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[Page 168]

Religious and Communal Life

Podhajce Jews strongly upheld tradition. Accordingly, there was a large numbers of synagogues and shtibels in the city. Today, I cannot remember them all. However, I well remember the Great Synagogue and the Beis Midrash (the city Beis Midrash), where such Jews as Binyamin Kitner, Rabbi Lilienfeld, my father Yitzchak Pomeranz of blessed memory, Moshe Liblich, Michael Kohn, Zusman Kohn and his son, Yoel Hazelkorn, Yaakov Fueurman, Hersch Leib Horowitz, the Ettingers, Abba Kremer and many more people worshipped. I have only fond memories of the Beis Midrash, for there I used to worship with my father of blessed memory from my earliest childhood. After his passing, I worshipped there until the outbreak of the Second World War. Aside from these, I recall the Husyatiner Kloiz, the Czortkower Kloiz, the Bursztyner Kloiz, the Bekerishe Kloiz, which was very beautiful and esthetically designed, as well as two other large synagogues, one near the Wide Street and the other near the Brzeszaner Street. Aside from these, there was an entire set of smaller synagogues.

While discussing the city Beis Midrash, I wish to mention here a story that took place. After the passing of my beloved parents, I searched for a way to perpetuate their memory. Since the Holy Ark in the Beis Midrash was old, simple, and worm eaten, I decided to make a new Holy Ark. I commissioned an artistic, oak Holy Ark from Shlomo Silber. However, I kept this secret, lest someone preempt me. I would inform the gabbaim (synagogue trustees) when the ark was ready. However, one of the gabbaim, who it seems was interested in obtaining this merit himself, resisted and stated that the old Holy Ark cannot be removed under any circumstances, as it would be a desecration of its sanctity. I retorted that the old Holy Ark can be placed in Pulisz, but this did not help.

A short while later the Zlotniker Rebbe, Mund came to see me in my office about some matter. In passing, I told him about the troubles that I had experienced in that they were not permitting me to put up the Holy Ark. He told me that there is a small synagogue in Zlotniki which would certainly take the old Holy Ark from the Beis Midrash. Not long thereafter, the Jews of Zlotniki came and took the Holy Ark with great honor and singing. Thus, the place for the New Holy Ark that I donated was freed up.

Near the entrance of the Podhajce cemetery there is a row of old gravestones marking the place where well-known rabbis and activists from hundreds of years ago were buried. I recall that following the First World War, the cemetery was badly damaged, especially the bricks that surrounded it. At that time, a committee was formed in which my father took part. With the financial help of an America native of our city, the cemetery was repaired.

The celebration of the festivals in our city is a chapter unto itself. During the month of Elul, we began to arise for Selichot. In the morning, the entire city heard the shofar blowing. We also visited the graves of our parents during the month of Elul.

This was all a preparation for Rosh Hashanah, when all of the Jews gathered in the synagogues and worshipped until late in the afternoon praying for a good year. Prior to Rosh Hashanah, people sent each other “Shana Tova letters”. As we left the synagogue, we wished one and other “Leshana Tova Tikateivu Vetechateimu”. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah toward evening, almost the entire city went to Taslich at the Koropiec River.

The awesome mood of Yom Kippur commenced already on the eve of Yom Kippur, and perhaps even a day earlier, when people conducted the Kapparot ceremony. On the eve of Yom Kippur, people went to the Mincha service early, so that they could have time afterward to eat the final meal. In “Pulisz” they set up an entire row of clay plates in which the worshippers placed their charity money. In the latter years, these included the national funds. The tall, wax Yom Kippur candles already stood on the ground. They were lit in the evening, and burned throughout Yom Kippur. I recall as well that a group of worshippers would conduct the flogging ceremony after Mincha. I looked upon this custom with curiosity.

Of course, not one Jew remained at home during Kol Nidre. As well, a large number of intelligent

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Christians would come to observe that solemn prayer. The image of my father of blessed memory still remains before my eyes, as he would always stand beside the cantor and hold the Torah Scroll during Kol Nidre. I must mention here the cantor Getzel Perl, who would lead the services in the synagogue every year. Many of his tunes are etched in my memory to this day.

The Jewish character of the city could best be noted on Yom Kippur. All of the streets were empty at the time the Jews were in the synagogue, and the city was as if it was dead. After the meal following Yom Kippur, many of the householders began to build the sukka, and banged in the first pair of nails.

Everyone fulfilled the commandment of eating in the sukka. The children were particularly joyful, for they decorated the sukka in various ways. Almost ever Jewish home had either a sukka or a tarp.

A joyous and cheerful mood pervaded in the city on Simchat Torah. The children came with flags. During the Hakafot (Torah processions), they sang, clapped, and danced with the Torahs. Everyone received an aliya (Torah honor) during the reading of the Torah in the day. Special festive foods were served during the meal. In many houses and synagogues, they would have a “drink” in the late afternoon with beer and beans.

The holiday of Chanuka was also a lovely and long festival, especially for the children. We received Chanuka Gelt, played dreidel, and ate good things. Older children would play card games with special cards that had Jewish letters.

Then came Purim, and it was joyous in the town. In the evening after the Fast of Esther, the Megilla was read, and the children swung their graggers and stomped with their feet at each mention of the name of the evil Haman or his children. The next day, we sent Mishloach Manot (Purim food portions) to one another, and the city was filled with people in disguise and ordinary poor people, who went around to all of the houses in order to receive Purim money. There were also groups of Purim players who performed various plays, primarily the Sale of Joseph. The people in disguise and the Purim players were well received everywhere with a drink and treats, over and above the Purim money. Furthermore, various institutions and organizations utilized the day to collect for their causes. In the evening, we sat down for the feast, which was accompanied by visits from the disguised people and Purim players. A particularly joyous feast was conducted every year in the court of the Bursztyner Rebbe. His Hassidim and followers used to partake therein.

After Purim, we already began to prepare for Passover. The duck fat for Passover was already prepared from Chanuka, but the serious preparations began from Purim. People began by whitewashing or painting the house, cleaning the furniture, cleaning the silver spoons and brass pots. Then they began to purchase the matzos. Some people wished to be present as their matzos were baked. People had to purchase new clothes for themselves and the children. In brief there was no shortage of work.

On the Sabbath before Passover, Shabbat Hagadol, there was a longstanding custom to “send the rats back to Egypt”. The town jokers gathered together and walked in pairs, making a loud noise with old metal pots and lids. For them, this was the beginning. Prior to the “sacrifices” this was the “torture”. At least one person in the city related to this with humor. He treated the scoundrels nicely and wished them that they should return next year...

In the morning of the Eve of Passover, people burned the chometz (leavened bread) and began to prepare for the Seder. People sat down for the Seder after coming home from the synagogue following Maariv. The youngest child asked the four questions, and then the Haggadah was recited and the tasty Passover foods were eaten. A Seder was once again conducted on the second night of Passover, and then the festival lasted for an entire week. Even on Chol Hamoed, when the stores were open, a festive spirit pervaded in the city.

Shavuot was a short but beloved festival. The homes and the synagogues were decorated with greenery. In the synagogue, Akdamus was recited and the Book of Ruth was read. Tasty dairy foods were eaten after returning from the synagogue.

I also recall joyous Jewish weddings that were held in the hall

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of Gross' or Schechter's hotels. The local musicians, Dauber, Kimmel and Leizerl played. At times the Gutenflan brothers from Brzeziny or the musician Faust from Rohatyn were brought in.

pod170.jpg
A farewell party for a Polish judge,
with the participation of the Jewish intelligentsia

 

Jewish Personalities and Organizations

From among the most important personalities of the previous generation, one must first and foremost mention Rabbi Shalom Lilienfeld of blessed memory. He left behind two sons, David and Leibish, who were also well educated. They were treated with great respect. The judge Avraham Eisen was also active in the clergy. He was the head of the rabbinical court along with his son-in-law Judge Wolfe Haber. Aside from them, there were four shochtim (ritual slaughterers) and a scribe in the city.

The first Zionist organization in the city was founded just prior to the First World War. Zionist meetings were held in Hersh Freundlich's parlor. I remember that my brother Binyamin and my sister Roza used to go there for lectures. As a child, I studied in the Hebrew school of Rabbi Mordechai Brecher. Every year on the 20th of Tammuz, we would all go to the Great Synagogue for the memorial service of the late leader Dr. Herzl.

After the First World War, when the Jewish servicemen returned from Western Austria, the Hashomer youth organization was founded. I was also a member of Hashomer, and I wish to mention here several members whom I remember from that time: Munia Ornstein (today Mordechai Oren), Chaim and Yehoshua Marbach, Meir and Munia Zloczower, Izia Liblich, the Kestenblatts, the Friedbergs (Later Mrs. Marbach), Izia and Wilo Friedberg, Ber, Trajaner, Messer, the Poliszuk's, the Margolies's, Bunia Milch, Weinles, the Wiesenthal's, the Salpeter shoemakers, Mates Falver and his sister, Leib Dik, and many others who I no longer recall today. Some of them came to Israel and played in important role in various organizations, such as Mordechai Oren, Meir Zloczower, Dr. Chaim Marbach and Dr. Izia Liblich.

Eastern Galicia was under Ukrainian rule in the years 1918-1919. This did not last long. At that time, Ukrainian bandits began to attack Jewish stores and stalls, and even Jews on the street. At that time, a Jewish self-defense organization was established spontaneously, consisting of former soldiers of the Austrian army, under the leadership of David Lilla. When the Ukrainian state ceased to

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exist, the Jewish self defense organization also disbanded.

The members of Hashomer were for the most part involved with Hashomer Hatzair, which had an extreme left leaning. Aside from them, in the city there were General Zionists, Revisionists, and various youth organizations such as Hanoar Hatzioni, Beitar and others. The head of the General Zionists was Moshe Liblich, who excelled as an orator. All of the Zionist organizations were involved in the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund) committee and Keren Hayesod. They were seriously involved in collecting money for the national funds.

pod171.jpg
Some of the founders of the library
From right to left: Dr. Baruch Milch,
Shlomo Walden, Yehuda Grussgott

 

The Zionist organizations had a well-organized cooperative bank, which was established with its own capital, without the help of the government of the city. They greatly help their members, who were primarily small businessmen and tradesmen. The Zionist organizations also had a well-stocked library called Hatikva, which also served many gentiles.

The Zionist movement also maintained the Hebrew schools, where one could study Hebrew language and literature, and Jewish history. The teachers that I recall include Mordechai Brecher, Rozenzweig, Rozen and Kurtz.

There were also halls in the city where one could find and read all types of newspapers in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, and German. From time to time, debates, discussions and celebrations were held in these halls.

For a certain time, amateur performances were also performed in the city. They were organized and produced by Meir Goralnik. Miriam Kitner (the daughter of Binyamin Kitner) also took part in the artistic performances. She was a pianist, and very active in the field of choreography. She stood out with her high intelligence and her mastery of several languages. She also played a large role in preparing performances for children and youth for cultural and volunteering occasions.

The orthodox circles in the city were also well organized. For many years, they conducted a religious organization under the chairmanship of Tovia Ratner. They maintained a Talmud Torah and a Yeshiva. Aside from these, there were cheders where Jewish children were educated in the spirit of Jewish tradition. They were also active in the economic realm, and they had a cooperative bank, which gave loans for small businessmen and tradesmen. The bank was in a positive situation. One of its directors was David Cimet.

There was a volunteer society in the city that took upon itself the task of improving the situation of orphans and of the poor people in general. This society was founded by Mrs. Dr. Landau, who was involved in benevolent activities with her full heart. If she found a poor child without shoes on the street, she would bring him to a shoe store and purchase a pair of shoes for him. In 1929, she left the leadership of that society, and her place was taken by Mrs. Dr. Pomeranz. Mrs. Dr. Morgen headed that society from 1931 until the outbreak of the Second World War. There was no orphanage in our city, and in certain cases, orphans were sent to the well-known school of Korkis and Mrs. Klaften in Lemberg, with the Podhajcer society paying the bill.

The income of the society came from membership dues, and primarily from various campaigns and fundraisers, such as for Chanuka and Purim. Once a year, the society sponsored a

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grand ball, in which the Polish intelligentsia of the city and region participated as well as the Jewish intelligentsia. First and foremost, the mayor and all high Polish officials also participated.

Aside from that society, there was also, as in every city, a Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) committee and other volunteer societies, which from time to times conducted charitable campaigns for their activities. One of the most important was the activity for Hachnasat Kalla (providing for brides). My father of blessed memory always used to stress to me the importance of enabling two Jewish children to found a family. A few days before his death, lying in bed, he found out that Yaakov Fueurman was collecting money for Hachnasat Kalla. He summoned him and gave him 25 dollars for that purpose.

I wish to conclude by stating that, despite the fact that the Jewish community in the city was not united, and there was no shortage of friction among them, they had a deep feeling of community. Ignoring the restrictions (such as “numrus clausus” which was effectively a “numrus nullus”), they achieved a great deal in all areas of societal life in the city.

pod172.jpg
A celebration for the benefit of the Society for the Aid of Orphans

 


Podhajce Anecdotes

by Dr. Matityahu Pomeranz

Told by Dr. M. Pomeranz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(Equivalent with the article in the Hebrew section of the book, with the exception of 2 anecdotes that appear only in Hebrew. {Hebrew article is on Page 148})

[Page 173]

pod173.jpg
On the banks of the Koropiec


Jewish Life in the Town of Zlotnik

(Equivalent with the article in the Hebrew section of the book. {Hebrew article is on page 150})

 

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