Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Part 33

Visit by Grandson David Arie Keusch to Eretz Israel – 1952

On כח סיון May 20, 1952, my grandson David Arie, son of my oldest son Nathan זל came from New York to Israel. He was only 27, tall, with a straight body and a strong face. He was met in Haifa by my son David and was received by the family with a warm welcome. On the next day he came to visit me and I was happy to see with my own eyes my first grandson. He finished his studies in an American university in business. My son David tried to get him an honorable job as bookkeeper/accountant, he didn’t agree. After a few days in my son’s house, he left to see the country. His first step was to visit kibbutzim and he stayed at each one several days, worked to learn what they did. After about three weeks he returned to Tel Aviv. He asked my son David to get him work in the factory HaArgaz to do physical work. He was pleased and left my son David’s apartment (even though the whole family didn’t agree) and rented a room.

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He arranged for his meals elsewhere. We did not know if he would stay in the country. He has not yet made a decision, time will tell.

On כה תמוז June 18, we had a reception for Mrs. Sarah Tau, the second wife of Issischar Tau זל .This is the fourth time that she is visiting the country, twice with her husband and twice alone. She is on the committee of Relief Zablotov and has tried to fulfill our wishes to help those who came from Zablotov and are now in the country. The reception for her was in the coffee house “Tchelet” close to my house. Friends came including those from the Zablotov Committee. She was blessed in the name of the committee and most of the friends.

On יז אלול my son David and his family, I and my grandson, David Arie from America, went by auto to Jerusalem. We spent two days in a hotel. A friend of my son took us on a tour and brought us to places we had never visited. We saw Har Herzl, Ramat Rachel, Har Zion and the Mandelbaum Gate where they are now building the City Hall and offices.

The following evening we visited the genius Rabbi R’David Sperber from Lithuania. At the same time the Rabbi Harry Goodman and his followers from London were there. The narrow room was crowded and there was no room for us. We spent about an hour and a half with his son R’Baruch until the Rabbi could receive us. We enjoyed being with him and his small five year old son Moshele. When I looked at the small child Moshele, I thought of R’Yhoshua ben Hanania in the jail in Rome where he was promised to be great in learning. The child Moshele had a future and would be known in Israel. His blessings would be given to spread the knowledge of Torah and wisdom and the richness of our holy Rabbis.

We spent an hour with the Rabbi R’David who blessed my grandson and we parted with hugs.

On יז אלול my grandson Aaron Joseph, son of my son Nathan זל went under the Chuppah with Ruth daughter of David and Rose Strug, in the city of Philadelphia, America. My brother David and the family took part in the Simchah and took my place. My brother David and my daughter-in-law Rivka took the groom to the Chuppah. Mazel Tov to the family September 11, 1952, we had a reception in my house for my grandson David Arie Keusch, who returned by ship via Italy, Paris and America where he lived. He visited with Sarah Baron and her son Dr Jacob Baron in Milan, Italy. In Paris he visited Itzchak (Itche) Sperber and passed over greetings and best wishes from us. He was delayed eight days in Paris until he could find a ship to take him to America. On October 2nd he boarded the ship and on 12th of the month he would land in New York, after spending about four months in Israel and visiting all the places. May he come and settle in the country.

In the days of the holiday 1952, as in every Shabbat of the year, I prayed with a Minyon at the apartment of the Rabbi R’Jacob Rosenheim, Achad Haam 75. Everyone, especially my neighbor, the Gabai, treated me with warmth and respect.

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On כב חשון תשיג my grandson Yair, son of David and Rachel, was 13 having reached the age of Bar Mitzvah. He studied in the Bilu School where the students pray together every day in the morning and began to lay Tfillim. On Shabbat morning of כז חשון, some of the family joined us in the morning prayers in the Bilu Beit Knesset together with the Bar Mitzvah boy, his father and his grandfather Abraham. All of the family were called to the Torah and blessed and they left money as gifts. After the מפטיר (the last prayer of Shabbat) the Bar Mitzvah boy was called to read the portion in the Torah. He also read the section on the “Prophets”, with the proper tones and melodies without errors. Rabbi R’Pinchas Aaron Grupman, a friend of grandfather and my son David’s family, spoke of his acquaintance with the Bar Mitzvah boy, his family of Cohanim and the genealogy of that important dynastic family. The Gabai, a member of the Beit Knesset committee gave a gift to the Bar Mitzvah boy of the five books of the Torah with commentaries. After the prayers, the family gathered in grandfather’s house for the קדישא רבא Kiddush of wine and sweets. After an hour, everyone left with blessings and congratulations.

At 7:00 o’clock Saturday evening, we celebrated the Bar Mitzvah which was in the Wizo building on Rechov Yarkon 93. One room was arranged for the family with the Bar Mitzvah boy at the head and another room for guests. There were about 40 people from the family and 100 friends, not counting children. The tables were set beautifully with flowers. Cooked foods, fish and all kinds of other dishes were brought so one could eat until satisfied. There were unlimited drinks. After everyone had had his fill, the Rabbi R’Pinchas Aaron Grupman took the microphone and made a speech blessing the boy, his parents and all those present. After he finished, the Bar Mitzvah boy was asked to give his speech which he had memorized. He gave a nice speech without errors, blessing his fathers and the seated guests. He spoke about ten minutes. After him, grandfather spoke on ideas and blessings that are connected to this joyful occasion speaking about half an hour. I typed the speech and gave it to Yair as a memory with the condition that he read in this notebook at least once a month and fulfill what was written.

After grandfather finished his speech, Yair got up and kissed his grandfather and said in a loud voice, “Dear grandfather I thank you for all the blessings and the beautiful speech and I promise and hope to fulfill all that you demand from me and follow the righteous path and fulfill the Mitzvot.”

He received many gifts. Uncle Mordechai Dov Keusch took part of the Kiddush and the prayers. He brought a gift of a ring with an expensive stone that was worth about 50 Li. Rabbi Grupman was honored to give the blessing after the food. Close to midnight the wonderful party ended. Who will receive the right to hear and know that this grandson will fulfill all the Mitzvot that include the laying of the Tfillim all the days of his life?

After the holidays, I felt internal pains and a problem with my right ear. I went to the Kupat Cholim doctor and they took care of it with medicine and ear drops. After some time, the left ear began to hurt and the doctor gave me drops. In the middle of one night I woke up feeling hot and cold, aching bones, with terrible pains in my ear. At dawn I woke my wife and asked her to call my son David. He ran over and got a private doctor.

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In emergencies, one has to go to Magen David Adom, despite the fact that we pay for every visit and buy our medicines. The doctor who came in the third part of the morning found me dangerously ill, high temperature 39 degrees. There was immediate surgery needed for my ear. It was dangerous to deal with surgery at my age. The doctor treated me with shots of penicillin. The temperature went down and I felt better. That day, which was erev Shabbat, I did not eat or drink. In the afternoon I prayed Shacharit, but I didn’t remember the melody.

After seven shots during seven days, the devil touched me from head to toe with a terrible itching. The doctors treated me with a white salve and my foot hurt and burned without stopping and it was dangerous for me to scratch. I remember knowing a Skin and Ear Doctor who came to visit me with his wife. He examined me and found that I was seriously ill and needed immediately treatment that he would administer. He took care of me for five days, washing and applying cream. He gave me a room in his apartment and his wife gave me food and drink. He also took care of my ears. I left his house and it seems like my ear problem was solved but I still want to scratch part of my body. (I now know where I inherited my allergy to penicillin. DK) The doctor refused to take any payment for staying in his apartment. This was in spite of the fact that my son David and I wanted to pay at least part of the expenses for the new dishes his wife bought to cook and serve me, because they were afraid to use their own dishes. On the contrary, his wife was unusually generous and sent my wife gifts of scarce food like coffee and eggs. May they be blessed and remembered for the rest of their days.

After a week, I still felt the itching in part of my body and my eyes were infected. I went to a doctor who was a relative, Dr. Eliahu Meltzer, grandson of my brother-in-law Moshe Leib and son of Shmaryahu who was from Chernovitz, Bukovina. He took care of me again day and night with different medicines. I feel healthy and the itching stopped and the eyes feel good again. May Dr. Eliahu Meltzer and his wife, Paula and their daughter Yehudit, be remembered and blessed.

On ו טבת, R’Shmuel (Alter) Milbauer died. He was the husband of Tova, daughter of my uncle R’Joseph Meltzer who came from Zabi. R’Shmuel was a religious Jew who made Aliyah fifteen years ago from the town of Kosov in Galicia. He had a big house and a store that provided farming equipment to the villagers from the surrounding hills. His children were educated according to our time, as Zionists. His only son Moshe and his daughter Shlomit made Aliyah as pioneers and they brought their parents and younger sister Sprinzi to Israel.

R’Shmuel זל bought a piece of land in the Shenken neighborhood. He built a large shack in which he and his family lived. He barely made a living in selling and dealing with paint (whitewash). He was helped by his son who went to Kibbutz Merchavia and by his son-in-law Eliezer Pikholtz, the husband of Shlomit.

R’Shmuel was a follower of Vishnitz in his town. Here in the country, he continued being a follower and even criticized other groups. He was busy with daily prayers and reading from the book of Psalms. He also gave to the Yeshivot in Jerusalem and was part of the Beit Knesset near his house in Givatiim. One of his acquaintances spoke about him in the Beit Knesset and praised him. תנצב'ה Two days after Shmuel died, his wife Tova died. They were both buried in the Vishnitz cemetery in Bnai Brak. תנצב'ה

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Pesach of 1953 we celebrated as we did every year after WWII, without any spark of joy due to the Holocaust that are our people suffered. My son David, his son Yair and Aviam, who asked the four questions, took part in the Seder. My son Jacob, his wife and his daughter Batya also took part. The story of leaving Egypt was told until midnight.

In the beginning of Iyar, I again felt sick. The doctor came and gave me medicine to cure my stomach and head. Who gets old without thinking about death? On ב אייר my 87th birthday I signed the will that I wrote and gave it to Rabbi Kaminker. Thank God that my health is better and I have the strength and courage to go to pray Shachait and Minchah every day as well as Saturdays and holidays.

My birthday passed in silence, no joy, no congratulations, except my son David, and my grandsons Yair and Aviam and my granddaughter Batya. The writer Getzel Kressel visited me. On every one of his visits, he asked me to write my memories. This time, he promised that he would edit what I wrote and would publish them. He would also make a short version of my memories. (Note: The small book was published in 1960 in Tel Aviv with an introduction by Getzel Kressel and was called “תחנות”, “Stations”. DRK)

On ג סיון תשיג 1953, my son Jacob, his wife and daughter left the apartment that we lived in together from the year תרצט 1939. They found an apartment in the neighborhood called “Yatziv” which was on the other side of the Yarkon River. It was a cooperative apartment with three and a half rooms, all the modern facilities and was on the first floor. He paid about 6,000 Li. Most of the amount that he put in, he and his wife had saved from their work. He got a loan of about 2,000 Li that he could repay each month. His wife Rachel fixed a room to use as a pre-school. She had studied and become a professional pre-school teacher. She would earn and be able to contribute to their income in order to pay off their debts.

We were left in an apartment of three rooms. I approached my sister’s daughter, Tova Flintenstein to move into my son Jacob’s room. She would not have to pay “key money”, which was accepted at that time, even when getting only a room. This was about 2,000 Li. I would not have asked for part of the rent but only for part of the city tax and electricity which would have been about 5 li a month. She refused my offer. She had an obligation to accept my demand, not to leave two old people in a large apartment and help whenever needed, to bring a doctor if someone was sick.

I requested from the owner of the apartment, Yehuda Shtreich, to agree to allow Tzvi Alexandrovitz, his wife and children into my apartment. He would not get key money; just rent which was allowed by the government. He refused my request and hinted that if I did not accept his decision he would go to court and get an eviction order. An intended good often turns into something bad. I and Shtreich were friends even in Galicia and were both in the wood business. I was also on good terms with his parents. Every time he increased the rent I agreed. I had rented the apartment in 1939 for 5 Li a month. I have been paying 12 Li a month for several years which no one else in the building is paying.

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I had bad thoughts about Shtreich. Why didn’t he agree to let me bring someone into the apartment? In a short time, this stranger would get rid of the two old people and it would be difficult to get them out. Who lives and does not see death and leaves without paying? He will get 6,000 Li key money for the apartment and rent according to the new law that is almost ready to be passed. He will get even more than 12 Li a month. But he made a mistake in his calculations. It is nature’s way that old people can show the way. He did not carefully examine his conclusions. My grandfather זל would answer his reasoning in the following way. Old people have to die: but he saw old horses pulling wagons full of skins of young colts. That is to say “Old people were accompanying young ones that died”. The Alexandrovitzes were afraid to move into my apartment, because of legal entanglements. The apartment stayed empty. My son David is leaving on June 2 by plane for six weeks to Switzerland and Vienna. When he returns, he will find a solution to this problem.

In the month of Tammuz 1953, I received a letter and a booklet מאשרין תועים ומתעים (Approval of Those Lost and Led Astray) from my friend R’Chaim Bloch from Dalatin. The letter and the booklet tells about two Rabbis, Rabbi Zeltzer and Rabbi Henikin, that permitted drinking juice called “Dlatin” from the skin of a pig and other forbidden animals. This was despite the fact that some Rabbis including the Jerusalem Rabbi Uziel forbade the use of this juice. Chaim Bloch complained bitterly about these two Rabbis and the distortion of justice against him. One Rabbi pressed charges against him for $3,000. They won on the basis that Chaim Block was secular and did not observe the Shabbat. This was despite proof given that this was libelous. R’Chaim was a religious Jew who observed the Mitzvot and a famous author. To our sorrow “there is no justice for someone who is attacked”. The Rabbis Zeltzer and Henikin run the the Rabbinical organization in New York and most of the Rabbis do not have courage to go against them in a discussion of the law. I wrote to Chaim Bloch for many years. He is still working as an author but his income is limited.

On the 2nd of Ab 1953 I was surprised by a visit to my house by the daughter of Alter Gaster who was the brother of my wife Edel זל. She told me that her father had been in the country for three years and until recently lived with his daughter and her husband in Beer Sheva. Now he is in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem sick with Cancer. I asked her, if you and your father have been in the country for three years, why did you not come to visit me until today? She really did not give me an answer. Did you have difficulty finding my correct address? To tell the truth, the visit of this woman and the bad news of her father’s illness did not affect me, for these reasons.

After eight days, the woman Hinda, daughter of A. Gaster, came to me again and told me that the doctors in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem cared for her father for six weeks. They released him from the hospital since there was no hope of curing him. They brought him to a second daughter’s house in Kfar Tirah, close to Haifa. The family is living in a shack and it is very hot and inappropriate for someone who is so sick. They brought him to a private hospital in Tel Aviv and the cost is difficult for them.

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She came to me because she knew that Berl Locker is my relative. He is the head of the Jewish Agency with many places under his authority that deal with sick, poor people. She asked that I give her a letter requesting help for her father to enter one of these places near Haifa. I gave her a letter of recommendation to Locker together with some money. She went to Locker in Jerusalem and she received a letter to the head of the Sochnut in Haifa to accept him to Beit Margoa. As we know, the bureaucracy works slowly and he died in the hospital in Tel Aviv.

My relationship with my brother-in-law Alter Gaster זל was not the best. This was from 1889 when I got married and moved into the house of his father, R’Jacob Menachim זל my father in law. Alter was 15. We spent six months at the table of his father and we had a warm, friendly relationship. I left Vishnitz and went to live in Lukovitz for six years and after that to Yablonov for some time. In Yablonov I was invited to his engagement to the daughter of a resident of Lukovitz. I was very angry at him and my father-in-law זל. Why didn’t they consult with me before connecting to this family by marriage? They knew that I knew everyone in Lukovitz and had business connections and friends in that town. It would have been worthwhile for them to know what I had to say on this important matter. I didn’t attend the wedding and didn’t hear from Alter. One of the times when I came to do business in Lukovitz, I visited his house. Since that time I did not hear from him and knew nothing of him. In spite of everything I have no hatred for him and would do what I could.

Alter’s daughter came periodically to visit. She told me that when her father lived in Lukovitz he was well established and almost rich. They were blessed with four sons and four daughters and each found appropriate mates. He was able to give large sums for a dowry, clothing and gifts for their wedding.

At the beginning of WWII in 1939, Alter left Bukovina with his family and came to the city of Galtz in Romania, where he acquired a house and found work. When the murdering Nazis came to Romania, his house was burned, lost everything and came empty handed to his daughter in Eretz Israel.

I wrote in my diary about my former father-in-law, R’Jacob Menachim זל. For thirty years, he lived a sad life. Alter’s daughter informed me of the date that Jacob Menachim died in Kuti. ט איר תרעה 1915. תנצב'ה

My son David returned after spending weeks doing business in several countries in Europe for HaArgaz. He succeeded in this task with the purchase of 5,000 cubic meters of wood for orange crates.

At the same time, I got good news from my brother David in New York. He wrote about the engagement of his daughter Devorah. The groom was from Israel, but I found out afterwards that he was not born here but was born in Riga, Lithuania. I do not know the details of when he came and when he left Israel to go to America. His name is Moshe Chankin (Mike Havkins). He was an engineer who studied in Israel. His sister is the wife of Zelig Lubyaniker (Lavon) who is the brother of the Defense Minister, Mr. Pinchas Lavon. The wedding will take place shortly. May it be with Mazal Tov. May my brother and his family see the next generation.

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On יד אב תשיג 1953, I went with my son David to visit my former brother-in-law R’Alter Gaster in a hospital Tel Aviv, Rechov Tabour 44. This was a private hospital with about 40 patients that pay as Gaster does, four and a half Li a day, for food and care. We found him lying in his bed. We did not recognize one another. I left a boy of about 17 years old and even though I visited him where he lived in Lukovitz, he did not know me, a man in his 80’s, he had not seen or heard from me in over 60 years. He was very happy for the visit and we spoke about the goods days in Vishnitz when I lived in their house and ate at his father’s table. He was very happy to see my son David, son of his sister Edel זל that he never thought that he would see. We spent about an hour with him and he told about the days of his youth, all in good taste and with a clear head.

On a second visit we found him lying on his bed and he did not recognize me or my son David and if he said anything we did not understand it. According to the nurse who took care of him, his situation deteriorated with the cancer destroying his body. There was no hope of saving him. My son David visited his uncle A. Gaster again but he was not recognized and didn’t speak a word. The doctor in the hospital told my son that the situation was hopeless; they were trying to lengthen his days with various medications.

My brother-in-law A. Gaster and his daughter Hinda, told me about the many years that passed and about the life of their father and grandfather R’Jacob Menachim זל. I have the desire to remember his name in my dairy so if we find his grandchildren, my son David and his sons would be interested in knowing about them. This includes information after I married his daughter Rivka Edel זל.

R’Meshullam Simchah Lindner from Vishnitz with his wife left his father-in-law’s house after the failure of his store and moved to his home town Kuti. There he found a small room and kitchen. His son Arie was born there. He did not succeed in making a good living. His sister Golda, wife of R’Shomo Arnstein who was well off, was a modest woman and did whatever possible to help her beloved brother. The store business failed. (Comment: we assume that J.M.Gaster worked in the store of M.S.Lindner. DRK) R’J.M. Gaster went to the town Petshenishin. He was a teacher of Torah in the house of the rich N. Margoshes. One of those who knew, R’Berl Stendig, told me that he learned a lot of Torah and Gapat from this teacher Gaster and drank from the well for many years. He earned a limited income for his wife and children. After he left Petshenishin, he moved to his apartment in Kuti and taught Torah to several students and made a slightly better living.

When his third wife Freida died, his situation became more difficult. He was left with a small son, poor and depressed. His sister Golda, wife of R’Shlomo Arnstein, who lived in his neighborhood often had him eat at her table. He was not considered as one of those who dealt with the Torah as part of his being. He studied Torah, Gapat and the hidden wisdom he knew well all the days of his life. The righteous Admor R’Menachim Hager from Vishnitz put together his important book “צמת צדיק”.

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It is told about Gaster who was the proofreader and corrected many errors. It is told that he put in comments of his own, but who knows if this is true or not.

It is worthwhile to note what one of Gaster’s students, Mr. Yehoshua Preminger from Kuti, told me. In 1936/7 when I came from Eretz Israel to visit my son in Dalatin and my daughter in Tatarav, I was invited by one of my important acquaintances R’Tzvi Arie Sabel זל to stay in his house and breath the fresh air of the Carpathians. He gave me a special furnished room and food that was wonderful, more dairy delicacies than I usually eat. His house “the castle” had a second floor was near the sawmill that had two Gatrix. Preminger’s son-in-law was the accountant and his son Zalmal was the manager. On Saturday, the whole family sat around and talked. Preminger told me a wonderful story about the last day of my father-in-law R’J.M.Gaster’s life.

In 1915 ט איר he finished teaching several young boys and ten lazy friends of theirs from the Beit Knesset. He sent one of his students to bring a bottle of Yashkah and delicacies. He told them to drink Lechaim since it was a blessing of farewell. Tomorrow morning you will not find me among the living. Those listening to him looked at him suspiciously as if he went out of his mind. But this righteous one prophesied and knew what his heart told him. That night, his pure soul left him at the age of 73. In the year 1914 he came to visit my house and had a joyous day with his grandchildren from his daughter Edel זל. I never saw him again. תנצב'ה

*(Comment: This section about his former brother-in-law, Alter Gaster, brought back memories and thoughts about Abraham’s father-in-law R’Jacob Menachim Gaster that he had not thought about for many years. Grandfather Abraham’s first wife was Rivka Edel Gaster Keusch. J.M.Gaster is her father and my Great Grandfather. DRK)

God was merciful to Alter Gaster and sent the angel of death to end his terrible suffering and pain. His soul left him on the night of ז אלול in the private hospital on Rechov Tabour. The funeral was the following day and his son Joseph and his two daughters and a granddaughter were there. I and my son David were there (we were invited by one of the daughters) We came to the room where the dead were held in the Hadassah Hospital and from there to the cemetery in Kiryat Shaul. The family went to the burial plot and we as Cohanim went home. I mentioned some of his deeds in my diary in the previous pages. תנצב'ה

In the letter that I sent to Berl Locker by way of Alter’s daughter, I recommended that he receive this sick person in one of Jewish Agency’s institutions. He promised to fulfill my request but did not. I don’t know why, probably some oversight of an Agency clerk or just promises that are not fulfilled.

Having visited Alter Gaster, my former brother-in-law, in the hospital several times, I remembered events in my life in their house in Vishnitz after marrying his sister Rivka Edel. זל I spent a half a year in that town and then about six years in Lukovitz from 1891-1897. I had business and legal contacts and came to Vishnitz every month. I lived in Bukovina for 20 years. I think it is worthwhile to give a short description of the life of the Jews in these places where I lived and in those times. This is according to my outlook and my understanding.

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The city of Vishnitz was built by Jews on the banks of the Tsarmush River that flows 150 kilometers down from the Carpathian Mountains into the Prut River that is the border of Bukovina and Eastern Galicia. The town of Kuti was built on the other side of the river and ten kilometers away was the town of Kosov.

Vishnitz is not big. There are about 2,000 families with most of them Jewish. There is an administrator of the area with his offices and his clerks, a court house with five or six judges. There are six lawyers and all are Jews. There is a civil administrator, his clerks and there are Jewish clerks. Most of the policemen are also Jews. There is a community committee, an office and clerks. Moshe Zakler was one of the Jewish Judges of the Jewish court. He was deemed to be qualified to be an important judge in the higher Jewish court of Chernovitz which was the capitol of Bukovina. Vishnitz at that time was sort of a Jewish “country”. All the offices and necessary activities were done by Jews. Only the area administration and the head of the court were not Jews.

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