Lipa Fischer, Tel Aviv
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The Jews contributed a great deal to the development of the shtetl Jezierna [Ozerna], starting with its external appearance. The houses that belonged to the Jews were distinguished by their nicer outer appearance, particularly the newly built ones. They were higher, built of brick on higher foundations; the roofs were covered with tin. The Jewish houses were also more beautiful inside. The floors were made of wood and the houses had large windows that opened. This had an influence on the non-Jewish population. New, small houses would appear that belonged to the non-Jews, with tin roofs instead of the former straw. The Jews had influence in other areas. For example, the best non-Jewish artisans were those who learned their trade from Jews
In general, the Jewish settlement in Jezierna was deep-rooted; there already were Jews here in the time of the Polish King Sobieski, to whom the shtetl mainly belonged. Commerce was then in Jewish hands. The shops and inns were exclusively Jewish. In about 1860, the Jezierna estate of Count Lubomirski was transferred to the Jew, Mendil Yampoler; after the suppression of serfdom (the old feudalistic order), the Polish prince could not maintain his agrarian possessions and, as it is told, went bankrupt. Yampoler, on the other hand, adapted to the new conditions and created a blooming garden out of the abandoned fields.
And the Jezierna estate administered by a pious Jew became renowned in the area. There also was an alcohol factory on his estate. The factory was located in a modern building with a high chimney; when the factory was destroyed in 1915 by the retreating Russian Army, the chimney remained and stood for many years. A great significance for the economic development of the shtetl was the building of the first mechanical mill by Reb Wolf Fischer in the early years of the [20th] century, which served the Jezierna area.
Among the professionals were: Dr. Hirschhorn, who was the only medical doctor in the shtetl and the surrounding area until approximately 1910; the only apothecary was L. Mintz, a situation that existed until 1940. It appears that the above-mentioned, in general, were the first ones in the shtetl in their profession. They came to Jeziernia in the 1880's. There were also a few teachers from the Baron Hirsch School. There were more cultural leaders before the First World War, Yiddish writers, such as Shmuel-Yakov Imber, A.M. Fuchs, whose names were known throughout the world. It should be understood that in these professional areas, Jews surpassed the non-Jewish residents.
Finally, there was the Jezierna tzaddik [righteous man], Reb Shlomale [Charap], who in his youth was a dorfsgeyer [village peddler] and was elevated to a higher level by the Peremyshlyaner Rebbe, Reb Meirl, as well as the well-known Rebbe, Reb Levi-Yitzhak Monson of the Rizhiner Dynasty. His court was renowned in the Hasidic world and drew many Hasidim from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the shtetl. The non-Jewish population also showed the Rebbe great reverence. With the outbreak of the First World War, the Rebbe's escape to Vienna brought to an end the existence of the rabbinical dynasty in Jezierna.
by Gedal Fuchs
Translated by Pamela Russ
Jezierna did not lag behind other Jewish towns in Galicia and its many neighbours in anything; not in trade and not in crafts. There were artisans of all kinds: carpenters, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, masons, tailors, shoemakers, furriers, bakers, butchers, porters, and so on.
Eli Charap and his three sons were very wellknown builders. They ran a large factory and worked for the entire region. All the work was done by handlabor. Yisroel Sokolski was also prominent in the area he was the best smith. Until the First World War, he worked in Kaczyna [?] along with his two sons. Many nonJews acquired their skills by working for him. Jews and nonJews alike had great respect for him. Also, the chalutzim [pioneersintraining] learned their skills from him before making aliyah [moving] to the Land of Israel.
Naftaly was a fine mason. He was responsible for construction of private and government projects. He built the community house, the retaining stonewall on the market street that supported the baths from Moshe Wieseltier's up to Jakob Pulwer's. He also built two synagogues and a church.
There were a couple of Jewish tinsmiths in the town: Yizchak Lechowicz held a respected place in the artisan family. He was also a community worker, a member of the community council, and beadle in the synagogue. He also employed his son as well as other workers. Getzel the tinsmith was occupied solely with his daily life and constant work in order to support his large family. There was also Majer Zilberberg, Avraham Kurzrok and his brother Shlomo. This last mentioned, as an Austrian soldier, was taken prisoner in Russia (1915) and never returned. All of these were apprentices of Yizchak Lechowicz. Another one of his apprentices was Yehoshua Fuchs, who is now in London.
The tailor Beril Bernstein was a fine craftsman and also a conscientious person. He was the one who read the weekly Torah portion in the small synagogue. He also had respected children: one was a doctor, Dr. Nisan Bernstein; the second was a dentist and the third, Moshe, was a tailor.
There was also a shoemaker in Jezierna by the name of Berl Bernstein. He lived in the center of the city and was a reputable businessman. Journeymen would work for him, primarily nonJews. There was also the shoemaker Munye Blaustein, who learned the trade under Berl.
It's important to mention the women who were tailors. Batya Zilberberg was known as a good ladies' dressmaker and employed a few young girls, both Jewish and nonJewish, as seamstresses. Batya's sister, Raizel Kurzrock, also worked as a seamstress. Aside from those, there were also specialists for women's undergarments (lingerie makers) the two sisters Ruchel and Esther Braun.
The furrier Josef Okien would sew fur coats and hats for the peasants from the best fur or from leather that was the national dress for the local women. It was, so they say, a skill that used a special method. He would sell his products at the fairs.
In Jezierna, there were trades and tradesmen that were not so popular. For example, the shingle layers and the socalled 'printers'. The peasants would bring their own homemade fabric, and dye them for their personal needs. This would only be done on one side. This dyer and also the shingle layer (who would cover the roofs) were embodied in one and the same person this was Reb Yisroel Winter. During the summers he would cover roofs and in the winter he would dye the fabric for summer clothing, primarily for the men in the villages.
The butchers held a respected place in the town. I remember a few butchers: Hersch Katz, Shewach Baron, Gerschon Kurzrock, Avraham Czaczkes and Leibish Rosenfeld. The last one left a generation of butchers his three sons: Yizchak, JudaHersch and IsakWolf. Also Natan Braun considered himself one of the younger butchers in the town.
Grain Mills and Oil Presses
It's worth mentioning the small enterprises such as grain mills and oil presses; with the latter they would make oil from hemp seeds and flax. The peasants would bring the raw products and then grind them here. The grain mill they operated using ‘their own’ strength, and the same with the small oil machine. Each peasant who brought his grains, turned the millstone with his own hands… The owner of the mill would take a certain fee for the use of the machine; the owners would also work as millers. The owner maintained the mill so that the output of grain would be satisfactory. One could consider this type of miller as a craftsman.
In those times before World War I, these facilities were very primitive, but later the owners went on to modernize their enterprises. For example, the oil machine was a very simple thing, but in later years this was exchanged for another machine, which was factorymade, simplified the oil production, shortened labor time, and also improved the actual output.
In Jezierna, there were two or three such undertakings. Zische Perlmutter used to make flour and oil and from this he had a livelihood, together with his sons. A certain Schoel Goldberg also had this type of enterprise; he set himself up with modern machinery. His oil machine was talked about in Jezierna and the surrounding area. It was the same for Aron Kurzrock.
The production seasons were before Passover and before Christmas. In general, the times before the holidays were periods of liveliness and commerce in all areas of the small businesses. The merchants and artisans would prepare themselves for these times, and look forward to the seasons with anticipation because their earnings for a few months depended on them.
Jewish Craftsmen before World War II
The percentage of Jewish artisans in Jezierna was practically unchanged before World War II, from the time of the First World War. Very few craftsmen remained from the time of the First World War, but later on there were many newcomers from other places also young ones, who learned the trade and worked independently.
The smith Yisroel Sokolsky died in the 1930s; Beril, the shoemaker, returned from his flight [to safety], and managed his own workshop. He was already an older man and died in the 1920s. The carpenters didn't return from their flight at all after the First World War. Yizchak Lechowicz, the tinsmith, left for America.
Before the outbreak of World War II, there remained from the older artisans Beril Bernstein the tailor, who worked together with his son Moshe. The other Jewish tailor was Azriel Pollak. Michel Altman, who also did tailoring, made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in 1939, and today operates a tailoring business in Haifa. His brother, Pesach Altman, had a shoemaking workshop until the year 1937; he too made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, and today runs a workshop in Haifa for orthopedic shoes and also has a shoe store. Schmuel Altman, a furniture maker, a friend from ‘Gordonia’, made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in 1936. He runs a furniture factory there and is chairman of the Union of Craftsmen in Haifa. There were two tinsmiths: Meier Zilberberg and Moshe Erdreich; the latter was a newcomer. There was also a carpenter, a newcomer, by the name Fink. He lived in Jezierna for a few years. He was an authentic Jewish artisan type. He practiced the mitzvos [Torah commandments], wore a beard and sidelocks, and worked hard to support his large family. He had six children three of them I knew well. His oldest daughter, Sarah, was sixteen when the war broke out. His workshop was in the house where he lived. He would get up very early and work until the darkness of night set in. In general, the majority of Jewish artisans in town lived this way.
The youth of that time, who wanted to make aliyah to the Land of Israel, also learned a trade. Yakov Kritz, for example, learned a trade in Zborow and today is the manager of the ‘Herut’ company in Haifa. Almost all of the artisans in the town worked alone, without employees, other than apprentices. However there were the exceptions who did hire workers, such as Pesach Altman. Besides apprentices, he also employed nonJewish workers. In general, there were many nonJewish apprentices who would learn under the Jewish experts. Once they finished learning the trade, they would consider themselves fine craftsmen. In general, the nonJews who apprenticed under the Jews also paid more attention to their own work … they simply came more often.
Barbers in Jezierna were exclusively Jewish. There were two barbers, both of them newcomers. One was Yehoshua Schwarz from Tarnopol, and he worked with Issa Blasser. Yehoshua Schwarz was his stepfather. Then came the second one, named Berger. He was the soninlaw of the teacher Henzel Steiger, of blessed memory. His barber shop was in the middle of the town and he had apprentices and even employees. The barbers in Jezierna were certified professionals.
Yehoshua Schwarz came to the place through Blasser; they used to call him ‘doctor’. Aside from giving haircuts, he would do teeth extractions, apply bankes [cupping], and ‘cure’ the sick.
There were also socalled ‘midwives’ or ‘bubbes’. These were Chava Scherman (Moshe the beadle's wife), Salke the Bubbe, and also the wife of Schwarz the barber. She also did cupping and ‘cured’ with ‘modern’ medicines: she would give aspirin and quinine.
There were two glaziers. Schulim Bleich had a small shop in the middle of the marketplace among the other community shops. The local residents and those from the villages in the area would bring him their windows to have panes put in. He would do bigger jobs for clients at their own locations. Reb Schulim was a Torah scholar. After a day's work he would go to learn Torah in the Beis Midrash [synagogue study hall]. The second glazier was Reb Yizchok Kritz, of blessed memory, the father of Schimon and Yakov Kritz, who conducted his work respectfully. He was a forwardthinking person and a nationalistic Jew. At the first opportunity, he sent his still young son Yakov to Eretz Yisrael. Several years later, 1935, he liquidated all his belongings and made aliyah to the Land of Israel along with his family, parents, and older son Schimon.
Before bakeries were established in Jezierna, Jewish women would bake cakes for stores and taverns. They would usually bake these in regular house ovens that existed in almost every home. Sometimes, the demand for baked goods was not very great each homemaker would do her own baking for every Sabbath.
Then, unexpectedly, a professional baker descended on Jezierna, by the name of Reb Izak Mantel. This was at the beginning of the century. He set up a modern bakery in the town, with mechanical equipment. To that end, according to the law of that time, he built a special building with several rooms. His business grew quickly and he had several workers. The baked goods were delivered by a special horseandwagon, not only to the local residents, but also to those in the surrounding villages. During the First World War, the bakery was destroyed, but later on, when life stabilized again, the business resumed its work.
In about the 1930s, another bakery opened in the town, with the owner Leizer Zalcz. He was from Lemberg. His bakery was also modern, with technical equipment, and run according to the regulations of hygiene. We must mention that these were the only bakeries in Jezierna and the surrounding area, which was not small.
In the season of Christian holidays, especially Christmas, the bakeries were busy with work. This was the time of baking the koylitches (like small braided challas), and thousands were baked. There was not even one Christian family that did not have these loaves that were baked in Jewish bakeries for their holidays.
For Passover, they would make these bakeries kosher for baking matzo. In order to bake shemuramatzo [stringently guarded], the Rabbi would be personally involved.
Jezierna was situated along the Tarnopol Lemberg dirt road, near the intersection of the socalled ‘KaiserStrasse’ [highway]; thus the connection between the two major trade centers went through it. And since all means of communication before World War I was by horseandwagon, there were inns all along the entire length of the road. These were long houses which several horseandwagons could enter, all at the same time. The owner of this type of house also had, aside from his own home, a type of inn, where one could also have something to eat and drink, and spend the night.
In Jezierna itself, there were four inns; all of them were built close to the road so that the wagon drivers would not have to go far with their heavilyladen wagons. One of these lucrative operations belonged to Reb Reuven Fischer, the father of Wolf. All the owners of these inns were well off; summer and winter there were all kinds of people traveling on the road, merchants from all types of businesses, ordinary passengers on horseandwagon, that were protected with covers. Chassidim [followers] going to see their Rebbe, travelled long distances, more than once, and also patronized these same houses. Reb Shlomo Charap also owned such an inn. Generally, the chassidim who came to see their Rebbe stayed there. One of these inns, owned by Yakov Czaczkes, of blessed memory, remained standing until World War II, but it already served no purpose because of the modernization of communication.
The tolls and the tollgates were also part of that period. At the entrance of the town, until the outbreak of World War I, there was this type of checkpoint, where they would take a certain payment from those entering the town from all different places. The toll was on the Tarnopol side before the bridge.
Watchmaker Motel Byk; his father was a teacher, Bina Byk.
Carriage drivers and wagon drivers: Henik Feuerstein, Sanie Fuchs.
Lipa Fischer, Tel Aviv
Translated by Pamela Russ
It's important to remember that just as in the other Galician towns, in Jezierna commerce rested in Jewish hands. This lasted until the 1930s. Even in those places that were entirely nonJewish, also there the storekeeper was a Jew. It was the Jews who bought the farmers' products. There were Jewish buyers who went from village to village and bought the different products. The grain merchant travelled around with his horse and wagon and bought the grains from the farmers of the quarterplots of land.
The government organizations did not present any particular difficulties and permitted trade to go on. You only needed to pay for the appropriate permits for this, and these were given out without any restrictions.
Various branches of commerce evolved in Jezierna. In first place stood the agricultural products. These products, which the dealers bought from the farmers, consisted of all types of grains, potatoes, beets, cattle, horses, flax, wool, honey, and chickens.
From all these items, the Jezierna area became a large marketing center. Major dealers were there shipping hundreds of wagon loads of all the products mentioned above from the Jezierna train station. Some of this was exported. These dealers would often buy these products from the smaller merchants, who, as already mentioned, bought them directly from the farmers.
During the war years of 19141918, commerce was destroyed and was only renewed with the rebuilding of Poland as it adjusted itself to the new age. After that, commerce grew to become even stronger.
There were no wholesale stores in Jezierna; there were only retail stores. Nevertheless, they were not all alike… There were large stores with a lot of merchandise, and small stores with only few items, and even these minimal items were few in number. There were also the socalled mixedwares stores that sold textiles, leather ware, ironworks and radios, coal and lumber, taverns and restaurants, beer refillers, wood for building, etc.
There were also articles that one could not get in Jezierna, but had to travel to the bigger cities to buy. These were items such as readymade clothing, fashionable shoes, etc. There was also no real bookstore in Jezierna. And for all kinds of building materials, one also had to travel to other cities.
In the 1930s, when the bus transportation began, some Jews established a transport company. The first bus that they bought was slightly used and didn't work for long… They exchanged it for a new one. It travelled along the main Tarnopol Zloczow road. The driver was a Pole, brought in from somewhere.
Even years before the Second World War, a terrible propaganda campaign arose against the Jewish businesses, instigated by the leaders of the Polish and Ukrainian populations. They did not let any opportunity pass to show how the Jewish merchants were making a living at the expense of the nonJewish residents. Besides the [Polish and Ukrainian] cooperatives, Christian merchants would gather on a daily basis to force the Jew out of business even before the Nazis, may their names be erased, showed how they wanted to physically eradicate them.
This was the socalled regional politics.
Yizhak Charap, Haifa
Translated by Maya Avis, greatgranddaughter
In Jezierna there were two schools; a public school and the Baron Hirsch school that was only for Jewish children. After its forced closure, only the public school was left.
In the town there was a thirst for knowledge. There wasn't a secondary school, but many Jewish youth took the schooltrain to Tarnopol to study at the gymnasium [high school] there.
There was also an attempt to organize enrichment courses of the type that prepared students for the gymnasium or for its entrance exams. These courses were organized by Grubber, a Jezierna secondary school graduate, who later became a pharmacist. His son emigrated to Israel after the war, and was killed in the War of Independence in 1948.
Every morning one would see many boys and girls at the train station. Their destination, as we have already said, was Tarnopol for their studies at the gymnasium. Thus, thanks to this, many youth in Jezierna gained both a secondary school education and also a university degree.
On the schooltrain that ran from Zborov to Tarnopol, there was one carriage that bore the sign Jezierna. In this carriage the students from Jezierna would regularly travel, both girls and boys. Who were among these passengers? Moshe Sharer, Motel Spindel, Yakov KatzFuchs, Aharon Charap, Leah Barer, Malcze Schwager, Lotte Marder, Andzi Marder, the Haselnuss sisters, Munya Steiger, Wolf Laufer, Nisan Katz, Nuchim Katz, Ezyo Gersten, Schmuel Gersten, Yossi Fuchs, Lippe Fischer, Rosenfeld, Kalafer, Natan Kellman, Moshe Altman, Margulies, Muni Katz, Shlomit Katz, Brania Scharer, Freda Scharer, Yosef Hoch, David Czaczkes and others. In the station at Tarnopol the two Heliczer sisters and Henia Klinger waited.
These studied away from Jezierna: Beno Steiger, Munyo Zamojre, Nisan Bernstein, Reuven Kellman and others. At the seminary [teacher's college] studied: Rena Katz, Devora Gottfried. A young woman, the daughter of the milkseller Schonhaut, won a scholarship and studied in Lemberg (Lvov), at Doctor Klaften's Art School. There she married a teacher. They were both killed in Jezierna.
On Saturdays, everyone used to remain in Tarnopol, so as not to travel on Shabbat. At school they also refrained from writing on Shabbat.
The Jezierna carriage was full of life and laughter. It was customary to tell secrets, daydream, sing and even, off in a corner, review words in Latin or prepare mathematics homework. The conductor would enter and greet the passengers: Jin Dobreh, Jezierna [Polish: Good morning Jezierna], and in chorus everyone would answer: Jin Dobreh Pani Conductor!. He refrained from checking the tickets. He knew everyone these were his daily commuters.
There were three public gymnasiums for boys in Tarnopol, and one (privately owned by Lenkewicz) for girls. The third gymnasium specialized in mathematics and physics, and the mathematicians studied there the aim of these students was to become math teachers or engineers or economists. There was also a vocational school.
Each day conversation always turned to the teachers, especially the Jewish ones among them. The math teacher, Franczos, was once a yeshiva student and more than once would interrupt in a gemarachant [singsong]: Where's your X, Landeh? Where's your Y, Landeh?. Numerous students would write a little Yiddish in their German homework. The German teacher, Doctor Teiwim, would discover this and ask where the Odessian Deutsch came from.
Something about the cheders [Jewish elementary schools] and their teachers: All the boys also learned in the cheder, so that after a hundred and twenty years [optimal lifetime], they would be able to say the kaddish prayer, learn a passage from mishnayos [oral laws], and other traditional readings [recited after the death of a parent].
The rooms were cramped (the children already started to learn at age 3). There was a beginners' teacher, a chumash and Rashi teacher [Torah and commentary], and a gemorah [rabbinic discussions] teacher. The star pupils studied with the Rabbi, with diligent Torah scholars, or went to study at a yeshiva. There were Jewish scholars who struggled to earn a living and earned a bit more by teaching a couple of children.
The beginners' teachers were: Yakel Melamed, Henzel Steiger.
There were also assistants: AharonYizhak, Iche Shorr and others. Their role was to carry the small children to the cheder on their shoulders.
The Chumash and Rashi teachers were: Binya Byk, Lazer Byk, Eliakum, Avraham Reis.
The Gemorah teachers: Peretz Schwartz, HirschLeib Stokhamer, and Yakov Schochet. They taught at the Beis HaMidrash [synagogue study hall] or in their own private homes.
In addition, Itzeh Paket, a yeshiva graduate, taught the older students for free. Visiting teachers were also occasionally invited for a zman [semester] or two.
In the cramped shtiebel [little house] of the beginners' teacher, about twenty small children sat around the table; squashed and jostling one another. The teacher had a large siddur [prayerbook] for the children with extralarge fonts, such as are printed for the blessing of the moon prayer. Apart from this, he would search in the siddur for instances where the letters were especially large. The rebbiteacher would say: kametz aleph, kametz beis and the children would answer in chorus. The teacher and children repeated the words again and again like it is said in the wellknown song until the teacher felt sure that the children knew the words.
The teachers obviously did not have a pedagogical knowledge, but through experience they constructed their own methodology, (chedermethods) from the group to the individual usage. Using a titel [wooden pointer], they would point to each letter. The ChumashRashi teacher also used this method, as well as another one. He would point with his finger from place to place, (called the ‘nail method’). Every Sabbath the students would be taken to learned Jews , for a ‘farheren’ [hearing]. This was to test the students' comprehension.
The Gemorah teachers had a different method. The student would read the text alone, as well as the interpretations, and the Rabbi would only help where it was required. Today this would be called ‘independent learning’.
It should be mentioned that the first Hebrew teacher was Shmaryahu Imber, and after him, for many years, the teachers were Yeshayahu Yavetz and David Chisdis, from Rovna. By the time they left Jezierna, there was already a group of their students who were able to replace them and continue their work until the start of the Second World War.
In 1924, there were chalutzim [pioneers], who came to Jezierna to Hachshara [preAliyah agricultural training program]. They would also teach the children Hebrew. Among these was Zvi Hermoni (Weisselberg), who lives in Israel in Kibbutz Usha.
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