Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Monczyk-Laczkowska Ferber - December 7, 1999

Rabbi Kreiswirth

What was his name?

Chaim Kreiswirth. He's very known. He was the chief rabbi in Chicago. He's the chief rabbi of Antwerp now. He looks like Moses. At least he looked like Moses when he was younger. He was so gorgeous. He was so gorgeous that uh, he, he flew to my tenoyim--to my engagement and he also came to my wedding. Here's my wedding and I'm going to show you very fast his picture. I had a very religious wedding. Uh, let me just find the picture. Here's where you see Rabbi Kreiswirth. Here. That's Rabbi Kreiswirth. Uh, articulate spo...eh, spo...you know, when he speaks, his speeches are. Everybody is fascinated with him. I mean, he is just a wonderful, wonderful man. And I studied with him and I--the way I studied with him he made it so interesting for me that I really and truly was fascinated and still am with the Jewish religion. All of a sudden, there were no special miracles of life, it was pure psychology. It was, it was so wonderful that I, I looked forward to this, to the, you know, lessons with the rabbis. I, I really loved it. I loved it so that uh, I learned a lot from him.

Do you miss it?

I--yeah, I miss it. I, uh. Rabbi Iron right now, I think, reminds me a little bit of, of Rabbi Kreiswirth, the way he speaks and so on about. It was that rabbi that really gave me um, gave me so much of, of the Jewishness and, and, and, eh. He was really a very good friend of mine.

Looks like a nice man.

He befriended me. Yes, very nice. So.

You look like a baby here.

[laughs] So we, you know, we studied together. And I, I came to the rabbi and. "Cause at one point the rabbi introduced me to this, this man who was a very handsome man was religious, but had no beard. He spoke Polish, his name was Aaron Lubinsky. But his mother was a Hasid and, and, and his brother was belonging to the Bobovers and with the stockings with the kapotas and I said. I said to, I went to Rabbi Kreiswirth and I said look Rabbi, I said "I understand that you want me to get married to someone who is religious. And I do like the religion, but you have to understand." I said to him, "I'm from..." he spoke beautiful Polish, Rabbi Kreiswirth because he's originally from Krakow. I said to him, "You have to understand that uh, I may keep kosher home and I may go to the mikvah, whatever, you know, the three things that. But I don't know if I will be able to keep Shabbos the, the way you keep sh..." I was very honest with him. You know, so I said, "It's unfair to me and it's unfair to, to them, to, to these, these men that you're introducing me because I don't think. You know, just not to, let's not waste my time and your time. Let me learn about Jewish religion and..." And he says, "Okay, maybe you're right. But you don't understand, we brought you here because we wanted you to, to be Jewish." I said, "I am Jewish." You know. But Antwerp was a very uh, old fashioned town. The Jews in Antwerp was mostly in diamond business. And one was showing off more in front of the other. And some of them did not treat me right. Some of them felt because I was nobody. You know, I, I don't--didn't have yeeches. I didn't have. My grandfather was a balabatish butcher, I told you.

What's yeeches?

Yeeches, if you come out of a rabbinical dynasty. When you are from, if your grandfather was a rabbi or...

It's a pedigree.



And I didn't have this. They were balabatishYid--Jewish. You know, people, wonderful uh, loving and caring people from what, what I understand because my mother-in-law met my, eh, my grand...grandmother, you know. She used to buy meat from her, it was a coincidence. Another miracle that, when I got with Fred she told me she, she remembered her mo...my mother and so on. But uh, I, I didn't have the yeeches. And I looked at them and I said to myself, I don't care mister whether you come from a rabbinical dynasty. I wouldn't look at you even. I, I, you're not attractive or at least not attractive to me and I, I don't look in a man for, for--you know, for someone like you. So go and fly a kite, you know. That's how I felt about it. So, it was like a vicious circle because they wanted me to date. And they wanted--and then I befriended, I tell you the truth, some people in Belgium that were not religious. And they showed me the other life, you know.

Jewish life.

Jewish people. They took me to nightclubs and, and, eh. Of course, I would not eat anything unkosher because once I made up my mind that I'm going to be Jewish, I'm going to be kosher. And I was very religious. So Shabbat was Shabbat and kosher was kosher. And I was anxious, very anxious to uh, to lead a very nice Jewish life--religious life.

Ok, we're going to stop for a second.

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