[Page 418-420]

This is the gate to the heavens and the righteous will enter it
By Mechel Horowitz

In the twenties of the century, Zionism penetrated the Jewish youth that started to read a newspaper or a book. Some even started to write and understand Jewish history. These sparks began to affect the pacified ranks of the Jews of Korczyn. They still went to shul twice a day but sparks of revolt began to circulate against the established order in the study center. This place kept the Jewish community together. Prior to WWI, the synagogue was part of the establishment but since then the place was empty all week, and only a few people prayed there on Saturdays and Holidays. Thus the study center was the center of the Jewish community and here everything was institutionalized. Seats went from father to son, call ups to the torah were influenced by charity donations. There was a strict social hierarchy that ruled within the study center. Things were accepted until new winds started to sweep the area including Korczyn. People began to notice these discriminations and resented them. They disliked the transfer of power from father to son if the latter did not possess the qualities or knowledge of his father. Furthermore, there were artisans that were more familiar with Jewish studies than some of the well to do merchants or their sons, yet were never called up to the torah. People became aware of their status and resented mistreatment.

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.

[Page 421-426]

The Zionist Organization in Korczyn
By Mechel Horowitz

In 1920 following WWI, the Zionist organization in Korczyn resumed its activities that were suspended during the war. The organizers were Ber Fischel, Matityahu Katz and Wolf Gleicher. The office was reopened and a Hebrew school was established. The youth actively helped these efforts, amongst them Asher Schiff, Wolf Kalb, Dawid Margolies, Wolf Ringelheim and Shlomo Yossef Akselrad. The first meeting took place at Shmayahu's place with the straw roof and the small windows at the level of the ground. Most religious parents objected to their children attending the Hebrew school. Attendance was low but the students soon gained proficiency in reading and writing Hebrew and learned Hebrew songs that made the rounds of the township and gained many sympathizers for the school. I remember that the local Zionist society invited the famous Zionist lecturer from Warsaw, Dr. Milikowski, to speak for the members. The Belzer Hassidim in town, with the help of the rabbi, prevented the speaker from addressing the audience in the study center. Dr. Milikowski tried to speak to the audience following the evening services but the noise and the ensuing fights disrupted the lecture. The lecturer left the study center and said the disruptions merely strengthened the cause of Zionism and indeed it did with time.

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.

[Page 427-429]

Home and environment
By Shalom Weissman, Jerusalem

Picture of Shalom Weissman

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.

[Page 430-431]

Another Reminiscence.
By Shalom Weissman, Jerusalem

I remember that following the dancing of Simhat Torah in the shul, a Torah was brought home and people were called up to it. At one point, the children were called up, a talit was spread over us, the older members recited a special blessing and then we recited the blessing prior to the reading of the Torah. On this holiday, everybody was called to the Torah. The mysterious feeling under the talit remained with me to today, but at the time I wanted to experience the feeling by myself and not with a group of youngsters. Still the feeling of participation in the general joy was good and remained with me into adulthood. The holiday atmosphere affected us all in different ways. The custom of reading the Torah on Simhat Torah in our house lasted until WWI. My father, the head of the kehilla, wanted to be called to the Torah when the new cycle of reading started. This was traditionally reserved for the rabbi of the town. So a compromise was arranged, my father and some followers took a Torah home, he received the section he wanted, all the people were called up and then they finished the service. Drinks were served as well as pastries and cooked items that my mother prepared.

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.

[Page 432-435]

You should buy another laundry basin
By Zev Weissman, Jerusalem

When I compared the relationship between the general population in Korczyn and us, I am astounded. The great social distances between the general population were alarming. A simple peasant bowed and removed his hat before anybody with authority. He whispered the usual greeting and tried to reduce himself to nothingness. The receiving party looked at the peasant with the lowest of contempt as though he was from another planet. The peasant was considered the lowest element in society. The officials lorded over him and never let him forget that he was a peasant. The Polish language was shaped in such a manner as to introduce social variation within the language itself. Even a simple policeman felt his superiority over the next in line and expected respect from him. Within the Jewish population, especially in the small towns, there were no such distances between rich and poor, the rabbi and the artisan. The community respected the elderly, the scholars and the deserving. Money was respected but within limits. Even the poor beggars had self-respect and were treated with respect. The rich person was expected to give charity regardless how he felt about it. The well to do felt that their possessions were temporary and they were mere guardians. They expected to be judged as to how well they used the resources. This was the conception of the Jew in the small town until Hitler arrived and destroyed him.

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.

[Page 436-438]

Moshe- you can carry already
By Moshe Zucker

Freida Ita Weissman , the wife of the kehilla leader, was a religious woman and well versed in religious customs. She always tried to fulfill them. In the morning when she got up and washed her fingernails and attended to her needs, she immediately tended to her prayers that she knew by heart. She then tended to household chores of baking, cooking and cleaning. Prayers that she knew by heart were recited while performing these duties. Others were recited when she had the available time. She changed often the order of prayers in order to fit her schedule. Still she fulfilled all the mitzvot that applied to her. She lived a religious life and was philosophically religious in her dealings with life. She absorbed a great deal from her father, the teacher, who explained everything to his students. She listened and recorded it. Her knowledge was broad and well based. She was an only daughter and her father taught her various commentaries in his spare time that helped to explain difficult points in religious texts. The material was familiar to scholars but rarely did a woman receive such information or education. She was raised as a son that he did not have.

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.

[Page 439]

Bashe Motik's
By Mordechai Schiff, Jerusalem

In Korczyn there was a Bashe Motik's who was a busybody. Where there was trouble there she appeared and helped. She had a feeling for trouble spots and appeared uninvited. She was not a rich person but with her limited resources managed to assist people in need. She did not ask for a thank you. She assisted people as a way of religious life. She did not anticipate rewards except the reward of the heavenly master. She was always busy helping people and did not rest until she helped in some way. She did her work secretly but the deeds were known in Korczyn. For example, Aron Gutwein stated at her graveside that she once saved him from financial ruin by loaning him fifty kroners. Korcyn had many such women. Respect her memory.

[Page 440]

[Page 441]

Dedicated to

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 [1942] 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

Moshe Zucker

Itzhak Englard-Wasserschtrum

[Page 442]

[Page 443]
Picture of the memorial that was erected in the cellar of the Holocaust Memorial at Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The memorial is dedicated to the Jews of Krosno and Korczyn that were killed by the Germans the 25th of Av in the year Tashab

[Page 444]

[Page 445]

Israel Platner

Remember

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]

[Page 446]

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