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The History of Griding

By Yehuda (Laibish) Margel

The town of Griding in Eastern Galicia (Grodek Jagiellonski in Polish) is located near Lvov. In the year 1213, Griding was known as a fortified town. Yadoyaga, the queen of Poland, captured without resistance the cities of Galicia. Yadoyaga sent messengers from the town of Griding to Lvov, demanding surrounder. Following negotiations, Yadoyaga entered Lvov and granted equality to all peoples and religions. In 1386, the Lithuanian prince Vladislav Jagiello married Yadoyaga the queen of Poland.

The town of Griding, which was an important community in Red Russia, and was also known as Hordok, was from then on called Grodek Jagiellonski after the great prince Vladislav Jagiello. According to Polish legend, the royal couple spent their honeymoon in Gordok. In 1419, a palace and worship house were built in Gordok by Vladislav Jagiello. The prince returned from a conference, and on his way back went, as was common in those days, to hunt in the woods. At that time, it was bitterly cold. Vladislav Jagiello became ill with a cold, and died in Gordok on Holy Monday in 1434. His heart was buried in the wall of the worship house. A statue of King Vladislav Jagiello wearing military uniform and holding a sword, used to stand in the middle of the market in Griding. During World War Two, the statue was destroyed by the German Nazis.

There is a record of Jews living in Griding during 1440-48 (a Jew called Schana), 1452 (someone called Neta) and 1466-74 (Samson). In 1469, Kizmish Yaglonchek renewed rights for all citizens. In 1537, the Tatars destroyed Griding. The Polish king, Zigmond I, ordered the mayor of Griding to fortify the town and organize its defense.

In the 16th century, Jews were given autonomy, ranging from governing the community, to a committee that passed regulations. The center of autonomy for the Jews existed until 1764. In the year 1550, the Polish king Zigmond August granted the Jews rights.

In 1611, Griding burned down and the palace was destroyed. The Polish king turned to Strosta Meshkovsky to fortify the town and the palace. From 1648 onward, Poland was in crisis. The class differences encouraged other peoples to attack Jewish communities in Galicia. In 1655, Bodgan Hamilinitsky defeated the Polish army under the leadership of Stanislav Pototsky, around Griding. In 1662, Griding was burned down again, by the Tatars. King Yan Kazimir negotiated with them, and eventually the Poles defeated the Tatars and Jews got some rest. King Wishnivitsky also defended the Jews. In 1680, Griding was re-built by Jan Geninsky. He allowed a greater number of Jews to settle near the Vershitza river. The Jews built a synagogue. In the Jewish town 62 houses stood. The Jews remembered Geninsky’s good deeds, and named their neighbhourhood after him, Genin.

In 1684, the Polish king Jan Sobisky reinstated rights for Jews in Griding. During the period of August III (1734-1763), the deterioration in Poland continued, and the Jewish communities were battling against blood libels brought against them. In 1756, the mayor of Griding had complained to the deputy finance minister for imposing a high head tax on the Jews of Griding. In the year 1757, king August III gave the city of Griding to Isabella Mehomtsi Malchovsky (a royal chancellor), as well as the Jewish Neighbourhood "Genin".

This was a troubled time for the Jewish community. The Frankist cult was aspiring to create a hole in the wall of Judaism. Ya’akov Frank dared to claim that the Talmud is filled with lies. He also wished to combine the Kabalah with Christianity. The frankists put themselves under the auspices of Dembobsky. Jews were invited for a number of debates with the Christian church. The list of Rabbis for those debates in Kemints in 1757 included Rabbis from Griding: 1) Rabbi Haim Abraham; 2) Rabbi Yehuda Nathan; 3) Rabbi David Nathan from Griding.

Description of Grading in the Newspaper "Ivri Anochi" (I am Hebrew)

In the newspaper "Ivri anochi" which was published on August 1, 1873, our city of Graydng is described by Ze’ev Grabshaid, the son in law of the community’s leader, Menachem Cohen.

"The city where I reside, a city of peacefulness, filled with nature, gentle gardens, pleasant breezes, and a scent of flowers and roses, that is the town of Griding, which is as small as the palm of a man and filled with blessing from above. In our town there is a street called "Christians street", but this is only a name, since truly, as Jews we live peacefully and quietly, like the Christians. There is no fear or disturbance. Not far from that street you will see nice and spacious houses, that is the "Jews Street", and as its name indicates, only Jews live there. Each man busy with his business, no one to disturb, love and friendship found a place there. And how wonderful it is to see in between those houses, shining a beautiful house, inspiring dignity, the house of God, which was built by our teacher and Rabbi, the famous Yitzhak Yehoshua Kligar, with the assistance of the generous of our town which contributed much. In that house you will find various books, and nice young men contemplating the Torah. We are fortunate to find wise men, the eighteen city councilers, who respect the Hebrew language, and at the head of it all is the wise Rabbi Menachem Cohen. They manage the community with wisdom and knowledge. They lend money to the poor, and do not shy away from benefiting the people. May God repay all their good deeds.

Ze’ev Grabshaid

The Annexation of Galicia to Austria

In the year 1772, most of Eastern Galicia (Red Russia) and a part of Western Galicia were annexed to Austria – who thus gained control of approximately a quarter of a million Jews. The Austrian queen, Maria Theresa, laid down rules and regulations which sought to prevent the expansion of the Jewish community in Galicia. Queen Maria Theresa passed on control of Galicia to her son, Joseph II. He made life for the Jews both easier and more difficult. He allowed Jews to be engaged in commerce and trade, but the prohibition on the purchasing of lands and houses remained intact. In the "letter of tolerance" which he published, he aspired to destroy the national will of the Jews and bring them to undertake assimilation. Our town Griding appears in the list of Ghetto towns of that time.

Better times came to the Jews during the days of king Leopold the Second, who only ruled for 2 years. Following him ruled Franz the First and Ferdinand, who again issued harsh regulations against the Jews. A change for the positive came with the emergence of Franz Josef the First to the throne. The Jews admired him and nicknamed him "King of the Jews". The Jews of Galicia celebrated King Franz Josef’s birthday as their own national holiday. During the 70 years of his rules he was kind to them and treated them well.

During the days of the 1810 Nepoleonic war, the district of Ternopol our city of Griding returned to be under Russian rule. In the Congress of Vienna, Austria received back the district of Ternopol and Griding. In the days of the 1848 revolution, a national council was established in Galicia, where the aspirations of the Ruthenians and Poles collided. Galicia first took part in the elections for the Parliament in Vienna. In 1850, 7 Jews were elected to the Board of Commerce in Lvov, one of them being Mr. Weinberg of Griding.

In 1868-9, an association called "Shomer Israel" was established in Galicia. Its purpose was the dissemination of German culture to the Jews. But later, when Jewish youth started visiting Polish schools, German assimilating was given up in favour of Polish assimilation. In 1860, a Jewish-German school was established in Griding. The Orthodox Jews in Galicia organized in an associated called "Machzikei ha’dat" [1]. The leaders of the association included the Rabbi from Belz, and the Rabbi from Krakow, Shimon Sofer.

In the elections for the Parliament in Vienna in 1873, members of the “Shomer Israel” association formed an alliance with the Ruthenians against the Poles, and sent 4 Jewish representatives. In the Newspaper “Ivri Anochi” there was an article about the elections in Griding written by N.S. (Nathan Neta Samueli), a writer and an author who wrote about Jewish life. N.S. announces in “Ivri Anochi” that in the previous week, the candidate for Parliament in Vienna, the preaching Rabbi Isaschar Levanshtein, made an appearance in Griding. The Rabbi arrived with a number of important individuals, including N. Smueli. In the synagogue, which was filled to capacity, non-Jews were present too. Everyone warmly accepted the words of Rabbi Levanshtein. All present were excited by his words and called “long live the Rabbi”. The success of the Rabbi resulted in jealousy by the Pole “Hendzi”, one of the leaders of the town of Griding, who was also a candidate for the Parliament in Vienna. The above-mentioned man organized gangs of drunken thugs, armed with sticks and stones, to roam the streets in order to assault Rabbi Levanshtein’s delegation. Supporters of the delegation advised that it should depart secretly. But Rabbi Levanshtein refused and said that no one will dare hurt him. He did as he said he would, and left the following morning, and no one dared to stage an attack against him. The “Ivri Anochi” published a letter from the Jewish leaders of Griding, where they address Rabbi Levanshtein and among other things write: “Your precious words light fires, bring a pleasant scent, and took root in our hearts”. It was signed by some of the members of the elections committee in Griding, Mendel Cohen, Mendel Raichman, Yehoshua Mendel, Isaac Landa and others. In another article about Griding from “Ivri Anochi” we read that the day of elections (October 23) is before us, and let us hope that the in its next issue the “Ivri” will announce that Rabbi Levanshtein was elected. Sadly, the news that came was bad. In October 31, 1873 the “Ivri Anochi” reported that on the day of elections the Poles woke up early and gathered in front of the Synagogue to provoke. The leader of those citizens turned to the policemen of the town, saying that now is the time to take revenge from the Jews, and drawn swords surrounded us, hitting and injuring. And the reader should understand that at such a bad time and day of riot we are content with saving our souls, and not aim high to reach our goals. Therefore, the candidate that was elected was not from our people.

Later, a reporter from Vienna reports in the “Ivri Anochi” that 15 Jews were elected, and that an appeal was put forth claiming that the elections were not carried out lawfully. He continues that there are hopes for new elections, and this time Rabbi Levanshtein will surely be elected. In 1874, the Griding city council was made up of 36 members, 16 Poles, 14 Jews, and 6 Ukrainians. Griding was a commercial center for the towns of the region, Yanov, Rodik, Komarno, due to a railway called “Krolova Lodvika” and a network of regional roads. A Hebrew school was established in 1897, numbering 15 students.

In the beginning of the 1890’s an epidemic broke in Griding. The town’s leaders prohibited villagers from other villages to visit Griding. Also, traders and other residents of other villages who happened to be in Griding at the time, were not allowed to leave, as not to spread the disease. On all the roads leading to and from the town were policeman, who made sure no one would come and go. The epidemic did not spare even one family. It happened that during the course of one night, a whole family would be taken from this world. When the town’s doctor would announce that a resident had contracted the disease, the police would come. They would board up all the windows and doors of the house were the person was lying. They left only a small entrance for the doctor taking care of the patient, and for those bringing food. The sight of the town was terrible. For months there were no people seen in the streets, until the epidemic had passed. Those events brought the eventual creation of a new cemetery. The old cemetery, that was in proximity to the town and next to the train station, had filled up. The gentiles did not want to sell land for the purpose of expanding the old cemetery, and that is why land was purchased far from the town, for the new cemetery to be built on. Next to the entrance was built a small building for the cemetery’s guard. The day the cemetery was opened, the Rabbi and the people of the town wore their holy-day clothes. They closed their shops in town and walked to the new cemetery by foot. After saying selected psalms, they drank l’chaim and made contributions to the poor. The Hasidim danced with enthusiasm, and the gentiles in the area gathered around with curiosity, to see the joy of the Jews in the cemetery

Our Town Griding in “The Mitspe”

”The Mitspe” is an important source documenting what is taking place in Griding at the beginning of the Century. As a result of the terrible holocaust, our connection from sources dealing with our city was severed. Our happiness was great to discover news of our town in the Hebrew newspaper “The Mitspe” which appeared in Krakow. Congratulations to the editor of “The Mitspe” – Rabbi Menachem Lazar, who found a path to a lively and important section of youth in general, and our town in particular. The national-religious youth found in “The Mitspe” a newspaper close to their views. From the beginning of the 20th century up to the First World War, the religious people of Griding drew from “The Mitspe” springs of wisdom and satisfaction. In the newspaper they found news on the world in general, and on the Jewish world in particular. They also read news about the Zionist movement, which was close to their heart. They enjoyed reading about the Russian defeat in the war with the Japanese. They also read in “The Mitspe” about the great devastation of the Russian ships at the hands of the Japanese, and took it to be punishment for the devastation that the Russians exacted on Jewish homes in Kishiniov etc.

They certainly read with interest, in the summer of 1904, about the first world congress of “The Mizrachi” movement in Presburg. They could relate to the articles in “The Mitspe” discussing “The Mizrachi” movement. The young men of Griding sympathized with the decision of the Mizrachi congress, which saw “The Mitspe” newspaper as a paper filled with the Mizrachi spirit. They also read different articles from towns in Galicia on Jewish life there. In that section, our town Griding was given an honourable space. They also read with great pride articles about Griding written by the authors Yechiel Shnaid and S. Z. Weiss, who were fellow citizens and friends.

A Report in The Mitspe about Griding:

“Our town of Griding has approximately 600 Hebrew families. Their economic situation, on the whole, is bad. There are also house owners who are very rich. There is no house that does not have a shop in it. In matters of commerce, there is a drought. Business, which used to flourish, went down greatly in recent times. There are also those who live on contributions of others, who do not work. Those are the matchmakers, the pimps, etc.

In our town there is a synagogue and a school, both of them glorious buildings. In recent days, a controversy broke out between the Hasidim. They were divided into two sects. One of the sects (approximately 100 people) rented an apartment for itself. The old Hasidim number only approximately 30 now. At the head of the companies there is the “Chevre Kadisha”. There is also a company of “sick visitation”, but it is empty of funds.

There is one “Talmud Torah”. The boys are taught by teachers who are not excellent, and after studying for 10 years they leave without knowledge. The leaders of the community wanted to build a new Talmud Torah and hire excellent teachers, but the Hasidim objected. Also, the Hasidim are worried that in the coming days a doctor will be chosen as the leader of the community, and then, instead of “kosher” teachers, they will hire for the Talmud Torah a teacher who is clean-shaven and has no side-burns. So, the Hasidim kept on objecting, until the idea of building a new Talmud Torah was forgotten.

Yechiel Shnaid

 

On January 6, 1905, Y. Shnaid wrote an article about Griding in the Mitspe. He wrote that “the Blaz Hasidim are pulling the Talit and yelling it is all theirs”. On the other hand, the Rozin Hasidim are their opposition, but the Blaz Hasidim have won. According to Shnaid: “there is no reason to be happy about their victory”. Community institutions are neglected, and there are many people who are leaving Russia and have nobody to turn to. According to an article by S. Z. Weiss, a young man, a refugee from Russia, passed out in school due to hunger. The incident had profound influence on the youth, and they established a “Society of Supporters for the Russian Refugees”. The head of the society is Efraim Kliger and its active members S. Z. Weiss, Aichmen Zvi, Hatzer Shalom (Friedhof). The name change to Hebrew demonstrates the activity of the movement in favour of Hebrew in our town.

In 1905, pogroms took place by army units who were in the region. The pogroms stopped after a member of the community, Israel Aichmen, pleaded with the Minister of Defense.

In the Mitspe on June 2, 1905, there is an announcement that Rabbi Yitzhak Yehosha Kliger had passed away on Monday. He was loved by everyone, and very knowledgeable in the Torah and ways of the world.

In 1905 there is an article in the Mitspe about a Hebrew teacher, a refugee author from Russia, who came to Griding and started teaching Hebrew. His activities were disclosed to the authorities. An order was given to a policeman to arrest the teacher. His students came to speak with the minister of the district, and the teacher was given permission to reside in the city. In 1905, the head of the Zionist association in Griding, Y. Gang, was chosen as member of the Galilee Committee of the Zionist movement.

S.Z. Weiss

In the Mitspe in a 1905 volume, a writer from Griding describes: “For a few weeks now there’s embarrassment among the Hasidim of our city”, because young men want to establish a “Mizrachi” association. The Hasidim are neglecting their businesses, and are only engaged in war against Zionism. The Hasidim go to the houses of parents whose sons are in the Zionist association, and explain to the parents the negative things that could happen to their sons who are part of the Zionists. On Saturday, the Hasidim tried to kick out all the young men wearing neckties, and low-platformed shoes, who are suspected with being engaged in Zionism. On Saturday there was a difficult war, with angry voices and shouts being heard at all the houses of prayer. The young men won, and were not kicked out.

In one of the articles from Griding, a reporter for the Mitspe complains that Rabbi Abraham Wallman from Griding left in his will forty thousand crowns for the building of a Talmud Torah. Still, the money is lying unused because the leaders of the community do not have time to carry out what was stipulated in the will. On May 17, 1907, there were elections for the Richsrat in Vienna. The Zionists had a national Jewish list. 4 Jews were elected. This event made an impression in Galicia. They started a struggle opposing the discrimination against Jews in terms of rights granted. Another 10 Jews were elected. In 1908 in a meeting regarding “Meir Ba’al Ha’nes” in Sondova Vishnia, it was asked why didn’t the meeting take place in Griding. The reply was that there are many Zionists there.

In the Mitspe in 1908, January 17, there is an article describing Griding and its economic situation. In commerce, there is an increase in bankruptcies. There isn’t a day where a shop doesn’t close, and in addition every day there are auctions open to the public – there was also an accusation that the Zionist youth of the town are anarchists. In 1909, the “Hilpes Farayen” established in Griding a school for female students, where 52 girls were studying.

In the Mitspe in 1910 – an article about a disagreement and argument in Grayding between the Hasidim and homeowners in regards to electing a councilman. There were 30 candidates for election, among them a candidate from the town. The salary of the position was 700 Austrian crowns a year. The Rabbi and the homeowners wanted to give preference to the town resident. But the Blaz Hasidim, who have a majority in city council, wanted a resident of Blaz. In the meeting a fight broke out. The homeowners have determined to fight with all means available to ensure that only a town resident is elected.

In the Mitspe, February 2, 1910, an article from Grayding appears. It conveys sentiments of gratitude and appreciation to the president of the community, Rabbi Israel Aichmen, following his three-year term. He established and built a Talmud Torah in the center of town. The building is marvelous and beautiful from the outside, and built by the regulations inside. Behind the building there is a large backyard which is utilized for the children’s games. Instead of giving out free firewood to the poor in winter, Aichmen determined to sell firewood for half price. That way, those who are secretly poor could also buy firewood for a large discount. He also ensured to renovate and improve the old bathhouse.

The Mitspe, in a 1910 volume, announces that a Hebrew school was established in Grayding. The teacher was a refugee from Russian. The citizen Strazinsky informed the district minister that the teacher is a spy. The teacher was put in prison. This resulted in embarrassment in the Zionist camp, but great happiness and joy in the Hasidic camp (Blaz). The regime decided to kick the teacher out of Graying, but in the end, and as a result of the efforts of the city’s youth, he was given permission to stay in the country.

Mr. Yechiel Shnaid, blessed be his memory, who went through Hitler’s hell in hiding in Holland – gave us a letter in Polish from February 12, 1910. In that letter, there is a confirmation of the establishment of the “Clear Language” association. Attached is also a list of rules of the “Clear Language” association written in German. The purpose of the above organization was the expansion of the teaching of the Hebrew language.

The Mitspe in 1910 reported about a difficult struggle in Austria, which took place during a census. The Zionists demanded that the Jews indicate Yiddish as their spoken language, but during the census the Jews were forced to indicate that Polish is in fact their spoken tongue. Some Jews found allies in the Hasidim, who wrote down Polish as their spoken tongue. The clerks put down that Polish was the spoken language, without even asking the people. Many Jews were fined for their chutzpa in indicating that Yiddish was their tongue. The Jewish leader, Shtand, made an effort to convince the Austrian government to lower the rate of fines and cancel them.

In 1911, the Austrian Parliament was brought down because the central government remained in minority. The Zionist movement engaged in a difficult struggle against the assimilating camp. The election war began right before Passover. The Poles, in collaboration with the assimilators, introduced various tricks in order to take away the few Zionist representatives. Many incidents of forgery occurred, such as the removal of ballots from the ballot box and the insertion of different ballots instead. Fights and riots broke out, as was the case in Drohovitz, where the army shot into the crowd, which resulted in fatalities. The elections ended in fraud, and the assimilator Doctor Levanshtein was elected. The Mitspe referred to Levanshtein using very unflattering language. However, it should be mentioned here that the same Doctor Levanshtein would go on to make marvelous defense speeches in the Shtiger trial in Poland.

He would be highly acclaimed for those speeches, and the Drohovitz days would be forgiven. To the chagrin of the Mitspe, “along with the fatal victims the Jewish club in the Austrian Parliament was cancelled too”. The Zionist list in the elections had failed because of pressure and terror by the local authorities. Handzi always acted to prevent a list of Jewish candidates. (The Jewish leadership in Grayding in 1913 was the leader, Aichmen Israel, his deputy Ya’akov Schiff, Anshil Frankel, M. Blazer, and secretary Yitzhak Leib Tiser).

The religious-Zionist youth also read the Mitspe. Their joyful occasions and important events came to be expressed in the Mitspe. Libish Kliger, Rabbi Damta’s grandson, got engaged and his friends congratulated him in the Mitspe, including S.Z. Weiss, Moshe Shnaid, The Rozner brothers and others. The same year, Zvi Friedhof was engaged to the daughter of the author Rabbi Abba Applebaum. He was congratulated by Ya’akov Wahel, Zisha Zusman, Dov Barzam and others, in addition to the previously mentioned friends. In 1907, The Mitspe’s editorial board offers its well-wishes to the author S.Z. Weiss on his marriage to S. Mandel. In the same issue a congratulatory wish was offered to Simcha Rozner on his engagement. In the Mitspe, volume 42, Meir Shternberg congratulates his good Neighbor Mordechai Wahel on the release of his son from the military.

In the Mitspe in 1912 and 1913 we find congratulations to Bilig Pinchas, Evish Gofrit (Shwabal), David Maher. Among the well-wishers are Meir Bilig and Abraham Zitsman.

In 1913, the Mitspe reached the Blaz Hasidim. Dan Reuven congratulates on the engagement of Israel Garstler. Abraham Frankel is also congratulated. In 1914, the voice of the Grayding youth fell silent, surely because they joined the military. On September 14, 1914, a call of alarm was published by the editor of the Mitspe: “in time of war we are pleading and begging you to take merci on the Hebrew paper, and pay your debts”. In the Mitspe, a headline calls: “remember what the Amalek did unto you”, and we are surprised by the last echo from Grayding in the Mitspe, in 1918, when the military Rabbi Pesach Provast congratulates Haim Kliger on his engagement. An important period has ended, and the voice of the lively Grayding youth has fallen silent.

The First World War – 1914

My mother’s opinion was that we should leave Grayding before it is too late, just like most of the other town residents. My father was convinced by the advice of the Rabbi Yosef Kaliger, who opposed leaving the city and told my father “you are the owner of the home, and a father to 8 children who eat at your table”. Why should you become a world traveler? One evening, while the Kroit house in the center of town was being put on fire, we left the house and Austrian soldiers remained in our place. My parents were able to acquire a cart, they paid a lot of money, and we drove away, stopping off in Moshzik for the Sabbath. On Sunday we continued to Hirov, where we stayed for a week, and from there we hurried to Istrik. One cool night we spent a few hours in the cemetery in Istrik. My father made a list of the names in our household, so that our identity would be known. From a distance we saw the preparations for the attack of the Russian forces. The next day we returned home. As a result of the blowing up of bridges, we were able to miraculously cross water springs, and facing mortal danger arrived at Sambor. We were hosted at a Talmud Torah house. At night, Russian soldiers attacked us, robbers, holding swords in their hands. My mother protected my father with her body, and with God’s help we were spared.

Following difficult travel of 3 months we returned home. Our cat was waiting at the front door. Difficult times followed under the Russian occupation. At night they would attack and rob. Once, the Russian commander ordered that all men older than 50 will be banished to Russia. The order was cancelled by paying bribes.

I recall one time, on a Friday, runners arrived at our house to bring my father to the Russian commander in order to offer him the position of a military supplier. My father was frightened, and convinced the representatives of the regime that he is not a suitable candidate to become a supplier. We lived with the Russians for approximately two years. Once during the days of the Russian regime, my mother was leading me from the “Cheder” next to the Flesher house, when we came across a Russian on a horse hitting an old Jew. My mother asked the Russian to stop hitting the old man. In reply, the Russian started hitting my mother, and she escaped to the “Cheder” in the house of Matetyahu Wolf the butcher, and through the window rushed home. By the time the Russian entered the room, she disappeared without leaving a trace.

The Austrians returned to our city, and ordered us to leave town. In Sondova Vishnya we stayed for a few days. Diseases and plagues were spreading, and many became ill, including me and later my mother. For good luck, the Jewish community arranged the marriage of a young orphan girl, in the cemetery. My father was taken to the Austrian military. My mother was the household’s breadwinner. In the beginning of the Austrian period there was a shortage of food, and prices were skyrocketing. The Austrian authorities demanded that the Jews give their support in fighting those who raise prices unreasonably. I recall that Rabbi Yosef stood in the large Synagogue, wearing a Talit, and ordered an embargo on those who raise the prices of food and other goods. We, the children, ran to the corner store to buy candy that was sold for a low price. I remember that a treacherous Jew helped the policeman to search for flour hidden in warehouses.

My sister registered me to study in first grade in the elementary school. I studied in a “Cheder” with the teacher Rabbi Mordechai Dindas. One room was used both for studies and living. Among the students who excelled in the “Cheder” was Yosef Frum, the son of Branchi, the widowed milk-woman. She was blessed with a final rest in Israel. My father served in the military as a guard. Once in a while he would come home in his duty as the guard of soldier prisoners, who he transferred from Krakow, Risha, Yeroslav and Pashmishel, to prisons in Lvov. In the meantime, the prisoners would sleep in our house, eat well, and in the morning would continue to their destination. My father took those opportunities to meet with my teacher Rabbi Mordechai, who would update him on my progress in my holy studies.

Following the collapse of the Austrian monarchy in November of 1918, the Jews were hurt in the war between the Poles and the Ukrainians. My father returned on foot at midnight. Battles between the Ukrainians and the Poles took place around our city of Grayding. In our house, the fourth bedroom was transferred into a hiding place by a cabinet next to the door, and when soldiers came to the Synagogue to catch men for fortification work, approximately 200 men hid in our fourth bedroom, and thus were spared the danger of serving in the front. During bombardments, we would go down to out basement with neighboring families. Bracha Blazer and her sisters brought a large pot of soup for the hungry staying at the large synagogue.

In a conversation with Bracha, she told me that the high command of the Polish military, headed by General Heler, was staying in their house.  General Heler demanded that her father supply flour to the army.  Once, General Heler demanded that her father supply the military with bags of flour and one bag of coffee.

  To that, Rabbi Mordechai Glazar replied to the general that he would supply all the quantity of flour he has in his warehouse, but that he does not have any coffee at all.  The General was angry at Rabbi Mordechai and ordered that the Jew be hung in the center of the street.  Someone in the Polish administration who respected Rabbi Blazar informed him of the General’s threats, and he was also given a travel permit to Western Galicia.  Rabbi Mordechai and his wife escaped town out of fear of the General’s revenge.  Bracha also told me that in their house there was a little secret room where 50 Jews were hiding.

I recall that at this period, on a Saturday, soldiers from Posen attacked and shaved off beards of Jews, but did not dare enter the synagogue. My father, who at that time was in the synagogue, told me that the Jews who were inside the synagogue armed themselves with brass chandeliers and were determined to throw them at the soldiers if they entered the synagogue.  Jews whose beards were shaven off by Polish soldiers tied handkerchiefs around the areas that were shaven to look like sufferers of toothaches.  I saw Polish soldiers chasing after the elderly Yakli Medulina.  They shaved his beard and forced him to shout out in Polish “Poland has not been lost, long live Poland, those are the liberators of the Polish people!”.

In one of the issues of “Yiddishe Wort”, Yechiel Shnaid describes his visit at his mother in Grayding following the First World War.  Whole streets completely disappeared from the face of the town.  In the other streets he saw devastation and destruction.  They have not had time to renovate the destroyed houses.  His mother told him about the battles in the city of Grayding and around it, and about neighbours who were killed.  She also told about cousins who died in the plague and about the dead who did not receive a proper Jewish burial.  He left Grayding with great heartache.  However, Shnaid did notice with satisfaction the activities in the synagogues.  He saw changes for the better in the young generation in Grayding.  He also got to witness the departure of the first pioneers who left Grayding to go to the land of Israel.

Following the First World War there were two Zionist organizations in Grayding.  One of them was “The Tsfira”, where the Zionist youth united.  Next to “The Tsfira”, a Hebrew school was established under the direction of a successful Hebrew teacher called Tichberg.  As a 10-year-old, I studied Hebrew in that school for months.  My teachers in the “heder” held a negative attitude towards the Hebrew school, and they influenced my parents to stop my studies in the Hebrew school. 

The other Zionist organization was called “The Judah Youth”, which was an organization for all classes of people.  Among its leaders were Herman Yechezkel, Doctor Henzel, Haim Klaher, Shoshana Weiss, and others.  My sisters Hili and Leyba were members in the organization too.  I recall that at the time of the San Remo decision, the youth of both Zionist organizations were parading to the big Synagogue.  There, a ceremony took place and Psalms were read.  Starting in 1920, waves of the best of our town’s youth were making their way to Israel.  Goodbye parties to the pioneers leaving for Israel became impressive holidays.  The Grayding youth would accompany the first pioneers to the train station, and proceed to dance and sing Zionists songs.  In addition to the above-mentioned associations, there was also “Ha’Halutz”, “Ha’Shomer Ha’Tsair”, “Tseiri ve’Halutz Mizrachi”.  In the years 1921-1922, under the influence of the Zionist atmosphere in the town, the “Halutz Ha’Tsair” was organized.  Its members were 13 and 14 year olds, religious students, and most have gone to Israel, including: Meir Kroyz, Arie Marbach, Zvi Kats, Zvi Brir, Leibish Margel and more.  It also should be noted that  the “Halutz ha’klali” invited their general secretary, Barley Shtok (today Professor Sedan) to speak in 1924.  My friend, Yitzhak Meltser tried to influence me to join the “Halutz ha’klali” so I can go and listen to B. Shtok’s interesting and wise words.

Youth organizations were established, “Ha’noar ha’zioni”, “Bnei Akiva”, “Achava”, “Beitar”, and “Gordonia”.  Very active also was the sports organization “Ha’poel”, which influenced youth all around the district.

As a result of the departure to Israel of the best young men, the Zionist forces in Gordok were weakened.  For that reason, the two Zionist organizations united into one association called “Tarbut”.  Its goal was to promote Zionist activities and cultural Jewish activities.  There were culture nights, and Hebrew lessons.  Also, a nice library was available to everyone.  There were also shows for the youth.  In “Tarbut” people also read newspapers, listened to the radio, and more.  Among the activists and the lecturers were Dr. Margaliot, attorney Kronenberg, Motel Beck, Asher Korn, Frankel, Mikolintzer, and Mr. Herman Yechezkel.  I was elected to be the librarian in “Tarbut”.  The organization also established “Ivria”, whose activists were Dr. Margaliot, Katz David, Shternberg Dov, Kornboim Shimon, Karp Edik, Z. Shtobenhoiz and Margel Leibish.  We were discussing the writings of “Echad Ha’am” and more.  As the leader of the Hebrew seminar students’ organization in Lvov, it was my task to welcome the Polish journalist Vladislav Harposta, whose appearance at the community hall in Lvov was arranged by the Hebrew seminar.

He lectured on the subject “How did I find my way to Hebrew?”  Once, during a visit of Vladislav Harposta in Grayding at Professor Toib’s, regarding the execution of common plans, we did not miss the chance and made Harposta our guest at the “Ivria”.  We spent a few hours together with him there.  Great was my surprise in one of the early days of the existence of Israel, when I bumped into Harposta in one of the restaurants in Tel Aviv.  He served as the Polish embassy’s secretary there.  Vladislav Harposta was glad to see me, and told me that the promise of his teacher, Shevach Velkovsy from Krakow, came true, and that the Hebrew language had indeed brought him honour and proved to be genuinely useful.  Harposta also told me that he sent packages to his friend, Professor Toib.  During the holocaust, Toib was staying at one of the villages around Grayding.  Finally, he received a farewell letter from Toib.

Harposta also told me that Professor Toib’s daughter asked him to hide at his place during the holocaust.  Harposta responded to her that unfortunately he himself was a guest at his brother’s, and a guest does not bring another guest.

In the “Mesila”, Lvov, September 13, 1923 (a newspaper of the “Mizrahi” association in Galicia), there was an article about Gorodok by M. Salsul:

“It has been a year since a group of “Halutzei Ha’mizrahi” was established by the best of our national-religious youth.  Two of our group members work at the Mizrahi’s carpentry in Lvov.  One of them will be making Aliyah to Israel soon.  We supported him with a decent sum of money from the “Halutz Ha’mizrahi” fund.  By Passover we had a special room, and were offering all sorts of lessons, including in the Hebrew language.  However, as a result of lack of money we were forced to vacate the room, and we now congregate every day at the small Beit Midrash.  There we study and have various conversations.  We also take part in all sorts of Zionist work.  We also sent a representative to the conference, but our goal is to make Aliyah to Israel.”  A farewell wish from Yosef Korb, who made Aliyah, was also published in the same newspaper.




Translator's Footnotes

1. Hebrew for "The religion holders".
 
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