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[Page174]


The First Hebrew School in Buczacz

Translated by Jessica Cohen


In October of 1907, I was invited by the Hebrew school committee to accept the position of headmaster of the school which was to be established in the town (the members of the committee, if memory serves, were Itzi Hirsch Weisser, Bezalel Herzes, Matityahu Weinreib and Jacob Leib Alfenbein). Upon my arrival in Buczacz, I found the committee members, who were holding office in Itzi Anderman's hotel, busy registering students. A young man stood beside them, his face blushing like the cheeks of a young woman. He was greatly enjoying the events, as if it were for his particular satisfaction that the parents were coming to register their sons for the new Hebrew school. It was Shmuel Czaczkes (the author S. Y. Agnon). The committee announced that it had hired an assistant teacher: a private Hebrew tutor in the town, whose livelihood would be damaged when the school opened, and they therefore found it befitting to take him on as an assistant teacher in the school. I visited the teacher, Rosenman, in his home. He was a learned man, a kind of talmid hacham [1], his face emanating a childish innocence and a delicate soul. He expressed his fear that he would not be able to manage a class, for he was not accustomed to that. I assured him he would have my complete assistance. The committee rented an apartment, brought in used benches and a blackboard, and the studies began.

A few days after my arrival in Buczacz, two students from the upper class of the gimnazjum came to see me. Their names were Naftali Menatzeach (Sigman, now a physician in Hadera) and Yosef Tischler (now an architect in Jerusalem). They asked if I would be willing to accept a group of students from the upper class at the gimnazjum to study Hebrew, new literature, grammar, the Book of Prophets and so forth, as well as a group of young women who had graduated from the gimnazjum but were still at a beginner level of Hebrew. Of course my answer was: yes! They told me that they had decided to speak only Hebrew amongst themselves and now, with the opening of a Hebrew school in their town – their longtime aspiration – they had decided to propagandize the Hebrew language. They would walk through the neighborhood streets and speak Hebrew out loud. The public would hear and would know that our language was being resurrected. I explained to them that indeed that was one of the school's duties, but we should not be too hasty. If they waited a short while, within a few months they would see the teacher walking with the school students on the main roads, speaking Hebrew and singing Hebrew songs. We would also produce historical plays for the public in Hebrew, and it would be a natural, inartificial presentation. But they were insistent, they had made a decision that could not be changed. The student Naftali Menatzeach was particularly stubborn, he was an uncompromising radical fanatic. The second student, Yosef Tischler, was also a fanatic of the Hebrew language, but slightly more moderate. He was a sort of talmid hacham among the students. His knowledge of the Hebrew language was greater than that of his friends. And “the words of wise men are heard in quiet.” [2] As a Hebrew teacher, I stood ashamed before these pillars of fire. I said to myself: if only there were more fanatics such as these in Israel! These gimnazjum graduates perceived the new Hebrew school as a small temple, where the teacher was the High Priest serving in the holy temple, and when he touched the school it was as if he were touching the apple of their eye. Their love for the Hebrew language knew no boundaries. The Hebrew school served them as a symbol of the Hebrew national and cultural revival.

The religious people were opposed to the school from the first. Their attacks were particularly directed towards the head of the school committee, Itzi Hirsch Weisser, who was an enlightened religious Zionist. They spoke badly of the teacher, for being shaven and perhaps also irreligious. The sacred language was taught bareheaded in the Hebrew school (the Tanach was taught with covered heads). The teacher walked with his female students along the main roads, speaking the sacred language openly. And the head of the committee took out his anger on the teacher and the older female students, for not coming to study Hebrew, but rather to socialize with their friends the gimnazjum graduates. Matters even reached the court, and the head of the committee was punished for insulting the senior female students. He began to interfere with the internal affairs of the school, to judge what was permitted and what was not, and what he was permitted to do and what he was not. Fortunately for me, the students' parents were on my side and did not allow the school to be turned into a cheder. The gimnazjum students stood by my side as a rock, defended their school and teacher and repelled all the attacks.

Several of the school graduates are in Israel: Dr. Naftali Menatzeach, Dr. Avraham Halfan (both in Hadera); Dr. Zvi Heller and his wife Dr. Esther Pnina Heller nee Anderman, his sister Dr. Pnina Neuberger (Tel Aviv), his younger sister Dr. Clara Kaner (Haifa), Chaya Rol of blessed memory, nee Biler, Dr. Emmanuel Pohorila (Jerusalem), Dr. David Pohorila, Attorney, Dr. Nussia Meibaum nee Tzeler, architect Yosef Tischler (Jerusalem), Dr. Pnina Shapira (Kiriat Haim).

For Chanukah, I prepared a play with the school students, “Chana and her Seven Sons,” as well as recitals and songs. Two days before the play, I received a notice from the district governor, prohibiting the production of the play, because it was “anti-Polish.” I immediately went to see the mayor, Barris Stern, a learned Jew, whose attitude toward the school was positive and supportive, despite being a pillar of the authorities. I showed him the governor's notice and the text of the play in Hebrew, which was an historical play from the time of the Hasmoneans and had nothing to do with the affairs of Poland. The mayor went to see the district governor, showed him the text of the play in Hebrew and asked him what was the meaning of the prohibition. The governor showed him an informant's letter claiming that it was an “anti-Polish” play, and asked the mayor to provide him with a Polish translation of the play by the end of the day. The translation was provided, and the play went on to be presented as planned. The informant's letter was the best possible propaganda for the school. The mayor and the Jewish and Christian government officials came to the play. The finest of the town's citizens came and the auditorium was full to the brim. When the informants realized that their scheme had failed, they published a manifest to the residents of Buczacz, by the name of “Shema Yisrael,” which was full of curses and abuses, and defamations of the teacher who was seducing the town's children away from traditional Judaism. They sent one copy to my parents in the moshava of Yavniel, [3] to influence me to renounce my evil ways, otherwise I would meet with ill fate. The opponents' acts strengthened my spirit even more in my determination to hold strong and not to flee the battle.

When I came to Galicia in 1906, the Hebrew school was still a newborn. The school was not built on firm ground. The school committee did not collect funds to reserve for times of recession. It did not sign annual contracts with the parents, so that they would pay for the holidays as well. As it happened, when everything ran smoothly, there was money to pay the teachers. But some of the parents removed their less advanced sons from the Hebrew school a few months before the exams in the public schools, as they were concerned that they would not be able to pass the government exams. The school's income decreased and there was no money to pay the teachers with, which was an obstacle for the development of the Hebrew school in Galicia. The committee did nothing on its part to fill the void, and its claims of having nowhere to obtain money from, did not satisfy the teacher nor his empty stomach.

A similar thing occurred in Buczacz. As long as the school attendant delivered the money he collected from the parents to me (many parents would send the tuition with their sons directly to me), there was money to pay the teachers, the janitor, the rent and the other expenses. I would present a monthly report to the committee. However, when the head of the committee ordered the collector not to deliver the collected money to me, but rather to him, he stopped paying salaries to myself and the attendant and did not pay the rent. When I asked the head of the committee where the money he had collected was and why he was not paying the salaries and the rent, he turned to me and said: how can you demand an account from me? The head of the committee was certain that he had grasped the bull by its horns. I had no choice but to turn to the parents and ask them to send the tuition directly to me, otherwise I would be forced to close the school. When the head of the committee realized that his control had been lost, he summoned a parents meeting and invited all the opponents of the school. He also invited the head of the teachers' organization and brought along a teacher who was to be given the position of headmaster instead of myself (I do not wish to mention any names, since I had a previous disagreement with the head of the teachers' organization and with the aforementioned teacher). The meeting was stormy, curses and insults flew over my head like hail. I requested permission to speak, so as to reply to my critics, and was not granted it. This created an even greater storm. The head of the teachers' organization and the teacher sat in anticipation of the moment when the crown of headmaster would be removed from my head and assigned to the awaiting teacher. And then came a man with a letter and delivered it to the head of the teachers' organization, and invited him and the teacher sitting by his side to accompany him. Upon their departure, the meeting dispersed. It was said that one of the parents had gone to the mayor and told him about the scandal, and he had summoned the head of the teachers' organization and the teacher, and warned them that they should leave the matter alone, because they might be about to unwittingly destroy the school. The head of the school committee returned home with his tail between his legs, for his honor had departed from him. And I was released from my shackles. I became free to realize my aspirations and my plans to establish the Hebrew school on a sound foundation, both materially and pedagogically, which would not be subject to fluctuations and shocks. This affair became well-known in all the Galician towns, from one end to another, and was the talk of the day, not only amongst the teachers. I met with M. Lipshitz, who later became the director of a Beit Midrash for teachers operated by the Mizrachi [4] in Jerusalem, and he told me: “We in Lvov knew of the scandal occurring in Buczacz. And we knew how the scheme was undone.”

The years 1907-1908 were full of bitterness for me. But they were also years of much experience, during which I became familiar with the ills of the Hebrew schools in Galicia, but also with their healing methods. Difficult pedagogical problems presented themselves and demanded solutions. The Hebrew schools in Galicia were schools only by name; in reality they were places of Hebrew lessons for only one or two hours. One group left and another came. I was faced with the question of how to create a comprehensive Hebrew school.

In November of 1908 I traveled to Palestine to visit my parents and take a rest from my wrath and anger. I gave the task of running the Hebrew school in Buczacz to one whom I had educated as a teacher in Rohatin and later in Buczacz, Yisrael Farnhof. In Palestine, I visited schools, in particular nursery schools. In April 1909 I returned to Buczacz. I rented a large garden with fruit trees and shady trees, from Moshe Weisser. I built a large, spacious shed in it. I announced that I was opening a “kindergarten” for ages three to seven. Two days before the opening, I received a notice from the district governor that I must dismantle the shed within 24 hours, otherwise the municipality would dismantle it, at my expense, and I would have to pay a fine. This time too, I went to the mayor, showed him the notice, and explained to him the purposes of the kindergarten and the educational value of preparing children for school, and that it was the first Hebrew-Polish kindergarten in Galicia. There were almost no Polish kindergartens in the entire country. The mayor went to the district governor and asked him why the notice had been given. The governor showed him an informant's letter, according to which I was intending to open a cheder opposite the council house and the national bank in town (the word cheder was a derogatory word among the Poles, implying a place of dirtiness and lack of order). Of course, the kindergarten was opened on time with no obstacles. The informant's letter only managed to create wide publicity for the new kindergarten.

Some two months after the opening of the kindergarten, I notified the chairman of the “Organization of Hebrew Schools in Galicia,” Dr. P. Korngrein (who later became a judge in the Tel Aviv District Court), of the opening of the kindergarten in Buczacz. I mentioned that I was willing to allow female graduates of the Hebrew schools in Galicia the opportunity to receive a practical education in my kindergarten. I requested that the school organization send a delegation to visit the kindergarten and ascertain whether it was worthy of its duties. The organization sent Dr. Moshe Yisrael Ratt to visit the kindergarten. Dr. Ratt heard the children speaking, telling stories, singing, making crafts, playing and talking Hebrew among themselves. He asked me how many years these children had been studying in the kindergarten. I told him that the kindergarten had only opened some three months prior, and he thought I was fooling him. After that visit, the school organization published a notice in the newspaper, calling on headmasters of Hebrew schools in Galicia to send their outstanding graduating female students to Buczacz, to receive an education in nursery school teaching, and to later open kindergartens in all the towns of Galicia (one of those educators, Pnina Stein, has been operating a kindergarten in Tel Aviv for several decades). That year, the editor of the newspaper “Ha'Mitzpeh” in Krakow, Dr. S. Lazar, published an article in his paper in which he described the great shortage of teachers in Galicia, and asked the headmasters of the Hebrew schools to enable young people to train themselves as teachers, under their administration. In a letter to the editor, I replied that I was willing to do this. After the editor of “Ha'Mitzpeh ” conducted an investigation and ascertained the quality of my school, he published an article in his paper about Mr. Baruch Berkowitz's school in the town of Buczacz, and called on young people who wished to train themselves as teachers to travel there and be educated at the school. (One of those young people, who has been in Israel for several years, is the Hebrew linguist Nissan Bergreen, author of the grammar book “The Theory of Forms.”)

In 1910 the Organization of Hebrew Schools in Galicia held a “Day of Hebrews” in Lvov. I was invited to participate in this occasion. I replied to Dr. Korngrein, the chairman of the organization, that I was willing to come and bring with me “an exhibition” of the work of the children in my kindergarten. I asked to be informed whether they would provide me with a space to present the exhibition. The response was positive. When I arrived with the exhibition at the “Tikvat Zion” auditorium, where the “Day of Hebrews” in Lvov was to be held, they showed me the area they had assigned for the exhibition. I took out the children's works and began to arrange them. The exhibition made an indescribable impression! Each of the representatives wanted to take one of the children's works, to show the people of their towns the wonders of the kindergarten in Buczacz. And thus the town of Buczacz became a small center for Hebrew education in Galicia. The years 1909-1912 were glorious years for the school and the kindergarten in the town of Buczacz. They represented a certain compensation for the years of suffering and anger during 1907-1908.

In July 1912, I traveled during the vacation to the village of Mikoliczin Wirmaczia, in thug the Carpathian Mountains. There I met the Zionist leaders from Lvov, Dr. Michal Ringel, Dr. B. Hausner, Jacob Bodek, and the writer Eliezer Rokeach. They asked me why I had chosen the distant town of Buczacz, of all places, as a location of educational action, rather than Lvov, the center of Zionism. The Zionist organization could be of assistance to me and could be useful for extensive educational activity. When they tried to convince me to move to Lvov and begin everything afresh, I told them of my educational plans. I told them that the kindergarten I established in Buczacz was not an end in and of itself, but rather the means to a greater end. The kindergarten would be the foundation for a comprehensive Hebrew school: an elementary school and a Hebrew-Polish gimnazjum. Dr. Ringel replied: in that case, there is all the more reason for you to move to Lvov. The Zionist organization will help you with everything. In September, I moved to Lvov. The Buczacz episode was over, and a new episode – the Lvov episode – began. Some of my dreams in that realm came true in Lvov. In 1914 the First World War broke out. Lvov was conquered by the Russians, and “during war, the muses are silent,” as the old Greek saying goes. As a result of my endeavors, a board was chosen which included Zvi Karl (who is now in Tel Aviv), his brother-in-law Dr. Teuber, and the Zionist Shlomo Ducker (now in Tel Aviv), and they opened a Hebrew-Polish elementary school. I managed a kindergarten and a Hebrew school. I also gave lessons to teachers, both male and female, and to kindergarten teachers. The Jews of Galicia experienced much turmoil – the conquering of Galicia by the Russians and its liberation, the pogroms conducted by the Polish armies and the “Holertziks” against the Jews of Lvov and other towns after the end of the First World War, the collapse of the Austrian monarchy, the Bolsheviks' storming of Galicia in 1920, their approach to Lvov – all these forced me to comply with my parents' request to return to Palestine. In 1920, I returned with my family to Palestine.

The history of the Hebrew schools in Galicia, the great educational activity carried out by the teachers for the benefit of the students, by means of the Hebrew schools, as well as the results which were later discernable among the Hebrew youths who left the schools, the gimnazjums, the universities, and came to Palestine to participate in building the country – all these deserve to be recorded as memories for the next generations.

Baruch Y. Berkowitz
Jerusalem-Hadera.






Endnotes

1. Talmid hacham: lit. "wise student" (Hebrew). A phrase used to describe a scholar of Jewish law [tr.] Back

2. Ecclesiastes 9:17 [tr.] Back

3. Moshava: The earliest type of Jewish settlement in pre-state Israel, originally agricultural [tr.] Back

4. Mizrachi: An international religious Zionist movement, founded in Vilna in 1902 [tr.] Back





[Page 179]

Histadrut Hechalutz in Buczacz

Translated by Jessica Cohen


In 1923, the foundation of the Hechalutz [5] movement in Buczacz was reestablished, after an intermission of over two years since the Third Aliyah [6] group made aliyah in 1920. The main impetus came from a few young people, centered around Yisrael Cohen, who were very active in operating the Hechalutz movement in our town.

But before I describe Hechalutz's methods of action and status in our town, I must preface by mentioning two organizations, one political and one cultural, which existed during this period in Buczacz. For these organizations constituted an embryo from which Hechalutz emerged, and also because most of the Hechalutz founders were active in these organizations. I am referring to the Hitachdut[7] party and to the Ivriya[8] association. I shall not go into details about the Hitachdut, but I shall devote my words to the Ivriya.

The establishment of Ivriya stemmed from an essential need to concentrate the supporters of the Hebrew language and culture, who were scattered with no contact amongst them. The founder and active force in this association was the Hebrew teacher, Yisrael Farnhof. Among the organization activists were Dr. Silberstein, Yisrael Cohen, Ms. Khaye Roll, of blessed memory, Gitta Glantzer, Ms. Enmelding, L. Hartzman, Chaim Weisenthal, Arieh Frankel, Moshe Held, and others.

The organization was active in a variety of areas. They laid the foundations for a Hebrew library, which helped to form Hebrew reading groups. Lectures were delivered in Hebrew on Jewish and general topics. There were training courses in various subjects. The association's impression and influence were discernable beyond the boundaries of the organization.

There were also serious efforts to establish a theatre group, with the assistance of Kalman Friedman. One play, by the name of “Shaul and David,” was extremely successful.

I recall a series of lectures given by Ms. Roll about S.Y. Agnon. There were a number of people in Buczacz for whom the Hebrew language and culture was an essential need, such as Dr. Khalfan, of blessed memory, who was permeated with Hebrew culture and who would express his affinity with the language at every opportunity.

I recall a typical episode, during the opening session of the newly elected community assembly (if I am not mistaken, this was in 1924). Dr. Khalfan delivered a welcoming speech in Hebrew, which was of course received enthusiastically on the part of the language loyalists, and unwillingly on the part of the assimilated. At that point, he was nicknamed by Mr. Yakov Stern, “der Dr. mit di brayteh paschin”

Histadrut Hechalutz, which was established, as was previously mentioned, in 1923, was affiliated with the Hechalutz center in Lvov. The movement aimed to propagate the idea of labor and agricultural training, imparting the language and values of the Hebrew culture, and primarily: making aliyah to Israel and personal fulfillment of the ideology. The path of the Buczacz Hechalutz movement was not easy at first. The decline in the public affairs of the Jewish community, which prevailed after the period of flourishing following the war, as well as the signs of assimilation which were revealed during that period, constituted a severe obstacle for its activity. There were also harsh objections on the part of parents, who did not want to get used to the idea that their children would be separated from them and become farmers or just plain laborers.

Despite all these difficulties, the movement managed to expand its activities, accepted new members and developed far-reaching cultural activity. Most of the members already spoke Hebrew, and those who were not yet fluent were given the opportunity to become so.

A profound influence on the ideas and directions of the movement occurred when its members departed to a hachshara[9], in which the group garin[10] was molded. After extensive consideration, the group was organized during Pesach of 1924, and was called “hameshulash” [the triangle] (its slogans were: language, labor, country). Its members were: Yisrael Cohen, Asher Cohen, Fischel Neiberger, Herzl Margalit, Shmuel Karbas, Zipporah Judenfreund, Shoshana Narpan, Tzvi Pikholtz, S. Wisinger, Moni Landman, Arieh Kopler and Moshe Held.

This step had a profound impact on the life of the town, particularly amongst the youth. As a result, a large hachsharah movement arose in the town, and the Shomer Hatzair movement was also revived. Some of the members made aliyah to Israel, while a few others ceased believing in the Zionist idea after a short while and turned their backs on the country.

Other hachsharah groups were established on the model of the “meshulash” group at that time.

The group's first steps were in Lvov. There, the members found work in construction, and here they were first faced with all the problems which were typical of any group at the beginning of its way, such as: difficulties in adapting to physical labor and to communal life, which demands giving up various habits. They managed to overcome all these problems by means of goodwill and mutual understanding, which later accompanied the group during the entire period of its existence in Israel and abroad.

After a few months of work in Lvov, they decided to go to an agricultural hachsharah, in order to crystallize the group in preparation for aliyah. And indeed, after a period of hachsharah and after various trials and tribulations of aliyah, the group immigrated to Palestine and settled in Petach Tikva, in Emek Hasheva.

Moshe Held





Endnotes

5. Lit. "the pioneer" (Hebrew) Back

6. Aliyah: immigration to Israel; lit. "ascension". There were several waves of Aliyah. The Third Aliyah was between 1919 and 1923, and consisted mostly of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, primarily from Russia. Back

7. Lit. "union" or "federation" (Hebrew). Back

8. Lit. the feminine form of the adjective "Hebrew" (Hebrew) Back

9. Lit. "training" (Hebrew). These were training camps set up in various places in Europe, intended to prepare young Jewish men and women for their impending life in Israel as agricultural workers. Back

10. Lit. "seed," "core" or "nucleus." This refers to groups of young people who went through various social and training activities together, and then either settled in an established kibbutz or moshav, or founded their own new settlement. Back






[Page 180]

Hospital and Old Age Home in Buczacz

Translated by Jessica Cohen


When you walked up the steps next to the synagogue, then passed the “leitze stiebl” and turned right, you were immediately faced with a serious looking white building, two stories high, with large windows with three window panes in each, a low fence on both sides, and a few steps in the middle which lead to a strong, heavy door, which was usually closed. On the front wall, between the two stories, large letters read: “Szpital Izraelicki.” On each side of the entrance were plaques bearing the names of the founders, Yisrael Moshe Stern and Yisrael Moshe Preminger. This was the most popular building in town, respected and beloved by all strata of the residents and interwoven in their lives. The hospital was involved in any happy event or sad occasion, and always contributed to alleviating the pain or increasing the joy.

In the hospital yard was a large ice storehouse, almost the only one in town, which served the residents. At times of sickness, not only patients who were being treated in the hospital itself benefited from it, but also any people who needed it. There was no celebration in town, in which the celebrator would not remember the hospital and contribute a small or large sum to it. A lovely custom took roots during the last years among the residents: before every important event they would donate meals to the hospital and to the old age home. Whether it was a bar-mitzvah or a wedding, a birthday or a yarzheit, the lady of the household would take pains to appear in the hospital office to consult with the manager of the institute with regards to which items were needed and how much she should prepare, and she herself would enjoy the act of giving, more than the elderly people and the patients enjoyed the dishes she prepared.

The hospital had one more interaction with the public. Every year a minyan was arranged on the top floor of the building for the High Holydays. Anyone who did not wish to pray in the synagogues, whether because of their crowded conditions or for any other reason, reserved a place there. Aliyas[11] were purchased for small sums and were not used, and their places were taken by patients or elderly people from the institution. Of course, the number of women was significantly greater than the number of men registered at the services. This minyan generated a decent income for the hospital fund, particularly since all the organizers and the service leaders were volunteers. I would like to mention Mr. Gdaliyahu Duchovny, of blessed memory, who led the Mussaf prayer. He was a God-fearing Jew, with a most pleasant voice.

There was also a traditional ball held during the winter months for several years, to benefit the hospital. The ball was held in the large hall in the town, in the “Sokol” building, and almost all the townspeople took part in it, both Jews and non-Jews. All the Polish aristocracy with the “starostwa” at the head, took part in the ball.

The hospital began to operate even before the great fire of 1866; in that fire, the hospital building was burnt along with a large part of the town. Only the walls remained, which were temporarily repaired. It was a neglected building, which the townspeople used to call “a poor-house.” This poor-house served as a shelter for the poor, the sick and the maimed, who could not afford to rent their own apartments. The house was managed by an old man who lived there, who was referred to as “der hekdesh-man” [the poor-house man]. The residents of the poor-house survived on money they begged for, and on meals sent to them by the townspeople.

In 1891 some of the Buczacz residents established a committee for the renewal of the hospital. Among them were Yisrael Moshe Stern (whose mother, Fiegeh Waksler, donated a large sum of money for this purpose), Yisrael Moshe Preminger, Yitzhak Seidman, Isaac Nacht, Yoel and Nathan Neiman, Reuven Leib Pohorile, and others. They gave their own contributions for this purpose, and raised other donations. They renovated the building and set up a modern hospital on the first floor for the community of Buczacz and the surrounding areas. The late Y.M. Preminger was president of the hospital for many years, and the late Y. M. Stern was its director. The latter devoted most of his life to directing and maintaining the hospital and also tried to ensure a future existence for the institution. For this purpose, he built and renovated a few houses left by various estates, including the house of the Margolis family, where the community committee was later located; the stores adjacent to this house; the lot opposite the community house including its stores; the chicken slaughterhouse; the stores and mainly the butcher shops and the “folks-kich” above them. Some of the income from these buildings was devoted to maintaining the hospital, and some to the Talmud Torah. In addition to all this, many of the townspeople agreed to give monthly donations to the institution.

For a few years, the hospital building was rented out to the Baron Hirsch's school, and the folks-kich (public kitchen) was also located in it for a while, and in this way it was possible to furnish and arrange the top floor of the institution.

Dr. Fabian Nacht was appointed medical director of the hospital from its first day, and he served in this capacity for over thirty years.

In 1908, an old age home was set up on the first floor of the building, with room for 15 people. Among the founders of this institution were Yisrael Moshe Preminger, Yisrael Moshe Stern, Avish Stern, Yitzhak Seidman, Leibish Fried and David Neiman, who was for many years a voluntary secretary. Moshe Farb donated the first ten beds for the opening of the old age home. In order to enable the maintenance of the old age home, the community committee donated the right to collect payment for tombstones, for this purpose.

In this way, the two institutions were conducted until 1914.

When the First World War broke out, almost all the Jewish residents left the town and the building became ownerless. Between 1914 and 1920, following the various occupations of the town, the building served periodically as a hospital for the war casualties of the various sides. It should be noted that the only patient who remained there during that whole period, was Leah (Abenstein) with her sister “Baba,” who was lame. They later moved to the old age home and remained there until all the residents and employees of both the institutions were killed by the Nazis in 1942.

When the war was over in 1920, a general assembly was held to elect a new board for the two institutions. The following were elected: David Neumann – Chairman; Zigmunt Cook – Assistant Chairman; Leib Roll – Vice Chairman and Administrator; Monish Frankel – Treasurer; Tzvi Nirenberg – Secretary. Other members chosen were Ms. Shnitzi Herzes, Ms. Paula Marengel, Ms. Frieda Rosen, Julius Tzeler, Fischel Skalka, David Shechner, Moshe Wolftal, Pinchas Weinstock, Yosef Knobler, Haim Frankel, Yehuda Pitzel, Fischel Kittenflon, Alter Goldberg and Itzik Wolf Yorman.

The new board found the hospital and the old age home in a terrible condition. The building was decrepit, there was no linen, the few pieces of furniture had been tossed in the corners of the rooms, and the patients used dirty rags to dry themselves instead of towels. The nutrition was very poor, and only saccharine was used to sweeten the food, and even that only a little. The patients were literally starving. It was winter, and of course there was nothing to fuel the heaters with.

The board immediately conducted a once-off fundraising campaign, to raise money, food and linen. They fixed the building and organized the rooms and the yard. All the rooms were thoroughly cleaned, linen was purchased, the kitchen was improved and dinnerware was purchased. As we have mentioned, the head physician was Dr. Nacht. At the same time, the board requested assistance from the Joint and was given a number of beds, sheets, linen, medicine, surgical and medical devices, and a large amount of soap, tooth powder, toothbrushes and more.

The institutions had five sources of income at the time:

  1. The rent from the houses and stores mentioned previously;
  2. The right to collect payment from erection of tombstones, which was estimated and assessed according to the individual's financial situation;
  3. Annual support from the community committee (which was never given in full);
  4. Monthly payments from some of the townspeople, which the new board obtained for the two institutions;
  5. Pledges and donations to benefit the institutions on any occasion such as weddings, balls, etc.
The patients were taken in free of charge, as were the elderly people. A clinic was organized for poor patients outside the institution, and they were also given free medication. The condition improved from one year to the next, thanks to the dedicated work of the administration members. Ms. Adella Pines was the manager of the hospital at that time, and she was tireless in her efforts to improve the health and nutrition conditions in the institution.

In 1923, Leib Roll was elected as Chairman of the institution, and he served in this capacity until the end of 1934, at which time he made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. From that time until the hospital ceased to exist, Monish Frankel was the Chairman, and Paula Marangel and Yosef Knobler were Assistant Chairs. At first, there were 16 beds in the hospital and 15-16 elderly residents. More improvements were introduced, including electric lighting and running water in the building. A pretty garden was arranged around the building, a hut for infectious patients, a morgue, a laundry room and an ice storehouse.

In 1925, after more than thirty years of dedicated and fruitful activity in the hospital, Dr. Nacht stepped down as head physician, due to his age, and was replaced by Dr. Mordechai Hirschorn, who remained in this capacity until the hospital was transferred to the authority of the Soviet government.

Over the course of time, the hospital's character changed, and their was a need to expand it and add more beds, and therefore the old age home was moved to a new building which was acquired from the Talmud Torah committee, and four additional spaces were added in it for elderly patients. Since this was the only hospital in the entire district – there was no governmental hospital – the workrooms and storage areas had to be expanded. The expanded hospital included a delivery room, two quarantine rooms, a surgery room, and a bathroom with hot water. The situation in the hospital, both medically and organizationally, improved so much that even patients from the wealthier classes of town endeavored to be accepted as patients, in return for pay of course.

In 1929, due to the economic crisis and the impoverishment of the Jewish population, the hospital's external sources of income decreased and the institution was forced to become self-supporting. Only after a number of years was there an interest in this public institution on the part of the Buczacz Landsmannschaft in America, and they supported it with considerable donations. At the same time, in 1936, a new physician was hired by the hospital, Dr. Tzvi Rosenman, and more nurses were also hired. That same year, a medical laboratory was also organized in the hospital, where Dr. Yoachim Gottfried (who is now in Israel) worked. The number of beds in the hospital was increased to 40.

Much of the improvement in the situation and in the internal conditions, must be credited to the managers, the first of whom was Ms. Adella Pines, who worked until 1932. After her, the management was given to Ms. Esther Besner (Eisenberg), who remained in this capacity until she moved to Israel in 1935. The final manager was Ms. Betty Medwinska, who worked until 1942, when she was transferred along with part of the townspeople to the gas chambers in Belzec.

From the beginning of the war, in September 1939, the hospital served as a military hospital, where all the war casualties during that time were treated. After a few weeks, the hospital was moved to the governmental buildings (in Podlesie), where Dr. Avraham Khalfan worked as director of the internal and X-ray department, and Dr. Blottreich and Dr. Gottfried also worked there. The abandoned hospital buildings, and the old age home buildings, became a governmental old age home for both Jews and Christians. This old age home was under the medical supervision of Dr. Hirschorn, and was managed by Ms. Medwinska. Of course, the Jewish character of the institution was completely eradicated, and the elderly residents went hungry as they could not eat the non-kosher food.

During the Nazi period, the hospital was managed by a Jewish doctor, whose name it would be best not to mention.

It should be noted that all the physicians who worked at the hospital in Buczacz during the final period, whether full-time or part-time, are all still alive, including all the nurses who worked there during that time.

Today, the building is in ruins, the doors and windows are broken, the roof and some of the internal walls are destroyed. It is a ruin, in which such beautiful Jewish life once flourished.

(compiled by Khaye Roll, of blessed memory)



Endnotes

11. This refers to the honor of being called up during the reading of the Torah to recite a blessing. Back


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