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[Page 89]

The Wiznitzer Tzadikim Dynasty

by Dr. N. M. Gelber (Jerusalem)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush


The Wiznitz Tzadikim 1 dynasty is older than the Sadagura but it is only local. Genealogically, the founder of the dynasty, R. Mendel Hager, descended from one of the first Chasidic Tzadikim families. His grandfather, R. Menachem Mendel who founded the Kosow Tzadikim dynasty was the son of the famous holy Chassid, R. Jakob Kopel ben Nechemia Feiwel from Kolomea who was a student and prayer leader of the founder of the Chassidic movement, Baal Schem Tov.

His personality is surrounded by a halo of legends. Especially in connection with the birth of his son, R. Menachem Mendel. The mother of Kopel's wife, Chaja was the daughter or granddaughter of a son of the famous Lemberg Rabbi, David Halevi, the author of The Golden Eras. This connection, was the genealogical “jewel” of all the dynasties of the Hager Tzadikim family.

R. Jakob Kopel was one of the first followers of Baal Schem. Although a great scholar in Talmud and Kabbale, he didn't want to be a rabbi and earned his living as a merchant. He died on 15 Elul 547 (1787) and left two sons, R. Jizchak of Kolomea and R. Menachem Mendel of Kosow and a daughter, Blima who was married to the famous Tzadik, Uri Strelisker.

His second son, Menachem Mendel was born 1768 or 1769, and already as a youth distinguished himself by his great knowledge of the Talmud. He married Scheine Rachel, the daughter of a rich Jew, R. Simel from Kossow. When his father-in-law died in 1786, he had to open a small store in Kolomea in order to feed his family. He later moved to Kosow where he spent all his time in the study of the Kabala. He studied with R. Sew Wolf from Tschorna-Ostra, R. Zwi Hirsch from Nadworna and R. Jechiel Michl from Zloczow.

After the death of R. Zwi Hirsch from Nadwornsa author of “tzmch Zwi the Tzadik,” many Chasidim sought him out in Kossow. So began his activity as a Tzadik. His personality alone, attracted the crowds of Chasidim who came to Kossow and who saw in him their Tzadik. So the Kossow Tzadik court gradually began to win a great reputation. His utterances were spread outside of Kossow and one told much of his teachings which were written in his work, “Brotherhood of Peace.” His miracles were no less discussed. The nigunim 2which he sang without words on Saturdays and holidays without words were famous.

In 1826 Menachem Mendel died and he was followed by his oldest son R. Chajim who was born in 1795.

R. Chajim who had exceptional organizational skills expanded the Kossow dynasty and the number of its followers reached far outside of the narrow borders of Kossow to Galicia and North Hungary and even to Bukovina.

Genealogically, he anchored the dynasty through his marriage to Zippora, the daughter of Rabbi Rabbi Meir Schapira from Schepetowka, who was a son of the famous holy Tzadik, R. Pinchas from Korzec. Since his earliest youth he prepared himself for his future tasks as a Tzadik. He stayed in close connection with the Tzadikim of his period, like R. Abraham Jehoschua Heschil from Opatow, R. Jakob Schimschon from Zaslaw, R. Lebusch.

Even during the life of his father, the Chasidim told of his learning and his miracles. As successor to his father, he already had a large following that hung on his every word and honored him as a great holy rabbi. Many of the Tzadikim of that period visited him in Kossow. He especially distinguished himself by his lifestyle which was modest in comparison to that of other Tzadikim. He performed acts of charity like secretly supporting the needy with money. Everyone had access to him at any time.

The dances and nigunim full of ecstasy at his court were famous, and were adopted by his followers, even those in the Wiznitzer dynasty. He saw in his flock of followers, the members of a famous Chasidic family and attempted to hold them together. He also took care of the regular collection of funds for Eretz 3Israel.

In his work, “Torah Chajim,” he laid out his teachings which consisted mostly of Kabalistic 4 elements.

R. Chajim died in 1854. The oldest of his three sons, R. Jakob Schimon took over the succession and he continued to lead the Kossower dynasty. The second son, R. Alter lived in Radowitz. The youngest, R. Menachem Mendel who was born in 1790 (24 Jjar) married Mirjam, the daughter of the Ruzyner Tzadik in 1884. He is the founder of the Haggar dynasty in Wiznetz. While his father still lived, he was chosen as rabbi of Wiznitz.

After the death of his father, most of the Kossower Chassidim became his followers, especially those on the Hungarian side (Marmorosch) and in Bukovina.

The tradition of the Tzadikim court of his father as well as the marriage of with the daughter of the Ruzyner Tzadik enhanced his authority greatly and strengthened his court which had a much greater following then the Kossow court. At the start of his reign, Wiznitz didn't have a great amount of Jews. There were only 2000 Jewish residents.

With a deep knowledge and charm that radiated from his person, he was capable like no other of attracting followers. Especially effective was his pleasant, high voice which, as the Chassidim said, “opened the gates to heaven.”

The Tzadik spent all his time in study and prayer, far from the activity of the court. He often preached in Beth Hamidrasch (synagogue) and continued with the dances and nigunim of his father.

In his teachings, the main theme was interpretation of Torah passages. His writing Zemach Tzadik which held his basic views is probably the fundamental literary work of the Wiznitzer Chasidim.

Several times he wanted to travel to Eretz Israel, but this decision never came to fulfillment.

He died in 1885. He was followed by his only son, R. Baruch. His one daughter, Sara was the wife of the rabbi Samuel Rokach in Skole.

R. Baruch, born in 1845 died in 1893. He was named after R. Baruch from Miedzyborz as agreed upon by his grandfather and the Ruzyner Tzadik.

Through his marriage to Zippora, the daughter of the rich printing shop owner, Arje Leib Schapira from Zytomir of the well known printing shop owning family in Slawita, he was well of enough so that at the beginning of his reign he didn't accept any kvittlech 5

His writing, Imrei Baruch was in no way comparable to the writings of his father. He left behind 9 sons 6and 3 daughters 7 of whom, R. Israel took over the succession.

R. Israel was arguably, the strongest personality of the last decades of the Wiznitzer dynasty.

In Wiznitz, he had a proper but modest court, which stood under the leadership of his lieutenants, Jechiel Steinmentz and the manager Nisen Just who also cared for finances.

When Wiznitz was occupied by the Russians during the First World War (1915), they allowed the Tzadik to leave the city with his entire court to go to Romania. So R. Israel traveled through Romania to Hungary where his was directed by the government to live in Nagyvarad (Oradea).

In Oradea, the new residence, there were orthodox Jews, but no Chasidim. A rich Jew, the grain handler Hermann Schwartz, provided a 6 room dwelling and a tavern for use as a synagogue for R. Israel.

Even after the war, R. Israel remained in Oradea. The new center of the Wiznitzer dynasty increased in significance because of its new residence and its influence reached to Podkakarpatska-Rus, Czechoslovakia and the newly acquired Romanian provinces where new masses of followers were found.

The rich Chassidim purchased a large house for R. Israel on Nico-Filipescu Street that was remodeled into the residence of the Tzadik. R. Israel died in 1936 at the age of 76. His funeral, which took place in the Wiznitzer dynasty tradition after midnight at one o'clock was attended by thousands of Chasidim from Bukovina, Czechoslovakia and Romania. R. Israel left four sons behind:

  1. R. Mendel, Rabbi in Wiszowa
  2. R. Chajim Meir, Rabbi in Wilchowice
  3. R. Elieser, Rabbi in Wiznitz u.
  4. R. Baruch, Rabbi in sereth
Of these four, R. Mendel was the greatest scholar. In his community, Wiszowa he had a large yeshiva with an boarding school for 250 – 300 students for which he had collected money in America. He was worldly and a good speaker.

He died in 1941.

After the death of R. Israel, the Tzadik throne was divided up among his sons.

R. Chajim Meir took the succession in in Oradea-Mare. He lived at that time in Bnei-Brak (Israel) and is the real Tzadik of the Wiznitzer dynasty.

R. Elieser, who was the rabbi in Wiznitz renewed the Wiznitz court. All Wiznitzer Chassidim in Bukovina joined him. He built a large Yeshiva House or Israel Damascus Eliezer in Wiznitz with a boarding school for 150 students.

R. Israel's sons stressed the education of the children of their followers and built Yeshivas with boarding schools which were personally led and supervised by them which were known because of their pedagogical methods and good discipline. R. Elieser and his brothers were already influenced by the modern currents and promoted the building up of Palestine as well as the aliya (emigration) of their Chasidim to Eretz Israel.

R. Elieser came to Eretz Israel at the end of the war (1944) and built a Yeshiva in Tel Aviv. He died in Jerusalem in 1947.

The fourth son, R. Baruch, born in Wiznitz in 1894 lived in Oradea during the First World War.

His first rabbinate was in the village of Pojen in the Marmarosch area where he was greatly admired. In 1926, he was called as rabbi to Kotzmann. There in North Bukovina, he was very active in education and founded a Talmud Torah school.

In 1936, he was asked by the community of Sereth to be their rabbi. In Sereth, R. Baruch founded a large yeshiva, Beth Israel wetomchin d'orajtha and several social institutions. After 1938, he promoted the Alija B from Romania on which he sent a number of his yeshiva youngsters to Eretz Israel.

After the Russians marched into Romania he was sent with the remaining Jews from Sereth to the prison camp Craiova (Romania). After an intervention, he was allowed to live outside the camp.

When the deportation to Transnistrien took place, R. Baruch was sent to Djurin (in the district of Moghilew) . There he was imprisoned on suspicion of being a spy and brought before a court. In 1944 he was allowed to return to Romania.

First in 1947 he succeeded in going to Eretz Israel where he settled in Haifa.

Here, the Wiznitzer Chasidim who saw in him the head of the Wiznitzer dynasty built the “Ramat Wiznitz Neighborhood” with a large Yeshiva and a boarding school.



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Notes
1) Tzadikim "Righteous one in Hebrew.” A general term for a righteous person. In Jewish tradition Chasidic sects are organized around a spiritual leader called a Rebbe or a Tzadik. Tzadik is the singular and Tzadikim is the plural. Return

2) Nigunim: Wordless prayer melodies, usually repeated many times over to create a spiritual mood. The singular is “nigun.” Return

3) Eretz Israel: In Jewish thought, the special term for the Palestinian area believed to have been promised to the Jewish people by God in the ancient covenant. Return

4) Kabalistic: Kabalah, an unwritten or oral tradition.  The kabalist is a student of secret science, one who interprets hidden meaning of the Scriptures with the help of the symbolical Kabala, and explains the real one by these means. Return

5) Kvittlech: Piece of paper with a request on it that is given to rabbi. Return

6) Sons
1: R. Israel (1860-1936)
2: R. Chajim settled in Ottynia in 1893 where he founded the Hager Dynasty. When war broke out he fled to Vienna and then moved in 1919 to Stanislawow (Stanislau) where he died in 1932
3: R. Mosche in Suceava, died 1926
4: R. Schmiel Abraham (Aba) founded the dynasty in Horodenka. He died in 1895.
5: R. Jakob Jitzchak David, the Tzadik of Storozynetz
6: R. Pinchas (Pinjale), the Tzadik of Borscha.
7: R. Feiwel, the Tzadik of Zaleszczyki.
8: R. Jechiel Michl, the Tzadik of Horodenka.
9: A son Schulim died at a very young age. Return

7) Daughters (married to:)
1: R. Motil Chodorower, a grandson of the great Tschernoboler Tzadik, R. Mordche was tzadik in Bedewlye, emigrated to America and led his Chassid court in New York.
2: R. Schmuel Chodorower, the Zaddik of Patruvah
3: R. Abraham Jakob, the son of the Sadagurer Tzadik, R. Israel. Return



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