Eliezer Halevi
Eliezer Halevi

Eliezer Halevi

Standing from left to right: Leib Levi [Lev], Eliezer [Ha]Levi, Yechiel Levi, unknown, Shraga Mintzberg
Standing from left to right: Leib Levi [Lev], Eliezer [Ha]Levi, Yechiel Levi, unknown, Shraga Mintzberg

Excerpted from translated eulogies by Shneur Razin and his nephew Avraham Rosenman, along with research* done by Avi Borenstein

Born in 1895, Eliezer Levi grew up in Ostrowiec in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic family.

After his mother died of illness at an early age, Eliezer began to leave his family’s Hassidic way of life and began the Zionist-public period of his life. He established a public library in Ostrowiec. He encouraged the young Jewish people of the town to learn self-defense because there had been many disturbances in the town. He was in contact with the Zionist leader of Polish Jewry, Yitzhak Gruenbaum. Eliezer headed the Zionist Histadrut of Ostrowiec and had to often defend the antisemitic claims against the Jews of being Bolsheviks.

Eliezer was an accountant and a business correspondence writer. As a young man he was busy with his father's business as a wholesale flour merchant, traveling frequently to Warsaw,

After World War I was over and Eliezer was in his 20s, he decided to immigrate to Israel despite his father's disapproval. Eliezer immigrated to Israel in 1923, changing his last name from Levi to Halevi. Arriving in Petah Tikva, he began working in building and orchards. He joined the Zionist pioneer camp in the Jezreel Valley and reached Kibbutz Geva in1928.

Eliezer took Zionism very seriously in Israel. He joined the radical “Al Hamishmar” group of Zionists that prioritized aliya of halutzim (pioneers) to work in agriculture.

Eliezer brought his brothers and sisters to Israel. His father even immigrated to Israel at the end of his life and was buried on the Mount of Olives. Eliezer brought his sister to Kibbutz Geva along with her one-year-old son Gideon. Gideon grew up there, got married and unfortunately lost his life in the Yom Kippur War.

His brother Yechiel Levi immigrated to Israel and grew up in Kibbutz Ginegar [mentioned on page 251 in Ostrowiec Yizkor Book 1971].

Eliezer, although never married, was not alone. Eliezer was one of the accountants in Geva and many learned from him. He was interested in every occupation and work. He especially enjoyed doing good deeds without the expectation of receiving a reward. He enjoyed spending time with the youth of the kibbutz.

Eliezer was a man devoted to his ideals- Judaism, socialist Zionism, and love of the Bible and Talmud. He passed away in 1985.

* Source: Kibbutz Geva archives and memorials

Notation: Eliezer had 4 sisters:  Hela who came to Israel before the Holocaust, Genia  who survived the Holocaust. His 2 brothers were: Leib Levi [changed name to Leib Lev in Israel]  and  Yechiel Levi 


Eliezer wrote an article in the Ostrowiec Yizkor Book of 1971 [Page 180]. The Hebrew text can be found here : ELIEZER HALEVI YIZKOR BOOK

English text below:

The Beloved and Pleasant

Translated by Sara Mages

 Each time I remember the townspeople, the images of my two friends, Eliezer Stanovich and Avraham Malach, rise before me. I was drawn to them despite the differences in age and the outlook between us: they were traditional people who prayed every day, while I was already far from it.

Their mild manners stood in stark contrast to the habits of other Jewish shopkeepers, whose time was always pressed and their whole lives passed as if in a hurry.

I remember that in 1921, when it became known in the city that the League of Nations in San Remo approved the British Mandate for Eretz Yisrael, and gave an international official stamp to Balfour Declaration, we, the Zionists in the city, decided to hold a demonstration, and I was assigned to give a speech to the crowd from a balcony. But, there was no owner of a balcony who allowed me to speak from it. When Avraham Malach learned of this, he came to me and said, "You will speak from my balcony!"

After the speech, which was very emotional because I was not ready to speak before a large crowd outside, Avraham served me a piece of cake and a cup of drink.

Our friendly relations were not severed, even after I distanced myself from them ideologically and joined the socialist Zionist movement. In 1926, at the time of the great crisis in Eretz Yisrael, I received a letter from them, but since I did not want to write the truth about the difficult economic situation that prevailed in the country at that time, and I also did not want to lie - I did not answer them and that's how our relationship ended.

Also the memory of two other townspeople, the brothers Shmuel and Ezra Bumstein, rise before me each time I remember my hometown. They had a rich Hebrew library from which I absorbed my Hebrew education in my adolescence. Once, when I came to the library I couldn't find any of the brothers and waited a long time for their return. When they came they were angry with me for not taking the necessary book.

Ezra Bumstein once did me a service which was involved with courage: He gave me his identity card to allow a  Jewish soldier in the Polish army, my friend, to desert from the army in order to immigrate to Israel. It was a very daring act that only a few were willing to do.

I cry for these soulmates who are lost to me forever.

 Pina'le Altman the Melamed

 In general, the melamedim [teachers] did not have a respectable status on the Jewish street. They were mostly considered "idlers" and "good for nothing" that came to their livelihood because they did not succeed in any other field. I would like to bring up the memory of one melamed, with whom I studied to the age of Bar Mitzvah, and to this day I am full of admiration for his pedagogical and educational skills. It was Pina'le Altman - a man of noble spirit with rare pedagogical talent that, unfortunately, was not properly utilized. Pina'le never raised his hand on a boy, with words of taste and pleasure he tried to instill his teachings in his students and he succeeded more than anyone else in the entire town.

 Two incidents, which testify to the nobility of his soul, remain in my memory.  In the fall of 1914, when the Russian army entered our city, they imposed on the flour merchants, including my father, to supply a large amount of bread to the army every week. In connection with this, the bakeries were forbidden to sell bread to civilians, and they all worked only for the army. Once, Pina'le approached me and whispered to me that his children are hungry and he has nothing to feed them with. I took advantage of the moment the officer turned his head and handed him a loaf of bread. After Pina'le managed to get away from the place, he took out his gun and threatened to shoot me.

I escaped from the place and hid in Pina'le's house. He wanted to go to the officer and take the sin upon himself, but with all my strength I held him back and did not let him risk his life for me. In the end, the officer and I reconciled and everything worked out well.

In 1915, I fell seriously ill, when I regained consciousness, after several days of high fever, I saw Pina'le sitting next to my bed. When he saw me awake he asked me to promise him to set times for the Torah, and thanks to this a complete cure will come to me. I refused to promise him. As I learned, he asked my father to let him spend the night with me and watch over me during my illness. Many years later he praised the honesty of my heart, that even in the most difficult hours of my life I did not want to lie and did not agree to take on something that was far from my heart.

Aunt Feigale

 One of the wonderful characters I knew in my childhood was aunt Feigale. She was born in the 30s of the last century and died childless in 1907.  But, despite this, the name Feigale was well known in Ostrowiec and the entire surrounding area, because this righteous woman excelled in taking into her home children from good families who had lost their property, or the heads of the families died and the children were left without supervision. She adopted them as if they were her own sons, raised, educated married them off and took care of their financial support. These children, after they married and became owners of beautiful houses, took her name for themselves, like Meir Feigale's, Yehezkel Feigale's, Shlomo Feigale's and more. And so, this name was widespread in Ostrowiec, Opatow, Randomizer and Staszów.

Aunt Feigale, who was married to R' Nisan Mintzberg, excelled in her good virtues. I remember that once on a Friday, when I was free from studies she met me on the street and put a small package in my hand, saying: "give this to your father from me, he might need it!" The package contained 500 rubles, which was a very large sum at the beginning of the century. It was benevolence that my father needed very much at that time. Another time she gave me a large silver bowl and a large mug for washing the Cohanim hands.

I once told Mrs. Henrietta Szold about this wonderful woman who, already sixty years ago, took care of Aliyat Hano'ar [Youth Immigration] according to the accepted method in Israel.