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My City Zloczew (cont.)

The Jewish Community Council

The virtual Jewish communal activities, particularly in the religious field, were concentrated around the Community council, called the Kehilah. The Rabbinate, ritual slaughterers, ritual porgers (traberer), cantors, sextons, burial-society volunteers, ritual bath and cemetery employees were all supported by the council's limited budget. If I am not mistaken, the budget depended on donations and a tax on the local Jews, based on the payments for the ritual killing of cattle and poultry.

Also, the cemetery was a source of financial income for the council treasury, but only in cases when the dead person was a wealthy Jew.

The purification (Taharah) building in the
cemetery, where Shmuel the gravedigger lived

 

The 'Mikvah' (ritual bath) was leased to a Jew and he paid the council a regular fee. (In my days, the lessees often changed. – I remember them: Solomon the Mikvenik, Moshe Fisheles, Leib Michal Hershlikowicz, or “the tall Leib”.) The ritual bath was open every Friday and on the eve of holidays for men and on special days for women.

The council expenses were significant because it paid the salaries of the Rabbi, ritual slaughterers and the ritual vein and fat cleaners, the council secretary and others. The contact between the Jewish population and the council was limited. Only in time of a wedding, circumcision, or the birth of a new child, did people come to the council for help and advice.

Synagogue, Study House, Chasidic Prayer Homes and Quorums

There was a large synagogue in Zloczew with an upper floor for women to worship. On the floor below, up to the almemar (platform), where they did the Torah reading, there were pews for the outstanding, well to do, of our town and the honorable chair for the Rabbi. Up to the entrance of the synagogue there were seats for craftsmen; tailors, shoemakers, tanners, etc. There were often arguments about honors of who was called up to the Torah for blessings…

Close to the synagogue was a large 'Bet Midrash' (study center) a place of worship for merchants and artisans. This place also served as a gathering place for meetings and lectures for all existing political parties: Zionists, Zionist-Socialists and the anti-clericalists, like the Bund. All of them came here to use the place as their tribune. Others used to come here to listen to traveling preachers. At the Bet Midrash, you always found two dozen or more young lads studying with ecstasy portions of the Talmud. From my youth days, I remember three groups of youngsters: Chayim Meir Alter, Arye Bressler, Yitzhak Zommer, Samson Zilberberg, Yechiel Fraind, Kalman Krimalowski, Baruch German, Yitzhak Gelbart, Fayvel Gross, David Hershlikowicz, Yaakov Wieruszewski, Arye Zaltzberg, Moshe Szymon Lkinowski, Avraham Kroyl, Yehuda-Leibusz Kszepitski, Yosef Zommer, Abraham Yehoshua Luketz, Hershele Lentzitzki, Yerachmiel Fraind Shib'lo, Meir Gershon Krakowski, Yechezkel Kshepitski, Abraham Sholmkowicz, and many others. Here, they also studied a chapter of 'Mishnayouth' (chapters of the six volumes of Mishna) as a tribute to a newly departed or in memory of a distinguished person on the anniversary-yartzeit of his or her passing.

There were in Zloczew Chasidic prayer houses of followers of the rabbis of Gur, Alexander and Amshenow. In order to paint a full picture of our community, I must also mention the quorums of the “association to visit the sick” (Bikur Cholim). This group lead active social action. They not only visited the sick and elderly, but also gave loans to needy families. I could write a whole book about their deeds of charity, but unfortunately, I don't posses the needed material for this task. Here, at this quorum, the owners of orchards, the village-to-village travelers and the town's poor Jews attended prayers. Naturally, the prayer houses were part of the community council, but the task of maintaining the clergy, the synagogue, study center, the Chasidic prayer houses and the quorums was the responsibility of the people who worshipped there.

Education

Two public schools existed in the town. One was on Koszcielna Street, that bordered on one side with the church and on the other side with the school supplies store owned by Mr. Jacob Zalcberg. The other school was located in one of the homes that belonged to Count Potocki. There were no Jewish teachers in the two schools, except for the religion teacher. In my youth, the teachers of religion often changed. As my memory still serves me, I remember the following teachers of religion in the two public schools: Avigdor Celnik from Sieradz, Yechil Friedman (Chilek), and Emanuel Davidowicz. All three of them had little to do with religion, but this was their official tenure. Factually, instead of teaching religion, they were teaching Jewish history… But certain religious groups insisted that they really teach religion, not something based on Zionist materials. One morning, in the place of expelled teachers, they hired Chanoch Mordechai Gutfreund, the rabbi's son-in-law. After the Rabbi passed away, Chanoch was named town rabbi in his place. Besides the two public schools, there were periodically in Zloczew Hebrew and Jewish schools. The students in these schools were the children of national-oriented parents. They were morally supported by the local Zionist organization, but the financial burden of keeping the school open was the responsibility of the parents and the teachers. The school of the Lubavitch movement was located in the home of Mr. Abraham Hersz Faiwlowicz. The “Mizrachi school” was located in the home of Abraham Gelbart and the school was run by the following: Reb Mordecai Baumgartern, Joseph Eliezer Mruku (religious subjects), Jacob Freund and Eliezer Baumgaten (general subjects). Besides the existing schools, there were in Zloczew two schools for girls: one was the Bais Yaakov School, under the supervision and patronage of 'Agudas Yisroel', located in the house belonging to Reb Abraham Samuel Lifschitz. And a private school, run by Mrs. Chana Beyla Yedwab, located in the house of the Kozshur family and was called: 'The Getzetes House'.

The girls' school of Lubashits

 

To my great sorrow, I can't give you more detailed information about the schools, because of my childhood age in these years. In the same period, the local town rabbi, with the help of a Chasidic group, established a “Talmud Torah”, a Hebrew School, in competition to the existing Yiddish schools, especially the Mizrachi School that they considered nefarious - too secular and shunned by the Orthodox. In the “Talmud Torah” were children from the age of five to fifteen, separated by classrooms. “A” and “B” for study up to Pentateuch, Rashi-commentaries, Talmud and commentaries, also calculation and the study of Polish. But this experiment did not succeed, and they returned to the primitive system of the old “cheder”. Here they were teaching 12 hours a day in overcrowded rooms. Children who hardly knew how to read the letters of the alphabet were forced to learn 'Chumash' (Pentateuch), the age of the child determined what to teach. In the class where they were teaching Bible, there were better conditions than in the class for the youngest children, but not all the children were able to comprehend and repeat what they studied all week during the 'Thursday weekly examination' of Torah Chapter of the week. The study of 'higher Talmudic learning' was done by a Rabbi-Talmudist, knowledgeable in Talmudic law and the “Six volumes of Mishnayes” – commentaries. Even so, many of the students were later devoted to Zionist ideals and also to international ideas. Their background of past studies helped them better serve their community.

People from Zloczew on a trip to Jerusalem

 

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