Yekutiel never abandoned his traditional life style. He studied and researched ways to strengthen the traditional life style that was being attacked from many directions. He tried to attract young forces to strengthen the struggle. Yekutiel never abandoned his way of life. He continued the traditional ways that dealt with the study of the torah. He studied torah with the young men of Korczyn as long as he resided in town. But he was not satisfied and left town.
I finished my apprenticeship and became a painter, survived WWI and came to America where I struggled to make a living and forgot about Yekutiel Kamelhar. It was only after WWII, when the Korczyner Landsmen started to meet in the Korczyner-Reisher synagogue, did I discover that Yekutiel Kamelhar was the Rabbi of the shul. I wanted to meet him but this was only possible on Shabbat or Holidays, for on weekdays I worked and I lived too far away in Brooklyn to travel. The president of the shul was Moshe Horowitz who used to build floors. He was not a scholar but observed Shabbath and Holidays, prayed daily and observed kashruth. He lived next to the shul and eventually became the president of the congregation. He was a nice person but was never able to judge people, especially scholars. Later I met Moshe Horowitz and asked him about the rabbi and he told me that he was fired. The rabbi interfered in the running of the shul, namely tried to prevent the decoration of the shul during the three-week morning period. Of course he was dismissed. He later left for Israel and shortly thereafter died there. I later discovered that prior to and during WWI, he was the head of the Stanislawer Yeshiva . He also headed the Yeshiva in Krakow and possibly Reishe. He refused to compromise and paid dearly for his conduct. It was a pity that in his old age he had to start to wander from place to place.
Haim Dym was called spodik as a sign of his piety. He was also a religious scholar and a man of charity. He gave charity and collected charity from others. He used to make the rounds with the melamed or teacher Moshe Mechale. When they entered a home and they met a woman who insisted on giving a donation directly to them, Moshe Mechale would point to his stick that had a small receptacle attached to it. He would ask the lady to insert the coin into the container and then retrieve it. Thus direct contact was avoided. Haim Dym visited sick people and whenever they needed financial help he extended. He refused to participate in community life. He conducted himself with the utmost piety and hoped that others would imitate him. When many people left the main shul following WWI to join small groups, he remained attached to the main shul. He insisted on the unity of the Jewish community. He never read a newspaper but was always involved in the study of torah. His wife Roisale conducted the wholesale linen business, the experience she acquired from her father Naphtali Raab. Haim Dym knew nothing about the business. All the purchased items were sent from the warehouse under their apartment. Here they kept the merchandise and from here everything was sent and received. Roisale still managed to find time to cook soup for the sick and to bring it to them at home.
Haim Dym's children, especially the sons, were raised in a very pious tradition. They never cut their peyot nor did they curl them. His son David met me some years after I left Korczyn and criticized me for shortening my peyot. I had empathy for him that he expressed such pain on seeing me in this light. I never found out what happens to peyot that kept growing, do they reach the floor or do they stop growing at a certain stage? I never saw someone with peyot to the floor, so there must be a secret. This was the pious life of the Dym family. May their memory be blessed.
It was known that Gedalia knew the books of the prophets and the scribes better than some of the talmudic scholars for they did not delve into these writings except where it concerned prayers, psalms, the story of Job or the book of Ester. The latter writings took up some interest since they pertained to particular events in Jewish history such as Purim.
Besides the books of the prophets of Samuel A and Samuel B, the cheder did not teach Jewish history. This concept was handed down from generation to generation. Only a few scholars dealt in the area, the rest stayed away from the field. The book called Shulchan Aruch or Set Table was widely accepted as the final authority on Jewish behavior. The great achievement of a Jewish student was to know a page of the Talmud with the commentaries. The sharp students who continued their intellectual pursuits of course came in contact with Jewish history, the prophets, and scribes, since they delved into talmudic commentaries that were based on these sources. However the great majority of students did not come into contact with Jewish history except through the stories of the torah.
Gedalia was an exceptional teacher who had a large background of Jewish information, but there was no demand for it, and he decided to become an elementary teacher. He was an excellent raconteur and every evening prior to the minha and maariv services, he told stories about the deeds of pious rabbis and the audience adored it. I never missed his stories; they were fascinating. The other people also enjoyed the stories, and his abilities to portray the events was fascinating. He was able to write letters to the German merchants in a mixture of Yiddish and German. This was quite an asset and many respectable merchants used this type of letter to deal with their German counterparts. Some young students established contact with German firms and received samples for sale. Sometimes, this was the beginning of a long commercial relationship. Gedalia apparently also started, in a similar fashion, to deal with Vienna. During the High Holiday season when the cheder was closed, or when he could arrange with Baruch the melamed to cover his class, he would travel to Vienna; he bought merchandise that he sold in Korczyn.
The merchandise consisted of used and out of fashion items, such as men's or women's clothing, shirts of the nobility with collars, tuxedos, pants, vests, high formal hats, all kinds of shoes and buttons. All of this merchandise was displayed on Wednesday in the market area. Men, women, Jews and Gentiles crowded around the display and selected the items that they liked. They haggled about the price but the items were sold. Jewish women showed their artistry by converting some of these items into excellent clothing items without a trace of the original style. Large items were reduced to smaller sizes. A large tuxedo became a pair of slacks for children, a German shirt was converted to a Jewish shirt by removing the collar and the cuffs. Shoes and boots were grounded into the Korczyner mud and they immediately lost their big city color. The soles of course were excellent. It did not take too much time for Gedalia to unload the merchandise. Farmers would buy the formal hats or some Jews would buy them for Purim. I do not know how much Gedalia made on these trips to Vienna His wife Perl Yente also dealt with colored and white linens at the Krosno market on Monday and at the Korczyner market on Friday. Nobody knew the financial situation of the family until his brother in law, Mordechai Rossdeutscher, returned from the USA and informed everybody that he will be the teacher of the cheder and Gedalia would be leaving for the States.
Apparently Gedalia was not making a living, for people with an income do not leave their place of residence. Gedalia left for the States and WWI started; that prevented him from bringing the rest of the family to the States. Only with the end of the war was the family reunited in the States where Gedalia had already three sons, Leibish, Ben Zion and Hersch Davidowitz. Perl Yente Davidowitz had two sisters in the USA; Esther and Serl Rossdeutscher, both were married. Yente Perl and her four sons and one daughter had to wait until after WWI to be reunited with their family. When I visited the family in 1921 in the States, all the members were there and lived on Houston St. in New York City. I met Gedalia but he lacked the warmth of Korczyn. New York had changed him. He owned a store of clothing materials and remained independent to his last day. Something had changed inside that was difficult to describe. He was no longer the person of stories and fables although his clothing did not change radically. He still wore a beard and peyot, a velvet hat, a white shirt without a tie and a coat with straight pockets instead of the Hassidic coat or bekeshe with side pockets. Gedalia made some compromise with the new environment although it was not drastic. He also told the author that when he appeared in Federal court for his citizenship and the judge asked him how long he was in the USA, he answered by stretching himself out to his full length and said so long. The judge smiled and granted him citizenship. When will we have similar judges throughout the world that do not search all the details but accept face value statements.
His oldest daughter Hinde, married to Israel Yaacov Soffer, occasionally brought him cooked meals in a pot with a cover. These meals radically altered his diet. He never asked her for the meals and never received a thank you. She came and left quietly. I do not know where he ate on Shabbat and holidays but he did not seem disturbed about it. He washed his hands and made the appropriate blessing prior to eating and then thanked the Lord for providing him with the food. Besides teaching, Moshe also held other non-paying honorary functions in Korczyn. Friday night after the services at the shul, he assigned the poor people to various homes for the Shabbath meal. He decided where one should go and used his judgment in assigning people. No one invited a guest without consulting Moshe and he was constantly reminded to provide a guest for the table since that was a great honor for the family, and the wife would treat him with special deference. He was also the treasurer of the special fund that the kehilla would raise frequently to provide the poor non-resident beggars with some financial contribution and sent them on their way. Moshe Mechale managed the fund and provided them with some contribution. He even visited nearby towns when the Korczyn kehilla collection was too small. This was done to provide the local poor people with the necessary assistance to subsist. There were no announcements about the distribution that Moshe Mechale gave but those that needed help knew about it. Moshe decided whether to give 20, 30, 40 or 50 pennies according to the appearance of the beggar. The better the appearance the larger the sum. He tore a page from his notebook and wrote in pencil that he moistened with his tongue, this amount is to be given to so and so, and told the receiver of the note where to collect the amount. It never happened that someone tried to erase and increase the amount.
Moshe Mechale was also the master of ceremonies at the poor weddings. I remember such a wedding when Moshe Mechale and Zalke the melamed told each other off in a joyous manner and befitting a wedding. Everything was spontaneous and with decorum befitting the religious atmosphere of the wedding. Today it would be called a show, then it was provided by two gifted people who did it to entertain the guests and to provide joy to the festivity. Moshe Mechale's main attraction was his role as the Purim Rabbi of Korczyn. Every Shabbath before Purim, Moshe Mechale dressed specially for the occasion and the entire township treated him with respect. On the top of his shtreimel or special Hassidic hat, he had a small pyramid, and a blue or red velvet coat or bekeshe, sometimes another color. [He never wore a black silk coat or bekeshe like the other Hassidic Jews in town]. He tied his coat with a white towel instead of the usual band or gartel and this gave him special attention. He stood next to the local rabbi during the service until the reading of the torah. Then he tapped on the table for silence and delivered a special Purim sermon.
The sermon was very erudite and scholarly, of course Haman received his due in the sermon. His sermon was a masterpiece of story telling that included all the Purim characters and events and showed his great knowledge and ability. Each year there was a different sermon built around a different topic. He was the only one that delivered sermons. The local rabbi never gave sermons. He took his position seriously and even the rabbi respected him for the job. He of course received the sixth alyah to the torah that was always reserved for the presiding rabbi of the congregation. Moshe Mechale was not a show off but took his religion seriously. He prayed quietly and concentrated in his prayers so as to be united with the Master. His talith covered his head and only his face would be seen.
David Stretner was an excellent reader of the torah and occasionally he read the torah on Shabbath. He knew the section of the week by heart and once started he could finish the entire section. Usually Zalke read the torah on Shabbath. David had a beautiful script and adjusted the letters to the space. He could write the Song of Songs scroll on a postcard. Once he set himself to a task, he finished it. His wife was also a very busy person. Both worked and managed to scrape a living. They rented a flat from Godale that consisted of one room that had a kitchen and a cheder room. They had one three year old son, I think his name was Abraham. I played with him for I liked to play with smaller children than myself. In wintertime, David collected from us two pennies to fill the kerosene lamp that stood on the table. We all made paper lanterns that would light the way home during the darkness. Of course, the night increased a sense of insecurity that David's lanterns erased.
Once my mother came to David with a demand. She received five guildens from her brother in law in the States, David Schenk, and wanted to send him a thank you note. She gave him a postcard and left. He wrote a beautiful letter as though she had dictated to him the letter. I was amazed how one could read the mind of another person without talking to them. That was David Stretner. What happened to him and his family, the same thing that happened to every Jew in Korczyn.
During the summer months, we concentrated on the study of the Saying of the Sages that was read on Shabbaths during the summer, and Bless my Soul that was read in the winter on Shabbaths in the winter. These teachings strengthened our moral fibers and penetrated our subconscious. He was an excellent teacher and a fine pedagogue. He tried to provide answers to questions and did the best he could with difficult questions. He took time, especially with the teaching of the Talmud, where apparent conflicts were resolved with the help of looking at the commentaries and their interpretations of the differences. He continued to search for the answer until he was satisfied that we students understood the problems and the possible answers. He encouraged students to think and ask questions that were then answered. Questions that were not resolved completely, he recorded them and the possible answers in the Talmud book on the margins. I was impressed with the serious approach to study that Zalke used. He awakened in me a great desire to learn and I began to think of studying for the rabbinate. I knew that he was not the greatest scholar in Korczyn but he was the best teacher.
To make ends meet, Zalke also sold prayerbooks, fringes and small talits. He sometimes displayed his wares in the shul prior to the services and before the cheder started. I was a regular customer of his since I wanted to own the Talmud books that I studied with him. I also loved bible story books in Hebrew rather than Yiddish, that was primarily directed to the womenfolk. I liked to read the stories of the famous and pious rabbis. I had no money to buy these items and refused to ask my mother for help. I worked and created toys for the customers, flags for Simhat Torah, dreidels for Hanukkah, masks for Purim and painted homes prior to Passover. All these activities provided me with some pennies and enabled me to purchase some of my spiritual needs. Zalke never encouraged me to purchase unless I asked for his advice. Although I was a star pupil, he treated me with respect and tact. There was another bright student in the class, Haim Hersch Weisman, Mendel Weisman's son. He had an exceptional mind that absorbed instantly the studies. He never asked questions. I shall later discuss my friends. Shabbath and Holidays, Zalke read the torah; on occasion David Stretiner read the torah. The latter was the better reader but Zalke had seniority and read with greater feeling. There were also many other aspirants to read the torah or conduct the services in the shul of Korczyn.
His apartment consisted of a kitchen and a room. The kitchen also contained the classroom and the family lived in the room. The kitchen was 8.5 feet wide and 13 feet long. Along the left side of the wall was the entrance door to the kitchen and straight through the kitchen was a door that led to the family room that was locked from the inside. The lock consisted of a single chain, there was no need for locks in Korczyn. The kitchen had two windows and the family room also had windows along the same wall. Near the right side of the kitchen wall, there was a bed-bench that served in the day as a seating place for the students. Alongside this bench there was a long narrow table where there was plenty of room for the large talmudic books. Along the left side of the table there was another bench, the length of the table. At the head of the table, facing the entrance sat Zalke the teacher. I do not remember the chair but am certain that it was not a modern stool but rather an old fashioned piece of furniture that aged with the occupants. Opposite Zalke's chair, at the end of the table, there was a rickety seat for one or two students in case of need. Zalke had about 10-11 students, five sat on one side of the table and five sat on the other side. The seats were comfortable and there was no crowding. The average age of the students was 10-13 years of age.
Behind Zalke was the kitchen that took up a quarter of the kitchen space. Here was a big oven that warmed Zalke's back and the entire room. The stove heated the entire apartment in the winter when cooking was done or when baking was done on Friday. The warmth spread through the entire flat. In the summer, the cooking was done with pieces of wood and the fumes went directly up the chimney. Zalke's breakfast consisted of bread and butter and chicory coffee that he ate in front of the students. Lunch and supper he ate alone for most of the students went home to eat. The study day consisted of 12 hours with two breaks for lunch and supper [between the evening services] in the winter and lunch in the summer. Where the stove in the kitchen ended, there was a door that led to the family room that was similar in size to the total kitchen space. There were two beds along the wall and a dresser that separated them and in the corner next to the door there was a clothing closet. I do not recall whether there was a chair in the room. Now that I described the interior of the teacher's place, I would like to describe the external side of the family.
Zalke had two children when I was a student there. Frumet, the oldest daughter, she was my age, and Ben Zion. I later discovered that he had subsequently another three children, Beile, Mechtsche, and Braindel. Thus the apartment had ample room for the large family. WWI destroyed the place and I do not know where the family moved to in Korczyn. Why do I present so many details in these pages? So that you readers would get the feel of life in Korczyn. Most of the families in the township had one room apartments where the family and frequently two generations lived. The winds of change started with WWI when people started to request to live in their own apartments. This was very difficult and required a long process of digestion. But the process started and there was no stopping it. Families that used to live in one room started to break up. As a matter of fact, the entire township was considered one family but no more. The transition was extremely painful as the example illustrates.
Zalke had a sister, Miriam Sara, I do not know whether she was a full sister. She left Korczyn as a girl and lived in Silesia, Germany, where she married. She visited Korczyn from time to time. The visits were painful for Zalke, since she dressed in the German style. When she left town, Zalke felt again at ease. Prior to WWI, Miriam Sara became ill and asked her brother to send Frumet to help her with the household. The brother was not too keen on the idea but consented, since it was for medical reasons and to maintain the family. Frumet prepared everything and decided with the advice of so called experts to wear a small hat so that her aunt would not be ashamed of her. How women in Korczyn knew the dress styles in the world I do not know, but apparently they have an instinct for these things. Zalke objected to the hat and fights ensued in the house until a compromise was reached. Frumet will wear the hat from the Krosno railway station. Frumet left and a few weeks passed. Zalke was fearful and wrote a letter to his daughter. The latter replied that the aunt was still sick and she was needed to run the household. Zalke wrote and Frumet replied but she remained in Germany. Zalke's mind constructed all kinds of devilish plans as to what may possibly happen to his daughter in Germany. Apparently, Zalke was afraid of German civilization even before Hitler. To move one inch away from Judaism was a terrible sin for Zalke. He finally dictated a sharp letter to his daughter urging her to return home. Refusal would be considered abandoning the faith. The students overheard the expressions as they were written. He was so fearful of loosing his children to the modern way of life that he even refused to give them a chance.
Zalke's son Ben Zion once dressed up and went to shul with a stiff collar. People reported it to his father. Zalke grabbed his son and tore the collar and the shirt from his son's back. Luckily, Toibe Melamed intervened and stopped the fight. Ben Zion lost his appetite for modernity. Somewhat later Zalke mellowed a bit with time, and allowed his children to wear stiff collars. We must complete the picture of the Melamed family. Toibe Melamed cooked, baked and took care of the household, but also dealt in linens. She displayed her linens at the Friday market in Korczyn. She sold a variety of plain and colorful linens that peasant woman bought. Her stand consisted of two boxes and a board. She would also travel to the market in Kros on Monday. I do not know how much of an income she made from her sales at the markets. I do not remember where she kept her merchandise in her apartment. For Zalke also had a large basket with books, fringes and storybooks. Where they kept all these items was a secret to me. Apparently there was room for everything. I still can not perceive how crowded conditions were in the shtetl. Yet these conditions did not prevent the Jews from living a fuller spiritual life than the Germans. The Jews lived in terribly crowded conditions and maintained their human dignity.
In this cheder, I came in contact with the opposite sex. The teacher had a daughter whose name I no longer remember. She was about 17-18, ready for marriage. She kept to herself, distant from the students that were much younger than her. During Hanukkah time, when the teacher was at shul for services or on some errand, the students used to play cards. Then the daughter would join the game and help me win the pot. I always suspected that she considered me an orphan and decided to help me. I never considered myself a helpless orphan but if she insisted to help I accepted it. She seemed to like me and the same goes for me. As a matter of fact, when she was later married to Reuven [do not remember his last name] I felt a bit down although I wished them happiness. This reminds me that I played cards during the permitted time following Hanukah and made between 10-12 guilden that was a considerable amount of money. The games were mostly held in our place and involved lots of noise but we were accustomed since I always worked on scenery, dreidels, masks and flags. My mother tolerated the noise and my conduct. She treated me as an adult. One thing I must stress that we paid serious attention to all things Jewish. But where are today all the serious Jewish leaders of Korczyn that led the Jewish community? Hitler killed them all.
By the time the news item reached Korczyn, the event itself could have consumed or run its course. Still, the township discussed and interpreted the event and the implications. There were people in Korczyn that were very adept at connecting the events to the biblical scene and interpreting to present-day life. All of these discussions continued until more information arrived and strengthened or weakened the positions of the debaters. Some of the discussions transformed themselves into stories that assumed a life of their own. Hersch had no talent for stories but his mission was to bring tunes to Korczyn and this he fulfilled. He connected Korczyn to the cantorial Jewish world. He had a metal store in the Market Square that was three meters wide and very deep that led to his apartment that consisted of two or three rooms. Behind his flat was a piece of property. When I grew up, I was in steady contact with the shop since I was involved in many carpentry projects. I received boards from our neighbor Esther who received them from the yeast dealer. I made all kinds of wooden boxes and bought nails and tools from Hersch. From him I also received some practical coaching for my projects.
As I was getting older and saw the hardships at home. I realized that it was very difficult for my mother to buy boots for me. I therefore decided to use sparingly the boots, especially during the summer. Indeed, it was a real pleasure to run barefoot without the boots that felt tight or loose. Boots were made for the rich children that were sickly. I felt very strong and healthy and compared myself to a gypsy. We saw barefoot Gypsies one winter and my brother and I decided to imitate. My brother came down with a serious cold that affected him for the rest of his life while I hardly felt it. To walk in the summer rain barefoot was a real pleasure and I hardly used the boots. One day, I walked into the shul barefoot and I saw the look on Hersch Rossenhendler's face. It was the look of pity but in a paternal way. Since then I always came to shul with boots regardless of the weather. But generally, I preferred to walk barefoot to save the expense of wear and tear.
I was once invited to perform a Purim presentation at the house of Hersh Rossenhedler. My friends from cheder, Haim Hersch Weissman and Haim Fishel helped me with the presentation. We split the money gift three ways. Each participant then gave his share to a poor person in Korczyn. In order not be accused of using the money for myself, I decided that Shimon would be the cashier. But Hersh Rossenhendler insisted that I take the money gift for the Purim presentation. I took the money and gave it to my friend Shimon who was a nephew of Hersh. Shimon then divided it three ways. I am certain to this day, that Hersh was certain that I took the money since I was the poorest of the group. I was 13 or 14 years of age but set in my ways and decided to give charity to needier people than myself. Besides, I also enjoyed the adventure of performing.
I met again Hersh when I was 18-19 years of age. I was an apprentice painter in Reishe or Rzeszow. I dreamt of becoming a famous painter but had to accept daily reality that is to earn my daily bread. I used to travel to Korczyn for Passover and Succoth. I felt drawn to this place in spite of the fact that my mother no longer lived in Korczyn but married to Rymanow. During these travels I met again Hersh and talked to him. I wanted to continue to study religious texts and also to learn painting. I realized that I could not pursue both paths. Yet, I did not want to abandon Jewish studies or the Jewish way of life. For I was still deeply religious, wore my peyot although trimmed or curled. Later I removed them but let them grow when I traveled to Korczyn. I gave the appearance of a Yeshiva student and was treated as such by the people that knew me even though I was no longer a student. While traveling with Hersh and involved in my own dreams, Hersh Rossenhendler suddenly asked me how I was doing. Of course, I did not describe the slave condition of an apprentice. But I did tell him that when I would finish my studies, I would receive a salary of 18 guilden a week. I did not describe the hardships that were still ahead. He then told me that if he were my age, he too would study a trade. I was surprised to hear these words. Perhaps he wanted to support me or perhaps this was a true sentiment. The fact that he made such statement in 1911 or 1912 was indeed a comforting thing to do. May his memory be blessed.
I still remember to this day how Mendel dressed prior to his winter trips to his forests. He wore a big fur coat over his regular coat with the side pockets; the fur had a large sable collar that could cover the ears, several scarves around his neck; the sleeves ended in sable fur and were wide to enable the opposite hand to find shelter from the cold weather. He hired a peasant coach filled with straw and hay on all sides so that the cold weather was minimized. In addition the coach had many blankets to wrap the passengers during the trip. Thus started Mendel his winter trips that lasted sometimes weeks. But he always returned home for Shabbath and left with end of Shabbath. I do not remember that he ever missed a Shabbath at home. He also had a custom to bring fish for Shabbath for his poor neighbors. This was very difficult in the winter months when the rivers were frozen. Yet Mendel's workers cracked the ice and caught fish that he brought home and gave them to his neighbors. The latter cleaned, divided the portions, salted and peppered the fish. It was Mendel's task to sweeten and cook the fish and his wife baked and cooked the Shabbath meals.
Mendel had a good voice and occasionally led the mussaf or second half of the Shabbath service in the Korczyn shul. He knew enough Hebrew to understand the meaning of the prayers as did many other Jews of the township. He was not extreme in his religious conceptions, nor was he affected by modern trends in spite of his many contacts with the outside business world. Mendel was for many years a member of the kehilla leadership, and when Shulem Akselrad, the head of the kehilla died, Mendel Weissman was appointed head of the kehilla, and led it until WWI. During the war, he and his family left for Budapest and following the war returned to the city of Tarnow, Galicia. Prior to the war, Mendel received a license to sell tobacco, cigarettes and snuff. Reisel, his third daughter ran the shop until she married.[His oldest daughter Esther and Haya were already married and his oldest son Meir was in Switzerland]. Then Neche, the fourth daughter took over the business and she was assisted occasionally by her brothers Haim Hersh, my friend from cheder, Shulem, Wolf and Chaskel. Mendel was never seen in the store. He observed it in the morning on his way to the shul for the morning services.
He also unlocked the heavy lock and opened the heavy portals that led to the store. Now you saw the black and yellow arrows that symbolized the cigarette stores in the Austrian Empire. Of course, the Imperial eagle was another state sign that appeared on governmental institutions. The children opened the glass door somewhat later when they came to open the store for business. Once, early in a winter morning, on his way to shul for morning services, Mendel saw the lady water carrier of Korczyn on the ground frozen. She was a Christian women and laid motionless next to the cigarette store. He put down his talit and phylacteries on the snow and started to administer first aid to the woman. Yendzej Ganet passed by with his sled and Mendel stopped him. Both men lifted the drunken women onto the sled and took her to Joel Ettinger's saloon opposite the kehilla. Here she was placed on a bench and given a few shots of vodka. Slowly she regained consciousness. The story was told later by the sled driver to Shulem Weissman who repeated it to me. He also added that such Jews are no longer to be found. Of course, he was unaware that to save a human being, the talit and the phylacteries play a second role.
p.271, picture of Mendel Weissman.
Benyamin was poorer than his brothers. He dealt in apples. He visited the orchards with the first sign of spring and purchased the future harvest of apples. If his guess was correct he made money otherwise he lost. When the apples ripened, Benyamin hired a guard to watch the apples so that nobody picked them before he organized the picking crews. He spent many a sleepless night until the harvest was in. During the Austrian Imperial days, the harvesting and selling of apples proceeded smoothly since Benyamin had good connections and made some money to support his family. Benyamin also sold small onions that were seeded in the ground and grew in size. He always had many bags of large and small onions ready for the onion merchants. He of course always expected to get a higher price while the buyers always offered smaller bids. Finally compromises were reached and he made some money. He was not the most successful businessman, for his oldest son on reaching maturity left for Germany. He also wanted to avoid the draft. That was not the most respectable achievement for a Jewish religious youngster. The second son, Hersh, also left for Germany once he reached maturity..
Benyamin's apartment was located in the public bathhouse passage where the beginners cheder was located. It contained a kitchen and a large room where Benyamin, his wife Miriam and seven children [four girls and three sons] lived. To reach the apartment, one had to follow a long corridor from the passage where on the right side lived the old cantor Wolf, on the left side lived Feiwish, in the middle there were some rooms, following to the left was Benyamin's flat. All the entrances to the rooms were from the long corridor to the other side where Yona Peltz had his home near the small river I remember that the corridor was dark. After the cantor's flat, lived his son in law Yaacov Itzhak, in a flat that was long and narrow with a window that hardly provided light or air for the family of three children; two sons and a daughter. During WWI, the Russian and Austrian jockeyed for military positions in Korczyn. The Russians left a live shell in his flat. On entering the place, Yaacov pulled the cord from the shell and it exploded. He was blinded, crippled and shortly died in terrible pains. This was WWI, of course no comparison to what happened during WWII.
Benyamin was an institution in Korczyn. He had children in Germany, Switzerland and a son Luzer in the USA. He himself never left the township. His children supported him in his old age until the Germans killed him. He contributed a great deal to the community. He had a nice and powerful voice that carried throughout the shul when he conducted services. He usually conducted the third meal services at the shul. He placed his hand to the right cheek and would sing various hymns appropriate to the third meal. Some of them invoked a mystical fervor that implied a departure of the sanctity of the Shabbath and the imminent arrival of daily reality especially for people that struggled to meet ends. Most of these participants were people that barely made it. The more affluent members of the community did not attend the shul third meals. They remained at home where they partook of the third meal with their neighbors and ended the Shabbath with prayers and the lighting of candles. The rabbi of Korczyn did likewise. I am certain that there were other singers at the shul meals but I do not remember them. The outstanding man at these meals was Benyamin Rubin. When an injustice took place, the voice of Benyamin was heard but nothing vengeful. He was always the secretary of the Hevra Kadisha or the burial society of Korczyn. He was already 80 years old when the Germans killed him, his daughter Tzivia, her husband Matitiyahu Gleicher and their children Naphtali, Toibe Ita, and Hersh with their families. Frieda Haya remained alive in Switzerland, Zelde in Israel and Luzer in the USA. The children of Benyamin that remained alive should memorialize their families and the six million Jews. Nobody remained alive from the brothers of Benyamin Rubin. Respect their memory.
I was attached to Korczyn and was unable to break the spell of the place. For 16 years I lived here and dreamt many dreams and planned many plans that failed. I ascribed all the failures to the fact that I was an orphan, nice rationalization. Full of winter hopes for the visit home for Passover, I attended a Purim party at the home of Rabbi Eliezar where I met David Ringelheim who was a Hassid of the rabbi, I was very pleased to meet him and asked him whether he saw my mother. He inquired whether I would be going to Rymanow for Passover. The inquiry struck me very funny until I realized that my mother married to Rymanow. I burst out of the room and wept beyond control. My own mother did not bother to notify me of her intentions. All my plans were destroyed. Finally, I stopped crying and took control of myself. I do not recall whether I returned to the party or went home. My situation as an apprentice was far from satisfactory but I tried to make the best of it. According to my contract that I wrote in Yiddish, I was supposed to receive a certificate after one year's apprentice in accordance with the Austrian law. For there were apprenticeships that lasted three years. My teacher, Leizer Garfunkel, was paid 100 guilden. My mother took a loan by mortgaging the inherited flat left by my father. It was a difficult experience for me to be away from home. But the fact that I was going to be home for Passover made the time pass faster. The present news struck a deep blow. For all my plans were ruined. I did not want to stay with the owners for Passover for this would have lowered my standing in their eyes and they would have taken pith on the orphan. This situation I had to avoid if I wanted to retain my dignity as an apprentice. My mother certainly did not help the situation by keeping it a secret. I do not know how my brothers discovered the news since we never talked about it. Still I decided to leave the family and went to Korczyn for Passover. I visited the neighbors, Hersh and Liebe Katz and decided to stay with them. I did not have too much money since my tips did not amount to much. I offered the Katz family two guilden and they accepted. Thus I was left with two guilden in my pocket.
In Korczyn, I discovered that my mother stopped eating in order to economize and reduce her debts. As active as she was when the children were home she now became apathetic and tried to cut corners. The neighbors saw the situation and began to pressure her to remarry. They found for her a nice well to do elderly widower, Mordechai Elias from Rymanow. She was never a strong character and the pressure was great. Besides, she felt that she should marry and help her situation. How my mother discovered that I was in Korczyn, I do not know for there were no telegrams or correspondence. Yet, the first or second day of Hol Hamoed Passover, I received an invitation to visit her and my brothers in Rymanow. I visited my mother and met my brothers and my stepfather and his entire family that consisted of grandchildren and great grandchildren. They all treated my mother as a real mother. Later I met Israel Shalom Nochmales who I describe later in the book and he told me that Mordechai gave lots of charity. This impressed me and I respected him for it. We children never took advantage of his financial situation and he treated as very well when we came for Passover or Sukkoth. When I was already in the USA, in the thirties, my mother passed away. Mordechai passed away a few years later, killed by a horse and buggy out of control. He was almost ninety when he passed away. His goodness and his helpfulness to the needy must be officially recorded. I also want to take this opportunity to thank David Ringelheim for the news that he brought me that day in Reishe and I was too selfish to accept it. The fact remained that Mordechai was a decent human being. Wolf Ringelheim, David's son that now lives in the USA, would certainly have more to say on his family.
Shmayahu's second son, Yossel also dealt with transporting goods to and from Kros. But he only had one horse and handled smaller loads. Frequently he also transported passengers. Occasionally he went to Rymanow and elsewhere with passengers. The ride was not comfortable since he pushed in as many passengers as the coach would be able to hold. The people sat where they found places. Yossel saw to it that the coach was packed solid. He himself was well built and his horse was massive. On occasion, the passengers pushed the coach, especially uphill, for there was a mountain before Krosno. Yossel's clothing did not reveal wealth. On the contrary, his clothing was old and worn but clean. He had his own home and provided for his family. Moshe, the third son of Shmayahu, had a simple coach. He only transported passengers to Kros and back. His coach was primitive and his horse was weak. He barely managed to get the people to their destination. He had a small house with a thatched roof and managed to scrape a living. I remember that Shmayahu always used to clean Moshe's horse in the market since he neglected to do it. The other brothers always kept their horses in excellent condition.
One day, Dworah received her tickets for America and she left Korczyn. Chaim soon married and took over Dworah's place that consisted of a kitchen and large room. Shmayahu remained with the young couple. Several years later, Dworah brought her father to the USA. But he was too old to work and there were no horse businesses in the area so Shmayahu was bored. He went from house to house to visit people from Korczyn but they worked or were busy. He entered many homes without a mezuzah on the door. This was a sacrilege to him. He was not a scholar but knew the Jewish customs of Korczyn. Except for prayers in the shul, he had no other things to do. He felt a stranger in a strange land. Everything was not kosher, even the sidewalks were treif or non-kosher. Finally, his daughter sent him back to Korczyn after two years in the USA. I remember when he returned to Korczyn and brought suspenders that Shlomo sent for his brother. Suspenders were the in things in those days. Shmayahu was not pleased with Shlomo's behavior in the USA since he lapsed in his religious practices. He accepted the need for change of clothing but saw no reason for lapse in Jewish practice. Finally, Shmayahu returned to Korczyn and lived with his son Chaim and occasionally received some money from his daughter Dworah, so that he should not fall a burden to his family. He made himself useful by tending to the horses of his sons. He had a feeling where he was needed and appeared. He was very familiar with horses and even wild horses were no match for him. He knew how to handle them. When I left for the USA, he was already 75, totally gray but carried himself well and his simple clothing gave him statue. Honor his memory.
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