Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Part 47

Getzel Kressel

(Note* Getzel Kressel was a special person to grandfather and a relative. He cooperated with grandfather in the writing and publication of the Yizkor book on Zabotow and a short book on the towns where grandfather lived. He was a writer for the newspaper “Davar”. He had a brilliant mind and had a vast collection of 400,000 items that are now in Oxford University library. He was a walking encyclopedia and the leadership of the country often called on him as a source of information. RDK)

Halleluiah! The writer Getzel Kressel, a remnant of his father and mother זל, married Eiza איזה Praliss, born in Brisk, Lithuania. The wedding was in the month of Tamuz 1954 in the Wizo hall on Rechov Yarkon 91, near the sea in Tel Aviv. I was personally invited to participate in the Simchah. He sent his brother R’Abraham from Kfar Hess to pick me up several hours before the ceremony. He brought me by special car and we came before sunset. I was warmly received by the groom with kisses on my cheeks. His sisters Esther and Rochale were there with their husbands and children, who received us with warmth and blessings. I chose a place to sit, not in the big hall or even in a smaller adjacent room but on the large balcony opposite the sea which was a few meters away. This way, I enjoyed the clean and fresh air as well as the beautiful setting of the sun into the sea. After the bride came with her mother and relatives like her in-laws, the groom came with the Rabbi and the Chazan. The Chuppah was under the open sky. The witnesses on the side of the groom were his brother R’Abraham and his wife Leah; I do not know those on the side of the bride. The Rabbi blessed the couple, read the Ketubah and the Chazzan led the seven blessings. I found myself a place under the Chuppah without anyone checking. It was a great honor, uplifting in spirit, joy lit their faces.

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My eyes did not see someone similar to the King, but as a Cohen, Getzel was dressed in a black suit, a brimmed hat and the bride wore a white dress with sleeves and a covering on her head and face. It was all done in a beautifully, correct manner. I was dressed in an ordinary suit with a straw hat. One could not find figures like the groom and the bride who were so full of charm. The bride paid attention to every word of the ceremony, while the groom did not pay attention to the reading of the Ketubah. It seems that Getzel was upset that the Ketubah was not in Hebrew. In truth the time has come to translate it into Hebrew so that everyone can understand what they hear because this is a legal contract. After the blessings the bride and groom and all the guests left the balcony to go to the big hall. The tables were set with drinks and sweet cakes. I, A. Kressel and M. Krendler remained on the balcony with a special table just for us.

After an hour and a half most of the people left. Those that remained were friends of the bride and groom and fellow writers of the groom like Zalman Shazar, David Zakai, Dov Sadan and others. They gathered around the table on the balcony. David Zakai, an astronomer and fellow writer on the “Davar”, started singing and the other writers joined. Some of the songs were in Aramaic. He blessed the new couple, told about his first meeting, twenty years ago, with Kressel and the editor of the paper, B. Katzensohn. “This new vessel is full of old wine, good taste, a smell of literary flavor and knowledge surrounds him” was what Katzensohn said about Getzel as he grabbed him to work for “Davar”. (Note* Davar was at that time the leading newspaper closely affiliated with the ruling Mapai Party. RDK) Zakai then praised the twelve books that Kressel published.

Zakai asked that I tell stories about Getzel’s childhood since we were from Zablotov. Since Getzel was not yet born when I left Zablotov, I asked for the chance to express my strong feelings with blessings and congratulations in the words of חזל. My words found favor among the listeners, especially the writers. I fulfilled my duty with heartfelt words. The Simchah ended close to midnight. My friend A. Bloch brought me to my apartment. Tel Aviv ה לחודש תמוז 1954 A. Keusch

(Grandfather added to this because he left out names and other comments.)

Most of those at the Simchah were from the side of the groom, mostly from the writer’s organization. Several from Zablotov were: Mrs. Kupfermann, daughter of my teacher and the teacher of the groom, R’David Tzvi Gross זל, knowledge in Gapat and a researcher. Mrs. Kupfermann made a short speech and blessed the couple. She and Abraham Bloch were both from Haifa, Moshe Greif from Jerusalem and Tzvi Tau from Tel Aviv. We have to remember, praise and thank David Zakai for his lively spirit. The legend tells of King David playing his harp at midnight. We will remember David Zakai playing his harp, the important blessing; the voice of joy will be heard in the hills of Judah, etc. This pleased the bride and groom and all those who sat around the table. They left the party with joy and pleasure in their hearts.

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I have to say to the beloved groom, my way is not your way, my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my phrases may be too harsh. Don’t be angry at me. You can’t stop an old man, a Cohen, from saying what he feels and thinks. If you think that I made errors in judgment, I ask forgiveness. A. Keusch

I was examined by Dr. Sarar on the 11th of Alul 1954 and my blood pressure was very low as usual, causing me dizziness. He suggested that I visit Jerusalem since it is 700 meters higher than Tel Aviv and it would help my blood pressure and relieve my dizziness. My son David and I decided to take the doctor’s advice and on the following day we were on our way to Jerusalem in the Arie sherut taxi. After an hour and a half trip, we arrived at the apartment, on the third floor, of Dr.Chanah Suker and Dr. Michael Tahlheim. We were received warmly with kisses. After several hours of rest in their apartment and a walk in the streets to breathe in the fresh air that blows in from the surrounding hills, my blood pressure was checked and showed normal at 140. This is truly a miracle that just a short distance from Tel Aviv and there was such a large change in blood pressure which helped the dizziness.

I found a place to sleep and had a cup of tea which I really wanted. The second day in the afternoon, I went to visit the Rabbi R’David Sperber in his apartment in Katamon. He and his family received me with honor and warmth and I stayed there until the following day. I prayed in the neighborhood Beit Knesset on the memorial day of my son Aaron and his family. Yesterday I prayed in the Yeshurin Beit Knesset and I was honored with an Aliyah to the Torah and swore an oath. I also took part in a lesson in Gemorra given by Rabbi Reger on Shabbat, the evening of Sunday and then on Tuesday. On Tuesday evening I was invited to the apartment of Dov Robinson on Rechov Hillel. I stayed for dinner. It was a full evening and I stayed the night. I was in Jerusalem until Wednesday evening. The air of our Jerusalem gives life to body and soul. I reached Tel Aviv about seven and immediately felt the change of air, hot and wet. I spent two days visiting the doctors for examinations and medicine without having to pay even though the economic situation was bad and it was hard to earn a living. May their memories be blessed.

On the 20th of Alul, I participated in the celebration of the end of the tractate מסכת-שבת which took place in the Beit Knesset of the “Bilu” School. At 4:05 Shabbat was the Mincha afternoon prayer in the Beit Knesset with the teacher, R’Chaninah. He led the prayers of those gathered and especially those thirty who took part in studies. One of the very smart students in Talmud, N. Gras, gave the blessing “מי שברך” as was customary on the third aliyah to the Torah. The prayer was finished at 6:10 when the closing of the year of the tractate מסכת שבת (tractate Shabbat) began. Rabbi Chananiah, the teacher, combined the first and the last part of the Mishnah as in the last part of מסכת-ערבין (tractate ransom). This demanded additional time until 7:40. He brought in proof from the Talmud and Halacha. The one chosen to take part in the ceremony will learn all the tractates. After Maariv at 8:00 all the people praying and the students met for the party and the food and the drinks.

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The teacher made a speech on the value of the studies and its completion. Rabbi Ferber gave a speech after him followed by Rabbi R. P. Aaron Grufman and then by one of the students, Gras. I was also was asked by the teacher to say a few words and I fulfilled his request. The last one who spoke was the previous principal R’Chaim Mishurow. He promised to set up studies of Agadah as he had set up studies in Talmud. There would be an Oneg Shabbat in the “Bilu” School. After the blessing over the food, the important celebration ended with dancing around the long table until 10:00.

At the end of the month Alul, I felt that all my strength had left me and I was unstable on my feet, so I said to myself that “my day of reckoning had come”. On the basis of this weakness I wrote a will and it was signed by a lawyer in 1955. After the signing, my condition improved. One of the Rabbis I knew told me that after you write and sign a will the evil is laid to rest and the situation improves. It is not the first time that I changed my will. In the year 1923, right before my prostate surgery in Vienna in the Rothschild Hospital, I wrote my first will. In the following years, in various periods, when I was sick, I changed my will. Let’s hope that with God’s help, this will be the final one.

During the High Holy Days, I prayed in the Beit Knesset of Rabbi R’Jacob Rosenheim, who was the head of Agudat Israel, as I did on all the Shabbatot. All those who prayed as well as the son-in-law of Schlesinger treated me with great respect and honor. I was honored to be called to the Torah as a Cohen on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the first day of Succot, even though the Gabbai and his sons were Cohanim. Most of the people in the Minyanim were from Germany.

After the portion ויצא that was led by Rosenheim, there was a Bar Mitzvah celebration of one of the people that prayed, R’Yonah Brenfeld. His son Yasaf was thirteen and the party included visitors who blessed the Bar Mitzvah boy in German. I gave my blessing in Hebrew, the language of our country. I spoke about a portion of the Tractate Authors which reminds us of the tradition to bring the Bar Mitzvah boy before every old man and have them bless him. Then he will be rewarded with Torah and good deeds and I, one of those old men, blessed him on a glass of wine and sweets.

In the month of Tishri 1955, the son of my sister Elke זל Mr. Mordechai Keusch got married to his fifth wife. The Chuppah took place in the apartment of Rabbi Yehuda Brandwiein. Aaron David Flintenstein and his wife Sheba accompanied the groom. I was happy to take part and blessed him with a Mazal Tov that this be his last Chuppah. About twenty men sat around glasses of wine and sweets.

Every Shabbat, I participated in studying a lesson in Talmud with R’Chananiah HaCohen. It was 7th of Tevet 1956 and we were on the tractate ערבין. After the Maariv prayer, I went outside with everybody. I slipped on the narrow stairs and fell backward. My head was badly wounded. It was a hard blow and I was bleeding so heavily that I saw the end of my life. Some of the people brought cold water and bandages for the wound. I must have fainted because they took care of me until I woke. They called for Magen David Adom and my son David accompanied me to the station where I received first aid to stop the bleeding. I was seen by Dr. Goldstein who my son knew. The bleeding continued and the pain was unbearable.

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I was brought to Beit Cholim Hadassah. After an hour or two, the doctors decided to sew up the wound, just like a tailor sews a patch on a piece of clothing. It is hard to describe the pain of this treatment. The sewing lasted more than fifteen minutes and the wound was bandaged. My back hurt and I imagined something was broken. After examining me the doctors saw no damage externally but had me take an x-ray and said I should stay in the hospital. My son David and Doctor Sachar, who he brought with him, did not agree and they brought me home at about nine o’clock. Dr Sachar stayed with me gave me a shot and some pills but I did not sleep all night because of the pain.

The x-ray by a private doctor did not find anything broken except for my head. Basically I was satisfied. Until Shabbat, portion ויחי יעקב, I did not leave my bed. Dr. Sachar came to visit me twice a day, gave me a shot, and changed the big bandage to a small one, just on the wound. With all my strength, I went Shabbat morning to prayers in the house of Rabbi Rosenheim, to go up to the Torah and say the blessing גומל. (The prayer of thanks after a bad occurrence. RDK) The doctor still was checking me and on Thursday, he took off the small bandage so that the wound would heal.

After this troubling incident, there is some joy. Two days after what happened to me, my daughter-in-law Rachel, wife of my son Jacob gave birth to a daughter, Mazal Tov. My son Jacob went up to the Torah and called her Taube Leah, in memory of my daughter Taube who was killed by the murdering Nazis and Ukrainians in Dalatin in 1943 and Leah, the mother of my wife Chaya. This is the birth of my second granddaughter with luck and blessings to the whole family. I learned that my son Jacob registered her name as Ora, a sign of light to Jews.

Dr. Nachman Arie took the bandage off my head on Thursday. Since the wound had not fully healed, he rebandaged it. By the following week it should heal but I’m still suffering from the wound, the pain in my back and a general ache. The following Thursday, Dr. Sachar took off the bandage and there was no need for any further treatment. The head wound and the pain in the back was better and he advised me to use heat until it passed. Who knows what damage was caused by the lose of so much blood? I feel weak and feeble but I hope this will pass. At the last meeting with Dr. Sachar I ask him to give me a bill for his hard work, from that terrible night until now. There were about five visits, medical attention that was sometimes an hour or more. What doctor in our city or country would take less then 50 Li, but he would not take anything. This was for me and the love of our family. I spoke to him from my heart that this would insult my honor and thank God, I am able to pay and not take advantage of any man. He refused and said he would get a special favor from my son, David.

Erev Pessah 1956, my son David brought me a gift of a refrigerator from “Amcor”. The regular price was 500 Li. There was a special business contract with “HaArgaz” and David got a discount of 120 Li.

I and my son David’s family celebrated the Seder together without an excess of joy as in every year following the killing of our Jewish brothers all over the Diaspora. My grandson Aviam asked the four questions and my grandson Yair stole the Afikoman.

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My son Jacob and his family celebrated Pessah in his apartment in Shikun Yishgav together with his wife’s family Alexandrovitch. My sister Elka’s זל son Mordechai Dov Keusch brought me three extra kosher matzoth מצות-שמירה for the Seder as he did each year.

On the 1st day of Iyar I was invited to a Kiddush in the house of the Admor R’Abraham Jacob Freedman, the Sadagorra Rebbe. It was in honor of the birth of a daughter to Naftali Flintenstein. The parents of the child were in their home in Bnei Brak and prayed in a Beit Knesset near their home. Naftali came to the Admor to receive blessings from him for the birth of his first child. I also was honored to receive the blessings of the Admor and his brother, Shlomo Freedman, on my birthday (90) that was on the 2nd day of Iyar 1956.

The following day, my son David and his sons as well as Mordechai and his sister Tova came to give me blessings and brought me gifts. May they live long, Amen.

One Mitzvah creates another Mitzvah and joy brings more joy. My son Nathan’s זל second son Aaron Joseph and his wife Ruth gave birth to a daughter Mazal Tov. This is my first great-grandchild and the ninth generation that began with Rabbi R’Gershon Sperber the first, who received ordination from the Gaon Rabbi Jacob Melisah זצל.

Once again we have a Mitzvah. On the 21st of Tamuz there was a פדיון-הבן, Celebration of the first born son. This was for the great-grandson of my sister Elka. Her son was Mordechai Dov. His son was Michael, his wife was Miriam, and they live in Kfar Kiriat Chaim. The celebration was of first born son named Yoav. I gave a gold piece as a gift as I have given to others.

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At the beginning of Alul 1956, I took part in the Bar Mitzvah of my sister Elka זל grandson, Itzchak Meir He was the son of Aaron David Flintenstein and his wife Bat-Sheva, the daughter of the Admor, Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua.. This took place in a big hall called רות “Ruth” on Rechov Ben Yehuda. 300 men and about 200 women took part in this celebration. The tables were filled with all kinds of food and drink and everyone ate their fill. I left at about 10:00 in the evening not really happy with the crowd and the lack of order in the hall. One could not get close to the table where the Bar Mitzvah boy, the Admor and other Rabbis sat, in order to hear the Bar Mitzvah boy’s sermon. I gave him a present of two books by the Magid of Dubnah. The boy received many books and a sum of money about 7,000 Li. The grandfather, the Admor, gave a Chanukiah of silver worth about 50 Li. When the Bar Mitzvah boy finished school, he went to study in the Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

Content last updated Friday, March 15, 2013 at 07:47 PM Mountain Daylight Time

Zabolotiv, Ukraine

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Updated March 2013
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