Suddenly, there was a request for a new shul under the name of Yad Haritzim. Such shuls existed in large cities prior to WWI. These shuls grouped religious artisans that conducted their services. There were even shuls of tailors, shoemakers and even porters, if their numbers were significant. The Korczyner artisans demanded a place to conduct their services where they could feel at home. They even had service leaders and readers of the torah. The kehilla leadership was not enthused about the idea but did not want to create antagonisms and decided to grant the group the room that Simha used as an utility room. The group obtained the necessary permit, painted the interior and the entrance and began to conduct services. For the High holidays, they hired an out of town cantor. This was a novelty since Korczyn always had ample service leaders but they concentrated in the study center. Thus, the township had a bit of competition between the study center and the new shul.
The two shuls functioned simultaneously until someone complained to the authorities and they closed the Yad Haritzim shul. Supposedly, the books of the shul were not in order. Negotiations and examinations started until matters were corrected. The fight lasted due to the third meal expenses of herring. Finally, the examiners were satisfied with the explanations and the shul reopened for services. Here was placed the seat of Eliyahu that Haim Wolf designed and a wood artist carved. The worshippers took great pride in the artistic seat. The shul was kept clean and orderly. Once Haim Wolf Koreff decided to write in beautiful letters above the entrance to the shul, the following quotation: This is the gate to the heavens and the righteous will enter it. The quotation irritated some of the leaders of the community but they decided not to make an issue. This was the first time that an inscription was placed above an entrance to a synagogue and not the main shul.
Ber Fischel and Matityahu Katz frequently lectured to the members of the Zionist society and developed a variety of cultural activities for the Jewish youth. The Russia-Polish war of 1920 brought an end to all Zionist activities since many young Jews fled to Germany, Holland and other places. The activities resumed in 1926 when room was rented from Mindel Rothenberg; the room was below the mayor's office. The entrance was through a hall that led to a small room where Yankel Roizner, nicknamed Smont, once lived. The room was long and dark; there was but one window and hardly any light. The members brought pieces of furniture and the room took on the appearance of a meeting place. Ber Fishel brought a replica statue of Dr. Herzl and others brought pictures to decorate the walls. Meetings and lectures were held each night and the participation grew. The lectures dealt with various topics on Zionism, especially Herzl's writings. The youth was encouraged to attend the meetings. Saturday afternoon, lectures and discussions took place. Matityahu Katz with his bekeshe and shtreimel never missed an event nor did Pinhas Wertheim. Wolf Gleicher lectured on a variety of topics. Women participated in the discussions. The attendance grew and new quarters were rented from Fishel Schroit. The first floor became the center of activities as well as the school. The school attracted many girls in spite of the opposition of the rabbi. He preached on Saturdays to the worshippers against sending children to the Zionist school.
Ber organized various youth entertainment programs that attracted many local as well as Krosner youth. The program was very successful and attracted a great deal of attention. Ber even wrote a play entitled "Home" that received a glowing report from Nahum Sokolw's [word famous Zionist leader] daughter. The play was staged in the new hall of Fishel Schroit. All the preparations and materials were assembled and created locally. We built a stage, I created the decorations, Ber was the choreographer and director. The play was a big hit. We decided to create a theater circle in Korczyn with the following actors: Ephraim Weinstein, Mendel Halpern, Naphtali Erreich, Wolf Fessel and Moshe Boim. Girls also joined the circle, including Chaya Weinstein, my two sisters, Fradel and Tzipra Yente Horowitz, Bashe Halpern and others whose names I no longer remember. I later directed the theater group that staged many plays. The benefits went to the Keren Hayesod for Palestine.
The same evening that the play entitled "Home" was staged, religious fanatics broke into the Zionist clubhouse, removed the bookcases and set them on fire. Over 150 Yiddish and Polish books were torched. The vandalism was discovered on Sunday and passions ran high. Everybody knew who participated in the act. Dr. Moshe Rubenfeld, the local medical doctor and a native of nearby Kros, called the police. Examinations and investigations began as to the torchers. There were arrests and mothers pleaded with the police to release their sons that were innocent. None of the culprits confessed and all arrested were released. The event reached the major Yiddish newspapers in Warsaw, Haint and Moment, and the Polish newspapers, Nowi Dzienik and Chwila. Books came from all the major Polish cities such as Warsaw, Reishe, Tarnow. Private libraries sent many books, notably the library of Zamir. It sent several hundred books including the works of Peretz, Shalom Aleichem, Shulem Ash and others. The library greatly expanded. The religious element however pressured the owner of the club house, Mendel Schroit to cancel the lease. We moved to the Polish mayor's office and rented a hall there for a year. We then met in Wolf Kirschner's flat but this was no solution. Finally, my mother built a permanent clubhouse that served us many years.
The membership of the Zionist movement steadily grew and the Hebrew school grew in numbers and stature. Korczyn assumed an important place in all regional Zionist conferences. Thanks to Ber Fischel and the Zionist youth movement, our hamlet achieved acclaim. Suddenly in 1928 Ber Fischel died after a long illness. This was a real blow to the movement. We enlarged his picture and placed in the club house as an inspiration to the members. With his death, Matityahu Katz and Pinhas Wirtheim assumed the leadership of the Zionist movement, and from 1932 until 1939 I was the local leader of the Karen Kayemt l'Israel . In 1938, there were elections for the community leadership. Two factions were contesting the elections, the Zionists and the others. We the Zionists had no money for the campaign so Haim Wolf Koreff suggested that we stage a Purim a play entitled "Yossef Shpiel". Tickets would be sold and the money would cover the election campaign. The local Zionist clubhouse adopted his suggestion and preparations began for the play.
Mendale Katz, Avraham Mordechai Katz's son, owned the script. He leased the text for 5 zlotys. The costumes and the renting of the municipal hall were an expensive proposition but we undertook the project. Haim Wolf provided the melodies. The roles were assigned according to the abilities. Mendel Halpern was Yaacov, Mendel Weinstein was Yossef, Yossef's brothers were Wolf Fessel, Leibush Kuflick, Naphtali and Hersh Erreich, Moshe Gutwein, Shlomo Horowitz, Ephraim Weinstein and Moshe Boim. Yossef Diller and Yehoshu Ringelheim were the leading statesmen. All the tickets were sold and the hall was packed. The walls were decorated and the police maintained order. Guests from Kros arrived as well as some Christian guests. Mendel Weinstein as Yossef was a great success and used his soprano voice very effectively. His separation from his father was well staged. An accordion provided the musical background. The sight of religious Jews with beards who came to see the play was very impressive. The show was very successful and it played in Szedlitz and in Stryzow, nearby towns. The income covered the election campaign and the rest went to the Keren Kayemet L'Israel fund. The memory of the energetic youth that worked so feverishly to stage the production and to be involved in the life of the Jewish community was very painful. Gone were the youth and all the dreams of Korczyn.
The basic education of a child began at home where he absorbed the basic approach to life from his parents. Here the child saw some order and learned the problem solving approaches of life. He saw the broom placed in a particular place and the table set in a particular fashion.. Every child learned that a certain order must be followed, whether they liked it or not. The same applied to the outside world. The child that acquired decision-making abilities at home applied the same techniques on the outside. Of course, adjustments had to be made depending on the individual and the environment. The basic pattern of behavior that we acquired as children remained with us for the rest of our lives. The individual child would of course bend slightly to absorb different pressures in order to survive. The child acquired the ability to handle problems and would resort to them whenever they confronted him in later life. Many psychological theories have been written on ways to change the individual patterns of behavior, but they all admitted that the task was very difficult if not impossible. Behavior patterns that were acquired in youth were impossible to erase; perhaps they could be modified. We adhere to these patterns even if we have to pay a price for them.
When I was a young child barely reaching the table, my father took me and my younger brother Wolf to shul. It was a weekday, no prayers or celebrations, but a serious event was about to take place. I do not remember the names of the parties and perhaps it is better this way. But the story was very interesting. One party claimed that he loaned the other party money. The latter denied the claim and added that even if he borrowed money he repaid it along time ago. It was decided that the accused party would swear before the torah in public that he was innocent. An announcement was posted at the shul to the effect that so and so would swear before the torah that he was innocent. The event would take place on such day and hour. Many people decided to witness the event. For a Jew to swear before the torah was something unheard off. A black covered bed was brought to the shul, candles were lit throughout, the menorah before the lectern was lit. The impression was that of Yom Kippur eve or a funeral Everybody feared the unknown. Someone read the lines of the torah that stated the consequences that the Jews would face if they disregarded the commandments.
I do not remember whether the oath was given before an opened torah or before the opened holy arc or perhaps the party regretted the whole incident and canceled the oath. Sixty years have passed since the event and many items I have forgotten. I remember to this day my father's words on the way home. Do not swear even if it is true. His moral advice remained with me to this day and I have avoid swearing even in non-religious matters. How lightly people swear about themselves, their wife or children, is always very puzzling.
I have always tried to avoid swearing and so far have been successful with my father's advice except in one instance when I arrived to Palestine. The English officials insisted that I swear allegiance upon entering the country. I swore in order to gain admittance but it bothered my conscience. I was brought up in a very religious environment that I do not necessarily follow all the precepts but my father's moral teachings I tried to follow to the best of my ability. The home and the environment shape the individual and give him the tools to face the future.
The snacks and dishes varied with each holiday and to this day the taste of the Simhat Torah refreshments remained in my mouth. Our neighbors used to come to our house for the reading of the Torah on Simhat Torah and following the service we all wished ourselves that we should celebrate the holiday next year in the same manner. The reading and the service were conducted in the kitchen that was large and accommodated the crowd. Following the service, my elder sister Reizel, brought a silver tray with goodies and placed it on the table. She made several trips until the table was set. I decided to help my sister and pulled the tray from her hands. I lost control and the tray fell on the table. All the drinks and snacks spilled. I was then merely eight years old. The participants and my father did not loose their cool. Another tablecloth was brought and spread. More snacks and drinks were brought and amidst the celebration and the joy my misdeed was forgotten. But the misdeed remained inscribed in my memory and always floated to the surface with the approach of the holiday. The incident also served as a tableau of painting of the entire Simhat Torah scene in our house.
I am reminded of an event that happened in our house. Women spent a great deal of time with laundry. There were tablecloths, towels, bed sheets, pillowcases and shirts that had to be cleaned for Shabbath. I still remember the large basin with hot water to which detergents were added and then the dirty laundry. Individual items were then pulled and soaped on a board by hand. The item was then squeezed and twisted to remove the water content and placed on the side. When the laundry was soaped, it was returned to the basin. Hot water was poured over the laundry and individual items started to be pulled and twisted until the water content was removed. Then the item was hung to dry. The process took quite some time and sometimes the process had to be repeated if the laundry was not clean. In the summer, the last step in the laundry process was done at the river where the clean running water did the job. Still the laundry had to be hung to dry.
A still better method that appeared at the time consisted of using copper basins. They were filled with water, detergent, laundry and allowed to boil. The heat dissolved all grease spots and then the regular process was followed as described above. The basin was suspended under a tripod, a fire was started under the basin and the laundry boiled for some time. These basins were rather expensive and only the well to do could afford them. People borrowed our basin from my mother. Once a neighbor came to borrow the basin but my mother needed it for her own laundry and told her so. The neighbor stated that Freide Ita Weissman should buy another basin in order to be able to loan it to the people that needed it. My mother ordered another one in Krosno. The new one was made in the same manner as the old one so that there would be no difference between one and the other. The neighbor did not force her to do it but she had a legitimate complaint according to my mother.
Freida Ita continued to study and observe strictly the laws With age her piety intensified. She prayed three times a day, recited the psalms, read commentaries, glanced at the local news and prepared food for her household. Her schedule was full. She was sorry to see changes in her own family and in other people but allowed for compromises. She adhered rigidly to all commandments but always excused others if they did not comply entirely with the commandments. She refused to accept total rejection but accepted partial compliance. I visited the family in Budapest during WWI. I frequently visited them Saturday afternoon after lunch. I lived a distance from them. The distance exceeded the one permitted to walk on Shabbath. During one of these visits, I arrived at their house while they still ate. I pulled out a kerchief to blow my nose when Mrs. Weissman was aghast and said Moshe you are carrying. She of course implied that I carried a kerchief on Shabbath. This act seemed to have devastated her and I invented a silly excuse to the effect that the kerchief was tied around my neck. It was a lie but it calmed her. I felt terrible about lying and having to watch myself over things that I no longer observed. I felt ill at ease.
The next Saturday, I walked along the Tabac Street where the Weissmans lived. Jewish refugees from Galicia that fled the war torn areas inhabited this area. I observed our landsmen in their Saturday best. They did not forget to take with them their praying shawls and phylacteries. The area was full of small shuls where Jews prayed the way they did at home. The Jews wore shtreimels and overcoats and from the windows we heard the traditional Jewish songs of the Shabbath mealtime. The war or the fact that everything was left behind at home in the war area did not sadden the festivity of the day. It was one thing to see a Jew with a nice shtreimel and clean silk bekeshe or coat. The Christian neighbors could tolerate this exotic costume. It was however different when someone wore a shtreimel that had holes in it, the kippa could be seen from under the shtreimel and the well-worn bekeshe that had seen better times. Such scene did not bring respect to the Jew. With age the silk bekeshes shredded and holes emerged that exposed other clothing items. A particular problem was the sleeves that were frequently used as kerchiefs and through wear and tear showed the effects. Even when one had a kerchief tied around the neck, it took effort to loosen and used it. It was simpler to wipe with the sleeves or the ends of the bekeshe True, I did not personally see these instances but I saw some of the shtreimels and bekeshes and they were a disgrace. Total disrespect for the religion.
I thus entered the Weissmans' house and told them a story that happened. Whereupon Freida Ita turned to me and said: Moshe you are allowed to carry. Today, forty-three years later, the customs of old Korczyn seem to be so morally high as opposed to our neighbors who resorted to violence to today.
An Eternal Tombstone
For an Eternal Memorial
For the saints of Korczyn
Killed by the Germans
On the 29th day of the month of Av in the year Tashab  in Korczyn,
Transported and murdered in other places
Murdered in German concentration camps
The saints of nearby villages
Kombornia, Ikrzenia, Krosczenko, Adzikson, Toraszowka
The saints of
Lodz, Kielce, Radom, Krakow and other cities that were in Korczyn during these tragic days
Oh! God Remember
Our Saints from Everywhere
And the Jews from Korczyn,
Murdered by the Germans and Ukrainians
Together with the Jews from the nearby town of Kros,
They were hanged, burned and shot at
They are scattered over fields, woods, mountains and valleys
They were never buried properly.
We cleanse them with our warm tears,
The spiritual heroes
Our pure saints
Remember them God!
The Jewish daughters
And the Jewish sons,
The holy martyrs
Of Kros and Korczyn
Toronto, October 1967
[William Leibner freely translated the poem]
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