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[Pages 401-405]

Rachov

48°03' 24°12'

[including Akna-Raho, Bocsko-Raho, Berlebash, and Vilhobad]

Ruthenian: Rachov or Rahovo
Hungarian: Raho

Translated by Moshe A. Davis

Rachov is a town in the Rachov district, on the train line connecting Kirihaza-Chust-Sziget-Iasin. The town has 3 parts: Akna-Raho, Bocsko-Raho, and Berlebash. The first two parts are adjacent to each other. The section called Berlebash is 9 km south of the town, but is part of the municipality. Most of the residents are Ruthenians, with a small minority of Hungarians and [Swabs](?).

Population Table

Year Jews Total
residents
1728 2 --
1830 -- 2446
1880 288 --
1910 -- 6577
1921 -- 6879
1930 1234 8893
1941 1607 12455

The Beginnings of the Jewish Settlement

In the first half of the 18th century there were several attempts by Jews to settle in this town, but none succeeded. In the first census of Jews in Hungary in 1728, two Jews were recorded living in Rachov. Both were unmarried, without families. One was Isaac Marco, apparently a bachelor, with no profession, and no property. The other was Ilya or Eliyahu Kolman, who leased the Arinda and had a Jewish servant to assist him. He was also single, with no wife or family.

For reasons unknown to us, these Jews did not stay in Rachov very long. Seven years later in 1735 there is a Jewish resident in Rachov named Moshe Nania, who unlike the previous residents was married and the father of four children. He owned a farm, including a horse and a cow. His residence seems to also have been temporary, [for] in the 1746 census we again find [only] a single Jew without family. This census did not list names, but the family status of this single resident indicates that he was not Moshe Nania, who had a family.

From here on, there is a long period of about 100 years when no Jews dwelled in Rachov. No Jews were recorded in the census of 1768, and even in 1830 there was still not a single Jewish soul. The total population of Rachov at that time was around 2,500 people. We don't have specific information as to why Jews were not to be found in Rachov, while much smaller surrounding communities had relatively large numbers of Jewish residents. One possible explanation is that during this period, Rachov did not have any local noblemen who owned the land and other property. All the lands in Rachov and surrounding areas were owned by the state, and were administered by government officials who had no interest in renting lands to Jews as was customary among the lands owned by nobles and gentry. The nobles and gentry benefited from the Jews that they sheltered.

The community, its institutions, Rabbis and distinguished people

When did the Jewish presence in Rachov grow to the point where a kernel of a community existed? We don't have an answer to this question. Even the survivors of the community, on whose memories (both written and and oral) most of this work is based, have no record on this issue. There is no doubt that that the origin of this community came much later than those of neighboring communities. Our opinion is that the community was first organized in the 1860s, after the gathering of several tens of Galician Jews in Rachov.

We will try to recall the names of several Jews of Rachov from the years 1869-1910 as they were recorded in “Hebrew Subscription Lists” in books published during those years. The two first names were Reb Mordechai Dov Shub (note -- “shub” is an acronym for a “SHochet [UBodek]”, that is, a kosher animal slaughterer [and inspector] – emg) and Reb Aaron Rosenthal, who appear as subscribers to “Nazir HaShem” (Lemberg, 1869). From this we know that already in the 1860s there was already a shochet in Rachov, even though the number of Jews living there was quite small. It turns out that he served the surrounding villages that had a larger Jewish population than Rachov itself. The second man, Reb Aaron Rosenthal, headed a large family that spread out in the coming generations in Rachov and the surrounding area.

Eleven years later, in 1880, we meet the following six Jews, all of whom subscribed to “Imrei Shoham” (Kolyma, 1880):

Reb Mordecai David Shayovits (of whom his descendants say that he went to Israel and died in Jerusalem in the early 20th century);
Reb Joshua Meir (his son);
Reb Israel Rosenthal (apparently the son of Reb Aaron mentioned above);
Reb Solomon Abish;
Reb Asher Anshil Shub;
Reb Azriel Wasserman.

In the next book we meet:

Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman (who was appointed in 1888, and of whom more will be said below);
Reb Israel Rosenthal;
Reb Joshua Meir Shayovits;
Reb Zvi Sheiner;
Reb Zusia Rosenthal;
Reb Yerachmiel Rosenthal, the elder (apparently to distinguish him from a younger relative with the same name);
Reb Judah Zvi Lottman;
Reb Chaim Adlerstein;
Reb Alexander Feirvarger;
Reb Benjamin Shmerler;
Reb Yerachmiel Adlerstein;
Reb Leibush Schechter.

In books published in the early 20th century we find many of the same names, with the Rabbi always at the head of the list. These are the additional names:

Reb Yekutiel Yeruham Wasserman;
Reb Zusha Darinstein;
Reb Itza Tzavechter;
Reb Haim Zalman Kapilman;
Reb Ovadia Darinstein;
Reb Moshe Zvi Kahane;
Reb Jacob Rosenthal;
Reb Dov Berel Feig;
Reb Meir Zvi Weiss;
Reb Simha Foigel;
Reb Herzel Feig;
Reb Shalom Mordecai Weider;
Reb Milech Shayovits;
Reb Haim Aryeh Moscovits;
Reb Yehiel Mihal Davidovits;
Reb Jacob Isaac Shayovits;
Reb Yekutiel Judah Shayovits;
Reb Meir Feig.

The surnames that occur with highest frequency in the lists are the Shayovits family (9) and the Rosenthal family (7), which represented a large portion of the Jews of Rachov until the last generation.

The Jews of Rachov had five synagogues and houses of study:

  1. The “old” synagogue -- made of wood, that was apparently built in the 1880s. In the last days, the Gabbai was Reb Mordecai Feig;

  2. The “great” synagogue -- made of brick. Until the 1930s the Gabbai was Reb Alter Shmerler, followed by his son Hillel;

  3. The study house of “The Mishna Group” [Hevre Mishnayot]. The Gabbai was Reb Isaac Wolf;

  4. The small study house in the Rabbi's courtyard. Most often acting as Gabbai was Reb Ephraim Baruch Berger;

  5. The “kloyz” (small study house) of the Admor [Chassidic Rebbe] of Rachov (see below). The Gabbai and supervisor was Reb Solomon Kriendler.

The oldest communal organization was the Hevre Kaddisha [burial society], headed by Reb Jacob Dornstein. The organization was managed and supervised by the heads of the community. Among its active members were Reb Zvi Menachem Konitz, who visited the sick and took care of corpses all on a volunteer basis. The Shamash was Israel Mordecai. Surplus funds from the Hevre Kadisha were given to the community to assist the needy, sick or other uses.

Two communal Torah study organizations existed in Rachov. In the study house “Hevre Mishnayot”, a regular class was taught by Rabbi Zvi Sheiner, a learned man who was authorized to render Halachic decisions. At night he sat to study and arranged a regular midnight [prayer] session (tikun chatzot). When Rabbi Zvi Sheiner went to the synagogue on the eve of the Sabbath everyone knew that candle lighting time had arrived. In the “old” synagogue the class was taught by Rabbi Alter Shayovits, who was also a rabbinic judge and halachic decisor, and who also served as secretary of the community. Many dozens of householders participated in these two classes, of whom many were scholars or least learned men. At each of these synagogues there were also Chevre Tehillim (Psalms Group) whose members completed the book of Psalms every Sabbath in the afternoon before the afternoon prayers and the third Sabbath meal.

Charitable and welfare activities were found in Rachov, which were not necessarily well funded, but carried out with a heartfelt soul. The Rabbi of the community managed a charity fund that gave loans to the needy at very reasonable rates (often with no repayment). The Rabbi raised the funds from Jews of Rachov. The fund brought joy to so many around the town. He also added to it from his own meager savings. In 1920 a women's organization called “Vered” (“rose”) was formed [for charitable and social welfare activities, to which joined both ordinary housewives and women from among the most respected households of the community.

Survivors especially recall two outstanding individuals in the area of charity and communal activities for the sake of others: Mendel Haus and his wife (he was a carpenter by trade), whose humble home] served as a lodging for all the “guests” and fund raisers that found their way to Rachov, where they were received cordially and in addition to lodging, they received simple and healthy meals. Reb Alter Feig (“the ba'al tshuva”) for many years collected food and supplies for the Sabbath. With a pack on his shoulder, Reb Alter wove his way around the town, gathering the supplies into his pack. Each Sabbath eve there was a long chain of “guests” that accompanied him from house to house, in order to be greeted as a “Sabbath guest” at the home of one of Rachov's Jews.

As stated above, the first Rabbi in Rachov was elected in approximately 5648 (1888), Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman. His father was Rabbi Judah, “the old hasid” (from which his son derived the acronym for his book -- “Likutay Maharyach”) (“Ma” - moraynu = “our teacher”, “har” - ha-rav = the rabbi, “yach” - Judah the hasid, or the old hasid -- emg) [alternative translation: His father was Rabbi Judah, who was crowned by his son with the title “the elderly chasid” in his book “Likutay Maharyach” (“Ma” - moraynu = “our teacher”, “har” - ha-rav = the rabbi, “yach” - Israel Chaim) --md]. [Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman] was one of the important students of the author of “Yitav Lev”, and son-in-law of Rabbi Menahem Wolf Weisberg, head of the rabbinic court in Tarkan in the Zemplen district (who was the son-in-law of Rabbi Jacob Zvi Waldman of Borsha). The rabbi of Rachov earned his fame in his great composition, the 3 volumes of “Likutay Maharyach”, [a commentary on] the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, that became [an extrememly popular] book among rabbinic works because of its great practicality. The author skillfully wove into the “dry” legal code many unexpected gems of folkways and wisdom, based on very many books, scholars, from both the earlier and later authorities, law codes, customs, Kabbala, and Hasidism. He thus strengthened the legal codes, and added a pleasing and piquant element appropriate for those used to reading lighter works, but applicable to all. As soon as it was published, the book was warmly received and within a short time it could be found in thousands of homes. It was used by people at all levels, from Rabbis and learned, sharp-witted scholars, to householders troubled with mundane issues of daily life and not able to spend much time attending classes or studying.

The book “Likutay Maharyach” was entirely printed by the author over the course of 11 years.

Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman's grandson (son of his daughter), became son-in-law of Rabbi Samuel Zalman Weinberger, rabbinic judge and head of the rabbinic court in Margarten. Rabbi Jacob Zvi Kaufman reprinted the first volume of “Likutay Maharyach”: “Likutay Maharyach volume 1. Reprinted with many additions [from the original author's handwritten manuscript]… the author and some notes [and corrections]… Zichron Menahem .. Satmar, 5692 (1932)”.

It appears that Rabbi Jacob Zvi Kaufman completed the entire work “Zichron Menachem” [on the entire “Likutay Maharyach”] but did not publish the other volumes because of a lack of funds. He, together with his work, were apparently lost in the Holocaust.

Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman is mentioned in a responsum written by the Great Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch of Banihad: “We will consult together about the man … whose wife has been insane this past year and a half” (Responsa Pri HaSadeh, Part 3, Section 186, 1905).

Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman died suddenly on Sivan 24, 5682 (1922) in an accident that occurred while he was on a ritual mission in the “Palinina” (where the flocks graze) to assure the kashrut of cheese. [There was a sudden cloud burst of heavy rain, which resulted in a sudden flash flood in which Rabbi Israel Chaim Friedman drowned.]

mar401.jpg Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Friedman from Rahov [21 KB]
Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Friedman from Rahov.
Author of Likutei Maharyach

 

mar402.jpg Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman in his youth [16 KB]
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman in his youth.
Author of Kedushas Yom Tov

His place was taken by his son, Rabbi Solomon Zalman Friedman, a scholar and author of “Kedushas Yom Tov” and a follower of the Rebbe of Sziget. Rabbi Solomon Zalman Friedman was known as a great scholar, a wonderful teacher and a kind person. He was much loved by the Jews of Rachov. Between the two world wars he ran a large Yeshiva in Rachov, with as many as 150 students. This was, of course, a Yeshiva in the Chassidic style, following the tradition of the Sziget Hassidim, but its students included those from other Chassidic groups. Most of the students were from Marmaros, but some also came from other areas in Carpatho-Rus. An idea of the diversity of the origins of the student body can be seen in a list of 15 young men who subscribed to the book “Responsa Mira” (Munkacz, 1938), according to which the students came from the following towns: Rachov proper (4), Chust (2), Salish, Kiralahana, Tribushan, Bahutz, Novaslitz, Dibova, Neresnitza, & Ganice. This kind of distribution appears to have been representative of the student body of the Yeshiva of Rachov.

Rabbi Solomon Zalman Friedman survived the Holocaust. He experienced the horrors of the murderous death camps of Auschwitz and other camps in Germany. After the war he settled in Satmar, where he was head of the rabbinic court and watched over the Jewish life of the survivors that settled in Satmar. He made strenuous efforts on behalf of agunot and agunim [women and men whose spouses were missing] from the Holocaust. [Jews whose spouses are missing need special procedures to permit them to remarry – emg.] In 1947 he escaped from Romania and settled in Logano in Switzerland where he was the head Rabbi. He was warmly welcomed by the Jews of the community and in all of Switzerland he was sought out and considered as one of the great halachic decisors. He established certain rules in his community to strengthen religious life. His last years were spent in the home of his son-in-law, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Horowitz, in Bnei Brak in Israel. He died at a ripe old age on Shevat 4, 5740 (1980). His coffin was carried to Jerusalem and interred in the Mount of Olives.

mar403.jpg Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman, surrounded by survivors from Rahov [32 KB]
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman, surrounded by survivors from Rahov

mar404.jpg Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman lighting Chanukah candles [26 KB]
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman lighting Chanukah candles

[In Rachov there were two “Admorim” (Chassidic Rebbes). In the beginning of the century, the Rebbe Rav Yitzchok Rosenbaum, the son of Rav Meir from Kretsnif, desired to live in Rachov. His house included a private study hall, as is the custom amoung the Chassidic Rebbes. He was outstanding in his charitable activities. Everything in his house was available to be distributed to the poor. After the first World War he moved his court to the town of Upper Wisho. He was martyred on 3 Sivan 5704 [May 25, 1944]. Between the two World Wars the leader of the Chassidim in Rachov was his brother, Rav Mordechai Rosenbaum, who also was martyred.]

One of the first shochetim in Rachov was Rabbi Israel Wirtzberger, from the years 5639-5640 [1879-80]. A year later he had the same role in the well known Hassidic city Bevian in Bukovina, and afterwards he was a judge in the rabbinic court and ritual authority in the city of Buzav in Moldova. At the end of his book “Zihkron Yehoshua”, sermons on the Torah (Tissa-Sasfala, 5672 - 1912), were published 18 responsa. The first three responsa were written in Rachov and were often referred to by the great rabbis and scholars of Galicia -- Rabbi Moshe Te'omim of Horodenko and Rabbi Shraga Feivel Shrier of Brodshin. The subject of these responsa dealt with kashrut issues associated with animal lungs, and burial markers that had been exchanged in a cemetery. It is clear that Rabbi Israel Wirtzberger taught halacha in Rachov since he was also a rabbi in the community.

In 1869 there was a shochet in Rachov named Reb Mordecai Dov. Apparently he was the first shochet in Rachov. After him Rabbi Israel Wirtzberger, and even later Reb Asher Anshel served as shochetim. A long standing shochet was Reb Jacob Samson Fisher who died in the 1930s. The last shochetim in Rachov were Reb Solomon Leib Falk and Reb Michael Shreiber, who were both martyred in the Holocaust. One additional shochet, Reb Zeev Grief, survived the death camps and managed to return to live in Rachov. He continued in his holy profession even under the Communists until his death in 5735 (1975). Reb Zeev Grief was the only mohel in the region and with great dedication he ensured that Jewish boys entered the covenant of Abraham our forefather. He persisted despite official barriers as well as frequent threats and attempts to frighten him from performing his duties.

The business and financial arrangements in the Jewish community of Rachov were not markedly different from others in Marmaros. A significant percentage of the local Jews were employed in different levels of retail trade; a portion of the Jews were craftsmen and others were hired workers in workshops or factories. In Rachov as in many places, Jews dominated commercial life.

Among the large factories, former residents of Rachov recall three large sawmills: one owned by Raphael Abush and son, one owned by Risa Katz, and one owned by Deutsch. There were three flour mills, owned by Ephraim Kreindler, Menahem Fruchter, and Risa Katz. The electric power plant was owned by Solomon Abush -- he was president of the Jewish community until his death at an early age. Owners of land and forests were: Raphael Abush, Alter Shmerler, Ortza Kramer, and others. Jews worked in the above mentioned factories both as clerks and as hired laborers.

In the commercial arena, survivors recall about 30 grocery and variety stores, about 10 textile and ready-made clothing stores and 3 wholesale food markets.

In Rachov there was also a thin layer of Jewish intelligentsia - individuals with academic credentials. There were two doctors, one judge, three lawyers, and four dentists. Even the secretary of the town council was usually a Jew. There were also a few Jews in various government positions.

The craftsmen included tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, tanners, watchmakers, bakers, photographers, a weaver, a printer, taxi owners, and others.

Between the two world wars, there were several Jewish youth organizations in Rachov. They are mentioned here in order of their size: Agudat Israel, among its well known leaders were Nathan Feig, Mordecai Komernik, and Mordecai David Shiyovitch. Betar was led by Mendel Davidovits (he was also a delegate to one of the Zionist Congresses), P. Gasner and others. Hashomer Hatzair was led by Dov (Bela) Feig. Hehalutz was led by Elka Arbast and Sara Weiss. Mizrahi was led by Abraham Engelman.

Jewish youth in Rachov also played sports. Jews were a large majority of the members in the two soccer and tennis clubs. Amateur theatrical plays were put on twice a year (Chanuka and Purim). These were plays in Yiddish that successfully played both in Rachov and in surrounding towns. The driving force in this activity was Zvi Menahem Konitz. Among the plays that the survivors recall are “The Dybbuk”, “Dovosh”, and “The Selling of Joseph”.

Rachov (cont.)

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