08.03.2024 | Redaktor

Brzesko descendants of rabbi Kalonimos Kalman Epstein

On June 20, 2023, Hasidim from all over the world came to Krakow  for the bicentenary yahrzait of Rabbi Kalman Kalonimos Epstein, Maor VaShemesh.

Krakow rabbi Kalman Kalonimos Epstein (1754-1823), called Maor VaShemesh (From the Light and Sun) after the title of his main work, was a student of outstanding tzaddikim Elimelech from Leżajsk and Jakub Isaac Horowic (The Seer from Lublin). Already in 1785, he organized the first group of Hasidim in Krakow. Despite the determined resistance of the official Jewish community, he created a strong Hasidic center in Krakow. His most famous work, Maor VaShemesh, written as a commentary on the Pentateuch, contains, among others, a description of the life and activities of many leaders of the Hasidic movement. This book contributed to the development of Hasidism in Galicia and is still used by subsequent generations of Hasidim. Rabbi Epstein is buried in the new Jewish cemetery at Miodowa street in Krakow.

Preparation for the bicentenary yahrzait of Rabbi Kalonimus Kalman Epstein, Maor VaShemesh, Kraków, June 20, 2023. Photo from the FB of the Jewish Religious Community in Krakow
Rabbi Epstein’s grave at the new Jewish cemetery at Miodowa st. in Krakow. Photo from the FB of the Jewish Community in Krakow

Dalsza część tego artykułu będzie poświęcona potomkom rabina Epsteina, którzy osiedlili się w Brzesku.

Rabbi Epstein’s daughter, Hicela Epstein (1798-1823), married Chaskel Flaks (1799-1831), and it’s the descendants of this couple’s two children that lived in Brzesko

Bluma Rywka Flaks (born in 1819, granddaughter of Maor VaShemesh), after the premature death of her parents, lived in Krakow under the care of her uncle Josef Baruch Epstein. In 1836 she married Brzesko-born Mendel Abusz (1814-1890). Her husband’s birth certificate, which is kept in the Krakow archive, is so far the oldest surviving document of this type issued by the Brzesko Jewish community.

Birth certificate of Mendel Abusch issued in Brzesko in 1836.  Photo from the website https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/

This document was issued in 1836 for presentation to the Jewish community in Krakow, where Mendel Abusch intended to marry Bluma Ryfka Flaks. It states that Mendel Abusch, 22 years old, was born in Brzesko on April 26, 1814 and was the son of Schaja Abusch and Mindel Abusch née Pipersberg. The document was issued on March 25, 1836 and signed by Brzesko rabbi Josef Szidlow (you can see his signature in Hebrew) and Juda Kleinberger, as well as by Brzesko clerk Jacenty Gdowski.

the document has got 2 stamps, one of which belonged to the Jewish community in Brzesko. It bears an inscription in Hebrew “The leader of the holy community of Briegel” (Briegel is the name of the town of Brzesko in Yiddish).

Mendel Abusch and Bluma Ryfka Flachs got married in Kraków, but later moved to Brzesko. Several children were born to them, including daughters Rudel, Riwe Hicel and Ester, who started families in Brzesko.

Bluma Ryfka most likely died before 1877; the widower Mendel Abusch died on December 2, 1890 and his matzeva has survived in the Brzesko Jewish cemetery.

Matzeva of Mendel Abusch at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery.

Here lies

A noble and righteous man, following the path of the righteous,

God-fearing and avoiding evil, our teacher, Mr

Menachem Mendel, son of Mr Yeschaja

Abraham Abusch, his soul left on 21

Kislev (5)651 [December 3, 1890] May his soul be bound in the bundle of life.

(Deciphering the Hebrew inscription by Jolanta Kruszniewska)

The daughter of the Abusch couple, Rudel Abusch (1847-1940, Rabbi Epstein’s great-granddaughter) married Jozef Gunzig (1850-1928). The couple’s son and granddaughter married the children of the Brzesko dayan Menasche Kapel. Almost all the descendants of this branch were murdered in the Holocaust. One of the few survivors is Mr. Martin Kapel, who currently lives in Great Britain. There is a separate article on this family at our website.

Martin Kapel, great-great-great-great-grandson of Rabbi Kalonimus Kalman Epstein, living in England. Photo from the website https://holocaustlearning.org.uk/stories/martin-kapel/

Another daughter of Mendel Abusch and Bluma Ryfka Flachs, Riwe Hicel Abusch (born in Brzesko in 1858, great-granddaughter of Rabbi Epstein) married Joel Weissbart; between 1883 and 1895, six children were born to them, two of whom died in infancy. I don’t know what happened to their son Aron (born in 1883) and daughter Bluma (born in 1890), but the other two children left Poland. Mendel Weisbart (1894-1942) lived in Belgium. On September 12, 1942, he was deported from the Caserne Dossin transit camp to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where he was murdered.

Mendel Weisbart, great-great-grandson of Rabbi Epstein murdered at Auschwitz
Fragment of the list of people deported to Auschwitz from the Caserne Dossin camp on September 12, 1942, transport IX. Mendel Weisbart is listed under #640.
Photos from the website  

Mindel Weisbart (born in Brzesko in 1895) married Josef Weisbart/Szpital, probably her distant relative. The couple moved to Germany and settled in Nuremberg, where their four children were born. Mindel and Jozef were deported to Poland in 1939, where they perished, but at least two of their children managed to survive. In 1989, their son Adolf Weisbart, who after the war took the name Alan Westley and lived in England, provided testimony regarding the death of his parents to Yad Vashem.

Josef and Minna (Mindel) Weisbard were on the list of people deported from Nuremberg. Photo from the database of Arolsen archive,

The Weisbarts’ daughter, Batja (Betty), born in Nuremberg on March 20, 1920, also survived the war. Deported to Poland on October 28, 1938, she stayed in Zbąszyń for some time, but in 1941 she managed to go to Palestine.

Registration card of Batja (Betty) Weisbart; photo from the Yad Vashem database https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=14744614&ind=1

Another daughter of the Abusch couple, Rabbi Epstein’s great-granddaughter Ester Abusch, married Israel Hartman (1847-1906). Between 1878 and 1894, six children were born to them in Brzesko, two of whom died in infancy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any documents regarding the fate of the remaining four children.

In Brzesko there also settled the descendants of Rabbi Kalonimos Kalman Epstein’s grandson, Majer Matisyahu Flaks (1814-1887). His son, Kalonimos Kalman Flaks (born in Nowy Wiśnicz in 1858, named after his great ancestor), married Estera Einhorn (1863-1931) from Brzesko and moved to his wife’s hometown. The couple lived here until their deaths, and their tombstones with exceptionally touching inscriptions have survived at the Brzesko cemetery.

Matzeva of Kalonimos Kalman Flaks (1857-1927), great-grandson of Rabbi Epstein, at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery

Our master, the honourable, pious son of the saints
Here is buried
Our teacher, Mr. Kalonimos Kalman
Son of Mr. Meir Matatiahu, of blessed memory. Descendant of the
Holy man, author of Meor Ve-Shemesh, the sign of his living soul**
Passed away on Shevat 25 (5)687 [January 28, 1927]. May his soul be bound in the bundle of life.
The voice of those crying, a bitter wail
The one lying here in silence has passed away into the heavens
He supported himself by the labour of his hands all his days
A branch from the seed of the holy and righteous
In the fear of the Lord he kept the commandments and laws
By acting in piety, he earned a (good) name for himself
His years are numbered until the end, (he died) at the age of 70

He got himself a respectable place to rest in peace

And his spirit will rest in peace

(Deciphering the Hebrew inscription by Jolanta Kruszniewska)

Matzeva of Ester Flaks, wife of  Kalonimos Kalman

Here lies


Ester daughter of Mr

Yehuda Leibush Einhorn

Wife of Rabbi Kalonimos

Kalman Flaks, descendant

Of the Tzadik Rabbi „Maor VaShemesh”

Of blessed memory, an important and humble woman

The fear of God was her glory. Deceased on 15 of Sivan

5691 [May 31, 1931]. May her soul be bound in the bundle of life

(Deciphering the Hebrew inscription by Idan Livne)

Kalonimos Kalman and Estera Flaks had 10 children born in Brzesko between 1883 and 1900, of whom only 6 lived to adulthood. I could find some information on the families of 4 of these children, but in many cases I do not know what happened to their descendants. Most likely, most of them were murdered in the Holocaust.

Cerl Flaks, born in 1883, married Abraham Strumpf from Mielec and most likely left Brzesko.

Jachet Flaks, born in 1887, married Szyja Uszer Wiener. Although the couple’s 9 children were born in Brzesko, Jachet and Szyja Uszer got legally married in 1915 in the town of Budweis. Jachet died in Brzesko of asthma in 1932, at the age of 45, when her youngest child, daughter Chana, was only 4 years old. She was buried next to her mother.

Matzeva of Jachet Wiener, great-great-granddaughter of Rabbi Epstein, at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery

Here lies



Daughter  of the Rabbi  Kalonimos

Kalman of blessed memory, great-grandson and  grandson of the rabbi

Tzadik “Maor VaShemesh”

An important and modest woman

She trained her sons on the ways of

The Torah. Died on the 15 of Tamuz 5692 [July 19, 1932]

May her soul be bound in the bundle of life

(Deciphering the Hebrew inscription by Efrat Golditsch)

Inscriptions on all matzevot of the descendants of Maor VaShemesh mention their famous ancestor.

Hicela Flaks (born in Brzesko in 1889, named after her great-grandmother Hicela née Epstein, daughter of Rabbi Epstein), married Dawid Rothkopf and emigrated to Germany. She lived in Berlin, where her 5 children were born.

Registration cards of Rothkopf daughters Ida, Zilly, Paula and Ruth. Photos from the Arolsen archive database,https://collections.arolsen-archives.org/en/search

In May 1939, Hicela (Gizela) Rothkopf née Flaks was deported to Poland; she perished together with her husband and daughters Pola (Paula, born on May 9, 1925), Lotte (born in 1927) and Rut (born on January 20, 1931). According to the testimony of their surviving daughter, they were in Brzesko during the war. Most likely, they were murdered in Bełżec.

Dawid Rothkopf
Hicela (Gizela) Rothkopf z domu Flaks
Pola (Paula) Flaks
Lotte Rothkopf

Photos of the Rothkopf family come from Yad Vashem database.

But two older daughters of the Rothkopf family who had emigrated to Palestine, survived the war: Ida (born in 1921) and Zilli (Tzipora, born in 1923).

Ida Herta née Rothkopf received citizenship of the British Mandate of Palestine in September 1945 and her husband Max Czerniński – in 1946. 

Ida Herta Rothkopf, certificate of granting citizenship of the British Mandate of Palestine, 1945. Photo from the database of the State Archives of Israel, https://www.archives.gov.il/en/

Ida’s sister Zilli Rothkopf had lived in Palestine since 1938; she received citizenship in 1942.  In her 1942 documents, kept in the State Archives of Israel, her profession is listed as “soldier, serving member of His Majesty’s Forces”.

Zilli Rothkopf, “soldier, serving member of His Majesty’s Forces”, certificate of granting citizenship of the British Mandate of Palestine, 1945. Photo from the database of the State Archives of Israel

I hope that the descendants of the Rothkopf sisters still live in Israel and through them the lineage of Maor VaShemesh continues into the future

Another daughter of Kalonimos Kalman Flaks, Liebe Flaks (born in Brzesko in 1894) married Benjamin Moses from Szczawnica. Benjamin moved to Brzesko, he was a “merchant of kitchen utensils”, as his profession was referred to in the birth records of his children. In the years 1923-1936, the Moses couple had 5 children (they also had twins, who died soon after birth). Most likely, they were all murdered during the Holocaust – I managed to find only one mention of Benjamin Moses from Brzesko, who was murdered together with his family

May the memory of all Holocaust victims be an eternal blessing. And may the lineage of the great tzaddik, Rabbi Kalonimos Kalman Epstein, Maor VaShemesh. never pass.

© Anna Brzyska, 2024