“After Azriel's tragic death at the hands of Czarist officers, his wife Minka settled in Palestine with her two sons, Herschel and Motke (refers to Yitzhak). She left behind in Telekhan her daughter Ziporah, her husband (Israel Bernstein) and two younger children, who were later killed by the invading Germans. Also left behind was a son, Laibel."[1]

Minka, widow of Azriel, immigrated to Palestine on April 24, 1936. Apparently she traveled alone.  Her Polish passport states that she was born in 1891 (day and month unknown) in Baranowicze (Baranovichi), a town approximately 75 miles north of Pinsk.  In departing Telechan she left behind her daughter Ziporah, Ziporah's husband, Israel Bernstein and their two young children.  Minka never saw them again.  The Nazis murdered Ziporah and the two children in August 1941.  The Germans captured Israel Bernstein.  His fate is unknown.  It was also the last time Minka would see her son Laibel, his wife Bracha and their two children.  Bracha and their two children were murdered alongside Ziporah and her children.  Laibel survived the war only to die tragically in a traffic accident in 1947 in Germany.

Minka traveled to Palestine via the Polish Palestine (ship) Line.  In Palestine at the time of her arrival were her two sons Hershel/Zvi and Yitzhak.  So she thought.  In fact, just months before Minka arrived Hershel/Zvi, age 22, died in a building construction accident. Family members withheld this information from Minka until she arrived in Hadera. 

Both her passport and Israeli records confirm her 1891 birth year That means that she was 47 years old upon arrival in Palestine.  However, her gravestone in Hadera states that she was 80 years old at the time of her death (Feb. 1, 1969).  If that were true it would mean she was born in 1889, rather than 1891.  I am inclined to accept the 1891 dates as they are derived from two different sources. This would mean that her first child, my father, was born when she was 17 years old and that she was 78 years old when she died.

Little is known of Minka's parents.  Her family name was Belkin[2].  Her father, Moshe was a Melamed (teacher).  He died before her first child, my father, was born.  Minka named her eldest son after her father.  Minka's mother, Faigel, had died earlier and Minka's father remarried.  I presume that Minka's daughter Ziporah a.k.a. Faigel was named after her maternal grandmother.  Both Minka's parents came from Lachavitze/Lyakhovichi and are buried there.  Lachavitze is a town close to and southeast of Baranowicze.  Minka had two sisters, Liba and anther whose name I do not have, who immigrated to Brazil.

 In 1945, after living in Palestine for approximately 9 years and after having been a widow for 26 years, Minka married Mordechai Pikaze. She was 56 years old at the time.

My father and his mother were reunited when he and my mother (Lillian) visited Israel for the first time.  They had seen each other last in 1921 when my father, then 13 years old, emigrated to the U.S.  They met again after an interim of 35 years.  It is difficult to imagine what that experience was like for all of them.  The following newspaper article appeared in the Medford Mercury in September 1956 just before the reunion.  Some of the details are inaccurate.  I have corrected them in the parenthesis.



A cherished dream is about to come true for a Medford man and his mother who lives in Israel.  They have not seen each other for 40 years, but will be reunited in two         weeks.  Morris Eisenberg, 48, of 386 Lawrence Road and his wife, Lillian will leave on a flight to Israel on Oct. 2. There they will visit his 68 (65) year old mother Mrs. Minka Eisenberg, who lives with another son, Mottel,(Yitzhak) 40.  (35)

Morris of Medford and Mottel (Yitzhak) of Hadera, Israel are the only two children living from a family of six.  Two daughters and a son died in Poland during World War II (actually one died pre-WWII, one died during WWII, and one died post WWII) and another son was killed in an accident in Israel (Palestine).

The mother and son have not seen each other since Morris left his hometown of Pinsk, (Telechan) Poland (USSR),and came to live in America at his grandparents’ home in Connecticut.  He was then eight years old. (his passport said 9; he was 13).

The mother left Europe to make her home in Israel 22 (20)years ago when the country was called Palestine and had not yet achieved national status.  She lives in the small agricultural town of Hadera, north of Tel Aviv on the west coast of Israel.  Her son, Mottel, (Yitzhak) operates a café in Hadera.


I never met nor knew very much about my grandmother.   Although I was an adult with my own family at the time of her death in 1969, I remember nothing about it.  A sad admission.  I was preoccupied with work and raising my family and she was a remote person to me.  I do not recall much conversation about her either during her life or at the time of her death.  Unfortunately my parents did not make Minka a part of their children’s lives. Perhaps they did and we just did not ingest much of it.  I have no memory of them telling me about her or my asking.   I do remember conversation between themselves and the sending of gifts and necessities to her and Mr. Pikash.

Pictures of Minka show a relatively young and unfamiliar face with short dark hair.  I saw no strong resemblance to my father save the ‘soft’ chin.  Some first hand accounts about my grandmother follow:  My fathers’ first cousins, Alice (Marder) Mileikowsky and Sara (Marder) Plen knew her from the times they lived in Hadera.  Sara describes Minka as “a lady who was warm, loving, kind” someone who “could easily serve tea at the White House.  My mother (Leah) loved her very much; everyone did.” Alice described her as “a stately woman with short hair; a queen; poised.” More recently (August 1999) on a visit to Israel I talked with my first cousin, Uzi, who told me that she was a “wonderful grandmother who always dressed well”.  Uzi’s mother, Chaviva, said that she “loved her very much”.  That is quite a tribute coming from a daughter-in-law with whom she shared the same house for many years.  All comments about Minka, from relatives of different generations, including some who criticize easily, were quite positive.  (Sadly it was just the opposite with Dov Berel, about whom people were hard pressed to say anything positive.)

My sister, Eadie, remembers our mother upon her returning from Israel, saying that Minka was the neatest, cleanest person she had ever met.  That’s some compliment coming from my mother who knew a great deal about ‘neat’.  She further described her as a “lady”; as not having a gray hair in her 68-year-old head.  My mother reported that every picture that they had ever sent to Minka was hanging on the walls of her home.  Every gift that she deemed fancy (scarf, nightgown, etc.) was saved, unused.

I am truly sorry I never met her. 

[1] From Telechan Memorial Book

[2] My father did not know his mothers family name. Question #14 on his 1941 Social Security application requests  “mothers full name before marriage”.  He answered “unknown”.  He listed her given name as “Minnie”.