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[Page 455]

Ober Bistra

Ruthenian: Vysni Bystry
Hungarian: Felsöbisztra
[Ukrainian: Verkhniy Bystryy]

Translated by Moshe A. Davis

A tiny settlement administratively connected to the town Maidan (see the article on Maidan), located approximately 5 kilometers to the north of Maidan, and 5 kilometers to the south of the village Torn. All [non-Jewish] residents Ruthenian.

Since this settlement was not administratively independent, no statistical details about the population of the village in and of itself were usually published. The residents of Ober Bistra were generally included within the published statistical data on the neighboring town Maidan. Even so, in the census of 1830 (as quoted in the book by Fényes) it is mentioned that there lived in the village 350 Greek Catholics and 20 Jews. But even in this source, it is noted that the settlement was considered part of Maidan. This same fact is also mentioned in the census that was taken by the Hungarians in 1941, where the total number of individuals living in the village is given as 874. According to the information that we were told by survivors of the Holocaust from Ober Bistra, there lived approximately 60 Jewish families in the village [before the war]. This number seems to us to be somewhat exaggerated. According to our estimates, there were approximately 35 Jewish families totalling about 200 individuals living in the settlement.

Community Organization

Even though Ober Bistra was administratively subsumed within neighboring Maidan, the Jews of the village organized themselves into a separate community that was almost completely independent of the Jewish community of Maidan for almost all of their local needs, with the major exception that both communities were within the sphere of influence of the Rabbinical leaders of the town Volove (see the article on Volove). The Bistra Jewish community had nearly all of the basic community institutions: a wooden synagogue, a mikve [ritual bath], and even an independent cemetery. There are indications that the Jewish cemetery of Bistra was even older than that of Maidan.

Individuals of Note

The earliest shochet [kosher slaughterer] known to us in Bistra was named R' Yehuda Chaim. We know nothing about him except for the fact that his name is at the head of the list of residents of Bistra that appear in the pre-publication subscription lists of two sefarim [Jewish holy books] published by R' Moshe Shoham, a follower of the Baal Shem Tov [the founder of the Chassidic movement]. Those books are titled Imrei Shoham (published at Kalameh in 5640 [1880]) and Divrei Moshe (published at Lemberg [L'vov] in 5647 [1887]). We do not know the identities of most of the subsequent shochetim in Bistra. Between the two world wars, R' Chaim Freidman, the son of Meshulam Freidman, served as shochet in Bistra. He was an outstanding Torah scholar and Posek, who decided halachic questions about kashrus. Starting from the year 5692 (1932), when the shochet of neighboring Maidan passed away, R' Chaim Freidman also served as shochet of Maidan. He was martyred in the Holocaust.

There are a number of householders from Ober Bistra who appear as pre-publication subscribers to various sefarim published between the years 5540-5570 (1880-1910). Many of them only appear in the prenumeranterin [pre-publication subscription lists] with their given names [i.e., without a family surname], and with the name of their mother. The names listed are:

R' Yehuda Leib the son of Rivka,
R' Chaim Gedalia the son of Sara,
R' Aryeh Leibush Rubinstein,
R' Tzvi the son of Chaya Branya,
R' Tzvi the son of Faige Weiser,
R' Aaron Menachem Weiser,
R' Yisroel Menachem Hoifman (the surname also appears as Hoiftman),
R' Yoel the son of Surki Yente,
R' Shalom the son of R' Tzvi Weiser,
R' Nata Weiser,
R' Hersch Hoifman,
R' Shalom Goldinger,
R' Shlomo Hoifman,
R' Tzvi the son of Rachel,
R' Mattisyahu Stahl,
R' Yitzchok Isaac Weiser,
R' Nosan Anshel Kraus the son-in-law of R' Tzvi Hersch Hoifman,
R' Shmuel Tzvi Rott [or possibly Roth],
R' Tzvi Freilich,
R' Shalom Heilpert,
R' Aryeh Leibush Grossman,
R' Chaim Gedalia Fixler.
In the above listing, two family surnames stand out – the Weiser family, and the Hoifman family.

The Weiser family were almost all wealthy Torah scholars, who made their living as lumber merchants. They were Zidichov chassidim, and were related by marriage to the tzadik R' Elazer Lipa the son of Yitzchok Isaac from Zidichov, for R' Elazer Lipa married the daughter of R' Eliezer Weiser.

One of the important Torah scholars from the Weiser family was R' Shimon Yitzchok the son of Tzvi Hersch Wieser. Besides being a Torah scholar and chassid of great stature, R' Shimon Yitzchok Weiser was extremely close to both the author of Imrei Yosef and to his son the author of Chekel Yitzchok [i.e., the author of the Chekel Yitzchok was the son of the author of Imrei Yosef, and R' Shimon Yitzchok Weiser was close to both of them]. R' Shimon Yitzchok was an adept writer. He led the High Holiday services in the synagogue and was a sought-out private teacher in Bistra.

Upon the outbreak of the First World War, when Kossacks penetrated into Bistra, R' Shimon Yitzchok Weiser fled to the city Mihályfalva, where he continued teaching older students in Gemara [Talmud] with the commentaries of the Tosefos. After the war he returned to Bistra, but died in a typhus epidemic at the age of approximately 50 years old. His wife, Fruma Rachel, also lived an elevated spiritual lifestyle. From the death of her husband she did not sleep in a bed nor did she eat meat, with the exception of on Shabbos and Yom Tov. She knew many stories of the Tzadikim of the Zidichov and Sepinka chassidic dynasties. She was the daughter of R' Shmuel Tzvi Fixler, who had originally come from Munkacs. R' Shmuel Tzvi was the son of R' Feivish Fixler from Munkacs, who was a student of R' Uri “the seraf [fiery angel]” from Strelisk. R' Uri “the seraf” from Strelisk was the son of R' Shmuel Tzvi, who had served as the shochet for the tzadik R' Yitzchok Isaac from Kalev, who was the paternal grandfather of R' Shmuel Tzvi Weiss, who served as the Av Beis Din of Munkacs and was the father of the author of Imrei Yosef from Sepinka.

[translator's note: this paragraph, as originally written in Sefer Marmaros, is somewhat unclear. I have slightly rearranged the paragraph structure from that of the original Hebrew in order to improve the clarity and natural flow of ideas in English. In doing so, I have made the assumption that the daughter of R' Shmuel Tzvi Fixler, who was mentioned as being the wife of R' Shimon Yitzchok Weiser, is one and the same person as Fruma Rachel, mentioned as being the widow of R' Shimon Yitzchok Weiser.]

The wedding of R' Yitzchok Isaac Weiss from Sepinka, the author of Chekel Yitzchok, took place in Ober Bistra in approximately 5652 [1892], in the house of one of the members of the Weiser family. The bride, the daughter of R' Yiskar Ber Eichenstein from Veretzky (author of Malbush L'Shabbos V'Yom Tov) grew up in Bistra after the untimely death of her mother.

Of the Hoffman family [note: In this paragraph the “Hoifman” family surname is spelled “Hoffman”], we mention the brothers R' Shlomo and R' Tzvi Hersch Hoffman, who were lumber merchants, Torah scholars, and followers of the the Komarna chassidic dynasty, and their uncle R' Yaakov Hoffman, who owned many forests and who was the wealthiest individual in Bistra.

R' Gershon Miller was an outstanding Torah scholar and a Vishnitz chassid. He was the son-in-law of R' Shalom Gudiner, who was a Belz chassid. R' Gershon was a beloved student of the author of Arugas Habosem. He decided halachic questions about kashrus in Bistra. As a young married student, his mentor [the author of Arugas Habosem] wrote to him a responsa on the laws of Nida (in responsa Arugas Habosem, part Yorah Deah, section 167, undated): “…To his honor, my student, outstanding in Torah and fear of heaven, wise and complete, our teacher, Rav Gershon Miller, may his light shine, of the village Ober Bistra…”

The majority of the Jewish residents of Ober Bistra were followers of the Dolina-Zidichov-Sepinka chassidic dynasties. A minority were followers of the Vishnetz, Sziget, and Belz dynasties. A significant number of the residents were Torah scholars, who learned both in their houses and in public by way of participating in Torah classes which took place every evening in the synagogue.

Zionism

Zionist organizations did not exist in Bistra, even though some of the youth of the village were influenced by the nationalist ideas that blew in from the neighboring village Torn, which was the center of Zionist activity in the entire area (see the article on Torn for more information). One of the residents of Bistra who was caught up in the Zionist current was Mordechai Weiser. He was the son of R' Yitzchok Isaac Weiser (the son of Tzvi Hersch Weiser, who in turn was the son of Eliezer Weiser). Mordechai Weiser was a Zidichov chassid who at least twice yearly made a pilgrimage to visit the Rebbe of Zidichov, during the holidays of Shavuos and Rosh Hashana. He was well-established financially, being the owner of fields, forests, and a lumber mill. His wife was the daughter of R' Tzvi Elimelech Kahana from Sziget, who was a descendant of the author of Kuntras Hasefekos. Mordechai Weiser learned for six years in two yeshivos – in the yeshiva of the author of Minchas Elazar in Munkacs, and in the yeshiva located in Neuhaeusel. When he became involved in Zionism, he moved to Pressburg and became actively involved in the activities of the Mizrachi and of the Torah V'Avoda movements. After preparatory training, he came to Israel in the spring of 5698 [1938] and joined the Yavne group. At the end of 1945 he was sent on a mission to Hungary and Czechoslovakia to organize survivors of the Holocaust. In 1947 he returned to Israel and to the Yavne group, where he was a member until he passed away in 5732 (1979). The Yavne group published a book in his memory, “In Memory of Mordechai Weiser, Chapters of Thought and Action” (5741). In this book, his friends relate his accomplishments and the story of his life. It is worthy of note that Mordechai Weiser never abandoned the Torah upbringing that he received while studying in yeshiva in his youth. Through all of the periods of his life, he set aside time for learning Torah.

The Holocaust

The majority of the Jews of Ober Bistra were murdered in 1941. In July 1941 they were deported to Galicia under the pretext that they did not possess the proper paperwork proving their Hungarian citizenship, even though they and their forefathers had lived in the area for many generations. Without warning, the Jews of the village were loaded into trucks and driven to the Galician border. The majority were murdered in the area near Kaminetz-Podolsk in cruel and horrible ways.

Those Jewish residents of Ober Bistra who had not been deported in 1941 were transported to the Iza ghetto, near Chust, on 25 April 1944. About six weeks later, in pouring rain, they were brought to the train station at Chust. From there, they were transported to Auschwitz.

Today, there are no Jews living in Ober Bistra.

Bibliography:

Interviews with a number of former residents of Ober Bistra.

Greenwald, Rabbi Moshe; Responsa - "Arugas HaBosem" section Yorah Deah, part 2, (Szatmer 5686 [1926]), responsa 167.

Testimonies in Yad VaShem archives: 015/138; 015/1712.


Translated and edited by Moshe A Davis. This translation is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather Benish Davidovits (in America, Bennie Davis), to the members of his family (family surnames Davidovits, Markovits, and Katz) from the village Leh (Szeleslonka, Shirukiy Lug) in Marmaros, and to the memory of my grandmother Chaya Chaimovits (in America, Helen Hayfer), and to the members of her family (family surnames Chaimovits and Zelminovits) from the village of Drahiv (Kövesliget, Drahova) in Marmaros. Most of their family members 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 many of the surnames and/or place names as transliterated here may in fact have been spelled somewhat differently in the original source.


List of Jewish surnames from Ober Bistra mentioned in this article:

Eichenstein
Fixler
Freilich
Friedman
Goldinger
Grossman
Gudiner
Heilpert
Hoffman
Hoifman
Hoiftman
Kahana
Kraus
Miller
Roth
Rott
Rubinstein
Stahl
Weiser
Weiss
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