By Lola Friedman Katilansky
Zeyda came to Lanowitz from Odessa, where his father served as the city's chief Rabbi. It was his father's idea that his son should marry his cousin Rachel, the daughter of his brother Yeshaya Katilansky. His father hoped that his son would in the future replace his father-in-law and uncle to become the chief Rabbi of Lanowitz. Zeyda, who was an ordained Rabbi, did not strive to become a pulpit Rabbi. Instead, after marrying his cousin Rachel, he joined Shmuel Buchstein as a partner in his metal retail store. He became a successful partner. Later, he became an independent retailer.
He integrated easily into the Lanowitz community and became one of its leading citizens. His home became a meeting place for the town's couples. He was well liked by both his married and bachelor friends.
Slowly he also became proficient as a local lobbyist. His good appearance, his knowledge of the Polish language and its nuances all guaranteed his successful interventions with local officials on behalf of community members. Yet his local success bothered him until he decided to move to another town. His ambivalent feelings viz. the Lanowitz community almost led him to have a medical crisis. On one hand, he wanted to live in a larger town, but, he repeatedly delayed a move because of his love for the Lanowitz community. Eventually, he moved to Lvov.
In Lvov, his anguish deepened. His small Lvov apartment compared unfavorably with the beautiful house he had in Lanowitz. He found the Jews of Lvov, he got to know, to be primarily interested in making money, unlike his warm-hearted Lanowitz friends. Feelings of regret engulfed him. His friends expected him to move back to Lanowitz soon.
However, this did not happen. Zeyda became engrossed in the trading activities of Lvov. The Lanowitz traders, and those from neighboring villages came to increasingly rely on Zeyda's business connections.
This activity supported him financially. He worked mainly with Reb Moshe Weinshel who later became his partner in clover marketing. While his business developed, Zeyda continued to maintain his Lanowitz contacts. Lanowitz visitors would regularly lodge in his small Lvov apartment. The Katilansky couple's greatest joy was to host guests from there, from their former shtetl.
At times Zeyda was awakened from his night's sleep to receive Landsmen who arrived in Lvov aboard the night train [from Kremenec- Ed.]. Despite the early hour, he received them warmly and dealt with the tzores they related to him. He took them to hospitals, to Lvov's medical professors, to high officials and/or lawyers, all according to their respective needs.
When Zeyda became well-off, he devoted a significant amount of his charity giving to the poor of his shtetl, Lanowitz.
These details I know well. Rachel and Zeyda were childless. As Rachel's niece, I was hosted by them in Lvov. They also paid for my high school education. Living with them, I got to know them intimately. Zeyda was like a father to me, and Rachel like a friend. Both loved their Lanowitz' friends and were always at the ready to help them when a need arose.
The Jews of Lanowitz regarded Zeyda as an educated person who was both orthodox and modern. He was conservative in his behavior, yet always friendly to those who needed him. The Lanowitz community forgave Zeyda for his European attire, for his lack of head cover while at home, or even going at times hatless outside his home. They valued his intelligence and culture and the fact that he offered them both traits at their level.
To Lanowitz women, Zeyda symbolized the kind of husband who knows how to respect his wife and share his social standing with her. Rachel Katilansky deserved this respect. She was smart, and devoted to her husband. The sense of nobility in their family life was, however, largely attributed to Zeyda
Reb Zeyda Katilansky and his wife, Rachel spent their remaining years in Lvov, but their hearts were with the Lanowitz community. Both deserve to be remembered with all the others from our shtetl.
By The Editor
I waited until the end of the period for calls-for-papers for our book. I expected that someone will surely write about (my brothers), Shaiky and Zuni Rabin. After all someone whom they helped must owe them a personal debt. I expected several articles based on their respective experience with my brothers. Even if a person was not in debt to them personally, I expected him to write an article as a character reference. These two brothers of mine did much for our community; teaching, organizing and helping the community's needy. I expected someone to sketch their personality and contributions.
To my regret, no one submitted such an article, perhaps because he was unable to tackle the subject. I was thus forced to do this task myself even though these are my brothers. As an editor, I wanted to avoid any appearance of favoritism. I write this because many of my colleagues asked that I fill this void. I pray that I shall avoid small family differences; that I shall not exaggerate their contributions due to my great love for my late brothers. It is my hope that my article will reflect their contribution as others in our community remember this to be.
Already at an early age, Shaiky became opinionated and willing to fight for his point-of-view. As a 13 year old he questioned the divine. His arguments with our father continued for a fortnight, marring the solemnity of our Sabbath meal.
He absorbed various theoretical viewpoints. Using his analytical mind, he combined these into the Zionist redemption idea. To Zionism, he came as a leader, able to help doubters clarify their thoughts and give their beliefs a clear direction. He helped clarify many skeptical minds.
He was a complex person. When with friends, looming problems were clarified, and the chance of successful resolution suddenly improved. Skepticism gave way to optimism
Whenever he dealt with a Jewish problem, such as the chance of future redemption, he raised the issue to its highest level, applying all the research tools at his disposal.
During a typical discussion, he tended to keep his distance. The initial impression one got was of an egotist, a narcissist. Yet when you warmed up to him, and entered his social circle, you found yourself with a warm friend who wishes the best for others.
He was a regular joker. When he lacked a familiar joke for the occasion, he would create ridiculous situations and exploit these to the fullest. Yet at other times I found him serious and sad, concerned with the world's problems. I came to realize that his joking was an escape from reality.
Already as a child he excelled in reading and general studies. If you wanted assistance with a homework problem, he was always willing to help.
For years Shaiky appeared to us as a friendly and complex child. One day I found him graduating from childhood and mixing with adults. At first he followed certain community leaders as a blind follower, which was viewed by us with apprehension. Yet, after a short while he developed into a leader. Shlomo Berman and Hayim Nathan were eager to hear his opinion and sought his advice. He became a splendid public speaker, who was able to enliven an audience. The community loved to hear his lectures from the synagogue dais. While short and thin, the synagogue audience was captivated by his clear voice and lofty thoughts. His speeches gave their lives a purpose and hope. His lectures drew crowds, while the town had no prophet, it had Shaiky, who lifted their spirits.
He saw his future in mass education, as he stumbled into this field. He was mistaken in thinking that a professional education will enable him to lead a full life and develop his effervescent personality. Nonetheless, he delved into this field and never left it. He taught at Vlodimiretz, then in Rosyshch. In the latter town he became a school principal. In these places, he educated a generation of Hebrew speakers and Zionist sympathizers. His enthusiasm left its mark on each of these communities.
His deep commitment to his family and parents led him to self sacrifice. When he had the opportunity during the war to leave Eastward with the Soviet authorities and survive, he instead turned back midway to be with his wife, daughter and parents. As a result, he perished with them. Let his personality and worthy image remain in our hearts and memories.
Zuni grew in the shadow of his older brothers, hence was inconspicuous. However, in a few years his winning personality became better known. His good looks and height impressed town folks. At times he acted like a guest in our town who sees others from the sidelines but keeps to himself. Yet, when their questions touched his heart, he helped them to the best of his ability.
Unlike his brothers, Zuni felt unshackled by the political constraints of local Zionist organizations. He believed instead in the unity of Zionist aims. He started his educational activity in the Zionist Youth organization together with Shalom Marshak and was successful at this effort. The two led a generation of youth having a Jewish national commitment. Two years later when he came to realize that the Zionist Youth Movement was a front for a petty-bourgeois ideology, he left the movement to work instead for the Hehalutz organization. His friends remember him as a capable organizer and lecturer who captured many hearts.
When the Soviets entered Lanowitz in 1939 he was already a certified teacher, having graduated from the Lvov teacher's seminary. He was immediately hired by the Soviet authorities to direct the newly established local Russian elementary school. His fluency in Polish and smattering of Russian won him a free hand in his new position. He developed good relations with Ukrainians, Poles and Jews and was adored by his students as a professional educator.
Zuni and his wife left with the Soviet authorities when they withdrew eastwards in 1941. He later volunteered to join the Polish army and returned to Poland in 1944. Near the end of the war, he stepped on a mine and was killed. There are those who claim he was killed by fellow Polish soldiers who wanted the glory of factory to themselves. Zuni was born in Lanowitz; he was one of us. Let us remember his radiating personality when we commemorate our losses.
By Lola Katilansky
Yosef Ozer Shpirt was born in Yermilintz to very rich parents. His father, Yisakhar Shpirt was a large trader who was well connected commercially with other traders throughout the world. These contacts enabled him to provide his children with a European education with emphasis on the knowledge of key languages. His five children learned and knew English, French, German and Russian. Yosef Ozer, his youngest child, was the most learned. While he lived in Podvolochisk, the locals learned to appreciate his language skills and relied on his translation help.
A road full of obstacles led him eventually to Lanowitz. In 1917 his parents left Yermilintz in the middle of the night and escaped to Podvolochisk. Their past as wealthy merchants put them at risk under the new Bolshevik regime. They left their entire belongings in place to save their lives. Their next travails were both economic and political. As former Russian citizens, the Polish government refused to grant them Polish citizenship. Instead it exiled the family to Novi Sundig near Poznan. The locals of the area persecuted them, preventing the family from supporting themselves locally.
Without an alternative, they had to leave Poland. Their eldest daughter, who lived in France and was a University professor, was able to secure entrance permits for her unmarried brothers and sisters. She could not, however, obtain an entry permit to France for Yosef Ozer, her married brother.
Yosef escaped instead back to Podvolochisk, then illegally to us in Lanowitz. We transferred him immediately to Zbarazh [near Tarnopol] where we were able to bribe a local official to grant him Polish citizenship. With these papers in hand, my uncle Zeyda Katilansky rented him an apartment in Lanowitz.
The book's editors provided the following addendum:
Shpirt's life in Lanowitz was a difficult one. The local Tarbut communal workers were loath to create a (Hebrew) school for him to teach in. The student's parents could not afford the extra payments to finance such a school. Yosef Ozer accepted the task of organizing the school, soliciting funds, purchasing text books and teaching Hebrew to his students. He paid his rent and supported his family. He was the key person who maintained Hebrew culture in our town.
His limited income did not affect his spirits, nor did he show signs of bitterness. Those whom he met, he always received with a smile, and a friendly chat. He was unassuming with local folks. Little did they realize how knowledgeable he was in both secular and religious subjects and in languages.
His students recognized him as the only teacher who did not raise his voice to them, nor shout orders. Even his occasional reprimands were accompanied by calming words. When a student failed to do his homework, Shpirt would remark about it but not show anger. There were times when the students wished to have a stricter teacher; however, they understood the reasons for his reticence to be strict.
His wife, Rachel nee Katilansky was always well mannered, almost aristocratic. Nothing was too difficult for her in caring for her husband and son Pinchas. No one in the community ever heard her complain about her fate. Her wisdom and self-respect assured her standing in the community as a daughter of well-to-do parents who is content with her lot. She watched over her husband's pupils making sure that when they went out in the winter, their coats were buttoned, and in the summer, that they were not sweaty.
The Shpirt family while familiar to suffering was well respected. Their son had a character similar to that of his father. Yosef Ozer was the last torch bearer that promoted Hebrew culture in our community. He prepared his students for Aliyah to Palestine by teaching them Modern Hebrew. Some of his students left for Palestine. While parting with them was painful, he was proud that he prepared them well for their new life. He perished with the rest of his students in his final class in the Holocaust. May his memory remain our hearts.
By Rabbi Y. Opatovsky
(Manchester, - UK)
In May 1931 I was sent by Keren Hayesod [=Palestine Foundation Fund - to finance immigration and colonization] to Volynia to promote this institution in the province. The original plan for my visits did not include Lanowitz. However, I requested from the Central Committee that Lanowitz be included on my circuit
Why did I make this request? There were two reasons: The first was that in Warsaw we heard that the Lanowitz community was divided between two camps. One camp believed that now is the time to build settlements in Palestine, i.e. support Keren Hayesod, while the other camp supported the purchase of additional land via Keren Kayemet [= Jewish National Fund]. It was feared that the controversy will lead to a decrease in contributions to both funds. The second reason was a letter I received from Yeshayahu Rabin, urging me to come and speak to his community. As a member of Mizrachi [=Religious Zionist organization] I was not involved in this controversy. However, the fate of Keren Hayesod contributions was dear to my heart. Secondly, I was intrigued by Rabin's letter.
I arrived in Lanowitz sometime in the afternoon. I no longer remember when the train arrived from Tarnopol. Six community notables and a shy, bespectacled 20 year-old met me at the train station. I presumed the young man was the one who wrote the aforementioned letter. I shook hands with the delegation members. Next I approached the young man and said with a smile My name is the same as your name. He smiled as if he understood the hint, that I knew him to be the letter's author.
The delegation included two Buckstein brothers. One was short and corpulent, the other had thick lips. The latter's name was Pesach. He was at my side throughout my visit. The name of the other Buckstein I no longer remember [probably Yitzhak - Ed.].
When we climbed onto the wagon, Pesach Buckstein seated me next to him on the back seat, reserved for important guests. I arrived in town shaken by the rough ride. Alter Feiga Zinz was my host. The reason I remember his name is that my stay at his home was a great pleasure. He was the first person I met who was well versed in Torah learning, yet understood the mood of the younger generation. I was impressed by his wisdom, the cleanliness of his home, and the sensitivity of his daughter. They all added to the pleasure of my stay.
I prayed Mincha at the home of Reb Alter, without a Minyan. In the evening I was taken to the home of Pinny Buckstein for a festive dinner. After dinner, the committee, headed by Pesach Buckstein, met. They discussed the meeting's agenda at which I was to speak, when to schedule the fund-raising, and how to make it most effective. I was to speak on Saturday night after the Sabbath.
That evening I got to know the community. Those attending were serious and thoughtful people. One after another in the audience asked to speak. Their words were sweet. For a moment I thought I was back in Warsaw at the central committee meeting listening to comments of our elder statesmen. Their comments were of a similar caliber.
I visited many towns in my day, and each left an impression. However, this evening left a particularly deep impression. The discussion created tension but civility was maintained. The arguments were well reasoned and clearly presented. There was nothing provincial about them. Yeshayahu Rabin's arguments could be said to best the others.
The discussion dealt with the preference given to Keren Kayesod over Keren Kayemet (to buy land). Most of those present spoke of the importance of Keren Kayemet. Yeshayahu, who was known to all as Shaike Rabin, spoke on behalf of the importance of Keren Hayesod. His arguments were polished and to the point. I was several years older than Shaike and a regular circuit speaker, yet I felt I could learn from him. To me, he was a rising star. Unfortunately he too perished.
While all the community leaders were kind and helpful, his support was outstanding. The meeting took place in the Beit Hamidrash [= learning center, attached to the synagogue]. The sexton did not want to open the synagogue for the occasion. The meeting place was crowded. In the audience were Jews eager to hear new ideas. No one wore a Shtraimel [=fur hat]. It was said that the local Rabbi is the only one that has a Shtraimel. The rabbi did not come to greet me because of his hate of Zionism. He neither received me as a guest even though he knew that I also was a Rabbi. Those who came to listen to me put on their best clothes, whereas he came plainly dressed. I knew that among the audience were many anti-Zionists. I did not argue this issue. Instead, I told them of the happenings in Palestine. That is what the audience came to hear. At the end of my lecture, the audience surrounded me, wishing me a Yesher Koach [expressed their appreciation for a good speech]. This was not the custom in other towns. The love of Israel could be seen on the faces of this audience.
I stayed in your town four days and each day I felt uplifted. I was not troubled by local quarrels or by petty differences. The cause I came for won their respect.
Even in the manner of fund-raising, Lanowitz was different from other towns. I was not obliged to meet individually with important contributors. All in the audience contributed including anti-Zionists. They did not want to express their opposition by withholding a contribution.
This is how I remember your town, small in number, but great in its quality, full of wise and considerate people.
By Ch. Livne
Feiga Die Baderin [ = Bath House Attendant] or Mome Feiga was how she was known in Shumsk. She moved from there to your town Lanowitz when she remarried.
She was known as Feiga Die Baderin because she owned the Shumsk bath house. She was also known as Feiga the Aunt. Locals regarded her as their aunt because of her love and devotion to them.
I knew her from my childhood days inasmuch as she was related to my late stepmother Beila Yokelson. My stepmother's first married name was Galperin, the same name as Feiga's first husband. My stepmother's maiden name was Hazan. The latter was a large and respected Shumsk family.
Feiga was a regular visitor to our home and I was a regular visitor to her home. Even after she moved from Shumsk to Lanowitz, her visits to our home were a stormy and noisy occasion. She came laden with gifts. For us children it felt like a holiday. During her visit there was a constant commotion. Visitors came to see her. There was the accompanying smell of cooking and baking, a wonderful mixture of smells that lingered for days after her departure. My child instincts told me that this woman was different from other women. I remember her as beautiful, and dressed in the latest fashion. Loud, but friendly, she spoke freely with men and women, a custom not common in those days. She addressed us children in the same friendly and direct manner.
Her apartment was above the bath house. The bath house, an important local health institution, was known for its cleanliness. Its procedures were followed faithfully so it was considered a high-quality bath house by both Jews and Gentiles. The local rich paid well for its service. Those who could not afford the fee were let in gratis by Mome. Even though the latter were many, she made a good living from the bath house. So much so that she was able to help the local needy as well.
Her apartment above the bath house was spotless. Its living room was always full of men who came to discuss various topics with her. On the dining table were delicious juices that her guests appreciated the taste of for several days. Her poise and her full knowledge of Polish, the state language, helped many locals who needed her mediation with authorities, or when dealing with the local estate owners.
I remember a visit to her home accompanying my father, Alter Yokelson. The image I remember is a person resembling a queen whose subjects adored her.
Many years later I saw a performance of Miraleh Efrat [a famous Yiddish play]. The way the main actress carried her house keys, and the jewelry she wore, reminded me of Feiga. In Shumsk Feiga had a special standing. She took personal charge of helping the poor in special situations. Other needs were served by local people she organized for these tasks.
I cannot gloss over how well Feiga organized the wedding of my stepmother's sister Roza. Its memory will remain with me forever. For several days prior to the wedding our home was a beehive of activity organized by Feiga. The Lekakh, the strudel, the cakes, the golden soup and sweets were all either prepared by her or under her direction. She was known for her prowess in these affairs. After the wedding service the partitions between men and woman were removed. The service was followed by Quadrilles, waltzes and Mitzwa dances under Feiga's direction. The high spirit of the wedding brought true joy to the wedding couple and guests. This wedding was talked about in our town for a long time.
Feiga did not have children of her own. Instead she was an aunt to many locals. She was a noble woman, the likes of whom are few.
By B. Harin
The nickname stuck to him because of his green complexion. He looked like a man near death. Despite such appearance he was in reality a lively and responsive person. I once saw him walking as if in a fog, about to fall asleep. Yet, when he met with another person the image changed radically. One could not fail to enjoy his eternal humor.
He won contests with stronger men through his humor, strong intellect, and imagination. My memory of him recalls the character Schweyk in the famous play by Jaroslaw Hasek, who withstood all life's vicissitudes with his wisdom and positive attitude.
One time Leizer decided to enlarge his narrow and dark house. He had no alternative than to encroach on the area of the old Polish cemetery that bordered on his yard. During the digging, he unearthed several old graves. The Ksiandz (local Catholic priest) reported the incident to the local police in an attempt to turn the affair into a religious scandal.
Leizer lived across the street from us. We youngsters, having read about pogroms, were at first afraid of the procession of people coming towards us. At the head of the group was the priest, followed by the police chief, several policemen and assorted followers. Curious, we children became oblivious to the danger while present at this gathering. We expected Leizer to beg for a way out. The police chief asked the policemen to stay behind him. While the priest stood pat, hands folded, Leizer appeared. He bypassed the priest, in his hand a cigarette lighter of older vintage. Approaching the police chief (who loved him dearly) he held the lighter like a pistol and shouted jokingly: Move away, I am shooting. The police chief burst out laughing with the policemen joining in. The priest stood alone, not knowing what to do. The crowd enjoyed the resulting comedy. The episode caused a long period of friction between the police chief and the priest. Leizer's house remained untouched. No altercation ensued.
His ability to get out of complicated situations was the most famous and surprising of his exploits. He seemed fearless, not only when dealing with Gentiles.
Leizer once had a dispute with Reb. Leizer Starick, the respected husband of Feiga Michlis. Starick, a simple man, found himself one day on the street facing Leizer. He had no choice other than to defend his honor. A string of accusations against Leizer followed. We admired Leizer, and eagerly waited for his response. Leizer, unflustered, waited for his rival to pause and said: What you said, Starick, is all true, but whoever asks for forgiveness is multer [= a trough for kneading dough]. Is it true? Answer me! Starick, confused, replied: What is multer? Am I multer? Since when?
The assembled crowd needed no more. The secret is out, that Leizer Starick, the respected person is multer. One asked the other: What is multer? What has a kneading trough to do with this dispute? No one knew the answer, but if Starick was shaken by this disclosure, there must be something to it. Starick meanwhile turned to the crowd around him and said: Fellow Jews, let him say what he has to say, but not call me multer!. The crowd, however, was merciless, saying: You are multer, you decide the merits of this case. Starick lost the argument.
Leizer meanwhile turned to go home, proud of having won. We left the defeated Starick, despising him for keeping a secret from us. We, too, did not know what multer meant. When we reached Leizer's home we asked him: Tell us about this 'multer' business, and how did you discover it. He replied: I don't know its meaning. There was nothing I could do or say about him., so I chose 'multer' to defeat him. It was a simple, crazy, invention on his part.
Leizer was ignorant of languages. Even Yiddish he spoke poorly. Though he was a son of a teacher from Rachmanov, near Shumsk, he had difficulty with words and letters. Despite such handicaps, he was sometimes sent by our town leaders to the province governor to appeal an anti-Semitic act or an increase in taxes that Poland was known to impose on its Jews.
He succeeded most of the time, even when others, with a more polished approach, failed. In one case, two of our learned men, Pesach Buchstein and Shlomo Berman returned empty handed from Lutsk whereas Leizer accomplished the task. It happened as follows:
He left with a horse and wagon, reaching the governor's building after a two day journey. At the entrance, he had to argue with a pompous guard, but in the end succeeded in entering the building. He went straight to the governor's office. The governor sat at a large desk at the end of a long room symbolizing the separation between authority and its subjects. Leizer stood for a while at the other end of the room, next to the heavy, ornate, entrance door. He waited next to the heavy purple curtains. When the governor lifted his head and saw him, he wanted to cry out: Who let you in without my permission? Leizer went towards the governor's desk, part in supplication, part boastfully. Lifting his hand as he reached the governor's desk, he said: Let them be. Listen to me as you would to a friend to whom you wish to offer good advice. I am from your province, from Lanowitz. It is worth your while to visit our town. We are dying to see you. When do we ever see a governor? I want to invite you. Now I can return to my town and say proudly that I stood next to you.
The Pole's serious countenance softened in spite of himself. Subject to flattery, he opened up, discussing Lanowitz's problems with Leizer. The road to his heart opened. Leizer described the difficulties he had on the way to Lutsk, and the problems he had entering the building, and the subject of his visit The governor reconsidered, and the new law was rescinded.
Leizer died a natural death before the Holocaust. For me, he is a prototype of the tragedy of Jewish Lanowitz. We need to promise ourselves and generations that follow us not to return to situations which require talents such as submission, cunning and arrogance as Leizer needed. This is the legacy his story conveys.
By Yeheskel Shmukler
Village Jews, also known as Arenda Holders, did not merit special mention in the memorial books about communities that were wiped out.
These Jews were unique. All the town Jews were like prisoners of war in the midst of Gentiles. Town Jews, however, were a united group that could defend itself against a sudden catastrophe or a personal vengeance, whereas village Jews were isolated, subject to sudden dangers that could not be foreseen. They were on their own. Despite these risks, village Jews accepted their fate as a Diaspora within a Diaspora and maintained their full Jewish identity. One can mock their depth of knowledge, but not their dedication which they maintained despite emotional and physical discomfort.
I, myself, was the son of an Arenda Holder, Moshe Kiskiwider and his wife Judith. I was one of eight children that were raised in a warm Jewish home in the midst of an unfriendly Christian society.
Ours was a large village full of Orthodox Gentiles whose concept of society and personal behavior was based on homilies that they heard in the village church.
Two more Jewish families, Moshe Tepper and Meir Fishman lived in our village. These three families earned their living leasing and operating the local flour mill from Count Poplawsky, who later became the district chief of Lanowitz County. He was happy to turn over the mill's management to these local Jews. They, in turn, provided him a guaranteed monthly income.
From an economic standpoint, we had good and bad years. These economic changes depressed the family's spirits but never led to despair. Our parents dismissed these changes as due to luck or fate. What pained our parents more was their struggle to raise their children properly, how to install Yiddishkeit in them. They were not referring to Torah learning or to good deeds, but instead, to proper Jewish behavior, while living among a sea of Gentiles. Our parents' influence was limited and their economic concerns limited their ability even further.
In family discussions we shared their concern as to how to maintain our unique behavior. When our family deliberated on ways to maintain our Jewish identity, we children felt big as if we were sharing a serious secret with adults. Going outside we became serious, proud to keep a secret from Gentile children. At first, we kept apart, proud of our differences, but seeing them playing happily, paying no attention to us, our hearts were drawn to them. The initial pride gave way and the Yiddishkeit separation folded. We were like them after all.
Our childhood was difficult. Life was equally hard for our parents. We loved our surroundings and could not easily isolate ourselves from its charm.
Our parents' ability to provide a Jewish education was limited. Teachers willing to live in our village were not always available. To travel to a nearby town involved great difficulties. We were caught between an attractive secular childhood and parental restrictions. We loved our parents, hence could not fathom there contradictions.
Meanwhile new ideas reached Ukrainian society. To their religious fanaticism, Ukrainians added a separatist propaganda that included active terror against the Polish authorities and Jews. Our security situation turned serious. To this day, I don't know how these isolated Jews found the courage to remain in their villages. Yet they stayed. Every week or fortnight they traveled to Lanowitz, absorbed the friendship they experienced there, but they also heard of troubles and elected to stay in their village.
Our visit to town on the high holidays was our great experience. It involved elaborate preparations. The three families met several weeks prior to our departure to detail travel plans, such as who will travel in whose wagon, who will guard our house and other matters. It was a team effort. We could feel the holiday spirit as the preparations proceeded. Daily economic issues took second place to the travel preparations.
The big moment in this event came when all our goods were assembled, including blankets, pillows, pots and pans, dresses and coats. We all pitched in carrying them to the wagon while the men loaded these items each in its proper place, leaving space for passengers. This was an act of self-sacrifice and physical effort on the part of our parents, for an idea, the details of which may not have been clear to them. Our Gentile neighbors watched us, wondering what the commotion was all about. This was the Jewish soul of village Jews, their way of maintaining their identity.
We arrived in town as strangers coming to visit strangers. Something separated us from our Lanowitz hosts. Our ideals and customs differed from theirs. Ridiculed by the local children and feeling alienated from them, we children suffered greatly during these visits to the town.
Our uncle Idel Kiskovitzer, who moved from our village to the town, provided us with a warm family-like atmosphere for he still understood the village culture. His home had a special attraction for he also hosted the Rabbi from Chortkov. The Rabbi's teaching and the festive atmosphere he created added to our enjoyment. It lifted our spirits for many days after our return to our village.
The synagogue prayers, the Jewish holiday experience and associated pride all added to our resolve to withstand the secular pressure we experienced in the village.
The trip to town was a sort of exodus from Egypt. It gave us pause to think of the purpose of our lives in the village. The trip back felt like a return to an uncertain, perhaps hostile, environment after we tasted the freedom of being with our own people in Lanowitz. Despite all the doubts, our family remained in the village.
Our visits to Lanowitz introduced us to the Zionist alternative. We left our poor parents to their fate. Instead of holding on, we youngsters opted to receive agricultural training and immigrated to Palestine.
We dreamt of having our parents join us, but failed in this effort. It seems to me that the story of the Arenda Holders of the area belongs together with the Lanowitz story. They, more than others, suffered from the problems of the Diaspora.
Together with the Lanowitz Jews, they experienced moments of elation in their erroneous conception of Diaspora Judaism, the idea that one can live a Jewish life among Gentiles.
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