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[Pages VII- X]

Preface

by Shlomo Bickel

Translated by Claire Hisler Shefftz
with reference to the translation of the first part by Adele Miller

The idea of a “pinkas Kolomey,” which would tell about the once splendid past of our now, in the Jewish sense, destroyed native city, and which would, through the accounts of eye-witnesses, victims who miraculously survived, mourn the annihilation of the Jewish Community of Kolomey - arose silmultaneously among the “olei Kolomey” in Israel and among the “sharit haplita,” the survivors in New York.

Here, in New York, the concept of a “pinkas Kolomey” was nurtured with deep love and devotion by the poet Naftali Gross. He, together with the writer of these lines, were to be the editors. We had an understanding that he, Naftali Gross, would be the chief editor and bear the major responsibility of reading and preparing the manuscript for publication.

First of all, he was much more involved, and with eager and sad interest, sought out every Jewish writer who had something to tell about the past joys and the later heavy sorrows of his Kolomey.

Secondly, the serious heart disease of his last few years which kept him from his regular editorial position, forced him to stay at home and thus gave him more time (how comic and how tragic was our optimism!) to be involved with the yizkor book project.

His illness gave Naftali Gross “more time” but not enough time to begin the selection and editing of the manuscript. He left us suddenly and unexpectedly on the night between Shabbos and Sunday, on April 8, 1956.

The yizkor book for which the living Naftali Gross was to have been the chief editor was dedicated by him to the martyred community of Kolomey; he had been the poetic voice of their lives and deaths. At the end of the section “Stories and Memories,” we placed Naftali Gross's poem, “Yosl Klezmer Saves Kolomey from a Terrible Fire” and thereby memorialized both the poet and his hero, Yosel Klezmer, who was his literary alter ego.

We ended the section “Stories and Memories” with Gross's poem and began the section “Portraits” with poems of Naftali Gross and Itzik Manger (a Kolomeyer through his mother's family). To Naftali Gross's biography in that section, we added a brief review of his work; also added was the eulogy this writer delivered at the poet's funeral. I could not muster the energy and patience for a more complete evaluation.

In the section “Portraits,” we tried to create a panorama of ideas and movements in the Jewish community and the achievements of its members. We included only those who were no longer living since we could better see how their efforts led to the achievement of their goals.

We did make one exception for the sculptor Chaim Gross. With him, with our Chaim, long may he live, we began the “Portraits."

We believed that we couldn't leave out Chaim Gross, our Kolomear sculptor, who had achieved a world renown for his artisitic creations and was now, in his later years nearly half of his hundred and twenty.

We know that we did omit quite a few Kolomeyer who deserved to be included in this section, and we left them out only for their “sin” of still being alive. We hope that they will all continue with this “sin” for many long, healthy, and creative years and this will certainly put our minds at rest.

And now, for a blessing, for all those without whose help this book would never have been completed:

First of all, the Kolomeyer in Haifa, Itzchak Teitelbaum, who with his hard work, his devotion, and his attention to detail prepared most of the material that is included in the book. He descended upon writers, he found people who knew how to write and he sought out all the photographs of long ago Kolomey. The dispersed Kolomeyer in Israel and America owe him a debt of thanks that can never be repaid.

And from the landsleit in Israel, I want to especially remember the walking encyclopedia about Kolomey, Levi Grebler. All that he knows and remembers about Kolomey would fill not just one but several volumes. We used a great deal of his material under his own name, under his initials, and also in some articles under other initials. Levi Grebler certainly earned himself much thanks from the Kolomeyer yizkor book.

And now, my kinsmen, those near to me, whom I saw here at work in New York with the burdens they carried on their shoulders and their worries about the budget. They were, in alphabetical order, the members of the yizkor book committee: the self-sacrificing devoted Aaron Hisler; the dynamic and in Kolomeyer circles, beloved Leib [Louis] Weitz who together with Naftali Gross established the yizkor book committee in New York; the reliable and always stimulating young friend of mine, Yitzchak [Isaac] Susskind; and the lively, friendly Isaac Feuerstein [Edward Firestone]. These four did not begrudge any effort or time to get the Kolomeyer landsmanshaften in New York interested in the book as well as Kolomeyer landsleit throughout the world.

The writer of these lines who took upon himself the heavy task of editorship after the death of Naftali Gross, z”l, is certain that without the previously mentioned four friends and comrades, all his editorial work would have been overwhelming. Without their efforts, this book could not have been published.

And finally, I want to thank my friend, Baruch Tchuvinsky, who helped me with the editorial work and took upon himself the extra work of binding in addition to editing and printing.

Shlomo Bickel

New York, June, 1957

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