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{Page 280}

1. Motish Eckstein's Family

by Shlomo Tal

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 280: Reuven Eckstein.}

Reb Mordechai Eckstein's origins are from the Kolbuszowa region. He then settled in Rzeszow. Reb Mordechai, or as he was known by everyone, Reb Motish, was one of the veteran Hassidim of Dzikow. He found protection under the shadow of Rabbi Meir of Dzikow, the author of Imrei Noam and was one of the chief Hassidim of his son Rabbi Yehoshua, the author of Ateret Yehoshua. He was very active in Torah and Hassidism. He conducted his own minyan in his home, and on Friday and festival evenings, the Hassidim of Dzikow and others gathered there and occupied themselves with words of Torah, Hassidic stories, song and dance with spiritual exaltation. His home was open wide, and many guests ate at his table on Sabbaths. During the First World War, five Hassidim of Radzin lived permanently in his home. They had escaped from the Russian army and hid from the authorities. They found refuge for several years in the home of Reb Motish, until they were able to return to their own homes.

Reb Motish occupied himself with business very little. His wife Itele conducted the business in the flourmill and sawmill (tartak), and Reb Motish dedicated most of his time to communal matters. He was the parnas of the city for more than 45 years. He led the community with a strong hand. Shochtim (ritual slaughterers), rabbinical judges, bath attendants, and communal officials were appointed by his word. He was also among those who participated in the elections of Reb Nathan Lewin and his son Reb Aharon Lewin, may G-d avenge his blood, as rabbis of Rzeszow. His mark was recognizable in the city. He was the living spirit of the community and communal affairs.

His sons and sons-in-law followed in his path. They were all scholars and Hassidim, who worked in charitable endeavors and were involved in communal life – each of them being a unique personality.

His eldest son Reb Meir was considered to be one of the expert scholars and activists of Rzeszow, which was full of scholars and scribes. He set aside time to study Torah on his own and with talented young men. His splendid face and his entire external demeanor exuded honor. He also had a broad general knowledge. He knew German and Polish fluently, something that was very uncommon in those circles in those days. He was a candidate for the Polish Sejm of the Agudas Yisrael party in Tarnow. On the 11th of Tevet 5588 (1928), he traveled to Dzikow for the yahrzeit observance of Rabbi Yehoshua of Dzikow, and he spent the night in an inn that was heated by coal. The innkeeper forgot to open the smoke chimney. Reb Meir was choked by the poisonous vapors. He died that day, and was buried next to the canopy of Rabbi Yehoshua of Dzikow. He was about 40 years old.

The second son Reb Reuven was, like his brother, a scholar, a fearer of Heaven, a Hassid, and a refined and noble soul. His home was opened wide. There was no second to him with regard to charity and good deeds. Like his brother, he set aside a great deal of time for the study of Torah with students, in the early morning until Shacharit, and in the evening until a late hour. He occupied himself with Hassidism and Kabbalah for many hours after midnight. He was expert in all of the treasures of Judaism, especially in the annals of rabbinic literature. He wrote a commentary on the Selichot prayers[1] called Maamar Mordechai. He had generous and refined character traits. When the Nazis overran Poland, Reb Reuven was imprisoned in the ghetto and became ill with typhus. He died there prior to the liquidation of the ghetto. All of his children perished in the Holocaust.

The third son was Reb Menachem Mendel. He was also a G-d fearing Hassid. He lived in Vienna during the First World War, where he wrote his book “Conditions of the Soul for the Attainment of Hassidism”, published by Menorah, Vienna, 5681 (1921). It was republished with the title of “Introduction to Hassidic Doctrine”, published by Netzach, Tel Aviv, 5720, 1960. He perished in the Holocaust with his entire family.

His son-in-law Reb Menachem Yolles the son of Reb Simcha Yolles (the brother-in-law of Reb Motish) had a noble spirit and a refined soul. He was a scholar, with fine character traits, a Hassid and a fearer of Heaven. He died young, in his father's lifetime. A short time after the death of Reb Menachem, his son Alter died, when he was twenty something years old. His second son Yehoshua and his daughter Chava, who was a fierce partisan, perished in the Holocaust. Likewise, all of Reb Motish's grandchildren perished in the Holocaust: the children of Reb Meir: Ben-Zion, Yosef, Eliahu and Yechiel and their families; the children of Reb Reuven: Chaim Yosef, Shifra, Chana, and their families; the children of Reb Menachem: Moshe Baruch and Chaya and their families. Of all the family, the following survived: Reb Motish's daughter Yehudit Epstein, a physician in Tel Aviv; a son and daughter of Ben-Zion; the daughter of Moshe, son of Pinchas Eckstein, and a daughter of Reb Menachem Yolles. They are all in the Land.


B. The Mintz Family

One of the well-known families in Rzeszow was the Mintz family. The head of the family, Reb Shimon Tovia was an important man among the people, a wealthy Hassid. He owned two brick kilns, one in a suburb of the city as you arrive in Rzeszow from Tyczyn, and the second one in the village of Babica. He had a large, three story house on Gronwaldzka Street 15, where the entire extended family lived. Reb Shimon Tovia bequeathed all of this property to his children.

Reb Shimon Tovia had three sons and four daughters:

  1. the eldest Reb Dov (Berele) Mintz was a Hassid of Blazowa and a great scholar.

    {Page 281}

    Despite his business, he dedicated a great deal of time to the study of Torah. He occupied himself particularly with the Sefer Hamitzvot (Book of Commandments) of Maimonides. He wrote a book in which he answered the glosses of Nachmanides on Maimonides. It is not known if he succeeded in publishing it. He excelled in his straightforwardness and modesty.

  2. Reb Mordechai's (Motele's) brother was also a Hassid, a scholar, and a modest wise man, who was pleasant to everyone. He would arise at 2 or 3 a.m., winter or summer, to study Torah. The aforementioned Mintz house stood next to the house of Dr. Elsner, in which lived Reb Reuven Eckstein, who would sit and study Torah until daybreak. It would be said that both of them were the “guardians of the city” (Neturei Karta)[2]. The light of the candle would break forth from both of those houses throughout the entire night: at Reb Reuven's until 3:00 a.m. and at Reb Mordechai's from 3:00 a.m. and onward.
  3. The third son Reb Pinchas (Pinele) was also, like his brother, a Hassid and a scholar, modest and of fine character.
  4. One daughter, the eldest of the daughters of Reb Shimon Tovia, was married to Reb Shlomo (Shlomche) Teitelbaum, a native of Krakow and one of the dear people of Rzeszow. He would spread Torah publicly, primarily among the strata of workers and laborers, among the members of the Yad Charutzim organization and the Machzikei Limud organization. Reb Shlomche was not an official Hassid, but he conducted himself with piety[3] and self abnegation. He would fast often. He would conduct services every Rosh Chodesh eve in the large kloiz and recite the prayers of Yom Kippur Kattan[4]. He would also fast the entire day on both days of Rosh Hashanah[5].
  5. The second daughter was Anisfeld, who lived in Krakow.
  6. The third daughter was married to Mr. Heller, of the descendents of the Baal Tosafot Yomtov. She lived in Kolomyya.
  7. The youngest daughter was married to Reb Shlomo Spitz, a scholar with a refined soul.
The sons and daughters of them all continued in the paths of their parents. Almost all of them moved from Rzeszow to other cities after their marriages. The one who continued to live in Rzeszow was Reb Yitzchak Mintz the son of Reb Mordechai. He married Mirl the daughter of Reb Chaim Teitelbaum (today in Haifa). He was a scholar and an educated man, with a refined soul and generous character traits.

{Photo page 281: Yitzchak (Isaac) the son of Mordechai Mintz.}

He was a member of Agudat Yisrael youth, and took up the scribe's pen. His articles were published in the Digleinu publication of Agudat Yisrael Youth. He occupied himself in business, and dedicated a great deal of time to spreading of Torah in the place of his uncle Reb Shlomche Teitelbaum who had passed away. He, his wife, and son Shimon Tovia remained in the Rzeszow Ghetto and perished there. One of his activities during the time of the ghetto was the gathering of the many corpses and bringing them to Jewish burial.

Of the entire extended family, four families were able to escape the talons of the Nazis, and they made aliya to the land. The two daughters of Reb Mordechai Mintz: Mrs. Mina and her husband Reb Eliezer Shenker, an artist and an author, who used to live in Yad Eliahu (he died in the year 5725, 1965), and Mrs. Liba and her husband Akiva Teitel, a manufacturer in Tel Aviv. The grandson of Reb Shlomche Teitelbaum, the historian Dr. Yehoshua Horowitz lives in Ramat Gan, and the granddaughter of Mrs. Anisfeld lives in Tel Aviv.


Jewish Judges

by Moshe Reich of Haifa

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Already at the time of the Austrian rule in Galicia (Lesser Poland), a number of Jews in our city served as judges in the regional court. I recall the regional judge Raban from my university days. In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War, in 1939, there were four regional judges in Rzeszow: Yaakov Kessler, Dr. Bernard Kriss, Adolf Silber, and Dr. Marman Otto Binder. Dr. Binder, the son of a lawyer in Rzeszow, converted from his religion and retired already before the war. The three judges, Kessler, Dr. Kriss[6], and Silber were active in their posts until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. They were respected by the community and they were accepted and liked by people. The judges Kriss and Silber were supportive of the Zionist idea, and they donated regularly to the national funds, the Keren Hayesod and the Keren Kayamet LeYisrael. The judge Kessler paid his communal taxes for he did not want to sever his relationship with the Jewish community, even though his wife and son converted to Christianity.

Dr. Griss perished in the Belzec death camp. Silber was shot to death by the Gestapo in Jaroslaw. The judges Binder and Kessler died in Russia, to where they were exiled from Lvov in 1940. It seems that there were no survivors of the families of those judges, aside from the wife and son of Kessler, who currently live in Poland.


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Personalities

by Naphtali Hakhel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I came to Rzeszow in 1917, as a boy of about 10, to my Uncle Shmuel Wilkenfeld, the owner of a store on Gronoldzka Street, in the home of his father-in-law Reb Yoel Feffer. The latter was a very popular personality, about whom many praises were said in the realms of piety and charity. I assisted him in his grocery store, which was always filled with customers. Since my uncle Shmuel of blessed memory was sick, most of the business was conducted by his wife Chayale Feffer. I used to visit often the flourmill of Reb Motish Eckstein with regard to business in flour or bread.

Reb Motish Eckstein was a tall man with an impressive countenance, a Hassid and a scholar, a business man of many activities, the owner of a flourmill and a large electrically driven bakery that would produce about 500 loaves of bread. He also had a “tartak” for the sawing of wood in the large yard of their house. There, there was also a Beis Midrash where people would study and worship daily, and a mikva.

Reb Motish Eckstein himself was not overly occupied with his business. The running of the mill was delegated to a faithful and dedicated gentile. However, the running of the business, that is the receiving of the masses of farmers who brought their grain and wheat, as well as the distribution of flour, etc. – all of this rested on the shoulders of his wife Itele Eckstein. She was a short, thin woman, diligent and intelligent, with a wonderful memory. She was a woman of valor in the true sense of the term. At any free moment, she sat with a Siddur (prayer book) in her hand, and prayed or recited Psalms. She was very involved in charitable works, and the poor of the city would come to her on a set day of the week to receive flour or money.

This modest woman had three sons: Reb Meirche, Reuvele and Mendele, all of them scholars with fine character traits and manners. She also had two daughters. One daughter was married to Menny (Menachem) Yolles, a scholarly Jew. A tragedy occurred to Reb Meirche. When he visited the Rebbe of Dzikow, he lay down to sleep in a room where they forgot to seal up the ignited oven. He never arose from his sleep, and they buried him next to the Rebbe of Dzikow.

For a certain time, I used to study in the Sanzer Kloiz on Mikoszki Street, next to the old cemetery, where the most extreme Orthodox people of the city would worship. In this kloiz, it was forbidden to wear a tie.

Among the worshippers and those who were studying was Reb Avrahamel Schindler, a dear man who would only speak Hebrew on the Sabbath. I also remember Yossele and Hershele, the sons of Avrahamche Shapira. They were expert scholars, and dear people with fine traits. Also studying there was Reb Abale, the son of the brother of the Rebbe of Tyczyn Reb Shlomo Leibele of blessed memory, who was a Gaon in Talmud and rabbinic decisions, and a well-known genius. He was later accepted as the rabbi in a town near Krakow.

There was also a Yeshiva in Rzeszow, headed by Rabbi Yosef Reich (or as he was called, “The Red Yossel””. He was the son of Rabbi Mendele the Judge, a righteous man with precious traits, liked and respected by all circles. He would speak little, only uttering a minimal amount of words. His son Reb Yossel was the principal of the Yeshiva. He would often discuss with his students Hassidism, asceticism, devotion, as well as actual and political topics. Despite his Hassidism and asceticism, he was among those enthusiastic about Zionism. After the death of his father, he was accepted as a judge in the city, and he served along with Reb Berish Steinberg, the head of the rabbinical court. His personality had great influence among the Orthodox community and the youth. (I once drew his image through the window of the women's gallery, as he was studying with his students in the large Kloiz.

I also knew the rabbi of the city, Rabbi Nathan Lewin of holy blessed memory. He was an enchanting personality. Aside from being great in Torah, he was one of the few rabbis who blended modern general knowledge with Torah and the fear of Heaven. His son Dr. Yechezkel Lewin, or as he was known, Chazkeli, was our youth leader in the Young Mizrachi movement. He was known for his oratory talent in Polish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish. He acted with modesty and straightforwardness toward the youth. At his invitation, I drew his father Rabbi Natale Lewin, as he was called. The rabbi sat down especially in his fur cloak and spodek (fur hat) in his rabbinical court. He had an impressive countenance and a silver beard. At that time, I also copied the picture of his late mother and his maternal grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes, the well known Gaon and author of the Beit Yitzchak from Lvov. Dr. Yechezkel Levin was later known as the rabbi in Katowice and Lvov. He perished at the hands of the Nazis, may their names be eradicated. After the passing of his father Rabbi Lewin of Rzeszow, his seat was occupied, as is known, by his brother Rabbi Aharon Lewin, who was formerly a rabbi in Sambor. He was also especially known for his speeches in Polish at the Polish Sejm. In addition to his comprehensive modern knowledge, he was great in Torah. Rabbi Aharon Lewin was among the heads of Agudas Yisroel of Poland.

The well-known Gaon Rabbi Yekutiel Kamelhar of blessed memory lived in Rzeszow for several years. He would deliver his sermons in the large Beis Midrash. I was privileged to attend a Talmud class given by him to a group of youths.

One of the sons of Rabbi Kamelhar, may his light shine[7] was also one of our advisors. He influenced our movement with his presentations and discussions.

Similarly, Yoel Babad of blessed memory, may his blood be avenged, was one of our prominent advisors. He was one of the rare ideal personalities among the religious youth. He and his twin brother were the sons of Reb Avrahamele Babad, a descendent of the Rabbi and Gaon Babad, the rabbi of Lvov, and author of Minchat Chinuch. Yoel Babad was full of Torah and general knowledge. He was a wonderful speaker and had pleasant character traits. His influence among the youth was powerful, and we felt a feeling of camaraderie in his company.


{Page 283}

The Uniqueness of Moshe David Ashriel

by Tzvi Liveh (Liberman)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

From the memorial booklet to Moshe David Ashriel (Gluksman), Kibbutz Ramat David, Adar I, 5722 (1962).

{Photo page 283: Moshe David Ashriel.}

An intermingling of influences was recognizable in his personality. It is certain that one of them had its roots in the Jewish town of the beginning of the 20th century. From there comes his love of the Yiddish language and literature, and for Jewish humor – whether he was the teller or the listener. From there comes the warmth which he put into his stage performances in the Kibbutz, playing personalities from the town, and in his public readings of the creations of Shalom Aleichem and Moshe Nader during his early years at parties of the Kibbutz. The imprint of the rich folklore of the Jewish town was stamped also on his performances at Purim celebrations and other such parties of the Kibbutz. Indeed, this was the good way of people of the Second Aliya: national renewal in the Land, enlightened by sparks from the Jewish tradition of the Jewish town.

His second source of influence was his Socialist education in Vienna. His aliya was different from that of most of the Second Aliya. They came motivated by a strong Zionist urge, which was influenced by the power of the poems of Bialik, Chernichovsky and others that arose especially after the pogroms of Kishinev. On the other hand, the journey of Moshe David to Palestine came from the wandering spirit that was imbued in his soul. Indeed, the background of his aliya was the Zionist atmosphere in his parents' home in Rzeszow. His father made aliya after him. His visits to the Kibbutz are remembered. He was pleasant in his ways, and his discussions were always influenced with words of Torah.

The differences between Moshe David and the other members of the Second Aliya were still apparent when he came to Sharona after he was in Merchavya and Gan Shmuel. Some other people with a similar mentality, who were known from that era, succeeded in creating a warm homey atmosphere in the first institutions of the workers' movement. Moshe David was similar. Without doubt, he brought this faithfulness with him to his contacts with the founders of the movement. With all his reverence for them, he did not hide his opinions in front of them. He relates the following in “Niv Hakvutzah”: “I debated a great deal with A. D. Gordon, who was in Merchavya during those days. This elder had great influence with his presence, his speech, and his proofs.”

Moshe David was imbued with friendliness. He searched for the good throughout his life: not only in the style of Sabbaths and festivals, but with the emphasis on the mundane, the daily relations with people, in the mess hall, in the carpentry shop, and in every place where people gathered together.

Moshe David did not tolerate crookedness. Even though he was not faithful to the tradition, the essence of his motto was: This I found, “G-d made man upright”. His ideas did not always find an echo, but he always followed his path, a straight path with an open heart. If he had something to say against you, he would say it straightforwardly. He never intended to hurt. He hated speaking behind someone's back. In the Kibbutz, he desired to see the actualization of true friendship between people.

With his death, one of a diminishing number of Mohicans was lost, and a man who was a believer in friendship was lost.


From His Memoirs of His Father

… My father was a Zionist even before the appearance of Herzl. To him Zionism was not only a world view, but also a matter that was to be actualized. At the time that all Jews of Galicia, from the tycoon to the water carrier, desired to send their children to the Gymnasium and to make them into “doctors”, my father's thought were concerned with how to educate his children so that they would be prepared to make aliya to the Land. At that time, there was not yet any organized “Hachsharah”, and aliya was the aliya of individuals. We were three brothers, and the age difference was not large. Father sent us all to Hachsharah. My eldest brother went to Chernovitz to study gardening, and my younger brother went to a village near Lvov, where there were Jewish farmers associated with ICA, in order to study agriculture. I went to Vienna the capital to study labor.

In those days the manner in Galicia was that the sons who went to study in Vienna wrote letters home in German. Father did not tolerate this type of assimilation, and fought against it vehemently.

When Father accompanied me to Vienna to arrange all the matters, he hugged me before bidding farewell and said:

“Moshe David, I want very much for you to write to me. Mother, who will also be longing for you, will be happy to receive your letters. But know, my son, that if you write to us in foreign letters, it will be as if you did not write…”

My brother wrote letters in Hebrew from Chernovitz. For me, it was easier to write in Yiddish. However, a foreign letter had no place in our home.

Father was a vegetarian. When he came to visit me in the Kibbutz, he would eat at my table. The elders of the Kibbutz would urge him to eat with them at the kosher table. However father stood his own:

“For me, as a vegetarian, there is no non-Kosher. Eggs, vegetables and a loaf of bread are always Kosher.”

The elders did not leave him be. “Is it possible? What about the dishes and the table!”. Until father told them:

“For me, there is another great Mitzvah: not to embarrass the table of my son.”


{Page 284}

Eliahu Ashriel (Gluksman)

by A. P.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 284 right: Eliahu Ashriel (Gluksman).}

Eliahu, the eldest of the three sons of Naphtali Ashriel (Gluksman) was born on June 8, 1894 in Rzeszow.

He made aliya in 1912, at the age of 18. By the time he made aliya, he had succeeded in preparing himself in business and office work, by graduating with distinction from the business school in Lvov. He was also a translator who knew eight languages fluently.

Eliahu was one of the founders of Degania and Kinneret in the Jordan Valley, and one of the first of Merchavya. He was also one of the first graduates of the Mikve Yisrael School. He played a great role in the building of the land and its development during the era of the Second Aliya, by giving of his great expertise in the various branches of agriculture. During the time of the First World War, he served as a translator with the rank of Captain in the German army in the Land and in Syria (Damascus), and he worked with great effort to save Jews from the hands of the Turks.

For decades, he was one of the senior officials in the Yehuda and Zion companies. He served as the director of the Jerusalem branch of those companies for 18 years. He was modest, a faithful Zionist, who was zealous for his people and his Land. He educated his children in that spirit. He was an honest man, beloved by G-d and people. His love of Jerusalem knew no bounds. On this account, he forewent high offices outside of Jerusalem, even in Haifa, where his children lived, for he did not want to leave the Holy City. All of his many friends and acquaintances revered him for his uprightness and straightforwardness. He died suddenly in Jerusalem on October 7, 1961, 27 Tishrei 5622.


Yehoshua Ashriel (Gliksman)

by A. P.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 284 left: Joshua Ashriel (Gluksman)

Yehoshua Gluksman, the youngest of the three sons of Naftali Gluksman of blessed memory, was born on May 28, 1897 in Rzeszow. By the time he made aliya in 1912 at the age of 14, he had succeeded in obtaining agricultural expertise in the growing of vegetables in Skanilow near Lvov. He worked at this during the First World War, and contributed greatly to the development of this field of agriculture, which in those days became an important segment of the economy. Among other things, he gave of his great experience to the development of the German Study Farm next to Beer Yaakov (today Netzer Sireni). He also was involved in guarding the settlements, and he later volunteered for the Hebrew Brigade. He was one of the first who answered the call of Yosef Trumpeldor to protect Tel Chai and reconquer Metulla from the Arabs. He played a great role in promoting Jewish labor in the settlements and even in Tel Aviv. In 1920, he was injured in a clash with the British Police who were guarding the Arab workers. He was even imprisoned for several weeks.

He was one of the founders of the MeEver organization for promoting Jewish labor in Petach Tikva. At the time of the War of Independence, he was employed as a guard in the Ashlag Company. At the outbreak of the war, he joined the defense forces in Sdom and south of the Dead Sea. He played a great role in the activities and actions for the defense of the region, especially during the time of the siege.

He drowned in the sea at Tel Aviv on July 28, 1961 as he was examining the seawater while working for Tahal (The Israel Water Planning Authority).


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Selichot are the penitential prayers that are recited in the weeks surrounding the High Holy Days, as well as on fast days. They are highly poetic and cryptic in form. Return
  2. The Hebrew term used here, Neturei Karta, is an Aramaic phrase meaning guardians of the city. It has no relationship here to the Jewish sect that bears that name. Return
  3. The word here for piety is Hassidut (which can alternately mean Hassidism or piety). Return
  4. Yom Kippur Kattan (the small Yom Kippur) is a day of fasting observed on the eve of Rosh Chodesh. Its observance is custom rather than law, and it is generally only observed by particularly pious individuals. Return
  5. A custom observed by some, that is open to some dispute, since Rosh Hashanah is a festival day, where eating a festive meal is considered obligatory. Yet, as a day of penitence, some have the custom of fasting. Return
  6. In the previous line it is spelled Griss, and in this line it is spelled Kriss. This is not noted in the errata. In the next few lines, the spellings are used alternately. Return
  7. A term used for someone who is alive. Return


{Page 285}

Personalities and Occasions

by Moshe Kamelhar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 285: Joscha Shapira, Baruch Wachspress, Abraham Tuchfeld}

A large Jewish population lived in Rzeszow, composed of various classes, including the intelligentsia, householders and craftsmen. At the beginning of the 20th century there were already Jewish lawyers, physicians, bankers and wholesalers, who formed the upper class of the Jewish residents. These wholesalers connected the city to the outside world with business and economic connections. A significant portion of them were textile and cloth merchants who imported their merchandise from the factories of Vienna and Brno which were famous in pre-war Austria for their merchandise. They distributed it to all of the cities and towns of the region. Firms such as “Feivel”, “Lobasz”, “Kahana” and others were known throughout the region. This tradition of the city distributing textiles and clothes on a wholesale basis continued as well after the war until the Holocaust. When the state of Poland arose, Rzeszow became like the Lodz of Galicia, but without its own factories. In Rzeszow, they only distributed the Lodz merchandise instead of the Austrian merchandise to the region that had grown and broadened due to the annexation of wide areas of greater Poland, which were adjacent to Rzeszow. For economic reasons, the merchants preferred to make their purchases in Rzeszow rather than traveling to Lodz. They arrived by crowding in with their wagons on the large square which was the center of the wholesalers. After the First World War, new wholesalers arose and took the place of the older ones, many of whom had lost their means due to the war, and some of whom had disappeared completely from the horizon.

There were also large wholesalers in other areas of business. For example, the export of eggs to England and Germany was in the hands of the Jews, as was the business of tanning and hides, which passed from family to family. There were estate owners in Rzeszow, including the families of Reb Elya Reich and Reb Yisrael Silber. Mills and sawmills were owned by the Ekstein family. The Mintz family owned a brick kiln. There were also others with such businesses. These families were the cream of the crop of the city… I will attempt to briefly portray the description of the personalities and characters of these heads of families, who, aside from their wealth, had generous character traits and were gifted in their generosity as well as in their abilities in communal activism.

A.

Reb Chaim Wald was an enthusiastic Zionist. He was one of the enthusiastic supporters of the candidacy of Rabbi Lewin for the rabbinate, not because of his support for the “modernity” of the rabbi but rather because the rabbi was close to Zionism. Reb Chaim himself was a pious Jew in the sense of the term of an “Orthodox and pious” Jew in those days. He did not forego his Jewish garb, including his silk robe for the Sabbath and the streimel on his head. However, none of this prevented him from being a Zionist, with great enthusiasm and zeal for Zion. We can state that he was one of the chief spokesmen and orators for Zion in Rzeszow. This was a brave thing in a city that was almost completely filled with zealous Hassidim who were opposed to anything that smelled of “a new spirit”. We can state of him that the vision of Isaiah was his vision. He desired Zionism, which means: the birthplace of the nation, and renewed Jewish life in the renewed old homeland. He was an enthusiastic Zionist, and was burning with a fiery love of Zion. Without any reckoning and without any “slogans” he continued to weave the golden thread of a great past and a great nation. His desire was the desire of a Jew with a warm, beating heart in the midst of the exile of the Divine presence, of the Jewish exile, and of His glorious crown which He cast earthward from Heaven. He was a Jew who fought with his entire existence against the bitter exile. He felt the disgrace of the exile and knew that “Our situation is poor and empty”[1]. He was a proud Jew in the midst of a sea of hatred and degradation, a whole Jew and a dedicated Zionist with his heart and soul, for its own sake and for the sake of the Land which he had only seen in his vision, and to which he had not succeed in going to. I recall how the news of San Remo excited Chaim Wald and imbued him with a new spirit. He wept, danced and embraced everyone he saw on the street with joyous eyes. He recited the blessing with the name of G-d, “Shehecheyanu vekiyemanu vehigiyanu lazeman hazeh”. This sight left a strong impression upon me. He absorbed Zionism from the deep well of the nation.

B.

Reb Yehoshua Shapira (Szapira). I only knew him when he was already very old. He was wealthy, and a large scale wholesaler. His three-story house stood on the corner of the large Rynek square. I used to visit my friend Elya Kanner and had to cross the dark corridor and to ascend the stairs that creaked from age that led to the apartment of my friend. Elya Kanner was the son of Reb Yaakov Natan who was the son-in-law of Reb Yehoshua, married to his daughter Goldzi. Reb Yaakov Natan was one of the important people of the city of Rzeszow. He was the son of the rabbi, great in Torah, Rabbi Avraham Shalom Kanner the head of the rabbinical court of the large city of Stanislawow. During his youth, Reb Avraham

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Shalom was a respected merchant. Despite the fact that he was busy, he attended Torah classes daily. However, due to the pressures of the times, when he lost his livelihood, he was forced to earn his living from the rabbinate. The heads of the community of Stanislawow recognized his noble personality and his greatness in Torah, so they requested that he accepted himself the yoke of the rabbinate. He was appointed the head of the rabbinical court. His son Reb Yaakov Natan was also a great and sharp scholar. It was apparently for this reason that Reb Yehoshua chose him as the groom for his daughter. He even lived in his house. Despite the darkness that pervaded in the corridor at all hours of the day, the house bustled with merchants who came and went without stop. The image of Reb Yehoshua still stands before me as if he was alive. He was a venerable and honorable man, with a pleasant appearance and pleasant manners. The business was in his name, but his only son Reb Noach, who always had a smile on his lips, assisted him. Like his father, he was a Hassid of Dzikow, and he served as the gabbai of the Dzikow Kloiz. At that time, Rabbi Yehoshua Horowitz, the son-in-law of Rabbi Naftali of Ropczyce occupied the rabbinical and Admor seat of Dzikow. He had many Hassidim in Rzeszow. Of course, Reb Yaakov Natan became one of his Hassidim, even though he came from a large city in eastern Galicia where this “Hassidic dynasty” was barely known. Later, we will speak more about this type of Hassidism.

C.

Reb Motish Ekstein was a unique character of a Dzikow Hassid. He was a communal activist who poured much energy and effort into communal affairs. He was a tall, strong man who appeared to limp slightly, either due to an injury or to neglect. When Reb Motish appeared in the city (he lived in the suburb of Ruska-Wies), it was immediately known that he was going to the city council or the community. He possessed the well-known character of a “strongman” from the era of the Council of the Four Lands, and he acted forcefully. During those days, there was already a different spirit in the Jewish street, and the former “strongmen” were no longer particularly liked in the community… His sons and sons-in-law were great in Torah, and a few of them were students of Father of blessed memory. I will discuss them in my article on Father of blessed memory. He was one of the most enthusiastic of the Dzikow Hassidim. He comported himself according to the adage of “Know Him in all your ways”. This Rebbe of Dzikow was a zealot, and it is no surprise that at times, he was prone to extremism.

Reb Shimon Tovia Mintz was a completely different personality. If my memory serves me correctly, he was considered to be a Hassid of Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Blazowa. His entire essence of Judaism was Hassidic. He was pleasant to people. His house was wide open. He honored and liked scholars. These fine traits were inherited by his children after him, who also excelled with their fine education in Torah and fear of Heaven. I remember that when I was still a young child, Father of blessed memory brought me to him so that he could test me. This was on a Sabbath afternoon. He opened the Chumash before me and asked me to read. I began to explain the Torah portion as my Rebbe had explained it, and he suddenly interrupted me with a question that I did not know how to answer. I was embarrassed and did not continue further. All of his “apologies” were insufficient. I refused to answer him. When he saw this, he appeased me with many pieces of fruit, and I was appeased. At the conclusion of the Sabbath, I saw that a short man was holding the Havdala candle. I shouted at him to raise up the Havdala candle higher so that he would not have a short bride…[2] Everyone broke out in laughter, and I turned red. After many years, I once again came to Reb Shimon Tovia in carrying out a favor for my father, and I saw that Jew there. I asked who this person was, and I heard that this Jew was afflicted with illnesses, and he was also handicapped. This unfortunate person frequented his house, and Reb Shimon Tovia provided him with all of his needs.

In Rzeszow, there were large, prominent families whose name went before them. Reb Elya Reich and his sons owned a large estate near Rzeszow. He always tried to purchase “a good pedigree” for himself, so the Reich family married into a scion of the Ropczyce dynasty four times. Reb Yehoshua Horowitz the Admor of Dzikow was a son-in-law of this family. Thus did Rzeszow become a center of the Hassidim of Dzikow. Their custom was to travel to their Rebbe for the High Holy Days or the festival of Shavuot. When they returned from there full of impressions, they told about what they had seen and heard there. In particular, they brought with them melodies and “marches” that they had heard from the Admor, who was graced with musical talents. The song and melodies of the Ropszyce and Dzikow variety were well known throughout the region. The “Military Marches” would fit to several psalms of prayer, and those that made their way to the table of the Admor spread out and were sung throughout all the cities of Galicia. The “Military March” which was used when the captured Japanese armies were brought into Port Arthur during the Russia-Japan war is still etched in my mind. They used this tune to sing the stanza “Lo Tevoshi Velo Tichalmi” of Lecha Dodi hymn on Friday night. Just as the Hassidim of Dzikow excelled in song and melodies, they were always happy and jolly. Whoever did not see or participate in the Hakafot ceremony on the night and day of Simchat Torah in the Dzikow Kloiz has never tasted the taste of joy in his life.

The preparations for the Hakafot also had a special flavor. On the afternoon of Shmini Atzeret, the Dzikow Hassidim entered the home of Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira (and after his death, the home of another honorable Hassidic notable), where they enjoyed a party until the time of the Mincha service. After the services, one of the Hassidim recited Kiddush over a cup of wine, and continued to enjoy themselves with song until midnight. Then they left together with joyous song to go to the Dzikow synagogue. In all other Kloizes and Beis Midrashes, the Hakafot were already long over and everyone enjoyed their sweet slumber after partaking of the Simchat Torah evening meal – for which they had prepared special foods such as stuffed and pickled fish with many raisins and various varieties of tzimmes. However, in the Dzikow Kloiz, they were only beginning their preparations for Hakafot. The evening service was conducted with the tunes of the High Holy Days, as was customary throughout Jewish communities. The Hakafot were conducted according to the style of Ropczyce. After each Hakafa circuit, they sang a special song with warmth and enthusiasm. They also did not omit any of the hymns and the prayers that were established by the Hassidic leaders. They continued with their enthusiastic dancing until they forgot the bounds of time, for the Hakafot continued until a late hour of the night. Everyone returned home as dawn was breaking. They only ate a token evening meal, for soon they would have to wake up and prepare for the next day, to continue the joy and rejoicing, and to perform the traditional visits to family and friends, according to the accepted custom.

These I remember and my soul is agonized. This Jewry is no longer! It is no wonder that the pining for these days strengthens from year to year. What splendor and beauty was imbued into the lives of the Jews on the Sabbaths and festivals. Only on those days did the faces of the Jews light up

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with the light of the Sabbath and festival. How splendid was the sight in the cities and towns of Poland when people streamed from all ends of the city to the Hassidic Kloizes on Sabbaths and festivals, dressed in their special Sabbath clothing. The image of the “Sabbath Queen” in all its splendor and glory revealed itself before the eyes of everyone, and it seemed as if we saw her marching with pride and nobility through the streets of the city. Even the gentile surroundings were influenced by her presence, and as if in her honor, the sound of the mallet could not even be heard in the workshops of the gentiles.

D.

Similar to the household of Reb Elya Reich, Reb Yisrael Silber and his sons were well known in the city. He was also an owner of estates. He had a splendid countenance and was quite tall. He was already elderly when I knew him, but his strength was still with him, and his Christian servants and coachmen were afraid of his reproof. His children were already adults with their own families at that time, and all of them were exemplary in their behavior and generous traits. Reb Zecharia, Reb Shmuel and Reb Asher lived in Rzeszow. I knew also one other son who lived in Sanok, Reb Ovadia. I think he was the eldest. Reb Asher Silber was the wealthiest of them all. He owned estates as well as distilleries for liquor and beer. He also maintained a tavern (propinatzia) for selling wholesale as well as to individuals. The taverns were in the hands of the Jews until 1910. However that year a law was issued that drove out most of the owners of such stores – which belonged to the government – away from that business. Those who were harmed organized protests and demonstrations. A delegation even went to Vienna to attempt to cancel this decree; however their effort was in vain and they went forth empty handed… Reb Asher Silber was not affected by this decree, and he maintained his position even after the State of Poland arose over the remains of Austria. All of his many business supervisors who were spread out in various places were G-d fearing Hassidim. Reb Yisrael and his sons were Hassidim of Rymanow. The Admor of Rymanow was Rabbi Yosef the Tzadik, the son of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaKohen, the student and assistant of the Tzadik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Prystik-Rymanow.

Reb Yisrael's area of authority in Rzeszow started from the Potter's Street (Tepergasse) and continued until the Wislok River. The Jews of Rzeszow proceeded in crowds on the eve of the Sabbath of Chazon (Sabbath prior to Tisha BeAv) through the paths in Reb Yisrael's fields in order to bathe in the Wislok River. The bathhouse was closed on that day as a token of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple. Later, large houses were built on some of this area, and the new street was called Baldachowka Street. Prior to that, there was a row of huts there that were keeling over. As well, the horse stables of the Silber family where there were horses for working as well as shiny black horses for riding and pleasure. The teacher of children Reb Menashe lived in one of those huts. The writer of these lines was one of his students, and I will dedicate some lines to him. Reb Menashe the melamed had a commendable trait. When we reached a historical description in the Torah portion that we were studying, he would immediately spend time describing the place or the city in the Holy Land that belonged to the Jews. If some exceptional event had taken place there, he would describe it to the students with great enthusiasm. The students listened with longing to everything that he said. It is possible to state that he was the first one to instill love of Zion and the Land of Israel into our hearts. This teaching methodology was unintentionally based upon the modern teaching style – i.e. illustrating a topic before the students.

As has been stated, this hut stood among the rest of the huts in the large estate of the Reb Yisrael Silber the estate owner. During recess, we would always see Reb Yisrael as he returned from making the rounds in his fields. When he passed by us, he would pinch the cheeks of the children out of affection. As he was doing so, he would ask them, “tell me the verse you are learning”… Reb Yisrael passed away at an old age, and his son Reb Asher began to rise to prominence in the community of Rzeszow. He was elected to the community council as well as the city council, and earned a good name for himself in his activities on behalf of his fellowman. After some years, he built a splendid synagogue for the Hassidim of Rymanow in the middle of the large field. The Admor Reb Yosef attended the dedication. Rzeszow was bustling with Hasidim who gathered together from nearby cities for the event. Some were Hassidim from other Hassidic courts. All the days that the Admor stayed in the city were days of joy and gladness. At the Admor's table on the Sabbath, new melodies were heard from the late Cantor Reb Yisrael Schorr, who was the prayer leader of the Rymanow Hassidim on the High Holy Days. He later became famous throughout the world as a cantor in Brno, Moravia and New York. He became famous for the tune that was passed down from father to son “Sheyibane Beit Hamikdash Bimheira Beyameinu” (That the Holy Temple should be built speedily in our days). Reb Nathan Abramowicz, who was still young, used to sing well, and he was also given the honor of singing a melody. The songs were enjoyed by those gathered around. The Rebbe asked his enthusiastic disciple Reb Asher to give some fruit to this young lad. Reb Nathan, who is today a rabbi in New York, is the son of Reb Elisha Abramowicz, the veteran mohel (circumcisor) of Rzeszow throughout fifty years – a task he performed without expectation of recompense. He perished in the Holocaust along with the martyrs Reb Michele Halberstam the grandson of the Gaon and Tzadik the author of “Divrei Chayim” from Tzanz and the great Rabbi Yosef Reich, who served on the rabbinical court of the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Aharon Lewin, who took the place of his father the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszow.

All of the Hassidim of the Admorim of the Ruzhin stock, such as the Hassidim of Sadagora, Boyan and Czortkow, worshipped in the Rymanow Kloiz. The Admor Reb Yosef was born to his father the holy rabbi and tzadik at an old age. When his father died, the Tzadik of Ruzhin took him into his home. After the death of the Tzadik of Ruzhin, he continued to be raised in the home of his son Reb Avraham Yaakov. For this reason, the aforementioned synagogue became a place of gathering for all of the Hassidim of Ruzhin and its offshoots.

E.

We have concentrated our discussion on the two Kloizes of Dzikow and Rymanow. Now I will dedicate some space to the other synagogues with the intention of commemorating not only the synagogues and kloizes themselves, but also those who came to worship in them, and the warmth that pervaded them. There were two old synagogues in Rzeszow, called the Old synagogue and the Waller Synagogue, as well as an old Beis Midrash. However, before I describe these three sanctuaries of G-d, I will make note of the importance of the Large Kloiz (Di Groise Kloiz). The Large Kloiz stood in the center of the city, which bustled with people. Merchants and craftsmen in the area left their work tools and streamed to the Kloiz to “snatch” a Mincha or Maariv service. Similarly, anyone who came to the area who came from other cities and towns in the area for business reasons immediately entered the Kloiz in the morning for the Shacharit service. Movement did not cease there from early in the morning until the wee hours of the night.

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Worshippers would enter and worshippers would leave. One Minyan would have not quite concluded when the next Minyan gathered in its place, exactly as the groups entered and left during the offering of the Paschal Offering in the Holy Temple. The long tables were occupied by youths who studied Torah, who sat hunched over the Gemaras and responsa books, etc. I recall that important scholars worshipped in one of the later Minyans, and one could see them debating Halacha with each other for quite some time after the Minyan concluded. At times they even forgot their secular pursuits, be they in the store or in the marketplace. On weekdays, Father of blessed memory used to worship in this late Minyan in the Kloiz. Rabbi Berish Steinberg, the son of the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Steinberg the rabbi of Brody, used to worship in this Minyan, along with others. Reb Berish himself was the head of the rabbinical court of Tlumacz before coming to Rzeszow, but he left the rabbinate and entered into the business of money and investments. Between his business deals, Torah was his desire (Later, he again served as the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszow.) Similarly there were many scholars in the city, among whom there were some who were fit to serve honorably in any city as rabbis or judges. I knew many of them whose livelihoods were meager and difficult, but they were modest in their ways according to the adage “their eyes were not raised aloft and their hearts were not proud”. Their main desire in life was to delve into the depths of the sea of Talmud and to draw precious pearls from there in accordance with the adage “one draws up and gives others to drink”. I will never forget these modest Torah personalities, and it is appropriate to note in this Yizkor book of this holy community that mighty spiritual treasure that was located in its midst.

The Kloiz was open every day, and during the winter it served as a shelter to those who were afflicted by the cold. The porters, whose work was only outside, would warm themselves up next to the large oven that was constantly lit. There was someone there who would offer a cup of hot drink to passers by and guests. The gabbaim of the Kloiz were of the honorable men of the city. One of them was Reb Mendel Menachem Fink, who ensured that order rather than disarray would prevail. His son is Rabbi Yaakov Fink, who served as the chief rabbi of Brazil and Argentina, and serves today as the head of the rabbinical court of Haifa.

Aside from the Large Kloiz, the Old Synagogue, whose splendor of hoary age hovered over it, as well as the Old Beis Midrash also stood in this area that belonged to the community. To this day, researchers have not determined the year in which this splendid synagogue was built. In his article “In the Treasures of Israel” A. Applebaum indicates that based on an inscription that was engraved in the Holy Ark, this synagogue was built in the year 5155 (1394). In my opinion, this is possible, and the style of architecture provides evidence for this. The façade and the vaulted roof are reminiscent of the form of the Altneu Synagogue in Prague. It is known that after the expulsion of the Jews from the countries that belonged to the Hapsburg Empire, including Bohemia and Moravia, the displaced Jews came to Poland, settled in Krakow and Lwow, and also arrived in Rzeszow. The cemetery next to the Old Synagogue is very old, and already during my youth, it was impossible to decipher the inscription on many of the monuments, most of which had sunk into the ground due to their great age. The second synagogue, called the Waller Synagogue, was built later. Its architectural form is reminiscent of synagogues that were built in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries.

Those two synagogues conducted their service in accordance with the Ashkenazic rite, and observed special ancient customs. During the Mincha service, the prayer leader would cover his head with the tallis, and during the Maariv service, he would put the tallis over his shoulders. When I asked about the origin of the custom of wearing a tallis during the Maariv service, the elders had no answer. They observed the custom of their forbears and did not want to change. In my time, they would still place the wedding canopy (chupa) outside next to the synagogue, and they would bring a newborn child to the synagogue for the circumcision, where there was a special Chair of Elijah the Prophet, placed on a place high above the ground. The chair was upholstered with silk and gold, and upon it was the inscription “this is the chair of Elijah the Prophet may he be remembered for the good.” The year and name of the donor were also engraved upon it. Householders who had set pews that were passed down from generation to generation worshipped in the synagogues. The well-known Schonblum family worshipped in the Old Beis Midrash that was next door. The head of the family was the wealthy Reb Shmuel Schonblum, the grandson of the Gaon Rabbi Yosef Hatzadik the rabbi of Poznan, the son-in-law of the Noda Biyehuda. The aforementioned Rabbi Yosef Hatzadik had a son Reb Pinchas, who had a son Reb Yechezkel the father of Reb Shmuel Schonblum who came to live to Rzeszow toward the end of his life. Reb Shmuel Schonblum published the book “Sheerit Yosef” in the year 5642 (1882). The book contained some of the Tora novelties of his grandfather the aforementioned Rabbi Yosef, whose writings were mostly destroyed during the great fire in Dubno, where the aforementioned Gaon lived before he was accepted as the rabbi of Poznan. Reb Shmuel Schonblum left after him two honorable, wealthy sons, one Reb Yosef and the second Reb Shlomo. In my time, they together ran the bank known as the “Schonblum Brothers”. They educated their children in the path of Torah and fear of Heaven. One of them was Shalom Mania, the eldest son of Reb Yosef Schonblum, who was a student of my revered father, and who died in Lwow in his prime at the age of about 30. In his memory, my father dedicated a special booklet called “Nahar Shalom” in his Halachic book “Chedvata Dishemata”, first volume. The second son of Reb Yosef, Reb Yitzchak, lived in France and later in America, and died here a few years ago. Reb Shlomo had an only son Reb Zeev Wolf (Wolfche), who was noble of spirit and great in Torah and knowledge. He was also one of Father's students. The Schonblum house was an example to the masses in their noble deportment and their generosity of heart. They were modest, pleasant to their fellow man, studious of Torah and loving Torah. They honored Torah scholars with all their heart. Reb Yosef moved to live in Lwow, but Reb Shlomo and his only son remained in Rzeszow. The First World War affected them, and their fortune was lost, however their nobility remained even in the vicissitudes of the times.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A quote from the Yom Kippur evening service. Return
  2. A Jewish folktale indicates that the height of one's bride will be the height at which one holds up the Havadala candle. Return


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Reb Menachem Mendel Reich

by Reb Moshe Reich of Jerusalem

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rabbi Menachem Reich, who was known by the affectionate nickname Reb Mendele Dayan, was born in Rzeszow in the year 5619 (1859). His father, Reb Yehuda Leibish Reich was a learned man, a Hassid of Tzanz, who was related to Reb Mendele of Apt (Opatow). He earned his livelihood from the manufacturing of wooden boxes for shoe polish. As was the way of the Jews in Poland, he withheld food from his mouth in order to pay the tuition fees for the Torah teachers for his son. He was among those youths whose souls longed for Torah.

His rabbi was Rabbi Baruch Fass, an expert Torah scholar, who served as the rabbinical judge in Lancut in his later years, and who conducted his work with great breadth of knowledge and abilities. In order to gather pearls from the sea of Talmud, he was invited to come to his house for several hours a day to study in depth. Reb Mendele used to talk about the joint learning with Reb Baruch Fass, as he expressed wonder about his greatness in Torah and the fear of Heaven. From him he also received his Hassidic tendencies and reverence for the Admor of Tzanz, the author of Divrei Chaim.

Reb Mendele became known as one of the great decisors of Jewish law in the areas of what is permitted and what is forbidden. In his modesty, he restricted himself to his own four ells. Those who revered him turned to the communal leadership and requested that Reb Mendele be appointed as a rabbinical judge and teacher. In the year 5665 (1905), Reb Mendele was appointed as a rabbinical teacher. A few years later, through the influence of the Torah observant householders, he was appointed as a judge and rabbinical teacher.

His wife bore him two sons. The eldest, Chaim, was a learned man who earned a comfortable livelihood from the textile trade. His second son was Rabi Yosef Reich, the head of the Yeshiva in the city of Rzeszow.


My Brother Yisrael

by Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 289: Israel Kamelhar.}

I wish to dedicate brief article to my brother Reb Yisrael Kamelhar who lived in Rzeszow and worked for the Agudas Yisroel organization there. My brother was born in the year 5650 (1890) to his father the Gaon Rabbi Yekutiel Aryeh Kamelhar of holy blessed memory. Whoever knew him saw him as a complete man. He excelled in fine character traits, and his fear of Heaven preceded his wisdom. He studied with Father the Gaon and was one of those who excelled at his Yeshiva. He also completed secular studies that he mastered through independent study. He published articles on Jewish subjects in the religious newspapers of those days. When the Agudas Yisroel organization was founded, he was summoned to Frankfurt am Main in 5673 (1913) to serve as the secretary there. He endeared himself very much to the first president of the world organization of Agudas Yisroel, Reb Yaakov Rosenheim may he live long, who gave him the task of editing the Hebrew publication of Agudas Yisrael, called Baderech. In the interim, the First World War broke out, and in the year 5676 (1916) he had to appear before the Austrian consul in Frankfurt in order to be drafted. He was drafted in the army. I should note that his service in the army was often fraught with danger because he refused to do work on Sabbaths and festivals despite the orders, and despite the fact that it was wartime. He suffered greatly on account of this, and he withstood the test. He returned to Rzeszow after the war, where he occupied himself with the organization and distribution of Father's books. For this endeavor, he traversed the length and breadth of Poland, and entered into contact with the greats of Torah and Hassidism. In Rzeszow, he was one of the first and important leaders of Agudas Yisroel. He was prominent in their Minyan which took place in Beit Haam. He compiled the book of Rabbi Eliezer of Germeiza, Toldot Harokach, and he published the Sodei Razia book of the Rokach from a manuscript in the book collection of Munich. There, he copied over several other manuscripts but was not able to publish them. He always lectured to his friends, the students of the Yeshiva of Stanislawow. He was righteous in all of his paths and pious in all of his manners. His noble countenance was attractive, and he differed from others in his modesty. At the outbreak of the war, he left the city along with his brother-in-law and other people of Rzeszow and escaped to Lwow, thinking that only their own lives were at risk and that nothing would happen to their families. However, they made a bitter error. They remained stuck in eastern Galicia and they perished in the various aktions, while their families perished in western Galicia. The last word from him came to my hands in 1942. From that time, I lost track of him.

I wish to also mention here the family of Reb Yitzchak Weisberg, my brother-in-law from Rzeszow. His wife, my sister Rachel, was a teacher, modest in her manner and good hearted. After she married Reb Yitzchak Weisberg, she dedicated much of her time to the benefit of the community, in particular to the orphans' home of Rzeszow. She was appointed to the directorship of that orphans' home. She dedicated a great deal of energy and financial means to the benefit of the orphans, and she concerned herself for them as if her own children. Three fine children were born to them, who perished along with them and along with my other sister Yuta Iram. The Iram family was a well-known family in Rzeszow. They returned to their family in Rzeszow after they were expelled from Berlin. May these words serve as a stone in the memorial monument that the Rzeszow organization is establishing in the Land for the community of Rzeszow that perished in the Holocaust and was not given a burial.


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The dear ones of Rzeszow

by Yitzchak Izak Nebenzahl of Ramat Gan

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The large number – six million, defies all possibilities of logical understanding. It is as if you become a stone and sink into the depths of endless agony, and you appear before yourself as if in a dream in which you see yourself distorted through strange eyes. Rivers of blood choke your thoughts and emotions in monstrous proportions, beyond human comprehension. Only when you remember an individual with specific detail are you able to concretize for yourself the terrible loss – our great bereavement.

*

I wish to describe here one of these personalities – a friend and advisor who began to spread his wings toward political and spiritual leadership. Few Rzeszow natives remember him, for neither he nor his ancestors were born there. Furthermore, he was not a resident of the center of the city. He lived in Staroniwa. His name was Alter Chil. His father Reb Berche owned a tavern near the railway station. There were no Jews in their neighborhood. Their nearest Jewish neighbor was Reb Avramche Lifschitz, the owner of the soap factory, who lived a quarter of an hour's walk away from the home of Reb Berche. These two families of friends were numbered among the Czortkow Hassidim and worshipped in the Czortkower Kleizl opposite the Waller Synagogue.

I met Alter when I was a ten year old student in grade five in the Jachimowski Polish Public School and in the Belzer cheder of the Boyaner Kleizl. I met him as a new movement was being founded, of which he was a founder and a prime mover.

Alter Chil formed a movement of public school children starting from age ten, and educated them according to his spirit and ideas. Within a short time, this organization named Menorah numbered approximately 200 students who were spread throughout all the schools of the city. He conducted intensive leadership efforts and dedicated himself to each and every group. He slowly acquired a name and status for himself among the parents and adults, and his name was known by all of the observant Jews in the city. It was natural that within a brief period he became the chairman of the Agudas Yisroel Youth of Rzeszow.

He was a fantastic orator. He spoke briefly and to the point, with unusual pathos and enthusiasm, that swept up the entire audience. His sentences were sharp, his logic was clear, his words were emphatic and his ideas were fundamental. He always sought out thoughtful personal challenges. He found them, and succeeded at them.

His Torah and general knowledge was broad. He was one of the few youths who succeeded at the external matriculations. Along with his handicapped friend Meir Liber (who was among the regular participants of Nowy Dziennik) he published a Polish periodical called Swiatlo. To my dismay, not even one copy of any of the three issues that were published remains. In addition, Alter Chil was one of the regular contributors to Das Yiddishe Tagenblatt in Warsaw, and he wrote a series of fine monographs about the Admorim of Ruzhin called “Tiferet Shebemalchut”. He intended to publish them in book form.

His writing, like his words, was stamped with his personal style – clear and to the point, but nevertheless rich with expressions and thrilling. Alter was also handsome, tall, strong, with alert, penetrating blue eyes. Despite all of his talents and gifts, or perhaps because of them, he had many enemies and opponents. I remember that when I returned once from the Yeshiva of Lublin for the Passover vacation, I found a proclamation against the “Farmer from Staroniwa” in the Agudas Yisrael synagogue. Its authors were so enthusiastic that during the holiday celebration in the Czortkow Kleizl, we stood on guard in order to prevent Alter's opponents from entering and causing a tumult.

His Polish neighbors also honored and revered him. When he passed through the street, he was greeted by both young and old. At times we visited Alter to hear his discussions, or simply to spend time with him. At first the “shkotzim” tormented us, but they desisted when they found out about our connection to Alter.

Alter was very practical, grounded in real life. He took interest in the lives of his charges, he knew their talents and weaknesses, and helped them overcome them. He taught them how to say “no” to themselves, and this saved them from crises and mental turmoil.He was not the only talented and faithful counselor who was murdered in the Holocaust while still in his youth.

*

As I stated: when we recall a specific individual, each one of us can feel how much we have been weakened and impoverished in the wake of the Holocaust. When I write about Alter, other images of friends and acquaintances pass before my eyes, who might have developed into leaders, renowned academics, forgers of fundamental ideas, or great writers. I feel that the Holocaust is not expressed solely in large numbers, but that it was also a spiritual and cultural Holocaust. The survivors survived, but with the loss of their friends, acquaintances and leaders, a part of their personal essence was lost.

The memory only strengthens the feelings of powerlessness and bereavement. Time only strengthens the feelings of loss during the life that is not a life. It will remain with us until our last days, when we perhaps might find our peace and comfort.

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