Rabbi Meir Yechiel haLevi Halstock
In the year 1889, a young genius arrived in Ostrowiec by the name of Rabbi Meir Yechiel haLevi Halstock and was appointed Rabbi of the town. This brilliant scholar emerged over time into one of the most influential people in the world of Chassidut and made the town famous.
Excerpted from Shabes and Yontiv in Ostrovtse from the Ostrowiec Yizkor book, by Yekhiel Magid-Rozenberg, written in late 1960’s, translated by Tina Lunson
And finally – a few words about the old Ostrovtse Rebi, Rov Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi of blessed memory. During his lifetime thousands of Hasidim came to him in Ostrovtse for every holiday and especially for the Days of Awe. On the anniversary of his death masses of Jews came to Ostrovtse from every corner of Poland, who felt it was their duty to honor their Rebi and to throw a kvitl [petition] into the monument built over his grave.
Tables were set up from Note Koval’s forge all the way to the cemetery, at which Jews sat and wrote their kvitlekh. A great feast was held in the Rebi’s courtyard on the night of the yortsayt. People went continually to the cemetery all night and all day. The town was packed with Hasidim, rabbis, rebis and judges from all Poland. Many families rented out or simply gave over their apartments for beds for the pilgrims to the Rebi’s grave.
Poor people from all over Poland came to Ostrovtse for the Rebi’s yortsayt in order to earn a few zlotych and none of them had anything to complain about. The revenue was considerable.
Lining the road to the cemetery were tables set up by various institutions with signs: “Yeshives bes-mayer”, “Yeshives bes-yosef”, “Talmud-Torah”, “Lines ha’tsedek”, “Rov Mayer bal ha’nes”, “Tsdoke matan b’siter” “Keneses kale”, “Ezras nashim”, “Keren kayemet”, “Kibuts ha’mizrakhi”, “Kibuts shel agudas-yisroel” and so on. It occurred to me to stand with the donation plate for “Yeshives bes-mayer” because I had studied in that yeshive for a long time and it was very dear to me.
Heart-rending scenes occurred during the day of the Rebi’s yortsayt. Thousands of people, men and women, young and old, besieged the gravesite. The smell of the burning candles filled the whole cemetery, the monument held thousands of tossed kvitlekh in which men and women had expressed all their longings and yearnings, and the weeping and the crying reached the heart of heaven.
Rabbi Yechezkel haLevi Halstock
Excerpted from R’ Leybush Halshtok of Blessed Memory from the Ostrowiec Yizkor book, by Iser Boymfeld of Rio de Janerio, translated by Tina Lunson
R’ Leybush Halshtok was born in Kalish in 1884 and studied for many years in the kheyders and yeshives there. Later he married [a woman from] Ostrovtse and settled there. He was a close relative of the Ostrovtse Rebi, R’ Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi Halshtok z”l. He was known as a great Talmud sage and was called on for difficult decisions. He was secretary of the “Mizrakhi” for a long time and was the head of Jewish education. For a certain time, he was also active as a member of the community council as a representative of the religious Jews. He was a social activist, beloved by all levels of the Jewish population and even his political opponents from various camps had great respect for him. He took care to see that his children were educated in the national-traditional spirit.