Rabbi Kalman Eliezer Frenkel: Synagogues, Yeshivas and public servants

Many young people from Siedlce attended famous Yeshivot abroad, but those who remained in the city could also find a place they liked to engage in Torah. located Near the Great Synagogue was the tailors’ synagogue; off Dluga Street was a Synagogue called Peterborger Stiebel, and the butchers visited their own Beit Midrash on Butchers’ street. Apart from the houses of the Hasidim – Shtiblach – for Gur Hasidim, Skarnebeitz, Alexander, Amshinov, Forisob, Biella and more, every synagogue served as a place for Torah.

The worshipers enjoyed a special Mageid, between “Mincha” and “Ma’ariv” and on Shabbat and holidays. In the Hasidic homes, men, boys and landlords devoted much of their time to Torah study, and the elderly and young people who were not members of the Chassidim sat in the great Beit Midrash.

Siedlce also has a “Yeshiva Gdola”, which was already mentioned in previous chapters. Many young people from distant towns came to occupy its benches, and the city would provide them with homes and food according to “days”: any homeowner took upon himself one day a week of the economy of the Yeshiva student, so that he could remove any concern for living off heart and devote all his time for Torah study.

Among the public servants in the Siedlce community were, of course, ritual slaughterers, cantors and janitors. The Hasid Rabbi Haiim Shohat became known as the head of the butchers in the city. At the end of his life he gave the role to his son, Rabbi Shimon Shohat. Others who dealt in slaughter in Siedlce were Rabbi Yitzchak Meir and Rabbi Zalman Sholet.

Among the cantors I remember Hehazan Mebrisk, with a full beard and always wearing a cylinder on his head, which did not allow a celebration to pass without him. In every circumcision, bar mitzvah, or wedding ceremony, he prayed and was rewarded. I also remember Iakil RovnerRabbi Yosef Fsobski and cantor Zofobitz – the last two immigrate to Eretz-Israel.

The janitor Rabbi Isaac, or: Eisele Hashamash, was a unique character. Great in Torah and fear of God, he was known as the court’s janitor. From grandfather Rabbi Israel Sinai Ziidntziig I heard that during the decree ordering sideburns and hair-cutting and change of clothing in Russia, and Rabbi Eisele is a young man learning at Beit Midrash and dressed like all religious men with long sideburns, and a Russian policeman grabbed Rabbi Eisele and cut his sideburns. Rabbi Eisele cried like a baby: how can he show his face before a crowd of his friends, and his appearance is like a Goy? The cop enjoyed it and laughed at him. Rabbi Eisele stood up and picked up his trimmed sideburns from the soil, took them and fled. Before returning home Rbi Eisele glued the sideburns to the sides of the hat, and nobody noticed it was trimmed. A few days later he met the same policeman who was surprised at what he saw: is it possible that this Eisele grew long sideburns again? The policeman tried to catch it by hand, and Eisele took off his hat with the sideburns, a mocking smile on his face. And so – no one knew Eisele without his sideburns except when he was sitting at the Schull studying, and his hat fell to the right side or the left side and one sideburn would slip to one side of his face, and the other one – to his back…

Another janitor, who brought honor to his profession, was Rabbi Herschel. With a gentle soul, he was always elegant in its exterior as one of the rich. When a wealthy Jew would marry his daughter, he would set up a table full of food, and special waiters or city janitors would serve the refreshments. Even the waiters would eat and enjoy the meal, openly or secretly. They brought portions for their families in their pockets.

From every meal they supported their home for a week. Not so Herschel the janitor. He himself would eat his meal at home before leaving to serve the public, and never tasted nor took for his family, even when asked to do so by the owners of the event. No wonder then, that when he came to a feast, he would be given the key to the closet or room where they were holding the groceries, and if they needed something – they gave him full trust and appealed only to him.

Taken from the book: “Ancestors Tell Siedlce”.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.