Letters from Home: Feinholtz Family

Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano

During the period of his stay in Ben Shemen, Shamai Feinholz corresponded with his family members who remained in Siedlce until shortly after the outbreak of the war. Below are the surviving letters and their translation to English.

My dear brother Shamai,

You wrote to us that the children in Israel (the “Sabras”) are big mischievous and have the nerve to talk unpleasantly to adults. I think that these children, when they grow up, will become good pioneers. I ask you to send me a nice picture of you working in the orchard. I bless you and all your friends that God will help you in your work and become good pioneers for our people and for our country.

Regards to all your friends and teachers,

Shalom, Deborah.

My dear brother Shamai,

We miss you because when Shabat comes and Dad reads the Siddur then we see that someone is missing. I miss Jacob too, but he has been there for years so I forgot about him because I was small. When he came to Siedlce, he came for a month and did not see anything else.

I ask you to write me how he looks. Mother talks about you and dear Jacob all the time. And what you gave her before you left…

Your sister Dvorah is the fourth grade, Shalom

My dear son Shamai’le!

It’s been a few weeks since we received your letter from your trip. That same week we received one more letter from our dear Jacob and you are in no rush to write us. What is the reason? Maybe it’s because of apathy or because of our serious questions? (the next 3 words are unclear because of a stain on the right. Probably – “questions, which reinforce us “). Shamai, we don’t have much to write as we don’t know what is happening to you. My dear boy! When we don’t accept letters from you – our pain can’t be imagined. They are the real “Nachat” of your parents, waiting With lots of longing In far away to hear from their dear and beloved children. Thus, it is holy work to write us. Write us about everything. Again we feel the lack of calmness which never stops. We are also careful concerning the time to write, so we don’t illuminate the house. We are healthy, thank God. We  wish you health and strength, and may we hear only good  tidings from you .

Your mother Hantse

My dear brother Shamai,

When I read your letter I longed to travel to you. I like the children in Israel. The parents educate them not the same as here in the Diaspora. They give them new spirit, a spirit of heroism and love to the land on which they’re sitting. I wish to be like them. At the meantime I learn at school ………(?) we bought new instruments of (?) ….. which cost four Thousands Z”H and more stuff to buy.


January 27, 1939

My dear son Shamai’le!

We received your letter. We waited impatiently for it. We thank you, our dear son, for the detailed description, which makes it possible to see everything as if in a picture. It makes us feel better and makes us happy. This makes us hope for the coming redemption from the Holy One, Blessed is He. When our Dvortscahle saw that I was writing you, she asked me to read her the letter I had written to you, and when I reached expressions of longing, her reaction and face were just like yours. We could understand from your letter what’s going on in your school. It is satisfying with all that is necessary and feels as if it’s in heaven. And certainly all those who are fortunate enough to study there must contribute, with the help of God, with all their strength to fulfill all that is necessary of them in their studies and work. Here, everything is as always. Dvortscahle learns very well. A very good girl, may God watch her. Father, too, feels better. We pray that you stay healthy and strong and that we will hear only good news from you. Write to us if you are satisfied with the food.

(Letter without signature)

My dear brother,

Life here is monotonous, without news and events. We wake up in the morning and already evening comes, because it’s raining all the time. Sometimes the sun appears behind the clouds and lights up a bit. But it happens very rarely. Therefore, do not be surprised that I hardly and rarely write to you. I started to learn Hebrew. It seems to me that if I start writing to you in Hebrew, I will be able to approach you more deeply. Jacob wrote to us that you are doing well and that you are liked by all.

This pleased us very much. When Daddy read your last letter he was even in tears. I see that you’re having a good time. Do not forget us. There is a saying that “only from a distance we see how precious we are to ourselves.”


My dear and beloved brother Shamai,

I can tell you that I sit 2-3 (months) at home and still have not received a recruitment order. We are very pleased with your letter. Shalom,


February 7, 1939

My dear son Shamai’le!

On February 6th we received your letters dated 12/01 and 23/01. We waited for them impatiently. Now it takes more time, but in our situation this is also for the better. Dear Shamai’le! The news that Mrs. Zilberman received from her parents about Aaron does not match reality. Aaron told her that he was expecting a draft order, but he had not received anything to this day, and if he got it now, he would be released next year. Of course we, and especially I, are not calm. Who would help Daddy? But there is no choice but to rely on the will of the Master of the Universe. My dear son! I see that you are very worried about us. You write and you turn to the Creator to help us bring redemption and together we will be protected under his wings. Mrs. Zilberman wrote to him that there was a terrorist attack not far from your settlement, but you do not write to us about it. Weinberg’s sons have been to us several times and told us that for six weeks he has not received even one letter from his sons, and that worries them very much. This causes them serious distress. We are also very concerned. Ask them to write about you. You never mention them either. And they (Weinbergs) always ask what your situation is and what you write. You will also have to write about them and we will give them regards from their sons, write to us the reason why Weinberg was silent. From your letters we learn that you are very satisfied with spiritual life. We, of course, have no spiritual life in these foreign lands. ….. We are healthy. Be healthy and strong, learn well, and we will hear only good news from you.

Your mother Hantsche


February 14, 1939

My dear son Shamai’le!

Your dear letter made us very pleased. Imagine how happy we were to know that you are in a place that makes spiritual rest and adds strength to the body. The prophet says, “May God have mercy on you, and in your battle, the Temple of Zion will be happy, the daughters of Judah will be revealed, for the sake of your trials, but Shamai’le, your brothers also dream of the Promised Land, and we must wait for the future patiently. “The Creator of the world will open the gates of heaven and the gates of mercy” in which we enter the upper section.

Lately, the weather here has been unpleasant and worsening every day, but with the Jewish belief in the Almighty, on the eve of the coming of redemption, we are strengthened and we draw strength to continue living. With us, thank God, everything is fine. Be healthy and strong and we will hear only good news from you.

Your mother Hantsche.

February 20, 1939

Our dear child Shamai’le!

We received and read your precious letter dated 6 February with great joy, thank God. Dear child! The close connection between your young heart and your parents fills us with hope that the Almighty will bring us under His supervision. Dear child! My health, thank God, did not get worse and sometimes I feel better than before, but I still mean, God willing, to see the doctor soon and then I will write you the results of the tests. Dvortshele learns well. Her teacher very much praises her, and she will participate in a Purim performance. Precisely now she is rushing to rehearsals and cannot add a few words to my letter. Aaron is also a very good guy; he respects us very much, may he have luck in his life. There are no big changes in Siedlce, business is not so good, and we live by miracle. Feiga, Walwell’s daughter, became a bride. With our children, God willing, I think it will happen to our beloved Jacob.

Now I will not write anymore, because it is already very late and the post office is already closed. Be healthy and strong and that we will hear only good news from you.

Your mother Hantsche.

Why don’t you write your friends from Siedlce? Their parents visit us often and are interested in hearing about their children, but we do not know what to answer. Please respond to our request in the next letter.

Dear Shamai, I just read your letter and enjoyed it very much. Be as healthy as I wish you from the bottom of my heart,


February 20th, 1939

My beloved and dear brother Shamai.

Your letters really make us feel spiritual. Lately, your letters arrive on time, probably because of the good weather. In your previous letters you write that you could not go to a concert in Tel Aviv. I imagine performances in Eretz Israel, how beautiful and magnificent they are. Shamai, I think you know that in our newspapers, too, we “play” important modern concerts, such as “Seasonal Symphonies in the Parliament” accompanied by “mass immigration” and plans for the establishment of “Polish Jewish Divisions” in order to drain swamps and establish colonies in faraway countries. Another thing is that all the projects should be funded by the Jews themselves. I think you know of yet another “concert” accompanied by a British dance band. That’s how it looks from here. I want to immigrate to Eretz-Israel and live a life of man, equal to the life of every person in the world. But we, the Jews of the Diaspora, have to wait until the anger passes. Shamai, write more about life in the Moshava. It interests us very much. Send us more photos, because we miss you very much. Write to us how the defense wall looks around Ben-Shemen, and send your pictures when you work in cowsheds with chickens and horses. It interests us very much. Shamai, do you remember that we dreamed at home about these things, that with God’s help we would be pioneers and not restaurant owners that any drunk could spit on and scorn. I want to tell you something interesting: I got to talk to Dr. Bergman and showed him your pictures. I want to tell you that he was really surprised and praised you very much. And he noticed that you had changed very much, and added with a smile: You’ll see that your brother will be a good moshavnik. And something else: I sent some pictures to our cousin David and gave him regards from you. Shamai, do not forget to write Rivka from Warsaw, because it does not look nice. Father says that he and Mommy will soon be in Warsaw at the doctor’s and go to visit Rivka, but she may be unhappy (because you do not write her). She respects you very much and you must write her and send her pictures.



March 3rd, 1939

My dear son Shamai’le!

We received your precious letter on the 27th. We could not answer immediately, because I and Father were in Warsaw at the doctor’s office. We wanted to write to you, but we waited for the doctor’s answer, which found that my condition, thank God, had improved in general. I have to keep the diet, get the same medications and rest a little. My dear son Shamai’le! Hashem will make sure I can tell you good news about my health. I’m just looking forward to hear good news from you and to be happy with you. The attitude of the government toward the Jews has not changed, but “Behold, the keeper of Israel shall not sleep.” In our restaurant there are no changes. Everything, thank God, goes under the supervision of mercy. Regards from Feigle and Rachela.

On Sundays and Mondays, God willing, there will be celebrations at “Tarbut” school. Dvortshele also participates in the performances, so I will write to you about the performances in the next letter. Meanwhile I finish my letter. Be healthy and strong and may we will hear only good news from you.

Your mother Hantsche.

Shamai writes:

Aharon writes at the opening of the letter in secret language for fear of censorship he talks about “playing” modern and important concerts: seasonal symphonies in parliament accompanied by mass immigration. The establishment of the Polish Jewish Brigade with the aim of drying swamps and establishing a colony. And another concert accompanied by a British dance band orchestra.

  … You remember that we dreamed at home about these things that with God’s help we will become pioneers and not restaurants’ owners that any drunk can spit on…

Aharon was born in 1917, two years after Jacob and two years before Isaac. He was a violin player and helped his father Nahum in running the restaurant. Aharon’s dream, like that of all the brothers, was to immigrate to Israel and be a pioneer. The family had already sent two brothers to Israel and he stayed to help his parents, who were no longer in good health to run the restaurant.