The Hebrew Movement in Chortkov
By Dr. Eliezer Margalit
Teaching Hebrew, as a living language, started when Russian Jews arrived in our
town. We have to give the credit of starting the Hebrew classes to two Russian
Jews who arrived in Chortkov in 1904. Their names were Chiltnikov and
Tshlizkie. Both of them escaped from Russia to avoid being drafted to the
Czar's army who declared a war that year against the Japanese Empire. A few
days after their arrival in Chortkov, they started, with a lot of energy and
enthusiasm to establish Hebrew studies. Chiltnikov and Tshlizkie organized
advanced Hebrew classes. We have to give them credit for being the first to
teach Hebrew and for turning a new leaf in Hebrew studies in Chortkov. Their
classes were an example of excellence in many cities and towns throughout
Hebrew teachers from Chortkov followed in their footsteps. The first and most
important were Apelbaum and Tzvi Orenstein. Organized Hebrew studies started
only in 1913 when the first Hebrew School was established in Chortkov, Yakov
Frost was chosen as the school's principal. We can't ignore the fact, that by
choosing Yakov Frost, who was a religious Jew, gave the school the necessary
boost it needed. The religious parents fully trusted the religious principal.
In a very short period of time, Hebrew studies were wide spread in our town and
the existence of the first Hebrew School in Chortkov was secured.
We also have to mention, that Yakov Frost was a talented educator and one of
the best Hebrew teachers in Eastern Galicia. Tzvi Orenstein, Mr. Lederman and
the young teacher Ms. Doldig worked with him and helped him run the school. As
a result, in a short period of time, Hebrew studies spread through the many
circles of the Jewish youth in Chortkov. The positive attitude of the young
Jewish people towards Yakov Frost work was also was the result of his great
personality. Not only that he was well versed in Jewish studies his main
interest was in Hebrew linguistics. Mr. Frost wrote a Hebrew dictionary and had
a wide knowledge in Hebrew literature. His wife also taught at the school and
both of them were dedicated to their work. The school was their life work and
they put all their energy and efforts to improve it and made sure of its
We also have to mention that the Hebrew school in Chortkov was not the first
one in Eastern Galicia. It was the fourth one. It was established in 1904 after
the Hebrew schools in Stanislov, Starry and Novi-Sandtz.
In Hanukah of 1906, the Jewish Teachers Association, held a conference in the
Empire of Austria and a delegate was sent from Chortkov.
In 1911 there were 69 students at the school. Some of the teachers were;
Benyamin Dovovy who taught the Talmud in Hebrew, Lieberman who taught grammar,
the teachers Lederman and Zev Shecter. The teacher Tzvi Orenstein also taught
music and was the first to bring Hebrew music to Chortkov.
The school was at Beit Haa'm (community center).
We have to recognize and bless the hard work of Leibish Vaserman who interested
in the youth of Chortkov. He brought them closer to the Hebrew culture by
organizing a Hebrew choir, field trips and many more. Also Tzvi Shecher,
Richter, Yakov Stekel. Shvartz, Margalit and many more, were active in the
Hebrew culture movement.
When the work of organizing the youth in Chortkov started, all the different
Jewish youth movements joined. Like Hashomer Hatzair
Gordonya Hahalutz Beitar and many more. We
can say, without any exaggeration, that the Hebrew language was openly spoken
in the streets of Chortkov.
Later on, the directors of the Hebrew school were Dr. David Margaliot and
Peretz Cohen. During their time the school expanded. More students joined and
more teachers were hired. Also the Hebrew curriculum was expanded giving the
students a wider and a better education. At that time a reading room, named
after Echad Haa'm, was establish in Beit Haa'm. It was used
for meetings, lectures and discussions on different Hebrew subjects. In 1927
the poet Elisheva was invited by the culture committee to visit Chortkov. She
gave a lecture to a large audience.
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Memories from my childhood
By Leah Margliot - Pevzner
This year, is the 24th year since I arrive in Israel. It was a very long
period, filled with many events. These years were important in my life.
Sometimes I feel, that I spent most of my life, if not all of them, here in
Israel. Maybe, if not for the terrible period of the Holocaust that happened in
the town were I was born and raised, I would have continued to live in the
atmosphere of my parents' home. But the horrible disaster, that hit our
families, took this feeling away from me. Now, more than ever, pictures from my
childhood flashes before my eyes. These pictures connect me with all the events
that happened in our town Chortkov.
Here is the Hebrew School, that was established by my father, of blessed
memory. I think that all the people who came from our town studied in this
school. Here I am, seeing myself as a four-year-old girl. I have not yet
started my studies in the Polish Elementary School. Here I am walking, carrying
my school bag in my hand to the Hebrew School. I can't remember now how many
classes were there, but one thing is clear to me, there were a number of
classes there. Who did not study there? All school age children studied there.
What did they study there? Everything - reading and writing in Hebrew, Hebrew
grammar, Bible, Music and many more
I remember the parties - Purim, Hanukkah, when we were reciting the stories and
the events of the past. We hungrily and enthusiastically ate fruits for
Tu-Bishvat, that brought out the yearnings for the chosen land.
Also the social youth activities were organized in the Hebrew School. We had a
choir and a drama club. Every once in a while, we performed for our parents and
for the public. Plays, customs
and everything, of course, only in the
purest of all languages Hebrew. A language that we were fluent with from
a very young age.
For many years, I continued my studies in the Hebrew School. I kept on going to
the Hebrew School even after I started going to the Polish Elementary School.
When I arrived in Israel, I was able to speak fluently in Hebrew. No one was
able to tell that I was a New Immigrant." I was able to continue my
studies in Israel without any problems. I owe my success to the most important
institution - that its name was The Hebrew School in Chortkov.
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The Hebrew High School in Chortkov
By Gizler Fridzia
It is difficult for me write about Chortkov's Jewish community that does not
exist anymore. But it is twice as difficult for me to write about the Jewish
youth of Chortkov, who studied in the Hebrew High School. This institution,
produced a well-educated and talented generation of Jewish students. It was an
institution where Jewish boys and girls studied without fear and flattery to
the gentiles, without hate and Ma' Yafit dances.
The Hebrew High School was established in 1936.
As a rule, before the end of the school year, a group of young Jewish students
(some of them were talented, and some, less talented but with the right
connections) took entrance exams to the Polish State High School. That year,
the group was lucky. A large number of boys and girls successfully passed the
entrance exams. Unlike the years before, the students received letters
informing them, that they were accepted to the Polish State Institute. The
letters brought a lot of happiness to the hearts of the young men and women. At
the beginning of the summer vacation, the new students were spotted wearing
their new dark-blue uniforms. The number 606 was embroidered on the armband
with a silver yarn. They walked tall, and impatiently waited for the beginning
of the school year. Their happiness was short lived. In the middle of the
summer vacation, all the Jewish students received a personal letter informing
them, that for unknown reasons, and at no fault of the administration, they
were denied admission.
At the beginning, each student thought that he the only one to receive the
rejection letter. But very fast it was clear, that the whole group was denied
admission (the reason was, as I was told at that time, that a daughter of a
Polish clerk failed in her entrance exams. Angrily, she approached the Ministry
of Education, claiming that because a large number of Jewish girls were
admitted, the Polish girls were not able to gain admission to the State High
The children were ashamed. The parents did not know what to do. Where could
their sons and daughters continue their education since registration to the
High Schools in the area was over? At the end, the parents met and chose a
committee. Among the active members, we have to mention the names of the lawyer
Israel Vinter may he rests in peace, and Dr. Shorr may he lives long. At the
advice of the committee, they rented a room, hired exceptional teachers, that
were never in short supply in Chortkov, and the group started to study as a
class in a private school. In the first year, there were 24 students in the
class. The committee, with cooperation from the parents, worked hard to expend
the class and turn it into a proper school.
In the second year, the students were transferred to a building more suitable
for a school. It was the home of Herman, who was the former District Officer.
For the second school year, a larger group of students registered. The news,
that a Hebrew High School was established in Chortkov, spread all over the
area. Children from the nearby towns came to Chortkov to earn their education.
The same year, the Ministry of Education, recognized the school. The students
were wearing uniform with the number 672 embroidered on their armband. We
studied very hard, since we did not want to disappoint our teachers and
parents. The school's atmosphere was very pleasant, free of hate. We also felt
the care of our teachers, who worked very hard to improve the school and bring
it to the highest level.
We have to remember the teachers and the principal who contributed to the
success of the school. Our principal, Mr. M. Halperin, was brought from Tourkie
in Galicia. He was a quiet and modest man. He kept an open eye on all his
students and took care of them like they were his own children.
Our Mathematics teacher was Mr. Yoseph Frenkel. All his students admired him,
as a teacher and as a great athlete. During brakes, we saw him running after a
ball like one of the students, but after the bell rang, he returned to be a
dedicated teacher who demanded excellence in Mathematics, Physics and
Chemistry. Literature was taught by Ms. Fanny Brecher. History and Geography
were taught by Mr. Shirfbred who was a short man, but very pleasant, when he
walked slowly the length and the width of the classroom. He knew how to draw
his students' attention to his favorite subject - the history of Greece and
The Biology teacher was Ms. Zirmaier. The German teacher was Ms. Roza Margolin,
who was strict in her appearance and with her demands. Latin was taught by Mr.
Lieberman, a tall man that his students (mostly the girls) nicknamed Apollo.
The last one was our Hebrew teacher, Mr. Milgram who was invited from Trembola.
I will never forget his lessons because he liked to discuss and analyze in
length the literature that he was teaching us. I personally liked his lessons
and as a graduate of the Hebrew High School I always swallowed every Hebrew
word that he was teaching us. I will never forget his interesting lessons.
In the third year, there were 3 classes. During the years most the necessary
equipment were purchased. Physics, Biology and Chemistry labs were fitted with
the right instruments. Maps, that were needed to help teaching History and
Geography, were purchased. Every new item that was added to our school filled
our hearts with pride and happiness. In the summer of 1939, the students who
were hoping to enter school for its fourth year, gave their entry exams. Again,
many students from the area came to earn their education at our school. But
that year our happiness did not last long. It was the year that World War II
When the Russians took over our district, our school turned into a Yiddish
School. The teaching language was the purest form of Yiddish
From that period, I remember only a small event, that still brings a smile to
I learned to read and write Yiddish, but after the first semester, I realized
how ignorant I was. I was shocked when I failed in my first essay in Yiddish.
After reading the teacher's remarks, I realized that my spelling was all wrong.
My essay, that was written in Yiddish, was full of Hebrew expressions, that
were spelled incorrectly, as one big mistake. But in time, I did learn to spell
Yiddish words in the correct way.
To our great dismay, this period did not last long. With the summer of 1941
came the end of our school. After the German's occupation, all the school were
off limits for Jewish students. At the beginning, everyone tried to continue
his studies at home, hoping that things would get better. Slowly slowly, our
eyes opened, and we realized what was really happening.
In the first month of occupation, our beloved teachers, together with all of
Chortkov's intelligentsia, were taken on journey, from which they never
returned. Some of the students were taken to the ghetto, some were sent to
labor camps. Most of them were killed in the "Aktion". Also, during
this difficult time, we did not forget our teachers. I remember one day in
1942, when one of the students from my school, Moshe Pink, knocked on my door.
He asked me to contribute to a food parcel that a group of students were
sending to our teacher Milgron, who was at that time in a labor camp. We were
really happy when we received a thank you letter from him. Tears poured from
our eyes, and we decided, no matter how difficult it was, to continue sending
packages. But we were unable to do so.
What a pity, that these boys and girls, can't be here today, and share their
memories with us. Many of them were extremely gifted, and if they had lived,
they could have contributed their talents to our homeland. I can't finish,
without remembering, Slova Zieden, who was the most gifted student in our
Today, only a small group of students is still alive, we can count them with
the fingers of one hand. This small surviving group, will always keep in its
heart and will never forget, our school, our teachers, our friends that are no
longer with us. Above all, we will always keep in our hearts the principles of
love for our homeland, that our teachers taught us during the short period of
time of our school existence.
The memory of our teachers and our friends, who did not live to witness the
establishment of the State of Israel, will be kept in our hearts forever and
may our generation feel no more sorrow.
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The Girls School Beit Yakov
After World War I, when ignorance in religious matters in the Jewish
neighborhoods reached its peak, Ms. Sara Snieder, may she rests in peace,
started her great mission, establishing a school for girls Beit
Yakov in each town.
Even though, she understood that times were changing, she educated here female
students to be loyal to G-d's Torah, to G-d's people and to G-d's homeland.
She put an emphasis on teaching modesty and purity of the family, as it was
traditionally done in the Jewish religion since the days of creation. For her,
when it came to preserving the purity of the personal conduct of a Jewish girl,
there was not a place for a compromise. Only the commands of the Torah, that
many generations of Jews observed with great devotion, even during the worst
times in the blood soaked history of the Jewish people, exist.
In our town Chortkov; Rabbi Tzvi Blay, Rabbi Abraham Drok, Rabbi Moshe
Aaronstien, Rabbi Meir Aaronstien, Rabbi Aiezik Schwartz, Rabbi Moshe Librad,
Rabbi Israel Shov, Rabbi Yshayho Zeltner, the writer of this lines, may he
lives! and his friend Tzvi Gizler, may his lights shine! took on themselves the
work of establishing a religious school for girls Beit Yakov.
Our Master and Teacher, Rabbi Israel, of blessed memory, from Chortkov, donated
a wing in one of his buildings for the school. A women's committee worked hard
to expend the school and bring it to a great success. The committee included
the following women; Froma Blay, Rochtzie Klirsfeld (the daughter of Rabbi
Shmuel Landau, may he rests in peace), Reize Derok, Ravtzie Liberd, Aaronstien
(Rabbi's Moshe Aaronstien's wife), and Zeltner.
The most successful period in the history of the school, was during the time of
the educator and teacher Rachel Fleker from Kolomia. She excelled in her
activities and in her teaching methods, keeping with the principle, It is
the deeds that count and not the words.
She was not only concerned about teaching, but also about the main objective of
education. As she used to say: If the results of education prove, that
the girls don't observe the obligation between a person and his G-d and between
a person to his friend - the objective of education was not met. She considered
her visits to the girls' homes, her conversations with them and the girls'
social life, more important than the hours they spent studying at school.
Sabbath and holidays were working days, and maybe the most
difficult days for the teachers of Beit Yakov because they were
afraid, that a week's hard work could be wasted , Heaven Forbid.
Ms. Fleker gave her students the inspiration to continue their studies and to
improve themselves. Her teaching methods draw a lot of students to the school
and to the kindergarten.
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"lashir ma yafit" (or "lirkod" in this case) means to be
toady or servile to
Gentiles. The source is in a custom in Poland of the landowners and barons to
force Jews to sing and or dance before them for their amusement to the "Ma
Yafit" mizmor of Friday night. It is used in general to refer to any kind
of groveling or kowtowing to someone else to curry favor.
[Pages 149 - 151]
Chortkov a musical city
The cantor Haim Manish-Lah"s from Chortkov
Translation by Sara Mages
"Manish the Cantor" was a renown name in the wide circles of the Hassidic
Jews in Galicia and the Ukraine. He was born in 1867 in Toltshin Ukraine to
his father Rabbi Moshe Laha"s who was a cantor in his town. Rabbi Moshe
was a loyal and dedicated Hassid and a follower of the righteous Rabbi
Dode'l from Talna. When Manish grow up, his father took him on one of his
visits to Talna hoping that the young man's soul will connect with the
Rabbi's holiness. But the young man's heart followed the Rabbi's cantor,
Rabbi Hershel Yoshks. Rabbi Hershel recognized the young man's
exceptional gift, that he was musically talented with a great singing voice and
invited him to join his choir. Manish stayed in Talna and very soon became
the central pillar of the choir. A new and wonderful world opened for him.
His soul was like a plugged spring that suddenly burst open and the music
started to flow. He shined with his singing and could not rest until he started
to create his own music. His music lessens with Rabbi Hershel were not
enough for him and he wished to study the foundations of the art of
music.The music conservatory was a foreign and far away place from his
world. He ended up studying music by correspondence with the famous
Years later Manish joined the choir of Rabbi Hershel. After he got married he was
accepted as a cantor with the Rabbi in Spikov (the Rabbi was related to the
Tebraskie family from Rachmistrivka). In Spikov, Cantor Rabbi Manish,
organized a choir and his music was appreciated by his large audience. The
Hassidim who came to visit the Rabbi's court from near and far, studied and
memorized Rabbi Monish's melodies from his singers and brought them to
their towns. His music was played with enthusiasm and devotion by his many
admirers in Hassidic parties.
After fifteen years of creative work in Spikov, Rabbi Monish moved to
Berdichev were he got a job as a cantor in one of the synagogues. He did not
live there for too long. Chortkov's Hassidim who came from Berdichev
decided that this cantor belong in their court. They did not rest until they
were able to move him to the Rabbi's court in Chortkov.
This famous "court" was the center for thousands of Hassidim during the
holidays. It served as a creative ground to the wide musical creativity of
Rabbi Monish. When he lived in Chortkov he wrote many important
compositions. Hundreds of Hassidic's melodies, different musical versions
for Shabbat and for the holidays. He wrote prayers for the High Holidays,
compositions for the choir and for the orchestra and for the book of Psalms.
In Chortkov he was given the opportunity to create his own choir and brought
in many powerful and important musical talents. At times, a few of his sons
join the choir. Among them was his son David, who sang for a few years
with the Royal Opera in Vienna. The performances of Rabbi Monish and his
choir always left a deep emotional impression on Chortkov's Hassidim, who
spread his composition through hundreds of villages and towns in Eastern
The many compositions that Rabbi Monish wrote were well written and well
organized. If his work was ever published it would have created a large and
complete library of original Hassidic music. We have to be extremely sad
that his compositions were never printed and published. With the distraction
of the Jewish world in Europe by the Nazis, the voice of the most famous
cantor was silenced forever. All his compositions, that were stored in his
cabinet, were also destroyed and lost forever. Only few crumbs of his
Hassidic melodies survived, and I am sure that they were damaged through
their many journeys. We have to bless the few remnants of music that
survived, because they bring out the memory of one of the most important
Jewish musician in the history of the Hassidot.
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Chortkov the city of Hassidic music
I wish to give here details about the cantors and readers that served in the
Rabbi's court. Their influence spread beyond the borders of Chortkov. We
can see signs of their influence in the Hassidic cantorial music of today.
First, we must remember the readers; Shaya Hazan who had a beautiful
soprano voice. At the age of eighty he was still the reader of the early
morning prayers. Aharon Hazan was the reader for the evening prayers. The
two were well known in Chortkov for their originality and as the creators of
the special 'Version' that was well known around Galicia by the name the
'Chortkov's Version'. We can categorize it as a delicate and a cultural way of
singing cantorial music, deep from the heart, without sudden ear piercing
outbursts. We can understand why the 'Chortkov's Version' was so close to
the heart of the worshipers and was mostly excepted in Galicia and many
The most talented cantor in the world of Jewish music, was the genius Rabbi
Monish Hazan. He directed his choir and led it to great success. Later on,
when his 'singers' immigrated to different parts of the world, many of them
became very famous and reached stardom.
The most important among them, was Dode'l Sorokr ,who was a dwarf with
a controlled voice. He had the best musical talent in Monish Hazan's choir.
Dode'l Sorokr immigrated to New York and became a teacher and a rabbi to
the greatest cantors of those days. The 'Chortkov's Version' also influenced
the cantorial music in North America since it was taught by the most talented
representative of the Chortkov's cantorial music.
An important music power was Rabbi Yankeli Rapoport the son of Rabbi
Israel Rapoport. For many years, Rabbi Yankeli Rapoport served as the
presidents of the cantor's association in the United States of North America.
We should also remember, Zisi Harar, a valuable composer, who was
familiar with the hidden secrets of liturgical music. He was accepted as the
head cantor in the big synagogue in Lemberg.
All of them were students of Rabbi Monish Hazan Laha's and from him they
absorbed their knowledge.
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[Pages 152 - 153]
Rabbi Monish and his choir
Memories of a choir member
Translation by Sara Mages
When I was nine years old, I visited the home of Rabbi Monish for the first
time. I was warmly welcomed and was given a cup of tea with milk. Rabbi
Monish listen to my voice and tested it. After I repeated a few sounds he
decided that my voice was worth training. He invited me to come and visit
him twice a week. There were two reasons for those visits; to develop my
voice and to teach me how to read music notes. I did not show a lot of
interests in his lessons and therefore they did not last long. There was a lot of
improvement in my voice training. Rabbi Monish was able to develop my
"Alto" voice so well that it sounded like a silver bell.
Every year, starting on first day of the month of Elul, the choir was gathering
at the Rabbi's home five evenings a week to practice for the High Holidays.
In the choir there were two singers with a "Bass" voice. One of them was
Feder but I can't remember the other name. Edlstein's voice was a deep
"Lyric Tenor". Zaynvil Augenstein had the "Strong Tenor" voice. Hayim
Shor's voice was in between "Helden Tenor" and "Lyric Tenor". The
children that participated in the choir were; Avram'le Lichtenholz and later
on also Vili Golinger and myself. During the holidays there were a few
changes in the choir. One of Rabbi Monish's son came to our city to joined
the choir. I will always remember the sound of his voice . It sounded like a
French Horn; delicate, pleasant and perfect. When I listened to the sound of
his magical voice I felt like the delicate spring smell of the forest was
The voice of Rabbi Monish was strong, deep and round. When he was
singing with the choir his voice was even with everybody's voices. He was
able to sing a lower "Octave" from the "Bass" and on the highest "Octave"
he was able to pass the highest of the "Tenors". His voice was never too loud,
it always had a round metallic sound to it. Even though, his voice was very
powerful I could categorized it as a lyrical voice because it was very pleasant
to listen to. The sound of his voice rang from the city's synagogue and spread
through the streets and the nearby alleys. When he sang in the Rabbi's big
synagogue his voice carried throughout the park.
During rehearsal's break Rabbi Monish's wife gave us tea with milk. While
we were drinking our tea Rabbi Monish practiced the parts were we only
accompanied him with a soft humming. I remember that one of the parts was
"Berosh Hashanah Yechatevon". After the choir finished to sing all the parts
of "Venatana Tokefh" Rabbi Monish started with "Berosh Hashanah
Yechatevon" while we were humming. I remember once, during the New
Year, when we reached that part we suddenly realized that the program
unexpectedly changed. After we were done singing "Natan Tokefh" we
started to hum the way we practiced "Berosh Hashanah Yechatvon".
Suddenly Hayim Shor frantically started to wave his hands. It looked like he
suddenly got scared and ordered us with his hands to stop humming. I looked
around me and realized that all the singers looked like they froze in their
places. Rabbi Monish suddenly started to pray from his heart in a religious
ecstasy. I felt that I was witnessing an original musical improvisation that
was created on the spot by an experienced and spiritual composer who had a
natural music talent. A cantor who expressed his religious feelings, who
poured the sorrows of his heart and created on the spot a religious melody
that pierced my heart. A shiver passed from my feet to my head. I turned my
head slowly as a show of respect and I saw our Hebrew teacher, Zalman
Shechter, of blessed memory, (he was standing in the isle with many others
who came from other synagogues to listen to this wonderful cantor). Tears
were running down his cheeks from excitement. I am sure that he also felt the
originality of the prayer that was created in front of us at that moment.
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[Pages 154 - 155]
Chortkov and the Jewish music
Translation by Sara Mages
Chortkov was one of the few cities in Galicia that was well known in the
Jewish music world.
For those who want to learn about the history of the Jewish music in
Chortkov, I must tell the story about Rabbi Mendel Rosenzvaig, who was
also known by the name of the "Violinist." Rabbi Mendel the violinist.
Rabbi Mendel Rosenzvaig was a nursery school teacher by profession. The students in
his "Heder" (religious elementary school) were the children of the 'Shapirantikim'
(followers of Rabbi Shapira). The children's parents, in consideration of the times and
the place, were well advanced in their ideas. The curriculum was special and unique.
Their children studied a wide variety of subjects; grammar, the Bible with translation,
Gemara that sometimes was explained in a scientific way. European languages were also
taught like; German, French and English.
Rabbi Mendel Rosenzvaig's real talent was in teaching music. In his "Heder"
the children were taught how to read music notes, play the violin, the harp
and the piano. His two sons were known by the affectionate names of
Abrahmtzik and Ysraeltzik. Both were enthusiastic music teachers who
contributed a lot to the music education in Chortkov. Sometimes when they
recognized a talented student or a student who was showing interest, they
gave them free music lessons.
The Hassidim told many exaggerated tales on how Rabbi Mendel Rosenzvaig
became a musician. He was nicknamed the "Violinist" because he was the
first to bring a violin to Chortkov.
Rabbi Mendel Rosenzvaig, like his rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Yshaya Meir
Shapira, of blessed memory, was a G-d fearing Jew. He observed all the
religious laws from the simple ones to the most restricted ones. His home was
a meeting place for the most religious Jews. But his "Heder" was hated and
feared by the Hassidim and the Hassidic students. The Hassidim who were
wearing "fabric hats" wished to join Rabbi Mendel and study music with him
but most of them kept away. They were afraid that by joining his classes it
would mean that they fell into bad ways.
Moshe Orenstein was one of the first to be "stung." He was welcome with
open arms at the home of Rabbi Mendel Rosenzvaig. Moshe Orenstein, was
well known in the city by the name "Moshe Israel Sara-Merm's." He had a
kind soul and a musical ear. He was the son of an honorable Hassidic family
in the city, and a relative of the Rabbi. In those days Rabbi Mendel was
already in advanced age and his two sons Abrahmtzik and Ysraeltzik were
Moshe Orensteirn's soul friends and teachers.
Later on, Moshe Orenstein became one of the most important musicians in
Chortkov. Many Hassidic students study music at his home. Among his
students were H. Myrovitz the famous cantor from the Rothschild synagogue
in London. Myrovitz was also the president of the cantor's association in
London and published many articles about Jewish music. Yankele Rapoport,
who was the president of the cantor's association in the United States, wrote
the following in his memoirs; in his choir a talented singer was discovered.
His name was David, the son of Rabbi Moish Hazan, who later on became
an opera singer in Vienna.
This is how the home of my father, Rabbi Moshe Orenstein, turned into a
music center not only for Chortkov but also for the whole area. It was here
that the famous Hassidic choir of Chortkov was established. Moshele'
Orenstein was its spiritual director and instructor. The Hassidic choir was a
recognized name in the Hassidic world. The thousands of pilgrims who
visited the Rabbi's court in Chortkov gave it a lot of publicity not only in the
many towns in Poland and also in the nearby countries.
At the home of "Moshe Israel Sara-Mrim's" not only Jewish music, written by famous
cantors like; Zydel Rovner, Yerocham Hakatan and Nisan Blezer was taught. The
famous "Hallelujah" written by Handle was also taught. In Chortkov it was called
"Hallelujah of the Christian" because it was written by a Christian for the Christian
church. In Handle's composition the word "Hallelujah" is repeated over and over again
(In Hebrew the word ends with the letters Yod He' meaning G-D). The Hassidim were
not sure if they were allowed to repeat the word "YH "so many times. The choir was
careful not to sing the composition in the Rabbi's synagogue in front of a large audience.
They felt that it was appropriate to sing it in the hall, on week days, for the Rabbi and
small group of people. During the holidays the choir sang it in the Rabbi's court. The
choir also sang many classic compositions written by Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Meir
Bar and many others.
Schubert's songs were very popular among the young Jewish people and
were sung frequently. Somehow they also reached the Rabbi's court.
I remember one occasion, when a young enthusiastic group organized a
concert for Hanukkah. All the proceeds were donated to help the refugees,
who passed through Chortkov, on their way from south Russia to different
parts of the world. The court in Chortkov allowed us to use the city wind
instrument's orchestra in the synagogue. It was a great success. For the first
time in the history of Chortkov's choir the city orchestra played in a
Hanukkah concert in the synagogue.
The writer of the memoirs contributed also to the development of the Jewish
music in Chortkov. As a Hebrew school teacher, the songs that he taught his
students, were sung later on in villages around Galicia.
The large number of Hassidim who came to visit the Rabbi's court were a
good source of Jewish music. The Hassidic cantors developed the music in
Chortkov and brought it to the highest level.
I also want to mention the story of Rabbi Reovale' Hazan, who was hoping
to get a job as a cantor in the town of Rimlov.The community leaders in
Rimlov wanted to know if Reovale' could sing with a choir. Rabbi Reovale'
approached the Hassidic choir in Chortkov and asked them to help him and
come to Rimlov and perform with him. After a lot hesitations and a lot of
requests, the choir traveled to Rimlov and the performance left an enormous
impression. It is important for me to mention, that the garments that the
Chortkov's Hassidim were wearing were too elegant in the eyes of the
'Rimlovims'. Chortkov's Hassidim wore a "fabric hat" instead of the
traditional Hassidic "fur hat." They also wore their collars up instead of
down. Rimlov's Hassidim were also wondering if the side-curls that were
hanging from the Chortkovaim's Hassidim heads were really "Peah's" hair.
So this is how Chortkov contributed to the development of the Jewish music
in Galicia and the Jewish world.
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