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{362}

Personalities and Ways of Life (cont.)

The Third Sabbath Meal in the Old Kloiz 1

by Moshe Fruchter

Translated by Jerrold Landau from a draft by Isak Shteyn

You feel a holy shudder when you recall a world that once existed, isn't there anymore, and will never be again.

It is dark in the Kloiz. People wash their hands for the third Sabbath meal (shalosh Seudos) 2. Sabbath loaves (challas) and herring are on the tables. People recite the blessing over the bread, dip a slice of bread into salt, and eat challa with herring. The slaughterer's son Yankele sings “Bnei Haycholo” 3, and everyone else joins in. Shadows move over the walls, and we children cling to our fathers. All is so secret, so mysterious. From time to time there is a sigh “O Father in Heaven, have pity on us.” Zayde, the slaughterer's son, sings “Vetzivo” 4. Someone repeats a nice saying heard from the Bolekhower or Belzer Rebbes.

Finally following the meal, recitation of grace begins in the darkness -- loudly, calmly, and gloomily. It's a pity that the Sabbath is ending.

“Vehu rachum yechaper” 5 is heard at the beginning of the evening service. The beadle (shammash) Kopel lights a candle. The mystery vanishes for us children. It becomes less happy, but the sadness doesn't vanish. We do not wish to take leave of the holy Sabbath, which is passing, and we feel that a part of our soul is being torn away. It is the “additional soul” 6 of the holy Sabbath that is departing.

The month Elul 7 in the Shtetl

Who does not know that when Rosh Chodesh 8 of Elul arrives, even the fish in the water tremble. The Jews start to make a personal inventory of the soul comprising their sinful deeds during the year. They try to improve the situation – which is still possible this last month of the year – through prayers, charity, and good deeds. During the whole month of Elul, the shofar 9 is blown every weekday after the morning prayers. The Rozniatower Jews crowd the synagogues for the morning and evening prayers, more than they had done during the rest of the year, and collect donations for local people as well as strangers, wishing each other at every opportunity a good “kvittel” 10, and a “Ksiva vachasima tova” 11. At every “lechayim” 12 during Elul, the main wishes were to obtain by prayer a “Ksiva vachasima tova” for the next year.

A very important place for prayers for Jews is the cemetery, also known as the “house of eternity,” or, as they called it usually “the holy place”. From the first day of Elul until the eve of Rosh Hashanah 13 the holy place is full of living people. Old and young visit the holy place. With a little book in their hands, a special book containing prayers recited at graves, a prayer book or a book of psalms, they come to the graves of dead parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other relatives. They come to ask them to be defenders 14 for them, to pray for a good year for their relatives and to obtain salvation for the New Year.

The noise of the assembled crowd can be heard before entering the holy place. On the other side of the gates, the poverty stricken Rozniatowers – women, men, and even children of different ages – sit in a row waiting for donations. The Rozniatower Jews give these donations; some give more, others less. There is never a lack of beggars in the shtetl. Worse is the lot of the secret poor, who are ashamed to take donations. Some even give a donation out of shame.

The cries by the entreating Jews at the tombstones can be heard from afar. After calling out to dead relatives and strangers, people go to the “shtiblech” 15, where “tsaddikim” 16 are buried. Many candles are lit. Who can understand the soul and feelings of a Rozniatower Jew who cries his eyes and bitter heart out at the tombstone of a relative?

If someone finishes prayers at the tombstone, the “tuckern” 17 Sarah-Malka comes by to speak to the dead with a touching but firm voice. She knew everybody's “tzores” 18, i.e., where one's shoes pinched. This one has to marry off a daughter, a second needs “parnosse” 19, a third one a male child, etc. With her voice she could touch a stone 20, thus people near the tombstone started to weep and to sob even more. Everybody was convinced that Sarah-Malka is an honest and “kosher” 21 Jewish daughter and that she is begging mercy and spilling tears for the troubles of a whole shtetl of Jews.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A Kloiz is a Hassidic prayer hall. Back
  2. Three meals are mandatory on the Sabbath. The third meal, late in the day, is often eaten in the synagogue. Back
  3. “Bnei Haycholo,” which means “Sons of the Temple,” is hymn sung at the third Sabbath meal. Back
  4. “Vetzivo,” which means “He commanded,” is another Sabbath song. Back
  5. Vehu rachum yechaper” means “Let the Merciful One forgive.” It is the opening verse of the weekday evening service, which would immediately follow the Sabbath. Back
  6. It is thought that Jews are imbued with a supplemental soul on the Sabbath. Back
  7. The Jewish month of Elul commences in August or early September. It precedes Rosh Hashanah, and is a month of penitence. Back
  8. Rosh Chodesh is the first day of every month. Back
  9. A “shofar” is a ram's horn, blown on Rosh Hashanah, and also on each weekday morning during the month of Elul. Back
  10. A “kvittel” is a note, referring to the divine decree on a person for the upcoming year. Back
  11. “Ksiva vachasima tova” means “a good entry in the book of life.” It is a popular belief that in heaven a ledger is maintained (in a figurative sense) where the verdict of each person for the coming year is stored. On Rosh Hashanah, this verdict is determined. Back
  12. “Lechayim” means “to life” and is the traditional Jewish toast over a drink. Back
  13. “Rosh Hashanah” is the Jewish New Year. Back
  14. “Defenders” are advocates, persons or angels, who put in “a good word” for you when needed. Back
  15. Shtiblech are modest memorial rooms built of brick or stone over the graves of tsaddikim. Back
  16. “Tsaddikim” are especially pious Hassidic rabbis. Back
  17. A “tuckern” is an attendant in a mikveh (ritual bathhouse). Back
  18. “Tzores” means “troubles.” Back
  19. “Parnosse” means “livelihood.” Back
  20. An idiomatic expression similar to “her voice could shatter glass.” Back
  21. In this context “kosher” means “just.” Back


{364}

A Winter Sabbath

by Shmuel Kirshenbaum of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was cold. The frost was especially strong in the back alleys at the water near the Torgowica. There were large, thick forests around our town, but there was not enough wood for heating in many houses on my alley. On such a cold Sabbath early morning, the Sabbath Goy1 would come, extinguish the lamp and put on the heat. Through the snow and frost covered windows, one could see smoke coming out of the chimneys here and there, leaping skyward like a spring.

The alleys come to life. The Jews go toward our shtibel to the right of the Beis Midrash. I can see Hirsch Lozer Wechter with his old, faded streimel and long kapote crossing the small bridge near the bath.

My father Leibele is already dressed in his American suit, and is ready to go to the first minyan. I get dressed in the Sabbath cap that my mother bought for me for Passover and a white shirt, and I am also ready. We hear a knock on the window, “Leibel, Shmuel, come”. Through the ice-covered window, one can only see the gray beard of my grandfather Kuni.

My father and I are already on the street. We exchange the greetings, “Good Sabbath Father! Good Sabbath Grandfather! Good Sabbath children!”. We go to worship in the first minyan. We throw off our weekday worries. It is the Sabbath. One jump and we are in the Beis Midrash. Grandfather is already at the reader's podium. That was his place, and it had already been his custom for many years to call up the wagon drivers, tailors and shoemakers to the Torah. A feeling of exultation sparkles in his heart. The old but healthy tailor stands at the reader's podium, his entire height covered with his tallis, enveloped in sanctity. We are reciting Shacharis (the morning service). I stand with my father Leibel near the podium, but my glance is fixed upon the tall Jew at the podium, my grandfather Kuni.

We take out the Torah scroll. I am already next to Grandfather. The scroll is unwrapped – and my grandfather's time arrives:

“May he arise!”2


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Literally, Sabbath Gentile. The Shabbat Goy would perform various necessary work (such as putting on the lights and the heat) that are forbidden for a Jew to do on the Sabbath. Back
  2. The beginning of the statement that is used to call people up to the reading of the Torah. Back


{365}

Fires in the Town

by Y. Rechtschaffen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Fires always broke out at night, mainly among poor Jews. The fire would completely ruin them, and the community had to help them get back on their feet. Intelligent people would solve the riddle: since there were several dozen gentiles whose job it was to build houses, in the event that there would be a period without work, starting a fire would be their only way not to go through the entire summer without work.

All of the writing cannot portray the experience to someone who has not experienced a fire in a small town. A fire is a bizarre experience, one of those that provokes and terrifies moods. A portion of the Jews went around in a panic, and others did not come for a while, until they heard the shout, “Emergency, emergency, a fire!” A panic ensued. One asked the other, “Where is it burning?”, and then they themselves began shouting, “It's burning!”.

It took a bit of time until people realized what was happening. At first they began to ask: “Where? Whose house is on fire?” Everyone got dressed, and people prepared themselves. They ran outside, and saw the large fire. The sky was red, the fire got larger and larger. The houses were all built of wood, and they dried out with age. It would only take a small incident for such houses to catch on fire. The residents were greatly afraid of such. The nearby neighbors already had already dragged out all of their belongings in sacks and handbags. Even those far away were already prepared, packed up, sitting outside with their belongings.

Those at the other side of town would also not go to sleep until they saw with their own eyes

When one recalls a fire in the town, one remembers the dedication and devotion of the large number of Jews who always excelled with their restraint and calm at the fires as they went about their work: some of them saved the neighbors' belongings, others put out the fire. Even in the modern times when there were professional firefighters, our Jewish brethren worked quickly and effectively at fires in town. There were those who were always active and had sufficient experience. I recall that Shalom Hoffman, Vove's son, used to be one of the first to come to the rescue. He specialized in extinguishing. My older brother Shalom was also one of those who ran to extinguish a fire. There were many others like them.

At the beginning of the 1920s, a fire broke out in the middle of the Rynek. The house of Mendel Nemlich, who had returned from America a week before the fire, had now gone up in flames. Terrified and panicked, he ran out onto the street half-naked and began to shout frightfully.

A large portion of Rynek burnt down in that fire. The home of my uncle Yeshaya Frisch, whose wife Henche was my mother's sister, was also burnt down. They sold the place, took their grandchild Shimshon with them, and traveled to the Land of Israel. A fire was a terrible experience, and those that lived through it suffered materially for many years thereafter.

Mendel Horowitz

Mendel Horowitz and his wife lived not far from the communal buildings, in a house that used to belong to the rabbi Reb Itzikel. They had no children. They had a business in the market that sold earthenware pots, cutlery, lamps and other similar merchandise. As a youth, Mendel was already one of the first Maskilim, and later one of the first of Chovevei Zion. He was deeply immersed in Bible. In those days, if anyone stepped away from the path trodden by their fathers, such as for example by reading books, studying Bible and not only Gemara, studying Hebrew, shaving – such a person would be known by the term “Germanized”. With time, the numbers of such people increased, as one became accustomed to the new winds. There were already youth who shaved, but not all were as intelligent as they once were.

Every day, Mendel would read every daily publication, Hatzefira, and other weekly and periodical publications. He would constantly analyze political situations, and arrive at certain conclusions. In general, his political diagnoses were valid from an intellectual standpoint. Intelligent people always wanted to know the opinion of Mendel Horowitz. Dr. Sapir, the former communal leader, an active lawyer, would always visit the store of Mendel Horowitz if new political news from the world came.

Mendel was always immersed in world problems. He had innumerable friends and acquaintances. Psachya Turteltaub was his close friend. He was a bookseller by trade. He was also proficient in Bible, and he read world literature. David Barnik was cut from the same cloth. Moshe Krencler was a recently arrived Hebrew teacher, and a contributor to Hatzefira. If I ran into them hashing out an issue, it would be a truly uplifting experience to listen in on the debate.

All the aforementioned, and tens of others of their friends died in sanctification of the Divine Name along with their families.

Reb Lipa Taneh

Reb Lipa Taneh and his family lived below the town. He was a neighbor of Baron Waljusz. He had a large house, a yard with pens and stalls, cattle, fowl and horses. He had a large, long garden and an orchard, whose trees were bedecked with various fruits, such as apples, pears, and plums, at the time of ripening.

With his fine black beard and fine appearance, Lipa looked like someone from the old world, as described in books. However, our Lipa stood in the new world with both feet. At a time when Jews had no future in business, he himself had fields, cattle, and a pair of horses upon which he could ride through his fields. His son Yisrael worked together with him. He obtained experience in agriculture, and at the first opportunity; Yisrael went away to Argentina, where I believe he lives with his family.

I cannot believe that the fine and sturdy Lipa, who had a pair of strong working hands, ever hurt someone with his hands. To this day, I cannot believe the goodness of the man, for he would open up his orchard to the entire town for the entire summer, and let people pass through his property so that they could have a shortcut to the large body of water, as we called it. So that Jews would not have to go out of their way by several hundred meters, he opened up his own property, even though the Jewish pranksters often played tricks while walking through the garden.

The large body of water, as we called it, was very popular in the summer. Lipa Taneh's garden turned into a public domain on the hot days. After bathing, some people even went into Lipa's house to eat a meal. People were always greeted pleasantly in that house.

His young daughters were already modernized, but they carried with them the goodness of their parents. Only their daughter Mirchi was fortunate to come to the Land of Israel. Shlomtzi and Mirchi Taneh got married and built up a fine family in Israel.

Lipa Taneh upheld the customs and traits of the old generation. He recited his prayers three times a day. He bore the yoke of Judaism and demonstrated that one could be a Jewish farmer while serving the Creator and remaining true to one's people.

Yossele Wassertreger (Yossele the Water Carrier)

Yossele, or as he was called “Yossele Biegem” came from Bolechow with his older brother. His brother got married, became a porter, and lived on the Torgowica. He worked from morning to night at carrying sacks of grain, and brought home the few zlotys that he had earned for the day to his wife. He was a slender young man of average height and with a long face. He was young, but with a forehead full of wrinkles like an old man. By looking at the young man, one could not believe that during the course of a day, he would move entire wagonloads of grain and flour from place to place.

Why did he leave his birthplace of Bolechow? Whose concern is this? He brought his young brother Yossele with him. He was short, wide boned, flesh and bones, smooth faced, and his eyes were always blinking. He always had a childlike smile on his face, and he attracted everybody with that smile.

He was tattered, always with old clothes, and a torn cap on his head. He carried his water pole on his shoulders, with two buckets of water. He charged 5 groszy for each time he carried water.

In his childhood, Yossele studied in cheder. He had heard all of the stories from the Chumash, and he absorbed them. His imagination worked hard. When he got a bit older, together with the young workers, he heard about a Communist Party and about Lenin, Trotsky and others who will help humanity. They influenced him. Everything got mixed up in his head. His greatest ambition was to hold speeches. He only had to have one or two listeners, and he launched into a speech. Moses and the righteous Joseph were entangled with the names of Marx and Trotsky. Miriam and her drum1 were never lacking from his speeches. When he went forth in ecstasy, he shouted out, “And a time will come when one carrying of water will cost 10 groszy, and not the 5 groszy of today. This will be when the revolution is victorious…”

He was an idealistic, refined soul, and one says, the world gave him something. His brother became very ill and died. Yossele continued to carry water from morning until night and became somber and gloomy. His thoughts concentrated on his late brother whom he loved. He wished to carry on the revolution for him, so that he would get 10 groszy for two cans of water rather than 5.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A reference to the drum that Miriam played at the song of the sea. Back


{370}

Vove Hoffman

by Tauba Weissman-Hoffman

Obtained by Mordechai Stern

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Vove Hoffman was born in Kalusz to his parents Leib and Lea. He married Meir Taneh's daughter Paula in Rozniatow. Meir Taneh had several children. From among them, I would like to mention Vovche Taneh, whom everybody knew. Meir Taneh was the mayor in those days. Later, after he died, I recall only Wlaszanowicz, a gentile, as mayor. The Jews of Rozniatow felt that it was worthwhile to elect a Christian as mayor for the purposes of maintaining peaceful relations. However, this turned out to be a mistake. In truth Wlaszanowicz was not an anti-Semite. However, he did not defend the interests of the civic population, and he did not have the power to impart a civic character to Rozniatow.

This was at the time of modernization, when the train, telegraph and other services started. The Jews of Rozniatow came in contact with the modern world, and traveled to Lemberg, Vienna, Germany and America. They became familiar with world news, and read newspapers and books. Furthermore, there was the geographical situation. Rozniatow lay between towns. It was 14 kilometers from Dolina, and had the best possibilities for development as a center of business and crafts. However, the Jews had difficulties. If a Jew wished to build a house, a room or a roof, he would have to obtain a permit from Dolina. That city was the center of all offices. Therefore, it was natural that the Jews of Rozniatow selected a Jew as mayor. This was Vove Hoffman.

He excelled with his initiative and energy. He had command of German and Polish, both orally and in written form. He was tall, with a fine, long beard. He was Hassidic, but he dressed neatly. He was not fanatical. In his heart, he wished to understand the younger generation. It was not easy for him to become accustomed to the new times, but he had no toleration for those people who said on every occasion that it was impossible.

Despite the fact that he was not a Zionist, all of his grandchildren studied Hebrew with his permission. When his grandson Matek Trau was 15 years old, he traveled to the land of Israel illegally; however there is no doubt that he was given his grandfather's blessing.

He would lead the services at the Great Synagogue on the High Holy Days. On other festivals, he would lead services in the old Kloiz. He had a pleasant voice. He interceded for Rabbi Hamerling together with Chanina Weisman and Feivel Reisler. This was a battle for the sake of Heaven.

Reb Naftali was a rabbinical judge in the city. Later, when he died, Reb Yehuda Hirsch Korl was appointed as judge. My father was known as a scholar. On Fridays, he studied Gemara and other holy books at home. He was a relative to the Sambor Rabbi, Reb Uri.

His business was salt, kerosene, and wood. In the afternoon, when he was finished his work, he read Yiddish, German and Polish newspapers. He read them all very quickly. He had a sharp and quick comprehension. The opinion of everyone of today's generation is that Vove Hoffman was a strong personality.

When new laws were decreed, he always attempted to ease them for Jews. He wished to improve the sanitary conditions. He concerned himself with sidewalks, highways, and lighting. He worked particularly hard for the local schools. In those days, people did not send their children to the public schools together with the Christian children.

He put efforts into building the post office in Rozniatow. They built the large bathhouse, and, saving the best for the last, the large, fine synagogue. He put his energy into all of these.

I recall that, prior to the First World War, we almost had to pay no taxes to the city hall. The Austrian regime did not concern itself with small towns. Small towns did not receive financial assistance, and also did not have the rights to levy taxes. Later, the majority of Rozniatow residents paid taxes. Michael Weissman's soda factory was often closed. My father always searched for ways of opening it.

Lehtcha Falik and
husband Leizer Geller
Vove and Paula Hoffman

 

Their children
Adela and Baruch Bodzhi
The daughter Chayacha
and her husband Leib Falik

 

The First World War broke out in 1914. Jews fled to Vienna. People were afraid of the Ukrainians. My father did not want to leave the city. The entire family also remained. Warnings or entreaties did not help. His strong character was able to withstand fear. Various families left Rozniatow. This was justified, if one knew about the Ukrainian peasants. When the first military patrol appeared, the peasants of the area arrived with sacks, baskets, horses and wagons to rob the Jewish businesses. He was greatly worried and tired because of the robbers and other tribulations.

As soon as the Russian military began to arrive, he went out with a white flag. He arranged dwellings for the Russian officers, and requested that the Russian soldiers desist from stealing. He guaranteed that every Russian soldier would be able to obtain anything he wanted from the businesses without paying. He only had to write it down. At the same time, he requested that the youth with stripes on their arms be permitted to stand watch at night to protect against assailants.

The Russian military continued to grow. New troops came. He was then arrested, and they intended to send him to Siberia. When he arrived on foot to Kalusz, he succeeded in getting freed. The Ukrainians were not satisfied, however. They continued to incite against him, and he succeeded in hiding. Only when the Austrian military returned to the city, was he able to appear in open.

Despite his usual manner, particularly with Jews, he was also a struggler. Everyone held his honest and open character in esteem. His opinion was often sought, even if he was one against everyone. For example, when he engaged the new shochet David Roth, he realized that the shochet was also a good prayer leader. However the city could not afford another shochet, and if one must absolutely have one more, there were the two sons of Reb Moshe Eli Hochman – Leibish and Yaakov Hochman. Fifteen years later, Yankel Hochman received the rights from David Roth, and it was once again shown that Vove Hoffman had been correct at that time.

Until his last days, he was consulted on all important or less important questions, on educational problems or business matters. He neglected his private affairs on account of the mayorship and the communal leadership. There was always a feeling of discontent in the family. He often went to the leadership council and asked that he be freed from this. However, nobody wanted to free him from this pleasure.

My mother endured all this with great amazement, good judgement and difficulties. We all knew the difficulties that were part of the day to day life, but we had great understanding for his important work in dealing with the difficult problems of that time, until the First World War, with tact and good judgment.

He was a fascinating type of person, who unified his wisdom and good will with a large measure of moral fineness. He lived with the problems of the town, and in the event that something was not proper, he strongly objected. Similarly, he rejoiced at every achievement.

Honor to his memory!


{375}

Homesickness and Duty

by Salo Enis of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Rozniatow was my second home. My relatives lived there. I spent my vacations in Rozniatow, and therefore, I fell in love with the town, its people, and the lovely landscape.

It was a typical Galician town, with its unique houses, yards and alleyways; with the castle on the hill upon which the courthouse stood; with the underground tunnels that were connected with the courthouse building; the river; the farm with the meadows that belonged to Chrabia Skabek. The large wall in the middle of the city testifies to the fact that once, Ukrainian and Tatar invaders once came, and there were battles.

Jews in Rozniatow were employed in business and crafts. In the beginning, some Jewish families lived in the Old Town and near the convent.

In Rozniatow there was: a farm, 3 mills, 3 breweries, and two soda water factories. Every Wednesday was market day, which brought in merchants and farmers from the entire region.

The Jewish youth were organized into various Zionist organizations. Many of them wandered through the wide world. After the great destruction, a small cluster of Jews remained, spread out over various lands, primarily in Israel and America.

Very few Jews from Rozniatow remain. Therefore it is the duty of each of us who is able to hold a feather in the hand to write, tell and lament the horrible destruction of those who were dear and close to us, the martyrs of our town…

How much tenderness, love, longing and homesickness do we express to the personalities of our dear, good Jews – how can we forget them?

Who can forget you, my dear town of Rozniatow?!


{376}

The Lamed Vovnik1

by Yehuda Akselrad of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It is said that the world exists in the merit of the 36 righteous people, who are found in every generation. If this is true, I am convinced that one such Lamed Vovnik of our generation lived in Rozniatow. I want to recall him.

Among the residents of Rozniatow, Jews and gentiles, there were two brothers who were mailmen. One was called Wojciech Burak and the other Pawela Burak. Pawela spoke Jewish as if he was a convert, and he knew every Jew, even children, by name.

When I was ten years old, I was looking as Pawela was carried the mail at the end of the street where we lived. He asked me, “Do you know how to write?” I told him aloud, “Yes, yes”. “Come”, he said to me, “summon Yisrael Leizer for me”.

Yisrael Leizer lived not far from us on an alley near Moshele Shochet. I brought Yisrael Leizer to him. Pawela had a package for him. The fee was 1 crown and 15 heller. Yisrael Leizer took out the money from a pocketbook and gave him the money. The mailman told me: “Yisrael Leizer will make an X and you will write: Yisrael Leizer Benczer in Latin script.” Thus did I find out that Yisrael Leizer's surname was Benczer.

I am certain that few people in Rozniatow knew the surname of that wonderful man. It is possible that I am the only one who remembers it.

Who indeed was Yisrael Leizer, whom the entire shtetl knew? He was a tall, large, wide-boned Jew, with large hands. Each hand had six fingers. He had a white face with 8-9 hairs on his beard. He had large feet. He went around barefoot. He wore a white, clean shirt. His pants were tied with a rope. He wore an unfashionable cap. A sack adorned his shoulders. He was unmarried. He had a sister. He earned his livelihood from selling prayer books (siddurs), supplication sheets, tzitzit, benchers (booklets containing the grace after meals), and other holy books. He barely spoke – only what he had to. Nobody called him by his name. Rather, they would make requests of him thus: “Hey sheketz, a bencher? Perhaps tzitzit?2 ” With a cold smile, he continued along his way.

He lived with his sister in a small, clean, sparse room in which was found a table, and a bench. The windows were always covered with curtains. He slept on sacks, or he simply lay there and thought. Nobody ever saw him at prayers, either in a Beis Midrash or Kloiz, not on the Sabbath and not on festivals.

Those people who new him a bit better related to him with honor, and considered him to be one of the hidden righteous persons who marked the exile. Others called him crazy on account of his abnormal conduct.

In truth, his conduct was strange, and he differed from all the people in town. Various personality traits and mysteries radiated from him which cause the most pious Jews in the town to forgive these things, which they would not have done had others behaved in such a manner. It seemed as if everyone wanted to admit in their hearts that one is unable to understand his ways, the ways of a concealed righteous person, of which ordinary people are not able to comprehend.

More than once he surprised the town with his deeds. It would take many words to describe everything. Here, I wish to only mention one event that in its time astonished the people in our town:

One fine morning, they found an exquisite, golden bound, new Vilna edition of the Talmud, books of Midrash, and other books in the bookshelf in the Kloiz in which the scholars, the Talmud studiers and general dignified people of our town worshipped. Nobody knew who had brought them to the shelves, and who had donated the set of Talmuds and other books. However, everyone surmised that this was Yisrael Leizer's work – the hidden Lamed Vovnik of the town.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A term for a hidden, righteous person – based on the rabbinical legend that there are always 36 (lamed vov) hidden righteous people in the world at any time. Back
  2. Sheketz is a derogatory term for a gentile. Here it is simply used as an insulting appellation. Back


{378}

To Our Land

by Meir Hauptman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Outside it is quiet, the sun is setting.
A peaceful, lovely night spreads out.
The songbird in the forest cheerfully ends its song,
Other birds also sing with joy.

In a small house, not far from the forest,
A gray-white old man lives.
From his face and from his entire personality
One can see that he is in great need.

Tear after tear falls from his face
Silent and like hot fire are his tears.
His mouth is contorted from great agony,
He scarcely breathes, it is harder and harder.
This is the wandering Jew.
How many tribulations has he already endured,
Sent into exile for thousands of years,
On all the willows hangs his weeping.

Jew, where does your honor lie?
The pride of your people, the prophets,
Always beaten and downtrodden.
You silently suffer another blow, you are constantly driven –
Locked into a ghetto, surrounded by iron gates,
Did you lose your vigor and strength.
Believing that books are stronger than chains,
That they will avert the enemy's rod.

The inquisition came, the powers
That brought you burning and hatred,
The books – your sword and your splendor
Did not save you from your cruel enemy.

Where were your Torah scrolls?
The lamps, menoras and candelabra!!
The air, which breathed throughout generations?
Sinks further into tears and blood.

G-d will protect me, you said.
Where was He, when they murdered your child,
When they tormented and plagued you
And you were in agony and woe?

You wished to die like a hero,
As you have done many times.
You did not go out with a sword in your hand,
You only battle alone.

Already at the height of times, you nation, once so honorable
Throw off from yourself the bonds of exile,
It is time to come to your own soil,
Under blue skies, sunny and happy.

The holy earth, our fatherland,
Which always belonged to us,
Known by the name of the Land of Israel
And desires that name again.

We, builders of the great ideal,
When our small and young Land,
Will once again be esteemed over everything,
We will jubilate with joyful song.

Stand up, you new Jew,
Go and fight together with your tribe,
Refine yourself with great ardor,
Already blessed with the flame of the prophets.

(Written in Rozniatow, 1936, when he was 12 years old.}

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