29.03.2022 | Redaktor

09. The Teitelbaum rabbis

Although Brzesko was a small town before the war, it had four brick synagogues and a wooden one, and its rabbis came from famous rabbinical families – Lipschitz, Templer, and Teitelbaum.

The oldest ancestor of this last family, mentioned on several Teitelbaum matzevas at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery, was the distinguished Hasidic leader Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum of Ujhely (1759-1841), also known – from the title of his best-known book – as the Yismach Moshe. Moshe was first a rabbi in Przemyśl, and later in the city of Ujhely in Hungary, where he founded a Hasidic community. This rabbi was the author of several significant works, including homilies on the Torah “Yismach Moshe” (“Moses rejoiced”), and his descendants and followers today constitute the communities of Satmar Hasidim.

Moshe Teitelbaum, “Yismach Moshe”, 1759-1842, picture from wikipedia

One of the grandsons of Moshe Teitelbaum, Menachem (Nuchim) Tzvi, was a rabbi in Drohobycz, and Nuchim’s son Menashe (1841- June 3, 1905) moved to Brzesko, where he married his distant relative Chana, herself from a family of Brzesko Tzaddiks (daughter of rabbi Tuvie Lipschitz) and became not only a rabbi, but also the head of the rabbinical court. Menashe, and later his son Chaim and grandson Menashe (named after his deceased grandfather) were rabbis in Brzesko’s only wooden synagogue (long since vanished), which stood between Kazimierz Wielki Square and today’s Jordanowski Garden. Brzesko Holocaust survivors Dov Landau (1928) and Jozef Polaniecki (1924) remember this synagogue; the first cheder that Mr Polaniecki had attended, was located in it.

Several families of Teitelbaum rabbis lived in Brzesko before World War II. Naftali Hirsch (Tzvi) Teitelbaum (1850 – December 1, 1922; his matzevah has survived at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery) was the great-grandson of the Yismach Moshe; his grandfather and father were the heads of the rabbinical courts in Drohobycz and Gorlice. Naftali Hirsch and Scheindel Teitelbaum had 6 children, most of whom perished together with their families during the Holocaust. Brzesko Holocaust survivor Dov Landau shared about the wedding of his aunt Cyrla Landau and Moshe Teitelbaum (this testimony can be found in the documentary “Dov Landau: my Brzesko” on this website). Moshe was the grandson of Naftali Hirsch, he got married on August 18, 1932, and the wedding was held in the tenement house of Dov Landau’s grandfather at the Brzesko Market Square. Unfortunately, Moshe, Cyrla and their sons Naftali (1934) and Berisch (1935) were also murdered by Germans.

Matzeva of Naftali Tzvi Teitelbaum (1850-1922), from the lineage of the Yismach Moshe, at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery

One of the sons of Naftali Hirsch, Menashe (February 27, 1872 – February 18, 1939), was a member of  the kehilla board and a merchant, he ran a textile shop in a tenement house on the corner of the Brzesko Market Square, opposite the church. He was lucky – he died a natural death six months before the war, and there is a beautiful matzeva on his grave at the cemetery. His wife Lea and children Samuel (1895), Rachel (1896), Leib (1897) and Rifka (1898) were murdered along with their families. Only son Moshe survived – it’s him who submitted testimonies on the fate of his family members to Yad Vashem.

The tenement house in Brzesko where Menashe Teitelbaum used to have a textile store. Photo from googlemaps
Matzeva of the merchant Menashe Teitelbaum (1872-1939), son of Naftali Tzvi, from the lineage of Yismach Moshe, at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery

But let’s go back to the family of Menashe Teitelbaum, who was the rabbi and the head of the Brzesko rabbinical court till his death on June 3, 1905. The inscription on his tombstone is exceptionally moving:

His soul has departed from the people of his grace
What soul shall not be anguished for his light and his righteousness have been extinguished
He sat night and day to ponder his Torah
He taught religion and law for 25 years to the people of his community
The son of earthly Tzadikim and Gaonim, the origin of his philosophy
Tzadikim in the Garden of Eden of Eden will greet his soul and spirit
The honored Chassid Rabbi, son of the Holy men
Menashe of blessed memory, son of the holy Gaon and Rabbi
May his reward be from the joy of the desired Eden,
Menachem Tzvi of blessed memory and grandson of the holy genious rabbi
Author of Yismah Moshe of blessed memory ,
President of the rabbinic court of the holy community of Ujhely
And Grandson to the Rabbi, the Holy Gaon Mordechai David of blessed memory from Dąbrowa
At the age of 68 he rose to his place of rest
On the evening of the first day of Sivan 5665
May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life

(Translation from Hebrew by Yossi Elran)

Matzeva of Menashe Teitelbaum, the chairman of the Brzesko rabbinical court (1841-1905), from the lineage of Yismach Moshe, at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery

Menashe Teitelbaum had seven children, his eldest son Chaim (February 19, 1882 – September 1942) also became a rabbi and rabbinical judge. Chaim married the daughter of the rabbi from Limanowa, Ides Horowitz/Wolf; in the years 1909-1919 they had seven children, but one daughter died at the age of 5.

The eldest son of Chaim and Ides Teitelbaum, Yehoschua (Schija) also became a rabbi. He married Jentl (Yetti) Hollander, the daughter of the rabbi from Mszana Dolna. The whole family perished during the war in Mszana Dolna – Schija’s wife Yetti (1904) and the children Chana (1926), Feiwisch (1930), Malka (1932), Chaja Mirl (1936), Blima Roza (1940) were murdered on August 19, 1942, and are buried in a mass grave in Mszana; Schija was most likely separated from his family and worked for some time in a group of about 100 Jews in nearby quarries, where he was shot.

The list of Jews murdered in Mszana Dolna on August 19, 1942. #913-919 belong to the family of Schija Teitelbaum, the oldest son of Brzesko rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum, descendant of Yismach Moshe. Photo from the archives of Urszula Antosz-Rekucka..
Monument on the mass grave of Jews in Mszana Dolna, 2021.

The daughter Rochma Bluma (1909-1942) married in 1935 Salomon Teitelbaum, son of Limanowa Rabbi and nephew of tzaddik Benzion Halbersztam. The tzaddik himself came to their wedding in Brzesko (you can read about this man, for example, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Zion_Halberstam). Brzesko Holocaust survivor Dov Landau often recalls how not only Jews but also Catholics came to greet the tzaddik in Brzesko, and the wedding celebration lasted for several days. (Mr. Landau’s father was a student of the Bobowa rabbi Benzion Halbersztam, and during his stay in Brzesko, the tzaddik lived in their house). The couple settled in Brzesko, their daughters Chane  and Hinda were born in 1936 and 1938. The entire family was murdered in the Holocaust.

The remaining children of Chaim Teitelbaum – sons Menashe (1907, also a rabbinical judge), Naftali Hirsch (1911), Tobias Leib (1917) and Markus Dawid (1919) and their families were also murdered. Chaim and his wife Ides perished during the liquidation of the Brzesko ghetto.

Of the great Teitelbaum clan, descendants of  Yismach Moshe, only a few survived the war. May the memory of all murdered in the Shoah be an eternal blessing.

© Anna Brzyska, 2022