Translated by Ben Gilad
Three wagons could pass through the big gate to our house and park overnight on their way to Brzezany, for the market day. Our village's whole existence was based on its being on the road to Brzezany, and like any village located on the road to, how would its Jews make their living? They opened pubs for the gentiles, offered a little beer, a bit of straw for the horses, and if the gentile so wished, a place to spend the night.
And the gentile? A gentile! At times drunk, at times arriving at midnight, knocking on the gate, and but for me, the boy, there were a widow and her three daughters at home; and my heart would shudder in fear.
Three such pubs were in Narajow, and all three were a thorn in our Mayor's side. More than the taxes he levied and the fear we felt of him (after all, we did open the pub on Sundays even though it was forbidden- but if not on Sunday, then when?!), he was constantly conspiring against us in every possible way. One day he decided to build a park where the wagons were parked so as to keep the drivers away from the Jews. That park which was never completed, turned into a puddle in winter and into perennial mud the rest of the year.
It was hard to make a good living in Narajow. It was a poor community which knew better days. The debts owed by the gentiles to my grandfather and his contemporaries were greatly diminished after World War I, and a big debt could be repaid with a single hen, a small pile of wheat, for pennies on the dollar. The village Jews lost everything; they made their livelihood by buying a duck, whose gentile owner they convinced was dying, and selling it for a slim margin over what they paid for it; How could they afford to pay for Jewish community institutions and the Jewish judge, Dayyan, my grandfather? Nevertheless, in times of trouble, their poverty notwithstanding, the Jews would stick by one another. I remember my father paying the milkman to give milk twice daily to an epileptic kid; On the days the leaven (hametz) was sold, just before Passover, they found an excuse to give the dayyan a few pennies on which he survived until the next Passover or until there was an argument between Jews to settle or a dish bowl to pronounce kosher or not. I remember M. H who helped my widowed mother to decipher the account books left by my banker father. She knew nothing about finances, and the debts owed her by the gentiles; I remember the effort to feed the kids who had no families in the village. In times of trouble, the Jews stuck by one another.
A meeting place in the village was the Post Office. The postman himself a drunken gentile, did not deliver letters to their addresses. The village people were forced to come to the Post office to collect them. Thus the Post office became a default community center to which we would arrive an hour before the letters' delivery time and leave an hour later, and on the way announcing to John Doe that he had a letter, and everyone in the village making sure he knew about it, so that he could run to the Post Office to collect it.
Another meeting place was the youth movements' houses: Hashomer hatzair, Tzionim Klaylim, Beitar, Hapoel Hamizrachi. There was little for the young people in the village to do. The young rabbi tried to introduce a few practical occupations knowing that after graduation from elementary school most youth would turn to trade or involuntary unemployment, so he ordered looms from Kozowa to teach the youngsters spinning and weaving. The young people, however, turned into the more interesting challenges posed by the youth movements. There they learned Zionism. In my youth movement, Hashomer Hatzair, they learned socialism too, and social Zionism: a bit of Borochov, a bit about Berl Katznelson, all preparing them toward Alyia. There they sang songs, played volleyball, met girls; there they spent the best years of their lives. There lies my youth.
My memories have no chronological order, and no logical sequence. Now my mind's eye sees the teacher from the Heder (religious elementary school), to which we would walk at night carrying lamps carved in pumpkins and singing a song to ward of the darkness- born fear:
|Hop hop, a gitte nacht
Heyv meer on tzi nyen benacht
Ot azoy nisht azoy
Ki leolam hasdo
|Good night, Good night
We are starting our march tonight
Yes and no, yes and no / it does not matter
Forever His mercy
And the teacher, who would stretch a mischievous kid on the bench for flogging, but would spare me, an orphan, the only child of his widowed mother.
Or the good smell of the cherry trees in the morning, their cherries large and juicy, none like them among all the fruits; you could eat them to no end
Or the vegetable garden by the house, where mother would grow onion and red radishes, a bit of parsley to spice up the bread, to the benefit of us and the neighbors
Or the harsh winter days, when the M family would drive its wagon carrying a pile of slaughtered geese bought from the gentiles or even from the Jews who bought them from the gentiles, onward to Lvov. One night and one day and one more night the wagon would travel, no matter the weather.
Or the bridge in the village, on the way to the house of the youth movement, where the hooligans gathered, and the anxiety nagging inside: would they bother me? Beat me up? Let me pass in peace?
And the river in the summer, and the wagon drivers leaving each day to Brzezany, same drivers that later would deliver potato latkes from mother to me, a student in Lvov.
And then, suddenly, one day in 1939, it all ceased to be.
|HaChalutz in Narajow|
Pseudonym of Isaac (Itzik) Reiss (Rayz)
Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez
Moshe (Moyshe) Nadir was born on 1885 in Narajow. His father came from Zloczow and taught German for one of the estate owners.
Up to the age of 12, Nadir studied Bible and Talmud in the Cheder and his father taught him German and German literature. In 1898 he immigrated with his family to New York. He went to school until he was 16 and later worked in different jobs.
Nadir cherished the Yiddish language, without knowing that there is an extensive Yiddish literature, he aspired to display the significance of the Yiddish language. He lived in a gentile neighborhood, and when he found out there was a Yiddish newspaper he sent on 1902 some not so good poems, some prose and a few pretty good articles to the Teglikhn Herold (Daily Herald), since then he started publishing in various Yiddish newspapers and periodicals under his full name Isaac Reiss and under many other pseudonyms. He used to publish in the Zukunft, Neue Zeit, Da Yidishe Wochenblatt, Di Bokh, Der Yiddisher Kemper, Das neue Land and more. He published short stories, humoresque poems and essays. He worked for a long time in the Yiddisher Kundes, the humor magazine. A lot of his works, which were published in the press, were never published in any book. On 1915, a booklet was published with some strange and erotic poems, named Vilde Royzn under the pseudonym Moshe Nadir. The book caused a lot of tumult among readers and writers alike (today this booklet cannot be found).
As he drew closer to the group of young writers, such as K. Tefer, Zisha Landau and others, his writing style changed.
Together with his friend Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, he edited the anthology Fun Mentsh Tsu Mentsh, later he started writing his philosophical lyrical miniatures for Tog newspaper, and built his reputation as a great Yiddish writer. He also wrote articles and essays on current events, and reviews about books, theater and plays. Nadir wrote a few plays and some skits that were performed in the artistic Maurice Schwartz Theater and on the marionettes stage of Zuni Maud and Cutler (Kotler) such as the plays Kloyshterberg, Sukses, The last Jew, The tragedy of nothing, Hadishu and The Prophet Elijah and the skits: little people, the crazy ones and poems about life in the city and in the Shtetl.
He translated books by great writers such as Mark twain, Tolstoy, Anatole France, Kipling and others and he wrote in English as well, mostly essays. He used to say: I am not writing in English because I want to, rather I write in English when I have nothing special to say, when I have something that comes from the heart I write in Yiddish. I think in Yiddish, it writes itself. On 1926, Nadir visited Europe; he was in Paris, Warsaw, Vilna and soviet Russia. He was greeted with enthusiasm everywhere, both by the educated and by the simple people.
Moshe Nadir was a special phenomenon in the Yiddish literature, one of the greatest most unique and creative writers in it. He had his own style. For many years he tried different formulas and types of literature, he wrote essays, humoresques, satire, poems, plays, children's songs and stories, and in all of these he expressed artistic individualism that was unknown in the world's literature.
He usually wrote about subjects taken from the life in the US, but his birth town Narajow, came along with him everywhere in his work, like a little loyal dog. A substantial part of his work is given to his warm peaceful home on the other side of the ocean, where he came from. In this matter he proves to have deep lyricism when his descriptions of the characters, events and scenery are full of beauty, without his usual cynicism. It's the deep warm sensitivity that he brought from the Galician town of Narajow.
Some of his writings were published in six books, and many are scattered in different periodicals around the world. His work was translated into many languages, German, French, Russian, Polish and more. He died in New York on 1943.
Rabbi Meir Wonder
Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez
Rabbi Mordechai Pesches
Came from Russia to Galicia and was accepted as Narajow's rabbi. Of a distinguished lineage of Tzadikim (righteous men) and scholars all the way to Rabbi Yochanan the shoemaker and King David. The son of Rabbi Shmuel Zenvil, Zawalow's Rabbi who was also the father of Rabbi Yehuda Zvi Brandwein, the founder of the Stratyn Hassidism. More about him can be found in the book Me'orey Galicia Part 1 page 610.
Rabbi Yaakov Frenkel-Teomim
The son of Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel (Heschel) from Komarno who was in turn the oldest son of Rabbi Baruch, Chief of the Court of Lipniki, the author of the book Baruch Ta'am. From around 1840, he served as Narajow's Rabbi, which was for him a springboard to positions in other communities: Miechow and Xions (Książ Wielkopolski) in Poland and Przeworsk and Cieszanów in Galicia. In his last position he served for 13 years, until he died in 1892.
Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel Frenkel-Teomim
The son of Rabbi Yaakov and his substitute in Narajow for around 10 years. He married Beile, the daughter of Elazar Horowitz Chief of the Court of Marijampole and Rohatyn. The son of Rabbi Meshulam Yissachar, Chief of the Court of Stanislawow. In 1878 he was called from Narajow to the Rabbinate of Lubaczow, he died there on 1894.
Rabbi Shraga Feivel Rohatyn
He was Narajow's Rabbi in the five years between 1878 and 1883. He then moved to Zloczow and was the Rabbi there by turns until he died on 15 of the month of Adar, 1910. He was an out of the ordinary and brilliant figure originating from a wealthy family in Lwow. With all his talents he was very successful in both Torah and science studies, and by himself graduated the Gymnasium and the University. He was a contractor and won the bid for building army barracks. He was discussing the Torah with the generation's geniuses and wrote a Halacha (Jewish Law) book. He promoted Zionism and the Hebrew language. There is a lot written about him in the Zloczow congregation book.
Rabbi Dov Berish Sim
His being very famous as a teacher, made Narajow's reputation rise up. He had a rare memory. Once when he travelled to Brody to visit Rabbi Itzhak Chayut, he heard 18 lengthy, in-depth studies from him. On his way back he visited the Maharasham Rabbi in Brzezany and repeated all of them one by one to him. Later the Maharasham Rabbi said to Rabbi Yechiel Michel Lyter that he was impressed by the sharpness of the Brody Rabbi and by the memory of the Narajow Rabbi. After 20 years in town he fled to Budapest and there he died in the middle of WWI. His sons were not fitting to carry on the position after him and so his son in law was chosen as his successor.
Rabbi Zvi Yehoshua Grosswax
Son in law of Rabbi Dov Berish and his substitute between the two world wars. Was born on 1900 and before he turned 40 was offered the rabbinical chair in Zloczow. Was active in HaMizrachi movement and was a go-getter for religious institutes in his community. The Nazis cut off his life wick. His photo and life story can be found in the book Me'orey Galicia Part A, pages 741-742.
Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez
Narajow's Rabbi, Rabbi Dov Berish Sim, fled to Hungary with the wake of WWI. Before he left he engaged his young daughter, Feigale, to a young studious prodigy from Brzezany who was almost Bar Mitzva, named Hershale Grosswax. The dowry that was promised to the youngster was the rabbinical chair of Narajow, as long as he persists with his studies and obtains rabbinical ordination.
When the town stayed with no rabbi, the community committee chose two Dayanim (rabbinical judges) from Narajow, both were very talented and excelled since they were young, and both were ordained as rabbis: Rabbi Eliezer (Leizer) Milshtock and Rabbi R' Yossef Neuman (Yosha Wawas, my grandfather zl).
On 1921, Hershale Grosswax showed up after being ordained as a rabbi, and claimed the rabbinical chair that was promised to him by his father in law, Rabbi Sim. Like the rest of the Galician Jews who were deeply submerged in the fanatical Hasidism, the Narajow's community objected to appointing Rabbi Grosswax as the town's rabbi, for his leaning toward Zionism and his being an active member in Hamizrachi.
The dispute that resulted caused arguments in the Torah study houses and in the Kloiz, even families squabbled over it. Only when the fear of army service was hovering above Hershale's head, did my grandfather, R' Yosha Neuman, tipped the scale and Rabbi Zvi Yehoshua Grosswax was accepted as Narajow's Rabbi.
The energetic young Rabbi was very active in promoting the Torah studies and the different charities as well as advancing youth employment. Soon even his most furious objectors reconciled with him and he was cherished by everyone.
The community committee continued to employ the two Dayanim who, together with the Rabbi, served as the rabbinical judges of the town. There were also three ritual slaughterers: R' Yehuda Zvi Mendelberg, R' Baruch Mendelberg and Rabbi Henik Shechter.
Why would such a small town need so many position holders? At that time, Narajow was doing the ritual Jewish slaughter not just for itself, it supplied Kosher meat to the Jewish community in Lwow. Lwow residents, Hassid and observant, knew that the meat with the seal of the Jewish slaughter house in Narajow was strictly Kosher.
Naturally, during the weekly fair on Thursdays, when horses, cattle, eggs and more were traded, disputes arose between the merchants, and they would turn to the rabbinical judges for arbitration and the Torah law.
The Rabbis and the town's elders served another role, a most important educational role. They taught the young ones who completed their studies in the Cheder and those would continue their education by learning the six sdarim of the Mishnah and adjudicating for themselves.
The two Dayanim, Rabbi Leizer Milshtock and Rabbi Yosha Neuman (zl) had the right to depart from this world before the Holocaust, before the destruction of the house of Israel in Poland.
Translated by Ben Gilad
Night after night the two sat close to each other studying a page of Gemara (part of the Talmud) by the lantern's light. The father, R' Alter, a trader who was a scholar, and his youngest boy, Hershale. And the boy who was both studios and gifted never tired, asking for more.
The mother, Hanna-Beyle of the Schlezinger-Neuman family of Hassidim (a pious religious sect), while basking in her son's successful studies, worried about his strength and urged him to go to bed to rest a bit before his father wakes him up for the morning lesson.
Every morning comes winter or summer his father would wake him up at 5am before dawn. The boy, sensing his parents went to sleep would go downstairs and move the clock's hands one hour ahead, making 5am a 4am. That way he would gain an extra hour of morning studies. That is how passionate he was about studying the Torah.
On one of his visits to his grandfather, the late R' Yosef Neuman, he realized that Hershale was doing well in his studies. He sent him to be tested with the genius R' Berish Dov Zon Abdak Narajow. The latter liked the boy and declared that he was ready to give him his daughter Feigale for a wife. The boy, not yet 13, refused, shamed to be a groom at his age, but the parents met and decided on the terms of the engagement, and the boy succumbed. (As he told me, he liked the idea of the journey from Brzezany to Narajow, about 9 mile of a ride in a wagon.)
Then WW1 started and the Jews escaped the towns in Galicia (Poland) to Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Hershale, who was 14-15 years old at the time (he was born in 1900) went all the way to Vienna, Austria's capital city. The years he spent in this big city left a strong impression on him. While continuing the religious studies he also began studying a secular curriculum, and when he retuned to Poland he passed the high school completion test (its equivalent test). He was welcome at the homes of the Rozyn admors (title of a Hassidic Rabbis) and there he acquired his nationalistic education from the likes of Robert Shtriker and Anita Miller. When he returned to Brzezany in 1917 he became a full fledged Zionist. The time was that of Lord Balfour's Declaration the national awakening time among the Jews.
Hershale looked for connections with the Mizrachi centre in Lwow, and opened a branch of Mizrachi Youth and Mizrachi Pioneer in town, and a place for agricultural training in the area.
During the San Remo conference time (held at San Remo Italy at the end of WW1 to divide the control of former Ottoman areas), Hershale was the foremost organizer of the
Jewish youth. He arranged for parades and celebrations, leading young men like himself from the Hassidic courts who he swept with his Zionist enthusiasm, and demanding the local merchants closed their shops for the big national holiday for the Jews, the beginning of the redemption (geula).
In 1920 he married the Narajow Rabbi's daughter. The Rabbi died of Cholera during the war and none of his 4 sons was capable of inheriting his rabbinical chair. The people of the community regarded his son-in-law, the one who married his oldest daughter, to be the heir, but he, the son of the Rabbi from Burshtyn, migrated to the US and gave up his entitlement to his more talented brother-in-law. The majority of the Narajow Jews, however, objected to the appointment of Hershale, even though he was by then mature and ordained to rabbinical position by R' Shapiro, the head of the Rabbinical College and the Rabbi of Gliniany, who later became the head of Lublin Yeshiva. Narajow was a small town but its rabbinical appointment was held by highly gifted rabbis throughout the ages. It was a prestigious appointment and the young scholar, though talented, was also a Zionist. At that time in Galicia, few rabbis dared to voice national opinions in public, and here was this restless and energetic man, an organizer and member in the Mizrachi movement.
There was another aspect to the community's objection. At the time, two judges (Dayanim) served at the Narajow Jewish court, R' Leizer Milshtok and R' Yosef Neuman, my teacher and grandfather. Both were locals, clearly gifted scholars and were loved by the whole town and its environs. They properly fulfilled the rabbinical duties in the town, and the community leaders were worried the appointment of a young Rabbi as head of the Jewish court would be a sign of disrespect. So they postponed the appointment with vain excuses.
In the meantime, the young man was facing the danger of being drafted into the Polish army. The army service involved eating non kosher foods, violating the Sabbath, and so on, and it caused severe consternation to every religious Jewish household. Generally speaking, the young evaded the army service and moreover, an appointed Rabbi was exempted from the draft by law. And here was this perfect young man claiming the seat of the Rabbi.
My grandfather, who was a relative of Hershale's mother, could not watch her suffering, and convinced the majority of the community members that it was both a good deed and the young man were talented and perfectly suitable. And so it was decided and Hershale became R' Zvi Yehoshua Grosswax, head of the rabbinical court in Narajow. The minority did not accept this decision, and a conflict erupted as customary in those small towns on such occasions.
However, soon even his opponents were persuaded that no one was as talented and appropriate to the job. They became his devoted followers as they watched his dedication and youthful passion and implementation skill in raising the glory of Israel, spreading knowledge and changing the face of the community. He organized Torah studies, encouraged the youth to delve deeply into learning, and sustained a core circle of picked young men who held morning lectures in the Talmud.
We still remember his lectures and speeches to the Mizrachi Youth and Bnei Akiva branches. He was a great speaker, with a pleasing voice and a special sweetness in his prayers. He was a cantor in the big synagogue during High Holidays.
He was notable in the economic arena as well. He established a charity that operated on a budget of 40,000 Zahuv, a substantial amount for such a small town. The charity became a real leverage for all the town merchants and grocers.
He was active in the Jewish Colonization Association (a Baron de Hirsch's philanthropy organization) and was elected to the central committee in Lwow. With his influence, local Jewish farmers in the area received loans up to a 1000 Zahuv from a special trust. He built carpet weaving factories which employed 30 poor boys and girls, and many families made their living around these factories. Later, a training group from Bnei Akiva was also added to the workers, and upon making Alyia, its members joined the Abraham Group in Kfar Pines, Kfar Etzion (in Israel). R' Zvi Yehoshua participated in several Zionist congresses as a representative of the Mizrachi Youth.
He served as a candidate in the Zionist party to the Polish Sejm (parliament). Prior to the election to the Sejm, he made numerous trips to the towns in his area and campaigned for the Zionist party, especially since Dr. Sh. Federbush his friend headed the party in our district. It should be noted that all this activity was done against a vociferous argument and continuous struggle with the community leaders that were publicly supporting the government parties as this was the custom of Polish hassidim and especially the Belz hassidic dynasty (an infamous affair at that time).
One anecdote regarding his national pride is worth telling. The town's council used to levy mandatory service duties once a year, i.e., each resident was obliged to give a few days for working on road repair, carpet weaving, trench digging, etc. The Jews, of course, paid a ransom instead, and never actually did real work. The Rabbi succeeded in convincing a few youths not to evade the work so that they can prove to the town's gentiles that they were equal citizens with equal rights as well as equal duties.
One morning as the Rabbi was returning from the Kloyz (synagogue) he bumped into the police commander who was treating the Jewish workers badly. The Rabbi turned to him and asked: Can you explain to me -- what's this work group to you? Are they your prisoners? The question infuriated the police commander who was a young, proud and hot headed Pole and he retorted that he does not receive orders from the Rabbi and it's none of his business and he should stay out of it. The Rabbi did not budge and asked the commander to immediately cease his insults and when the commander ignored him the Rabbi called the district's head, who was respectful of the young Rabbi, and relayed the story to him. Moments later the young commander was called to the phone. The executive ordered him to immediately apologize to the Rabbi. Shamed and embarrassed, he did as told by his superior. The incident quickly gained wide publicity and even the gentiles in town treated the Rabbi with new respect.
His generosity was immense. He spent his money on the poor and used his meager salary to support charitable institutions.
He always aspired to serve in a bigger town, which will yield a bigger room for his boundless energy, but he always hesitated, reluctant to leave his small town and his beloved community.
A short time before the holocaust, he was a candidate for the rabbinical chair in the town of Zloczow.
In the huge storm that swept the Jewish communities in Poland during WW2, he died, R' Zvi Yehoshua Grosswax, together with his wife, his two daughters and his only son, Dov Berish, so named after his grandfather, the Rabbi from Narajow.
|Bnei Akiva group in Narajow-Brzezany|
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