[Page 169 & Page 190]
Until the year 1918 the year when World War I ended the community operated under Austrian law. The Polish law established after that was different, but under both systems the local police and governor of the county had the final say. They always made sure that the head of the Jewish community and other elected officers were people they could trust. During the last ten years these people served as officers: Moshe Filnch, Yosef Bezner, Shlomo Shtreyt, Berl Shpierer and Alter Diker.
The activity of the community concerned regulating the religious needs such as the Rabbi, the Dayan (judge of religious matters), Kosher laws, the bathhouse, and the cemetery. The community taxed its members and from these revenues the community operated.
The budget had to be approved by the local governor. He made sure the money went for the stated purposes and also for charity. I remember that when I was an officer and the Zionist movement was trying to get the community to fund Keren Hayesod and Keren Kayemet, the governor only approved it after three times.
The Zionist influence in Horodenka started at the beginning of the century. One of their slogans was, to conquer the communities. They started the politicization process of the Jewish community. They presented their candidates for election and made sure they won. In the past the rivalry was always between the different schools of Chasidim in our town (Chortokover, Vizhnitzer, Kosov and Ottynia). The majority of the town belonged to either Chortokover or Vizhnitzer. These two schools always had disagreements when it came to approval of Rabbis or other such issues.
Before the Zionist movement, Haskalah, a Jewish enlightenment movement that was spread in town by Haim Leib Halpern and Leybish Meltzer, influenced many young people in the community. These people were persecuted by the Chasidim because of their liberal views and opposition to orthodox ways. However, their system of schooling was the same as those of the religious Jews. The followers admired their teachers and treated them like Rabbis. They would meet and discuss ideas and literature especially works by Goethe and Schiller. This way people got some European education, which although not very deep, nevertheless influenced the life of the community, especially when it came to marriage prospects. Many young ladies preferred to marry somebody who had a wider education than that of an Orthodox Chasid. Actually it is interesting to note that the main followers of this liberal movement were young girls. This might have been because they had more time available as they didn't study the Torah and also because their fathers were more tolerant in the hope that it would help them to get a good husband.
As I said before the first followers of Haskalah were literally prosecuted by the Chasidim. Leybish Meltzer moved to another town. Haim Leib Halpern, who was teacher, also had to leave town and became a storekeeper in Rodolpaskoft a German village near Syniatin. He died young. However on his deathbed he said he wanted to go back to Horodenka to die among Jews. Before his death he confessed and said that Uriel da Costa was wrong to oppose traditional Jewish religious beliefs. He obviously saw himself as a follower of da Costa's enlightened doctrines. The Chasidim saw this last confession of his as a big victory and believed claimed that he became a believer on his deathbed.
One of the strange incidents of the time was the existence of a visionary in our town. I didn't know him personally and only heard about him. His name was Michalanski. (He was probably Russian, since our names were mostly German) Before he started seeing visions he was a simple guy. After he started seeing visions he became a Rabbi and had followers. Then he got involved in a scandal and ran away.
We had in town some societies that dealt with charity. Chevrat Talmud Torah gave scholarships to poor students. Yehosua Shtreyt and WelWel Zeidman ran it. Yehoshua Shtreyt remembers the students coming to his father to be tested. Among the students were some real talents like Hirsh Priffer-Blutah (he became a chemist and was the son-in-law of Shlomo Shtreyt.)
In town we also had Chevra Bikur Cholim that helped poor sick people. These societies were funded by charity and donations. The other societies, Yad Charovtsim and Agudat Achim, were self help groups and later on became the merchants union that adopted modern methods of financial self help.
The Baron Hirsch School
The economic and cultural situation of the Galician Jews was very poor at the time. There was need for a movement from the outside to help bring about change. And the school of the Baron Hirsch did that. The Baron had two goals: to expose Jews to the outside world and to help the students and their parents. The students got clothing and books once a year and a hot meal daily. There was also a charity budget that gave the parents small loans so they could send their children to the school.
The school had only four grades. If somebody wanted to continue their education they had to go to the public school for 5th and 6th grades. The school was for boys only. Girls could only go to public schools. After graduating from the school the teachers made sure the students learned a trade. Some of them studied agriculture at the school of Slovudka Leshna near Kolomyja and some of them later emigrated to Israel or Argentina.
The Hasidic movement objected vehemently to the Baron's school. One Saturday, I remember, some Hasidim, including Mordechai Molkorev, going from synagogue to synagogue and demanding that the fathers of children who went to the Baron Hirsch School leave the service since these schools were missionary schools. They claimed the Baron didn't mean good for the Jews and that he was a missionary and wanted to eradicate us. But the parents didn't listen to them and sent the children anyway. I was one of the first stidemts of the second year. My father suffered terribly because of the fanatic atmosphere but was independent enough not to pay attention to the intimidation. Slowly but surely the very Orthodox started to change. I remember one of our neighbors who was giving me hard time the first year of the school, later wanted my help taking his child to the school.
The school had great impact on the life of the younger generation. There was an understanding that life couldn't remain as before. People started thinking about immigration to the States and other countries. And that's how the big Horodenkan colony in the States started.
The Zionist movement captivated some of us. The school helped us to see reality through different eyes, opened our horizons, and created a momentum for change. I think that the school's impact is not appreciated enough today.
Unfortunately, in the school there was an atmosphere of assimilation. The first principal Berles, always stated in front of the students that it was important to dress and speak like the Poles. He influenced us. Many of us changed our habits. When evening classes opened the influence increased.
But not all the teachers were like that. I remember two Zionist teachers; Yankel Fink and Zeynel Vizelberg. Vizelberg was a religious teacher who taught Chumush in German translation. He was a friend of the Zionist movement and every Saturday prayed with the Zionists. Yankel Fink was from the town, the son of Pinie the rope maker. He was the first to become a certified teacher. The others were just people who knew something about the outside culture and wanted to be teachers. Over time all the teachers were required to be certified. Yankel Fink left Horodenka and in later years came to visit very rarely.
These schools were originally for the poor among us but wealthier students joined too (they didn't get the financial help) because their parents preferred that they be among Jews and not in the public schools with only Poles.
After the Baron's death the school's administration started to limit their activities. The first schools to close were those in areas with good public schools. The school in Horodenka closed just before World Was I. Thus concluded this chapter of our history about the great cultural and financial help that the Baron Hirsch gave to the Jewry of Galicia.
Translated by Harvey Buchalter There were many different kinds of artisans in Horodenka, but an artisans' association (craft guild) which would help the craftsman maintain his livelihood did not exist. In either 1907 or 1908 a Horodenka-based association was formed, called Yad Ha-Rutzim. The association's premise at that time was to come to the aid of sick craftsmen, as well as serving as a Bikkur Cholim. In the beginning, many businessmen joined the association, and its first president, who was also one of the founders, was a well-known person, Kurel Fenster. The spark to start the association was lit by the following people: Kurel Fenster, Velvel Greenberg, Moshe-Manes Neygiser, Nateh Lehrer and myself. In the beginning, the association had thirty to forty members. Aside from the president Kurel Fenster, the secretary was Haim-Hirsh Shor (Ben-ltzhak-Reuven Shor). Moshe-Maness Neygiser hosted the first meeting. After that, we rented a place from Yonah Leibman, where we wrote the by-laws and set up rules for membership.
As stated, the goals of the association were the same as for a Bikkur Cholim: to seek out members who suffered illness and to help care for them: provide them with enough money for their week-to-week expenses: pay doctor bills and pay for prescriptions. This was certainly a great help for them, because artisans usually had no savings. In the case of sudden illness, they were usually left without the means to recuperate and go on with their lives.
Two years after the founding, the members who were not craftsmen dropped out of the association. They were Yankel Laster, Nateh Lehrer, Saideh Offenberger, Binyamin Diker, and others. They founded a businessmen's association with different goals from those of the Yad Harutzim.
After the First World War, the association came back to life. The president at that time was Velvel Greenberg. In the years 1930-1932, the association disbanded and many of its members joined the Bikkur Cholim association, whose president was Yossel Geller.
Translated by Harvey Buchalter One of the most beautiful pages of Horodenka's history was bequeathed to us by the Bund. The Bund was a political party of Jewish workers and folksmentschen, which had a wide-reaching effect on the cultural and political life of Horodenka. The Bund in Horodenka began its activity at the end of the First World War. It participated in all political demonstrations as well as being represented in the Seim and in the Jewish Council by Hirsh Schechter. The Bund's agenda was the formation of a working-class consciousness among the Jewish workers. It organized two craft unions of cabinet makers and sewing machine operators, struggled toward the acceptance of an eight-hour day, and also regulated working conditions. It also became involved in improving emergency procedures in the workplace.
In the Bund's meeting place, there was a large library with a reading room where lectures and discussions were held on various subjects. There were a variety of cultural and political circles and a well-organized theater group under the direction of Yehuda Hirsh Sobel, which presented readings by Yiddish writers. The income from the presentations was reserved for the Yiddische Schules. There was also a sports club for youth. Each summer many children went away to a summer camp.
The most essential thing the Bund accomplished was the Yiddish-language afternoon school for girls and boys. There one learned how to write and read in Yiddish, and studied Yiddish literature and Jewish history. Among its most important accomplishments was making accessible a heimische (comfortable) environment, where children would receive a modern curriculum to awaken and elevate the spirit. I will never forget the teacher Asher Shtreyt who made sure that each child who studied with him would become a worthy human being in both word and deed. He was both a great teacher and a great friend. Aside from his teaching, he gave many lectures on political and literary subjects.
The Yiddische Schule had a separate library for children which was filled with works in Yiddish and works from writers around the world. The schule also had a theater group and two or three times a year the children put on presentations with singing and dancing. Even small children from the school's kindergarten participated.
About ten years before the Holocaust, they built a large, modern building for the schule with the help of our landsleit (countrymen) in America. In soliciting help from the American committee (Iandsleit) the work of Isaac Fink is noteworthy. He was one of the founders of the schule and also one of its first teachers. In Horodenka the so called building cooperative sold shares of stock, and whoever bought a share became a member of the building co-op. The members were from every stripe of Jewish society, and not only members of the Bund. Even Alexander Granach, in his last trip to our city, donated income from his performance to the building co-op.
The Bund Committee, under the chairmanship of Asher Shtreyt, strived to develop a corps of good heimische teachers for the schule. They chose three of the sharpest students and sent them off to the Vilna Yiddish Seminary. One of them was my sister Etel Katvan who graduated with honors and was one of the best teachers in the city as well as the entire region. She was admired by people in other communities as well. In the Soviet era she had an important position. Sadly, she did not survive the war. In 1943 she died of malaria in Tadzikistan, where she suffered from hunger and the effects of the terrible news regarding her family back home in Horodenka.
The Yiddische Schule was capable of delivering all services to the community, but its life became shortened. The dream was shattered by the Red bafrier (liberation forces) in 1939. Afterwards came the dark, murderous years of Hitler when the children were slaughtered along with their parents. And today, when one reads about the Bund and the Yiddische Schule, it resonates like a wonderful tale of long ago, which is no more, and will never be again.
In his last years Asher Shtreyt was the chairman of the Bund in Horodenka. He came from a very pious family. His father was Schlomeh Shtreyt, a distinguished Jew, and at one time head of the Council (rosh-ha-kahal). The first time I met Asher Shtreyt was when he was my teacher in an evening class in the Yiddische Schule. He taught us with his whole heart and he made me want to learn all there was to learn. He alone was a living encyclopedia. Everything you could ask him was immediately explained so clearly that it would remain etched in your memory. The class that he taught was so popular that it had to be divided into two sections. Asher Shtreyt had a kind word for each child and a warm, fatherly smile. He was a very fine speaker and was sought after by every group.
Soon after the invasion of the Russian Army, Asher Shtreyt was arrested. But he was released within a short time got a position as a German teacher for the Russians and became principal of the Yiddische Schule. During the time of the Nazis, Asher Streit went into hiding for a long time. As it was told to me, he went into hiding with Moshe Shifter and his wife (from the Ladenheim family) and they were all slaughtered by Ukrainian low-lifes shortly before the liberation. Asher Shtreyt wrote a book of his memories from the Nazi captivity, but it perished with him.
Hirsh Schechter came from a Hasidic family of ritual slaughteerrs and singers. Hefirst learned how to sing in the Yiddische Schule, and after that became one of the outstanding comrades in the Bund and all the other organizations he belonged to. He was knowledgeable about the laws of Poland, business matters and such, and the Party always heeded his advice.
Thus, as a very modest person he would always say that he was not suited to be selected to serve in this or that commission, but once he was appointed he was the most engaged person. And sitting all day amongst his timepieces - he was a watch-maker - he would prepare his material for the meeting that evening. He had a sober, common-sense outlook which was not readily gladdened by a quick victory nor brought down by a sudden defeat.
In his final years he was the Bund's representative in the Kultusrat in Horodenka. By no means would he agree to be part of the Judenrat (Nazi's Jewish Council) and he was among the first casualties.
Yehuda Hirsh Sobel was a man of immense energy. For a time he was a teacher in the Yiddische Schule, but he mainly was involved in theatrical activity. He was among the first to be involved in theater in Horodenka, and in the later years he was the director of theater circle composed of older adults. He also was in charge of holding the tryouts for all the presentations of the children in the Schule. He perished along with the rest of the Horodenka Jews.
Nachman Agatshteyn was, as his father before him, a tin worker by trade. Upon first laying eyes on him, he did not make a good impression. But as he began speaking, he was able to convince those who listened to him. He was active as a leader in the youth movement of the Bund. He had a phenomenal memory and could instantly recall any historical event. He fell to a German bomb in the Russian city of Uman.
Toibe Bernshteyn was a good-hearted girl. She studied voice and led various branches of the youth organizations. Krantschia Shteyner was also a leader in the youth branch where she studied singing and dancing and tried out for performances. Both lost their lives in the horrific Nazi years.
[Pages 175 & 196]
Translated by Dahlya Yohai The Abraham Reisin School was created after World War I by the Jewish Labor movement. After the end of the Austrian rule, from November 1918 to August 1921, the Ukrainians ruled Horodenka. Later it became part of Poland and remained so until the beginning of World War II.
When the Ukrainians took over as rulers, they behaved rather well toward minorities, like Poles and the Jews, with regard to cultural and national matters. It was officially stated that if a Jew wanted to petition the government or present any document to a governmental agency, he could do so in Yiddish. In fact, one Ukrainian official approached Nathan Melamed to inquire if he could instruct him in reading and writing Yiddish. Naturally, nothing came of it; there were enough Jewish officials who were well versed in Ukrainian, Polish and Yiddish.
In November 1918, the War was over. Austria was no longer in control. The town was full of soldiers from 18 to 60 years old who had returned from the war. Each of them had his own horror story, retelling how he had escaped death. Those who came back from the Italian front had the most fantastic stories. As Moshe Manes Nagisser used to say: The soldiers who came back speak a lot because the drum hit them on their head and confused them totally
Later on, people started to awaken. Members of the organization Forverts started their activities. They rented a place to hold their meetings. They decided to make an effort to restore Mrs. Weinstein's hall.
When Mr. Weinstein started the construction of the building before the war, he intended that it be used for the Jewish people whenever a need arose. The Poles had the Sokol hall, the Ukrainians their Narodny Dom (National Building). Even before the war when Jews needed a space for any community activity, it was very difficult to get one. When we approached the Poles, there was always the same response: The hall is taken for the night needed. We had to resort to contacts and persuasion to get the space. The Narodny Dom actually was available at most times for a reasonable price; but when we needed to get a permit from the Poles for the event, they always refused and suggested we wait for the Sokol to become available. So it was always a real struggle. That is why we decided to use Weinstein Hall, which was already half built.
For Horodenka in those days, it was actually a modern building. The bricks came from Kolomyja and the builders came from Czernowitz. The original plan included central heating, but it had not been completed before the War. It had only four walls and a roof. Even the floor was missing. That is why Mrs. Weinstein looked at us like we were lunatics when we said we would like to use it. The installation of doors and floor was possible since we had carpenters among us. But the question remained how to heat such a big space. It was a hard task. Then somebody suggested taking a big metal barrel, filling it with stones, and poking a hole in it to make a furnace. The metal workers did the rest, connecting pipes through the hall, and sure enough we had some heat quite quickly after we started the fire.
Simultaneously there was a great deal of activity and organizing by the Forverts. We organized a choir under the direction of Baruch Itzik Shpeirer. Then we established the library that grew steadily because we raised money for it. When we wanted to organize the evening studies we had a problem. The girls didn't want to study with the boys. They were usually less advanced than the boys and were embarrassed because of that, although it was not really their fault. The boys had learned how to read and write in the Baron Hirsch School until it closed, and from teachers like Nute, Yona and Mordchai. Those girls who wanted to study and had fathers willing to pay for it had private tutors; but the majority of girls, especially from workers' families, had no opportunity to study. Therefore, evening classes were organized for older girls initially while the boys attended more advanced classes of Jewish literature and political science. This situation continued for a while until the younger children grew up and we had the same level for girls and boys alike.
The Abraham Reisin School was created to provide secular Yiddish cultural education and was supported by local fundraising. From time to time the Jewish community gave us some money thanks to Berl Shpierer, the president, who was a progressive man. We got some help from the Joint [Distribution]. We didn't get any help from the Horodenka emigrants in the Sates during the first years. The first fundraisers of the Landsmanshaft (immigrant organizations of different communities) brought some money for the poor but didn't help the school.
The situation changed only some years later, when new emigrants from our town moved to New York and joined two organizations: the Horodenka Organization to Help the Sick and Progressive Horodenkan Young Men's and Ladies' Society. They then started supporting the school from time to time.
The Polish government gave us a hard time, claiming the building was not suitable for a school. But the directors organized a building cooperative whose goal was to build a new and modern building for the school which would also accommodate the other institutions of the Labor movement in town. This was a huge task and the people who took it upon themselves didn't realize how much work it involved.
On June 24, 1924 Israel Schneiderman and Abba Podowisker bought Shalom Luft's property for $500 in order to build the Yiddish school. In September 1925 the land was bought officially and was recorded in the books as belonging to the cooperative building union. Immediately after that we tried to raise money for the school through donations and other activities. We also appealed to our friends in the USA who helped generously. A committee was created in the States to help our school. The committee started its activities in 1926 and continued until the city was destroyed.
We continued fundraising to get money from all the citizens of the city and created the alumni organization that had annual dues. We also presented some plays that raised money for the cause. During the years 1926-1931 we had $3,650 for the building. The building cooperative in Horodenka managed to raise 25,735 Zloty ($864).
Dr. Eineigler, the famous journalist and activist from Lvov, wrote about us in his memoirs: As far as I know, there was in Galicia only one secular Jewish school - the one in Horodenka. The school had its own building and did a great job. Unfortunately, I don't remember all the names of the teachers and many of the activists but I know it was an oasis in the desert and it is worth remembering and commemorating their work. I also know that the people from the Landsmanshaft in the USA sent money to support the school.
I want to mention that the first teachers in the school were Yehuda Hirsch Sobel, Yosel Katz, and myself. In 1923 I left for America and Asher Streyt took my place. Later on we had some teachers who were alumni of our school and who had completed their studies in the Yiddish Seminar in Vilna.
Translated by Harvey Buchalter When I think about our dear, familiar Horodenka, the town that once was about her sweet Jews and her beautiful youth, the thought brings me back to my childhood, the years that stay with a person his whole life. And anguish presses upon the heart so that the beautiful dream cruelly dissolves into nothingness. The quiet, benevolent hope that we carried within us each day lies buried beneath our Horodenka dwellings, demolished under a pile of ashes. This is all that remains of our home. And so, I honor the request to relate my memories, to recall my home and the Yiddische Shule, which was for us, the children of working people, our second home. It was the home in which we found happiness and carried out the life of our childhood world.
I still see before me the grand two-story brick building that majestically stood out from all the others, near the Rinick. Before the memory of the house begins to fade, I hear the sound of my father's hammer at work. I run quickly, in the cold, wintry day, and collapse, frozen, into the school. A pleasant feeling of warmth and comfort surrounds me. The boisterous songs of the Jewish workers greet me, and before too long my voice joins in with the voices of all the other children. We forget about our poverty, the lack of sustenance and the abundance of worry, and we are delivered to another world, filled with ideals and hope.
I remember the happiness we shared when we prepared to celebrate spring festivals. B. Shefner attended one such celebration. We welcomed our guest with song, greeting him in the name of the children. He warmly shook my hand; his eyes were bursting with happiness: our holiday spirit took him under its spell.
Memories also come back to me of our dear teachers, Etel Katvan, Krantschia Shteyner, Yehudah-Hirsh Sobel, Yurman, and others, who instilled knowledge in us and a longing for a better and more just world, with a love for our own people and for each and every person in the world.
Where are you all now, my dear Horodenka Jews? Where are you, our dear teachers? Where are you, Horodenka children? Where are my school companions? Your song has not been silenced for all time, but your belief in humanity has become a bitter disappointment.
Allow these few lines to be like the drop of a tear on your unknown graves. Allow them to renew the honor of their memory for the sake of the remaining Horodenka brothers and sisters who grieve for our annihilated home.
Horodenka, the town where I was born; Horodenka where I lost those dearest to me I will never forget you.
[Page 179 & Page 192]
Translated by Dalya Yohai I listened for three hours to the devastating stories of one of the survivors from the Ghetto Kolomyja stories from the day the liberal Hungarian regime left the area because of the German occupation to the day of the last cleansing when the rest of the Jews in the area were killed. When he finished his story, he mentioned the names of two dear people that reminded me of my childhood, a period when the revival of Hebrew gave us hopes for renewal of our nation. I shivered when he said that Ben-Tsion Eyzman and his wife Tsiupa Scheryer were among the last Jews that were brought from Horodenka to the Kolomyja Ghetto.
Tsiupa Scheryer was the first Hebrew kindergarten teacher in Horodenka. I have no idea where she learned her Hebrew as it was 1907 before we had a Hebrew school in town. Maybe it was from her husband. Ben-Tsion Eyzman was a modern scholar whom I liked very much in my youth because of his inner and outer beauty. The memory of his wife is very dear to me and is connected directly with the beginning of the Hebrew movement in Horodenka. I was not among her students though. When the Hebrew school was created I was already a young man of six, who studied in the Cheder of Menash Melamed. I didn't continue there because of the revolutionary act of a few parents who decided to educate their children in Hebrew.
My father was very active in this cause as my sister and I were among the first students in this school. And to his credit, I have to say, he continued with this mission for many years despite the expenses that were involved. Hundreds of students studied in this school for the seven years of its existence. It closed in August 1914, when the war started.
Most of the students left the school without any real knowledge; for them it was more like a new fad. But my father was one of the few that really wanted a complete Hebrew education for his children. Nevertheless, even this little Hebrew study that hundreds of children in Horodenka got was important in the long run. It created a base for the renewal of the Hebrew movement after the war, when the hopes for creating Israel started to rise in the aftermath of the Balfour declaration.
The external appearance of the first teacher who was brought into town was a good introduction to the new way of teaching. It was not only that he was Russian his name was a typical Russian name Rirachowski but his face was also very Russian. He had a big name, no beard, a mustache, and looked very much like Shaul Tchernichovsky (a Russian Hebrew poet). His wife was a Hebrew teacher also and she also didn't look like our women. She was tall and beautiful. I especially remember her beautiful masculine handwriting that we had at home in a notebook. She would copy the songs we learned in school: El Hazipor, Hayalkout al Haschechem, Choshov Achim Chovshov and more. This couple was able to create a vibrant Hebrew school in only one year and to bring new life into the beautiful language the one that lasted forever. Until that time Hebrew was only known to the orthodox Jews and some others. At the end of the year there was a show that demonstrated what was achieved during the school year. The whole town was very excited about it.
Although the school was a great success these teachers couldn't hold their job for long. It was too much of a change and they were too far advanced in their behavior and looks for our town. Somebody who was more traditional looking replaced them. The next teacher, I think, was Hirschfeld.
The school also moved from Uri-Chaim Shertzer's flat to Rabbi Alter Vizelberg's flat. He was an old-time Zionist and a learned and respectable Jew. It is possible that there was an interim address but I don't remember exactly.
Once the school was established it grew and prospered. At a certain point there were two Hebrew schools in town competing with each other. After a while they joined together. The teacher in the second school was a local man, Yeshiya Itzik Beker. I was not a student of his but I remember once he substituted for my regular Bible teacher. During the war he moved to Karlsbad and continued his teaching there. Karlsbad attracted many Zionists leaders not only as a vacation spot but also as a place for meetings and conferences. It became a spiritual center for the Jews of Czechoslovakia. When the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia in 1939 he moved to Israel.
Another teacher in Horodenka was Yehuda Goldstein. Unfortunately I don't remember all the details about the number of students in the different classes or even their names. But I remember that in the higher grades we were only three or four students. The teacher Goldstein taught in the school longer than any other teacher. And even with the financial crisis that the school was experiencing they always tried to pay him in order to keep him. He left town only when the war started. When he was the headmaster the school had some serious problems and there were many absences. But the parents' council insisted on having a open test in front of the public. I especially remember the last test before the war in the big barn of father Kalmus that was decorated appropriately for the event. My sister Ziporah was the star of the day because she passed the test of Daf Gamora. It was a paragraph form the book Mevo Hatalmud. It was remarkable as an example of Milta Dela Schicha (memorization).
As I said before, very few students spoke Hebrew other than in school. Even in my family in which there was big support from my parents who even sang the Hebrew songs we learned in school, we didn't get to speak the language. The only people in town that spoke Hebrew in their daily life other than the Hebrew teacher and the Preminger family were my relative Dov Mosberg and me. We made a decision to speak only Hebrew with each other and we did so for three or four years until 1939 when the war started. Dov Mosberg was a young man and a member of Zion's Youth when I was still a child. But the only person that was a real fanatic about the Hebrew language was Zvi Preminger. He spoke Hebrew with his family and also had a Jewish maid that learned Hebrew so she could speak to the children. (Most of the maids in Jewish homes were non-Jews.)
He was a member of the B'nai Zion organization. He was a regular in the minyan of this group where my father also prayed. I used to see him on Shabbat with young people talking about politics, Zionism, etc. He was vibrant and had a sharp sense of humor and people like him a lot. He was active in the school council and also was the librarian of the Hebrew library. The library included maybe 30 Hebrew books from the Tovshia publishing company and was located in a small cupboard in the office of the group. He had the key and I often checked out books. But not many others used it.
I remember something else about Preminger that was really unique. In 1910 he lost his job as a clerk in the Ekerling Bank. He decided to open a shoe polish factory. He studied the trade and came up with a good project. Here he found a way to express his passion for Hebrew. He named the factory Lebanon. On the boxes was the picture of Gimnasia Herzelia (the first Hebrew school in Palestine). Other than the name that was printed in the local language, the rest of the label was in Hebrew. He thought it would be a hit among the Jews. But it didn't happen. He had to close down after two years.
When I came to Israel in 1925 I heard that he had arrived sometime before. He moved there alone and tried to find a job as a stenographer in Hebrew a system he invented. But here too he was not successful. Finally an offer to hire him came, but it was too late. For a long time I didn't know his whereabouts. In 1946 I heard then that he lived in Haifa and barely made a living as a storekeeper. The man was forgotten and was not even mentioned in the list of Horodenka's survivors and was not invited to the first Horodenka survivor's conference we had.
That's the typical fate of somebody who is ahead of his time.
Translated by Dalya Yohai
From the big family of the Torah schribe Eliyahu Goldstein, I'm the only one to survive and come to Israel.
In the year 1935 when I was very young, Mrs. Sara Sneider came to Hordenka to open the Beit Ya'akov school for girls. She had foundered this type of school throughout Poland.
The Orthodox liked the idea and the school was created. The active committee for the school consisted of Rabbi Moshkovitz, the cantor, the butcher Yehoshua Dorf, and my father, Eliyahu Goldstein. The head of the committee was Herschel Sucher (Yiskar).
The school had a progressive atmosphere. The girls studied bible stories as well as Hebrew and Jewish history. Some biblical plays were performed, like Achashveros with Dvora Geffner and Youta Kugler as the main characters. Other plays included Joseph in Egypt with Gold Sharf; The Sacrifice of Isaax with Chana Grapakh and others with historical themes like Matathius and His Sons and Hannah and Her Seven Sons. The girls in school were very active culturally compared to those attending the other schools in town. Unfortunately it didn't last long. After the war started it became much more difficult to have cultural activities. And after the Nazis took over, most of the youth perished. Only a small number of us survived like Lucia Prifer, Priva Frishling and me.
Let my little lines here be a tombstone to the people who died. TANZVA (Let their souls rest in peace.)
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After a while the city revived. The stores of Izrael Fleshner and Chaim-Zerach Tzawak were filled with women coming to buy food for Shabbat. The meat market was busy with women buying either real meat or only the inexpensive parts to make a cholent for Shabbat. Again the public baths were open and Jews were going to them on Friday afternoon. It looked like everything had returned to life as it had been before the war. The Jews of Horodenka were once again living the lives their parents and grandparents had lived for generations, negotiating with the local farmers, buying produce and cattle and trying to make a living. At the same time the rivers of blood still were running in Italy and France. But in a little while these battles ended as well. The small nations of the former Austrian Empire Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine were getting their freedom and independence. At the same time, the Ukrainians started giving the Jews a hard time and there were many signs of rampant anti-Semitism in eastern Galicia, including Horodenka.
On the other hand, there was a big renewal among the Jewish youth. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 had a lot to do with this. The Shomer organization opened offices in many towns and villages. Their aim was to educate the youth about emigration to Palestine. In Horodenka, Benish Noyman, the son of Michael and Vavotschis, was the main leader. His lectures drew people from all over. First to join were the students who had just graduated from high school and didn't have anything to do. Later the girls joined as well and we started to have different groups. I joined but didn't like my group. I decided to create my own group with my old friends from the Cheder: Moshe Marila and Moshe Fleshner with whom I had played behind the fence of Ivan Koshovtuiyuk; Michali Pilpel with whom I used to play buttons (a child's game) next to the butcher shop and the public bath; and Motel Birnboym, my playmate for the Kitke next to the Taplitza. The son of Baruch-Lev, Yom-Tov Greidinger; Yosel Mindiyes Ladenheim; and Aharon Kugelmas were also in our group. We become an independent group and called ourselves The Tigers.
All the Shomer students studied Hebrew with Asher Yungerman, Libster and Greif. We also had courses in Jewish history, literature and the geography of Palestine. Every Saturday we had public readings of the Bible with our tutor Mendel Diner, the son of Ben-Zion Shtrikmacher (the rope maker). At the same time blood was being shed among the Poles and Ukrainians, and the Poles and Bolsheviks. In addition, the progroms against the Ukrainian Jews were staggering. We all felt that there was no place for Jews in this part of the world anymore.
On April 24, 1920, the San Remo Peace Conference reaffirmed the Balfour Declaration and we started really hoping that we would have our homeland very soon. The Chalutz (Pioneer) movement started its activity in Horodenka. I, with Moshe and Motel were among the first to join. We decided to prepare ourselves to move to Israel, disregarding our parents' objections.
We were divided into three groups. One worked in Schertzer's lumberyard, the second worked to build a fence for the old cemetery (which was knocked down during the war) and the third group went to work at Nusia Baran's farm in the village of Semenivaka. We belonged to the third one.
The adults thought we were lunatics. They didn't believe that anybody would be able to go to Palestine. They listened to Hershel Sucher (Yiskar) who was the head of the Zionist movement and gave money for the Karen Kayemet, but didn't see the possibility of leaving and moving to Israel as a real one. We worked hard the whole week on the farm. On Friday afternoon we returned home for the weekend. Every weekend we were scolded and yelled at, but nothing could change our minds.
Some weeks before the end of the season, Moshe left. He joined the group that worked in the cemetery. I remember the days Motel and I went after dinner to sit on the hay bales, watch the moon and talk like good friends. We were very happy. One day I got typhus. I was taken immediately to my parent's house. I was sick for weeks and Dr. Kanafas was my doctor.
It was August 8, 1920, around the time the first group was supposed to go to Israel. Everyone in town was very excited. Horodenka was sending the first pioneers to Israel. We were leaving behind everything we knew: brothers and sisters; parents and relatives; the synagogue; the houses of study; the public baths and the Proval (ravine) which was next to it; the old and new cemeteries; the well of Yirmiya; the little brook of Chervona, which powered the mill of Moshe-Leib; the pond of Sovik; the Plaza of Horodenka; Wysokithe Hory, tall mountains outside of town; and the Tolika, the large meadow on the other side of town. All these places were part of so many childhood memories. Now we were going to the old-new homeland, to open the road to many others who would come after us. Our parents lost their resentment and we became a source of pride combined with sadness and worry.
At dawn on the 8th, many met us at the terminal to say good-bye to the first new pioneers. Cries and blessings were heard all over. Then the train arrived and the ten guys and two girls left. At the second train station in the town of Yakubuvka, other Jews came to say goodbye. And that was the last contact between us and Horodenka.
More groups of pioneers were organized and moved to Israel one after the other. After ten years the Jews of Horodenka could be found all over Israel, in Kibbutizim, towns, and small villages. The Aliyah went on until 1939 when the Nazis started their massive killing. And now 26 years after the first Aliyah we stand here and ask ourselves: Is it true or just a dream that Jewish Horodenka was completely destroyed and there is not one Jew there, and even the cemeteries stand vandalized and destroyed? Is it a nightmare or what?
I wish it were a dream, but unfortunately this is the horrible reality. Our town doesn't exist anymore and we'll never see the faces of our beloved that were killed by the evil.
Translated by Dalya Yohai The Hitachdut branch in Horodenka was founded in 1923. However, we also need to know the background of the events during 1919 1923 that led to its formation. We, the youth of that time were influenced by World War I and were eager to play war. The Shomer organization gave us the opportunity to go back to the youth and innocence we had missed because of the war. We were organized in Shomer in age groups with various names such as Lion, Tiger, Freedom, etc. We met in the little forest by the rabbi's home or in the surrounding hills for discussions and games.
We learned about Herzl and the other people who advocated Socialism and Zionism, including Moshe Hess, B. Borochov, and A.D. Gordon. We also heard stories about the Zionist movement and its actions in Palestine and abroad. The events that took place in Israel after the Balfour Declaration gave us hope and idealism for the future. We wanted to be part of the builders and the dreamers. We read the book Yizkor about the Shomer members who lost their lives in Palestine and cried for them. We also felt a desire to go to Israel and take our place in the events that were unfolding.
When a group of our older friends left for Israel, we felt sadness and jealousy at the same time. The farewell party took place at the home of Shmuel Yungerman; among those leaving was our beloved teacher Asher Yungerman.
But we had hope that soon enough we would be joining them. Soon after their departure we started working the land behind the home of Haim Schnitser (the son-in-law of Rabbi Damta). With no instructions and no proper tools we worked this piece of land just to enjoy the feeling of physical work. We were mocked by the townspeople for this work, but continued nevertheless in order to be considered pioneers preparing to go to Israel.
It is possible this work caused our feelings of alienation from the Zion Farayn Club. This was an organization of older Zionists that met in the home of Yodel Pasvig, where there was an ark with the Torah and where they conducted services on Shabbat and the holidays. And although we participated in activities such as fundraising and Tzedakah projects, we experienced a rebellious wind, and the older people in our group founded an independent Zionist movement for youth.
The feelings of the young Zionists were not happening in a vacuum. At this time leaders of Hapoel Hazair (A.D. Gordon, Yosef Shprinzak, and Yosek Aharonviz) organized a conference of the Hitachdut in Prague. This became a pivotal event for the Zionist-socialist labor movement in Europe. Its mission was to educate and prepare the young people to make Aliya and work in Israel.
Our elders, Elizer Bilder, Gavriel Lindberg, and Meshulam Shnizer, asked the group to examine our relationship with Zion Farayn and to establish an idealized based for the new organization that would fit our needs.
In 1923 we rented the first space for the Hitachdut chapter. It was in the house of Mr. Yaakov Emzig. We elected a committee and started organizing independent activities like workshops, lectures and a library. At the same time some delegates from the Zionist center in Lvov came to town. These included Fishel Verber, Dr. Nathan Melzer, Dr. Kopel Shwartz, and Dr. Zvi Heller. They brought some relief from the grind of everyday life since the visits were always festive with lecture and banquets.
Especially notable was the visit of Dr. Kopel Shwartz who was the chairman of Hitachdut in Poland. The young people greeted him on adorned horses at the Yakouvuvka train station. Youngsters then accompanied his carriage, in the same way that their parents surrounded the carriage of famous Rabbis when they came to Shabbat in town.
And we still remember one thing that he said, the opening sentence of his speech: I don't know if history is creating our personality or vice versa. Now that I'm writing these notes and have some historical perspective, the answer to this eternal question is almost clear: the people like Kopel Shwartz and his friends created an amazing historical period, full of debate and action that brought us our country.
From where did we get the will and the ability to create this revolution? The answer has to do with how the younger generation was encouraged to undertake a personal revolution by teaching them that work is the basis of existence and that this ideal has to be achieved not in Poland but in Israel, the new home for the Jews.
And this was the background for the creation of the Hachalutz movement in Horodenka, a year after the Hitachdut was created. We were looking for places to train the youth from our town and from neighboring towns. In the summer of 1924 two groups went for training. One went to Potochiska to the farm of Bezner. Among them were Yizhak Shapira, Nachman Bergman and Ephraim Geller. The other group went to Chernelitsa to the farm of Mr. Tereza Petrovitch. This group included Gavriel Lindberg, Noutzie (Yizchak) Shechter (the shochet's son) Zelig Shor and me.
With sorrow and frowning, we were accompanied by the town people before we left. They felt sorry for our families because we were going to be like the goyim and work with our hands.
When we got to our destination, we were put in a hut and slept on beds of hay that were on the floor. In the morning the manager of the farm came to pick us up and directed us in our work. We did all the possible agricultural work and tried to excel.
I can't describe the experiences of those days --- work during the day and song and dance at night. On Shabbat we didn't work and usually discussed ideology and plans for the future. This was our intellectual and spiritual food. We tried to understand the difference between a small group like ours and bigger groups like a kibbutz where everybody joins to work and live together.
In September, around the holidays, we came back to town, physically strong and with a real desire to go to Israel and work for the nation. Enriched in experience and ideology, we came back home and prepared more youth to follow us. At the same time Gordonia was created. This was the scouts' branch of our movement, but other members will tell that tale.
In the year 1925 it was time for us to go to the test and to see if we were qualified to make Aliyah. This took place in Chortkov, so we didn't have to spend money for a trip to Lvov. A couple of months later the group indeed made Aliyah. They got to Israel at the beginning of 1926, the year of the economic depression. But despite that, most of them stayed in Israel and only a few came back home to Horodenka, a little bit ashamed.
Those who didn't make it to Israel continued their public work in Hatachdut and Gordonia. Over time they organized in diverse areas such as sports, co-operatives and more education. The Co-operative Bank was created and it helped and sometimes saved the small merchants by giving loans during hard times. They also established a dairy cooperative, which gave jobs to some families. This cooperative initiative was the real revolution, as through it the Jews started learning how to take care of themselves in a cooperative manner.
At that time the Bund was the only Jewish party in Poland. But in the thirties a dramatic change took place and many different people joined Hitachdut. It stopped being only an ideological party, but drew people who wanted a better life by moving from Poland to Israel. A direct result of that change was the establishment of the first workers' union in town.
One of the main occupations in town was exporting eggs mainly to Germany. Many workers sorted eggs and packed them for shipping. They were the first ones to form a union. The government suspected that they were communists but it was explained to them that our movement was about educating them towards emigration to Israel. The movement swelled, and it was decided to form another group with the name Ha'oved (the worker) and prepare the members to move to Israel. In our town we had older members and we educated them with simple lectures.
We had many different activities for all ages and in all subjects including the history of the Zionist movement, the history of Socialism, the history of the labour movement, etc. Saturday was our activity day. Especially popular was the Shabbat evening parties, where we had panel discussions and later singing, eating and humorous sketches. The highlight of the evening would be a krentzchen or dancing to the tunes of our friend Shmuel Shekhner (the son of the Kleyzmer Mosh Babitzky) who played the violin. We would dance the Hora and other types of dances. One dance in particular, the Kaprosh has its roots in both the Hasidic and Polish folk traditions. Our friend Monya Shtachel was an expert. He was our leader and led us during many winter nights to sweat and fun, sometimes for four to five hours in a row. We had some nights it will never come back.
Like most youth in our generation we also did sports. Bernard Offenberg initiated the first Maccabee club; his brother Heindez continued the club. In Avram Offenberg's yard we put gymnastic equipment and after using them we would go to Toliki, the big fairgrounds for the cattle, and play soccer. We loved soccer and had matches with local Polish groups. We played against groups from Kolomyja, Sniatyn, and Chortkov.
I remember our game when the Polish students from Sniatyn lost to our group and a big, violent fight started. Some Jewish cattle merchants on their way saw us and intervened; otherwise it would have developed into a dangerous situation.
In 1926 a Ha'poel center in Warsaw opened. Others followed all over Poland. All the Jewish groups mentioned above were the organizers and patrons of Hapoel clubs. In our town we had one and we mainly played soccer. Efraim Geller was excellent as the goalkeeper; when he moved to Israel, he continued to play with Hapoel Jerusalem. The youth saw soccer as an opportunity to express national pride and stay in good physical condition.
The Ehodyah branch also produced some good actors and musicians. We also helped to change the political face of the town to a more progressive one. The traditional politicians like Moseh Pinales, Yesef Bezner, Shlomi Kremer and Berl Shpierer were first replaced by the orthodox group and then by those who were losing their faith. The government didn't want liberal Jews to be the leaders because of their fights for legal right for the Jewish population. Those who were part of that story will probably tell it themselves.
My memories are about the time long before the tragic end of the Ehodyah branch in our town. We heard about their extensive activities during the time before the Holocaust. Some of our friends helped smuggle Jews across the Polish borders. Two of our friends, Yitzhak Zin and Shmuel Lester, died while refusing to accept Nazi orders; others were partisans. Other witnesses will tell their stories. God avenge their blood!
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