Monday, February 4, 2008
(Reb Itzikel Twersky of Skver)
The story that appeared in the Yiddish Forverts in December 1932 tells of a widow who took a Chassidishe Rebbe to court in Brooklyn, and the spectacle that took place during the trial, complete with a Jewish judge and lawyers talking in Yiddish, a court translator, and a break for Minchah where they all davened together! How do I know it appeared in 1932 if there's no date on the paper? simple. The story tells of 11-year old Duvid'l Twersky, the Rebbe's son, who was also part of the process here. Duvid'l was later known as the Boro Parker Skverrer Rebbe, and was born in 1922/5682, so I did the math. (I later was told the exact date of this article by a friend who found it in the English Forward as a "75 years ago in the Forverts piece.) At that trial the Rebbe was forced to testify - in Yiddish - and tell the jury - comprised mostly of non-Jews - what a Rebbe is about, and what Kabboloh and Nissim are too. How did all this come about? The same way all trials come about; Money. This widow and the Rebbe and his family both wanted the money of a certain Yid, and only the court system could decide who should get it.
The Rebbe here was Reb Yitzekel Skverrer who passed away in New York in 5701/1941. His father was Reb Mordche Skverrer, a brother to Reb Yankev Yosef of New Square. IIRC when RYY came to America after the war he asked permission of his nephew's children (!) if he could use the name Skver, since they were already known as Skverrer Rebbes... RYY had another brother in America, Reb Menachem Noochem who was married to the sister of the Machnivker Rebbe who later came to Eretz Yisroel, but he passed away in 5706 before RYY arrived at these shores. So Reb Itzikel Skverrer in Williamsburg had a Chossid who came to America before WWI, and who had been a Chossid of Reb Itzikel's Zeide, Reb Doovid'l Skverrer, son of Reb Itzikel, son of Reb Mottele Tchernobler zt"l. By Chossid we don't mean a Chossid like Reb Hillel Paritcher or the Radatz, but a simple Baal Agoleh who once had the merit of taking Reb Doovid'l on a trip in his wagon and had witnessed a Mayfes. Since then he was hooked, and when he heard that Reb Doovid' had an Aynikel in America he became his Chossid too.
This Yid - Reb Shmuel Runyen - had come to America in 1914 from a small town in Kiev Gubernye, leaving behind a wife and 5 children. His plan was - like many others then- to make enough money to eventually bring them over too. Unfortunately WWI soon broke out soon to be followed by revolution and pogroms in Ukraine, so his plans were pushed back a few years, which means he was here by himself while his wife struggled with the family back home. Needless to say distance did NOT make the heart grow fonder here... Shmuel did eventually bring his family to America in 1921, but there was lots of mistrust and bad feelings between the the wife and kids and Shmuel, and he wasn't happy with his wife and daughters, which eventually lead to Shmuel leaving his wife and kids and moving in to the Rebbe's house! For 8 years (!) he lived in the Skverrer Rebbe's house and ate at his table, until one day he was hit by a truck and commited to an insane asylum. The Rebbe solicited the help of a Williamsburg doctor - himself a Skverrer Chossid - and Shmuel was released from the asylum, although according to the paper he never fully recovered from the accident. He died four years later, but not before he wrote his life's savings - Thirty-Six Hundred Dollars - over to young Duvid'l Twersky, to the dismay of his wife and children who seemingly sued the Skverrer Rebbe.
After a trial of three days the jury ruled on day 4 that the money is to kept by his family, but not before the spectacle that took place in front of large crowds. The woman was of the opinion that the Rebbe had him in some kind of spell that made him give over his money. From the article I didn't see who sued whom, but it may be that the Rebbe sued the widow that she turn over the bankbook. That would be strange, to say the least... Questions were raised as to his level of religious observance, and whether or not one is allowed to disembark from a docked ship on Shabbos. The judge too had to be a Boki in Hilchos Shabbos. I could be here all night recounting what took place but I'll leave that for next time. What did get me was the fact that according to the newspaper his funeral was attended by his wife and kids. That's it. The Skverrer Rebbe, or his shul members/Chassidim didn't. Strange. After all, the man had just made a gift of $3600 dollars, so you'd think that the least they could do is pull together a Minyan to say Kaddish on his Frishe Kever.