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Characters and Personalities

Chanina Weissman

 

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Images of Splendor

“And your eyes shall behold your teacher, and your ears will hear something from behind you saying: “this is the matter, go to it!” (Isaiah, 30).

This chapter presents to us incidents and personalities: the scholars and communal activists of Rozniatow; those who lived a life of the spirit in various generations, and those who placed their lot in the ways of the spirit, simple people who laid down deep roots in Jewish tradition, love of fellow Jews and the Land of Israel. The love of the fellow man was particularly deeply ingrained in their hearts. Their manner was modest, with proper behavior between man and G-d, and no less between man and his fellow man. The story of the lives of the wonderful men of spirit is very deep and all encompassing. One can learn a great deal from every detail of their way of life, and even their day-to-day speech, etc. Before us is a rainbow of the many hues of the sublime people of Rozniatow in their community. It is obvious that these personalities were not a separate group from the general Jewish population of the town, however we could not gather material about everybody. We wrote what we could, and eulogize their memories. The holocaust survivors of Rozniatow relate their stories with simplicity and present to us in this chapter that which they guarded in their hearts, including many important details. They were able to merge them together, detail by detail, and to write down their memories and feelings about the community's past, its glory and splendor, images of nobility of the leaders and activists, as well as about the modest, anonymous people, the simple and poor folk. These are people who saw them in their disgrace as well as in their greatness, in their joy and agony, and they knew them well, and were well versed in their ways of life. They know how to tell about them, to describe their wisdom and teaching, the holiness and the fine character traits that they possessed, as well as their splendorous deeds of kindness that are gloriously held in their memories.

The editor.


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Impressions of Happenings

by Yaakov Rechtschaffen-Ritz, Melbourne, Australia


The town was about six kilometers away from the train station, and nevertheless, it was not just any far off town. Rozniatow was an old Jewish community, and that comes along with all of the treasures that antiquity brings, regarding local happenings, effervescent families, joint memories, which with the passage of time merge into the weight of tradition of the history of the settlement. Rozniatow was the center of a large surrounding area, and people would come to the town from all around the area for various matters. The town itself had a population of about 5,000 residents, about half of them Jews, and the other half Ukrainians with a few Poles.

There was a plaza in the center of town that contained most of the Jewish stores. This central plaza was called “the city”, and a route led from it to a quarter that was called “the old town”. A narrow path led from the plaza to a sparsely populated area, where the cattle market took place during the fairs that took place at specific times. By the plaza, which was called “Rynek” by the Poles, stood the Great Synagogue, and next to it was the Beis Midrash. The “old Kloiz” (small Hassidic prayer hall) was on the other side entirely.

All of the houses of prayer conducted a set order of study, which was passed along from generation to generation. During the morning and between the Mincha (afternoon) and Maariv (evening) services, they would study a chapter of Mishna or “Ein Yaakov”. A “Chevra Shas” also existed for the study of Gemara with Tosafos and other commentaries 1. A group of young people would study regularly in the Beis Midrash and Kloiz.

Inside the Kloiz, near the entrance, there was a sink with water, and large towels were hanging from the walls. In the middle was the reader's prayer stand. The eastern wall was reserved for the town notables. Next to that wall were shelves that were filled with books, all the way from the ceiling to the wooden floor. Next to the bookshelves there was a large heating stove, which would burn day and night during the winter.

We inherited the love of the book from our parents. Our ancestors knew how to collect hundreds of books in the synagogue, volumes of Talmud, both the Babylonian and Jerusalem version, along with the older and newer commentaries, as well as the four volumes of the Code of Jewish law. The students of Talmud, as well as anyone whose heart desired Torah, would make use of the Talmudic volumes. When a book fell to the ground, we would lift it up, kiss it, and return it to its place. It is no wonder that this love of the book remained well engraved in our memories, and it was not for no reason that our people was nicknamed “the people of the book”.

When a young man showed an aspiration for studying Gemara, he would find a place in the old Kloiz. The young men would sit by the long tables, and they would study day and night, all the days of the year. They did not cease from their studies and “the tunes of Abaye and Rabba” 2were even heard on the street.

Righteous women would stand up and say, “Happy are the children who expend their efforts in Torah, and happy are the fathers who raised such children.” Their fathers, storekeepers or artisans, were filled with pride from their children.

Michael the tailor would sit near the stove. He was short, thin, with a scrawny gray-black beard. He was inwardly turned, without paying attention to his surroundings, as he recited chapters of Psalms. He was a quiet Jew, one of the simple Jews, who were calm and unpretentious, filled with worries about their livelihood throughout the weekdays, with the exception of the Sabbath and those evenings when they would be free from the yoke of their livelihood and would spend their time in prayer, and on occasion secular conversation on the porch of the Kloiz.

After the First World War, new winds began to blow in the town, youthful boys and girls began to study and dance modern dances. Among those who frequented the Kloiz, there were those who would clandestinely read secular books. With the passage of time, the number of young men who would make Torah study their occupation dwindled. They cut their peyos (side locks), shaved their beards, and began to visit the theater that had arrived in the town. Slowly, we began to organize cultural and educational activity among the youth.

During hikes that we arranged in the forest, we conducted debates and sang Hebrew songs. The young people who had arrived from the outside world brought with them news of modern culture.

I presented these matters in brief, in black and white, without the different hues, in order that the lives and deeds of those Jews of Rozniatow would be registered in this book. These were Jews with a warm Jewish heart, a hand outstretched to help the needy, working people who owned businesses or were professionals, who were eventually buried by the holocaust. The Nazi devil did not differentiate between the Orthodox and the secular, the young and the old. All of them were pure; all of them holy, and their bright souls shine like the splendor of the firmament 3.

The Czeczwa River below the town

 


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Guardians of the City

In the houses of the Jews, there were mezuzos on the door posts of the homes for protection against various evil forces; however, apparently the gentile thieves, as well as the Jewish thieves, paid no attention to them, and there were many thefts in the town. The leaders of the gentiles and the Jews sat down together to determine how to overcome this plague, and they decided that it was necessary to appoint guards in the town to protect against thieves. Since it was a mixed town, it was decided to appoint two guards, one gentile and the other Jewish.

Reb David Wahl was the Jewish appointee. He had a yellowish beard, he was thin, and wore a shiny, torn kapote (Hassidic overcoat), however he was extremely honorable and quiet. His gentile partner was Wiadka the shoemaker. They called him that because he barely knew how to place a patch on a worn out shoe, or to affix a sole to a shoe. His main livelihood was from the Jews, and therefore he was often among the Jews, and knew the Yiddish language as fluently as an actual Jew.

This Wiadka had another source of livelihood. He accompanied and assisted the priest during funerals. He would hold the priest's prayer book in his hand, and carry the cross or the bells at the head of the funeral procession. He had only one eye, and was also knows as “the one eyed shoemaker”, and therefore, the guarding of the city was conducted with three eyes.

Since the two guards were already middle aged, they walked through the streets slowly and with difficulty as they conversed with each other. The thieves knew how to get around them, and as the guards reached one end of the town, the thieves would already be able to empty several homes and stores on the other end of the town.

Wagon Drivers

Our town was about seven kilometers away from the train station of Krechowice. This was difficult for the merchants who had to waste time in making purchases from distant places. However this was beneficial and was the primary source of livelihood for the wagon drivers who would transport travelers back and forth from the train station. At first, long ago, it is told that there were only two Jewish wagon drivers, Reb Zusia and Reb Pinchas. They had two simple wagons padded with straw and the passengers would sit on the straw in the wagon, with their feet placed on ladders on the sides of the wagon that were tied toward the bottom. Thus did they travel, slowly, at a leisurely pace and they would talk among themselves until they reached the train station.

Later, things changed. In the outskirts of the city, there began to appear wagons with rubber tires, pulled by two black or white horses. The wagon was designed in a comfortable manner, with comfortable sheets and a cover for times of need, whether to protect against rain or the sun. The first who came with a wagon with rubber tires “a splendid carriage” was Aharon Zimmerman. The second was “Melech the carriage driver”, and he was no longer called “wagon driver” but rather a “carriage driver”. There were also others who transported travelers to the train station, however they had simple carriages with elderly horses that were slightly hungry, as were their owners. These wagon drivers were poor, and they were barely able to feed their families, and therefore it is no wonder that their horses were also hungry.

Later, prior to the outbreak of the war, busses began to appear in the town. They would transport people to the train and also to various towns in the neighborhood. They would even reach Stanislawow . However, the Jews preferred to travel by carriage.

The wagon drivers were for the most part simple and upright people. They would wear a streimel (Hassidic festive fur hat) on their heads on the Sabbath. They would worship in the first Minyan (prayer quorum), and in the afternoons they would come to the synagogue to recite chapters of Psalms or to hear the lecture on the weekly Torah portion. These were precious and straightforward Jews who earned their livelihood with great difficulty. Reb Alter the “deaf” was a pleasant and intelligent Jew, and he was slightly deaf. He would drive his wagon to the train station, one of the neighboring towns, or to Dolina or Kolush. When a traveler would arrive at the field of carriages, Reb Alter would immediately be able to discern to which direction the traveler wished to travel by the expression on his face.

At times, when he was missing one passenger, he would turn half seriously and half jokingly to someone who wished to travel to Dolina and say: “perhaps you will travel to Kolush today?”.

When he met a poor Jew who was not able to pay for the trip, he would say to the passengers: “Make room for another Jew, it does not matter”.

He would stand in his wagon to make room for the new passenger to sit. He would say to the passengers: “We have to have mercy on a Jew”. Despite his difficult circumstances, he would always make sure to invite a guest for the Sabbath.


Reb Shabtai (Spiegel) the Tavern Keeper

When he got married to his wife Aidel he merited not only a large cash dowry, but also something more significant than money - a fine and spacious residence with many rooms, and with a “Heavenly window”, that is to say a window which faced the road toward the marketplace that was the business center. Without giving much thought, he decided to convert the room that faced the marketplace into a tavern or a small restaurant. For such a business, one does not require much capital outlay. One requires a few bottles of liquor, some herring and bread rolls. The most important requirement was to have many rooms available, where the gentile customers would be able to sit and imbibe their drinks in comfort.

Despite all of his efforts in the tavern, he did not forget that the most important thing was that he was a Jew. He arose early, recited several chapters of Psalms even before he came to his store, and then opened up the blinds wide, and placed an empty liquor bottle with a plate of herring into the window as a sign that liquor and appetizers are being sold here.

The first customer was the Polish shoemaker Krawice. Whenever he finished work on a pair of boots, he would always split the fee between himself and his wife. He would give her half, and with the other half, he would enter into Reb Shabtai's tavern on occasion and request a small cup for 30 groszy. He would leave, and come back some time later and request another serving of liquor, and then leave again. Thus he would come and go all day until he had used up his money.

The second regular customer was “Anna the drunkardess”. That is what all of her acquaintances called her. She worked as a washerwoman in the Jewish houses, and she spent her entire earnings on drinks at Reb Shabtai's tavern.

Who was this gentile Anna? Was she single or married? From where was she, and where was she going? Apparently, she was depressed, and she attempted to drown the sorrows of her heart with liquor.

Another regular customer of Reb Shabtai was the shammas (sexton) of the Kloiz. Whenever there was a memorial day (yahrzeit) for a Tzadik or Rebbe, or any private yahrzeit, they would send the shammas of the Kloiz to purchase 96% clear liquor from Reb Shabtai the tavern keeper.

Another regular customer was “Eliahu of the Marketplace”. Before he would go very early in the morning to the villages in the neighborhood to purchase a calf or other animal in order to sell it for profit, and thereby to earn his meager livelihood, he would enter into Reb Shabtai's tavern to drink a small glass of liquor. This was his breakfast, for he did not have enough money to purchase breakfast.

In this manner, Reb Shabtai was busy from 5 AM until 8 PM. When his daughters helped him wait on the customers, he would have a chance between customers to “snatch” a chapter of Psalms that he knew off by heart. After 8 PM, he would dedicate the entire time to prayer, charity, and good deeds. He would go out, meet a Jew, and discuss with him the issues of the day. Another Jew would meet up with them, and they would join together.

The final Minyan in the Kloiz was at 9 AM. All of the clergy who were not pressed for time worshiped at that Minyan, where they recited the prayers slowly and with concentration. Those who had arrived from a journey or who had not yet had a chance to pray due to their business, or anyone else who had not yet had a chance to pray, joined in with them. Reb Shabtai felt better about himself there in the Kloiz than at home. At home, all manner of gentiles, drunks, and tipplers would disturb his peace and tranquility. There in the Kloiz he was free, and nobody would disturb him from his prayers and studies.

When his daughters grew up and got married, Reb Shabtai gave up working in the tavern completely. He turned it over to his wife, and dedicated himself completely to prayer and study. He was diligent to pronounce each word of his prayers full of devotion. He would sigh deeply over the tribulations of the exile and over the fact that the young people of the generation were working very hard at the sawmill or in loading wood onto wagons, preparing themselves to make aliya to the Land of Israel and to rebuild it. “Oh G-d, would that it should be, may it be Your will! All sorts of various evil decrees are afflicting our people, perhaps this is indeed the beginning of the redemption? Perhaps we have to truly wait for the footsteps of the Messiah? Perhaps these are they, the young people who are dedicating themselves to make aliya and rebuild the Land of Israel. Perhaps these are the emissaries of the Holy One Blessed Be He? Who knows?”

He would sit down to study a page of Gemara and to research the sources that this is indeed the correct path to the Days of the Messiah, to the redemption that would be marked by the return to Zion; that the redemption would arrive slowly in a natural manner, and that the resurrection of the dead would take place at the time that the Creator, may He be blessed, desires. Reb Shabtai began to occupy himself with the idea of the redemption, and the birth pangs of the redemption. “We feel the birth pangs of the redemption already very clearly, however who knows when the actual redemption will arrive? Would we merit it?”. Would he himself merit it?

The afternoon approached, and Reb Shabtai would still be sitting in the Kloiz. Outside, a light snow was be falling. Suddenly he would hear a sigh, and another sigh. He would look around, and behold the sighs were coming from the broken heart of a Jew who wandered between villages to buy and sell in order to feed his family. The livelihood was as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea. There is no livelihood in the home, the daughters are growing up and reaching marriageable age, and how would it be possible to arrange matches for them and marry them off. He had no money to pay the tuition fees of the teachers. The Jew sighed deeply and was alone in his hurt in the Kloiz. Here in the Kloiz there is a place also for sighs. Nobody would bother such a person.

The heart of Reb Shabtai broke when he heard the sighs of the unfortunate Jew, whom nobody was assisting. At least he should be offered a comforting word to give him some hope. This Reb Yosef was well known for his pleasant nature, however his lot was very difficult. His entire livelihood was from the village of Strutin. From there he would bring a chicken, some cream, some vegetables, and on occasion a goose or a duck to the town. This would bring him a few coins from which he could support with great difficulty his family. Reb Shabtai approached him and asked him why he was sighing.

“I sighed?” Reb Yosef asked in his innocence. The unfortunate person did not understand how sighs were able to come from his heart. Reb Shabtai encouraged him and said: “Sighs come from the heart of a man, perhaps it is possible to help you a little”.

From the facial expression of Reb Yosef, it was possible to discern that there was a storm brewing in his heart, however he controlled himself.

“Behold the winter is approaching and I have no wood to heat the house. The house is full of small children, and I have no money to pay their tuition. I cannot purchase warm clothing for them to warm their bodies. I have a daughter who has reached marriageable age. My livelihood is dwindling...”

“How much do you require for a dowry for your daughter?” Reb Shabtai asked him, “and how much for clothing for the children, firewood, and tuition?” They arrived at a figure of approximately 2,000 guilder.

Reb Shabtai answered him:

“Why do you sigh over every small incident, and over every small amount. Sigh once for a large, fitting sum, and be free of the matter... Don't worry, the Blessed G-d will fulfill you're the requests of your heart for good.”

When Reb Shabtai left the Beis Midrash to go home, all of the sighs of Reb Yosef accompanied him and did not bring him any respite. The merciful heart of Reb Shabtai the tavern keeper was filled with the agony of all Jews over the difficulty of their livelihood, and the travails of raising children, and he raised his eyes heavenward with a plea:

“Master of the World, look at the troubles of the Jews, and instill them with the trait of trust, so that they should not have to worry about their livelihood! ...”

Reb Meshulam Fruchter

We had many neighbors, some closer and some farther. However the Fruchter family is engraved in my memory already from my youth.

I remember the head of the family, Reb Meshulam, and his wife Rivka very well from my youth. I would spend most of my time with their children Yaakov and Moshe.

The head of the family was of average height, and had a pleasant face. Even though he was a Kohen, and for the most part “Kohanim are angry people”, he was of pleasant disposition and fine mannerisms. His wife Rivka was also quiet and modest, and she conducted her household as a true woman of valor. She was good and had a pleasant disposition to other people and her own children. They had one daughter named Rosia. Rivka ran their cloth business for the most part, and Reb Meshulam dedicated most of his time to communal affairs.

I remember that when I was young, when Sukkot would arrive and Reb Meshulam was about to build his large Sukka, all of the children of the neighborhood gathered around. One would bring a hammer, another nails, and another a saw. All of them wanted to help him build his Sukka. Obviously, the large numbers of helpers would make the task more difficult, but he never scolded us children. He smiled, and was happy that the children should occupy themselves with fulfilling this commandment. He built a large Sukka in order to make sure that he would be able to accommodate those neighbors who did not have a private Sukka, either because they did not have time to build one, or did not have the wood. He brought planks of different types of wood, large and small. He sawed them and straightened them and finally a beautiful Sukka was constructed. We children began to cover the roof with Sechach and to decorate the interior.

He made sure that his children would be able to study Torah diligently. When he saw the fruits of his labor, his face beamed with happiness. The sons Yaakov and Moshe were sharp in their studies. If they had the possibility to study and pay for higher general studies, they would certainly have become great scientists.

Moshe sat in the old Kloiz and studied Torah, and when the time came for marriage, his parents concerned themselves with marrying him off according to tradition, as do all Jewish people.

I still remember his advice to me that I should attempt to pay for general studies, so that I would be able to leave the town for the larger outside world. To my great distress, I was unable to follow his advice and desires, and I remained planted in the small town until the outbreak of the Great War.

I heard from hearsay that he went through all of the hellish tribulations of the holocaust, and ended up in the United States, where he was able to fulfill the advice that he gave to me in my youth. He began to study secular studies on his own when he was already an adult of forty years old, and he finished his degree. He obtained a position in a certified academy of chemistry. He rebuilt a family again, and lived a peaceful life in the far off United States.


The Man Who Waited for the Messiah

There was a poor man among us whose entire thoughts were dedicated to waiting for the coming of the Messiah. He never ceased to talk about this, and he never ceased waiting the day of his arrival. Despite his difficult livelihood, despite all of the tribulations that afflicted his poor house, for his wife died while she was young, and his only daughter was sickly, despite all of this he was always content with his lot and was never sad at all. He often would quote the verse that is used to comfort mourners: “Death will be swallowed up for ever, and the L-rd G-d will wipe away tears from all faces” 4.

Due to the fact that he was always immersed in thoughts of the redemption and waiting for the desired time period, he did not see what was going on around him, the difficulties and poverty that afflicted him.

He certainly knew the statement of the Gemara regarding the Messianic era: “There is no difference between the days of the Messiah and the present time except for the affliction of the nations”, and since this affliction was difficult and he felt it with his entire body, he dedicated himself to awaiting the Messiah.

Thus was our Reb Yosef Leib.

The Doer of Charitable Deeds

“Charitable deeds are greater than charity, for charity is for the poor, and charitable deeds are for both the poor and the rich.”

I wish to memorialize here and remark on a certain resident of Rozniatow who excelled in his charitable deeds. This was Reb Yosef Kassner. There was not one person in Rozniatow who had need for deeds of charity, old or young, who did not turn to Reb Yosef. Such requests were always answered positively.

This Jew fulfilled the commandment of doing charitable works as if that was the purpose for which he was created, to extend aid and support for the person in need, to be dedicated to this commandment with all of his might and resources. When on occasion it would happen that he did not have the necessary money available for the charitable deeds, he immediately sent his son Sania (Netanel) to see what he could do to find the required money from various people, so that he would not have to turn the requestor away empty handed.

There were other individuals who gave themselves over to charitable deeds, however he in particular watched over this commandment, and fulfilled it in its entirety and with a willing soul.


The Tailor Yitzchak Meir Hoizler

He was a straightforward, upright, and G-d fearing man who supported himself from his own work. He observed the commandments, both the easy and difficult ones, and he distanced him self from spreading rumors and from any taint of theft. He was a tailor by profession and he was very careful to be exacting in his measurements. He was a charitable person and frequently had guests in his home.

He performed his work quietly and modestly. He worshiped with the artisans “the people of the sunrise” 5, and all that he asked from his fellow man was that when his time came, he would be buried with along with his measuring stick and ironing board, which would testify to his honesty.

Thus was Reb Yitzchak Meir the tailor.

The placid bay in Rozniatow

 


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The Jews of my “Old Town”

by Zechariah Friedler

These memories go back to before the First World War, to my life in Rozniatow, where I was born and raised. I spent my childhood and youth there, and it still lives in my heart. I remember it as it was with longing. I recall everything that happened to me, and that I heard from my father Reb Leibish Friedler, and from the elders of the town.

It stands alive before me, even though more than twenty-five years have passed from the time that I left it and its residents. At that time, I would never have imagined that a time would come when that beautiful corner in the foothills of the Carpathians would be eaten up by fire.

We lived among the gentiles; however the old town had a Jewish character. My town Rozniatow grew from it. Every Jewish holiday left it imprint on it, and on occasion it seemed to me that even the gentiles lived as we did, rejoicing when our holidays came, and experiencing the Jewish holiday with us.

The old town was surrounded by rivers, mountains, and ancient forests. It was uninhabitable until the Jews began to settle there, and they wondrously developed the village until it turned into an urban settlement, built according to plans. The large plaza, which is surrounded by stores, streets and alleys, is testimony to this development.

The first Jews in the old town were brothers-in-law. One of them was named Groner. Here in Israel I met his great-grandson, an elderly man. He provided me with the following details. The two brothers-in-law leased the property from Skarbek along with the liquor stills in order to produce alcohol from potatoes. They built the first three houses in the town for themselves and for the Jews who were employed on their estate. They also built the Kloiz for public prayers.

After the period of the lease expired, they sold the homes and the two brothers-in-laws returned to Stanislawow, from where they had lived prior to coming to Rozniatow.

The home in which I grew up was purchased from them by my grandfather, Reb Sender Friedler. The two other homes were purchased by Reb Leib Berman and Reb Shalom Horowitz. After some time, other homes were added, all the way until the large bridge.

Until this day, I can see before my eyes the Torah scroll that they left as a gift to the Kloiz. It was called “the old scroll”.

I remember that when Reb Leib Berman donated a Torah scroll to the Kloiz, many Jews came from the town with Torah scrolls in their arms. The head of the procession was Reb Shmuel Wirt. They sang and danced. It was an exalted scene.

They sang and rejoiced all night until dawn. The honorable men of the town sat on the benches at the eastern wall, and in the surrounding long tables sat the youths and the rest of the worshippers.

This deep experience of my youth remains engraved in my memory. It is a symbol of the love of Torah of the Jews of Rozniatow.

A Jew would suffer many tribulations, and work very hard all the days of the year in the town. He earned his bread at the risk of his life. He worked hard all week, and sufficed himself on crumbs for his existence. All of this sacrifice was in order to prepare the needs of the Sabbath in holiness and honor.

Leibish Friedler of blessed memory

 

I will not describe the beauty and exaltedness of the Sabbath in the village. How much grace and charm was poured into the day of rest, and how great were the refined feelings that were instilled into us, and the appearance of nobility and pleasantness on every face.

After the period of rest in the afternoon, my grandfather Reb Yitzchak Geller would walk to the Kloiz along with Reb Shlomo Yungerman, Reb Shalom Horowitz, and others. They would go to enjoy their studies of “Ohr Hachayim”, “Yoreh Deah”, a page of Gemara, or Midrash about the weekly Torah portion or the time of year.

My grandfather was a great Torah scholar, and was well accepted by the people of his community, who revered and respected him. He was pleasant to everyone, old and young. He gave advice, and spiritual support to anyone who would request. The congregation of worshippers would listen attentively to his words, his explanations, and his sharp deductions, which were full of content, meaning, and moral lessons.

After the Mincha service, they partook of the third Sabbath meal together, and then they recited the Maariv prayer and Havdallah.

Thus was conducted the lives of the Jews in the old town until the outbreak of the First World War.

My grandfather died in 1915. Rabbi Hemerling and Reb Chanina Weissman eulogized him beside the Great Synagogue. Many tears were shed that day, and his memory will not be forgotten.

The flood in the old town in 1927

 

The Kloiz, along with the green plaza and the river were to us children the bosom of the world. There we played, and there Reb Shaul Bunim, the teacher of young children, taught us the aleph beis. The girls also studied with him until they knew how to recite all of the prayers.

When we reached a higher grade, we had to walk the far distance to the town itself, where we studied Chumash and Gemara from various teachers. The class time occupied about 10-12 hours a day. It was already dark when we returned home and we waited for each other, for we were afraid to walk alone, lest the “shkotzim” such as Michen Jagilowice and others attack us.

As an aside, that selfsame Michen Jagilowice was during the period of the holocaust one of the righteous gentiles. He saves sixteen Jewish souls, who remained alive thanks to him.

The Days of Awe are engraved in my memory. Prior to Rosh Hashanah, we would get up early and go to the recital of Selichot (penitential prayers) in the middle of the night, towards to morning of the autumn days, when it was dark and cool. The sound of the Shofar during the month of Elul made the heart tremble.

The Kloiz had a different ambience than usual. Reb Shlomo Yungerman, dressed in his white kittel (prayer cloak), stood in front of the prayer stand and intoned with his enthusiastic voice “The soul is Yours and the body is of Your making...” 6. His melody was unforgettable, and he had it in his power to arouse the worshippers to tears with his deep feeling and inner longing expressed in his prayers. Trembling and shuddering overtook everyone during that time.

On Rosh Hashanah the Kloiz was packed with people. The melodies of the prayers aroused people to repentance. There were some people who were accustomed to recite various parts of the service, and we listened intently to the melodies of Reb Shmuel Arber during the prayer “G-d who dwells on high”. His melody remains in my memory to this day. His son Leib was a strong tenor. During the days of my youth until the First World War I would listen to their prayers each year, and their prayers remain in my heart forever.

The flood of 1927 damaged the home of Mordechai Mark

 

The public prayer on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur formed a large part of our “Jewish experience”. The atmosphere that we absorbed during our youth in the Kloiz accompanies us all the days of our lives, and remains engraved on our souls.

The joy on Simchat Torah was great, when the children, dressed up in their new festive clothes, came with their flags. Everyone was honored with a Hakafah (Torah circuit) and there was no end to the singing and dancing.

My father was very concerned about the prayer books in the Kloiz, about the daily cleanliness and heat during the winter. The key to the Kloiz was always in our house.

On long Sabbath eves all of the Jews of the town sat in the Kloiz as one family and stories were told, by both the young and the old, about the way of life of the Admorim and rabbis. Joy and repose pervaded all around.

Apparently, it seems as if the life in the old town was conducted peacefully, however each family had its own worries, successes, and obstacles. What united everybody was the trust in the living Torah that bestowed an order and spirituality to life, whatever was to come to pass. This way of life accepted as the way things must be, and the faith that the Holy One Blessed Be He, in the Torah, in Israel, in the Land of Israel are one. Along with this, they possessed a great deal of wisdom life, sincerity, a deep love of their fellow man, spiritual peace, diligence, a healthy intellect, pure family life, and spiritual aspirations.

The younger generation honored the elders greatly. Even the “progressive youth” honored their aging parents with respect and politeness, even though they disagreed in their world outlook. The life in the town was a life of togetherness, of good and traditional Jews, and the heart cannot find comfort over their destruction.

This was the image of my old town. There our loved ones lived their lives in the times of happiness and in the times of mourning and agony. There they were murdered along with the six million holy and pure martyrs of our people.

We will never forget them. This book tells about them and about our community, which is engraved in the depths of the heart, our hearts and the hearts of our children after us, until the end of generations.

Yitgadal Veyitkadash.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Mincha is the daily afternoon service, and Maariv is the daily evening service. For convenience, these services are often conducted at the synagogue in close succession to each other, Mincha shortly before sunset and Maariv shortly thereafter. The time in between is often spent in study. Ein Yaakov is a compendium of the Aggadaic (legendary or story-like) material of the Talmud (the Talmud consists mainly of Halachic - legal - material with the smaller portion being Aggadaic material). Shas is an acronym for the Six Orders, referring to the six main volumes of the Mishna and Talmud. Talmud consists of Mishna (the older succinct legal material - which often forms a volume of its own), and Gemara, which is the verbose commentary on the Mishna. The major commentaries that are printed on the page of a standard Talmudic text include Rashi and Tosafos. Tosafos is considered the more complicated of those two commentaries. Back
  2. Abaye and Rabba are two sages often quoted in the Talmud. The tune here refers to the singsong chant that often accompanies the reading of Talmudic text. Back
  3. This description is based on the well-known 'El Maleh' prayer, which is recited in memory of the deceased at funerals, the Yizkor service, and various other occasions. Back
  4. Isaiah 25:8. This verse is part of the Jewish funeral service. Back
  5. Referring to the early hour of their prayer service. Back
  6. Elul is the month prior to Rosh Hashanah. It is customary to sound the Shofar each morning of Elul during the morning service. On the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashanah (or one week earlier if Rosh Hashanah falls on Monday or Tuesday), the midnight penitential service (Selichot) takes place. From then on, on each weekday until Yom Kippur, the Selichot service is recited prior to the daily morning service, generally when it is still dark outside. The quote here is from the Selichot service. Back

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