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[Pages 357]

Vinif

48°04' 23°32'

Ruthenian: Vonyhofo
Hungarian: Vajnag
[Russian: Vonigovo]

Translated by Moshe A. Davis

Village in the administrative area of Tecs, approximately 3 kilometers from Bistina.
All [non-Jewish] residents Ruthenians.

Population

Year Jews Total
1768 14 -
1830 67 499
1880 190 -
1910 - 1141
1921 - 1245
1930 299 1481
1941 - 1814

[Early Jewish Settlement]

For over a hundred years, Vinif served as a sort of Jewish manpower reservoir for the neighboring city Bistina. Jewish settlement was forbidden in Bistina itself until the middle of the 19th century. Yet the Jews had a strong interest in visiting and doing business in Bistina, especially during the twice-monthly market-days, and the open fair that was held there four times yearly. These events were exciting and full of action and business opportunity. Jews would settle in the villages located near Bistina (such as Vinif, Vermesif, and others) which provided easy and convenient access to the city.

Therefore, in every one of the Hungarian Jewish census taken during the 18th century, Jews were found to be dwelling in Vinif. In the first census of 1728, two Jews were listed: (1) Yaakov, with his wife and four children, who owned a single horse; and (2) Alter Yaakov, with his wife and two children. Alter Yaakov owned two cows.

Seven years later, in the census of 1735, this same Jew Yaakov was still living in Vinif. His family size was unchanged, being married and the father of four children. Yet he now employed a Jewish worker, he owned three horses and three cows, and he paid 9 florins in land-usage tax per year. Yaakov lived in the town under the protection of the local village magnate Ferencz Daravi.

In the 1746 census, there are four [Jewish adult males] listed as living in Vinif. Only two of them were married, and of these two, only one had a solitary child. None of the Jews' names were written down in this census. All of these Jewish residents paid together a total of 14 florins per year in land-usage tax.

The 1768 census showed an increase in the number of Jews in Vinif. Living in the town at that time were listed five Jewish families, together totalling 14 individuals. The heads and details of the families listed were as follows:

(1) Kopel, whose family consisted of 4 individuals, paid land-use tax of 30 florins per year. From the amount that he was taxed, we can assume that Kopel was well established financially, as 30 florins was quite a sum in comparison the amount of tax that was levied on other contemporary Jews in the area.
(2) “Jan”, whose family numbered three individuals, paid 15 florins per year. This given name “Jan” is unusual as a contemporary Jewish name. We have no doubt that his real Jewish (Hebrew) name was different. (Perhaps it was Jonah?)
(3) “Gatzi Fater” also paid 15 florins. He was single. It is not noted in the census if he was unmarried, divorced, or widowed.
(4) Leba, whose family numbered two individuals (that is, he was married but without children), paid 10 florins per year.
(5) Leba Gatzi, whose family was composed of four individuals, and who also paid 10 florins per year in land-usage tax.

In the 1830 Census, the following families were recorded (the number of children in the family are in parentheses): Vas Bickel (3), and Hersh Engelman (7).

This is the extent of what we know of the earliest Jewish residents of Vinif, starting from a period of more than 200 years ago. All of these census takings had a single purpose – to clarify the amounts of government taxes that the Jews were required to pay: head taxes, tolerance taxes, land-usage taxes, etc. There is no mention whatsoever in these lists as to the personal qualities and virtues of the individuals mentioned – Gatzi, Leba, Jan, or Kopel. Even such a basic insight as their given names seem to have been badly garbled by the government census takers. Even so, these census listings are important to us, as they serve notice as to the initial sparks of the Jewish presence in the village Vinif, even if this is the only fragmentary information that we have about those individual Jews. We can in all likelihood infer that at least a portion of the five families listed in the 1768 census served as the core of the future Jewish community which sprouted in Vinif.

[The Community, Its Institutions, and Individuals of Note]

The exact details as to when the Jewish community of Vinif was organized is unknown, even to the survivors of the village themselves. At the end of the 1800s or in the early 1900s a wooden synagogue was built. The interior of the synagogue was plastered and painted. There were approximately 60-70 seats. Next door was a mikveh. The cemetery was ancient, containing headstones that were so age-worn that the inscriptions were illegible. As early as 5640 (1870) there was a shochet in the village, whose given name was Ephriam Menachem. This we know from the names in the prenumerantin list [pre-publication subscription list] for the book Imrei Shoham (published in Kalamea, 5740). This prenumerantin list contains the name of two residents of Vinif, the abovementioned shochet together with R' Yehuda Leib the son of Yosef. Seven years later, we found the names of three residents of Vinif in the prenumerantin list for the book Divrei Moshe (published in Lemberg, 5747). They were R' Nisan Ganz, R' Tzvi Grossman, and again R' Yehuda Leib the son of Yosef.

In the last generation before the holocaust, there was a shochet in Vinif with the given name R' Michel. His family surname, unfortunately, was not remembered by the survivors that we interviewed. Most of the Jews of Vinif were followers of the Sepinka or Sziget Chassidic movements.

Many of the Jews of Vinif worked as porters in the train station in Bistina, where they carried grain, wood, or other goods. Some were wagon drivers, who transported lumber and other building supplies. Others were craftsmen – there were three shoemakers, three tailors, three butchers, and a tinsmith. Most were farmers and small landowners, whose main crops were apples for export.

Among the wealthier Jewish residents were R' Avraham Shreiber, who was a great Torah scholar and a landowner; Menashe Wolff, who owned forests, fields, and farmland; Shlomo Yehuda Ganz, who owned a flour mill and an oil press. These individuals usually stood at the head of the Jewish community [in internal matters], and represented the Jewish residents in the village council.

Amongst those individuals who had a noted spiritual influence in the community were Itzikel Halpert, who served as an example of a life of Torah and Chassidus by his exemplary personal conduct on a daily basis. On festive days such as Purim and Simchas Torah, he brought joy to all of the Jewish residents of the village.

It should be noted that a Jew from Vinif was caught up in the famous 1881 antisemetic blood-libel in the town of Tiszaeszlár [in Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg county, Hungary]. David Hershko worked transporting rafts of lumber down the River Tisa from Bistina into central Hungary. He happened to be in the town of Tiszaeszlár when he was suddenly apprehended and became one of the accused in the blood-libel murder trial. He spent approximately a year and a half in jail during the proceedings.

[In the years between the two World Wars,] a part of the youth of Vinif set up a branch of the “Beitar” Zionist youth group. They opened a center in which they organized various Zionist activities such as classes in Hebrew language and Jewish history, and prepared their members for aliya to the land of Israel. Part of the youth of the village learned in various Yeshivos.

[The Holocaust]

In the summer of 1941, during the week before Tisha B'Av, the deportations to Poland began. As a result of these deportations, the great majority of the Jewish population of Vinif disappeared – they were deported to Poland where they were murdered in Kaminetz-Podolsk and in other locations. Only scattered individuals managed to return from the valley of murder. Those returnees did not return to the village Vinif, however. They settled in other places, and especially in the Hungarian capital Budapest.

The Jewish residents of Vinif who had survived the deportations of 1941 and had remained in the village were rounded up in April 1944, a few days after Pesach 5704. They were taken to the ghetto in Tecs, and from there were sent to Aushwitz.

After the war, scattered survivors returned to the village. Among them was Anshel Ganz, a son of the abovementioned Shlomo Yoel Ganz. [note: Anshel's father's name is written above in this article as “Shlomo Yehuda”, not “Shlomo Yoel” – md] According to one testimony, Anshel had survived by concealing himself in hiding places in the forests. Returning to Vinif after the war, Anshel Ganz approached the Ruthenians who had taken possession of his father's properties, and demanded that the property be returned to him. The Ruthenian who had taken Anshel's father's flour mill pulled out a gun and shot Anshel dead on the spot. After a short investigation, the murderer was set free. When the handful of Jews who had returned to the village after the Holocaust heard about this tragedy, they immediately abandoned the area, leaving Vinif bereft of even a single Jew.

Bibliography:

Interviews with a number of Vinif survivors.

Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, Budapest, vol XVI (Budapest) pp. 131, 308, 747.

Testimonies in Yad VaShem archives [no details given].


Translated and edited by Moshe A Davis. This translation is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather Benish Davidovits (in America, Bennie Davis) and his sister Rivke, who were born in the neighboring village of Leh (Szeleslonka, Shirukiy Luh), and to the members of their family (family surnames Davidovits, Katz, and Markovits – Rivke's husband, Fishel Katz, was born in Vinif), who were murdered by the accursed Nazis and their accomplices. Hashem Yenakam Damam!

In this translation, I have endeavored to maximize ease of readability and the grammatical flow of the material, while keeping true to the spirit and the content of the information contained therein. To this end, in many places I have taken the liberty of rearranging the sentence and/or paragraph structure from that of the original Hebrew in order to improve the clarity and natural flow of ideas in English. Also, in many places I have slightly expanded the material, in order to clarify ideas or to define concepts which may not be familiar to readers who lack background in traditional Jewish customs and who are unfamiliar with Jewish Law. My own additions I have set apart by enclosing them in square brackets [ ].

Please note that many of the original sources used by the authors of Sefer Marmaros were written in languages other than Hebrew, which is the language of the text of Sefer Marmaros itself. Those original sources were not available to the translator, and thus most of the surnames and/or place names as transliterated here from the Hebrew may in fact have been spelled somewhat differently in the original source.

[Regarding the 1881 blood libel at Tiszaeszlar, Hungary: When a girl from the village of Tiszaeszlar in northeast Hungary disappeared in the spring of 1881, church officials accused 15 Jews of murdering the girl to use her blood in Passover rituals. The defendants were acquitted, but the incident caused a widespread outburst of antisemitism in Hungary. For further details, see:

HANDLER, ANDREW: Blood Libel at Tiszaeszlar. – New York: Columbia Univ. Pr., 1980. X, 273 S. (East European monographs; 68.)

STERN, EDITH The Glorious Victory of Truth : The Tiszaeszlar Blood Libel Trial, 1882-3: A Historical-Legal-Medical Research, Jerusalem - Israel: Rubin Mass, 1998 . 176 pages. ]

List of Jewish surnames from Vinif mentioned in this article:

Bickel
Engelman
Ganz

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