Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Beginning of Blindness
On June 3, 1940 (כו איר תש) a tragedy altered my life. Darkness clouded my eyes, obscuring my sight so that I could not read or study from a book or write with pen and ink.
Someone who regularly writes on a typewriter in Hebrew and German now will be typing as if his eyes were closed and who knows how many errors he will make. Dr. Vilansky from Kupat Cholim, in his private office, tried to cure my eyes with shots and medicine. Three times a week I went to his office to get shots. On July 20, I went to Jerusalem to the country’s best eye doctor, Dr. Ticho. He also prescribed that I continue with the shots that I was getting from Dr. Vilansky. On the question whether I will get my eyesight back as it was, I did not get a satisfactory answer but he was very doubtful. I also asked other doctors in our city including the expert Dr. Hildsheimer. I was not cured.
For several months, I was treated by a German expert, Dr. Moch, with drugs and shots. There was one drug that was combined with a poison. He advised me to get spectacles with a very high number, that cost two lei, and that allowed me to read and write. I was still able to read a little in a book and a newspaper. Now I am really in the dark and cannot see with or without them. For these reasons, I sit without anything to do, no reading or studying or writing. I can barely write down these lines in my dairy, and who knows with how many errors? The experts Ticho, Feigenbaum from Jerusalem did not cure my eyes.
Fortunately, my hearing has not yet been damaged and because our apartment is close to Ohel Shem, I can go there every Shabbat to hear a lesson in the Talmud from the bright scholar Zilberg who teaches about the laws of the Sanhedrin (מסכת סנהדרין). I also go to listen to a lecture on Rabbinic Literature every Shabbat in the morning from the expert in that field, Dr.Kaminki, who is also a writer and researcher. In the afternoon I go to the big Beit HaKnesset to hear eight portions from the Rambam from Rabbi R’Moshe Avigdor Amiel, who is a genius.
In August of 1940, I received a letter from my son Nathan from Fall River, Mass., after not hearing from him for some ten or twelve years. He blamed himself for the errors he made toward me, begged forgiveness and promised that he would now remain in contact. He had attached a check for $25.00. I also got a letter from my dear brother in New York with $10.00. I wrote to each of them to refrain from sending money since, thank God, I had enough money and charity was denigrating. I referred to the interpretation of Rashi that such gifts lower my self esteem and my worth.
For many months after coming back from Poland, my son Jacob could not find work.
He answered the call of the “Vaad HaLeumi” (National Committee) to join the Jewish unit of the British army as an accountant and bookkeeper. He never asked my advice on this issue, but perhaps conferred with his mother. At the beginning he worked in the Sarafand, near Tel Aviv, under the orders of four civilian clerks. Now he is in Haifa and has four clerks under his authority who are getting a bigger salary than he does. The salary is that of a simple soldier, even though he has been in army service for a year and a half and his abilities have been outstanding. Three times he took tests for advancement and came in first in each of them. According to my son Jacob, the reason for not getting a high grade and salary was due to anti-Semitism. A Jew does not go higher. He visits us from time to time and we are very pleased that in these crazy times, he is in an office in our country and not on the front. May this only continue.
The grandson of my sister Elka זל came to me three years ago. He is a young man with the business ability in watches and jewelry like his father, Israel Menachem Flintenstein.
He became engaged to the daughter of the Admor, Rabbi of the town of Kapchincha, R’Abraham Yehoshua Heshel. Two years ago when Austria was taken over by the Nazis, he left for New York with his family. The grandson Aaron David Flintenstein opened a store in Tel Aviv for watches and jewelry with money he received from his father, about 800 lei and made a good living.
The mother of the groom Aaron David, and her children were in Antwerp and the father returned to France. The parents of the bride were in New York. The couple ate at table of the Admor from Sadigora, R’Abraham Jacob Friedman, now from Tel Aviv. We decided to make a date for the coming marriage in 1941 (ד ניסן תשא'). The invitations for the occasion and of the Kiddush was on Shabbat, רש' ניסן, in my house and were sent out in my name for the groom. About 100 men and women joined in the simchah with a glass of wine, delicacies and kigels. On ד בניסן they went under the chuppah.
Among the participating Admorim was the important, famous Zaddik, Rabbi Israel Meruzin זצל who escaped from Meruzin in Russia and establish his followers in Sadagora close to Chernovitz. The Friedman family and among them the old man of 82, the Admor of Mehuciatin also attended. About 500 men and 200 women enjoyed the meal and drinks according to religious custom.
As a replacement for the father-in-law, I sat among the Admorim for the Shabbat after the wedding, in the house of the Admor of Sadagora, to celebrate the Kiddush and the seven blessings. May the couple make their way with blessings. The wedding and the celebration that night took place in the big hall of Hapoal Mizrachi on Rechov Achad Haam 108. The cost of all this was with payments.
After being treated by the eye doctor for a year, there was a slight improvement in my sight and I was able to read with the help of new glasses. I got them from the optician Zeidner, a specialist who had come from Vienna. They were very expensive, 40 lei. This enabled me to write on the typewriter for at least an hour and continue the diary of my life and my family in Poland and Eretz Israel.
I had to find a means of making a living. The gold coins that David bought were not usable for business. I sold the gold at a loss and invested 300 lei of that and kept the remainder. I bought a partnership with I. Pecker in a grocery store that failed. I got in touch with the grandson of my sister A.D. Flintenstein who was in the watch and jewelry business and had a store on Disengoff. I thought I would go into that business but after a few months, I came to the realization that it was not suitable for me. I was able to take out the money I invested.
For me to return to the wood business during the war was impossible The gates of our country and Europe were closed. Then a good opportunity occurred. My son David worked in the HaArgaz factory as a simple worker and he had a modest salary. In the beginning of 1943, he advanced and was given a new job by the membership of the cooperative to be a clerk in Hamashbir. He was an expert in building materials and he would be the buyer for all the materials needed by the factory that had about 200 workers. Since he had business contacts with the largest and most important wood companies, he bought an amount of wood for me. When the wood reached the warehouse of HaArgaz, he arranged the sale so that it brought me a partial income. I hoped that I would soon earn a full income.
When it comes to the things that are important in life, my son David follows the Mitzvoth of honoring his father. My dear son loves his father with his heart and soul and does all he can to fulfill all his needs. In all other matters he follows his secular friends, who do not take on the burden of Torah and Mitzvoth. I hope that he will hear the call of ethics of our fathers and take on Torah and Mitzvoth. His son Yair is being educated in Torah in a religious school according to what Yair wanted. My son David knew Rabbis and had an open hand for them.
After the Russians took over East Galicia in 1941, I received letters from my son Aaron in Stanislau. He was appointed by the Russians to be the manager of all the sawmills in the Stanislau-Dalatin area and to visit and oversee them. He received a satisfactory salary and had the full authority to fulfill the job. Aaron appointed my son-in-law Benjamin Bloch to be a clerk and he made a good living. Aaron also helped the people he knew to get work. My daughter Taube also wrote me this good news about the family.
Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 08:10 PM Mountain Standard Time