IN MEMORY OF MOSHE BIRENBAUM
(13 November 1918 - 24 February 2011)
click on image to
Old Cemetery, Kfar-Sava
of Israel Birenbaum
Visits in Narewka – Birenbaum Family
name is Israel Birenbaum. My father, Moshe Birenbaum,
was born in Narewka on 143 November 1918. He grew
up and lived in Narewka and surrounding villages and
towns until 6 June 1941. On that day he joined the
Red Army. Accompanied by his sister Lea, he went to the
railway station at Hajnowka
and was taken from there to Russia.
In 1957 he got permission to come
back to his homeland, Poland. He visited
Narewka and heard all the stories from the Polish
residents. He worked in Poland as an account manager
of a restaurant chain. In 1961 he was
permitted to go to Israel, where his aunt (mother's
side) and cousins were. In 1963 he married my mother
- Haya Rapaport - Birenbaum. Three children were
born, Zvi Aharon (after Moshe's father), Israel
Yosef (after Moshe's brother) and Ester (aftern
Moshe's mother). My father passed away on 24
I visited Narewka twice - the first time in June of
2001 with my parents; the second time in May of 2011
with my brother and the students from his high
school in Israel.
visit in Narewka – 20 June 2001
father and mother, his cousins, originally from Orla
(a nearby town), and I visited Narewka on 20 June
2001. Before the visit, my father made a sketch of a map of
Narewka and it was amazing to see the similarity to
the actual streets, river, etc.
My father showed me the place of
his former home; we entered the backyard and he explained
how they lived there near the river.
Across the street was the house of his grandfather –
Yehuda Aydel Birenbaum.
My father found the
well from where he brought water home.
We talked to an old women (same age as my father)
and she showed us some pictures,
one of them from the old school where my father
was a student. (In the middle is the principal.)
We went to the Jewish
cemetery and my father said the Yizkor on one of the
but not on his grandfather's, since
we couldn’t find it then.
After that we went
to the monument, to the place where the Germans killed all the
Jewish men of Narewka.
My father said the Yizkor and Kaddish. My brother's name
is after my father's father - Aharon Zvi -
and my name - Israel - is after my
We also visited Bialystok, where my father studied a few
years in a Talmud Torah (until 1939) and where some of his
family had lived.
Another place that we went to see
was the school in Łosinka,
were my father was a teacher during the years 1940-41, until
he joined the Red Army. We also met the couple who rented
him a room in their house across the street from the school
– this was also very exciting.
Second visit in Narewka – 1 May 2011
My father, Moshe
Birenbaum, who lived and grew up in Narewka, passed away
on February 24, 2011.
Two months later, for a second
time, I went, joining my brother and his high school's -
Adar High School - journey to Poland from Israel.
We first met the local school principal and some
teachers and students at the school in Narewka.* We told
them about our father and they took us for a short visit to
meet with school classes. At the end the students from
Israel played football (soccer) with the students from
In the school
there is a mini-model of the old village, where one can
see the exact location of the synagogue.
We then went
together for a walk through Narewka streets from the place
where the synagogue
was to a view of my father's backyard from the river side
Through my father's home place and the
At the cemetery I
walked directly to one of the graves, which turned out to be
the grave of my father’s
grandfather – it was a miracle, since we
couldn’t find this grave on my first visit in 2001 with my
Then we said goodbye to the Polish
students and went to the monument. There we had a
ceremony in which my brother, his daughter and I said a few
words. I played the tape of my father saying Kaddish and
Yizkor that was recorded back in 2001, when we were there, and
asked all attendees to say Amen. This was a very emotional
would like to thank some great and very special people
who helped me:
- Joy Kestenbaum, who created and maintains the important
website on Narewka, gave me information when preparing for
the visit, connected me with Kasia Bielawska, and encouraged
me to submit this account, providing many good suggestions.
- Kasia Bielawska from Narewka, who helped by communicating
with the local school and in making the Poland-Israeli
student meeting a success.
- Narewka local school - its principal, teachers and
students who participated in the meeting.
- Adar High School from Israel and all the students that
participated in that important journey.
- Zvika Schwarzman, who is researching the Holocaust and
accompanied my last visit in Poland with Adar High School,
helped with good advice and documented the visit with many
- Tuvia Schwartz, who guided the visit in Poland with so
much knowledge and sensitivity.
- Zvika Birenbaum, my dear brother, who pushed me to make
this important trip again and led his students to a very
exciting journey to our roots and tradition.
-- Israel Birenbaum
Zichron Yaacov, Israel
Photos courtesy of Israel
and Israel Birenbaum
Click for larger image
is interested in hearing from anyone who might
descended from his great-grandfather Yehuda Birenbaum, or with
information about his family.
(*Addendum: The 2011 meeting between the Israeli students from
Adar High School and the Polish students from the
Zespół Szkół w Narewce
and their joint tour of Narewka has also been reported on the
websites of the
Gminny Osrodek Kultury
- the Narewka Municipal Cultural
Center - and the Zespół
On Zvika Birenbaum's April 2013 visit to Narewka with his
see article, "Israel celebrates the festival of lights
from the English Edition of Israel Hayom
, an online
as well as the coverage on the website of
GOK - Gminny Osrodek Kultury
, the Narewka Municipal
of the visit was made by Magda Zw-ski, a cousin of
one of the Narewka teachers:
To hear a song written and
composed by Zvika Birenbaum, Principal of Adar School
with his students, soon after their visit to Narewka, click here (and
scroll down to gravestone of Eliyahu son of Yerachmiel).
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