[Pages 156 - 157]

The Orphanage in Chortkov

Translated from Polish by: M. Zilberg

Translation by Sara Mages

In one of the wings in the Rabbi's court in Stary-Chortkov (old Chortkov) there was a Jewish orphanage that was supported by money donated from the Joint. In the institution there were around 60 children, most of them orphans from World War I.

Thank to the wonderful care, the children were well behaved and educated. Almost all the children finished Elementary School. The more talented among them, were sent to High School and some of them studied different trades like: plumbing, carpentry, tailoring and many more. The children stayed in school until they reached the age of 15. Those who did not have a family, stayed in the institution and took care of the small children. They cooked, did the laundry and house keeping.

The director of the house was Mrs. Shader, the wife of Mr. Shader, who was a High School teacher. He also helped by giving lectures and helping the children with their studies and homework. Also their oldest daughter, Nosia, took care of the children. She organized a drama club, took them on trips and taught them craft. During the summer, she took the children every morning to swim in the river Seret.

On Friday nights, the institute Board of Directors came to visit. All the children were dressed in their Sabbath best, waiting by the tables that were set for Sabbath's dinner. Mr. Shader organized the prayers and after the meal the children recited poetry and sang songs.

The Board of Directors of the orphanage included: Dr. Shimon Vichrt and his wife, Dr. Kimelmn and Mr. Taft.

The medical and sanitary team included: Dr. Akslrod, Dr. Feldman and Dr. Blaostien.


[Page158]

Anniversary of the Charity Fund 1927 - 38

By: Monish Bloom

Translation by Sara Mages

...In March of 1927 the Charity Fund started its activity in Chortkov to the satisfaction of all the citizens of the city. Around 60% of the Jewish citizens in Chortkov, from different social classes, enjoyed the help of the Charity Fund. The fund gave a helping hand to every person who was in need, and also helped with advice and action. We will take away the value of the fund and the hard work of it's directors, if we did not list the accomplishment of the Charity Fund, and the blessed work of those who gave their time and put a lot efforts for its successes. First we have to list those who were taken from us; Mr. Haresh Axelrod, may he rests in peace, who organized the Charity Fund and have done everything in his power to make it a successes. He always took care of the most difficult cases. Rabbi H. Axelrod was loyal to the institution and worked for it until his last days. After him, the honorable community leader, Rabbi Israel Yoseph Rosenzvieg worked with a lot of energy and dedication , the "scholar", his guiding lights were the teachings of the Zaddik, Rabbi Shimon, may he rests in peace, who said: "The world is sustained by three things; the Torah, worship and charity". He invested all his strength and energy in his work for the Charity Fund and helped the needed. Also K. Vilkovitz, a successful merchant, understood the needs for the Fund and worked hard for it. Of all the active members of the Fund, we must give special thanks to its directors; Dr. David Margalit and Mr. Meir Marbach, who from the first day, protected the needs of the poor citizens and worked for the good of the Fund. Ms. Meger. Hana Rozenzvieg, who was the Fund's secretary and joined the fund after her father, she followed his foot steps and was loyal to her work. Hersh Visman was the Fund's accountant. The last ones to be thanked are; the directors of the community and especially the community leader and honorable community president, Shaul Rosenvieg.

 


[Pages 160 - 165]

Cemeteries in Chortkov

by Tzvi Cohen

Translated by Sara Mages

In our town there were three cemeteries. One ancient, one from the times of World War I and a new one. The new cemetery served the Jewish community from the beginning of the 1920s until the destruction of the community by the Nazis. The last to be buried there were the victims of the "Actions"during the Holocaust .

The new cemetery was located on a large area on a steep hill on the left side of the river, Seret, next to the road leading to Kupitzniza. From the thousands of gravestones, only a few rows, that the Nazis did not have the time to destroy survived.

The older cemetery from the times of World War I was on the way to the town of Yaglenitza. In this cemetery were buried thousands of victims from an epidemic during the war. Among them many refugees that were expelled from the towns around Chortkov. Also this cemetery was almost completely destroyed and only a few gravestones are still standing next to the fence of the Christian cemetery. Due to its location next to the prison the cemetery was the site of mass executions by the Nazis. Many mass graves were dug there. Next to the stones that survived it is possible to see today a large pit that was used as a mass grave to hundreds of martyrs. Among them, doctors like Andrman, Albin, Feldman and many more. The pit was opened and the bodies were dug out by the "Committee investigating Nazis War Crimes". The rain, that fell into the pit, washed out a skull from one of the destroyed graves and it was left there in full sight of the visitors to this horrible place.

The oldest is the first cemetery that served the Jewish community for hundreds of years. From the first days of its establishment to the end of the first world war. Buried there were victims of the pogroms of Chmielnicki, generations of Chortkov's Jews, Rabbis and community leaders.

There is no confirmed information as to when this cemetery was established. In the Letter of Rights that was given to the Jews by the Graf Potzkie in the year 1722, we read on line number 11 the sentence; "The Jewish synagogue and also their cemetery that exist today must be kept intact".

Rabbi Dr. Zonenshein wrote of the antiquity of the cemetery in detail in his book, of which a short version is included in the Yizkor Book. But I would like to turn your attention to some of the most interesting and historical gravestones. One of them, according to tradition, is from the year 1648. Carved in the stone is a gate with two raised columns. It is decorated with grape leaves and clusters of grapes. Above the columns we find carvings of animals, which appear to be deer (perhaps alluding to the name Tzvi, deer in Hebrew, written on the stone).(Click here to see picture p.161)

[3 KB] Click here to extend the picture A double gravestone of a husband and wife from the years 1719 and 1721 serves as proof that Jews lived in Chortkov long before 1722. (See the article written by Rabbi Dr. Zonenshien).

Many have written about the gravestones special artistic values. Among them authors and teachers like Rabbi Dr. Zonenshien, the author Litvin, and before him the author Karl Emil Franzos. I am quoting from the book "Jewish Souls" that the author Litvin wrote before the juballee year0 after his visit to the ancient cemetery in Chortkov; "The ancient gravestones in Chortkov's cemetery are a magnificent example of the art of carving.Carving of this quality can't be found anywhere else in the world"...

In the period after receiving the rights from the Graf Potozki, gravestone carving in our town Chortkov reached the highest and most improved form of art. Pictures of the gravestones taken 30 years ago by the members of the organization "Y. L. Pertz" prove to us how this art form improved during the years. Starting from the carving of the letters inside the stone with primitive decorations to the artistic carving of later years that show the highest and most beautiful art of carvings. Because of financial difficulties the committee was only able to take very few picture of the gravestones. Some pictures are published in the Yizkor Book. We decided to show only the gravestones with the best artistic values that attract the eye. [2 KB] Click here to extend the picture

The stones carvers in Chortkov paid a lot of attention to the shape and design of the gravestones. The stones were not build just as a simple square with letters engraved on it but were shaped like an arched gate. The crown of the stone is supported by two columns raised half way above the surface of the stone. The crown was carved flat with surface of the stone  and did not protect the letters and the carving from the wind and the rain. Even though, many stones survived in good condition. Here [2 KB] Click here to extend the picture are two outstanding examples of gravestone crowns; the oldest one is in a shape of a triangle and the other one is in a shape of a decorated arch. A gravestone from the year 1744 is decorated in the middle with a candelabra that has seven branches and a beautifully carved Star of David crowns the stone. The second one is in a shape of a medallion.

The decorations were in large varieties: grape leaves, from lulav to lotus, many varieties of flowers and buds. Some shaped realistically and some drawn almost in modern way. We also find decorations of animals. Different varieties of birds, eagles, deer, lions and many more The decorations were influenced not only by Jewish tradition but also influenced by the Italian and the far east art.

In search of the right way to carve letters, Chortkov's artists reached the highest level of stone carving that amaze us today. We understand that the best and most beautiful gravestones were commissioned by the richest the and most important Jews. The names that were engraved on the stones could be found in the list of the most important Jewish people in the community like, Arye Leib Moshe, Rabbi Yisrael (Barslar)and many more. Only the rich and honorable were able to afford such magnificent gravestones since the work involved to create such a gravestone was hard and took many months. It is important to notice that modesty was characteristic to this gravestones. Very little was written about the departed. Only his name and a few words about his personality. [3 KB] Click here to extend the picture

[3 KB] Click here to extend the picture The most important gravestones were those of Rabbi Hershlie and his son. According to tradition he died in his sleep (death by a kiss). On both gravestones it is carved "what a horrible place this is". Many legends were told about the Rabbi and his son. Some of them are written in Rabbi Dr. Zonenstien's book and also in the author Litvin "Jewish Souls" book that I already mentioned . Here is what Litvin wrote about the stone: "on the grave of Rabbi Herslie and his son in Chortkov stands a gravestone, that is the most beautifully decorated stone of all the Jewish gravestones in the whole world".(click here to see picture p. 43 and 44)

For two hundred years the gravestones of Rabbi Hershlie and his son were a  place of pilgrimage. For those seeking salvation from our Jewish brothers, as it is told, to the local farmers.

More popular was the "Ohel"(mausoleum) of the Hassid Rabbi David Moshe the founder of the Hassidic dynasty in Chortkov. Many Hassidim travel from near and far to Chortkov to leave a "note" with their request inside the "Ohel"(mausoleum) of the Zaddik.

It was customary with the people in our town, that after a visit to their love ones grave, to submit their plea on the graves of Rabbi Hershlie and the Zaddik Rabbi David Moshe.

Another old custom connected with the ancient cemetery: has to do with strings that were used to make wicks for Yizkor candles for Yom Kippur. The family measured the length of the graves of their loved ones and also the length of the graves of the Zaddikim and interweave the strings together to make wicks for the candles.

[2 KB] Click here to extend the picture In the ancient cemetery towered a beautiful gravestone on the grave of Rabbi Yeshaya Meir Shapira.

Nothing was left in the ancient cemetery. The Nazis and their helpers destroyed everything and cleared the area from all the gravestones except for a double gravestone that for unknown reasons was left and is still standing today. Wounded and broken in its' place. The Nazis used the gravestones to pave the prison yard and later to repair the city streets. The work of destroying a holy place, was done by forced labor from the Jewish ghetto.

In their belief of pure race, the Germans wished not only to destroy the Jewish people but also their past and memory. The first target of the work of destruction was the ancient cemetery. Survivors who came back to Chortkov after liberation, found instead of a cemetery an open and empty field clear of gravestones. Only two walls had survived from the Zaddik "Ohel" (mausoleum).

It is a shame that we reached the day that from the magnificent community in Chortkov nothing survived, not even the gravestones. This Yizkor Book is a memorial, a gravestone to the glorious past of the Jewish community in Chortkov.

 


  [Pages 166 - 167]

Old Aged Home in Chortkov

By: Miriam Porer

Translated by Sara Mages

My Mother of blessed memory, used to tell me, when I did not put things back in their places, or when I left my cloths on a chair, that I will turn the house to into a “poor house”. I only learned what she meant after I visited the city’s poor house, for the first time in my life. I was asked to deliver a parcel and a small pot of food to an old woman. What I saw, grasped my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I stood in a depressing darkened room. The small widows were covered with dust, plaster and mud, blocking the sunlight from coming in. The walls were damp and covered with insect’s blood. In the middle of the room stood a rickety table with a broken leg. The table was supported by bricks and stones. Next to it  stood two broken chairs.

Against to the walls stood pitiful iron beds, covered with tattered blankets, that their “guts” fell out. At one time, those blankets were clean and in good shape. Lying or sitting on the beds were “creatures” who at one time were healthy, happy and active human beings. I saw sick and desperate people. Next to each bed, stood a small box, and stored in it were few personal belongings. A small cup, a small pot, a glass and a basket. The beds stood very close to each other, and the air was so stale that it was difficult for me to breath. The horrid smell of the overflowing chamber pots, that were located under the poor old people’s beds, increased the horrible stench in the room.

I remember, that I was sent to deliver a parcel and a small pot of food to a woman by the name of Zirla. She shared a room with eight or nine old women. When I entered the room, they were already fighting ,yelling and shouting insults at each other. When they saw me, and the small pot of food in my hand, their questionable eyes followed me, trying to guess  who would be the lucky one to receive the treasure that I was holding in my hands. When I approached Zirla, their eyes were shooting fire and hate.  Is this such a small matter in your eyes? To receive a bowl of tasty soup and a piece of chicken?

The same Zirla, shared her food with her neighbors, and while she was eating she told me the tragic life stories of the women who lived in the same room with her.

The Jewish community gave this place to the old people to live in. Once a day, the old women got a cup of tea, and twice a day a glass of milk. Those who were lucky enough to have a family, were being taken care of and were not hungry. But the others, had to beg for money in the streets so they won’t starve to death.

My mother, may she rests in peace, organized a group of young women who provided and served food to the old women. She enlisted me as a food “carriers”. Also, other women took on themselves the duty of food “carriers” to the old women.

After I got married and left Chortkov, my mother of blessed memory, continued with her charitable work, and by doing so, she did not only encouraged the elderly women, but also saved them from the disgrace of hunger, as simple as it sounds.

When I returned to Chortkov, Palak the pharmacist informed me that the community was planning to open an “old aged home” and for that purpose they bought a house on Zilona Street. He asked me to help him with the organization and the management of the “old aged home”. I gladly accepted his proposal  because I remembered the “poor house” of the past years, and I saw in the plan a solution to the critical situation of the old men and women in Chortkov.

Immediately,  I enlisted Mrs. Dr. Margalit, and the two of us put together a committee and organized a plan of action for the “old aged home”.

The beautiful house that was purchased by the community was located inside a large garden. The rooms were big and washed by sunlight. But very soon, we realized that we did not have enough room to accommodate all the needy. In time, we built additional rooms, and increased the capacity of the institution.

Mrs. Yente Karp, was one of the most dedicated administrators of the “old aged home”. She dedicated almost all of her free time to the institution. She helped with management duties, took care of all matters, small and big, enabling us to operate the home properly. Mrs. Yente Karp was also known for her good nature and patience towards the old people. Thanks to her, many unpleasant incidents that might have erupted between the old residents and the management, were avoided.

Activities in the “old aged home” were not limited to soul purpose of providing material help. In time, a library was established and proper social activities were organized.

Palak the pharmacist will be remember for his good deeds and his contribution to the success of the home. Not once, he provided financial help when the institution’s budget could not cope with unexpected expenses.

After I immigrated to Israel, Mrs. Karp was still on guard at the institution, and kept it running until the outbreak of World War II. Chortkov’s magnificent community institution, was destroyed by the Nazis during the period of the great destruction of the European Jewry



  [Pages  168 - 169]
 

Synagogues and Scholar Organizations

The Viznzer Synagogue

By: Dov Shiloni

Translated by Sara Mages


I don’t know what kind of atmosphere prevailed in other synagogues in Chortkov. Maybe, those places of prayers were distinguished and stood on high standard, but today, from a distance of many years, after we wandered a lot, and after I learned about the big world,  I look back on those years, and I am convinced, that personal and spiritual greatness prevailed in the Viznitz synagogue. I do not want to shut my eyes and ignore the negative aspects, and the shadows that darkened the lights of our lives in the synagogue. Like the arguments over the “Aliyot”(being called to the reading of the Torah) on Saturdays and holidays. But, despite all those dark shadows, a large ray of light shined from each corner of the synagogue, and great brotherhood prevailed among the worshipers.

I remember an event from the times of World War I. Itzi Fink of blessed memory, was found guilty for possessing forged money and was sentenced to 15 years in jail with hard labor. That day, was a day of mourning among the synagogue’s members, and all the Jewish residents in Chortkov. After the outbreak of the 1917 revolution, Itzi was released from jail. I will never forget the joyful party that the synagogue’s worshipers organized to celebrate his release.

The tradition of welcoming a “guest” on Shabbat or a holiday, was a common practice in the Vinzizer synagogue. I remember times, when people were fighting to host a “guest”, when more then one came to our synagogue on Shabbat or on a holiday. There were very few poor people in our synagogue.

I remember again, that in our home, lived ate and drank, two Halutzim who were on their way to Eretz Ysrael. They lived with us, on our expense, for two years (and now they live in Israel). At that time, we did not consider it be a charitable act or an unusual thing to do, but after many years, and after we were introduced to the cruel world, and the cruelty that it inflected on our people, we appreciate, twice over, the generosity and good nature of our town’s people. A special and wonderful chapter in our lives, was the reception that was given to the exiled from Sniatin who lived among us for a good number of years.

I remember the “third meal” parties in the Viznitz synagogue. There was an atmosphere of greatness and secret longing in those parties, in spit of the fact that the only food that was served was the tail-end of salt- herring and a piece of Challa. I am absolutely sure, that people who ate in the greatest restaurants in the world, never experienced the wonderful taste of the tail-end of a salt-herring that the Jews tasted in those parties.

I find it necessary to describe here, in a few words, some of the people who attended those parties. The Stekel brothers, especially Moshe Stekel, who was an enthusiastic Chassid, full of charm and youthfulness. There were many other “individuals”, but who among us is talented enough to memorialize their images?  O for those who are gone and cannot be replaced!

It is worthy to mention the readers, who passed in front of the reader’s desk during the High Holidays. In the Viznitz synagogue, there was no need to hire cantors for the holidays and for Shabbat, because there were many cantors among the worshipers who attracted people, from far away places, with the sweetness of their prayers.

The Viznitz Chassidim excelled with their generosity and love of Israel. They had a special and unique way of praying, that proved their love of G-d and the Jewish nation.

A well known Vizntiz Chassid was Nisan Pheriele’. Sometimes, twenty poor “guests” ate at his table during Shabbat or a holiday. His hand was always open, and with his money he supported all the rabbis, even though, he was a Vizntiz Chassid. Rabbi Nisan was the first tourist from Chortkov who traveled to visit Eretz Ysrael. He also paid for the education of one Jew (Itzikel the Russian) and taught him Mishnayot. Also known were Yantzi Stekel and his son Shmuel who dedicated their lives to serve the Lord. Every day, summer and winter, they arrived to the synagogue at five o’clock in the morning to pray and study the Torah . They were happy to perform the deeds of charity and encouraged others to do the same. Shmuel Stekel left Chortkov at the outbreak of World War I and moved to London. Even though he was not a rich Jew, he opened his hand and helped  many Jews in Chortkov. He died of a heart-failure at the outbreak of World War II.

May their memory be memorialized for eternity.
 



  [Pages 169 - 170]

The Great Synagogue

By Tzvi Ben Zion

Translation by Sara Mages


The great synagogue of Chortkov, as it was structured and shaped during our days, was established around two hundred years ago. Many wrote about the synagogue and described its many details. The authors; K.A. Franzoz,  Litvin in his book “Jewish souls”, and Rabbi Dr. Zonenestien in his scientific work about the history of Chortkov (we can read a summary of his work at the beginning of this Yizkor Book). Additional details were listed in the anniversary book for Rabbi Shapira’s Association that was published in New York. In it, we can find selections from the Community Registry and also a signed copy of the contract with the “Tailors Poalie Tzedeck Society” who leased the side hall (which was called by our people the “Chest Pocket”)  of the synagogue .

Al those articles relate to the period before the great and total renovation of 1921, that completely changed the appearance of the synagogue’s interior. Unfortunately, not even one picture of the synagogue’s interior remained. So, I am going to try my best to describe it here in words.

The entrance to the great synagogue was from the north side, from the lot that was located between the synagogue and Beit Ha’midrash. First, you had to walk down to the “Polish”, and then, you had to turn left, and after you descended a few steps ,you entered the “Sanctuary”. The walls and the arches that supported the ceiling were covered with pictures and sometimes with prayers. I remember the following pictures: “brave as a lion”, “fast a deer”, “strong as a tiger” and “swift as an eagle”, that covered the four corners of the “Sanctuary”. There were also pictures of; “Jaffa Gate” in Jerusalem, the “Wailing Wall”,  and “Rachel’s Tomb”. Hanging on the western wall were two framed pictures, in memory of the pogroms’ victims.

I remember that the following prayers were painted on the walls  “Avino Malceno”, “the counting of the Omer”, “Song for Shabbat” and more. It was possible in the great synagogue of Chorkov, to chant some of the prayers by reading them from pictures painted on the walls.

The windows that faced the eastern side were covered with stained glass, and the pillars that supported the ceiling were covered with pictures of the Zodiac. The “Bima” was raised from the floor, maybe by one meter, and was surrounded by a decorated wrought iron fence. There were two gates in the fence, one the south side, and one on the north side. There was also a fence around the Holy Ark. In order to reach the ark, you had to climb a number of steps. An additional ark was located in the western wall. The Torah Scrolls, that were in need of inspection, were being kept there.

The synagogue’s floor was made of sand stone. The synagogue was not heated even during the cold winter months, memorial candles were not lit during the High Holidays and a Mezoza was not installed in the synagogue’s door frame. The women’s sanctuary was located above the small side hall, and was also decorated with paintings.

The synagogue’s ceiling was painted in light blue and ancient brass and copper chandeliers were hung from it. Some of them were converted, and were used as electrical chandeliers. Above the reader’s desk stood a nine branches candelabra and in the hallway stood an ancient brass sink that served the worshipers until the outbreak of the Holocaust. The entry to the small side hall was from the right side of the corridor, and the entry to the women’s section was from a special outside door.

A nice tradition excised in the great synagogue. After Shabbat eve’s prayers, the cantor blessed the wine in an ancient silver goblet, and every once in a while, he let the children taste the wine.

Inside a meshed box, that was hung on the western wall, there was a “Matza” that was changed from Passover to Passover.

Out the many traditions, associated with the great synagogue, it is worth mentioning two of them. For many generations, when a person fell ill, a female member of his family rushed to the synagogue and submitted her plea in front of the open Holy-Ark. In special cases, the congregation stopped praying, and started to read chapters from the book of Tehillim. A second tradition was the tradition of making candles in the women’s sanctuary. Between New-Year and the Day of Atonement, the women gathered in the women’s section to make wicks for memorial candles by interweaving cotton threads and dunking them in wax. During the weaving of the wicks, they whispered in order the names of the patriarchs, and then, they memorialized the souls of their deceased relatives. The candles that they prepared were lit on Yom Kippur eve. The leftover wax was used for the making of Habdalla candles.

The members of the congregation came from different way of lives. During week days, especially during the last generation between the two World War, the worshipers came from the working class. During Shabbat, the city’s rabbi and the judge came to pray. The prayers were done in Ashkenazi version. The prayer service on Shabbat and holiday was finished earlier then all the other synagogues in towns.

Among the cantors of the last generation were: Moshe Nathan the cantor, Yhoshua the cantor, Pinchas Triener, Shomer and Monish. Well known among the readers was “the crippled teacher” who was a reader for more then ten years. The Gabaim did not stay long in their jobs. During the times of the Gabai Hochman the women’s section was renovated.

The great synagogue also served as a meeting place for the community. There were lectures and concerts were given by visiting cantors. During the Polish rule, the synagogue served as the official prayer place. Special services were held during national holidays and were attended by representatives of the civil authorities and by high ranked military officers. The rabbi gave a sermon on the days events, Rabbi Monishe’s choir sang song.

During the high holidays, secular people with open mind, attended the holiday’s prayer services. They were able to pray only at the great synagogue because the Chassidic synagogues were closed for them.



  [Page 171]
 

Beit Midrash of Rabbi Hirsheli, of blessed memory

By Tzvi Ben-Zion

Translation by Sara Mages

Beit Ha’midras of Rabbi Hirsheli was a low ancient structure, and as it was customary hundreds of years ago, it was mostly built underground, sunk almost up to its windows.

Many legends circulated about  Beit Ha’midrash and its founder Rabbi Hirsheli. One of them is telling, that before his death, Rabbi Hirsheli forbad performing  any  repairs or improvement work on the building, and that, after an incident that had happened to a Polish man whose daughter died after he repaired a door. In addition, the lot on the north side of Beit Ha’midrash, where Rabbi Hirsheli’s house once stood, remained desolated for many generations. For that reason, the Beit Ha’midrash was never renovated, and only the walls were reinforced, so they wouldn’t cave in.

The width of the hall was eight meters and its length was ten. There were four windows in the eastern wall. In the entrance, there were two descents. One leading to the “Polish”  and from there to the sanctuary. The Holy Ark was decorated with wood carvings, and above it, there were two lions holding the Tablets of the Covenant.

To reach the Bima you had to climb four steps and pass through one of the two decorated iron gates. Hanging the wall was the “Blessing of the Congregate” that included the names of all the rabbis who sat on the rabbinical chair in our town.
Beit Ha’midrash was not only used as a house for prayers, but also for as a place to study the Torah. For hundreds of years, brilliant students studied there, and their stories were recorded in the Community Registry. It is told in the Registry, that Rabbi Hirsheli’s sons remember with longing the times they spent studying in Beit Ha’midrash. The dedication to study the Torah and the Poskim (Deciders) never stopped and continued until the outbreak of the Holocaust.

Among the students of the last generation, were individuals and groups of dedicated youth. Ordinary homeowners and tradesmen, woke up before the crack of dawn and came to read  “Ein Ya’aqov” [1] or to recite from the Book of Tehillim (Psalms). The gate to Beit Ha’midrash was open day and night, and during the winter the heating stove was working non stop. The bookcases were full to capacity with study and reading books, many of them ancient and scarce books. A large archive was located in the attic.

Beit Ha’midrash also served as a place, where preachers, and lecturers came to preach the commandments of the Torah and the values of morality, mostly on Saturdays during the winter.

Thanks to Rabbi Hirsheli, many came to Beit Ha’midrash to seek compassion in time of trouble and distress.
Most of the worshipers, during the last generation, were the wealthy and “Community leaders”. Among the worshipers there were also simple folks, tradesmen and others.

I remember, that among the Gabaim were; Hirsh Yeger, Eliezer Brnda and Peretz Phyrstien. The “Reader” was Chaim-Bar Prishlender. Serving for many years as a caretaker was “Michel the Short” who always remembered the “Yarziten” of all the worshipers. He loaned a Tallith and Tefillin to those who were in need, and provided wine and cake for the “Kidush”.
The prayers in Beit Ha’midrash were done in the Sepharadi version. In addition, a special prayer that was written by Rabbi Hirsheli of blessed memory, was recited before the blowing of the Shofar.

The two women sections also served as “Rooms” for teaching the children. In the back yard, on the western side, there were a few trees that shaded the yard. Those were the only trees in the neighborhood.

The open space between Beit Ha’midrash and the great synagogue served as a play ground for the Jewish children. On the eve of the Ninth of Av, both children and adults came to take part in the tradition of throwing thorn-flowers and thistle on passerby.


[1] Ein Ya’aqov  was a collection of legends and homilies from the Talmud written by Rabbi Ya’aqov son of Shlomo Ibn Haviv. Return



  [Pages 171 - 172]

The Startin Chassidic Shtiebel

By: Tzvi Ben Zion

Translation by Sara Mages


The wide spread opinion among the town’s elders was, that the old shtiebel (synagogue) once stood next to the great synagogue. After the shtiebel was destroyed, his worshipers dispersed to other synagogues in town. For a period of time, they held prayer services in a room that was rented from Naftali the milkman.

At the beginning of 1920, when the new building was being built with money raised from the sale of prayer places, the control of the synagogue was passed into the hands of Chortkov’s Chassidim. Most of the worshipers were merchants and homeowners. Only a small number of  tradesmen were included among them. The majority of worshipers were learned Torah scholars. So, it is not a surprise, that the activities of the Torah Study Society (six orders of the Talmud and Mishna) and also the “Completion Ceremony” (completion of the study of the Talmud) always took place at the Startin Chassidic synagogue. Starting in the 1920s, a charitable collection for the Jewish National Fund started, but under the influence of the “Aguda Society” in the Startin synagogue, those activities were stopped.

The synagogue excelled with the large number of  worshipers who prayed daily, from sunrise to the late hours of the day. The on going prayers, that never stopped, did not bother the young men who were studying the Torah in the synagogue, and in the western hall, that was only being used for that purpose. Most of the studies took place after Ma’ariv (evening) prayers and lasted to the late hours of the night. During winter nights, it was possible to hear secular conversations that took place next to the stove. There were many discussions and opinions about the political situation in the country and the world. This activity was called by the Jews “Political wisdom”.

The last generation of cantors were, Nosbaum,Ysrael-Avraham the teacher, and Yoseph Goldhaver. The last one was also the an excellent reader, who also instructed the synagogue’s Yeshiva students.

During  the last years, before the Holocaust, the synagogue served as a central location for the Mizlobitz’s rabbi, who was the rabbi for the extreme orthodox Jews, who supported him after he was defeated in the elections for the city’s rabbi.
The “power” to keep the synagogue’s stove burning during the winter nights, and to wake the Yeshiva’s students from their sleep early every morning, belonged to Rabbi Eliezer.

There were two entrances to the synagogue. One on the western side that also served as an entrance to the women’s section, and a second one on the southern side. The prayer hall was spacious with large windows, allowing plenty of light to pour in, and helping the students with their studies. Every Saturday, a third meal took place. It was accompanied by Torah discussions and Sabbath hymns.



 [Pages 172 - 173]
 

Torah Study Society (six orders of the Talmud and Mishna)

By: B.M. Loke-Drok

Translation by Sara Mages

According to the order given by the Admor (our teacher and master - title of a Chassidic rabbi) Rabbi David Moshe’ni Friedman of blessed memory, the Torah Study Society, (the society of six orders of the Talmud and Mishna), was established in 1888 in our city Chortkov.

The objective of the society was:

1. To finish all six orders of the Talmud, in a period of one year, by dividing the tractates(Talmud chapters) among its members.
2. To finish all the six orders of the Mishna in two month by dividing the tractates among its members.
3.  To study Mishnayoth after the death of a society member, during the first year and   remembrance days.
4.   All members must go to the house of a deceased member, during the days of Shiv’ah (seven days of mourning), and pray.
5.   Each member must finish, in a period of one year, at least one hundred pages from the Gemara.
6.   Every week, each member must complete the weekly Parasha.
Our Admor of blessed memory, gave the directorship of the society to Rabbi Mordechai the slaughterer, who took on himself the Rabbi’s orders.

In order to execute the society’s objectives, Rabbi Mordechai of blessed memory, received a permission from Admor of blessed memory to write new rules and regulations for the society. Each member was obliged to conduct himself according to those regulations.

Rabbi Mordechai of blessed memory, divided this sacred work among a number of people. Rabbi Eliezer the slaughterer, of blessed memory, was in charge of distributing the Babylonian Talmud. Rabbi Natan Altman (who was a teacher at Talmud Torah and was also known by the name Natan Tshornick) was in charge of distributing the Mishnayoth, sending members to pray at the home of a deceased member during the days of the Shiv’ah, and was also in charge of dividing the Mishnayoth among the members, so they can study in memory of their deceased friend.

Rabbi Mordechai of blessed memory, kept himself active managing the society. He collected membership fees and monthly dues, bought books for the society and organized the society’s yearly meal that took place, according the rules, every year on the eighth day of Chanukah.

In 1917, Rabbi Mordechai of blessed memory, brought two young men to the society, Yakov Dovovi and Avraham Klirsphald. He forgave their membership fees, under the condition, that they will help him with the management of the society. They took on themselves the job of collecting money needed for purchase the six orders and Mishnayoth, and the planning of the yearly dinner, as mentioned above.

The weight of running the society lied on the two slaughterers; Rabbi Mordechai and Rabbi Eliezer. Every once in a while, they introduced improvements to the society and enlarged its scope to include also young adults
In 1921, the slaughterers convinced the writer of this article to take on himself the management of the society. He was accepted as a member and was appointed as a general secretary.

Rabbi Mordechai of blessed memory, insisted on one stipulation, that the writer of this article must rewrite the society’s rules and give them to each member, so he will know how to behave. He also had to make sure that none of the members will deviate from the course of the society.

I took the task on myself. I managed the society’s books, collected money, organized the yearly dinners on the eight day of Chanukah, in order to unite the religious Jews of Chortkov.

With G-d’s help I made sure that nothing was missing. I even added wine and honey cakes to each member before the meal. Every year, Rabbi Mordechai said the Hadran (we have repeated) and all the member sang songs and danced Chassidim dances.

It was difficult to be accepted as a member to the society. Each member had to pass a difficult tests, and the slaughterers mention above, supervised the behavior of each member.

Every two months, the caretaker of the society visited each member to check how far they have studied in their chapter, to make sure that they were done by Chanukah. The inspection was strict.

The seventy members of the society came from the well to do sector of the religious Jews of Chortkov. All the activities took place in the Stertiner synagogue.

It is worth mentioning that the original bylaws started with the following words:
“In the year …in the present of the president ,the Admor Rabbi David  Moshe’ni Friedman may he lives long and happily, the Torah Study Society, six orders of the Talmud and Mishna was established in Chortkov”…

In many occasions I started, together with Rabbi Mordechai the slaughterer, to go over the society’s regulations in order to bring them up in time. But we were not successful because there was too much work to be done.
After the death of the Admor Rabbi David Moshe’ni of blessed memory, the Admor Rabbi Ysrael’ni of blessed memory took on himself the position of the honorable presidency.

Now, a few words about Rabbi Mordechai the slaughterer of blessed memory: Rabbi Mordechai the slaughterer of blessed memory was one of the first Chassidim who gave their soul for the teaching of the Torah. He was the head slaughterers in our city. The other slaughterers were: Rabbi Israel the slaughterer, Rabbi Chaim the slaughterer and Rabbi Eliezer the slaughterer.
Rabbi Mordechai was an honest man with a clear mind, rich with knowledge and action. He was an enthusiastic Chortkov Chassid. A great diligent scholar, whose mouth never stopped learning. A wonderful person who will never be forgotten.
 

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