26.04.2020 | Redaktor

Yossele Rosenblatt and Taube Kaufman: history of love

Juda Kaufman (1839-1923) was one of the most respected Brzesko Jews. He was a shochet (ritual slaughterer) and a mohel – it was him who circumcised all Jewish boys born in Brzesko for good couple of decades. Juda Kaufman was married to Rifka Feigenbaum (1850-1918); they had 10 children. Taube was their fourth daughter (and sixth child), and it’s her and her husband Yossele Rosenblatt who are the heroes of this post.

Yossele Rosenblatt (1882-1933) was one of the most outstanding cantors of his time. He became famous already as a child because of his fenomenal voice. He first lived in Kraków together with his family; at the age of 18 he became cantor in Hungary, then in Hamburg, and in 1911 he moved together with his family to the USA, where his fame became truly world-wide.
Below is the story of his love to a young Brzesko Jewess, Taubele Rosenblatt, recorded by his son. This text comes from the book “Yossele Rosenblatt. The story of his life as told by his son Samuel Rosenblatt” published by Farrar, Straus and Young in New York in 1954. I’m grateful to Louise Hajdenberg, descendant of the Feigenbaums, for providing me with scans of several pages from this book.

„Not far from Cracow lay a little hamlet or village known as Brzesko in Polish, but called Brigel by the Jews. The regular maps did not give any indication of its existence. Its size was, to use my father’s own description, no greater than that of the yawn of a flea. Nevertheless he would not have traded Brzesko whose sole claim to fame lay in the beer it brewed, for Paris or Vienna or london or even New York. And the reason was that Brzesko was the scene of his only romance, the birthplace of the one lady-love he had ever had or known and with whom he spent thirty-three blissful years from the day of their marriage until the moment of his death.
He visited Brzesko for the first time when he was about 12 years old at the request of one of my mother’s two musical brothers. The elder one had heard my father in Cracow and was so impressed that he prevailed upon my grandfather to spend a Sabbath in Brzesko in order to afford the two hundred Jewish families living there some real Sabbath joy. That Sabbath morning there came up to the women’s gallery of the local house of worship, among others, twelve-year-old Taubele Kaufman. Together with her girl-friends she stood bent over the railing of the women’s gallery devouring with her eyes the small figure of a boy standing upon a specially constructed raised platform in front of the prayer-desk, wrapped in a huge prayer-shawl, while her ears were entranced by the divine music that issued from his mouth.
„As I left the synagogue,” my father related, „the worshippers, as they usually did, followed me, and she, who later became my wife, among them. However, Taubele ran faster than everybody else. She wanted to be sure of a good look at me. I paid no attention to all this because I was already accustomed to such pursuits.
„For Kiddush I and my father were invited to Taubele’s home. I still recall, just as though it was today, how I sat at the table and felt fixed upon me all the time the brilliant brown eyes of the little girl with the pretty black tresses and the beautiful rosy face. She looked at me and I was too abashed to lift my eyes. But our eyes did meet, and when they did, I fel the blood rushing into my face. She, too, reddened and quickly lowered her eyes. This happened several times. I sang, but my thoughts were elsewhere…
„After that Taubele left the room and I did not see her any more until we met again five years later. In the meantime I began to sense a certain restlessness. It seemed to me as though the world had become empty with her departure, as though I were left all alone. The little girl would not go out of my mind. Wherever I went I saw Taubele standing before me.”

Yossele Rosenblatt aged 14. Picture comes from the book “Yossele Rosenblatt. The story of his life as told by his son Samuel Rosenblatt”, Farrar, Straus and Young, NY, 1954

My father learned a great deal of what had transpired in the synagogue that morning from the mouth of my mother herself after they were married. She told him how, as she ran after him when he was leaving the synagogue, her girl friends teased her, saying: „Taubele is in love with the little cantor (mit dem kleinen chazendel)… Taubele wants Yossele for a bridegroom…” and my mother stamped her foot and said: „It isn’t true… I will never marry anybody who is such a midget that he has to stand on a platform in order to reach the prayer-desk…” (pages 40-42)
Several years passed, but in his mind’s eye my father was still carrying around with him the image of rosy-cheeked, dark-eyed Taubele Kaufman, with the long black tresses, whom at the age of twelve he had met in Brzesko. It was to her that his heart belonged. When therefore, five years later, chance brought him to Brzesko again and, as was to be expected, he came in contact with one of Taubele’s brothers, he unburdened himself to the latter and Taubele’s brother did the rest. He was, as a matter of fact, quite thrilled over the prospect and confided to my father the secret, that to his sister he was very pleasing also.
This made my father very happy. He felt as though he were in heaven, and well might he feel that way. My mother, who is still today considered very attractive, was at the age of seventeen, as a photo from that time indicates, a beautiful young woman.

Taube Kaufman aged 17. Picture comes from the book “Yossele Rosenblatt. The story of his life as told by his son Samuel Rosenblatt”, Farrar, Straus and Young, NY, 1954.

My maternal grandfather, Judah (Idel)Kaufman, the community Shochet, descendant of Rabbi Alexander Sender of Żółkiew, was the acknowledged lay leader of the town, beloved and respected and trusted by everybody, Jew as well as gentile. Whenever a collection had to be made for some charitable purpose, whether it was that of marrying off an orphan bride, or helping a family whose house had burned down, it was reb Idel Kaufman who was charged with the task of canvassing the community. If people had some extra cash on hand – savings banks were non-existent in small towns like Brzesko – they would entrust it to Reb Idel to take care of for them. He was a soft-spoken, even-tempered person, who seldom raised his voice except in the enthusiasm of prayer. Scrupulously observant himself in matters of religion, he was tolerant toward others.
So, the marital agreements were set down in writing and the engagement of „the talanted and God-fearing young Chazan and singer Josef, the son of the reader, Raphael Rosenblatt of Neumarkt, and the beautiful and accomplished maiden Taube, daughter of the Shochet Judah Idel Kaufman of Brigel” was celebrated at a banquet which was attended by nearly all the townspeople.
The date of the mariage itself was set for a year later, when my father was to reach the age of eighteen, which, according to tradition, was the appropriate time for entering thr nuptial canopy… The wedding took place in Brzesko under the open sky in the couryard of the synagogue on Wednesday evening, the 21st of Ab of the year 5660 (August 15, 1900).
It was a festive wedding, marked by all the joyousness and fervor of Chassidic tradition. There was much of singing as well as of the display of Jewish learning at the table by both principals and guests. My father, grandfather Rosenblatt, my uncle Levi and my mother’s brothers supplied the musical program, while the rabbis present contributed the menu of Torah. The meal was interrupted by dancing, but not dancing as we know it, for there was no mingling of the sexes. When men and women danced together at all, the means of contact was a handkerchief, the man holding one end, the woman holding the other.
The dominant mood among all the wedding guests was one of extreme happiness. It was generally agreed that there could no be a more perfect match… The festivities were concluded with the traditional „seven days of feasting” that followed the wedding. And so on the ninth of Elul of the year 5660 (September 3, 1900) Rabbi Tobias Lipschitz, the president of the rabbinical court of Brzesko and its environs, was able to inform the congregation of Munkas that „the sweet singer in Israel reb Joseph, nee Rosenblatt, whose fame was spread far and wide, and whose noble qualities he had had a chance to observe during his sojourn of several weeks in Brzesko, had taken to wife the daughter of the local Shochet Ren Idel Kaufman. He was, therefore, qualified to represent in prayer any community that saw fit to appoint him to such a position.” (pages 58-61)

Yossele Rosenblatt, cantor in Hamburg, ager 25. Picture comes from the book “Yossele Rosenblatt. The story of his life as told by his son Samuel Rosenblatt”, Farrar, Straus and Young, NY, 1954.

Yossele and Taube Rosenblatt had 8 children. As the entire family moved to the US in 1911, they managed to escape the Holocaust. Yossele tragically died because of heart attack in 1933. He was in Jerusalem at the time and was buried at Mount of Olives cemetery. Taube and children stayed in the US. She died in 1966 aged 86.Their descendants stil live in the US.

Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, picture from the website www.mostlymusic.com
Grave of Yossele Rosenblatt at Mount of Olives cemetery, Jerusalem Israel. Picture comes from the website www.findagrave.com
Grave of Taube Rosenblatt nee Kaufman at Mount Hebron cemetery, NY, USA. Picture comes from the website www.findagrave.com