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[Pages 171-176]

Săcel

 

(Săcel, Romania)

47°38' 24°26'

Romanian: Săcel
Hungarian: Izaszacsal

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It is a village about 50 kilometers southeast of the district city of Sighet. All of its residents were Romanians.

Jewish Population

Year Population Percentage
of Jews in the
General
Population
1830 97 7.0
1920 574 18.9
1920 666 21.5
1930 651 18.2

 

The Beginning of the Jewish Settlement

According to the tradition of the Jews of Săcel, the first Jews arrived in the village in the middle of the 18th century. However, in the Jewish censuses of 1728, 1735, and 1736, no Jews are recorded in Săcel. According to this tradition, the name of the first Jew was Mendel Rosenberg. He was married and the father of three children. In the Jewish census of 1768, a Jew by the name of Meir Salomon, who had come from Galicia, is noted. He too was married and the father of three children. He was a liquor distiller and paid 30 Florin per year as lease fees.

In the census of 1830, the following names of heads of families are recorded in Săcel (number of people are in parentheses):

Matias Rosenberg (6), Yitzchak Chakman (3), Hirsh Chakman (7), Yanku Valter (3), Shimon Valter (6), Hirsch Rosenberger (5), A. Chakman (6), Moshe Ginter (6), Moshe Remetian (7), Moshe Strakler (7), Marco Strakler (5), Mendel Rosenberg (10), Izak Rov (2), Shlomo Ganz (5), Zelig Ganz (7), Moshe Stern (6), Lazer Ganz (9), Yosef Stern (5), Eliahu Ganz (8), Yaakov Ganz (7), Leib Ganz (3), Shimon Ganz (7), Yaakov Fogel (7), Lazer Shechter (8), Shimon Rosenberg (3), Lazer Ganz (8).

 

Torah Life

The community of Săcel was affiliated with the community of Oberwischau [Vişeu de Sus]. The communal leadership issued the following official decision on Saturday night of the Torah Portion of Lech Lecha, 5682 (1921): As long as we do not take on our own rabbi, we affiliate with the rabbi and Gaon in the city of Visheve [Vişeu de Sus]. On the 11th of Av, 5682 (August 6, 1922), the community gathered together in order to select a rabbinical judge and teacher. The candidates were Rabbi Yechezkel Widman, who was the rabbi in Ieud at that time; and Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Horowitz who lived then in Berbeşti. All 80 people who had the right to vote participated in the elections for the rabbi. 52 people voted for Rabbi Yechezkel Widman, as opposed to 28 who voted for Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Horowitz. However, after Rabbi Yechezkel Widman was chosen as the rabbi and teacher (and indeed, the rabbi for all matters), the rabbi of Oberwischau, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager, continued as the official rabbi of Săcel. In a general meeting of the members of the community of Săcel that took place on the Sunday of the Torah portion of Ki Tavo 5682 (September 3, 1922), it was unanimously decided to choose Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager as the rabbi of Săcel for his entire life “until 120 years”. Indeed, he frequently visited Săcel, especially when there was the need to transmit an important decision regarding communal life. His signature is found frequently in communal ledger.

The local rabbi, Rabbi Yechezkel Widman, was the son of Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Widman, the head of the rabbinical court of Massif. He willingly accepted the authority of the rabbi of Visheve, and worked with full cooperation. (Incidentally, when he was the rabbi of Ieud, Rabbi Yechezkel Widman edited the Degel Hatorah Torah periodical that was under the supervision of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager.) Rabbi Yechezkel had been a student in the Visznitz Yeshiva, and was known as a deep and sharp scholar. He worshipped with great devotion, and was a great expert in the books of Hassidism and Torah research. He fought the battles of Torah valiantly, had fine traits, was refined in soul, and was very well accepted by the students of the Yeshiva. He was close the Visznitzer Rebbe, the author of Ahavas Yisroel[[1]], to whom he cleaved with all the strands of his soul. One could hear from his mouth wonderful stories about the ways of Hassidism. After the death of the Ahavas Yisroel, he spent time under the holy shadow of the author of the Imre Chaim[[1]] of blessed memory.

During the time of Rabbi Yechezkel, the shochet was Rabi Tzvi Meir Fogel, a great scholar and fearer of Heaven, as well as a rabbi. He would fill in for the rabbi in his absence, and had great influence upon the members of the community. Rabbi Mendel the rabbi of Visheve once said that he had traveled through half of the world and never had met a pair such as the rabbi and shochet of Săcel.

Rabbi Yechezkel Widman was murdered at Auschwitz. Rabi Avraham David Horowitz, the head of the rabbinical court of Strasbourg, is the son-in-law of Rabbi Yechezkel Widman.

During the period that he served at Săcel, Rabbi Yechezkel Widman published two works, with his own addenda.

The book Maamar Haikarim [Article on Fundamentals]… by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto of holy blessed memory… With the addition of various explanations and elucidations… That I have gleaned from other books of the author… I also added an article… Emuna Vadaat…. Oberwischau 5688 / 1928. 20 pages.

The work Nachpasa Darcheinu [Let us Search our Ways] That lights up the eyes of the knowledgeable and opens the hearts of man… By Bahm”ch, Yad Haktana, Rabbi Dovber the son of Rabbi Yaakov of Sieniawa] … and I added various good gleanings from holy books… Oberwischau 5689 / 1929[[2]], 30 pages.

Recently, Rabbi David Appel published:

Memories of Mahari”v[[3]], the books of… Rabbi Yechezkel Widman, may G-d avenge his blood, the head of the rabbinical court of Săcel… a) Emuna Vadaat on the Maamar HaIkarim of the Ramch”al[[4]]

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of blessed memory; b) additions to the article Nachpasa Darcheinu of the Baha”m Yad Haktnana; c) several articles on novel ideas of Torah and lore that were published in the Degel Hatorah booklets… And finally, the booklets Aron Betzalel and Eil Milumim by… Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh (Leib) Appel of blessed memory of Ieud… Tel Aviv, 5735 (1975). [7], 20, 29 [19], 36, [3] pages.

Responsa written by Rabbi Yechezkel Widman to Săcel:

Responsa Beer Chaim Mordechai section 3, paragraph 48… With regard to an agunah[[5]] named Sara Rivka of Dragomireşti [the wife of Avigdor Shiman] … Signed by the Gaon and head of the rabbinical court of Dragomireşti along with a second witness. There is also a death certificate from the archives… Since all of this and the certificate from the archives were in front of the Gaon and head of the rabbinical court of Dragomireşti, I claim about this… That that Gaon, may he live, should be the primary one, and I will be the branch… And even the Honor of the Holy Torah[[6]] will agree to this…

Responsa Imre David, paragraph 60, (5680 / 1920): … There was a scribe there with 12 pairs of tefillin made from cowhide… The trustworthy ones of my community [Stanislawów], and he has a certificate of kashruth in his hands from me, but I checked them and they were not appropriately square from top to bottom…

Responsa of Mahara”m Brisk section I, paragraph 15: It has been a long time since the Honor of the Holy Torah[[6]] has sent to me a note regarding the Responsa of Maharia”tz…

Ibid. Section 3, paragraph 6: Regarding his question about these undesirable days [the years of the Second World War], many people of our community are absent, so that at times our synagogue has a very small minyan [prayer quorum], and, as is explained in the book Zechor LeAvraham… That in a small minyan where it seems that most of the people do not have appropriate concentration in the repetition of the Shmoneh Esrei, that it is appropriate that the prayer leader recite the entire prayer out loud, and the congregation recite it word for word along with the prayer leader….

Ibid. Paragraphs 36-67: … Since, on account of our many sins, eruvs[[7]] have been anulled in Maramures and, on account of our many sins, the stumbling block is great, especially with respect to the youth who have already become accustomed to violating the holy Sabbath. Several years ago, when there was also such a decree, the Honor of the Torah made some adjustments beneath the telegraph poles… But now, when the danger is greater, it is impossible to make such adjustments, and there is no recourse other than considering the telegraph poles to have the form of a doorway, in accordance with the permissive ruling of the questioner…

In an anthology of halachic judgments on issues of the day, in the work camps and in the Hungarian Army, in which many Jews worked at forced labor.

Around the year 5670 (1910), a great scholar who was a native of Russia, Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanov, settled in Săcel. He was born in the year 5643 (1993). At the age of 20, when he was supposed to present himself and enlist in the Czarist Army, he moved to Hungary and went to study in the Yeshiva of Zehlim. Later, he made aliya to Jerusalem and studied in the Torat Chaim Yeshiva; however, on account of his weakened state of health, he returned to Hungary and settled in Săcel. He exchanged his garb for the Hassidic garb of the Jews of Maramures, and served as an active rabbi. His name went out as a sharp scholar who was expert in the entire Talmud. Students from the entire region gathered around him. His son Rabbi Elazar Kahanov was born in Săcel. He later became on the great rabbis of the United States, where he served as the rabbi of the community of Long Beach and head of the Torah Vodaath Yeshiva in New York and the Or Hameir Yeshiva in New Rochelle. Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanov lived in Săcel until the end of the First World War in 19198.. Then, he moved to the city of Hermanstadt in Transylvania [Sibiu] where he lived for about six years and ran a Yeshiva. He immigrated to the United States in 1924, and served as a Rosh Yeshiva at Torah Vodaath until his death on 2 Shvat 5620 (1960). His coffin was transported to Jerusalem and he was buried on Har Menuchot. Two books were published in his lifetime, both in partnership with his son:

The book Mishmeret HaKohanim… Section I: Commentary and novel ideas… on several tractates… Section II: novellae on Tractate Kidushin by his son Rabbi Elazar Kahanov… New York 5708 (1948), 127 pages.

The book Pri Haaretz on the commandments that depend on the Land of Israel, regarding the Sabbatical year. By Rabbi Elazar Kahanov… The booklet Imre Kohen on tractate Pesachim and its laws by Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanov… New York 519 (1959). 234 pages.

Rabbi Aharon the son of Rabbi Nachman Kahana, the author of Orchot Chaim and grandson of the author of Divrei Geonim lived in Săcel for a brief period. He was the rabbi Bistra. He too perished in the Holocaust. When he lived in Săcel, he published a small section of a large work:

The Responsa Book Veerech HaKohen; an anthology of several hundred legal decisions from the four sections of the Code of Jewish Law and the latter rabbis that I have gathered  The young Aharon the son of my father Rabbi Nachman Kahana of holy blessed memory… Who lives here in the community of Săcel. Oberwischau, 5688 / 1928. 20 pages.

One of the honorable people of Săcel, Rabbi Shlomo the son of Rabbi Shmuel Fruchter, served as the secretary of the community until the year 5682 / 1922. Later, he left the village and immigrated to the United States. In his old age, he settled in Jerusalem where he died in around the year 5725 / 1965. A short time after he left Săcel, he published the work:

Divrei Shlomo; precious explanations… on issues of the obligation of faith… Oberwischau 5687 / 1927. [16], 21, [5] page. With a long introduction, including important details on the life of the Jews of Maramures during the latter generation, and facts on the history of the Fruchter, Stern, and Adler families and their branches.

After he made aliya, he published a second book:

Igeret Shlomo, Section I and Section II; A book of genealogy. The family tree of the three brothers Rabbi Shlomo Fruchter, Rabbi Mordechai Stern, and Rabbi Avraham Adler of blessed memories, natives of Czortkow, sons of the daughter of the Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ish Horowitz… the father of… Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke the head of the rabbinical court of Nikolsburg, and the Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Pinchas Halevi the Baal Haflaa… Jerusalem 5720 / 1960. [4], 138 pages.

Rabbi Meir Katz, the shochet:

Responsa Keren LeDavid paragraph 134: Regarding a matter that took place in his place with somebody who came on the Eve of Passover with a sheep and told him to slaughter his Paschal offering, without knowing that it was forbidden to say such. He did this as a joke. He did not slaughter it, and he asked with was the appropriate thing to do with that sheep…

 

Communal Organization, Institutions and Personalities

Nobody knows when the community was founded. It seems that there was already a regular minyan [prayer quorum] at the beginning of the 19th century. The mikva [ritual bath] and cemetery were also constructed at that time. The community of Săcel had three houses of worship, all constructed of wood. In the year 5620 (1860), the Great Synagogue was built. There is no doubt that a small synagogue already existed in its place, for a synagogue was mentioned in Săcel in the census of 1830. In the year 5689 (1929), the Beis Midrash of the Talmud Torah was built. Before that, the kloiz of the Spinka Hassidim was built by a grandson of the aforementioned Admor Rabbi Aharon Kahana. There were six grades in the Talmud Torah. Unlike the situation in most of the communities in the villages of Maramures, approximately 2/3 of the children of the Săcel attended the public school.

A very significant portion of the Jews of Săcel were expert scholars, including rabbinical teachers. There was no Jew in the entire settlement

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without a beard and peyos [sidelocks]. At 4:00 a.m., the Beis Midrash already hummed with students of Gemara and Tosafot, and the sounds of Torah could be heard from afar. We will remember in an exemplary fashion the butcher Reb Avigdor Fried, who concluded the Talmud every year. Indeed, the Talmud with its early and later commentaries was at the tip of his tongue. He was also involved with Kabbalah. The second butcher as well, Reb Berl Kizelnik, the son of the rabbi of Rozavlea, was also a great scholar and fearer of Heaven. There was no small number of scholarly laymen in Săcel. From among the important householders in Săcel, it is appropriate to also mention Reb Yosef Jospa Steinmetz. As he worked in his general store and conducted business with the gentiles, he was occupied in Torah and Hassidism. Even the gentiles related to him with trust. As were most of the Jews of Săcel, he was also one of the Hassidim of Visznitz. (About 10% of the Jews of Săcel were Hassidim of Sziget.)

The Jews of Săcel earned their livelihoods in ways that were typical of the villages of Maramures. Most of the Jews of the village had small plots of lands from which they earned their agricultural livelihood. They were also occupied in small-scale commerce. There were approximately 20 shop owners. Six of the shops were butcher shops. Some of the people were occupied as woodcutters in the forests, and as daily leasers of the sawmill, from which many of the Jews of Săcel earned their livelihoods. Of course, there were also tradesmen such as shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, builders, locksmiths, and others.

From the year 5629 (1869) until the end of the 18th century, the communal notables and parnassim [administrators] were as follows: Reb Moshe Klein, Reb Avraham Yaakov Fried, Reb Shalom Gross, Reb Yosef Yitzchak Davidovitch, Reb Shmuel Rubenstein, Reb Mordechai Weider, Reb Mordechai Aryeh Stein, Reb Shabtai Shochet, Reb Avigdor Moshe [family name not given], Reb Aryeh Zeff Br”p, Reb Shlomo Davidovitch, Reb Elimelech Gan, Reb Yechiel Tzvi Appel, Reb David Appel, Reb Aryeh Dov Rosenberg, Reb Shalom Malek, Reb Peretz David Malek, who were trusted people of the household of the rabbi of Tirnava; eb Avraham Gross, Reb Yechiel Michel Gross.

 

The Communal Ledger

The ledger of the community of Săcel from the years 5692 5701 (1921-1941) has been preserved in Beit Maramures in Tel Aviv. The first inscription is from Saturday night of the Torah portion of Lech Lecha 5682, and the last one is from Sunday of the Torah portion of Shoftim 5701. Since the ledger surveys various aspects of the community of Săcel, and since fundamentally similar problems arose in many communities of Maramures between the two world wars, we will note in brief some extracts of the inscriptions in the ledger, for one can learn not only about the community of Săcel from the ledger, but also about the general communities of Maramures. The ledger is written in Yiddish, first by the secretary of the community Reb Shlomo Fruchter. When he immigrated to the United States, various people whose names are not noted made the inscriptions. The signature of the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hater of Oberwischau is inscribed next to many of the deliberations and decisions. In several cases, the local rabbi, Rabbi Yechezkel Widman, added several words and affixed his signature. We will present the issues in the order that they are written in the ledger, translated from Yiddish.

Saturday night, Torah portion of Lech Lecha 5682 / 1921: The notables of the community decided: As long as we do not take on a rabbi of the city, we join with the rabbi and Gaon of the city of Visheve. It was decided to dismiss the shochet Reb Elkana HaLevi Berger who filled his role in a part time fashion. His dismissal will take force in three months, on March 1. In the meantime, he will seek a position for himself, and the community will also search for a new shochet. The tariffs for the gabela[[8]]: chicken 50 Bani, lamb 2 Lei, duck and duckling 1 Lei, goat 4 Lei, calf 4 Lei, year old calf 8 Lei, two year old calf 10 Lei, large cattle 10 Lei. It was decided that the communal cashier should not pay any expenditures without the approval of the communal notables. He is allowed to disburse 100 Lei between meetings.

Sunday of Vaeira, 5682 / 1922: A legal decision from Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager (in his words and in his handwriting) regarding negotiations between the community and the shochet Reb Elkana Berger. The decision covers six paragraphs Paragraph 2: the shochet has no claim of tenure against the community. Paragraph 6: until there will be a local rabbi, the shochet is responsible for supervising all matters of kashruth, the eruv, and the mikva, and other matters related to Torah law.

Saturday night, Torah portion of Vayechi, 5682 / 1922: The communal notables decided that the collector is allowed to disburse the following expenses: lavatories next to the Beis Midrash; two sleighs to bring our rabbi and Gaon back and forth, and perhaps also to pay his annual salary; and also to pay for the chandelier in the Beis Midrash.

21 Tevet 5682 / 1922: The minutes of the general meeting in the presence of and under the leadership of the rabbi and Gaon. The meeting decided: The shochet will remain in his position until Passover. There are new, higher tariffs for the gabela: a large animal with teeth 40 Lei, without teeth 28 Lei, a calf up to a month old 14 Lei, smaller animals such as a lamb or a goat until the festival of Shavuot 3 Lei, from Shavuot to Rosh Hashanah 5 Lei, after Rosh Hashanah, or a sheep even before Rosh Hashanah 7 Lei, a rooster or a chicken 1 Lei and 50 Bani, a young goose 2 Lei, a goose or turkey 3 Lei. The cost for years was set at 13 Bani for one deca. Anyone who purchased “black market yeast” not through the community would have a fine imposed. This was granted as an allowance as a gift (without obligations) granted to the widow of the shochet Reb Shabtai, aside from the rent that she received from the shochet Reb Elkana.

Second intermediate day of Passover, 5782 / 1922: Accounting with the holder of the gabela. Income from the months January April was 8,561 Lei. During this period, they slaughtered 456 roosters and hens, 56 geese, 45 sheep, and 150 calves. The community notables summoned Reb Zev the son of Elia Rubinstein the shochet to a Torah adjudication regarding the rabbi of Visheve on account of the Torah scroll that he took from the synagogue on account of the debt that he claimed the community owed him.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Chukat Balak, 5682 / 1922: It was decided to choose a rabbinical judge and rabbinical teacher for the community. The election will take place on Sunday of the Torah portion of Ekev. We should inform the rabbi of Ieud [Rabbi Yechezkel Widman] and to clarify whether his is interesting in submitting his candidacy.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Devarim, 5682 / 1922: With the agreement of the rabbi and Gaon of Visheve, we announced the two candidates to serve as the rabbinical judge and teacher: Rabbi Yechezkel Widman the rabbi of Ieud and Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Horowitz who lives in Berbeşti.

11 Av 5682 -- August 6 1922: In the presence of the chairman, the members of the election committee announced the two candidates. In the ledger, there is of 80 people with voting rights. The following families have more than three members: Fruchter (6), Appel (4), Pollak (4), Rosenberg (7), Ganz (14), Davidovitch (3). Rabbi Yechezkel Widman was elected with a majority of 52 votes. The chairman was among the signatories

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of the election protocol: George Dan.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Shoftim, 5682 / 1922: The collected Reb Motel Shpritzer [also Spitzer] was assigned to renovate the house of Rabbi Avraham Gross, which was rented as the rabbi's residence.

{Photo page 174 right: Reb Motel Spitzer.}

{Photo page 174 left: and his wife Rechil.}

Sunday of the Torah portion of Ki Tavo, 5682 / 1922: A general meeting in the presence of the rabbi and Gaon of Visheve. It was decided unanimously to accept him as the head of the rabbinical court for his entire life. An additional cost was applied to yeast. The communal tax will be collected in a more serious fashion. The householders will be classified into four categories: a) 200 Lei annually, b) 100 Lei annually, c) 50 Lei annually, d) 25 Lei annually. Additional changes in the gabela tariffs will be categorized into nine types.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Vayishlach, 5693 / 1922: The local rabbi, Rabbi Widman, asked for a raise. The request was approved.

Monday of the Torah portion of Miketz, fourth day of Chanukah, 5683 / 1922. The shochet Elkana Berger acknowledged that he would leave his position if he was granted 4,000 Lei.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Shemot, 5683 / 1923: It was decided that the community would lend 2,000 Lei to remove Reb Elkana the shochet. An additional 2,000 Lei would be given to him by the middle of Adar, may it come to use for good.

Fourth intermediate day of Passover [5683 ?]: a) Regarding the shochet of Massif who served in a provisional fashion. An announcement should be published in the newspaper about the shochet; b) about the debt of 5,000 Lei that the community owes; c) about the salary for the local rabbi a raise; d) we need to concern ourselves about a bathhouse attendant for the mikva, and we must give our opinion about fixing and renovating the mikva.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Vayelech, 5683 / 1923: New tariffs for the gabela.

Second day of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5684 / 1923: A new leadership was elected for the community: Reb David Appel, president; Reb Mottel Shpritzer, head of the community; notables: Reb Baruch Fried, Reb Yehoshua Kratz, Reb Menachem Moskovitch, Reb Moshe Tzvi the son of Reb A. Fishman, Reb Eliezer Ganz. Alternates: Reb Moshe Tzvi the son of Reb Meir Fishman, Reb Mordechai Appel. The shochet of Selişte Reb Tzvi Meir Fogel was elected unanimously. Among other things, he was responsible for overseeing the eruv all week.

Friday of the Torah portion of Noach 5684 / 1923: It was decided that the bathhouse attendant would take 10 Lei for the first bath, 4 Lei for the second bath, and 3 Lei for the mikva alone. In order to sustain the Beis Midrash, every householder is obligated to pay 40 Lei annually. The amount would be supplemented by pledges and donations.

Nisan 2, 5684 / 1924: Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager confirmed that “all enactments of the community with regard to the gabela tax are in accordance with the opinion of the holy Torah.” His signature was affixed along with that of “the rabbinical court of the holy community of Oberwischau and the district.”

Monday of the Torah portion of Yitro, 5686 / 1926: Minutes of the general meeting. The gabela was sold for 65,000 Lei. The purchasers were three butchers: Yaakov Shimshon Taub, Nathan Korn, and Katriel Kizalnik. The yeast income was sold. The rabbis of Visheve and Săcel were among the signatories. The shochet Reb Tzvi Meir borrowed 10,000 Lei from the community, with a term of three years. Until then, he is forbidden from leaving the place unless he pays the debt. The salaries of the rabbi and shochet were increased.

Hoshana Rabba 5687 / 1926: A new leadership committee was elected.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Lech Lecha 5687 / 1927: It was decided to impose a tax on liquor for the purposes of maintenance of the mikva building.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Vaeira 5687 / 1927: An announcement was made about the gabela. There were no purchasers. It remained in the hands of the community.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Bo 5687 / 1927: The yeast rights were sold to Reb Meir Feintuch.

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Wednesday of the Torah portion of Yitro 5687 / 1927: The gabela was sold to the shochet Reb Tzvi Meir.

Wednesday of the Torah portion of Bamidbar 5687 / 1927: There were negotiations between the community and the shochet regarding the gabela. The shochet claimed that he lost out.

Hoshana Rabba 5688 / 1927: There were new elections for the communal leadership.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Vaeira 5688 / 1928: There were issues regarding the yeast and the arrangement of payments of lessee Meir Feintuch.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Bo 5688 / 1928: There were issues regarding the gabela and the payments of the shochet who was the lessee of the gabela.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Matot 5688 / 1928: It was decided to borrow 15,000 Lei to repair the mikva and pay the home rental fees of the rabbi. Reb Yisrael Leib Shtagman was chosen as the second communal head and promised to take care of the mikva repairs. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager was among the signatories.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Shoftim, 5688 / 1928: It was decided to enact a “great enactment”: Every Friday, every teacher is required to go to bring his students to the rabbi of our community so he can examine them on their studies. Everyone who fails to do this even once will become invalidated from fulfilling this role, and will have no right to collect money from the parents of the students.

End of 5688 / 1928: The lad Alter Taub was fined for the “bad things” that he did. He was told to donate 800 Lei to the Talmud Torah. Until this sum is paid, he no longer has the right to take allocations for himself. Signed by Rabbi Yechezkel Widman.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Haazinu 5688 / 1928[[9]]: In order to repair the increasing breach with regard to the dress mode of women and girls where the chest, arms, and the like are exposed, we have seen fit to make an enactment that places the responsibility upon the husband or the father to rule over their household. The husband and father will be punished by denying their household the rights to visit the mikva, to receive an aliya to the Torah, or to lead services. They will also be discharged from all organizations, and nobody will take part in their joyous occasions. Signed by the communal notables and Rabbi Yechezkel Widman.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Devarim 5689 / 1929: It was decided to build kosher butcher shops on the communal courtyard next to the Beis Midrash.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Vayigash 5690 / 1930: The shochet is required to give Reb Mordechai Spitzer 750 Lei every Sunday to discharge the debt that he owes the community.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Vayera 5690 / 1929: It was decided at a general meeting that the new Beis Midrash that was built in the summer of 5689 / 1929, called the Talmud Torah, will be given over to all the members of this community. From now on, it will be called the Beis Midrash Talmud Torah. The community has the right to sell or rent the 22 seats that have not yet been sold. The community is obligated to pay Reb Yitzchak Astelash the sum of 14,500 Lei that was given for the building; at that meting, it was decided to impose a communal tax (Cultus Steier) upon all the householders, as are noted in the list. It was decided to impose a pledge on every person regarding the taking off of tallises on the Sabbath. Anyone who refused to give over his tallis will be punished by force of the communal charter[[10]].

Sunday of the Torah portion of Shlach Lecha 5691 / 1931: The salary of the rabbi and the shochet will be reduced by 15% due to the financial situation of the community.

Saturday night of the Torah portion of Vaeira 5693 / 1933: There was a general meeting to choose the city notables. The following were elected: Reb Yehuda Lozer Pollak as president, Reb Chaim Pollak as head of the community; notables: Reb Shlomo the son of Reb Izik Tzvi Fruchter, Reb David Appel, Reb Itzik Astelash, Reb Menachem Moskovitch, Reb Menachem Rubinstein. Substitutes: Reb Motel Shpritzer, Reb Lozer Ganz.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Nitzavim 5693 / 1933: The communal notables decided that the rabbi and the shochet are obligated to remain at home on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. If they do not fulfill this decision, they will be fined and their salary will be reduced.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Yitro 5694 / 1934: A general meeting in the presence (and with the signature) of the rabbi, the Gaon and Tzadik of Visheve. An electoral committee was selected for the election of new city notables. It is forbidden for the shochet to slaughter without a note about the gabela, except for where the animal in a dangerous situation or on a festival in return for a pledge[[11]]. If the butchers declare a strike, the lessee of the gabela is exempt from bringing in the sum, but he must concern himself with bringing in meat from another community. The community is obligated to attempt to repair the mikva.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Teruma 5694 / 1934: A discussion about the wood that was granted to the community by the Săcel council.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Tetzaveh 5694 / 1934: A general meeting to elect new notables. 68 electors participated. The following were elected: Reb Menachem Moskovitch as president, Reb Moshe Malek as head of the community. Notables: Reb Motel Shpritzer, Reb Mordechai Appel, Reb Yehuda Leizer Pollak, Reb Shalom Stauber, Reb Eliezer Ganz. Alternates: Reb David Appel, Reb Yitzchak Astelash.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Tzav 5694 / 1934: To support the poor with kimcha depischa [charity for the purposes of Passover], it was decided that 2 additional Lei are to be paid for each fowl during the week in which Passover falls. Reb Menachem Rubinstein is being punished for proceeding to lead services before the right time, and without the permission of the gabbaim [trustees]. The punishment is that he is being deprived of the rights to conduct services for three months.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Emor 5694 / 1934: The salaries of the rabbi and the shochet are being reduced due to the numerous communal expenditures and the serious financial situation.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Reeh 5695 / 1935: In order to finally repair the mikva and to strengthen the Beis Midrash, it was decided to make a list of the Cultus Steier [communal tax]. The community has the right to confiscate the tallises and to impose other sanctions such as removing voting rights and the rights to use the mikva and ritual slaughter of anyone who does not pay the tax.

Sunday of the Torah portion of Yitro 5696 / 1936: The election of new notables. 72 voters took part. The following people were elected: Reb Yehuda Eliezer Pollak as president, Reb Baruch Shtegman as head of the community. Notables: Reb Moshe Malek, Reb Menachem Moskovitch, Reb David Appel, Reb Moshe Davidovitch, Reb Mordechai Appel, Reb Yitzchak Astelash, Reb Mordechai Spitzer, Reb Shlomo Fruchter.

Monday of the Torah portion of Vayikra 5696 / 1936: An allocation of 1,000 Lei was confirmed for the rabbi. The shochet was asked to bear in mind that Kapparot[[12]] money belongs to the community.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Haazinu 5697 / 1937: A general meeting took place in the presence of (and with the signature of) the holy Admor, the head of the rabbinical court may he live long [of Visheve]. New tariffs were announced for the gabela. A raise was given to Rabbi Widman.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Vaeira 5698 / 1938: A general meeting in the presence of the rabbi of Visheve and Rabbi Widman. There were deliberations regarding the income from yeast, and the electoral committee for electing new notables. Unmarried lads do not have the right to vote unless their father is not at home, when the oldest or most important of the brothers will take his place. A raise for Rabbi Widman and the shochet. The community is obligated to grant Rabbi Widman the 3,000 Lei that was allocated to him for the wedding of his daughter, and that was not paid on time.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Yitro 5698 / 1938: In the event of a dispute, the lessee of the yeast is obligated to go to a Torah adjudication rather than to a court.

Tuesday of the Torah portion of Ki Tavo 5699 / 1939: The gabela tariffs were increased.

Wednesday of the Torah portion of Ki Tavo 5699 1938: There were elections for new notables. 72 electors participated. The following people were elected: Reb Yaakov Fried as first head of the community, Reb Leib Biderman as second head of the community. Notables: Reb Moshe Malek, Reb Mordechai Appel, Reb Shlomo Leib Tabak, Reb Shlomo Pollak, Reb Zelig Jakubovich. The following were elected as alternates: Reb Tzvi Pollak and Reb Menachem Moskovitch. The minutes were also in Romanian (Proces Verbal) with the signature of the head of the council and the council, dated August 25, 1939.

[Page 176]

[Undated: 5700 / 1940]: Rabbi Yitzchak Bek, may he live long, the son-in-law of our Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel may he live long, who served here in our community, may G-d protect him, as an assistant rabbi due to the physical weakness of his father-in-law the rabbi may he live long. He served in this role since Elul of 5697 / 1937. Now he has moved from our community, may it be protected, to accept the rabbinical position in the community of Masiova, we have felt the need to fill that position through the son of our rabbi, may he live long that is the fine lad, may he be strong in Torah, Rabbi Chaim Naftali Hertz, may he be protected who should serve as an assistant rabbi to his father the Gaon may he live long. Signed in Săcel, may it be protected [no signature].

 

The Holocaust

The decrees against the Jews of Săcel already began in 1941. Jewish commerce virtually ground to a halt. Kosher slaughter was forbidden. The village officials and gendarmes persecuted the Jews under national directives. During Passover 5701 (1941), many of the men were taken to forced labor in the nearby region. They worked at fixing bridges and roads. They were sent home after several days. On October 23, 1942, many Jews of the village, including Rabbi Widman, were drafted to the Hungarian labor service. They were sent to Ukraine on December 15, 1942. Approximately 250 people, all from Transylvania and Maramures, served in the work unit. Only a few survived. Some of them already died during the first months.

The three aforementioned responsa that the Rabbi of Tăşnad responded to Rabbi Yechezkel Widman dealt with issues that took place during the Holocaust. One responsa discusses “during these undesirable days[[13]], many people of our community are absent, so that at times our synagogue has a very small minyan.” The response was terse and did not explain what was being referred to. It is possible that it was referring to the draft during Passover of 5701 (1941), when most of the men were taken to work, and only the elderly were left. As was noted, two responsa deal with the issue of the eruv that was annulled by the Hungarian authorities in all the villages of Maramures a short time after they entered northern Transylvania. Despite the difficult days “which were undesirable” the rabbi of Săcel maintained his position and asked for a way to rely on the leniency that the telegraph poles themselves could be considered valid for an eruv without any additional rectification, so that the members of his community will not stumble, Heaven forbid, in the prohibition of carrying on the Sabbath. When the mikva was closed by the government, they went through the window to immerse, at great risk. The shochetReb Tzvi Meir Fogel continued to slaughter despite the prohibition, in order to prepare meat for the Sabbath.

At the end of April 1944, the Jews of Săcel were gathered and deported to the ghetto of Dragomireşti, from where they were sent to the Unterwischau [Vişeu de Jos] railway station and deported to Auschwitz.

Only a few Jews returned to Săcel after the war. By 1947, there were only 55. However, they left the village within a short time, and most of them made aliya to Israel.

One Jew named Reb David Yisrael Neiman, who originated from Galicia, was the son-in-law of Reb Shalom Gross the owner of the flourmill. He visited Galicia, and when he returned he told about the destruction of Galicia and said that he would evade the deportation. He took his wife Leah with him and hid in the forests. He left the forest on July 20, 1944 and hid in the home of a farmer, who immediately sent a messenger to inform the gendarmes that Jews are hiding in his house. He and his wife were taken to Auschwitz.

Today, there are no Jews in Săcel.

 

Bibliography

The Ledger [Pinkas] of the Community of Săcel, 5682-5701 / 1922 1941 [housed in Beit Maramures in Tel Aviv].
Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald: A Holy Monument, Volume I: Sziget and its district in Maramures, New York 5712 / 1952. Page 67.
Naftali Ben-Menachem: From the Jewish Literature of Hungary, Jerusalem 5718 / 1958. Pages 291-293.
Yitzchak Yosef Cohen: Seventy Years of Torah Writings in Transylvania. Areshet A, Jerusalem 5719 / 1959. Page 325.
Rabbi David Halevi Horowitz: Responsa Imre David, Bilgoraj 5694 / 1934. Paragraph 60.
Rabbi Mordechai Brisk: Responsa of the Mahara”m of Brisk, New York 5723 / 1963. Section I, paragraph 15; Section III, paragraphs 6, 36, 37.
Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, vol. XVI, Budapest 1976, p. 100.
Yad Vashem Archives: 03/1022, 03/2806.

Translator's Footnotes:

(Translator notes are denoted in the text with double square brackets, to differentiate them from single square brackets that appear in the text itself.)

  1. Hassidic rebbes were often named for their magnum opus. The Visznitz Rebbes who were authors of the Ahavas Yisroel and Imrei Chaim can be found on the Visznitz dynasty tree at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vizhnitz_%28Hasidic_dynasty%29 Return
  2. The numbers in square brackets in this section are direct from the text, and do not refer to the translator's footnotes. They evidently refer to footnotes later in the text. Return
  3. The acronym of Rabbi Yechezkel Widman. Return
  4. The acronym of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. Return
  5. A woman who is bound in marriage and cannot remarry because her husband has disappeared, and no proof of death is available. In modern times, it refers as well (and more commonly) to a woman who is bound in marriage and cannot remarry because her husband refused to grant a get [document of Jewish divorce]. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agunah Return
  6. Seemingly an honorific title given to the questioner. Return
  7. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruv Return
  8. Gabélă - pl gabéle A tax on meat in Jewish communities (source: http://dxonline.ro/definitie/gabel%C4%83 ). Other meanings listed there are a tax on salt in medieval France, or a tax on salt or meat stemming from France in the middle ages. So this is a general term for some sort of food oriented tax. Return
  9. Haazinu of 5688 was actually in 1927 (it is shortly after the beginning of the Hebrew year). Therefore, I suspect that the intended year here was 5689, which would correspond to 1928. Return
  10. The meaning of this enactment is unclear. If there was no eruv, it would be forbidden to walk home carrying the tallis in one's hand after services hence, the community expected that the worshippers give over their tallises before leaving the synagogue rather than carrying them home. However, it seems that the community did have an eruv. Later in this article, there is an implication that tallises may have been confiscated as a punishment for non-fulfillment of communal enactments. Return
  11. In a case where an animal is not injured or damaged, but has weakened and may die soon, an attempt is made to slaughter the animal as soon as possible, since if it dies on its own it will not be considered kosher and its value will be lost. On a festival, it is permitted to slaughter animals for the needs of the day itself. Return
  12. Money paid for the slaughter of chickens on the Eve of Yom Kippur as part of the Kapparot ceremony. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapparot Return
  13. Based on Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 12:1. Return

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