ŁOSICE Yizkor Book:
Loshits; lezeykher an umgebrakhte kehile

Łosice; in Memory of a Jewish Community, Exterminated by Nazi Murderers
M. Szner, Tel Aviv, 1963

 

Translated from Yiddish by Viktor Lewin

 

Editor: Mordechai Szner (B. Feder)

Editorial Board: Ben Yaakov Josef, Goldstein Chaim Icel, Pasternak-Hochman Rachel, Rozenband - Bialikamien Chaja-Rachel, Ruzal Dawid, Ruzal Menachem, Szmulewicz - Goldband Belcia, Szner Mordechai

Translation to Hebrew and Editing: A. Bar-Tana

 

Images scanned by Warren Grynberg

 

The English version was edited by Ada Holtzman

 

The Religious Life

 

 

Contents

Page

Several Łosicer Rabbis

Abraham Pinkus (Mendelsohn)

Yiddish

117

R' Mordechile Goldberg

 

 

 

R' Yonatan Eybeschuetz

 

 

 

R' Icchak Rizenberg

 

 

 

R' Jozepa Blostein

 

 

 

R' Arie Lajb Lifszyc

 

 

 

R' Jankiel Szajnkind

 

 

 

My brother Szalom Pinkus

 

 

 

Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschuetz in Kock

Gdalyahu Grosman (Tel Aviv)

Hebrew

122

My grandfather "the shaky"("der citeriker")

Rabbi Yehuda Altowski (New York)

Yiddish

122

The Konstantynówer Rabbi

Yosef Fridman

Yiddish

130

My grandfather, Rabbi Jozepa (Joizep)

Abraham Sluchowski (Paris)

Yiddish

130

Joizep and Pinye Joizeps

Mordechai Szner

Yiddish

131

Icchak Shochet ("Szinkarzsz")

Yosef Fridman

Yiddish

133

Torah, Labor and G_d_fearingness

Icchak Meir Grinberg (Kfar Khabad)

Yiddish

135

Melameds (teachers), Cheders and Yeshivot (religious schools)

Dawid Ruzal

Yiddish

137

A "strike" in the Cheder

Yosef Fridman

Yiddish

140

Sabbath & holiday in Łosice

Icchak Faigenblum (Curitiba Brazil)

Yiddish

142

 

Home

 

Several Łosicer Rabbis

By Abraham Pinkus (Mendelsohn)

Pages 117-122

 

R' Mordechile Goldberg

 

   The first Rabbi who I remember in Łosice was Rabbi Mordechile Goldberg. He was small in stature, but very energetic, with large, alert eyes. He had the ability to seize your attention with the vastness of his knowledge. He was very well read concerning the Talmud and in the Ramba'm. He was very orthodox and known for his good heart. Quiet and involved, was his manner as Rabbi, his stories and in his entire life.

 

Rabbi Mordechile

   He was a Lithuanian, and it is difficult to image ‑ after the end of 1900 ‑ a Rabbi, a Lithuanian in a Chassidic shtetl in Poland, where everything was done according to the wishes of the Rabbi. Rabbi Mordechile's cleverness and genius surpassed all, and the Chassidim respected and recognized his oratory. Rabbi Mordechile was truly a man of the Book. He made holy the Ramba'm and would say that it would open up new worlds in the Talmud.

 

   Of his children I only knew his son, Menachem.

   In the world of the Torah there were no dynasties, not from Chassidic homes, not here. It was true that many families boasted of noble birth, with many generations of learning and Rabbinic culture. The job of the Rabbi, however, was not defined and knowledge was passed from the elders to the children. No one is born as a Rabbi ‑ one had to become a Rabbi and this required the consent of the citizens of the community. Rabbi Mordechile's son, Menachem showed sights that he might be ready to take the step, and there was talk about taking him as the Rabbi in Łosice.

  

After Rabbi Mordechile's death in 1910, a search began to hire a new Rabbi.

 

   When Rabbi Mordechai was still alive, there was Rabbi Icchak ‑ Aizik Rizenberg. The neighboring town of Konstantynów had hired him as Rabbi. The Chassidim made his life miserable, so much so that he quit being their Rabbi, founded a Yeshiva in Łosice, and so made his livelihood.

  

  

R' Yonatan Eybeschuetz

 

   When Rabbi Mordechai died, the iron trades wanted to take apart Rabbi Icchak Aizik Rizenberg's Yeshiva. The Chassidim opposed this and a great dispute ensued in the shtetl. The Chassidim brought in the well‑known Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschuetz, a well‑known merchant, who had never ever been a Rabbi; he, however had the recommendation of the Rabbinical Council. The Chassidim held him in the highest esteem, and after a while he remained as Rabbi in Łosice.

 

    The majority of the Jews in shtetl who were supporters of Rabbi Rizenberg were not pleased. Rabbi Eybeschuetz was not a people person and enjoyed solitude. Prayed the entire week in house, on Sabbath he would come to pray at the Beth H'Midrash surrounded by a group of Chassidim. He never entered the Big Synagogue. Learning, it was said, was what he enjoyed. He was perceived as a genius. No Rabbi was pleased with him, but the citizens of Łosice put up with him and kept silent.

 

R' Icchak Rizenberg

 

When the First World War started in 1914, R' Yonatan left, and Łosice was without a Rabbi. The time of every war was a time of instability. Many rich Chassidic merchants became poor because of the stalled economy with Russia, and at the same time were not tolerant of quarrels among Rabbis. As well, the Chassidim had lost much of their influence because of the policies of the previous Rabbi. This was used by their opponents to select a Rabbi from the Yeshiva, R' Icchak ‑ Aizik Rizenberg. He was the Rabbi until the middle of the Second World War. He was killed by the Nazis. His last prayers were that he survive and see the defeat of the sinners. He did not live to see it.

 

He was a great teacher. A quiet Jew. He tried his hardest to ease matters because of the lose of money due to the war. He was a great Rabbi; one of simplicity, tolerance, and a lover of his people.

 

R' Jozepa Blostein

 

For many years he was the ritual butcher in Łosice. R' Blostein, or "Joyzep", as he was known. When his hands began to tremble with age and he could no longer do the butchering, his Chassidic followers in the Bialer ‑ Lubliner house made him a Rabbi, and his son, Pinya, took his place as the ritual butcher. R' Jozepa had a large knowledge, was a strong scholar; a Makpid and a Machmir (precise and strict), but he also had many opponents in town. When he was no longer the ritual slaughterer, someone wrote a letter to the Warsaw "Heint" newspaper: R' Jozepa can no longer butcher any animals, but he is still agile enough to butcher people..." He was, however, a true Jew and respected even among his opponents. He died in Warsaw in 1927.

 

R' Arie Lajb Lifszyc

 

When Jozepa became a Rabbi, during the unstable times of the First World War, there came together a group of Chassidim, who followed a third Rabbi, who was referred to as the "Janower Rabbi"– R' Lifszyc. The community at that time is in disarray; there wasn't anyone to govern. Until the death of R' Jozepa, there were three Rabbis in town. Later the Jewish community officially registered two Rabbis: R' Rizenberg, as Rabbi, who dealt with the Birth, Death, and Marriage records, and R' Lifszyc as judge. R' Lifszyc was a Jew with a hard face, a tall thin man with a nice beard. His home was the Chassidic study house. He was shot by the German murderers during the liquidation of Łosice on the 22nd of August 1942, and buried by the Poles, together with his son of 15 or 16 years of age, in a ditch by the field along the Siedlcer Road.

 

R' Jankiel Szajnkind

 

 My brother-in-law, R' Mendel Perlmuter, Mendel‑Henie's, as he was referred to in shtetl, was a grain merchant who had nine children - 6 sons and 3daughters, and he was wealthy. The Yiddish saying was: "a son, you can not buy, but a son-in-law, you can". And so it was that Mendel‑Henies arranged for his eldest daughter, Lea, to be married to a man of Yechus (important lineage), a man related to R' Mendele, R' Jankiel Szajnkind. He was a true genius, a teacher with great wisdom. Earlier he was a student of Brisker Yeshiva and studied also in Minsk. Coming to us in Łosice, he made nights into days, sat at the Torah, studied day and night, truly a diligent student; without limit.

 

At the end, he received smicha (Rabbinical ordination) to the from his uncle, the Sochaczewer rabbi, R' Abrahamele. But my brother‑in‑law would not hear of it, with the result that he took up a trade. He was, for a short while at a tailor shop during the Grabskin times when Jewish merchants were discriminated against by high taxes. He was forced to give up his shop and became a Rabbi in Konstantynów. As a Rabbi he further fostered his learning and he was busy day and night at the study of the Torah. During this time, R' Jakob gave Rabbinical ordination to the Sokolower Rabbi' two sons, his students, who became Rabbis in Węgrow and Sterdyń. Also R' Rubinstein, from Konstantynów, was his disciple.

 

When the Germans occupied Poland during the Second World War, Konstantynów, as all surrounding towns, lived through horrible time. The Rabbi had to escape, so R' Szajnkind, his wife, Lea and their son, Motel came to me in Łosice. I then begged him to explain to me the beginning of the Kaballah. He answered, "G_d will give and we will survive the war; He will do this". He was not ordained to survive. During the liquidation of Łosice's Jews, he, together with his wife and son stayed together with me and my family. When we left for a secure hiding place, they were to meet us there on the next day. The Germans caught him and his wife and shot them in my house in Łosice. Returning after the liberation, I found on the walls, spots of their  holy blood. Their son was saved and lives in Israel.

 

My Brother Szalom Pinkus

 

I cannot conclude the writing about Rabbis without remembering my brother who was killed, Szalom Pinkus. He was a teacher with a wealth of knowledge. He had a brilliance which could memorize passages of the Gemara, and teach them as well. He had a poetic soul, and was concerned with preservation. His early years were spent in Radzyń, and then in Radom when the murderers sent him to Treblinka and killed him. His daughter survived and lives in Israel

 

Home

 

Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschuetz in Kock

(Hebrew), translated by Ada Holtzman, page 122

 

R' Yehonathan, who lived in Łosice in the end of his life, was educated in the court of the rabbi from Kock. He studied Torah from "Hidushei Hri"m" and from the Gerer Rabbi, the author of  the "Sefas Emes" (the language of truth). When he was young he became famous as a genius and superior in the sphere of the Torah and Halachic questions.

 

R' Yehonatan was a forests trader and was very successful in his trade. His home was full of Torah and richness together. His was had 2 floors in the Rynek street and was the most grand house in town. Someone whose daughter reached the age of marriage but her parents could not afford a dowry, referred to R' Yehonatan who helped him out of his distress; a sick man who needed medicine or special food – R' Yehonatan would supply; many shopkeepers in town were assisted by his "gmiluth hasaddim"(charity). Tens of workers and clerks made their living from R' Yehonatan trade and transporting logs of wood across the Wieprz River to the Vistula and the Baltic Sea and from there to Germany and other countries.

 

By the end of his life, he had no more powers to run his trade and he left it and became the rabbi in Łosice. With the outbreak of World War I, he left Łosice and returned to Kock.

 

Home

           

My Grandfather "the Shaky"("der Citeriker")
By Rabbi R' Yehuda Altowski (New York)

Pages 122-127

 

   The author of this article is an exceptional Orthodox Rabbi in New York. Born in Łosice, he studied at the largest Yeshiva in Poland, where he learnt everything, and became a deep Talmudic thinker. It was in 1930 when he was Rabbi in the Bronx, where he stood before the Council of Orthodox Rabbis. He is also known as a great orator, a businessman, and a frequent traveler to Israel. R' Altoski wrote four prayer books, two of which were: "Hagioni and Yehudi" (Reasonable and Jewish), gave lectures and sermons in Yiddish and Hebrew, and often writes about Jewish Religion and Community in Jewish newspapers and periodicals in America.

 


Rabbi R' Yehuda Alkowski

The name "der Citeriker" was of respect and well‑known by every Łosicer. He had a very nice Jewish name, as well as a nice family name, Hersz Pesach Liberman. His hands shook from early childhood. However, it was possible, a subconscious thought or memory it was told to the Łosicers, that their peer R' Hersz Pesach Liberman is really an exception in the world. "A shaky son of one…"  I wasn't, however there to write "the shaky story". I only want to relate about  shaiches (relation) of my grandfather with honor and other incidents with relation to Łosicer Rabbis.

 

 The Łosicer Rabbi question remained embedded in my memory from my early childhood, because of a bitter observation about a Konstantynówer Rabbi Zchrono Lbracha (Bless his memory): "Learn, Learn, children, you will grow up to be Rabbis by Jews…" At another time and place it would have been an innocent expression, which would have had no value. But, in those times, under those hardships, we were all, pupils of the Łosicer Yeshiva, left seated, solidified, and afraid to lift our eyes to meet those of the head of the Yeshiva.

 

The story began in the year 1910. The Łosicer Rabbi, the alter R' Mordechai, died, and we needed to appoint a new Rabbi.

 

At that time, Łosice was a town blessed with dedicated and handsome inhabitants, young people, educated. Among them, there were teachers, anyone of whom could have occupied the highest office of the Łosice Rabbinate. They were R' Jozepa Shoychet and "der Citeriker" son-in-law, my uncle R' Icchak Shochet & Bodek (ritual slaughterer) from the Wołożyner movement. But at that time there was a certain number of agreed upon candidates. But the Konstantynówer Rabbi, R' Rizenberg ztz"l was the natural, evident candidate for the office. He was a teacher from Lithuania. He was a tall man with large deep learned eyes. He was the head of the Yeshiva in Łosice for many years, ever since he left the Konstantynówer Rabbinate, where he was affectionately referred to as the "Konstantynówer Rabbi". In his Yeshiva, boys from neighboring towns and villages studied, but the majority of the students were from Łosice. From the son of the rich Bekermans to Chaim Idl, the tailor's son. All of them were taught by the Konstantynówer Rabbi, but when the moment came to demonstrate thankfulness to their Rabbi, the town brought down a strange Rabbi. At that tragic moment, the Konstantynówer Rabbi erupted with a sarcastic remark: "Learn, Learn children, you will grow up to be Rabbis by Jews..."

 

The new Rabbi was a staunch adherent to the Torah, R' Yehonatan Eybeschuetz from Kock. Not a Kocker Rabbi but an inhabitant of Kock, who was at that time, sixty years of age. He wasn't a Rabbi, just a merchant; a rich man. When the Konstantynówer Rabbi became old, the position of Chief Rabbi soon became vacant, and the rich Rabbi gave a nod to his Łosicer Chassidim to endorse the yet to be seen rich scholar, R' Eybeschuetz, as Rabbi in their shtetl. There were many opponents to such a move; the Bet Midrash and the Synagogue were filled with them. Opposition also came from the Miedzyrzecer Parczewer, along with other Chassidim. From the members in town, R' Zalman Minc to my uncle Ierchmiel Cohen, the iron shopkeeper, were all Parczewer Chassidim. I'm reminded of the day when the Parczewer Rabbi, once, came down to Łosice. The entire town, young and old, Zalman Minc to myself, a Bar Mitzvah boy, from the mailman to Zalman Beker all went on foot, or drove out in wagons, eight miles to the other side of town to catch a glimpse of the patriotic Parczewer Rabbi. For the entire eight days which the Parczewer Rabbi was in Łosice, the house of Zalman Minc became embroiled in a tumultuous controversy. The whole town without interruption laid siege to Zalman Minc's home.

 

 How did it happen that there were so many Gerer Chassidim in Łosice to create such an opposition, I can not understand to this very day.

 

 I am also not certain that his aloof character did not alienate the town. The picture of the new Rabbi's first sermon in the town's Bet Midrash still stands before my eyes. A fully packed Bet Midrash, and there stands the new Rabbi, high next to the Aron Kodesh (the Holy Ark), wrapped entirely in a large tallith (praying shawl) from which he could not be seen. The tallith did not allow his voice to escape. Ten Chassidim were assembled around him on the Bimah. It appeared that he said something to them, but the entire congregation did not hear a single word from the new Rabbi's first sermon.

 

The "der Citeriker" was not a wealthy scholar, not a Parczewer, not a Miedzyrzecer Chassid, but only an outspoken Mitnaged (opponent). It was told, that Grandfather had nine daughters and only one son, who became a Chassid.

 

There were logically, as R' Yehonatan Eybeschuetz who was a strong supporter of Gerer Rabbis, frequent confrontations with my Grandfather. My Grandfather wanted that the Lithuanian Konstantynówer Rabbi would remain with the Łosicer Jews so that they would not stray from Chassidic ways. Quietly he expressed his disappointment that the town ignored his more than capable son-in‑law, R' Icchak Shochet, who had the support of the Wołożyner Chassidim to pursue the position of Rabbi of Łosice.

 

 "Der Citeriker" did not overtly challenge the election of the Chief Rabbi, however when a movement began to name a Łosicer as Head Rabbi, he immediately became a supporter with his fiery oratory which caused heads to bow.

 

  "Der Citeriker" put on his fur coat and went to the Rabbi's house, which was near the town square, to greet him.

 

 The Grandfather, then very elderly, had to walk up a flight of stairs, arriving at the top breathless. No one greeted him, no one asked him to sit down. The Rabbi was locked up in his room, and made the old Grandfather wait for an hour. When he finally came out of his hiding place, he didn't acknowledge him, or extend to him the courtesy of asking him how he was feeling. The Rabbi's mannerisms and speech were done without looking directly at the Grandfather, only off to the side and his books. The Rabbi did utter the word, "So ". The Grandfather greeted the new Rabbi, and his appointment with the Rabbi ended with a nod. The two and one half minute audience ended when the Rabbi said good night to the Grandfather. The old Grandfather was satisfied ‑ he had blessed G_d and tradition.

 

This is as much as I know about this episode.

 

Among all the children and grandchildren, the Grandfather chose me to accompany him on his way. I was sure that the Grandfather wanted to give me a private lesson; the Bar Mitzvah boy, who prepares to become a Rabbi ‑ blessing the Rabbi and the Torah. I will always remember the lesson which was; look beyond religious variations and always obey Rabbis, both at Israel abroad.

 

I always wanted to understand this power, Havlaga  (self restraint) as it is called in Israel today. How did he come by such an unnatural power to be able to swallow all the disappointments, only revealing the tiniest of grimaces on his face? The memory of which takes me away from the Łosicer Rabbinate issue to an interesting episode in the personal life of R' Hersz‑Pesach Liberman.

 

 One day when the Grandfather went to the Bet Midrash to pray, along the way, he knocked on the doors of the shoemakers, tailors with whom he would pray, because the rich Jews and their children would not wake to pray when it was still dark outside. He would pray until nine o'clock, and then do his teachings at his table. Then he would go home. His routine was always to go through the shop into the house, there he ate eggs, after which he would go into the house to eat breakfast, and then, back again to the shop, always with a prayer book in hand, into which he would look at any spare moment. I remember the day that he went through the same routine. But, when he came, at nine o'clock from the Bet Midrash to his shop, he saw before him a horrible picture: the furthest wall of the shop had a big hole, and the shop was robbed. Money of his and others, thousands of rubles, large assets, gone.

 

With his head lowered the Grandfather went into the shop. There on the floor he saw a few scattered bits of rice and peas, and the old man called out: "Thank G _d. they still left me with something". He then went through his routine again, went into the house and said to his wife: "Yochewd, what's to eat?" Then he washed up, ate, lit Sabbath candles, as if nothing had happened.

 

 Well, for a Jew there is nothing left to say.... Who would have believed that a sick orphan, a poor boy with shaky hands, would grow up to be such a great teacher, to be married to three wives and have ten children, to be rich and poor. This was his entire life, to be 83 years of age and to die b'seiva tova (good old age) ubshem tov (good name).

 

 So such a Jew was our Łosicer compatriot, R' Hersz Pesach Liberman.

 

Home

 

The Konstantynówer Rabbi

By Yosef Fridman

Pages 127-130

 

The town square in Łosice was the heart of the shtetl. All the important streets and lanes ran off from the town square, like Siedlcer Street, Miedzyrzecer Street, and Bialer Street. Around the town square one could find the better and larger shops of the shtetl. The trade was in Jewish hands. Polish shops, at the town square could be counted on the fingers of both hands, were specialty shops dealing in materials which the Jew did not.

 

Fifty years ago, was the site of the tragedy of "The Konstantynówer Rabbi" in a lane which ran from the square.

 

The name of the lane I do not recall. I only remember, that the lane began from the square, with Yehosze Iszaiaho's inn on the left hand side. On the first floor over this inn lived the Konstantynówer Rabbi. On the right hand side of the lane, Abraham Pinkus had his shop of writing materials. This lane itself was tiny. The houses from both sides were so tightly packed together that we thought that at any time they would collapse. The lane ended at a large garden which itself ran into the garden of Chaia Aidese. At the edge of the garden Yehosze Iszaiaho built a new shed. "Meir Chala" with his "poor horse", which Meir had to, from time to time, pull along, carried the red shingles without a rest. The shingles were still warm as if they had just been removed from the oven. Bricklayers (Łosice was fortunate to have its share of bricklayers) worked from sunrise until deep into the night. Quickly, very quickly, the shed was completed. Something was a stir in shtetl that would involve this shed.

 

Some time passed and Rabbis from various towns came together in Łosice. This shtetl, at that time experienced two hated camps standing opposite each other ready to bite each others' throats. More than once were there bloodied skirmishes. Both camps wanted to influence the writer. The situation among the visiting Rabbis was not any better. Horrible things were told in shtetl about the entire affair. At the end the Rabbis were forced to flee, leaving the Konstantynówer Rabbi to pick up the pieces.

 

Even though my observations about the humanity of Jews has never been measured, it can be strongly suggested that the Konstantynówer Rabbi was a martyr in our shtetl.

 

For many years his life was filled with hardships, such as, hunger. For many years he was the Rabbi for only the poor people. Even though the Jews from our shtetl agreed that he was the Rabbi of poor people, they, the poor people, could not help their Rabbi. The few Yeshiva boys with whom the Rabbi studied at the "Life's Earth" Bet Midrash were not rich, and on several occasions he had to make arrangements for them to be fed. The Konstantynówer Rabbi was "tortured" in Łosice for many years. It was understood in town that when the aged R' Mordechai died, his position would be filled by the Konstantynówer Rabbi, in front of whom the Rabbinate placed so many obstacles. A short period of time passed and the newly appointed Rabbi from Kock came to Łosice. This is how it was arranged. The shtetl trembled. Jews asked each other, "why was another Rabbi brought to town, when the one they had could barely make a living?" So then, there would be separate cooking spoons; students of the Kocker Rabbi and students of the Konstantynówer Rabbi. A long quarrel began. The Konstantynówer Rabbi tolerated every slanderous remark upon his character. I don't remember that he alone should be insulted. On the other hand, during the bitterest days of blood ‑ letting he easily found words even against his bitterest opponents. I never had any grievances against the Rabbi. For countless years when I would accompany my father to pray at "Life's Earth", I would always greet the Rabbi in a warm and friendly manner.

 

I remember a confrontation when I was already fourteen years old and an exceptional singer. I sang a solo by the old Chazzan (cantor). The Rabbi approached my father saying: "You know, Hercke, what I expect from you? I want your son to show his talent for the poor of the shtetl. Let the ones praying at the "Life's Earth" Bet Midrash have the pleasure of hearing your son". I saw my father moving around on his seat, I then whispered in his ear: "Father, I want to". And the poor people were drawn there, and the Rabbi's excitement was shown in his prayers.

 

As much as I remember, the Konstantynówer Rabbi was always an exceptional person. Even though he lived during times when Jewish life in small towns still breathed with remarkable piety, his outlook on the world was not one of isolation, but rather a healthy willingness to explore it. He was tolerant of others with different religious philosophies. He had the ability to engage in a conversation with someone not as religious as he and bring out their deepest emotions.

 

In 1930 I was a guest in shtetl. My uncle Zalman Beker invited me to meet the Konstantynówer Rabbi. What kind of upheaval could happen to mankind! My uncle Zalman, a bitter opponent of the Rabbi, he who so strongly fought against him, now became his greatest follower, who we can always meet at the Rabbi's table. Such a wonder could only indicate what kind of person the Konstantynówer Rabbi was. "The whole shtetl loves him, there is no longer any opposition", I was told by my uncle Zalman. "Yea, Yea," I was then told by the Rabbi with the Lithuanian accent, "there was once much bitterness in shtetl involving me. We have already forgotten those bitter times". The Rabbi accepted me with genuine happiness. He was interested, to the tiniest detail, of my life in Sosnowiec, was curious and consumed every word about Jewish life there.

 

Even though thirty years have passed and I haven't seen him, I can see him clearly as if it were yesterday, a dream with his black beard and curly hair. Poor, however, properly and well dressed.

 

The visage of his face during the dream would vanish as he went to do his studies of a prayer with his Yeshiva friends. We could see then that there burned within him an unusual fire; it shines with hope. How many times would I be envious of his friends who were studying with the Rabbi, when I had to look for a purpose, running to look, somewhere, a cord of wood to chop.

 

My heart pains to be without him, R' Icchak‑Aizik, the Rabbi of the shtetl. 

 

Home

 

My Grandfather, Rabbi Jozepa (Joizep)

By Abraham Sluchowski (Paris)

Pages 130-131

 

I remember my Grandfather's wooden house, which bordered at the back onto peasants' gardens and in the front to the town's bath house and Joelke Koval's forge and the cold water from the well.

 

My Grandfather's dwelling only took up half of the house, the other half was the Parczewer portion, R' Jozepa's place of worship. There, learning was continuous. It was filled with Yeshiva boys, overtired Jews who detached themselves from their daily activities to read a page from the Gemara. Grandfather would learn his daily lesson, and every few hours he had to look to see that we were not Mafsik[1]  in the Torah.

 

 There were always people in Grandfather's Bet Din (rabbinical court) home, asking questions of the Torah passages, to ask undefined advice about an affair of a dowry.

 

As a child, I would, together with my brothers and sisters, come to the Grandfather's on Sabbath for Kiddush. Giving all of us a story about an egg cookie, he listened to every child as they said their blessing. He thought about my pronunciation with his finger before my eyes, and said: "Pay attention. The emphasis for a Jew needs to be even longer". Immediately the Rabbi's wife, the Bobbe (grandmother) Chawa, noticed my sister Chanele's new dress and remarked sternly: "a Jewish daughter's dress needs to have longer sleeves".

 

*

 

In the winter of 1931, the Grandfather came as a guest to his children and grandchildren to Warsaw. The entire family prepared to welcome their beloved guest. We cleaned, prepared the milk and meat cutlery and dishes for his arrival.

 

Destiny however had different plans for him. He became ill in Warsaw, bedridden for many weeks, far from his Łosice, but among his family.

 

The last day before his death, he called to his bedside his children and grandchildren; one at a time. His eyes were already glassy, but he was fully conscious. He laid his bony, pale fingers on each one of their heads, and drew out a blessing, which every child carries in their hearts, even to this very day.

 

Home

Joizep and Pinye Joizep

By Mordechai Szner

Pages 131-133

 

Friday night in Warsaw. I went out to find out what was happening with the sick Łosicer Rabbi, R' Joizep. In the first room the children and grandchildren were together. Not a word was spoken. From their faces I could tell that the condition of the Rabbi was grave. I was allowed to go in to greet the sick man. "Gut Sabbath, Rabbi" I said, going closer to his bed. His eyes were closed but he was not sleeping; he recognized my voice.

 

"Is it you, Mordechai?" I bent down to him and he barely drew out: "It is said, that your condition is not good... Remain a Jew?" And then immediately said: "Phone Pinya right away, so he will come with my Sabbath tallis". Those were his last words.

 

On Saturday, I telephoned Łosice, to his son, Pinya Shochet (ritual slaughterer), fulfilling the dying Rabbi's last wish.

 

Sunday, we accompanied him to his final rest at the Genszer cemetery in Warsaw.

 

Pinya Shochet brought to Warsaw the Rabbi's Sabbath tallis, in order to cover the Rabbi with it.

   He, Pinya, now remained in shtetl after his father's death, even though he had been for many years Shochet in his place. As soon as he felt that his elderly hands were trembling, and the steadiness in them was no longer certain, R' Jozepa gave the responsibility of the slaughtering to his son, Pinya. Then, those assembled accepted Jozepa as Rabbi.

  Pinya Shochet was a quiet person and a committed Jew. Son of the Torah, without any resentment, he was a committed scholar. He spoke very little, he was peaceful, and unquestioning ‑ like the opposite of his father who was constantly angry, hard, and cold.

 


Pinye Shochet (Blostein), with his wife, son Paltiel, standing from right, the daughters Pesa and Tema

Pinya Shochet did not upset his children, and allowed them to go their own way in life, which wasn't always according to his ideals. He tried with knowledge to alter things with good intentions, quietly, and always with a "light" smile on his face. Always weary of the slaughtering so as to avoid making non-kosher slaughter. 

 

Home

 

Icchak Shochet (Szinkarzsz)

By Yosef Fridman (Yosel Bubik)

Pages 133-135

 


Icchak Shochet (Szinkarzsz)

 

There were, in shtetl four ritual slaughterers: Jozepa, Icchak, Chaim, and Pinya. So many slaughterers in such a small shtetl where the eating of meat in Jewish homes was infrequent. Why did we need, in such a shtetl, four slaughterers, is something which puzzles me even to this day.

 

Four slaughterers, four religious Jews doing the same job. However, among the four, there were two who were placed in higher regard; two separate outlooks on life.

   Jozepa, or Jojzep, as he was called in Łosice, was best known, a zealot with no compromise. A slightly "new wind" would blow even in the most religious of homes, however these did not reach Jozepa's. We would see him in shtetl moving quickly, as a strong wind was blowing him along, with his two arms flapping; we felt ‑ there goes yesterday. And even when hearing the Talmud Torah children, with a slight grin would pinch the cheeks of the children who learnt well. Jozepa remained the symbol of aloofness from his unbending religious devotion.

 

The opposite was Icchak Shochet - Szinkarzsz - who was a more modern symbol, and in him we could already recognize very visible noticeable signs of a "newer day". His outlook, his clever approach to events which were so disruptive during those times, caused him to be held in the highest regard of all the four slaughterers. Even his half Lithuanian accent had something intimate to it, and awakened good manners. By and by the traits were easily recognizable, when one was close to Icchak Shochet. I was fortunate enough to sing with Icchak Shochet who had the honor to say the first prayer and later Musaf ‑ in the large Bet Midrash and in the synagogue. During those few years I was influenced a great deal by this noteworthy Jew. In the slaughterer's house, he had, the understanding of the times, needed to be strongly religious and observant ‑ I found strength from thoughts of freedom and the feelings of the winds of a new morning.

 

It is hard to know what would have become of Icchak Shochet, if he were not in the small shtetl of Łosice. At this time he was sixteen years of age, educated in Siemiatycze, and then leaving to study at the renowned Yeshiva in Wołożyn (Valozhyn, now in Bealrus). His sister would drop packets of books from the attic, which he read in Russian and Hebrew; always hiding them from his parents. I only know that the reality of Łosice took his dreams away, only to leave him empty handed.

 

At times, he would take from behind the large oven a wrapped packet, and advised me: "all torn pages from Tolstoy's "War and Peace", in Russian, Fierberg's "Lean" ("Where to?") in Hebrew and a textbook of higher mathematics in Russian ‑ these were the remainder of those books which he had taken to Wołożyn... He watched them religiously.

 

Something in me caused me to think of a nice thought when I would hear about Icchak Shochet's past. His past left behind many strong seeds, even though the realities of life in such a small town brought about another Icchak Shochet.

 

It was a pleasure to see how a Shochet, who was occupied with the Torah, was also occupied with other worldly matters.

 

Icchak Shochet was truly, so as not to look weird, a believer in territorialism; strongly believed in Herzl's philosophy.

 

How his eyes would light whenever he would return to the youthful world of a dreamer... Even though forty years have passed I can still see the shining face of Icchak Shochet. To remember what once was, as if it were now.

 

The practice of ritual slaughtering was a profession of a selected few even in larger towns than Łosice. He was very religious, morally pure, and deeply committed ‑ but his kosher home was a worldly home. His children were raised not by a fanatic, a Shochet of the old school, but by a person with wider knowledge in the Torah and in worldly matters.

 

Let my few words be as a tear on the grave ‑ or better said: on the ashes of a man in Treblinka, who was raised in the shtetl, together with his visage, together with his beliefs, together with his understanding, and together with his knowledge.

 

Home

 

Torah and Labor and G_d-fearingness

By Icchak Meir Grinberg (Kfar Khabad)

Pages 135-136

 

It can be said about our shtetl that two things went hand in hand, Torah, work, accompanied by G_d‑fearingness.

 

In Bet Midrash, in "Chaiei Adam" ("Life of a Man"), in all homes, we could always meet Jews who were learning; young men, as well as older householders. Artisans, Shoemakers and tailors, carpenters and hat makers, we could see after a hard day at work, how quickly they did their work so they could learn a page in the Gemara.[2]

.

 I recall several working class Jews from the shtetl for whom religion and humanity went hand in hand.

 

Awigdor, the water carrier, who always went hatless and carried full buckets of water, was a simple Jew, so he prayed from the Book of the Psalms. The night before Yom Kippur, he would dress in the long coat, with the large hat and go to all the householders for whom he carried water, asking for forgiveness, because he had spilled a little water, and cheated with half of a pail.

 

I recall how  Jankel Lipe, the horse driver, would run to shul in the early morning of Sabbath in order to be the first to say prayers from the Book of Psalms with the entire Tsibor (public). But if someone came before him‑ it became a tragedy.

 

My ears will always ring from the clapping of the Shammash (caretaker), who before Friday night would go throughout the streets with his awakening call, "Come to Shul!..." The Sabbath holiness was stricktly observed in Łosice. Fridays, before night we would stand in a row before the Shammash of the Beth Midrash, in order to receive a guest for Sabbath because we could not eat all of the fish…

 

In Łosice, there was a Shochet, Zelig. When he was too old to be the Shochet the Gerer Chassidim agreed that R' Chaim Guzowski would become Shochet in his place. But the old R' Zelig offered Hazka-Gelt (possession money) for the position which he did not want to leave. One Saturday, it was agreed that all the Chassidim would leave their tallisim at home, and he who wouldn't offer their portion of the "possession money" for the old Shochet would not have their tallisim returned to them... the Chassidim rushed to Sabbath prayers and but out their tallisim, in order to have something to pray with in the morning. The collection of the "possession money" was started and R' Chaim became Shu"b - Shochet & Bodek (ritual slaughterer) in Łosice.

 

R' Chaim was an organized, orthodox Jew, a master of Kashruth and Mitzvot (meritorious deeds); a rare individual who studied day and night. He raised a son, who would replace him, and when he died, his son, Abraham would become Shu"b in his place. His daughter, Dina Guzowski‑Broide immigrated to Eeretz Israel.

 

Home

 

Melameds (Teachers), Cheders and Yeshivot (Religious Schools)

By Dawid Ruzal

Pages 137-139

 

During the period of my growing up in Łosice, Melamdim (teachers especially in cheder), their Cheders (schools), and Yeshivot (Talmudical colleges) continued to have a great influence on the Jewish young generation. I relate exactly as it was. When I became older, the first modern, or semi‑modern Jewish teacher came on the scene, along with a school started by Jews in the worldly fashion. Earlier, the cheder was the only education for the children in the Jewish community of Łosice. During my time, the youth, being in the majority, was not religious. There was even a group of leftists, who displayed their atheism, and spread their revolutionary thoughts in the battle against religion. There was also the nationalistic youth, even if they would often go with their parents to synagogue for Sabbath and holidays, who were in the center of the political spectrum and also in the majority. They, also, were not religious. All, however, without exception, rich and poor, leftists and rightists, received their foundation in the cheder. Whether it was for a short time, or long time, in cheder, everyone was equal ‑ receiving elementary Jewish knowledge.


Joelke Melamed with pupils and son Matatyahu. near them a Russian policeman.

 

Our teachers were far from their pedagogical schools, even to the most primitive minds of understanding. Often as was the case the "pedagogy" was achieved by blood. Never letting go of their leather kantshik (wooden handle with leather fringes attached, similar to the cat‑of‑nine‑tails). This way of learning and even parenting had been the practice for many generations. Jewish teachers along with their schools and their kantshik remained just so, even during my period they placed their mark and had an influence on our entire outlook. They are no longer here, the Łosicer cheder is no longer, the teachers are no longer here, they were killed along with their pupils in the same gas chambers as their mothers and fathers.

 

I will attempt to provide short stories about a number of teachers and their schools, as I remember them during my period.

 

R' Herszel Hofer, or Herszele "Kecze", as he was called. Taught three generations of Łosicer Jews. There were Jews in Łosice who took their children to Herszele's "Kecze" cheder, after they, as well as their children were taught by him.

 

A poor Jew, hunched over because he was always bending over with a siddur (prayers book) in his hand. Outside of the cheder ‑ a very quiet man, a religious Jew, from whom we would never hear a loud word. But in the cheder he ruled over his students with shouting and the kantshik; so the youngsters would tremble before his very word. And when he threatened punishment, nothing helped! It was a known fact that if you voluntarily pulled down your pants and bent over the bench used for sleeping, one would be punished only half as severely.

 

Herszele's cheder was on small side street off the Bialer Street. This lane was called "Der Donai": it must have been called that at one time because of its constantly muddy boots, which were found there. The cheder was in the very extreme corner of the lane. Small was the lane; a wall next to a wall, always dark, never any sunlight. A small room. Large, rickety tables and small, long benches. Prayer books with great knowledge and in the damp darkness of the school, there was always, twenty years, "Kometz Alef - or…"

 

Sometimes, "Shaigetz!..."

 

Meir Peszkes. A small man, with a grey beard, he was educated in Chomash and Gemara. He also had a store in the town square. His crazy daughter, with the nickname "Tsatske", was always lying on a "Piekolik" (stove), and scared the children with her hysterics and screaming…

 

Zalman Borowski. A tall man, thin, with bulging eyeballs and a small thin beard. He was looked upon as a modern teacher, somewhat of a philosopher, who taught his students not only the Gemara, but also writing and dictation.

 

Joelke Melamed. He was loved for his strength, and was known as, "Rzandar". He taught the older boys the Gemara and all its prayers to prepare them for entry into the yeshiva. Lived on Polinower Street. Yechielke Melmed had his school on Szjewizna Street. A small thin Jew with a beard with had two points. Bocze Melamed, called the "Koltan". He taught Hebrew and Chomash, and was comfortable with his quiet, fatherly direction of his students. There were other Melamedim: Meir‑Lajzer, Jakob Tenenboim, Dan, Awigdor, Hersz- Yosel "the deaf", Nachman Henines, Mates "Polkovnik", and Mandel Konstantynówer. There was very little difference from one to the other.

 

Eliezer (Lajzer) Grosman. Ran a school in the attic of Yoske Szulcz's house. No kantshik (whip), no hitting, his students learned Chomash, Gemara, and also Hebrew, writing, and knowledge of worldly studies.

 

Right after World War I, in 1918, a Jewish ‑ Hebrew school was established by the initiative of Herszel Karcz, Abraham Pinkus and Gedalyu Lewin. It was located at Szczerbickin's house. The teacher of Hebrew was Feldman, from Miedzyrzec, and the female teacher of Yiddish, Englman. Later, the school hired Sara Czarnobroda, later Karcz from Siedlce.

 

Around the year of 1916, or approximately after fighting ceased, Welwel Fodie Modie's house on Kilinski Street, a Yeshiva was established with five grades until they were sixteen year old Gemara boys. The master of the Yeshiva was Mendel Hofer and his successor ‑ his brother‑in‑law Kotlarski, called "the Panienke"(the feminine one).

 
The teacher Feldman with his Yiddishe schoolm picture from WWI.

Home

 

A "Strike" in the Cheder

By Yosef Fridman

Pages 140-142

 

My teacher, Czalke Zawirier, had a vicious temper. His students were scared to death of him. Woe to the child that made the teacher angry. Czalke let out all his bitterness on the child's backside. And he knew how to beat children better than he knew to teach them. I don't know what resources of strength our teacher drew on when he beat children; as a rule he was a real weakling, barely able to keep his soul in his body. He spent more more time lying in bed than teaching us. We children were delighted when he had to stay in bed. As soon as the teacher lay down, we turned the cheder topsy‑turvy. The Rabbi would cough and curse like a fishwife from the other room.

 

Our cheder was always jammed full of children. There was no lack of poor people in Łosice, and whoever didn't have enough money to pay tuition sent his children to Czalke Zawirier, the teacher at the free "Talmud Torah". The children were of various ages. Most of them were slow, malnourished, and undisciplined.

 

It was hard for my parents to make up their minds to send me to that sort of cheder. Yet for poor people who "don't want their child to grow up a non‑Jew," Czalke Zawerier would have to do. I was the youngest, the smallest, and the weakest of all the children in the cheder. My terror of our teacher was endless. I was very fearful to be hit. If the teacher had hit me the way he hit the other children I would have been finished. It was this reason that I studied hard. On the second or third day of the week, I would have already memorized the week's Torah portion, and so I was the best student in class. When R' Yosef would test us, I would always get a few kopeks and a pinch on the cheek.

 

The others were jealous of me. Those who had a difficult time learning were also the biggest, the strongest, and they made my life a living hell.

 

I was to crawl under the table to whisper the Torah portion to the other children, and so they were saved from beatings. The Rabbi was satisfied, thinking that the children were learning well, and the children were also happier. The teacher didn't even think to look under the table until we got to a very difficult passage. The Rabbi couldn't understand why on Wednesday the children already knew this inside‑out. Czalke sat at the table, sucking his beard, scratching his head, looking around, while my stomach churned as I sat underneath whispering to the others. I hadn't noticed that the Rabbi had already seen me. He stood up, went over to the stove, picked up a poker, and beat me with it until I thought that I had died. I hid under the bed, but he could still reach me.

 

Badly hurt, I went outside, gathered everyone around and made a speech ‑ the first speech in my life. I made them promised that they would not allow to be beaten again. All the children agreed not to return to the cheder. We decided to walk to Mordy. We went down the Siedlcer Street. Just past the edge of town were scared by the bundles of wheat in the fields, and we went back to town.

 

We didn't return to cheder until the Rabbi promised no longer to beat us.

 

Home

 

Sabbath & Holiday in Łosice

By Icchak Faigenblum (Curitiba Brazil)

Pages 142-143

 

When I'm reminded about our birthplace, I can see before me the many Sabbath and holidays, when Łosice changed from its everyday self to celebrate the coming of Sabbath.

 

In my ears there still rings the words of the old melody: "Jews, go to synagogue!..." his would be called on Friday evenings by the elderly Shammash R' Welwel. A tall, healthy Jew, white-grey like a dove, he would walk through the small streets knocking on the stones of the bridge with his thick cane, "Jews, go to Synagogue!..." and as though under the operation of a magic stick, Sabbath would descend upon the shtetl. The shops would be locked up, the smoke from the chimneys would stop and soon the Sabbath light would begin to flicker from all the Jewish windows.

 

 An eerie stillness would be spread over the entire town, over the square, in the small streets, and stretch across the fields to the nearby woods, where the youth dutifully celebrated the Sabbath peace.

 

And who could forget the elderly R' Welwel knocking at night in the wagons: "Arise to Slichot!" And soon, as spirits, shivering in the cold, Jews hurried to the big Bet Ha'Midrash.

 

Then the holidays would come. This shtetl would become overcrowded. Tens, or perhaps hundreds of youth who worked, or studied in unfamiliar places would come home and bring happiness and liveliness into the shtetl.

 

However, in Łosice the holidays were always celebrated with much pride in the old traditional, religious way. The synagogue, Beth Midrashim, and prayer houses would always be overfilled for the holidays. Religious people would go to listen to a stirring "piece" from the Chazzan (cantor) R' Icze Meir Ruzal, or from the master of prayers, the Shochtim R' Icchak and R' Pinya and others, who would, with their cordial prayers draw young and old.

 

I specially remember the night before Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). There would be a true trembling throughout the shtetl on the Kol Nidre evening. Doors and windows were locked. From the prayers spread throughout the entire shtetl the tearful Nigun (melody) of the old Jewish prayers.

 

The happiest holiday was Simchat Torah (The Rejoiceing of the Law). We would dance in the streets at night leading the Rabbi in a procession to the Bet Ha' Midrash. The greatest activity during Simchat Torah came after prayers. The Chassidim would skip from one prayer house to another for a "Kiddush"[3]. With their shiny coats and tallisim on their backs, they would go with a song from home to home, eating, drinking, and so they came with a "tasty" Chassidic dance. Every year there would be the most exciting Kiddush from the Parczewer prayer house. My mother, Rywka had already baked and cooked the entire day for the Simchat Torah Kiddush. My uncle was overcome with happiness when the Chassidim overfilled our house and with song and dance, and then left politely. And between a glass of some kind of drink and a plate of kreplach we were told stories by the Rabbi.

 

But even during such "weekly" holidays such as, Chanukkah and Purim, our Łosice would take on another appearance. We remember the smells from Jewish homes in Chanukkah and that from the fried fat of Pesach; and Purim - with its gifts, the joyful meaks, and the "masks".

 

 


Eliezer Grosman with his pupils from "Cheder Metukan" (reformed Cheder)

   

A class in the "Powszechna" school in 1924. sitting in the first row from left: the Yiddishe teacherCzernabroda and Welwel Kohen. Then the school director Czirzszewski; the last to the right is the Anti-Semitic teacher Baika. In the middle 4 Jews: the last from right - Pesa Blostein, Rachel Goldstein; Mosze Kohen; sitting on the earth from left - Mordechai Szinkarz.


 

 

     [1] - Mafsik – 'accentuator' a rabbi who regulated the biblical accentuation

 

[2] Gemarah: 'completion' the second and supplementary part of the talmud, providing a commentary on the first part, i.e. the Mishnah.

 

[3] Kiddush – ceremonial blessing over wine, recited on Sabbath and holy days.

 

 

Home

 

Continue...

 

Back to Łosice Memorial Web Site

 

Last updated Mar 23rd, 2005

Home

My Israel

Father

Album

Gombin

Plock

Trip

SHOAH

Communities

Heritage

Searching

Roots

Forum

Hitachdut

Friends

Kehilot

Verbin

Meirtchak

Treblink

Bialystok

Halina

Chelmno

Mlawa

Testimonies

Personal

Links

Guest Book

WE REMEMBER! SHALOM!