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[Page 133]

Lizhensk as I Remember it

By Lydia Trintzer Izrael

Translated by Jerrold Landau , Toronto, Ontario

        Lizhensk is a small town, with a population of about five or six thousand inhabitants, in the area of Lesser
Poland[1], approximately half way between Krakow and Lvov. The towns in the area of Lizhensk are Zolina, Lancut, Ulanow, Nisko, and Przeworsk. The largest nearby city is Rzeszow. Even though the town was small, Lizhensk is known to Jews even today as the burial place of Rabbi Elimelech. The burial place was desecrated by the Germans as was their custom, with great barbarism. Jews today from many lands recognize Lizhensk. A great many Hungarian and Slovakian Jews used to come to Lizhensk in throngs to visit the grave of the great Tzadik.

        Lizhensk was a beautiful town, full of greenery. The population consisted of three segments: Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians. Each one of these groups lived in their own quarter, although there were a few individual Jews who lived in the Polish or Ukrainian quarter, and vice versa. However, these were very few.

        The main street lead to the market square (I no longer remember the name), the market, and afterward Zhowski St., Boznica St., the House of Study (Beis Midrash), and the streets nearby to it were inhabited entirely by Jews. Jewish life pulsated there; there were the Jewish stores, bakeries, and workshops. There were two synagogues on Boznica St., the Beis Midrash and the Shul (Synagogue). The Shul was very beautiful. It was known for its impressive dome and its beautiful wall paintings. Kol Nidre[2], was very beautiful and festive in this synagogue, its impression is etched very deeply in my memory, as a stirring experience which is never to be forgotten. Even though I left Lizhensk more than 28 years ago, I have not forgotten it. The solemn and spiritual atmosphere, the exchange of greetings and the unforgettable faces of the many loved ones, family members, and friends will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. To my sorrow, these two synagogues went up in smoke, having been ignited by the evil Hitlerists.

        Jewish life in Lizhensk was similar to Jewish life in other towns. Most people supported themselves through business. There were rich people, poor people, as well as very poor people who supported their families with difficulty. The well-known Jewish sense of brotherhood prevailed, and people assisted one another, and insured that the disgrace of starvation would not occur in the midst of the community.

{photo page 134 – Youth in Lizhensk had the feeling of treading together in one place... A parade on the 20th of Tammuz lead by Moshe Grisman.}

        However the feeling of the Jewish youth in Lizhensk was a feeling of treading together in one place, without progress or space to grow. The young people strangled in a provincial atmosphere, and the anti-Semitism that prevailed also made its impression. The youth could not find their place. It is no wonder that for the most part, they dreamed of Aliya to Palestine or emigration to other lands across the ocean. There was no employment, neither for those who possessed diplomas nor for those who did not possess diplomas, for all the doors were locked in front of the Jews.

        The youth were attracted to Zionist organizations, as they thought that through them there would be a path to a better world where they could be free among equals. I myself felt best in the small room of the “Gordonia” organization, among Jewish women. There we danced the Hora and talked about Palestine. There were many reasons why only very few actually went to the “Promised Land”, even though many dreamed about Aliya. For those who stayed, their lot was tragic, just as was the lot of Polish Jewry in general. Only very few survived.

        The Jewish youth of Lizhensk were intelligent, enlightened, of fine form, and had a good grasp as to what they desire. Most of them worked for their parents after graduating from elementary school. Another group continued to study in gymnasia (high school), although this group was quite small. The tuition for the gymnasia was quite expensive. Some avoided gymnasia for religious reasons, for the gymnasia was a mixed school with Jews and gentiles, and attendance on the Sabbath was required, even though there was no requirement to actually write on the Sabbath.[3]

{photo page 135: Jewish students in the high school (third from right is professor Stendig).}

        Since I am now writing about the gymnasia of Lizhensk (where I studied for eight years), I cannot fail to mention the oppressive environment there, as well as the overt anti-Semitic attitudes of the professors as well as the gentile comrades. However, one cannot make a generalization, for there were certainly some professors who maintained good relationships with the Jews, but in general I spent those eight years in a spirit of fear, humiliation, and oppression, primarily due to our comrades the Polish students. Insulting name-calling, put downs and disparagement of our Jewish origins were daily occurrences. This trend turned increased and developed into a frightful wave of Jew hatred in all of Poland after Hitler took power.

        We cannot forget that Lizhensk learned its lessons of anti-Semitism from other cities, and followed in their paths. There were guards in front of Jewish stores, incidents of overturning the school benches, as well as incidents of beating of Jews and university. [4] Therefore, attendance at the gymnasia of Lizhensk in the latter years was fraught with daily tribulations. The excommunication by our fellow Polish friends affected us particularly badly. If there were several Jews in a class, the excommunication was not so bad, however if there was only one Jew in the class, it would be like Gehinnom (hell).

        As I look back now from a distance of time, I wonder how we, our parents, and our grandparents were able to live there. Were we shortsighted or restricted in our ideas, or perhaps was there no other choice? It is difficult to answer this question.

        I left Lizhensk a few days prior to the entry of the Germans. A few weeks later, the Germans deported all of the Jewish population to the other side of the San. At that time, the Jews thought that the greatest tribulation had already hit them, however it became clear with the passage of time that almost all of the Jews of Lizhensk who survived the war were saved because of this deportation. I myself cannot fathom how anyone survived. No Jewish population remained in Lizhensk. Many died in Russia. Many other refugees died from hunger or from the effects of war, however those who were able to stay strong and take a stand remained alive.

        A few Jews who were saved from the destruction and were found in Lizhensk were murdered by the Poles who were members of the Z.A.K.

        The majority of the survivors live in Israel, with the remainder being scattered in other parts of the world, including South America, the United States, and Australia.

        We dedicate the majority of this book to those were murdered by the Hitlerist executioners, and whose gravesite is unknown. To those who were dear to us, the people of Lizhensk, we overflow with a fountain of memories, so that we can remember them, and perhaps more importantly, so that their cruel and unusual deaths can be regarded as the deaths of martyrs. Their lives were dedicated to the existence of the Jewish community in any place and under any condition.

        May their memories remain with us forever.



[Page 137]

My Cradle Lizhensk

by Elimelech Honig – Ronen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

        The city of Lizhensk in which I was born and spent the years of my youth is remembered by me as if in a faded dream as a small and orderly town. There was a large marketplace in the center, partly paved with stone, and surrounding it, there were high and low houses, as well as many stores of various types. Streets spread out in all directions from the marketplace that was at the center of the city. Some of those streets were old, lined with half-destroyed houses and ruins. There were also beautiful and modern streets, the most prominent of which was the street which led from the marketplace in the direction of the train station. This was the main street, where the largest and most beautiful stores were found, as well as the impressive public buildings. On this street, across from the modest store of kitchen and metal utensils, was the gigantic textile store of Alter Anfang, which contained a great deal of merchandise and covered a large area. The large display windows were filled with all sorts of merchandise of that type, and it made such an impression to all passers by of that street in Lizhensk, that they used to say that this store could grace even the center of Warsaw. When the accursed Germans came to our cities, they removed all of the merchandise from this gigantic store.

        At that time, I stood across the street, and watched how the enemy filled up carloads of merchandise during the course of many days. This place was like a magnet for their acts of theft. It seemed like there would be no end to the great deal of merchandise that Alter Anfang had prepared as a “gift” to the Germans. This was the lot of all of the Jewish businesses of Lizhensk.


Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk – 21st of Adar

        A unique place in the history and uniqueness of our town Lizhensk is held by the old Jewish cemetery, which is located at the edge of the city on a high hill. Inside of it, one modest cave stands out, where lie the remains of one of the most famous rabbis in the world, one of the founders of Hassidism – Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk of holy blessed memory. His name spread out in fame and praiseworthiness to all corners of the Jewish world. Surrounding the grave of Rabbi Elimelech, inside the cave and outside of it, are found the graves of his children and his holy students. Daily, Jews would come from within the city and vicinity to pour out their hearts at these graves. Testimony to these visits is provided by the myriad of notes (Kvitelach)[5] that are stacked up surrounding the grave and the old stone monument that has absorbed the tears of generations.

        When the Yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of the great Rabbi arrived on the 21st day of Adar[6], our modest town would turn into the center of the world. The crowds would resemble a beehive. Thousands of Hassidim would mull about the vicinity of their rabbi. They would arrive in convoys of giant busses, wagons, and trains. A different atmosphere would begin to prevail in the city already several days prior to the 21st of Adar. Various merchants, primarily merchants of holy books, as well as of food and drink would set up their stalls in the vicinity of the cemetery and the synagogue. They would set up their stalls along the path that led to the cemetery, surrounding the synagogue and the Beis Midrash. They would eagerly wait all year for these days when they would be able to supplement somewhat their meager income. As the 21st of Adar approached, the city began to fill up with Hassidic Jews, who arrived from all corners of the land to come close to their revered Rabbi. The entire path to the cemetery, up to the cave, was filled with a large crowd, and inside the cave itself the crowding was intense. The crowd consisted of both young and old, with everyone desiring to approach nearer to the holy grave in order to pour out their supplications and requests. Many candles were lit surrounding the grave and in all of the windows, and it was only through a miracle that not once, Heaven forbid, was there a fatal accident in the small and crowded cave.

        Hundreds of Hassidim also gathered around the synagogue. I remembered in particular the large Beis Midrash, which was in those days filled with Hassidim day and night. Numerous stalls selling holy books and holy objects were set up both inside and outside. They also sold food and beverages in order to provide for the needs of the numerous visitors. I remember in particular the good taste of the traditional drink called 'Yapczszik', which was a sort of fruit soup which was very tasty and overflowing. I always ran after my father and asked him to by me cup after cup of this special drink. The holy books consisting of numerous ornate volumes, both large and small, as well as all sorts of holy objects would also catch the eye. The entire city glowed with peacefulness during the course of these several days, as it absorbed the crowds of Jews who came from near and far.

        After a few days the guests would return to their homes, and then Lizhensk would slowly return to its regular course of daily life.

Rabbi Menashele

{photo page 138 – Rabbi Menashele of blessed memory, on the left.}

        In the final years before the terrible holocaust, Rabbi Menashele lived in Lizhensk. He was a rabbi of the lineage of Rozwadow, who arrived on his own, and over a short period of time endeared himself to the residents of the city. The locals began to join his group of Hassidim, and his Beis Midrash was filled with a large crowd on Sabbaths and festivals, including guests from the vicinity who came to soak up the warmth of his home. Rabbi Menashele had an impressive countenance, and he earned his respect through his pleasant expression, his heartening smile, and his friendly approach with everybody. He was known in particular for his sweet voice, his musical sense and his enthusiastic melodies, which he inherited from his ancestors of the Rozwadow dynasty who were known for their Hassidic melodies.

        I remember Rabbi Menashele as a first class prayer leader, whose sweet voice was filled with emotion. His enthusiasm and outpouring of his soul during the time that he conducted services at the podium of the synagogue would inspire the entire congregation who came to join with the rabbi in his sweet prayer. On Jewish holidays, the house of the rabbi would be filled with crowds of worshipers. Rabbi Menashele's dancing on Simchat Torah[7] left an unforgettable impression upon me. He would hold the Torah scroll in his hands, wave it, and sing and dance in the tight circle of his Hassidim. At that time his enthusiasm would ignite all of those present, and the powerful singing would break out from everyone's mouth. At such a time, everyone would forget their own day-to-day sorrows and tribulations, as well as all of the vanities of this world, and it was as if they ascended and stood in another world, celestial and pure, with a sublime and holy atmosphere, where the Divine presents rests among them and enjoys the festivities of the Torah along with the chosen nation.

        I remember an event which took place once during the Tashlich ceremony on Rosh Hashanah[8], when the rabbi left his house in song and dance with his large flock of Hassidim, and in the middle of the street (Rzeszow Street), a wagon driven by a gentile suddenly appeared, with two giant horses harnessed onto it. The horses continued trotting along their way toward the oncoming crowd, which filled the street without stopping. It seemed as if there would be a terrible accident here, that the horses would trample men and children with their trotting, causing fatalities with nobody to put a stop to it. We held our breath anticipating the accident that could not be prevented. However, when the horses reached exactly to the point of the crowd, adjacent to the rabbi, they lifted up their front legs and stood silently in their places, as if they were stones, without hurting anyone. At the time, it appeared as if this was a miracle from Heaven. My father, who previously worshipped in the large synagogue, became a dedicated Hassid of Rabbi Menashele, and I, as a small child, would accompany him and participate with devotion and reverence in the prayers and the table gatherings[9] of the rabbi. I remember several of his inspiring melodies to this day, and I make use of them myself as I serve as a prayer leader in Israel.

        After the terrible war, we heard that the unforgettable Rabbi Menashele remained in Lvov when the Nazis conquered the city, and he perished in the holocaust along with his family.

        May his memory be a blessing.


Lag Baomer[10]
        The festivities of Lag Baomer remain etched in my memory from the days of my childhood in Lizhensk. We, the students of the Hebrew school, as well as the students of the Talmud Torah and various Cheders would go out to the forests that surrounded the city, armed with homemade bows and arrows, in order to celebrate this holiday commemorating the might of Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochba. The Jewish children, who in general were afraid of the anti-Semitic gentiles, felt themselves on that day as mighty nationalists with “weapons” in hand, as they remembered the mighty ones of Israel of days long gone. This instilled in their hearts a feeling of freedom, as was felt by all of the gentiles. Groups of children would gather with their teachers in the clearings of the forest that were close by and known to us, and once a year, we would enjoy the clear air and communion with nature that was generally lacking in our lives.

        In the thick forest, there was a large clearing between the mountains that served as a shooting range for the Polish army. We children were mighty on that day, for this holiday was for us, and when we would wander on Lag Baomer around this marked off clearing, we would hope and dream that the Jews would speedily merit to have their own land, and we would be able to serve as Jewish soldiers, and arm ourselves with actual guns, and take part in such practices in clearings such as this.

        And then, when we merited, and the renewed State of Israel was established, I had the opportunity, along with several of my childhood friends, to be among those who fought for its independence. It is unfortunate for all of those who dreamt about the Jewish State and did not merit witnessing the realization of their dreams.

        Many events took place in my life during the stormy time of the Second World War and afterward, and many of them have become lost from my memory or clouded. However my memories of the cradle of my childhood – the town of Lizhensk – even with all the happenings in life, will never leave me forever.



[Page 141]

Lizhensk (The synagogue, people, and events)

by Y. Rotman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

A note from the editors of the Yizkor Book:

        Yehoshua Rotman, one of the young communal activists of Lizhensk, labored and produced this image of Lizhensk, its streets, personalities, houses of prayer, communal leaders, institutions, customs, festival observances, and children.

        Completely unintentionally, from his essay, the clear image is painted of a classical town with its sublime people as well as fools, high points as well as low points. The human struggle of thousands of years for spiritual and communal continuity, and all that results from this struggle appear in this essay.

        This description has historical value, and is accurate in its portrayal of detail, both personal and technical.

        The chapters on the Sabbath eve, Chanukah, Purim, and Yom Kippur, the street of the synagogue and the cemetery, are fitting to be included in the textbooks of Jewish study.

        He imprinted his own personal stamp and accurate impressions upon his work. This is the testimony of a living person about happenings and events that are now preserved for posterity by his vibrant pen. These include events from the worst of times, when generally nobody was concerned with preserving their impressions and experiences for literary, historical, and testimonial purposes.

(signed) The editorial board.

{photo page 141 – Lizhensk in memory (a memorial gathering in the displaced person camps in Germany.}


T he Street of Beis Midrash

        This street was unlike any other narrow and cramped lane. It was lost in itself, saturated with dreams. It was a street of the heart. The soul is pulled to the street of the small Beis Midrash, to the street of wisdom and Torah.

        This street is located to the left of the marketplace. It was unpaved, and only had a sidewalk on the right side. Walled houses stood on both sides, all of which were inhabited by Jews.

        In the heart of the street was the synagogue of Rabbi Elimelech. Across from it were the Mizrachi synagogue and the large Beis Midrash that was adjacent to the synagogue. Nearby, overlooking a valley covered with trees and gravestones, was the grave of the Tzadik. An eternal light burned at the gravesite, which could be seen flickering from the window of the cave.

        There were also Cheders (Torah elementary schools) scattered in a disorderly fashion along this holy lane, and students would come forth from them on their way home with voices of joyous shouting.

        Today is the eve of the Sabbath. The weekly portion was already recited, the weekly prophetic reading (Haftarah) was already studied, and they had studied Talmud prior to going home. They also remembered to spread strong garlic on the whip of the teacher.

{photo page 142 – the Mikva (ritual bath)}

        It is Friday afternoon. The Sabbath beckons and nears, and Jews are rushing in groups to the bathhouse and the ritual bath. The bakers put the Sabbath bread into their ovens in cast iron pans. Kugels (potato or noodle puddings) for the Sabbath spread out their aroma onto the lane, and the smell of frying oil with aromatic onions wafts about. The synagogue is cleaned, and the yards are swept. The brass candlesticks are polished and shiny, the beggars speedily “finish” several homes prior to the advent of the Sabbath. Women hurry to the stores if they had realized that they had forgotten to purchase Sabbath candles.

        The children now appear again. They have already bathed and shampooed. Their hair is combed and they are bedecked in fine clothes, rejoicing over their Sabbath and taking pride in their clothes. Reb Yosef the shammas (sexton) knocks with his wooden hammer: “Jews, Jews, to the synagogue!” The metal shutters are drawn over the stalls and stores. The locks creak and whistle, groaning as if to say: “Jews, there is no future for you in our midst! It is now the Sabbath, but on the next day you should flee from here. It is not your place here!” The rabbi stands on his porch, with the shammas beside him, leaping forth and admonishing someone who is late in closing his store, to someone who wanted to earn a few more coins to pay the contracts and taxes which await in the week to come.

        Lights now begin to glow, sparkling out from the windows, and glass doors, whose glass is sparkling in honor of the Sabbath. Burnished copper, silver, and gold candlesticks and table utensils decorate the house of the Jew who is about to greet the Sabbath queen. The tables are set with pure white cloths.

        Slowly the Jews of Lizhensk begin to walk the streets. The men are bedecked in their Kapotes (black Hassidic cloaks) and girded with thick, long, braided Gartels (Hassidic belts). They are wearing wide Streimels (Hassidic fur hats) with brims made of tail fur. The children and grandchildren are carrying large, thick prayer books. Jews are streaming out from all the streets and alleys, through wide-open gates, all of them united and serious, serious Jews, walking lightly. It is the Sabbath today! It is the end of worry, the end of the black gall. It is the payment for putting up with the contracts, Jew hatred, and difficult work and taxes.

        Waves of people are streaming toward the alley of the Beis Midrash.

        In the day and the evening of Sabbaths and festivals, at times of joy or times of sadness, whether going to the ritual bath for immersion or for preparation of the vessels for Passover, whether learning the Aleph Beis from a young age to learning Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law, from his first years to old age, we were accompanied by the lane of the Beis Midrash.

        And then ... This precious street was turned into a narrow ghetto that strangled the porous soul and snuffed out the soul of Judaism.

        Jewish life in Lizhensk began on he street of the Beis Midrash, and was finished and annihilated on that street as well.


Synagogues, Prayer, and Holy Places

The large Beis Midrash was built in an old style, and was eight meters high. There were benches along the walls. In the corners and under the tables and stands, old, worn out and torn books were stashed. Every Passover, when the housewives cleaned up the houses, they would gather torn out pages of prayer books and other holy books, and fill up the stashes in the Beis Midrash[11]. The tables were long. They stood there already for many years, along with the benches. In 1925, a fundraising campaign took place and funds were raised to build a heater that was covered with porcelain. It was not attached to the wall, so that its heat would be greater, so that the Jews would be able to stand along its hot sides all around it. Until that time there was only a rusty iron stove.

        The Beis Midrash had 250 seats. Nothing stood in the center. The holy ark, reading desk and prayer leader's lectern were very simple and unadorned. In the latter years, the bookshelves were expanded, and an additional room was set up in the porch for a second Minyan (prayer quorum). Approximately ten brass candelabra hung from the ceiling, each one holding eighteen candles. There was no electricity, and the shammas would clean the glass containers each morning and fill them with kerosene.

        The women's chamber consisted of three rooms, two of them wide, and one long and narrow.

        Most of the Hassidim worshipped in the Beis Midrash. The women's chambers served for many years as classrooms for the Talmud Torah, until a separate building was built for that purpose, as well as for putting up guests.

        Disputes about seating places, which were passed on as an inheritance, or about who should be appointed for leading the services, and who should receive various honors, were commonplace here.

        In evenings, people would gather for a daily class in Mishna, as well as other classes that were conducted by Reb Shmuel Siszer, Aharon Moshe Reichenthal, Refael Itzi Hauser, and Wolf Wachs.

        The synagogue was very tall. Its walls were adorned with artwork depicting chapters of Psalms, the binding of Isaac, “By the Rivers of Babylon”[12], the priestly breastplate and tunic (Ephod), as well as the altar of our Holy Temple.

        Most of the art was drawn by Reb Mendel Ber of blessed memory, the brother-in-law of Reb Dovidel Rotman.

        The holy ark was engraved with artwork. It was very high, and small steps with iron banisters led up to it. The prayer leader's lectern was very beautiful, and in front of it there was a small depression for the person who stood before it, so as to fulfill the verse in the book of Psalms “From the depths do I call out to you, Oh G-d”.

        The Torah reader's podium stood in the center, raised about one meter from the floor. It had wide stairs from several sides, and four pillars, one in each corner, as if for a canopy.

        A very heavy, tall, brass candelabrum stood in the center of it. It was unmovable.

        There were no tables in the synagogue, just seats and lecterns for prayer. The windows were round, high up on the walls, glazed with multicolored glass.

        Prayers were only held on Sabbaths and festivals, and on weekdays only in the evening, for Mincha and Maariv.

        The women's chamber consisted of long, narrow rooms, which also served as Cheder classrooms.

        When the Germans entered on Rosh Hashanah, they burned the synagogue and the Beis Midrash to the ground.

        The Kloiz (small Hassidic prayer hall) behind the church was maintained for many years by several families who lived in that place They worshipped their daily Mincha and Maariv, as well as on Sabbaths and festivals.

        The Kloiz of Reb Menashele: Reb Menashele Horowitz came to live in Lizhensk ten years prior to the holocaust, and he set up a place of prayer for five minyans.

        Aside from these, there was also the Mizrachi Kloiz, the Aguda Kloiz, and prayer minyans of various other organizations.

        The Kloiz of Chuna the son of Reb Melech Shenker, who was later known as Reb Baruchel:

        It is related that this was the Kloiz of Rebbe Elimelech on the Street of the Prophet near the destroyed building. After the great fire, they brought Reb Chuna to his house, where one room served as his place of residence, and the other as the hall for public prayer. Later, when his daughter married Reb Baruchel, a new Kloiz was added. The Hassidim of Rozwadow in particular worshipped there.

        The Germans did not touch this synagogue, and it still stand today.

        The Kloiz of Reb Melech Dovczis: Reb Melech, who was the grandson of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, worshiped in a separate Kloiz on the Street of the blacksmiths.

The Cemetery

        It was revered by all, both the observant and nonobservant, since all were equal there, great and small.

        This field absorbed the tears of living Jews, who came there to the presence of their dear departed who were buried there, to search their deeds and to vow to live better lives.

        When there was a joyous event in a family, such as the marriage of a son or a daughter, the orphaned brides and grooms would come to the cemetery to invite the souls of their dear ones to come to participate in their wedding. The parents would also come here to weep for those who did not merit to witness this joyous event which they were blessed with.

        At times of illness and distress, people also came there to bemoan their bitter lot, and to request that those that repose there should act as righteous intercessors and transmit the prayers and requests to the other side of the celestial gates.

        A great number of legends arose surrounding our cemetery, and all of them point to the holiness of the place, and the honor of those that repose there.

        Jews believed in the protection provided by that holy place, and they would seek refuge there at times of trouble. This was the situation during the time of the great fire, when the Jews came there with their salvaged belongings, and spent the first nights there without a roof over their heads, seeking protection through the stones and monuments. This was also the situation during times of war and disaster. Jews also sought refuge among their departed brethren during the time of the war, and many were shot there by the Germans between the whitened stones.

        When the 21st of Adar arrived, the poor of the nation would arrive several days prior to the appointed day, and they would set up two railings along the length of the path that led to the cave. The winter was still strong at the time, and it was difficult to go up to traverse the slippery, tortuous path which led to the grave of the Tzadik. As the visitors to the grave came back up the path, the poor would sit on both sides of the path and hold out their hands. Groups of fundraisers would also stand there, at tables with charity boxes, and they would collect funds for the various charitable organizations.

        The monuments were old. The place was divided into several parts, one very old that extended from the gate to the cave of the Tzadik. In this place, there was no order to the arrangement of monuments. This place was reserved for the most well connected deceased, those that merited to be buried in close vicinity to the Tzadik.

        After some time, a new lot was purchased to extend the cemetery. In this lot, the monuments were arranged in an orderly fashion, row by row. The monuments were nicely engraved, and the lettering was very clear.

        Reb Mordechai Kleinman was the seller of monuments. He understood the status of each deceased, and knew what to engrave on each stone.

        A red brick fence, erected in 1930, surrounded the cemetery. This fence had several gates, so that even the Kohanim would be able to peer in[13].

        Toward the end of the war, when the Nazis could no longer find live Jews to torture, they brought their war to the monuments and Jewish graves. They felled all of the monuments, and used them to pave the marketplace. They also plowed over the hill of the holy place with bulldozers, and sealed off the valley that was next to it. Now this area is flat, and it is all a plowed over field. In one corner, a small banner flies, stating: “It is forbidden to remove sand from here.”

The Hostel for the Indigent of the Town

        Near the house of Moshe Chaim, next to the synagogue, there was an empty field, filled with pits and valleys, which belonged to the Jewish community. It was approximately 10 meters wide by 30 meters long. The back of the field faced the gate of the cemetery, therefore the “Tahara” room[14] was built in a corner of it. Since Lizhensk was a gathering point for all sorts of indigents, and since also for several days prior to the Yahrzeit of Rebbe Elimelech and for several days following many people came to visit the grave site, and these pilgrimages attracted a stream of beggars who could not find any place to lay down their heads and rest their tired bodies; the community decided to build a guest house for these wanderers who used to fill up the synagogues and turn them into guesthouses and ad hoc hostels, thereby desecrating the name of G-d.

        There were no very rich people in the city. Therefore the building of the indigent hostel dragged on for a long time until it was completed. It contained ten bedrooms. Once it was completed, it was necessary to obtain bedding and beds – the first type of furniture that was needed for such a house.

        Once the building and furnishing of this home was completed, a custodian who was responsible for the house was appointed. He was responsible for maintaining the cleanliness as well as checking out those who came to stay there, obtaining personal data about them so that the hostel would not turn into a refuge for lawbreakers and other suspect people.

        Mr. Gerber, who also served as secretary of the community, filled this role. He became disabled in the First World War. He was paralyzed in one leg and had tremors in his right hand, the hand he used for writing. He would compile a list of guests in the Beis Midrash between Mincha and Maariv. He would sit at one of the tables in a corner, and fill out his card catalogue with his trembling writing. We children would surround him and look curiously as he diligently conducted his work. Once in a while he would let one of us do his work, and that child would be considered very lucky. There were too many of us to help him. His card catalogue was as interesting as a book, filled with stories about people who were banished due to ill fate from their cities, homes, and children, and who were forced to wander to obtain a morsel of bread, and to dream about days that might come when their luck would improve. There were details written there about divorces, fights among brothers, bankruptcies, and impoverishment. Every beggar who wished to stay over had to tell his story, and these simple stories were frightening on account of their simplicity.

        When the matter of the indigent hostel of Lizhensk became known in the Jewish vagabonds of the vicinity, a stream of vagabonds from outside came in, and the situation became too difficult to manage. The neighboring gentiles saw them as a symbol of the proverbial wandering Jew who takes over others land, and this added another strong pretext for their anti-Semitism. The communal leaders saw this as a danger with regard to their relations with the gentiles in Lizhensk, and decided to forbid the beggars from going door to door, and instead of this they set up a fund for “exemption monies”. They would gather monthly donations from the householders of the city, and they would use this money to pay the beggars so that they would not spread out throughout the city searching for donations. Every beggar was entered into a special list so as to insure that they would not be given such money more often than once every four or five months.

        This institution functioned until the holocaust.

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TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

1. Lesser Poland is a term used for Galicia. Back

2. The opening prayer of Yom Kippur. Back

3. Writing on the Sabbath is biblically prohibited, whereas simply passively attending school on the school is not within the spirit of the Sabbath, but is not a biblical prohibition. Back

4. I translated this sentence very roughly as it is worded very unclearly. Back

5. Kvitel is Yiddish for a note, and refers to a note upon which a supplication is written. Such notes are often placed at the graves of holy people, in the hope that their souls would intercede with G-d on the note writer's behalf. These notes are also placed in holy sites, primarily in the crevices of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Back

6. Yahrzeit is the anniversary of a person's death, which is observed by various rituals such as the lighting of a candle and the recitation of the Kaddish prayer by surviving relatives. The 21st of Adar would fall sometime in the month of March or very early April, one week after Purim, and three weeks prior to Passover. Back

7. Sukkot is a major Biblical festival that occurs five days after Yom Kippur, and lasts for nine days (eight days in Israel). Several Sukkot observances are noted in the text, so I will summarize them here. The two major observances mandated by the Torah are as follows: a) dwelling in a temporary booth or tabernacle called a Sukkah. In warm climates, one eats and sleeps in the Sukkah, but in colder climates, it is generally customary to only eat in the Sukkah. The Sukkah must be made of a roof of vegetation material (tree branches, wooden or bamboo poles, etc.). This thatched roof is known as Sechach; b) The taking of the four species, which consist of a palm frond (Lulav), citron (Etrog), myrtle branch (Hadas), and willow branch (Arava). The bundle of species is waved at various times during the festival services. This bundle is carried in a procession while Hoshana prayers are recited. The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabba, meaning the Great Hoshana, due to the multiple circuits made that day. On that day, a special bundle of Aravot, known as the Hoshana bundle, is beaten on the ground. The eighth day is known as Shemini Atzeret, and the ninth day is known as Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah, there is much singing and dancing, and there are processions made around the synagogue with the Torah scroll. The first two days of Sukkot, as well as Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are observed as full-fledged festivals, with abstention from work as on the Sabbath. The intermediate days of the festival are known as Chol Hamoed. Technically, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are a separate festival, so later in the text, where it refers to the last day of the festival, it is referring to Hoshana Rabba, the seventh day. Back

8. Tashlich is a ceremony that takes place in afternoon of Rosh Hashana, where prayers are recited at a riverbank, and sins are symbolically cast into the river. Back

9. A table gathering (tisch), is a Hassidic event where a meal is partaken along with the rabbi, as he shared words of Torah and song with those gathered. Back

10. A minor Jewish holiday occurring on the 33rd day of the 49-day count between Passover and Shavuot. Back

11. Worn out holy books are not disposed of in the trash, but rather placed in some form of storage, and ultimately buried in a cemetery. Back

12. A Psalm depicting the exiled Jews in Babylon sitting and weeping by the rivers and they remember Zion. Back

13. Kohanim (priests, the descendants of Aaron), are forbidden by Jewish law to enter a cemetery, except for the funeral of immediate relatives. Back

14. A room in a Jewish funeral home or a cemetery where the ritual washing and preparation of the body takes place. Back


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