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{144}

Those Were the Days

by Yehuda Har-Zohar

I wish to relate to you, children and grandchildren, the “generation that did not know Joseph” 1 , a small bit of the customs, events and behaviors on Sabbaths and weekdays, on days of joy and mourning; how the Jews went about life and how they danced, how they toiled under the yoke of Torah and the yoke of earning a livelihood. In short, I wish to relate a bit regarding Jewish life in Rozniatow.

I am writing for you, children and grandchildren, despite the fact that I know that you have studied or are still studying in Hebrew schools, studying Jewish literature including the works of Shalom Aleichem, Mendele, Peretz and Agnon, each one of whom tried to the best of his ability to describe Jewish life in the towns of Russia, Ukraine, Poland or Lithuania. Agnon, as a native of eastern Galicia, attempted to portray in his books Jewish life in Galicia as we still well remember it. I do not wish to compete with his ability, only to perpetuate the memory of the martyrs of our town. These are chapters of life of our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, in order to memorialize them.

Day of Consciousness and Celebration with our Grandfathers

In those days, when communication was not like it was today, the age of jet planes and Boeings, when if you wish you visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe you can fly from here to there quickly and comfortably in twelve hours and behold you are in New York with your Rebbe. In those days, if your parents or grandfather wished to travel for a Sabbath or a festival to the rabbi of Bolekhow, Oleska or Zidichov, a few Hassidim would together take a wagon with two horses, spread the floor of the wagon with straw, put a cover on top of it, load the wagon with food and a few bottles of liquor, sit on it and travel to the Rebbe.

When they reached their destination, the Rebbe's court, on the eve of the Sabbath or festival, they would be greeted by the crowding and pressure of throngs of Hassidim who also came there to spend the Sabbath with the holy Rebbe or to worship with the Rebbe on the festival. At home, he left his wife and family members, who would spend the Sabbath or festival without the head of the family. On occasion, the father would take with him his eldest son, who would reach the age of Bar Mitzvah in a few more years and would have to become a man. Therefore, the father was obligated to introduce him to the ways of Hassidism, despite the fact that this was accompanied by the difficulties and many trials of a long journey.

On the eve of the holy Sabbath, after each of the visiting Hassidim finished his Sabbath meal at the home of his respective host, they would all gather together around the Rebbe's table. Very late in the evening, the Rebbe would begin the recital of “Shalom Aleichem”, and would enunciate the “Ribbon Kol Haolamim” 2 word by word. Hundreds of Hassidim were gathered around the table, listening intently to every word uttered by the Rebbe. Silence pervaded in the large hall where the Rabbi partook of his Sabbath or festival meal.

Reb Tzvi Hirsch Rechtschaffen,
a Hassid of the Rebbe of Glinna

 

The Rebbe was enwrapped in his tallit (prayer shawl), burning from an internal flame and from the enthusiasm of the Sabbath, recited the Kiddush 3 , enunciating each word. He would sip from this large silver cup and pass it around to his family members. His wife the Rebbetzin and his daughters would hear the Kiddush from the women's gallery. The Rebbe's assistant (shamash) would then pass them the Rebbe's cup of benediction. A bowl for hand washing would be brought before the Rebbe, and he would lave his hands, raising them up and reciting “Lift up your hands in holiness, and bless the L-rd”. He would then recite the blessing over the bread (challah), and the Rebbe's Sabbath meal would commence.

Until the food was served, the Rebbe or one of the Hassidim would quietly hum a melody, without words. Those close with the Rebbe, his confidants, would then begin to sit down at the table. The gabbai (manager of the proceedings) would invite them to the table, each person according to his importance and rank.

There were Rebbes who were great in Torah and thought, whose entire contact with the people was through Torah philosophy, through words of teaching, Torah novellae, and lessons in the ways of Hassidism. Their entire desire would be to grow in Torah, to study Torah, and to spread Torah.

In Rozniatow, there were Hassidim who were Torah scholars and lofty people, and there were Hassidim of Strolisk, Burstyn, Czortkow, and Sasow, populist Hassidim of the simple folk. Both types observed the days of Hassidic consciousness. On the memorial days (yahrzeit) of various Tzadikim, they would make a small celebration, drink a toast, wish each other well, and break out in a Hassidic dance, filled with enthusiasm 4 .

At the Hassidic gatherings with the Rebbe, when throngs of Hassidim from all areas of the land gathered together, people became friendly with each other. They would make business deals with each other, and on occasion they would “shake hands” between themselves in agreement to marry their children to each other. There were occasions when the Hassidim became so friendly with each other, that if news arrived from home that the wife of one of the Hassidim gave birth at a propitious time, many of his Hassidic friends would hurry toward him to make an arrangement for an agreement to marry off their own recently born child with the newborn.

In order to cement the connection between the Rebbe and the people, the Rebbes would “go down to the people”, that is to say, they would visit the towns of their followers once or twice a year. The Rebbe would stay with one of the influential local Hassidim for approximately a week, and he would receive the local Hassidim each evening until a late hour of the evening. The Rebbe's Sabbath table would take place in the kloiz. If the Rebbe were accustomed to leading prayers with a nice voice, he himself would lead the prayers that Sabbath. If not, one of the experienced Hassidim who knew how to sing would lead the prayers. Anyone interested in song and music, either alone or with a choir, would be present, and thus did the melodies of the Rebbe's table pass along from mouth to mouth, so that they would be able to be sung by the people throughout the year, until the Rebbe appeared again and taught a new melody.

In the Cheder

I wish to tell you, oh youth who did not know the life in exile, something about the life of the Jews at that time. You have certainly read about and heard about the schools that were called “cheders”, where the children of the “house of the rabbi” 5 were taught. When a child reached the age of three, he was already “big”, for he already had another younger brother or two. In order to enter him into the yoke of Torah, his parents would decide to give him over to the teacher of young children (Rebbi). During the course of the year, the child would learn the aleph beit, and begin to read the Siddur (prayer book). The children had an extra measure of joy on the day that the teacher would take the young children, aged between three and five, to the house where a young baby boy was born, and they were placing the infant in the cradle 6 . Before they placed the child in his cradle, the young children of the nearby cheder gathered at the home, recited “Shema Yisrael”, and threw candies and nuts into the cradle. The joy of the children was very great.

It was a great day for the parents, family members, and certainly for the young child, when he would start the study of Chumash 7 at a propitious time. They would dress the child in his Sabbath clothes. The child's father or a good uncle would tie a large gold chain around his neck, to which was affixed a large watch that could be opened by pushing its two sides. All of the family members gathered together, the grandmothers and grandfathers from both the father's and mother's side, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, and the house would be full of people. On account of the festive occasion, they would light the Sabbath candelabrum; they would have the young child stand on the table that was full of delicacies and presents for the children. The Rebbi would stand next to the child, holding him with his hand so that he would not fall off the table, and so that he would not become confused due to anxiety, and cause anguish to the Rebbi for not teaching properly. The Rebbi would then begin to ask him, “What are you learning, oh young child?”. The child would answer with a festive voice, “Chumash, to my good fortune”. “What is the meaning of Chumash?” the Rebbi asked, “Chumash means five”, answered the child.

“Why five?”, asked the Rebbi, “Perhaps it is five coins for a bagel?”. “No”, answered the child with laughter and self-assurance, “Chumash refers to the five holy books”. “Perhaps you know their names?”, asked the Rebbi. “Certainly!”, answered the child, “The first is Breishit, the second Shmot, the third Vayikra, the fourth Bamidbar, and the last one is Devorim”.

This continued with a special festive chant, and all those gathered around were melting with laughter and enjoyment. The mother discreetly wiped away a tear, due to her great pride in her progeny.

The Rebbi continued with is questions:

“What book are you going to study?”. The child answered, “The third one, Vayikra”. “Why Vayikra?”, asked the Rebbi. “Because the book of Vayikra deals with holy things, and I, a Jewish boy, who is starting to learn Torah at a propitious occasion, am also holy. Therefore, I will start with the book of Vayikra.”

Days of Vacation

There were very few vacation days for the students of the cheder, for it is written explicitly: “You shall toil in them day and night” 8 , so how would it be possible to gave vacation days and desist from the study of Torah. Nevertheless, we cheder students remember a few days of vacation and joy. First of all there were the days of “krishma leinen”, the recital of the Shema that I have already described to you, when we went all together along with the Rebbi to the house where there was a newborn child, and we received candy and sweets. There was also Lag BaOmer 9 , when we went out, along with the Rebbi, with bows and arrows made from reeds or small sticks. We would go to the edge of the forest where we would play, shoot arrows, and jump on the trees. It would be very joyous.

There was another day when we were quite happy and playful. This was when we all went to the river or the pond for Tashlich 10 . The adults went on Rosh Hashana and recited their prayers from the Machzor 11 , and we children concerned ourselves with casting “ships” into the river, with candles burning on them. Despite the fact that it was forbidden to light a candle on the festival, someone made sure to provide us with candles 12 . We made “boats” out of all sorts of boards, planks and other floating material. We chased after them along the river, and it was very joyous.

We would play with cards or dreidels (tops) on Chanuka. On Purim, we would play “even or odd” with nuts. There was no shortage of nuts, and sometimes, children would wander around with pockets full of nuts. The game was very popular and beloved by the children.

During the winter, when the studies commenced immediately after the festivals, and the days became shorter, we would continue to study at the cheder until night, and we would return home late, when it was dark. The children were frightened. There were parents who equipped their children with all sorts of lanterns to light up the way home. Once, as I was going home with a lit lantern in my hand, two gentiles fell upon me, removed the lantern, and fled. I arrived home trembling in fear. My parents comforted me. After that time, we went home in groups. In order to calm our fear, we sang the entire way until we reached home in peace.

We Remember.

At a Chanuka party in 1958 in Tel Aviv
From left: Yechezkel Neubauer, Zecharia Friedler, Nechemia Tanne,
Mordechai Trau, the widow of Archie Berger, Mrs. Tanne, Mrs. Trau,
Lischi Trau, Mrs. Weissman, Rosie Stern-Falik, Mordechai Stern

 


{149}

A Candle in their Memory

by Mordechai Stern

My Parents Shlomo and Esther Stern

The man was very humble as I remember him. He was modest, and went about discreetly. He never aspired to be a communal activist, and he never agreed to be even the gabbai (trustee) in the kloiz. He was a Hassid of Zidichov and he was also faithful to Rabbi Betzalel, the Rebbe of Glinna. He honored him greatly when he came to Rozniatow. Once the Rebbe of Glinna left Rozniatow and arrived in Bolekhov. As the Sabbath holiness was commencing, his soul departed as he as saying the words: “Light is sown for the righteous”. The following week, my father was sent by the community to be present at the coronation of his son Reb Chaim as Admor.

In accordance with the advice of the Admor, my father left the village Zinowa in 1907 and moved to live in Rozniatow, where he continued conducting himself as a G-d fearing Jew. He was discreet. He did not flee from small things, and did not aspire to greatness. He shared his heartwarming smile with anyone who he met on the street. In conducting his business, he never agreed to take anyone to court or to a rabbinical adjucation, so as not to cause an oath 13 . At one time the son of his brother, David the son of Moshe of the village of Sliwka, left an inheritance to the community, which became the cause of controversy between the notables of the city. When the matter came to litigation, my father was summoned to court. He refused strongly to present himself and to give testimony under oath.

The farmers called him Szlomko Zytlani Zhid. That means: righteous Jew. He was brimming with love of his fellow and friendship.

Our mother Esther was known as a refined and noble hearted woman. She was fluent in the German language, and even with all of her education, she kept the commandments. She went to worship in the synagogue every Sabbath and she remained faithful to her path for all of her days.

Their fate was the same as the fate of all of the Jews. They were exiled to Dolina and perished in the Holocaust.

Moshe the son of Meir Fruchter the Cohen

My uncle Moshe Fruchter was the only brother of my mother. They were born to their father Meir of Zinowa, a village infamous for its Jew hatred. The priest Swyka, who was a delegate to the Austrian parliament in Vienna, hailed from there. The intelligentsia and Ukrainian leaders of Lvov, known for their hatred of Jews, hailed from there.

My grandfather Meir was one of those who fought on behalf of Reb Itzikel, that he should be accepted as the rabbi in Rozniatow. This was the factor that decided the matter in his favor. That is what the elders of Rozniatow relate.

Grandfather hired the best teachers for his children. Among other subjects, they studied German and Polish; however his main desire was the spreading of Torah and the study of Torah.

During the time of the occupation, when the Czarist Russian army occupied the area, my grandfather and my Uncle Moshe were expelled from the town. Their property – two flourmills, a tavern and a store – was confiscated. The Russians made a libel against my grandfather, and took my Uncle Moshe as “surety”. He was freed after a time due to the intercession of Baron Walysz, who was one of my grandfather's friends.

My Uncle Moshe became ill as a result of the libel. At that time, he began to take on students, whom he taught Torah and the vernacular written language. He was an erudite and scholarly man, who loved simplicity. He was modest. His greatness was his modesty.

His wife Chaya Eti was the daughter of his sister Nessi 14 . They all perished in the Holocaust.

May their memory be a blessing.

Leib and Chaitzi Falik

Leib Falik, the son of Shabtai, was born in a village near Chorodow. He married Chaitzi the daughter of Veve Hoffman. They moved to the village of Strutin, where their sawmill and store was located.

They moved to the city in 1908 or 1909. Their large and spacious home was built near Baron Walysz.

He would go to his work early each day. He employed Jews and gentiles, and he maintained cordial relations with them all. He came to worship in the kloiz each Sabbath.

He was a modest man who distanced himself from all communal activity, and never became involved in any controversy in town. They both maintained good and proper relations with their neighbors, and all residents of the city respected them. He excelled in his patience, and nobody ever saw him angry. He would attempt to convince the opposing party quietly and calmly.

His wife Chaitzi was an exemplary housewife. She conducted the household with a good spirit. She raised her family, blessed with many children, in the spirit of grandfather. She knew how to instill good manners into her children, and taught them first and foremost to honor their fellowman.

They were known in the entire area for gracefully receiving anyone who entered their home.

After a tiring and busy day at work, she found time to read books and the newspaper. Over and above anything else, she thirsted to hear news and words about the Land of Israel.

The Nazi claw did not pass over their home.

May their memories be a blessing!

Ethel and Yisrael Trau

Ethel, the second daughter of Veve Hoffman, was the husband of Yisrael Trau, one of the regular attendees at the “parliament” of Yosef Kanser. He expressed his words with reason and order. His reasoning was convincing. He did not have to be given permission to speak. Everyone listened to him with attention and interest.

Reb Yisrael excelled in sublime character traits. He was always an optimist, and always in a good mood. He was a scholar, and rooted in communal affairs. However, he distanced himself from communal activity, and did not agree to become one of the community's chief spokesmen, despite the numerous requests that came his way.

Ethel and Yisrael Trau owned the largest grain store in the city and the area. Many purchasers from the entire area came to them. The good service, friendliness, and business honesty were taken for granted by everyone.

Ethel Trau faithfully assisted the needy with love and dedication.

Perl and Chana

The two youngest daughters of Veve were Perl and Chana. Perl married Eli Yona Koral, who was born in Bolekhow. Chana married Shmuel, the oldest son of the respected Berish Friedler. The two of them, Eli Yona and Shmuel, were respected by the residents of the town. Both of them were well-known donors to the funds for the Land of Israel and for all the needs of the community. People would first turn to Eli Yona Koral and Shmuel Friedler for needs of “Hachnasat Kalah” 15 . They were both known as scholars and educated people, attached to tradition. They educated their children to the Zionist idea. Eli Yona went around with a wonderful smile, and he was at ease with people. Shmuel Friedler was blessed with purity of thought, and therefore many turned to him for advice. They had great faith and love for him.

Perl and Chana were known for conducting their households in a good, orderly, and traditional fashion.

Eli Yona was a flour merchant and wholesaler. Shmuel Friedler acquired the daughter of Chanina Weissman, and transferred his large and spacious store to that home 16 .

The Brothers Shalom and Leibele Aryeh

Shalom was a son of Veve Hoffman. He was a diligent, orderly and efficient person. He owned a large, well-organized grocery store. His wife Leah was pleasant to both the old and the young. The second son Leibele continued on in his father's business. Shalom was active in communal affairs. He did not take things for granted, and did not hesitate from entering into an investigation. Everyone valued his uprightness and honesty in communal affairs, for he was known as a person who spoke the truth from his heart.

Leibele was known as an educated person. He studied during his youth with Reb Yehudale Kaufman, who developed Leibele's knowledge and diligence to exemplary levels.

They were both righteous and dedicated to tradition. The Zionist movement and its factions were close to their heart. However, they did not want to join any one of them, in order not to reject the others. They were among the worshipers of the Great Synagogue, and on occasion, they also worshiped in the kloiz with their father.

Reb Efraim and Perl Rechtschaffen

Reb Efraim owned a flourmill in the city next to the large pond (the teich). He was a man of deeds, and of fine character. Many called him “Uncle Efraim”, for Reb Efraim was a friend and comrade to everyone. He was known by this name to relatives and strangers, to the young and old.

There were many reasons to visit the flourmill and to observe it and the deeds of the owner of the flourmill Reb Efraim. Nearby were the cheder of Reb Yehudale; the river, which was worthwhile to visit in the summer and the winter; the route to the old city; the bathing place at the Rynika or the river, etc. We were always received graciously and with a smile. Uncle Efraim was never angry at the children who disturbed him. He received our inquiries patiently, and he willingly answered the questions of everyone.

I had many opportunities to be in the company of Reb Efraim and his wife Perl when I was sent to the mill by my father for various matters. I also used to visit their house to visit my school chum, their son Kasriel Serel, may he live long. He lives in Antwerp. His sister Reizel also lives there. Their home is open to guests.

Perl and Efraim Rechtschaffen offered faithful assistance, discreetly and quietly, to all in need. Efraim Rechtschaffen worshipped in the Great Synagogue. I often saw him among the worshippers of the kloiz. He was received there with the honor and graciousness that was befitting for him.

Leitzi Lea the daughter of Leib Falik

She was married to the honorable and well-known Leizer the son of Baruch Geller. Leizer had a large textile store, and his customers had faith in him, for he served them faithfully and honestly. He made a comfortable living. He was considered to be among the firmly based young householders. He took interest in all communal matters, and he was active in various organizations.

He had studied with Reb Yitzchak Branik. Leizer was though of at the time as a scholar in Jewish studies. General studies were also not strange to him.

Leitzi and Eliezer 17 Geller found a broad range field of activity with the Hebrew school. They supported its activities with dedication. They distanced themselves from all controversies, and he only saw the good and his own obligation in everything.

All of these families were destroyed by the Nazi enemy.

May their memories be blessed!


{153}

Yaakov the Lame

by Zeev Weinfeld of Hadera

I wish to recall to the natives of Rozniatow one Jew who faithfully served them all the days of his life, and provided them with various items of food, such as chickens, eggs, fish, and on occasion even kosher butter from our farm in Swaryczow. This was none other than Yaakov the Lame, or as he was known to all in Yiddish, “Yankele der Krumer”.

This Jew lived alone and lonely amongst the gentiles in the village of Swaryczow, far from the farm of the Weinfelds who lived in that same village. He would purchase several eggs, chickens, fish, potatoes and apples from the gentiles of his village. He would load the merchandise into baskets and sacks. Despite his severe disability, he would travel by foot on unpaved roads a distance of ten kilometers until he arrived in Rozniatow. There they took pity on him, gave him something to eat and drink, and purchased his meager merchandise from him. Thus did Yankel the Lame, who lived a life of agony and poverty, earn his livelihood. He was the only Jew among many gentile villagers. He lived with his wife and two children.

He suffered from many trials and tribulations; however in his dealings with the Jews of Rozniatow, everyone showed him feelings of love and brotherhood. They all opened their hearts and homes to take him in as a guest. This had its influence on him, and his face glowed from goodheartedness and good hope.


{154}

In Memory of Those that have Passed

by Y. Neubauer of Petach Tikva

There is no speech in my mouth, or word from my tongue
Regarding the tragedy of the daughter of my people, which is as large as the sea 18
For the pure Jews, members of the community
The community of Rozniatow, who once were and are no longer.

During the day and during the night, awake or in a dream
I remember them as if it was yesterday.
I lived with them in the peace and friendship
That accompanied all of them on all paths and routes.

In the present reality – all that remains is pain and agony
That eat at my heart without respite
For the young children who were torn by the wolf
That fed our nation a full cup of poison.

For the elders of the city, people of Torah
How can I forget you for even a small moment
You who were erased from the face of the earth with a swipe from the back of the hand
During the days of the camps and the terrible Holocaust.

These do I remember

Reb Yehuda Hirsch the old judge
Reb Menachem Yosef the young rabbi
Reb Moshele Weiser, the elder of the shochtim (ritual slaughterers)
And Reb Zecharia David Liberman, the vice mayor of the city


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A reference to the book of Exodus, where a new Pharaoh arose who did not remember the good deeds of Joseph to the Egyptians, and therefore initiated the slavery. The colloquial expression here means that the new generation does not remember the details of the previous life. Back
  2. Shalom Aleichem is the hymn recited at the beginning of the Sabbath eve welcoming the angels into the house. These angels are said to accompany a man home from the synagogue on Friday evening. Ribon Kol Haolamim (literally: Master of all the worlds), is a prayer often said before the Sabbath meal, welcoming the Sabbath. Back
  3. Kiddush (literally: sanctification), is a prayer over a cup of wine recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or festival meal. Back
  4. In Hassidic circles, yahrzeits are not looked upon as sad occasions, but rather as days to celebrate, reminisce, and learn from the life of the departed Rebbe. Back
  5. A term used to describe young students immersed in Torah studies at a cheder. The Hebrew term is “tinokot shel beit rabban”. This teacher is often known as a Rebbi. I spelled it differently in order to differentiate it from the Rebbe, who is the Hassidic leader. Back
  6. There is a custom that young children come to recite the Shema (the main Jewish prayer and confession of faith) at the crib or cradle of a young child on the night before his circumcision. Back
  7. The five books of Moses, or Pentateuch. Back
  8. A verse from the book of Joshua, referring to the need to toil in the study of the commandments day and night. Back
  9. A minor festival occurring on the 18 th day of the month of Iyar, usually in May. Back
  10. A ceremony that takes place on Rosh Hashanah by a riverbank. It is a symbolic casting away of sins into the water. Back
  11. Holiday prayer book. Back
  12. On the Sabbath, it is forbidden to kindle or make use of a flame. On a festival occurring on a weekday it is forbidden to kindle a flame from scratch, but it is permitted to transfer a fire from one flame to another. Thus, it would be permitted to light a candle from a pre-existing flame. Someone must have brought a pilot light to use to ignite the other candles. Back
  13. According to Jewish law, it is a very serious matter to take an oath or to cause someone to take an oath, and it is considered praiseworthy to avoid such situations wherever possible. Back
  14. According to Jewish law, it is permissible for a man to marry his niece, although it is forbidden for a woman to marry her nephew. Back
  15. Hachnasat Kalah is the giving of assistance to a needy bride. Back
  16. The meaning of this sentence is unclear. Back
  17. Leizer is a diminutive for Eliezer. Back
  18. The first two lines of this poem are taken from liturgical sources. The first line is from the opening petition of the reader's repetition of the morning prayer (shmone esrei) of the second day of Rosh Hashanah. The first half of the second line is from the book of Lamentations. Back

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