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{103}

After the First World War

by Ben Zion Horowitz


And it came to pass in the year 1918 [1]. When I returned to Rozniatow from exile in Russia in September 1918, I found before me a destroyed and pillaged city, as if following a pogrom. There was no steady government, it was a free-for-all, and the young Ukrainians organized groups that fell upon the Jews, and pillaged, robbed and beat everyone who crossed their path. The Jews were not sure of their lives, whether outside on the roads or in their own houses. There was no government to protect their lives. They were abandoned to the evil inclination of the Ukrainian population that hated Jews.

The Ukrainians were pillaging around the entire region, particularly in the villages. There were only five Jewish families in the village of Swaryczow. In Strutyn and other villages close to Rozniatow, the few Jews were completely abandoned and left to the good or bad graces of their Ukrainian neighbors.

Those released from the Russian army, young for the most part, organized themselves in Rozniatow into an independent defense organization in order to protect the Jews of these villages. They armed themselves with all sorts of weapons, including pistols, spears, old guns, even thick sticks, and in particular with a strong will to protect the endangered Jews who lived in the villages that were left abandoned to the Ukrainian hooligans who conducted deeds of terror.

Each evening, groups of the “Jewish militia” were sent out to all of the neighboring villages. The gentiles were already aware that the Jews were sending out and independent defense force that was armed, and slowly they began to cease their attacks on the Jews of those villages.

A further reason for the cessation of the attacks, pillage and plunder was the entry of the soldiers of the Polish army to the region. The Hallerczik army immediately began to take revenge against the Ukrainian leaders and organizers. They acted with a strong hand, took out many to be put to death, and arrested the Ukrainian activists. They also had no mercy upon the Jews. They began to cut off beards and peyos, close down and pillage stores, and enlist the Jews for backbreaking labor either for a useful purpose or for no useful purpose. This was the situation with any change of government in the exile. The Jews were always the first victims, whether of the departing government or the new government that was entering.


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The First Dramatic Club


In those days, the first days of Polish rule after the First World War, there were no Jewish organizations existing in Rozniatow. The veteran Zionist activists had either died or emigrated. They had departed from the scene. There was no communal activist of any stature. The well-stocked Jewish library had been pillaged and burnt, so that there was no trace of it left. With such a situation, the Jewish community was completely abandoned. There was no person or official organization that was able to represent the Jewish community to the governing authorities.

We attempted to reorganize. We chose the lawyer Dr. Wasserman as the chairman as the “Chovevei Zion” organization. He was elderly and sickly, and was not able to renew communal life in the town. We saw that the Chovevei Zion organization was progressively weakening due to lack of activity. Since we were not satisfied with the lack of activity, a group of young Zionists began to organize into a group that was called “The Poale Zion” organization.

It was not easy to bring this idea to fruition, whether due to the opposition of the elder activists who did not want to give up the reins of authority; or whether due to the government, for it was necessary to obtain a permit in order to be recognized, and this was fraught with various conditions: What was written in the charter of the organization? Who were the leaders and responsible parties for the new organization? What is the organization's political inclination? And other such difficulties. The regional governor in Dolina had to sign the permit, and there too, one had to overcome numerous obstacles.

In addition, we did not have the financial means to support organizational activity, to rent a hall, to pay for lighting, or to conduct any activities that require money. The only means to raise money was to establish a dramatic group that would perform for the community, and then dedicate the income to the organizational activities. However, even for a dramatic club to perform in an official manner, there was a need for a charter and government permits. Therefore we decided to place a request to organize a “Meeting Place for Jewish Culture”, which would be non-factional. The activities of the Meeting Place would include performances, a library, and various other cultural activities of which it would be difficult for the authorities to object.

In order to hasten the matter, and ease the obtaining of a permit, we turned to the lawyer Dr. Sapir, and asked that he take on the chairmanship of the organization and present our case to the authorities. Indeed, we received our needed permit from the authorities very quickly.

The following people were chosen to sit on the committee of the cultural meeting place: Dr. Shimon Sapir, chairman; Dr. Edward Sapir; Shalom Rechtschaffen; the lawyer Leon Horowitz; Andza Kanner – all of whom were murdered by the Nazis. Noshe Lutwak of blessed memory; Yitzchak Berman, now living in Haifa; Ben Zion Horowitz who died in Israel; Yeshayahu Lutwak, living in the United States; Sender Friedler, who died in the United States; and Dr. Bendet Berger, who died in Rozniatow.

The following were chosen to the auditing committee: Magister Leon Horowitz, Avraham Hoffman, Ben Zion Horowitz and Meir Taub.

In order to commence activities, we had an immediate need for funds. As had been previously mentioned, our source of funds was to be from the income of various performances. We immediately started to organize a group of actors, to be known as the “Dramatic Club”, and was to be affiliated with the Organization of Hebrew Culture. We immediately realized that this was no simple matter. There were many obstacles, differences in outlook, differences in social standing, differences in cultural levels, and differences in sex. All of these matters might today be seen as simple and easy to deal with; however, during the beginning of the 1920s, they were quite significant factors in communal affairs. We had to overcome all of these obstacles and conduct ourselves with strict discipline, for otherwise we would not have been able to arrange everything. Whomever was unwilling to accept upon themselves the discipline of accepting whatever task was assigned to them was not accepted into the club. We freed ourselves from many of the older ideas regarding personal status, and began to prepare our plays. The first play was “Hasia the Orphan” by Yaakov Gordon.

From upper right: Dr. Nunek Lusthaus, Andzia Kanner,
MosheLutwak, Dr. Leon Horowitz, Leah Horowitz-Klatsh

 

The following were the participants in the Dramatic Club: Women: Freda Nemlich (passed away); Gittel Nemlich, Adela Reis, Anda Kanner, Tuni Laufer, Henia Laufer, Shendel Wiedner, Matilda Prinz (all murdered by the Nazis); Tenci Berger (living in Israel), Sheiche Weinlas, Etka Weinlas (living in Poland); Dora Gelobter (living in the United States).

Men: Avraham Hoffman, Leon Horowitz, Shimon Diamant (Sofler), Shalom Rechtschaffen (all murdered by the Nazis); Philip Perel (passed away); Moshe Lutwak, Yeshaya Lutwak, Yehuda Hammerman (living in the United States); Yehuda Freier, Peretz Sperling, and the director of the group Ben Zion Horowitz who died in Israel.

The first play took place in the Polish Sokol hall with an overflowing audience. Due to the great success and the requests from those members of the community who were not able to obtain tickets for the first performance, we had to put on a repeat performance in short order. This performance was also to an overflowing audience, and was very successful. The income from the performances was divided as follows: 50% for support and other needs of the institution, and 50% for acquiring books. Due to the great success, we planned a new play for two months later. We intended to switch plays every two months, and put on as many performances of each play as was needed by request of the audience.

The success of the Dramatic Club was a thorn in the eyes of the Polish directors of the Sokol. The success was not only to be measured in monetary means, but primarily in communal means. It became known that the young Jews had the ability to prepare a nice cultural event that had an effect on the entire community. The play was the topic of conversation day and night, both in Rozniatow and in the surrounding areas. The anti-Semitic director of the Sokol hall, a pharmacist, requested from us that every second play that we perform be in the Polish language for the benefit of the Polish community who do not understand Yiddish, and are in need of culture as much as the Jews are. When we immediately refused his request categorically, he began to threaten us that he would not permit us to use the Sokol hall for performances. We responded to him that we would then make sure that no Jew enters the Sokol hall for any performance, whether in Polish or Ukrainian. This was a serious threat, since most of the members of the audience of the Polish and Ukrainian performances were Jews. The Ukrainian performing groups were in constant contact with us, for they were very interested in us and in the Jewish audiences. They also attempted to include some plays with Jewish content, written by Jewish playwrights. Jewish theater groups, such as Goldfaden, Zigmund Torkow and others, came from Lvov and Stanislawow. These performances brought in a significant sum of money for the Polish owners of Sokol. The local Ukrainians joined up with us and also opposed the request of the anti-Semitic pharmacist. When the Pole saw the strong front of opposition, and saw that his request had no success of being answered positively, he began to appeal to our patriotic instincts. After all, we were in Poland, and we have to understand him, etc. etc., we should not join up with the Ukrainians who hate the Poles. He also began to make use of the connections he had with the governing authorities, and they began to pressure us in this manner. They summoned the responsible parties and hinted that they heard something regarding the plays, etc., etc., and that we should appease the director of the Sokol in Rozniatow. The pressure caused a division among the members of the troupe. There were those who said that we should maintain our relationship with the Poles, and that the request was valid. However, most opposed this argument, saying: “We are a Jewish troupe, and we should perform only in the Jewish language”. In the meantime, we stopped attending performances in the Sokol hall, and the hall became empty. The Poles saw that it was impossible to continue in this manner, and they gave in. We continued to prepare new performances, and the club continued to develop and flourish. We were supported by all of the residents.

The pressure from the Poles forced us to think about finding a new hall for our performances. In the meantime, an event took place that helped us to actualize our idea in a manner that we never even had dreamt of.

The small group of members of the troupe who supported the request of the Poles never came to terms with the majority of the troupe. They secretly decided to put on a performance in the Polish language called “Fat Fish”. They made contact with the pharmacist as well as with the Polish priest. They received a great deal of support for their activities. We decided to make it impossible for them to perform. When the day of the performance arrived, the priest made a special journey to Broszniow to issue an invitation to the directors of the well-known Glezinger lumber mill, other senior officials, all of the Christian residents of Broszniow, government representatives from Dolina, as well as heads of the Polish community. They play was supposed to be a demonstration of victory against the Jewish troupe, and a victory for the request of the Poles and the local authorities.

We secretly sent a trustworthy representative to Broszniow, who pretended that he was a representative from the troupe that was supposed to perform that evening in the Sokol hall. He informed the people that the play was postponed for some time due to a sudden illness of one of the actresses.

In the evening, the hall was decorated in a festive manner. The priest, the pharmacist and his entourage were attired in a festive manner, seated in an almost empty hall. The actors were very nervous for they were all prepared, but the audience was not present, neither the local audience nor the audience from the neighboring areas. Finally, the priest realized that the Jews had tricked him, and he decreed in a mournful and almost weepy voice that the play was postponed due to an illness of an actress…

The victory of the Jews made waves throughout the region. The Poles were boiling with rage. We knew that from that time on, the Sokol hall was completely closed to use, and we immediately had to concern ourselves with a new hall.

A few of the heads of the troupe were summoned to the authorities for an interrogation: who arranged this? Who disturbed the performance? Nobody from the troupe… after some time, the matter was slowly forgotten. The chief officials of Glezinger, most of them Jews, were very happy over the embarrassment of the priest and the pharmacist, and they arranged among themselves a donation of wood and lumber for the building of a theater for the Jewish troupe. Influenced by the officials, the firm itself donated a fitting sum for the establishment of a theater for the Jewish troupe. The Jewish director Bauer, as well as Lookstein and the Hausman brothers engaged in significant activity for this cause.

Sender Friedler had a large warehouse, and a house next to it. We decided to merge the house with the large warehouse in order to make a gigantic performance hall, even larger than the Sokol. We decided to quickly renovate and fix up the hall in order to prepare it for the next performance. We received a ready-made wooden stage from the Glezinger firm, as well as benches for the audience. All of the officials of the firm, including gentiles, as well as people from the region came to the first performance in the splendid new hall. After the first festive performance, a large celebration took place with dancing, song and drinks until dawn.

The success of our troupe was complete. The income grew, and with it, our library grew. It slowly became the largest in the area. Most of the Polish intelligentsia, including lawyers, doctors, and officials, were forced to come to us if they wished to read a good book. I was involved as a volunteer with the library from 1920 until 1935.


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The Jewish Intelligentsia Prior to the Second World War


Despite the small size and poverty of the town of Rozniatow, it had the seeds of a Jewish and Polish intelligentsia, consisting of doctors, lawyers, and later, young students. They were active in communal life and contributed greatly to the cultural and political life of the town. I will try to illustrate a few of them here, as well as I knew them.

1) Dr. Sabat
He was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia [2]. He first studied theology and later studied medicine. He arrived in Rozniatow in 1918 with the Czech-Hungarian army. There, he met a young gentile girl, the daughter of an engineer from the city of Dolina. His father-in-law immediately found him a position as the government physician of Rozniatow and environs. He did not distance himself from the Jews, for he had a warm Jewish heart. He was very interested in whatever was taking place in the Jewish community; he donated generously to the Jewish institutions, and greatly assisted anyone who turned to him for any matter.

He was not ashamed of his Judaism in front of his Christian doctor friends. On the contrary, he demonstrated it at any opportunity. He was proud of Jewish nationalism, interested in the Jewish youth, and was their patron. When his Christian wife died in 1942, a Christian funeral was arranged with crosses and a priest, according to their custom. They did not have any children. He then married a Jewish woman. During the time of the German siege, they permitted him to work without any problems, for the Ukrainians spoke well of him and protected him. However when the liquidations and mass murder began, he was not able to sit in peace and watch his people be killed in front of his eyes. He decided to escape across the border to Czechoslovakia. Along the way, he was captured by a band of Ukrainians who murdered him and his wife on the spot, along with his father-in-law and another group of Jews who were on their way to the Czech border. This group included the dentist Bernat Litauer, Lookstein, Shapira, and Director Stein who was a senior official of the Glezinger firm. The wild band left the murdered people on the road and fled. The residents of the area, who recognized Dr. Sabat and Director Stein, both very well known people in the entire region, gathered up the corpses and buried them in a grave approximately sixteen kilometers from Rozniatow. They erected a fence around the grave. When I returned from Russia in 1946, I came to that place, and the gentiles showed me the location of the grave.

The physicians: Dr. Lusthaus, the son of Esther Lusthaus; Dr Adlersberg the son of the teacher of Jewish religion; Dr. Fried the son-in-law of Shmuel Friedler; Dr. Feier the son of the lawyer Isidor Feier; the dentist Bernard Litauer; the dentist Blau the husband of Matilda Prinz.

The lawyers: Dr. Wasserman, Dr. Isidor Feier; Dr. Shimon Sapir; Dr. Kahana; Dr. Minkes; the lawyer Leon Horowitz; Magister Weinfeld; Magister Leib Meisels; the professor of philosophy David Weisman.


{109}

Where Are You?

by Reuven Weintraub [3]

Where are you? Oh, where are you Jews
Of “Kol Nidre” and “Unetane Tokef”
Jews of Simchat Torah
Jews of Tikkun Chatzot?
Oh, the community of pure and holy ones
Well acquainted with suffering
Whose bread is the bread of sorrow
And wine of joy is saturated in tears.


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Notable Communal Activity

by Pinchas Kanner


In Memory of Chanina Weisman and his Family

My grandfather Chanina Weisman was born in Rozniatow in 1840 to a merchant of wheat and flour. My grandfather's four older brothers died in their childhood, and therefore, when my grandfather was born, he was taken to the Admor of Vishnitz for a blessing. The Admor changed the name of my grandfather to David and also gave him an amulet for long life, a silver earring that my grandfather fastened to his ear until he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah. At his Bar Mitzvah festivities, the earring was removed and my grandfather's name reverted to his original name Chanina. Indeed, my grandfather reached an old age, had an inspiring visage and an imposing appearance.

His childhood and youth were spent in Yeshiva study. At the conclusion of his studies, he received rabbinic ordination. He also learned the German language. My grandfather married Tzivia Mandelbaum when he was eighteen years old. Her parents lived in the village of Krasna, near the town. After their first son, David, was born, grandfather left his house and spent three years in the courtyards of the Admorim of Belz and Chortkov. There he lived a life of abstinence and studied Kabbalah [4] in depth until it came time to return to his family. My grandfather had three sons and three daughters. His three sons died at young ages. The eldest daughter Esther married Baruch Mintz. They had two sons, Moshe and Yaakov. The second daughter Matilda married Tzvi Angelberg, and they subsequently immigrated to America. The third daughter Rivka married Mordechai Kanner, my father, and I was their only son. Later they had a daughter Chana, who was nicknamed Anzia.

My grandfather made a comfortable living. He owned a hotel, a restaurant, and a business in alcoholic beverages. My grandmother ran these businesses, and my grandfather dedicated all of his time to his holy works. In accordance with the custom of the pious Jews of that time, he would awaken early in the morning to occupy himself with the study of Kabbalah (the book of the Zohar) and Mishnah. After immersing in the Mikva and worshipping in the synagogue, he would come home to eat breakfast. Then he would dedicate several hours to reading the newspaper and rest. In the afternoon, he would receive people in his house, and then return to the synagogue for the Mincha service. He would spend the evening hours in the synagogue, where he would teach Shulchan Aruch (The Code of Jewish Law) and Talmud to select students.

My grandfather served as the mohel (ritual circumcisor) of the town and the environs. He even taught seven mohels, who split the mitzvah of conducting the Bris Milas in the entire region. He himself would perform the Bris Milah for his friends and for poor people. This was done as a gesture of honor or an act of charity. This was the manner of my grandfather, in that he was a faithful servant to his world, and worked at his tasks with all of his glory and all of his energy, honor, and wisdom.

Before the elections took place for the council of the region of Galicia, my grandfather was a member of the council, appointed by the Austrian governor, and he had influence in the circles of the Austrian administration. He would frequently travel to Dolina, Stryj or Lvov to exert his influence for the help of his fellow or for communal matters. After the elections in Galicia took place, he supported the Zionist candidates – something quite unusual for the Orthodox Hassidim. He supported the idea of the study of the Hebrew language, and also intervened for the good of the first Hebrew teacher who arrived in the town from Russia as a refugee. He supported the establishment of a communal meeting place in Rozniatow, an idea that never came to fruition on account of the First World War.

Despite his orthodoxy, he understood the progressiveness and spirit of the times, and did not prevent his grandchildren from studying in the gymnasia. He also did not insist that his daughters cut their hair at the time of their weddings [5]. I remember two events to which my grandfather took me despite my young age. His intention was to instill Jewish customs into my mind. On one occasion, I accompanied him when he went on Simchat Torah eve to drink cups of wine at the home of his friend Leizer Yitzchak Lev, where the honorable people of the town would gather. On the other occasion, on the eve of Passover 1914, my grandfather took me to the place where the matzo shmura was baked, even though I was too young to participate in the singing of the Hallel [6]. One of my childhood memories was with regard to etrogim (citrons), which my grandfather used to receive for each Sukkot from the Holy Land [7]. He would lend them to the rabbi, to my uncle Baruch Mintz, to his cousin Michael Weisman, and to his childhood friend Mendel Artman, the only one of the town who would address him in second person.

My grandfather was known as a learned and righteous Jew. Many people turned to him for advice in personal matters. They requested his advice or his assistance. His manner of speaking was interwoven with parables from the Talmud or Midrash (Jewish books of lore). His solutions to various problems flowed with a very deep-rooted wisdom of life.

When my grandfather reached the age of 78, he took ill with pneumonia, and never recovered. He passed away within a week. He died in the spring of 1918. The people of the town gave him his final honor by closing down all businesses during the time of the funeral. His coffin was prepared from the boards of the table of the synagogue before which he sat and taught Torah for two generations. In his grave, the placed his mohel's knife and a sack of earth from the Holy Land which he used to carry with him at all times. A number of his students recited Kaddish for him [8]. They had taken this obligation upon themselves due to their love and reverence of him. Everyone was connected to him with bands of love. His love of Torah imbued his entire personality, and he loved every student of Torah as his own child.

I wish to point out the connection of the Weisman family to the Holy Land. My grandfather's uncle traveled to the Holy Land in his old age in order to insure that he would be buried there after he died. He lived in Safed, and donated windows to the synagogue of that city, which are still today inscribed with the Weisman name.

On the anniversary of my grandfather's death, after the lighting of the yahrzeit candle, my grandmother Tzivia also took ill, and the physician predicted her imminent demise. My grandmother also died at age 78.

The following members of his families perished in the holocaust: my uncle Baruch Mintz, his wife Esther (nee Weisman) and their children Moshe and Yaakov; my mother and sister perished in Stanislawow; my grandfather's cousin Michael Weisman, his wife, and their very capable son Dr. David Weisman also perished.


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My Father Moshe Branik,
one of the most Prominent Sons of Rozniatow

by Yitzchak Barkai-Branik

 

I remember Rozniatow as if from a gray mist, as a children's story in the past tense… I remember the marketplace in the center of the town, the large schoolhouse on top of the hill, the pond and the small houses of the Jews. I remember the wagons upon which we traveled to the train, as well as the first automobile. I remember the first cheder where I spent a few months. As if from a fog, I remember the large fire, when the windowpanes of the building on the hill became red. I remember some select pictures and remote alleys. This was Rozniatow, where I was born, and where my father Moshe Branik of blessed memory was born. I left the town when I was about three or for, after my mother Sara (nee Rosenbaum) of blessed memory died.

From the stories of my father and his friends, I am able to imagine a portrait of my father's youth. As did most of the youth at the beginning of the 20 th century, Moshe Branik moved to larger cities, Lvov the capital of Galicia, and Vienna the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to study Torah. These were the spiritual centers for the Jews of eastern and central Europe of that time.

My father was fourteen years old when he left (fled) from his house to the centers of Torah. He completed his studies at the rabbinical seminary in Vienna, however he did not do so to serve as a clergyman, but rather to broaden his knowledge. There he became enthused with Zionism and was drawn to the magic of the Hebrew language, to which he decided to dedicate his life.

In the meantime, the First World War broke out and my father was drafted into the army of His Majesty Kaiser Franz Josef, and send to the Russian front. He returned to Rozniatow at the end of the war and began his Zionist activity by spreading the Hebrew language in Eastern Galicia. My father, Moshe Branik, became the Hebrew teacher of the town and merited to have many admirers. His many students spread all over the world, and the following story will be an example of that:


A Meeting of Rozniatow Natives in Stockholm

Years ago, on my way from Latin America to Israel, I passed through Stockholm. There, I had to transmit a greeting to a Jew from Tarnopol from his friend in Montevideo. In his time, the man was an active Communist and was sent to Sweden as the business attaché of Communist Poland. After his tour of duty, he decided to request political asylum and not to return to his country.

I visited him, and we chatted about our common origins. A women with a Nordic appearance entered his house and exchanged some words with him in Swedish. In the interim, he told her who I was, and she suddenly started to speak to me in Polish. I then thought that she was not Swedish, but rather a Polish gentile, according to the appearance of her face. However to my surprise, it became clear to me that she was Jewish. As usual, she began to ask me about my origins, and I told her that I was born in the area of Lvov. For some reason, she continued asking: “From Lvov itself?”. I answered: “From a small town near Lvov, but you would certainly never have heard of it”. After some urging, I told her: “From Rozniatow”.

Her face lit up. “You are from Rozniatow? I am also from Rozniatow”.

When I saw the look in her face, I told her my name, Barkai. Now she did not let up from me, and asked me for my original name, before I changed it in Israel.

I told her: “Branik”.

Then the women became very emotional, and tears welled up in her eyes:

“You are the son of Moshe Branik, my teacher!”

Thus did two Rozniatow natives meet, an Israeli Zionist returning home from a tour of duty in South America, and a Jewish Communist who fled from her “native” Poland to far off Stockholm, and the chain was connected between us – my father Moshe Branik.

However, as I already mentioned, Rozniatow was only the first stop of Moshe Branik. The place was small, and there were few opportunities. My father traveled to Lvov, a major Jewish center. When he arrived, he took on several tasks and he was chosen to lead an educational institution in a village near Lvov.

His personality of an educator inspired him to dedicate himself to the education of Jewish children, mainly orphans, in order to train them professionally and Zionistically to make aliya to Israel. However, during that dark time he was forced to accept upon him the task of general principal of the Tarbut school network of Eastern Galicia.

Moshe Branik had a great deal of gratification from this task. He had the opportunity to develop his pedagogic and organizational abilities. Very quickly, Hebrew courses became part of the curriculum of the schools kindergartens. There were courses for older students in the gymnasia, as well as a teacher's seminary.

Seated: Yitzchak Barkai.
Second row from right: Sosha Stern, Matilda Hoffnung,
Betty Rosenbaum, Etka Stern, Esther Rosenbaum,
Shabtai Rosenberg, Rosie Falik, Ashtzi Trau,
Esther Weidman, Avrahamele Hoffman

 

The youth was healthy in body and spirit. They desired to make aliya to the Land and to build their future in Israel without thinking about the difficult situation in the Land or the difficult conditions of absorption. They were very interested in lessons on the history and geography of the Land of Israel.

I remember this era very well. I was a young boy watching my father's activities from a distance. Today, with retrospective vision, I remember evenings when my father returned home tired and worn out from his visits to cities and towns in Eastern Galicia. He would tell us with satisfaction about the opening of a school in a certain town, or the expansion of the Hebrew curriculum in another town, etc.

At the end of the 1930s, the network of Tarbut Hebrew schools slowly expanded. Our house turned into a meeting place for dozens of Hebrew teachers. There were meetings of the Hebrew teachers of Galicia during the annual conventions during the summer vacation in the Carpathian Mountains, in Yaremcha, Mikocin, and other vacation spots along the Prut River. As the years went on, a Tarbut Hebrew gymnasia was founded in Lvov, where they taught various subjects in Hebrew. I myself became a student of that gymnasia and I remember the feeling of being the son of the principal. I had to serve as an example.


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Bialik and Stavi in Rozniatow


In 1934 I believe, The poet Ch. N. Bialik and later the writer Moshe Stavski (Stavi) visited us. Both of them brought first to our house the blowing breeze of the Land of Israel. Even before that time I had heard and known about the Land of Israel. It was the center of all of our studies. However, until that time, the Land of Israel was an abstract idea. Bialik and later Stavski brought the real land of Israel to our home.

I remember Stavski's visit to the home of the Ukrainian farmer where we lived for the summer. The Hebrew writer stood among the farmers and began to harvest with a sickle, and it was possible to sense what was happening; a Jew knew how to harvest. When Stavski began to place the shoes on the horse with his steady hand, there were no bounds to the respect that he merited among the group of gentiles in the Carpathian Mountains.

These visits of Bialik and Stavski apparently also had an effect on my father. He decided to visit the land of Israel. He could not continue on as previously. Suddenly, he felt as if he must serve as an example for others. How could he continue to educate others when he himself remained there? For my father, the study of the Hebrew language was not just learning for the sake of learning; it was rather a means for attaining an objective. Hebrew for the sake of aliya and life in the Land of Israel.

In 1935, my father went on his first visit to the Land of Israel, in order to decide there about his future. After a few months, he returned home full of enthusiasm and decided definitively to make aliya. The Land enchanted him. People tried to urge him to delay his aliya until they found a replacement for him, however his answer was always the same: “You will not find a replacement for me if I do not make aliya”. A year after his visit, in 1936, my father received a valuable “certificate” as a Zionist leader, and made aliya to the Land.

This was the time of the Fifth Aliya. It was the beginning of the “incidents”, there were daily casualties; however it was specifically this situation that urged my father to make aliya. His first days in the land were particularly difficult. He had difficulty in adapting, as was the situation with many of the Zionist activists. First of all, he found himself among hundreds of teachers and activists, he came to the land of his dreams… and here “they do not know Joseph” [9] .

He overcame his difficulties and began to receive offers. He found a position as the principal of the educational division of the Tel Aviv municipality, at the center for culture of the Histadrut. However he was searching for a position where he could start something from anew, create something out of nothing. That was the reason that he preferred to set up an organization for adults rather than take on more enchanting jobs. The word “etgar” (“challenge”) was not yet in use, however my father preferred the task of organizing and strengthening the non-organized public, without fanfare or popularity, such as organizations for householders.

Within a short period of time, Moshe Branik succeeded in turning the individualistic community into an organized center for householders in Israel. He published a monthly economic periodical called “Haboneh” (“The Builder”), and he put all of his energies into this area. However this was not more than he did for his first love, Tarbut.

During the years 1938-1939, my father found a topic that occupied him completely. These were years of siege and incidents, and the organization “Kufar Hayishuv” was set up. My father was one of its directors. He threw himself into this holy work, and found satisfaction when his ideas for public volunteer activities, donations of jewelry, etc. were accepted.

However, his cruel fate caught up with him there. A mosquito bearing malaria bit him, and within a few days he died at the young age of 44. His friends and fans inscribed on his monument: “Here is buried Moshe Branik, the chief of the strugglers for Hebrew culture in Eastern Galicia”.

The Hebrew school in 1922

 


{118}

Baruch Keller

by A. Friedler-Scharf


There was a dear Jewish personality in our town, who was happy with his lot even though he lived in financial distress. He would often tell jokes. He was known to everyone as Reb Baruch Shmuel Hershenes. Here are a few of the jokes he told that I still remember, and I wish to write them down.

When he was once asked: “Reb Baruch, do you yet have anything for Passover?”, he innocently answered: “I already have matzos, wine, and meat”.

“From where do you have these?”

“Last year, I was left behind a basket of matzos, some flasks of wine, and a pot of meat.”

One he happened to be in the railway station of Krechowice, and he was seen feeling his pockets as if he had lost something. When he was asked what he was looking for, he answered: “See, I came here by foot in order to save a few coins, and I lost them in any case.”

During a time of difficulty, he asked the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) to give him money in order to buy shrouds for his wife. When they came to his house to take away the body, they discovered that his wife was alive and well. They asked him with surprise what happened. He answered them:

“Behold, she will in any case be with you, if not now, then after some time… no matter what she will not escape from you.”

Once Reb Baruch asked Tzvi Fesberg to give him a coin, and then he would show him something that he could not wait for!

When he answered, he grabbed the corners of his beard, put them in his mouth and said:

“On the other hand, you do as I am doing…”


{119}

Avraham Zauerberg – the Man and his Activities

by Y. Har-Zohar


Among the other cities and small towns in Galicia, famous or less famous, one small town can be found far away from the main communication network, at the outlet of the Bystritsa River into the Dniester. This town is called Jezupol, or in spoken Yiddish, Izipoli, and is near the large regional city of Stanislawow.

Two main Jewish families lived in this town, who were the heads of all of the Jewish families of Jezupol, the Erlich family and the Lublin family. The first supplied all of the families of the fisherman in the town and the area, and the second supplied the other households of the town who worked at various means of livelihood.

The householders, who were scholars, Hassidim of Chortkov and Zidichev, congregated in their kloizes and were like one family. They married off their children to each other, and there was almost nobody who was not connected to the other half of the residents of the town. The entire public and communal life was centered around the kloizes and Beis Midrash. These were places of study, recreation, Hassidic gatherings, weddings, and holy festive occasions.

The rays of the Haskalah and the echoes of the first calls of Chovevei Zion began to break through the openings of the blinds of the Beis Midrash and kloizez. Here and there, one could find under the bench of the Beis Midrash a boy who was hiding with the book “Ahavat Zion” of Mapu or “Chavatzelet”, or someone humming “Al Em Derech” [10] . The hearts of the young people beat quicker when they heard the echoes of the footsteps of the first people making aliya to Zion and the echoes of rebelliousness and shooting from far off Russia. These things moved something in the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the town. Voices of freedom and liberation rose up from afar and made echoes through the iron blinds of the Beis Midrash into the benches of the Beis Midrashes and kloizes of Jezupol. They blew into the heart of the young Avramche new desires, for concealed far off places. The discussions and thoughts that customarily took place regarding difficult segments of Talmud, on the right interpretation of the page, finding an answer to a difficult segment of Maimonides, on the piercing question of Maimonides' Guide For the Perplexed, finding answers for the doubts of the heart, all began to suddenly take on rings that were previously unknown and strange to their surroundings.

Who is the man who understands the great wonder which took root in the hearts and brains of the Yeshiva students, who did not leave the benches of the Beis Midrash, who never set foot in a secular school, and now all of a sudden it was as if a new light was lit in their hearts? Very many abandoned their roots and the rock that forged them, went to drink from foreign cisterns and joined the ranks of those who rebelled against the old world order, forged a new path, and called for freedom and liberty.

The minority who were not swept away by the tempest of the times, who were able to withstand, and who remain strongly attached to the benches of the old Beis Midrash, the warn out folios, were also not passed over by the call for freedom and liberty. Between studying pages of Gemara, between Mincha and Maariv, they found the time to write down on paper the thoughts of their hearts and yearnings of their souls. These were not the voices of the Talmudic sages arguing about an egg that had not yet been born [11], but rather about a poor and downtrodden mother, about a house that was about to collapse, about the high position of the well-to-do and the downtrodden situation of the poor, about the thoughts and aromas of the times. The stanzas almost flowed by the dozen from the pens by themselves, onto the margins of pamphlets and writing paper, onto notes of accounts. However they were almost all lost or destroyed. We will discuss some here and copy the few that survived by chance.

It was hard for father to part from his dear son, his assistant and supporter. However, how can one go against the verse in the Torah: “And therefore a man…” [12]? He joined his blessing with the blessing of the loving mother, and they traveled to Rozniatow to marry off their eldest son at an auspicious occasion, for good luck, to the praiseworthy bride, the daughter of Reb Shmuel Wert. They left behind their child of old age in his cradle.

The boy Avraham became “The Apprentice Reb Avramche of Jezupol”, among the rest of the silk apprentices in the town. They set up a place for him in the kloiz, and he continued with regular Torah study as he began his career in his father-in-law's flour business with his young wife helping him at his side.

Their honeymoon period did not last long. The First World War broke out. Avraham the apprentice was drafted to the Austrian Army and was immediately sent to the front. His young wife accompanied him from afar with the fasts of Mondays and Thursdays [13]. She continued her husband's flour business and hid gifts for the poor under her apron. She conducted acts of private charity. She would give out a bit of flour for the Sabbath challas and some hot food for poor women who had just given birth. In one poor house they had to revive her from her swoon. It was Monday, her private fast day for her well being and for the speedy return of her beloved husband. She went on her daily journey to the houses of the poor and forgot to partake of something early in the morning to sustain her for the fast day. Her weakened heart caused her to swoon.

To the thunder of artillery and cannon shells, between hunger pangs and poverty, after a difficult labor and the crying out for mercy in the synagogues and at the graves of ancestors, their firstborn daughter was born. She was small and weak, pale and short of blood. A candle was lit in the home. The father received a brief furlough between the battles to embrace his newborn daughter. When he returned to the front, he dreamt sweet dreams about a warm nest and small nestlings with fragile wings. He sent letters filled with love and longing to his fragile wife and his young nestling who had just recently been born into the air of the world. There was pain and agony in the house of his parents, for his four brothers had been drafted into the army. His parents were exiled to Hungary. They wandered around from place to place, taking with them their young children. They lost contact.

When the storm abated the joy was great, for the children returned to their homes, healthy in body and complete in spirit.

When the apprentice Avramche Zauerberg returned home after the war, he found his niche in communal activity. Here there was a family that was broken due to the war that needed support, there was a need to rebuild the Beis Midrash which had been burnt, and there were storekeepers who were being strangled under the burden of debts which they could not pay. There was a need to set up a charitable foundation to help those who were stumbling, to enable struggling merchants to purchase some merchandise in order to maintain their livelihood.

Avraham left his young wife in the store, and together with Rosenberg or someone else, would make the rounds to people of means in the neighboring villages to collect flour for Passover or for some other mitzvah. In his home, he organized a chess club and a choir for young singers headed by the cantor-shochet Reb David.

Externally Avraham resembled an ardent Hassid, dressed in a kapote cloak, with a streimel on his head, and with a black beard that had never been touched by a pair of scissors. Nevertheless, on Sabbath evenings after the Sabbath meal, one could find him going on a long walk accompanied by his eldest daughter. On his way, he would chat with one youth or another and tell a joke. That youth would tell it over to someone else, and within a few moments, all of young people of Rozniatow suddenly gathered around Reb Avramche, boys and girls, laughing at his stories and jokes.

He was a good conversationalist. He was able to tell stories and gather around him interested people who would drink up his words with thirst, words that were spiced with humor and jokes. Despite his Hassidic appearance, he did not hesitate at weddings to be at the head of those who entertained and danced in front of the bride and groom. He speedily removed his outer cloak and hat, and with a kippa (skullcap) on his head he began to sing and dance “keitzad merakdim, keitzad merakdim” [14]. Accompanied by the enthusiastic group of singers and dancers, he would speedily arrange the well-known “Kaprosh” dance. He would direct it and issue the orders. Woe to the dancer who was not able to remove his shoe quick enough after been issued the command, or to take out his fringes from the four corners. He would have to pay good money to the band.

He was beloved by his fellowman and he was blessed with great wisdom, and therefore he became 'the' arbitrator of the town. Any difficult dispute between two people was brought before Reb Avramche. With his great intellect and deliberation, he knew how to arrange compromises and prevent strife and bitterness.

If there was a bride who was not able to pay off the little that she promised for her wedding, he would redeem her from her straits. He purchased for a significant sum of money an additional place in the Beis Midrash, in addition to the three that he had inherited. That was his manner, he went about his business discreetly, and therefore everyone loved and revered him. He was a person who exuded both Torah and good character traits, and he was beloved by all who knew him.

At the twilight of the day, when darkness covered the land and the silence of death was not disturbed, not by the victorious sounds of dictators nor by the sounds of the dying, there was only the small sound of flames eating up parchment and the remnants of the martyrs who were being burnt at night. Hear and there, it was possible to see how the earth, which absorbed the bodies of the pure martyrs, trembled and shook from pain and embarrassment. A wounded and tattered person struggled with his last strength after succeeding in coming out of the pit, having been covered by many other bodies. The person was breathing his last breath.

The echoes of the shooting of the martyrs of Rozniatow, who had been shot not far from there, from the prison of Dolina, reached the ears of the six people who were imprisoned. They were waiting for their verdict. These included Zindler, Avramche Zauerberg and his young son Pinieli.

They had finished the others off on Sunday. This day was Wednesday, and Avramche repeated over and over again the Psalm for Wednesday: “G-d is a G-d of vengeance, let the G-d of vengeance appear” [15]. He repeated it over and over again and took comfort. The chain had not yet been broken! There is still reward for his labors! Israel shall not be a widower!!! There, far away in the east, in a place where the heart and thoughts do not stop pining for, there is a survivor! There is a brand plucked from fire [16]. The brand became a fire, and the fire a flame which will burn and light up the darkness of the frightful night.

The next day at sunrise, at the time when you can tell the difference between blue and green [17], the time of reciting the morning Shema, they took the six out from the jail in Dolina and brought them to the nearby forest. Avraham still managed to tie a rope around his waste like a silk waistband [18] in order to read the order of morning sacrifices, and he sanctified the name of Heaven by reciting the Shema as the bullets of the murderers cut down five of the six victims. The only survivor, Zindler, merited to fulfil the will of his friends, to remember and perpetuate them, and to take revenge for them.

Avraham Zauerberg merited to leave behind in Israel a brother Yehuda, who is writing these lines with tears, a daughter Miriam, and two granddaughters, Tamar-Dvora and Esther-Tehila, who remember the memory of this honorable family with trembling.

Yitgadal Veyitkadash Shmei Raba! [19]



Translator's Footnotes
  1. The Hebrew form used here is taken from biblical grammatical structure. For example: “And it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus” (opening line of the book of Esther); “And it came to pass during the time that the judges judged” (opening line of the book of Ruth). There is a Talmudic opinion that any biblical section that opens with 'And it came to pass' denotes a bad event. This certainly applies here, and I suspect that it was the author's intention. Back
  2. Czechoslovakia was only formed in 1918, with the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so to be more accurate; he was born in the Austro-Hungarian province of Bohemia. Back
  3. This poem appears in a box on the bottom of page 109. Kol Nidre and Unetane Tokef are well-known prayers of the High Holy Days. Tikun Chatzot is a dirge over the destruction of the temple recited by especially pious people at midnight. Back
  4. The works of Jewish mysticism. Back
  5. Orthodox Jewish women generally keep their hair covered after their marriage. This can be accomplished by a hat, beret, snood, wig, or any other type of covering. An orthodox Jewish wig is known as a sheitel. In Hassidic circles it used to be common that women cut of their hair completely prior to their marriage. Back
  6. Matzo Shmura is matzo made with special care for the purpose of fulfilling the commandment of eating matzo at the Seder. Hallel is a selection of Psalms (113-118) recited on various festivals. Back
  7. An etrog (citron), is one of the four species – the others being the lulav (palm frond), hadas (myrtle twigs), and arava (willow twigs) – which are biblically mandated to be used as part of the Sukkot celebration. Back
  8. The Kaddish prayer is generally recited by the surviving sons, but he had only daughters. Back
  9. A reference from the beginning of Exodus, where the new Pharaoh does not remember the deeds of Joseph. Here it means that his uniqueness and qualifications in his hometown were not recognized in his new place. Back
  10. Translates as “Along the Way”, seeming a Zionist song of the time. Back
  11. A reference to the opening discussion of Tractate Beitza of the Talmud, which discusses whether an egg born on a festival day can be eaten that day, or on the subsequent festival day.   Back
  12. This verse, in the book of Genesis, described the situation of human nature after G-d created the woman from part of the man: “And therefore a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” Back
  13. Monday and Thursdays are traditional days to fast in times of distress. Back
  14. A traditional wedding son: “How does one dance before the bride? A lovely and gracious bride.” Back
  15. Each day of the week has a specific Psalm, which is recited as part of the morning service. The Psalm of Wednesday is 94. Back
  16. Several of these phrases are biblical or midrashic in origin. “There is reward for your efforts” is from Jeremiah 31, referring to G-d's promise to Rachel as she was weeping for the loss of her children. “A brand plucked from the fire” is from Zechariah 3. Back
  17. Being able to tell the difference between blue and green refers to a time in the morning, before sunrise, when Jewish law deems it valid to put on the tefillin (phylacteries). Back
  18. The waistband 'avnet' or 'gartel' is worn by Hassidim during prayer.  Back
  19. These are the opening words of the Kaddish prayer: Magnified and Sanctified is the Great Name! Back

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