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D. Personalities and Characters


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People of Zgierz

by the editorial board

… This section presents to the reader a long series of people of Zgierz, simple folk and precious people worth of praise, families who struck deep roots in the events of the city and Jewish tradition, with the love of their fellow etched very deeply in their hearts and their personalities – simplicity, modesty, and proper behavior between man and his fellow, and between man and his Creator. The personalities and characters that composed this community were people of distinct personalities. Each was an element in the tapestry of the community, from which they drew their spiritual nourishment – both influencing and being influenced. The pulse of life beat in them with strength. Their souls secretly aspired for the sublime and lofty in life.

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David Frischmann
(60 years after his death – 10 of Av, 5682 – 1922)

by Z. F.

In the memorial article for David Frischmann from Haboker, September 26, 1952, the well-known writer Baruch Karo writes the following with the title “A Memorial Candle to David Frischmann.”

“How have we all passed in silence the 30th anniversary of the death of David Frischmann? For his words still vibrate with life to this day.” If those words were accurate for the 30th anniversary of the passing of giant among the classicists of the new Hebrew literature – it is no wonder, therefore, that the name of this writer, poet, translator, and researcher, wo gave so much to its development and renewal of modern Hebrew literature, in form, content, and style – is not recalled, even with a whisper. He was a man who left behind a legacy whose value remains for generations, who “taught the writers how to write in the language of human beings.” (Sh. Sh.)

However, it is our desire this time to include here several items from the aforementioned article, regarding the relation of Frischmann to Messianism – an eternal topic for us, actual in this day as well:

… but he (Frischmann) was among those who did not yet sense the footsteps of the Messiah, who felt that the generation was not worthy. He wrote two poems on the topic of the Messiah. Both had the undertone, “Until a new generation will arise, a generation that wants to be redeemed and that will prepare its soul to be redeemed” – (referring to the preparation of the hearts that was demanded by Ahad Ha'am, and regarding which the wise people of our generation of course mock).

The following are sections of the second poem in which he turns his attention to the Messiah redeemer himself – whether he is completely ready at this time for his high, historic task? Let us delve into the essence, the soul of the Messiah, as the poet saw him in his poem “On the Path of the Messiah.”

Next to the Jordan there is the house of a smith
An iron smith, light as a knight
He is doing his work there
With a flaming bellows,
Pach-pach! Pach-pach! It is flaming
An eternal flame – burns beneath it.

What are you doing here, oh smith?
“I am doing here, I am now,
Preparing and laying
An iron horseshoe, and this is for,
Hurray! Hurray! This is for
The horse of the Messiah!”

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We can, therefore, surmise that when the sound of the Messiah's shofar is heard – his horse will be waiting for him, prepared for the journey. And a weaver is sitting there, weaving a silk tunic “for the Messiah.” He is also knitting with his needle, also stretched over his work, preparing a precious flag “for the King Messiah.” Indeed, he is working faithfully and enthusiastically preparing the splendid and glorious accessories of the Messiah, without any doubt waiting for the advent of the great, awaited day. And the Messiah?

There are seven cherubim in the heavens
Silent like dreams, quick as flies
Carrying out the work;
They are before the Throne of Honor –
Hurray! Hurray! With honor they
Are standing in formation.

Everything sublime, everything uplifted,
Everything lovely, everything above,
Everything good and pure
All of these they take,
Hurray! Hurray! They take
An everything that is splendorous and luminous;

Everything that has mercy upon the weak
Who in their pain wallow in blood,
All this they take –
Everything protected, everything tender,
Hurray! Hurray! Everything tender,
Prepared in a mixture.

What, oh Cherubim, are you doing here? –
“Everything we bear,
We prepare, and even leave
And the soul is made such,
Hurray! Hurray! Made such
For the Messiah!”

“However we have a secret, a secret!
All the workers around us
Have already finished the work;
Only we still are falling behind,
Oy! Oy! We are still falling behind,
There is no more sign of success.

This is nothing but this soul,
This pure one, this exalted one,
For it there is not yet sufficient raw material
That we have collected to this day,
Oy! Oy! To this day
From all the passers-by.

It is not sufficiently sublime, it is not sufficiently exalted
It is not sufficiently lovely and raised,
There is not enough splendor and light;
Even groaning is no more,
Oy! Oy! Perhaps it is not
Refined and pure.”

And the angels, seven cherubim,
Raise their voice, the voice of abandonment,
The voice of moaning and talk –
To this day they have not completed,
Oy! Oy! They have not completed
The soul of the Messiah!

And with all this, we shall await him; for, when the day comes – he will surely come.

Z. F.

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David Frischmann – the Jewish World Spirit
(60 years from the time of his passing)

by the editors

G-dly blessed talent and great mastery, moral steadfastness and stormy, pugnacious cheerfulness – this is what the readers gleaned from David Frischmann's pen. However, his close friends knew the great extent that his creative work derived from the atmosphere in Zgierz, where he was born and educated, where he studied and began to write his first creations. That atmosphere, which we recognize from the Book of Zgierz and the additional book, also had its effect on later works, on his critical feuilletons, stories and poems.

One is born with a talent, but a writer's talent, mastery and consistency in creativity is not sufficient to ignite the souls of the readers. For that, one's moral qualifications must also drive one's pen: with personality, character, and conscience. This is forged by that which one was shaped during one's youth and childhood. This is what David Frischmann received in Zgierz. There, he also found the characters and personalities for his first fiction creations.

In David Frischmann's writings, from his “formlessness an emptiness” through his poems and stories, until his Bamidbar series, the legends of our national-social childhood – everything has an inner persuasion of the craft of a great personality. His sharp criticisms did not come, heaven forbid, from hatred or jealously, but rather from a deep desire to better and beautify Jewish life, Jewish creations in all areas of literature and art.

David Frischmann wrote both about literature and art, and about writers, poets, and politicians. He also wrote about theater and actors, and above all about the problems of life and death, love and hate. He was an artist and raconteur, editor and translator. All of his work excelled with freshness, fruitfulness and timelessness. His creations in all areas demonstrated the will to try all avenues to walk and seek, to not stop, to not allow himself to get caught in the web of complacency. From stormy

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feuilletons, he set out to tomorrow in the inner world of elegant poems, of self-appraisal, and gentle sadness.

From the intimate Jewish world, he sought a way to the world arena, not of gladiators, but only of people of worldly spirituality. His translations of Shakespeare and Byron, of Heinrich Heine and Rabindranath Tagore[1], Oscar Wilde, Anatol France, Pushkin, Ibsen, Elliot, Andersen, Grimm, and others, were great artistic achievements. All were imbued with so much intimate living spirit that they became blessed mutual creations. They burst forth in song as if from the same melody, the same rhythm as if from the source, the same beauty, the same radiating light; and frequently gave the impression that Frischmann provided a rectification of the creation in Hebrew, which, according to his intent, were wallowing in other languages.

He had an eye for all the important cultural events in the world of literature, art and politics. He brought his readers into partnership with all the movements and winds blowing in the civilized world, with all the changes and announcements of the great people of spirit who disrupted the literary world in Europe.

Like an uncomfortable spirit, albeit also harmonious, David Frischmann did not hide from the world in an ivory tower. Rather, he was always wide open to it, and fought incessantly against the chaos – for harmony. The great discomfort always runs against the world. It peers deep in the eyes, burying its deep secrets, laying them deep in the ground of despair, and rising again to the peaks of the spirituality of beauty.

David Frischmann was such a great, turbulent spirit. He had a great deal of pessimism in him, but he never satisfied himself with pessimistic formulas. After every sorrow, he called life toward a new struggle, and expressed a stubborn sense of invincibleness, certain in the victory over the muddle of questions and problems; a victory that is laced with understanding and belief, and came to expression both in his feuilletons and in his works of fiction. Who can forget the impression that his Shlosha Sheachlu [Three who Ate Together] or his Titchadesh [Let it be Renewed] had upon our childhood years? He was a creative pessimist, but when all the optimists dropped their hands, Frischmann set out to his work. Every one of his sighs was accompanied by hope.

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Like a thunderbird, he destroyed dreams and his heart pulsated with great Jewish hope. He did not believe in any plaited beliefs. He was no picayune pessimist. Above all, he stitched up everything that was flat, an everything that he touched was immersed in holiness.

The editors

Translator's footnote

  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_Tagore back

In the Circles of the Maskilim of Zgierz

by Moshe Helman of blessed memory

In his time, the communal activist from Łódź, Mr. Moshe Helman of blessed memory, would frequently visit Reb Isucher Szwarc, and was a friend of the writer David Frischmann. We include here several sections of his memoirs (still in manuscript form) regarding his connections and impressions of these two Zgierz natives.


P. S.

… Rabbi Eliahu Chaim Meizel, may the memory of the holy be blessed, the rabbi of Łódź, greeted every person pleasantly and treated them with honor. It was not only scholarly rabbis who frequented his home, for Maskilim also visited him for communal matters. It was in the home of the rabbi that I first met Reb Isucher Szwarc of Zgierz in 1888. The grandson of the rabbi introduced him to me, adding that Mr. Szwarc had a large library full of valuable books. Mr. Szwarc invited me to visit him in his home in Zgierz, where I could also meet David Frischmann, the poet of Israel. He added in jest: a poet – not a cantor, but a poet in Israel[1]

This meeting drew me near to both Isucher Szwarc and David Frischmann in the future. At my first opportunity to be in Zgierz with my brother-in-law Reb Shlomo Sirkis, I asked him to show me the way to the home of Reb Isucher Szwarc. My brother-in-law told me that Reb Isucher Szwarc worships in a different synagogue, and is considered to be a scholar, but since he is more progressive than a scholar, the Hassidim are not content with him. He was surprised to hear that the rabbi of Łódź drew him so near.

Nevertheless, he sent one of his officials with me to show me the way. When I entered his home, I saw him setting at the table with a book open before him. Next to the wall, there was a bookcase full of books, among which were many

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whose titles I was not yet familiar with. Reb Isucher was very happy to greet in his home the young brother-in-law of Reb Shlomo Sirkis (as he expressed it), and chatted with me briefly.

His first question was: what am I studying and what do I read? Do I read Hamelitz and Hatzefira? Have I read his articles signed with the pseudonym “Black Sea”[2]? When he heard that I was mainly studying Talmud, Talmudic commentaries, and the Code of Jewish Law, and read little, he pointed out to me that it would also be good to read a great deal, for a Jew is not only supposed to understand his past, but also to present, looking toward the future. He advised me to read a Hebrew newspaper as well as a Hebrew monthly such as Hashachar. He introduced me to his young son Shmuel and said, “My young son also studies, but he also reads.”

… I often went to visit my parents in Zgierz. I felt that my brother-in-law Shlomo wished to educate me in the way of Hassidism. However, he did not know that my heart was drawn to Reb Isucher Szwarc and Reb Moshe Ejger of blessed memory, my brother-in-law's partner, one of the first Maskilim, a member of Chovevei Zion, and a friend of Isucher Szwarc. I spent most of my time in their company every time I visited Zgierz.

… In the year 5658 (1898) I spent time in Odessa for business. Mr. Shmuel Barbash invited me to the Sabbath eve meal. He asked me about the engineer Shmuel Szwarc, the son of Reb Isucher Szwarc, who was in Spain at the time. I understood that this was a question about a marriage match. I spoke the praises of the youth, stating that he was scholarly, a Torah student, with fine character. I took that opportunity to tell him about the following fine episode. Shmuel Szwarc studied engineering in Paris, and one of his friends was Rothschild's son. Once, Shmuel Szwarc told his friends that he was blessed with a wonderful memory for numbers. He recited hundreds of numbers for them, which they were to write down. He then would repeat them, number by number, in the order that he had given them over. They had made a bet for a charitable institution.

A short time after they wrote down the numbers, he repeated them exactly as he had given them over. This was a surprising thing, and they considered the young Szwarc to be exceptionally talented. When Szwarc once went to visit his friend, the Rothschild father entered, and started a conversation with the youth from Poland. He asked how he had gotten such a wonderful memory. Shmuel Szwarc smiled and responded: “The matter is very simple. I am a Jew, and for us, the numbers are represented by the aleph beit[3]. I choose a chapter of Psalms that I know off by heart, let us say Ashrei Yoshvei Beitecha [4] and translate it to the numbers: aleph – 1, shin – 300, reish – 200, yod – 10, etc. Rothschild liked this “invention” and gave him a recommendation for Spain, where he received a job as an engineer.

Mr. Barbash enjoyed the invention of Shmuel Szwarc very much. After a few years, he became his son-in-law.

.. At that time, I hosted Reb Isucher Szwarc in my home, and a sharp debate broke out between us on the topic of Haskalah [enlightenment]. He admitted to me that the incident I saw with… (who wrote on the Sabbath) was already known to him, and that person was not the only one, but such was the way

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with most Maskilim. Reb Isucher Szwarc was not content with the fact that, for example, the hero of the story Le'an by Fierberg, published in Hashiloach, extinguished a candle on the Sabbath in front of the entire congregation in the synagogue. Despite all this, the Haskalah was separate from the behavior of these Maskilim. “Reb Isucher stressed, people such as you and I are obligated to forge a blend of opposition based on the Code of Jewish Law, and of life in the spirit of the Haskalah, that is, in the spirit of tolerance.

We decided between us to found a circle of Torah-oriented Maskilim, and to gather from time to time for reading and discussion in the spirit of research without appeals, without searching for the truth and accepting the truth from those who state it.

… In those days we were – we, the Maskilim of the old generations – used to gather once a week “over a cup of tea” at the home of Mrs. Batya Turkeltaub. Her house was a meeting place for the writers of Israel, and David Frischmann was a regular there. He once said that Batya Turkeltaub was his friend to whom he writes letters on literary matters. She admired Hebrew literature as the supreme ideal. The famous illustrator Glicenstein would also stay at her home when he visited Łódź. We would sit around in that house over a cup of tea and listen to the creations of Frischmann before they were published.

… In his discussions, Frischmann would always request that we teach Hebrew not only to our sons, but also to our daughters.

We would visit the home of David Frischmann whenever we were in Warsaw. It was spiritual enjoyment not only to read his writing, but also to hear his regular conversations. His jokes reminded us of Boccaccio's Decameron[5]. He only told them to special individuals. He showed me his jokes in writing, but did not want to publish them. He stated in his will that they are only allowed to be published fifty years after his death.

… After his wedding, David Frischmann sent us a thank you note for the gift we sent him

(published after the death of the poet in “Letters of David Frischmann,” page 162)

Translator's footnotes

  1. Here, Israel refers to the Jewish people and not the land. Also, the word for poet used here could also mean a singer, hence the reference to a cantor. back
  2. Szwarc is black in Yiddish. back
  3. See http://www.jewfaq.org/alephbet.htm#Numbers back
  4. An important part of the daily prayer service. back
  5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Decameron back

Eulogy for Avraham Yosef Weisenfeld

by Nachum Sokolov

(Hatzefira, 24 Kislev 5658, December 7, 1897, number 272)

Our comrade, Reb Avraham Yaakov Weisenfeld is no more!

One of the last survivors of the scholars of Galicia, one of the “early ones” has passed away recently in the city of Krakow. Weisenfeld has gone to his eternal world!

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This news moved the hearts of all who knew him. However, who knew Weisenfeld? Only those who were close to him. – – – There are wise people who do not wish to be known from up close, but rather who want that their books be read and studied. On the other hand, there are special people who are comfortable with being known from up close.

Weisenfeld was one of these special individuals. Those who knew him recognized that he was a flowering treasury full of literature. Those who knew him saw him as the symbol of a progressive Maskil, a living monument to the era of splendor and glory of the Haskalah of Galicia. He was a monument forged from the throne of honor of our leaders Rana'k[1], Geshi'r, and those like them. Those who knew him not only honored him in the splendor of his glory, but also loved him with exceptional love, not only for his expertise, knowledge, and ideas, but also for his sublime character traits, the grace of his soul, and the purity of his spirit. For this elevated man was a warm, pure Maskil, who warmed the hearts of all those near to him. He held the Torah, literature, and the Hebrew language dear and precious to him – with pure warmth, faith, enthusiasm, emotion, abundant pleasantness, with the same “grace of youth” and “marital love” of the Haskalah, with the same pleasant warmth and fierce devotion that we see in the splendor of the early ones of every faction, including the early ones of the Haskalah.

Such precious individuals, remnants of the great era, must be guarded as the apple of the eye from weakness, ageing, and death. But what can we do, for Heaven has decreed that even people of this sort must die.

However, even if we know that it was a decree that we cannot question, whenever one of our choice cedars falls down, we feel as if the death has ripped our hearts to pieces.

Weisenfeld of blessed memory was a native of Krakow, and of the generation of the greats who raised the banner of Hebrew Haskalah in Galicia. He, along with the finest of the Maskilim of Galicia, served the giant of the spirit, Rabbi Yitzchak Mizes of blessed memory. He carried the opinions and visions, the explanations and the feelings, the research methodologies and the paths of logic, the fine character traits, the mottoes of ideas and the regular conversation of those scholars in his heart throughout his life. Like all the early Maskilim, he was also pious. G-d fearing and observant of the commandments, with great patience and a calm heart. Like all the early Maskilim, he occupied himself in Torah for its own sake throughout his life: and included in Torah is wisdom and literature. He loved to deduce theories, and recall all the words of the excellent writers. He was always the paradigm of a man of friendship. He was always happy and joyous, devoid of sadness, devoid of pride, devoid of dryness, fully alive, feeling, enthusiastic, all pleasant – like a watered garden.

He was a modest, discreet man. Like the few Maskilim of the past generation, he did not aspire to write works. However, he exchanged a great deal of letters with the wise people of the generation. All of his letter were replete with Torah and knowledge.

From Krakow, Weisenfeld moved during his youth to live in the small city of Zgierz, next to Łódź, where he lived for many years, almost for his entire life, for we cannot count the final years in Krakow, which he endured in agony and old age, among the years of his life,

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after circumstances forced him to move there.

The elderly pass on without returning. Even we “young people” will soon be old, and what will the next generation be like? Will that generation understand his ideas and the burden of his soul, as we understand the ideas of our ancestors and rabbis?

I did not know Weisenfeld well, but – if it is possible to state such – “I felt him”, the light within him, his good taste. I was sated with enjoyment from his works and conversations when I visited his home years ago. He was still planted on his heights. I also saw him about two years ago in Krakow, bent under the burden of old age, but still with his Divine sparks. Let those who were near to him, and who walked with him throughout the days and years arise and eulogize him appropriately!

May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

N. S.
Transcribed by W. Fisher – July 6, 1966.

Translator's footnote

  1. Nachman Krochmal. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nachman_Krochmal back

Two Books about Two Eminent Men of our City

by Z. Fisher

Not long ago, two books were published, dedicated to the memories and activities of two Zgierz natives, whose names were known for praise throughout all of Polish Jewry and the entire Jewish world. As residents of Zgierz and heads of the community, they did a great deal for the Jewish community as they served as heads of the communal council of our city for many years. They excelled particularly in their successful work for the benefit of the community and individual. The elder brother, Reb Eliezer of blessed memory, also was elected to the city council, and later as a delegate to the Polish Sejm (Parliament).

One book is called Man of Faith by Pinchas Sirkis (300 pages). It was written in memory of his father, the rabbi and Hassid Rabbi Eliezer Sirkis of blessed memory. The book portrays his spiritual personality and full, fruitful life of communal activism on behalf of Jewry and Jews in all areas of life. All this was in the background of his large family, of fine pedigree in Poland, during the 18th century.

In the annals of that life, we survey the Jewish way of life in the cities of Poland, Wolhynia, and Podolia several generations ago. Indeed, Jewish life in Zgierz also passes by here, in the scarlet thread throughout the entire length of the book. Since Rabbi Eliezer of blessed memory used to record in his diary that which took place in his time and environment,

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it turns out that the scroll of his life faithfully and authentically surveys one of the most interesting and stormy eras in the life of the nation in the Diaspora.

When Rabbi Eliezer Sirkis of blessed memory arrived in the Land of Israel in 1935, he continued his important communal work (as one of the heads and leaders of Agudas Yisroel) with greater energy and dedication for the benefit of the public, and specifically for the benefit of the Orthodox settlement in the Land.

The second book, called Zakuf Komah [Upright Stature] by the aforementioned writer (200 pages) was written in memory of his uncle, the rabbi and Hassid Rabbi Daniel Sirkis of blessed memory, Rabbi Eliezer's brother – as they were the two children of the prominent Hassid, from the finest of the city, whose name preceded him among the Jews of Poland for his generosity and warmth of heart, Rabbi Shlomo Sirkis of blessed memory.

This book describes in part the youthful years of Rabb Daniel. After moving from one cheder to another, he finally received direction in Hassidism and the service of the Creator from an elder of the Kock Hassidim “who forged the personality of Rabbi Daniel in the spirit of Kock.” Indeed, his opinions were always strong and his stance powerful in his struggle for truth without missing the mark… These characteristics exemplify him, his ways, and his activities throughout his entire life – including his sharp turn from Ger Hassidism to the Mizrachi movement, for he became one of the founders and leaders of that movement in our city – as well as his role as a leader of the communal council of Zgierz, where he imbued his spirit upon the council, introduced an atmosphere of the Land of Israel to the communal leadership, and enacted regulations that were always for the benefit of our townsfolk who were making aliya as pioneers to the Land of Israel.

His primary, widespread communal efforts found a living echo and great content in all strata of the Jewish community of Israel from the time that he arrived in the Land, the desire of his heart, in 1925. There, we find Rabbi Daniel as the head of the fighters an strugglers for the whole Land of Israel, for religious national education, for dedication and purity of character for the nation. He wrote passionate articles in the pages of newspapers, and reacted strongly and steadfastly to anything that took place within the Jewish community of the Land. Thus, he stood on his guard faithfully and with dedication for the nation, the religion, and the homeland.

Two of his books were published in the Land: Zionism in the Straits (260 pages), and with an Upright Stature (450 pages). The latter book especially received a broad, positive echo among most circles of the Jewish community of Israel.

In summary: two important books, full of content and great value, about two great Jewish personalities who were natives of Zgierz.

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The Confession of a Jewish Large-Scale Industrialist
(From his booklet: To the Son and Daughter)

by Moshe Tzvi Eiger

Woe, you Moshe Ejger, the small person
The great fool, you imbecile,
It is coming, night is falling soon.
So give a thought, give a ponder;
We must get ready to sleep soon…
Therefore, G-d will not punish you –
What have you done, what have you made
And with what have you spent your life?
Tell, to whom was this all necessary
Your constant thinking, your headache,
Always going around with your resentments.
You did not live and you did not enjoy,
But rather always thought, ruminated in your mind,
You wanted everything to be higher than was within your power,
You had great plans, many projects,
And how many of them did you carry out?...
Always cautious, busy, businesslike, interesting –
You have completely forgotten “You should not say, when I have time, I will learn”[1]
You always said: I will yet, I will yet, I will –
A war came, and made rubble out of everything…

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

And now again, say what type of a taste this had,
Your poems, your stanzas, your rhymes?
Is it worthwhile, therefore, to think, to ruminate,
Will something better come of this?
Fool, what can this have for action –
Your children do not even know how to read this…

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The calculations now, when you are already going away:
What is the entire purpose, and what is the goal?!
The last line – only nothing, in the head as in the wallet –
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity![2]
Rabka, 1932

Translator's footnotes

  1. Pirkei Avot 2:5. back
  2. From Song of Songs 1:2. back

Arthur Szyk in the Zgierz Business School
(As our Fabian Grynberg remembers him)
The well-known writer Sh. L. Shneiderman, in his recently published book “Arthur Szyk” writes as well about young Szyk's studies in the Zgierz business school, that took place specifically in the turbulent revolt year of 1905 in Russia and in Poland.

… “The eleven-year-old Artur Szyk also joined the strike committee of the business school of Zgierz, near Łódź. Specifically there, he made his debut as a political caricaturist. He drew the caricatures of the Czar and his ministers. Our students made tens of copies and distributed them through the classes, and even through a series of schools in Łódź itself. The teachers displayed a great deal of liberalness toward the rebellious students, with whose actions they quietly sympathized.

– – – One of the caricatures reached the school principal, and the young Szyk had to leave the school.”

The well-known business school in Zgierz (see Book of Zgierz, pp. 120, 275-6), with its large number of Jewish students from all parts of Russia and especially from Poland, in time became a warm nest for all sorts of ideological streams, which were nurtured at that time in the underground of political-societal life. An entire row of later famous societal activists and leaders of political parties – primarily of the left – emanated from there.

Our important fellow townsman, Fabian Gryn-Grynberg, who lived his latter years in America and was in literary contact with the Forward, sent us the following letter regarding Shneiderman's article in that newspaper:

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“Esteemed editor,

Every Sunday, I read with great interest your wonderful chapters about the world-famous artist and warm Jew, Arthur Szyk, written by the talented writer Sh. L. Shneiderman.

Szyk was my friend in the Zgierz business school. We sat on the same bench. I observed how he masterfully brought forth the characters of the teachers, which he drew with his caricatures. However, when the teacher caught him, he was in trouble.

I recall how Szyk, with his studious nature, would always bother the brake man in the tram that brought him from Łódź to Zgierz every day. The brake man “got angry” and hit him in the head or the face. My friend was heavily bandaged for several weeks.

I am very grateful to the Forward and the writer for portraying the wonderful personality of Arthur Szyk, who remained faithful to his people and strongly defended the honor and interests of his people, often risking his life and career. Few world-famous artist are left among us.

With respect,

Fabian Gryn, Forest Hills, N.Y.

In the Forward, July 25, 1978.

The Professor of “Zakon-Bosza”
(In the Zgierz government gymnasja)

by Zeev

The great, famed writer, Sholem Asch, had a bit of closeness with Zgierz. We know of his frequent visit to the Zgierz Maskil, writer, and scholar Reb Isucher Szwarc, whose home was known as a meeting place for scholars. Almost every time that Asch traveled through Zgierz on the way from his home in Kutno to Łódź (in those years, the railway line from Łódź to Kutno did not yet exist), he would stop in Zgierz and visit the Szwarc's, to whom he also showed his first manuscripts.

In the large, already bustling city of Łódź, Sholem

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Asch's father-in-law already lived. He was the Hebrew literaturist M. Ch. Szapira, whose daughter Matilda had, as is known, a great influence on Ash's artistic creations.

It seems that his father-in-law as well, the aforementioned Szapira, was very closely connected to our former hometown, for he had a position in the Zgierz government gymnasja before the First World War as a professor of “Zakon-Bosza” (Fear and Law).

This is what I found in an article in Di Zukunft. That journal (January 982, pp. 25-29) was sent to us by Yitzchak Scharansky. The article was written by Meir Ber Gutman under the heading: Leibush Magid and the Professor of “Zakon-Bosza.”

Unwillingly, we come here to the possible idea of a point of connection between the father-in-law's teaching position for “Zakon-Bosza” and the son-in-law's “Nazarene novels” that, in their time, so jolted the Jewish cultural world[1].


Shia Plocki, the Veteran Firefighter of Zgierz

After the First World War, many Jewish volunteers joined the ranks of the “straż ogieńowa” (firefighters) in our city. The need to protect Jewish property, especially the Jewish-owned factories of the city, became vital after the expansion and development in the city of the textile manufacturing and the sale of its products, from which most of the Jews earned their livelihoods. This step was also a matter of national pride – that is, that even we Jews, and not only the Polish and Germans who had exclusive rights in that area until this time, were capable of protecting and defending ourselves in times of danger. The first pioneer in such matters was Karol Ejger. Following him were Yaakov Skosowski, Zeinwil Kohen, Shmuel Feldman, Yehoshua Jakir, and others.

From our childhood years, we still remember the elderly, plump Shia Plocki, with his small, greyish beard adorning his red face. He wore a motorcycle helmet with a sparkling visor. He had a shop for writing implements and toys on the Long Street (later called Pilsudski Street). He was a unique character in his conduct and his relation to Jewish communal life, but he had a warm, Jewish heart. He raised and educated and orphan girl, from a far-away family, in his home. He was also charitable, and never withheld his hand from giving to the needy, even though rumors spread that his kitchen was not kosher to the highest of standards. It seems that this was merely slander.

It is told that he was among the first in the firefighters from the time of its founding, and he was one of the chief activists in its development. Nevertheless, there was something comical and humorous about seeing this elderly man among those running to a fire that broke out in some village around Zgierz, whether in Dąbrówka or Piaskowice,

[Page 115]

Brużyczka or Stępowizna, Proboszczewice or Lućmierz, Krogulec or Łagiewniki. He, the elderly Jew, in uniform, with the helmet on his head and the sledgehammer on his belt, would run to protect and save, even though he could barely carry himself on his feet. However, when he passed by the extinguisher or the ladder apparatus, they would always stop on the way to take him along. They, the firefighters, honored him and related to him with appreciation – perhaps because of his past merits, and perhaps because of his strength of heart to volunteer as the first Jew of the city firefighters.

However, anyone who did not witness Shia Plocki, marching proudly in the parade of the firefighters on the occasion of some national event or festive occasion, along the entire length of Long Street, with people watching along the sidewalk as their band was playing – and he was in the front ranks, in the shadow of the flag raised high – with an upright posture, and a shiny helmet on his head, to the beat of the marching music, along with everyone else – never saw Jewish pride in the lands of the Diaspora.

Translator's footnote

  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sholem_Asch back

My Father Yehoshua
the son of David Baniel (Berliner) of blessed memory

by Dr. Shmuel Baniel

Reb Yehoshua of blessed memory was one of the prominent personalities of Orthodox Zgierz. He spent all his days engaged in Torah and Divine service. He was a Hassid with supreme grace; He stemmed from an old, wide-branched family, whose sons excelled in their deeds, and national and intellectual achievements, to the glory of the Jews of Zgierz.


Uncaptioned. Yehoshua Baniel Berliner


Father, peace be upon him, made aliya to the Land in 1934 along with Mother, my sisters, two young brothers, and me – the baby. Thanks to his Zionist activities as one of the leaders of the Mizrachi movement in Zgierz, he succeeded in receiving a certificate and making aliya to the Land.

Father occupied himself in commerce to earn a livelihood, but he lived from spiritual sustenance. He led and supported the shtibel of Polish Hassidim for 40 years, and continued the life of the shtibel here. I cannot forget the salted fish tails of the third Sabbath meal. Nor can I forget Reb Yankel Baum, Reb Gershon Szpilberg, and all the others who have already for a long time exchanged the anteroom for the banquet hall.

[Page 116]

During his last twenty years, father invested most of his time in the study of Kabbalah. He especially dedicated himself to the Sulam commentary of Rabbi Ashlag. He financially helped the publication of the commentary, and also conducted classes about it.

He wrote many innuendoes about matters of the redemption, and spoke a great deal about the Messianic era, but he refused to put such matters in writing. His Hassidic stories were well-known in the neighborhood, and tens of his followers would soak them up them with thirst, especially on Sabbaths and festivals, when the shtibel was filled to the brim.

He stopped his business activity in the final decade of his life, after his children had married and established their own families. He would study with the grandchildren, especially the Oral Torah, as he influenced them and imbued his spirit upon them.

He died of a heart attack at the age of 83. On the final Friday of his life, he told me that he had finally agreed to move to Bnei Brak, where the atmosphere was quieter and more religious. However, it apparently, it was decreed in Heaven that he would not leave the Montefiore neighborhood during his lifetime. All that we could do was to bestow final honors upon him. He is buried in Bnei Brak in the vicinity of the Chazon Ish and other luminaries.

We always loved hearing his stories about the town of Zgierz and its people, about the vibrant business life there, and the atmosphere in the Beis Midrash and various shtibels, and about its sages and scribes.

It pained us deeply to part from such a dear father, but we were comforted in his faith. Father believed in the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead with pure faith, and he instilled that faith in us as well – and with that we were comforted.

He died on 16 Av, 5737 (1977).

Yehuda Leibusz Wajnsztejn

by Zeev Fisher


Uncaptioned. Yehuda Leibusz Wajnsztejn


Yehuda Leibusz Wajnsztejn was strongly connected to Zgierz and its people. There was no event in Jewish life in the city that was foreign to him. He was involved in communal life, and took interest and followed every that that took place in the Jewish community. He was always prepared to help his fellow.

He was one of those types of activists who related to their communal tasks with full seriousness and responsibility. In this manner, he earned the trust of the heads of the community and the organizations in our city. Thus, we see him as a faithful delegate to the communal council and various organizational committees, whether factional or financial, in our city. His work always excelled in activity and dedication.

[Page 117]

From his early childhood in the company of his friends and acquaintances, he absorbed dedication, good traits, boundless love for his nation, and deep longing for the complete redemption.

The life of Y. L. Wajnsztejn is bound with chapters of the history of the Zionist movement in Zgierz. His Zionist path began with “Agudat Hatzionim,” in which the love for Zion was boundless. The first Chovevim (lovers of Zion) were: Reb Tovia Lypszyc, Isucher Szwarc, Moshel Ejger, the Richters, the Berliners, and others. Y. L. Wajnsztejn followed in their paths and immersed himself in Zionist activity in our city. He immediately found himself standing among their leadership.

He brought his national pride, energy, and warmth of spirit to the Revisionist movement. He headed that chapter in Zgierz until the outbreak of the war. He remained faithful to that movement throughout his life.

As one of the Holocaust survivors, Wajnsztejn found himself active in the Organization of Zgierz Natives immediately after its founding in Poland following the Second World War. He later was one of its first organizers in the State of Israel, and was one of the most active members of the committee of our organization. His activities touched on all areas of the lives of the Holocaust survivors, both materially and spiritually. His role on behalf of the Book of Zgierz was great.

His heart and home were open to anyone in need, and anyone in difficulty. He involved himself in concern for assistance in any endeavor. When we founded the charitable fund, he was not only one of the founders, but also one of the first donors of his own money.

The joy of life, friendship, and culture pulsated from is essence. He was especially diligent and faithful.

He died on Av 10, 5736 (August 6, 1976). His memory will be guarded for a blessing.

David Berger

by Zeev Fisher


Uncaptioned. David Berger


With the death of David Berger, a personality wonderful in its uniqueness and full of fine traits departed from the stage of our lives. His heart was sensitive to the vicissitudes of life and suffering of the individual and community. How strong was his national spine! He was a faithful and dedicated activist in all realms of Zionism. He also displayed great organizational talent.

He drew his desire toward communal activism from the upper compartments of the soul. His developed esthetic taste and good heart captivated us. A great deal of desire of life radiated from him. In his presence, we were willingly calmed from the difficulties of life, and we dreamed of a better future.

[Page 118]

There was something particularly personal in his way, full of spirit and simplicity in his manner of speaking. We always felt that there was a great man in front of us, great in knowledge and spiritual content.

He was an orator who exerted influence on his audience both through his levelheaded intellect and his sensitive heart. Therefore, his opinion was decisive in all committee meetings and conferences in the institutions of culture and charity in which he took place among the first of influence and activity.

His home, abundant with light and warmth, was open wide to all in need. I often found myself at his home, and always enjoyed the spirit of friendship that pervaded. He excelled in his love of his fellow, whether in the eyes of the of the public and society, or in matters of charity for the needy and the daily difficulties of those with bitter lives. He inherited his feelings toward the suffering of his fellow from his father, Reb Aharon Yosef of blessed memory, a communal activist, a man of society, and a man of friendship. Like the father, his son David loved benevolence and charity, and was similar to him in his pleasant mannerisms and calm relations with his fellow.

Activities in the realm of sport were very important to him. He was the vice chair of the Maccabee organization in Zgierz, and dedicated himself with full enthusiasm and energy to the necessary actions to instill a sporting spirit in the strata of the youth. The roots of his connection to Hassidism did not dry up even with his immersion in communal activity. Anyone who knew him from up close absorbed the echoes of his soul from his words.

From Zgierz to Tel Aviv, he bore the vision of destiny, and dedicated himself to his work on behalf of the public and the individual.

The heart does not want to be comforted over the death of a friend, a man with an upright heart and a straight path. This is how his image will remain for many years in the memories and hearts of his many friends and acquaintances. He died on Cheshvan 2, 5740 (October 23, 1979)[1].

Translator's footnote

  1. The text has an error in the Hebrew year. The text says 5702, but from the secular date given, it is 5740. (an interchange of a beit with a final mem). back

Fabian Grynberg-Green

by Zeev Fisher


Uncaptioned. Fabian Grynberg-Green


All natives of our city remember well the noble image of Fabian Grynberg. He was a Zgierzer with all the limbs of his body. He had a sense of community, and a grasp of popular attitudes. Everything that took place in the city was close to his heart. He took interest in the state of the Jews of the city ,and did a great deal on their behalf, especially during times of trouble and tribulation.

This double love for our city and its Jews was etched very deeply in his blood. More than once did I see him with his wide heart in his communal activities. Not many of the communal activists of his stature were so humane in their activities, and so publicly conscious in their day-to-day lives. In his work as a member of the city council, he never for a moment stopped seeing

[Page 119]

the actual person, for whom and on whose behalf all communal matters existed. The community and communal activity were seen in his eyes as service of the living individual, who suffers and aspires. He served the Jews of Zgierz with all his energy and talents. His primary aspiration was to help everyone suffering and downtrodden.

Grynberg was the living spirit in every communal and charitable institution of our city. It is no wonder that he earned great trust from all who knew him as a man of conscience, who suffers the pain of the individual and the community, and hastens to their aid.

In his conversations and writings, he hates empty rhetoric and loves simple, populist talk that creates moral obligation, the will and possibility of actualization, seriousness, and the burden of bearing the yoke.

Fabian Grynberg loved discussing his memories of Zgierz. In his memoirs that he published in the Der Tog daily that was published in the United States, he also portrayed events and people of our city. He did not pass over the simple folk, and portrayed them with appreciation, warmth, and great faithfulness of the heart.

When he arrived in America, he immediately entered the forefront of the many, variegated branches of communal activity. His personality was enchanting, his mannerisms and way of speaking were pleasant. His levelheadedness and culture forged his path in the front ranks of service.

G-d gave him an abundance of life and talent – and he did not deal with them selfishly. On the contrary, he spread them with his light hands and generous spirit, in accordance with “his heart and flesh shall sing.”

He died on Av 3, 5744 (August 1, 1984). His memory will never depart from the hearts of his friends and admirers!

The Eminent Writer Yehuda Elberg
(Visiting old friends from among his fellow townsfolk)

When he spent time in Israel on the occasion of receiving the Prime Minister of Israel Prize, Elberg expressed his desire to meet friends on are organization committee.

The meeting, organized by Mrs. Halperin, took place in the home of our comrade Zeev Fisher. It was a modest, social, friendly meeting.

Comrade Fisher highlighted the important contribution of the Jews of Zgierz as writers and thinkers to the splendid culture of Polish Jewry, and especially to its rich literature, in two languages, until the Second World War.

The banner is for us, the Holocaust survivors, that even after the war of annihilation against us, writers arose who continued on and succeeded in producing exemplary creations worthy of praise. One of them is our friend, our fellow townsman, Yehuda Elberg. The prize awarded to him by the state is also an honor for us, the survivors of the community of Zgierz.

[Page 120]

I bless you – the host concluded – that you will continue going from strength to strength, and wish you success in all the works of your hands. May your literary creations enrich the spiritual treasures of our nation in Israel and the Diaspora.

Those gathered spent several hours in the warm, homey atmosphere as they discussed memories of the recent past, of a world that was and is no more…

Our Accolades
(Excerpts from his memoirs remaining in his legacy)

by Nathan-Nota Netritz of blessed memory

“ – – – Anyone who spent time with our fellow townsman, Wolf Fisher, in preparing the Zgierz Yizkor Book, must feel the greatest respect to him. The term “respect” is possibly too weak. The term “esteem” may be more accurate, and is indeed what I feel toward Wolf Fisher[1].

“We owe him a great thank you and a hearty congratulations for his energetic work for in perpetuating our destroyed community. Leibish Weinstein and I traveled with him to Jerusalem on more than one occasion to rummage through the archives of the university and Yad Vashem. We were astounded by his tireless searching and rummaging, and his joy upon finding traces of Jewish life in our city.

“With boundless love, awe and respect, Wolf Fisher visited the son of the famous writer David Frischmann, a renowned fellow townsfolk, whose works are a treasure in Hebrew and Yiddish literature. Wolf Fisher preserved his memory in the Book of Zgierz.

“This is what Fisher also did with the great Hebrew poet Yaakov Cohen. He often visited him and discussed with him the events of our town, in which the great poet grew up and studied in the business school, and where his poetic abilities were awakened.

“Wolf Fisher's greatest efforts were crowed with success. We, the survivors of Zgierz Jews, appreciate his incessant efforts, and feel a great sense of gratitude toward him.”

Translator's footnote

  1. The first term, derech eretz, means respect. The second term, farerung, is a stronger term of respect. back


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