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[Page 135]

Experiences and Figures
from the Recent Past

by Dr. Baruch Milch

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Many years have passed since I moved away from my forlorn town, and many experiences still remain with me in their full brightness, even with their negativity and faults. These are experiences that warmed my soul during the days of my youth. Their shadow always accompanies me, and their shadow lies deep in the depths of my spirit. It is appropriate to bring them to paper as a memorial candle for what was and is no more.

Regarding Nationalism and Anti-Semitism

The Ukrainians and the Poles were two small nations crowded together in eastern Galicia, and were subjugated by many other nations through the course of centuries. At the conclusion of the First World War, they found the time opportune to fight with each other and sow death and destruction among their two nations, and coincidentally among we Jews who lived among them.

In the wake of the national antagonism between the Ukrainians and the Poles in our region, anti-Semitism spread with greater force among the gentile population, both the city dwellers and country dwellers. As a result, they began to organize themselves, and they began a bitter struggle against the Jewish merchants, doctors, lawyers and other professionals. They set up cooperatives (“Kolko Rolnici”). From that time, there were Polish or Ukrainian stores who utilized anti-Semitic mottoes. This situation began to cause a downturn in the Jewish livelihood. The economic foundation of many families was weakened or destroyed. On the other hand, the anti-Semitism caused a national Jewish awakening among the youth and the adults, who began to understand that the foundations of our existence in the Diaspora were weakening and disappearing, and that the only way for them was to turn to Zionism, pioneering, and aliya to the Land of Israel. This Zionist awakening returned many assimilationists to the bosom of Judaism, and caused a decisive change in their lives.

The Zionists in the city conducted strong activity, particularly in light of the aspirations and expectations to get to a Jewish state that were aroused at the time of the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo proclamation. The influence of anti-Semitism was felt in various professions of the Jews. It was known that the Jewish practitioners of the free professions and the crafts were among the best, and they had earned the trust of their customers who depended upon them for everything. Nevertheless the worm of anti-Semitism destroyed the human feelings that existed earlier in relations between the peoples of the region. In Podhajce as well, the Zionist camp was enriched with good and fresh spirits. Ordinary residents who were not organized in the Zionist organizations also drew close to Zionism, including people who in general were distant from Zionist politics and factionalism. This gave a strong push to Zionist and factional activity in the city.

Dr. Landau, the elder of the physicians of the city, who was accepted by all of the residents of the city and the region, would visit the synagogue only once a year, on Kol Nidre night. Nevertheless, he had a warm Jewish heart, and his wife was known in the city as a dedicated activist for the benefit of the orphans and poor, and to all acts of charity and benevolence. A second doctor from among the most popular in the city was Dr. Dik, a veteran Zionist, the chairman of the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund) committee and other national organizations. After them came Dr. Heller, who weighed more than 100 kilo. The farmers of the region related to him with trust, as a paradigm of good health. However, his obesity also caused his sudden death as a result of a heart attack. The personality of Dr. Reichman also stood out. He was the scion of a well-connected family (his mother was the sister of Rabbi David Lilienfeld and the daughter of the renowned Rabbi Shalom Lilienfeld), and also a communal activist. Dr. (Mrs.) Chaia Kressel-Torten, Dr. Chaim Walger, Dr. Rafael Freud, the younger Dr. Heller, Dr. Baruch Milch and others were among the excellent doctors. From among the lawyers, it is appropriate to mention the Zionists Dr. Notik, Dr. Salpeter, Dr. Morgan, Dr. Rotenberg, and the three lawyer brothers Dr. Pomeranz, Dr. Marbech and Dr. Yaakov Horowitz. The later was a Zionist and communal activist who was particularly dedicated to the affairs of the youth. From among the engineers, the most active in he community and Zionism were Engineer David Lila, Engineer Hirshberg and others. From among the judges, teachers and government or municipal officials, there were some Jews at the time of the birth of the State of Poland, but they were gradually dismissed from their jobs. There were a few Jewish farmers in Podhajce. As well, there were a few Jewish farming families in each village of the region. However, almost all of them were also occupied in some sort of labor or business.

At this opportunity, I should note that most of the Jewish parents sent their children to high school and encouraged them to take the matriculation exam in order to gain the degree of “Matura”, that added glory and prestige to its holders. However, the “hell” for the Jewish youth only began after receiving the matriculation certificate, when the gates of the higher Polish schools were locked before them because of the “numerus clausus” (quotas), particularly in the professions of medicine, engineering, and the like. Some of these youth began to spread through the lands of Europe, to live the life of wanderers in the large cities of Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, Switzerland, Germany or Italy, in order to study the professions that were forbidden to them in their native country. This was no easy matter

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from an economic, technical or financial perspective, as well as with respect to the knowledge of foreign languages, etc. I was also among these youths, and I set out for Prague, Czechoslovakia in order to study medicine. I concluded my studies there. The measure of suffering was not complete even after all the wanderings, for after the conclusion of the studies, when some of them returned to Poland with their diplomas in medicine, pharmacy, engineering, etc. they were forbidden to work in their professions. The “nosterificia” protocols began again, and not everyone succeeded in obtaining one. There were those who did not return at all to Poland, for they set themselves up in a variety of countries throughout the world, or they made aliya to the Land of Israel. Such people included Dr. Marbech of blessed memory, Dr. Yisrael Liblich, the engineer Shulwolf, and others. Furthermore, entire families made aliya to the Land before the war of destruction and the Holocaust, such as Ticher, Mosberg and others.

The Jews of Podhajce in their Struggle between the Ukrainians and the Poles

In the struggle between the Ukrainian and Polish populations, the Jews of Podhajce found themselves between the hammer and the anvil. In the years 1933-1934, the antagonism between the ruling Poles and the majority Ukrainians in eastern Poland grew. The Ukrainian nationalists employed all sorts of terrorist activity against the Polish rule, such as the bombing of bridges, railways and public buildings, and setting the homes and farms of Poles and Jews on fire. The Polish authorities were forced to employ oppositional activities called “pacificacia” (pacification). The authorities imprisoned many of the Ukrainian youths and intelligentsia, closed their schools and even issued a directive to the Ukrainian population that they were responsible for ensuring the protection of the bridges, communal buildings, etc. during the evenings and nights. In the interim, an incident took place with a Jewish student of the Podhajce Jewish youth who sat at home all day occupying himself with his studies, and only went out to walk in the fields outside the city and enjoy fresh air in the evenings. The police caught him and suspected him of damaging government property. The Jewish student suffered murderous blows from the police, who brought him to the police station and accused him of attempting to ignite one of the houses because he was a Communist. In order to accuse him, it was sufficient for the political official of the police (Mr. Bierant) to know that this youth was once a member of Hashomer Hatzair in the city, which was always suspected of extreme left leaning ideology and was considered close to the Communists, Anarchists, etc. An extremely unpleasant situation was created here, until the elders of the city, headed by Rabbi David Lilienfeld himself, felt themselves duty bound to make great efforts to save the Hashomer Hatzair member from libel, and to convince the police (who knew the truth) that a “misunderstanding” had occurred, and that the evil decree should be revoked.

Shortly after this incident, the student left Poland and made aliya. He established a fine family, and to this day, he works in a responsible position and lives a life of happiness and peace. Thanks to this incident, he was saved from the Nazi talons, whereas most of his family who remained in Podhajce perished in the Holocaust.

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A group of Admorim from the region of Podhajce at a spa

 

About the Trust of the People of Podhajce in Admorim

Faith was always a primary tenet of Judaism. Whoever was not numbered among the believers was considered a denier of basic principles who has no share in the Nation of Israel. Obviously, there were those whose religious faith and national connection was pure and refined, as well as those who became involved in all sorts of nonsensical and vain beliefs. The Jews of Podhajce were generally people of boundless faith. I will now tell about several incidents connected to the faith of the people of Podhajce.

I recall one of the stories of Father of blessed memory that took place in Podhajce during his childhood at the end of the 19th century, when a large fire broke out in the city, in which about one third of the houses of the city burnt down. The fire spread extremely rapidly and transferred from street to street in a large-scale fashion, wreaking havoc upon the homes. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of the burnt homes belonged to Jews. The fire began in the center of the city, in the home of a Jewish family named Milsztok. This house was rebuilt after the fire. It burned down once again during the First World War and was once gain rebuilt by someone named Leib Weiss (nicknamed Leibele Trask).

This story that I want to tell relates to this house and its burning. Some time before the fire, one Rebbe, a great Tzadik, came to the city accompanied by his Gabbai in order to remain for a while in the city amidst his Hassidim and those close with him, as was usual during those days. The Hassidim received him well and put him up in one of the homes of the wealthy people of the city next to the Milsztok home. One Sabbath morning

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the Rebbe got up and wished to worship in the synagogue that was near his house. To get there, he had to pass through the yard of the Milsztok house, which had a wide, long corridor. Suddenly, two girls of the Milsztok family came out of the house and stood on both sides of the path through which the Rebbe was to cross. The Rebbe did not want to pass between two women, and the Gabbai requested that they vacate the place to let the Rebbe pass. However, they refused to move. The Rebbe was forced to return to the home in which he was staying, feeling hurt. “It is unfortunate that I cannot worship in the synagogue this Sabbath”, he said. On account of the insolence of the mischievous girls, he let a curse slip through his lips, saying: “A place with girls such as these will eventually be burnt”. Indeed, so it was. A few weeks later (the Rebbe had already left the city some time ago), a large fire broke out in Podhajce that started precisely in the home of the Milsztok family. Even though the fire broke out by chance, all the people of the city believed that the fire came as a punishment from Heaven because of their disparaging treatment of the Rebbe.

A more or less similar incident affected the Rotner family in Podhajce (the father of the head of the community, Tobiasz Rotner), who were considered to be one of the most honorable families of the city. During a dispute, he greatly embarrassed one of the great Tzadikim of Galicia (The Rebbe of Kopyczynce or the Rebbe of Czortkow). After this, he became the father of several children who were lame or deaf from birth. All of the people of the city saw this as a punishment from Heaven.

I will tell here another story that is connected with the faith of the people of our city. In its time, it was our custom to conduct most of the weddings in the city in the wide open space next to the Great Synagogue (Shil Gasse). In connection to this, they would relate in the city that once, a wedding took place there of a young couple whose moral character was suspect. Suddenly, the earth opened up its mouth, and the groom, bride, and many of those present were swallowed alive. Immediately thereafter the earth closed its mouth, and it was impossible to save even one of those who had been swallowed… After this terrifying incident, a tall stone monument was erected n the place where this took place, next to the back wall of the Great Synagogue. The people of the city would come there during the month of Elul, conduct a memorial service, and throw garlic, as if in a cemetery. I witnessed this custom with my own eyes, and I was never able to find anyone present who was able to tell me additional details about this incident. The fear of the place rested upon the adults who visited there, and the children were afraid to go close to the place, especially during the evenings. Apparently the fear of the place hovered over those who knew something about what had taken place there, but they were reluctant to talk about it.

The author of the book Masaat Binyamin, who served as a rabbi in Podhajce, became known as a Gaon in Torah and good deeds. A wreath of legends was woven around his popular personality. These legends were transmitted from generation to generation, but most of them have been forgotten with the passage of time. I know one legend that is connected to this old-time rabbi and Tzadik, whose name is mentioned with awe and reverence by natives of our city to this day.

This was the story: This old-time rabbi preached to the congregation in the Beis Midrash on designated Sabbaths. His words included topics of morality, as he preached about good behavior between man and G-d as well as between man and man. The rabbi would deliver a sermon especially on Shabbat Hagadol (the Sabbath prior to Passover) and Shabbat Shuva (the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and he would arouse the audience to Torah and repentance. Prior to his death he said that the people of the city are not worthy of reciting the verses of the Yigdal prayer in the Shacharit service [1] on account of the many Apikorsim (heretics) who are found in the city. As a sign that his words are correct, he said that after his death, a certain tree would grow overnight over his grave. Several people of the city told me that indeed, the words of the rabbi came true. When I visited the cemetery in the city, I saw with my own eyes the old, tall tree that was hovering atop the grave of the rabbi and Tzadik

The Admor of Bursztyn

Podhajce was a typical Galician city, with all of its positive and negative attributes. In its last generation, most of its Jewish residents were Maskilim with progressive and liberal outlooks. Some had academic education, such as the engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. The Jewish youth of the town was composed of all types of youth groups from Hashomer Hatzair to Bnei Akiva. There were also student corporations. Indeed, there was also no lack of Hassidim, who gathered around their Kloizez. The Rebbe of the city, who was known as the Bursztyn Rebbe, had no small amount of influence. His house, or more accurately his court, was located in one of the lovely corners of the city. It was a courtyard surrounded by trees. There were also many gentiles who related to him with honor. On Sabbath days, many Hassidim would gather around the Rebbe's table. They particularly came to hear the Rebbe's Kiddush and wishes of Lechaim from his holy mouth. There were also Shalosh Seudot (the third Sabbath meal) and Melave Malkas (a meal following the Sabbath) at the conclusion of the Sabbath, that attracted many of his Hassidim and those who revered him, including many Jews of our city. Many of the youth of the city would also come to be present for his fine Kabbalat Shabbat (The service of welcoming the Sabbath), Melave Malka celebrations, Purim feasts and Passover Seders, that were conducted with all of their traditional and popular ceremonials until the light of the morning. It is interesting to note that particularly during these celebrations, the area around the Rebbe's courtyard served as a comfortable and attractive meeting place for the youth and young couples.

The Rebbe himself was a man of middle stature, stout of body, having a serious face, splendid in his attire and modest in his mannerisms. He did not have

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a unique income for his livelihood and the sustaining of his court. He lived from gifts from people of the city, which his Gabbai collected weekly from steady donors. However, the Rebbe's court was always bustling with the poor and hungry, who were provided with bread and various food. On Sabbaths, Purim feasts and Passover Seders, the court was always filled with people who were not members of the Rebbe's family, despite the fact that his own family was large enough: two daughters, a son, and their families. The wedding celebrations of the Rebbe's children were important and impressive events in the city.

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Rabbi Yitzchak Izak Menachem Eichenstein
of blessed memory, The Admor of Bursztyn

 

The degree of influence that the Rebbe had in Podhajce can be discerned from the following incidents. In the years 1915-1916, during the time of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian armies retreated from the city to the west, and in their place came the armies of the Russian Czar, which included people of a mixture of various Asiatic origins such as Circassians, Uzbeks, Kyrgyzes, and others who brought with them the germs of the dangerous illness of cholera from their countries. This illness was accompanied by an atmosphere of hunger, filth and dirt that pervaded with the change of armies. A shortage of medicine and cleaning materials was felt in all places. All of this made itself quickly felt by the population. The situation was quite bad in our city as well, and people fell like flies in the Jewish community. This serious illness often attacked people suddenly with diarrhea and severe stomach pains that continued incessantly until their life was snuffed out. A relative of mine Dr. Wilhelm Neuman, in his position as regional physician, made a great effort to fight the dangerous illness and enable the population to cope. He arranged sanitary assistance on each street with groups composed of Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of the city, who ensured cleanliness, distributed some food to the hungry, buried the dead, etc. On account of the shortage of medicine, everyone was instructed to eat more garlic, and the children always walked with a necklace of garlic around their necks. At the time, my late father was the head of the sanitary division in our area, and it was easy for him to obtain the garlic. As a result, the entire house was filled with the aroma of garlic, and we were not able to look at garlic for many years after that on account of this. In truth, the danger of communicable disease was greater in our home, for father would often make the rounds in the houses of the sick and dead. The pleas of our dear mother not to endanger us were to no avail, and he continued fulfilling his role faithfully. To our good fortune, no tragedy happened to us. Half of the street we lived on was emptied of people who had passed away. At that time – during the time of danger that was hanging over every person in the city – the lot fell upon the Admor of Bursztyn to act in accordance with his righteousness.

First of all, he advised us to construct a life sized mannequin and to arrange a burial ceremony for it as is done for any Jew in an honorable place in the cemetery. The advice of the Rebbe was carried out. A large crowd of Podhajce natives participated in the funeral. However, the results were the opposite, for as a result of the massive crowding in one place, the epidemic strengthened. Then the Rebbe offered a second piece of advice – to arrange a “black wedding”. He advised to arrange a communal wedding of a poor boy and girl on the accounts of the city, and that the entire population should participate in it. A “groom” was speedily found – his Gabbai, Reb Yitzchakl , and the “bride” was the maid of his household Sarale, who had worked as a maid for many years with a variety of people. Both of them were between the ages of 30-40. The wedding was arranged in the Great Synagogue, and a large group participated. Nevertheless, this means also did not serve as a protection against the plague. The new couple themselves were not a source of contentment for those who arranged their marriage, for they separated after a short time.

The epidemic continued to take its toll. During those days, the well known teacher in our city, Rabbi Davidl, died at over the age of 80. He was a modest scholar, by whose hand several generations of our townsfolk, I among them, were educated in the study of Torah, Bible and Talmud. He was a faithful and dedicated teacher, who spread Torah in our city at all times of the day and night. Then, the Rebbe of Bursztyn offered a new piece of advice; to prepare a large brass key and place it in the hands of the departed Reb Davidl. His students sat all day and night on the floor of his house around his body, and studied Mishna for the elevation of his soul. A large funeral took place the day after his death, and the pallbearers carried him along with the key to the gate of the cemetery. This deceased man had been chosen to permanently lock the gate of the earth in the face of the plague. The matter took place. Indeed, the epidemic ended after some time, either because of the locking of the ground before the plague by the key in the hands of the departed Reb Davidl, or because of the sudden departure of the Russian army who fled for their lives, and the appearance of the Austo-Hungarians with all types of medicine. However, the Jewish population believed with a full heart that the salvation came through the power of the Rebbe

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Holidays and Festivals of Joy…

It is difficult to forget the lovely festivals in our city, through which our nation displayed its spirit in the most open fashion. They served as a clear lens to the treasures of our people and its spiritual world. Every holiday had its customs and mores. On Rosh Hashanah at the time of Tashlich, most of the people of our city would gather around the Koropiec River. The youth would ignite bonfires on its banks, and dance to their light with song and joy. Hikes would be arranged on the lovely days of Passover. The hikers would be wearing new, splendid clothes and shoes. Most of the hikers would go outside the city with their children, to the tall hill called “Gei”, where they would play with nuts and other types of games.

The fact that Yom Kippur is listed among the rest of the festivals of Israel is proper evidence that this day is not a day of agony and mourning, but rather a holiday and festival. How great was the influence of the Eve of Yom Kippur and Kol Nidre night. In the afternoon, all business and stores were closed quickly. Everyone finished their work and prepared for the festive meal that preceded the fast. Family and acquaintances met with their elders to wish them that may be sealed for a good life. Then they went to the synagogue for Kol Nidre after lighting the traditional large candles. The custom of wearing white clothing on the Days of Awe was particularly impressive – particularly for the prayer leader who wore a white cloak (Kittel) under his tallis, as a symbol for the forgiveness of sins. The atmosphere that pervaded prior to the recitation of Kol Nidre elicited unusual attention. Not infrequently, Christians would show up in the synagogue for Kol Nidre, as well as Jews who were distant from religion and had not visited a synagogue all year. The atmosphere seemed like that of angels and seraphim, and an unseen eye hovered atop the city and atop all of us. How great were the preparations in my father's house on the Eve of Yom Kippur. In the morning, everyone would arise early for the Kapparot ceremony. Breakfast was eaten very early. When father returned from the first Minyan at the synagogue, he would run his store to conduct a bit of business. From there he would hasten to the bathhouse, and return home for a simpler than usual lunch. On his way, he would arrange a few more purchases. He would grab the hands of anyone he met along the way and give them heartfelt greetings for the upcoming year and for the approaching Day of Judgement. In the afternoon, he shut his store and hurried to the synagogue for Mincha. When he returned, the entire family was already waiting: my brother Yossi, his wife Mintzia of the Hecht family, and their daughters Libchia and Malchia; my sister Dvora, her husband Yehoshua Walfish and their four children; my youngest sister Bronchia, her husband Marcus Hauring and their two children; my youngest brother Nathan (all of them perished in the Holocaust during the war with the accursed Nazis). All of them came to wish our father Zelig and mother Rosa (nee Lippa) a good year and a Chatima Tova (being sealed in the book of life), to drink a cup of wine together with wishes for a good life, and to taste an apple dipped in honey. On occasion, some of them stayed with us for the meal preceding the fast. This meal was always ample and festive, but was concluded in haste, so that the cup of tea after the meal was emptied while standing already. Mother lit the candles, and then the entire family went to the synagogue for Kol Nidre. Father hastened to be one of the first in the synagogue, for as Gabbai, he was responsible for arranging various matters with the cantor, arranging the seats, making sure that the candles would be lit in a specific place by the gentile, collecting and counting the money from the plates that were set out for the Keren Kayemet and various charitable institutions, giving instructions to the Shamash, etc. Similar customs and arrangements were common among most other Jewish families in our city. The light of the many tall candles sparkled out through the windows. Everyone hurried to the synagogue with excitement for Kol Nidre.

The material relating to the Jewish holidays and festivals is great and rich. Every city and town had a unique atmosphere for the festivals. In general, the Jewish holidays were festivals of joy in every place. The gladness was great during the holidays. I have already mentioned briefly the holidays of Purim and Passover. There were also numerous customs for the festival of Shavuot. The houses, the synagogues, and the streets in the Jewish quarter were adorned with flowers and decorations. This imbued the entire city with a festive atmosphere. No small amount of attention was also given to the food for this festival, upon which it was customary to eat a special dairy meal in addition to the meat meals. The women would cook three cornered pastries stuffed with potatoes mixed with butter and cheese. Should we not mention the festival of Simchat Torah and its customs in the synagogue, about which it is said that anyone who did not witness the festivities on Simchat Torah has never witnessed joy in his life? Simchat Torah was primarily celebrated with the Torah processions (hakafot) that took place evening and morning in the synagogue. The hakafot were conducted with a sublime spirit accompanied by singing and dancing. Even the children would participate in the festivities, joining in the hakafot by following behind the adults with colored paper flags. All of the ceremonies in the synagogue on Simchat Torah included songs and hymns. The joy was especially great with the with the Chatan Torah and Chatan Breishit [2], who arranged kiddushes in their homes with drinks, wine and liquor poured out as water. I recall that many Jews would get drunk and shout out mockingly “Cursed be Mordechai and blessed be Haman”. The day of Simchat Torah turned into a first class national holiday that encompassed the entire nation, from young to old, women and children, and instilled upon them all a spirit of

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joy and mirth, a spirit of hope, comfort and encouragement for good days to come…

Purim Players in Podhajce

The Jews of Podhajce would also celebrate Purim in their joyous style, “With noise, food, drink and entertainment”. Among the Jews, there were four Purim plays that did not depart from the Purim stage until the era of the Holocaust. These are “Achashveirosh Play”, “The Sale of Joseph”, “David and Goliath”, and “Jacob and Esau”. These plays fit in well with the Purim theme from the Megilla. Mordechai was the second to the king in his Diaspora county of Persia; Joseph did not become lost in a strange country, for he rose from slave to second to the king in the Land of Egypt; David, the young Jew, defeated the giant gentile Goliath; Jacob purchased the birthright from Esau and ruled over him.

In Podhajce, there was a traditional annual performance on Purim by the “Joseph Players”. The performance was put on by the local Jewish water drawer of the town, the father of eighteen children, short in stature with a small beard and a smile that never departed from his lips. His nickname was “Yosele the water carrier”. Some time before Purim, he would arrange rehearsals for the play, in which most of his children participated. If one or two would be missing from the ten sons of Jacob our father, he would invite children from the poor neighborhood to make up the number. His troupe would appear every Purim in the homes of all of the honorable Jews, with special costumes befitting the Bible. They would portray the sale of Joseph to Egypt by his brothers, how he lived as a prince in Egypt, how the elderly father (our forefather Jacob was played by himself) arrived in Egypt to ask Joseph to free his sons who were imprisoned as suspects of espionage [3], and how finally the identity of Joseph was revealed, etc. It is interesting to note that these plays always served as a source of decent income for several poor families in the city, so that they would be able to purchase matzos, fats and potatoes for the upcoming holiday of Passover. In the latter years, this Purim play turned into a source of income for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael and the Keren Hayesod.

Youth Movements and National Life

The day of the Balfour Declaration, that was declared by the British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour on November 2, 1917, authorized as well by other governments, and included in the British Mandate of 1922, turned into a day of joy and gladness and a portent for the beginning of the redemption for all of the youth organizations and movements in the city. This declaration recognized the rights of the nation of Israel to the Land of Israel, its historic birthplace.

Similarly, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Herzl, the 20th of Tammuz, was marked by every Jewish community with a public gathering at which they reminisced about the memory and activities of Herzl, whose name had become one of the most revered, precious and famous among the Jewish people of the Diaspora. His name was a symbol of the longing for national pride, independence, and the renewal of the glory of the nation. From the day of the death of our national poet Chaim Nachman Bialik on the 21st of Tammuz 5694, the two memorial days were observed simultaneously – that of the political leader and the poet. On these memorial days, despite their festive character, it was permitted to do all work, and the stores were open. However, many Zionists closed their stores and places of work, and paused from work on those days. The Hebrew school was closed, and some Jewish children did not attend the public school. Each year, parades of the members of the various parties took place on the streets of the city. The members of the youth groups and the children of the Hebrew school would gather next to the Hebrew school, and from there they would march through the main streets, arranged neatly in rows, to the Great Synagogue, where a large crowd of people from our city, Zionists and others who were curious, were gathered. The chief spokesman was always Mr. Moshe Liblich of blessed memory, a veteran Zionist in our city. Following him, representatives of the various youth groups and teachers of the Hebrew school would address the gathering. At times, special representatives of the headquarters of the movements would come to speak that day about Dr. Herzl, the Zionist movement, and the Land of Israel. The majority of the Jewish houses were decorated on those days with pictures of Dr. Herzl and blue and white flags. Of course everything was done with permission, in accordance with the permits received from the Polish authorities. Obtaining the permits was not among the simplest of matters. They were only received after difficulties and struggles.

Despite the attitude of the Polish authorities to the Jews, even to those who were born in Poland, we should not skip over the national Polish holiday of May 3rd, which was celebrated in Poland in memory of the national charter, the constitution of May 3rd. On that holiday, all of the businesses, work places, offices, schools, etc. were closed. There were also Jews who saw it fitting

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Moshe Liblich of blessed memory

one of the first Zionists in our city

 

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pod141a.jpg
A group of members of Gordonia

Sitting from right to left: Yisrael Glazer,
Nathan Brecher, Uri Milsztok, Izak Gotstein

 

pod141b.jpg
Members of Hechalutz in Podhajce, 1930

 

pod141c.jpg
Members of Beitar (Brit Trumpeldor) in Podhajce

 


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Yigdal is a hymn that contains a summary of the 13 principles of faith. Return
  2. On Simchat Torah, the yearly Torah reading cycle is concluded and begun anew. Chatan Torah is the person chosen to have the aliya at which the concluding section of the Torah is read. Chatan Breishit is the person chosen to have the first aliya of the Torah – following right after Chatan Torah. Return
  3. This fact is not in accordance with the Biblical narrative. Jacob only went to Egypt after the identity of Joseph was revealed to the brothers. Return

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