, who engaged in Torah study and prayer, in observing the commandments, and they participated in the leadership of the community and engaged in providing for the common welfare, and deeds of charity. And they were farmers in every respect, engaging in every type of work in the fields, going out each and every day with horse and wagon to their work, with their primitive implements in their hands. There were scholars among them as well, people knowledgeable in Torah, and wise in the ways of the world, not like the Polish farmers and landowners, who were generally ignorant, not knowing how to read and write, and also removed at a distance from the life of the group and community.

The blessed and widely branched Golombek family – also raised its children, the young generation, in this spirit, and educated them to continue in this tradition: Be a good Jew and a reliable farmer.

The Golombek family – its roots are in Khoyna. In the middle of the last century [sic: 19th] R’ Leibl Khoyner reached Zambrow. His two sons, Monusz and Yehoshua Bezalel, continued in their father’s occupation: outstanding farming, and model Jewishness. The two brothers sired generations of splendor,. sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, who, along with their wives, sons-in-law, and brides went in these ways.

And let me also set a marker for my father Berl .

My father, Berl, the son of Monusz, was, in the last years, the head of the community in Zambrow, and a member of the town governance. He was a committed public servant for his entire life. He provided aid for the general welfare, and shielded his Jewish brethren from the police and the régime. He earned part of his living in the grain trade, but he was a substantial ‘expert’ in the building of houses, and in matters of contracting for house construction. He would provision the Russian army in the city with wood and beams for building, and would, from time-to-time, get a contract from them to erect a building, summer sheds from the summer camps of the army in Gonsirowa, and similar things.

He personally, was a soldier in the Russian army, and suffered no small amount. Being a healthy sort, and sound of body, the authorities did not spare him, and was always drafted into participating in maneuvers, regular service, and even battle. It was from here that he developed his commitment to be of assistance to the Jewish soldiers in the city. He expended no small amount of effort to arrange for kosher meals during the week (kessel kosher), but especially so on Sabbath days, he looked after finding balebatim to host soldiers for a Sabbath meal. or on a Festival, and worked for the benefit of the soldiers’ kitchen during Passover, and the arrangement of a community Seder for the soldiers in the community hall beside the Bet HaMedrash or in some specific home, or a community premises.

He could not remain silent upon seeing the synagogue burned down for many years, inside of whose ruins scrub trees were growing, and one could uncover the lairs of dogs and cats. He did not rest, or remain silent, until a community committee was formed to restore the synagogue, with my father at its head. He concerned himself not only with the financial side, as with the collection of donations, the selling of ‘places’ and the revival of ‘places’ in the synagogue, but also the donation of thousands of bricks if the brick manufacturers, like R’ Shlomo Blumrosen, the Brzezinsky family and others – but also undertook, on his own, the implementation of the plan. He was able to find loyal helpers, with the good tailor R’ Shlomo Szerzug, the shoemaker, R’ Binyom’keh Schuster, and others. My father assumed responsibility for the plan, talked to all the balebatim, with the builder R’ Moshe Aharon Bednowitz at their head, and his assistant, Jozef the Christian, of whom it was said that his widower father was Jewish. My father sunk his attention into the project for many months, even to the point of neglecting his own affairs. And when the building was finally erected and dedicated – they found no one else more suitable to be the Gabbai of the synagogue than my father, and he faithfully discharged his obligations in this capacity. at the same time that Binyom’keh Schuster filled the position of Shammes.

The Golombek Family

Is it a coincidence? In Zambrow, there were people with the Polish family name of birds, such as: Dzenchill – a vulture, which in Yiddish is called ‘Fickholz,’ Sokol – an osprey, Kukuka Slowik – a swallow, or cuckoo, Kuropatwa Pawe – a peacock. This is a theme for research, to determine where it originated – for was it not the case that Jews were torn away from nature? But rather, let us pause at the most formidable of Zambrow families, which was tied and bound to half the city,. if not more, the Golombeks. Golombek in Polish, is a dove, and Jews at one time were considered to be like doves.

Approximately 150 years ago, two brothers arrived in Zambrow, Leibl and Itzl. from the village of Khonya, near Lodz, and bought property for farming. They were looked upon with wonder: Jews are investing money in a business, a manufacturing operation, a small factory, a building, but to buy land for plowing, seeding, fertilizing fields, and later, to go harvest like the gentiles? And so they went and bought a parcel of land of about a thousand dunams, such that the synagogue, the Red Bet HaMedrash, the cemetery and, to make a distinction, Pfeiffer’s mill were all located on their property.

Who were they? In line with their appearance – tall, lean, dark-eyed, with eagle-like hook noses – were they descended from Spanish Jews that had come to settle in Poland? The family name ‘Columb.’ ‘Columbus’ – which is just as good as Golombek – is to this day familiar among Sephardic Jews. Incidentally, another point to note: the elders of the family, in signing their names on Yiddish documents and letters would sign ‘aBen Yisrael’ – a son of Israel, or was it ‘Evven Yisrael, a rock of Israel? What ever happened to Itzl Golombek – we do not know. Leibl’eh Khonyer (his grave could be found yet in the old cemetery, until the city was destroyed) had two sons: Yehoshua Bezalel, or as he was called ‘Shitzalel,’ and Monusz. Shitzalel died young, and left four sons and three daughters: Moshe-Shmuel, Meir-Yankl, Monusz-Yudl, and Leibl, and: Sarah, Rachel, Dina and Liebeh. Monusz had five sons and three daughters: Yitzhak-Velvel, Berl, Leibl, Eli and Getzel, and: Liebeh-Mir’keh, Faygl, Reizl. These fifteen children established fifteen families, and their children about 50 families, and grandchildren, etc. In this way, the Golombeks became the dominant part of the city. All of them possessed landed assets – fields and gardens, houses and cattle, barns and silos, potato storage cellars, and stands of hay. They lived like peasants, working the fields like peasants, from morning to night, observed the rainy season and the good weather, knew, and perhaps better than most – when the fields need to be fertilized and when one needs to plow, what to sow, and when to sow it. You would have to look far and wide all over Poland to find another family like this, among the mercantile and trading Jews. And in addition to this: God-fearing people, not coarse Jews, who knew how to study, were familiar with laws, involved themselves in community affairs, were Gabbaim in the synagogues, Gabbaim in the Chevra Kadisha, Dozors in the municipal government, founders and leaders of charitable institutions, etc. Before dawn, together with the folks who went to market, they would attend the first minyan, ttp o pray then so they could be in the fields early, to begin work. They were loyal to one another. During the dispute between the Rabbis – the Golombeks were on the side of Rabbi Regensberg, and prevailed. Thanks to them, the Rabbi retained his privileges. About 25 years later, the Rabbi wanted to excommunicate Berl Golombek because he was sending his daughter to the Polish gymnasium, where they write on the Sabbath. All of the Golombeks rose as one, against the Rabbi. The Rabbi was compelled to give up his foray against the parents of gymnasium students, and needed to vacate his old ‘fortress,’ the Red Bet HaMedrash, and move to the more liberal White Bet HaMedrash, which he had previously routinely attacked.

Let us here recollect a few of the Golombeks, whose visibility in the city was prominent:

Yitzhak-Velvel, lean, with a small beard, a land expert, a scholar, and an engineer who had not received his diploma. He would give advice to everyone: in the matter of building a house, in the management of a business, paying ????, and family matters. He dressed simply. His joke would be retold: he doesn’t have a new pair of pants made, because new pants would require a jacket, and a jacket would require a dresser, and a dresser would then demand a larger house, and how am I going to be able to afford that? He would study Mishna with a coterie of Jewish men, in the Red Bet HaMedrash, every day, between Mincha and Maariv. His children emigrated to Argentina, and one of his grandsons is a renown chess player in London .

Moshe-Shmuel. Lead a measured bourgeois life. He lived like a nobleman in a villa on the horse market. He had a lucrative asset in the Colonia ‘Hotel’ held jointly with Yitzhak David Modrikom. He was skilled at business undertakings, always living, however, frugally, but not stinting on community needs and charity. He died in 1914. He was survived by two talented sons: Yossl and Eizik, and five daughters: Sarah-Dina, Leah, Rivka, Reizl and Shifra. The oldest daughter married Leibl Slowik, a son of David Rotkaszer. Leibl’s children came to Israel as Halutzim, and the eldest of them, Herschel (Zvi Zamir), is the Chairman of the Zambrow Society in Israel, and for a longer period of time was the Burgomaster of Magdiel.


Leibl Golombek was a beloved leader of prayer, especially during the High Holy Days.

Berl Golombek – An ardent public servant, Gabbai in the synagogue, and a head of the community (see a separate write-up about him).

Binyom’keh Golombek, someone who undertook responsibilities, a leader of big businesses, and was a major contractor for the Russians, an ombudsman, a Gabbai, and a man of weighty opinions. His son, Leib’chak was a sportsman, and in Israel, is among the pioneers of the ??? industry.

photo, left: Berl Golombek

Gedalia Tykoczinsky, a grandson of Shia-‘Tzal’eleh, an entrepreneur, landowner, and later on, an owner of the cinema with his son Beinusz. He allowed his businesses to be liquidated, sold off all his assets, and went to take up residence in the Land of Israel. However, he died before his time. His son, Meir (Max) died in Israel. His son, Noah, was among the first of those who made aliyah to Israel, and was a policeman for the [British] Mandate, and served Jewish interests.

Leibac Golombek. A landowner and entrepreneur. He managed substantial businesses. His children are in America. His oldest daughter, Shayn’tcheh and her husband, Baumkuler are in Israel.

Getzel Golombek. An accomplished landowner. He was a decent Jewish man, educated, and served his God with love, and also loved to do good things. He had two daughters, Dvo’sheh and Tzirl. Dvo’sheh was scholarly, just like a boy might be, knowing parts of the Tanakh by heart, and is in America with her husband, the well-known and scholarly Rabbi, Matityahu Cohen.

Yossl, Moshe Shmuel’s. A tall person, smart, and a very honest landowner, who was good-mannered. He was well thought of in the area, and had many good friends, even among the Poles.

David Rosenthal, a son of Mend’keh ‘of the short hand,’ a great-grandson of Shia-‘Tzalel, husband of Reizl Tykoczinsky, Golda’s daughter. His father Mend’keh, an invalid, was a Jewish man full of humor, a lost talent of a writer and poet. He would tell jokes, compose songs about the Zambrow balebatim and their wives, made a living from a meager food store, on whose sign was written, as it was told: ‘Niema Nitz’ – There is nothing here.... His son David, who was talented, and had red cheeks, and friendly small eyes, studied at the Lomza Yeshiva, and was among the better students, and later on, committed himself to Zionist-Socialist endeavors, was a founder and Chairman of Tze‘irei Tzion, a stalwart in his undertakings, reading lectures about Marxism and political economics.

Meir Yankl Golombek – A landowner, with a house full of children, he had an oliornya ???, and lived frugally. One of his grandchildren, from his oldest daughter Hinde, saved herself from the Holocaust, and today lives in Israel.

Chaim Golombek








Chaim Golombek


He was a son of Meir-Yankl. He was inclined to work, and he helped his father with field work, studied, read, and was suffused with Zionism through and through. He strove to emigrate to the Land of Israel, and to work the land there. He was active in the Israeli Labor Movement. Fate would have it that he settled in Mexico, and together with his cousin Shifra, built a model Jewish-national family. He was very active, and a representative in the Poalei Tzion movement. He was elected, by a consensus as the President of the Poalei Tzion Organization in Mexico. He was beloved in all circles. He died before his time. in the year 1961. All the Jews in Mexico mourned his passing.

Many other families were connected to the Golombeks: Yankl Zukrowicz – the son-in-law of Shia-‘Tzalel, Meir Zukrowicz – Monusz’s son-in-law, the Cynawicz family. , the Bursteins, the Baumkulers, and many, many more.

My Father’s House

By Zvi Zamir

My father, Leibl Slowik, a son of David Rokaczer, was born in Zambrow. My grandfather, a big fanatic, fought against every new thing that appeared in the city, that, in his opinion, carried with it the threat of causing a falling away from Yiddishkeit. My father, raised on Talmud and Poskim, strove to get an education, but had to put up with a great deal of trouble from his strict and religiously observant father. He therefore decided to run away from home, into the large expanse of Russia, get an education, and decide on a career. In order to obtain the right to live in Russia (provozhitelstvo) he needed to be a merchant of substance, of the First Guild, or a graduate craftsman with a diploma. He therefore learned shoemaking from Binyom’keh Schuster, took an examination in Lomza, and got his shoemaker’s diploma... he spent somewhat less than a half year in Minsk and other cities – and was compelled to come home, got two slaps in the face from my grandfather, and remained at home.

My father was a sentimental person, and carried on a love affair with the pretty daughter of Yossl Moshe Shmuel’s for seven years... [he then] married her and built a beautiful national [sic: Jewish] home. He would read a great deal, constantly holding a copy of ‘HaTzefira,’ wrote a beautiful Hebrew, was a Zionist, and engaged in the doing of good deeds. He was a decent sort, following the straight and narrow, never departing from it. During The First World War, when people hungered – he opened sacks of flour, and distributed it to near and far.

When ‘HeHalutz’ came on the scene – he opened the gates of his home to it, and all of its meetings and socials were held, and guests and instructors would lodge at home with us. When I decided to leave the Polish gymnasium and emigrate to the Land of Israel – he first wanted to persuade me to complete my studies at the gymnasium, seeing that with this, I would bring more value to my people. However, seeing that I stood by my intent, he gave me his blessing, and wished me a successful future. During the first days of crisis, he offered me encouragement in his letters. He had a complete faith in our ultimate victory in the Land of Israel. He so yearned also to come and settle there, to be able to embrace and kiss his grandchildren, and was on the verge of coming – – – and everything was disrupted, and my father, my mother Sarah-Dina, my brothers Noah and Moshe, my four sisters: Ada, Masha, Yenta and Chava – were exterminated.

R’ Yaakov (Zvi) Zukrowicz 

By Joseph Srebowicz 


Sara-Rachel Zukrowicz


Yaakov (Yankl) Zukrowicz

He was the son of Yehuda Leib and Henya, born in the year 1867 in Ikirov. He was a scholar and also Enlightened, ‘the Mecenas’ of the city, philanthropic and exceedingly patient, full of the love of Zion, and very straight. He was one of the Gabbaim of the Chevra Kadisha. He was a merchant [by trade]. He would buy grain stuffs from the nobles in the vicinity, and transport it to Warsaw and outside the country. He also was a merchant that dealt in forest lumber products. Several families earned their living alongside him, as his steady employees, like: Eliezer Zarmowsky and Berl Goldberg , and others, and also there were non-steady employees as well. His house was full all week long – Jews of all classes would come in to drink tea, to read the newspaper, and to discuss issues of the day. Regular visitors to our house included: his brother, R’ Meir Zukrowicz (who was privileged to make aliyah to The Land with his wife Reizl, and they passed away there), R’ Mordechai Shafran, R’ Benjamin Kagan, R’ Yitzhak Levinson, the Gabbai of the ‘White Bet HaMedrash,’ R’ Zalman Kaplan, the teacher of the tenets of the faith, R’ Bunim Domb, his brother-in-law, husband of his sister, the owner of the ‘mangle iron’ used to press laundry. On the morning of the Sabbath, before prayers, many people would gather at his home to drink coffee with milk, incidentally for the taste of ???. and to discuss politics. His was a two-story house on the market street, Rynek 2. He lived on the second floor, and on the first floor was the residence and clothing store of the family of R’ Shabtai Kwiat.

His wife, Sarah Rachel, the daughter of R’ Yehoshua Bezalel Golombek, from the family of the Jewish farmers (her brother R’ Meir Yaakov, made a living from farming and self-employment on his own lad, to his very last day), stood out for her honesty, charity, and in the measure of her capacity to act as hostess to guests, in parallel with her husband, and thanks to her good mood, the house became renown. On the Sabbath, they would always have guests at their table, to their meals, that were invited from the Bet HaMedrash, and during the weekdays, they would provide meals to Yeshiva students.

They had three daughters (a son died shortly after birth): Jocheved (Khev’czi), who married Mr. Gershon Srebowicz, Dina who married Menachem Berman, and moved to Warsaw. and Bracha, who married Israel Regensberg, the son of the local Rabbi. The daughters received both a secular and Hebrew education, knew Hebrew and several languages. The correspondence of the household was conducted entirely in Hebrew. It was the hope of Sarah Rachel, the mother, to yet be able to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. She was wont to say: ‘Just as I was privileged to fulfilfulfill my desire to [sic: sponsor] write a Sefer Torah, similarly, I hope to be able to make aliyah to the Land of Israel.’

However, he did not fulfill her desire, and she passed away before the Holocaust. Fate was not kind to R’ Yaakov towards the end of his days. He was negatively impacted as a result of the Polish government economic regulations against the Jews. In 1938, being well over 70 years old, he was assaulted and cut down by Polish thugs, who attacked him on the stairs of his home, when he was on the way down to participate in morning prayers at the Bet HaMedrash on a Sunday. In September 1939, when The Scourge invaded [Poland], he was taken, along with most of the Jews of the city, to a camp in East Prussia. He survived long enough to return to Zambrow after the Russians entered, but he fell grievously ill from all of the tribulations that he had undergone while in the camp, and he passed away after several weeks. His daughter Jocheved, with her husband, and half of their children, who remained in Poland, her bride and grandson, as well as his daughter Dina along with her younger child, were all exterminated by The Scourge.

R’ Yankl Zukrowicz

He was among the most refined and idealistic of the balebatim in the shtetl. He was a Gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha, among the first of the Hovevei Tzion, had a good heart, donated to charity, and helped everyone. Also, his wife, Sarah-Rachel, the daughter of Shia-’Tzalel Golombek, was an exceptional woman, giving to charity, and apart from this, would be every at the ready to invite in guests, and having a table of food prepared for Yeshiva students. Yankl Zukrowicz dealt in grain, and forest products. Several families, such as that of Lejzor Zarembsky and Berl Goldberg, would make a living from him, apart from being intermediaries. His house was always full of people, during the week and on the Sabbath, who would come to to read a paper, have a warm drink, or just plain to catch up on news. The Gemilut Hasadim would make their annual dinner here, at R’ Yankl Zukrowicz’s expense. He had three daughters. The oldest, Chava’cheh married Gershon Srebrowicz, the second, Dina – with Menachem Berman in Warsaw, and the third, Bracha, married Israel’cheh, the Rabbi’s son. Yankl Zukrowicz dreamed of settling in the Land of Israel. In the year 1938, Polish hooligans beat him up severely, and he was bedridden because of this for a while. In 1939, the Germans dragged him off to Prussia. He returned, when the Russians were already in the city, and he fell ill, and died. His two daughters, with their husbands and children – were exterminated by the Nazis.

The Family of Gershon Srebrowicz

Mr. Gershon Srebrowicz , the son of R’ Joseph and Miriam, was born in Vienna in 1880, to a family of learned folk. He was enlightened and a Maskil. He knew [several] languages, and was a Zionist, and very honest man. He came to Zambrow in 1905, and married Jocheved (Khev’czi) the daughter of Yaakov and Sarah Rachel Zukrowicz. He dealt in wholesale and forest products, and afterwards went into a manufacturing line of work. Together with Mr. Berusz Krida, and other partners, he founded the first ‘Polosz’ – a works for the ??? and dyeing of wool. This operation (as well as the second one that was built in its place after The First World War, by the Prawda brothers) still made use of central steam power before there was electricity in Zambrow.

photo, right: Gershon Srebrowicz


When The First World War broke out, Mr. Gershon was separated from his family, and remained in Russia until the end of the war. There, he also engaged in commerce, and also in exploiting the sale of coal. When the war ended, he returned to Zambrow, and after the Bolshevik invasion of 1920, Mr. Gershon was seized, by rioting Polish soldiers, along with other Jewish balebatim, and severely beaten.

They were rescued from them by a miracle, and remained alive. At that same time, the Pharmacist Szklovin was murdered by them. He joined the second ‘Polosz’, after it was re-built anew by the Prawda brothers , one of whom, Sholom Eizik, was one of the workers at the first ‘Polosz.’ Mr. Gershon engaged in community affairs faithfully, and earned the community’s recognition, being elected to serve as the head of the community, and for a period of time, also served as the deputy to the head of the city, while permission was still being given for a Jew to do this (without salary). He was the Chairman of the OZEH institution that maintained oversight regarding the health of poor children.

His wife, Jocheved , was thoroughly versed in the Tanakh and the general Hebrew literature, knew languages, and was active in the ladies social help organization called ‘Frauen Verein.’ Her house was a Zionist one, and her children were educated in the spirit of The People, its tradition, and the Hebrew language was constantly to be found on their lips. Three of their sons, Joseph, Nahum and Yehuda made aliyah to The Land of Israel. However, fortune soured for the parents and the remainder of the members of the family. Gershon and his wife were incinerated at Auschwitz along with most of the Jews of Zambrow. Their youngest son, Meir also met his end there, who was seventeen years old, and so yearned to make aliyah to The Land. Their daughter Zippora, a sister who was a graduate, was murdered by The Scourge at a place of religious persecution beside the village of Szumowo. Their son Moshe (very well schooled, and a man of spirit, who was first a Zionist and then a communist), together with his wife Chasha, the daughter of the teacher R’ Zerakh, as was their little daughter Rachel’eh – were exterminated in the Bialystok ghetto.

R’ Shmuel’keh Wilimowsky

R’ Shmuel’keh Wilimowsky stands before my eyes, as he did close to six decades ago: He was among the first of the builders of the city and the community. He was a man of middling height and handsome presence. He had a long white patriarchal beard, that covered his broad girth, large black penetrating eyes, shielded by heavy white eyebrows. He was always dressed well, and very clean in appearance, striding with a measured step, to the White Bet HaMedrash, accompanied by his loyal only son, Abraham-Yossl – a tall, rangy, dark-colored young man, along with his grandchildren. He was a Gabbai for many years, of the White Bet HaMedrash which was the redoubt of the more modern element in the city, until he reached a wondrously old age. For many years, R’ Shmuel’keh was a Dozor in the municipal government. He was also the president of the Chevra Kadisha in the city, an ombudsman of the good of the Jews in the city and its environs. His house was the first Jewish house built of cement in the city. Army officers would lodge at his home in the time before the barracks were constructed – representing the government, because there was not another home as pleasant or clean like it, in the city. Among his guests was the son of Baron Horacy Ginsberg from Petersburg, who served as an officer in the Russian army. He ran a saloon, as many others did, because Zambrow had become a center for many tracts.

When R’ Shmuel’keh was already deeply advanced in age, a ‘revolution’ broke out in the White Bet HaMedrash: the younger generation demanded a younger Gabbai. As a result there was an upheaval: shall we, after all these years, remove – in his old age – this perennially dedicated Gabbai? The young revolutionaries emerged victorious, because R’ Shmuel’keh himself no longer wanted to be elected Gabbai – being of such advanced age... Accordingly, the Chairman of the youth group, R’ Itcheh Levinson was elected, ‘Harlakova’s’ (Greenwald) husband, as Gabbai.

His only soon, [Abraham]-Joseph Wilimowsky followed in his footsteps, though he had no taste for getting involved in community matters, despite the fact that he was quite prominent in his tobacco business, in which Jewish folk would sit around discussing world politics. Yet he too, was a Gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha, and one of the dignitaries of the community. His grandson, Moshe Williams, worked in the printing business in the United States, but later on went into farming, raising fowl on his own property. He was talented with a pen, and one of his poems ‘Ich shreib a briv’, is published in this book. Ephraim had artistic talents, and was a printer in Lomza and was exterminated along with his entire family.

The only one surviving from this entire family – Elazar Wilimowsky, is in Hadar Yosef beside Tel-Aviv.

The Home of the Kuszarers (Levinsky)


Pesach Yerusalimsky
Avrem’l Levinsky – Kuszarer

Five generations ago, a person named Moshe or Joseph Levinsky lived in Zambrow. He had three sons: Leibusz, Herschel, and Yitzhak. Leibusz had five sons and four daughters: Yoss’keh, Ber’keh, Gershon, Moshe, Chaim Velvel (Bialystok), Malka (America), Rivka, Fradl (the wife of Elyeh Rudniker-Goren) and Itkeh. Herschel had four daughters: Sarah Gefner, of these, the wife of Binyom’keh Golombek, Reizl Meisner, Golda Weinberg, and one son. Itcheh had three sons and three daughters: Moshe, Zelig, Abraham’l Reina Brizman, Sarah Czerwonigurer, and one other, the three brothers Leibusz, Herschel and Itcheh bought a large parcel from Shlomkeh the butcher, where later on, the barracks were built, called ‘Kuszaren.’ This is the origin of their [family name] ‘Kuszarer’.

Abraham’l Kuszarer, my grandfather, ran a saloon in Zambrow. He liquidated it in 1921. He sold his land property and came to Israel. Here, he fell ill, and died in Tel-Aviv, and was interred in the old cemetery. Before he died, he gave over 300 pounds sterling to his relative Leibchak Golombek, to endow a Home for the Aged on Allenby Street, that was then in the process of being built.

The oldest of the Kuszarers is today in America, Yitzhak Levinsky, in Florida.

The Yerusalimsky Family (Yerushalmi)


R’ Elyeh-Zalman Yerusalimsky
(The Winemaker)

Mordechai Yerusalimsky and his wife

My grandfather, Elyeh Zalman, the winemaker. settled in Zambrow in the year 1875, who came from Scucyn and was engaged in making raisin wine. Because of harassment by the authorities, he began to make denatured spirits for use in polishes, and also did some smuggling of whisky for human consumption. He wanted to go to the Land of Israel, however the Rebbe of Ger did not give him permission to do so. It was only after the Rebbe passed away, that my grandfather came to the [sic: new] young Rebbe, and asked for his blessing in connection with making aliyah to Israel. My grandfather had three sons: 1. Mordechai, who at the age of 15, married a daughter of Abraham’l Kuszarer, and took up residence in the Land of Israel in 1936, traveled to Poland before the outbreak of the war there, and was exterminated there. 2. Velvel, who received Rabbinic ordination in Minsk. and was a leader of the Mizrahi in Mieszeniec. 3. Pesach – studied in Navahardok, received his Rabbinic ordination in Volozhin, married there, and came to the Land of Israel before The First World War, was a teacher, and taught at the Bezalel Fine Arts Academy, and returned to Poland. My grandfather and grandmother came to the Land of Israel in 1909, and took up residence in Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, and made raisin wine. He invested his money, 500 rubles, in an unsuccessful loan for a Yeshiva and an Old Age Home. They went bankrupt, and my grandfather was left unwillingly living from handouts, and returned to Zambrow.

R’ Abraham Shlomo Dzenchill (Pracht)

By Israel Levinsky


It is not without an inner trembling in my heart, that I approach the task of setting down my memories of R’ Abraham Shlomo Dzenchill. To begin with, this was a simple Jewish man, a son of butchers, who owned a market store and various trifles priced at a penny: the inventory in his store never amounted to more than a few rubles (during the rule of the Russians), and most of this was not his own, since he would take the goods on consignment from wholesalers, who would consign to him a sack of flour, a cask of oil, a few liters of sugar, on condition that he repay his outstanding loan, when he would come to procure fresh inventory on consignment.

photo, left: R’ Abraham Shlomo Dzenchill (Pracht)

And how he would stand out, for example, on market days, when the farmers would bring their produce [for sale] and it was possible to purchase some grain for a passing wagon driver, a sack of potatoes, or even a stand of wheat and corn, in order to sell it at a profit to the steam-powered flour mill – and the poor, ??? coming out to do something, with pockets empty, and there is not one penny to put next to anotherOn Thursday and Friday, when his steady customers, the women, would come to by their Sabbath needs, one buying flour, yeast and other grains for Challah, another oil, sugar, candles – the shelves empty, and he still doesn’t have the requisite sum in hand, that he needs to pay for the credit extended to him the prior week, and the same suffering returns, and the same running around. And this was the way this man lived for all the years that I knew him, but never once did I hear a complaint from his lips. A gentle laugh, and a smile, always flitted on his lips. There was no shadow of worry on his face. Quite the opposite, he knew how to joke with his customers, using beautiful funny stories, and sayings that would provoke laughter, sharp retorts, and it was with this that he attracted customers. He would stand in his store, despite the straitened circumstances, and was more concerned with his customers on the outside, that is to say: those that didn’t come to buy – because of poverty, and it was necessary to provide them with a clandestine gift, to help them with their Sabbath needs. [He worried about] Yeshiva students, or some guest for whom it was necessary to find a place to take a Sabbath meal, and similar sorts of concerns. What should he do first: Himself or these others? An intense internal struggle seethed within him, and yet suddenly, he would turn to his dear wife, who was as good as he was, and say: Etkeh, my love, I am obliged to approach a wholesaler in order to provide for a certain individual. With permission from his wife, he was then released to do freely what he wanted to for a quarter of an hour. On his way, he would turn off and pay a visit to someone who was sick, a poor laborer who had become bedridden. In the process of inquiring about his well-being, he looks at the medicine jars, and with his sharp eye, he discerns the straitened circumstances of the family: the house is empty, the children are pale and depressed, they sit dumbly in a corner, not making a sound. The woman of the house is already exhausted, her legs are giving out from her need to tend the sick one, and from walking around the house. R’ Abraham Shlomo offers encouragement to the sick person, encouraged the wife, and sends the children to play outside, wished the sick person a complete recovery, and runs quickly to the Gabbai of the ‘Bikur Kholim,’ rousing him to send this family aid. From there, he strides purposefully to the ‘Guardians of the Sick,’ and orders that two people be sent as watchmen for overnight surveillance, to lighten the burden on the woman of the house, so she can rest at night. In passing, he alerts the ear of those women, who have means, that there is a need to bring her some chicken soup, a spoon full of sauce in order to help restore the sick person’s disposition. And it is only then that he reminds himself that he has more than used up the time that his wife had allocated to him, and he quickly goes to the wholesalers, standing like the proverbial pauper at the doorway, until such time that the individual in question will turn to him, and lend him that which he is missing.

And here he is back in his store, showing Etkeh’leh what he brought, in order to appease her and engage her approval of the fact that he had spent so much time outside, he takes off his shabby kapote, and with the fringes of his tallit-katan, longer in length that several hand breadths, over his knees, he takes his place behind the table, and sends his wife home. But the needs of the people are many, and the assaults on his time are huge. Here comes a woman, with a babe in her arms, unceasingly wailing – an ‘evil eye’ has impacted him, according to his mother – and R’ Abraham Shlomo knew how to calm her down. A second woman [arrives] – with a swelling that has appeared on her leg, and to whom else is there to turn, but to R’ Abraham Shlomo, to make the swelling go down. And this goes on all say, this one leaves, and another comes in to take her place, and R’ Abraham Shlomo receives all of them with courtesy, knowing their need, and does whatever is in his power and to whatever extent his capacity extends, ‘to heal the broken-hearted, and to dress the wounds of their souls.’

And it is not only that he dedicates his time to the welfare of others, he even puts his own life in danger to save his customers from death. Here was the case of the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in the town. Healthy and vigorous people drop like flies. An outcry and wailing breaks out all over the town. Several men have already died – the plague is spreading. The Gabbaim of the city have decided to stand in the breach, and to come to the aid of those who succumb to this illness. They set up a process whereby, all day, boiling water will be at hand, at specified places, so that hot soaks can be made available to those touched by the plague, there will be bottles of spirit and alcohol vinegar, which will be given at no charge to anyone who asks. And R’ Abraham Shlomo, who was among those who arranged for these previously mentioned things, leaves his store entirely, and commits himself totally to those who become infected, he and other men like him, of robust constitution, volunteer to be among those who provide hot soaks. When the hands and feet of the stricken person become weak, cold and stiff, he rolls up his sleeves and uses the hot water and clean spirits to wash down the stricken person, warming them up a bit, and thereby saving them from death. And he has work to do. All day long, he rushes from one sick person to the next, literally risking his own life. But it is not possible to save all those who are stricken, and the plague spreads, without any apparent power to stop it. It was then that the dignitaries of the city decide to marry two orphans at the cemetery – a boon that has been proven among us to interdict the Angel of Death. And here, R’ Abraham Shlomo runs, looking for an orphan boy and an orphan girl, urging on women to get together some bit of a dowry, a smattering of clothing, charges the rich with supporting the couple, some for a week, others for a month – and the wedding is conducted at night, at the cemetery, accompanied by the sounds of the musicians, and the head Mekhutan is R’ Abraham Shlomo, coming out in a dance, and bringing joy to the groom and the bride, and if the Angel of Death was halted and turned away , history is silent.

R’ Abraham Shlomo does not fear bringing an infectious disease into his own home. Here, a Yeshiva student, a young man, was a guest that had stayed behind in Zambrow for a set time, suddenly fell sick with speckled typhus, and there is no one who will give the young man a place, and there is no hospital in the city – what is to be done? To leave the sick one out in the street – that is impossible. And here, R’ Abraham Shlomo makes a place for him in his room, bringing the sick one inside, who was known subsequently as Abraham Mizrach from Lomza. He tended him as if he were his own son, whom he was trying to return to good health.

And who can tell of all the acts of charity and kindness that this man, R’ Abraham Shlomo, does day in and day out, week in and week out. R’ Abraham Shlomo was also a God-fearing man, rigorously observant, and a keeper of mitzvot, and does not overlook even the most insignificant mitzvah. On the Sabbath, he does not engage in conversation that is best left to the rest of the week. He also sets aside time for Torah [study], even if he does not have great adeptness for it. He was given the nickname ‘Pracht,’ because to everything, he would say, ‘Yoh dos iz pracht !’

At the outset, he was something of an unbeliever – he read novels, wore the short clothing favored by the more modern. But this period of being a disbeliever only lasted for a few years, and he became transformed, it was said, into something of a returning prodigal. Some spirit passed over him that altered his direction, and nobody knows what, but from the time that this change came over him, he wanted to atone for the transgressions of his youth, and dedicated himself to work for the common good, to engage in mitzvot and good deeds, and also to set time aside for Torah study. From the beginning, he would study a chapter of the Mishna, Chayei Adam, which came to him only with difficulty, and a great deal of enervation, and he would have to depend on others to explain it to him. However, with diligence and speed, he reached the Mishna and the Gemara. And when the local Rabbi volunteered to teach a periodic Talmud class, R’ Abraham Shlomo became one of his students, and great supporters, even though, prior to that, he was not one of his followers.

He had no sons. It is possible that this fact also served as a brake on his community endeavors. As I have already mentioned, his wife too,was also was a very honest woman, good-hearted, and of giving spirit, and she did not stand in her husband’s shadow, and did not object ro to all that he did, or if he brought several guests home for the Sabbath, after not being able to find a place for them to eat with other balebatim, even if she was not predisposed towards them. In the final years of his life, he dedicated himself entirely to the Yeshiva and its students, and was one of the ‘Cossacks’ of the Rabbi: He would accompany him even outside the country, on his trip to a sanatorium. He became a zealot, and opposed all things that were progressive.

The Jewish Ladies Society for Social Help

The Pride of the City

By Yom Tov Levinsky

Abraham Abba (Abcheh) Rakowsky


Abraham Abba (Abcheh) Rakowsky


R’ Azriel-Leib Rakowsky (Abcheh’s Father)

The Zambrow community went on to become distinguished by its pleasant grooms, because of the desire of the balebatim of the time to procure a groom for their daughters who was exceptional, well-connected by pedigree, and a man of accomplishment. One such among the balebatim was Muszka Burstein, who was called ‘Muszka Poritz,’ because he was wealthy, a property owner, who owned large horses ??? and a saloon, and who rode around in a carriage fit for Polish nobility, with three pairs of horses harnessed to it, and a wagon driver, a gentile, sitting behind it. With money, he ‘bought’ a magnificent groom for his daughter, the son of R’ Azriel Leib Rakowsky – Abraham Abba. R’ Azriel Leib, the groom’s father, had a reputation as one of the great rabbis of Poland and occupied the rabbinical seat of Stavisk, transferring after honor, to serve as the Rabbi of Pluck, the provincial seat, and from there, to Mstsislaw, the city of the historian Simon Dubnow, a very important congregation of that time, and also famous for the blood libel that occurred there. His final post was in Mariampol – an aristocratic congregation, replete with scholars and wise men. He died there, on Yom Kippur in the year 5654 (1894), at the age of seventy-five.

This ‘yahrzeit’ was observed for many years among the scions of Zambrow, even though the Rabbi R’ Azriel Leib was not known there personally – because his son, Abraham Abba, would lead Ne‘ila services on the yahrzeit of his late father, and his prayer would leave a deep impression on all the worshipers. Abraham Abba did not have a pleasant voice, as did the others who led services during the High Holy Days, but his personal style of prayer was unique and was not favored by the cantors of the time. He had an ‘enlightened’ approach to the recitation of the poetry of Selichot and The Holy Day. He exhibited special outpouring of the soul regarding the handiwork of The Holy One, Blessed Be He: ‘You set humanity apart from the outset, recognizing that it would stand before you.’ And also in the entreaties: ‘Your people have many needs, but their understanding is limited,’ and also longing for Zion: ‘As I see every city on its hillock, fully built, and the City of God is plunged down to the utter depths,’ etc., etc. The White Bet HaMedrash would fill up at Ne‘ila until there was no more room because, from all of the surrounding houses of worship – they came to hear Abcheh’s Ne‘ila, that being Abraham Abba. Abraham-Abba had a special privilege, they would say, on reciting this prayer, as the great-grandson of the Gaon, author of ‘Zera Berekh,’ R’ Yitzhak Eizik, one of the children of the Saintly SHaLo”H (R’ Yeshaya Hurwicz, the Gaon and Kabbalist, and author of the book, ‘The Two Tablets of the Covenant’ 1558), may his worthiness serve as a shield over us....and whose pedigree extends back all the way to King David.

Abraham Abba was born in Mariampol in the year 1854 in Kirov, studied at the Yeshiva of Plock and others, and was renown for his genius in the whole vicinity. While yet at an early age ‘???:’ he made friends at the Plock yeshiva with one – Nahum Sokolov, and together with him began an intensive study in secular studies: languages, and the sciences of mathematics, nature, history and literature. As Nahum Sokolov recalls from his own memories, the core of his studies lay in languages. How is it that R’ Abraham Abba learned languages? He had no teacher, and he was first attracted to French. What did he do? He inherited a large dictionary in this language, and he memorized it in alphabetical order. As you can surmise, without being able to properly pronounce the words according to the principles of French grammar, and without the capacity to leave out even a single letter, adhering to what was written in the dictionary... and after this he learned the Polish language – a language derided by the Jewish intelligentsia in Poland, because it was difficult to ‘make any career’ out of it, in the face of Russian, which was the language of the ruling conquerors that pervaded all walks of life in Poland. Abraham Abba went so far as to even translate an assortment of works from the Polish literature into Hebrew, especially from the writings of Eliza Orzeszkowa: ‘Mirtala,’ ‘On Alien Soil’ and others. Afterwards he learned German – the language that opened gates to the lore of Israel, which was mostly written in this language, and went so far as to even translate a number of books into Hebrew, such as ‘Killed Without a Trial’ – a novel by Philipson about The Maharam [Meir ben Baruch] of Rothenburg, who died in prison in city of Kolonia, not wanting his brethren to ransom him for the exorbitant sum that the authorities demanded for him . He translated ‘The Dispersed of Israel,’ ‘The Revenge,’ and many others. When he reached the discipline of the English language, Abraham Abba mastered it by the use of a dictionary, learning it by heart and then translating, as is understood into Hebrew, several choice gems from the literature, like: ‘The Shoot From the Stem of Jesse,’ or ‘David Alro’ee,’ – the famous book of the Zionist, Lord Beaconsfield, Disraeli (given a prize, in his time by the subscribers of ‘HaTzefira’) and others.

As early as 1872, while still young, he began to publish in ‘HaMaggid,’ which appeared in Lik ???, writings on science and linguistic innovations, and was an assistant to R’ Chaim Zelig Slonimsky (ChaZa”S), the owner of HaTzefira, and frequently published essays on Torah, wisdom, nature, and current events, and afterwards became the right-hand man to his friend Nahum Sokolov, the editor-in-chief of HaTzefira, and to the anthologists assembling literary-scientific works in the collection ‘HeAssif.’ The sage ChaZa”S exchanged letters with Abraham Abba all the days of his life, and not only once tried to encourage him to leave his town and come to Warsaw, and dedicate himself to science and literature. However, a number of obstacles stood in his way, and he remained among his ‘folk’ in Zambrow.

In the world of commerce and manufacture, Abraham Abba made a reputation for himself with his book ‘The Tractate on Notes,’ – which to this day is one of the most valued books in our literature. With the acuity of one of the original Amoraites, and with a Talmudic nuance that is wondrously clear, he revealed to the Jewish student who, by and large, was one of the denizens of the Bet HaMedrash, with this idiom intrinsic to his mouth, all of the ways in which commerce is conducted and its intricacies, the rules governing borrower and lender according to the laws of the land, the rules of banking, the laws of charging interest, bankruptcy, and issues involving financial documents, etc. He did not sign this with his proper name, but rather as ‘Loh Saifa v’Loh Safra ’ – so he would not be a target of religious fanatics. In this book, he took the blinders off the eyes of thousands among Polish Jewry, who had taken their hand and energy to commerce, without knowledge of how it was conducted, nor of the laws of the land. The ultra-religious and fanatics looked upon him with an angry eye, because they saw in this a sort of desecration of the Talmud, because it was written with great skill and understanding, similar to the Gemara. and there were even fanatics who wanted him excommunicated. When the Chief Rabbi of Lomza, R’ Malkhiel Tanenbaum  passed away, several of the enlightened balebatim put forward the name of Abraham Abba, as a candidate for the rabbinical seat of the city. However the zealots and Hasidim organized protest gatherings: the author of ‘The Tractate of Notes,’ Abcheh the Apostate. He is to be our rabbi and Bet-Din senior – oh, what a shame that will be!...And they were compelled to withdraw his name from consideration. He was among the first of the Zionists in Poland, and gave much of his soul to this concept in his writing, and speaking, and discourses, in Hebrew and several other languages. In 1904, when the news of the passing of Dr. Benjamin Ze’ev [sic: Theodore] Herzl made the rounds in Zambrow, they turned, naturally to Abcheh, to eulogize the Zionist leader. The rabbi of the city – a fierce opponent of Zionism, as was the case with the rabbis of that day – oversaw the locking of all gates to houses of worship, in order that this ‘apostate’ not be mourned. However, the Zionist camp prevailed, and especially the ‘satin youth’ – the enlightened sons-in-law of Zambrow who had come from various other towns, headed by my father, R’ Israel, the enlightened teacher in the town, and they broke open the doors of the White Bet HaMedrash, which was a bastion of the progressive element. R’ Abraham Abba, was carried aloft on their hands to the bima, and he stood there, wrapped in a tallit as if he was one of the religious preachers, and he eulogized Dr. Herzl. As part of a trenchant analysis in Zionist principles, and the work of the founder of ‘The Jewish State,’ he offered a chapter from ‘Khibat Tzion,’ and in his attempt to hasten independence for The Land of Israel he described Herzl’s agonies, his tribulations and journeys that took a toll on his health, etc. When he came to the conventional conclusion of all preachers, ‘And may the Redeemer Come to Zion, and Thy Will Be Done, Speedily in Our Days, Amen!,’ the entire gathering joined in crying along with him, and the Mourners of Zion, together with all other mourners, in the recitation of a Kaddish D’Rabanan Kaddish... For this Kaddish D’Rabbanan Kaddish, after the eulogy to the ‘apostate’ Herzl, the Rabbi and the fanatic Jews could not forgive him for many years... R’ Abba did not use his schooling and education to make a living, but made a respectable living in the selling of oil and appurtenances for those who work with steel. He received a ‘concession’ to bring barrels of oil from Baku to Chranibory – the railroad station closest to Zambrow – and there transfer it to casks. Several families made a living from this. He had a sharp competitor in this business, Mr. Benjamin Tanenbaum, who also had received a concession from his wife’s relatives, owners of the famous ‘Cohen’ oil company of Petersburg. In the year 1905, during the time of the upheaval and revolutionary movement in Russia, the ‘strikers’ – the Jewish revolutionaries in Zambrow, members of the Bund and the S. S. – came to Abcheh Rakowsky with the entreaty that he stand on their side, and help them in communication, and even more with his money. As an ardent Zionist – he did not succumb to them and did not have a favorable view of the Jewish participation in the Russian Revolution. In those days, Abcheh was highly respected, and well-received in the regional courts of law run by the government, because he knew all of the laws of the country by heart, and therefore the influential judges and similarly the lawyers relied on him for advice and direction. Because of this, he received permission to be a defense attorney in the court, even though he had no formal training in the legal aspects of jurisprudence. This sort of an individual was designated as a ‘civilian trustee.’ It can be understood that for these reasons, Abraham Abba could not throw his hand in with the revolutionaries. The latter became angry with him, because they knew: If Abcheh were on their side – all of the balebatim would follow in his footsteps. Accordingly, they sent people from the P. P. S., the Polish Socialists, to try and influence him. When they did not succeed – they began to threaten him with ‘terror’ and ‘expropriation.’ as was common in those days. Abcheh was not moved by any of this. On one day, this was early on a Friday, the news spread in the city that the Jewish and Polish revolutionaries had that night broken into the oil storage facilities of Abcheh, opened all the casks, and turned them upside down. The oil ran out all night, into the Zambrow river... in the morning, when the news spread, the children of the poor, especially Poles, ran to the river to skim off the top layers of the river because the oil, which is lighter than water, was floating on the top and covered a well-defined part of the surface of the river. This incident provoked a great deal of anger in the entire city, and on the Sabbath it was a subject of the day for conversation in all the houses of worship.

Many young boys from poor families would come to dine at the table of Abraham Abba on a daily basis, who were students at the yeshiva, and his wife would personally serve the prepared foods, despite the fact that she always had helpers and cooks.

Abraham Abba represented the Jewish community to the régime, even at a time when there was an administrative rabbi (Kozioner Rabbiner) in Zambrow, Rabbi Gold, and even after Rabbi Regensberg received this title. If trouble visited the city, through informing, arrest, breaking the law, the levying of taxes, decrees on participating in paving the roads, etc., etc. – Abraham Abba would travel to Lomza to appear before the governor, and to either have the decree nullified or have it lightened. On the eve of festivals or holidays, when the city wanted to have the Jewish soldiers released from the barracks and to host them in Jewish homes during the holiday – a coach was hitched up for Abcheh, and he in his cylindrical top hat, wearing a black Sabbath cloak, shod in white spats, would ride off to the military commander who was in the city – to ask for a furlough for the Jewish soldiers, and to even turn over the ‘proviant’ the food rations for the Jewish soldiers, to the community, in order that the community, or the committee dealing with the soldiers, would be able to procure kosher food in accordance with Jewish law and custom.

When a contingent of raw recruits would arrive at the city barracks, at the beginning of the Fall, and it was necessary to swear them in – it was Abcheh who went, along with the rabbi of the city, who was not conversant in Russian, to ‘swear in’ the Jewish soldiers, who numbered in the many hundreds, and to make a ‘patriotic’ speech to them in Russian. This responsibility was placed on Abcheh. In his talk before the Jewish soldiers, who for the most part didn’t understand the language in which he spoke, the national language, it was Abcheh’s intent to grab the intention of the Russian officers and commanders, with regard to the Jewish question and the dilemmas faced by a Jewish soldier, who continues in the tradition of his forbears regarding kashrut, Sabbath observance, prayer, and the like, and that there is no contradiction in terms between this and loyalty to the homeland.

One time, a new Provincial Governor was appointed in Lomza. The latter came to Zambrow in order to become familiar with the extent of his domain. This, as it happens, turned out to be on Rosh Hashana. The community rabbi, and the heads of the community who went out to greet him on this Day of Judgment bearing bread and salt, invited him into the White Bet HaMedrash, which glistened at that time with the cleanliness within, after the gabbai, R’ Itcheh Levinson, gave it a facelift, re-plastered, decorated and carved a new Holy Ark, and installed new gas candelabras, etc. As understood, Abcheh was the principal greeter, from the standpoint of the congregation and all the worshipers. The rabbi of the city also put in an appearance, who routinely side-stepped the White Bet HaMedrash – because most of those who opposed and harassed him worshiped here, and it was here that the Zionist leadership also gathered itself, such as Benjamin Kagan, Shlomo Blumrosen, the Burstein family, Kossowsky, Levinson, Levinsky and others. All of the arriving government guests went up onto the bima, with the Governor at their head, accompanied by his entourage: officers, heads of the police, military commanders, and others. It was a festive occasion full that made a big impression. The Hazzan and his choir opened with the Russian national anthem in honor of the Czar: ‘ ,’ after which R’ Abba Rakowsky held forth for about an hour in a fluent Russian, comparable to one of the distinguished residents of the capitol in Petersburg, and he was merely a citizen of a little town, who doesn’t even haven anyone with whom to speak Russian extensively. The speech he gave continues to reverberate in my ears to this day, on the importance of Rosh Hashana to the Jews, the Day of Judgment, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, the beginning of the New Year, and more importantly than all of them, ‘The Day of Remembrance’ in which the King of the Universe remembers us, and makes an accounting of all countries and all living things. The king of a country is like an eye ??? of the King of the Universe, and he also recalls all of its citizenry favorably, making no distinction between one root of origin or another, or between one faith or another, and we, the Jewish citizenry, enter here, and we bless the king in our prayers, especially in the prayer ‘Hanotayn Teshua LiMlakhim ,’ and he recalled the Czar, the Czarina, the widowed Queen Mother, and the Czarevich. The entire entourage stood by dumbly, as if ossified. After the singing of ,   by the Hazzan and the choir, and the entire congregation – everyone exited extremely satisfied, and with comments of gratitude. The whisper passed from mouth to ear: Abcheh sanctified The Name! He explained to the ruler what Judaism was and what it was worth, he brought out in relief the nature of Hebrew nationalism that had been exiled from its homeland, and yet continues to anticipate the coming of The Messiah, to ‘the confidantes of the Czar,’ etc. And yet, they also told from mouth to ear that at the time of the singing of ,  , a group gathered around R’ Israel Levinsky (the father of this writer, who at that time had been seized as a ‘revolutionary’ Zionist, and supported the Poalei Tzion) and this group sang the ‘Hatikvah’ –‘ and the two sets of voices intermingled with each other...

The elections to the national Duma did not pass by without the oversight of Abcheh. In large gatherings that took place in the White Bet HaMedrash, the community was given a lesson in citizenship, in which he explained and taught the obligations of citizenship to the government, and the obligations of the government to the citizen, and he stressed the national link that the enlightened Zionists of the time in Poland loathed, and for whom ‘HaTzefira’ was their platform. At that time, Abraham Abba went so far as to have several articles published in HaTzefira regarding the new Russian Constitution, and what the expectations of Polish Jewry might be under this franchise. These were civics lessons that were denied to the Jewish community, who were deprived of their rights as citizens and left to the mercy and whim of every policeman and official. In fact, Abcheh was selected by the régime as one of the overseers responsible for the conduct of the Duma elections, in the Lomza District.

After the Second Fire in Zambrow, the city declined. Those that received insurance funds began to build and erect their houses anew, on a more esthetic and grandiose scale. However, funds were lacking to complete the building. Additionally, craftsmen needed to fall back on loans, both large and small, to upgrade their workshops, buy new sewing machines, packing material, and the like.

And it was at this juncture that R’ Abcheh called for a community gathering, on a Saturday night in the White Bet HaMedrash. He proposed to establish a bank for craftsmen and merchants in need of funding. It would be a source of loans and current savings. ‘If I am not for myself – then who is for me?' – R’ Abba issued his words like a fire. Those with means would deposit their monies and savings in the bank. those in need of funds – would receive loans of short tenor, guaranteed by two balebatim. Everyone would be encourage to take advantage for himself, and neighbors, and the benefits would accrue to the city as a whole. His loyal student, R’ Yaakov Shlomo Kukawka, the shoemaker, took it upon himself to ‘raise funds,’ meaning that he went from house-to-house, to engage in negotiation that asked of people to deposit money in the bank, which would serve as a capital base for the needed loans. The bank developed quite nicely, sanctioned by the Head of the Czarist Treasury, and continued its work until the First World War in the year 1914, when the government froze all deposits and transferred them to Russia.

On one of those days, he received a Jewish delegation from London, with a proposal that he accept the rabbinical seat of their congregation. The idea of being the Chief Rabbi of London was very enticing to R’ Abba, but family matters kept him from accepting – and the offer was postponed.

Abraham Abba also had enlightened sons who were educated. And the same of his daughters – for whom he exerted himself to provide them with teachers who would lead them onto an enlightened and progressive path. He, however, did not derive parental satisfaction from his sons. One son, Mendl, was riding on a bicycle (the first bicycle in the city, at the end of the 19th century!), crashed into a tree, suffered a fatal blow, and died afterwards while suffering terribly. His son Alter, was an ordained rabbi, was enlightened and capable. He died in Leningrad in 1939 and left a family behind. After Alter, six daughters were born to him, and then a son, in his old age, Israel. The daughters were: Chaycheh (is in Russia with a nameless family), Chana, the wife of Horodowsky, who returned to Zambrow, Mircheh (who lived in Lucyn with her family, the Baums, and was lost in the Bialystok ghetto), Tzipka (died in Russia before the war: Her husband Dimschitz was a mathematics professor and a famous chess player in Russia), Pua (Pycheh, wife of the well-known artist Yosseleh Kolodny of Pinsk) died in Zambrow, and Lyuba (lives with a family in Russia). All the daughters were educated, spoke French as their native language, and even knew Hebrew and the Talmud. It was not only once that vigorous discussions ensued on Talmudic subjects between these daughters and yeshiva students – who came to have their meals at R’ Abcheh’s table, both on the Sabbath and during the week.

His youngest son, Israel’keh, was the most talented of his sons, and I remember him as being handsome from the days of my early childhood. He was possessed of an earthy sense of humor and was given to writing. He wrote stories about life in the town, in the style of ‘Sholom Aleichem.’ During gatherings of the youth in Zambrow, and in a number of nearby locations, Israel’keh would read from his works. He would occasionally ??? the wealthy of the city, and spice up his subject matter with portraits of typical personalities of the town, using expressions and rhymes about the simple folk, and the entire audience would roll with laughter. I can still hear the echoes of a refrain of parody, from one of his songs, which all the listeners would sing and spread throughout the city: this came after a dispute between two competing clothing store merchants: Gottleib and Shepsl Kwaitak, who raised their hands, one to the other, in the midst of a heated exchange: One picked up a rod, and his counterpart took off the belt from his pants and whipped with it. The entire city was in a boiling state. At that time, Israel’keh sang in the manner of how the common folk sing: ‘Hoi shepsl mittn ridl, Gottleib mittn pas, shpilt zhe mir a lidl oyfn Zembrover gasse.’ (Oh, Shepsl with the rod, and Gottleib with the belt, play me a song on the Zambrow street). Israel’keh took gymnasium exams in Odessa, and close to the onset of the First World War, was accepted for study at the Montefiore Polytechnicum in Liege in Belgium to study chemistry. The World War broke out. A contingent of students, who had come from Russia, were drafted to guard the fort at Liege against the German invasion. The entire group, with he amongst them, retreated afterwards to France, together with the Belgian Army. After a number of trials he came to Paris, where he completed his studies at the university and worked as a chemist at a number of substantial manufacturing facilities. He was an active participant in Jewish culture and sunk his entire energy into helping emigrating Jews, in getting their children settled into summer camps and schools. His schoolmate, Nowomaysky, invited him to come and work in the exploitation of the Dead Sea – however, for whatever reason, the matter did not come to fruition. Close to the Second World War, he returned to Zambrow, harried and disappointed, and he was exterminated along with all the other [sic: Jewish] residents of the city.


Let us return to Abraham Abba. As The First World War intensified, [and] Abraham Abba and his family moved into the interior of Russia. He suffered all of the terror of the revolution, his assets were foreclosed on, his money confiscated, and he was left naked and without anything, ending up as a retailer, selling soap in the marketplace – in order to be able to eat a slice of proletarian bread. When the repatriation treaty between Soviet Russia and Poland was concluded, Abraham Abba also returned to Poland, to Zambrow, an old man, bent, weary from being on the run and oppressed. With what was left of his strength, he began the process of trying to rebuild his house anew.

 photo, left: Engineer Yisrael’keh Rakowsky

The sense of ‘and there arose a new king [in Egypt] that knew not Joseph’ assaulted him in an awful manner. With great difficulty, and after tribulations with it, the Poles reinstated his privileges. All of the officials and the Starosta did not take cognizance of him, and did not properly estimate the man.

Nevertheless, they were amazed at the old Jewish man, literally dressed in taters, a refugee from Russia, speaking the Polish language with clarity, even better than the Polish Magnates.

These same people were surprised to hear from his mouth, that which they were obligated to do, in support of the national and international law, to recognize his rights as a citizen, and his ownership of his property, etc. The father of the author of these columns, who occasionally lived with Abraham Abba and was his friend for many years, fell into trouble with the office of the Starosta in Lomza, on the matter of the issuance of a permit of some kind, and resided for a short while beside Abcheh, and didn’t recognize him. This exhausted old man no longer recognized my father. And here, the bailiff announces from the corridor: ‘citizen Abraham Abba Rakowsky, is requested to enter the office!’ It is not possible to describe the emotion that passed between them, when each recognized the other, after a separation of about ten years. Abraham Abba fell on my father’s neck and fainted... this was the last time that they met, because a short while after this, he fell sick with the spotted or intestinal typhus that was wreaking havoc at that time in Poland, and Abraham Abba took to bed, from which he did not arise. And yet, he had managed, since his return from Russia, to sit for the ??? Polish law examinations, and was awarded the right too act as a [local] defense attorney in the courts (Obroca Sdowy) and in those days was even able to successfully defend a Jewish soldier that killed a Christian who insulted him on Yom Kippur.

His name, which was held up for praise in the days of Kh. Z. Slonimsky and Nahum Sokolov as one of the outstanding figures of Polish Jewry, was forgotten and disappeared from the hearts of the younger generation. His place in literature, and as a man of science, a Torah scholar, historian and translator, a researcher, and occasional writer for the press, all vanished from the annals of the Hebrew literature. The memory of him, as a brilliant Zionist, as one of the pillars of the aristocratic Zionist élite in Poland, all declined like a setting sun, in the new Poland.

Despite this, the citizens of Zambrow, scions of the city, will remember him all their lives as the man who raised the good name of the city, an educator who educated multiple generations in Torah and the wisdom of Israel, with love of the general nation, and an orientation towards an unfettered and free life for a citizen in his homeland – a land for which he always raised his expectations of spirit, and to which only his grandchildren were privileged to reach, to build it, and to themselves develop within it.

Let us here recollect his grandson, the son of his daughter Chana, Menachem Horodowsky, he is ??? that made aliyah to The Land after several mishaps and falling into traps, in the year 1941, and he is serving, from the beginning of 1954, as the general manager of the Israeli Railroad System.

Rabbi Matityahu Kagan, a scion of the city, the Rabbi of Corona (Long Island, New York ), saw the will of Abraham-Abba, which he lodged in the twilight of his years, with his relative, Abcheh Frumkin . He cut one of his daughters out of any inheritance, because word had reached him that she profaned the sanctity of the Sabbath. He ordered that one of the heirs of a merchant in Warsaw be located, with whom he was engaged with in commerce before the war, to repay a debt that he had outstanding with his father. ‘In accordance with the Law of the Shulkhan-Arukh, Khoshen Mishpat, Chapter.... Section.... I am obligated to repay this loan – However, the Eminent Mister R’ Joseph Caro erred in articulating his view, with all respect to him, and it is my obligation to repay the debt, as it says in the Gemara...” He also left behind a marvelous handwritten item with the previously mentioned Mr. Frumkin k: It was a scientific composition, in the spirit of the Sages of Israel, about the Parsha of the Week. After Rakowsky’s death, Mr. Frumkin put it into the hands of the Rabbi. The fate of this composition is unknown. The Rabbi recalled this piece of writing, several times in a good way.

Bibliography of the Writings of A. A. Rakowsky

1. From the notes of Kehillat Yaakov in Warsaw (according to the minutes that were printed in the local language, HaAsif, A, 5645, pp 142-146).

2. Died without being tried, or Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg. The source is from the stories of Dr. L. Philipson, copied by A. A. Rakowsky (HaAsif, A, 5645, Volume 3, pp. 1-17)

3. The night that the Passover was ushered in – A story about something that took place (ibid, pp. 22-??)

4. Secrets of the Microscope – A ?? Story (ibid, pp 22-26)

5. Money – An Essay on National Economics (HaAsif, Year 2, pp. 742-749).

6. Amendments to the rules of the Castillian Communities, from the year 1432, arranged by Prof. Isidore Lab, Secretary of All Israel Friends in France, translated from the handwritten account of the writer, A. A. Rakowsky (HaAsif, 3, pp. 133-147).

7. ‘J’Accuse,’ written by Émile Zola, published in ‘HaTzefira’ at the time of the Dreyfus trial.

8. The Word of Our Lord Will Stand Forever – Eleven essays in connection with research of the peoples of the past: a) Testimony in Jacob. b) God revealed in Judah. 3) Lebanon ??? 4) Ammon and Moab. 5) The remnant of the Philistines. 6) the History of Edom. 7) The Story of Nineveh, Babylon. 8) The Story of Zor. 9) The twilight. 10) The Story of Egypt. 11) The House of the Riders ??? (HaAsif 5647, pp. 359 - 390).

9. An Old Man and a Boy (a story in the style of the Polish writer Okonsky) (ibid, pp. 658-660).

10. In an Alien Land (a long story taken from the lives of the Jews of Rome, from the Polish lady author Aliza Orzhekowa, copied into Hebrew by Abraham Abba Rakowsky (HaAsif 6, 5655, pp. 1-135).

11. An Anthology of Notes (Laws of finance, and the national economy), 1894, Warsaw, Signed as: ‘Loh Saifa veLoh Safra.’

12. A Shoot from the stem of Jesse, or David Alroee, according to Sir Benjamin Beaconsfield Disraeli, translated from the original, a prize to ‘HaTzefira’ subscribers. The translator signed himself ‘Abarbanel.’

13. Jews Driven to the Margin – according to the stories of Dr. Philipson (Warsaw, 1875).

14. Additionally, he published many tens of essays, matters of criticism, feuilletons, and novel concepts in Torah study and science, under his correct name, and the name ‘Abarbanel’ – this being an acronym for Abraham Rakowsky, ben Aryeh Leib (started in Radkinson’s ‘KaKol,’ in the literary supplement ‘Asefat Khakhamim,’ published by Ben-Netz in the years 1876 - 1879. In a like manner, he would sign his name as A. A. R. in HaTzefira, and other periodicals).

For a period of time, he also published in ‘HaModia,’ anonymously,. these being philosophical essays, and world nationality, in the style of a Talmudic give-and-take. In the end, his previously mentioned writings on the portions of the week, were written during the sinful ??? Russian revolution, from memory, because he was left without so much as a Tanakh in his hands.

My Parents, the Martyrs of Hebron

By A. Shmuel Gutman


My parents, Asher Moshe and Chava, came to Zambrow from Jablonka, after it had been put to the torch by the Russians, during their retreat from Poland in 1915, approximately. My father was a tailor, but very well schooled, and a substantial donor to charity. He would set aside time for study every day, before prayers, that being a page of the Gemara, and between afternoon and evening prayers – a chapter of the Mishna with a study group. He was very much drawn to giving charity anonymously.

photo, left: R’ Asher Moshe Gutman and his wife Chava, who were martyred in Hebron by the Arabs, during the period of unrest of Ab, 5689 (1929)

Our home was always full of vegetables, fruit and grain, because, on our own, we rented fields and plant them, and my father would also get ‘concessions’ from peasants. When my father went to pray for the afternoon and evening services, he would lecture us: do you see these sacks of produce, the farmer has assured me he would divide it up in accordance with the accompanying list. Take the sacks, and put them by the door, but do it in a way that the resident is unaware and cannot see you doing it. If you are caught doing this – you should reply that you don’t know anything...

And this is the way we would go about, using the wagon for hours on end, looking for the Jews in question, and taking advantage of the opportunity not to be spotted.

We would come home tired but satisfied, because we had discharged an important mitzvah, as partners to our good father.

After this, my parents left for the Land of Israel, and took up residence in the holy city of Hebron. Here, my father sat and studied the whole day through.

The bloodthirsty Arabs, however, did not spare them in the Great Slaughter of Hebron, in the days of 17-18 Ab, 5789 [23-24 August 1929]. .

My mother Chava, may she rest in peace, was also one to distribute charity. She would always assist my father in his eleemosynary undertakings. On her own, she would also go about to uncover needy, hungry families, and would send small pots of food, bread, vegetables, potatoes and eggs. She would exude joy when she was given an opportunity to make an anonymous gift.

From Home

By Ahuva Greenberg


                Avigdor and Alta Greenberg

Ahuva Greenberg

My father, R’ Avigdor, was a merchant who dealt in building materials and ironware. This vocation had been passed down in the family for generations. He was the son of R’ Sholom Greenberg of Wiszkowo, grandson of R’ Shmuel Greenberg of Makow, well-schooled in Torah and possessor of extensive assets, an owner of forest land, a man of means and a great philanthropist. In the family, it was told that R’ Shmuel died at an advanced old age, not in his home city but rather while traveling in his coach to his Rebbe: ‘Such that even The Angel of Death would not be so lucky as to get to him in the city of his birth’ ... He raised his ten children to be Torah knowledgeable and to do good deeds. Most of them were Hasidim of the Ger sect – honest, spiritually complete, and satisfied with their lot. Our father, a scion of R’ Shmuel and a son of R’ Sholom, was also an ordained rabbi like most of his brothers, but made a living from commerce. My father was a handsome man, tall, with finely chiseled features, black hair patted down on his head, ands a brown round beard around his chin, alert, brown eyes, and a constant smile on his lips. Even though his day was taken up with his business, he always set time aside for his children. A particular inclination that he had was to always find time to help around the house. When he would return from his travels, from Warsaw, we would sit around him, take off his shoes, and we would go draw a warm drink for him from the stove, and our smiling father would kiss us, caress us, and in a mischievous way bring out the presents. He knew what was needed or desired by each one of us, and my mother would thunder at his profligacy. We had a large family in Warsaw and its environs, a nephew and sisters of my father, and he would constantly be telling us about the big city, the school inside of it, and the Zionism that was at that time on the rise, and similar things. With sadness, he would note the absence of a high school in Zambrow, in which there was no instruction on the Sabbath. It is a source of wonder in my eyes to this day: how could he belong to a Hasidim shtibl with these kinds of liberal outlooks? Whenever he had a spare hour, he would be hunched over the Tanakh, a page of the Gemara, and he would chant in a subdued, sorrowful tone. The rhythm of this intonation became suffused in us during our childhood, and accompanied us into maturity. On the snowy winter nights, he would while away many hours in the shtibl, in study and in philosophizing. He was inter alia, a gabbai of the shtibl, a member of its ‘Matzo Shmura’ committee, and treasurer. We recall his High Holy Day melodies, with a serious expression on his face, getting up early – to be among the first of the worshipers. Before he left the house, he would bless us in order of our age: the oldest in their order, and the youngest in theirs. A holy tremor would course through my body when he would place his spread hands on my head with the quiet prayer in his mouth: ‘May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.’ By putting pieces of paper in the Mahzor, he would indicate to us what we should recite in prayer and when, but at no time did he ever want to leave us open to confusion, and did not ask ‘have you prayed?’ He sensed that we were ‘progressive,’ and grasped the sense of our spirit, despite the fact that never did he ever give us any indication of this through parental admonition. During festival celebrations, we always had a liveliness in our home that was expansive or became expansive: On Tu B’Shevat, on Hanukkah, Shavuot and Simchat Torah, or on the celebration day of the Rebbe of Ger – banquets took place at hour home. My father, who only had to taste the wine, immediately would have his eyes sparkle with good fortune, as if he had never once known of any concern for the support of his large family or from the sorrows of raising children. He would say: Each man is obligated to be content with his lot, to bless the God that gave him the strength to withstand to temptations of the Evil Inclination, and is able to live honestly on whatever it is that his own hands are able to generate, to give charity anonymously, because giving charity publicly is connected with a demonstration of pride, and this – is a bad trait. On Simchat Torah, all the worshipers of the shtibl would come out in dance into the streets, with a Torah scroll, their eyes shut tight and their legs in a wondrous light dance, giving the impression they were floating on air and not touching the ground; their heads are turned heavenward. In these moments of abandonment, of neglect of reality, of sanctity, and spiritual elevation, the world appears to be all good, and it was as if The Holy One Blessed be He, were looking sown upon us, enjoying it, and paying attention. I would stand on the balcony of our home, enchanted, and watching. How I loved watching my father from the side, from the other room, when he was bent over a leather-bound book, containing a mass of pages that appeared to me like the waves of the ocean that transport you to endless distances. I loved to inhale the odor of the two glass-fronted bookcases full of books, and I would especially search for the volume of the Mishna, on whose frontispiece was inscribed to the date of birth of each child. He would join us in reading, and tell us about writers and journalists, and we knew them all by heart. On the eve of Sabbath, out table was always set, even to include a guest, and if there was no Sabbath guest from the shtibl my mother would urge him to go look in the White Bet HaMedrash, or the Red one, on the chance he might find someone there to invite. My mother was a loyal helpmeet beside him. She was a pleasant woman, tall, pale, with a small nose, a high forehead, and long blonde hair. She was an only daughter to her parents. Her father, R’ Leib Zelazo, was an ordained rabbi, a scion of a scholarly and rabbinic family, who did not rely on their Torah education for a living, but engaged in commerce with forest products and wood. When I made aliyah as a young woman, she whispered in my ear, before I got into the wagon: ‘Remember, my daughter, as the descendant of a family that has more than thirty rabbis, do not put them to shame.’ She lost her father at an early age, and until she married, lived with her mother in Jablonka. She would get up before sunrise, bathe herself, mostly in cold water, even in the wintertime, dress carefully, and pray. After this, she turned her attention to waking up the children, to feed them and send them off to school. She gave birth to nine children, and up to the war, there were only six of us. Two of the brothers – came in old age, and I left them in Poland being before Bar Mitzvah age. From their letters, I could tell they were gifted with intelligence. My mother was the one who stayed around the house: she was perpetually surrounded by a klatsch of women, and she found some way to help out each of them. Left abandoned because their husbands had immigrated to America, the Golden Land. They were forgotten and received no indication of being alive, and she would write letters in her beautiful and poetic style. Her letters were always answered.

We lived on the market square (rynek) as neighbors of the Rabbi. Later on, we moved to a different house, beside Zukrowicz, while the store remained in Tykoczinsky’s house. My father never once wanted to buy merchandise. My parents moved to live in Zambrow after they were married. The old-timers in the town knew very little about them, but my parents quickly engaged themselves in the life of the community. My mother was a member of the Ladies Society in Zambrow. Their meetings frequently took place in our house, under the direction of Mrs. Gordon and Mrs. Mark. She was cognizant of all the needy: On the Hubar Street, there was a needy widow, and on the Yatkowa Street there was a populous family without so much as a slice of bread and the like. My mother knew of, and remembered them all. On Fridays, several baskets were readied for purposed of distribution. How I loved those missions! I carried this out following all of my mother’s directions: before you enter the house, knock on the door, to see if there is anyone in the house, ask on my behalf, and tell that you are leaving this basket, and that your mother will come by to pick it up, and you know my daughter – it is forbidden to shame another person, especially in front of others. Yeshiva students would eat ‘days’ at our home. On Mondays and Thursdays, they would eat in groups of eight to ten boys. While still early in the morning, my mother would set the table. I will not be embarrassed to say: I envied them, those teshiva students. For the midday meal she would prepare a package for each of them, for their evening meal, since they would not be returning for that third meal of the day. Her reputation spread among the yeshiva students – the table of Alta Greenberg was famous. My parents lived modestly, without aggrandizement, a characteristic of a large, well-branched out family, doing good deeds in anonymity. As we grew up, we also rebelled. However, in the depths of our hearts, we respected them.

Zambrow was a small town in the Diaspora and, on first glance, was not very different from many towns in Poland. However, as a scion of that town, after I had resided in The Land for longer than I had resided there – it remained with me as it was then, at the time that I left it, having not changed over time, of been altered by destiny. The life of the city and that of its people, its environs, roads, the natural scenery that changed with the seasons, remain pleasant within us, and live on in our hearts, and full certain aspects of emotion that are understood only to us. These are aspects of wealth and poverty, of culture and pitfalls, images of both shame and honor. The higher-storied houses on its principal streets hid behind them, the small houses that were at risk of falling dawn, the workshops, the working people, and the children of the majority of the houses that during snow and freezing days would go about in small shoes on their feet, and large items of clothing wrapped around their bodies, but that they absorbed love and warmth from their homes. And who does not remember our helper, the water carrier with his pails, who in summer and winter would fill the heavy earthenware casks? Who does not recall Dvora Hilda who was twelve years old, with her outstretched hand? She did this on a scheduled basis: On Tuesday she would receive only wood, by on Thursday – only potatoes. The wash women at the side of the river with hands reddened and swollen from the freezing cold. The large rocks in the marketplace could tell stories that could not be counted. Stories of the bi-weekly market days that were to provide sustenance for the entire Jewish populace for the other days of the week, amidst their struggles among themselves and with the gentiles. The days of mud and snow, during which no one left the city, and no one came in. Days of explanation on our historical homeland that were required before the young minds would grasp their meaning. The melodies of ‘Between the Tigris and Euphrates,’ and ‘Tekhezakna.’ Like in a dream, I can remember the two large tears streaming from my mother’s eyes when she learned of the opening of the university on Mount Scopus. That very evening our father told us about the Land of Israel, about the Balfour Declaration. Two years then went by. On one evening, when he had returned from a trip to Warsaw, he told me that one of the sons of my uncle, that I did not know, had gone off to engage in training to become a pioneer, and make aliyah to the Land of Israel. I did not sleep that night. In my imagination, I saw myself so near to that esthetic story that I had heard from my father, and simultaneously – felt so far from it. From that day on, I could find no peace for myself. On one occasion, I got up the nerve, and revealed to my parents that I was going off to find out if we had a chapter of ‘HeHalutz’ near us. In passing, I asked: ‘What is a Halutz?’ And so my father took out his Tanakh, bound in brown leather, and showed what was written in Joshua 6:13: ‘The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’’ horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew the trumpets; and the armed men went before them...’ It is hard today, to explain to myself what a change and transformation took place in my young mind, after reading this chapter. We always had a teacher for Hebrew and Tanakh. But I have the impression that their explanation of the fall of the walls of Jericho became clarified in all its splendor on that evening. Nowadays, when I analyze the meaning of ‘HeHalutz’ in my mind, I am struck by how close this concept is to Hasidism, how aligned the lofty idea of both were, to overcome many obstacles. Our house was suffused with Zionist ideals, such that on the same day, I felt them to be an organic part of me, and it was then that the transformation came that brought me to Zvi Zamir on the morrow, confused and embarrassed, with the question in my mouth: ‘Do we have a HeHalutz among us?’ But I knew, and replete with confidence, I was able to cite the entire chapter by heart. I received spiritual nourishment at home – it was always open before us: a place for sittings and meetings. I integrated myself from that time on into the community life and their movements in the city, especially – in the HeHalutz movement. By any measure, Zambrow was a small city, but it had movements from all spectra of the rainbow, as if it were a metropolitan city. Accordingly, all the initiatives would overlap one onto another, taking in an active youth. that knew how to get things done, motivate others, how to divide up and how to unite. Many of the initiatives were on behalf of the Land of Israel. This was done by means of communication, and hard, burdensome work, by means of going door-to-door to gather money by all means, and even on the Eve of Yom Kippur, by placing a collection plate in either the White or the Red Bet HaMedrash. I loved sitting in the White Bet HaMedrash. It was my impression that the worshipers there were more Zionist than those in the Red Bet HaMedrash. In the former, they were more interested and attentive, despite the fact that in both people were always in a hurry, and there was no time to listen. It is possible that I had this impression, because my mother prayed at the White Bet HaMedrash. Movie days, and party evenings, days when emissaries would come from the capitol, from the HeHalutz central office, from the Israel Fund. One fund-raiser would come on the heals of another fund-raiser, and there were many preparations to be made, with our house being like a busy hive for the preparation of refreshments, baking of rolls, and all this was done with the consent of our parents and their support, which seemed to us to be in a different world. My mother, my sister Malka, and I, would oversee, and the little ones in the house would act as our helpers. In the organization of our beautiful library, there was no bound to our endeavors: the creation of lists, invitations, the creation and organizing of catalogues, etc. Every new delivery of books, before they were delivered to the library, brought about competition, to read them until daylight broke, or until our father or mother would come into the room and extinguish the light.

My parents knew that I was planning to make aliyah, but when I decided to go for training, I fell victim, this for the first time, to a very strong opposition. My father said – you are putting me to shame, and I will not be able to raise my eyes in the shtibl. Their pain caused me considerable sorrow and pain, but in the end they agreed, and upon arriving in Szczuczyn ( the training camp was at the village of Dluga near the German border) I learned that our Rabbi and Rebbetzin, who was a loyal friend to my mother, wrote a letter to the Rabbi of Szczuczyn, with the request to ‘keep an eye on her.’

I never expected that, with my aliyah to The Land, I would never again see my parents, who were in the prime of life, and my younger brothers, so skilled and handsome. Our entire well-branched family was exterminated. Just my uncles and their sons numbered about two hundred people. I was the first to make aliyah, and was able to bring my sister Malka, and we ??? – our little sister Rivka. The oldest, Rachel, reached The Land with her two children, Sholom and Leah (named for my grandfather and grandmother) after the tribulations of the Holocaust, when her husband Shimon Rubin, was murdered at the hand of the Poles, on the day of the liberation of Poland, by the Russians...


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