Translated by Zvika Welgreen
Edited by Ben Knobloch
Rabbi Gedalia Mindles as he was called, was a man of high moral character, an extremely humble scholar, who lived in poverty and made his living as a Schpiditer [shipping agent], bringing goods for the town's shopkeepers from Lublin. With horse and wagons which were covered with canvas as shelter from the rain and snow, and with the help of a driver who took care of the horses.
Reb Gedalia sat inside the wagon while travelling and studied the Talmud and Jewish Law. The wagon served Reb Gedalia as a travelling Talmudic school, for he was always travelling except Shabbat and holidays. He left on Sunday morning and returned back home before sundown on Friday.
He was honored by all town people, congratulating him when passing in the street, treating him with due respect.
Once he was carried away and took part in the dispute between Shinova Chasidim and the local Rabbi and when angry quoted an insult from the Talmud.
A while later he regretted his deed and the insult caused to the town Rabbi, and he didn't rest until one weekday, when the towns people saw Reb Gedalia walking bare foot along the market square to the Rabbis' home, to ask his forgiveness for the insult he caused in a moment of anger.
When he died, while washing his body before burial, he was treated as a holy person for he was worth it, and all the townspeople took part in his funeral.
Tevl Nachum, his parents and family members called him, the townspeople called him Tebale.
When he was young, he studied in the Beit Hamidrash and knew his way in Talmud and medieval commentators.
Was very clever and yet knew very well day-to-day life, selling agriculture machines to farmers.
As a typical Belz Chasid, he was opposed to any non-orthodox movement, and so he opposed the Zionist and the Enlightenment movements, the Hebrew school and all other cultural establishments founded in the town and was a bitter opponent to the Zionist youth, a symbol of fanaticism and extremism.
Never the less we respected him for his integrity and his true belief and saw in him an honorable opponent.
Tebale was a proud and brave Jew, and at the last day of his life he brought it to light.
The day that the Germans gathered part of the town's Jews and claimed they were communist Jews and led them outside the town for slaughter, behind the Christian cemetery, and ordered them to dig their own graves, Tebale was among them.
At a certain moment he stood up and admonished the murderers for their cruelty and predicted their bitter end, then he addressed his fellow brothers and urged them to recite Vidui [a special confessional prayer recited on Yom Kippur and at the deathbed, by, or on behalf of, the one who is dying] and to sanctify G-d's name in front of the murderers.
Suddenly a gunshot was heard and a Nazi bullet hit his pure heart, Tebale fell into the open grave, and then a machine gun started shooting, spreading death among our holy brothers.
Tebale, the same way you stood all of your life for your pure belief, you exceeded yourself in standing in front of your grave, and you shall be remembered forever.
In Memory of the Souls of my father's House,
Berish Ringer, some called him Berish Baker, made a decent living out of his bakery until eradication.
He was a man of honor, his generosity came from his heart and he always helped the needy, in small amounts or substantial support, and so he was known in town.
He always welcomed every guest at his home, with a cup of tea, a good cigarette or news from the newspaper to whoever was willing to hear.
Poor passers-by ate at his table, especially on Shabbat. It did not occur even one Shabbat that he go home from synagogue without a guest
My mother Rivkale died of natural causes during the war. Before the Shoa, she secretly helped those who addressed her, and on several occasions she provided her jewelry as collateral in order to borrow money and help someone in need.
My eldest sister, Goldele, who married before the German-Russia war, died tragically on Lochov Street outside the Ghetto, by a Nazi bullet when going to the Balonia district to buy some food. She was buried not far from the place where she died, leaving at my father's home a young baby.
Etla my other sister, who impressed everyone with her beauty and manners, stayed with my father until the eradication period.
Sheindela, my youngest sister, managed to run away from the Germans and stayed during the whole period of the war in Soviet Russia. She fell ill with heart disease in the Siberian forest and then got well. At the end of the war, when she came back to Poland and heard about the misfortune of our family, she fell sick again in Szczecin and died there extremely lonely.
My brother Wolf, his wife Miriam and their five children all died in Lvov by the Nazi murderers.
Teacher, Player and Poet
Avraham Moshe Melamed, was a scholar with a slow and quiet voice, different from others in his qualities and manners which he fulfilled without considering mockery of his acquaintance, who didn't understand his spirit.
He didn't name his sons after deceased close relatives, as was common among Jews, but named them with biblical names such as Dvora, Efraim and Menashe, most likely taken from the weekly torah portion.
Once he decided to honor Shabbat by speaking in Hebrew, which was the holy language instead of Yiddish, which was seen as the every day language. Quite often his behavior was laughed at as people considered it laziness, even though he didn't change his ways till his last day.
He liked art objects and with his own hands built a violin and played it. He wrote lyrics in Hebrew and Yiddish and composed for each song its melody.
Once he invented a machine to count the Omer, a contribution to the Beit Hamidrash and they used it every night during the Omer period, between Pesach and Shavuot and this way he built different articles using only a knife and chisel.
He was also talented in drawing and carving and was always busy in all sorts of delicate art works without learning it from anyone.
On top of everything, he was gifted with fine and rich humor, which he used in the right time and place.
I am sure that by the death of this man a huge talent was gone.
He earned his living by teaching and his wife was selling different items on market day and they lived modestly and he didn't merit to reach an old age.
Gone to Heresy
He was called Israel Kuki, as his surname was unknown. He was a scholar in his youth and was married very young. He studied Kabala. Gone to heresy, he lost his mind and did things that are not done, such as eating pig in public, smoking on Shabbat and other horrible things.
Rabbis allowed his young woman to divorce him so she could be free from him.
For a few years Israel Kuki wandered like this until he regained his sanity and became a quiet and normal person, but by that time he was ignorant and forgot his studies completely.
There was a poor girl in town Tovale, that had recently been married to a poor hunchback and the wedding took place in the cemetery as a supernatural cure for the cholera disease that spread in town. Shortly afterwards her husband died and she was remarried to Israel Kuki.
He chose matchmaking as his profession even though he never succeeded to make one. He received a small amount of each match done in town in some kind of protection so he will not damage the betrothal by saying something wrong, because Jews have a saying that even a cat can damage.
During the First World War, there were only few matches and weddings among Jewish families and until things improved, Israel Kuki had to find some other work to make his living. Searched and found, each town citizen who had to serve some days in prison for some administrative violation, Israel Kuki would serve time instead and was paid small amount for that.
Once in a while there was no one to serve time for, and deprived of his income, he approached the police complaining about that. The Police understood his distress and decided on the need to go to the Jewish district, find someone who did something wrong, then they would fill the form and Israel Kuki will get his payment.
Out of all those occupations he would make a modest living of bread and water.
Memories of Old Days
Each time I sit listening to the radio hearing music of the Cantors, I remember ideas and memories of old times, I imagine myself wearing a long black coat, boots, the black hat and with long side curls, a complete Jew with only a beard missing. At my youth I already knew everything a Jew is forbidden of, just like a fifty year old Jew. I knew it is forbidden to get off bed without washing hands, forbidden to eat without blessing the food, forbidden to rejoice because of the destruction of the temple and generally forbidden and forbidden again.
During the winter we were in the house due to rain, snow, mud and cold. When springtime came, it was between Pesach and Shavuot; the days to count the Omer, and every Jewish boy knew that at that time almost everything was forbidden. New clothing and footwear, bathing in the river and especially joy. We were taught about ten kingdom martyrs, about Rabbi Akiva's followers who died in the plague etc. etc.
And than Shavuot finally arrived with its Akdumos [liturgical poem recited on Shavuot consisting of praise for G-d, and Torah] music which we loved so much with the green leaves we brought into each home and the different kind of food, specific to Shavuot with their special taste. Like a miracle we felt the winter's burden lying off our shoulders and we became free to reach out to the green fields and enjoy ourselves.
We didn't have enough time to enjoy ourselves because there came the three weeks (before 9 in Av) and everything was forbidden and forbidden again, and again we were studying the destruction of the temple.
Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Jerusalem was destroyed, and we couldn't be happy. Shortly afterwards came Shabbat Nachamu and we hoped to enjoy a bit with our life ahead of us and the free world just waiting for us, according to our standards of course, and here comes the month of Elul slapping our faces as if calling us, Hey where are you running, have you forgotten that judgment days will soon arrive?
Have you forgotten that during Elul the fish in the water shiver? We stood astonished, we had not taken anything out of all the good things, didn't enjoy yet all the beauty of the summer, the gardens calling us with a wink, Come guys climb the fence, see all the wonderful fruits and the cool shadows in the hot day. A huge conflict was created in us, the drive calling us to reach the open fields, water and wonders of nature, against the drive for concession and being satisfied with what we had according the spirit of Elul and its companionship, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the ten days between them. These ten days had important values, and are not named the Holy days for nothing. They determine your fate to bring you back to study and to forget that there is something else in the world.
Finally, when also these days have passed, we were standing before the rain season and the wheel started its new turn again.
In his youth Godel was a Beit Midrash student, familiar with Talmud and other holy books, but his behavior distinguished him from other Jews in his education and clothing.
Among all the children in town, he was the only one who studied in the Russian school, a Jewish child was not welcomed and even other Jews didn't like it.
He was perfectly familiar with the Russian language and with Polish Yiddish and the holy language, knew all kinds of official matters and therefore was approached mainly in tax matters. He wrote the request or the appeal to the right authority.
At first he made his living as a private teacher of those languages, later on he dealt with different home industries, mainly soap production.
Godel was a scholar who cherished the religious laws, wearing the daytshmerish [overly Germanic] clothing and his beard always done carefully with scissors (not shaved), following the French style, in which he was unique in town. Nevertheless he was treated with respect by all town Jews due to his profound knowledge of the gentiles' languages written and oral. He was treated the same way by the gentiles.
When Zionist movement was established in our town he headed it, taking part in all committees.
His wife, Lea, was a clever woman and was his main help in commercial business as well as in social life. She rejoiced every achievement and grieved for every failure encountered in the Zionist activity locally and out of town.
Their home was always open for any public activity especially Zionist. Godel was ready to help any public activity with advice or action at any time, even when this was not in accordance with his political opinion, as he understood the spirit and ambitions of the young generation.
During eradication they were within the last victims of towns people. They hide for a while in the forest, but suffered so much that they left the forest and reported to the Nazi murderers.
Reb Shmuelke Stokman
As the manager of towns Hevra Kadisha, Reb Shmuelke Stokman did his work with no hesitation due to any difficulty or obstacle.
During the Cholera plague, in WWI, he buried the dead according to Jewish law, and encouraged others to do the same in spite of the big risk of catching the disease.
Reb Shmuelke was an energetic man with a great will to perform all the tasks he took upon himself.
At the beginning of WWII, the day the Germans captured the town and shot a young man, no one dared to bury him as the Germans forbid to bury the dead. Reb Shmuelke dared to address the head of the German police about this matter.
He managed to submit his request in a way that beat Germans' pride and after short negotiation they permitted burial of the man according to Jewish custom. In his youth Reb Shmuelke was a grain dealer, and as an adult he opened a bakery at his home and made decent living out of it.
He was murdered in the Holocaust along with other Tarnogrod Jews.
Reb Zalke Melamed The Doctor
He was an important man in our town, nevertheless he lived all his life in poverty and was forced to change his profession from time to time to make his living, and everything was very difficult for him. From watchmaker he turned to be a teacher and here also he faced many difficulties and turned to other occupations as Matzot baker etc.
At the time a doctor was needed, they didn't go directly to the doctor but called the doctor to Reb Zalke. Reb Zalke, being full of chesed [kindness], would accompany the doctor to the patient.
As time passed Reb Zalke learned the profession from the doctor and later on even
substituted for him, visiting patients and writing prescriptions according to which the local pharmacy prepared the drugs. Doctorate became his main occupation on which he made his living. During the cholera plague in WWI, he was the only medical expert in town and did his work without considering the danger and immense overworking.
As a Chasid he had special mental life, in his youth he was part of Sandez Chasidim and was among those who went to visit the Rabbi Chaim and spent the holidays there. Rabbi Chaim was the Admor of Sandez also known as Divrei Chaim.
When the Admor passed away Reb Zalke learned truth and integrity from his son Rabbi Baruch Halberstam, the Admor of Gorlitz, and was one of his devoted followers.
Reb Zalke was sharp, open minded and vital till old age and till his last day was devoted to the Rabbi and kept visiting him. When Rabbi Baruch died he followed his son Rabbi Tzvi-Hirsh of Rudnik praising him for his Torah knowledge and greatness.
Shneur the Litvak
One day, many years before WWI started, on a sunny day a man named Shneur came to Tarnogord, he was 40-50 years old entered Beit Hamidrash and stayed there for several years living, eating sleeping and learning there.
He was a weird man in his behavior, clothing and character, and made his living out of the support and charity he received.
His appearance was repulsive, he was short, chubby with a wild beard, hair and side curls. Was shortsighted and very sloppy but was a diligent Torah scholar and knew Scriptures Talmud and Jewish law adjudicators. Day and night he would study Torah.
When speaking Yiddish he had typical Lithuanian accent, and therefore was known as Shneur the Litvak.
Somewhere he had wife and daughter whom he left. Once his only daughter Rivkale, came to visit him and he was very happy to see her, she stayed with him for a while in Beit Hamidrash.
One day he saw children playing in the street instead of learning and decided to do something. He addressed the children and somehow convinced them to enter Beit Hamidrash and taught them Torah and Gmara for several months.
Later on, for some unknown reason, the group separated and only few of them continued studying and remained Beit Hamidrash students.
This man named Shneur, the same way he appeared out of nowhere to Tarnogrod, so did he disappear without leaving any trace.
Chana the Half Deaf and Dumb
The Deaf Chana that is how people called her, was a big and strong woman with hands of a boxer, worked all her life very hard and lived in poverty.
Her husband was Efraimke the drummer who earned a small amount of money playing during each wedding held in town. He ate to be full only from wedding to wedding.
Chana was the one who provided for their home, her main job was kneading. She was kneading the dough for the town bakers. Day and night, cold or hot, she was running from one baker to the other, from one side of town to the other one and in addition to that she was carrying different stuff out of which she stitched sacks a side job she performed between one kneading to the other.
During the whole week she didn't sleep in her bed, but took sleeping breaks somewhere on the hard floor.
Only on Saturday she slept in her bed but because of her exhaustion and deafness, she accidentally strangled her baby with her heavy weight.
She kept this way of life till old age and life was not kind to her, until one day she suddenly dropped dead in the middle of the street.
by S. Chaper
Translated by Zvika Welgreen
Tarnogrod, town of my youth, I was not with you during the Holocaust, during your occupation by Hitler's troops, didn't hear the groaning of my brothers and sisters, of my childhood friends and acquaintances, when the human beast preyed mercilessly upon you. We lived remotely and knew too late our towns' disaster. The horrors and terror were beyond comprehension. Since then and forever, the terrible nightmare and its cause pursue us and does not give us piece of mind and we shall never forget you, both your life and your death.
22 Cheshvan [November 2, 1942], the day of final elimination of the Jewish life in our town, is the day we commemorate you, to remember and remind for eternity what happened to the people of our town, whose lives were destroyed lawlessly by the murderers of our people.
I shall not forget you, Tarnogrod, the Torah schools and the magnificent synagogue, the streets and alleys, during weekdays and holy days, when you transformed from one shape to another.
From Passover to Shavuot the period was half grieving, in spite that everything came alive after the cold winter, we didn't dare to joy, to walk in the green fields, except for one day, Lag ba-Omer [minor holiday celebrated on the 33rd day after Passover]. And then from Shavuot to 17th of Tammuz and again a break till Tisha be-Av, the day when tables and chairs in the school when turned upside down and we sat, youngsters with white bearded men, to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the deportation from our land.
When Nachamu Shabbat [Sabbath of Consolation, the Sabbath following Tisha be-Av, the date Jews mourn the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem] arrived, everything returned to its normal course. Weddings took place; we travelled in the fields and bathed in the towns' river, which demanded human life each year.
And then came the month of Elul and sound of the Shofar [ram's horn blown during the high holy days] was heard from the beit hamidrash [house of study], the town transformed again, the atmosphere of the ten days wrapped homes and streets and Tarnogrod Jews asked forgiveness from each other, pardoned each other and had a new start.
Sukkot [holiday celebrating the harvest of Israel and commemorating the Israelites' 40 years of wandering in the desert] arrived, the longest and most complicated holiday. Our ancestors embraced the Torah commandment: be happy during your holy days. During this holy day, the school walls noticed wine drinkers, but not a single Jew lost his mind due to heavy drinking. Yet the wine did its trick -- and Jews sang and danced, each Hasidic group to its tunes.
How phenomenal and deep is the fact that the joy embedded in the calendar is connected to what brings to the people of Israel the high tension and the upmost solemnity - the Torah.
The holy days were the partition between year periods. In Elul, cold winds began to blow and seriousness found its place in people hearts. Right after Sukkot the long winter arrived and with every passing day the frost and livelihood worries intensified.
During long nights we sat at the beit hamidrash, as there was no other place to spend the time. We counted the weeks from Bereshit [Genesis 1:1-6:8] to Vayechi [Genesis 47:28-50:26] the Gemara [record of the discussions about the Mishnah] was opened in front of us but our minds were elsewhere. Each period had its problems, until we got older and began thinking and then to action in Zionist activities.
Deep in my heart remains the memory of the rabbi's house, which I entered at the age of three until I grew up at the age of seventeen. The rabbi's grandson, Elezar, was the same age as myself, we were born the same day, and together were brought to the heder [small Jewish elementary school] for the first time, and at the same time we left one heder and entered another one. Friendship and love tied us together during the whole time. I loved Elezar's parents, Moshele and Malkale, as town people called them, and their twelve children: Beila-Sara, Elezar, Chantzi, Yekhezkel, Mottel, Etaleh, Hershl, Roza, Shosha, Tzvia, Saul-Joel and Itzik.
I learned with Elezar from the age of three until thirteen at the same heders and then we continued to study together at beit hamidrash. I had to wake him up every day at 4 a.m. and in order not to make too much noise we invented a system: when going to bed Elezar tied a string to his arm and left its other end outside of the door, a delicate pull of the string was enough to wake him up.
When I was seventeen I dared to show up at beit hamidrash wearing a stiff collar, and then, on the second night of Shavuot, Moshele, Elezar's father, approached me and took off the collar without me feeling anything. I was offended and decided not to visit their home anymore and since then avoided beit hamidrash studies as well.
I read a lot of non-religious books and joined the Zionist movement and participated in one of the first groups which prepared itself mentally and practically for the bold step of pushing the end and leaving the Diaspora before the arrival of the Mashiach.
Meanwhile, Elezar moved to Tomashov, far from our town, and during this whole period we didn't have the chance to meet each other. But one day, before I made aliyah [act of immigrating to Israel], when everything was already packed and ready for the voyage, the door opened and Elezar showed up.
From the right: Yona Fiter, Aharon Teicher (lives in Israel), Hersh Teicher, Shlomo Fink, Yosef Zucker, Avraham Mahler (in Israel), Shalom Schwartz-Teicher, Moshe Shettfeld (in US), Efraim Kenigsberg (in US), Eliezer Teicher (in Israel).
Truth and vision, innocence and dream, passion of youth, where its prose is poetry, and dream become reality, where its trope* is reality, and reality overcomes trope. Trusting in good, with the hope of fighters, tried by themselves to find their way in life.
He came to say goodbye, was excited and said: I just wanted to see you once more… Did he have a feeling that we would not see each other ever again? Only God knows. The fact that he dared to come showed his deep and sincere friendship to me, as most of the town's Jews and especially the Rabbi's family opposed my aliyah.
The old Rabbi, who was authorized by the government, refused to sign my birth certificate declaring openly: I shall do my utmost to stop you from going to Ishmael land… finally he was forced to sign within the duty of his position but departed angrily from me.
His grandson, Elezar, who was an orthodox Jew and devoted to his family tradition, needed lot of courage to come and say goodbye to me.
*Editor's note: Definition of trope used here is to mean: a figure of speech consisting of a word or phrase in a sense different from its ordinary meaning.
by Alter Zitz Tishbi
Translated by Zvika Welgreen
Tarnogrod Jews highly appreciated their cantor Reb Itsik-Shaya as a good cantor. He prayed without notes but his prayer was overwhelming. Especially good were his prayers during the High Holidays such as Kol Nidrei, Shema Kolenu, Unetaneh Tokef or HaAvoda. He was helped by the poets Yitzhak Shlomels, Moshele Shohet, Mechl Dudes, Eli-Elishas, and Yoseleh Megides, and others...
The cantor Reb Itsik-Shaya was famous in the whole area. On Yom Kippur night for Kol-Nidrei, many intellectual Christians came to the synagogue, stood in the Polish to listen to the cantor and the choir. The Jews were proud of that.
Reb Itsik-Shaya was known as a loyal and honest man and all dowries were given to him to watch.
Cantors were a hobby for the Jews of the town. Whenever a Jew who stayed in Warsaw came to the town everyone wanted to hear from him about Sirota: How did he look? How did he sing? How many poets helped him? And so on.
It happened that the town Judge bought a gramophone with different albums.
In his apartment, a two-story building owned by Leib-Shimon, he would take out the gramophone to the second story balcony and played different songs. Once he played some recorded songs by Cantor Sirota.
The whole thing with the gramophone left a tremendous impression in the town, because this was the first time they heard a playing box, but they were much more surprised hearing Sirota himself with his choir singing.
People didn't move until the singing ended at midnight. The next day everyone in the town was talking about it.
Those days another singer appeared in town, the Yeshiva student Reb Yoseleh, son-in-law of the Gvir [literally, rich man but can be used as a term of respect], Reb Naftali Sobol. He was gifted with a strong and pleasant voice and brought from his town of Zaklików a collection of tunes from different Hasidic trends. These were new melodies that were never heard in Tarnogrod. His songs were moving and the Hasidim were very pleased.
The wife of Reb Yoseleh was the only child of Reb Naftali the Gvir and he promised Yoseleh, as was common in those days, full economic aybik kest [support for the rest of his life]. He didn't have livelihood problems and sat all day in the shtibl [literally little house or little room which served as a house of prayer] of Sieniawa Hasidim and practiced the lovely tunes and melodies along with other yeshiva students. Among them were my brother Arele, Chaim Mahler, and others.
Eventually, Reb Yoseleh was considered as the best ba'al-tefillah [leader of prayers on special occasions] and was leading choir of poets, musicians and music fans who learned music from him.
Yoseleh's name was famous in the town as a ba'al-tefillah who excites and touches his listener's heart with his warm prayer and his charming voice.
There was a difference between the Hasidim ba'al-tefillah and a cantor. Reb Yoseleh belonged to those ba'al-tefillah who were scholars as well as having a sweet voice like silver bell.
We couldn't have enough time counting all the ba'al-tefillah and cantors who served the kehila [jewish community] throughout time. The kehila didn't have special lists of all the cantors, rabbis and scholars. In this aspect, we were not unique.
As in all Polish towns, our town had many versions of cantorial music, ours was mainly free style which intended to stimulate admiration and fulfill a moral-religious role. Cantor's imagination played a crucial role in it by developing new melodies and versions by his inspiration.
Later on came Hasidim that hid the cantorial music along its numerous versions and tunes, claiming that the cantor emphasized his beautiful voice over the meaning of the words. On the other hand, this gave birth to new Hasidic liturgical music with popular cantors. Those were the ba'al-tefillah and the public liked their melodies and listened to them with great joy and willingness.
by Alter Zitz Tishbi
Translated by Zvika Welgreen
It was in 1914.
Right in the first days after war broke, in spite of the Austrian army's victories, Tarnogrod Jews started preparations in case of enemy attack and were terrified.
Indeed Kaiser Frantz-Josef was well known for his sympathy for the Jews, but rumors spread that among his soldiers there were Sokals, Polish volunteers, and they were enemies of the Jews.
On top of that was the fear of the Russians, especially the Cossacks and the Circassians, known for their hatred of Jews and the sight of their faces and their clothing was enough to terrorize anyone.
Rough time was not far away.
And then one day, on Friday morning, a few lone riders were seen galloping through the town. Their appearance and clothing were strange and copper helmets were on their heads.
Before the people had sufficient time to look at them, they disappeared.
Very quickly a rumor spread quickly among the people: The Sokals had arrived. The news got to the beit hamidrash [house of study] and passed from person to person. Worshipers quickly removed their prayer shawls and the students stopped their study. Everyone prepared to run home.
They barely went out on the Lochow side street, when a company of soldiers appeared on horseback with drawn swords in their upraised hands.
There was exchange of fire that hit the enemy patrol and they were forced to retreat leaving behind some dead and wounded on the street.
The Russian soldiers chased them to the edge of town when they saw in the distance, a large army of the enemy preparing to attack, they turned back and took two peasants with their carts, loaded their wounded and killed and fled from the town.
It is difficult to imagine the panic that arose in the town, like a storm that went through them all. The shops were closed and everyone ran home to pack their belongings and run for shelter.
Everyone ran to the synagogue, men, women and children from all over town came with their belongings. The great hall was full. Urgent sounds of prayers and reciting of Psalms was heard along with the children's screaming, adding to the loud noise of the crowd, sounding like a storm descending to groans, whispers and moans rising like a huge wave to the ceiling, shuttering all barriers.
And the voice of the Cantor broke into a bitter cry.
The crowed answered, crying in loud voices from the bottom of their hearts, Please God save us!
Suddenly from all corners of the town there appeared Austrian soldiers with guns in their hands. They came to the synagogue and ordered all the people to come out.
The women and children were released and ordered to return to their homes and all of the men were taken to the marketplace square. They were kept there surrounded by guards.
Without knowing the reason for their imprisonment, the Jews were full of fear. The men thought they were going to be killed and whispered the confessional prayer, sighing and crying.
The men were held until late afternoon when the army commander arrived to warn them that their detention was due to shooting at his soldiers and if any soldier is injured, the blame would fall on all Jews.
At the same time, he ordered all the shops to reopen and to be kept open on Shabbat for the benefit of the soldiers.
Rabbi Reb Arie-Leib Teicher allowed the desecration of Shabbat in this emergency and due to the command of the army.
Shabbat passed by and Tarnogrod Jews were alarmed again upon hearing that a Jew was arrested for hurting a soldier from the patrol who ran away from the shooting and was hiding in the yard of a Jew and was captured by the Russians. The Jew was blamed for calling the Russians and telling them that the enemy soldier was hiding in his yard.
This was an old Jew, Shmerleh Mahler, who gave an account of his actions and thought with complete innocence that his civil duty was to help the Russian authorities.
The old man stood before the military tribunal and Polish witnesses testified against him saying that they saw the Jew hurt the soldier. He was sentenced to death by shooting and was publically executed in the presence of the Polish citizens who rejoiced in the event, and for the Jews of Tarnogrod it was a day of grief and mourning.
by Alter Zitz Tishbi
Translated by Zvika Welgreen
Tarnogrod Jews condition was similar to the conditions in most of Poland's towns. Most of them lived in poorness and some in poverty. Shopkeepers and craftsmen.
Who can describe poverty!!
Who could find the correct description that will fully draw the profound suffering of Tarnogrod's poor people?! This would need a writers pen to describe, a crying pen as Jeremiah's, to fully describe the profound poverty.
But one thing only, strengthened their hearts and gave them vitality, that was their faith which encouraged them even on surly and wild days.
The faith in the future, in the afterlife, because anyone of Israel has his place in the afterlife and the righteous shall live by faith.
Merchants, peddlers and shopkeepers, supermarkets' owners, in which one could get a whole herring although usually it was sold by its parts- and all other market needs of the town people, their main income was from Tuesday market day in which everyone took part.
The situation of the blue collar workers such as carriers, water carriers, tailors, shoemakers, bakers etc. was no different. With hard work they made their living and thanked God for that.
The shoemaker, the tailor, the wagoneer, the shopkeeper everyone found his place and was satisfied. One by learning a Gemara page, one Mishnah chapter, or simple Psalms, saying in private or in public.
Everyone by his class and the group he belonged to, Shas group, Misnayot group etc.
Raising children to be Torah scholars was the desire of every parent. The luxurious life was not the desire of Tarnogrod Jews. Only in one way could a Jew excel himself by the fruits of learning.
Even the poorest people would take this burden upon themselves. Does anything else count when you consider such life fundamental basic.
The cheder, where children studied, was at the melamed's [religious school teacher's] house and served as bedroom, dining room, cooking and baking place as well. All of the furniture was placed along the walls.
At the center stood a large table around which the children sat close to each other.
Most town's Jews share a common desire, that their children would learn and become rabbis, or at least shochetim [ritual slaughterers], or dayanim [rabbinical judges], any kind of profession related to religion, therefore there were many melamedim as well.
As a melamed prototype, one can describe Reb Leibeleh. A short, light colored haired Jew, known scholar, always occupied with deep thoughts. They said he asked too many questions.
Gemara with interpretation were taught in his cheder and he tried to explain the lessons thoroughly. He explained the temple construction with its ritual objects. He drew us the Kohen's clothes with its bells, the forehead decoration, and the Menorah with its beautiful decorations.
Students who finished their studies at the cheder went to continue learning at beit hamidrash [house of study] or the shtibl [literally little house or little room which served as a house of prayer] where they continued studying until they came to age and got married.
Upon leaving Leibeleh's cheder I went to Shinovar Hasidim Shtibl and felt great responsibility while I was only 12 years old.
Some preferred Reb Leibeleh to Reb Senderel Melamed, in spite of the fact that he was scholar and questions about Kosher and non Kosher were placed with him, meat and milk problems, but melamed Reb Leibeleh topped him with his talent to explain and teach.
Pairs studied at beit hamidrash and at the shtibl and I have found as partner Yekhezkel Teicher, the Rabbi's grandchild. It was a great honor for me and I achieved it due to my knowledge and studiousness.
The contact with Yekhezkel went on for some years, I went to their home and sometimes I participated at morning in tea with milk drinking as it was accustomed for them daily before prayer. This was rabbi's wife Malkale's demand and it caused me sometimes unpleasant situations, meeting some girls who starred at me while I was shy and was afraid to look back. I avoided the situation whenever I could in spite of Reb Moshele, the Rabbi's son.
A while later another friend joined us Yehoshua Schlechterman, a single child serious in his studies, very much spoiled by his parents who lived at the end of the town in a house surrounded by a big garden with many trees. We loved coming to this garden where we studied secular studies such as calculus and Russian language.
After a while I realized that studying at beit hamidrash was better for me as most of the scholars studied there: Binim-Mendel, Hersh Meir, Shmuel Fefer, Meir Ringer and others, so we went there and I managed to drag my father there as well, but we kept praying at the shtibl.
The Shinovar Shtibl, in spite of being small. hosted about thirty prayers, but spread light and life all around and everything was done voluntarily.
The gabbai [person responsible for keeping ritual order and collection of dues] was chosen once a year and he was the shamash [synagogue caretaker] as well. He had to take care of cleaning the place, collect the nedarim [declaration or pledge] money, and prepare wood and oil for warming during winter, etc.
Sometimes money was needed to be sent to the rabbi. To charge everyone, prayers were forced to leave their tallit [prayer shawls] on Saturday and collect it on Sunday, paying according each one's ability.
When it was my father's duty to become the gabbai, he asked me to help collecting nedarim and on Friday I helped swiping the shtibl. It was an honor for me that my father was the gabbai and he was able to call people to read the Torah at his will.
Some known people prayed at the shtibl: Reb Naftali Wakslicht (Yukter), Gershon Apteker, whose son Chaim Rokach was among the first people to commit to Zionism in Tarnogrod and started reading secular books in spite of the strong opposition of his parents; Leib-Shimshon Wientraub, Yosef Mahler and his sons Yekhezkel and Chaim, the wagoneer Moshe Goldbaum (Moshe Punis), Wolf Herbstman and his son Baruch and others.
Yosef Kalkstein wanted to pray in the shtibl in honor of his father Reb Moshe in spite of the fact that being a wagoneer, he had to go twice a week to Zamo__. He suffered as his seat was in the corner and the praying took a long time while he always wanted it to end quickly.
His desire was that his sons continue their studies at the Gemara Melamedim or at Beit Hamidrash but he didn't succeed and they, Yekhezkel and Libtche , became wagoneers as well.
Rabbi's aura influenced the day to day life at the shtibl, a group of Chasidim was much more than the sum of its individuals, a current like electricity connected the group's members in the bondage of hevruta [to study text with a partner].
A Chasid's most important time is when he forgets himself. In the Chasidic world, holidays had special effect. Shavuot meant the shtibl was purified and clean, green branches decorated the walls, the stage and the ark.
There was another kind of purity, inner purity, purification of the soul and cleaning the soul form all impurities it gathered during the whole year in order to enter clean and purified to the New Year.
Those were the Yamim Noraim [High Holy Days].
Before Yom Kippur a wagon with straw was brought and spread on the floor to make it easier to walk bare foot.
Purity is everything that surrounds people and cleanness means no insults or hard feelings among people. Chasidim were asking for forgiveness and forgiving each other.
Then Sukkot arrived, the longest holiday and the most complicated one and Chasidim took very seriously the specific Torah command rejoice in your holidays.
The joyous climax was on Simchat Torah, which ended with a great feast in honor of the Torah. At that time Reb Chaimel Shohet was invited to pray Ata Hereta (you were shown). In spite of his sometimes hoarse voice, his prayer was special. His voice came out of his heart and entered sweetly other hearts.
Even towns girls entered the shtibl and stayed at the corners, next to the door as they were forbidden from taking part in the hakafot [processions] and were allowed to watch only. Then the boy's voices became stronger and livelier.
Sender the Blind
Sender was a special character, he was known as Sender the blind and no one knew how he was making his living, or when was he eating. At the shtibl he would be standing behind the fireplace, moving and praying.
When he lifted his eyebrows, white eyes were seen frightening the children.
Sometimes children were picking on him, he chased them and when he caught someone took his revenge, therefore frightening the rest.
Once a year he had special role, he had a whip with some strips with which he would whip anyone who fell down 39 whips. He was paid small change for his task.
Aharashkeh got this name from his occupation as he made his living by producing cigarettes and selling them at the beit hamidrash.
He was holding the cigarettes in his pockets as it was forbidden by law. The boys were taunting him during the service. As Tisha b'Av mourning eased somewhat, men threw things in his beard and he struggled pulling them out along with his beard. The mourners stopped their praying and were laughing along with those who did it.
Reb Israel Koko - The Match Maker
He was a short Jew with a big beard, long eyebrows that shaded his glittering eyes, and he wore long kapotah [black coat] with big pockets in the back.
People said that his pockets were full of boy's and girl's addresses. While walking in the street, girls blushed and boys pretended to be serious so he would find them attractive.
Even beit hamidrash boys treated his with respect. Everyone hoped that one day he will be the one to find a spouse for them.
The Jewish town of Tarnogrod had many types of people, regular ones, day dreamers and those who were always engaged with day to day troubles, and it had a positive driving force for youngsters. Tarnogrod's youth was vibrant, excited, and hoping to get out of the small town and promote themselves to better life.
The Austrian army invaded and conquered the town. Along with the army, many Galician Jews came, among them liberal Jews with Zionist orientation. Two Galician sisters stood out, they established a restaurant where Zionist ideas were spread. At that time Chaim, Gershon Apteker's son came back from Tomashov where he studied. He fell for the liberal ideas as well. A group, out of beit hamidrash boys was established among them Shmuel Fefer, Meir Ringer and others..
Out of curiosity they started reading newspapers during the war. As scholars they could read. Youth groups were established. At first for the purpose of mutual help during the cholera plague. The group took an important part in saving people.
Upon Poland's independence many left Poland to Germany and Czech Republic. I did the same leaving to Czech Republic to Reichenberg, where I have worked and kept the idea of returning to Zion.
I had organized a Zionist group in Reichenberg and two years later, I went back to Poland and settled at Rzeszów along with my parents.
In Rzeszów I had opportunity to practice my Zionist ideas, but due to family matters I couldn't fulfill it and made aliyah only in the year 1935.
I didn't have the chance to bring all my family with me, my father Itzhak zl, my brother Aharon zl and my sisters Miriam Zilberzweig and Rosha Zilberzweig were killed by the Nazis.
The Jewish community in our town was destroyed. It was very difficult for me to accept that this happened and I shall not see my beloved ones and my dear town where I had spent my youth in the years of beautiful dreams and great hopes.
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