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[Pages 16-25]

The History of the Jews in Rawa-Ruska

by Yakov Baumwol-Yovel z”l

Translated by Sara Mages

 

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Yakov Baumwol-Yovel z”l
Died 14 Heshvan 5730 - 14.11.1970

 

It's impossible to know exactly when the city was founded, however, like most towns in Poland it was founded in the 17th century, and its history isn't much different from the history of other towns and cities: the same difficulties, the same acquisition of rights, and the same loss of rights of those days, when all the citizens were at the mercy and the rod of the owners of the land on which the city was built.

At that time, the Polish nation was torn inside because of civil strife. From the outside, the country was surrounded by enemies until it seemed that its last days have arrived. It's not difficult to imagine the state of the Jewish population in this political situation.

It's known, that with the establishment of a city in Galicia, its founders tried to give it an urban character and develop its commerce. To do so, the founders invited the Jews to the new cities and gave them - against the wishes of the Christian citizens - rights which allowed them to exist and develop in all spheres of life. The history of the first Jewish settlers in Rawa Ruska is similar to the history of the first Jewish settlers in other cities.

Rava stood at a crossroad that link it with cities in Poland and Ukraine, and its importance increased with the partition of Poland. As a result, Rava became a border region between Habsburg Austria and Great Russia, but its development was deprived because of the government's blind policy. We don't have any documents that can illuminate the history of the city in general and the history of its Jews in particular. But it's possible to determine with certainty, that the growth and the development of the city didn't match its geographic importance.

The first Jews who came to the city were given rights to engage in commerce, and exclusive rights to work in various professions. They were permitted to buy and sell various retail products - but only in their homes. They weren't allowed to trade in the marketplace. They were allowed to trade every day of the week, except for the holiday of Easter and the Christians' “Nittel” [Christmas Eve]. During the rest of the Christian holidays - only after the prayers ended in the churches. The Jews were also given licenses to set up workshops and breweries for beer, mead and brandy. Jewish craftsmen had to compete with the Christian craftsmen, because in those days the small industry was in the hands of the Christians. Not once the Christians attacked the Jewish street, and not once informed the Jewish craftsmen to the authorities in order to restrict their activities. The craftsmen were cobblers, tailors, goldsmiths, butchers, tanners, plasterers, musicians, tar dealers and bakers.

Over the years, the Jewish population has grown and many synagogues were established in the city in comparison with the only two Christian churches. The Jews spread to all parts of the city and the first Jewish public houses were built east of the city - the prayer houses, the bath house and the cemetery.

The friction between the Christians and the Jews forced the government to limit the rights of the Jews, and so they were forbidden to trade in land and also their general trade was reduced. Additional restrictions were added with the deterioration of the political situation in the country. The situation of the Jews also worsened. The Christians weren't allowed to come to Jewish celebrations and eat on their table. The Jews were forbidden to employ Christians, and they were also not allowed to bury their dead after sunset.

The annexation of Galicia to the Habsburg monarchy brought many changes to the life of the Jews. The Austrian administration wanted to change the Jews and adapt them to the new conditions. However, the orders that flooded the Jews of Galicia, at the governor's suggestion and initiative and with the approval of the central government in Vienna, only imposed chaos. The Austrian government gradually realized that they couldn't make changes in the life of the Jews through laws and regulations.

The fate of the Jewish community in Rawa Ruska was similar to the fate of all the Jewish communities in Galicia. The Jewish population has developed despite the various difficulties - not so much economically as numerically.

The Austrian authorities were interested to establish a uniform policy for the entire Jewish population, and one of their most important goals was the eliminations of the Jewish taverns in Galicia, in order to force the Jews to switch to productive professions. In eighteen districts only eight district leaders agreed to eliminate the Jewish taverns. Fortunately for the Jews of Rava, their district leader didn't agree to the elimination of the taverns, because they brought a significant income to the estate owners who owned the land on which the breweries stood.

[Page 17]

 

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The Dominican Elementary School for girls in the city.

 

All the attempts that were made by the government of Empress Maria Theresa, failed to bring any improvement to the economic situation of Galicia's Jews. Therefore, it's no wonder that their economic situation during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph II, the successor of Empress Maria Theresa, deteriorated to such an extent that the authorities sought for ways to improve their situation. Joseph II, who wanted to ease the Jewish problem, gave the Jews land in the government estates so they could cultivate it by themselves. In the spring of 1786, the first Jewish colony was established in the village of Dombrowka near Nowy Sacz. Later, the colony of “New Babylon” was established near the city of Bolechów [Bolekhiv]. Additional small colonies were established, but they didn't last long. There's no indication if someone from the Jewish community of Rava joined a settlement despite the tax relief. At first, the settlers' budget was provided by the Jewish communities, and of course, this burden worsened the economic situation of the Jews.

At the end of the 18th century, the authorities forbade the Jews to live in villages and own taverns and brandy distilleries there. The Jewish communities in Galicia, including the community of Rawa Ruska, asked the authorities to lift the ban, but they rejected the request on various pretexts. The economic situation worsened and resulted in migration.

New trouble came on the city with the order to establish general schools for Jewish youth. The community of Rawa Ruska saw it as, Heaven forbid, a way to conversion, mainly because the initiative came from the Jewish intelligentsia that the orthodox Jewry referred to as the source of evil.

Additional trouble came in 1788 when the enlistment order was issued. Usually, the progressive Jews received this command with sympathy, because they assumed that the Jews will receive equal rights through the military. When the authorities realized that the Jews don't want to enlist, the Emperor agreed in 1790 to revoke the law.

The inner life in Rawa Ruska was difficult. Apart from the authorities' official lessees, the community leaders and other public institutions had a tremendous impact. The right to speak was given to the wealthiest man in the city, and he acted as if everything belonged to him. They enforced their orders on the masses. The opinion of a few determined everything, and rabbis, judges and religious ministrants were also elected or appointed by them.

***

In the history of the Jews of Galicia, the period before 1848 was marked by a difficult struggle between the pious and the Hassidim on one side, and the Maskilim[1] on the other. The Haskalah[2] had two centers in Galicia: Ternopol and Brody. Despite the harsh war of the Mitnagdim[3] and the Maskilim, the Hassidut started to capture key positions in many communities. Therefore, it's no wonder that the leaders of the Maskilim fought with literary weapons and with petitions to the authorities, and tried to save Galicia from the influence of the Hassidic Courts.

The Hassidic movement also managed to put down roots in Rawa Ruska, and the whole city was under the influence of the Belz Hassidic Court and the Rokeach Hassidic Dynasty. The few buds of the Haskalah in Rava - didn't have any influence on the city's population.

At that period the Maskil, R' Avraham Goldberg, was well known in the city. He was declared to be a skeptic, and those who guarded their souls kept away from him. When I was at my grandfather's

[Page 18]

house I heard that he was a Jew like all Jews. On the Sabbath he was dressed in a silk kapota [black long silk jacket] and a shtreimel [fur hat] on his head. He wore a sash around his waist, grew a beard and sidelocks, and prayed three times a day. Why he was declared a skeptic? Most likely because he knew German, read books and newspapers.

When the Jews were allowed to purchase property, they bought land and built houses. A considerable number of wealthy Jews bought land in the environment and became landowners. Those who weren't wealthy leased land from the Christian landowners, who preferred to receive money than cultivate their land. They use the money to travel abroad and led a debauched life there. And so, there were many Jews in the vicinity of Rava who were landowners or lessees of estates.

Rava was famous for its various craftsmen, especially furriers and milliners. There were large deposits of coal in the environment, and even though it wasn't good for fuel it was good for the industries. A stoneware factory was established in the city. At that time porcelain dishes weren't common, and stoneware dishes were the most common and modern. The factory was founded in the mid 19th century by R' Shamai Baumwal, who was known by the name “Shamai Herevener” from the village of Herevne near Rava. Later, the factory was managed by his son-in-law Asher Luft, and his son Moshe Baumwal who was known by the name - Moine'le- Shamai- Herevener's. The factory employed Jewish workers and carters from Rava. The factory was closed at the end of the 19th century because of the bad economic situation. Stoneware dishes from this factory were found in Jewish homes in Rava and the surrounding area for many years, and they excelled in their quality, beauty, and variety of colors.

Jews built large mills in the city or rented them. The oil factory of R' Hersh'el Mund was well known in Rava, and every observant Jew in Galicia used it. Young Jewish men, whose parents dared to teach them the art of wicker basket weaving, earned a good living working in the few workshops in the city.

Large fairs were held in the city every Monday, and the local farmers brought their produce for sale. There were also plenty of goods in the Jewish stores. Many Jews sold alcoholic beverages. The monopoly to sell wholesale and retail - was in the hands of the Jews. A number of families like: Sh?o?hamer and Graf, excelled in this field in Rava. The Jews passed their professional knowledge or their businesses to their heirs. Rava was among the few cities in Galicia that had Jewish builders and plasterers. The Jews also excelled in these professions, even though the Christians did their best to prevent their penetration into these professions.

Almost all the Jewish residents engaged in the retail trade. They also engaged in peddling. The Jews walked from village to village, exchanged merchandise such as linens or rags. The livelihood in it wasn't plentiful, and at time it was dangerous.

The Jewish population didn't grow much because the local authorities narrowed the Jewish initiative. The Jews were the vast majority in the city, and it was possible to call it a Jewish city. Yet, their influence in the city's leadership was minimal. The Jewish population didn't miss an opportunity to send its representative to every institution, tried to appear as a united sector in each municipal election, and demanded its rightful place. But the Christians - with the authorities' help - derailed all of their efforts.

***

The national movement, which aroused a considerable excitement in the progressive circles in Lvov and the provinces, found an echo among the progressive circles in Rava. When “Hovevei Zion” [Lovers of Zion] movement appeared, a number of young men awoke to action. But it was choked in its prime, because every change was interpreted as deviation from Jewish tradition and an opening to mischief. Speakers who came from Lvov returned empty-handed, because no one wanted to rent them a hall for their appearance in the city. But the pious have failed to completely shut the mouths of the young men, who did everything to keep a narrow crack for action for Zion. Rava's Jewry didn't stand afar when Herzl's movement was established. The movement found a strong echo in the city. Young men and Maskilim came out of their hiding place to lend a hand to the new Jewish national leadership which was established for the Jews around the world.

At first, the work was done clandestinely, because many of the young men and yeshiva students were supported by their parents or by their in-laws. But, over time, they rebelled against the public, and a magnificent national movement was founded in Rava. In the election to the Austrian parliament, which was held in the first decade of the 20th century, a Zionist candidate was almost elected in Rava - if not for the opposition of the Hassidim, the assimilated and the Poles, who united together and went to war against any sign of Jewish national revival.

The city's intelligentsia of those days - the Jewish lawyers

[Page 19]

 

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Invitation to the 25th anniversary celebration
of the “Hatikva Association”

 

and their assistants who didn't fear the pious, and also high school students who studied in Lvov and nearby Zhashkov, who were affected by the national spirit and the revival, aroused great enthusiasm for progress and national awakening. Zionist speakers appeared in Rava, and they were able to make their statements. Although most of the Jewish population hadn't received them favorably, they were able to plant seeds that bore fruit. The Zionist association “Hatikvah” [The Hope] was founded in Rava, and the city's best young men joined it. There was also a Jew who rented a room to the association. Yeshiva students risked their lives, came to it secretly, and participated in all the national activities. There wasn't a national convention or an international congress that Rava didn't participate in.

Among the founders of “Hatikvah” were: Gritzman, a clerk at Dr. Segal office; Dr. Gutsman; Dr. Tauber; Wolf Baumwal; Hertz Korman, son of Avraham Korman the flour merchant, a fine young man with a musical talent who sacrificed himself for the national idea and died at a young age; Yisrael Gold. The high school students: Henrik Edel, son of Natan Edel, the owner of a tobacco shop; Yakov Barg's two sons; Monik Brill; Moshe Hach; Shitlowski, son-in-law of Zelig Pigret, who died in an Austrian concentration camp during the First World War because he was a Russian citizen; Ben-Zion Ginsburg; Lemel Gurtler; Gritzman, who's mentioned above, has done a lot in this area with the active help of Ozer Grawer, a warm Jew who was dedicated to the Zionist idea. With the establishment of “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael” [Jewish National Fund] there were many families in Rava that the blue box decorated their homes with honor and glory.

***

The Zionist activity ceased suddenly with the outbreak of the First World War. In the month of Av 5674 - August 1914, Rava's young men - married and single - conscripts - enlisted to the army under the royal decree. The city remained empty, desolated and abandoned of its youth. The rest, who didn't have to enlist, prepared for emergency. The troops of Great Russia, who were known for the pogroms that they carried against the Jews of their country, entered the city and frightened its Jews. Many of the city's Jews, especially the rich, fled anywhere that their legs carried them. Many of them, the poor, returned soon and experienced the troubles that the Czar's soldiers caused.

A joint offensive of the armies of Austria and Germany expelled the Russians from all Galicia. The German army that came to Rava brought with it the cholera epidemic, which claimed many lives and severely hit the city's Jews. The city was very dirty, and the Angel of Death walked about and claimed its victims because there were no hospitals. The epidemic wreaked havoc and the Jewish population was at loss. When the epidemic stopped, and before those who survived managed to breathe with relief another epidemic broke out - the typhus epidemic. Then, it seemed that an end came to all flesh. The army that camped in the city established a temporary hospital in huts, but there was little help. The authorities mobilized all the veterans, from age 18 to 60. Anyone, who was healthy and fit for military service - wasn't given time to liquidate his business or part from his loved ones - and was taken to military camps.

The city was emptied from its young, there was a great shortage of foodstuffs and prices skyrocketed. Merchants sat idle because they couldn't adapt to the wartime trade. The livelihood was difficult, especially for the city's poor. Those wandered around torn, ragged and starving. Bread, sugar and the rest of the foodstuffs were scarce, and it was only possible to get them with rations cards that were issued by the authorities. In this economic situation the cultural life was also abandoned. The Zionist seeds that were sown with the sweat of individuals - were ignored.

A good fortune came to the city with the sudden appearance of a young soldier from Potok Zloty. Herzl Neufeld was a smart likable young man who appeared as a savior. He aroused the city's Zionist movement from its slumber, encouraged the youth to think, to participate in cultural activities and study the Hebrew language. Under his initiative a meeting was called at the home of Hirsh Edel, the paint merchant.

[Page 20]

 

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Reb Yankel Landoi [Landau] z”l, the first banker in town,
son-in-law of Reb Nathan Edel z”l

 

Those who attended were: Ben-Zion Gortler and his sister Pesha; Aharon Hollander; Aharon Fischler; Abus Behringer and his sister Bila Mindel; Machteshi Silber; Hanina Edel the host's son and the writer of these lines. In this meeting it was decided to renew the Zionist movement in Rava, revive the “Hatikvah” association, establish a library, open Hebrew classes in the evenings, and recruit activists for “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.” Herzl Neufeld directed all these activities. He turned up schemes and was ready for any daring act - despite the interference of those who opposed his actions.

However, even the guardians of the walls [the orthodox] weren't quite and didn't freeze at their posts. They placed many obstacles in the Zionist's way and even Herzl Neufeld's departure from the city didn't help them. On the contrary, the young men plucked up courage and increased their activities. Many of them came out in an open war - and the activities continued with extra strength until the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire.

The disintegration of the Hapsburg Empire (Austria) at the beginning of November 1918, caused great turmoil and great confusion, and heralded a future full of dangers to the Jews of Eastern Galicia. Rawa Ruska, as most of the cities of Eastern Galicia, was abandoned to the mercy of the Christian population in the city and the environment.

Upon learning about the liberation of Poland from the yoke of foreigners - a power struggle started in Eastern Galicia between the Poles who made up the majority in the cities, and the Ukrainians who constituted the vast majority in Galicia. The Poles didn't even try to hide their open hatred towards the city's Jews. They didn't try to acquire the Jews' sympathy even though they weren't sure yet who will control this part of Poland. They ignored the fact that was known to all, that the fate of Eastern Galicia was dependent on the decision of the nations of the world and the victorious powers, who had a decisive say in the nations' forum.

A mixed militia, which was composed of the three communities, was established to maintain the order in the city. Soldiers, who returned from the fronts and from army camps, were recruited to the militia. Each community was an independent unit and was headed by a commander. At the head of the Jewish sector stood Heshik Edel the son of Natan Edel - who was an officer in the Austrian army. But it became clear soon that the Jewish militia, which was very impressive in its appearance, was a thorn in the eyes of the Poles and the Ukrainians alike. They suddenly discovered that the city's Jews had a large cache of weapons, they knew how to use it in time of need, and the militia was their only hope in an emergency. But the Jews' oppressors didn't think for a long time about their problem. With “let us scheme against them,” they scattered the militia and disarmed it. An order was issued by the oppressors to hand all the weapons in 24 hours. Since then, the city's Jews were at the mercy and the rod of the Polish and the Ukrainian oppressors.

Horror and fear fell on the Jews. No one knew what would happen next. Bitter news arrived about the riots against the Jews, especially about the great pogrom in the city of Lvov. These rumors spread quickly, and the Jews waited with pounding hearts for the dark day. One dense morning, in December 1918, the first Polish buds were seen in our city. Armed Polish legionnaires arrived to Rava.

***

The legionnaires settled in the well known “Kelshtor” area. Their appearance in the city was directed immediately against the Jews, and it was obvious that they were brought to oppress them. The city's Polish residents joined the legionnaires, and with shouts and screams ordered the shopkeepers to close their business. The rest of the Jews were ordered to lock themselves in their homes and not to be seen in the city's street - otherwise their blood…

It's difficult to describe the suffering of the Jews and their daily share. Every morning brought with it new troubles and a decree followed a decree. Blows and punches were a familiar sight, and abduction to work was the Jews' daily bread. It so happened, that the Ukrainians around the city recovered, and one Saturday managed to capture the city for several hours. Afterward, they left it leaving dead and wounded. A heavy burden of guilt was cast on the city's Jews, as if they collaborated with the Ukrainians, and as a proof the members of the Margulies family, the descendants of the proprietor R' Leibish, were arrested. They were taken to Lublin, and were expected a trial and verdict of death. One of the police sergeants, named Strimovich, who served as a Gendarme during the Austrian days, a dirty Pole who hated Jews, persuaded bribe, respect and lechery,

[Page 21]

 

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Zev Baumwol z”l, one of the first Zionists in the city.
Died in Israel on 27 Shevat 5730.

 

falsely accused the honorable Margulies family that they shot out of their windows at the legionnaires during their struggle with the Ukrainians. As proof, he pointed at his bandaged arm. No one wanted to aid him with his complaint, and there wasn't a single Pole who wanted to see if he was telling the truth, if he was injured or not…

Months later, when the prisoners hovered between life and death, it turned out that it was a false accusation. It so happened, that a quarrel broke out between the infamous sergeant and his friend to rank. The latter said that he has pangs of guilt because the Margulies family is innocent, and the bandaged hand is stricken with leprosy. This loud conversation was heard through a thin wooden partition at the home of the Silber family where the police was stationed. The matter was reported to someone, because the Margulies family was also respected by the Christian population. The matter was investigated and the family was saved from death. And the Jews rejoiced in their homes - a real Purim miracle.

However, the Poles weren't silent. The situation deteriorated in the city. Hunger left its makes. The Jews sat locked in their homes without the ability to work for a living. Only the women were allowed to leave because they weren't harmed.

Robbery and beating were the fate of the Polish Jewry, especially in the small cities. This situation worsened with the arrival of General Haller troops, who came from France. The infamous “Hallerzikim” - as they were called - made it their practice to cut the Jews' sidelocks and beards. They cruelly abused every Jew with sidelocks and beard that was visible on the city's streets. This trouble had come upon all the cities in Poland that the “Hallerzikim” passed through, and this trouble also visited Rava.

The Jews of Poland raised a great outcry. The Jewish press reacted strongly to the events, and it was also accompanied by the advanced foreign press. As a result of the world's Jewry demonstration, especially in England and America, and also following the protest of the righteous among the nations - the victorious powers decided to send a tribunal of inquiry to Poland. It was headed by Sir Stuart Samuel, a pious traditional Jew of a German Spanish origin. He was the older brother of Sir Herbert Samuel, the first British High Commissioner in Israel, and a prominent member of the “Mizrachi” movement in England. The special envoy spent many days in Poland. He asked, investigated, wrote and was impressed - and he also arrived to Rava, accidently, as an overnight guest.

When he traveled from Warsaw to Lvov, on Friday, in one of the snowy winter days, when the train routes were disrupted, the Sabbath descended upon him and he was forced to stop his journey in Rava and stayed at the home of Rabbi Yakov Landau, son-in-law of Natan Edel. The news of his arrival spread in the city, and it was also became known that the distinguished guest will pray at the Great Synagogue on the Sabbath. On Saturday morning, the Jewish residents, young and old, streamed to the Great Synagogue. The city's Jews, who were honored to host this eminent Jew, plucked up courage and presented him all their petitions and complaints.

This visit made a strong impression. The Jewish press in Poland devoted a considerate space to it, and the Polish press has done the same. National and Zionist Rava was very impressed by the accidental visit, pinned many hopes on it and decided to commemorate it. Wolf Baumwol installed a glass plaque on which he inscribed the historic event in gold letters. The text was written by Avraham Hoffenbratel and Liberman in their best Hebrew. The plaque was set in a gilded frame, and was hung on the east wall above the seat that the guest sat on during the service.

Rawa Ruska resumed the Zionist activities after Galicia recovered from the Polish Ukrainian war. Everything started to sprout and blossom. They already knew about the Balfour Deceleration, and the real work began for the immigration to Eretz-Yisrael.

***

Rawa Ruska, on your soil stood the cradle of my childhood, in you I spent the days of my youth. I will remember you for eternity!

I'll not be able to forget my friends, acquaintances, teachers, educators, leaders and relatives. I was educated by all of them, and how can I forget them!? I will remember you for the better forever!

Rawa Ruska, my soul trembles in agony when I remember you, and there is one prayer in my heart: that the nation of murderers, who murdered and destroyed and also infected others with its malice - will be cursed forever! And you, my little town, we will remember you with affection and weave you in the book of life for eternity!


Translators' Footnotes:

  1. Maskilim - followers of the Haskalah movement. return
  2. Haskalah - enlightenment - intellectual movement in European Judaism in the 18th–19th century, which sought to supplement traditional Talmudic studies with education in secular subjects, European languages and Hebrew. return
  3. Mitnagdim - opponents - European religious Jews who opposed the Hassidic Judaism. return


[Pages 22-25]

My Town and My Family That Do Not Exist Any More

by Prof. Zeinwel Lieberman

Translated by Sara Mages

 

Foreword

There were probably various factors to the decision to publish a memorial book for the city of Rawa Ruska and its martyrs, who were killed in the Holocaust by the German Nazis and their local collaborators.

All of us feel the moral obligation to commemorate, as much as possible, the memory of our relatives, loved ones and acquaintances, who sanctified the name of God in masses. Because, according to the famous letter that the Rambam [Rabbi Mosheh Ben Maimon] wrote to the Jews of Yemen: “Every Jew who died for being Jewish, because if he wasn't a Jew he wouldn't have died - sanctified the name of God, our Torah, religion and culture in his death - and will be considered a martyr.”

We can only place a headstone of blooming letters, which will exist for eternity, for our loved ones.

All of us, as descendants of a nation that was endowed with a vast memory, want to remember and revive images and events that have been and gone.

We, the sons and daughters of Rawa Ruska, love our former city, which was a Jewish metropolis for centuries and was completely destroyed. The Gemara says “A place of grace gives grace to those who reside there.” If we dove deep into our souls we would be amazed to realize that we also like the mud in the city's streets, the autumn's slush around Shul [synagogue] Street, and the pitch dark winter nights. It seems, that the memory of our golden childhood, youth and adulthood, flood our city - that was - in a mysterious bright light, and its past appears in a frame of charm, beauty and interest.

 

The city's map

Rawa Ruska is about sixty kilometers from the capital city of Lvov, about thirty kilometers from Zólkiew [Zhovkva], about thirty five from Belz the city which is famous for its Hassidic Dynasty, about twenty from Lubycza, about twenty five from Nemirov and about six kilometers from Potelich. It lies at a distance of two kilometers from the “Walka-Witza” foothills. The Rata River, with its crystal clear water, crosses it in the region of the “hoy” [yard], across the road leading to the village of “Horbanivka,” the seat of Prince Sapieha. In this area, and across the Rata, were the Starosta's “hoyf,” the monastery, the Rogetka and the flour mill of Yakov Landau, who was one of the wealthiest men in the city. On the other end of the city, a distance of about a kilometer from the “market,” the square in the city's center, were the buildings of the train station.

The market square was created by four blocks of buildings, which were built over many generations in all four directions. These building were used as dwellings, their façades were used for stores, and a huge square space was left between them. Every Monday, Ukrainian famers from the environment gathered in the square. They brought with them, in carts and horses, the yield of their farms for the city's Jewish population. On that day, they also shopped in the Jewish stores. And so, the market was created and every Monday was “market day,” which gave a poor “livelihood” to a large part of the Jewish population for the whole week. During the other days of the week the market also served as a trading place for “profiteers,” and for those who didn't reach the “window in the sky”- meaning - their own shop in one of the blocks in the square.

At the center of market square stood, in all its glory and strength, an ancient two-storey building - the “Rathoiz” - which appears in our childhood memories as a dark giant full of secrets.

A road leads from the market's south-east corner to the railway station, and turns in the direction of Walkawitza, to those lofty mountains that their peaks I saw in my childhood above the sky. During the summer and autumn, the youth strolled there on holidays and on the Sabbath, and young lovers searched for a place to hide from the eyes of strangers. It was a place that was especially created, during the six days of creation, for visionaries and poets, and for those who daydreamed about immigrating to distant lands, like my friends Mendel Kurzer, Avish Bringer and Mendel Aizen, who circled half of the planet in their steps and in their dreams.

On this roadside, the “Shtotzaiger” tower [the city's clock tower], which was the tallest structure in the city, protruded into the sky. It looked arrogantly, from top to bottom, on the low buildings of the city as if it was “crawling on its belly.” The word “Shtotzeyger” has become a concept different from the concept of “Kloiz Zaiger” [the clock synagogue]. These were two worlds. In one the earth orbited the sun, and in the other, the sun still orbited the earth.

“Zamed Street” [Sand Street] left market square right of Walkawitza road. It passed through “Zamed Beit HaMidrash,” the Kloizel [small synagogue], and the high school. It ended at the Gentiles homes, the pigs' dealers, and left the city until it reached “Potelicher Vald” [forest].

“Hitsher Street” branches out from another angle of market square. On its right side is synagogue square with: Shtotyesue Synagogue, “Alte Beit-HaMidrash, Alte Kloiz, Blekhne Kloiz, and the New Kloiz,” which was built a short time before the First World War. It was called “Ayzerne Kloiz” [iron synagogue] because of the big iron rails that were used in its construction. A little further from them, presumably because of the honor, stood the city's gloomy bathhouse, and next to it, the water well, that its water was the sweetest in the city. The street continues to the homes of the Goshes brothers, Berger Seril and her father the owners of the oil mill, the home of Sara Goldstein the black, and ends near the butter factory for the export of “Heile.”

From another angle of the square, through the home of Noah Berger

[Page 23]

 

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The “Market” and the “Rathoiz” façade

 

and Mita Katz, you arrived to the front of the building where the respected Groyer family lived, and to a spacious garden that stretched along the Catholic churchyard. The garden served as a playground for the city's Jewish children, and Kosciuszko's statue, which stood in its center, served as a tool to strengthen the bones of Jewish children and for the anti-Semitic defamations of the city's anti-Semites. The Jewish children stayed away from the nearby “Drey-Gortn” [twisted garden] because it was attached to the church, because it was necessary to rotate the cross-shaped gate to enter, and mostly because of the many Gentiles who were there all the time.

From the corner of the Wasserman's house you arrive quickly to the home of Yossele and Avraham-Itza Mertz, to the end of the city, to the beginning of the “hoyf” with its vast open spaces, and to the Rata River that surrounds the city in a semi-circle. It was a nice location and a place to soothe the spirit and the body.

This is, in a brief sketch, is the physical frame of my city - that was. Rawa Ruska, in which rose, grown and developed for centuries, the same group of Jews who lived a rich spiritual life, and was happy with its meager share until the tragic end.

 

Memories

As is known, our holy community had a “Pinkas,” an ancient ledger full of content, such as the content of the existence of the community from its inception. With the destruction of the community also the “Pinkas” was lost. We have to dive into the depth of our memories and revive in them the memory of our loved ones. To remember is to live again, and to revive.

Time bites and devours everything except for the memories, and the written word is the only thing that stands in the way of time. Let us, all of us together, live Jewish Rawa Ruska: her laughter and tears, her love and compassion, her kindness, her dreams, her longings and all of her colorful charm, her fantasies and hopes, the innocence of her women and the beauty of her children, the simplicity of her beautiful daughters and the loyalty of her talented young men who were faithful to others, to their families and their nation, the pleasant melodies of the Torah scholars of Beit-HaMidrash, the Kloiz and the Kloizel, the singing of the good-hearted Hassidim, the sound of the readers and the cantors on Friday nights and holidays, the purification and immersion in bitter tears of men, women and children when the gates opened and closed on Yom Kippur eve. Surely, all of that penetrated our bone marrow and absorbed by our memory cells. Now we bring back the experiences, pictures, and characters, everything materializes and lives at the time of its occurrence.

R' Simcha Heberman - was an imposing figure with a high scholarly forehead. His left eye was always closed in concentration. Even during prayer it appeared that his mind was working, continuously, in connection with a certain Halakha [law] or a subject of study. His thoughts were engaged with the wisdom of attribute and he traveled, for his pleasure, in the paths of heavens…. A father to excellent and perfect sons and daughters, and his son, R' Mordechai Leib, rose in his youth to a level of a genius in the Torah and in wisdom.

R' Hirschale Mund - was a descendant of famous rabbis, and noble by virtue of his superior personality. A wise student, clever, gentle and humble, and was active in the material and spiritual life of the city. His wife Shifrale - who was called R' Shifrale by her admirers - was a woman of valor without a deceptive charm and vain beauty, her home was wide open and every city resident who came to it, was blessed. Shifrale was the daughter of R' Leibish the host, and why was he called a “host?” because of his adherence to the commandment of hospitality. Like her father, the daughter was also a “host.”

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rav024.jpg
Sima Rumlet and David Freiheter hy”d
next to the “Shtotzeyger

 

In this house they raised and educated talented sons, wise and clever scholars. As is known, centuries ago, when the Jews were given surnames during the nomenclature, they took into consideration the character, the profession and the skill to match the name to its recipient: and the name Mund (mouth in a foreign language) was given to a family whose sons were articulate and clever. The Mundim were, without a doubt, intellectuals from birth and from generations.

R' Yekutiel Josefsberg - his wealth came to him from an inheritance. He built a glorious house, and from his money he also built the magnificent “Ayzerne Kloyz.” His daughter married a scholar, a qualified teacher, who studied the Torah day and night. R' Yekutiel was educated, had a keen sense of humor, and fed the whole city with his witty and humorous sayings. But he lacked order and method in the war for existence, and his world collapsed when the First World War broke out. His son, Aharon, invested considerable efforts to hold on.

R' Hirsh Guzik - was popular, good-natured, ideal father to his sons and a model husband. Jewish ethics, productive work, study and culture prevailed in his home. His first born son, Yisrael, was perfect in all spiritual and moral virtues, and respected his father duly and beyond the letter of the law. He was a loving husband to his wife, Elke from the Groyman family, and a wise father to his children. Everyone respected him as a trader, and his acquaintances admired him for his knowledge. Moshe, the son of R' Hirsh, was educated and taught at the city's high school during the Second World War., Moshe disappeared when the Soviets left the city, and all traces of him were lost.

 

My Family

My family included my parents and my brothers, the family of my uncle Simcha Lieberman, the family of my uncle Yitzchak Lezer, my uncle Nisan Lieberman, my aunt Klerel Basehlis and her husband Lemel Gurtler. I will start with the family and end with my parents' home.

My aunt Klerel was typical for the 19th century: conservative, thrifty, and a devoted housewife to her husband and her children. My uncle Lemel was weak in body, and for that reason the burden of the house fell on my aunt. She sacrificed her whole life for her husband and her family. Bentshi, their first born son, was educated and enlightened, gentle and talented. Their daughter Toybtsha died in her youth in Vienna. Their daughter Peshe was tall and graceful. She married Ben-Zion Ginsburg. Ben-Zion was strong, educated, played music and had a pleasant voice. He had a reputation in the city as a scholar and a great writer. He wrote articles for newspapers in the capital city that even reached America. Prastig, the editor of the Yiddish newspaper “Tagblatt,” invited Ben-Zion to moved to Lvov and be one of the newspaper's editors. He was an ardent Zionist and one of the founders of the Zionist movement in the city. He was the leader of the striking force against the Hassidim, the opponents of the Zionist movement. He perished in Lvov together with his loyal readers. Their youngest son, Shmelke, was a realistic and an outstanding merchant.

My uncle, Nisan Lieberman, was one of the enlightened and educated of the last century. He played the violin, knew languages and math. He made a living from a salary and was happy with his lot. His only son, Yakov, was drafted to the army at the beginning of the First World War, and was wounded. Later, he traveled to Switzerland, married there and disappeared without a trace.

My uncle, Itshe'le Lezer, came from a privileged ancestry. His lineage reached to Rabbi Yechezkel Landau the author of “Noda Biyhudah” [“Known in Judah”]. He was a scholar and a gentleman. A stain wasn't found on his clothes and on his conscience. His wife, Kheytshe, was an exemplary housewife and devoted herself to the education of her children - Mordechai Wolf, Mendel, Eliezer Ashe and Estshi. This home was the glory of the city.

My uncle, Simcha'le Lieberman, was clever and witty. Loved to read and loved life. In his business he was always involved with my father's business. His wife, Ita, was kindhearted and active as an ant. She sacrificed her life for her family and for others without complaints and without pretensions. My aunt and my uncle were rewarded that all their children, apart from their beloved youngest daughter Malia, were saved from the disaster.

Finally - my parents and my brothers of blessed memory. My father, R' Lemel Lieberman, was a self-made man by virtue of his moral and spiritual qualities. He was a scholar who filled all of his free time by reading books

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The Lieberman family of blessed memory

 

of commentary, ethics and science. Although he never studied in a government school, he was educated in secular studies and the languages of the country. We, his children, were helped, more than once, from his extensive knowledge in all areas. He had common sense, was articulate and wrote original proverbs that he renewed every day and pleased his listeners with them. In his last years “he smashed the idol of money, stayed away from trouble, and devoted himself to learning and knowledge, his ambition since the day he born” - so he wrote me. He escaped from honor, and refused to be appointed as the head of the community.

My mother, Ziptshe from the Hoizman family, was pious, enlightened and educated. She loved her husband, her family and the Jewish people with the warmth of her pure heart.

My brother Mordechai was sensitive, respected his parents and was very careful to respect all human being. His wife, Brontshe from the Englender family, was an exemplary housewife, a merciful mother, full of life and full of energy.

My brother Yehusua was honest and performed his duties with great loyalty. He strove for perfection in everything that he has done for others. His wife, Ester, was the daughter of a rabbi and granddaughter of R' Simcha Heberman. She excelled in the spiritual alertness of the Hebermanim.

My brother Ben-Zion was upright and honest in his actions, and never stained his delicate conscience with a bad deed, not to strangers and not to his parents that he respected very much.

May their memory be blessed.

 

From the sayings of my father z”l:

  1. The wise and the intelligent pass from the world: but their wisdom and intelligence remain as the property of all of us and last forever - as long as there are those that “cherish” the wise and the intelligent.
  2. In an argument or a fight, don't emit words of blame or profanity: if you do, your opponent will no longer be afraid of what you “might say,” and you can lose your most powerful weapon, your “secret weapon.”
  3. If your son has a virtue and spiritual advantage - do not take pride, and if, God forbid, he has a disadvantage - don't be upset: because, in life it's possible to be save from disaster or even death - only by a “great disadvantage.”
  4. The art to live in peace with people is very difficult and very important.
  5. The road to pride is dangerous and it's easy to fail in it, because there is no need to invest or make an effort, and for that our Sages of blessed memory said: “A poor person who is arrogant…” etc.
  6. It's good to mix with people, to befriend them - and not to seclude yourself, because isolation leads to suicide.
  7. If they only call you a “fool,” and you're angry - then you become an “angry fool” - which is a lot worse.

 

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