I am writing for you, children and grandchildren, despite the fact that I know that you have studied or are still studying in Hebrew schools, studying Jewish literature including the works of Shalom Aleichem, Mendele, Peretz and Agnon, each one of whom tried to the best of his ability to describe Jewish life in the towns of Russia, Ukraine, Poland or Lithuania. Agnon, as a native of eastern Galicia, attempted to portray in his books Jewish life in Galicia as we still well remember it. I do not wish to compete with his ability, only to perpetuate the memory of the martyrs of our town. These are chapters of life of our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, in order to memorialize them.
When they reached their destination, the Rebbe's court, on the eve of the Sabbath or festival, they would be greeted by the crowding and pressure of throngs of Hassidim who also came there to spend the Sabbath with the holy Rebbe or to worship with the Rebbe on the festival. At home, he left his wife and family members, who would spend the Sabbath or festival without the head of the family. On occasion, the father would take with him his eldest son, who would reach the age of Bar Mitzvah in a few more years and would have to become a man. Therefore, the father was obligated to introduce him to the ways of Hassidism, despite the fact that this was accompanied by the difficulties and many trials of a long journey.
On the eve of the holy Sabbath, after each of the visiting Hassidim finished his Sabbath meal at the home of his respective host, they would all gather together around the Rebbe's table. Very late in the evening, the Rebbe would begin the recital of Shalom Aleichem, and would enunciate the Ribbon Kol Haolamim 2 word by word. Hundreds of Hassidim were gathered around the table, listening intently to every word uttered by the Rebbe. Silence pervaded in the large hall where the Rabbi partook of his Sabbath or festival meal.
|Reb Tzvi Hirsch Rechtschaffen,
a Hassid of the Rebbe of Glinna
The Rebbe was enwrapped in his tallit (prayer shawl), burning from an internal flame and from the enthusiasm of the Sabbath, recited the Kiddush 3 , enunciating each word. He would sip from this large silver cup and pass it around to his family members. His wife the Rebbetzin and his daughters would hear the Kiddush from the women's gallery. The Rebbe's assistant (shamash) would then pass them the Rebbe's cup of benediction. A bowl for hand washing would be brought before the Rebbe, and he would lave his hands, raising them up and reciting Lift up your hands in holiness, and bless the L-rd. He would then recite the blessing over the bread (challah), and the Rebbe's Sabbath meal would commence.
Until the food was served, the Rebbe or one of the Hassidim would quietly hum a melody, without words. Those close with the Rebbe, his confidants, would then begin to sit down at the table. The gabbai (manager of the proceedings) would invite them to the table, each person according to his importance and rank.
There were Rebbes who were great in Torah and thought, whose entire contact with the people was through Torah philosophy, through words of teaching, Torah novellae, and lessons in the ways of Hassidism. Their entire desire would be to grow in Torah, to study Torah, and to spread Torah.
In Rozniatow, there were Hassidim who were Torah scholars and lofty people, and there were Hassidim of Strolisk, Burstyn, Czortkow, and Sasow, populist Hassidim of the simple folk. Both types observed the days of Hassidic consciousness. On the memorial days (yahrzeit) of various Tzadikim, they would make a small celebration, drink a toast, wish each other well, and break out in a Hassidic dance, filled with enthusiasm 4 .
At the Hassidic gatherings with the Rebbe, when throngs of Hassidim from all areas of the land gathered together, people became friendly with each other. They would make business deals with each other, and on occasion they would shake hands between themselves in agreement to marry their children to each other. There were occasions when the Hassidim became so friendly with each other, that if news arrived from home that the wife of one of the Hassidim gave birth at a propitious time, many of his Hassidic friends would hurry toward him to make an arrangement for an agreement to marry off their own recently born child with the newborn.
In order to cement the connection between the Rebbe and the people, the Rebbes would go down to the people, that is to say, they would visit the towns of their followers once or twice a year. The Rebbe would stay with one of the influential local Hassidim for approximately a week, and he would receive the local Hassidim each evening until a late hour of the evening. The Rebbe's Sabbath table would take place in the kloiz. If the Rebbe were accustomed to leading prayers with a nice voice, he himself would lead the prayers that Sabbath. If not, one of the experienced Hassidim who knew how to sing would lead the prayers. Anyone interested in song and music, either alone or with a choir, would be present, and thus did the melodies of the Rebbe's table pass along from mouth to mouth, so that they would be able to be sung by the people throughout the year, until the Rebbe appeared again and taught a new melody.
It was a great day for the parents, family members, and certainly for the young child, when he would start the study of Chumash 7 at a propitious time. They would dress the child in his Sabbath clothes. The child's father or a good uncle would tie a large gold chain around his neck, to which was affixed a large watch that could be opened by pushing its two sides. All of the family members gathered together, the grandmothers and grandfathers from both the father's and mother's side, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, and the house would be full of people. On account of the festive occasion, they would light the Sabbath candelabrum; they would have the young child stand on the table that was full of delicacies and presents for the children. The Rebbi would stand next to the child, holding him with his hand so that he would not fall off the table, and so that he would not become confused due to anxiety, and cause anguish to the Rebbi for not teaching properly. The Rebbi would then begin to ask him, What are you learning, oh young child?. The child would answer with a festive voice, Chumash, to my good fortune. What is the meaning of Chumash? the Rebbi asked, Chumash means five, answered the child.
Why five?, asked the Rebbi, Perhaps it is five coins for a bagel?. No, answered the child with laughter and self-assurance, Chumash refers to the five holy books. Perhaps you know their names?, asked the Rebbi. Certainly!, answered the child, The first is Breishit, the second Shmot, the third Vayikra, the fourth Bamidbar, and the last one is Devorim.
This continued with a special festive chant, and all those gathered around were melting with laughter and enjoyment. The mother discreetly wiped away a tear, due to her great pride in her progeny.
The Rebbi continued with is questions:
What book are you going to study?. The child answered, The third one, Vayikra. Why Vayikra?, asked the Rebbi. Because the book of Vayikra deals with holy things, and I, a Jewish boy, who is starting to learn Torah at a propitious occasion, am also holy. Therefore, I will start with the book of Vayikra.
There was another day when we were quite happy and playful. This was when we all went to the river or the pond for Tashlich 10 . The adults went on Rosh Hashana and recited their prayers from the Machzor 11 , and we children concerned ourselves with casting ships into the river, with candles burning on them. Despite the fact that it was forbidden to light a candle on the festival, someone made sure to provide us with candles 12 . We made boats out of all sorts of boards, planks and other floating material. We chased after them along the river, and it was very joyous.
We would play with cards or dreidels (tops) on Chanuka. On Purim, we would play even or odd with nuts. There was no shortage of nuts, and sometimes, children would wander around with pockets full of nuts. The game was very popular and beloved by the children.
During the winter, when the studies commenced immediately after the festivals, and the days became shorter, we would continue to study at the cheder until night, and we would return home late, when it was dark. The children were frightened. There were parents who equipped their children with all sorts of lanterns to light up the way home. Once, as I was going home with a lit lantern in my hand, two gentiles fell upon me, removed the lantern, and fled. I arrived home trembling in fear. My parents comforted me. After that time, we went home in groups. In order to calm our fear, we sang the entire way until we reached home in peace.
|At a Chanuka party in 1958 in Tel Aviv
From left: Yechezkel Neubauer, Zecharia Friedler, Nechemia Tanne,
Mordechai Trau, the widow of Archie Berger, Mrs. Tanne, Mrs. Trau,
Lischi Trau, Mrs. Weissman, Rosie Stern-Falik, Mordechai Stern
The man was very humble as I remember him. He was modest, and went about discreetly. He never aspired to be a communal activist, and he never agreed to be even the gabbai (trustee) in the kloiz. He was a Hassid of Zidichov and he was also faithful to Rabbi Betzalel, the Rebbe of Glinna. He honored him greatly when he came to Rozniatow. Once the Rebbe of Glinna left Rozniatow and arrived in Bolekhov. As the Sabbath holiness was commencing, his soul departed as he as saying the words: Light is sown for the righteous. The following week, my father was sent by the community to be present at the coronation of his son Reb Chaim as Admor.
In accordance with the advice of the Admor, my father left the village Zinowa in 1907 and moved to live in Rozniatow, where he continued conducting himself as a G-d fearing Jew. He was discreet. He did not flee from small things, and did not aspire to greatness. He shared his heartwarming smile with anyone who he met on the street. In conducting his business, he never agreed to take anyone to court or to a rabbinical adjucation, so as not to cause an oath 13 . At one time the son of his brother, David the son of Moshe of the village of Sliwka, left an inheritance to the community, which became the cause of controversy between the notables of the city. When the matter came to litigation, my father was summoned to court. He refused strongly to present himself and to give testimony under oath.
The farmers called him Szlomko Zytlani Zhid. That means: righteous Jew. He was brimming with love of his fellow and friendship.
Our mother Esther was known as a refined and noble hearted woman. She was fluent in the German language, and even with all of her education, she kept the commandments. She went to worship in the synagogue every Sabbath and she remained faithful to her path for all of her days.
Their fate was the same as the fate of all of the Jews. They were exiled to Dolina and perished in the Holocaust.
My grandfather Meir was one of those who fought on behalf of Reb Itzikel, that he should be accepted as the rabbi in Rozniatow. This was the factor that decided the matter in his favor. That is what the elders of Rozniatow relate.
Grandfather hired the best teachers for his children. Among other subjects, they studied German and Polish; however his main desire was the spreading of Torah and the study of Torah.
During the time of the occupation, when the Czarist Russian army occupied the area, my grandfather and my Uncle Moshe were expelled from the town. Their property two flourmills, a tavern and a store was confiscated. The Russians made a libel against my grandfather, and took my Uncle Moshe as surety. He was freed after a time due to the intercession of Baron Walysz, who was one of my grandfather's friends.
My Uncle Moshe became ill as a result of the libel. At that time, he began to take on students, whom he taught Torah and the vernacular written language. He was an erudite and scholarly man, who loved simplicity. He was modest. His greatness was his modesty.
His wife Chaya Eti was the daughter of his sister Nessi 14 . They all perished in the Holocaust.
May their memory be a blessing.
They moved to the city in 1908 or 1909. Their large and spacious home was built near Baron Walysz.
He would go to his work early each day. He employed Jews and gentiles, and he maintained cordial relations with them all. He came to worship in the kloiz each Sabbath.
He was a modest man who distanced himself from all communal activity, and never became involved in any controversy in town. They both maintained good and proper relations with their neighbors, and all residents of the city respected them. He excelled in his patience, and nobody ever saw him angry. He would attempt to convince the opposing party quietly and calmly.
His wife Chaitzi was an exemplary housewife. She conducted the household with a good spirit. She raised her family, blessed with many children, in the spirit of grandfather. She knew how to instill good manners into her children, and taught them first and foremost to honor their fellowman.
They were known in the entire area for gracefully receiving anyone who entered their home.
After a tiring and busy day at work, she found time to read books and the newspaper. Over and above anything else, she thirsted to hear news and words about the Land of Israel.
The Nazi claw did not pass over their home.
May their memories be a blessing!
Reb Yisrael excelled in sublime character traits. He was always an optimist, and always in a good mood. He was a scholar, and rooted in communal affairs. However, he distanced himself from communal activity, and did not agree to become one of the community's chief spokesmen, despite the numerous requests that came his way.
Ethel and Yisrael Trau owned the largest grain store in the city and the area. Many purchasers from the entire area came to them. The good service, friendliness, and business honesty were taken for granted by everyone.
Ethel Trau faithfully assisted the needy with love and dedication.
Perl and Chana were known for conducting their households in a good, orderly, and traditional fashion.
Eli Yona was a flour merchant and wholesaler. Shmuel Friedler acquired the daughter of Chanina Weissman, and transferred his large and spacious store to that home 16 .
Leibele was known as an educated person. He studied during his youth with Reb Yehudale Kaufman, who developed Leibele's knowledge and diligence to exemplary levels.
They were both righteous and dedicated to tradition. The Zionist movement and its factions were close to their heart. However, they did not want to join any one of them, in order not to reject the others. They were among the worshipers of the Great Synagogue, and on occasion, they also worshiped in the kloiz with their father.
There were many reasons to visit the flourmill and to observe it and the deeds of the owner of the flourmill Reb Efraim. Nearby were the cheder of Reb Yehudale; the river, which was worthwhile to visit in the summer and the winter; the route to the old city; the bathing place at the Rynika or the river, etc. We were always received graciously and with a smile. Uncle Efraim was never angry at the children who disturbed him. He received our inquiries patiently, and he willingly answered the questions of everyone.
I had many opportunities to be in the company of Reb Efraim and his wife Perl when I was sent to the mill by my father for various matters. I also used to visit their house to visit my school chum, their son Kasriel Serel, may he live long. He lives in Antwerp. His sister Reizel also lives there. Their home is open to guests.
Perl and Efraim Rechtschaffen offered faithful assistance, discreetly and quietly, to all in need. Efraim Rechtschaffen worshipped in the Great Synagogue. I often saw him among the worshippers of the kloiz. He was received there with the honor and graciousness that was befitting for him.
He had studied with Reb Yitzchak Branik. Leizer was though of at the time as a scholar in Jewish studies. General studies were also not strange to him.
Leitzi and Eliezer 17 Geller found a broad range field of activity with the Hebrew school. They supported its activities with dedication. They distanced themselves from all controversies, and he only saw the good and his own obligation in everything.
All of these families were destroyed by the Nazi enemy.
May their memories be blessed!
This Jew lived alone and lonely amongst the gentiles in the village of Swaryczow, far from the farm of the Weinfelds who lived in that same village. He would purchase several eggs, chickens, fish, potatoes and apples from the gentiles of his village. He would load the merchandise into baskets and sacks. Despite his severe disability, he would travel by foot on unpaved roads a distance of ten kilometers until he arrived in Rozniatow. There they took pity on him, gave him something to eat and drink, and purchased his meager merchandise from him. Thus did Yankel the Lame, who lived a life of agony and poverty, earn his livelihood. He was the only Jew among many gentile villagers. He lived with his wife and two children.
He suffered from many trials and tribulations; however in his dealings with the Jews of Rozniatow, everyone showed him feelings of love and brotherhood. They all opened their hearts and homes to take him in as a guest. This had its influence on him, and his face glowed from goodheartedness and good hope.
During the day and during the night, awake or in a dream
I remember them as if it was yesterday.
I lived with them in the peace and friendship
That accompanied all of them on all paths and routes.
In the present reality all that remains is pain and agony
That eat at my heart without respite
For the young children who were torn by the wolf
That fed our nation a full cup of poison.
For the elders of the city, people of Torah
How can I forget you for even a small moment
You who were erased from the face of the earth with a swipe from the back of the hand
During the days of the camps and the terrible Holocaust.
These do I remember
Reb Yehuda Hirsch the old judge
Reb Menachem Yosef the young rabbi
Reb Moshele Weiser, the elder of the shochtim (ritual slaughterers)
And Reb Zecharia David Liberman, the vice mayor of the city
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