Hersz Goldszmit

Henryk Goldszmit’s grandfather

A doctor, born around 1805 in Hrubieszów, died on 29 December 1872 in the same place. We can read about him in Korczak’s diary: “I was named after my grandfather, whose name was Hersz (Hirsz).”

akt zgonu Hersza Goldszmita

Hersz Goldszmit’s birth certificate

In his twenties, Hersz married Chana Rajs. Their marriage certificate was not preserved, but we know from other indirect sources that in 1831, their first son, Lejzor, was born. Soon, Hersz embarked upon medical studies at the University of Lviv. In 1837, Mindla Goldszmit was born, and one year later, on 28 December 1838, her father obtained the diploma of a second level surgeon, “entitled to any type of practice as well as to conduct medical investigations in court.” He ran a private medical practice and worked in Hrubieszów. All his younger children were born there: Maria (1841), Józef (1844), and Jakub (1848). As Maria Falkowska has found out, as of 1848, Hersz worked at the Jewish Hospital in Hrubieszów. He was also a local “community and educational activist” (Biuletyn ŻIH 1997, No. 1).

In 1865, Hamagid, a Jewish weekly, published an article written by Hersz Goldszmit. The magazine, whose editors were Eliezar Lipman Silberman and David Gordon, was based in Ełk. The English version below follows the contemporary translation of the text into Polish provided by Izydor Kaganowicz and edited by Bożena Wojnowska.

[In a column:] Russia

Hrubieszów, Poland, February 1865

Dear Honourable Reverend Rabbi Eliezer Lipman, may your candle burn long! I have read in Hamagid works of various authors. Some of them fly high, and examine the times long gone by; they swoop and soar, they seek and examine lofty wisdoms, praise the authors and their works. Others, like a bee flying from one flower to another and collecting nectar, draw from the wells of current wisdom and examine who was the friend to our brothers, the sons of Israel, and who was the foe, slandering the sacred. Your faithful Hamagid praises the righteous of all nations whose aim is the good of the sons of Jacob, and denounces the unjust. Friends from cities and towns offer advice in Hamagid on how to improve the condition of our brothers and, in this way, they prompt people to generosity towards building schools and spreading knowledge and wisdom among youth so that they do not lose their way. This work has already started to bear fruit. Here and there, hospitals have been built, hospitals where the physically and mentally ill are treated. Such actions should be praised above all. Fortune smiled on you, my dear Editor. May God bless your actions and keep you strong. Your enemies will see that, and they will be ashamed because they think that they are the only wise ones, and that the sons of Israel are ignorant and lack wisdom.

My hometown has so far been ashamed to knock on the gates of your Hamagid. But this town hides beautiful treasures and is home to righteous, cordial people, so let them, too, join the ones that we read about in the pages of your paper.

Mr Abram Jakób Stern, a famous artist and a craftsman, was my fellow countryman. He was not formally educated, yet he was held in high esteem, and he was paid 600 rubles per year by the state.

Mr Symcha Lewita Kleiner also came from Hrubieszów. He could speak Hebrew and knew Hebrew grammar. He wrote a hymn praising the Book of Job, and he wrote and published the grammar of the Hebrew language.

Minister Staszic, who comes from Hrubieszów, did a lot of good for the town residents. When one of the Hrubieszów residents, (a Jew or non-Jew) builds a new house and puts on a copper or iron metal roof to protect it from fire, they will receive a 20-year loan, worth half the price of the house, payable at 6 per cent per year. When the loan has been paid, they will receive a prize, worth a quarter of the price of the house. If a resident of Hrubieszów wants to develop his company or buy a machine needed for his craft, he can obtain a loan (regardless of his religion) worth half the value of the enterprise. If a young man wants to study, he can receive a benefit of 100 roubles per year. Moreover, two alumni from the Hrubieszów district, regardless of their origin, will receive the support enabling them to study abroad.

It is therefore recommended and right to praise the Minister so that everyone knows that there are righteous people in this world who favour the humiliated nation.

I also feel obliged to mention the righteous Hrubieszów rabbi, the late Józef Kacenelisz, of blessed memory. When he saw that the poor and the ill were left without proper care, he ignored his own poor health and undertook great effort for them. Having collected some money from merciful people, he built a hospital, a shelter for the ill, worth 30 thousand Polish zloty. The hospital is nice, and it includes 6 rooms, half for men and half for women.

Having covered the hospital roof with iron metal roofing, the righteous rabbi Józef Gelertner received a prize, worth ¼ of the building value. The rabbi, despite the fact that he himself lived in poverty, collected the money to build the hospital courtyard, worth 10,000 Polish zloty, and two years later, he built a house for the hospital doctor, worth 6,000 Polish zloty. God bless the actions of the collector and of the workers of the hospital, where 40–50 patients are taken care of each year. Some patients stay for a short period of time; others half a year or even the whole year. They are provided with clothes, a bed and linens, food and medicines. They are examined by a doctor every day. The hospital expenditure reaches 900 rubles per year, and the financial support is scarce. Where should the help come from? It is desirable that Hagamid tells the story of the good deeds of those righteous people and encourages others to further generosity towards the needs of the hospital. Their offerings will be blessed.

We also have to mention Tomasz Gliszczyński, the employee of the District Bank, who granted interest-free loans and helped the rabbi, the collectors, and the hospital supervisors. He also helped to build the house for the hospital doctor. So, he deserved to be praised in Hamagid, too, because he worked to the good of Israel, and his example could be followed by other residents of the town and its neighbourhood.

I have the honour to greet you from far away,

                                                                              Hirsz Goldszmidt

                                                                              Medical Doctor

In 1867, Józef Goldszmit dedicated his book Wizerunki wsławionych Żydów XIX wieku. I. Sir Moses Montefiore (The Pictures of the Famous Jews of the Nineteenth Century. Vol. I. Sir Moses Montefiore) to “the most beloved Father, medical doctor, as proof of filial love.” This was also the year in which Hirsz was widowed. Together with his son Jakub, he belonged to the “society bank supporting impoverished doctors, widows, and orphans of the doctors.” He soon remarried to Sura Estera, and on 5 January 1871, his last child, Aleksander Sender Goldszmit, was born. Hersz died two years later. In a letter from Lublin, sent to and published in Izraelita in January 1873 (No. 5), his short obituary was presented:

Hirsz Goldszmidt, a medical doctor, died after a long and severe illness on 17 December (29 [New Style]) December, last year, in Hrubieszów.

The late Goldszmidt, apart from his expertise in medicine, was also proficient in the Talmud and rabbinic scholarship. He was the lover of Hebrew literature, and he could speak Hebrew as well as other languages fluently. He was commonly held in high esteem. He had a gentle character and a sense of humour. The memories of him will long remain in the hearts of those who knew him well, including his fellow believers as well as people of different faith, who were all able to appreciate his rare qualities.

The Goldszmits’ Jewish Old People’s Home was opened on the centenary of his birth. The project’s initiator was Maria Pistolowa, the daughter of the late Dr Goldszmit. Having returned to the country after a long-lasting absence, she settled down in Hrubieszów to take care of her parents’ graves and to be buried next to them (Izraelita 1905, No. 33).