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[Page 69]

History of the Jews of Jaslo (cont.)

Chapter 28

1928

During these days Jaslo experienced a so called golden period of life for the Jewish community. Life was rather pleasant and undisturbed. The economic situation was flourishing and steadily improving. The atmosphere was pleasant and people could begin to breathe the air of tranquility. The President of Poland, Professor Ignace Moscicki visited many cities including the city of Jaslo.

Prior to the visit, the home owners along the presidential route had to paint and clean the homes along the reception road. The President was to tour the market and several streets of the city. All the stores and workshops were ordered closed during the day. The streets were to be decorated with the national flag and the day of the visit would be declared a national holiday. Many people were expected to visit the city on this day. Amongst the many delegations that lined up to receive the President was the delegation of the Jewish community council with the rabbi amongst them, sitting with a torah scroll in his hands under a bridal canopy. A large crowd of people stood behind them. The Rabbi greeted the President with the traditional blessing: Blessed be for honoring us!

We must not forget the fear that remained within the hearts of many Jews. They remembered the insinuations that he uttered in 1925 in Lemberg to the effect that the Jews were somewhat involved with the plan to blow up the former president of Poland, namely Woijciechowski.

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Dr. Wilusz and his wife were the official hosts of the President and sponsored a festive evening for the honored guests at the municipality. Hundreds of people gathered about the building during the evening. The next morning, the President with his entourage headed for church. The sidewalks along the route were full of spectators that came to greet the President. As the entourage left the market, a woman pushed her way through the crowd and handed the President a personal closed letter. Mrs. Alter Shulem Bialiwloss refused to divulge the content of the letter and the President accepted the item and continued his procession. For a moment it seemed like an explosion will take place but the event resolved itself in thin air.

 

Chapter 29

Gleaning and summary

The Jewish community of Jaslo existed for about 70 years. It represented 25% of the city population. The community was lead by 7 presidents that were elected by the Jews of the city. The first president, Naphtali Walfeld, was also the founder of the community, and was followed for many years by Lipcze Werner, and then Dr. Shtin followed by attorney Awraham Kornhauser. The fifth president was Wolf Kornefeld, followed by Dr. Shtin and finally Israel Silbershtein. As temporary fill ins included Wolf Tzimet, Elimelech Goldshtein, Mordechai Karp, attorney Fishel Walfeld, Benyamin Goldshtein and, for very short period of time due to the sickness of the presiding officer, Leib Tzimet.

* * *

The city of Jaslo was known as a modern city and in spite of its small size served as a sort of minor center of the area. The city produced many religious scholars, writers, Zionist leaders and pioneers that left for Palestine.

* * *

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A group of active civic leaders gathered and decided to purchase a house that will serve as a community center for lectures, conferences, shows and meetings. Thanks to the efforts of I.Igler, St. Wistrich, Yossef Karp and Benyamin Kramer property was acquired from a Polish major. The estate was rather large; it consisted of about 50 acres, and was located in Kriowic. A section of the place would serve as a training place for pioneers who will receive agricultural training before leaving for Palestine.

* * *

The first child to be born and circumcised in Jaslo was that of Meir FeldBrand.

* * *

Despite the accepted version that the first Jews in town were either Chaim Steinhaus or Shmuel Winfeld, there was still a third version that a doctor named Tzuderrer was the first Jew in town and served as a medical doctor.

* * *

The families Weil, Winfeld, Welfeld, and Werner considered themselves as one family.

* * *

Above the “Talmud Torah” lived Ben Tzion Shames since World War I. He had two daughters and barely managed to make a living. His main joy was selling small blankets with the inscriptions: “Blessed be He”, “Blessed is his Name”, and “Amen”. (He used to give the children a penny to recite the blessings so that he could answer them). One day the community was astounded to learn that he bought one of the buildings in the city.

* * *

We must stress the fact that Jaslo did not have the large array of beggars who would collect handouts and food from passersby, as was the case in many Galician cities and hamlets. The synagogue entrance had Friday and holiday beggars that waited to be asked to share a meal, but most of them were not from the city of Jaslo proper.

* * *

In 1928 an association for the help of the poor “Tomchei Aniim” was established in Jaslo. It collected money on a weekly basis from the Jewish inhabitants in order to provide care for the poor people from out of

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town so that they should not have to go from house to house. They received individually a note with the amount that they collected at the treasury of the association. (The initiators of the project were Ben Tzion Hacohen Gutwirt and the author, who were always available in the study center to interview the needy).

* * *

A school for girls was established in the twenties. The teachers were graduates of the various “Beit Yaakov” seminars. The wife of the rabbi headed the institution that became popular with time amongst religious families.

 

jas072.jpg  The 'Beit Yaakow' school for girls
The “Beit Yaakow” school for girls

 

* * *

The Jewish bank “Bank Ludowy” existed for almost twenty years and conducted extensive business deals. The executive officer of the bank was Kalman Raab (today in the USA) and his assistant was Shwartzman who was also the accountant.

* * *

During the existence of the Jewish community of Jaslo there were ups and downs. There were bright lights and dark shadows as well as some

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sensational stories. One of them consisted of an attempt by Polish farmers to create a monopoly over the sale of geese. This took place during the height of the anti-Semitic campaign aimed at the Jews. The farmers demanded outrageous prices for the fowl that were purchased primarily by Jews. The Rabbinate decided to take steps against this policy and insisted that the purchase price will be 18 guilden. No Jew is to purchase a goose above that price. The penalty for violation this ordinance was excommunication.

A few days following the publication of the order, a Jewish resident of Jaslo came to the rabbi and told him that he bought a few geese before the ban and paid more than 20 guilden per goose. He bought them for Passover and left them with the farmer to fatten them. He would like to know whether he could eat them now?!!!

* * *

During a winter day, a Jewish farmer brought a dying calf to the animal market. He could not sell it and took it back to his village of Osobnica. He decided to slaughter it himself and two days later brought the meat to sell in the city. When the butchers discovered that he sold meat in the city they insisted that he tell them where he got the meat. It soon became apparent that he killed the calf and sold the unkosher meat to the people. The rabbi was informed of the situation and immediately placed the seller in a state of excommunication for his sinful act. Saturday morning the proclamation was read in all the synagogues that on Sunday the excommunication will take place for the sinful act that the party committed. A large crowd assembled on Sunday to see the villager that was specially brought to face the excommunication. Those that purchased meat from him spat on him and cursed him for what he did to them. There were also some that were about to take pity on him. In the meantime a discussion began regarding the implementation of the excommunication with regards to the state law. The villager cried and begged mercy for his sinful behavior; he abjured his act and the act of excommunication was not imposed.

* * *

In the year… a well known Jew passed away after a long illness, on the eve of the Shemini Atzeret holiday. The funeral was scheduled for the

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evening of Simchat Torah. Before the dancing with the torah, a large crowd came to pay their last respects to the deceased and to escort the funeral in order to pay back the man for all he did for the community. He had collected money for charities, contributed to weddings, circumcisions, and “Jahrzeits” or anniversary of the departed.

Suddenly, the crowd was informed that the Hevra Kadisha or burial society was demanding instant payment for the service in spite of the holiday. The people were angry or rather furious. How is this possible on a holiday and to a person that did so much? This is a mere sacrilege!

Those responsible for the burial disappeared so there was no one to talk to. The shouts and screams of the crowd did not help the matter, finally the widow brought her silver candle sticks as deposit and the burial proceeded.

* * *

The compulsory school education laws in Poland meant that thousands of Jewish children rushed each morning to the Polish school that started at 8 A.M. in the morning. They sat hatless in the classrooms and faced a crucifix on the wall. Here they were exposed to Polish culture and environment.

Most of the Jewish youth of Jaslo belonged to the various Zionist youth movements. Dozens of students left for agricultural training farms and later left for Palestine. Some of them joined kibbutzim and moshavim – or farm villages, and attached themselves to the land. Others settled in the cities and small hamlets. Some of the parents joined their children in Palestine.

The youth organizations had clubs and meeting places where the youth was inculcated with Zionist ideas. The stress was not only in education but also in physical development namely sports. Within the Zionist groups the sport association named “Maccabi” was formed; it organized a soccer team with the same name. The driving force of the sport organization was Wilk (Wolf) Eintziger. He pushed the sport activities and insisted that the soccer team enter the competing games with the white and blue flag. The “Maccabi” soccer club played with nearby Jewish soccer clubs and on occasion played against the local non-Jewish team, “Tcharni” on their grounds called “Agzacirka” in Ulaszowice.

* * *

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The hall of the study center resounded with the voices of the young Talmudic students that sat and studied the Talmud between 16-18 hours a day. The place had some dark and unclean places but the special tune used in studying the Talmud could be heard a distance away. Tens of students sat in close proximity on the hard benches and studied the Talmud in depth. Some of them would emerge as great scholars in Jewish law. Amongst the better students at the study center prior to WWI were: Dawid Ullman, the Katz brothers, Moshe Nussbaum, Yudel Rota, Simcha Beer Rinhald, the brothers Yehoshe and Hirsch Reich (today in the USA), Tzwi Tzimet, Motil Citronenboim ( today in Jerusalem), Shulem Shtams ( today in Tel Aviv) and Yehoshua Appel ( today in Paris).

* * *

The author of these lines organized in 1924 the young men of the “Mizrahi” movement. Many students of the study center joined the group. The meeting place was at Elimelech Teller's place in the Targowica which was rented as a permanent meeting place. Mendel Zilber arranged the furniture of the meeting hall and Moshe Meir Getzler delivered daily lectures in the Talmud. Hebrew lessons were also offered there as well as a daily prayer service. The active members of the organization were Awraham Korman, Shlomo Krisher (today in Tel Aviv) and Mendel Zilber.

Mendel Beck, a member of the “ Mizrahi youth movement, left for Warsaw to study at the “Tachkomoni” school. The Zionist spirit even penetrated the walls of the study center in Jaslo; one day six students left together to continue their studies in the Polish capital. Two of them were Dr. Meir Tzukerman and Shlomo Krisher (live today in Israel). They were followed by Dr. Itzhak Rapoport, my brother (today chief Rabbi of Melbourne, Australia), Yaakov Drenger (today in Paris), Fishel Krisher (Rabbi in Warsaw) and others.

* * *

The Talmudic studies in the city continued to attract many youngsters and some of them even distinguished themselves in religious scholastic, namely Shmuel Bilt, Ben Tzion Gutwirt, and Yehoshua Horowitz.

* * *

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With expansion of the Jewish community also grew the hassidic movement in the city, especially the following of the Bobower Rabbi. The adherents of this Rabbi dominated the Jaslo Jewish scene and gained momentum amongst the very pious youths of the city. The latter found great inspiration in the words and deeds of the rabbi who was one of the great Hassidic rabbis in Galicia prior to WWII.

 

The Rabbi of Dukla

The followers of the Rabbi of Bobowa were numerous in Jaslo but another rabbi rapidly gained ground in attracting followers in the city, namely the Dukla Rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hilperin. In the early thirties the rabbi left his home in Dukla and took up residence in Jaslo. He built a home with a study center on land that was bought from Dawid Denner near the big study center. His philosophy summarized itself in three words: “Hessed” or mercy, “Gvurah” or strength, and “Tifereth” or splendor. He lived his life as close as anyone could to these three symbols. He carried the concept of mercy to the furthest point particularly in regards to his fellow Jews. He had a feeling and understanding of the painful miseries that Jews felt. His deep penetration into the souls of Jews gave him a good understanding of the pains and his soft and comforting speech gave reassurance to the people. His deep attachment to the individual could be felt when he recited the line “Nishmat kol Chai” or the soul of everything alive of the Sabbath and holiday prayers. He enunciated these words with clarity and emphasis so that everybody could hear; and tremors went through the worshippers as they heard these words.

Strength he showed when he buried his only son, a student devoted to the study of the Talmud. He faced his son in silence, his eyes aflame but no tear. He accepted the heavenly decision and stated the accepted sentence “G-d gives and G-d takes”.

His adherence to splendor expressed itself in the way he conducted himself and the way he looked at individuals. A certain warmth radiated from this tall Rabbi that towered above his Hassidim and penetrated the onlookers. His exceedingly long beard further added rabbinical stature.

He resided in Jaslo until the outbreak of WWII and with the advancing cruel enemy managed to flee to Bezon where he remained for some time. His trace then disappeared.

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The last community council of Jaslo consisted of:

Israel Silberstein, president, Chaim Shlapf vice-president, Eisik Dintefas, Benyamin Denner, Dr. Naphtali Menashe, Betzalel Kriszwirt, Elimelech Krisher, Yaakow Shturch.

jas077.jpg  The Mai 3rd Street in Jaslo
The Mai 3rd Street in Jaslo

 

The September winds were blowing above the mountains; thick black clouds were blocking the skies and obscuring the sun rays which allowed red stars to appear on the horizon. What do they have in store for us? Who can read the future? Who can tell us what awaits us at the next day? The month of Elul, the month prior to the high holidays, the blowing of the shofar… and nobody knows the future.

On the Polish borders are poised Hitler's forces ready to launch a total destructive war that will destroy the world. The “Hun” presents all kinds of claims and revendications of the Polish government. He demands some

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sort of referendum with regards to the corridor of Dantzig. The Germans want to annex the city of Dantzig but they must obtain a piece of Polish territory.

The tensions mount by the hour and the responses seem to ignore reality for the skies are already darkened and on the morning of September 1st 1939, the Germans launch their massive air attack. The flood gates of destruction have been opened with the first bombs that our city received.

A terrifying panic seized the citizens and the destruction also added to the frenzy. The German beasts attack Poland and blood is spilled all over.

The Jaslo Jewish community will be destroyed with all other Jewish communities.

* * *

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